Friday, December 29, 2006

Of Dante And Dojo Rats

The Dojo Rat Blog had a reader request from "d", that I thought was worth sharing:

D said...
My comment is on your "Pack of Dojo Rats" picture on the top left of your blog. Do you realize who that picture is of and the background? If you do, are you claiming a connection (guessing your age I think you are a bit too young to have been involved)? If not, I suggest you should take it down or give proper recognition out of respect.

December 27, 2006 9:34:00 AM PST

Here's my response. Buried in my very first post on this site is my view about what a Dojo Rat is, and my reason for using the picture of John Keehan (Count Dante) in the "Flagship" position on my blog. I won't re-hash that post in it's entirety, but here's the gist; everyone knows someone they have trained with, or have at times themselves, been a "Dojo Rat". The Dojo Rat is always at the Dojo, or travels to several Dojos. He or she has worked through pain, caused pain to others, and mended broken equipment and body parts. They go to the Dojo even when they feel crappy, and always feel better later. But what seperates Dojo Rats from common atheletes is a sort-of "Contemporary Bushido" not found in todays sandlot or professional sports. There is responsability to Dojo, family, friend and employer. There is an effort to believe and seek the right path, something not found in professional sports today.
The photo of John Keehan, later known as Count Dante, represents to me the classic Karate-kitsch of an era when the martial arts were just evolving in the United States. Dante's ads, which I read in the comic books of my youth, predated the more popular media shows such as "Kung Fu", and "The Green Hornet". They reeked of danger and mystique and magick. They inspired a generation of kids to investigate this thing called martial arts, with it's promise of self confidence and fearlessness.
As I dug into Dante's history I found this excellent article by Dan Kelly in "The Chicago Reader" titled "The Life And Death Of The Most Deadly Man Alive". It can be read at -- It profiles the rockous bare-knuckle 1960's Chicago "Dojo Wars", and is a great bio of Dante. In previous posts I have written about how rascism, subtle or overt, affected the development and sharing of the arts. Asian masters were reluctant to teach whites, whites were unlikely to teach blacks, etc.
In this area, Dante was colorblind, and this may be one of his best contributions to the era. His Dojo included anyone he saw fit to teach and train with.
Film maker Floyd Webb is putting together a movie documentry on the life of Dante. His website can be found at --
Webb has compiled an enormous amount of information on Dante, inspired by his own youth experiances in Chicago, and actually met Dante at a tournament one time. Webb eludes to some more covert sides of Dante; his connection with the Chicago mob, and possibly the Castro's in Cuba and U.S. Intelligence agencies.
Dante is reported to have died from a bleeding ulcer, at a young age. But Webb suggests that he has been unable to obtain police information such as mug shots and medical information. This is the M.O. for someone that has gone into a witness protection program, or is being protected by authorities. Or maybe just more fodder for legends and conspiracies.
Please Check out Floyd Webbs blog, and the article by Dan Kelly, they are both fascinating.
So, returning to the above request by "d", I hope this all makes more sense.
-- And If that "d" stands for "Dante", well....

Monday, December 25, 2006

Backyard Kenpo

Here is a video clip of two guys scaring the crap out of their neighbors in back of an apartment complex.
Seriously, it's a great example of Kenpo and the natural way of moving around a body with striking techniques. This backyard clip is actually far better than some of the old Ed Parker clips I tried to find. The background info says the guy who does the attacking is actually a jujitsu champion, the other guy is a very skilled Kenpo man.
Kenpo is often denigrated by traditional arts as a "slap art", perhaps for reasons you may see in this clip. However, these so called "minor strikes" add up to one hell of a whirlwind that is very hard to overcome. It's easy to see the Chinese influence in the way the guy flows.
There are a few issues I see; a little too much turning to the side or back (I now prefer a centerline concept); occasional crossing of the centerline with one's own arm (a no-no in wing chun); and a few crappy round kicks, but all in all this is a great little clip.
Most importantly, the moderate speed at which they are practicing is to be noted. This is the speed where you can really develop skill-- don't go to fast.
This is a nine minute clip, and the best segment is the very last...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ed Parker and American Kenpo

