Was reading some interesting articles on the history of Russian martial arts, in particular Systema, and it's roots in the orthodox Christian monasteries. Systema, surviving the communist era by being adapted by the Spetsnaz, as well as being practiced outside of Russia, is an extremely effective fluid combat style. Hitting and kicking methods are backed up with deep bio-mechanical knowledge as well as using acupressure points which will disrupt an opponent's conscious control of his/her body.
Now, in the more 'internal' martial arts movements, techniques, stages of development, mentality, are often associated with different elements. Bujinkan techniques are roughly ordered according to earth, water, fire, wind and sky/emptiness, the Godai, leaving out the sixth element of consciousness which is more the realm of esoteric buddhism. Arnaud Cousergue, a fantastic French teacher of Bujinkan arts, has translated these in the more understandable concepts of absorb, block, counter, deflect and evade, which roughly equates with sky, earth, fire, water and wind. Although of course any of these concepts can be associated with any of the elements depending on context, as so many of these systems are slightly fractal in nature. Great simplification of possible strategies though.
Systema is primarily water and wind style, water being associated with the physical movements, and wind with the spirit.
A funny thing popped into my mind while reading about the monasteries. Dating back to the Byzantine empire as well as a favored (tax free) position during Mongol rule, during the centuries most towns across the Sovjet union developed alongside rivers and were constructed with a common place, the monastery, at it's center, or a monastery was established and gradually a town developed around it. Being part of trade and traveling routes many facilities such as protection were arranged from these monasteries. Also, knights returning from battle and other soul-searchers would often spend several years or the remainder of their life, so as far as protection goes there was room for much cross fertilization, leading to e.g. fighting monks, as in the above context.
Quite a contrast with modern-day "shareholder value" i thought.. shaking off a mild grudge towards much of the bluff-infested money grabbing business mentality so often encountered these days, and i recalled an article from Master Nan Huai-Chin about modern-day and future business and his lovely goal-oriented taoism. Yet, it's an integral vision he has on businesses, both social, cultural and economical. Something like Green IT or the "house of the future" initiatives, but much more all embracing.
It reminded me of the advice of the world's oldest business, a 1400 year old construction company in Japan, when it bankrupted in 2006 and was transferred into the Takamatsu Corporation. "Beware of fire. Learn from water" was their advice after 14 centuries and some 40 generations..
The long term view on SOA as advocated by Ann Thomas Manes of Burton Group, a fairly complete, embracing, corporate culture altering approach on IT projects, what does a business want with their systems on the long run ? They want flow. They don't want a bunch of ivory towers or a mega-mainframe containing all the business rules, but which makes it impossible to react quickly. Flow, smart use of wind and water, Feng Shui, "the ancient Chinese practice of placement and arrangement of space to achieve harmony with the environment" as it's eloquently described a well known open-opinion encyclopedia.
Good SOA is about company flow, about natural movement of information and functionality, to create the ability to deflect, evade and absorb. And to avoid blocking and counters, which is so often the result of short-term agendas or the pervading hierarchical military style of organization early Western companies were based upon.
Beware of fire. Learn from water. Don't buy SOA. Do SOA.