Experts

“Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites.
Experts often possess more data than judgment.
Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world.”

Collin Powell

“The difference between school and life?
In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test.
In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

Tom Bodett

In this day of the Internet, where so many claim to be an expert on any given topic discussed in many forums, I really wonder just what the word “expert” means. I questioned this even more during times when a self-professed “expert” states something as fact, when there is a clear preponderance of evidence to suggest the contrary.

You know what I mean, don’t you?

You know the guy, the expert who claims adamantly that his way is the only way, but offers no evidence to support his claims. Or the expert who spouts off statistics, but never mentions what study or organization gathered these statistics. Or wose yet someone who perpetuates a common belief/myth (such as that Karate is from Japan) as fact though evidence suggests a totally different conclusion (like Karate actually originated in Okinawa).

Another factor I question about expertise is what qualifications must one have in order to be a true expert in any field. Can a person be a real expert in raising children if they have never had any? Is an expert on Western Medicine qualified to give expert opinion regarding whether Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture) works or not? Can someone truly be an expert on race relations if they’ve never felt racial oppression or prejudice?

I guess what I’m really asking is at what point does one go from expressing a personal belief to an informed opinion to that of the expert?

Unfortunately, the dictionary definition of the word “expert” isn’t enough to satisfy my curiosity. Basically all the dictionary explanation states is:

“1. A person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject. 2. Having or demonstrating great skill, dexterity, or knowledge as the result of experience or training.”

American Heritage Dictionary

Undoubtedly, there are real experts who willingly share their knowledge on the Internet. However, more often that not, I believe many individuals who profess to be experts really aren’t. I believe this because of several factors, the main one being how bent out of shape these self-professed experts get when you ask them for their qualifications, or present them with a fact that goes against their stated position.

In my opinion, I often doubt many of them have any actual professional experience in the topic they are discussing. I suspect that, like myself, they often speak mainly from what they’ve read, what they’ve learned from discussing the topic with others, and what’s been presented on TV.

Now, I’m not saying some of these individuals may not have some personal working experience on the topics they discuss. Take, for example, a person who has done Karate for ten years. He clearly has experience. However, though he may have experience, his knowledge may be only limited to what his instructor has exposed him to, or material related to his particular style. When that individual discuses Karate with others, his experience is limited to one facet of a larger collective, and I don’t believe that qualifies to talk about Karate in general, especially as an expert.

Of course, I also question if personal experience alone is enough to make someone an expert on any topic. I wonder this because I’ve met a lot of self-taught individuals who clearly exhibit expertise in their field. Instead of formal training/study they honed their craft by trail and error, and while they might not do things according to the book, their results are the same.

This of course leads to the question about how much formal education coupled with real world experience one needs to become an expert. That’s a little harder for me to determine, since there are numerous variables to consider. Such as:

  1. Length of study
  2. Real world application of studied material
  3. Years of experience
  4. Advanced study / Continued education
  5. Length of time since experiences were last applied

Take myself for example. I like to consider myself as educated, well-read, semi articulate, with varied interests. I like reading and studying all sorts of topics, and my mind is often full of trivial/useless facts and statistics I’m just dying to find a use for. I also like debating issues, and finding facts to support my position.

When I write an essay, I don’t just write what ever comes out of my head at the moment I actually do a lot of serious research on the topic. I do that because I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know everything. The last thing I want to do is write something that others will read which is total nonsense, or utterly untrue. I also spend a lot of time researching my topics because in all honesty I often prefer the research phase to the actual work involved to put all my research together and write the essay.

In my professional life I’ve been a peace officer (15 years), an investigator for the county court (almost 7 years), building manager (over 10 years), and martial arts teacher (going on my 15th year). During these professions I have had to study a lot, pass many exams, and have done a lot of learning the hard way: trial and error.

I have also had to testify in court several times, for various reasons related to my jobs. PPer the Superior Court of San Francisco and San Mateo County it’s on record that I’m an “expert” on determining if people are under the influence or a controlled substance, and how the body will react during a fight and to various strikes to specific targets. It has also been stipulated that I am knowledgeable enough to give “expert opinion” on the fighting arts in general, police procedure, nightclub security, and tenant right issues.

