Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ice Age: At Least We Still Have Cold Beer

Yee-Hawww... More drama and trauma on the Northern Frontier. We got hit with a gunuine NorEaster and it aint over yet. Sunday-Monday saw a foot or more of snow, and we are expecting four to six more inches tonight. So today, while my brother way down south packs for his family vacation in Hawaii, I will spend the second day on my back in the snow repairing broken waterlines. We had to cut our way out through the trees that fell across the road, but still can't get our trucks out, chains and all. There is very little traffic around our community, and people are starting to get cabin fever. The dogs and cats seem to love it, but the critters in the woods are having a hard time.
The picture above shows how much weight is on the trees. We've got branches and whole trees down everywhere. Pictured with the Rat is the Rat Dog, delivering a large bag of Beer to one of our neighbors, who had run out. I definitely know why Alaska (still further north) has such a high rate of alcoholism. I consider that a survival mechanism.
With all the storm damage, frosty hangovers and broken waterlines-- it is beautiful out there. The neighbors are banding together and everything has a mandatory "time-out".
Now we can appreciate that record-setting 12 inches of rain we had this November...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Importance Of Live Drills

Above is a video of a Hsing-I Chinese internal art drill. The art, while a sister to Bagua and Tai Chi, is the most aggressive and outwardly powerful of the Chinese internal arts.
No one drill can provide for every fighting situation, so there are hitting drills, grappling drills, weapons drills, avoidance drills and so on.
Many of you have probably seen someone, say even at Brown Belt level, get out of sequence in a pre-arranged fighting drill. They stop and look at the other guy, place blame for what went wrong, and re-wind their stepping patterns to start over again. Are they going to do that in a self-defense situation?
The reason, in my opinion is that some drills are "dead". There is a start, and a definite finish, and everything has to be done just so. There are three of four moves and that's it. This leaves no room for the student to experiance variables and grow with the training pattern.
The drill in the video represents a much more dynamic type of drill. Sure, it has it's limitations, but IT'S ALIVE. It has continual motion, advance-attack, retreat-defend. A small variation will fit right in and not disrupt the drill. We have similar drills where we may start out hitting, roll into a joint-lock flow, and resume hitting. Live drills are continous. Once the boiler-plate is laid, variations are encouraged. That's where the real learning begins.
I finally scored a digital camera, so I will try to get set up to post some examples of the types of drills we are working on. In the meantime, enjoy the video above.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Long and Short of Tae Kwon Do

Awww,... Look at the junior Rat.. He jumps, he spins; watch out he may bite!
Yessiree folks, this is an actual vintage early '80's photo of the Rat Boy, complete with authentic Beer and pizza stains. Yes, it's part of my first Black Belt test, and this photo proves that it was perfectly acceptable for an assistant instructor to wear flannel shirts at Black Belt tests in Oregon in the old days.
--With that said, this post has been a long time coming and will surely piss some people off. Let me say it now: There are a lot of shortcomings in Tae Kwon Do as a martial art.
My training came at a time when the Koreans were desperately trying to organize TKD to become an Olympic sport. This was an exciting prospect, and I'm afraid it's one that has practically ruined TKD as a self defense art.
Pre-Olympic TKD was closely tied to Hapkido and Korean Judo. Our school practiced both. Our Master, Tae Hong Choi, once commented that TKD was structurally very close to Shotokan Karate, and at the time, it was true. There were powerful sparring sequences and a lot,lot of breaking boards and bricks. We gave demonstrations in front of thousands of people during festivals where Mr. Choi would disarm swordsmen and demonstrate the best of combat Hapkido. Choi had trained Special Forces in Vietnam. Those were heady times, When after events the Master would lead us, his entourage of Black Belts into seedy bars for after-hours celebrations. The training was solid, and the anarchic structure of the organization led to deep trust and friendships I'll always remember.
Then came the Olympics. The hands came down, short-range fighting became non-existent, and head-hunting became the rule.
Tae Kwon Do has always emphasised kicking techniques, but after the Olympics, TKD fighters had stopped using their hands altogether. While the flash kicking is way fun, and excellent gymnastic exercise, it sucks for self-defense. A good wrestler can easily move in on high kicks, and the groin is constantly exposed when you kick high. I know. I lost a tournament fight when I attempted a high hook kick and a Kenpo guy blasted me in the groin with a short counter-kick.
The most natural method of fighting is to hit with your hands. It's easy, quick and effective. The best thing for me is when I started training with my friend who was a boxer. Traditional boxing drills brought my hand speed up considerably, as well as hitting power. Not the brick-breaking type of power, but stick-and-move power, very mobile. Of course, modern TKD does not allow hitting to the head, so they are miserably outclassed by fighters that can hit fast and hard.
In this way, modern TKD has lost it's way. In the past, fighters from Korean systems, like Chuck Norris, who dominated the tournament scene in the '60's-'70's, were power to be reckoned with. Now the system has degraded into a pure sport, where the exercise is great but don't try this shit for self defense.
Tae Kwon Do would find a re-awakening by going back to it's true roots as a brawling Korean art with heavy Japanese and Chinese influence, yet retaining it's Kim-Chee-flavored national heritage.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Fiddles 'n' Vittles: The Art Of Living Simply

