Here’s a quick announcement on what’s new on my plate, in relations to the blog as well as other matters:
1) Translations section has been updated with both a new entry in the Buki Sode Kagami page, and a new project called “Kōyō Gunkan no naigunpō no maki”. The latter is about the famous documentation on military-related matters called Koyo Gunkan, and how it compares to another manual that contains entries from it called “Ueno Tamaki Kabunsho”. This one is an ongoing project, so look out for updates coming soon. A few other translation projects will also be following suit as I finish putting them together.
2) This year my agenda is to release more articles on historical figures, similar to my format a few years ago. Targeting less known/less spoken about individuals just for the sake of variety. The 1st article which will be out shortly this week will be on Takigawa Kazumasu, a military commander who had many years of success under warlords such as Oda Nobunaga.
Outside of this, some updates to the site made for the sake of better user interface. Specifically, the menu bar has been tweaked where subpages no longer show when the cursor highlights the Translations tab.
3) Chikushin Group continues to train and keep up our yearly theme. Due to regulations in NYC, we do not meet indoors. Instead, all classes are officially outdoor for the time being. Safety measures include the use of hand sanitizers and gloves. More about this can be found on the Chikushin Arts Facebook page.
4) Recently I made a collaboration with Kazuyo Matsuda to have two of my articles featured on her website “Fine Ladies Kendo Worldwide”. Kazuyo and a few others who specialize in kendo join together to create a website that highlights many talented women who make strives in the kendo community, as well as discuss topics related to their respective training. They also have a magazine for subscribers who want to gain access to premium content.
The articles that are featured on Kazuyo’s website are the ones about Chiba Sana due to her history in gekiken. Along with this, she not only translated these articles into Japanese, but was gracious enough to provide some updates to the original articles with some research she did on her end, which have been implemented on my blog. A special thank you goes out to Paul Budden, who spent time corresponding with me to make this collaboration happen.
Please check out Kazuyo’s new site below. For those who want to support them, you can also subscribe for a monthly membership access more exclusive content.
As I close the year with this last post, I look back at what has transpired around the world. What sticks out the most is how a pandemic has changed the lifestyle for everyone. Countless lives have been lost, travel and social activites have nearly ceased, jobs have downsized or ceased, and the economy for many countries have been affected greatly. We’ve all been affected personally in one way or another. The negatives of 2020 will linger greatly in many people’s minds possibly for some time.
Yet, this doesn’t mean that there haven’t been any positive moments in 2020. In times of of turmoil we’ve seen people work together to help one another. Many who work in the hospitals around the world worked tirelessly to save the lives of those inflicted by the pandemic. We’ve seen innovation used to keep society from screeching to a halt through making work spaces safe or to interact remotely from one’s homes. Families could spend more time safely to strengthen their bonds and continue to move forward, and so on. These may pale in comparison to the negatives, but in reality we must look for the silver lining in the clouds in order to strengthen our spirit and find the will to move forward.
There is a popular Japanese proverb that goes “nanakorobi yaoki” (七転び八起き). It means even if you fall down seven times, you get back up eight times. Countless people around the world have gone through some tough moments personally due to the pandemic. Yet, we all need to keep going forward into the new year with a positive attitude. This resolve will make us stronger, and hopefully overcome a history we hope to never revisit. We all can return back to a state of normalcy, and from there continue to aim further for great success in the years to come.
Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year, and a fruitful 2021!
Just a quick announcement, there are new updates being added to the Translations page. For starters, both “Kai Kokushi” and “Bukijutsus Zusetsu” have new entries added today. There will be another update in a few days as well. On top of this, a new translation entry will be added soon, possibly at the ending of this week. Just like blog entries, there will not be a shortage of translation works present on this site.
Speaking of which, one of the nice things about doing translation work is some of the new & interesting topics that pop up from them. For example, I’ve spent some time on & off working on the entry under “Kai Kokushi”, which covers several military commanders who held the prestigious title of “Hayato”. Since it covers inheritance, family genealogy through arranged marraige, and the like, I needed to do a lot of research on different individuals and family lines. This also encouraged me to read certain older novels in Japanese, as these were referenced as well. While this entry mainly focuses on the Hara family of Kai Province, the Sanada family are also mentioned abit…including the famous Sanada Yukimura.
Considering the popularity of the Sanada clan, one would think that it’d be easy to get information as needed. However, this is not the case when a great deal of their fame, especially due in part of Sanada Yukimura, is through fictional novels and artworks. Lotsa fact-checking is required in cases like this to understand what’s real and what’s fiction. So, thanks to the translation work on the Hara family and the Hayato title, I will be releasing a post on Sanada Yukimura this week.
