Saturday, March 31, 2007

More On Aikido And Chinese Internal Arts

Mike Martello On Throwing And Locking

Mike sent me this video yesterday and I thought it was a very good representation of the similarities between Chinese Internal Arts and Aikido.
As discussed in the previous post (Is Aikido Of Chinese Origin?), Master Ueshiba traveled to China in 1936 and was impressed with the Chinese martial arts he saw. As quoted, Ueshiba could "see something once and observe exactly what they were doing".
Now, my point is not so much that Ueshiba borrowed spiraling and circular techniques from Chinese arts (which is generally believed), but Aikido is clearly different from the harsh and more liner Daitoryu Jujutsu. Additionally, Ueshiba was a spiritualist and follower of the Shinto Omoto Kyo ("Great Origin") cult, and certainly was familiar with Taoist teachings. It is of course the Taoist arts that replicate nature in the grand circular and spiraling movements.
Rather than split hairs on lineage and heritage, perhaps it is more important to accept paralell development and simply note the similarities and differences in the Japanese/Chinese arts. For instance, both Daitoryu and Aikido are based on the art of the sword. Many of the thrusts with the empty hand are not simply thrusts, they are "cuts". Footwork was also based on the art of the sword--but Ueshiba greatly expanded on it after his trips to China. Also, in Daitoryu and Aikido, the grappling aspect is the body of the art.
By comparison, Chinese arts replicate nature (wave hands like clouds, old man carries fish on back, etc.) rather than techniques based on sword work. Also, the grappling of Chin-na is a seperate study in Chinese arts, not the body of the art itself. The sub-categories in Chinese arts are; striking with the hands, kicking with the feet, wrestling and chin na (siezing or capturing a limb). Chin na is further broken down into: dividing the muscle/tendon, misplacing the bone, sealing the breath (cutting off air), Dim Mak (pressing or blocking a vein, artery), and Dian Xue (cavity press, or pressing a chi meridian channel.
In this respect, modern Aikido is much more cautious about not crippling the opponent, as was due to Ueshiba's latent spirituality. Daitoryu and Chin na have no such issue with completely disabling an opponent-- ("twist the neck to kill a chicken", etc.)
But on to the video:
Here Mike Martello demonstrates techniques from the Chinese systems, and they are very, very close to Aikido techniques. The first throw is "Shio-nage", right out of Aikido. At 3:53 on the video clock Mike uses his first "San-kyo" control wristlock. At 5:13 Mike begins to loose his technique and transitions into "Kaiten Nage- or "rotary throw", by pushing the opponents head down and completing the throw. At 6:00 he uses an arm-bar throw that is not found in Aikido as far as I know. At 7:14 he begins transitions from "Nikkyo to Kote Gaeshi" wrist lock and throw. At 8:08, another Kaiten Nage- rotary throw. At 8:24 he begins some foot sweeps, which I don't believe is standard in Aikido. And finally, at 9:04 Mike sets up an arm trap which I only remember as the " #10 throw" from Aikido, and transitions back to "San-Kyo" for control.
I hope this attention to detail isn't boring people to death, but it is very exciting to me. When I first started studying Yang Tai Chi Chuan about eleven years ago, I had a lot of trouble seeing the practical application, even with my Karate background. Soon after, while studying Aikido with my instructor Chuck McCarty, I began seeing all those applications for the Yang form in our Aikido techniques.
I hope to post further thoughts on this angle of study in the future, and encourage people with similar intrests to feel free and submit their ideas...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is Aikido Of Chinese Origin?

There is an ongoing debate (What? debate in the Martial Arts community??) as to if Aikido Master Ueshiba was influenced by the circular Chinese arts such as Bagua or elements within the Tai Chi Chuan forms. They certainly share the spiraling and opening/closing, Yin/Yang feel of those arts. Furthermore, Chin-na joint locking may predate the Japanese systems. This is a small part of a very well researched article by Ellis Amdur at "Aikido Journal". The entire series of articles, some with lineage that is clearly over my head- ("Inside Aikido") can be found at
Amdur writes:
However, Ueshiba did observe Chinese martial arts. Takeda Hiroshi studied Ruyi Tongbei ch'uan from He Zhenfang in the 1920's and 1930's. Takeda published the first book on Tongbei ch'uan in 1936. Tongbei is a martial system that uses a very flexible upper body and whipping techniques with the arms, as if there is an axle from one shoulder to the other. Although I do not know if this is true in Takeda’s line, some Tongbei ch’uan traditions have staff and/or spear training with fajin practice as part of their system. According to the following website,


