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Topics - GhostWolf

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Body Energy Arts / vertebrae help
« on: October 24, 2004, 06:11:51 PM »
ok ive got a vertebrae out of alignement and its fucking with my breathing something chronic...i just cannot get a full deep breath

its one that is bewteen my shoulder blades at the level of lung point 1 and feels like my lungs are constricted

ive tried all manner of stretching and chi gung/breathing exercises
i even had a tcm practitioner massage to put it in place...which lasted about 2 minutes and then it went back

has anyone got any exercises they think might help

Martial Arts / Ninjutsu Basics
« on: September 30, 2004, 06:21:44 PM »
James Wran Sept 2004

At first I was concerned about putting this info here – however I then realised that it is all available on the Net anyway, this is simply putting in the same place.

Whilst this info is freely available I must stress that to truly gain insight into this art it is necessary to train with a proper instructor – preferably someone who regularly trains in Japan with Soke Hatsumi (as do ALL the higher ranks) or at least someone who trains with a Japan trained Shihan. The physical aspects of this art are just the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully this info will provide enough to wet you appetite and encourage you to find a teacher - do not be fooled into thinking that trying what is written here will teach you ninjutsu. It is only the first week of preschool.

The art of Ninjutsu is not just a single school or tradition. Modern Ninjutsu, now under the banner of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu (although it does exist in other forms) is a compilation of 9 traditional schools – 6 of which are samurai, not Ninjutsu based.

The essence of Budo and indeed Ninpo are as a way of living and perceiving the world. It is not simply about how to destroy an opponent – but how to live in harmony with the world around you, being aware, choosing how it affects you and what affect you have upon it.

The kanji/symbol for ninpo is that of the cutting blade over the heart. This has many meanings. Some feel that it means perseverance, especially when under pressure – the drive to keep going. But it also means keeping the heart under control – to find balance by not letting the heart take control of you.

The physical movements of Budo Taijutsu are based on concepts and p[principles rather than specific techniques, even though there are the basic technical aspects that we practice. These principles are applicable to unarmed and weapon combat but are even more important to the non-violent arts of living.

Whilst Ninjutsu has only basic principles and starts with the 5 elements and the Basic Eight – its applications can be complex and unnerving to the practitioner and spectator alike. However the ultimate aim is to achieve once again through years of training the simplicity of natural movement and interaction.

Kotadama – Opening and closing Ceremony

The opening and closing "ceremony" of every class is very important. It sets the tone for the class, creates the proper mind-set for practicing martial arts and directs the mind to an inner peace that can be carried with you throughout the day. Although the phrases used in these short "ceremonies" are foreign, they can be said with sincerity once we understand their meanings. The following is a brief description of how classes are opened and closed. There is no need to memorize as repetition is a better teacher than written word. It is the meaning and overall feeling that is important here.

This short "ceremony" is called the kotodama. The kotodama should create a feeling of emptiness/openness in you. When we meditate, sit comfortably in seiza. Be free of thoughts, and breathe. Breathe all the way down to the hara. Nothing more. Try to keep this feeling of freedom and emptiness through the rest of the class, and even through the rest of the day. It is very beneficial to meditate every day (you don't have to sit in seiza to meditate).
The phrase "shikin haramits(u) dai komyo" does not have a literal translation that would make any sense. It is simply a request for enlightenment. One possible translation is “Each moment that we are alive and aware provides us the potential to learn and grow to enlightenment”. By uttering these words, your desire/intention will be carried from thought into word. Then by training you carry it into deed.
We all say "onegai shimas(u)" (please teach me) to each other. You will be learning as much from each other as you will learn from the teacher. How the other person will move, how you can move more efficiently, how you interact socially and physically. The teacher says it to the students, because teaching is the way of continuing to learn. The teacher is learning to do things more efficiently, learning how to move and practicing meditation. Each person is really their own best teacher, but by learning from each other, we will be able to teach ourselves more than anybody could ever teach us. As we learn in pairs we all get a chance to “teach” and to learn”.
In most dojos, the kamidana (spirit seat), or the object we all bow to, has a picture of past teachers or some religeous artifacts with some symbolism attached to them. For the most part, we will be bowing to a tree or some other natural object. It is from nature that we come, it is nature that gives us life, and it is to nature that we return. It really is nature that we should show respect and love to. Then we can turn to face each other and show respect for each other.
Start of class:
"Mok(u)so!" (Meditate!)
There is a brief meditation.
"Yame!" (Stop!)

Turn to face the kamidana (spirit seat). Raise your hands with palms together and say...

"Shikin haramits(u) dai komyo!"
Clap twice, bow, clap once, bow. I will turn to face you.  
"Onegai shimas(u)!" (Please teach me!)
We then stand up and start to train.

The closing of class is the same except, instead of saying "onegai shimas(u)!",
We bow to each other and say...
"Domo arigato gozaimash(i)ta!" (Thank you very much!)  

