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This week another video clip of a cool swordfight. And how this clip and last week's clip relate to aikido. It's from Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai directed by Takashi Miike. It's the trailer not the complete fight so try to get hold of the movie.
There is a superb fight sequence. The actor Hiroyuki Sanada enters, breaks the balance, gets behind his opponent, and completely controls his opponent's weapon. A couple of times he deliberately leaves an opening for his opponent to attack and then counters expertly. As I mentioned he has extensive experience in martial arts and in action movies and his sword work is very natural.
This other excellent recent samurai movie is Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai from 2011 directed by Takashi Miike. The Japanese title is Ichimei. Another movie directed by Takashi Miike I really liked is 13 Assasins. I'll talk about that movie another time.
In fact Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a remake of a great classic Japanese samurai movie Harakiri directed by Masaki Kobayashi. The Japanese title of that movie is Seppuku. That's another movie I'll talk about some other time.
For now there is also a wonderful fight sequence in Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai. The kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo XI plays the main character. I doubt if he has any direct martial arts experie
Yoji Yamada is famous as the director of the popular Otoko wa tsurai yo - It's hard being a man - series of Tora-san movies. They are rather lightweight. So the samurai trilogy Yamada directed subsequently was a wonderful surprise.
The three movies are The Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade and Love and Honor. I recommend them - they are all really excellent movies.
The swordfight is interesting because the main character Seibei uses a short wooden sword against his opponent's katana. A little like Miyamoto Musashi using a sword carved from an oar in his duel with Sasaki Kojiro.
Hiroyuki Sanada who plays Seibei has a background in martial arts and he is one of the few Japanese actors who looks competent when he is using a sword. He was in The Last Samurai and he is also in 47 Ronin due for release in 2013.
All I need is
I can't imagine
A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it - by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.
Susan Sontag, On Photography
Pieces, bits and pieces
Add up through the years
I've collected a small fortune
falling sick on a journey
my dream goes wandering
over a field of dried grass
We received some Japanese confectionery this week. A souvenir of a trip to Kyoto. Japanese people like to give souvenirs - omiyage - to friends and family after trips. Speciality food from the area they visited is very popular.
The confectionery was yatsuhashi. There are soft types and hard types. The soft type usually has a sweet filling like bean paste or sesame paste. The hard type is a little like Belgian cinnamon and ginger speculoos cookies.
The package said since 1689. Showing the date of a company or a shop has become fashionable. A coffee shop shows since 1977 on its sign. A microbrewery shows since 1996 on its beer labels. But hundreds of years old is very rare.
About the time that confectionery shop started business Louis XIV was the King of France. Isaac Newton was writing Philosophia Naturalis Mathematica. John Locke
It's human to lie. Most of the time we can't even be honest with ourselves.
As a means of contrast with the sublime, the grotesque is, in our view, the richest source that nature can offer.
Victor Hugo, preface to Cromwell
Fate is what happens to you in spite of all your plans.
Natsuo Kirino, Out
In order to induce the process of decay, water is necessary. I think that, in the case of women, men are the water.
Natsuo Kirino, Grotesque
Last week I wrote about Izanagi and Izanami. A Japanese creation myth. O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, spoke about this myth.
I just found out this week - to my surprise - that the popular Japanese crime writer Natsuo Kirino wrote about the myth as part of a series on world mythology. Three of Natsuo Kirino's modernist noir novels have been translated into English. Out, Grotesque and Real World. They are very dark psychological thrillers. A little like Jim Thompson or James M Cain perhaps. Ice-cold and matter-of-fact.
As her stories develop Natsuo Kirino likes to shift the perspective by using different narrators. This is a technique used in Rashomon, one of Akira Kurosawa's most famous samurai movies. Rashomon was based on two stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa: Rashomon and In the Grove. Narrators do not always tell the truth. Or perhaps they do not understand the real truth. That is called an unreliable narrator. But innocently mistaken or delibe
I have heard moreover that the monster scorns
in his reckless way to use weapons;
therefore, to heighten Hygelac's fame
and gladden his heart, I hereby renounce
sword and the shelter of the broad shield,
the heavy war-board: hand-to-hand
is how it will be, a life-and-death
fight with the fiend.
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
I shall stay here the forehorse to a smock,
Creaking my shoes on the plain masonry,
Till honour be bought up, and no sword worn
But one to dance with.
William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well
Unknown was law,
Yet safe were all. Unhewn from native hills,
The pine-tree knew the seas not, nor had view'd
Regions unknown, for man not yet had search'd
Shores distant from his own. The towns ungirt
By trenches deep, laid open to the plain;
Nor brazen trump, nor bended horn were seen,
Helmet, nor sword; but conscious and secure,
Unaw'd by arms the nations tranquil slept.
with a flimsy sword
you cannot be half
a guard for the cardinal
a king's musketeer
Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Half Measures
I've read about Izanagi and Izanami in a couple of blog posts recently. It's a legend from the Kojiki. The Record of Ancient Matters. It's an old Japanese text. When I say old I mean more than a thousand years old.
I am not at all interested in the Kojiki as a technical text about martial arts. I don't read Beowulf or Ovid to lear
Like wild cherry blossoms
Glowing in the morning sun
On a journey
Resting beneath the cherry blossoms
I feel myself to be in a Noh play
You've got to believe it. Well, otherwise you couldn't possibly believe that cherry trees could bloom so beautifully. I've been out of sorts these past two or three days, because I couldn't believe in such a beauty. But now I've finally understood it: there are bodies buried beneath the cherry trees.
