Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Like all beginners...

There's a tendency, in MA, to perfect the right attack. Besides the little annoying nugget that "right" depends on a lot of things (place, weapon, armour, size...), you cannot be sure that your attacker will perform according to your expectations.

These mistakes are sometimes obvious (seated defence against AK-47, anyone?), sometimes not so much. Now, however, next time you picture a defence against a knife attack, don't imagine a stationary mugger. Think an enraged fishmonger. Don't think about a flimsy switchblade (unless you're practising surprise attacks), think this:

Also, I was thinking about that knife up there, how similar it is to a Barong, how to maybe even turn it into one... And something clicked in. Short swords (or real long knives) might be the worst item to defend against, unarmed. Too long to reach behind, too fast reacting to use the downtime after a strike. I'll have to think on that one, see if a broadsword is short enough for this. If so... it would explain things.

Take care.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wax on, carry the rice and put on your jacket

MA films are full of repetitions. From Pat Romita's "Wax on, wax off" to ackie Chan's jacket on a pole, to anything in between. Classic classes are full of repetitions. In zenkutsu dachi, in kiba dachi, you name it. Modern combative systems do the same under another name.

Western minds abhor repetition. We try to disguise it, to sugarcoat it. But it needs to be done. You learn to score doing a lot of free throws. Then you do some more and start getting into something more difficult. Then you go back to basics.

But we balk at doing the same in martial arts. When we are, in fact, worse than ever before.

Once upon a time, people moved daily. They had to. Those bales didn't stack on their own, that carcass didn't stroll to the butchering table (shouldn't have killed it so far away) and, anyhow, even that critter's leg is quite a weight. And so on. These days, even work that's mostly manual loses as much of it as it can (compare building a wall not so many decades ago and now; wheelbarrows have been motorized, there are bricklaying machines...). And it's good, healthier. But we don't get any of the fringe benefits. Kata guruma is a lot more difficult if you've never carried enough weight on your shoulders.

We only have so many ours at the gym. Use your own elsewhere as much as you can. Find your equivalent "Karate Kid" training. Might be as simple as changing the way to walk up the steps home, or how you push the supermarket's stroller (or a child's), or how you clean a blackboard or stack bottles on a shelf. When you go out buying, try to carry your own boxes, maybe your neighbor's (goodwill is a good investment), and check how you move, how you carry weight. Use that, it's a gift, and one you need.

Take care.


Most of our blocks, in KJKB, are two. Then, we have two others that can be seen as offshots. And even the first two are, basically, the same block with altered coordination. In fact, if you use one of the variants of one, pressuring into the centerline, you get almost the same final position.

It's curious, because those two blocks are, mostly, efficient versions of what Rory calls 'Dracula's cape' and 'the spear', resp (*). Also, while they do work as blocks, that's really only the beginning, almost an excuse. What you really get is an entry.

So, I'm beginning to rethink blocks, and punches. I'm starting to think of punches as a way to increase your distance and blocks ans ways to close them. This classification has its own troubles, but bear with me.

Imagine an oi-tsuki. Once you've done it, and supposing your opponent hasn't been pushed back (or fallen, or...), your guy is an arm's length away. Precisely so. This means you have that distance, you know it and you can choose what to do with it (a kick, running away...). He's not choosing his distance any longer. That's quite a plus. Same for an elbow strike, a side kick, you name it.

Now, imagine the upper block (that's Tristan Sutrisno, on your right side; superb). If you do that against, say, our previous oi-tsuki, you enter his perimeter. Again, you control your distance. This time, however, you're closing in, and jamming his movement. In some options, you just locked his retreating arm, and he'll need to get rid of that to use it again or to close into you, and you'll have time to work your own ideas.

"Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a block just like a block. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a block no longer a block." Shu-ha-ri, Bruce Lee edition. Let's see if I reach the next one.

Take care.

(*) I do not, in any way shape or form, endorse Bauer. For a single nanosecond.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


That post just before? Check this, specially after the first minute.

Now, KJKB throws aren't like this, it comes with, er, tendering your opponent beforehand. But. There are two ideas in those videos that jump to you... Three, sorry. One is thoroughness, decission. That takedown IS going to work, IS going to take him down. Another is adhesion. Once Tori gains contact, he keeps it; well, contact and thrust. And that's the third one, continuity. Once you start, you only stopo when it's really over.

Check for that in the "jujitsu" video. Adhesion? Decission or forwardness? Continuity?

And it's not the techniques' fault. You could put those elements in most of them. Put them back, likely. But they're not there. Another level, and something I was actually teaching some weeks ago:

First, become acquainted with force couples. Now, sadly, shed a bit of the proper definition. Do we agree that moving an old, unassisted, driving wheel (Or a valve actuator, or...) is best done with two hands? Separated, one pushing and the other pulling? Moving someone else's body works the same way. Call it scissoring, call it how you will, if I push one of your shoulders and I pull the other one, it's much easier to move you than if I push with both hands in the same place. And MUCH better than a single hand. If I push your shoulders back, it's much better if I pull your feet forward. Yes? It's called o soto gari.

Most judo, and equivalent, has this in spades. Ippon seoi nage (arm and hip), harai goshi (arm and leg), kata guruma... You name it.

Check, in the longish video in last post, how many times this is NOT there. Check how many times it IS in the video in my first paragraph here. Ponder. Take care.

