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.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
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...
Sunday, November 8, 2015
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
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
Posted by shugyosha at 9:06 PM
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
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
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.
Saw a couple of MDs [*] some days ago; nice examples, each on their own. Once of them was, basically, an extremely tired parent who was physically hurt by his also tired child and burst. Reigned it very fast, but there was certainly a point of "status" fight in the answer. And that person loves the kid dearly, but being tired robs us of empathy... and lots other things. The more tired you are, the less person; do you take that into account when training for night troubles? The other was on a website. An industry with a lot of freelancing got shown the main points of a 10-year contract. It escalated quickly. And, besides the escalation itself, it was interesting to watch the behaviour of both sides. In Spain, right wing is usually more boisterous, way more, when "defending" from "attack", while the left tends to go "whatever" and go its own way. That "whatever" IS still an MD: you're dismissing your opponent. For some reason, it looks like the opposite is true in the States. The "left" is more boisterous and the (classic) right [+] tends to retreat back to its own values and stay there. While reading it, however, something else came out. The Bitch Patrol. Suddenly, it appeared like any discussion about the contract was insulting the freelancer, who'd been dissing the discussion... on twitter. Words stopped having their standard meaning and had context-specific meanings. Points were selected and dissected without logical standards... Appeals to authority, ad hominem attacks... You name it. But, no. Oh, no! they were not doing it. Perish the thought. Thing is, the way the original freelancer is behaving is right out of Marc's standards above. I personally think he's falling into a trap of his own unwilling creation, a blowback, surrounding himself by way too many yes-sayers. Still... The example remains. Take care. [*] monkey dance, not medicine doctor [+] I do differentiate between "classic" right (religious, conservative) and "right" (zealots, neo-cons, and such), the same way I differentiate between left (soup kitchen volunteers, grass-roots unions...) and "left" (tenured union "workers" and their mafias, and the equivalent at "social issues" university departments... or parties).
I think I've written before about my friends with kid. Watching him grow, I've sort of realized (some more) how basic some... social interactions are. Tantrums, negotiation... Then, something else happened. You see, that couple was in contact with a team of nurses (registered nurses; early training in Spain and specialization in the UK) to supplement some treatment they were not comfortable with the level the government provided. New tests indicated a glitch in normality (not, according to the MDs, a problem; just something unusual that, not so long ago, wouldn't have been noticed). The whole team of RNs freaked out, lashed away to distance from their customers and cut all ties after a cursory internet search (in two hours they did all that, plus a meeting and dinner). One of the parents is a teacher; if one of her pupils did that kind of research for a high school job, he'd spend the whole semester making up for it. But they were adult pros. The don't fall into such elementary mistakes, do they? The other was at a training group. The instructor couldn't come for a couple of days. So the 3rd senpai decided to push for a roll call in social media. No queries, no questions. Roll call, military style. Not even asking if any of his senpai was coming or if it was the right way to do things. I knew he was rigid, this way is the True Way [TM], but I didn't know he rolled this way. Live and learn. Neither event is any more complex than a kindergarten brawl. Adults or no, professionals or no. But it does look that "adulthood" sort of blinds people to the fact that they can fall in this kind of behaviour, too. Which reinforces Rory's assertions about how often (very little) the human rational part is in charge. Now, imagine all that under violence. Take care.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
External martial arts (because I don't know squat about internal) are all about geometry. No matter if it's karate (Goju-ryû, or Kyokushinkai), or savate, or... Deflection is geometry, footwork is geometry, even punching. Which is why a lot of discussions on martial arts are plain dumb. Part of it is in the explanation. Martial arts are full of sentences that make no sense. "Do that without any strength, at all" At all? How can I stand upright, then? Yes, yes, obvious... until the example is not quite as clear. "Do X in a straight line" But... er... it's an arch. And then it starts. And you get people who don't SEE anything beyond the name. People who don't see arches or circles, who watch you warily when you mention those, as if you were trying to mislead them. Now, granted, some geometries are very small, subtle, difficult to perceive. Others are pretty large. And they could be taught. but teaching geometry goes against the grain of martial artists. Unless they go to structured extremes, where shapes are just this wide and just that size. Which is not, can't be, real: shapes will ultimately depend on the situation, opponent, your own body type and your mechanics. But the commonalities will be there. You'll have an arch, or a triangle. And the arch will be wider or shorter, the triangle will be squat or longish. But the mechanics of an arch don't deliver properly is you use a triangle instead. And counterwise. And teaching that way would be more universal, less prone to sects and cliques, and... Which is another reason it's not done, of course. Take care.
Friday, July 17, 2015
They've been for several decades, with some very specific exceptions. This means that they're subject to the same constrains and bumps as other social interactions. Three examples: The current economical crisis has led several in our group to work in foreign lands. So far, they're going home, but I think that's mostly anecdotic. And you'd have to add a couple of local changes of location that, nonetheless, put people well outside the practical distance to attend training regularly. While it's been sad, the first one to go is now second "in command" of a pretty established dojo. Another is looking for a training gym to start a group. One of the more local ones is also on that path... And so a system grows. And yesterday, at the end of semester dinner, we were looking at the way quite a bunch of people had left our organization. Specially the last bunch, but in general; those last 40 years. And there were two constants: full time instructors and shelving the past. People who'll not acknowledge who they learned the style with, and will later try to obscure the issue. It's almost as if they were scared people would point at them because of it and, by denying, they manage to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. And, related to that last, cliquism. Being sure of your own training is good. Disregarding anything else, even nuances... I mentioned it last year in a post that's gone dark, people dissing an instructor and his kali when he'd been invited by the guy doing the seminar AND was better at both styles than those making the fuss. The head instructor wanted them to learn that, but they decided they were above those games. This extends from small things (this way of punching vs. that one, both within the same style) and to bigger ones (the resistance of some people to getting acquainted with Keysi, the local --not as hormonal-- branch, is almost funny). But learning is social. Teaching is also social. How do you deal with martial arts long term unless you deal with the social part? Take care.
Friday, July 3, 2015
The sentence is usually parsed "don't bring a knife to a gunfight", but it's not a matter of the specific weapon. In certain ways, also, it can be reversed: don't bring a gun to a knifefight. Every weapon has an optimal range, and below 7m (Tueller dixit), it's easier to reach with a knife, which is also a simpler weapon that kills more reliably than a gun (below 1/3 of hits at around 1.5 m, according to the FBI, plus lesser lethality per hit). Not that you're going to to see the Marines turn their backs to the rifle and become spear throwers. Every situation has the most adequate weapon. Recognizing that is part of the overarching common theme. The most important weapon you have is between your ears. If you focus in the physical weapon, you go into a talisman thinking mindset that might work for a while (you'll be more confident, and muggers try not to attack confident people, just in case)... until it meets someone who calls your bluff. And who doesn't warn you about it. He does have both weapons: the one in his mind is going to control the situation... The one in his hand, your life (I suggest you mute it; it's distracting). Same kind of weapon, already out, but those high school punks didn't even get to point it. The predator met the wannabe, the yappy dog with delusions of wolf. Oops. Don't bring less than your best to a survival fight. Beware of idiocy turning a stunt into a survival fight while you jerk off. Take care.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
I was doing some cooking and something came to me. I had to slice some onions. I like to waste as little as possible, so I try to use as many layers as possible, and cut as close to the base and the tip as possible. This costs me some extra effort and time. Something a professional won't do. He won't mind if he rips an extra layer or three while cleaning the skin, or waste a couple of extra slices from each extreme. Instead, he'll slice fast, clean, maybe not quite as regularly as the book says... But he'll have the onion cut in time, the oil ready at the right temperature. He might not spread the onion around the oil, and yet he'll manage to have all bits cooked alike. The violence professional is the same. Doing several hundreds of reps is the focus of the martial artist. Lots of reps, just the right way. A professional doesn't need as much perfection, he needs adequate performance at just the right moment. Clear mind, good ingrained reflexes. And then, some people get the worst from both worlds and train barely adequate performance without the proper mind focus. And you get shitty mechanics without focus, that gets worse when it performs under pressure. Take care.
