Bushido #1 : On Japanese Sword Fighting

Source: Bushido #1 : On Japanese Sword Fighting

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Bushido #1 : On Japanese Sword Fighting

If you read my review on Iron Fist, you probably noticed that I pointed out several times that there are many differences between a real Japanese way of wielding swords and that of western fighters or Chinese sword fighters. There are some western movies like Kill Bill, Last Samurai and so on which portrayed the real Japanese sword fighting more accurately than many other Japanese movies.

 Before I begin, I want to make one thing clear. I do not intend to taunt or belittle any movies or TV dramas for failing to describe a real Japanese sword fight. Actually, most Japanese movies fail to do that, too. But actually using the word “fail” itself is somewhat wrong. Once I read an article on this matter somewhere. It went something like this. “Sword fighting in movies (Japanese) is not meant to be real. Movies are entertainment and real sword fighting is not acrobatic enough. You stare at each other sometimes for hours and then with one swing, it’s over. It is not fun. So Japanese movies take in the fighting scenes from Kabuki.”

 Kabuki is now considered as a sophisticated traditional form of theaters but Kabuki is, just like Shakespeare’s plays, entertainment for ordinary people in Edo period. So people want action scenes where actors fight using swords in acrobatic fashions just like I want great action scenes in action movies. Japanese movies inherited the sword fighting from Kabuki and did not intend to showcase real sword fighting. Yes, there are many types of movies and when people want flamboyant acrobatic sword fighting scenes, movie makers give people one. They are not making movies to educate people. People do it somewhere else. People want to be entertained and I get it. I mean I also want those and watch many movies whose fighting scenes are not for real. I’m looking for entertainment, not reality.

 At the same time, people should not be left ignorant. I mean, people can enjoy surreal fighting scenes all they want. I do, too (actually I’m thinking of writing a novel in English where many of those fighting take place but I might use Kabuki styles). But if they know how the real fighting will be done, maybe they might be able to enjoy those scenes even more. I also want people to know about Japanese sword fighting styles and maybe people out there are intrigued by how real Japanese fighters fought.

I might be wrong, though. But though I gave up because of the lack of time to continue but about 5 years ago, I learned to wield real Japanese swords, or Katana, for about five years. In the system of my school, if you pass the fifth stage (5 dan), you can be an assistant teacher (Shihandai) and above the sixth stage, you can be “sensei.” I passed the fourth stage, one stage away from becoming an assistant instructor and I also learned most of the katas of the school of Iai studio I belonged to, which is the special fighting ways that allow you to fight when you are attacked without warning especially while your sword rests in your scabbard (that’s a big deal). I also cut many rolls of wet tatami mat that are considered to be just as hard as human necks. From my experience, if you don’t use sword right, not only you will fail to cut the rolls of mat in half (or into four pieces for that matter) but also even hurt yourself or break your precious swords in half because if you do not thrust with the right angle and speed with keeping the swords angle steady, it will stop inside the mat (or human body or whatever you try to cut) and its blade will break because it is thin. Conversely, if you use it right, it can cut anything because it is thin and extremely strong for thin blade. That’s Katana.

So that’s why every time fighters start to use the sword like rapiers or Chinese swords, holding with one hand and swing left to right, I feel something is wrong. Real swords are heavier and longer. Even if you have extra-strength and wield swords with one hand and move them quickly, they are no better than other types of swords. Or maybe worse because they are not cut out for those ways of fighting,

There are many cases where people swing their swords like 100 times and make 100 small cuts on each other but when masters fight, the fights sometimes end with one swing. The way I see it, Japanese swords are highly aggrieved weapons. You don’t carry any shields. You hold them with both hands and just attack. In many cases, the first attack will decide the dual. One of the most famous sword fighters in Japan 150 years ago, Shuusaku Chiba, out it as follows :”Sword is about a fraction-of-a-second speed (Sore, ken-wa shunsoku).” Everything is decided in a split second. The one who moves one fraction of one fraction of a second wins and survives the fight. But of course it doesn’t mean that you can swing swords hundreds of times blindly. You stay out as long as it takes, seek the opportunity (usually happens when your adversary loses concentration for a split second) and when the moment arrives, strike with a lightning speed and give a mortal blow.

