Sunday, January 10, 2016

Critical thought is just so tacky

I was reading an online essay about Japanese swords, recently. By and large, it was decent. There was an off-the-cuff assertion, however... According to the author --sorry, closed the thing as fast as I could, and lost the bookmark--, tsuba (the handguard) were there, in opposition to European swords, not to protect against your opponents' blades but to protect your hand against slipping.

The dumb is strong on that one.

There are blades with guards designed to keep your hand from slipping into them. Check hunting and fighting knives. Those smallish guards, a bare finger high? Those are made to stop your fingers. European swords' guards? Which? The viking longsword or the schiavona? Because as Odin is my witness you're not going to convince me they work the same way.

And then, the tsuba in katana. Because they only stop the finger they need to be, alone in the whole blasted traditional swords [*], 8 cm circles of steel or hard bronze. Oh, sure, they become softer and flimsier as you get into the Pax Tokugawa... and into dueling.

But no, let's just drop our inverse 5 cents of stupidity debt. Tsuba are only there to avoid slipping into the blade.

Now, this was in a rather clear subject, something with rather obvious comparisons, documentation... Just imagine what you're being sold as Truth in things that are more difficult to see (combat in kata, psychology of the fight...)... and tremble.

Take care.

[*] My apologies: Chinese sabers can and do have something equivalent.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Just do it

I don't follow professional sport. Some of the European league soccer as it deals with local teams, because you can't really avoid it, but that's it. Apparently, though, Nike's put itself in some trouble. And then...

“I’m Gonna Fuckin’ Kill You” --Nike's head of global marketing

The guy just landed his corporation and his personal self in a lot of trouble. He assaulted someone in a public venue, threatened him deadly... Way to go. I wouldn't be all that surprised if he changed jobs soon. Also, that he felt empowered to perform such doesn't speak well at all of Nike's culture.

However, the event gets a passing remark later:
Telling someone in anger that you’re going to kill him is really fucking weird. Part of adulthood is learning that it’s never an appropriate response to tell someone you’re going to kill him or her.
True. But I feel the article is trying to say "there are better ways than verbal violence to solve things, we must speak these things like adults...", where quite a set of society (using the term widely) would read "there are better ways than verbal violence... and who's the idiot that gives warning."

Be aware that when something like this happens, there's a modern Western midclass way of dealing with it... and there are a bunch of others. Modern. Western. Midclass. That's a lot of subsets that HAVE to come along. If your opponent is not ANY ONE of those, you can get skewered.

And I'm not saying you shouldn't try. I'm ust saying you absolutely need to be aware.

Take care.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Knowledge that kills

Ignorance kills. So does knowledge.

I heard this morning a guy with door experience tell an anecdote. He'd had to face a guy with a folded blade in his hand and managed to defuse it with a "in the time you open that I'll realign your face. Be a nice guy and close it."

From now on I'm guessing. I'm guessing he wasn't bluffing, but believing what he said. Certain kinds of knife are not much known, here. Yet?

An assisted blade from a good source costs 35€ at the local Amazon. The legality of assisteds hasn't been explored in Spain, with a Weapons Code that predates their invention. A good "flipper" blade is about as fast. A BAD thumbhole folder is just as fast, since it becomes, basically, a gravity knife.

And on and on.

Is your reaction faster than that? In bad light?

What other things are you so sure about?

Take care.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

EDC review preview

I'm planning on a review of knives, mostly folding blades. I had a couple in the previous incarnation of the blog, but they got archived. Current candidates are:
  • Kershaw scallion (Ken Onion)
  • CRKT Ripple (Ken Onion)
  • CRKT Kommer Fulcrum
  • Kershaw Crown
  • Benchmade mini-Griptilian
  • CRKT Horus (Elishewitz)
  • CRKT Graphite (Glenn Klecker)
  • Brous blades Division
  • Brous blades mini Division
  • Kershaw Shuffle
  • Marttini MFK-1
  • Kershaw link
  • MCusta Gentlemen's MC-5
  • Nieto 11038 skinner
Take care.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Some months ago, we were training a KJKB technique at a seminar. I think it's the one against baton for brown. If this was jujutsu, it'd be a rather classical technique, locking the attacking arm and performing Nage waza. It is not. Done our way, the trick is finding the moment the attacker has the most forward momentum but the least adherence and then strike his head backwards. He flips.

I find it extremely difficult, done that way. And you need to practice it with a certain intent, or there's not enough forward momentum to work with. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks that way. At the seminar, a regional instructor suggested me to, basically, perform Ippon seoi. No, I told him. I already know how to do that. I'm here for learning (then, obviously, I tried Ippon seoi... and failed).

But it got me thinking... And it's mixing up with Rory's ideas against joint locks and with old school paradigms. Very old school.

Old schools say there's a 'front' of you attacker and a 'back' (omote and ura). Front is the short distance between your attacker's arms, back is the long one along his shoulderblades. That includes things we would call sides and such, yes.

