Inner Dharma:  Art, Theory, & Practice



Meditations on martial arts, philosophy, art, and culture.


  • It's been some time


    I have been working to get better about not having too much stuff; clutter can inundate one's perspective on life, and cause enough distraction that one loses sight of longer term goals and good ways of approaching them. The clutter can be mental, emotional, or material. In particular, with photography, gear are tools you use to express your craft; in martial arts, training methodologies are what build skill, towards a similar goal of expression. Both should be not insufficient, and not superfluous.


  • Spring Cleaning


    The thin film sensor project for my A7R was cut short; a fire at the Schott glass factory led to a lack of inventory for the glass to do the replacement. I received my camera back and was able to take some pictures while spending the weekend in Portland, Oregon after a trip to San Francisco.


  • Sensor Thickness


    My 50 Summilux did not meet its reserve, so I've decided once and for all (one hopes) to keep it. I decided to double down on the lens, and have sent my Sony A7R in to have its sensor glass replaced. A thinner glass cover on the sensor will improve off-center sharpness with that lens and other M mount lenses on the A7R.


  • Mayfair


    In March I visited Pittsburgh to continue my training in neijiaquan and also attended classes at the Hobyokan. I had quick business trip to London, where I was able to take some photos on my last morning in town. I enjoyed walking through Mayfair, practicing the art of street photography a bit to decompress before I headed home.


  • 135mm Comparison


    I purchased a used, almost new condition, Leica R 135mm/2.8 Elmarit lens to use with my A7R. It has been quite enjoyable to shoot with, and I have been curious how well it compares to the new Zeiss 135mm/2.0 APO lens. I rented the latter from LensRentals.com and walked around the Inner Harbor a bit, shooting first with one of the lenses and then with the other.


  • Kagami Biraki 2015


    Sunday I traveled to Sterling, Virginia, to participate in the annual Kagami Biraki (Opening the Mirror) enbu held by the Masakikai and Hobyokai. A number of different martial arts were demonstrated as part of the gathering, including: Yagyu Shinkage-ryu heiho, Kashima Shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryu heiho, Shinto Muso-ryu jo, Ikkaku-ryu jutte & tessen, Isshin-ryu kusari-gama, Masaki-ryu manriki, Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, Hakko Denshin-ryu jujutsu, and Tomiki Aikido.


  • White Out and Eight Immortals


    In the new year, I have decided to focus my martial arts efforts to continued regular participation in two schools -- Yin Cheng Gong Fa and the Hobyokan. I am looking forward to the Masakikai & Hobyokai Kagami Biraki later this month. I am hoping to demonstrate some Jikishin Kage-ryu kenjutsu as well as some Chinese martial arts at the gathering. This weekend, I traveled to Pittsburgh for further training in YCGF. Travel was a bit rougher than usual. I-70 was crowded with many Steelers Fans traveling to the playoff game against the Ravens and weather was poor, with heavy rain and white out fog conditions in the mountains. However, despite visibility being poor at times, I made it safely to Pittsburgh for training and back home again without incident.


  • Letting Go


    It is good to take periodic inventory of what one has learned, what benefits one has acquired from his or her practice, and how best to balance the time and effort required to maintain commitments to the different lines of study one is engaged in. This includes not only personal practice, but time taken traveling to training, financial costs, social obligations, and the responsibilities one makes to their students, juniors, seniors, and teachers (as the case may be).


  • Focus is Forever


    Sometimes people say they don't want to be broad in their interests or efforts, for fear of being diluted -- instead they say they want to be surgical in their effect. I prefer the concept of focus -- surgery lasts a couple hours, while focus is forever. I am, over time, attempting to focus my kenjutsu practice. I have studied under two schools of Japanese swordsmanship that may once have been related in the distant echoes of time, but now are quite divergent. It is interesting the explore the benefits each provide to a practitioner, and how they relate to my continued focus on internal martial arts.


  • November Katori Seminar


    This weekend, Capital Katori hosted Sugawara Tetsutaka (Aikido 7th dan shihan, Katori Shinto-ryu kiyoshi) for a three day seminar on Aikido and Katori Shinto-ryu. While I do not practice Aikido, I was able to attend two of the Katori Shinto-ryu sessions, where I benefited from working with many different people on the basic curriculum of the school.