We were doing some basic kali, this week. Snake disarms. Very basic, since kali is not our thing, just a way to get familiar with weapons and their effects. But I come from classic Japanese fencing. The kali meme of "a stick is a sword is a stick"? I lean towards the sharp, pointy thingie. And yet, it seems I have something that should be more easy to grasp to people who lean "stick". Ie, pommel strikes. What I'm finding in what little kali I've done is that people tend to strike with the "mono uchi", the last part of the sword when used for slashing. They forget pommel, they forget thrusts... The stick becomes a light baseball bat (or worse; a baseball bat does have a nice pommel, after all). Now...the point of weapons is to get better offensive options. While it's true that, say, an F-18 isn't much good for a police restrain and yet a useful thing, it's not much good if you take a weapon and discard most of its uses. It would be like getting that F-18 and using it ONLY for dropping dumb bombs. What's the use of its radar, its cannon, its fly by wire? Get another weapon, if you only want that! So, if you're only using slashing techniques, get a slashing weapon. But, oh, that needs edge angle awareness. So, we better keep a stick. It's weird. the distance our style works best is close striking, almost grappling distance. With any other attack, we try to close there. And yet, most of us try to keep the distance when we have a stick. Why? The moment you've disarmed him, you do not need to get far away[*]. Use that pommel, use your elbow, use "abanico". There are lots of options, faster options, things that can really mess the other guy. But you need to use the whole of the weapon, for that. The more I think about it (not only this once), the more I believe that we should train with short sword replicas, the more I see rattan leading to tactical laziness.[+] Take care. [*] Yes, if you've disarmed him and still carry your own stick, you're in a legal minefield. [+] Not that swordwork is immune to that. There are a lot of distances available with a katana that are seldom explored. Even a lot of counter to a disarm attempt that try to control down the guy... when you'd started wanting to cut him down and you still have the damn sword!
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Human brains are impressive. They adapt, they change, they mold themselves. The smallest changes have profound effects. So, teaching awareness, self defence, the realities of the dangers "out there" should be easy, right? You wish. If you've been there, you know that. Rory explains it as a matter of socialization, mostly. Our social brains not wanting to deviate from our group's normal, its perceptions, its consensus. Because realizing certain truths about violence makes you need to change your behaviour, and that might be contrary to your group's interests and its cohesion. That's a part, but... bear with me for a while. I'm trying to think in 3D, of late. It touches several projects of mine I'm trying to delay until another one's ready. But my mind stretches that way nonetheless. Think in 3D? We're humans, We have stereoscopic vision. Of course you think in 3D! No, you don't. We mostly think in a sort of 2.5D. Height and width, sure (and even the height part is crappy, if you're city-raised). But, depth? Oh, yes, you can perceive distance. But you don't perceive the other side of an object. And you certainly don't perceive the innards. So you dismiss them, likely. Now, try to think 3D. Try to think how your pen is in the inside. How the bottom of your keyboard is and how it fits the table. How's your oven from behind? Do that continuously. Do it continuously, 24/7, with every object that crosses your path, every animal, every person. That's what you're asking of people who don't think in SD terms. Take care.
Monday, May 11, 2015
This used to be here some years ago, some further explanation on an early 2010 post Marc made me expand. It seems to be still valid, so I'm re-posting it.Some background: Text linguistics defines a couple of concepts: thema and rhema. Broadly, the first is the subject we're talking about, with all the information we already know, while the second is what information the text adds to our knowledge. So, if I say "Ted's cat is sick", the sentence is build so that you already know Ted and his cat. You didn't, however, know it was sick until I told you. However, you might not know Ted had any kind of pet, in which case "Ted has a cat" would be part of the thema for me but part of the rhema for you. If I later say "Ted's asked me to get his cat from the vet because he's busy" you already know that I'm not getting the cat back from a standard health check. "The cat is sick" has gone from rhema to thema. If we are to communicate, my thema and yours have to be at a similar level (you can bridge the gap "Ted has a cat", as long as you know Ted and you know what cats are). OK, let's assume Albert, Bob and Clara. Albert is a nice guy that has discovered how to let things be the hard way. He's been beaten, he has beaten others, and had some harsh talks, back in the day, with cops that knew he was up to no good. He's since reformed and leads a picket fence life at some unassuming neighborhood far from his old place. Albert is a sage, without much skill at talking but a lot of experience. Bob is a former jock with a stint in the army, who never saw physical exercise beyond boot camp but has convinced others that his bar fights are the real thing; he's even done some competition in some contact sport or other. He's been doing it for so long that he believes it himself, mostly, and it pays well. Much better than flipping hamburgers, at least. He's a seller. Clara had a scare many years ago that shook her world. She has no big stars to her violence curriculum, but she's spend every day since thinking about violence, how it happens and when it happens. She enrolled as a reporter for some local newspaper in the state capital and interviewed lots of victims, criminals and cops. She has written a book, "Stay safe", that has quietly become a must read in certain circles. She's also a sage of a sorts, even if most of her experience is second hand, who knows she still lacks a lot of violence experience but has a tremendous skill showing others part of what's out there. That's a bard. Now, you come in. For whatever reason, pick one, you have chosen to learn self defense. Albert lives nearby, and you kinda sorta guess "he's had a life" --suspected it since the day he stopped a gang of punks who were harassing old Miss Dandelion with his mere presence, but you couldn't quite set that thought--. You haven't talked much, though, and you hesitate to ask. You visit the local franchise of the ATA and they have an add: Bob is teaching a seminar in a couple of weeks. 4 hours saturday evening for 200 $. You go back home, browse the net, and find his name is well-regarded. He's even got a website. On it, you find a short article that quotes a book. You don't have that book, but the quotes seem to ring a bell, and they sound legit. It is then that you remember those same sentences, here and there, in some conversations with Albert. You take a dive and ask him about it next time you find him mowing the lawn. He doesn't say a thing, but he leaves the mower and goes into his house, coming back with a thin, earmarked book, tattered from use. Clara's. Now, realize that the underlying information is the same in all cases. Albert, Bob and Clara are talking about the same, they're even using the same sentences. However, the information you get is not the same. Albert knows Clara's right, but he can't transmit it properly. Bob doesn't have a clue, but he's found some sentences in that book that, as he reads it, reinforce his beliefs and provide him easy answers, out of context, to people's fears. He knows people are not going to read the book... at least not until they've paid those 200 bucks. Clara doesn't know much. She's been in less violence than Bob, even, but she's got a good point of view, she's made a real effort to understand it and she's a superb writer. Albert, Bob and yourself need Clara, but for completely different reasons: Albert needs someone to teach you the right background. What's completely alien for you is something he grew up with, so much part of his life that he cannot separate it enough for an explanation. Without some common background, communication is impossible. Bob needs Clara, too, to justify his approach and his prices. But he's going to twist it as much as he needs. You need Clara to see what's out there. Realize, also, that it's easier to go with Bob: he's already digested the book for you. 200 bucks and an afternoon of your time, and that's all. Albert will not ask you a single dollar, but he'll talk about things that the book only glimpses at, good as it is, and will stretch you brain until it hurts. Most people don't know an Albert. That's why Clara has to be real careful about how she writes. Most people who read her book will either have no idea or will come from Bob's mindset. Bob has already managed to pervert her words, but she wrote that to help other people, so she must work, hard, to clear any misunderstandings to the people who reach her work having read only selected, out of context, modified soundbites. Take care.
