Monday, August 31, 2009

Scenes From The Wudang Saber Seminar

Well, we just returned from a three-day intensive seminar on the Wudang Saber with our instructor Michael Gilman, and my head is spinning.
This form was passed down from Master Wang Bao Ren. Michael met Master Wang through mutual friends at a Tai Chi Chuan club at the Boeing Aircraft Company. Wang traveled regularly from China to Seattle to teach, and that is where the form was passed down.
This is the most beautiful yet complicated weapons form I have ever tried to learn. While Japanese sword tends to be very direct, the Wudang Saber uses intricate Bagua-type footwork, circle walking, wild slashing, hand strikes and kicks.

Unlike the harder style fighting systems of the Bhuddists of Shaolin, the Taoists of Wudang Mountain developed the Internal systems including Tai Chi Chuan and Bagua, and this Wudang Sabre form clearly reflects that lineage.
While the form is only classified as 40 movements, each movement consists of multiple complex techniques. Just take a look at some of the names of these movements:
- "Stepping into the gate with an indomitable spirit"
- "The hidden dragon turns the waves inside out"
- "Gallop through the mountain and split the wood column"
Thankfully, I was able to get a short video of Master Wang doing the form in China many years ago. My brain is wired for the written word. The first thing I did when I got home was to run the video, pause it and write notes on the movements in my own words. Not only is this a portable reference, it just allows the complicated information to be run through the brain in a different way.

Music Report
Port Townsend is a screamin' hot music town. We saw a great "Jug Band" up at our favorite Bar, "Sirens", which incidentally was built by a friend of mine. We started out with what may be the best Beer in the Pacific Northwest, Port Townsend IPA.
Our hotel rooms were about two blocks up from Sirens, over what used to be called "The Town Tavern" in the eighties, now I think it's the "Water Street Ale House" or something. There, we saw another band, this one a very hard-driving contemporary rock trio. These kids were fantastic, transitioning from fast hard-rock to ethereal vibes, great dance music. By that time we had moved on from the heavy IPA to Grapefruit and Vodka or $2.00 Oly and Pabst in a can.
Potential Hazards
Like all best laid plans, something is bound to go wrong.
Young Zackey Chan gave his hotel room key to another Dojo Rat who was sharing the room. Zac stayed up and shmoozed with the band as they closed the bar down. The rest of us had already crashed out.
Without his hotel key, Zac had to climb the fire escape until he found a door open on the third floor, but he made it in safely.
All-in-all, a very successful road trip for the Dojo Rats and a great opportunity to learn a powerful Saber form that is hundreds of years old. It really reminded me of how weapon training can make your empty-hand training even better, with the weapon being an extension of your body and your energy.
It's going to take some time and practice to get this form right, but once we got into it, it really grabs onto you!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On The Road Again!

Well, three of the Dojo Rats are going by pick-up truck and ferry boats (2 each way) to a three-day training session with our Tai Chi Chuan instructor Michael Gilman.
This time we will be learning a Wudang Sword form, it's fairly complex.
Expect a full report on sword forms, Port Townsend Beer, Music and Hippie Chicks sometime around Monday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Military Use Of Pressure-Point Techniques

I'm not going to try to make a moral judgement case out of this, I think most of us agree various forms of "torture" are abhorrent.
Everyone is aware that "Waterboarding" and other forms of "enhanced interrogation" have been used in the Iraq and Afghan wars. But seldom mentioned are the use of pressure-points to control detainees. Two cases stand out:

"A CIA inspector general’s report written in 2004 was released in a less-redacted version Monday, revealing new details of the agency’s torture techniques applied to terror war prisoners.
Page 77 of the report discusses “unauthorized or undocumented techniques” used by CIA agents but not approved by the Bush administration’s Department of Justice. One such “improvised action” was a pressure point tactic: the compression of a detainee’s carotid artery by an agent with both hands around the prisoner’s neck.
Prolonged compression of the carotid artery is lethal, as it cuts off blood flow to the brain".

The above picture is the Stomach Meridian, with the white arrow pointing to st-9. From the discription of the incident, it sounds to me like the interrogator was pulsing the point off and on, causing repeated blackouts. This was not simply a guy choking his hand around the neck, it was clinical in application.
Most martial artists are aware of "The Blood Choke", commonly applied with a forearm barred across the side of the neck. St-9 can also be activated with a chop or finger-jab to the exact point, cutting off blood flow, causing the person to "pass out".
This is far more dangerous than it might sound, it could conceivably cause a stroke or death.