"Interestingly, although the content in certain portions of the book are very clear, other parts are very puzzling and strange. Many believe the reason is that Master He did not really want to teach Takeda, and so he diverted the teaching on purpose. There is speculation that this happened because of the political situation between China and Japan at that time." In any event, Takeda stated in an interview in a Japanese martial arts magazine in the late 1980’s, that his home became a center, not only for practitioners of Chinese martial arts, but also for visiting Japanese martial artists, and among them was Ueshiba Morihei, who visited him in 1936. According to Okumura Shigenobu, “Yes, he went to Peking too. He saw various Chinese martial arts. There are good martial arts in China. Ueshiba sensei was impressed by them.” Let me be very clear here. I am not saying that I believe that Ueshiba studied under Takeda Hiroshi - or anybody else in Beijing. But it is possible that, in his visit to Beijing, that he observed such training either by Takeda Hiroshi or by some of his other compadres, and saw something of value that he could "steal." Remember, Ueshiba was the man of whom Sugino Yoshio stated that he could observe something once and see exactly what they were doing. In sum, what I am saying here is that the type of force-building and expression that I am loosely referring to as “fajin,” may have been something that Ueshiba did observe in China and integrate in his own way into his art — either as something new or as a augmentation or variation to what he had already learned.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Dojo Rats At Shima Dojo

The Finest Bunch Of Kick-Your-Ass Misfits In The Farthest Northwestern Corner Of The Country--

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Is This Guy Just Nuts Or What?

The ever controversial "Ashida Kim"

Fellow Dojo Rats-- I write this at great risk from my remote undisclosed location; My dog is patrolling the surrounding woods, I have closed the curtains and gathered my finest Okinawan farming weapons close to me.
I reveal this information only because I have survived previous scrutiny by someone associated with Count Dante's "Black Dragon Fighting Society" for using Dante's picture at the top of the Dojo Rat blog (see "Of Dante and Dojo Rats", December 2006 archive), and feel the need to inform the general readership on this topic:
I may end up on Ashida Kim's "Shit list".
The guy demonstrating his superior technique over a #4 steel-jaw leghold trap is perported to be Ashida Kim, Ninja Master. Or Radford W. Davis. Or Chris Hunter.
Kim(Davis/Hunter)is author of at least fourteen books on the art of the Ninja, yet the lineage of his instructors remain unclear.
From a presumed Ninja Temple near his Lake Alfred Florida mailing address, he offers certification in various mail-order martial arts. Here is an example of his services that was posted on his website:

“Among our membership are experts not only in the Way of the Empty Hand, but also of such weapons as the Nunchaka, Sword, Staff, Shuriken, Sai, Jutte, Chain and Sickle, Archery, Halberd, Tonfa, Hanbo, Yawara, and Tanto. Contemporary members are also skilled in the use of firearms and pyrotechnics, and trained in the Art of Commando Warfare, Survival Skills and Anti-Terrorist Operations. Our fellowship exists as a confederation of independent agents for the purpose of preserving, practicing, studying, and teaching the Martial Arts. To qualify for membership, an applicant must present previous certification of rank in recognized fighting system. Or, test in person before a panel of qualified DOJO Instructors for graduation. In the 21st century we have included videotesting as an alternative method.”

As stated on his website, certification may include a "Dojo Brotherhood Badge" or "Komosu Dragon Patch", also available for $12.95 each.
In his well researched article on the "Bullshido" website,
Samuel Browning describes how a member of the Bullshido staff sent $55.00 and a cooked-up resume in below-black-belt credentials to Kim's organization for certification in Vale Tudo. Several weeks later he recieved his Black Belt cert, but there was one thing wrong-- Vale Tudo does not have a belt ranking system.
Phil Elmore at his excellent site "The Martialist" also recieved certification, and posted a review of Kims work (
As Phil beams:
"The back of my booklet, just before the Black Belt certificate, is a write-up that tells me simply reading the book will arm me with knowledge and power equivalent to a first degree black belt in any conceivable martial art. Thus it was with pride that I filled out my certificate with a black semi-permanent marker, framed it in a four-dollar plastic and cardboard frame, and mounted it on the wall of my cubicle with a thumbtack."
Kim's organization, which at times has used the Name "Black Dragon Fighting Society", appears to be at odds with the website of Master William V. Aguiar, who maintains the copyright on that name and was a contemporary of Count Dante, who is pictured at the masthead of the Dojo Rat blog. In fact, Kim seems to have ripped a page out of Dante's playbook for fame and fortune, by printing out pamphlets of fighting methods as described by Elmore above. Additionally, Kim-Davis-Hunter is on video demonstrating Dante's techniques, such as "Kata Dan-Te, Hands of death".
Now let me tell you something else. I have owned and used #4 steel-jawed leghold traps such as the one that is soundly defeated by Ashida Kim in the video above. I am the first to admit that I have avoided this technique with great caution.
I also am concerned about the potential repercussion of revealing Ninja trade secrets-- Again from Kim's website refering to his "Shit List":