I was watching a video about a new SD gadget. Basically, a marriage between a kubotan and a manriki (gusari) made of cord, both turned keychain. Modern materials and all that, but that was basically the case. Two things bothered me. The first was that the marketing techniques were either clumsy punches, twisted so that you could use the pointy bits, or, well, control-takedowns that worked. They worked because the techniques didn't use the widget at all. Sure, it was there; sure, it did add some extra pain. It changed nothing. And that got me thinking. Those techniques could have come from any modernized traditional art. "Defence against punch, number 69", but with a weapon in your hands. That has so many holes... You see, you're getting a self defence weapon and acting from the assumption you'll have it ready. Rory would have a fit. Marc would have to get a new keyboard. Everything has levels. Self defence has levels. Like Rory insists, MA like to concentrate on a very particular level he calls the "duel", and it filters down to SD. If someone's attacking you, you might find yourself in any of five stages: Surprised, Perceptful, Aware, Facing and Deployed. Surprised is what happens when your first notice is the floor hitting your face after a sudden shift in balance. You're way behind in any way that counts. You have to reset, you have to defend, you have to get up... Chancy. Percepful is what happens when you realize there's something wrong as the baseball bat falls. You're still going to have trouble, but you can minimize the first attack and your attacker has to reorient some while you aren't left in such a vulnerable position. Aware is that "there's something wrong, here" feeling. You're in what some people call "orange" or "yellow". There something that's calling your instincts, maybe someone specific. If you start working from here, you may avoid the event completely. The shift in your body language alone might do it. Facing is your problem in front of you. You don't have a stance, you don't have weapons, but it's not going to blindside you. You're ready. You know it, he knows it. That knowledge alone may, again, erase the problem before it begins. Or may create another one if you start a macho dance. Deployed Add a stance and/or a weapon. That widget I first mentioned, a cane, your raised fists. Whatever. Again, the presence of a weapon might erase the problem... or might get you into worse trouble, physical and psychological, than you ever imagined. The mistake of many martial artists is that they assume they'll be working at the fourth level, or even the fifth. Some manage to train for the third. Very few go below that. The mistake of many SD "tools" is that they refuse to think below the fifth level. How do I deploy a chained weight in the street? Depending on the situation, you just gave permission to anyone on sight to take you down ("He threatened my friend with a weapon, officer"), and that would include a cop who found you right then, weapon at the ready. So... deployment. How many SD tools can be deployed easily? When do you deploy them? How? Discreetly? Menacingly? Can you deploy them under pressure? So, two things: avoid the first three levels, try to avoid the last two. And don't become inspector Gadget. Don't trust a gizmo you don't know if you'll even have with you. Because the next SD fashion that sweeps around might make you change your tool. However, your eyes will probably be with you; use those. Take care.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
I have several acquaintances in the "makers" world. I'm considering, for several prototypes, going there myself. And I'm realizing something. It used to be that a certain percentage of the population was able to do things that could be extremely illegal. Locksmiths, for example, could open broken safes... but also intact ones. Ironsmiths knew perfectly well how to make functional daggers outside legal limits. Good machinists could build guns. But they were few, their jobs had a certain pride that going rogue would rob them. Some tools were quite expensive, and required very specific attention. Enter desktop CNC and 3D printing. Some days ago, a broken child killed a teacher with a crossbow, nearby. Given a couple of years, a more affluent background, and he could have shot a dozen. And the affluent requirement is becoming obsolete by the week. I used to say that, for SD purposes, you could basically discount firearms where I live. While there are some, they were not found in common crimes, but mostly in already criminal surroundings (don't get upset if you're buying drugs for a dozen people and the guy's surrounded by guns). Not any longer. Governments will try to regulate. And fail. Because, yes, after the fact it becomes obvious that I had a gun I shouldn't, and I get some extra years thrown into the verdict. But meanwhile? In the States, I can't sell a firearm I made with my CNC, but... weapons are defined pretty narrowly, by a single part of the firing mechanism[*]. It has implications in other places, too, economically (and artistically! Napster is coming to sculpture), but this is not the place. But if you live in places where weapons are regulated and the regulation tends to hold... start thinking what happens when it doesn't. When a criminal can set up shop with a 500 bucks 3D printing machine and print weapons that may only be good for half a dozen shots, but that's more than enough to kill you. When a hobbyist teaches things to her cousin and it turns out that the cousin is broken inside. When... It's not going to happen often. But when it does, expect the media to go full throttle on it. And, in any case, just be aware that your traditional "safe" spaces just got downgraded, hard. Take care. [*]can't recall which. In Spain, it's basically the barrel: guns are "deactivated" by drilling holes in it, but the rest of the gun is still functional, if you don't fancy your hand.
Friday, April 10, 2015
A sharp knife is a safe knife. You're less likely to force through, it's less likely to buckle and, if you get cut, you heal much better. Much. Really. In the knife-using circles I've known, those points above are so basic, they're often not even told. The same way you're not told your feet touch the ground. Remember the kid from last week? Thanks to him, I found an interesting site on teaching knife-use to kids. It's interesting. Because it's mostly about empowerment, respect, some family bonding... All those nice things when you apply them to abstract knowledge, but oh so scary when you put a knife in a kid's hands. Some years ago, I was talking with a senior field officer in the Spanish army. He mentioned that he'd rather hire a climber than a soccer player. All that being up there hanging from a rope gave a calm and introspection that soccer simply didn't, even before you accounted for the frequent association between soccer and violence. What I'm finding is a certain correlation between people who're comfortable around knives (may or may not carry them, or even know their knives, depending on their background) and people who're comfortable with themselves. And I think on the 1001 ways I use a knife... not quite daily. And I think about the 1001 ways society is trying to teach that kid to misuse knives, to fear them... (Insisting on dull knives and teaching him to play with them; fussing around him when there are knives in the open, to the point of blocking his parents' access in case of an accident; and so on) A kid that knew how to handle knives before he could walk, who keeps trying to help in the kitchen, slicing included (and the reason for his father's search; he finally got one). A kid a goodly part of society can't accept as a responsible "adult-in-making" and tries to dumb down. And society usually wins. And then we complain that "kids these days", that "most people can't", that "this thing is too sharp". When, really, what happens is that we've been dulled down. Take care.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Usually, martial arts techniques are responses. A succession of moves that take you from a losing situation into a winning result. So, if things start going downhill and yet you manage to succeed, there must be a point at which this changes, yes? Where? Again with my old system's technique. Yes, check it out again, please. Where does that thing go from "I'm going to get smashed" to "I have him"? Where do you think it happens? My opinion? The moment you control his elbow to your abdomen. Everything after that is commentary. It's very difficult to recover from that, and I'd say impossible once you put your other hand to him. However, a bunch of instructors, even arts, concentrate in the shiny bits. The lock, the control, the takedown. They're nice, funny, often spectacular. But you need control of the situation to get there. And that's where many fail. Now, yes, this point can change. A very good judoka can intercept a punch and put you down with no intermediate moves. It's not a safe way to bet or train, though. So, where are your techniques' inflection points? When do you start controlling the situation? Can you do properly what comes before? Take care.
Friday, April 3, 2015
I seem to be repeating myself a lot, today. Some days ago, I mentioned that blades seem to have a weird "feeling", a balance that pushes you towards certain fluidity. In that trip with friends this last weekend I bought several knives. A chef's knife, a MCusta folding knife, a Martiini one, and two fixed Spanish blades: a Muela inspired on Argentinian blades and a Nieto skinner. I've ranted on some ideas on Spanish knives ust today, so I'll save you the bad points on that. Also, I'd have preferred the MCusta to be one with a thumb hole, unlayered, instead of a thumb stud, layered steel one. Functional preference[*]. But. Those blades have their own preferences of movement. The long Argentinian blade, a 6 2/3 inch blade, reaches out, changes your feel, makes you, perhaps, a tad more daring, asks for a guard. The skinner wants to be kept close to the body. With the very same movements. The folding ones are similar to the skinner, but faster, more inclined to "nick" instead of cut; maybe more puncturing, too. Now, most of my short blade instruction is a weird mix of Kali, Silat... My Japanese learning is scarce on short blades and... well, a tanto is a rather long short blade. So maybe my ideas are restricted. But... I had similar feelings with that talwar I mentioned in my earlier post, and I'm told they were legit. Hm... More feeling, less technique? Where have I heard that before...? Take care. [*] Layered steel, today, is not any more functional (and, sometimes, even less) than good factory steel. And I think thumb holes work better under stress.