16 Striking Methods - Ho Ken Ju Roppo
Ken (Striking weapons)
Kikaku Ken or Zu Tuski (Demon horn strike)
Using the thick bone areas of the forehead, side and back of the head in smashing or butting actions.
Shuki Ken
Using the bone points of the elbows to strike close targets.
Fudo Ken
Using the clenched fist for punching or striking.
Kiten Ken (Shuto)
Snapping the hand open at the point of impact, to strike with the outer edge of the palm.
Shin Shi Ken
Using any individual fingertip for striking or applying pressure.
Shi Tan Ken
Using three or four fingertips together in a stabbing drive.
Shako Ken
Using the palm or fingertips to strike or rake
Shi To Ken
Using the extended thumb supported by the clenched fist to jab the target.
Shikan Ken
Using the bones of the middle knuckles of the half-folded fingers to strike the target.
Koppo Ken
Using the middle knuckle of the half-folded thumb to strike or apply pressure.
Happa Ken
Using the open hand as a slapping strike.
Soku Yaku
Using the bottom of the foot (ball of foot or heel) to shove into the target.
Sokki Ken
Using the bone points of the knee to strike close targets.
Suku Gyaku
Using the tips of the toes to strike or stab the target.
Tai ken (any part of the body)
Using the hips, shoulders, etc. to strike or apply pressure
Shizen Ken
Using the teeth, nails, etc. to attack the target.

Basics of Ninjutsu
The foundation of Ninjutsu is to defeat an opponent causing imbalance in his body and mind. This is done through the use of body movement (taijutsu) and striking techniques (dakentaijutsu), bone breaking (koppojutsu) and muscle tearing / pressure points (koshijutsu).

The complimentary effect of this training is to improve the balance of your own mind and body – thus improving your life in all areas. This is done by focusing on your mind, body and spirit – creating awareness of these things and in turn improving your Ninjutsu.

Basics / Kihon
Ukemi – rolls
   Forward / Backward / Sideward
Breakfalls – forward / backward / side turning


Rolling in ninjutsu is not like gymnastics or acrobatics rolling, although experience in those wouldn’t hurt your skills. Where gym and acrobatic rolls tend to be straight the ninjutsu forward roll is also known as a shoulder roll. The idea being, that you roll from one shoulder across to the opposite hip. This avoids rolling along you spine on terrain that may be injurious to do so.
When you start to roll you begin from the kneeling position. Tuck your chin in and lead with your arm curved in (your little finger touches the ground first (fingers pointing back towards your body and elbow forward) then push off with your legs. Slowly you raise your height as you get more comfortable and work on longer and higher rolls. You then work into dive rolls and eventually rolls with no leading hand and then holding weapons

It is actually easier to start backward rolls from a standing position as you use your momentum from dropping to the ground to carry you over. From standing position you begin to drop as though sitting down and bend one knee. As you sit on one knee the other leg is then thrown over the opposite shoulder. Eventually turning you over to end up in the kneeling position from which you began. Make sure that your hands are kept tucked in and your neck is tucked in to your chest. .

I must stress that to do these you need an instructor to show you to avoid injury…don’t you dare hold me responsible for your own silly actions.

Basic fists and kicks – ken
Basic stances – kamae

Basic Stances
The stances all vary depending upon which of the 9 schools of the Bujinkan they are from. Some schools have stances which are of the same names yet will differ in physical application and some schools have separate stances all together.

The stances, as well as much of ninjutsu are based on the natural movements of the body and so generally once you get past the confusion of a new technique, the feeling of performing the techniques / stances should be relaxed, comfortable and unforced. I must also stress that stances are not static positions, even though you learn them that way to start. Stances are actually postures which your body will naturally move through whilst performing techniques.

Some Basic Stances used in the Sanshin no Kata / Kihon Happo

Ichimonji no Kamae (1st stance)
Essentially this is like a back stance with 70% of the weight on the back leg and both knees bent (not too low – but at a level where you can easily rise or lower your height. The front foot points at the opponent and the rear foot can be pointing from 90 degrees sideways to 45 degrees back, however it does not point forward as in many karate stances. (There are many reasons for this, one is to ease tension on the muscles around the knee and another is to enable easy movement in the rearward direction)
The hips are relaxed at about 45 degrees to the opponent. The distance between the feet is about 2 shoulder widths.

The lead hand is open and held in front at about shoulder level with the elbow bent downwards. This also is at a place that allows you to either bring your arm back or to extend it more fully. The front hand acts as a bridge to the opponent and also to block certain lines of attack. The rear hand can either be open or closed and is held at a place between the front arm’s elbow and the throat (it can also be open or closed). This hand protects the heart and the throat.

The stance is like this because it allows for easy movement in many directions and the protection of various lines of attack – also allowing you to purposefully create openings to control where your opponent will attack. This stance is considered to be a part of the water element.

