Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Circle And The Trance

Funny how things come "Full Circle"...
An article I read recently talked about medicinal opium poppy fields in Tasmania that were being raveged by stoned Wallabies, sheep and deer.

"We have a problem with wallabies entering poppy fields, getting as high as a kite and going around in circles. Then they crash. We see crop circles in the poppy industry from wallabies that are high," The Mercury newspaper quoted Ms Giddings as saying.
A manager for one of two Tasmanian companies licensed to take medicinal products from poppy straw said wildlife and livestock, including deer and sheep, that ate the poppies were known to "act weird".
"There have been many stories about sheep that have eaten some of the poppies after harvesting and they all walk around in circles," added Rick Rockliff, a field operations manager at Tasmanian Alkaloids".

Dong Hai Chuan, recognized as the founder of Baguazhang (Bagua, or eight-trigram palm) is said to have created the circle-walking fighting style. But walking the circle has a much more ancient origin - as Michael P. Garofalo writes:
"Tung Hai-Chuan (1813-1882) became a member of the Chuan Chen (Complete Truth) sect of Taoism. This sect was part of the Lung Men (Dragon Gate) school of Taoism which was originated by Chou Chang-Ch'uan. Interestingly enough, Chou also invented a method of meditation whereby the practitioner would walk in a circle and, wouldn't you know, this method was practiced by the Chuan Chen sect. Delving further into this Taoist connection, Professor K'ang Kuo Wu was able to find a section in the Taoist Canon which reads:
'A person's heart and mind are in chaos.
Concentration on one thing makes the mind pure.
If one aspires to reach the Tao, one should practice walking in a circle.'

Internal arts expert Bruce Frantzis explains here the trance-like aspect of Bagua circle walking:

Yet, circle walking was not just an Eastern practice; here's a picture of some Druids demonstrating a circle-walking ceremony at the Spring Equinox in London:

As well as the fantastic designs on the Plains of Nazca, often thought as of maps for space visitors, may have been huge walking labyrinths:

Classical labyrinth:

Circle walking also has uses in tool and engineering work, as in this hay press and the use of millstones:

Years ago, I read Fritz Capras "The Tao Of Physics". In one chapter, he shows a diagram of ancient Sufi dancing, which was composed of overlapping circles. next to it, he overlaid the patterns of the atomic structure, which was nearly identical:

In this way, modern physics is proving things that ancient shamanic practice realized at a very deep level embeded in the human psyche or the DNA itself, perhaps suggesting the existance of a "Unified Field Theory", or the interconnected-ness of all things...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Xingyi Seminar; And a New Camera!


Well, I did survive the Xingyi seminar down at Jake Burroughs' Three Harmony Martial Arts Center this weekend. Above is a picture of me in the Xingyi "San Ti" posture from a couple of years ago. Jake has corrected several posture issues that I now see in my stance. I use this pic because I haven't completely figured out how to extract small clips and still photo's from my new Samsung video camera, below:

My wife snagged this camera for my birthday, and I had to have a kid from the video generation help me figure it out. It was very reasonably priced at about $230, and of course came with a new software that I am stumbling through right now. When I learn it better, I should be able to have better video production and all the bells and whistles. If anybody else has this camera and has suggestions, let me know.
--But back to the seminar:
Jake taught us two forms; the Horse, and the Tuo (which is variously refered to as the Water-skimmer or Aligator).
The Horse is a bold, agressive form as many Xingyi forms are. Horses rear up and hit with their hooves. In this way, the applications have two fist variations; one is with conventional fists; the other uses the knuckles of the fingers to "rap", like knocking on a door. This is the version I prefer. The knuckle rap is not for heavy knock-out hits; it is for attacking the opponent's hand metacarpals (back of hand/fist), pressure-points on arms, or bony areas on the skull etc.
Used in this way, the horse form attacks sting and numb the opponent's guard or draw blood above the eyes. They can be used in angles that a boxing punch can not.
-- The Tuo (water skimmer/alligator) moves in a zig-zag pattern and unlike the other Xingyi forms I have learned it does not turn back, it moves foward and moves backward. One arm is held high in a conventional block level, the other is low, palm out for groin slaps.
The Xingyi that Jake teaches is heavily influenced by master instructor Tim Cartmell, author of "Effortless combat Throws" and other titles. As you can imagine, the gap with the opponent is closed using the form applications described above, and then many options open up for throwing and sweeping the opponent.
After the seminar, Zac and I stayed for another hour with Jake, which included correction on other forms but focused on infighting skills. This begins at San Ti crossed-hands range, closes with slaps and strikes and goes to the takedown set-up. Then the partners re-set and the game begins again. This is done at a 70% speed, is non-cooperative for a sense of reality, but not done so aggresively that it is beyond the capability of learning speed.
Lots of fun, I'll keep working on my new video software, and maybe pull a few stills or clips.