Now I’m not bragging, I about to make several points.

Point #1 –

I haven’t been a peace officer in almost 14 years so my “working” knowledge of police procedures is antiquated. Numerous changes have certainly occurred since I retired.

In addition, my knowledge was only related to local departments, and police procedures in New York may be very different than those of San Francisco, or agencies in San Mateo County, California.

Furthermore, even though I may read up on the topic and try to stay informed, is it fair to still consider myself an expert on police procedures now.

Clearly, I know more than the average person, but where does one draw the line between knowledgeable and expertise.

Point #2 –

The same is true for dealing with suspects that are under the influence of a controlled substance. I can’t even remember the last time I used that skill, or made an arrest based on my training. I believe I could still make an informed guess, but I wouldn’t lay my reputation as an expert on that assumption.

Once again while I may keep myself updated on new methods, the signs and symptoms of drug interactions within the body, and other facts related top the topic, with out putting this information into practical daily use what level of “expert” am I.

Point #3 –

As an investigator I spent a lot of time investigating homicides. I could certainly teach someone how to do the job, but I’m no expert on every facet of homicide investigation.

I may know how to collect evidence, but I’d be lost trying to process/test it. I may understand the motives that drove a particular suspect to commit murder, but I have no formal training in the psychology of killers.

Once again I may have more experience than the average person, but am I an expert on every facet of homicide investigations? Am I an expert on Homicide investigations? According to the dictionary definition I am.

My point with all of these examples is just because I’ve had experience in something and maybe even continued to keep myself abreast of new information, procedural changes, and other related information still doesn’t mean I’m an expert. Things change, old theories are replaced by new theories, and what once may have been considered science fiction (traveling to the moon) may be science fact today.

I mean how many five year old kids of my generation ever imagined there would be home computers, cell phones, or Nintendo Wii.

All that my experiences mean is that I may have a better understanding of the material compared to someone who has never been a police officer, done investigations, or been exposed to the things I’ve been exposed too.

The question shouldn’t be if I’m an expert on any topic, but if I am more credible when I discuss a point based on my life experience?

I, for one, place more weight and credibility on one’s experiences than those who just learn things from a book or TV. While some may disagree with that belief, the fact of the matter is there is a big difference between the way things are taught, and the way things actually get done in real life.

My older son is facing such a case scenario. Currently he is in Paramedic school, where they teach him things according to a certain set criteria. Everything has to be done in a specific progression from “A” to “Z.” In order to pass exams students are not allowed to deviant from strict structured protocols.

However, when my son takes ride-a-longs with the local paramedics they do things quite differently than what he is taught at paramedic school. Sure they have certain procedures to follow, but they don’t follow a set progression of questions and tasks. In other words they take short cuts, adjust to the situation, and do things in ways that if attempted by a paramedic student would cause them to be flunked.

Real world experience has taught these working paramedics that not everything case can be “handle by the book,” and at times in order to save someone one must think outside the box.

This of course leads me to another issue regarding expertise. Is someone who studies a subject, learns proper text book procedures, passes exams, and is able to spout facts and statistics more of an expert than someone with real world skills who applies this knowledge on a daily basis?

I mean who would you rather have working on you in an emergency, the A+ student paramedic graduate, or the guy who has been a paramedic for several years? Or to put it another way, the novice with no experience, or the veteran who knows what has to be done and can make adjustments as needed.

Further more, when does one become an expert? Is it a within 6 months of starting a job and applying that knowledge, after a year, or after 10 years?

The problem with the word, “expert,” is that it is subjective. Its one of those words that gets thrown around a lot, and few people who claim to be one are ever asked to put up or shut up.

Now don’t get me wrong. Like I said, there are real experts who offer their opinion on the Internet, and they have a lot of valuable information to share. The only problem is, one has to wade through a lot of misinformation/half-truths to find the factual stuff.

