dimarts, 15 abril de 2014

You hear 'click'

You act. You run, if you can. You strike like a beast, if you can't.

There are two kinds of clicks: the ones your mind does and the ones your aggressor does.

When something clicks in your head, act. This might be intellectual ("Oh, right! Now I see!"), and it opens you to a new world, if you accept the click and move on (instead of doing it as you've been doing it so far). It might me emotional ("I just felt she was the girl"). Or it might be instinctual ("Incoming ambush!"). Act. On. It. You just received a message from a part of your brain that's been keeping animals alive for millennia. It's good at its job.

When something clicks on the other guy... it comes from a machine. A rather simple one. That's the sheath coming loose, or the blade locking in place, or the handgun's hammer... You don't have time. I once had a guy telling me "But I don't know if he's got bad intentions".

Okay, if you're talking with someone you aren't in good terms with (either because you just met or because you are in actively bad terms) and you hear a click from a hand you can't see... It's not good.

And time's running out, fast.

Now, the advantage is that if you have your ears open (not so easy in certain situations, I admit), this kind of snap is pretty distinctive. It kinda jumps into your ear. It's mechanical, it's sort of out of place, sometimes with a tinge of metal.

Act. On. It.

Take care.

dijous, 10 abril de 2014

High Fidelity

This is going to pick from the last couple of posts and an older one.

OK, weapons training. I've witnessed some pretty civilized debates (not internet forum screamfests) about the merits of the Glock vs. the 1911 vs. Sig... you name it. This kind of rifle vs. that other kind...

Have you ever witnessed a debate about the curvature of a katana? It's length? Thickness? Not the... er... classic "knight vs. samurai" or "pirate vs. ninja" nonsense. No. People who have a decent knowledge of martial arts don't have a debate about those things. What's the "right" length of a kris knive? How many waves? How deep, those waves?

We don't do that. We keep faithful. And in so doing, we miss the point.

I've been seeing people making shuriken "as the one sensei So-and-so gave to me". While I can understand the emotion of receiving a blade from a respected master, going to the metal shop and saying "get me 5 exactly like this one" sort of misses several points.

Yes, these days most bokken are exact twins made by digital control machines. Kali sticks are only slightly more diverse. If you buy a iaito, it's recommended on such length blade, such length tsuka... Can you imagine a young samurai telling his daimyo "Oh, so very thankful for the gift" and then shelving the blade away because it's an inch too short? Or doing the same with his grandfather's sword? Of course, it goes double with improvised weapons (shuriken, sticks, whatever).

I think it's Bob Orlando's "Martial Arts America" that mentions some Israeli soldiers practising hard aikido in cammo. When you learn certain arts and you get exposed to Shu-Ha-Ri, you learn that the way of learning your master's punch... is NOT doing it the same way he does. You have a different bodytype, and that MUST influence your punches. They will be recognizable, but not the same.

Why don't we do the same with weapons? It unnecessarily binds us to over-specific images that were not real to begin with. One of the shuriken users I deeply respect has hands the size of a kid, almost a child. If he had started his own school, with shuriken to his size, do you think a guy of about 6 feet and the body of a strongman competitor [Hi, bigman!] could comfortably use those same blades? Why can't he change them? It's not even cultural or historic.

Take care.

diumenge, 6 abril de 2014


Some more about yesterday's post. This is kind of going to tie with Rory's mindset, maybe. Some of my understanding of it, for sure.

Weapons are, at their core, improvised. Specially the ones you're likely to find.

Handguns are something for when it's inconvenient to carry a rifle. Spears were, early on, pointy staves. Swords were something you used when the guy was, damn, way too near. Shuriken were bits and pieces of metal found somewhere and maybe sharpened.

These days you can pay some 50$ for nice examples of shuriken, tailor made. Sure. Go for it, if you want. Not the origin, though. Even if your system has a specific kind of shuriken, so wide by so long, with so many sides, it likely began as the most likely piece of metal found in that specific region or that fit the palm of that specific instructor.

