Sunday, September 23, 2018

One Way To Win A Fight

Do nothing which is of no use. — Miyamoto Musashi



Capoeira guy acts like a clown and, well, doesn't give a very good account of himself. His mestre (master) will not be happy. At any rate, Capoeira is not a "fighting" art.

Enough said.


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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Anthony Bourdain: Profile Of An Enigma


Anthony Bourdain, a celebrity chef and martial artist, has left this realm by his own hand. His death hits me hard, I suppose, because he was from my generation. But also the senselessness of it. A culinary savant and a de facto anthropologist, he traveled the world treating his television audience to exotic cuisines and cultures. I wasn't a huge fan, but the few times I caught his show, Parts Unknown, it left me invariably hungry. Bourdain took equal pleasure in watching the creation of a fine meal as he did in eating it in front of us.

He began studying jiu-jitsu when he was 58. He called it "physical chess", and the idea of being a beginner at something and learning a new skill at his age enthralled him. He competed in his art.

A down-to-earth, affable guy, he struck me as someone who wasn't overtly alpha, but not shy to speak his mind. He was famous, admired and charismatic. He was a gifted writer. What more could a man want?

He leaves a young daughter and a legion of fans. Anthony Bourdain — gone at 61. For reasons unknown.

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Study In Real Violence


Human Violence By Category is a website that covers every imaginable scenario dealing with physical aggression and assault. The subtext "Violence categorised by type, technique, tactic, weapon and profession" pretty much sums up what this blog is about. Each category comes replete with a series of short-clip videos, all of which are accompanied by written explanations and commentary. Everything from road rage scenes, police and military interventions, bouncers doing their thing, and mentally ill assailants are given due consideration.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the video clips featured on this site are not appropriate for everyone. Please view with discretion and an open mind.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Strike First!


The title of this post comes from part of the motto of the Cobra Kai school from The Karate Kid movie. Cobra Kai is now a series on YouTube.* Yes, after 34 years, Daniel-san and bad guy Johnny ("Sweep The Leg") are back! These guys are in their fifties now, and they're still at it. Fifty is the new thirty-five. I'm pretty sure Johnny is still hawking "Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy" at his new Cobra Kai school. This idea is diametrically opposed, deliberately I assume, to one of the most fundamental tenets found in karate, among other styles. But the Cobra Kai "Strike First" stance takes no prisoners. "Strike Hard" is a no-brainer, I suppose. "Mercy is for the weak" is dysfunctional; roles can be reversed. What goes around, comes around.

In 1938, Gichin Funakoshi put forth 20 precepts for karate students to train and live by. His Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate contains the famous excerpt karate ni sente nashi, or "There is no first strike in karate." This basically implies that you don't provoke a fight; it does not mean that in the midst of what looks like a potential altercation — after all other options have failed — you wait to get laid out on the sidewalk. Deescalation isn't always available. Unprovoked attacks and sucker punches happen. If you're lucky enough to factor in time and distance, then reading intent or energy (shin or ki) is possible.

In traditional karate, there are two basic strategies in dealing with an aggressor:

  • Go no sen. This means "after the attack." A basic example would be an aggressor steps in with a punch, you block and counter with a strike.
  • Sen no sen. This is "before the attack." An aggressor announces he wants to kill you, and without hesitation you strike. This is like the old military aphorism "The best defense is a good offense."

It's easy to see how both of these concepts can be misconstrued. Waiting for an attack with the sole purpose for a counter and strike is a recipe for disaster. And the legal ramifications of kicking someone in the head because he flips you off should be obvious.

These concepts are not exclusive to karate, and there are more no sen principles in other arts, such as Kendo and Aikido. These strategies go into much greater depth than I describe. For a deeper study into these principles dealing with situational assessment in actual combat, check out The Book of Five Rings by the Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1645).


* This is only on YouTube's new "premium" channel. So yes, that means it ain't free. It's either a monthly rate, or pay-per-view.

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Sunday, May 06, 2018

The Role of the Instructor: Learning by Teaching


One day many years ago my sensei was giving a lesson when he got an emergency call to leave. Being the senior at the time, he asked me to finish leading the class, and off he went. I winged it, and I liked being in charge more than I could've imagined. Afterwards I came to the realization that doing and teaching something are worlds apart. I've never owned a school, but through the years I've taught and help prepare dozens of students for advancement that has equally benefited me. Give, and you will receive, goes the verse.