Maybe I want a character who wields swords that way. The hero who carries a Japanese sword, stands still, becoming one with nature. When multiple assassins attack the hero, I want him/her to slightly moves and dodges the enemies’ attacks and then with flawless slices, cut down all the enemies down with one slice each. Actually, that’s a kind of hero I want to write about. There are many ideas like that but I’ll keep mum about them. 🙂

Once again, I am not writing these to undermine movies or dramas that have fake Japanese fighting styles. And as I said, it is not “fake news” at all. They are rightful heirs of Japanese traditional,entertainment, Kabuki. I just, first off, would like people (not just non-Japanese people but Japanese people, too, because many of them have no idea about sword fighting) to know about these things. I might be wrong, too. But I wrote these because if I speak up, other people will do, too, and we can move forward and will get to know the truth. That’s how humans store knowledge.

And it is also good to have options. This is the age of reality (the politics of the United States is pretty much like a reality show at this time. The president is the reality show runner, anyway) so maybe it is good to have a real Japanese sword fighter on screen. I love action movies!

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Iron Fist: Critics taunt Iron Fist but, hey, I didn’t hate it so much.

Source: Iron Fist: Critics taunt Iron Fist but, hey, I didn’t hate it so much.

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Iron Fist: Critics taunt Iron Fist but, hey, I didn’t hate it so much.

 

(First off, this article contains some information about the story line. If you don’t want to know any of it, you should not read it though I try not to spill the beans and try to keep it abstract or cryptic)

 

Finally I’m done watching all the 13 episodes. Now I didn’t read the ones with spoilers but I ran some research on Iron Fist before I started to watch. So often I saw a lot of reviews dismissing Iron Fist as boring. But actually, I didn’t get bored, not by the long shot!  Well, I agree that Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones were good but I enjoyed Iron Fist, too. Maybe it’s because I had lowered my criteria but I have been living more than half a century so I know what I like and I don’t care what people think. I like what I like and I don’t let other people’s opinions cloud my judgment, I can like and say that I do whatever I like even if 99 people in the room hate the thing I like and I’m the only guy who likes it. I know everyone has their own tastes and they are different. Sorry but not sorry. If I’m not on the same page with other people, I don’t try to get on their page. Well, sorry about this mambo jumbo. I need to be clear.

Now what’s going on? Well, if I point out the things I don’t like first. Well, I don’t deny everything critics say. Their point is everything, from a story line to characters are too flat. Yes, I admit that. Everyone is sort of weak. Everyone is at odds but conflicts are not too strong. I also admit that after the first couple episodes, they failed to pick up the tempos and the story was lagging a little and sort of boring. But there were those moments in Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, too. Maybe the only show that didn’t have it was Daredevil. I was not able to stop at the cliffhanger at the end of the episode that I stooped in the middle of the episode where things got solved.

But after (I forgot which one but) Harold went ballistic, the things started to accelerate and I liked how they built toward the climax. And those mid episodes, too, were not so bad. They may be just too cryptic and ambiguous. I felt that, too. Well, ambiguity is the trait of the Japanese culture but in a way, I don’t really belong to one culture. When I was 18, I did the homestay in the U.S. I asked my host parents to re-educate me as an American. I asked then not to think of me as a non-American boy and correct me whenever I did something weird in the American perspective. Thank God they did! So I am a man of two cultures and honestly I like it! I basically don’t care what other people think in the first place (though I am so sensitive to it and maybe I learned not to care because I was too sensitive and I subconsciously tried to protect myself) so I am enjoying who I am than am made to suffer from it, I’m saying this because so often I have seen people who have different tastes or different background suffer from it. Well if it involves hazing or bullying, which is so in many cases, it is totally different matter. But if it is not or just mild, maybe occasional smirk or ironical comments, I don’t care. And the intriguing fact is that if you don’t care, people can’t hurt you and if they know they can’t, they will stop doing that.

Anyway, in the middle they were lagging a little. They looked as if they don’t know how to move the story forward but at the same time just learning more about Gao or the Hand is enough quid pro quo for me to spend some hours watching all those episodes in the middle. I like the occasional references to the Japanese bushido philosophy though I disagree many of their interpretations, but for what it’s worth, none of them are off the mark. Some of them are just different from the way I see them. They are not wrong though some of their ways to use swords are not just different but wrong. I am a dreamer and still am dreaming about becoming a writer in English. Maybe that’s why I am writing this. And one of the things I want to write about is Samurais or swords masters I see. Not academic crap. I want to write about real Samurais, the pioneers, who earned their positions in wars, or real sword masters who survived in hell and emerges as champions. Sorry about digression. Watching 13 episodes in 2 days got me thinking a lot, I guess.

