Times have been tough for Matthew Smith. A self-proclaimed “Star Wars” fanatic from Clifton, N.J., Mr. Smith, 38, was laid off from his job as a retail manager five months ago and has been living on unemployment ever since. His dream of starting his own business fizzled along with his marriage — one was directly tied to the other, he says. And his efforts to find a new job have so far been futile.
“My life has not been working,” he said, as he stood inside a huge ballroom at the Westin Hotel on Saturday along with 500 other people, many of them also unemployed and looking for something better.
But this was not a job fair. They were here to see a motivational speaker and self-help guru, and paying a hefty price to do so: $1,297 for a high-decibel, two-day seminar. In this case, the speaker was James Arthur Ray, one of the emerging names in the $11 billion self-improvement industry, and the event was called the Harmonic Wealth Weekend.
I would love to cite Raging Phoenix as the first awesome martial arts film with a female lead. I would love to do that. But its choreographers and writers conspire against me.
Raging Phoenix is the story of a young female rocker (played by Jeeja Yanin) who gets caught up in a ruthless kidnapping ring. Women are abducted off the streets of Thailand, drugged, and taken to a secret laboratory hidden within a Temple of Doom, which is in turn hidden within a metropolitan sewage system. Naturally, the women’s tears are harvested there, to concoct a patent medicine for eccentric billionaires.
Only one force is strong enough to thwart the kidnapper’s plans: a small group of drunken vigilantes who learned to combine Muay Thai boxing with stylish hip-hop dance moves. [Read more →]
“Manga Bible” Casts Jesus Christ as Samurai Warrior
Christian thinkers have tried to make the Bible accessible for centuries, scholars said. Stained glass windows related Bible stories when Europe was largely illiterate. New printing technology in the 19th century made it possible to mass-produce Bibles, including illustrated versions…
The goal of the Bibles is not just to win people to Christ, but to particular ways of thinking, said Jason BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University. Manga Bible author Mr. Akinsiku said the biblical message he wanted to underscore was justice, especially for the poor… [Continued in The New York Times]
Attention Anchormen: Not Every Swordsman is a Samurai
Recently confronted by a sword-wielding maniac, German police lower their guns, in favor of the trusty battle broom. [Read more →]
Through training in the martial arts, we begin to pay more attention to aspects of experience that might have seemed peripheral, if not hard to believe before. We begin to start noticing and giving more credence to experiences such as meeting someone for the first time and instantly liking them or disliking them without knowing anything about them. We like their vibes, we can tell if someone is staring at us and when we look up (what makes you look?) we feel we know what they are feeling or that something is going to happen, the phone rings and we know who it is before we answer it. As we allow ourselves to develop new sensitivities, we begin to view the world quite differently.
Training in Psychic Energy
Vladimir Vasiliev is a Master in The System [Systema] and he has an outstanding command of its use. Though he is so humble, I’m sure he would be the first to deny it! What I will relay now is on his personal account of the Psychic Training he received while he was with the Special Operations unit in Spetsnaz. In his own words:
The goal of the training was to make you multi-functional. You were to be able to work effectively in any kind of situation and never fear it. Perhaps more importantly, you were expected to learn how to be creative and act spontaneously. Divergent thinking, being able to come up with unconventional and unusual responses and decisions in different situations was an absolute necessity. You had to be totally adaptable to survive in the unit.
The key to this adaptability was the Psychic Training you received. You were expected to go well beyond the mere physical and psychological mastery to a point where intuition and that sixth sense, that we all have but seldom use, became a part of your daily life.
Awareness, or tapping into your sixth sense, was a focus for many of the exercises. Training classes could run for five hours and in some, you’d be blindfolded for the entire time. You’d have to follow what was going on, do your exercises and come to an understanding of the principles the instructor was teaching without the use of sight.
While sparring, the instructor would also walk around the class looking for trainees who weren’t paying attention to the total environment they were working in. If he thought you weren’t aware of his presence, he’d hit you with a stick over the head, this taught the trainee very quickly to be aware of where everyone was at all times.
At other times, we were brought up into pitch-black rooms and had to guess how many people were in it, if any. We’d also be blindfolded and have to identify colors just by touching colored blocks of paper. Again, awareness was to extend far beyond the normal five senses into the area of the psychic.
Some instructors who were skilled at passing psychic energy would take a few glasses of water and charge them with energy. This was a charge grounded in a psychic form of energy. It was much like touch healing. They’d concentrate on the water and send energy into it through their fingers without touching it. The trainee would then have to come into the room and tell the instructor which classes had been charged with the energy. The purpose behind this exercise was to teach the trainee how, on a mission, to tell if their drink was poisoned. Poison has a much stronger energy than regular water and that energy is discernible to those who have learned to access and use their psychic abilities.
The relationship between real fighting and full-contact martial arts competitions is like that of the dog and the hot dog. Although they are composed of similar elements—striking and grappling in the former, meat in the latter—one should not be confused for the other.
The essence of a real fight is not found in tactics, or even in intensity. Genuine combat is defined by its absence of fairness and finality. There are no honored champions, and no nobly accepted defeats; in their place are uncertainty, postponement and escalation. Today, you win by knockout; tomorrow, you are shot in the back.
Even death is no denouement, considering its legal and karmic consequences—not to mention vengeful friends and family of the recently deceased, with their own troublesome interpretations of justifiable homicide.
All martial artists know that budo is not for starting fights. Some have unfortunately been taught that martial artists should avoid them altogether. Honestly, avoidance is a tool for agoraphobics and drunks, not warriors; the true purpose of budo is to end conflict decisively.
What can the ancient Japanese code of bushido teach us about conflict resolution strategy? [Read more →]
Based on a true story, Samurai chronicles the transformation of a violent, headstrong youth (played by Toshiro Mifune) into one of history’s greatest swordsmen. Samurai won the Academy Award for best foreign film in 1955, and is regarded by many as Japan’s own Gone With the Wind. [Read more →]
In this installment of our series on the greatest kung fu movies ever made, we consider the samurai genre.
The characteristics of the samurai ethic include courage, loyalty, and honor. The greatest samurai movies not only illustrate these virtues, but present them in a novel, unexpected, and ultimately enlightening way.