***** For information on Chinese Martial Arts In Seattle, contact Jake Burroughs at Three Harmonies Martial Arts Center

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Road Trip!

We're off to the mean-streets of Seattle for a Xingyi seminar. Lots of knockdowns and throwing. I hope to survive.
Updates to follow.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Direct Transmission Of Knowledge

Our Friend, The Late Mike Martello

"Direct transmission offers all possible wavelengths of experiance because it is holographic and infinate in nature. It can be recieved intellectually, kinesthetically, of trancendentaly, through the channels of the mind or the heart or the soul, as well as through the primal instincts of physical body awareness".
-Spiritualist Suyra Ma

Jake and Dana at "Three Harmonies Martial Arts Center" in Seattle were kind enough to send me a few pics of our instructor and friend, the late Mike Martello. I thought the picture above represented what I view as "The Direct Transmission Of Knowledge".
At times, Mike loved to be the class clown and give everybody a good laugh, but when it came down to the nuts and bolts of understanding technique he was serious as hell.
I remember the exact moment this picture was taken; Mike was reminding me that a wristlock is not simply twisting a piece of meat, it is connecting to the center, to the entire body. He is demonstrating. He is making me understand intelectually. He is imprinting the moment in my mind, and he is making me feel the pain of a correct technique. This is direct transmission of knowledge, something no amount of reading or video surfing can accomplish.
Thank You, Mike.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Bagua With Kent Howard

I just love this guys stuff. This video with Kent Howard is strictly Bagua applications, in others he talks about the techniques and methods. Kent is a great example of a teacher that really teaches. I know of some internal art Masters that say "just do it for 30 years, and you'll get it". That might have been the way in China 100 years ago, but not today. I know Tai Chi Chuan students, for example that have never pushed hands or learned a single applicaton.
What I am really beginning to understand is that the Chinese Internal Arts work by developing "Shapes". These shapes are postures that show how to express power and stability in it's given form. Rather than being techniques themselves, the "Shapes" are archtypes or blueprints for techniques. This video of Kent demonstrating the "Whirlwind Palm" from the Wang Shujin Bagua system is a great example of translating "Shapes" into techniques, and watching him move helps me really understand my Bagua forms.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Epigenetics, Chi Cultivation, And Cellular Evolution

I might be over my head on this one.
Last week, I learned about the term "Epigenetics", and spent the last two days reading scientific journals, even contacting a scientist in an attempt to get to the bottom of this. Look, I know next-to-nothing about Microbiology. To me, a science experiment is brewing Beer. Let's start with a scientific definition of "Epigenetics":
“An epigenetic trait is a stably inherited phenotype resulting from changes in a chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence.” Shilatifard and colleagues have also proposed three categories of signals that operate in the establishment of a stably heritable epigenetic state. The first is a signal from the environment, the second is a responding signal in the cell that specifies the affected chromosomal location, and the third is a sustaining signal that perpetuates the chromatin change in subsequent generations." (link embedded)
--So what the hell does this mean?
The study of Epigenetics refers to how environmental influences can alter cell structure and DNA information that can be genetically inherited. This is to say, something you do, or something that happens to you, can be inserted into your very DNA and passed on to future generations. You can see the huge implications of this, and many scientists consider "Soft Inheritance" to be a slippery slope in scientific study.
All of the research I saw refered to the study of Epigenetics regarding inherited disease factors, such as Lupus, Autism or Cancer.
But what if self-introspective practices such as meditation or internal energy cultivation also cause genetic changes, perhaps that can be passed on to offspring?
In the groundbreaking book "The Aquarian Conspiracy; Personal and Social Transformation in Our Time", Marilyn Ferguson describes How meditative mind-body practices re-wire our brain and body: (pp 168-169)
"Inward attention, in other words, generates a larger fluction in the brain. In altered states of consciousness, fluctuations may reach a critical level, large enough to provoke the shift into a higher level of organization... Larger fluctuations of energy cannot be contained in the old structure. They set off ripples throughout the system, creating sudden new connections.. (this theory) helps to account for the dramatic effects sometimes seen in meditation, hypnosis, or guided imagery".
-- Now, what Ferguson refers to is a mechanical change in brain and body. What Epigenetics may suggest is that we may not be only re-wiring our Brain, but actually facilitating changes in cell structure and "soft inheritence" in DNA.
Eric Richards, PhD professor of biology in Washington University, St. Louis states:
"To get to the issue of the more extreme variations of soft inheritance, it has to be determined whether the environment can induce an epigenetic change in an organism that can be inherited in subsequent generations. Certainly, nobody has shown that an epigenetically induced beneficial or adaptive change has been inherited. Mechanistically, there is no reason to discount epigenetic inheritance. The biochemical nuts and bolts are there to support it. The big questions to resolve are how many epigenetic changes are induced by the environment, what types of phenotypes result from these changes, and how many of these epigenetic changes are inherited."
(link embedded)
--For further clairification I wrote Trevor Covert, editor of "Epigenetic News", with my questions about whether any studies questioned if practices such as meditation or internal energy cultivation could create positive Epigenetic changes. Here's his response:

Hi John,
Thanks for writing in with your question. I have not seen any scientific
studies on any epigenetic changes that might occur with meditation, etc.
However, there have been studies showing that DNA methylation patterns
change over a person's lifetime, as well as changes in methylation due to
dietary choices (i.e. There are some foods that have been shown to influence
changes in DNA methylation).
Some DNA methylation patterns have been shown to be correlated to a person's
susceptibility to cancer. Other diseases are also thought to be possibly
linked to DNA methylation, although few have been linked conclusively. This
is a very new field that is being studied aggressively so I expect that more
about what kind of changes in health/disease risk are linked to behaviors
and lifestyle choices will be uncovered in the coming years.
Thanks again for the question.
Trevor Covert
Faculty Research Associate
Washington State University
School of Molecular Biosciences
Pullman, WA 99164-4234

--So, as it seems, the research in this field is clearly looking at environmental influences that cause disease in the human body, perhaps passed on to future generations.
But, what if the opposite is also true?
For instance, in a metaphysical sense, could this explain something like generational Karma? Or what about "The Demon Seed"?
Studies have shown how the stress of big-city life with all the stimulation, electric fields and noise cause ill-health in it's residents. Perhaps an inherited neurosis?
What about introspective energy cultivation? Can it cause positive cellular changes that can also be passed on genetically?
Is this the next step of human evolution?

"We are stardust,
we are golden
we are billion-year-old carbon
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden"--
- Joni Mitchell, "Woodstock"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Carradine; The Bowie Knife Fight

Here's one hell-of-a knife fight, with the late David Carradine staring as Cole Younger. The movie was a revamp of the Jesse James/Cole Younger gang and was titled "The Long Riders"
The movie actually had four sets of actor/brothers in the cast, from Wiki:

The Keaches: Jesse James (James) and Frank James (Stacy)
The Carradines: Cole Younger (David), Jim Younger (Keith) and Bob Younger (Robert)
The Quaids: Ed Miller (Dennis) and Clell Miller (Randy)
The Guests: Charley Ford (Christopher) and Robert Ford (Nicholas)
It also features an uncredited appearance by Ever Carradine, daughter of Robert Carradine and niece to David and Keith Carradine.
It was a pretty good shoot-'em-up, damned near everybody gets killed.
The Bowie knife fight was really good, with Carradine as Cole Younger facing off against Cherokee Sam Starr, and of course Belle Starr instigating the fight.
-- Years ago I read a lengthy article about David Carradine in Playboy. It talked about him and Bob Dylan going to the same Kung Fu instructor in Hollywood. Perhaps the most interesting story, sandwiched between drug binges, was that of Carradine and the "wolf pit". It seems he was in some "B" western (like the one above) and the plot called for him to fight a wolf. Well, he got a hold of Dan Haggerty, who played Grizzly Adams. Haggerty had a small pack of wolf-dogs, and loaned them to Carradine. Carradine starved the wolves for two days before the shoot. On the day of the filming, He smeared dog food all over his body, and jumped into a pit with Haggerty's wolves. He actually got hurt pretty bad in that one, and Haggerty was pissed that his wolves had been misused.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Psychic Warriors