Basically, I try and live by the adage; don’t believe everything you hear or read. Learn to be selective, and learn to examine where the source of the information comes from.

I’ve also learned that just because someone claims to be an expert, maybe even is an legitimate expert on a topic, doesn’t always mean they are right. Human frailty being what it is, even real experts are often prejudicial and one sided. As Thomas Sowell stated, “For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert; but for every fact there is not necessarily an equal and opposite fact.”

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I’ve also learned that when ever discussing something on the Internet, no matter how much I may feel I know on the subject, or how many actual facts I may possess to support my position, it is always safer to express myself as if were only an opinion. Let others take it as fact if they elect to do so.

Chimps With Spears

Chimps with spears! Oh my! What’s next; chimps on horseback using guns? Those damn dirty apes!

For those of you who missed the news reports last week, chimpanzees in Fongoli, Senegal have been observed making and using spears to hunt other primates.

Researchers observed female and adolescent chimpanzees actually select certain sticks, strip them of heir leaves, break them to a certain length, and then chew the ends to make them sharp. They then used these primitive spears to hunt by stabbing the ends into holes where they believe prey was hiding.


(A photo of an actual chimpanzee spear (Journal Current Biology))

To clarify, these chimps were observed using these spears to “actually forcibly stab into holes.” This is a very different behavior than poking or probing for food, which chimps had already been known to do.

In fact, one chimp was actually observed killing a bush-baby (a type of lemur, see below photo) by stabbing it with its spear.

The importance of this discovery, which was funded by the National Geographic Soceity and reported by Iowa State Assistant Professor of Anthropolgy Jill Prutez and graduate student Paco Bertolani of the University of Cambridge in England, is that this is the first time a non-himan species was observed habitually using tools for the specific act of hunting.

More importantly, this discovery has anthropologists such as Ms. Prutez believing that this behavior, which is believed to be a direct result of the unusual harsh living conditions these particular chimpanzees face, may exhibit similarities to early hominids and the way they used tools six million years ago.

Interestingly, this behavior of making and using spears seems limited to female and adolescent chimpanzees. So far, only one adult male has been observed hunting in this particular manner. Per Ms. Prutez:

“The observation that individuals hunting with tools include females and immature chimpanzees suggests that we should rethink traditional explanations for the evolution of such behavior in our own lineage.”

I find that assertion intriguing, albeit impossible to ever prove. However, before we start re-writing history books, it should be noted that these researchers also believe the reason female and adolescent chimps are using these spears is because of their weaker and smaller stature compared to full-grown males they have to compete with. Certainly, the use of a spear would be a great equalizer, and by using weaponry female and adolescent chimps would not have to rely on their strength alone to catch and kill prey.

Naturally, a discovery like this, and it’s apparent link to females of the species, has led some researchers, such as Dr. William McGrew of Cambridge University to make an even more extreme assertion about gender roles in evolution. Based on the fact that female chimps primarily use tools for collecting plants and invertebrate foods, and now have been observed using spear like weapons to hunt, it may be likely that the origins of human technology started with females.

While I have absolutely no problem agreeing with the assertion that a female chimp wielding a spear could actually compete with her male counter-part, I’m not ready to jump on the bandwagon with those researchers that say we may need to reexamine our evolutionary history based on this discovery. That’s not because I disagree with the notion that there could have, or ever were spear wielding female hunters in our prehistoric past either. My opinion is simply based on the numerous anthropologic studies, which have shown that in most primitive cultures work related to obtaining food is clearly divided; women for the most part gather food and tend crops, while men hunt.

However, how specific gender roles were in prehistoric times is unknown, and it is very possible females took a more active role in hunting and tool development. I mean why not. Female predators hunt for themselves, and man is a predatory species.

[Comment: Some research indicates that the hunting vs. gathering male/female division of labor only occured in our “modern” human species and might have been one of the reasons we out-competed Neanderthals. So perhaps in such earlier human species (and the “missing links” between us and earlier apes) such a thesis would make more sense. –Spencer]

As Pruetz states:

“It’s classic in primates that when there is a new innovation, particularly in terms of tool use, the younger generations pick it up very quickly. The last ones to pick up are adults, mainly the males.”

