Thursday, December 30, 2010

Great Thread on Aikido's Ueshiba in China

Onisaburo (left) and Morihei Ueshiba (right) shackled in Mongolia

Jonathan Bluestein has started a great thread over at "The Rum-Soaked Fist", speculating that Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba may have picked up Bagua techniques and incorporated them in his Aikido.
As expected this is a hotly contested claim, and one I have also written about in "Is Aikido of Chinese Origin?"
While it's obvious that Aikido's roots are in Daito Ryu Aikijitsu, I see a valid explaination for Aikido's softer, more circular movement as strikingly similar to Bagua.

Here's an excerpt from the article I wrote (linked above) with comments by Ellis Amdur:

(Amdur): 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."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Today's Neanderthal News...

Yes, ol' Dojo Rat is a Neanderthal. Or at least part Neanderthal, and now I can prove it. From "Discovery News":

"Neanderthals, Humans Interbred, DNA Proves
A newly mapped Neanderthal genome reveals that between 1-4 percent of DNA of many humans today came from Neanderthals."
"It's official: Most of us are part Neanderthal. The first draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome has provided the strongest evidence yet that modern humans and Neanderthals interbred and that all non-Africans today have Neanderthal gene fragments in their genetic codes.
Although the Neanderthal contribution to the DNA of these individuals is estimated at being just one to four percent of the total, the finding, published in the latest issue of the journal Science, helps to resolve the long-standing controversy over whether or not humans mated with Neanderthals when the two groups encountered each other outside of Africa."

Prehistoric Cute Hippie Chick of the Month

And in a sideways blow to the "Primal Diet", as promoted by "Mark's Daily Apple",, studies show that primitive man ate cooked grains.

"Neanderthals cooked their vegetables just like humans: study"

"WASHINGTON — A US study found that Neanderthals, prehistoric cousins of humans, ate grains and vegetables as well as meat, cooking them over fire in the same way homo sapiens did.
The new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) challenges a prevailing theory that Neanderthals' over reliance on meat contributed to their extinction around 30,000 years ago.
Researchers found grains from numerous plants, including a type of wild grass, as well as traces of roots and tubers, trapped in plaque buildup on fossilized Neanderthal teeth unearthed in northern Europe and Iraq."

The primal diet, as I understand it says that all the health woes of modern society, like diabetes, began with man eating grains. I think there is some truth to this, but the article above clearly shows that "Grok" did indeed eat wild grasses.
I have to admit- the primal diet pushes a huge amount of meat and dairy as being closer to the diet cavemen ate. While it sounds very appetizing, eating three-to-six eggs a day just can't be good for us.
Just stay away from processed white flour and sugar, chips and bread.

And embrace your inner Neanderthal...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Versions of Stand-up Grappling

Mike Martello demonstrates Chin na

The late Mike Martello was one of the favorite instructors I have trained with. Part class clown, part mad scientist working over lab rats, and all martial artist. As you can see, Mike was very short, but very powerful. He had to perfect body dynamics because he simply did not have the mass to out-muscle the big guys. As a result, Mike was able to teach very well and was a ton of fun to train with. Additionally, he had a very high level of body control in form work, which was beautiful to watch. I had a few long e-mail exchanges with Mike between his visits to Seattle, where we learned a bit about each other and life in general. Mike is missed by students on at least four continents throughout the world.

Wally Jay demonstrates Small-Circle Jujitsu

Aside from Wrestling in school, I studied Aikido for two years and got a great overview of spiral energy and joint locking. My training partner Corey was fortunate to have trained extensively with Wally and Leon Jay of "Small-Circle Jujitsu". I was able to attend a pretty wild seminar with Leon Jay in Portland some years back. I dislocated a guy's finger, Corey got seriously knocked out by Leon, and we learned a lot about energetics. In the short interview with Wally above there is mostly some pain-compliance that looks good for the camera. But let me tell you, the Jays can get really rough. They say "Pain makes believers".