Jumonji no Kamae (Figure Ten stance)
Jumonji is similar below the waist to Ichimonji, however the distance between the feet can be varied between long and short depending on the circumstances.
The arms in Jumonji no Kamae are crossed in front of the chest. Hands remain at about shoulder height and are in fists. The arms do not touch each other where they cross and there is about a one-fist distance between them. To any experienced martial artist the reasons for this are obvious. One is that there is no buffer zone if you hands are pushed (they will push straight back into your face and also if the arms are touching they are easier to capture). Again, both elbows are bent down and the arms are extended about half way (the elbows are not touching the chest but the arms are not fully extended and the lead arm is in front.

Hicho no Kamae (Flying or Crane posture)
This posture is performed by raising the lead leg up so that the thigh is parallel to the ground and the foot is next to the rear knee. The raised foot is NOT rested on the knee. The arms are in a similar position to Ichimonji no Kamae however they are not held up so high – the lead hand held just above the elbow and the rear hand again next to the leading elbow.

Basic movement in 10 directions
Forward / backward / left / right / diagonals / up / down
Walking / shuffling / leaping

There are a number of ways of stepping in ninjutsu. With a little practice they can be made into totally natural movements. With stepping you must always take into consideration the distance and timing associated with any step.
The normal step one foot in front of the other is reasonable obvious, however I would still encourage some experimentation with it such as different distances and directions. Once you have stepped you can also adjust the other foot to improve balance and distance.
Sanshin step
Essentially this step changes the lead foot – however it can be altered to change distance and direction as well. The first foot steps back to the second and then the second foot goes out to where the first foot came from.
Side stepping (Yoko Aruki)
The stepping foot crosses the other leg at shin level. The other foot then steps to wherever is needed.
Leaping (Tobi)
Some may think of jumping up, down and sideways with giant leaps (which can be useful) but a good exercise is moving in set directions whilst remaining in stance. This is used to increase distance whilst remaining in a ready state.

Stepping excercises (other than practising the above steps)
Bring one leg in and lifting it up (good for balance) and then stepping in a random direction. Continue
Walking sideways using the sidestep.
Walking around in a circle. Always facing the centre of the circle or always facing the same direction.
Stepping around objects – try using different feet to step around objects.

Note: one technique will form the foundation and from that comes many techniques.
Many techniques are useable against various attacks – grabs / punches / kicks / weapons
Many techniques can be varied through the use of different counter attacks and stepping in different directions / ways.

The Five elements within Ninjutsu
The five elements in ninjutsu are more similar to those of western thought than the Chinese. Unfortunately I have yet to be able to track down the historical reason. These are Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Void. Chi, sui, Ku, Fu and Ka.

Earth is commonly thought of as “Immoveable”. It is like the mountain. It is hard and unyielding in defending and stopping an attack, yet once it is no longer threatened it does not overflow with force.

Water is sometimes though of as defensive in nature however this is most likely because it defends first, taking the power from the attack and returning it to the opponent. It is often described as the flow of the surf at the beach which seems to slowly flow out and then forms a wave which crashes back onto the sand.

Fire is an aggressive and offensive element. Fire instantly overcomes and envelopes an opponent without giving them time to defend or counter attack. Fire blasts through an attack often neutralising and attacking at the same time. Imagine a brush fire through a dry forest going uphill.

Wind is an elusive element. The techniques of wind include avoiding attacks and counter attacking with quick and unseen strikes.

Void is a mixture of all the other elements, however it also includes the use of the totally unexpected such as the use of blinding powders and other forms of attack which confuse the opponent, destroy the opponents attacks with non-physical techniques and convincing the opponent not to attack in the first instance through such techniques as Shin Ken (Spirit Fist)

Sanshin no Kata – Three Hearts Kata
Sanshin no Kata, a set of five elemental movement forms which teach very important principles of movement and feeling. Soke has said that Sanshin is a way to practice the basic attack patterns by yourself. In addition, these are basics of how to use weapons. It is said to be one of Takamatsu’s secrets.

They are used for learning the limits of body movements. All motion is done very exaggerated, or large. They also teach the fundamental strikes, body placement and movement as well as being good for health, exercise and stretching. They also encourage the development of chi in the body by doing the movements slow and controlled. Look for other hidden secrets. Always remember that these are just a guide.

The 3 hearts refer to three stages of learning. First, as a beginner you learn individual movements within each kata. Second, you master all of the movements and understand their uses. Third, you move naturally and without effort or though for the individual techniques / movements.

Chi (Earth)    Sanshin Ken (Three finger strike) or Goshinkan Ken (5 finger Crane Head strike)
Sui (Water)   Chudan Uke (Middle Block) and Omote Shuto (Outer Knife Hand strike to neck)
Ka (Fire)   Chudan Uke (Middle Block) and Ura Shuto (Inner Knife Hand strike to neck)
Fu (Wind)   Gedan Uke (Lower Block) and Boshi Ken (Thumb strike)
Ku (Void)   Gedan Uke (Lower Block) and Metsubushi (Distraction) and Keri (Kick)

The Sanshin no kata can be done in 2 ways.
The first is as a training and stretching exercise which is done slowly and controlled at full stretch, almost like tai chi. This also includes specific breathing techniques.
Start in shizentai (natural position) step back 45 degrees offline, then block and then step back in with the attack.
The second way is fast and like dealing with a real attack.
Start in ichimonji no kamae, step offline and block (simultaneous) then step in and strike.

