Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sensei Strange on "Parting Wild Horses Mane"

Our buddy Sensei Strange produced this video in response to Tai Chi Chuan's "parting wild horses mane" a while back and is now re-introducing it to us.
I love the production quality he has, it makes my little videos look pretty crappy.
Here's a clarification on the difference in technique with the Aikido he demonstrates.
In Tai Chi Chuan, PWHM definitely rotates the waist throwing the opponent over your leg/thigh. The arm is typically under the opponent's arm. The rotation is the key, and you must be deep into the opponent's center. Strange does a great job at breaking the opponent's structure in his demo.
The curved arm position is called "Peng" or "Ward-off". He uses it correctly when his palm faces himself, with back of hand towards opponent.
When Strange uses his "Peng" arm to rotate or strike the opponent's head/face, it would be called "eyebrow mopping" in Chinese arts. It is particularly effective when used to turn the opponent's head/neck, where the head goes the body follows.
Likewise, if the projection is not over the leg in a rotating motion, and instead more linear, it would be more like "Slant Flying". In the previous Su Dong Chen video I posted he uses it more like that or with a shoulder strike..
It's fun to watch Strange flow through his motions, Aikido is beautiful to watch.

Here's some more of Su Dong Chen working the technique, note that he is using a linear projection, not rotating over the leg as in :parting wild horses mane".
Also note the hand strike set-up and the alternative take downs if things change:

And here's me and Zackey Chan doing a loop drill with this technique a few years ago:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Su Dong Chen: Entering Method

Here's a nice way of setting up what Tai Chi Chuan calls "parting wild horses mane".
Su Dong Chen has a very eclectic version of Internal Martial Arts, and this looks a lot like some of the entries Tim Cartmell teaches also.
The problem many Tai Chi guys have is being nearly completely immobile. I think it comes from too much fixed step (stationary) push hands, where opponents stay rooted and try to off balance each other.
I recently had some e-mails from "Bob", who asked how to neutralize gut punches from his son while they are doing some light sparring. Bob does Yang Tai Chi Chuan and push hands.
I encouraged him to bring his extended guard in closer as the opponent closes, to slip and cover rather than reach out to parry when the opponent is in hitting range.
This is non-traditional for an art like Tai Chi Chuan, but we gotta' use what works.
The second bit of advice relates to what I mentioned above: Don't get stuck in a root. Move evasively and root when you hit.
Likewise, as Su Dong Chen demonstrates above, "Call to get a response" - that is open with a hand attack to get the desired response from your attacker.
The projection Chen does on the student is actually more like the Xingyi "Rooster announces the dawn", where "parting wild horses mane" rotates the opponent over your lead leg/thigh. The entry principle is the same.
It is also like "Slant Flying", but I believe slant flying usually has your arm above the opponent's arm rather than below.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Machete Launcher

Man, I've been to two State Fairs and a Goat ropin' but I've never seen this:

This Dude must have some time on his hands; what do you reach for when you're out of 12-gauge shotgun shells, 9 mm bullets and that road flare and can of gasoline?
Why, your machete launcher of course!

Kids these days...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

When Sitting Kills

I had a conversation with a family member a while back about why he can't shed his extra pounds. He exercises and has watched his diet but he he is more than twenty pounds heavier than me, and it's affecting his health.
Now I am no svelte matchstick of a man either. I still need to drop weight, but at my last doctor check-up we charted how I was steadily loosing four pounds every year without dieting.
There are two articles that I believe can explain why I am dropping and my friend can't shake the weight:
In "The New York Times Magazine" there's a good article titled "Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?". Here are a few snips:

"His initial question — which he first posed in a 1999 study — was simple: Why do some people who consume the same amount of food as others gain more weight?"
"This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides — for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” as Hamilton puts it — plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall."
"The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher."
"Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”


