Wednesday, January 28, 2009
From HBO's excellent series "Deadwood", the bloody fight between Dan and "The Captain". This just may be the best made-for-tv fight scene ever. If you haven't seen Deadwood, and you can handle the whores, throat-slitting and feeding bodies to the pigs, it will change the way you view westerns forever.
From the first movie that Clint Eastwood directed himself, "The Outlaw Josey Wales". The gunfight is one of many, this one is short but sweet. Here, Josey Wales faces four Union soldiers who have been hunting him across the West. In my opinion, the absolute best Eastwood western.
From the movie "The Last Of The Mohicans", this is the Huron ambush of the British troops who have just lost their fort to the French.
-I think this is one of the most terrifying ambush scenes that was ever filmed, with the bloody spectre of hand-to-hand fighting with tomahawks and knives. This movie really brought the great book by James Fennimore Cooper to life, complete with frontieer politics between the British, French, American settlers and the Hurons. Huron warrior Magua plays one of the most vengeful double-crossing bad guys I've ever seen on screen. Great show.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Taiji practitioner Nando Raynolds has put together a very nice instructional book. The title, "The Push Hands Workbook: Tai Chi partner movements (Tui Shou) for sport and personal development" is lengthy but sums up the thurough examination Nando has compiled in everything that is push hands.
The Taiji training drills known as "push hands" are fundemental in understanding the types of energies one trains to learn in the form. While there is no substitute for a good instructor, you can pick up quite a bit from books and video to suppliment the learning process. While I have several other books and videos on the subject, I admire and am pleased with the approach that Nando takes in this book.
It's thuroughness is reflected in it's slightly clinical presentation (Raynolds is a therapist) which includes his analysis of why physical assaults occur, with profiles of successful and unsuccessful encounters. With that in mind, Raynolds approaches push hands as interaction between two individuals, dealing with issues of ego, gender, size and attitude.
Raynolds does a good job of introducing drills with categories of "time frame", "focus skills", "format", "advanced variations" and so on. He seems to have thought ahead to questions a beginning student would have, and answers them in the above formats.
Many of the drills and skills are familiar to me, as taught by my Tai Chi Chuan instructor and push hands champion Michael Gilman, who has also endorsed the book.
In my opinion, "The Push Hands Workbook" would be an ideal guidebook for Colleges and study groups that offer Tai Chi Chuan classes. The book will stimulate ideas in students new to push hands, and provide a convenient and effective teaching format for instructors.
"The Push Hands Workbook" can be seen at this page at Amazon.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Dojo Rat! What have you done?...
Ah yes, The Great Dismal Swamp has claimed another victim!
While continuing to squirrel-away firewood last weekend, your friend D'oh!-jo Rat buried his tractor deep, deep in the mud:
I was hauling rounds from a huge fir tree out of the woods just above the swamp. The first half-dozen passes out were fine, but it was getting pretty sketchy. There was a water spring crossing my little road, with most of the water seeping just below the surface. As each tractor pass opened up a new rut, I began to see just how much water was flowing out of the hillside. We're talkin' a sub-surface creek...
So, with twelve rounds of wood at about forty pounds each in the bucket, the ground liquified and swallowed my tractor. No wonder they call our neck-of-the-woods "Swamp Ridge".
Now, I've seen operators with a good backhoe use the boom, bucket, and stabilizers to lift and move the machine to solid ground - it's amazing to watch. But our little tractor just doesn't have the beef to perform that miracle. I did what no equipment operator wants to do: as the water began to fill around me, I turned the tractor off and got out the shovel. Once I chopped a channel for the water to run away, things looked better, but it was getting too dark to do anything else.
-But D'oh!-jo Rat; What did you do then?
Well, of course I went to our local Tavern and played guitars, ukulele's, and drank beer with other despondent wood-cutters!
Alas, things always look brighter in the light of day. A fellow Dojo Rat with another farm tractor lives right down the Holler from me, and it was a fairly simple rescue with a lot of chain and both tractors pulling.
Don't try this one at home, kids!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Since we have been on the subject of the lowly but effective shin kick lately, fellow Dojo Rat "Littlefair" of "Diary Of A Martial Artist" has sent us the link for this video.
Now, this is some fun stuff; a few pints of warm British beer, a bale of hay or straw, a few drunk Dojo Rats and you've got a great drinking game!
It does seem to me that a good Judo player might have a distinct advantage in this messy sport; a little knowledge of grip fighting, working the opponent's weighted or unweighted leg, placement of straw padding...
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
A beautiful scene from the concert celebrating President Obama;
89-year-old singer/activist Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen lead the crowd in Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land".