Kihon Happo - basic eight
Ichimonji no kata
Both start from left foot forward ichimonji no kamae
A: right jodan tsuki (head punch)
D: step back 45 degrees ichimonji no kamae and block / strike to inside
Step in and strike omote shuto (outside knife hand) to neck
Jumonji no kata
A: right jodan tsuki (head punch)
D: start in left jumonji no kamae
Step back 45 degrees and block / strike to inside then lunge forward with strike to ribs under right arm
Hicho no kata
A: right gedan tsuki (low punch) or front kick
D: from shizentai (natural stance) drop back into hicho no kamae with low block and kick with raised leg
Step in with ura shuto (inner knife hand strike) to neck
Omote Gyaku (Outer Reversal)
A: right hand mune dori (lapel grab)
D: control grab with left hand and step back 45 degrees to right to break balance
Step back again to left, step across and twist arm outwards
Ura Gyaku (Inner Reversal)
A: right hand mune dori (lapel grab)
D: control grab and step back 45 degrees left to break balance
Step back again, step across and twist arm inwards
Gyaku and Tsuki
From lapel grab A: throws punch with free hand
D: step back offline and block punch then continue into reversal

These 2 techniques are similar. Both work on the bent elbow lock. There are many variations and some styles do Muso Dori as a straight elbow arm lock
Oni Kudaki (Demon Crusher)
A: grab to upper arm
D: step back to break balance
Step back in and bend elbow, push elbow up and over with other hand
Muso Dori (Warrior Capture)
A: grab to upper arm
D: step back to break balance
Step back in and bend elbow. Hand snakes over elbow and scoops up as step beside A. Kick out A’s leg.

Ganseki Nage
A: upper arm grab
D: step back to break balance. Step back in and snake arm under A’s arm as step between A’s legs facing same way. Turn to throw.

Just like the Sanshin no Kata, the kihon happo are simply basics from which come many variations and hold the secrets of taijutsu. These same techniques and movements can be used to defend against many attacks as well as used unarmed and with weapons. From each of the basic eight grow another eight techniques and from each of them another eight. 8 x 8 x 8 = 512 techniques…and these are just the basics and the beginning.

Magick / Past life intro article and exercise
« on: September 28, 2004, 09:56:50 PM »
Past Lives by James Wran Sept 2004

Past lives excite, interest and amuse. They have been cited as the reason for wars and famous loves. In this article I hope to explore what past lives may be, how they affect us now and how to discover them for yourself. Much of what I have to say is based on many years doing past life workshops and regressions over a number of years of teaching. The rest is from discussions with other people who have done the same.

There have been many reasons given for what people consider to be past lives. Many cultures hold strong the belief in reincarnation. Contemporary Buddhists believe that the Lama’s come back to continue their works on the Earth – this is shown through their testing of possible choices to see if they recognise the possessions of previous incarnations. The ancient Irish believed in reincarnation to the point of giving loans of money that was to be paid back in the next lifetime. Reincarnation is a part of Hindu culture and the social status of the next life is determined by the actions in the present. Even early Christians believed in reincarnation. If we continue to reincarnate then it would be obvious that we have had lives past and that we can remember them if effort is made.

The memories that people have of past lives can fall into a number of categories: true memories, false memories, genetic/ancestral memory and soul memory. There may be more but I will explain these.

False Memory
Many of you will have met someone who believes they were Cleopatra in a past life. The false memory of past lives can often be recognised by grandiose, powerful historical figures. There are those who feel that there present lives are not what they would wish them to be and so fulfil dreams by imaging that once upon a time they lived as monarchs, pharaohs, chiefs, priestesses and warriors. Now this is not to say that some people did not live as such figures from history since these figures did at times live. However one has good reason to be sceptical after meeting many Cleopatra’s, Hitler’s, King Arthur’s and Cherokee Princesses. There are of course ways of testing the validity of such claims.

Ancestral Memory
This is sometimes known as genetic or cultural memory. The idea is that the very cells and DNA hold memory at some level. Generally this knowledge is more at an instinctive or intuitional level. Example: a family has had healers and herbalists for many generations and then a few generations got caught up with the Industrial Revolution and were Labourers and Housewives. After no healers for 4 or so generations (long enough so that verbal instruction cannot flow on) and then suddenly some daughter shows an uncanny intuitional affinity with herb lore. Actual skills and abilities I believe come more from true past life / soul memories.

