Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Science Behind Voodoo; And "No Touch Knockouts"

Readers may find this article in "The New Scientist" to be an interesting yet profound explanation for our ongoing study of "The No-Touch Knockout". I have written about my views on the subject HERE, but the article in "The New Scientist" made me think about the power of belief in health practices shuch as Chi Kung and the cultivation of Chi.
Once again, the scientific mind puts the burden of discovery in the power of suggestion.

Here are a few excerpts from "The Science of Voodoo: When Mind Attacks Body":

Late one night in a small Alabama cemetery, Vance Vanders had a run-in with the local witch doctor, who wafted a bottle of unpleasant-smelling liquid in front of his face, and told him he was about to die and that no one could save him.
Back home, Vanders took to his bed and began to deteriorate. Some weeks later, emaciated and near death, he was admitted to the local hospital, where doctors were unable to find a cause for his symptoms or slow his decline. Only then did his wife tell one of the doctors, Drayton Doherty, of the hex.
Doherty thought long and hard. The next morning, he called Vanders's family to his bedside. He told them that the previous night he had lured the witch doctor back to the cemetery, where he had choked him against a tree until he explained how the curse worked. The medicine man had, he said, rubbed lizard eggs into Vanders's stomach, which had hatched inside his body. One reptile remained, which was eating Vanders from the inside out.
Great ceremony
Doherty then summoned a nurse who had, by prior arrangement, filled a large syringe with a powerful emetic. With great ceremony, he inspected the instrument and injected its contents into Vanders' arm. A few minutes later, Vanders began to gag and vomit uncontrollably. In the midst of it all, unnoticed by everyone in the room, Doherty produced his pièce de résistance - a green lizard he had stashed in his black bag. "Look what has come out of you Vance," he cried. "The voodoo curse is lifted."
Vanders did a double take, lurched backwards to the head of the bed, then drifted into a deep sleep. When he woke next day he was alert and ravenous. He quickly regained his strength and was discharged a week later.
And This:
Take Sam Shoeman, who was diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer in the 1970s and given just months to live. Shoeman duly died in the allotted time frame - yet the autopsy revealed that his doctors had got it wrong. The tumour was tiny and had not spread. "He didn't die from cancer, but from believing he was dying of cancer," says Meador. "If everyone treats you as if you are dying, you buy into it. Everything in your whole being becomes about dying."
The "Nocebo Effect"
The placebo effect has an evil twin: the nocebo effect, in which dummy pills and negative expectations can produce harmful effects. The term "nocebo", which means "I will harm", was not coined until the 1960s, and the phenomenon has been far less studied than the placebo effect. It's not easy, after all, to get ethical approval for studies designed to make people feel worse.
What we do know suggests the impact of nocebo is far-reaching. "Voodoo death, if it exists, may represent an extreme form of the nocebo phenomenon," says anthropologist Robert Hahn of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, who has studied the nocebo effect.
Depressed after splitting up with his girlfriend, Derek Adams took all his pills... then regretted it. Fearing he might die, he asked a neighbour to take him to hospital, where he collapsed. Shaky, pale and drowsy, his blood pressure dropped and his breaths came quickly.
Yet lab tests and toxicology screening came back clear. Over the next 4 hours Adams received 6 litres of saline, but improved little.
Then a doctor arrived from the clinical trial of an antidepressant in which Adams had been taking part. Adams had enrolled in the study about a month earlier. Initially he had felt his mood buoyed, but an argument with his ex-girlfriend saw him swallow the 29 remaining tablets.
The doctor revealed that Adams was in the control group. The pills he had "overdosed" on were harmless. Hearing this, Adams was surprised and tearfully relieved. Within 15 minutes he was fully alert, and his blood pressure and heart rate had returned to normal.