"But sly old Pete, who actually hoboed with Woody during the Depression and Dust Bowl, had the crowd sing the song as it was actually written, as not only a celebration of this great land, but as a demand for workers' and people's rights. That is, he restored the verses that have been censored from the song over the years to make it less political":
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Wim Demeere and I have traded some ideas on shin kicks and other unorthodox kicking. This was mainly inspired by the fight scene where Billy Bob Thornton uses kicks to the shins and knees, along with some heavy palm slaps. It's a great movie fight scene if you haven't seen it.
Wim had also posted "Gokhen Saki's leg kick", where he points out that an opponent can use a "short wall" block by lifting the knee. If you are throwing a back leg round kick to his leg, he puts up his "short wall" and you can break your leg literally in half, as painfully shown in the video in his post.
But more to the point; there are lots of kicks that can be inserted from interesting angles. In the video above, Wim demonstrates a "skip kick" to the shin at about 27 seconds. He also uses what I would describe as "Hackey Sack" kicks (to the opponent's lowered head), just like the ones played in the bean-bag kicking game.
These are clearly unconventional but none-the-less effective.
-Mike Martello, at our last Yin Bagua seminar also demonstrated a "Mud Step" kick on my training partner. Mike shuffled his feet as he stepped, pretending he was shaking mud off his shoes. As he walked around my friend, each little shake of the "mud shoe" kicked my friends shins. This was from a safe position as far as balence and there wasn't much you could do to stop it. These kicks are certainly not finishing techniques, but provide your opponent a lot of frustration, distraction and a chance to open up a knock-out blow.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
OK, I just couldn't resist this one.
With the news that scientists have discovered Methane on Mars this week, people are speculating if this is part of a gradual disclosure of further evidence of life on Mars.
I'm sure that it freaks some people out, but I have no reason to believe that we on Earth are (A) nothing more than evolved space trash or (B) the product of ancient genetic manipulation.
Looking at these photos of the Martian landscape, you can't help but think many of these features are the product of some kind of technological civilization.
If anyone out there knows of a source that can debunk these photos and prove them altered beyond adding contrast for clarity, please let me know.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
China's authorities are running scared as economic hardship begins to bite, the Chinese government's tough attitude towards dissent may not be enough to quell social unrest
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 13 January 2009 21.00 GMT
Last week's jailing for six years of veteran dissident Wang Rongqing for "subversion of state power" was more than just another unpleasant instance of official vindictiveness, supporters and human rights groups say. China is facing a turbulent year of deepening economic hardship, social unrest, and tense anniversaries. The authorities are running scared. And so they made an example of Wang.
The diagnosis seems to apply to other prominent dissidents, also feeling the heat as economic boom times fade and political jitters increase. Liu Xiaobo, a noted literary scholar, has been held without charge since 8 December. His apparent offence was supporting a new campaign for political and legal reform known as Charter 08.
According to Amnesty International, Liu's family does not know where he is, he has no access to a lawyer, and he has yet to be charged or brought before a court. "The use of such detention ... is arbitrary and in violation of international human rights standards, including the rights to liberty, security of person, and fair trial," said Amnesty's Roseann Rife.
Charter 08 was signed by 303 Chinese scholars, lawyers and officials, many of whom have reportedly since been harassed or placed under surveillance. China expert James Pringle says the campaign, modelled on Vaclav Havel's Charter 77 in cold war Czechoslovakia, "is the first real opposition to the Communist leadership since Tiananmen Square" and is widely seen as "a threat to the party's monopoly on power".
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Havel said more than 5,000 people had since defied official hostility and added their names to the charter. He warned China against making the same mistake as the Czechoslovak authorities in choosing repression over the chartists' offer of "engagement, dialogue and debate".
Another leading dissident, environment and human rights activist Hu Jia, meanwhile remains incarcerated after being jailed last year for "inciting subversion". The European parliament awarded him the Sakharov prize for freedom of thought last month. But concerns expressed to China's president, Hu Jintao, by Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights about Jia's health and treatment in prison have gone unheeded.
Hardening attitudes to dissent aside, rising official anxiety about challenges to Communist control also appear to form the subtext to a recent crackdown on internet websites. The reimposition of censorship of foreign sites, such as the New York Times, has been followed by the closure of 91 sites and threats against search engines such as Google and Baidu. While the authorities' stated aim is to curb pornography and other "vulgar" content, online political criticism also seems to be a target. One blogger, Luo Yonghao, said his site had been shut because the government said it contained "political harmful information".
Analysts link these developments to a string of potentially disturbing anniversaries this year. They include the 50th anniversary on 10 March of the Tibetan uprising, the 20th anniversary on 4 June of the suppression of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, the 10th anniversary on 22 July of the banning of the Falun Gong movement, and the 60th anniversary on 1 October of the founding of the People's Republic.