Over the weekend, I made some decisions with the blog which will hopefully bring more quality to the contents being provided here. For a few years Light in the Clouds was run under a free account, meaning internal and external upgrades were vastly limited. As the topics I research and write about continue to expand in the form of articles, stories, and translations, I felt it was time to invest in them financially. As of yesterday, Light in the Clouds has been has been upgraded to a more premium account.
What does this mean? For starters, the “wordpress” in the address has been removed, and my site can stand on its own. This will help for establishing my contents as a brand, which will prove vital with current and future projects. Also, I have the options of adding plugins and other customization to this site. This is something I wanted to do for the longest. Although it will be a learning process as I experiment with various add-ons and such, in the long run they should help to further how content is delivered, appearance of the site, and the like.
Another important part is available space. Originally I had to be mindful of what was stored on my site. While images do not take up much space, sound clips and videos do. Now, through this upgrade, I will have much more space to work with, and should be able to post articles with videos. On top of this, all works found in the Translations section have been reconstructed and are now stored on this site. For the longest I had been using a 2nd site for storage purposes, but can finally cut this process out. This will make performing maintenance much easier.
Just wanted to share the good news. The new address is <https://lightinthecloudsblog.com/>. The old address still works, but for how long I do not long. Stay tuned and be on the look out for the new changes this site update will bring.
In a previous post from a few years back, I spoke about the importance of measurements for one’s weapons according to the martial system being studied. There, it was mentioned how necessary it is to wield weapons that have proper dimensions according to our body type when we are beginners. For this post, we will take this same subject and look at it from another perspective, where I discuss about the strong points of training with weapons of irregular dimensions in kobudō (古武道, Classical Japanese martial arts) as an advanced student.
PROCESS OF HANDLING WEAPONS OF UNCONVENTIONAL LENGTHS
When first starting out, a student is required to acquire training weapons that fit their body type in order to study the lessons correctly. After some time has passed where the student has become familiar with a particular weapon of a standard length, they should next come out of their comfort zone and handle one of a different length. Sometimes this can be impromptu during class, or other times the focus of the lesson can be placed on this point. There are many reasons behind this. For starters, to further understand the principles for said weapon, whether it be a sword or staff, one has to be exposed to conditions that teach us lessons that go beyond just the physical. Distance, timing, and positioning are just some of the principles that require being explored under not-so-usual conditions.
For starters, against an adversary with a sanjaku dachi (三尺太刀, a Japanese sword that measures about three feet), a rokushaku bō (六尺棒, six-foot stick) provides a great reach that allows the wielder to perform ashibarai (足払, leg sweep) from a safe distance. Yet, when given a sanjaku bō (三尺棒, three-foot stick), you won’t have the same advantage as before. Still, with further training and having a deep understanding of the principles of one’s art, you can still perform an ashibarai to defeat an opponent without getting cut down.
USING DIFFERENT WEAPONS TO LEARN SAME SKILLS
Sometimes the same set of kata for one particular weapon is used to teach how to use another weapon even if it’s a different size. This is another challenging point that can further support an martial system’s ideology across a different span of weapons. For example, some traditional schools in Japan have used the kata for the naginata as a means to learn how to wield the yari. Others have used the kata for the katana to understand how to utilize the kusarigama. each of these weapons have unique traits that provide interesting results, especially in the case of the kusarigama; a sickle with a flexible chain & weight takes a great amount of understanding and control if pitted in the same scenario where a katana would be used.
Next, there are those kata where one performs with a katana, but then later does it with a much longer sword like an ōdachi, or with a much smaller one like a kodachi. All three are categorized as swords, but with varying lengths. For an advanced student, one of the greatest challenges here is understanding the strengths & weaknesses of the weapon in hand, and how it affects not only the control (or lack of) they may gain, but also how their opponent will react based on how each weapon is manipulated.
IDEA OF ANYTHING AS A WEAPON
When an adequate amount of training has been put in, an advanced student should begin to develop the ability to use anything that comes into hand. Looking the development of different martial systems in Japan’s history from the 1500s onward, many incorporated the study of multiple weapons in the form of sōgō bujutsu (総合武術, martial system featuring numerous disciplines). This not only encouraged bushi (武士, warriors) to be familiar in many different skills, but to be resourceful enough to use anything that they could get their hands on, including their opponent’s own weapon. The same mentality remains in various martial arts schools even today.