I've been wanting to do a piece on the legendary Ed Parker, and how he transformed Karate to a much higher, more efficiant level. Much of his old film footage isn't clear enough for this format, but the sample above is a gem.
Many martial arts were funneled through Hawaii, where asian masters were more accepting about training non-asian students. Kenpo Karate is perhaps the best example of how the reality of streetfighting transformed traditional and static Karate to a flowing blur of striking techniques.
When Japanese and Chinese immigrants moved to Hawaii, they brought with them their traditional martial arts. While these fighting systems worked fine within certain cultural boundries, they were no match for the robust native Hawaiians, who could take the punishment and dish it right back out. A revision of techniques developed under pioneers such as James Mitose, Adrain Emperado and others. The hybrid art became leaner, meaner and known as Kempo (with an "m").
Ed Parker was a product of this new fighting system, went on to make further refinements and used a very scientific approach. Parker moved to the mainland and ended up in California, changing the spelling to "Kenpo" to seperate his art from the original Chinese-Hawaiian. He is remembered for sponsering huge tournaments back in the bare-knuckle 1960's era, and revolutionizing Karate as self-defense.
Parkers' approach was to link striking techniques together in a way traditional karate had not recognized. Much more of the flow of Chinese arts is used. Parker introduced concepts such as tracking up the opponents arm, from hand to shoulder as a "highway" to the target, the head. More of the techniques were set up by touch, or feel rather than by visual ques. He also emphisized check-blocks, minor strikes to vital targets and extreme over-kill after the opponent is disabled.
When I moved from Tae Kwon Do to a Hawaiian Kenpo style I quickly recognized the utility of eye gouges and bouncing a guys head on the floor like a basketball. This stuff wasn't found in TKD.
Much of the old footage is pretty rough, but I'll review what's available and try to post some more examples of Ed Parker at work.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tai Chi Application: "Fan Through Back"

Here is an application of Tai Chi Yang-style "Fan Through Back". When you become familiar with the form you can pull various techniques out of it and combine them in different ways. Here is an example of how many Tai Chi Chuan techniques are similar to Aikido and other arts.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Stairway To Heaven

Websters New Collegiate Dictionary: Heaven, 1: The expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome...
On my 14th birthday I climbed Mount St. Helens for the first time, before it blew. I climbed it again on another route, as well as Mt. Thielson, the Middle and South Sister and Mt. Hood. By the time I got to Hood, I was well prepared. I had almost drowned in the Boy Scouts and nearly fell into a crevasse on South Sister. I was seventeen years old, skipped school and my afternoon job to climb Hood with two friends.
One friend was so inexperianced, we had to lace up his crampons (mountaineering spikes) for him. We made it to the top and peered over the north side.
Let me tell you, of all the other mountains, Hood has a bad-ass drop-off on the north. I carefully backed away from the edge after looking over. Most people climb the south side. In fact, it is often refered to as the most climbed mountain in the world, next to Mt. Fuji in Japan, which has a train going to the top.
It was the on the north face that three climbers went missing this week. One body has been recovered, and the search continues for the other two who may still be alive.
I've been on the top of mountains, and seen earth-bound views most people have never seen. Likewise, I've seen "The expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome". Future generations may never experiance the same things.
For these reasons, I feel for both the lost climbers and their families. These guys are experts. They have climbed in Alaska, South America and here on the west coast. They were well prepared with supplies, and the two remaining climbers may yet be found.
There are two points I would like to make about this search; the first is, I have worked in the deep woods to the point of exaustion. I know how it feels, it took me a quart of beer, two spoon-fulls of honey and an elk steak too pull out of it.
Second is: When these events occur, there is often an outcry about regulation of climbers and compensation for rescues.
I say to hell with that. We will never keep people off the mountains, and as far as rescues, that is what our National Guard is for. Many of the rescue people are voluntary climbers, who are well trained and are self-funded.
I would rather have the National Guard working floods, forest fires and mountain rescues than protecting Halliburton oil projects in Iraq.
I can imagine looking down that steep north face again, and I would not want to be there now. It's a daring and tough climb this time of the year. These men knew what they were up against, let's hope we get the other guys back safe...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tai Chi Chuan: Grand Ultimate Fist

Michael Gilman demonstrates application of "Parting Wild Horses Mane"

Many people have seen or experianced the meditative and health aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. For years now, it has been recomended as a low-impact exercise that can improve balence in seniors, lower blood pressure and provide a sense of well-being and stress relief.
In reality, Tai Chi Chuan ("Grand Ultimate Fist") is anything but low impact. From it's roots in Shaolin Kung Fu and Taoist philosophy, Tai Chi has evolved into what may be the perfect martial art.
At it's deepest levels, Tai Chi practice allows the individual to experiment with the movement of energy, both within ones body and between people. Known as an "Internal" martial art, Tai Chi relies on developing extreme sensitivity to the positioning and movement of an attacker, in part due to the constant contact with the opponent. In fact, it is fascinating to see the similarities between Tai Chi and Aikido techniques, something which we will explore in great detail later. If anything, the variety of techniques in Tai Chi are far more devestating and brutal. They not only include some of the sweeps, joint-locks and throws of Aikido, but many striking techniques not found in Aikido. Both arts share an innate sense of blending with an opponents motion, neutralizing the attack and taking the opponent out.
Through the Cultural Revolution in China and the introduction of Tai Chi to the West, modern Tai Chi practice often overlooks the practical application and devestating fighting techniques of Tai Chi Chuan. We at Shima Dojo are very fortunate to have one of the best Tai Chi instructors in the country, Michael Gilman, living nearby in Port Townsend, Washington. Gilman is an internationally recognized push-hands champion, and always stresses the practical application of Tai Chi. His training has greatly improved our understanding of Tai Chi as a martial art, and as a result all of our previous martial arts techniques are now viewed in a new light. In future posts and video uploads we will demonstrate some Tai Chi Chuan applications and explore it's common roots with other martial arts.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Basic Joint-Lock Flow Drill