  • Foliage and Body Method


    The season has changed from summer to autumn, and at least in the Mid-Atlantic States, foliage is in full bloom. To celebrate the fall colors, I took a short road trip from Baltimore to Pittsburgh to practice martial arts and spend time reading mathematics.


  • Experiments in Medium


    I have been considering what to do with maintaining a blog as work commitments spiral every faster around me. For now, I press on, commited to an amateur effort at communication. I have continued my training over the last six months, including attending an annual Wu Taijiquan seminar taught by Zhang Yun in Maryland where I gained better insight into using Taijiquan for self-defense and the relationship between Qigong and Taijiquan. I also attended the annual foreign kiyoshi gathering of Katori Shinto-ryu in Sugawara Budo and had the opportunity to work with a number of teachers of that art. As well, recently, I visited and trained with Mallory Roberts.


  • Are You Connected?


    I was talking with a colleague about what it means to be connected and I felt like sharing some of my thoughts on the topic here.


  • Tian Gang Dao


    This weekend I traveled to Pittsburgh for additional training in neijiaquan. I attended Zhang Yun's taijiquan class and met up with several of his senior students I had not seen in a while. It was great to train with everyone and get pointers on my body organization. I also had a chance to get further correction of my Yin Baguazhang and also learn the remaining sections of the Hebei Xingyiquan Za Shi Chui (mixed skills) form.


  • Recent Training and Shinto Ryu Clips


    The winter weather has not beaten my training this year. I drove out to Pittsburgh and back in the snow last month and received a lot of good correction on my Bagua, Taiji, and Xingyi. I've been working solo form practice indoors, as well as spear on a daily basis. My conditioning has been a combination of Vinyasa Yoga, Kettlebells, and riding my fixed gear bicycle on Krietler rollers. I have also spent some time organizing and documenting the applications I use with the palm changes of Gao lineage bagua.


  • Footage of Kashima Arts


    The two major styles of swordsmanship that have originated in Kashima Shrine were Shinkage-ryu and Kashima Shinto-ryu. Aisu Kage-ryu lead to Shinkage-ryu, and from Shinkage-ryu many further arts spread. For example, Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, Kashima Shin-ryu, and Kashima-shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryu. I practice Jiki Shinkage-ryu, so have an interest in it and related arts.


  • Masakikai Hobyokan Kagamibiraki 2014


    I attended the Hobyokan and Masakikai annual Kagami biraki (opening the mirror) new year's gathering. A number of different martial arts were demonstrated as part of the gathering, including: Yagyu Shinkage-ryu heiho, Kashima Shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryu heiho, Shinto Muso-ryu jo, Masaki-ryu manriki, Hontai Yoshin-ryu (jujutsu, iai, bo, hanbo), Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, Hakko Denshin-ryu jujutsu, Kokoro-ryu batto, Goju-ryu Karate, and Shito-ryu Karate.


  • The Fifth Season


    In Chinese Medicine, there are five fundamental elements that reinforce or supress one another -- they are water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. Each corresponds to a season: notice there are five. The fifth season is often viewed in one of two ways. First, as the later part of summer that turns into autumn. Second, as a season that connects each other and expresses the change between seasons. This is the element of earth, which is associated to grounding, crossing, and returning. As Summer turns to Autumn, we are solidly in earth as a season, and it is a good time to ground one's self, cross paths with old friends, and return to things we hold dear.


  • Medium and Motivation


    I have been working with Medium Format film a bit lately, and discovering the level of quality I can get from that format in black and white emulsion (another kind of medium). Last month, I spent an afternoon shooting with my Mamiya on a light tripod in the rain, and was very pleased with the results. So much so, I am affecting my calculus of whether a black and white digital camera is something reasonable -- leaning toward the likely not category.