The other pressure-point story that stands out is the use of repeated knee-strikes to the outside of the thigh. This pressure-point is Gallbladder meridian-31.
Gb-31 is at the charley-horse point on the thigh, you can feel it on your own leg. I would rather take a full-on kick to the ribs than take a piercing knee-strike to this vulnerable point. Here's an example of the horrible way it was used:

Example 1.
"By Dec. 3, Habibullah's reputation for defiance seemed to make him an open target. One guard said he had given him five peroneal strikes for being "noncompliant and combative." Another gave him three or four more for being "combative and noncompliant." Some guards later asserted that he had been hurt trying to escape.
When Sergeant James Boland saw Habibullah on Dec. 3, the prisoner was in one of the isolation cells, tethered to the ceiling by two sets of handcuffs and a chain around his waist. His body was slumped forward, held up by the chains.
When Boland returned to the cell about 20 minutes later, he said, Habibullah was not moving and had no pulse.
Finally, the prisoner was unchained and laid out on the floor of his cell.
Habibullah died on Dec. 3. His autopsy showed bruises or scrapes on his chest, arms, head and neck. There were deep bruises on his calves, knees and thighs. His left calf had been marked by what appeared to have been the sole of a boot.
His death was attributed to a blood clot, probably caused by the severe injuries to his legs, which traveled to his heart and blocked the blood flow to his lungs.

Note: "Peroneal", Of, relating to, or located near the fibula.

Example 2.
"Dilawar was sent to Bagram and soon labeled "noncompliant." One of the guards, Specialist Corey Jones, said the prisoner spat in his face and started kicking him. Jones responded, he said, with a couple of knee strikes to the leg of the shackled man.
"He screamed out, 'Allah! Allah! Allah!' and my first reaction was that he was crying out to his god," Jones said to investigators. "Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny."
"It became a kind of running joke, and people kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out 'Allah,"' he said. "It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes."
By the time Dilawar was brought in for his final interrogation in the first hours of Dec. 10, he appeared exhausted and was babbling that his wife had died. He also told the interrogators that he had been beaten by the guards.
When Dilawar was unable to kneel, said the interpreter, Ali Baryalai, the interrogators pulled him to his feet and pushed him against the wall.
"It looked to me like Dilawar was trying to cooperate, but he couldn't physically perform the tasks," Baryalai said.
Soon afterward he was dead".

(D.R.) -For the record, Dilawar was a taxi driver, the subject of the movie "Taxi To The Dark Side". Here's what happened:

"In February, a U.S. military official disclosed that the Afghan guerrilla commander whose men had arrested Dilawar and his passengers had been detained. The commander was suspected of attacking Camp Salerno and then turning over innocent "suspects" to the Americans in a ploy to win their trust, the military official said.
The three passengers in Dilawar's taxi were sent home from Guantánamo in March 2004, 15 months after their capture, with letters saying they posed "no threat" to American forces".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lockerbie Bombing Update

For those who followed my previous post on the Lockerbie Pan-Am 103 bombing, there has been a shocking update.
Much as in the narrative I described, Lawyers and British authorities sympathetic to the accused bomber are prepared to name the actual bomber;
They claim he is a Syrian-American living in the U.S. who was working as an American Double Agent.

Read the story here

And this:
Diplomats pulled off plane due to U.S. knowledge of bomb, students took their place.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Uncle Dojo Rat

Well, I haven't been able to post since last Thursday because I've been playing "Uncle Dojo Rat".
That means, my brother's kids have been sparring with me, attacking me with my swords, and teaching me archery!
Yes, My eight-year-old nephew can certainly out-shoot me with bow and arrow. My brother gave me a traditional longbow, and we shot arrows and guns all weekend. I haven't used a bow and arrow since I was about twelve-years-old in the Boy Scouts. It's been a blast, and the longbow is a great basic learner bow for me.
More to follow, if other Dojo Rats out there are playing around with longbows, let me know!