(D.R)- So we clearly see how cubicle life and office chairs complicate attempts to maintain health and loose weight. My family member, despite trips to the golf course and gym, just cant shake the "office weight".
The difference between our lifestyles is that I'm running an outdoor service company that works every day in all kinds of weather. We are moving pretty much non-stop all day. For years now, I've been packing a light lunch of salad, meat and fruit - the hunter-gatherer meal. And this provides a bridge to the second article; "The Definitive Guide to Low Level Aerobic Activity".
This article is from "Marks Daily Apple", a site that details "The Paleolithic Diet" and activity that mimics the way early hunter-gatherers lived their daily lives.
Mark patterns his health plan on an imaginary ancestor; "Grok":

"After all, it was how our good man Grok and his family spent most of their days. Carrying water from the stream. Collecting fire wood, walking through the forests and meadows to gather greens, berries, and other plants. Working on their shelter. Perhaps migrating to another area because of drought, predators or competing tribes. Butchering, building, washing, cooking, dancing, you name it. Some of it was hard work, but it was mostly just continual – the sheer volume of low level activity that characterized Grok’s existence."
"Not only is low level aerobic activity the natural evolutionary expectation of the body, it’s flat out beneficial in its own right. It plays an integral role in maintaining weight and metabolic balance. It also builds your base and makes more strenuous workouts possible by toning all the muscles, joints and connective tissue needed for optimal strength training and high intensity aerobic activity. Low level aerobic exercise engages your energy systems and incrementally improves their functioning and efficiency. And while it does all that, it also physiologically and hormonally counters the effects of stress."

So it appears that just moving around all day is the key to keeping the weight off and tuning up the metabolism. Like "Grok" the caveman, simple constant activity should be our goal.
So far, it seems to balance out the copious amounts of Beer I drink, and if I can stay strong and loose four pounds a year without trying, that works for me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Simple, Versatile Xingyi Pi Chuan

I really like how this guy takes one seemingly simple posture, the "Pi Chuan" or splitting fist and works in so many variations. When you hold the posture still for meditation or strength training, it's called "San Ti", referring to three alignments.

When moving and changing from left to right and back, it's called Pi Chuan:

A very creative use of a seemingly simple posture...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why Is Curt Weldon Meddling in Libya?

Former Congressman, political gadfly and apparent arms dealer Curt Weldon was in Libya last week.
That's right; in the middle of what looks like a civil war, Weldon was trying to meet with Col. Momar Gaddafi:

"Weldon, whose trip was paid for by two oil lobbyists from Houston, says he was invited to Libya by Gaddafi's chief of staff, Dr. Bashir Saleh, adding that his message to government officials he met in Tripoli "was in direct support of the state public positions of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
"In the statement, Weldon says he also met with Saadi Gaddafi, the third son of the Libyan strongman, to urge the release of American journalist Clare Morgana Gillis, who writes for, and three others. Also in custody are James Foley, a U.S. journalist with; Manu Brabo, a Spanish photographer; and Anton Hammerl, a South African photographer.
Weldon's flight to Libya was paid for by Houston attorney Brian Ettinger and former Bush aide Steve Payne, who accompanied him on the trip."
Read this link for more information on the complex nature of the individuals involved.

Curt Weldon is no stranger to political intrigue. I first learned about Weldon in the late 1990's when I was in contact with Gary Eitel. Eitel was a former CIA contract pilot that was blowing the whistle on a corrupt scheme to launder military C-130 aircraft. Originally destined to be converted to airtankers for Forest service fire-fighting use, the C-130 aircraft were diverted to use on covert operations for the CIA. A complete article I wrote in 1997 describes the details of the scheme at this link.
Weldon oversaw the Congressional investigation that Eitel testified before, eventually resulting in jail time for some of the various brokers involved.