"The Men Who Stare At Goats" by Jon Ronson

Well, for some reason the original post I did on this subject has disappeared into cyberspace, but I will try to rescue it and repost it here.
This week in Las Vegas there will be a meeting of psychic spies, a classified military unit that had mixed results but broadly expanded the role of metaphysics in the U.S. military.
The book above, "The Men Who Stare At Goats" refers to a lab where Army psychic soldiers attempted to kill goats with mind power, and author Ronson details many other tests and programs - some that included Martial Artists.
The Las Vegas meeting will be hosted by retired Col. John Alexander, who has mixed feelings about the new movie coming out that is based on the book, there is a link to Alexander's thoughts and more details at THIS LINK.
Another man involved in the project, Col. Jim Channon, was tasked out to go to Guru's, Hippie Communes, Martial Arts schools and other modes of esoterica to study technology that would allow the military to "think out of the box".
Here's part of an interview with Channon:

--I look foward to seeing the movie, which stars George Clooney, and it should be out soon. Here's the previous post I wrote on Ronson's book, as I said it has disappeared into cyberspace (interesting, eh?):
The Men Who Stare At Goats

Pat over at Mokuren Dojo posted This Review of Richard Strozzi-Heckler's book "In Search Of The Warrior Spirit", a book I had reccomended because Aikido is part of the theme. As Pats review suggests, the book touches on the difficulty of an Aikido instructor's experiance teaching a group of Green Berets in a special military program. This program used sensitivity and bio-feedback in an attempt to create a super-soldier. Heckler obviously did not realize how deep the entire program went, which is detailed in Jon Ronson's "The Men Who Stare At Goats". Ronson gives the entire (unclassified) background of "The First Earth Battalion", which used Psychic Spies and other unorthodox warfare with mixed results. For instance, assassin training included developing photographic memories, to walk into a room and know at an instant where every pencil, chair, ashtray or other potential weapon lay, down to minute details. The title refers to a special lab, "The Goat Lab", where a large group of goats were kept. The subject would concentrate his psychic energy on one goat, and kill it while sitting in a room nearby. It is not exactly clear how well this worked, but Ronson's sources said at times it was performed successfully. You can see the obvious implications of this. Ronson travels across the country, interviewing people who were involved in the secret program, including martial artists that train assassins.
Now, most of us don't go for this Woo-Woo side of the martial arts, which borders on the occult. None-the-less, the military (and not just ours) is involved in this stuff. Here is a post from last January I did on "No Touch Knockouts" Which I have witnessed, performed by various Masters, with mixed results. There is a guy on YouTube who is offering thousands of dollars to anyone who can do one of these "no touch knockouts" to him, and I don't think he has had any takers.
The bottom line is, the U.S. military thinks this stuff may work, and has been involved in these types of training programs. I have read accounts of the Russians, who have been ahead of the Americans in all things Psychic, training their elite killers in this also.
Ronson's book opens a view into a dark world of Psuedo-science and the military-occult industrial complex. It takes up where Heckler's "In Search Of The Warrior's Spirit leaves off. "The Men Who Stare At Goats" is a quick read and is suprisingly humorous, considering the subject. It's also chock-full of martial artists that he interviews along the way.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Building The Saloon

Barlow Trail Saloon, Oregon

Followers of the Dojo Rat Blog probably know that We've been building a Dodge City-type Cowboy Saloon up on the property. I mean, what guy wouldn't want his own Saloon; my wife has already bought me a keg cooler!

I showed my buddy Rocky a picture of a western Saloon similar to the old Barlow Trail Saloon above, and he drew up the materials list. I bought the lumber package at our local hardware store at a 10%-off sale, the cost was around $2500 bucks. Rocky built the whole damned thing in his head and put up with all our questions during the building process.

It took a day for me to excavate the building site, a day for us to lay out the footings, a day to pour the concrete, and two-or-three weekends to slam the building together. Man, it did take lots of Beer though! The exterior still needs trim work, more staining, handrails on the porch, gutters, a proper Saloon Sign etc. Then there's buying the insulation package, hanging the front door and starting on the interior.
This was a pretty low-budget but high quality building, and is kind of a dry-run for the cabin we are going to build soon.