--By the way, it's great to be able to play "The Bad Uncle"...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Lockerbie Bombing: What Really Happened

Today's news is overflowing with outrage due to the release of the Libyan agent that allegedly was responsible for the bombing of Pan-Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Interviews with family members still grieving for those who were killed are sincere and heartfelt.
But their anger towards Libya and British authorities are misplaced.
In 1994 I was writing for "The Portland Free Press", a small alternative newspaper Edited by researcher Ace Hayes. At the time, I was running a series on military C-130 aircraft destined for duty as Forest Service airtankers that were diverted to use by a group of shady CIA contractors. A source had described to me how money connected to the operation was being run through a bank called "Congress Financial", which was a CIA front company.
I recieved an unsolicited phone call from the secretary of a man named Dr. Richard Fuisz, and I returned the call. Fuisz confirmed the information about Congress Financial, and told me he had called to see if I would run a story about his knowledge of the sale of huge Terex trucks that had been converted to missile launchers and sold to Iraq shortly before the first Gulf War. He had personally toured the assembly plant in Motherwell, Scotland and officials described that it was a joint operation by the CIA and British Intelligence. Fuisz ran afoul of U.S. authorities when he tried to take the story to "60 Minutes". He had been hounded by private security firms, and had even had a personal meeting with President Bill Clinton to remedy the situation. His hope was to try to get the story in print, and I ran the article.
At the time, I realized that Dr. Fuisz was well-connected, but I had no idea that he was an agent for the CIA himself.
The Lockerbie Connection
At the same time Fuisz was feeding me information on the Terex Iraqi missile launchers, he was in contact with another Portland resident, Susan Lindauer. Lindauer was a press aide for then-Congressman (now Senator) Ron Wyden, and it's my guess that Lindauer may have given Fuisz my article referencing Congress Financial.
It was Lindauer's connection to Fuisz that got her in hot water when she was arrested for being an agent of the Iraqi government, which she denied. She had met with Iraqi diplomats before Bush invaded Iraq, but claimed it was on official bussiness. Lindauer was also the cousin of former White House Chief-of-Staff Andrew Card. A deposition by Lindauer described how she was working with Fuisz, and that Fuisz knew from his Intelligence work in the Middle East that the Lockerbie bombing was actually the work of Syrians. From "The Sunday Herald" of Scotland, May 28 2000:

"Congressional aide Lindauer, who was involved in early negotiations over the Lockerbie trial, claims Fuisz made "unequivocal statements to me that he has first-hand knowledge about the Lockerbie case". In her affidavit, she goes on: "Dr Fuisz has told me that he can identify who orchestrated and executed the bombing. Dr Fuisz has said that he can confirm absolutely that no Libyan national was involved in planning or executing the bombing of Pan Am 103, either in any technical or advisory capacity whatsoever."
Fuisz's statements to Lindauer support the claims of the two Libyan accused who are to incriminate a number of terrorist organizations, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which had strong links to Syria and Iran.
Lindauer said Fuisz told her he could provide information on Middle Eastern terrorists, and referred to Lockerbie as an "example of an unsolved bombing case that he said he has the immediate capability to resolve".
The Assassination of The Mckee Team
In a forgotten but incredibly revealing 1992 article, Time Magazine pieces together the story that contains clues to what actually happened.
Onboard the flight of Pan-Am 103 was an elite counter-terrorism team led by Major Charles Mckee. They were operating out of Germany and had been tasked to locating hostages in Lebanon. What they stumbled across was a parallel operation that was connected to none other than Col. Oliver North. North it appears, was in league with Syrian Drug runners (no suprise), presumably in an effort to secure information on the hostages also. North was allegedly allowing the Syrians to use a protected DEA drug pipeline run through the airlines in Europe. In the wreckage of the crash, investigators recovered Heroin and $500,000 in cash. The cash may have been in the hands of Mckee, to pay off informants. Mckee was upset and had contacted his superiors when he found the iceberg-tip of Norths operation, believing it may have compromised his own team. Mckee was on the verge of exposing the underbelly of North's shady dealings and the root of the entire Iran-Contra affair. According to the investigators hired by Pan-Am (Interfor, led by an ex-Mossad agent) the Mossad had warned of a possible airline bombing. The warning was ignored. The Mckee team, which was about to blow the whistle on the Iran-Contra scandal and North's complicity in drug running, was assassinated in the bombing.
Dr. Fuisz, who was placed under a gag-order never spoke to me after the Terex missile-launcher story. He places the blame on the Syrians, who got a pass if they would support Iraq War efforts. The blame shifted to Libya.
Susan Lindauer, the former Congressional Aide who was workling with Fuisz, was placed in a mental institution on a U.S. Military Base and force-fed medication to shut her up. She recently appeared on "The Thom Hartmann Radio Show", once again explaining her story.