This kind of follows on the previous post, kind of doesn't. It has more general implications WRT awareness. Some friends of mine are rearing their child with some... old fashioned? ideas on responsibility. As in, they're teaching him more things like left / right and less things like "hippopotamus". And he's been grabbing knives the proper way since before he could walk. I was with them this first weekend of Easter and... it's curious. Curious how some people will freak out at the kid grabbing (properly) a knife, but will put him dessert out of reach, insuring an accident when the kid reaches for it (or tries to) at the same time the rest of the adults are busy staying out of the way of said waiters (and, then, presenting the bill to said kid; how come he needs better access to a bill than to his own food?). Earlier that weekend, at a knife shop, the father was buying a shaving razor... just after a professional chef cut himself with a knife... and kept denying it. Still, there was blood on the floor when he left and no one else was bleeding. Denial. But... No one cleaned those knives he'd touched (or the floor). Let's just say my friend made sure his blade was in a factory-sealed container. You're left to wonder what happens if that guy bleeds on the menu. Another knife shop, same guy, weeks ago, looking for a knife that would fit his kid's hand. In certain circles, "sharp is safe". Apparently not in a shop where they kept insisting on dull blades (the kid has several of those, gifts; those gifts are teaching him, basically, to play with blades... suboptimal), and that he could not carry the kid above knife-level (in case he fell on those knives; because, of course, the fall itself is meaningless)... and then promptly interfering with his range of vision and staying between parent and kid every single time they showed him a knife. There were Japanese blades on display. But they were Following the Rules. That parent was a Maverick (TM). And so on... Still, the rules followed, they forgot about the meaning of those rules at the same time said parent tried to teach his kid how to safely work with those things. What kind of parent do you thing raised the self-mutilating chef? Take care.
Spain has a long tradition WRT knives. Blades, in general. Then, folding blades. The winch-like noise the kind of knife there makes as it opens used to be a staple of books and comics. And yet... Go to international knife forums or suppliers and try to find Spanish makers. You won't find the artisans (they apparently created a guild a couple of years ago, but I can't find it now), and you'll have trouble finding them here, even. Web 2.0 is so last year, guys! Don't give me "we can't reach that" market / forum... when people from Scandinavia, France or Brazil do. And if you try to browse those brands online catalogues... Ergh! At most, scanned physical catalogue pages. Without info. "Steel: Stainless" is not a valid description. Locking mechanisms? Frame or liner-lock, that's it (or none, in some really traditional makers). Not even the classic one pictured above, not much. Nothing new, no patents, no... Opening mechanism? Friction or stud. Some, very rare, "spyder hole" -like. Sheaths are about as bad but, then, that's more normal. Oh, and they could learn some packaging, too. Just sayin'. Blergh! [*] So what? Mindset. If that's how aficionados treat their trade... imagine the standard population. Even LEOs. Flipper knives? Assisted? How do you teach knife defence when people still believe that a knife takes so long to open? Take care. [*] Basically, knives are not shoes. Really. Trust me. They aren't.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Soemtimes you have one of those glimpses that makes you see things much more clearly... and realize you've been a fool until then. I've said for a while (though I admit that I took most of those posts offline a couple of months ago) that I'm surprised about the relationships between Tatsumi-ryu (early XVIth century ryuha, Japan) and Kajukenbo (sort of Chinese ancestry, 1950s, Hawai'i). Both are very forward, frontal, arts... until they're not. Both require a weird fluidity, a transition between strength and bounce, a pressure... And both share the same basic deflection. I'd seen it, sort of, before. The idea was the same, but instead of using the arm, you were using a 3-feet blade. Except it's more than that. Kajukenbo deflects with the weak arm while the strong one comes from below and shields. In an emergency, you can simply put your strong hand over its ear and your other hand reinforces the arm. It's a rather strong shield that can move around more than you'd expect (and has a pointy end). Tatsumi ryu has mukou. The strong hand grips the sword while the weak one... grips both sword and arm and reinforces it. Not only the "energy" is the same (both physical and "psychological" [*])... the actual physical structure of your own body is almost a copy. I'm an idiot. A practised idiot. Take care. [*] Willpower, intent... call it as you wish.
Monday, March 23, 2015
He’d never had any patience with those sagas wherein the hero found, was given, or created a famous blade with a name of its own. Ridiculous! These things were just pieces of steel, not something sentient. And when you focused too much on "my famous blade, Gazornenplatz,” you were apt to forget that it was a tool, to be used and as readily left behind if need be. Aksel had felt the same, and when he’d caught cadets naming their blades and refusing to use any other, he often took the weapons in question to the forge himself and had them melted down, if they happened to have come out of the common arsenal. There wasn’t a great deal he could do about heirloom blades or gifts, other than to ban them from the salle, but that’s exactly what he had done. Mercedes Lackey, Exile's HonorMaija mentions she's been playing with Western swords, and about the differences in mindset due to different kinds of design. Personally, what I'd likely find annoying of a good deal of Western swords is the lack of guard to the sides of the cutting plane in the classic medieval "cross" design (Oakeshott). But what I've found so far is that there's a kind of "feel" of blades. And considering how hard it was for me to switch practice swords and how natural some moves seem with completely unknown blades... And I mean going from katana-like designs to one handed sabres, or knives. I have the feeling that a lot of the problem with swords is not what you don't know. It's what you DO know. To use the previous example: it was knowing the weight of my previous practice swords that made it difficult to me to adapt to the new ones. But when I tried a talwar some time ago, there were some movements that just "were" in the blade, movements that didn't come from my martial arts, but my body. Something similar happened with a sabre built to Japanese WWII requirements, and with an old knife with filipino delusions. And I'm not sure it doesn't tie to those ideas from Rory. That we learn playing, not cramming ideas. That we know how to move and that, if we're not careful, MA learning ends up putting way to many restrictions and destroying the knowledge we already had of our own body. Hm... Take care.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
We're taught not to be good. Not to dare thinking of ourselves as good. At many levels. It's self-serving, prideful... You name it. Except it's self defeating. Something called the Dunning-Kruger effect, best summarized as
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wise people so full of doubts. Betrand RussellIn MA, we end up with rather good people saying "Oh, no, I'm just learning!" (which is true) and absolute morons utterly convinced they're Susano-o reincarnated. And then you have the morals of it. Complete jerks absolutely convinced they're "one of the good guys" no matter how many people they trample in the name of their pet cause, and people who've been through the Dark also convinced they're NOT good people, that they only sort of manage because of other people (kids or wife, as far as I've seen). They're convinced they're "faking it". And I'm always this close to telling them "prove it". Which wouldn't be fair. I would be punishing them, testing their self-control, just to make my point. But it's also true. There's lots of people who prove every day that they're not to be considered "good", no matter their own opinion. And these guys prove, just by being, that they're not one of those. But we're taught otherwise. We're taught absolutes. Shining white knights of Good. It's been accepted, kind of, that being "brave" is not being fearless, but working through fear. But, somehow, the equivalent in Goodness is lost. Makes you wonder. Take care.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Rory just published a thought, on his blog, that seems to have been bugging him for a while. Thought #1, in that post. Personally, I don't know enough of Lord Acton's life to judge if he was being sincere. He wouldn't be the first powerful politician to go against "his own". Engels and Kropotkin, for instance. But... Yagyū Munenori, of iaijutsu treatise fame (and starring several manga, and...), had the luxury of writing those treatises... because he was a courtier, absent from battle, worried by duels but not armies. Meanwhile, his brothers were invading natives' lands. Do we know what Cortez's family wrote regarding military matters? Or Custer's? Miyamoto Musashi was a rural orphan "samurai" who left home at 16, deserted his lord in death (good idea, I would think, but quite improper for a worthy samurai) and became a brawler, one of those ronin who gave the name a bad rep. And, yes, he won a lot of duels. So, self-defence expert? Maybe. Great painter? Sure, much later on, tamed. The ultimate authority in strategy and budo? Hardly. Morihei Ueshiba [*] hung himself from tree branches, loaded with weights, so that he could join the army... in time of a war of aggression (Russo-Japanese War). Not a particular "Do" moment, much less pacifist. In the West, Machiavelli keeps saying that fear is more powerful than love... and then tries to bootlick his place into a court instead of joining the Inquisition. Adriano Emperado, "train until someone bleeds to be strong", had the luxury of remaining a civilian during the Korean war... and yet his training might have something to do with 20 years in a wheelchair. And on and on... No, I don't think this invalidates their stories, their narrative. BUT. Be aware, don't eat the narrative uncritically, hook, line and sinker. A narrative, BTW, probably heavily shaded by transmission. At the very least, those experiences shaped their teachings. Maybe, being aware will actually help you understand their teachings, be a better aikidoka (and, man, could I give you examples!). And beware of "interpretation cults". Take care. Be aware. [*] Recall: restoration onwards, names start being transcribed in a Western order.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
