Still makes me smile
talonmind asked: Hi Jason, I met you through Michelle Ivankovic many years ago. I just came across your linkedin profile which lead me to your tumblr site. I liked your June 19th post. Have you read "The Zen Way to the Martial Arts" (Taisen Deshimaru / George Leonard)? I will go and read "The/A book of Five Rings" which you suggested. Do you have a preference for the version? -Daigoro
Thanks for the suggestion. I like the complete book of five rings.
A beautiful video about BMW design but more importantly about Industrial Design and the thought that goes into everyday objects. Why do some resonate emotionaly and others do not?
Why I study sword. I get this question a lot. Here’s how it always goes down… Them: So what kind of martial art do you do? Me: Niten Ichi Ryu Them: What’s that? Me: it’s a Japanese sword style started by a famous swordsman named Miyamoto Musashi Them: Why do you study sword? Most people who have asked me this are questioning the relevance of learning and teaching a sword art in this modern age when no one is walking around carrying two foot razor blades and cutting each other down in the streets like they did only a few generations ago in feudal Japan. I’ll try my best to explain my personal reasons. I realize what I practice might seem strange and I’m well aware of the fact that it’s highly unlikely that I’ll suddenly fall into an alternate reality where Samurai walk the earth and I’ll suddenly be thankful that I’ve been training most of my life for this. Do I welcome the zombie aplocolypse when everyone armed with guns run out of bullets and I get to laugh at them while decapitating the undead, sprinting through Loblaws searching for canned soup and Tofutti Cuties? Absolutely. But that’s just macho dude shit and there’s really no room for that in any martial art. The art and discipline is really what it is about but first let’s address the martial part. Sword fighting is the highest form of martial arts. Now, it’s important to make the distinction between highest and best. I’m not saying it’s the best. I’m saying that I think it’s fighting on the highest and purest plain. No room for error. A clear defined winner and loser ending with one or both people dying or being maimed. There are a number of Japenese martial arts such as Daito-Ryu and Aikido that are based on sword movements and I think that these arts and sword are two sides of the same coin. A sword can only attack from 9 directions and the same applies to punches, kicks, elbows, knives, sticks etc. The way one has to move to avoid these and enter into an opponents space is identical. Fighting is about taking your opponents center while maintaining yours whether it’s hand to hand or armed. The practice and study of martial arts is the most serious thing I’ve ever done with my life. I don’t take myself seriously but I do take the practice very seriously and treat it with great reverence. The movements and principles that are taught were developed and perfected through trial and error in times when a mistake, misjudgment or lapse in mental focus meant that someone’s life was lost. If you practice an art, it’s important to always remember that the technique you were just shown in class was likely the result of someone having their arm broken or their airway closed off or the loss of a limb. Everything you do in your practice must be considered. Etiquette, distance, timing, movement, harmony, power, explosiveness, awareness, patience, breath control, controlling fear, controlling your body and your opponents, targeting, fitness, environment, mental preparedness, spirit and heart. How one enters a room? Where are the entrances and exits? What side do you choose to pass a person on while walking, which is their dominant hand? Is your dominant hand free or busy holding groceries? Are you only relying on your dominant hand? Keep in mind that these things are about awareness and not fear or paranoia. In sword fighting, there’s no flare. No extraneous movements. You only move the amount that is absolutely necessary and at the last possible moment. This ensures your opponent commits to a chosen attack. Moving too early allows your opponent to make adjustments. When someone swings a sword or throws a punch at you and you remove that target at the last possible moment, something interesting happens to their perception of the situation. Their brain tells them they’re going to connect and when that connection is going to happen but the mind can’t catch up to the body once the order is launched so at the end of that strike you can disappear. There’s a feeling of complete shock while their brain tries to reestablish where the target has moved to but by then it’s too late. It’s these types discoveries that I find so interesting. Everything has a purpose: When I get to the dojo I dress in a particular order. Top first, pants last. There’s a martial reason for this. My belt is tied in a manner so it doesn’t cross in the back so it remains flat in my lower back. A knot or cross will cause discomfort when rolling. A sword belt is the exception. When you kneel and bow, no weight is applied to your hands so they remain light and can react. Your swords must be placed at your side so that you can trap them with you left knee if someone attempts to grab them. Your swords mustn’t rest on your Hakama so if you have to move quickly they remain where you placed them. When you place a weapon down or pick one up it must be with one or both knees contacting the floor. When passing in front of a person as a courtesy, your right hand should be extended to show your sword hand is open and you mean no harm. When you bow your head should never raise before your seniors and yours should always be lower then your Sensei’s. You should always carry an umbrella in case it rains so you can walk and shield your teacher. When you walk you must pull your hips