Soul Memory
I came across this concept reading works of Seth channelled by Jane Roberts – particularly the Oversoul 7 book. The idea is that each of us has an oversoul of which is the source of the soul of a number of corporeal manifestations – people. This concept would be a way of explaining how there are now greater numbers of people living on the planet than at any other time in history. The idea being that you have memories of other parts of your soul throughout the ages even though you personally may not have experienced that life. The distinction is very blurry and may just be a case of metaphysical semantics (since the overall effect is the same). Another case is that of direct access to memories of other through the Akashic Realms – the knowledge of past present and future is accessible through many different paradigms. A small sidenote: The idea that all things that ever were or will be, have already been, and that we experience time simply as a way to comprehend and learn from it gives rise to the possibility that we can see into the future. However I will not get into Temporal Mechanics in this article.

True memory

These are memories of past lives that have seeped into our awareness. Generally these memories are kept separate so as not to interfere with the aims and experiences of this life (how many of you could cope with half a dozen lifetimes of memories let alone 100 or more filling your brain – read Frank Herbert’s DUNE series to discover his rendition of the struggle to keep ones own identity with the memories of past selves and ancestors fighting to gain control).
We sometimes access the memories of the past. This can happen because we need to access skills or emotions that we need to learn from (or so that we do not waste our precious time relearning them). We may still have lessons which have continued from the past. We may already have discovered answers to questions (and we can save time by remembering). There is no point remembering unless they have some beneficial lesson for us in this life.

You may recognise things, or have strange inexplicable connections to things from the past. Certain stories or images or smells or actions will bring back vivid memories of things that you know did not happened to you in this life time.

It may be possible to get enough detail to document and investigate these lives, however this will get harder to verify as the we delve deeper into the past (another reason why some people have memories of historical figures – they have been better documented and people can read more about them! – who ever wrote about the average peasant when there were kings queens and warrior to write about?)

How Past Life memories affect us
I think it would be best just to give some examples of my own experience and of people I have worked with or taught.
Sometimes we may have injuries in this life – eg bad shoulder problems. They are inexplicable. However it could be that in a past life you experienced a similar injury.
You may have a fear for which you can find no traumatic event in this life to explain. You may have died or experienced other trauma in a past life which has stayed with you. You may feel strong emotions about certain situations which are not connected to your present life. You may have been in a similar situation in the past. Strong emotions and traumatic events stay with us through lives (such as love, guilt, hatred and murder). These pains and emotional traumas can be healed through facing the past and understanding why things occurred, sometimes visualising ways to overcome what happened. Sometimes just being aware of the past is enough to heal.
You may be drawn to certain types of music from way before your time. You may be attracted to certain occupations and find you have skills and abilities above and beyond what would be expected from you. You may have certain hobbies that people would think do not fit into your character. All of this things are possibly explained through past life (they can also be explained in other ways such possession or channelling…grin!) By being aware of what happened in the past you maybe able to put some desires on hold – realising that you have already done those things and that it may be time to explore other adventures.
Past life memories can also act as warning examples about what may happen if you choose a certain path again. We learn from our mistakes…but you can only make so many mistakes in one lifetime.

Another big part of past lives is the people we have lived with. I have found through experience that many of the people that you encounter in your life – particularly those who have great impacts upon you are people that you have met and interacted with throughout your lives.

Our life partners and our children very often are souls that we have lived with before, have learnt lessons with before. I have found that we tend to pass through the ages connected with specific groups of souls.

An exercise to explore past lives
Here I will assume that you are capable of relaxation and meditation in preparation. (If not, ask me and I will write something for you). This is a visualisation exercise.

Find a nice comfortable space. You know the drill by now – as if you were sitting down for half an hour’s meditation. Maybe quiet music and incense – its up to you. Be come aware of your breathing; make it reasonably slow and even…and not too deep…just comfortable. Take yourself into a semi trance state, nice and relaxed. (As I said before if you want ideas on how to relax properly for this exercise just ask).
Now hopefully you all know how to do basic protection as well but here is an example. Just imagine yourself in a safe place (I don’t know if anyone knows about creating a safe space on the astral level – again just ask if you don’t know). When you’re in your safe place you can imagine the generic white light surrounding you and keeping you from harm.

When you’re ready, imagine that white light turning into a fog, a light mist surrounding you and getting thicker and thicker until it is like a thick cloud of pea soup fog (very thick). Just get used to the feeling for a while. When you are ready ask (your higher self or guiding angel etc) to see a past life that you most need to see and will learn something from. (To start with just go with this later on you can get more specific about investigating pasts). After this you will start to see movement in the fog. That movement will turn into shadows and slowly you can dissipate the fog so that the image become more vivid and the shadows become clearer and easier to see. As the fog recedes you will also start to hear sounds and smell things and feel the change in the air. Take note of these things, as they are good clues as to where and when you have come to.

Eventually the fog will fade away leaving a vivid scene before you. Feel free to explore and look around. To begin with I would not advise interacting with other people until such time as you are much more adept at visualisation practices. When you feel you have seen, heard and felt enough, allow the fog to come back and surround you until you once again find yourself in that safe astral place.