The above picture is one I took at a seminar in Portland. Jack Hogan demonstrates a "No-Touch Knockout", this one successfully. That is to say, I have seen others fail miserably. As for the ones that work, there is definately something going on. Call it the power of suggestion, hypnosis, Mesmerism, Voodoo or whatever, the effect appears to be real from what I have seen. The United States Military (and others, no doubt) are also dabbling with this phenomonen as Jon Ronson describes in "The Men Who Stare At Goats".
-- I think that what all these studies confirm is that the power of suggestion and visualization affect us on a physical level both for better, and for worse. If we believe in healing through Chi cultivation, it will work for us. If we believe our instructor will knock us out, it is likely he will. Just because it is our mind controlling the event, it doesn't make the experiance less valid...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Locking And Hitting Drills

Yes, once again it's time to fire up the new-fangled picture-taking machine and present another episode of Drinking Dojo Productions...
This drill is a blend of Small-Circle Jujitsu and Chinese infighting as taught by Ed Melaugh and Ron Ogi respectively.
Here, the opponent begins by presenting his hands and arms so the defender can learn to seize fingers, wrist and elbow locks. You move slowly and consistantly but don't lock hard, just flow.
Next, you begin to tap opponent's face or forehead, being careful of your training partner's eyes. This does several things: It represents a true hit or strike; it serves as a distraction to lure opponent into a finger or wristlock. Once again, flow slowly and constantly and take care not to hurt your training partner.
Finally, you add in elbows, palm slaps, leg traps - anything that fits the flow. Keep pumping your palm into the opponent's face area, keep him reacting and continue moving into him with foward pressure. Every time he tries to protect his face, something will open up as a target. Fill the void, move in, keep him on his toes.
Don't get too agressive with this drill, these things are best learned at a consistant, moderate pace.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Review: Aikido - Exercises For Teaching And Training

Now here is a nice little training book for Aikido students, instructors, or anybody practicing "Internal" martial arts.
"Aikido Exercises for Teaching and Training" by C.M. Shifflett is not a picture book of complex techniques, it's a concept book of the type I look for. This book is out in a revised edition, I own the original as well and can appreciate the additions that have been included in the new version.
As an instructional manual for beginning students, the book outlines what Aikido is as far as a martial art, what to expect in training, and integrating Aikido in daily life.
For Aikido instructors, this book has lots of ideas for teaching, improvising training tools, and unique ways to explain concepts to students.
The revised edition has included more information on the pathways of Ki (Chi) through the Fascia tissues that connect all parts of the body. This appears to be a new understanding of meridian/energy theory that is recognized in a variety of recent books on Chi, such as "Wellspring", which I have reviewed HERE.
"Aikido Exercises for Teaching and Training" also includes more details on muscle/skeletal injuries, releasing tensions and general physical information.
The book not only contains valuable training information, but is clever and humorous. I especially like the quotes from famous martial artists, philosophers, and authors - these are great nuggets of wisdom and fit very well with the format.
Aikido instructors would benefit from recommending this to students as part of class training information, it's not only instructional, but an enjoyable read.

"Aikido Exercises for Teaching and Training" can be found at this link for Blue Snake Books, along with hundreds of other martial arts titles.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What's In Your Pockets?

Steve Perry over at "Old Enough To Know Better" has a post up called "Anybody Got A Knife?". He jokes about the number of knives carried by Silat practitioners; two, three, four?
So I thought I'd unpack my little McGiver tool kit. Some out of my pockets, some out of belt sheaths, and some out of my Pacific Northwest Hippie-Woodsman-Tactical Vest (Brown Duck from Duluth Trading).
The inventory rotates from pocket to pocket as necessary. I've won a few Beer bets from other tradesmen at our local Tavern, in a throw-down game called "tool time". You empty your pockets and count up the tools or items that could be improvised tools. Sometimes you need a third-party judge to throw out items such as toothpicks or credit cards. I've won two Beers so far. Here's what I have today:

1 Atlas rubber-palm gloves
2 multi-tool
3 flashlight
4 E harmonica
5 C harmonica (you never know when bad music could break out)
6 carpenter pencil (doubles as kubotan)
7 writing pen
8 folding knife
9 knife sharpener
10 Swiss Army Knife (mostly for the wine corkscrew)
11 magnifying glass (can start fires)
12 Kubotan
13 Bic lighter
14 elastic tie
15 guitar pick
16 Tavern token for one free Beer (emergencies, you know)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Return Of Militarism In The Boy Scouts- UPDATE BELOW