So though I agree with some critics in that this is not a flawless, impeccable series but the way I see it, Iron Fist is not so bad as they say it is! If I rank the Defenders series so far, 1. Daredevil 2. Iron Fist / Jessica Jones / Luke Cage. I like Daredevil because it has the intensity the other sries don’t have. The conflicts are intense, each character is described profoundly. As for the other series, maybe because of the villain Kilgrave, Jessica Jone is better by a nose but that’s all I see. I still feel Iron Fist could have been better if they had picked up more tempos in the middle and if they had more intensity at the end but still they were entertaining enough and I don’t regret any minute I spent watching the whole series.

Beside they mentioned Murray’s bagels and Joe’s pizza! These names alone make me smile and make my mouth water! I still remember the taste of them. The biggest problem of the shows of Netflix is there are so much NYC in them that I can’t contain my yearning for it! I got to get back to NYC. I wrote about my first homestay experience but the second biggest impact on my life happened last summer in NYC (I spent 10 months in Vermont and 3 months in Kentucky but 1 and a half months in NYC have more impact on me than those longer stays). I prepared everything by myself. I even found my own studio. The moment my plane arrived in Kennedy Airport, I told myself. “I can die right after this. I will give up five years of my lifetime. I want every cell and since of me to wake up to absorb every single thing I see and hear and sense for that matter here in NYC.” And I think my whole self and soul followed that. My 45 days there are worth 500 or 1000 days. I spent every minute (beside attending classes and doing homework) walking around as many places as possible. I went to Brooklyn to Bronx. I ran with some families visiting Bronx Zoo in the rain for the shelter. I drank and sang with Yankees fans in the cheapest seat of the Yankee stadium. I talked with the tired middle-aged man sitting next to each other on the bench in Central Park, watching an amateur baseball game. I walked around in Union Square. I drank beer with my classmates and danced in Bryant Park. I walked around East Village, drunk with my friends 4 in the morning and ate a slice of dollar pizza (and it was as good as Joe’s. And I loved Six-Point beer served in the bar on the 26th street). I had already visited touristy places in NYC already so I visited other places.

Now back in Review again. Iron Fist is maybe if you see it harshly with “objective professional eyes,” a piece of garbage. But to me, it was quite entertaining though I admit that it was a tad flat in the middle but it was nothing to fuss about. Conversely, now that I am deeply into the Defenders series, there are so many pieces of information imbedded in each episode. I like a cut little Joy and Japanese bushido instigated girl. And I can’t hate Danny Rand. And maybe more importantly, there are so many NYC in it.

So I give 8.0 to this and rank Iron Fist as high as Luke Cage. I really liked it. The word is (or according to some prediction by amateur critics, the Defenders might be released on May 17th. (Am I right? Correct me if I’m wrong). I just can’t wait!

Star Wars fans might say, “May the Force be with you.” I would say, “May the Chi be with you.!

 

 

 

 

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MacBook Pro Late 2016 (without Touch Bar) ; On the Road Again & on Iron Fist

Source: MacBook Pro Late 2016 (without Touch Bar) ; On the Road Again & on Iron Fist

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MacBook Pro Late 2016 (without Touch Bar) ; On the Road Again & on Iron Fist

So Since this is weekend and it was so hectic this week, I have a lot to say. I will write about three of my major categories: MacBook, a road bike and Iron Fist.

MacBook Pro Late 2016 (Without Touch Bar)

First of all, finally my partner for the next 4 years have arrived! I have been using Macintosh computers ever since I bought Macintosh SE 25 years ago and using PowerBooks ever since I bought PowerBook 140, the middle range model of the very first notebook computers released by Apple (except for MacPortable) or by any companies for that matter (if I remember correctly) two decades ago.

I had been using one of the IBM compatible computers but I was so moved by the famous 1984 commercial, dumped the DOS machine I was using at the time (Windows was still a beta version at that time) and bought a used Mac from my friend working for Apple Japan.

This is the third MacBook Pro I bought in the last decade (I don’t know how many in my life so far especially because I was extravagant when I was single) but this is so different. They ditched all the legacy connectors like USB 3.0/1, Thunderbolt 1/2 and all that stuff. For those who expect nothing more than conventional and practical qualities, maybe this is troublesome (but as far as reviews go, new MacBooks are not as unpopular as I expected) but for true good old Mac users, it looks like finally Apple is back on track. A Daredevil, a bold forerunner, the one who thinks different and shows us our future. This is Apple. I haven’t felt this vibe for a while. Buying a new machine always makes my heart race but this time it is giving me the joy I used to have when I bought Macs! The sense of holding the future in front of me!