In MA, there are different kinds of success. Also in real life, of course, so I'm going to go there for a moment. When Rory talked about the issues in agencies, he used to talk about the conflict between process and goal-people. And how there was a point of healthy feedback between both and a point of de-estabilization. If you check certain critiques of peacetime and wartime armies, you'll find the same in other words. Thing is, we're all kind of both. The point of enjoying tea is often not the (probably degraded, anyhow) caffeine, but the making of it, sitting and drinking it relaxed. Smoking pipe tobacco is about the same. Hiking. Having a chat with your loved ones. The process IS the goal. In the same way, in martial arts, you have process, goals, success... What very few arts and artists allow for is uncertainty. You don't really know what the attack is going to be, the angle it's coming from, the time, the height or weight of the attacker. You do at the gym, of course. And if the gym is all you need (and I have some issues with that when it relates to martial arts [*]), then that's it. Now, however, anything else... Martial arts are the way of breaking people. There's no way around that. And people object to being broken. They're greedy that way. However, people at the gym don't object to being thrown around, played with. And people want to play, like cubs do. But animals, while they know they're playing, have a single instinct: survival. Our survival has two elements: physical survival (strength, food...) and social survival (safety, food...). And here is where we fuck up. Since our physical survival is mostly not an issue (illness and traffic accidents are not the kind of things that trigger our physical-danger awareness... until the very last moment), we focus in the social. And it leaks into MA. How many times have you seen people uncomfortable (and that's mild) when analysing their techniques under a SD view? Why is it so? Some things should not even be taught twice in a group. The very first time someone should raise her hand and say "er... this wouldn't work". But no one does. So... now let me link "process people", and something Kris Rusch, writer, calls "get by people". Those are the people that, in MA, will "tick the boxes", if that. The people who're surprised when they realize, for example, how it takes about a year, in our gym, to go through 7 measly techniques, and how little time we give to those techniques. Why? They're the syllabus! Yes. But. You're not really evaluating "the technique", but the components of it. Sadly, in many associations, the people who value "the technique" end up being instructors. And then, they grade their own belts. If they only require "the technique", they're going to get black belts faster. And attract people who prefer the simpler "learn this move" syllabus to the "learn those ideas" mindset. Which is how you get whole MA associations filled with fit, technically adept people who wouldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag. They have every single "tick" in their boxes, they don't have the intangibles, they don't teach them, they pay no attention. And, specially, they don't train for failure. There's that idea, even in SD circles, that you don't teach failure. That's nice and well... until it becomes and absolute. If your technique is set, it's going to fail sooner or later. In fact, if you think on self protection terms, the moment you're attacked, your technique's already failed. Your perimeter's broken, your awareness's failed... whatever. And adrenaline's going to mess it further. So, any time your technique is this-then-than-then-success, you're training for falure through success. It's kinda circular, is it not? Take care. [*] It's both difficult to really grok you're simply doing a sport, when you take that way. Grok and keep that understanding. And, also, you're training reflexes. It's not a good idea to perform a badly trained reflex, or one for the wrong context, in real life. You might end up pissing off the burglar. In that sense, I used to say pickpocket, but we had a real life event recently, here, were a security guard tackled and controlled a burglar... without checking he had 2 friends by the door. Threats of rape didn't materialize, but...
Posted by shugyosha at 1:46 PM
Friday, March 6, 2015
I was exchanging ideas with Rory earlier this week, and he mentioned something about a seminar he'd been with one of those "reality" styled MA, and he mentioned a technique that was trying to do too much of an effort, at a weird angle, to try something that was supposed to be time-critical to save your life. A tad abstract, I know. Now, imagine that technique I spoke of earlier [*]. That's the original source, undiluted. And yet... Uke's right hand? It's there for a reason. And while it may stay put and keep trying for a lapel grab and a headbutt, it could as easily go behind the neck (ask any judo or Muay Thai competitor), or up your ear. Specially once it feels some opposition. In the original version of the technique, there's nothing preventing that. Or an elbow sidestriking your head. No, that arm there doesn't have the structure to deal with an incoming elbow, sorry. Now, personally, I'd always pictured "bad mechanics" to refer to stances, structures... And I'd have classified things like that in the mental category. Bad tactics, kind of. Using Rory's definition makes sense, though. You have, as almost always with him, to expand your definition, give it an extra layer of abstraction. "Bad mechanics" becomes not only the lack of physical properties but also the lack of understanding of the use of them. A proper forward stance is useless against an attack from the back [+]. So, developing such a stance in the bad situation is "bad mechanics". It is, the moment you consider the understanding of those mechanics part of them itself. Which opens a whole new can of worms. Because if the understanding of the proper mechanics, the right moment to use them, is what makes for shitty mechanics, then most of us have those. Take care. [*] If the link works weird, try the technique that starts at about 2:03. Check two posts back if you don't know when I spoke of it. [+] A tad sidewise, maybe. Many classical stances lean a tad to the side of your opponent. There are some advantages to that, but also dangers. The most warning I've heard about those is the omote/ura classification in koryu. The most is, yes, a classification.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
tend to know what they're getting into (unless they fall in the grips of a cult, this is). I recall Rory, some time ago, introducing us to a bouncer, almost thrice my weight, to the tune of "for those of you who're SD instructors, this is the strength differential women face WRT the standard jock". The silence was uncomfortable. But the thing is, many MA/SD guys are don't really understand that there really are big guys out there. Guys with the arms of Schwarzenegger. Or guys who can pick him up like a rag doll. There's always someone bigger. Take care.
Posted by shugyosha at 1:00 PM
Monday, February 16, 2015
I should go through the old Ju Jutsu syllabus again, if I can find it. I just had a glimpse of the first three techniques for yellow belt... And all sorts of warning lights lit on. Not exactly about the techniques themselves, although a bit, but... You see, it's not as much that the techniques were bad, or that they were badly taught (although this last part is true). It's that they lacked principles. MacYoung strikes again. I'm sort of gonna pass off the first one, a downwards block against a front grab that tried to mimic a guillotine instead of the proper hack from, say, a karate block. Much easier to slash through both arms with a single one if you actually, you know, don't face them together at their best. But I was thinking a lot more on the 2nd or 3rd one, not sure of the order, which had a punch to the stomach, a grab of the elbow and then applied a philcrum pressure towards the ground. Every single item of that technique works. The technique, as taught, didn't. Besides the minor point of how the elbow was grabbed (unnecessarily complicated and weak), or the precision of the stomach punch... There are lost levels, lost concepts. Pressure, synchronization, levers. Imagine, if you would, after such a close grab, your left hand raises so that your left wrist checks that grab and your palm controls the centreline, ready to protect from a head-butt. You right delivers a hit, your choice, against his lower ribs or available viscera. Now, instead of going halfway to Finisterre and back, that punching hand raises and grabs the elbow from the inside and pulls, attaching it to your main body; remember that arm was sort of controlled by your left. Your right elbow can sense his other arm, raise for protection. At the same time, however, your centreline hand goes against his jaw (or the philcrum, if you insist), and your arm extends out and down. You better hope uke is a good faller. It's annoying. The technique is there, if you apply the principles. When you don't, it's very bad Wu Xia. Take care. PS: For those curious:
|Move||defence position||attack position||defend damage||deliver damage|
|Left side control||1||0||1||0|
That's 16+ vs 28++++; say, 16.5 vs. 30. About twice the effectiveness, almost the exact same moves.
|Move||defence position||attack position||defend damage||deliver damage|
|Left side control||2+||2||2||0|
Saturday, February 7, 2015
There's a local tradition, here, of something pretty similar to a Morris dance, the version with sticks (and always with sticks, here; short, two, maybe three hand-spans). Today we had the chance to watch three troupes perform their versions. One was from the "state" capital, the other from an old fortress town, the third from a local hub farther beyond. The first ones were a demo show. Nice satins, ribbons... Cutey. The second ones... I'll get back to those. The third ones were happy, unashamedly asking for contributions, laughing and dancing. Getting with their own routines when the first ones faltered because they lost partners along the route (clothing mishap; no, not that kind). The second ones? Those I was to get back to? They were the ones that better recalled what those things were. If the last ones were performing group kata at a tournament, the second ones were warming up for training. They had the only performer I saw (and I wasn't able to check as thoroughly as I would have liked) who didn't need to look at the sticks. He did see them, and watch them, he simply didn't turn his eyes or his head towards them. A boy in his mid-teens. That was the group that broke a stick while I watched and swapped it without stopping the dance. Zanshin. And, BTW, they did NOT move from the heel. So, why do we train? Take care.