And today we watch as the accused Libyan agent, dying of cancer, is released from prison for humanitarian reasons.

Read This 1992 Time Magazine Story, before it dissapears...

The Sunday Herald "CIA Witness Gagged by U.S. Government"

Lawyers for the accused bomber and British authorities are prepared to name the identity of the true bomber. They say he is an American/Syrian who was working as an American Double Agent.
Read the story here

And this:
Diplomats pulled off plane due to U.S. knowledge of bomb, students took their place.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don't Try This At Home, Kids!

We must never, never, never try to mix it up with somebody that can handle a blade like this.
Here our old pal Bobbe Edmonds demonstrates just how dangerous a knife is in the hands of an expert. I'm sure he'll wish I used a different video of his because he is trying techniques from a different system, which is "Piper" out of South Africa. None-the-less, you can see that in Bobbe's hands, the blade takes on a life of it's own and is very, very lethal.
To close this series of knife posts, I thought we should see an image of the kind of damage the business end of a blade can cause. Believe me, there were some other images that were so graphic I could hardly look at them:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sharp Wits Cut Deeply

Over at Wim Demeere's Blog he and Chris from Martial Development have been sparring over the perenial "Expect-to-get-cut" knife questions.
You can read the details and comments at Wim's Blog linked above, but it brought up an old thought from my past:
I had an occasional training partner that was an incredible athelete. He would run from Portland to Mount Hood in bare feet wearing nothing but running shorts. The guy was unbelieveably strong as well as double-jointed, so you could not apply locks on him. Anyway, he was a student at Fred King's Kung Fu School while I was in the rather mundane Tae Kwon Do by comparison. At his school, knife training started with wide, dull butter knives that were initially wrapped with cloth and tape. Then the tape came off, and finally you worked up to sparring with live blades. It seemed a little extreme to me at the time.
Well, one day two guys were sparring with live blades. One guy had a big knife and the other had a pair of short push-daggers. The guy with the knife tried to parry a thrust by the other guy and got a push-dagger right through the palm of his hand.
Another time, I was screwing around with a rubber training knife in a class I was teaching. I got behind the student I was working with and symbolicly drew the rubber knife across the side of his neck, as in a military sentry elimination. Rubber or not, the poor guy actually thought his throat had been cut, and it almost was. There was a deep red welt across his juggler vein and I realized I could have nearly killed a student with a damned rubber knife.
A few years ago, one of my particulearly aggressive training partners held me from behind with a wooden Tanto pressed into my belly, hostage-style. Truthfully, he was pressing hard enough that if it was a real blade it would already have been in me. As I worked for an escape solution, he pushed harder and before I could collapse his grip and get away, he had managed to stab me with the dull point of the wooden Tanto.
All these things remind me how easy it is to get seriously f**ked up with a real blade, and we shouldn't kid ourselves about faulty training, over-enthusiasm, or our own limitations when actually facing a live blade.
Here's a little "Three Stooges" video we filmed while finishing off a keg of beer a few years ago:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Modern Physics Supports Yin/Yang Theory

In this fascinating article from "Wired", they examine how the universe is tied together in one infinate computation represented by "1" or "0", yes or no, on or off. This clearly parallels Taoist thought regarding Yin and Yang.
So once again, modern physics begins to explain the realities of Shamanic experiance.
From the Wired article:

"An ultimate simulation needs an ultimate computer, and the new science of digitalism says that the universe itself is the ultimate computer — actually the only computer. Further, it says, all the computation of the human world, especially our puny little PCs, merely piggybacks on cycles of the great computer. Weaving together the esoteric teachings of quantum physics with the latest theories in computer science, pioneering digital thinkers are outlining a way of understanding all of physics as a form of computation.
From this perspective, computation seems almost a theological process. It takes as its fodder the primeval choice between yes or no, the fundamental state of 1 or 0. After stripping away all externalities, all material embellishments, what remains is the purest state of existence: here/not here. Am/not am. In the Old Testament, when Moses asks the Creator, "Who are you?" the being says, in effect, "Am." One bit. One almighty bit. Yes. One. Exist. It is the simplest statement possible.
All creation, from this perch, is made from this irreducible foundation. Every mountain, every star, the smallest salamander or woodland tick, each thought in our mind, each flight of a ball is but a web of elemental yes/nos woven together. If the theory of digital physics holds up, movement (f = ma), energy (E = mc²), gravity, dark matter, and antimatter can all be explained by elaborate programs of 1/0 decisions. Bits can be seen as a digital version of the "atoms" of classical Greece: the tiniest constituent of existence. But these new digital atoms are the basis not only of matter, as the Greeks thought, but of energy, motion, mind, and life."

Pretty cool.
Much more information at This Link

Friday, August 14, 2009

Su Dong Chen With Multiple Attackers

Some of you have probably seen this before, but here is Su Dong Chen handling multiple attackers.
My old Korean Master, Tae Hong Choi used to yell at us "Line 'em up!", and that's exactly what Su Dong Chen does here. Sure, there's a lot of slapping and minor strikes, but the emphasis is on movement and positioning. Use one opponent as a human shield against the others.
I have no doubt that if this confrontation was real, he would be hitting these guys with lethal strikes as well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Su Dong Chen: Crossing Fist Application

Back to Martial Arts:
Master Su Dong Chen began training at Hong Yi Xiang's Tang Shou Tao martial arts school in 1968. He has a very impressive background, and has a unique way of presenting the Chinese Internal Martial Arts. He is currently teaching and living in Japan.
Here, he demonstrates an application of "crossing fist" from Xingyi. We have used similar applications in our Wing Chun instruction, but this is a little different. In true xingyi fashion, you keep pressing in all the time. Too bad this clip is so short, but he has lots of others I may bring up.
Here is Su Dong Chen's website, "The Essence Of Evolution", with lots of information on his Internal arts styles, and short video clips. I'm going to be studying this guy for a while.
Here, from Wikipedia is some background on Tang Shou Tao:

"Tang Shou Tao is not a separate style of martial art, but rather a practical, step-by-step, systematic approach to learning internal martial arts and developing highly refined levels of skill. It incorporates elements of all three of the major Chinese internal arts (xingyiquan, baguazhang, and taijiquan) as well as Shaolin kung fu and qigong. However, the emphasis of this system is on xingyi and bagua. Although the system itself was formed and founded by Hung I-Hsiang during the 1950s and 1960s, the roots of using the commonalities of bagua and xingyi in practice and application can easily be traced back through Hung's teacher Chang Chun-Feng (張俊峰) to his teachers, Li Cunyi (李存義) and Gao Yisheng (高義盛).
When Hung I-Hsiang took a trip to Japan, he was very impressed with the way martial arts instruction was organized there. He liked the uniforms, the belt system, and the systematic approach to training. Subsequently, he adopted many of the Japanese style martial arts school characteristics when he opened his own school. The students had belt ranks, wore Japanese style uniforms, and Hung devised a more systematic approach to martial arts instruction than what was typical of most Chinese style schools".

Very cool stuff.

Anybody else had trouble loading YouTube lately?
I've done tons of computer clean-ups, spyware checks etc, and I still have to let a video load and come back to view it later.
Could just be the slow DSL service on our remote undisclosed island hideout...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dojo Rat Meets Wolf Girl

Wolf Girl

Saturday I was at our local Tavern playing music with a friend and who shows up? Wolf Girl. She was adorable.
Ladies out there: if you want to know how to pull off Pacific Northwest Hippie -Chick "chic", this is how you do it.
Wolf Girl came fully equipped with rucksack, wooden hiking staff, belt pouches, sheath knife, and gauntlets.
She told the bartender "Give me a bowl of Pabst Blue Ribbon, I can lap it up".
You gotta love that.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Today's Intel Report: Because TV News Sucks So Bad

Homeless couple living in Las Vegas flood tunnels

Think we're not in a depression?
Take a look above at the nice living quarters this couple has in the flood channels under Las Vegas. They say it is too dangerous to live above on the streets.
According to this New York Times article, unprovoked attacks on the homeless are at an all-time high. Tent cities are popping up everywhere, and societal angst has brought up the ugly spectre of picking on the weakest among us.
From the article:

In Portland, Ore., twin brothers were charged with five unprovoked attacks against homeless people in a park. One of the victims was a man beaten with his own bike, another a woman pushed down a steep staircase.
In Cleveland, a man leaving a homeless shelter to visit his mother was “savagely beaten by a group of thugs,” the police said.
In Los Angeles, a homeless man who was a neighborhood fixture was doused in gasoline and set on fire.
In Boston, a homeless Army veteran was beaten to death as witnesses near Faneuil Hall reportedly looked on.
And in Jacksonville, N.C., a group of young men fatally stabbed a homeless man behind a shopping strip, cutting open his abdomen with a beer bottle.
In Las Vegas, home to a large population of the homeless, there were no reported killings of any of them last year, but many say hostilities have risen as the city moves to get them out of the parks and off the streets.
Some of the Las Vegas homeless resort to living in a maze of underground flood channels beneath the Strip. There they face flash floods, disease, black widows and dank, pitch-dark conditions, but some tunnel dwellers say life there is better than being harassed and threatened by assailants and the police.
“Out there, anything goes,” said Manny Lang, who has lived in the tunnels for months, recalling the stones and profanities with which a group of teenagers pelted him last winter when he slept above ground. “But in here, nothing’s going to happen to us.”
Their plight is a revealing commentary on the violence facing street people, said Matt O’Brien, a Las Vegas writer who runs an outreach group for the homeless.
“It’s hard to believe that tunnels that can fill a foot per minute with floodwater could be safer than aboveground Vegas,” Mr. O’Brien said, “but many homeless people think they are. No outsider is going to attack you down there in the dark.”

And Now For A Word On Health Care: "Astroturf"

Let me start by saying this:
When I went to my Doctor for my yearly check up, before President Obama was elected, we had a discussion on health care.
I asked him, "in a perfect world, how would you handle public health care"?

--He said, and I'm not kidding, "All you patients need to get together and burn down the insurance companies".

Listen people; this flap about "teabagging" Congress in a mass resistance against sensible changes in health care delivery has gone too far.
The "low-information voter" is consistantly being manipulated by incredibly powerful corporate forces. Watching some of the activists shouting down town halls, you'd think you were seeing some grass-roots movement like the protests against a war or something.
But wait; these poor people are being steered by none other than the insurance companies that have been ripping them off all along.
Additionally, many of the "protestors" I have seen on video are clearly old enough to be recieving Medicare and Social Security themselves. That's Socialism!

Come on folks, let's get down to the roots of this: The conservative movement is on a full-out attack on Obama and anything that represents progressive, healthy change.
Their war rooms have been working on the strategy long before Obama's election. The first shot across the bow was the phoney "Birthers" movement, claiming Obama was not an American citizen and not constitutionally qualified to be president.
Hello!!! His mother was from Kansas. Obama could have been born on Mars, but his mother was an American so he is an American. Done. Over.
There is an underlying element of Racism that is driving the "Birther" movement and now the phoney teabag health-care protest scene.
When a supposed "grass-roots" movement is proven to be driven by huge corporations such as the Insurance companies, it's not "grass roots", it's "Astroturf".
Seriously, Why do working class people get brainwashed into voting against their own best interests?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Brian Johnson Kicks Ass At Vegas Tournament

Over at Jake Burroughs' "The Ground Never Misses", he has posted a series of grappling fights won by our friend and Jiu Jitsu school owner Brian Johnson. Brian won the "Expert Lightweight" and "Absolute" divisions, submitting every opponent. This event was the Abu Dhabi Regional, and was held in Las Vegas.
For more videos of Brian's fights go to Jake's site linked above. For information on Brian Johnson and Jiu Jitsu in Seattle check out this link for Northwest Jiu Jitsu Academy.
Congratulations Brian!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Kostas Fights At Dog Brothers Euro Gathering

Good news!
Kostas Tountas, our fellow Dojo Rat from Greece has recently returned from fighting at The Dog Brothers Euro Gathering in Switzerland. For those who don't know, This tournament mixes stick fighting with other martial arts. There are very few rules and only light padding for protection.
I will let Kostas describe the event without further meddling by me, except to say Kostas should be very proud to have competed, done so well, and pushed the envelope of his training to a new level. Congratulations Kostas!