Explorer Scouts Under Homeland Security

Can you tie a "timber hitch"?
Start a fire in the rain with two matches?
Restore a wetland in an urban area?
- These types of activities have given millions of young boys and teens involved in scouting programs the confidence to become team members and leaders in society. But according to This New York Times Article, things appear to be changing.
I was a Cub Scout, and then a Boy Scout in the 1960's and early 1970's. By all standards, I never achieved high rank in the organization, but I had a hell of a good time. I almost got killed twice; the first time swimming across a glacial-cold collapsed artesian well on Mount Hood, the second while climbing The South Sister in Oregon, at night. We tipped over rotten trees, rolled huge boulders down mountainsides, and built all kinds of fires. We would sneak hard liquor into our "Tang". The Boy Scouts was the first place I ever smoked Pot. Indeed, it was "High Adventure".
While the structural organization of the Scouts helped prepare young men to function in the workplace as team-members, other jobs such as in forestry, park management, and agriculture were more directly related to Scouting.
Since 9-11 however, the focus of Explorer Scouts has now swung to anti-terrorism, drug interdiction and rounding up illegal immigrints. As stated in the "Times" article:

"Many law enforcement officials, particularly those who work for the rapidly growing Border Patrol, part of the Homeland Security Department, have helped shape the program’s focus and see it as preparing the Explorers as potential employees. The Explorer posts are attached to various agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police and fire departments, that sponsor them much the way churches sponsor Boy Scout troops.
“Before it was more about the basics,” said Johnny Longoria, a Border Patrol agent here. “But now our emphasis is on terrorism, illegal entry, drugs and human smuggling.”

The controversy of milaritarism in the Scouts is nothing new; British founder Robert Baden-Powell created the program in 1908 based on Army Scout training, and the organization moved to the United States two years later. Not suprisingly, Baden-Powell used the 1900 British Army Field Manual as the text for the program. To be fair, I assume the manual was largely instructional regarding packing gear, setting up camps and the like. But the criticism of Baden-Powell was severe, and competing organizations began their own pacifist-oriented outdoor programs. Here's an excerpt from this history of the Scouts:

"Some authors have concluded that the defense of the British Empire formed a very important motive for the foundation of the Boy Scouts. Baden-Powell was impressed by the Military Mafeking Cadet Corps, which gained fame, as Baden-Powell did, through its work during the Boer War. In 1905, Elliot E. Mills published a pamphlet anonymously, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire. It encapsulated the xenophobic fears of England in that period. Baden-Powell treated the readers to excerpts of the pamphlet's themes in his book Scouting for Boys, reinforcing the belief that national defense was a prime motive".

After World War One, the focus of Scouting returned to the roll of fellowship and outdoor education for young people, a healthy and constructive program enjoyed by millions of kids. It stayed this way until the tragic events of 9-11, and now it seems as if the Explorer program may have been absorbed into Homeland Security. It coldly echos the "xenophobic fear of the decline of empire", as described above.
Marksmanship with bow-and-arrow or .22 rifles has been replaced with airsoft replicas of assualt rifles, map and compass replaced with handcuffs.
What are the ethical issues involved when you shape young minds in an "us-or-them" mentality? Where have we heard "You're either with us, or with the terrorists"?
And with anti-immigrint hysteria at an all-time high, what could happen if These Guys infiltrate these types of programs?

Ah... yes, I'd prefer to sit back by the campfire, have another burnt hot dog, and sip a little vodka and Tang.

***UPDATE: Town halls hire citizen snoopers as young as SEVEN to spy on neighbours and report wrongs

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Bagua Of T.Y. Pang

T.Y. Pang, Hawaii 1974

Last November I wrote about a visit with our local resident Tai Chi/Bagua Master, T.Y. Pang. For the most part, Mr. Pang is retired from teaching, but his wealth of knowledge is still available.
At the time, no video footage of Mr. Pang was available, but I just came across this remarkable example of his Bagua from 1974 while he was living and teaching in Hawaii.
Mr. Pang is a direct student of Sun Sikun, one generation removed from the famous Bagua master Cheng Ting-Hua.