Weldon was no stranger to covert operations at the time; His nephew Robert Weldon died in the crash of a C-130 in Angola on a mission for the CIA. (link)
"The Hercules C-130 was owned by Caribbean Air Transport company. It was heading for Cafunfo in the diamond-mining region of Lunda in north-eastern Angola.
The Angolan news agency ANGOP monitored in Lisbon, named the three dead Americans as Flight Captain Robert Snellgrave, mechanic Robert Weldon and load master Chuck Henrichs. The pilot was Stefan Paoletti, an Italian."
"The problem between Curt Weldon and the CIA arose because of the connections between Roy Reagan and St. Lucia Airlines. It seems Curt's nephew was flying, as a mechanic, into Angola on secret CIA missions using aircraft that belonged to (or should have belonged to) the U.S. Forestry Service. U.S. Forestry planes were forbidden by statute from operating outside the United States. Weldon, understandably, wanted to understand the nature of his nephew's trip, but the CIA gave him the run-around. Weldon, a sitting Congressman then as now, took that as a personal insult. St. Lucia airlines is famous for its role in the Iran-Contra affair."

As the layers of CIA onion were peeled back, Weldon appears to have become obsessed with covert operations, perhaps even drawn to them as an insider or agent himself.
Reports from 2008 describe how Weldon became involved in brokering arms deals between the Russians, Iraq and Libya:

"Even though both Libya and the Russian arms export agency are on official U.S. blacklists, government officials and analysts involved in weapons sales say the rules have become unclear as the push to equip allies in the global war on terror has blazed new but uncertain legal ground.
Eagerly stepping into that virgin territory is Defense Solutions, a Pennsylvania-based company that is carving out a small but lucrative niche in a new international arms bazaar. The firm boasts as its advisors a number of influential Washington insiders, such as retired General Barry McCaffrey, the former White House drug czar.
Helping the firm make key connections is Curt Weldon, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania at the center of an FBI investigation into alleged conflicts of interest during his time in office. Weldon, now a key executive at Defense Solutions, is working with the company to set up these weapons deals."

Weldon was investigated by the FBI for such dealing, and eventually lost his long-held Congressional seat to former Navy Admiral Joe Sestack.

Weldon's deepest plunge into the covert rabbit-hole centers around the obvious yet highly denied claims that the Bush administration knew exactly what Mohammad Atta and the 9-11 hijackers were planning:

In his "Able Danger" investigation, Weldon produced witnesses that were involved in tracking and documenting the actions of the 9-11 hijackers.
Here is a snip from a press conference Weldon held regarding the "Able Danger" program and how 9-11 hijacking warnings were swept under the rug:

"The Pentagon has acknowledged now, publicly, that they have identified five defense employees who either vividly remember identifying Mohammed Atta prior to 9/11 or seeing his name linked with a Brooklyn cell prior to 9/11.
"We have Scott Philpott (ph), a Navy commanding officer, who's commanded one of our naval warships, an Annapolis graduate, who has come out publicly and risked his entire career to say what he'll say next Wednesday under oath: that he specifically remembers identifying Mohammed Atta in January and February of 2000, specifically; that he would stake his career on it. And that he was the leader of Able Danger.
We have Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer -- who's outside in the hallway, who I couldn't bring into the House Gallery because of House rules, but who's available for you to talk to, outside -- who will testify under oath on Wednesday before the Senate that as a DIA liaison to Special Forces Command for Able Danger, he attempted to present information to the FBI on three occasions in September of 2000 about the Brooklyn cell and Mohammed Atta."
(Full text at this link)

While Weldon is considered a crackpot by the mainstream press, I suggest he is extremely well positioned to function as an intelligence asset for the Government.
For example; Brewster Jennings & Associates was the front company set up by the CIA to trawl for rogue governments and agents seeking nuclear and other weapons. Valerie Plame was the CIA agent in Brewster Jennings that was (in an act of possible treason) outed by Vice President Dick Cheney in the run-up to the Iraq war. Fronts like Brewster-Jennings and insiders like former Congressman Curt Weldon tread a fine line in the global arms business. I personally interviewed a similar individual, Dr. Richard Fuisz, who was regularly debriefed after business dealings in the middle east.
Here is where the stories have a possible intersection:
Dr. Richard Fuisz and former associate Susan Lindauer claim to have proof that the bombing of a Pan-Am flight over Lockerbie Scotland was not the work of Libyan agents, but was instead a Syrian plot that involved Oliver North's Iran-Contra arms and drug smuggling network. (See B.P., Libyan Oil and the Lockerbie Bombing)
Lindauer had met with agents of both Libya and Iraq before the Iraq war.