When you have come back to reality, write down your experiences and feelings. This will allow you to compare it to later quests into past lives and to help you discover when and where it was. Keeping records of all magical workings is also a good idea as it allows you to see what works for you.

Other possibilities for visualisations into the past are:
Find your self in your safe space and then visualise a window. You can look through this window at your past. It also allows you to open the window or even climb through it when you are ready to do so and interact more deeply with what you see rather than simply observe.

You can find yourself floating in the sky…you slowly get further from the Earth until you can see it spinning. The Earth will slow down and begin to spin backwards (going back into the past). As it spins backwards you will find yourself slowly floating back to Earth (this is good as it allows you the chance to see which part of the Earth you return to. Essentially with this method you need to be prepared to fall back into your past self.

Some things to remember:

Be careful, as it is possible to return to a past life as it is dying – as death is often a traumatic event you may be drawn back to that point – if this happens you can back out and ask to be taken to an earlier point in that life.
It is more than likely that you were not anyone particularly special throughout the ages – this is obvious through simple statistics, the majority of people were not kings, rulers, great warriors, queens. In fact most of us were slaves, peasants, farmers, petty soldiers and labourers. Do not be let down by this fact – each life has had its lesson, all of them important and adding to where you are now.

Don’t get so caught up in the past that you forget the present.

This has just been a basic introduction to inspire a bit of though and contemplation.

Martial Arts / Swordplay - An Overview
« on: September 23, 2004, 07:02:02 PM »
Swordplay – An Overview written by James Wran Sept 2004
As I have trained in both Eastern and Western swordplay I will try to give an overview of the basic concepts without referring to either. However I must also make the comment that whilst you may learn the academic points of basic swordplay through reading or even watching; the theory and the practice are very different.
There is no other way to learn the secrets that have been passed down through generations and discover by years of hard work and experience – much of which has come from the battlefield on which it was used.

Fencing from the East and from the West differ…for many reasons.
In Japan, fencing continued as a living tradition with little impact from newer weaponry up to the modern age, however it also changed its essence from ~jutsu (an art) to ~do ( a way), meaning that a whole philosophy evolved from a physical art from the battlefield.
In the West the battlefield arts of the sword evolved quickly as did armour and other weapons. The use of the sword was quickly overtaken by the use of the gun. Thus, as the study of fencing evolved so quickly we are left only with modern sport fencing and many written manuals from the past.
However there are basic similarities and principles

As a disclaimer – playing with around 3 foot of sharp steel is inherently dangerous…do not do it without supervision of an experienced instructor – don’t blame me if you don’t – you were warned. If you must learn the art of the sword without a teacher please consider the use of a wooden replica – a bokken, bokuto or a waster. Do not be fooled into thinking that a wooden sword is any less dangerous than its metal counterpart. Think of Miyamoto Musashi who fought and won many duels with only a wooden sword.
Also for ease of writing I will assume some basic knowledge and give some hints that are hopefully of use to the more practiced student.

I will be discussing the use of the 2 handed sword, mostly from personal preference and ease of writing – but the principles can be taken through to other swords and other weapons (and unarmed combat). At this point I am also choosing not to use the traditional Eastern or Western terminology for strikes guards and movements purely for ease of reading for the beginner.

There are a few basics of movement – ways of stepping. If you cannot move properly then it is likely you will be cut down as getting out of the way of an attack is important. Forget now any belief in hard force-on-force blocking and blow-for-blow style of combat.

There are a number of steps, which are basic to swordplay – and every day life. I have always preferred the use of natural movement. These are the full step, the shuffle, the cross step and the double step. From these 4 basic movements comes a range of steps. These steps all have different names depending on the cultural background – call them what you will if it helps you understand them, although knowing their traditional names also provide keys to hidden concepts.

The full step

This is quit obvious, as it is a normal stride. If you are in a left foot forward stance then you take a step forward with your right foot into a right foot forward stance. Easy. Essentially it is changing your lead foot. Advanced levels of this include moving forward and backward or staying on the same spot.

The shuffle step
This is where the rear foot comes up to the front foot and then the front foot moves forward – the lead foot remains the same.

The cross step

This is similar to the shuffle step but the rear foot passes the front foot before it moves. It can cross in front or behind the front foot, depending on the situation.

The double step
This is obviously just full steps, but it is worthy of mention as it is necessary to train the double step to make it efficient to use.

Note: the rear foot is the foot behind the foot which is foremost in the direction you wish to step (not necessarily the foot furthest from your opponent.

It is commonly thought that there are 8 directions in which to move – similar to the points on a compass; forwards backwards, sidewards, and the diagonals. Each of the aforementioned steps can be used in these directions. Practice also changing the type and direction of your step midway. The only way to learn is to experience, only by doing this will you discover for yourself the concepts hidden in movement.
Please also remember that there are another 2 directions in which you can move.