Pang's teacher, Bagua Master Sun Sikun
Lineage: Bagua founder Dong Hai Chuan, to Cheng Ting Hua, to Cheng Yu Long, To Sun Sikun, to T.Y. Pang--
In the December 1991 issue of "The Pa Kua Journal", Seattle-based instructor Andrew Dale stated that "Pang's Pa Kua (Bagua) was the most intricate he has seen... Seeing Pang do Pa Kua was like watching a powerful snake coiling, attacking, twisting, darting, spinning and turning".
Pang's stepping patterns are definately the most "Yogic" in nature of all the Bagua patterns I have practiced. The kind of energy release from this movement stimulates the spine as well as every joint in the body. Now of course, my old western-type body cannot come close to replicating Pang's precision movement and supple flexibility, but I come as close as I can. As I mentioned above, I cannot overstate the kind of energy release these movements provide.
As far as application, Tim Cartmell has shown us that nearly all Bagua techniques are grappling-related, and while searching for application to imagine that you are in direct body contact with the opponent. With that in mind, you begin to see the siezing, sweeping, arm drags and other techniques. More importantly, the stepping patterns are archetypes of how to deliver power while snaking and coiling around an opponent.
I hope people will take the time to watch this spectacular example of a Bagua master in his prime, Pang's demonstration puts the "Art" in Martial Art.

You can take a look at Mr. Pang's website at THIS LINK.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Don't Tase Me, Bro"! - UPDATED

Ok, I know the Cops have tough jobs. And I know security workers at events have to keep public order. Tase me if I'm wrong, but are these things getting used way too often?
For instance, in our podunk little town, there was an idiot misbehaving outside a local bar. A Sheriff Deputy was called, things appeared to escalate, and the Deputy pulled his Taser and fired on the guy. The Taser failed to do anything, it didn't have an electrical charge at all. About that time, the head of the Sheriff Department arrived. They talked the guy down and simply drove him home. Now, all of this is a violation of protocol in every way. But you can get away with that in a small town like ours, and everything worked out. The point is, the guy never needed to get Tased at all.
-- Here's the rundown on Tasers from "The Straight Dope":

How dangerous are Tasers?
May 8, 2009
Dear Cecil:

How lethal are Tasers? I know there's talk about police being Taser-happy and torturing people with these devices, but has anyone been Tasered to death?
— Dugie C.,Calgary
Cecil replies:

News a little slow getting up to Calgary, Dugie? Lots of people have died after being Tasered — which is not to say they were necessarily Tasered to death. According to a widely publicized Amnesty International study last year, 334 people in the U.S. plus 25 more in Canada died between 2001 and 2008 after being zapped with a Taser by cops. The Taser's defenders say it beats shooting people and reduces the risk of stray bullets injuring bystanders. Wrong argument, says AI. The Taser isn't a replacement for guns but rather for billy clubs and such — for a lot of cops it's become the default method of subduing the unruly. OK, getting whupped upside the head in the old days wasn't a pleasant experience, but at least it didn’t involve 50,000 volts.

More here at THIS LINK, with emphasis on "Sudden In-custody Death Syndrome"

***And now this:
According to information released Saturday by the Florida Department of Corrections: During “Take Our Children to Work Day” events at three prison facilities, 43 children were hit with stun guns while others were exposed to tear gas.
“Three prison guards have been fired, two have resigned and 16 more employees — from corrections officers to a warden — will be disciplined due to the incidents that unfolded April 23, said DOC Secretary Walt McNeil,” reported The Miami Herald. “An investigation is ongoing.