FYI, I bought the one without a touch bar (simply because I don’t have enough money), the lowest model with space grey in color. Looks cool (so thin!)! I like the new controversial keyboard, except for the sound the keys make (too loud) but it is OK. A retina display is totally amazing! USB? If you spend extra 40 bucks and buy a USB hub and everything’s alright! And they gave me 80 bucks worth gift card in Japanese Apple store so it was like a giveaway.

Now I will be more productive… or maybe not. I don’t watch TV these days. I watch streaming dramas like Netflix on my laptop (especially I have digitally migrated). Now that I got this beautiful display so I can’t stop watching dramas. But hey, it only proves this machine is worth the money! 🙂

On the road again!

Last week I rode my bike. I rode about 20 miles. Today, I rode 27 miles with more climbs than last weekend’s ride. The going was still slow but here and there I sprinted and rode faster. I hope to introduce some of the beautiful scenery I can enjoy in this area.

OBTW, I would like to express my deepest condolences for Chuck Berry. When I first bought my fake Stratcaster when I was 15 years old, the riff from Johnny B. Good is among the first riffs I played along with the ones from Smoke on the Water and A Stairway to Heaven. I don’t know how many people imitated that phrase and learned to play the guitar. Chuck, you are the father of almost all the guitarists after you debuted. Now it’s time to blow Angels’ mind.

 

Iron Fist!

I have so many things going on right now so I cannot concentrate on binge-watching Iron Fist though I very much like to. I watched half of all the episodes, and yes, I freakin’ loved all the episodes. As I said, you can find faults with this series. But I love each and every drama of each and every defender (Luke, Jessica, Mathew and Danny)! Each one has their stories to tell and they are all beautiful and violent nightmares full of harrowing ordeals. As I said, Jessica Jones is really violent and graphic (they are etched in my memory and can’t get rid of them). Iron Fist is mild so far in that sense. I would classify this series so far into PG if this stays this way. Maybe Marvel fans don’t like the shows that way but I like mild violence so I feel comfortable watching this or Daredevil. Of course we don’t know what’s coming (unless you binge-watched all the episodes already).

Either way, I want to post a full report when I’m done but I would like to mention that it is worth spending 13 hours on this. And I advise you to watch Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. There are so many plots overlapping and intertwined with each other that you can enjoy so much if you know what happened in other shows about other defenders. (But once again, Jessica Jones is very graphic).

Before I leave, one more thing. There are so many Japanese martial arts including bushido, the way of Samurai, in those shows. Well, actually, I was a student of Battoudo about 5 years back, where I learned to use a real Japanese sword, Katana. I learned more than 30 katas or patterns to attack and defend using a real sword and even cut countless damp rolled tatami mats, which are said to be exactly as hard as real human necks. Many swords appear in those show make me smile because so often they are too broad or bend in the wrong way, but that’s not important. As for the Japanese language I hear, they are so real.

Then there was a scene where a heroine of Iron Fist said to Danny, “I haven’t spoken Mandarin since I was (forgot the exact age but a young child). Speak Japanese or English.” It got me thinking about the state of affairs in Asia now. Every time I went to the U.S., I became friends with a lot of Chinese people and Korean people. There’s a lot going on in this region right now. Hope Japanese people right the wrongs and will be ready to become friends with other Asian friends. I don’t need any borders physically and spiritually. I want the world where people can live wherever they like speaking whatever language they like to speak (I love American English so much better than Japanese or any form of English for that matter) and don’t care where they come from. Just a thought.

PS  About 20 years back, when I was still single and liked play video games, there used to a series named “Iron Fist (鉄拳).” Does this “Iron Fist” have something to do with it? The storyline of the game was so crazy.  One of the strongest human beings and the president of a conglomerate company (means he is super rich) tries to kill his son, who wants to kill his father and take over his company. There are so many bad guys involved in this. Iron Fist keeps reminding me of this.

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Seriously Netflix, Not So Fast, I mean thank you, Oh My God, I can’t sleep.

Source: Seriously Netflix, Not So Fast, I mean thank you, Oh My God, I can’t sleep.

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