“We have encountered not a few individuals who, by their bad behavior as well as shabby and rude treatment of others, warrant some attention. In the first book we did on Ninjitsu, we included a Mandamus, a warning, never to steal this knowledge, lest the thief incur the wrath of our astral spies and occult guards, which are everywhere. And how true that warning is. For you and I, my friends, are those spies and guards. And now is the time to deliver our wrath. Therefore, posted on this site, shall be the names of those who have offended our most noble Brotherhood and the reasons for their dishonor, and the action we shall ask you to take against them, so that all will know how they have earned this disfavor and the justification of the penalty they have incurred.”

So my friends, I can say nothing further on this subject. I have to go check my trip-wires and pit-traps before nightfall sets in.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

REPOST: Joint Lock Flow Drill

A little light net traffic, so time for a repost of a great joint lock flow drill we did that some of you might have missed.
It's pretty damned hard to get locks on people who are combative, and once you get one you constantly have to adjust to maintain control. So, aside from the obvious satisfaction of having me get thrashed from one lock to another, my training partner is learning to remain in a stable fighting position and adapt to my movement with a different lock.
Now, the point is that the fighting method is not to attempt to use a series of locks to defeat an opponent, but rather if you get a lock on and something starts to go wrong you have other options. There are about ten of these patterns we have worked on, and they are challenging and lots of fun. The idea is to keep the pressure on the original lock during transition and only release it when the next lock is in place. If there is a gap, your opponent will feel it and slip out.
Do NOT use snapping pressure or your training partner will get injured. Slow, consistant pressure will insure that both partners will learn from the drill and continue on.
The Ryukyu Kenpo guys have a saying: "Lock to strike, strike to lock". Joint locking in a defense situation is always risky, and should only be used to spare an attacker (or drunk friend) from an otherwise severe beating.
Our Dojo has had some camera problems, but now with the longer days and more light we may be able to put together some more video of stuff we've been doing

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Internal Arts as Fighting Arts

Mike Martello demonstrates fighting techniques of the internal arts

There has been a constant debate on forums, in Dojo's and probably in the street about combat effectiveness of the Internal Martial Arts (IMA).
This arises not just from proponents of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), but also old-school WW-2 trench combat systems such as Fairbain/Applegate smash-bash-bayonet ideology. Such schools scoff at systems such as Tai Chi and Aikido. Most have never seen more complex systems like Bagua. A part of this dilema can be attributed to the instructors of those arts and what they chose to present to the public.
When Tai Chi first came to the United States in the 1950's it had already been watered down somewhat. The Communist revolution in China had taken the lives of many masters and others fled to Taiwan and elswhere. Many of the martial schools went underground or were supressed, and there is no doubt that much knowledge was lost.
What remained was the beautiful slow-moving form that is recognized for it's health and meditation benefits. This dovetailed perfectly with a generation of youth experimenting with drugs, alternative healing and deep meditation and Tai Chi became a symbol of the "new age movement".
In a similar way, Master Uyeshiba altered Daito-ryu Aiki Jujitsu by turning it into Aikido, an art of "Do" (Tao) or spiritual way, Tai Chi Chuan had dropped it's "Chuan" or 'fist".
Well, things have come full circle and combat effectiveness is returning to the Internal Martial Arts. I believe some of this can be attributed to cross-training, but the fact is that internal arts such as Tai Chi Chuan were created to defeat hard external linear arts with "soft" blending circular techniques. None the less, the forms seen in Tai Chi, at least the Yang style that I practice clearly show lineage to Shaolin-type arts, therefore they share and may excell in combat effectiveness.
Probably no one has done more to promote the fighting aspects of Tai Chi Chuan than Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming. Yang is a prolific writer and I highly reccomend anyone interested in Tai Chi and Bagua as martial arts to please look at his books on Amazon or elsewhere.
My second point is that many people who practice Tai Chi never strive to learn more than the form, and maybe a little Chi Kung health practice. I know Tai Chi people that have been doing the forms for over ten years yet can't demonstrate push hands, let alone San-shou or Chin-na joint locking. I put the blame for Tai Chi's degraded martial status squarely at their feet. How can they say they really know their art? How can they be complete with only Yin and no Yang? Shame on them for not persuing to further their education and better themselves and the art they represent.
And my last point is that a combat art is also incomplete without a healing aspect. A warrior must be able to still his mind and relax the body. This is why the internal arts will prove to be superior in the long run.
In his book "The Power of The Internal Martial Arts", B.K. Frantzis describes how all the top Karate Black Belts in Tokyo, 5th Dan and above were going to train with the Tai Chi instructor. They had reached their apex in the external arts and were seeking a further path.
Please enjoy this really wonderful demonstration of push hands and fighting techniques by a truly talented Internal Martial Artist, Mike Martello.