Posted by shugyosha at 5:17 PM
Friday, February 6, 2015
I was viewing Naihanchi versions, trying to understand something, and I came by a version performed by one of the great, son of one of those Great artists of the early XXth century, the ones who made Karate flourish. He still practices the old karate. The karate of Hojo Undo, of Chi-Ishi, of iron Geta. Of hitting the legs with baseball bats and stones with your hand. His hands are hypersized, chronically swollen. A CT scan would probably reveal a life of abuse, of micro (and not so micro) fractures, and I wouldn't like to bet on the state of his joints, veins and bones. Why? This is the Way of Karate. Pain is the path to enlightenment. Bullshit. This is not World War II. This is not Sengoku. This isn't even the 80s. I've said it time and again. Adriano Emperado trained like a devil... and spent his last decades being pushed around in a wheelchair. We should know better. And yet, we have cults of strength doing seminars for young jocks, uncaring of strains, of bad muscle development, in the name of reality and self defense, oblivious to the price they'll pay a couple of decades later, when you won't find the original instructor to sue and new fads will have taken the place. And we have old systems, with great ideas (which is why they have survived) attached uncritically to old methods that might have been the best there was back then, but are no longer sane. Risking a wheelchair into your 60s when people in your neighbourhood only lived so much if they were lucky was a decent investment. Risking that when the likelihood of violence is as low as it is right now, when hospitals and prisons abound... is risking your health for nothing. We need a new Jutsu. A new interpretation of arts like karate (or Wushu, but I know that case much less) that allows for current medical practice, for current training methods, for current physical development. People today may reach martial arts after playing baseball, or soccer, or... where they reached them after loading heavy bales and logs and carcasses and kids. Yet the training, the mechanics, stay. And I don't have the foggiest idea how to reach that. Take care.
Posted by shugyosha at 7:20 PM
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
I've been thinking on that last post. Then the one on the quality of Japanese kata. Then the one on modern bunkai instructors. When people do more than a martial art, they may hear often that quote about emptying one's cup before refilling. Like many other Eastern proverbs, it gets taken out of context. If you do, say, ZNKR Seitei iai and a koryu (an old school; in this context, a swordwork one), those two are similar enough that skills will want to cross the barrier, sometimes for the worse. Always? NO! If you get used to the handling of a sword, you can use that sword. And koryu and Seitei use the same design, share some of the moves. You do have to separate the practice of each, understand what each one is trying to tell you. Check.
Sunday, February 1, 2015
My ass. Back when I did Ju Jutsu, one of the few real practitioners we had was a small woman, older than any of us, instructor included, who'd came from abroad. Her technique could only be second to her fighting spirit. I've found similar things here and there. But, as it happens, I was just watching a karate training video, filmed in a dojo in mainland Japan. High school students. From where I stand, it's a pretty weird video. You have those ideas of Japan, you see some small training halls, visiting instructors to Europe bring their pupils... and you get ideas. Most of them can't kick. Mind you, I can't do a proper "karate kick" myself, I know that. Apparently, they don't. It's been said that shodan, the black belt, is taken more lightly in Japan; some people go so far as to say that you can get it more easily. I know a Japanese iai instructor who expressed surprise when I failed my nidan, and it didn't feel feigned. Apparently, in many places (I won't even dream of saying it's general), it really is easier to "start" the black belt path. Again, it's weird. It's one of those schools with two belts: black or white. That's it. Traditional. But it looks weird to find black belts who can't sit in seiza, whose rei shiki is a bad hasty routine. And some kids have an impressive precision... when doing prescribed forms. Their sparring looks like cockfighting. Healthy young men bashing against each other, shining in sweat. And then, you start to see the commonalities of the ones that somehow look better. More focused, more intent. They're the smallish kids, the girls... "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." Does it apply to karate? Myths insist, every generation, on the story of the sickly kid who goes into martial arts an becomes a beacon, an example, a master. I know a couple of real life examples myself. And, for what it's worth, the concentration of nebulizers around our mat is impressive. But, when it comes to us, we still look for the healthy guy, the kicking champ. Tall, muscled, healthy. And it can give you some impressive artists. But it's the tiny guy who's finally found something that makes him feel whole, that gives him the hope of having a chance (both socially and physically), of proving himself. And, yet, we often manage to forget them. Take care. EDIT: They're not a high school. They're a private university!
There are two kanji (and a zen proverb) I'm falling in love in MA. The proverb is that in my "avatar", 'gen mata gen'. Mystery beyond (the) mystery. There's a longer version, and it comes originally from China, at least. It reflects the idea that every time you think you've solved something in life, there's another mystery behind it. The other two are more "mechanic". Mukō (first kanji on the right) is a kanji I met through Tatsumi-ryū. In the school, it means forwardness, and it's applied a to a go no sen technique, a technique where you're reacting and where you must push forward, avoid getting into defensive mode. It's a mindset that applies beautifully to Kajukenbo, even its associated mechanics. And the last one... the last one goes the other way. If Mukō is something I first understood in Tatsumi and brought to Kajukenbo, Hazumu is something I've learned in Kajukenbo and I'm learning to apply to Tatsumi. Meaning? Bouncy, bullet, snap, flip, lively... Do not stop your technique at every hit. Bounce back. Use his energy and snap back into him. I'm liking it, but I realize you need a certain kind of head. Take care.
Rory differentiates between strategies, tactics, principles... Regarding Kajukenbo [*], we have a single strategy: Jam his head. This can be pretty literal, or not so much. The idea is that you confuse him by alternating sources of pain (heights of strikes, whatever), robbing field of vision, messing with is balance (occupying space, these last two)... Everything's set up for jamming his OODA. And when he's got enough to catch up to, you ask for payment in full. But that's the strategy. As we train, it's not taught separately. In a way, somehow like we're not taught to breathe [+] beyond some pointers here and there when we go somewhere real cold, or we start Phys-Ed classes. We probably put more importance in the particular tools. Some of them:
- The centerline Angel put some Wing Chun in our Kajukenbo. Not specific moves (we don't have Chun Choi, for example), but the mindset. We're a tad more circular that what I've seen of WC, but some ideas are there.
- The push We kind of roll over through our opponent, little by little, using the extension of our punches. We don't strike to push, but we do, indeed, push some after the strike. Its a tad hard to explain. I've seen similar ideas in iaido, in that tiny moment just after impact, but you have to train under people who actually mean to cut.
- The bounce When we don't quite push, early on the technique, we use the meeting of forces to cut the deployment time of our next hit. Possibly one of the reasons we tend to use both hands to block. One stays, the other bounces back and strikes before the block is finished. when it merges with the centerline, you get something pretty similar to some ideas of Ittō-ryū kenjutsu.
- Cutting the circle See last post. This merges quite well with the bounce, to the point that, as we use them, they often feel like the same.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
I've been thinking around our blocks, about ways to train them basically. Think kung-fu film routines. Or Karate Kid, either Hawai'i or Beijing. Then I recalled a couple of our syllabus techniques against a baton strike, the one for our fifth coloured belt. I think, and take that with a salt mine, that the difference between the circles in Kajukenbo and those in Aikido is that Aikido follows the circle and the wave to their conclusion, even when it shortens it, when it compacts the radius for a quicker end. Kajukenbo interrupts the circle. A circle it has created itself. The mindset for this is, in a way, as anti-ju (or anti-aiki) as you might imagine. And yet... Imagine a throw in that most known of ju styles, Kodokan judo. Say, the very basic O-soto gari. You are creating a circle... and trusting the ground to end it. It does that, mind you. And the ways some schools use it is the difference between "do" (I want to keep playing with my partner on my way to satori) and "jutsu" (I want to break the son of a bitch so that I'm alive to reach satori). Kajukenbo, in a way, shortcuts that. It sets artificial "floors" so that your opponent finds itself bouncing from a force into another, getting hit twice as hard with a minimum extra of force. He is not allowed to "shed". Of course, like a good judo entrance, you cannot click the damn thing, it has to be fluid. And there lies the problem. Striking fluidly seems to be harder that throwing, which already is hard enough. So, Kajukenbo, the bouncing art? Take care.