It is very likely that Weldon is aware of this and because he was previously involved in Libyan arms deals he was well positioned to attempt to negotiate a back-channel route for Gaddafi to step down and leave Libya. You can bet he has been de-briefed about his trip, where he apparently only met with one of Gadaffi's sons. He was, none-the-less, "boots on the ground" and had his eyes on the inner workings of the Gaddafi camp.
Rather than an obsessed crank or unprincipled arms dealer, I suggest Weldon is in possession of the dark knowledge of spy craft - a player with one foot in the arms bazaar and one foot in U.S. Intelligence networks.

As far as Gaddafi, I'm sure he is well protected by his his cadre of 40 "virgin" women bodyguards.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not Yer Ninja?

Comments required,
Just add Beer.

This just in from Sensei Strange; our Ninja in action, bless his heart:
YouTube Link

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Form Review

Ah, form review;

My training partners and I live in a isolated rural community. We draw on decades of shared martial arts experience and all have pretty solid backgrounds.
But when we seek new information it requires traveling to other instructors and seminars, often for days at a time.
You gotta' understand; I usually drive my pick-up about ten minutes through farm and forest to various job sites. I never get above third gear.
So Monday when I headed for the mean streets of Seattle to meet with my Xingyi instructor Jake Burroughs, I had to navigate a crowded highway on the rainiest day of the year. At one point I had semi-trucks on each side pressure-washing my truck to the point where I couldn't even see the road in front at 65 mph. I don't know how you fuckers that live in the city deal with that shit every day. It was probably the single-most dangerous thing I have experienced since I almost pulled the Maple tree over onto me with my tractor a month ago.
Forms are a big part of my current fitness program, and I am addicted to the Xingyi forms I am learning right now. But I have noticed how they tend to morph into slightly different versions than they start out at. There's a couple of reasons for this. The first is that because we live in the country and only see our instructors occasionally, we develop bad habits or tend to import other similar techniques into the existing form. Sometimes we find things that actually improve the form, but that also changes it.
Other times the instructor changes an element of the form to something he finds better. This has happened repeatedly with the long 2-person fighting form our Tai Chi Chuan instructor has trained us in, and it's usually for the better.
So on Monday, I had quite a few corrections to my form as Jake patiently watched my movement and asked what the hell I was doing. I had realized that something I had learned in one of the animal forms was carried over into one of my basic 5-Element forms, and it wasn't quite right.
Now, to a beginning student this would probably be frustrating, but I completely realized what was going on.
Xingyi is at first glance a somewhat mundane style that does not get flashy until you learn some of the animal forms. The 5-Elements train vectors - vertical, horizontal, crossing, etc.
When I started learning Xingyi to complete the trinity with Tai Chi Chuan and Bagua, Jake said Xingyi was the easiest Chinese Internal art to learn, but possibly the hardest to master.
Xingyi, like the other arts mentioned requires perfect body structure to bring out the magic of the art. The seemingly simple postures exhibit frighteningly powerful whole-body movement. This requires building a foundation that is much more powerful than what is found in hard-style arts like Karate. It also requires seeking very tight, well targeted angles to disrupt the motion of the opponent. In this respect, it is similar to the vectors and energies in Tai Chi push hands. Very subtle yet effective infighting techniques are employed.
I just love when you think you know something and it is re-introduced to you in a fresh new way, only to get better.
We finished my lesson by starting on a short two-person Xingyi form called "Wu Hua Pao" or "Five Flower Cannon". It's a simple form, yet considering the subtleties described above it's going to take some time to get it right.
So for all you old Dojo Rats out there, don't get stuck in a "one art" rut. If you are an instructor, find some fresh meat to chew on. Pick a companion art, round out your striking and grappling game. Look at your art differently in the light of learning something new and see how your overall program improves. kind of like a "martial makeover", or falling in love all over again.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Mysterious North Korean Soldier