Needless to say, if one believes Ms Pruetz’s statement is true, and this is just the start of a new behavior, maybe within a generation or two all Fongoli chimpanzees will be wielding spears.

Wouldn’t that be something, and what would it lead to next?

If chimpanzees do start wielding spears, does that mean they will start hunting bigger and bigger game, and that over time their brains will evolve making them even more human than they appear to be now?

Maybe researchers are right, and it’s true that we humans our watching our evolution repeat itself.

Clearly, evidence exists that we are genetically similar to chimpanzees, and one study has gone so far as to state that it may have been possible that chimps and early humans even mated and gave birth to hybrid species.

In other reports such as “Chimps Learned Tool Use Long Ago Without Human Help” by Heather Whipps (Special to LiveScience posted: 12 February 2007 http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/070212_chimp_tools.html) clearly asserts that chimpanzees learned to make tools on their own volition some 4,300 years ago. An assertion that shows a parallel intelligence to humans, and contradicts the belief that chimpanzees are just imitating behaviors they witnessed humans doing.


(Close-up of a so-called ‘chimpanzee stone hammer’ under excavation. Credit: University of Calgary)

Of course, more research needs to be done, and one must keep in mind that reports linking primate behavior to those of are early hominid ancestors is nothing new. More importantly, one must remember that these reports are not limited to chimpanzees either.

Back in September of 2005, a report titled “Gorillas Photographed Using Tools” by Bjorn Carey (LiveScience Staff Writer posted: 29 September 2005 http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/050929_gorilla_tools.html) also made comparisons between gorillas using tools to measure water depth and as a support device/bridge to that of our human ancestors.

As Leah waded into the pool, she frequently used the branch in her righthand to test the pool’s depth.
Credit: Thomas Breuer/WCS/PLoS Biology
Efi using a branch for support as she searches for herbs.
Credit: Thomas Breuer/WCS/PLoS Biology

Now before anyone gets worried that we humans are soon going to face an army of “evolved” spear wielding chimpanzees, it should be noted that similar behavior has been observed before, in areas such as Gombe, Tanzania. Per Ian Gilby, who studies chimpanzee hunting at Harvard University, chimpanzees are frequently observed sticking sticks into holes of trees to make the holes bigger so they can reach in and get honey and small birds. However, Mr. Gilby, also stated that if the chimpanzees from Senegal are actually “sharpening” the ends of their sticks that would indeed be a new, never before seen behavior.

What Mr. Gilby is basically stating is the same question many researchers have; is this behavior really new or just behavior already observed countless times? I guess the answer to that question will depend on the results of further investigation, and more first hand accounts of this behavior by different researchers.

In the meantime, while waiting for further evidence to support either conclusion, I don’t find it that hard to believe that some chimpanzees are using spears to hunt. Chimpanzees often display an intellectual capacity and complexity we humans tend to overlook. I think people really don’t want to think about how closely our two species are really related.

As someone who enjoys studying anthropology, and has spent years researching the roots of martial arts, I find the correlation of this discovery to that of early man very interesting and something I will certainly follow as more reports are published.

However, as interesting as the above report was, what intrigued me the most about this discovery was another report I read during the same week that is in direct contrast to this story of “chimp evolution” (so to speak). That story was a report recently issued indicating that the average US high school graduate can’t read or do arithmetic at even a basic level.

This “dumbing down,” or dare I say apparent signs of intellectual de-evolution among American youths, makes me really wonder if the writers of the movie, The Planet of the Apes,” were onto something.

I means if chimps are getting smarter and becoming more like us…. Well you get the idea.

Correction on the Principle of Back Pressure

The article on this blog on the Principle of Back Pressure recently caused controversy after it was (much to our surprise) featured on the front page of the Aikido Journal website. Part of the anger we received was due to the fact that nothing in the “Back Pressure” article gave credit to Don Angier of Yanagi ryu.