I started MA in the mid 80s, in a weird gym with delusions of church premise. They kicked kids out when they reached their teens, but I'm not aware that anyone I met there practices any longer. Including the gym itself. Then I went into a small gym, that hopped places a couple of times, in two... "seasons". Of the guys I met my first time there, kids, only two were still there when I went back. They left, junior black belts, and didn't come back. Pity, they had potential. Those who were at the smaller of the places we hopped into, some remain. They were already black when I met them. None of the others. My instructor apparently left teaching. One of the guys I respected has set up a weird association with, in those cases I can judge, suboptimal instructors. And gained over twice the dan he used to have. Of those who left, one introduced me to Kajukenbo. He also did TKD. Left, at least, Ju Jutsu and Kaju sometime later. He'd wanted to be an MA teacher. Of the group I met in Kajukenbo those days, 10 years later only two instructors remained (Ángel Garcia and Jesús Juní). And myself, after those 10 years off. Of those instructors Ángel mentored, most have left MA, many have left his teachings. The shop I bought my gis during my teenage years closed a year and a half ago. It had a name, a history, quality (although the old gis are way better), and yet it closed, its business down because of "The Crisis" [TM]. As I started Kajukenbo about seven years ago, I had a small bunch of higher belts. One remains (a tad off, since he just had twins), one is now my equal. The rest are gone. Of those "behind" me, many have left. And, since we are an unknown school, we have better retention than most. Still... All that above? If you do MA for social reasons, be prepared for this or take another path. MA are lonely. People leave for a thousand reasons. They get tired of being hit, their jobs no longer allow for it (timetables, trips...), they grow a family that doesn't permit them the time, they get injured... And, years later, you find yourself talking about lost mates with people who managed to meet them briefly. Yes, at the higher belts, attrition is not as high, but when it's felt, it hits harder. All this assuming your mindset, your training routine, matches with your group. Don't despair, that's not my thrust, but be ready. Take care.
Monday, January 26, 2015
There's a nice interview out there to Iain Abernethy, a great karate practitioner. He's a great worker of kata, and I don't mean a performer. And his works on the interpretation and on bunkai are important. And yet... I still think we're doing it wrong. Yes, that includes Iain and me. And, yes, he's much better. In the second part of the interview, his interviewer, Jesse Enkamp, says:
And unless people are on this same level of understanding about Karate, it’s hard to even discuss kata! Here’s another dilemma: In ye olde days, people learned “bunkai” first, and then proceeded to practice the solo pattern (kata) by themselves, just as a memory aid. Today, it’s the complete opposite: We learn the kata first, and then grope in the dark for an understanding of the moves (bunkai). How can we reverse this process? Should we even?Iain's answer is, by the way, "sort of". Read it. I'm going to go further. If we don't understand the kata, and if our styles have been severely influenced by the upheavals of the XXth century, and if technique (or bunkai, if you prefer) came before kata, should we still practice these same kata? Should we, instead, create new ones? Ah... I just felt a great disturbance in the Chi, as if millions of couch shihans suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. How dare I!? Well, I dare because kata are a language. And if we've lost the meaning, the ways to properly interpret it, we have about the same problem Jews had when they tried to resurrect Hebrew, but worse. As far as I understand it, they did have some people who still spoke the old version; we may not. We do have excellent teachers, but the chain of transmission for, say, Naihanchi is lost. Now, these kata were not created by some sort of angel. Satori, in those cases were it is claimed, is not something out of this world. These kata were created by people who knew their style well, who needed a way to remember, and practice, moves. Who were, often, good enough teachers to have passed the information down to a next generation [*]. So... These days we have great practitioners, great instructors, people with good medical knowledge (at least by XVIth-XIXth century standards)... People like Abernethy himself, like the new batch of Western practitioners, like some Eastern ones. People who've "cross trained" in other styles, been influenced by them... like the masters of old. If karate was influenced by the Chinese (duh!), maybe even Siam / Thailand... why can't it be influenced, these days, by the constellation of styles? Back then, "influence" meant a stranded traveller, a lesson in secret, spying... These days, a trip to a seminar. Where is the Sanchin, or the Naihanchi, that includes lessons from Muay Thai, from BJJ, from Western boxing, from Judo? Back again from White Crane? From Xing Yi? Silat? Were is the kata that condenses a whole modern system? If Naihanchi was the "book" for a whole style, why can't we create our books? Why do we need so and so many kata for black belt? Were is OUR kata? Have we become soldered onto kata we just realized we no longer understand? Why weren't they changed in the last... 50+ years or so? Tournament standards? Fear of insulting tradition? The old masters created and modified kata, but we're afraid of it? Or maybe too proud to recognize we need to change those kata if we have to use them, to profit from them? Take care. [*] Not enough of it, or we wouldn't have this problem. So, either they didn't think it was important enough or they weren't good enough teachers. Or maybe one led to the other. Man, isn't that another can of worms...!
Sunday, January 25, 2015
I'm about to get into trouble. Considering my opinions, and (other people's) expert opinion, I should avoid trouble. That's what it's there for. That's what that sinking feeling is there to tell me. "Run away", it says. So, then, should I leave MA? You see, my problem is with the classics. I've said it scores of times. My mind is "classical". I deal better with kata, and structured teaching, than I do with that half-on, often-off "method" and structure in our usual class. Because I'm apparently an idiot, I'm looking for some extra information outside my standard school. As good as I believe it is, it certainly doesn't have every answer since the invention of the wheel. Because I am who I am, I was looking for "classic" themed information. The basic karate strikes, for example. Naihanchi kata. I was ready to find some quirky bunkai. Some exercises that wouldn't fit my mindset, or whose medical consequences were not thought thoroughly enough according to today's medical expertise. Oh, Hell. Twice over. What I'm finding are scripted bunkai that make no sense at all. Yes, sure, that's a known fact. Many bunkai don't make any sense. But I thought those were the Western ramblings of people who hand't learned enough about their own style. Or others. What I certainly didn't expect is certain amounts of crap delivered in a DVD by one of the last living pupils of the wave of Japanese karate pioneers early last century. And it hasn't been the only one. I've been seeing clips for styles and meetings and schools and associations all over Okinawa and Japan. Considering how extended some of those associations are worldwide, some of them should be under trial for lèse humanité. What they're doing is not healthy. It's an insult to that "Do" suffix they insist on attaching at the end of "Karate", if "only" physically [*]. I think it was at Karate by Jesse --a site I only recently discovered-- that I recently saw an article where a Chinese master complained of how karate had lost its understanding of movements, even in Okinawa, while the culture itself was very aware of them (and he used the example of the samurai koryu). I don't know enough of Chinese MA to judge if they're much better than that (standard commercial schools aren't, for sure), or Okinawan-proper karate, either. But I see what he means. And if the source is that diluted, that crammed with things that make no sense... how can the Western schools be any better? And, please, spare me "you only say that because you don't understand". I may not understand karate well enough, true. I do understand basic anatomy, thank you so very much. We no longer live in the XIXth century. Knowing that your hands will break up before you die of old age but that you'll kill your assaulter was okay back then, it's not so much there days. Among other things, current medicine is better at patching people than at healing arthritis. Remember Emperado. On the plus side, watching that just helped me see one of the "lost elements", something that didn't make sense. And the "lost element" is not in the movement... it's in the timing! It opens a world. Still... Oh, Hell. Take care. [*] No one insists on calling shiatsu, "Shiatsu-Do". And it's as much a "way" as karate, with possibly (likely) better health benefits. Why? Are we trying to convince ourselves?
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Now two pieces, one each for the last couple of posts. That simplification I posted just now? The guys who have more trouble with it when I explain it, the ones who have more of a martial arts background. And, the other: those adaptations in Naihanchi? Mostly a mater of little twists and angles. Some of them aren't worth much for Kajukenbo... but they reflect what I've seen of other, more classic, Karate styles. Lost elements. Take care.