From Kostas:
Where to begin? The Dog Brothers 2009 European Gathering was held in Bern Switzerland; a historic and beautiful city, which I did not find time to see . I was focused entirely on The Gathering. Though I am not competitive, and though The Gathering has no judges, no trophies, no winners, no losers; I did want to do well. Rarely in my life had I ever wanted to do well, as much as I did then. I felt as though 30 years in the arts had come down to this. Though many of the people I would be facing had had specialized training in stick fighting over the last several years, and though all but one or two had been to a Gathering before (and knew what to expect) I wanted to do well - really really wanted this.
I was not anxious about the people I would face, nor about getting hit, nor about fighting, nor about how my groundwork was not up to par. None of that bothered me, nor kept me awake at night. But nonetheless, I could feel the excitement as the days approached, as the plane lifted off, as I arrived at the campground where everybody was staying.
I did not know anybody. Many people who attend The Gathering for the first time, do so in the company of someone who has been there before. I was completely on my own. I did not know whether the thick hockey gloves I had brought with me were acceptable to fight in (they were not - lightly padded gloves only). I did not know whether I should be using the heavier 1 1/8-inch diameter sticks, or the 1-inch ones.
I found Guro Benjamin "Lonely Dog" Rittiner quickly enough. On first sight, my impression of him was that of a wolf who paces back and forth in his cage. Simply in the way he walked, he exudes restless energy. Of average height, 40-ish, good muscle definition, tattoos, this was the fellow whom his peers consider a prodigy in stick fighting. He made full Dog Brother in only five Gatherings - the only person who has done so to date. My first question (after introducing myself) was "Can I fight on both days?" Normally, as a non-tribe member, I am only allowed to fight on the 2nd day. He said yes.
So I located the fellow with whom I would be sharing a room. Simon, a pub owner from Britain. Simon helped me prepare, gave me advice on how to get a better grip on my stick, and lent me a pair of gloves that were acceptable for fighting in. Within two hours, we were walking though a wooded bicycle path, by the river Aare, on the way to the gym.
Entering the large gymnasium, I noticed a number of fighters were already present and in the process of warming up. One could feel the excitement, and I told myself "this is why you came here". At that moment, I did not want to be anywhere else. Indeed, this is what I had come for.
After a few minutes, Guro Lonely asked the fighters to sit in a half-circle around him, and read out the magic words:
"No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day. This means our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which they came. No suing no one for no reason for nothing no how no way! Real Contact Stick Fighting is dangerous, and only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times..."
The environment of the Dog Brothers Gatherings is one of the closest I can imagine, to a "real" one-on-one fight. Guro Nick "Raw Dog" Sacoulas described it as "MMA with sticks". In 1995, the UFC decided NOT to include this type of fighting, deeming it "..too extreme for the UFC format at this time" (See the UFC letter on the Dog Brothers site).
Minimal protection is used, so people don't feel immune to pain. The most solid piece is the head protection. But this is a lightweight fencing helmet - not a heavy Kendo one. Knee and elbow pads are allowed, but no hard plastic. A groin protector is recommended.
All strikes, sweeps, take downs, locks, are allowed, unless they risk serious and lasting damage. For example, if someone loses their helmet, protocol has it that you do not strike them full in the face with your stick, but even if someone loses a helmet or weapon, the fight continues. On several occasions, fingers were broken in just this way, when the weaponless fighter tried to protect themselves from the stick blows savagely raining down on them.
Matches sometimes end up on the ground, where they continue, till time runs out (2 minutes) or someone taps out.
To fight in a Dog Brothers Gathering is an adrenaline-inducing experience. Furthermore, one can't always imagine how small details can throw your game off: You most likely will not have slept well; when you are in the lineup, waiting to fight, other fighters around you are also taking deep breaths so there may be a lack of oxygen. They are all feeling the adrenaline high, and that too can start to wear you down, as time drags on while you wait for your turn. Just before going out to fight, I could feel my adrenaline level steadily rising. And then we are called forward, and all thought stops. No time for it. We tap sticks twice, and then...nothing...only the moments exist. There is nothing else.
I fought twice on each of the two days. I feel I did well, and several people told me so. To the best of my knowledge, my opponents were by and large less experienced than I, in years of practice, but more experienced in terms of having had recent intensive training in stick-fighting. Some had just come out of a week-long summer camp by Guro Lonely himself.
Nevertheless, in all of my matches save the last, I was on the offensive. I didn't care if I got hit. My desire to do well and my experience, drove me. In my 2nd fight, it went to the ground. In the third fight, I fought an experienced martial arts practitioner who switched between right and left hands. In my last fight, from the middle on, I was in trouble - my stick hand got hit so hard, my middle finger swelled up and was in pain. I could barely lift the stick to ward off the blows, but I somehow managed, weathering some vicious barrages, till time ran out.
There were a few frighteningly good fighters there - that could generate explosive combinations from out of a relaxed flow. Some had Muay Thai and/or Jiu-Jitsu experience. There were also a few fights with other weapons - one with a three-section staff that had the audience scattering anywhere within a three-meter radius.
On Sunday, after two days of fighting, Guro Lonely gave a seminar. He had said he would focus on the Thai military art of Krabi Krabong, but he ended up showing us some of the stick fighting strategies he himself uses. I have to say, that he impressed me as the type of instructor who has the gift of helping people become effective fighters in short order. Few other instructors, have made that impression on me.
However, apart from the fighting, I was overwhelmed by how people who fought each other so hard, were so helpful and supportive of one another. On many occasions, I was helped out as if I was already a member of the tribe - which I am not. It takes at least two Gatherings (if not more) before one is awarded the lowest rank - which is "Dog" (then it is "Candidate Dog Brother", then "Full Dog Brother").
The camaraderie was excellent. Barbecue and beers in the evening - put on by Guro Lonely - he and his wife worked hard to ensure all went smoothly.
As for the tribe members - a surprising number were over 40 - several had many years of martial arts experience - including some not-so-well-known arts (Germanic sword-fighting), using replicas of medieval weapons. One couple from Britain brought their four-month old baby, alternately taking turns to fight and mind the little boy - yes, both husband and wife fought - the women fight amongst themselves, but are quite capable. There were other inspiring stories there as well. Simon (who I was sharing a room with) had had four fingers broken, at his first Gathering last year, but instead of quitting, he trained harder, and came back this year to fight again. All-in-all, a fascinating group of individuals.
Already, I am looking forward to the next one, and hopefully I will bring at least one other person from Greece to fight. It seems like a long way away, too long...