So, we've hit on the Martial arts, the Political arts, and now the "Art of living simply". Pictured above is something resembling "The Rat's Nest Symphony". This, of course is from a previous finger-lickin'-good celebration, on our first ramshackle pioneer stage. We now have the new and improved stage, complete with milled lumber, tiki torches, tequila hot-pepper christmas lights and pirate flag.
Thanksgiving is the Rat's favorite holiday; no huge family obligations, good friends, too much food and drink. No TV football, thanks. Maybe shoot some guns and play a little music.
Up here in Da Land 'O' Rat, We don't have a lot of money for elaborate settings or exotic holiday travel, but boy do we have some fun. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Poll Results: 63% Of Americans Are Hippies!

Well, you probably saw the "political arts" tag on the header of the blog, so here goes: The editorial below illustrates just how out of touch some people are about what's really going on. For instance; equating the Iraq OCCUPATION with the terrorism that came to America on 9-11. Despite constant attempts to conflate the two issues, There is ABSOLUTELY NO CONNECTION BETWEEN 911 AND IRAQ. Period.
The old crank that wrote the following editorial is so out of it she is still red-baiting and chasing Marxists. I hate to inform her that the State no longer controls the means of production, the means of production controls the State. It's called "Unbridled Super-Capitalism"
If this blue-haired old bat thinks hippies are the only people that reject the Cheney Administration's insane hijacking of the oilfields, then a full 63% of Americans must be hippies:

CNN Poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation. Nov. 17-19, 2006. N=1,025 adults nationwide:
Do you favor or oppose the US War in Iraq:
33% favor 63% oppose 4% not sure

--Look, the Rat is not anti-military. The Rat has had his share of fights. But the Rat is a free-thinker and will not blindly follow authority over the cliff. People, let's be smart about this. Try Googleing "The Project For A New American Century" and you will find out what these bastards have been up to.
And now; the rant from some Grandma in Lexington:

Hippies still trying to ruin the country
By Jenean Mcbrearty
America won't win another war until the 1960s flower children are pushing up petunias.

Radicalized, the flower children morphed into lefty loonies who now masquerade as social progressives. No matter what they rename themselves, however, their agenda hasn't changed.

They still want utopia, and it wouldn't be worth mentioning except that their naivetŽ has aged into a persistent denial of reality that may have devastating consequences.

For example, consider their continued belief that America's armed forces are neo-Nazi stormtroopers who delight in burning babies to further the aims of imperialistic corporations.

Such nonsense, now treated as legitimate by the left-leaning media, denigrates the patriotic values and sincerity of half the nation. It undermines the war effort, insults the dead and the survivors of battle and their families, and supports the aims of the enemy. Translated into immigration or national defense policy, it is an invitation to the world to destroy our country.

Yet, this Vietnam-era idŽe fixe about the military, despite 40-plus years of proof to the contrary, is understandable when analyzed in the context of the flower children's religious zealotry.

To renounce their military fictions would mean facing bigger, more important truths: Marxism doesn't work. Love is not all you need. Western culture is worth defending because it protects freedom, tolerance and the greatest material good for the greatest number. Government can't solve every problem. The American taxpayer has no obligation to support the rest of the world's exploding population.