All these events are controversial in their own way and all could become magnets for trouble. In normal times, that might not matter quite so much. But social conditions inside China are anything but normal as the global recession bites.
Official figures indicate up to 10 million rural migrants have already lost their jobs as southern factories close, annual growth falls, and exports decline for the first time in nearly a decade. In July, 7 million new graduates will place additional pressure on a contracting jobs market. Add to this standing grievances about party corruption, misgovernance, and the widening wealth gap between rich and poor, and commentators say the risk of widespread social unrest becomes significant.
"In 2009 Chinese society may face even more conflicts and clashes that will test the governing abilities of all levels of party and government," Xinhua news agency reporter Huang Huo told the officially-sanctioned Outlook magazine this month. "Without doubt we are now entering a peak period for mass incidents" (meaning protests ands riots). And these "incidents", the magazine suggested, were becoming increasingly politicised.
Speaking on the record, Chinese spokesmen play down the prospect of spreading unrest. "We have the ability and the confidence to ensure the economy's relatively fast growth and to ensure social stability," said the foreign ministry's Qin Gang. All the same, Outlook magazine's unusually candid, public warning is seen as an alarm call directed at governing cadres.
The (uncensored) message: in a difficult year, persecuting dissidents and closing websites may not be enough to save China's rulers from a painful reckoning with China's over-pressured and under-represented masses.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I've been thinking quite a bit about close-range fighting lately, and remembered this great scene from an otherwise depressing movie, "Chrystal".
I won't cover the plot too heavily, but Billy Bob Thornton's character has to settle a score with a former rival in this scene.
What I find interesting is he is basicly using a redneck form of the Chinese internal art Hsing-I. Now, this is not true to the actual art, but the two big techniques he uses are a chop-kick to the shins and knees, and a heavy overhand palm strike or slap.
Let me say, I love this, and this is kind of how I close the gap also. In true Hsing-I, the practitioner would not retract the kick and keep the gap open. He would instead drive through the opponent, "occupying" his space.
None-the-less, this is a pretty good representation of how a low kick to the shin or knee sets up a great overhand slap.
I am curious who choreographed the fight scene...
Sunday, January 11, 2009
One more video of Mike Martello at his last Seattle seminar, this one is of the Yin-style Bagua portion which I attended. Notice how Mike explains concepts of movement with individual drills. Next, he introduces and combines those drills in a linear short form - Xaio Kai Men (Small Opening Gate). And lastly, he demonstrates how the movements in the form translate into self-defense applications in the partner circle-walking drill.
Although Xaio Kai Men is a linear form, it's easy to put it into walking the circle and use it like any of the other Bagua palm changes.
These and other seminars have been generously hosted by Jake Burroughs of Seattle's "Three Harmonies Chinese Martial Arts Center", website available at THIS LINK.
Jake will also be hosting a seminar with Tim Cartmell Feb. 7-8, with sessions on grappling and Bagua applications. For more information, contact Jake Burroughs at the website linked above.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Johann Hari: You are being lied to about pirates
Some are clearly just gangsters. But others are trying to stop illegal dumping and trawling
Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy – backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China – is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labelling as "one of the great menaces of our times" have an extraordinary story to tell – and some justice on their side.
Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the "golden age of piracy" – from 1650 to 1730 – the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage Bluebeard that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often saved from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can't? In his book Villains Of All Nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence.
If you became a merchant or navy sailor then – plucked from the docks of London's East End, young and hungry – you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O' Nine Tails. If you slacked often, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.
Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied – and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively, without torture. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century".
They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly – and subversively – that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal Navy." This is why they were romantic heroes, despite being unproductive thieves.
The words of one pirate from that lost age, a young British man called William Scott, should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirateing to live." In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."
This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence".
No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: "We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas." William Scott would understand.
Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won't act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world's oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.
The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail – but who is the robber?
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Ya gotta' love this.
Remember, Mike Martello is just a little over five-feet tall. You can see the amount of power he is able to generate with that compact, wirey frame.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Here's part one of a seminar with Mike Martello at Jake Burroughs school in Seattle.
Mike is one of the best instructors I have had the pleasure to meet and train with. He's got just the right amount of "class clown" to make everything you learn outright fun, but as you can see he is skilled and serious about his teaching.
I wonder if the Judo guys out there have any observations about the differences in the Chinese-style throwing, including the set-ups.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I had a very nice E-mail from John Bracy the other day, asking me to check out his website "Chiarts.com", at THIS LINK.