Here is an example of a basic lock-flow drill. The idea, as you learn the drill is to keep nearly constant pressure on each lock until the next one is applied.
Another interesting thing is the person being locked has very little leverage to hit back.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Basic Hitting Drill

Ok, I think I finally figured out how to post our videos.
This is a VERY basic drill that combines a parry-type blocking technique, with constant movement. This is an example of what I refer to as a "Live" drill.
Sure, it is not a formula for perfect self-defense, but it wakes up your hands, gets reaction time down and has lots of movement.
In the video, I hit to the attackers chest. We like this because you can have medium contact without injuring your training partner. In reality, I would press hard and advance with the hitting and continue with other techniques. In this case, we wanted to demonstrate a fun and safe drill for others to practice.
Once you get the pattern down, keep it live and active, and feel free to alter it and experiment. the important thing, I believe, is to keep it moving in a constant flow. Have fun, More advanced stuff to follow...

Friday, December 1, 2006

How "Small-Circle Jujitsu" Changed Everything

Jujitsu Master Leon Jay (left) The Dojo Rat "Away Team" (center) and Dojo owner Stan Miller (right), At a Seminar in Portland

There are two schools of modern Jujitsu: Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ), which rose to cult status ten years ago, and there is "Small-Circle Jujitsu" (SCJJ). Of course, this is just my interpetation, but here goes: BJJ is great on a one-to-one fight when you have plenty of time and you're not going to get run over in a parking lot or have someone stick a knife in your back while you are rolling on the ground.
Jujitsu has evolved from a Samurai kill-or-be-killed art to a sport, the same sad legacy of modern Tae Kwon Do. After World War Two, G.I.'s and Marines were returning from service with a new and devestating combat art (jujitsu) which was generally practiced as modern Judo. The art has always employed throwing and locking techniques, although at a somewhat less sophisticated level than Aiki-jitsu and Aikido. Brazil, which had it's own "Wild West" culture, had a lot of Japanese immigrants, and "Vale Tudo" (anything goes) emerged as Brazilian challenge fights. The peak culminated with Mixed-Martial Arts, and most matches are won in submissions on the ground, crappy for streetfighting.
Ah!, you say, so tell us somthing new...
Enter Wally Jay, a tall Chinese-Hawaiian with powerful Judo skills. Wally Jay is responsible for refining jujitsu techniques to the most sophisticated level I have seen, and they have since found their way into every joint-locking system around. Wally Jay's jujitsu, and that of his son Leon, Ed Melaugh, Ron Ogi and others is not a roll-on-the-ground and choke art, it is STAND-UP FIGHTING. Through his innovation of the "small-circle technique", which rotates locks on the shortest possible axis, and other methods such as "thumb-wrist entry", Wally Jay created a stand-up jujitsu that allowed for repeated joint-locking flows, strikes, sweeps and throws.
The Jays are absolute masters at fingerlocking, and lead huge Black Belts around in complete agony. Moreover, they have developed methods for snatching fingers, wrists and neck chokes that most systems had never used.
The next level of development came when the Jay's began working with George Dillman of Ryukyu Kenpo, known for it's pressure-point knockouts. The two systems meshed prefectly, with the motto "Lock to strike, strike to lock" emerging. Further enhancement arrived with Ron Ogi. Ogi is the inheritor of James DeMile's system, DeMile being Bruce Lee's top student. Ogi, and subsequently Ed Melaugh added DeMile's Wing Chun striking and a modern hybrid art was born. Professor Remy Presas of Fillipino stickfighting fame influenced the system by adding flow drills, which allow the practitioner to move smoothly from lock-to-lock-to-strike-to-lock, etc. You have to see it to believe it. Jujitsu locking and takedowns, Ryukyu Kenpo pressure-point striking, Wing Chun centerline concepts, and Fillipino-based flow drills to practice safely. It's one hell of a hybrid system.
Up here at the Rat's nest, Shima Dojo, this is what we practice on the "hard arts" side. Myself and a couple of the other guys are also heavy into Tai Chi. That may not seem compatable, but it is. The Tai Chi smoothes everything out and helps keep it one continous flow. As I said in a previous post, I'm working on uploading some video of our flow drills, hopefully soon.