Sunday, November 27, 2011

Don't Ask Me Where I Got This Freak Show...


These gentlemen are Indian "Warriors of Goja".
There are a lot of us that understand how martial tricks are preformed, but this is over the top.
The first thing I thought about; If I'm not mistaken, aren't light tubes like this filled with Mercury? If so, the entire place would be a toxic mess.

What kills me is the woman judge, who feigns horror at this spectacle.

D.R. shakes head and walks away...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cowboys and Samurai

On the heels of our last post on "Cowboy Zen", here's the great Toshiro Mifune throwing Charles Bronson around with a little Samurai Jujitsu.
From the 1971 movie "Red Sun", where Mifune seeks a stolen sword.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Best Cowboy Zen Ever...

Ten Bears and The Outlaw Josey Wales

Sitting down with a cool one and dinner last night, I found "The Outlaw Josey Wales" was on again.
Hands down, this is in my opinion the best Western ever. The gunfights are fantastic, but it's the dialogue and history that shine.

In the scene above, Wales goes to meet with Ten Bears, who has captured two of Wales' fellow homesteaders. Much like the ancient Samurai, Wales enters Ten Bears' camp as if he was already dead, and had nothing to loose.

Though I've seen the movie before, this time I had something to gauge the historical issues they portray in the show. I've been reading Howard Zinn's epic work "A People's History of the United States". I'll have much more to say in a future review, but I just finished reading the chapter on all the treaties with the Indian Tribes that were broken, ignored, and withdrawn. Zinn reports the words of authorities and Newspaper editorials that scream racism and "manifest destiny" of the white man.
Below, "Lone Wati" relates to Wales the story of his people, and the tragedy of "The Trail of Tears":

Here's a little history about the movie from Wikipedia:

"Historical basis Josey Wales' circumstances somewhat mirror those of a notorious bushwhacker named Bill Wilson, a folk hero in Phelps and Maries counties in Missouri. During the war, loyalties in Missouri were divided. Bill Wilson maintained a neutral stance until a confrontation with Union soldiers on his farm on Corn Creek near Edgar Springs, Missouri. Wilson became a wanted outlaw before leaving for Texas.[13]
The character Fletcher is loosely based on Capt. Dave Poole, one of Quantrill's Raiders. After the war, Poole assisted Federal authorities in convincing guerrillas to give up the fight and surrender.
This film is the first to confront the history of the Missourians who fell prey to Kansas-based Unionists who called themselves Redlegs (after their red-striped stockings and gaiters) and Jayhawkers.[14] It is a revisionist film in that it abandons the standard presentations of the Unionists that characterized Hollywood productions up to that time, along with the dark depictions of the Missouri riders.[15] The Outlaw Josey Wales reverses these stereotypes."

From "The Wall Street Journal":

"Mr. Eastwood has called his 1976 Civil-War era Western "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (which tells the story of a Missouri farmer avenging the murder of his family by Union soldiers) an "antiwar" film."

I'll have more on Howard Zinn's "A Peoples History of the United States" later-

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why Martial Culture is not "Jock Culture"

Penn State Students Riot after Paterno firing

Did Somebody Kill The District Attorney Investigating Sandusky's Rape Charges?

I have always detested "Jock Culture".
I never watch professional sports. The only time I ever see it is when it's on TV in a bar or tavern. In those cases, I take a look around the bar. The most rabid sports fans are completely out of shape, cigarette smoking lunkheads that can name every coach or player but don't know who their Congressman is.
When I was in High School I was on the gymnastic and wrestling teams. The football coaches hounded me for years to join the football team, and in my junior year I finally did. What I saw made me sick. The coaches insulted the kids, and I saw one beat a player down. Another coach offered to get a star player a car and a girlfriend. I had never seen that in little-league baseball or the other sports, and I grew to hate the culture that is represented by football.
But it's not just American football, it's European soccer, and in this case Canadian hockey:
Vancouver Hockey Riots

I was drawn to martial arts because of it's emphasis on self-defense and self-improvement, and I'm guessing most people choose this training for the same reason.
But something happens in violent team sports; a "hive mentality" with a top-down authority structure that I am completely opposed to.
Nowhere has this been so obvious as in the current case of coach Sandusky's child rape allegations at Penn State. "Joepa" Paterno, Coach Emeritus gets fired and the idiot fans go nuts and riot. Not because kids were abused, but because the golden idol Paterno was fired for ignoring the rape charges.
Punks, all of them.

What about the Dead D.A.?

What is clear in the Penn State Rape charges is that "Jock Culture" has the money and power to suppress, intimidate, and possibly kill to keep it's secrets.

Ray Gricar was the District Attorney who investigated the first allegations against Sandusky back in 1998. Yes, 1998.
Gricar unexplainably did not charge Sandusky at the time, even though the evidence was clear.
What happened in the next few years is up to speculation, but Gricar was missing and pronounced "Dead" by 2005.
Gricar's body was never found. His car was parked by a river, his ruined laptop computer was later found washed up against a bridge.