Many countries have very strict laws against carrying weapons, even those for self defense purposes. While it may seem impractical to study classical systems that specialize in the use of the yari, kusarigama, and so forth, this isn’t truth. Much of what is learned can be applied to common tools and items we find around ourselves everyday. An umbrella substituted for a sanjaku bō, a shovel used in place of a yari, or even a belt wielded like a kusarifundō are but examples of adapting one’s training for self-defense in today’s contemporary world. With a thorough understanding of the principles necessary for this through consistent training, it is possible to naturally use any common item in your environment as a weapon without getting caught up in small details such as being the “correct” length with the iaitō used in training, and so on.
In conclusion, working with weapons of different dimensions during training has its merits for advanced students. This can range from handling same-type weapons of varying lengths to using a specific to learn another different weapon type. In the end, a student should be able to go past form & structure of a particular weapon and grasp a deep understanding of the principles behind what make it work. Achieving this, that student will be able to reach the outcome they so desire despite the length of said weapon being slightly off of what would normally fit their body type.
With 2019 coming to a close, I’ve been preparing my schedule for the new year. Prioritizing is important as my hobbies & interests have increased, and I’m hoping to execute much better in terms of content for next year. Below is a quick outline of my goals for 2020.
2019 was abit tough for putting out posts, for I was juggling between this and the book translations I am working on (more on that later). I do have a list of topics planned throughout the year, with room for new topics that may be time-sensitive, interesting, or need immediate intention as they may be hot in my mind. That being said, certain topics were missed or incomplete. For 2020, I plan to catch up on a few, such as finishing the discussion on the martial development in Japan.
An added section to my blog, updates have been regrettably slow due to working on the book translations. Much of what I have for this section are either done but need to be prepared for public presentation, or are partially done. Fortunately, I took some time out during the holidays to work on this area, and should be able to roll out new content here early January.
Running a martial arts group is now part of my normal routine, so much attention is placed here as well. Plans for Chikushin Martial & Cultural Training Group are geared towards improving our public presentation in the form of updating the website, which will include revised descriptions on our training, a picture gallery, and demo vids. I will also work on advertising abit more to bring in more people who are interested in Japanese martial arts, as well as announce more small events for locals to participate in, most likely through Facebook. Outside of this, small changes and adjustments are being implemented for next year’s curriculum, which will be announced shortly.
Sometime last year I announced that I’m working on 2 books that are translations of old Japanese works. Been working on these as much as possible on a daily basis, and am happy with how things are progressing. There was some changes in which one was prioritized, which are explained as followed:
KINETSUSHU: I was able to locate a 3rd version of this document. Thus, this has been upgrade to 3-scroll translations. While the time frame for completing this is not long, I am putting this book to the side momentarily to work on another.
TSUKI NO SHO: Initially was supposed to be book #2, this has been moved to being my designated 1st book to publish. This changed due to requests for putting out an English version out in a timely fashion. An important document for schools that specialize in Shinkage ryū Heihō, much research has been going into deciphering the contents, which has proven to be very educational. A must read for all kenjutsu practitioners imho. Here’s a sample of a preliminary layout for the book. Note that this is still a work in progress, so editing, revisions, and formatting may change the overall final product.
With plenty of projects on my plate, I’m still dedicated in keeping my blog alive and strong with interesting contents. Here’s looking forward to a progressive new year!
Late last year I was involved in a Japanese-to-English translation project for a new book. I am happy to announce that it’s finally being released this month!
Entitled “Ninja: Secrets of the Unsurpassable Heart”, it’s written by Teruhisa Komori, a professor of Mie University who specializes in psychiatric studies. To give some background information, this book explores more than just a historical perspective of the origins, activities, and techniques of the ninja, but incorporates Mr. Komori’s research on their physical, mental and spiritual fortitude and how they were able to succeed in their missions. The studies conducted give many hints on how these traits of the ninja can also benefit people in today’s technologically & socially-driven societies in terms of dealing with stress and issues that arise through it.
This is a Japanese-to-English translation of his original book “Ninja “Makenai Kokoro no Himitsu”” (忍者「負けない心の秘密」). As the sole translator chosen for this project, I was fortunate in being able to correspond directly with Mr. Komori to ensure that his writing was transcribed accurately as possible in English.
This book will be available through your typical retail bookstores and online retail businesses. For those looking for a more analytical and detailed look into what made the ninja who they were and the methods they used to do so, pick it up and give it a good read!
June has been a busy month for me, with new projects that are being put into motion. My articles covering Japanese-related topics are still in the works, but have been placed on the backburner until at least early July. Here’s some projects that have had my full attention throughout June.