That was a mistake on our part, and we apologize.

We had intended to give Mr. Angier significant credit for the debt we owe him, but due to negligence during editing, that section of the original article was not included. Indeed, in the other “principles” essays, Mr. Angier was given significant credit for his help (e.g. the essay on #9 Chains of Motion/Commutive Locking).

Mr. Angier not only provided the name “Back Pressure,” but he also really opened our eyes as to how to understand the subtleties. The way Gary has described it to me is that he had previously had an understanding of this principle on a less sophisticated level and had asked other instructors about it; most jujutsu instructors also had an intuitive understanding of Back Pressure, but no term to describe it. However, Mr. Angier was able to describe it in more detail and give us the language to describe it. So as a named principle, this is not something that was handed down to us from the ages, but we have adapted it because of its importance.

As has been pointed out, if one really wants to understand this principle more deeply, Mr. Angier would be a superior source of knowledge. Be we have found working on this article to be very educational for us and we hope that it has been helpful for others. Our intention has never been to try to take credit for Mr. Angier or anybody else’s work; rather, we are trying to better understand these principles of how the human body moves and share with others our meager understanding.

We are sorry once again for the omission.

–Spencer Burns

Tell Me It Ain’t So…

(This entry is dedicated to Oswaldo, a student of mine who recently reminded me “you are what you eat,” and the harmful nature of the Twinkie.)

I have a guilty little secret. Even though, I try my best to stay in shape, and watch what I eat, I love Twinkies. You known those little golden sponge cakes filled with cream that Hostess has been selling to the American public since the 1930’s.

Now I’m no Twinkie-holic, but a pack of Twinkies, (or two), is my little reward when I really push myself at the gym. It’s something I can bribe myself with in order to push myself to the next level. My Twinkie is sort of the carrot dangling in front of the horse.

Naturally, I’ve never been under the delusion that Twinkies were good for me. In fact, I’ve never been quite sure what they are even made of. Until a few days ago assumed, maybe with a subconscious desire to do so, that they at least contained some natural ingredients. I thought that they had at least a bit of nutritional value.

Boy was I ever wrong.

Twinkies contain no eggs, no butter, no milk, and no cream. In fact they contain nothing that can spoil during their twenty-five day shelf life. So much for that old urban myth, which states Twinkies last forever.

So what are Twinkies made of, you ask? For that answer I suggest you read “Mmmm, Tasty Chemicals,” by Anne Underwood in the March 5th 2007 issue of Newsweek Magazine. (See below) It’s a real eye opener, if not a real stomach turner.

Oddly enough a few weeks ago, before this article came out, my students and I had a debate on the health issues of eating snack foods, especially snack foods such as Twinkies. While I vehemently defended my Twinkie addiction (though the truth is I actually eat Zingers, a Twinkie covered in raspberry jelly and coconut shavings), I had to concede that eating other healthier things was definitely in my best interest. After all, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Too bad apples just don’t taste more like Zingers.

The only defense I could assert when it comes to eating a pack of Zingers or two, maybe in a stressful week three, is that I really don’t ingest anything else that is that bad for me. I do watch what I eat (diet-wise), I don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, and only reluctantly take the prescription drugs my doctor says I need to take to manage my cholesterol and chronic pain.

In other words I do try to take care of myself. My justification is simply this, every now and then I have to indulge, and if that means a Zinger or two what’s the real harm. My Twinkie (Zinger) is my guilty little pleasure, and while I now know I shouldn’t, now that I know what they are actually made of, I doubt I’ll change my wicked ways.

My students, especially Oswaldo may be right, but hopefully, in the end, I’m not what I really eat.

Martial Arts Police – Part Two

I think anyone who read my initial essay titled “Martial Arts Police,” will agree I was civil, and certainly showed a lot of decorum. However, this morning I had too much free time on my hands, which led me to over-think/over-analyze the situation. Most likely more so than this topic deserves.