Where I come from

Remember I said I had trouble graspingcertain KJKB ideas? This is why. I spent two three-year periods with them in the late 80s and early 90s (back then, tori was a 2d). I recall our main instructor then had some interesting concepts on structure and intent, but he said them far too seldom. Might be one of the reasons they're mostly absent in those videos. It was one of the reasons they looked at me weird, there. That and trying to watch for defence... Glitches, I guess. Things that would bute you in the ass in a SD situation.

For example, see this other one. That elbow lock is badly done, and so is that neck clamp (for starters, they don't reinforce each other); that's the only reason he can do the rest of the technique.

If you watch the longer video, the first one, there are a bunch of movements that make no sense, weird glitches. Some of them have been introduced after I left. I know I still have a couple of the rest, almost 20 years later. Now, there are those weird glitches with the extra step beforee a takedown/throw. That kneeling in kamae after the technique's done. That... You name it, they've put it in.

And I won't get into 1 vs 2 techniques with unresponsive 2nd uke and other niceties. Or the hojo jutsu like endings. Endings are well and good... Once you've actually, you know, defeated the guy, survived the attack.

Thing is, the basic idea of those techniques is not that bad. What they miss could mostly be solved with Japanese concepts. Zanshin, kime... But the modernization has dumped all that... And not gotten anything else to substitute it. There's no intent, no awareness of the danger of the situation. A good lot of those techniques would seriously improve if Tori simply pressured forward some. And dumped extra movement (like that wacky step before throws; seriously, that instructor was a judo competitor!). And, and that's something I was aware of back then, as a colour belt, and links with the 'pressure' concept, if they did the waza technically correct. Like that suppsoed sode garami, for example. I mean, some of our Kaju techniques are pretty similar (That grab technique around the 20s mark is rather similar to one of our second set, for orange; the differences are telling. Not the fact that the attack is different, but differences in the balance of the takedown, for example). And, again, some of these ideas were taught, if rarely, back then. Now...

Sigh. If I've had as much trouble as I've had getting rid of those habits and I goddamn tried...

Take care

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Training train

I'm on the train back from my first "instructors meeting" of Kajukenbo. In theory, the first I've been allowed to be in, but apparently some people do not feel under the same rules. It's basically a black belt seminar.

Nice training. Met a couple of interesting guys, trained some, thought some more. I had to direct a class on Thursday, and this training has given me ideas for the next one I have to set, whenever it comes. And I'm not even too sore.

It makes you think, though, and think some more to see some things. The training itself is not really all that different from other seminars, but it's sort of more... Focused.

Also, my instructor sort of confessed to me that, back when I joined, he didn't really expect me to last. Neither was I all that hopeful, myself, back then. Like he, I saw how different Kaju was from what I knew, what I'd done before. And, mind you, it's still s daily struggle. People laugh, because it's a tad ridiculous to see a black belt saying things on the line of "Kaju doesn't agree with me". Or "I have trouble with this or that... Hell, i have trouble with Kaju", but beyond the awareness of the "advanced" belt of how much he still has to learn, it's true that Kaju is not, and never has been, a style that agrees with me. Neither my bodytype, a walking asparragus, nor my previous learning as a child and teen, in some sort of modernized jujutsu and judo, really help in learning a style that works at a mid-short distance, with a lot of percussion, almost none of which is snapping.

So it's hard, daily. It's also rewarding. Because it proves that the mind can win over the body. That your mind itself can change. And because training in certain things is a reward itself. Seeing how things snap together... How things can get symplified... And The same way I owe a lot of my SD-in-MA ideas to Angel, 20 years ago, I peobably owe a lot of my MA-as-move ideas to Rory.

Let's see if I can ever manage to teach them.

Take care

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blindfolds are black

At the very least from the inside.

I didn't feel this as much in Seitei, nor do I feel it in Tatsumi, but I've seen it / felt it in KJKB. Some people see the black belt as a sort über-level, so getting there makes so much of a big difference that they stop training once they reach it, their motive gone, conquered. Some comments by a partner might have pointed in that direction, just after the test. Maybe not: it would not be the first time his words come out of the wrong orifice but his actions keep being... Well, not 'good', but adequate.

Thing is, getting ready for the test, maybe seeing some techniques together, or training them slightly differently, allowed me to see some things that point into interesting directions... And that I don't yet understand completely, not even in execution.

So, to me, getting ready for black belt has been, in part, the removal of that blind. While I don't really expect to reach 10th dan, fact is thst I'm barely half way the formal knowledge recognition. That I'm seeing things I didn't see a year ago, that... That it would be sad if I stopped where I'm at now, now that I've seen some of my mistakes, perceived certain shapes.

And yet, the black belt sanctuary myth keeps on.

Take care.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Twenty years in the making...

I graded for black belt today, in Kajukenbo, through Angel GS.

First met KJKB through a gym partner, a guy who did three different arts and who left at least two of them not long later.

However, Angel was the first guy I met who said certain things about MA's relation to violence that have become more common these days, at least in lip service, but that I was getting weird looks for suggesting back then.

However, he was hard style and I was soft, even more back then. Then, about two years later, I left MA for quite a while. Saddened, done with the lot of self grooming associations... Missing MA every single week for ten years.

Got back into MA through a really nearby school I distrusted and ended up leaving, but by then I was already back in touch with KJKB, so I tried the style again. My mindset had changed some; Kajukenbo had, too. I'd gone to a seminar with testings and it looked like it was something I could make my own. Not completely convinced, back then, but that was late Feb'08. Might have been slightly sooner if life hadn't insisted on hurdles along the way. Still, not all that much: I did say my mindset was different, did I not?

Take care. Let's see what's out there.