forward with the backs of your knees rather than falling forward and catching yourself with you heels. When you pass a sword to someone, you must place the blade edge toward yourself with the handle in your left hand so it’s offered to their right hand. When walking past someone wearing swords you must always pass on the left. Never correct your seniors in class. It’s their seniors job to do so. Your job is to look after the juniors or simply listen. Observe others and correct yourself. Never pour your own beer or tea. Look after everyone else’s cup and they will look after yours. Do not teach to the lowest common denominator or the slowest or weakest student. The pace in class is determined by the strongest student and everyone must strive to keep up or surpass that person. This is the only way to promote growth in the group. Competition is healthy. Always keep your thumbs tucked under your hands. Joints are too easily manipulated so you have to protect these. These are only a few of the lessons I have been taught but they are all puzzle pieces that work to form a complete picture of discipline and metal awareness. These lessons spill over into my everyday life and help to enrich my life and relationships. The greatest challenge for every practitioner of a martial art is to learn to relax, both physically and emotionally. When you’re truly in relaxed state you can react quickly without thought, free of mental and physical tension. In a relaxed state you can generate incredible power and I know this because I’ve felt it. The principles in sword are the same principles in fighting and same principles in life. Always move forward. To survive the sword you must go under the sword. You have to risk death to protect your life. The reason I remain on this path is because it’s always interesting to learn more about the person I am. How far I can push myself? What my true fears are and how overcoming these work to strengthen my resolve.I’ll leave you with a quote from Musashi. “Some people perhaps think that even if they learn the way of strategy, it will not be useful in real practice. On this point, it is sufficient to train in it for it to be useful at all times and to teach it for it to be useful in all things. This is how the true way of strategy must be.”
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of
your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled
from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain,
or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it. I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own;
if you can dance with wildness and
let ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without
cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being a human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you’re telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy. I
want to know if you can see beauty even if it’s not pretty every day,
and if you can source your life from God’s presence. I want to know if you can live
with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a
lake and shout to the silver moon, ‘Yes!’
It doesn’t interest me where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary, bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside, when all else falls
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
I know this movie came out a while back but I’ve been thinking about it lately and it’s relationship to Budo so I thought I would share my thoughts.
To summarize, Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed character referred to as kid or driver. He’s a professional wheel man for hire who lives by a code and when he vows to protect a family, he effectively breaks that code and things begin to spiral out of control setting off a chain reaction of events that propel the film forward.
Driver: “If I drive for you, you get your money. You tell me where we start, where we’re going, where we’re going afterwards. I give you five minutes when we get there. Anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours. No matter what. Anything a minute on either side of that and you’re on your own. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down. I don’t carry a gun. I drive.”
Much like a samurai, he earns a living being hired for his skills. He never deviates from his code of ethics. He swears to protect the ones he loves and is willing to die for that promise.
Gosling’s character in Drive is always present and in the moment. Not thinking of the future or past or the consequences of his actions, he simply reacts in accordance to the way that is natural to him.
He has a quiet calm mixed with a sociopathic quality and a singular focus on completing the task at hand.
The violence in the movie is explosive and almost always completely unexpected. This is how sword work should be done. Calm, relaxed and subtle but perfectly timed to give your opponent a sense of security but never revealing or telegraphing your next movement or true intent.
The scorpion and the frog:
I have always been fascinated by the timeless parable of the scorpion and the frog and driver makes reference to it at the end of the film and also it is also personified in the embroidered scorpion on the back of his jacket.
It’s a short yet powerful warning about the often immutable nature of certain beings. In this case, the deadly and incontrovertible nature of evil.
As the story goes, a scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a body of water, since the scorpion cannot swim. The frog then rightly asserts that doing so would put its life at great risk, as the scorpion is known to lethally sting other creatures, sometimes without provocation.
To counter the frog’s argument, the scorpion insists that by stinging it, both of them would drown – therefore, logic would dictate that harming the frog would be definitively self-damaging and counterintuitive.