Tim Cartmell demonstrates Chin na

And then there's Tim Cartmell.
The seminars I have attended with Tim on combat Bagua, Taiji and Xingyi application and stand-up grappling have been some of the most influential in my recent training years.
I wish there was more video available of Tim but he stays pretty much below the radar on YouTube.
For those that don't know, Tim was a successful fighting champion in Taiwan and authored and translated many books on martial arts including the classic "Effortless Combat Throws". Tim is a "grappler's grappler", now a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. During the time I have met and talked with Tim, he has dispensed with the notions of metaphysics and Chi in favor of good old leverage and mass-in-motion. His principles are proven in combat, both on the street and on the mat.
As you can see, Tim's techniques in this video resemble those Make Martello uses in the first video. I only wish there was more available. Fortunately, I have hours of the seminars I attended recorded, which is an invaluable asset. I look forward to training more with Tim in the future.

Special thanks to my friend and instructor Jake Burroughs for bringing Tim Cartmell and Mike Martello to Seattle, and for the continuing training Jake provides me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Train with The Karda Group

Now here's a guy I would really like to train with;
Branden Wyke is one of the instructors at "The Karda Group". The group trains in a mix of Filipino/Indonesian arts with a heavy influence on knife work.
In an e-mail chat with Branden he described the training group:

"A lot of the guys have instructorships in a different things. A few are instructors under Inosanto in Kali, Silat, and JKD. Some are Muay Thai instructors, and one of the guys in Wing Chun. Then some of the guys have spent time in a lot of other stuff like lua and some Filipino martial arts like Sayoc Kali, and Atienza kali.
We've spent most of the time the last couple of years working on knife and empty hands vs knife because there seems to be a lot of unrealistic practices going on -either guys aren't training under the right amount of randomness and stress or they were training a LOT of stuff that was about killing an empty handed man...we wanted to get away from that kind of stuff and explore what was really working and in the right context.
We've been working the emptyhands stuff too -just organizing it in a structure that can roll with it well if the other guy pulls a weapon."

Now, I have to admit that I am not that skilled in knife work myself, which is something I intend to work on. I have some basic disarms, Aikido knife defense, basic weapon stripping etc.
With that said, here are my observations on Branden's teaching and technique:

First of all, Branden has had very good instruction. You can tell because he teaches very well also. No esoteric terminology, basic stuff western lunkheads and Dojo Rats can understand.
While all the defenses in his videos use gross motor skills (something that will work in a stressful situation) he demonstrates sensitivity to the opponent's weapon and body movement. In other words, Branden does not try to out-muscle his attacker, but he follows the movement of the blade and adjusts to a controlling position.
He does however, use his body mass to bear against the attacker rather than arm strength alone. This fits with the general theme of internal martial arts; follow the opponent's movement and force him to deal with your body mass as a unified whole.
Let's not fool ourselves; there is going to be some huffing and grunting in a real struggle against a resisting opponent, and this type of training adds necessary realism. One thing to note - Branden exhales consistently, which maintains a breathing rhythm allowing him to pace his endurance and emphasize the yin and yang of yield and press.

I suggest anybody interested to look at the other video's on "The Karda Group" website, linked HERE.

You can contact Branden for training information here:

Public Class:
Location: Relentless Martial Arts
6202 S. Sheridan Tulsa, OK., 74133
Times: Mon 8-8:50pm & Wed 6-6:50pm
Contact: Branden Wyke
918 806 8912

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Su Dong Chen Mixes It Up

I just love to watch this guy move.
Su Dong Chen was trained in Taiwan by Hung I Hsiang in Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua. since then he has developed his own variations and blends of these arts.
Here is a little background on Su from his website "The Essence of Evolution":

“Essence of Evolution” is a research-based approach, specializing in evolutionary developmental processes based on the essence of martial arts and physical movement/exercise. EOE’s founder, Master. Su Dong-Chen, is an eminent authority of martial arts.
The Martial Arts Philosophy developed by Master. Su has as its cornerstone the study of physical phenomenon as they actually manifest, a kind of philosophical positivism. This is based upon and tested through actual fighting experience, as well as Master Su’s mastery in his background arts, the Chinese Internal Martial Arts styles Xing Yi Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, and Tai Ji Quan. Mr. Su is also well-versed in Southern and Northern, Shaolin Kung-fu, and the various martial arts and fighting sports of Japan and the West. He has specialized in developing and carrying out experimental proof of technical principles, as well as the research and application of tactical thought. For more information about Mr. Su and his philosophy, please refer to his biography.
In looking beyond the boundaries of any style or any school, as a result of unrelenting quest for evolution, and through research of the essence of martial arts, Mr. Su’s martial arts philosophy gradually formulated a uniform system of theory: “Consistent Technique” in defense, striking, and throwing/joint locking; and a comprehensive relationship of the principles “Point, Line, Cross, and Spiral."