Friday, March 16, 2007

REPOST: The Long And Short Of Tae Kwon Do

This is a repost of a previous article, in response to the letter by "Little Cricket" in the "Short Legs Kick Ass" article I posted below:

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 practicly 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-existant, and head-hunting became the rule.
Tae Kwon Do has always emphisised kicking techniques, but after the Olympics, TKD fighters had stopped using their hands altogether. While the flash kicking is way fun, and exellent 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.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Short Legs Kick Ass

Short Legs Made Human Predecessors Better Fighters

By Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 12 March 2007
11:01 am ET

Our ape-like predecessors kept their stout figures for 2 million years because having short legs ironically gave them the upper-hand in male-male combat for access to mates, finds a new study.

Living from 4 million to 2 million years ago, early hominins in the genus Australopithecus are considered immediate predecessors of the human genus Homo, and had heights of around 3 feet 9 inches for females and 4 feet 6 inches for males.

Until now, the squat physiques of Australopiths and other human predecessors were considered an adaptation for climbing in tree canopies. Like surfing or any other sport that requires balance, having a lower center of mass boosts stability and, in turn, success at the activity.

“The old argument was that [apes] retained short legs to help them climb trees that still were an important part of their habitat,” said the study author David Carrier, a biologist at the University of Utah. “My argument is that they retained short legs because short legs helped them fight.”
(Edit.)-- More at:

UPDATE (edit)- Here is a comment I was fishing for, from Cricket:
Little Cricket said...
Hi Dojo Rat,

You have a very informative weblog (I don't mean just this article).

However, (being short legged), I don't agree with the title Short Legs 'Kick' Ass. I learn taekwondo, and countless times have been trounced during sparring because long-legged people swipe kicks easily at my head, while I have to make do with kicks aimed directly at the torso and rarely the head. :)

Little Cricket

--(Dojo Rat);
Little Cricket:
I experianced the same problems in Tae Kwon Do. I moved on to other martial arts after I achieved my 2nd Dan Black Belt in TKD.
TKD sparring, especially Olympic-style rules require fighting from a certain range- that which allows kicking to the head. This is clearly long-range fighting and you have to be an extremely good kicker to fight effectively from that range. No real fight can be conducted like that. Furthermore, TKD guys can't handle people grabbing their kicking legs or punching them in the face. The Art is great for sports combat but basicly sucks for serious fighting. Once you learn to move inside their kicking range and jam them up they have lost their edge.
If I can, I will try to repost my article on my TKd experiance-- Dojo Rat