Following the previous post, and the reason for it before I got sidetracked, I've been browsing through the KJKB syllabus. I haven't been able to see more than 3 kinds of blocks. I could see less. With upper and lower variants, plus angle variations. A slight recap, maybe...
- Pyramidal block. That's how we call a block where the front hand parries some of the punch while the back hand comes from the underside, just past the centerline, followed by the elbow. Between both, they set a wedge and a shield that pushes the attack away. both hands are ready for the next move, so much so that usually one of them is already out before the block ends. Variations: That hand coming up can come in so many angles to punish the triceps, do a slight circle back to the aggressor's head, forego the hand and work with the elbow...
- Parallel block. Name's mine, I'm afraid. I needed a way to talk about this. In this case, the rear hand parries and absorbs the strike, while the front hand goes forward and strikes. Variations: The front hand can go for the head, the shoulder joint, the biceps... The read hand can absorb in so many ways, elbow down or up... The hands are not as "bouncy" as before, not as coiled.
- Scissor: Half of each. The front hand parries like in the pyramidal block, while the rear hand strikes like the front one in the parallel block. You still have a parry and a strike, you still have the bounce (in one of the hands), you still have some wariations.
VariantsWhat happens if the strike is down under? A rising broken bottle, a shank, a kick... We still have the same mechanics, but the hands go down (and the hip becomes critical, but that's another issue). The front hand becomes secondary But you'll start to notice something. That the difference between the pyramidal and the parallel blocks fades away. It's still kind of there, but you have to squint a bit.
The mother of them allWhich is when you look at the first blocks again... Now, we'd already established that the scissor is sort of a merge of the other two. But... the ones giving us trouble in the lower body where, precisely, those two... What's happening? Circles. Put you hands in front of you. Imagine they're holding the pedals of a bicycle, but with both hands facing inward (open or close, your comfort). Now, "pedal". Keep pedalling, but chose a stance. Now comes a strike. If the hand that first catches the strike is the front hand, you have a pyramidal block. Guess which one is the other. Take care.
Since things are going to get erased, a reminder: Kajukenbo's 6th Palama kata is, basically, karate's Naihanchi. Now, I haven't been able to find a nice comparison of karate's many Naihanchi variants, certainly nothing similar to Sanchin, but it is known that there are several variants of it. To my knowledge, none of them have the particular enbusen of KJKB's, which is NOT linear. Now, Kajukenbo was started post WWII, not the best moment for karate. Martial arts had become set, scripted. Rows of people doing big moves. While Kajukenbo challenged some of this, and has some claim to that "the original MMA/RBSD" meme popular in the States, it was still a child of its times. Those times went on, and Kajukenbo turned its back on kata, made them superfluous, barely apt for competition, like many other karate systems. Then, the Spanish branch started changing its understanding of the techniques, of teaching, of fluidity... Yet we kept our kata. Meanwhile, karate realized what it had lost, and started rebuilding its kata, little by little. Interviewing old, retired masters. Looking at their kata with new eyes. People in the West started recycling their half-assed knowledge, brought from people who, while pioneers, had mostly not been properly immersed in the system. What I want to get is a Naihanchi that reflects what Kajukenbo does. Not what it did, but what we use now. Our emphases, our patterns. They're there, but they aren't. And I see some things clearly, while others are... proving reluctant to embed themselves in an existing kata. We'll see. Take care.
Friday, January 23, 2015
This is going to sound weird, if it doesn't already. But... I've said before (the link's about to get offed, so I won't re-link it here) that my understanding of the division between internal and external martial arts is a tad... particular. That said... Current karate inherited, from Itto ryu, the "one punch, one kill" mindset. As a mindset, I don't have anything against it. As a belief... it should be shot dead and thrown to the sharks. Thing is... Thing is, I was thinking, which is usually dangerous somewhere along the line. And I realized that our punches, the way we punch (and counterattack, and...) doesn't leave much room for "one-shot kills". We do have a couple of syllabus techniques that do allow for that "2 moves, three of them lethal" mindset of the really old schools [*]. What I see in those techniques, and styles, is that there are not "holes". Sure, the very best artists will always find a hole in your guard, no matter how good you are. Beyond that, my problem with committing attacks, as they're usually seen, is that they over-reach, they leave you wide open. If it gets the perp, great. If it doesn't... So, (our) Kajukenbo [+] doesn't come striking from the back beyond, one sure punch to down them all. It doesn't even do that, not really, from nearby. While it does use some hard "here I come" punches, they're more like "finishing moves", not structurally different from the rest. Just, maybe, different in intent, but nothing you cannot change to a more flowing motion you could build on. Which means it has more in common with softer styles, or with certain modern interpretations of karate not glued to the pre-post wartime Japanese instruction. Which might mean why I can train comfortably with it. Thought food. Take care. [*] There's a technique, in Tatsumi ryu's "jujutsu" syllabus, from seiza, with two moves and three hits, all of which can potentially shut the brain down (or over). Then, you control him. There's a technique in the KJKB syllabus with two moves. While only two are potentially lethal, three of them break something. Both techniques start from relatively soft attacks (as always, context is everything). I sense a pattern. [+] No reason why the old techniques shouldn't have that. However, those practitioners I've seen seem congealed in a Jo-Shu level or a Ri-Kyu mess (Shu-ha-ri and Jo-ha-kyu; set practice-experimentation-transcendence and Soft slow-compact flow-emergency discard, respectively, but you have to be wary of jumping levels)
Maybe this is another "kill the Buda" thing, but... We trained something more dynamic, today. Gloves and mitts, mostly. While I'm not a fan of most such work, since I don't see the link to our mechanics, some of it was rather interesting. And then, I cheated. If you know me, this shouldn't surprise you that much. I cheat, it's what I do. Think about the scorpion and the turtle. It takes an effort for me not to find holes in rules and exploit them, whether they are game rules or social rules. Usually in a rather tame way, but still... Thing is, we had a 2-vs-1 drill were the opponents had a receiving and an attacking role. The idea is that whoever was doing the exercise would try to avoid the puncher while beating against the mitts of the other one. Annoyingly tiring. And then, I got to hold the gloves while my instructor tried to avoid the punches of an old friend. So I cheated. I did follow the rules to the letter, mind you. But I went into offensive mindsets and collaborative work, trying to box him so that his buddy could punch him properly. Evading him when he managed something. And so on, keeping him, usually, at the tip of a wide 'V', pushing him. We exhausted him. Now, if he had been anyone else, I wouldn't have been as aggressive. If he had been only slightly my senior, most gyms would have found that OK. He's 6 dan my senior. I can feel the disturbance in the Force as my challenge to the mid-high dan status quo ripples over the establishment. And yet, that's my duty. He is six dan my senior. I have to give the most. And he doesn't have people six dan his senior to challenge him, to teach him, so the only way he has to get better, day to day (this is, excepting high level seminars or private classes), is through his pupils. We don't want him at the same level (or, likely, worse) ten years from now because he had no way to progress, to reach beyond. And, hey, watching him cope is a lesson. So, there. Still, I can't help but feel this is not a common mindset. More's the pity. Take care.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Why do people insist in the worship of idols? Even in associations where the headmaster is as down to earth as you could ask for, you get people who eat the "my martial art is the best thing since sliced bread" meme and apply it to their art and their head instructor. Against his wishes. I've known Ángel since early autumn, 1994. That's over 20 years, guys. Some of the current black belt practitioners weren't even born. A big share of them were learning to walk. And the, in a discussion about the origins of the Spanish branch, and about its influences and trajectory, one of the guys inserts the statements of someone from EPAK, of all things, to justify his interpretation, his very much restrictive interpretation, of Ángel's style. Against his words and behaviour these last 20 years. People have given up hope on humankind for less. Why is it that people insist on the mechanics, skim them, crank the strength on them... and then conveniently forget, because it runs against what they just did, whatever else the instructor actually, you know, said? And if this happens with someone who's been trying to avoid it for decades... Annoyed. 36+ hours later, and I'm still pissed. That's no way to honour someone's teachings. Take care.