Earlier in March we had a series of posts on Korean martial arts and fighting systems. In the comment section, "Stazza" sent this link to an interview with a North Korean Special Forces soldier that had defected to South Korea:

"Mr. Im Cheon-Yong (45) was a captain of North Korean Special Forces. He is relatively short -- not quite 170 cm [TK: 5' 7"] -- but had unusually large fists, reminiscent of a cartoon character. The fact that this reporter met an officer of North Korean military's special combat unit became even more real after he explained, "I practiced punching several thousand times a day." His handshake was firm and heavy.
"The training for special combat as told by Mr. Im was harsh as expected, and some parts beyond imagination. The training begins on 5 a.m. The fundamental of the training is to turn the entire body into steely firmness, and the basic part is training the fist.
Mr. Im said, "You would wrap a tree trunk with ropes, and keep punching it. You throw 5000 punches day and night -- do that for a month, the inside of your fist swells up until you can barely curl your fingers." He added, "Then you open a tin can and set it up on a stand. You keep punching the sharp part. When your hand turns into mush with blood and pus, you start punching a pile of salt. Repeat it, and your hands become like a stone." Mr. Im explained, "You punch the salt so that the salt would prevent the hand from rotting away with the blood." According to Mr. Im, with the hand trained like this "you can easily break 20 sheets of cement blocks, and you can kill a person with three punches." His hands would naturally make a fist throughout the interview. This reporter had to respectfully ask that he unclench his fist during the interview."

North Korean Women

"In a martial art called "Gyeok-sul," the special forces train by sparring each other. Mr. Im said, "Kim Il-Sung used to say he wanted a warrior who can defeat a hundred, but honestly that's not possible. But we get trained enough to fight ten men without guns."
In the winter, according to Mr. Im, the special forces are thrown into the sea around 4 km [TK: 2.5 miles] away. Mr. Im said, "The ocean temperature is about negative 30-40 degrees in North Korea in the middle of winter," and said "The salt water feels like blades; the capillaries all over your body burst out, and some people just die there." He added, "It used to be just throwing daggers at the target, shooting guns and punching, but nowadays we receive a lot of training on driving tanks and armored vehicles as well."
"Mr. Im said North Korean regime focused on the special combat brigades, providing them food and continuing the training even during the March of Struggles in the mid- to late 1990s. But he explains that recently, "The food situation is terrible, such that even special combat brigades get no more than porridge."
"Each company of the Storm Corps is assigned to a major city in South Korea as a terrorism target. The target for Mr. Im's company was Chungju, Chungcheongbuk-do. As Mr. Im belonged to the assassination brigade, his mission was to assassinate the mayor of Chungju. The other members of the company had such missions as overtaking the broadcasting stations, gassing major locations and demolishing buildings.
"Mr. Im pointed underground tunnels as a major route for special forces' infiltration, and worried that "It will be a significant problem for South Korea's security." He said, "There are a lot of tunnels especially around Cheolwon, and they are hard to find because the exits are usually deep in the mountains," and said, "It takes about 48 hours to come from North Korea to the South, then you would walk or take a bicycle to the point where you can use the public transportation. Then you would head to the city. There is no good way to stop this, so even as we speak there is a significant number of special forces infiltrated into South Korea."

North Korean women on Segway scooters, this just cracks me up...

North Korea is still a very unpredictable, unstable regime. There's a back-story about General Choi Hong-Hi of Tae Kwon Do courting the North Koreans in the height of the cold war, seeking support for his International TaeKwon-Do Federation.
But that's for another time...

Link to interview at "Ask a Korean"

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cute Hippie Chick of the Month: April Fools Edition

Whowhh!!! What the hell was that?
Actually, that lady in front looks very interested -

This is the one I was looking for...