Be flexible. It helps your understanding of the origins, and... there's a SD part of it. Your attacker is going to be flexible. If you get hung on the use of a baseball bat, you'll be surprised when your opponent lets it go mid swing and turns it into a projectile weapon. Lawrence Kane has a nice story about it.

I'm sitting by a desk, and even if you forget about the three bo shuriken by my right (the ones I was grinding yesterday), there are more weaponizable items than I can count: old computer drives, scissors, screwdrivers, pens, exacto knives, heavy books, fans, mugs... Sometimes there will be cans, or a heavy camera lens... Did you think "ouch! Expensive" with that one? Then you don't need a weapon. And you might be unable to use it if the time comes.

Do I have "better" options? Yes. Not near enough, by a long shot. If the zombie Apocalypse comes, I may get them; if not, they're too far away.

At some point, almost every weapon was improvised. People survived and it became a study, then a kata, then a syllabus. Learn it, but understand the mindset of the original survivor. That way, you can use things that are off-kata, off-syllabus. Things useful when you don't have the specific length jo nearby but there's an umbrella, or a pipe. When you don't have a yubibo but you were writing with a Biro pen.

Take care.

dissabte, 5 abril de 2014


I suck at shuriken.

The good news is that I threw my first one about a month ago, and I've done it twice. And that I'm creating my own. I had started some ideas some time ago, but I had inadequate tools. I got a cheap wheel grinder and managed to do a couple late afternoon. I had to rectify one of them, which I had started before, and it looks the best of both. The other one looks a bit coarse, but it can be streamlined.

We'll see. I expect to give some of those to instructors / senpai / current mates. We'll see how it goes and what material I can get.

OTOH, doing this has made me think and... you know all those weapon codes designed to keep criminals off their tools? If you've ever met someone who's been in the Nightside (passers-by, former criminals, cops...) you know how useful they are. But the thing is, those things have been studied for centuries. It's a politician's mirage to think it can be controlled. It's also, if you take SD seriously, your responsibility to get acquainted with those methods, at the very least.

Take care.

dissabte, 22 març de 2014


I was thinking about someone, and something popped up. SD "adepts" are often qualified as paranoids. Thinking about putting on your seat belt is OK, thinking driving awareness is OK, thinking Nightside awareness is paranoid.

Now... I'm going to define danger. Danger is the effect of an event multiplied by its likelihood. For instance, the danger of catching the common cold is low, even if the likelihood is high. Also, the danger of crashing several stories down inside the elevator is low, but for the opposite reason: high effect but low likelihood.

Also, things change: the danger of the common cold is much higher for a 80-something grandma with poor eating habits. The likelihood might be the same (that depends on how you account for those colds you don't even realize you had), but the dangers increase tremendously, and so does the risk; check an insurance policy, if you doubt.

What's the danger of a traffic accident? Mine is virtually nil: I don't drive. I could be hit by a car, though. And "the light was green" might help you during trial, but it doesn't get you out of the hospital room any sooner.

What's the danger of mugging?

Now, we're hit a button. I kind of suggested it in two paragraphs above, but I'm going to state it here: you have control of the likelihood of an event. Even of its effects. Not a perfect control (this is life!), but enough of one. If you live out in the mountains you're less likely to catch a cold and it's less likely to be severe. If you don't drive, it's less likely you'll have a traffic accident. If you don't drive at 5am it's less likely you'll have an accident, and also less likely it'll be serious. And so on.

City streets are public. You have the right to walk through them. Walking through dopetown at night, with your headsets on, heels and midriff, and stopping to berate a dealer selling dope to a customer is perfectly legal. It's also chancy, whether you're male or female.

Maybe the difference is that risky behaviour at the wheel is simply illegal, but by the same token that we don't applaud those who go at 100 mph through the city centre, we shouldn't even try to applaud certain bad habits. The same way we try to convince people to look at the road instead of the kids in the rear seats, much as they might need it, we should try to convince people to be aware of their surroundings in their day-to-day life.