What could be a motive to make a District Attorney disappear from this case?

From CNN:

"How the NCAA answers these questions may affect the future of college football. As is the case with so many recent college sports scandals, the events at Penn State call into question the effects of big money on the inside workings of college sports. Penn State football is a business -- an enormously profitable one, raking in more than $70 million a year. Joe Paterno's salary alone was about $1 million annually. Penn State profits immensely from the success of its football program on the backs of unpaid amateur athletes. In many of these scandals, the players, often innocent and unprotected, are hurt the most, while the insulated, tight-lipped higher-ups of college boards and athletic programs fall back on their salaries and pensions."

There you go, a $70 million-dollar empire to protect.


High-dollar athletes often behave like thugs. Often they are thugs. There is a "hive mentality" and mythology surrounding "Jock Culture", and I have never seen the likes of this in martial arts.

Martial arts have always had a "Bushido" or "warrior" code. While many traditional schools have a chain of command and ranks, each practitioner is expected to behave with honor.

Martial Culture is not Jock Culture.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Words of Jou Tsung Hwa

The late Tai Chi Master Jou Tsung Hwa wrote the absolute best book on Tai Chi Chuan I have ever read. In his book "The Tao of Tai Chi Chuan; The way to Rejuvenation", Master Jou writes:

"Finally, when one has acquired Ching, or lightness, Man, or slowness, Yuan, or complete circularity of motion, and Yun, or constant rate, one will have completed the human stage. How can one verify this accomplishment? One will have followed the rules in the human stage when the practice of Tai Chi Chuan outdoors does not disturb flocks of birds or other animals".

Master Jou is discussing the various stages of mastering Tai Chi Chuan, the "human" stage being the first.
This notion is something that makes Tai Chi Chuan so much different than hard-style martial arts. Jou suggests a learning curve that mimics and strives to actually become part of the natural world.

It's almost embarrassing to relate this story, but it fits the topic. Years ago I had to fill in and help out at a dog kennel. It was at a time when I was really, really trying hard to prepare for a Tae Kwon Do belt test. While I was doing my chores at the kennel, I absent-mindedly slipped into a few movements of a form; block, punch etc.
Well, as expected, the animals in the kennel did not like it at all, and when they became frightened, I stopped my movement immediately.

This is what Jou is talking about. Not only was my martial movement snappy and aggressive, I was nowhere near the enlightened stage Jou claims to seek.

Lightness, slowness, circularity of motion, and constant rate is what makes Tai Chi Chuan a martial art of the natural world.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Yesterday's Big, Wet Project

Over the last two years, we dismantled a pole-building and replaced it with a contemporary metal shop on a slab. The trusses and treated posts were moved down to the bottom of the property where we have the Saloon and shop, and will soon break ground on the house.
But first things first; we re-assembled the pole barn in a new configuration and stood the trusses up on a very rainy day:

The back of Dave's crane

I'm in the green coat above, Below we hook a truss up to the crane:

And the last truss goes up, the building looks huge now:

So today I have a lot of stuff to clean up in a big, muddy mess!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hermit's Compass

Years ago when I lived in Oregon, I was care taking a 300-acre farm west of Portland. The rent was free and I got a little money at the end of the year for planting crops around the duck hunting lakes. I had chickens, ducks, turkeys and goats, as well as a huge vegetable garden.
But for my bread and butter (Beer money), I loaded up my old farm truck and drove into town to do small landscaping jobs and yard clean-ups.
One of my customers was an old guy named Walt who lived in a house overlooking the river. Walt's son was a tugboat captain and he checked me out after work one day; it's something any son would do to look after a father who was over 80 years-old. We sat in Walt's cool basement on a summer afternoon and had crackers, salami and Beer. I guess I checked out OK.
Walt liked to visit and talk on the days I worked for him. His dining room table had guns stacked on it, including a lever-action 45.70 rifle that used huge cartridges. One day Walt pulled out an old photo album, and I mean these pictures were from the 1930's if not earlier. One was of Walt, his best friend and a beautiful young girl climbing Mount Hood. They were dressed in wool pants and coats and were using the old "alpenstocks" instead of ice axes. They didn't have a car, they had walked around thirty miles from Portland to climb the mountain. From the way Walt talked, I could tell he had been in love with that girl, the kind of love that was never to be complete and never to be forgotten.
Walt had lived somewhere in southeast Portland, which would have been very undeveloped at the time. He used to walk into the rugged foothills of the cascades all the time, something kids these days couldn't imagine.
One time, Walt said, he was in the forest and not quite sure where he was. He came upon a large apple orchard and saw a small cabin in the distance. It was getting late in the day and he figured he didn't have enough daylight to hike back out. With much trepidation, he approached the cabin.
Sure enough, there was an old hermit that lived there. The guy probably hadn't seen another human in months. They talked a bit and reasoned that it would be OK for Walt to spend the night and hike back out the next day.
The cabin was very small and smokey from the cook stove. Walt said the hermit had a barrel of salted meat and prepared a stew for both of them to eat. There was small talk, the stew wasn't bad and Walt was grateful to have a place to stay.
After the meal, the hermit asked him if he knew what it was he ate, and Walt couldn't guess - deer meat, pork?
No, the hermit said, and took Walt over to a ladder that led up to the loft in the cabin. They both climbed the ladder into the dark loft and Walt suddenly found out what kind of meat they had eaten: the edge of each wall was lined with bear skulls. Each bear skull had a single bullet-hole in the forehead. Walt remembered that the hermit had a substantial apple orchard around the cabin. Each fall, when the apples were ripe, the bears would come out of the mountains and try to raid the apple orchard. The enticing fruit became the Bear's demise, and the hermit's dinner.