Translation Page: On top of the page (or under the Menu tab if viewing on a smartphone) you’ll notice there is a new tab, “Translations”. This has been in the works for some time now. The tricky part was how to implement it on my blog. This section will feature some of my translation works I have done in the past, as well as future works currently being worked on. Some of these have already been posted on my blog as a topic. Translation works will have a wide range of topics, for there may be something that everyone will find interesting.
Facebook: In the “Links and Resources” menu at the right hand side of the screen is a link to the Chikushin Martial & Cultural Training Group Facebook page. It’s been there for several months, and was slowly being developed in terms of direction of contents. Other than posting the monthly training schedule and announcements of new blog posts, it is used as another means to share Japanese culture-related topics, as well as inform of other sites and establishments in NYC of similar interests.
Monthly Events: A few days ago my group hosted a small event in Manhattan. It was our first local event, as I try to bring more attention to my group for those who would be interested in studying Japanese martial arts (and possibly Japanese language). There are more monthly events in the works; with June’s event being on kamae and distancing, July’s event is subject to focus on bōjutsu. These events will be mentioned periodically on the FB page.
Books: Late last year, I was setting aside certain old Japanese documents that I would one day translate into English and have published. Although that has been a slow undertaking, this month I began working nonstop on 2 of them, as I’m hoping to have them done by the ending of the year. These manuscripts are “Kinetsushu” and “Tsuki no Shō”. Both have some connections to a traditional kenjutsu school called Shinkage ryū Hyōhō. So far, progression on these have been positive, and I am greatly looking forward to the end product. More news regarding these 2 works should be on the way, so I will post updates as the time comes.
Guess this post is more of an “update” of what’s on my plate, as well as what to expect. These new projects by no means replace my normal postings, as I enjoy writing on my blog and have plenty of topics lined up. Stay tuned, for regularly scheduled articles should be coming out next week.
On April 1st, the new gengo (元号), known as era or period in English, has been announced in Japan. It is “Reiwa” (令和), and will mark the shift of imperial decree to the crown prince Naruhito. This is also momentous, as this is the 1st time that the gengo is named using Japanese literature; for the previous eras the naming convention was determined following centuries-old tradition of using Chinese literature.
Pics from the official announcement of the new gengo, or era, that will mark the arrival of the new Emperor this year. To the left is Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga making the annoucement , and to the right is a clearer image of the writing of Reiwa in kanji. These pics were taken as my family and I watched the announcement live.
Gengo is significant within Japan’s culture, as it is tied to the emperor, and acts as a decree of his imperial reign. A few years ago, the current Emperor Akihito announced his retirement, and will officially step down on April 30th. Thus, a new Gengo signifies the shift of imperial power to the new emperor, while the previous gengo is retired.
The current gengo Heisei (平成) lasts for about only 30 years, from January 1st, 1989 to early 2019. Heisei is the 247th in Japan’s history. The new gengo, Reiwa, will become the 248th starting May 1st.
The word Reiwa is taken from a line in the Manyōshū (万葉集), which is one of the oldest existing documentation of Japanese poetry. While the character “wa” (和) has been used many times in previous gengo, the character “rei” (令) makes its 1st time appearance, marking this naming convention very Japanese-like. The original line goes as follow:
Prime Minister Abe explaining the decision behind using Reiwa as the new gengo.
The characters rei and wa are highlighted in red, and their place within the poem is significant. Prime Minister Abe explained during the announcement how this poem inspires the new gengo. This meaning is pretty deep, both culturally and symbolically. Although it would be a feat to give a thorough interpretation from Japanese to English, I will try to give a simpler explanation:
Reiwa’s meaning is tied to the season of Spring and how it symbolizes the new beginnings after enduring the harsh times of the previous cold season, Winter.
The timing of Spring is auspicious, and said to be a pleasant one, too.
The poem follows a much older Japanese calendar system called inreki (陰暦), or Lunar calendar, when February was the month designated as the start of Spring alongside the beginning of the new year. This is indicated by the mentioning of the Japanese plum flower called ume (梅); associated with the month of February, it is described as going into full bloom after enduring the cold Winter.
Based on Prime Minister Abe’s description, the overall meaning of Reiwa is pretty unique. The character “rei” features its meaning from how it’s used in the poem from above, veering towards new growth (for both humans and culture), while the character “wa” indicate pleasant times of peace amongst people and throughout society.
The crown prince Naruhito is scheduled to officially take his place as Emperor on May 1st 2019. The period of Reiwa will also go into effect at the same time.