His website has lots and lots of information, you can check it out HERE.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Fun: The Nutcracker

Back by popular demand...
Ah yes, it's that terrible time of the year again. "X-Mas".

When I look at my Blog Stats for December, I realize that children and families all over the world search the Interweb looking for the classic Ballet "The Nutcracker".

Instead, because your ol' buddy Dojo Rat is a footsoldier in "The War on Christmas", they stumble upon this irreverent display -- "Nutcracking" of another sort:










There now; doesn't that put everybody in the right holiday spirit?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kung Fu for Philosophers

Thanks to my Martini-drinking buddy Bob over at "Striking Thoughts" for finding this one:

From all places, this piece on "Kung Fu for Philosophers" comes from The New York Times opinion page, and it's pretty good. You can read the entire piece at the link highlighted above, but here are a few excerpts-

"But as the Shaolin monk pointed out, kung fu embodies much more than fighting. In fact any ability resulting from practice and cultivation could accurately be said to embody kung fu. There is a kung fu of dancing, painting, cooking, writing, acting, making good judgments, dealing with people, even governing. During the Song and Ming dynasties in China, the term kung fu was widely used by the neo-Confucians, the Daoists and Buddhists alike for the art of living one’s life in general, and they all unequivocally spoke of their teachings as different schools of kung fu.
This broad understanding of kung fu is a key (though by no means the only key) through which we can begin to understand traditional Chinese philosophy and the places in which it meets and departs from philosophical traditions of the West. As many scholars have pointed out, the predominant orientation of traditional Chinese philosophy is the concern about how to live one’s life, rather than finding out the truth about reality."
"One might well consider the Chinese kung fu perspective a form of pragmatism. The proximity between the two is probably why the latter was well received in China early last century when John Dewey toured the country. What the kung fu perspective adds to the pragmatic approach, however, is its clear emphasis on the cultivation and transformation of the person, a dimension that is already in Dewey and William James but that often gets neglected. A kung fu master does not simply make good choices and use effective instruments to satisfy whatever preferences a person happens to have. In fact the subject is never simply accepted as a given. While an efficacious action may be the result of a sound rational decision, a good action that demonstrates kung fu has to be rooted in the entire person, including one’s bodily dispositions and sentiments, and its goodness is displayed not only through its consequences but also in the artistic style one does it. It also brings forward what Charles Taylor calls the “background” — elements such as tradition and community — in our understanding of the formation of a person’s beliefs and attitudes. Through the kung fu approach, classic Chinese philosophy displays a holistic vision that brings together these marginalized dimensions and thereby forces one to pay close attention to the ways they affect each other."
"The kung fu approach does not entail that might is right. This is one reason why it is more appropriate to consider kung fu as a form of art. Art is not ultimately measured by its dominance of the market. In addition, the function of art is not accurate reflection of the real world; its expression is not constrained to the form of universal principles and logical reasoning, and it requires cultivation of the artist, embodiment of virtues/virtuosities, and imagination and creativity. If philosophy is “a way of life,” as Pierre Hadot puts it, the kung fu approach suggests that we take philosophy as the pursuit of the art of living well, and not just as a narrowly defined rational way of life."


As I like to say;
Combat brings necessary pain, "Art" necessarily brings pleasure...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review: What Is Tai Chi?

I am very pleased to review a new book by Peter A. Gilligan with the simple title "What Is Tai Chi?"
So often books of this type are over-complicated, lose something in translation, or are merely pictorials of form movements. In "What Is Tai Chi?", author Gilligan attempts to answer a student's basic question, and succeeds in compiling a thorough overview of Tai Chi Chuan as a health practice, self-defense method and vehicle for self improvement. Gilligan speaks clearly to the western practitioner, while embracing the true historical and physical aspects of Tai Chi Chuan - in his own words:

"My writing about the art has been organized around three ideas, which I regard as three developmental tasks or levels of learning. The first is rectification of the body, the second is the method, Daoyin, and the third I call Nei Gong, linking The Six Secrets with true Nei Gong of "internal work" or "internal breathing".