Before Walt left the next morning, the hermit gave him a useful gift; a "hermit's compass".
The compass was made of a magnetized hacksaw blade with another pointer blade attached at an angle. It was hung from a string and the main blade pointed to magnetic north; the smaller pointer was to compensate to true north.

And so on one hot summer afternoon, while Walt and I sat in his cool basement eating crackers, salami and Beer, he told me this story and gave me the hermit's compass pictured above.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Katana, Saber, and "Jian"

Katana, Saber (Dao), and Jian (straight sword)

So now that we are learning a two-person sword sparring set from our instructor Michael Gilman, I am getting to know the straight sword again. Years ago, I took fencing in college. It was taught by a French guy that had coached an Olympic team. It was a great workout and I loved it. But we were using the Foil mostly, and a little Epe' which was a little thicker and had an edge. I was just getting into Karate and wondered how the Foil would stand up to a Katana in combat.
Stylistically they are so different, it would be comparing apples to oranges. Let's face it; the Katana is probably the most bad-ass killing blade on the planet.
While it can be used for straight thrusts, the Katana is most powerful in arcing cuts.

The Saber just may be my favorite however. We learned Saber (Dao) use while Gilman trained us in a complex Wudang Saber form which included some Bagua-type circle-walking, straight thrusts and wide, sweeping arcs. Note the ring pommel which is very useful for flipping and inverting the Saber. While the Saber is mostly one-handed, many of the cuts use both hands or use the empty hand to assist and press against the wrist of the weapon hand. The Saber is lighter than the Katana, This one is hand forged in China and I got it through Wing Lam for around $130.

My new "Jian"

The Jian (straight sword) I bought is made by Hanwei, and was sold as a practical, durable no-frills sword. The scabbard is plastic as is the handle. But the construction is good and the blade is good spring steel. This sword could easily go on a rainy camping trip with no fear of causing it damage. The blade has flexibility in the last 1/3 and while the edge is unsharpened it would not take much to dress it.
As we were told, the Saber is the combat weapon for the soldier, and it comes in many forms; thick, blunt or long as mine is. The Jian however, was used more by nobles and women. While the Katana and Saber primarily cut in arcs, the Jian is more like a surgical tool for precise cuts and thrusts. It also is double-edged which opens up a wide variety of techniques.

I love the Katana and always will. It's power and durability are legendary. Most of what I know about the Katana was from the time I spent in Aikido, and I'm sure the techniques I learned reflected the nature of Aikido.
But I love the "poetry" of the Chinese sword. The movements mimic animal and natural forms and the Jian uses sticking energy close in.
All these weapons were affordable, durable and a lot of fun to learn and experiment with.
Let me know if you also have a favorite...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sasumata: "The Man Catcher"

New innovations of an old tool are coming into use for security threats. The Sasumata is known as "The man catcher", and was recently used in a Japanese school to trap an attacker with a knife.

From "Japan Today"

"Teachers pin down knife-wielding man with two-pronged 'man catcher"

Police on Monday were called to an elementary school in Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture, after a man illegally entered the premises carrying a kitchen knife. It is believed the 62-year-old man walked into the school by the open front gate at around 7:40 a.m. before the children had arrived and was then challenged by the school principal and teachers.
When they realized the man was armed, three of them decided to use a “sasumata,” a two-pronged device similar to a “man catcher,” which was a type of forked pole weapon used in Europe up until the 18th century. Police said the teachers used the weapon to pin the man down until they arrived. Police said that no-one was injured in the incident."

Example of Sasumata in use:

Again, from the "Japan Today" article:

"According to eyewitnesses, the man was first spotted on the premises by a female teacher, who informed the principal. The principal attempted to address the man, but the man just unwrapped a newspaper bundle he was carrying to reveal the kitchen knife. The principal said he instructed staff to fetch the fork-like tool, following which three teachers surrounded the man and held him in place using the weapon. Police quoted the suspect as saying, “I came here to threaten the children.”
The “sasumata” was originally used during the Edo era for apprehending suspects. Modern variants of the “sasumata” are made for use by mounted riot police and are designed to significantly reduce the chance of injury to restrained civilians. The school principal told police that he and his staff had performed training drills using the man catcher in preparation for just such an incident. “Our preparations really paid off in this instance,” he said."

Sasumata in action