I think now is the time to mention distancing, known as Ma-ai in Japanese. Without correct distancing you will surely die, even if all you other skills are well practised. In all martial arts there are distances. The basic principles are the 3 ranges (dependant on the weapons being used – both by the opponent and yourself): Outside range, In range and Inside of range. These each have different names in different traditions and can be broken down further if need be. Please also note that different weapons possess different ranges. For example a knife has a cutting edge (sometimes only on one side) and a pointy end. So the blunt edge of the knife is relatively safe in comparison. A gun on the other hand is only dangerous in one direction.
Being outside of range is being out of the reach (striking zone) of an opponent’s weapon (or the opponent being out of range of your weapon).
Being in range – is where the opponent can strike at you  (or you can strike your opponent).
Being inside of range is when you are so close that your opponent cannot strike you with a particular weapon.
Do not fall into the trap that once inside the range of one weapon, that your are inside the range of all weapons. Also be aware that some weapons have a number of useful ranges depending on the way it is wielded. Do not be caught in the trap of only using the weapon you hold in your hand. (This idea hints at the concepts of no-mind – to be explored in a further article). Whilst the topic of range is quick to write about, correct distancing holds many secrets.

Basic Strikes
In some styles there are a large number of strikes. As is my style I like to simplify into basic principles. I use 10 basic strikes. Just like the movement directions there are the compass of strikes – the cuts: straight down, straight up, horizontal strikes and diagonal (45 degree) up and down. There also thrusts – front and rear.

It is my opinion that these basic angles cover all possibilities. Some schools will teach differently eg that a direct down cut is separate to a cut that is a little diagonal down to the neck/collar or that a diagonal cut to the neck is separate to a diagonal down cut to the thigh.

I think hat these cuts are fairly simply and obvious. Skill comes with continual practice and in combination with the aforementioned steps and the concepts of defense and guards to come.

Cutting Drill 1
A Generally it is best to start in a static basic stance and practice from a middle front stance – holding the sword in front of you at chest level. Each strike is practiced a number of times repetitively (the same strike over and over) by starting in middle stance and lifting the sword through into high guard so that the sword is pointing straight backwards, parallel to the ground and not off to the side. The arms are lifted so that they do not obscure vision. At this time do not drop the sword down behind your back, as this is wasted movement (only do this when strength training with a suburito – weighted practice sword). Eventually in sparring or combat, with practice, your movements will only go so far as for your sword to be at 45 degrees pointing back. From this high guard cut straight down and then return back to the starting point of middle stance. Repeat.

Also do this cutting exercise for each of the cutting angles, each time raising straight back up to high guard and then drop the sword to cut at the chosen angle.
B This can be advanced by going through each strike in turn, either swapping the sides of the strike (straight down, left diagonal, right diagonal, left horizontal, right horizontal, left diag up, right diag up, straight up and thrust) or by working around (straight down, right diagonal, right horizontal, right diag up, straight up, left diag up, left horizontal, left diagonal, thrust). There are obviously a number of variations.

Cutting Drill 2

This drill is done with the full range of motion rather than straight up to high guard.  It is sometimes known as the compass or flourish in Western arts. Instead of lifting to high guard the sword is swung in a full circle to the strike. Example: to strike horizontally to the right the sword (from middle stance) is moved full circle around to the left, around the head to strike to the right side. Make use of the examples given in Drill 1 B.

The next step in practice is to add stepping to the strikes. Generally it is thought that when you strike to the right you step with the right foot. Use this as a general rule to go by however when you feel confident with your stepping begin to strike and step on opposite sides. Make sure to practise stepping constantly forward and backward and then alternating. This later will also take into consideration and practice the following defensive movements.

The art of defence is the art of not being struck. Essentially not being there is the best defence. So one must learn to move out of the way of a strike. This includes the art of Muto – to be described in another article. Basically, if you move to early you let your opponent know your intention and his attack can be altered to intercept your move – and if you move to late the result is obvious – your techniques would die with you!
The timing of the move must be made at such point that the opponent is fully confident that he will cut you.

In swordplay the concept of a force-on-force direct block is limiting, however it does occur – more so in the Western arts. There is a great deal of controversy and argument about defending with the edge, flat or back of a sword – and I have my own opinions born of experience but shall not go into those here. Suffice to say that force on force blocking often results in a battle of initiative and of who is quicker and more practiced. It can lead into grappling and the closing of range, however this movement of the body changes the defence from force-on-force to defence by deflection of force.

In my opinion deflection is a much superior form of defence (in combination with avoidance). The idea being to not try to block the force of an attack but to deflect, redirect or reap the force and momentum of an opponent and use it to attack in turn. The true art of defence is much more than putting your own sword in the way of an attack – indeed this will not suffice to save your skin from a skilled opponent or one who wields a more powerful weapon (try blocking a falling tree with just your sword!) Advanced defense techniques can only come from an experienced teacher.