  • Film Experiment, Digital Reduction


    When I visited NYC, I brought my Leica M7 as well as the Fuji X-E1. I recently returned from Scandanavia, to find the developed film and scans waiting for me. I had to work a bit in Capture One to get the scans into a shape I liked -- I think some of the photos are servicable. There is definitely a gritty feel to them, especially the 400 ISO film I exposed. However, that kind of fit with the day, which was overcast and threatening rain.


  • NYC Musuems


    I have been focusing on monochrome work lately, although some pictures cry out for color. I have been using my Canon 5D Mark III with a 50/1.2L lens while traveling because it is sturdy, water resistant, and I have good options with available light.


  • Midwest and PNW 2013


    I have been focusing on monochrome work lately, although some pictures cry out for color. I have been using my Canon 5D Mark III with a 50/1.2L lens while traveling because it is sturdy, water resistant, and I have good options with available light. I recently ordered an autofocus standard lens for my Fuji X-E1 (yes, my love-hate relationship continues -- I bought another X-E1 after selling mine, since I missed having a small digital camera).


  • Demo: Araki ryu and Toda ha Buko ryu


    I enjoyed watching Ellis Amdur's recent koryu demonstrations at NAMT in Paris.


  • Japan Camera Hunter


    Japan Camera Hunter is a website run by a street photographer named Bellamy Hunt in Tokyo who will source used cameras (especially film cameras) for interested buyers. It is a bespoke activity, less impersonal than Ebay. He has a series on his website where people send him pictures of their gear and a description of what makes them tick.


  • NCPS Scans and Development


    I recently tried out North Coast Photographic Services (NCPS) for the first time, mailing them two rolls of black and white negative film and a roll of color slide film. They did an excellent job processing the film, and the results are much cleaner than I have been experiencing at home with home development (e.g., dust, streaks, etc.).


  • Medium Format Take One


    I recently purchased a used medium format film camera. After much research and consideration of options, I was torn between a used Mamiya 645 or Hasselblad. The Hasselblad's square format appealed to me, but I liked the idea of the Mamiya 645 AFD series cameras having a built in meter and SLR like ergonomics. Also, because they do not use Zeiss lenses by default, the standard and portrait lenses seemed more reasonably priced. I was interested as well in the Contax 645, but since it is discontinued I was concerned about reliability on the used market.


  • San Francisco 2013


    I recently took a trip to San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. The weather was uncommonly good for February in both cities, with hardly any fog or rain. I brought my Fuji X-E1 and 2 lenses with me on the trip, and came to the conclusion that the Fuji with manual focus lenses lacked the ergonomics I have come to expect from my film camera or my DSLR, despite how much I love the sensor and how some photos come out when everything works right.


  • Recommended Reading


    Dr. David Hall is a long time practitioner of Japanese martial arts, who studied Shinto Muso-ryu jo in Japan under the tutelage of the late Donn Dreager, Kashima-shinden Jikishinkage-ryu under the late Namiki Yasushi, and Yagyu Shinkage-ryu under Yagyu Nobuharu. Hall has worked with Kodansha to publish an encyclopedia of Japanese Martial Arts based on his notes and research conducted over the last forty years.


  • Aiki and Internal Training


    The first martial art I practiced for a length of time (and on might say the one I remain best at today) was modern jujutsu. Specifically, a self-defense oriented amalgam of Aikido, Judo, Jujutsu, and Kempo/Karate. I have since transitioned from practicing modern jujutsu as my primary martial art and instead have spent a good amount of time learning internal martial arts ideas via the route of baguazhang, taijiquan, and xingyiquan. This has illuminated my striking and grappling practice, offering a glimpse of the higher levels of martial arts training that was suggested but ever elusive in my original jujutsu school.


  • Baltimore Coffee Bloom


    Martial arts for me has a lot to do with coffee; at least socially. I look fondly back at the times I've spend in coffee houses discussing budo with friends, or relaxing after a long practice -- taking notes after working with a teacher.


  • Kagami Biraki


    Recently I travelled down to Sterling, VA, to participate at the annual Kagami Biraki hosted by the Hobyokan and the Masakikai. I enjoyed watching a number of demonstrations, including a very spirited jo kata called ran-ai performed at full tilt and a very polished demonstration of Hontai Yoshin-ryu jujutsu kata, including iai and bo.