As you can see in the video above, Bracy is a skilled practitioner and instructor. He also has a new DVD on Internal Power available, and I hope to review it soon.
My first introduction to Bracy was through his book "Bagua- Hidden Knowledge In The Taoist Internal Martial Art". I really found this book to be helpful in both historical aspects as well as a good overview of Chinese Internal Arts.
From February 2007, here is my review of "Bagua" by John Bracy and Liu Xing-Han:
Taoism And The Martial Arts
I'd like to suggest anyone interested in the history of martial arts to get a hold of a copy of John Bracy and Liu Xing-Han's book, "Bagua: Hidden Knowledge In The Taoist Internal Martial Art".
Books that show technique are great, but the innovation of video has surpassed the book in that area. Books that describe the philosophy, motivation, conflicts, successes and goals of the ancient masters is where we learn the universal truths about our art. This unique book includes both.
Bracy describes in this book how the Taoists, mountain recluses with a history dating back to 500 B.C. influenced the Chinese intellectuals in 1800's China, and a new form of art was born.
In ancient times, warriors were often unkempt and crude, and looked upon with disdain by the upper class. In early studies, the Taoists were, like other alchemists, in search of the elixer of life. That external search became modified into a view that the human body was a microcosm of the universe, and internal yogic alchemy, or "Nei Tan" was practiced. The elixer of life, and rightly so, was believed to be achieved within ones own body. For many centuries in remote areas Taoists practiced this goal, and began to weave the martial skills necessary for survival in with their yogic health traditions, alchemy and mysticism.
It was in the chaotic times approaching 1900 that the intellectuals, generally Confucianist bureaucrats, realized that the "State" could no longer protect them and began to form secret societies and practice the martial arts. The deep analytical systemic thought of the Confucianists blended with the Taoist Yogic martial arts, (after all, why practice a mundane soldiers battlefield art?) and the clans of the upper class began a new level of martial study. It was at this time that the first publications about the internal arts began to emerge.
Communism cast a sooty grey pall over the continent for several generations, and in the late 1970's China was again "open for business". Martial arts had been supressed by the authoritarian government, many masters had been killed through the various conflicts, and many of the ancient skills were nearly lost. Bracy suggests in his book that "Although there are some exceptions, a comprehensively trained, true senior master living in mainland China today must have achieved base proficenicy before 1937".
In some ways, I believe it may at times be necessary to "re-invent the wheel". In our world today, we have more information available than at any other time in history. Our culture is not restrained any longer by narrow fundementalist thought and people are open to paths of enlightenment and deep introspective research.
With these tools in hand, I trust we will keep the old traditions alive and integrate them with new ideas, and our new "wheel" will be better than it ever was.
Bracy's book is widely published and available on Amazon.
Books and videos by John Bracy can be found at THIS LINK.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Man got more than he bargained for
The Associated Press
FAIRBANKS — A Fairbanks man who allegedly pulled a gun on a man skilled in the martial arts got more than he bargained for.
Jeffrey Walker, 44, said he was minding his own business last week at his apartment building when the neighbor below him called to complain his 2 year old was making too much noise.
"He just starts berating me, saying that if I can't shut the kid up, he'll shut him up," Walker said.
Walker, a former firefighter who has lived in Fairbanks for only about a year, thought his neighbor would call the police or the apartment manager to complain.
Instead, Walker said he showed up at his front door with a .45-caliber handgun. Walker leapt into action when he saw the man pull the gun out of his hoodie.
Walker grabbed the barrel of the gun and lifted it up with his left hand while simultaneously using his right hand to push the assailant's wrist and arm into his own head, effectively using the butt of the gun like a hammer.
"It only took about five seconds," Walker said.
While his girlfriend called police, he continued to hit the man until he stopped resisting.
Walker began studying bojuko, a form of self defense, when he was 25. Its creator says it teaches people who to eliminate threats with a variety of blocks, grapples and strikes.
Walker was able to reach level 3, which is the grade just below becoming an instructor.
Eric E. Backlund, 38, of Fairbanks was charged with third-degree assault, a felony.
When police arrived on the scene, they found him sitting in a pool of his own blood with Walker standing over him. He was treated for facial lacerations at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital before being arrested.
(D.R.)-- This guy is lucky he wasn't shot, but I guess you just react in these cases.
I've only had one gun pulled on me (so far) and I knew he wasn't going to use it when he stuffed it back under the seat of his car. He was scared of me, so I was able to walk over to his car, take the gun out from under the seat and throw it into a big patch of blackberry-bramble bushes.
-- The self-defense system the Fairbanks guy practiced was actually called "Bojuka".
It appears to be a reality-based system like Krav Maga. The website for "Bojuka" is HERE.