Friday, March 9, 2007

Combat Push Hands

People who have seen or practiced Tai Chi push hands know it to be a sensitivity drill first, and through that sensitivity advantage is gained and you realize combat effectiveness over your opponent. We are told to "invest in loss", or yeild completely to the opponent's power and turn it back at them. Many of the push hands drills are complex hand changes, subtle give and take and framed by rules that keep the drill within practical limitations.
That's why it's exciting to come across a video that shows the combat effectiveness of high-level push hands.
As you watch this, you may wonder "What makes this different than Judo or wrestling?"
In my opinion, here are some differences: In Judo, both players are locked in a clinch until the players go to the mat. Judo relies on grasping the Gi, or uniform. These guys engage, seperate and re-engage using different strategy. In this way it resembles the start of a MMA fight.
In his book "Tai Chi Chuan Martial Applications", Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming describes how every movement in the Tai Chi form has (at least) three types of application. They include Shuai Jiao; Downing the opponent (Chinese wrestling), Chin Na (joint locking by "misplacing the bones" and "dividing the muscle") and finally Dian Xue (cavity or vital point strike - Dim Mak)
Since vital point striking includes cutting off blood flow and damaging internal organs, and some Chin Na tears muscle and "misplaces the bone", the only part that can be safely used in competition is "Downing the opponent". I'm not kidding, this stuff goes further than a MMA arm bar.
At any time in the competition, you see the player has the option to kick, strike or lock -- the "window" is open. The action is restricted to wrestling, however.
There has been a lot of speculation about why Chinese arts resist matwork. My feeling is that on the battlefield, if you could down the opponent you could finish him off with a weapon and move on to the next fighter. I read somewhere recently that instead of intentionally taking the fight to a submission on the ground, one should practice getting back to your feet quickly. That's starting to make a lot more sense.
This guy in the video is an excellent fighter, and uses a variety of techniques.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Bagua "Needles" Form

The BlackTaoist crew and Brothers of Wudang provide us with a nice Bagua weapons form. Malcom appears to be using two long shanks, or "Needles".
When Bagua Kung Fu rose to prominence around 1900, it was highly regarded as an art used by bodyguards for the elite.
Note how the coiling and turning movements with a knife in each hand would be very effective against multiple attackers.
All in all, a nicely done form!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Bareknuckle Boxing

Yes, once again the rat has surfed the fetid, brackish waters of the internet and emerged with the reek of a video that just won't wash off.
There has been quite a re-emergence of "Bareknuckle boxing", something that was quite popular in the 1800's until boxing became regulated with rules and gloves years later.
I believe much of this is due to video, and the fame of a guy named "Kimbo Slice". If you haven't heard of Kimbo, just look him up on YouTube or Google. Out of prison and unemployed, Kimbo began fighting anyone, anywhere for big cash. He has an impressive string of knockouts, some leaving permanent damage. I have only seen him get really beat bad once, by a big Boston-Irish cop named Sean Gannon. Gannon was demoted in his police job after details of the fight emerged.
The result has been this wave of bareknuckle boxing and subsequent videos.
One reason I posted this is that most martial artists have never really had a fight. I found myself in fights about four times a year through school and up 'til my early twenties, often in groups or in the defense of others. Then something interesting began to happen. The more I trained in Karate, the less I had fights on the street. I'm sure most people who practice combat sports would agree with this.
Now days, we still put the gloves on and go at it, but we realize our older bodies have limitations and heck, we gotta get up and go to work the next day.
This video (which is not Kimbo) is instructive because this is how a street brawler moves and attacks. The rules appear to be minimal, but if they are allowing kicks and knees, I don't see why they aren't used more effectively. Knee strikes to the thighs (in the clinch) and low kicks (to the shins and knees) would have brought this fight to a quicker end. In this case, endurance won out, but this was a terribly long fight.
It's useful to wargame this stuff and observe and develop strategy to defeat one of these fighters, let alone two or more on a dark night. Then, see how your strategy works as your friends pound on you at the Dojo.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

New Links

Time to cover a few new links I really enjoy. Direct links are at right of Blog.

Formosa Neijia is a blog by a guy that moved to Taiwan in 2000 to deeply explore the Chinese martial arts. It's a great site with a true feel for the current state of the arts in a place where there are probably more old masters alive than anywhere else in the world.
Cloud Hands is a site by Mike Garofalo, who includes Yoga and Gardening as well as a tremendous amount of archived research and links. Really a fun read, and I have followed many of his links to other great websites.
And Martial Views is another well produced website by John Vesia of Long Island, New York. His primary style is Isshinryu Karate, but his writing and knowledge base cover a wide variety of arts and related issues.
-- Lastly, if you haven't read the blog "Searching For Count Dante", please check it out. Floyd Webb is producing and filming a movie documentary about the life and times of the legendary "Count Dante". You absolutely can't believe all the old masters and gangsters that pop up in his Blog as he puts together interviews for the film. The man is on a true artistic and historical quest, and I love his work.
Please go to the links at the right of the blog and make a few visits!