LINK to above

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wolf Pack

The worse the global economy gets, the more we are going to hear stories like this. At first glance, a martial artist might think "Hey, I can't use lethal force against these guys, they're just kids". But the bottom line is, they almost killed him. I also think this is a clear example of why you can NOT rely on submission wrestling/grappling techniques as your primary self-defense art. There's just too many attackers. I've been in two different gang-type fights with multiple attackers; has anybody else? How would you handle this?

Beaten to pulp by kids over smokes
May 7th, 2009
BASHED: Glenn Lambourn bears the scars of the attack. Picture: CLIVE HYDE

A TERRITORY man was beaten to a pulp by a gang of more than 20 teenage bike bandits - some as young as eight - because he had no cigarettes to give them.

Heavily bruised and suffering a fractured eye socket, broken jaw and shattered teeth, Glenn Lambourn was still shaken when talking to the Northern Territory News about the vicious street attack.
"I thought I was going to die," he said, his voice trembling. "They just kept smashing me over the head - I was on all fours and they surrounded me and kept laying the boot in flat out.
"They just did not stop - I felt my teeth go.
"All I could do was try and run but I kept falling."
Mr Lambourn, 35, said he had been drinking with friends at the Palmerston Tavern in Palmerston CBD when he left and walked towards University Ave to catch a cab about 9.30-10pm on Sunday.
He said the kids - all of Aboriginal appearance and believed to be aged between eight and 14-years-old - approached him on their bikes near the skate park and asked for a cigarette.
Shortly after he said he did not have any, he said he was whacked over the head from behind with a lump of wood "thicker than a stubby", knocking him, face-first, to the ground.
The gang then piled on top of him and repeatedly kicked him in the head, he said.
The truck driver said he managed to get to his feet and tried running, but they chased him - and when he ran through a tunnel that goes under University Ave they pounced on him again, this time picking up one of their bikes and smashing it into the side of his face.
The father-of-one finally managed to escape and was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital in an ambulance.
He said he will undergo surgery to his face where steel plates will be inserted to repair the fractures later this week.
"I'm going to end up with a big bloody scar down my face," he said. "And my teeth are f.....! I can feel them rattling around my mouth."
Mr Lambourn said he would like to see the thugs, who he described as "gutless and callous" locked up,
"But I know that is not going to happen," he said.
He said he lost all faith in the court system after his younger brother was beaten to within an inch of his life interstate and the offender, who was initially charged with attempted manslaughter, ended up walking free.
Mr Lambourn appealed to anyone who witnessed the assault in the Palmerston area on Sunday night to call police on 131 444.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Guitar "Chicken"

"Sweet Pea" (The Garden Girl, my original), and "Wagon wheel"

Oh my Freakin' DNA...
In a failed science experiment gone very wrong, I played a game of Guitar Chicken with Steve Perry at "Old Enough To Know Better". Steve is an accomplished author, martial artist and musician.
We faced off... we pointed our guitars at each other... we mashed down the pedal, poured on the gas and went careening towards each other at breakneck speed... and I lost bigtime.
Here is Steve's first song, "One Toke Over The Line", and here is his second, a play on country music.
As you can see, Steve is very professional and can actually carry a tune. Our guys suck pretty bad, I had to just laugh my ass off... the lighting was terrible, the background noise overpowered my little camera, and the guy pretending to play the harmonica didn't even want to be there.

"Tuesday's Gone"
BWA-hahaha... Ouch!
Steve! We're not worthy!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Study Of "Split" in Tai Chi Chuan

Well, it was time for Larry, Moe and Curley to do another video, so here's the latest installment of Drinking Dojo Productions.
This is a rough draft of a study of "Split" in Tai Chi Chuan. I think we'll use this as a prototype for a better scripted video at a future date. There were a lot of techniques to think about, and of course the minute the camera went off I remembered several other prominent techniques such as 'White Crane Spreads Wings" and "High Pat On Horse".
The first technique, Single Whip, is the most recognizable of common Tai Chi Chuan postures. The second technique shown, the forearm smash is out of the 88-movement two-person San Shou fighting form. It is probably the most devestating technique in the Yang style, and is also seen in a version of Irimi-nage in Aikido.
One thing that is very clear is that some versions of "Split" have a strong element of "Peng", or outward expanding energy. Others, like locking the elbow in "Raise Hands" have a strong element of "Ji", or squeeze/press. None-the-less, they are still representitive of "Split" - splitting the opponents energy and body in two different directions.
We'll dust this rough draft off and attempt a tighter and more complete version in the near future...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mooks And Carport Kwoons