Without the military-industrial complex to blame for humanity's ills, the lefty loonies lose their basis for faith in a socialist utopia. Terrorism is tortuous for them only because it forces them to pursue the political goals that will allow them to redistribute America's wealth by pulling the nation together and relying on the hated military for protection.

Oh, the unfairness of irony.

Thus, lefty loonies deny that terrorists have declared war on America, while insisting that we can win the war through negotiation. They seem to believe the terrorists will spare them because they are nice.

(EDIT) ACKKKK! You see what I mean... I had to dump half her rant because it just goes on, and on, and on. Too long for this blog. Her e-mail is listed below if you care to respond--Dojo Rat

Jenean McBrearty lives in Lexington. E-mail her at

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Chin Na

This has been one of my favorite grappling videos lately, for a lot of reasons. Mike Martello is only 5'2" and it is fascinating to see him manipulate a much larger opponent. Sure, the attacks are controlled, but remember, so is the response.
This video illustrates something I have been examining for some time. My hard-style background is Tae kwon Do and Kenpo Karate, but that's mostly in the past now. During my Kenpo training I also trained for two years in Aikido, and since then have been heavy into Yang-style Tai Chi. I am planning a serious thesis on the comparison of techniques between Aikido and Tai Chi. Most people have never experianced the martial techniques within Tai Chi, and view it as a "new age exercise". But the experianced eye can see many, many similarities in strikes, joint locks and takedowns between Tai Chi, Aikido and the hard style arts as well. The difference is, the internal styles do not go head-to-head, power against power. They yield, find an opening, then come in to take the opponent out.
We are currently training in the Yang-style San-Shou two person 88 movement form. This is a complex form that many students never see, yet learn. In it, there are forearm smashes (much like Aikido's irimi-nage), pressure-point strikes and takedowns.
The difference with the Aikido methods is they generally use more spiral movement, while Tai Chi tends to be a little more centerline oriented like Wing Chun.
And speaking of Wing Chun, the sticky-hands and slap-sparring drills along with joint-lock flow drills from Small-Circle-Jujitsu fit right in with Tai Chi push hands.
The video of Martello, above, is a perfect example of how all these arts have a common ancestry. More on this later...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Down For The Count

Ok,ok, another one I couldn't resist... Can everyone say "I Pity da Foo!"
Isn't Tyson the all-time favorite "I cudda been a contender" palooka?
Wait 'till he figures out how many sixty-year-old cake-faced fat Mammas he will have to put up with in his new "oldest profession".
Seriously, wouldn't any ex-fighter with an ounce of self respect do somthing to redeem his sordid past? How about setting up a world-class boxing school and bringing in some skilled coaches-- maybe for poor kids ? But no, Mikey will head into retirement nibbling on old lady's ears.

Mike Tyson To Be A Prostitute
Former boxing champion Mike Tyson is to become a male escort after agreeing to work at legendary Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss' new legalized brothel for women. Fleiss bought 60 acres of land in Nevada, and his work is scheduled to begin on Heidi's Stud Farm.
She has high hopes for Tyson, once heavyweight champion of the world - despite the fact he is a convicted rapist.
She says, "I told him, 'You're going to be my big stallion.' It's every man's fear that their girlfriend will go for Mike Tyson."
Tyson, 40, adds, "I don't care what any man says, it's every man's dream to please every woman - and get paid for it."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Martial artist or Martial Mugger?