Author Gilligan does a great job in laying down a format instructors can use to teach the deep and diverse art of Tai Chi Chuan. He covers issues such as Chinese philosophy, self-defense vs. martial art, methods of natural movement and body alignment, the above mentioned "Six Secrets", and how to approach teaching Tai Chi Chuan. Again, in the author's words:

"Ultimately the role of teacher in Taijiquan is considerably less than that of the student. The teacher is not so much there to teach you specific moves, techniques or forms. The teacher's job is to teach you methods to enable you to find whatever is relevant to your current level of development, be it rectification, Daoyin or Nei Gong."

"What Is Tai Chi?" is a study guide that applies to all styles of Chinese Internal Martial Arts, not just Tai Chi. It's definitely on my short list of recommended books for students, fellow practitioners and instructors of the complex and beautiful art of Tai Chi Chuan.

"What Is Tai Chi?", along with other books on Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua, Chinese medicine and Qigong are available at this website for

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Sticky Wiki

In the wake of the first Cyber-War of this century, with hackers shutting down financial websites and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in jail -- Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley and other intelligence experts have come out in support of Wikileaks.
In a recent Los Angeles Times opinion piece, Rowley and a Federal Air Marshall assert that:

"WikiLeaks might have provided a pressure valve for those agents who were terribly worried about what might happen and frustrated by their superiors' seeming indifference. They were indeed stuck in a perplexing, no-win ethical dilemma as time ticked away. Their bosses issued continual warnings against "talking to the media" and frowned on whistle-blowing, yet the agents felt a strong need to protect the public."

Rowley has serious credentials:
"Coleen Rowley, was a special agent/legal counsel at the FBI's Minneapolis division and worked closely with those who arrested would-be terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui on an immigration violation less than a month before the World Trade Center was destroyed."

Rowley states her investigation could have helped prevent 911, but was suppressed.
The co-author of the article, Bogdan Dzakovic has a story to tell also:

"Federal Air Marshal Bogdan Dzakovic, once co-led the Federal Aviation Administration's Red Team to probe for vulnerabilities in airport security. He also has a story of how warnings were ignored in the run-up to Sept. 11. In repeated tests of security, his team found weaknesses nine out of 10 times that would make it possible for hijackers to smuggle weapons aboard and seize control of airplanes. But the team's reports were ignored and suppressed, and the team was shut down entirely after 9/11."

Could Wilileaks have provided that "safety valve?"

On to Julian Assange himself; he faces extradition to Sweden for charges similar to rape. The actual charge in one case is having sex without a condom. Assange's accuser has links to a CIA-funded group:

Revealed: Assange ‘rape’ accuser linked to notorious CIA operative
"One accuser, Anna Ardin, may have "ties to the US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups," according to Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett, writing for CounterPunch.
While in Cuba, Ardin worked with the Las damas de blanco (the Ladies in White), a feminist anti-Castro group."

Now, as layer upon layer of the onion are peeled away, we read this interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski on PBS:

"Zbigniew Brzezinski doesn't think all the leaked information coming out of Wikileaks is a result of Army PFC Bradley Manning, as a matter of fact he suspects a foreign intelligence service may be providing the more embarrassing leaks."
"ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: It's not a question of worry. It's, rather, a question of whether WikiLeaks are being manipulated by interested parties that want to either complicate our relationship with other governments or want to undermine some governments, because some of these items that are being emphasized and have surfaced are very pointed.
And I wonder whether, in fact, there aren't some operations internationally, intelligence services, that are feeding stuff to WikiLeaks, because it is a unique opportunity to embarrass us, to embarrass our position, but also to undermine our relations with particular governments."

Brzezinski was President Carter's National Security Advisor.

Theories abound. Lots of fingers point to Israel. Others say it could be an intentional information dump by rogue elements in our own intelligence agencies, as Rowley suggests in the L.A. Times article.
For now, the anti-authoritarian spark in me supports Assange. I believe the rape charges are overblown. I'm not crazy about his legions of cyber-hackers shutting down Master Card and Visa in retaliation for cutting off Wiki's cashflow, but I clearly see the genius behind the move.
There was a time when I viewed computer technology as leading to a potential police state. But if anybody can defeat a computer-driven Orwellian police state, it's the cyber-punks.

So go for it boys and girls; let's see how this thing plays out...