And here's the start of our Summer party on Saturday night, it went on 'till 2am. I had our music stage all set up with lights and amplifiers but as soon as it got dark everyone gathered in the saloon for an acoustic music jam. We had two BBQ's going, the big smoker and a weber which the dogs managed to knock over late in the evening in an attempt to steal our salmon.
All-in-all, a very successful party! I'll be posting more pictures as the building goes together, as you can see - it's an ongoing project...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kung Fu's Carradine: The Occult Connection

The jury's still out on whether "Kung Fu" and "Kill Bill" star David Carradine killed himself, or had some help.
This website, however, has pieced together some intresting and disturbing connections between the Carradine family and Aleister Crowley's OTO Satanic cult, secret societies, and sex magick.
Take a look, if you dare...

* Hat tip to James Keating @ Maajak

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

50 Years Of Dojo Rat: More than you ever wanted to know

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be Dojo Rats...
Well, well, well... your ol' buddy Dojo Rat has finally hit the big 5-0. Believe me, I'm starting to feel 50, too. I heard once a man doesn't get wisdom until he is 40, and doesn't know how to use it until 50. Still waiting.
The above pic with my Dad was taken in November 1959, so I would have been about 6 months old. My mom said my first word was a sentence; "Turn out the light", and they haven't gotten me to shut up ever since.

In the fall of 1973 the young Ratlet started High School. One rainy afternoon, I opened the door to the gym and peered in. In the background a record player was echoing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" while beautiful young women in tight leotards were doing gymnastics. Girls, with real breasts! "That's it", I said, "I'm joining the gymnastics team". The following year, when the seniors had graduated, I was the only one left that could do every event, so I became "all-around". Floor-ex was my specialty though, I was pretty good at handsprings and flips. Oh, but the girls...

Then there was the wrestling team. As you can see, the young Ratlet started at the 136-pound weight class. I put on a lot of muscle, and eventually wrestled 157 and occasionally 178. The coaches sit at the bottom of the picture. On the left is Mr. Austin, who was the coolest teacher in school. He wore tie-dye shirts and walked the halls playing a Banjo. On the right, the big dude in grey sweat pants is Mr. Nettles. One day in the cafeteria, I made the mistake of smarting off to Mr. Nettles. During wrestling practice that afternoon, he took me away from the team and into a seperate room with mats, and beat the shit out of me. I deserved every body slam he gave me, and figured I had learned my lesson. The next day, Mr. Johnsrud, a huge Norwegian-type guy that was not even a wrestling coach, came into practice in a wrestling uniform. He took me out of practice, into the side room and he beat the shit out of me too. They had double-teamed me. I love those guys...

I'm on the left, my best friend John Montague is on the right. We grew up together, shared everything; cars, guns, Beer, girls, more Beer.
Thats a shack we built and lived in up in the Coast Range of Oregon. We were deep, deep in the woods, hunting, fishing, drinking creek water every day. Every so-often we would hit town to stock up on rice, butter and alcohol, or drive to the University of Oregon to visit the girls we knew there. One night we were sitting around the campfire, reading books by lamplight. Up on the ridge above us, we heard a blood-curdling scream - just like a woman who was being stabbed to death - it was horrifying, and seemed to go on and on. Our dogs were freaking out, and we grabbed our rifles. We were so far back in the woods, nobody knew where our camp was, and it couldn't have been a person. I believe it may have been a Bigfoot, a Sasquatch - even cougar's don't sound like that.
We lost John in a logging accident several years later, he was pinned by a log and drowned. I'll miss him forever.

Here my friend Wes, on the right, is thrashing me in a stick fight. This was at the Farm in Oregon, on Sauvie Island between the Columbia and Willamette rivers. It was 300 acres of White Oaks and farm fields. I was caretaker there for over eight years, where I would plant corn, wheat and millet around the Duck hunting lakes the owners had. I grew a huge garden, we canned food and had chickens, turkeys, ducks and goats. We lived simple and free, and I learned a lot about farming.
Later, a super-multi-millionare bought the property, but kept me on as hired help. He started one of the largest Ostrich ranches in Oregon, and I worked there for another two years. Man, those Ostriches are dangerous, I almost got killed a couple of times. Sauvie Island was the first island I lived on, until I made the move north to my undisclosed remote island hideout in Washington.