There is a raging debate in martial arts blogs as to the usefulness of traditional pattern-based martial arts, those that have been handed down and refined for hundreds of years, and those of the modern so called "reality-based" fight game.
The biggest proponents of the "reality based" systems are (1) the "close quarter combat" (CQC) trainers, which is based on the World War Two Fairbain-type hand-to-hand combat. This system is effective and simple, employing lots of low kicks, elbows and knees and knives. Rock 'em sock 'em trench fighting stuff.
The second group is the Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) and the "Mixed Martial Arts" (MMA) fighters.
While BJJ relies on groundfighting and submission holds, most people would never want to get caught rolling on an unfriendly bar floor in a guard position with knives and boots in their back. Mixed martial arts fighters, however, are equaly capeable at stand-up striking as they are with grappling and mat work. MMA fighters are powerful, the sport is very popular, but most fights end in a submission on the mat. Also, the fact that it is sport oriented with safety rules points out that certain techniques cannot be used.
So what of the old traditional pattern-based martial arts? Where, with all the heat they've been catching from the "reality-based" trainers do the traditional arts belong in our lives today?
The first obvious answer, of course is that MMA fighting is a young person's game. As fighters age, their bodies simply cannot take the abuse.
But there is another often overlooked benefit of those forms and patterns of traditional arts:
Almost everyone has heard the old saying "Martial arts is 30% physical and 70% mental". Well, MMA stands those percentages on it's head. While it takes strategy and heart to defeat an opponent, it is strength and physical skill that makes the superior fighter.
Now consider the fact that traditional martial arts, especially internal styles such as Tai Chi, Bagua and Aikido have experts that reach their peak in their fifties and sixties. This is long after most hard style fighters have retired to the sidelines.
Consider the nature of the yielding, introspective approach used by those internal arts, and their repetition of patterns that mimic the natural world. Herein lies the gift of the traditional arts, stressing a type of growth and expression lacking in other fight sports.
Below is a passage from "The Aquarian Conspiracy", by Marilyn Ferguson:
"Inward attention, in other words, generates a larger (energy) fluctuation in the brain. In altered states of consciousness, fluctions may reach a critical level, large enough to provoke a shift into a higher level of organization.
But larger fluctuations of energy (in the brain) cannot be contained in the old structure. They set off ripples throughout the system, creating sudden new connections".
Ferguson goes on to say that this occurs through meditation, hypnosis and guided imagery. This is precisely what the masters, sages and shamen of old have passed down to us, and modern science is now proving that introspective imagery literally makes the brain grow and evolve!
So where do we find some middle ground between the punishing training and pugilism of the boxer and MMA fighter, and the introspective patterning of the traditional arts?
I believe this to be a good argument for the idea that hard-style arts make a good foundation for young, developing fighters. They have the stamina and desire, and benifit from that training. With time, anyone who has been in the martial arts for half-a-lifetime will soften their approach, spare their body the punishment and seek a more introspective approach. By this time, they will have learned to flip that mental switch and turn on the predator, the wolf, the gladiator when needed.
If a person is on the correct path, they will continue to improve their martial skill, but in a way that maintains their health and continues to give them a new outlook on life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Welcome To The Rat's Nest

Welcome to the opening salvo of Dojo Rat.
Those who have spent years of punishing (and rewarding) training know who the dojo rats are.
A dojo rat did not simply take a Karate class for P.E. one semester at college, or attend a self-defense course so they could walk from the office cubicle to the minivan on a dark night.
Dojo Rats have bled and caused others to bleed while training. They have happily scubbed mats, repaired shreaded training gear and damaged body parts. They've shown up to train when they felt like crap, and always felt better later. In other words, dojo rats have put their time into a persuit that only a small percentage of people ever achieve: the rat has become a trained martial artist.
In the case of this rat, it's been (with the exception of a few breaks) twenty-seven years of training, but more on that in further posts.
The picture at the head of the Blog is that of the legendary (in his own mind, perhaps) Count Dante. All right, I couldn't resist inserting it. I'm of the generation where Dante, who billed himself as "The world's most dangerous man" was selling Karate manuals out of the back of comic books in the 1960's. It was in this era of emerging Karate gangsters (as in Dante's pictured rat pack), the tv series "Kung Fu", and the breakthrough movie "Billy Jack" that the junior Rat grew up. Dante's picture and biography:( epitomize the classic "Karate Kitsch" of an era where the martial arts were becoming popularized in America. Unfortunately, Dante appears not to have lived up to a motto of the same era; "To live outside the law, one must be honest". If you read the bio, maybe you will agree.
As a dojo rat, one must also shoulder a sense of martial responsibility. It's a common code of chivalry that is found in the warrior class of all nations and people throughout history. As a rat skirts the system, he/she must remain responsible to friend, family, employer, dojo and self.
In this blog, Dojo Rat hopes to explore not only aspects of training and combat skills, but how we are affected by current events and the way we live... Welcome to Dojo Rat, and feel free to contribute!