Our fellow Florida Dojo Rat Sean Ledig, AKA "Hand2Hand" from our comments section, has booted up his blog "Tales From The Carport Kwoon". Sean is a published writer and martial artist in the Chinese arts/FMA styles, and has a post up that got me thinking about Wing Chun Mooks (Dummies).
While browsing through the links in Sean's post I found the video above, a simple log transformed into a nice durable Mook. I especially like the laminated arms which would be unbreakable, but please notice the coil-spring platform that the Mook is bolted to. This is the same idea I have for the one I want to make, hopefully sometime this summer. I've got a couple of Cedar logs that came down in our woods, and I may use natural crooks of Alder or Maple for the arms and knee.
Sean had an article published in "Inside Kung Fu" with details of the Mook/Dummy that he built, and I think we'll be seeing more about that in the future.
So go on over to "Tales From The Carport Kwoon", and let's help Sean get his new Blog rolling!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When Swine Flu

Whoever thought we would get a chance to use this image of Sarah Palin again?

Or this:

Instructions on how to make a Flu mask out of a Bra. It works better if you leave the Bra securely mounted on your wife or girlfriend while you wear it as a mask. You know, sharing.

--But on a serious note, it has now been proven that the Swine Flu has it's origin in huge, unhealthy and cruel factory farms. Take a look at THIS ARTICLE...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tai Chi Chuan Training - Yang Applications And Sword Form

Two-Person Yang-Style Sabre Form

Ah, yes. We had another great training session with our Tai Chi Chuan instructor Michael Gilman this weekend. The studio was packed with a good turnout of Michael's local students, My fellow Dojo Rat Corey and I, and Terry and Alex from Dojo Rat Southern Division (Ok, Seattle).
Michael started us on "Chan Su Jin" which is a study of spiral energy. This is something he had introduced before, but is complex to internalize and will require some personal work.

To do this, we started by tracing the Taiji symbol as above with our palms, first vertically then horizontally in front of our body. This was followed by tracing the same patterns (right and left mirror images of the symbol above)with just our internal organs. Outwardly still but inwardly moving our guts around, shifting the Dantien. Finally, and most difficult was doing this as we were walking in a large group circle, tracing the yin-yang symbol with our palms (one direction, then reverse image) in unison with our footsteps. Not as easy as it seems.
With regard to stepping, Michael talked to us about "5-4", which refers to having all five dantiens lined up on the lead foot (lifting the rear foot heal and shifting to ball of foot) before taking the next step.
These drills seem may esoteric, but work directly into proper rooting in applications of push hands etc. These are the golden hints that make Tai Chi Chuan work correctly.
We also worked on the energy of split, or lieh, which I am working out ideas for a video on. And of course, some of us had a lively few minutes of push hands also.
As a little suprise to us, Terry had asked Michael to introduce us to the two-person Sabre form, which Terry had been working on from Michael's instructional DVD.
I had seen Michael demonstrate the form before, but this is the first time we have tried to learn it. Terry actually did very well, as he had been studying the form for several weeks. We all had a blast (weapons are fun!) and I think we will be spending a few minutes on this form every seminar we go to for a while.
Stay tuned for some ideas on "Split", coming up...

Here's the link to Michael Gilman, at "The Gilman Studio".
And here is a link to Michael's YouTube Page

Friday, May 1, 2009

May: Cute Hippie Chick Of The Month

Ha,ha... Thanks to fellow Dojo Rat Shy Amir over in Israel. Oh, you kids and your music these days... Why, I had no idea Chuck Liddell did music videos...

-Off to a Tai Chi Chuan seminar, this one on supporting energies Pull down, Split, elbow and shoulder. more in a couple of days...