October 25, 2016

Quite a day

In case you felt any hoodoo about today, there are plenty of reasons for it. First, this is St. Crispin's Day, which means it's the anniversary of the battle of Agincourt in 1415, which is celebrated in Shakespeare's Henry V. The best known part of this is the rousing speech by the king wherein he spurred on his outnumber soldiers to victory:

"he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.”

You can watch Kenneth Branagh's version of it here.

It's also Karate Day. On this date in 1936, the leading masters of Okinawan karate, including one who taught the one the one who taught me, met in Naha to discuss changing the name of the martial art from one that could be translated as "Chinese hands" to karate do or "the way of the empty hand," which better reflected it spiritual component.

Around the world some people are celebrating that by practicing 100 repetitions of a karate kata,which are formal exercises of prearranged series of techniques performed solo. For an example, click here to see a performance of seisan, the signature kata of a style I practice.

100 repetitions of a kata is way harder than it sounds--I'd rather run 15 miles on hills. I plan to do a few today, but it won't be 100.

Today many Okinawans will "pray that Okinawa’s traditional karate will continuously contribute to world peace and happiness." I find the long tradition of Okinawan karate masters linking the art to world peace without embarrassment or irony to be endearing. And they might be on to something.

So, Crispin or karate, enjoy the day!

(Note St. Crispin and his companion Crispinian are the patron saints of shoemakers and cobblers. They were said to have been beheaded on this date during the persecution of the Roman emperor Diocletian around the year 285. They probably didn't enjoy the day.)

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