Guards / Stances
Stances go by many names, many of which are misleading and are often misinterpreted. In essence a stance, guard, kamae are not static positions. They are dynamic positions of the body through which it naturally moves whilst moving, striking and defending. If you have diligently practiced the previous drills your body will recognise many of these positions. These guards are common to many weapons but each has its own idiosyncrasies and uses. There are also many variants, some subtle, some drastic and obvious.

Middle Guard / Chudan no Kamae

The sword is held to cover the chest area with the hand at hip level and the tip of the sword around the level of the shoulders.

High Guard / Jodan no Kamae
The sword is held high above the head pointing backwards at a 45 degree angle up.

Low Guard / Gedan no Kamae
The sword is held in front of you pointing at the ground.

Window Guard
The sword is held at the side at eye level. Pointing at the opponent.

Side Guard / Hasso no Kamae
The sword is held straight up whilst standing side on to your ooponent.

Tail Guard / Waki no Kamae
The sword is held pointing to the ground as in Gedan but pointing backwards like a tail.

There are many other guards. It is important to practice moving smoothly through these guards in succession. Another good drill is to start from each Guard and perform each of the strikes from the individual guards. This builds flexibility, muscle control and adaptability to be able to move, strike and defend from any position.

If you have practiced the drill already given then you should be able to see how they can be changed to create new drills. You should also be able to adapt them to be used with a practice partner. If people ask then I can detail some partnered drills.

When training with a partner you will find yourself in positions that will be familiar to you if you have previously trained in grappling. The point here is do not get caught up in the idea that the only weapon you possess is your sword. This is all I shall say on this matter as grappling with the sword holds enough information for many more articles.

This has been touched on throughout this article. The timing of your movement can hide or reveal your intention to your opponent. Both strategies have their uses.
Other things to think about (that is keys to more hidden concepts): you can strike with movement of the whole arm, movement from the elbow or movement from just the hand/wrist – practice this in the aforementioned drills. Similar concepts are attached to the movement of the feet, legs and the body.

When you have reached the stage where your steps, strikes and guards are coordinated and fluid in many directions then you will have reached a level that many do not reach – however remember that this skill level has been reached without sparring or combat – and there is a long way to go – this was simply preschool. Again let me emphasis the need for a true teacher.

I hope that this article has increased your knowledge, at least the theoretical, of swordplay.  There is so much that I have not included – for 3 reasons: the difficulty of describing complex details of physical and philosophical movement as well as the fact that just the basics will take a long period of practice to master. The third is that I choose not to reveal all my personal secrets – hard won through practice.

Any question please feel free to ask as its always easier as a teacher to answer questions (it also shows the student is listening) or make comments…constructive criticism is a way of learning – and even an old timer can learn new tricks from the new)

Other Authors you can read for more info – just some of the many
George Silver, Talhoffer, Fiore de Liberi, Miyamoto Musashi, Takuan Soho, Yagyu Family

Magick / what articles do you want?
« on: September 22, 2004, 06:48:40 PM »
with over 20 years training and teaching in various arts
i was wondering if there was any specific requests for articles...

i will be just writing stuff asap about my own chosen topics but and demand

possible areas...wicca, shamanism, norse/celtic/native american trads

past life, totem animals, healing, visualisation, resonance etc

Martial Arts / what articles do you want?
« on: September 22, 2004, 06:46:05 PM »
with over 20 years training and teaching in various arts
i was wondering if there was any specific requests for articles...

i will be just writing stuff asap about my own chosen topics but and demand

possibles karate (kata weapons kumite) ninjutsu, aikido, hapkido, historic western arts (sword, shield axe spear staff etc) played with various kung fu arts

Magick / Resonance...
« on: September 21, 2004, 09:33:40 PM »
How many people work with resonance...and it what way?

Ways I have played with it are:
throat singing - similar to what the tibetan monks do

chakra and body resonance - finding the resonant sounds appropriate for different parts of tour body and using it to heal - or the resonance of another and using to harm

finding resonant frequencies of a space and using that to clear/ protect / shield a space

using resonant frequencies of objects and affecting them - a good example of this is through playing wiht tibetan singing bowls

resonating particular sounds and words to achieve different affects - an example being the benegeserit sisterhood ini frank herbert's DUNE series

resonance at a lower level can begin you on the journey to raising your own vibration rate

well there are some ideas...anybody else?

Body Energy Arts / How often do you train?
« on: September 21, 2004, 09:26:32 PM »
I regularly train every morning...before the rest of my family gets up...
mostly it is a mix of aerobic exercise stretching and pattern/kata and basics/kihon
this comined with watering and attending my many bonsai plants is a gret way to start the day

I also teach at least 1 class per week and train seperately at least once a week

this averages out to 7-10 hours per week

you gotta take into account that I have a family and work at least 40 hours a week as well

it also doesnt take into consideration any time that is purely chi or magical or investigative MA work...just the martial training

so how much do you train?

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