Kajii Motojiro, Beneath the Cherry Trees
This year has been cool and the cherry blossoms came into bloom very late. Today it is raining. The rain is beating the blossoms from the trees. Petals are lying everywhere on the wet ground. The cherry blossoms may be gone by tomorrow.
The year is divided by events of nature. Cherry blossoms. Fireflies. The autumn moon. The changing colours of the leaves. Japanese people admire these signs of change in nature and celebrate them. The ohanami or hanami - the o is an honorific prefix - cherry blossom viewing party is a significant event in the calendar. The end of winter and the beginning of spring. And sometimes perhaps also a celebration of graduation or the start of a new academic year or a new job. After the beauty of the heavy clouds of cherry blossoms on the trees the petals blowing in the wind are like the transience of life. I have a great memory of an aikido dojo hanami party in Maruyama Park in Kyoto.
Each man makes his own shipwreck | naufragium sibi quisque facit
Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, The Civil War
The Westerly Wind asserting his sway from the south-west quarter is often like a monarch gone mad, driving forth with wild imprecations the most faithful of his courtiers to shipwreck, disaster, and death.
Joseph Conrad, The Mirror of the Sea
The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea | tranquillas etiam naufragus horret aquas
Ovid, Letters from Pontus
My visions were of shipwreck and famine; of death or captivity among barbarian hordes; of a lifetime dragged out in sorrow and tears, upon some gray and desolate rock, in an ocean unapproachable and unknown.
Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym
Jerry: Expect a call.
George: Oh my god he's not kidding.
Jerry: Now I should tell you at this point she's under the impression that you are a…
George: A what?
Jerry: A marine biologist.
George: A marine biologist...? Why am I a marine biologist?
Jerry: I may have mentioned it.
George: But I'm not a marine biologist!
Jerry: I'm aware of that.
Jerry: You don't think it's a good job?
George: I didn't think it was a job.
Seinfeld, The Marine Biologist episode
A hundred years ago the Titanic sank. A forensic astronomer thinks it was because on 4 January 1912 the moon came close to the earth. The closest for 1400 years. And the day before the earth had been at its closest point to
I don't know about the idea that a weapon is an extension of your hand, but it sure feels good to have a stick in your hand and go whack, whack, whack.
Victor de Thouars, Mahaguru of Serak Pentjak-Silat
He hath a killing tongue and a quiet sword.
William Shakespeare, Henry V act 3 scene 2
If I did not know that I am a genuine Dane, I could almost be tempted to explain my self-contradictions by supposing that I am an Irishman. For the Irish do not have the heart to immerse their children totally when they have them baptized; they want to keep a little paganism in reserve; generally the child is totally immersed under water but with the right arm free, so that he will be able to wield a sword with it, embrace the girls.
Søren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers
A storm-beaten old watch-tower,
A blind hermit rings the hour.
All-destroying sword-blade still
Carried by the wandering fool.
Gold-sewn silk on the sword-blade,
Beauty and fool together laid.
William Butler Yeats, Symbols
Never give a sword to a man who can't dance.
A little while ago I wrote about the perfect tool. Tools for aikido are very basic. You need something to wear and somewhere to train. So that's a simple cotton uniform and a room. Or a park or a field. Some styles also train with stylized practice weapons. One of the most important is a wooden sword. A bokken.
Today I want to talk about some practice swords. I wrote about bamb...More
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
Edgar Allan Poe, The Bells
On a roof stand the swallows ranged in wistful waiting rows,
Till they arrow off and drop like stones
Thomas Hardy, On Sturminster Foot-bridge
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days
John Masefield, Cargoes
And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman
A sound in my head that I can't describe
It's sort of whack, whir, wheeze, whine
Sputter, splat, squirt, scrape
Clink, clank, clunk, clatter
Crash, bang, beep, buzz
Ring, rip, roar, retch
Twang, toot, tinkle, thud
Pop, plop, plunk, pow
Snort, snuk, sniff, smack
Screech, splash, squish, squeek
Jingle, rattle, squeel, boing
Honk, hoot, hack, belch
Todd Rundgren, Onomatopoeia
This pop-art painting by Roy Lichtenstein is done like a panel of a DC comic. The word Crak! sounds like its meaning - a rifle firing. That is called onomatopoeia.
In English we use onomatopoeia in music lyrics - like in Splish Splash (I was taking a bath) by Bobby Darin. And in poetry. From Shakespeare to e e cummings. And of course in comics!
But onomatopoeia, ideophones and mimetic words - including words for more abstract concepts that don't have a sound - are very, very important in normal Japanese speaking and writing. Many of these words are made by reduplication -
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
Lisel Mueller, Monet Refuses the Operation
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Though now in her old age, in her young age
She had been beautiful in that old way
That's all but gone
W B Yeats, The Old Age of Queen Maeve
I have lived long enough: my way of life
Is fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf;
And that which should accompany old age,
As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth act 5 scene 3
He is a policeman you know
All the years and nothing to show
He is a policeman you know
She did not really want to know; she believed she understood already.
Philip K Dick, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said
These are all things I saw, heard or read last week in Japan.
Neighbourhood loudspeakers asked everybody to look out for a man in his seventies who had gone wandering off. And described what he was wearing. Age-related problems like wandering are becoming more and more common. 23% of Japan's population is over 65, the highest percentage in the world. The figure is projected to be 41% by 2055.
A plainclothes police officer caught a man who had groped