martial arts

playing music and breaking up fights; putting down roots (Zelda's Inferno exercise Nov 4)

An eventful week...Wednesday, Halloween, I played a happy hour gig at Leadbetter's. Good crowd for the holiday (Fells Point buzzes for Halloween) and I actually made decent money, almost $80 between tip and my share of the take from the bar. Not enough that I'm going to quit the day job, but $80 for four hours - $20 an hour - is respectable. I'd play more often if I could get gigs that paid like that, sure.

Hung out afterward for the night shift, crowded but generally having a good time enjoying the musical stylings of Johnny Smooth...until, during a break in his set, I made my way up front for some fresh air and looked outside, to see a pushing match, a fight brewing, in front of the Admiral's Cup a few doors down.

I told the guy on the door to call 911, and ran over to break things up. Yelling "Break it up! Break it up! Cops are on the way!", I did my best to cool things down, stepping between any pair who looked in conflict. It was impossible to figure out who was pissed with whom about what; but for that minute of two, my job was just to act as a sort of "anti-catalyst", preventing violent reactions.

Peace tags

Very interesting project here: PeaceTags.

They are selling silver "dog tag" style necklaces with quotes about peace, from folks ranging from Walt Whitman to Pope John Paul II to the Dali Lama. Proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and the Voices in Wartime Education Project.

The mission of PeaceTags is to ignite peace in our hearts, in our homes, and in our world by spreading the words of wise sages through the ages. We raise funds and awareness for innovative non profit organizations helping troops, their families, and communities.

They ain't cheap, but it's a good cause.

"Manly Arts Day" - sorry I missed this!

Shoot, wish I'd know about this in advance. Have to watch for it next year. From the Baltimore Sun:

Yesterday marked the second "Manly Arts Day," said Ranger Victor Markland, an event he launched last year to draw attention to a niche not often explored.

Held on the estate of the wealthy Ridgely family, whose iron was used to make weapons during the American Revolution and whose generations fought in the War of 1812 and the Civil War, the day focused on skills once considered essential to being a man. Along with riding and dancing, the well-rounded, well-bred man knew how to fence, said Rockefeller, a Loyola College history professor.

"It was considered an absolute necessity... to know how to fence, or at least a minimal use of a sword." Markland said. While Rockefeller channeled an 18th-century man with a waistcoat, breeches and stockings, Markland mimicked a Napoleonic War veteran who opened a Baltimore fencing academy in 1814, sporting a black top hat along with his outfit.

Marine's defense: "I was only following orders"

Marine Corporal Trent Thomas is being court-martialed for his role in the murder of Iraqi Hashim Ibrahim Awad, in April 2006.

His defense lawyer, Haytham Faraj, is claiming that he had no choice, because "Marines in combat don't challenge orders."

I can only quote Thoreau:

A common and natural result of an undue respect for the law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power?

my Starwood workshops

As previously mentioned, I'll be presenting workshops at the Starwood Festival again this year. Now, I know which ones:

Sparking a Creative Inferno

Zelda's Inferno is a weekly Baltimore poetry workshop that has been meeting and writing since 2000. We have only one rule: if you have words on the page at the end of the exercise, you win! Longtime Zelda's coordinator Tom Swiss will lead participants through writing exercises that might show you new ways to spark the fires of creativity. For poets, bards, and writers of all types and abilities.

Self-defense as a Spiritual Practice

You are a manifestation of the divine, a child of the God and Goddess. That makes you a being worth defending; yet our culture's confused attitudes about violence, plus the self-esteem issues faced by many people in the Pagan community, often obscure the fact that self-defense is also defense of the divine principle within all of us. In this workshop we will try to cut through the fog and discuss attitudes and skills to preserve not just your body but your divine nature. Targeted for those without previous martial arts or self-defense training; but experienced students are also welcome. We will practice verbal and non-verbal communication skills for dealing with conflict, and a few simple self-defense techniques.

farewell party at the dojo; mailing books

One week. I'm a little sad.

Yesterday, packing and cleaning during the day, then to the dojo. A bit of training, then a very nice farewell party.

Senpai Yuka's mother, it turns out, is a bit of a traditional apparel expert; she actually gives classes on wearing kimono. (Yes, it's complicated enough - at least the women's one - that proper wearing is a subject of serious study.) She produced hakama and proceeded to wrap Rob (the Australian sankyu guy who recently arrived and works for KIS) and I up in them. Should be some good photos.