Monday, December 6, 2010


The Puget Sound region of Western Washington State is rife with military bases, defense contractors (think Boeing), and current and retired intelligence officers. I personally know of places on private islands that have been protected by Secret Service details at times.
I am purposely going to leave this story a little vague, so as not to get anybody in trouble:
We were on the mainland a couple of days ago, at a great bar we visit for drinks and music. Sometimes when I go to these places, it seems that the oddballs are drawn to talk to me. I must have a sign on my forehead that says "tell me your life story".
It had been a fairly long day, we hadn't had dinner yet and I was primed with at least six Beers. Shortly before the music was supposed to start, a guy in a green military-style coat approached us. He had shoulder-length black hair, a short goatee beard and carried a small day pack. He wanted to know where the other bars in town were, as a popular pub up the street had been closed recently. We gave him directions to a more up-scale jazz club a few blocks away, and while we were talking I realized his partner was a few bar stools away watching us. The other guy stood up and introduced himself by handshake, no name. Both these guys had obviously been drinking a fair amount themselves. For some reason, we were the people in the Bar they chose to approach. Guy #2 was more clean-cut and wore a ball cap. As we talked, he told me "We protect America". I see a lot of Coast Guard types in our area, so I said "Homeland Security?". He said "No. Higher up". I looked at his partner with shoulder-length hair and I said "DEA?", thinking they might have been an undercover team. He said "No, we kill people>". Now, I was fully primed with plenty of Beer by this time, so I decided to play the game too. I said "Kill people in this country or outside the country?". He said "Wherever they send us".

I started to get the picture, so I probed a little further. It seemed like these guys really, really had to talk to someone and just didn't fit in with the young-punkish crowd that filled the bar. I asked " Do you ever question the motives of your mission?". He said "All the time, but it's our job." Meanwhile, the guy with longer hair in the military jacket tells the person I'm with "The town has changed since I was here last. Lots of pot smokers and Liberals." -"When were you here last?" - "Seven years ago." He added: "We're on a Navy Munitions ship." -"Over at (location)?"- "Yes, over at (location)."
Well, we had seen the ship and are familiar with the facility.
Now, people talk a lot of shit in Bars after they've had a snootfull. But here we were in "Navy Land". You could wrap the guy with the long black hair and beard up in desert garb and he would fit right in in tribal Afghanistan. These guys were obviously having trouble fitting in with the crowd in the Bar, and for some reason, they identified with us. They had a somewhat vacant look in their eyes, like they had a serious disconnect with civilian life. We thanked them for their service.
The next morning we left our hotel room and there was a big white bus parked outside the American Legion Hall, waiting to pick people up. By the drivers window, in small blue letters was "US. Navy".
We thought about those guys on the ride back up to our place.
While waiting for a ferry back to the islands, I saw something I had only seen once a couple of years ago; a large passenger jet, with a small fighter jet in escort, right on it's tail.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Faceplant !

You never know when what you practice in self-defense will save your ass.
In the huge wind, snow and ice storm we had recently, I needed to get off the farm and visit a few friends at the local tavern. Several Beers later I left to pick up a couple of things at the store and head on back up the hill. There was a very nice, thick patch of ice on the ground and it was pretty dark out. Even with good boots on, I hit the ice just right and slipped forward towards a full-frontal faceplant.
Fortunately, we practice front, side and rear falls as well as rolls. I landed in a perfect sprawl position, forearms flat, up on my toes.
The first thing I did was look around to see if anybody saw me wipe out, then I laughed my ass off. It reminded me of when you see drunks fall down at parties and they protect their drink glass first and foremost, never spilling a drop.
So all you drunken martial artists out there; keep practicing your falls, and never spill a drop!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Man Being Evicted For Living On His Own Land

Now this just really, really pisses me off.
This guy is hurting Nobody.
For shits sake, he's living on 36 acres. There is no animal cruelty issue. There are no heaps of garbage. He doesn't appear to be destroying his neighbors property value. My guess is somebody wants his property and is leaning on him.
-Look, I live out on the west coast. I've lived in Barns, tents, tarps, school buses, campers, trailers, abandoned cabins and primitive shelters.
That's how half the hippies in Amerika get by. Haul your water. Build an outhouse. Maybe have a generator or solar power.
I wonder if it was a communal farm if the county would treat it differently?
This guy needs a good lawyer...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cute Hippie Chick of the Month: TSA Scanner Edition

Coming to a Bus or Train station near you?

And check out this detailed essay from a molecular biologist:
Review of the TSA backscanner safety report

Well, Ol' Dojo Rat has never been on an airplane in his life.
Why break a perfect track record now?
I see a dystopic future of people traveling by goat cart and donkeys. Might be better in the long run...