Tenugui (手拭い), Hashi (箸) and WOOTW #18

Stay tuned for the Cabal Fang Workout of the Week at the bottom!  But first some culture!


20160814_1501250.jpgMy daughter-in-law just got back from Japan.  As you can see by the picture on the left, she brought me two gifts – tenugui (手拭い) and hashi (箸).

These two gifts, though small,  were profound and  inspirational.   You see, after being in the periphery of Asian culture for 30 years now, it occurs to me that I have repeatedly missed opportunities to really engage with any of them.

When I first got into Taekwondo back in 1986, I went full bore.  I read a ton of Korean sijo poetry in translation, studied Korean philosophy, read about the Hwarang, and so forth.  One of my favorite Korean martial poems is this one called Mo Taemara ka (“Ode to Knight Taemara”) by Siro (692-702) in praise of his master, Taemara, a member of the hwarang.

Ode to Knight Taemara

All men sorrow and lament
Over the spring that is past;
Your face once fair and bright,
Where has it gone with deep furrows?

I must glimpse you, Sir,
If I can, for an awesome moment.
My fervent mind cannot rest at night,
Far-off here in the mugwort-covered swamps.

But when I started trying to learn the language though, I quickly realized that without a great deal of time and patience, and probably a few dollars too, this guy wasn’t learning Korean any time soon.

So instead of going deeper into Korean culture I branched out.  I read a great deal in translation from other martial cultures  — Gichin FunakoshiMyamoto Musashi, Tsunetomo, Lao Tsu, Yi Yulkok, and so on — but because I couldn’t read or speak the native tongues, I assumed that any kind of immersive cultural experience would be impossible.  I got to know a little bit about Korea, Japan and China but it was a sterile kind of knowledge.

But then the other day I got two gifts – a tenugui (手拭い) which is a common Japanese hand towel, and hashi (箸) which are chopsticks.  And I realized something powerful and important.

What better way is there to immerse yourself in a culture than learning how to handle is every day tools?

You would think that a hermeticist like myself would have more quickly seen the important symbolism of tools.  But, alas and alack, late to the party is better than not showing up at all.  Sometimes I amaze even myself.

So now I’m learning that there are a bazillion different culturally significant ways to tie tenugui around your head to soak up sweat.

Thanks for the picture Mr. John Marshall — you seem like a cool guy and a talented artist.

I wore my tenugui to workout on Tuesday.  And, as an immersive experience, every day I eat my lunch using the chopsticks.

If you want to connect with a culture and you can’t have a conversation, at least try sitting down at their table, eating with their utensils, mopping your head with one of their towels, and maybe walking a mile in their shoes.


Yes, I know it’s supposed to be bad luck to vertically jab your hashi into your food, but this is diagonally, so it doesn’t count.


Why am I throwing the “hang loose” sign? I don’t even surf.










And now for the Cabal Fang Workout of the Week.


My pal C. Benson made a suggestion the other night which I’m going to heed.  And, since he’s a huge Star Trek fan…

“Captain’s log, Stardate -307634.67.  Chief Engineer Benson says that I should put the martial stuff before the fitness once in awhile.  Benson makes a good point.  Adjustment noted and logged.  Mitch out.”

Unsticking Drill: This drill is for Form, specifically fluidity.  Set time for 3 x 3:00/1:00.  Shadowbox for the 3:00 segments, rest for 1:00.  (Note: this drill can be adapted for use with weapons too — practice being fluidly with knives and swords, chucks, cane, staff, etc.).  Try not to to freeze, stop, or otherwise get sticky.   Keep your combos flowing with smoothness, fluidity and grace.  Count the number of times you stick for more than 1 second.  When the drill is over, complete Knuckle Push-ups for each freeze (beginners 1 per, intermediate 2 per, advanced players 3 per).

Very Bad Karma PT Drill.  Set timer for 9:00 and complete as many sets of 9 each of Knuckle Push-ups, Get-ups, Front Lunges.  I got 6 sets — how many full sets did you finish?


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