Kostas Tountas with the Areos Park Kali Group

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Variations On A Theme

The Dojo Rats

This was such a great opportunity for all of us to share ideas, I know I learned a lot!
Above is my original technique, which I learned from Aikijitsu Master John Clodig many, many years ago. I'm sure it has morphed a bit since he taught it.
My reason for not going straight to a cross-grip as Sensei Strange does is that I am about to get hit by my opponents other hand. I have to beat him to the punch, and begin to generate motion for the technique. Strange comments that he prefers not to change grips, which I can understand.
Now let's take a look at Sensei Strange:

Sensei Strange
You gotta love how these guys adapt and move. As I said above, Strange prefers not to switch grips, which can be risky (changing grips, that is). Instead, he uses a cross-grip to generate motion for the technique.
My only thought about that is there is inherent risk in getting hit by the opponent's other hand, so you really got to start some serious motion with this method. But these guys take the technique further, with different grips and different motion. I love the one at the very end, it has an element of Bagua in it to me.
Good job guys!

Mokuren Dojo
Pat over at Mokuren opened it up to the whole class to experiment with. The students in the White Gi and Black Gi come very close to my original technique, and Black Gi adds some nice touches for the takedown (circling behind opponent, is that Irimi technique?).
-And here I thought Dojo Rat videos were banned in Mississippi! (Wink,wink)

This was a grand experiment, and I hope we all can continue to share these ideas.
Thanks also to the folks that wrote in suggestions.
-Here's what I am going to work on from the suggestions;
Increase motion, work to operate more at arms length (I was a little crowded in Kote Gaeshi), and I think I'll try some alternative takedowns as Pat's video showed.
Sensei Strange: If I go to the cross-grip, I still think I need some kind of minor strike to set it up. With a non-compliant opponent I'm not sure they would let me get the grip without hitting them to loosten 'em up.
Thanks guys!

Sunday, August 2, 2009