Ace Hayes and I met in Portland in the mid-1980's. We became very close friends, and Ace was one of the most influential political Guru's in my life. He was a walking encyclopedia of government cover-ups and conspiracies. Ace had run guns to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, worked as an activist, in prisons, and as a labor organizer. Ace ALWAYS had a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun with him. We worked together on cable-access TV and published "The Portland Free Press". At that time, I was running a series on a CIA contract airline in McMinnville, Oregon. In the course of my research, I cultivated two CIA sources, and a third that threatened my life.
Ace ran informational seminars that attracted people from across the political spectrum; some were packin' guns, some were packin' pot pipes. He died of a brain aneryusm on a Friday the 13th in 1998.

I've had lots of dogs. Dogs that bit people. Dogs that killed things. Dogs that I'd have to bail out of Doggy Jail. But I have to say, this is the best dog I've ever owned. She's Border Collie-Blue Healer-Austrailian Shepherd. She stays around the property, goes to work with me every day, doesn't fight with other dogs, and is a pleasure to own. My dog has two rules for humans; sticks are to be thrown, balls are to be kicked soccer-style. You don't kick sticks or throw balls. That's it.

And this is my beautiful wife, the love of my life.
We finally decided "what the heck, we might as well get married" a few years ago. It was a full-blown backwoods Hippie wedding, 5 kegs of beer, countless cases of wine, and lots of really bad campfire music. There was probably around 200 people, and it went all night. I'm wearing an Elk-skin tunic that my Dad had made when I was about ten-years-old. My wife made her wedding dress out of a pair of Carhart bib overalls.
She is so beautiful, she's my best friend and partner for life. I'm one happy Dojo Rat!

And yes, this is me. Watch out kids; this is what 30 years of drinking Beer and practicing Martial Arts will get you - a crotchety old hippie who knows how to swing a shovel!
The rest of the story is filled in on the right side of the page, with pictures of my various instructors and training partners, who have inspired me, helped me grow, and given me the confidence to tackle life.
Damn, kinda makes me feel old...

Monday, June 8, 2009

This Months Tai Chi Chuan In Port Townsend

Instructor Michael Gilman

It was another beautiful weekend to travel and visit our Tai Chi Chuan instructor, Michael Gilman. Port Townsend was in street-fair mode, celebrating the re-opening of a major bridge that brings in lots of Seattle visitors. There were at least three Bands playing in town, including one on a waterfront street where this picture was taken:

Several Beers Later...

This weekend's workshop focused on elbow and shoulder strikes in Tai Chi Chuan, but before that we reviewed "Chan Su Jin", or Spiral energy. In the above picture, on the back wall you see a banner with three versions of the Yin-Yang symbol. We first visualized the top symbol, attempting to move our internal organs in the direction indicated in the symbol. Then the pattern was reversed in the second symbol, and you alternate between the two in a continuous loop. For those of you who read my review of the book "The Wellspring", we know that there are more nerve endings in our gut (The enteric system) than there are in our brain. For those with digestive problems, this may cure any ailments you experiance. The Enteric system operates seperate but in conjunction with messages from the brain, and it is often called "the second brain". You know, "gut feelings".
Next, we had a training partner put hand pressure on our stomach and small of back, so when we rotated our organs in the yin/yang pattern there was a little resistance for us to feel. I was paired up with our instructor Michael Gilman, who has very strong Chi. I felt that as he pressed on me and I rotated my gut, there was a powerful energy exchange between his palms and my center or Dantien. This went on for a couple of minutes, and when he released his palms from my body there was a powerful rush, like a drug coursing through my body. It was an almost trance-like experiance.

The remainder of the class was on the use of the shoulder and elbow. Elbow strikes are somewhat obvious and need little explanation. But shoulder strikes are underestimated in my opinion. Given the correct angles and positioning, there is a tremendous amout of knock-down power with shoulder strikes. Additionally, pulling the opponents face, nose or jaw into your shoulder causes lots of damage to the opponent, while you hardly feel anything. It's like slamming the opponent into a wall. The key is to use the three harmonies of range: hand and foot; knee and elbow; and shoulder/hip. The opponent will present us with an opportunity to use a particulear weapon at a certain range; you can't pound nails with a screwdriver...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gotta Lighten Up -- Kinda...