Learning is enhanced through teaching others; it sheds light on the subject matter from a different perspective. In one study, researchers tested the theory that learning by instructing others is viable because

...it compels the teacher to retrieve what they’ve previously studied. In other words, they believe the learning benefit of teaching is simply another manifestation of the well-known “testing effect” – the way that bringing to mind what we’ve previously studied leads to deeper and longer-lasting acquisition of that information than more time spent passively re-studying.

In the martial arts, teachers and seniors are expected to be role models for ethical behavior. The behavior of both the instructor and higher ranking students in a school can be very revealing. Newbies tend to be diffident, but they notice things. In an article for Black Belt magazine (August 1995), Dave Lowry writes,

The senior must also remember that, just as he evaluates the juniors in class, they are watching him. They will notice whether a male senior rushes to help an attractive female junior while ignoring male beginners. They will be observant of the senior's attendance habits and will notice whether he is frequently absent. They will notice whether the senior shows respect for his instructor and his dojo. And they will notice whether the senior lives the precept of his art, and whether its values are translated into his actions, both in and out of the training hall.

In addition to altruism and self-realization, it has been said that teaching in the martial arts is also a way of fulfilling one's giri, or obligation to the previous teacher(s), and to the art itself.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Return of Bare-Knuckle Fighting


A sanctioned and regulated bare-knuckle boxing event will take place June 2nd in Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA. The last time a championship boxing match sans gloves took place is when John L. Sullivan defended his world heavyweight title against Jake Kilrain in 1889.* In those days London Prize Rules governed boxing, whereby sweeps, takedowns and throws were permitted. In the updated version of fisticuffs, weight classes will be similar to those found in MMA, and standup-style grappling that allows for the fighters to hit with a free hand will be permitted.

Getting the rights to make bare-knuckle boxing a legal reality was no easy task for promoter Dave Feldman:

Feldman said he went to 28 different athletic commissions and was rejected by all of them until Wyoming played ball. His argument is that gloves were adopted for boxing and MMA to protect the hands of fighters — not their heads. Bare knuckle, Feldman argues, is actually safer when it comes to concussions and brain injuries than boxing.

The card will feature a number of seasoned fighters from boxing, MMA, kickboxing, and Muay Thai. Punches are the only strikes that will be allowed. Fighters will only have hand wraps that end one inch from the knuckles. No doubt it will be a bloody affair like MMA, but hey, that's what sells tickets. Time will tell if this newfangled aberration in combat sports catches on.


* Sullivan would wait more than four years before defending his title again, this time donning gloves under Marquess of Queensberry Rules against a smaller and less experienced fighter, James J. Corbett. Nonetheless, Corbett took Sullivan's title, utilizing a savvy, technical approach that would become a staple of modern prizefighting. Sullivan retired after his loss, and the barns that he trained in for the Kilrain fight was made into the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame. Yes, there is such a thing.

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Know Yourself

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. — Sun Tzu

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Sunday, April 01, 2018

Extreme Training For Advanced Students

I'm not a big believer in warm-up routines in the dojo. On the street, you won't have time to stretch or do jumping jacks when some thug is trying to boost your wallet. Performing basics are another waste of time, and won't put you outside of your comfort zone. Here's a short list of reality-based practices you can try out to test your mettle. They won't enhance your technical fighting skill, but you may permanently lose certain bodily functions or your life. I must warn you, these are specifically designed for practitioners with at least three years of dedicated, hardcore training, so proceed with caution.


Fire Walking


This will develop your ability to deal with fear. And extremely high temperatures. Drink plenty of water before attempting this one.



Iron Crotch Kung Fu


Muay Thai fighters wear steel groin guards in their matches. The cheap ones start at 20 USD. But with the Iron Crotch regimen, you can save your money for better things, like pain killers.



Sub-Zero Workouts


Becoming one with nature is essential for any aspiring martial artist. This is a great way to cool down after your fire walking routine.


Good luck and have fun!

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