Rory sort of advocates that it's more effective to get to his back and attack from there, but also that it goes against the grain, that our monkey wants to go up front.

Then, there are martial arts that are pretty good defending against frontal attack. Boxing and fencing, for instance, or Wing Chun; or Ittô ryû, in classical Japanese fencing. They control the centre, good luck using it. However, their very effectiveness come from having a very narrow 'front' that no one in his right mind wants to face. It's much more intuitive to try something else against them, say along the sides, than it is against, for example, a Tae Kwon Do competitor; or even a Muay Thai practitioner.

Competition Tae Kwon Do has much wider front. Even Muay Thai's is wider than Western boxing's. This also means that it takes a longer trip to get 'in their back'; it's a tradeoff (not that I'd like to go "straight up the middle" against a Muay guy).

Too long for background, I'm afraid. My point is that, besides the obvious differences, their classical principles, the difference in that earlier technique between the jujutsu approach and the KJKB one is in the front/back exploitation of vulnerabilities. The attack usually seen in demos, the lunge with a bat of the angry hooligan, has a rather large front, mostly open. It's rather 'easy' to get in there and act. The technique from KJKB opens the barrier between front and back, slides there into the back and uses it for the takedown.

Both are looking for a hole. The standard judo move exploits a circle in Omote it widens as it proceeds. The technique in Kajukenbo "erases" one of the limits between Omote and Ura and, doing so, leaks the bigger "Ura" hole into Omote. The wide hoolingan arch does the same itself. Advanced Wing Chun travels slightly into Ura while tightening the opponent's hole. Kajukenbo does something equivalent, although not exactly the same. Aikido travels wider into Ura for most Irimi (technique is a weird mix, from where I stand; while Tori is clearly rooted in Ura, the force travels straight from Omote). A slap into Uke's nape is as Ura as you can get.

But all of these are looking for holes. Wing Chun and Ittô ryû know perfectly well that you need a hole, and are masters creating it right into Uke's guard. The rest of us look for easier ways. The more artistic variants of Aikido illustrate the holes from where to create joint locks. Still, all of those are holes.With practice, you can create holes in tighter situations, and use smaller ones. But you need a hole.

Now, get this idea ad watch most martial artists discard it.

Take care.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The martial tax

Wing Chun 12" circle, cane. 25$, plus shipping.

Embroidery 12" circle, wood. 7€, shipping included.

I have seen similar discrepancies in other sports, but they're usually Spain-specific. You need, for example, quite a budget to sail in Spain. It's a luxury sport, "and so it should be, damnit!" Or kendo, where a local shop asked routinely for about twice what it asked practitioners. Not even long-term practitioners. And twice the price of a bogu or a sword is quite a price indeed.

It's silly, and it conditions us. It sets us apart and it kills our critical mindset.

And our traditions. It's as if karate needed special oars for its eku techniques. Or specific stones for its chi-ishi. Or special footwear, or...

It makes used, basically, to be scammed, to turn our training into a social construct instead of turning to the easiest, most effective method. And most effective is not that with the best result, but that with the best investment-result ratio.

If we fail seeing that in such basic, easy things, how are we supposed to realize that warmup is punishing our bones, that one contracting our spine and that other group is turning into a cult? Because there's not so much difference between 'this rattan circle is more authentic and using that is not Wing Chun' and 'our master's own tools are special and the rest are not properly done'.

From tools to mindset. Shouldn't it be the other way?

Take care.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mistranslations... still there

We've known for a while, those who wanted to hear, that a lot of problems with "traditional" Western understanding of martial arts (very specially karate, but also kendo, Chinese systems...) was a matter of translation, of trying to explain very intimate sensations to people with a different language paradigm. As long as this has been known, it's annoying that it's still there.

For example, Jesse Enkamp's article on the Pinan kata. Or the translation of the 20 precepts of Shotokan. Check both versions.

We've had people fluent in Chinese in most of the West for decades. And yet, no "traditional" karateka thought of digging into that source? Respect to tradition, my ass! Then we have the Nijû kun... My fight with that meaning of sente's been boiling for a while. As a recap, there are two mistakes: one, that sente is no "first strike" but more similar to initiative; the other that if you never have the initiative in an assault, you die. No ifs, no buts. And the way it's become almost a religious mantra (you'll find woodcarvings of that precept far more often than any of the others) is disgusting and dangerous.

But it's not the only one. "Do not think you have to win. Think that you do not have to lose." Bullshit. Wiki translates the second part as "Think, rather, of not losing", which is completely different. The difference between "I will NOT lose!" [ie, I'll reach home safe and sound] and "No one's asking me to lose, after all".

The list of precepts is not wrong. The translations are. The interpretations are a damn disgrace. The blind obedience to that all is sickening.

We have people labelling themselves as "warriors", "fighters", and yet they get all huffy when you point to them that, well, they're demostrably wrong and, even more, wrong in such a way that it cripples them.

We should do skeet shooting with photographs of several scores of MA pioneers.

Take care.