They gave me a Kansai Seido T-shirt, which I think will be the envy of everyone this summer. The Maryland Seido pins I had hoped to give Senpai Kuwa and his family hadn't arrived yet (but I think I can adapt the plan and still get them there), but I gave the dojo the Daruma figure I had brought over. It was my "I want to go to Japan and stay for a good while" Daruma, so this seemed appropriate. I looked up the kanji, for "Nana korobi ya oki" and made a little inscription on the back in Sharpie. Also freed up some space in my luggage by so doing...

A couple of the little girls made cards for me that are so kawaii I can hardly stand it. Will have to take photos of them and include here when I upload to the blog.

Hiroshima

Today, Hiroshima.

I was moved to tears several times. Sometimes I wanted to grab people and say, "Don't you see? Don't you understand?"

But of course the people who live there, have to get on with their lives. We can't remember too much, or we'd stop to memorialize every step; every square yard of earth is the grave of some being.

kumite, upcoming Zen center stay

Wednesday, by the way, was promotion night at the Kansai dojo. Four people testing for ikkyu and nikyu. I was the only yudansha for the kumite; interesting to think how I'll be a memory here. "Hey, remember my advanced brown belt promotion, when that wacky American sensei was here?" As senior guy present I got to tie belts on people - back home that honor always goes to Kyoshi Kate, of course.

So, I'm going to be ending my stay here with two days at a Zen Center! Last Saturday I met (re-met, actually) David's housemate Amelia, who had spend a few days at the Tekishin center a bit outside Kyoto, and really recommended it. I contacted them, and I'm going to stay for two nights, the 28th and 29th. From what I understand it's pretty much working and living monk-style, with lots of zazen, working around the temple, and formal ritual meals. I don't think it'll be cushy but it should be educational.

VA Tech shootings and guns in the U.S.

Posted to the Cyberdojo today:

"Robert Agar-Hutton" robert@pro...tics.co.uk writes:

> In China or Korea - He couldn't have gone and bought (legally) the
> gun!!!

Well, yes, but if anyone thinks strong gun control laws keep guns
away from determined bad guys, read the news about the shooting murder
of the mayor of Nagasaki; firearms are strictly banned in Japan.

Gun control laws keep guns away from bad guys about as well as
drug control laws keep heroin away from junkies. If your nation doesn't
have a heroin problem, it's not because prohibition laws make it
impossible for people to get drugs, it's because your society has given
people better options than smoking or shooting up addictive synthetic
opiates. (Hurray for you!)

If your nation doesn't have a violent crime problem, it's not
because prohibition laws make it impossible for people to get weapons,
it's because your society has given people better options than killing
each other. (Hurray for you!)

A determined killer doesn't even need a gun - one guy in China a
few years ago got ten people in one bloody night with an axe and a
knife. In the U.S., we have a higher *non-gun* murder rate than the
total rate for the U.K. or Japan - we beat and stab each other to death
at a higher rate than you guys shoot, stab, and beat each other.

Daruma-dera: temple of the red-bearded barbarian

Back out to Kyoto today. (Seeing that it's past April 15, did I mention that I filed for an extension on my taxes? I had planned to bring all the papers over here and do them here on-line, needing the refund, but the papers took up too much luggage space. Anyway...)

To Nijo Castle, Daruma-dera, then walking around Gion a bit.

Nijo: castle's ok, worth seeing for historical interest, it's where the last shogun announced the restoration of the Emperor to the daimyo. the gardens a nice - some parts are trees and shrubs with grass and wildflowers allowed to grow. A kid with a dandelion, more interested in it than in all the carefully planted trees - thanks young sensei.

About a mile off is Daruma-dera, a temple dedicated to Daruma. Not in my guidebook, I found a little bit about it on the web and knew I had to check it out. Fortunately it's marked on the Periplus map of Kyoto I bought this morning. Tucked away in the suburbs, it's an active temple, no English brochure or signs other that the one in front. The main hall has zillions of Daruma figures.

Interesting fellow, Daruma, and interesting his adaptation as a toy/good luck charm/holy image by the Japanese. Daruma, a.k.a Bodhidharma outside of Japan, is credited as the founder of Zen Buddhism, as well as being the root of many of the healing and martial arts that trace their origin to China - including both karate and shiatsu. (See why I had to go say hi?)

He lived around 500 A.D. or so, and came to China from either India or Persia. Classically he is often depicted as being swarthy, with wild hair and often a red beard. (Many koans make reference to "the barbarian's red beard.") He also often is shown with bulging eyes, the legend being that, frustrated with falling asleep while meditating, he cut off his own eyelids; where he threw them to the ground,the first tea plant sprouted.

(Zen is replete with stories about hacking off body parts - thankfully, most of them should be taken figuratively, otherwise early Zen followers would have been dying from blood loss or subsequent infection at such a rate at to preclude the school's survival.)

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