Satisfied with the scorpion’s reasoning, the frog agrees to the tenuous proposition.
As the two reach the mid-point of their journey across the water, the scorpion reneges on its promise, and indeed stings the trusting frog, resulting in their mutual demise.
After the scorpion injects the frog with its venom, the frog asks it why.
The scorpion famously replies: “Because it’s my nature.”
The original warning to the Frog was turned into a lesson for the Scorpion: Do not expose your true nature, and others will always underestimate your capabilities.
I’ve thought about writing for a longtime. I don’t know what’s been keeping me from doing it for so long. I often think about who would end up reading this and who I’d be writing for; myself, my friends, my students, my past loves, or my future love, or a son or daughter I have yet to meet. Regardless, the fact that I’m doing something that I’ve promised my self is the important part. The audience can come later.
Keeping the promise is the most important thing to me.
At some point you will be my audience and maybe I’ll find out who you are and what our relationship is. Maybe my thoughts and inner ramblings will change. I hope they do. I hope I get better at this thing. I think the only way to find out is to just do it.
This year has brought about so much change. I started a new job, I lost a great teacher and I ended a relationship. If you know me, you know that much of my life ends up here (the internet) for the world to see. I often wonder if I share too much but I have dear friends that appreciate it and if you’re not a fan, turn me off, tune me out or just change the channel. It doesn’t matter to me.
Choice is one of the most powerful things we have and I’m trying to exercise that muscle more these days. I don’t know about you, but I often choose the difficult paths. I always have. I don’t know why that is but I’m so happy with my life and who Jason Nip is. I’ve learned through experience that I typically land on my feet so I’ve gained the confidence to trust myself and know that everything will be ok.
Martial arts and my life:
One of my earliest memories of martial arts was asking my uncle to show me Kung-fu. He demonstrated some movements and I tried to copy them as best as a 5 year old could. To this day, I don’t know if my uncle even knew Kung fu. He might have just been trying to appease a little boy. We were never close. We aren’t now and I’ll never know if what he was showing was “real” or just play.
Growing up as a Canadian born Chinese kid in Mississauga I was often teased by schoolmates. “Do you know Karate?” I didn’t. It seemed important that I at least learn more but I never went looking for a school or asked my mom if I could practice a martial art.
In the 80’s The Karate Kid hit theaters. It was the Rocky of my childhood generation. I was 9 years old. Anyways, I was I’m my bedroom practicing the infamous crane kick. Miyagi said “no can defend” and I wanted to perfect this technique. You know, beat the bad guy, make my teacher proud, and win the heart of the beautiful girl. While I was focusing on these life goals my father walked past my open door and look at me. I froze - standing on one leg with my arms outstretched feeling the embarrassment that only a young teen boy can. It was the martial arts equivalent of being caught my with my dick in my hand only I didn’t scream “shut the door!” My father just kept walking by. I doubt he even remembers that moment but the feeling of embarrassment is forever etched in my memory.
Aikido: My first introduction to Aikido was in a movie as well. Above the Law staring Steven Segal was ground breaking for its time. Here was a guy who was moving in a way no one had seen before. He was shrouded in mystery. Was he ex.CIA? All that was known for sure was that he had studied this mysterious martial art in Japan for many years that no one really knew much about. The idea of using your opponents power against them was very appealing to me; especially to a kid who was smaller than most growing up. The principles of Aikido always appealed to me but again, I never went looking for it.
1999: while working at Sharky’s (a bar/resto) in Oakville, I was talking to James, a big Korean doorman with an even bigger smile reminiscent of a living breathing Buddha. Somehow the topic of martial arts came up and I mentioned Aikido to which James replied, “oh, you should talk to Reg, he does Aikido”.
Reg worked with James guarding the door. He was ex military - Canadian Airborne. He had done high altitude halo jumps and tours in Africa and other places we don’t speak of and started practicing martial arts when he was just 5 years old. Dude is big, tattooed and not friendly looking but I asked him about Aikido and asked me if I wanted to learn. At 23 years old, I had found my first teacher.
So that was 13 years ago. Today. I still train in Yoshinkan Aikido with 9th Dan, Kimeda Takeshi Sensei. He is Reg’s Sensei and was the first practitioner to bring Yoshinkan Aikido to North America in 1964. At 71 years of age he is still teaching full time and is a force to be reckoned with.