That's a 30 minute-chat, if that, but a lifetime of practice. Done properly, it can allow you to share a drink with people who might break you in pieces while they tie their own shoes (high effect, low likelihood); done poorly...

Oh, BTW, duFresne's side won the trial.

Take care.

dimecres, 5 març de 2014


For most Christian variations, today marks the start of Lent. Before I was born, pubs and such would not have meat products on Lent Fridays, Ash Wednesday (today) and such. When I was a kid, they'd pretty damn make sure you had a choice of non-meat menus or sandwiches, then you stopped seeing those (sometimes not even an omelette sandwich), and now you can find them again.

Martial arts are kinda similar. Some people follow some traditions, some don't. Of those who do, there are many different reasons.

The same way people stopped following dietary Lent restrictions, in Spain, because they became associated with a stale political-religious regime that was as Christian as a rock, some people forgo some traditions in MA because they associate them to stale training methods that use them to the detriment of real training.

Of those who follow them, there are options and reasons. Again using Lent, some people might follow it because they follow the root reason (heat is coming, eat all your preserved meat before it goes bad... and then make sure abstaining from it long enough to let the next generation grow), by choice or by necessity.

Some people might follow it with some adaptations, even if they're not Christian (I know an atheist guy who uses it for meditation, sort of; he takes no meat, but guts are ok because they're poor man's dishes; and lobster is cheating). And some people follow their church's dictum to the best of their conscience and ability, maybe with some personal adaptations (I believe "fasting" is still defined, in some places, as "not more than 3 1-hour meals a day"... some people would kill for the chance of that).

Some people will use kata because they have to train alone, and they understand how it conditions their body and mind and might adapt those kata to their circumstance (sort of like adapting Lent to a Gregorian schedule, for instance). Some will use kata for meditation, allowing certain "outside" influences in as long as it helps them in their goal. And some people will do their kata as their association does them, trusting it to know what it does, maybe adapting it slightly, consciously or not (their bodytype, their previous training...).

This goes for oh so many other aspects, I'm just choosing one. And people being people, some might chose to stand in that section here but that other there. And some might get all upset if you point out the discrepancy. Just know your own, check where you stand, check why. See if it suits you, and check again some time down the road. People change, and so will you.

Take care.


I once read in one of Marc's books something around the lines of

Don't be afraid of the man who is not afraid to lose his life, be afraid of the man who doesn't care

In these last months I've seen something equivalent in my social interactions, repeated several times.

About ten years ago, I tried to explain to an NCO (no, I wasn't in trouble; we were talking about my parents'... 3rd? cancer in a row; more were to come) that I no longer had patience. Not certain kinds. I used to try, and try, and try again to change people's minds, to win them over. And I stopped. "A" "b" "A!" "..." had the unfortunate coda of... "We agreed A!" "No, we didn't; you shouted it for a while, and I shut up myself; that doesn't mean we agreed." Which makes for some nice conversations...

My life's changed, of late, I have several more plates than I'm able to juggle comfortably, so I've changed that last part. Once I reach the "..." stage, I keep there. I classify phone numbers and mails as spam, for instance. Which is, currently, kind of rude. Apparently, shouting someone your own True Vision of the universe isn't.

Trying to change such people is a waste of time. And you sometimes see their "uh?" faces when they realize that there's no opposition... because there's nobody there. Minor treat, frankly, that doesn't make it worth to stay just to watch it.

I think the mechanism is kinda similar to the one that I quote early on, with a slight twist. You see, "losing his life", as above, is pretty much at the top of the threat pyramid. Not the very top, but close enough. "Losing an argument" isn't. Which means that you can change the rules much more easily. He wants to argue? You don't. Game over. It's a fight (yes, you can do the same in a fight, often, right until you can't; Marc and Rory have the difference pretty clearly, if you get their books), and you don't have to join in. Or you can change the game: invite witnesses, break his jaw, start dating his sister, manage to expel him from the place... Whatever.

Take care.