After Mike Martello's untimely death this week, I just can't bring myself to comment on David Carradine.

- Time to lighten up a bit; several of The Dojo Rats are traveling to visit and train with our Tai Chi Chuan instructor Michael Gilman. There will be some good thrashing followed by pints of Port Townsend IPA, perhaps the best Beer on the planet.

See ya Monday

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mike Martello Has Passed Away

Mike Martello, center

For those of you that haven't heard, our friend and instructor Mike Martello has passed away. Mike died suddenly from a congenital heart condition, he had been living and teaching in Belgium. Mike leaves behind a legacy of hundreds of students.
I met Mike through Jake Burroughs of Seattle's "Three Harmonies Martial Arts Center", who had recently relocated to the Seattle-area from New Mexico. I had seen videos of this guy half Jakes size tossing him and other students around. That guy was Mike Martello. I got in touch with Jake and shortly after attended my first grueling two-day seminar with Mike and witnessed first-hand what he was capable of.

Mike Martello in chin na applications
As you see in the above video, Mike was five-foot-two, and I doubt he cleared 120 pounds. He was wirey and strong, and could switch from a very yin-yielding aspect to a punishing-pounding finish in the same technique. Obviously, Mike could not out-muscle the big guys, so he had to become a master of body mechanics, and find ways to make his size work for him. Like taking down a big tree, Mike could get his center under you to throw or sweep a leg to bring an opponent down to his size. He was very much a "people person", and had a wonderful time just hanging out for burgers and beers after seminars. It was those conversations where we learned a little about him, and he about us. Mike would write me lengthy e-mails from Belgium, with comments about the training videos, or the other crazy crap we post on Dojo Rat. He wrote about his growing up, and his family history, and he was very welcoming and pleased to see us at the seminars we attended.
Mike was very close with my friend and Xingyi instructor Jake Burroughs. For the last several days, Jake has posted updates and rememberences regarding the untimely passing of Mike. Jake has also posted some of the pictures and video's from various seminars Mike taught, please go to Jakes Blog "The Ground Never Misses" for more information.
The loss of Mike Martello, a friend and Master-level instructor is a huge blow to students, instructors and friends on three continents.
I'd like to close with an instructional video of a Bagua form that Mike taught us, "Xaio Kai Men", or "Small Opening Form". This is an example of Mikes teaching process, and his depth of knowledge. We will miss him terribly.

-- Thank you so much Mike, your spirit will live on in the friends you crossed hands with.

More information:
Mike Martello's Wikipedia page
Jake Burroughs The Ground Never Misses
Wu Tan Belgium

Monday, June 1, 2009

June: Cute Hippie Chick Of The Month

Carly Simon

Yes kids, it's the first of June, and you know what that means: our regular feature- Cute Hippie Chick Of The Month!
Step into the "WayBack" machine and take a trip to the late '60's-early '70's and visit two pop divas. Now what red-blooded American boy could resist the charms of Carly Simon- long, lean and beautiful. Probably her first (and best) hit was "You're So Vain", a song rumored to be about Mick Jagger. But truthfully, Simon was pure AM radio, somewhat commercial and packaged. Ocassionally, a guy needs to step out with something a little dark and edgy. Gracie; where are you?

Yes, Grace Slick of "The Jefferson Airplane" was probably the original Bad Girl of rock. From "White Rabbit" to "Somebody To Love" her voice was unique and powerful, as was her stage presence. In the video below, Grace and the Band deal with an unruly bunch of Hells Angels.
The Altamont concert was to be the last blow-out of the '60's, and things began to go very wrong. Billed as a free concert featuring The Rolling Stones, some wise guy decided to hire the Hells Angels for security, and a lot of people got their asses kicked. Things started to get crazy while The Airplane was doing this set, here, and it just got worse as the night went on. During the Rolling Stones performance, Jagger was singing "Sympathy For The Devil" when a guy in the crowd pulled a gun- and was promptly stabbed to death by the Angels. Jagger later said the group would never play that song again.

From the 1970 film of the concert; "Gimmie Shelter".
The Altamont concert parallels an epic battle of light vs. dark, good vs. evil- Rock Stars vs. The Angels... and led to the image of a subculture within the counter-culture: "The Evil Hippie". (Take a look, it's a great read).