Maybe “The Martial Arts Police” have gotten under my skin because I was police officer. Or maybe its just the absurdity of someone or some group feeling they have—or at least fronting as if they actually have—some authority to investigate such matters that really irks me now.

Read their follow up letter to the response I sent them:

“Sir,

Thank you for your timely response.

Of course, you are free to exercise your right not to participate in the forum discussions.

Should you give up this right, you may register and respond on eBudo or other forums.

Your case reference number is USA-070301-002. Please keep this safe and quote this in any future correspondence.

Sincerely,

The Martial Arts Police (Koryu Division)”

martialartspolice@googlemail.com

Exercise my right not to participate? Give up my rights if I choose to talk? What the hell are you talking about? Who the hell gives you the authority to tell me or anyone else what our rights are?

You don’t even sign your name. Coward! At least I’m not hiding in the shadows.

What’s next, subpoenas, background checks, dispositions from witnesses, and a trial? Oh I forgot I’ve already been put on trial and lost. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? I guess that doesn’t matter on the Internet.

I rarely loose my temper when dealing with things like this, but the self-righteous, self-serving, and self-indulgent stuff people think they can freely exercise on the Internet is getting to be too much. I’m sure they think they are being witty and tongue-in-cheek by being the “police”, but really they just come off as smug.

At some point people are going to have to say “enough already.” I guess I’ve reached that point.

People can talk about me all they want since I really don’t care. Few, if any, who make comments on the Internet know me, have seen me in action, or met me face to face to discuss these matters. Their opinion of me is meaningless. Furthermore, I truly believe many of these individuals who express themselves would be far more gracious talking with me face to face than they are over the net. The Internet allows people to let their rude and obnoxious side prevail.

However, publicly making accusations is another matter. State your belief or opinion that’s fine, but don’t accuse me of criminal conduct. Have you never heard of libel?

Back to the so-called “Martial Arts Police.”

First off, who are you, and what are your qualifications to be involved? How does this issue affect you? What training do you have that compels you to believe you have the investigative abilities to examine anything? You claim to be “The Martial Arts Police,” but you have no web site, and present nothing that indicates you the slightest authority and/or expertise to assert such a claim.

You attempt to come off as a disinterested third party, yet you use inflammatory language: claiming I’ve been charged with a crime, giving a case reference number, as if there is an actual case file, and explaing issues of my rights, to bait me into reacting. That is a trap I’ve apparently fallen for, at least to some degree (at least here on my blog I dictate what’s said).

More importantly, if anyone is committing fraud it is people like you, who pretend to have authority when they don’t. You are not peace officers. You have absolutely no authority except in your own mind.

So lets take a minute to educate the public on what the word “police” means. The word “Police” defined

po·lice (p…-l¶s“) n., pl. police. 1. The governmental department charged with the regulation and control of the affairs of a community, now chiefly the department established to maintain order, enforce the law, and prevent and detect crime. 2.a. A body of persons making up such a department, trained in methods of law enforcement and crime prevention and detection and given the authority to maintain the peace, safety, and order of the community. b. A body of persons having similar organization and function. 3. (used with a pl. verb). Police officers considered as a group. 4. Regulation and control of the affairs of a community, especially with respect to maintenance of order, law, health, morals, safety, and other matters affecting the public welfare. 5.a. The cleaning of a military base or other military area. b. The soldier or soldiers assigned to a specified maintenance duty. –attributive. 1. Often used to modify another noun. –po·lice tr.v. po·liced, po·lic·ing, po·lic·es. 1. To regulate, control, or keep in order with or as if with a law enforcement agency. 2. To make (a military area, for example) neat in appearance. –po·lice“a·ble adj. –po·lic“er n.

Now I may be wrong (I’m not), but there is no, nor has there ever been a governmental body in charge of martial arts. Yes, there are associations, but these associations are not run by the government on any local, state or federal level.

Now, I cannot form a private police force to protect and police my neighborhood. That’s normally referred to as vigilantism. I also cannot pose or pretend to be a police officer, which happens to be a crime.

Secondly, as far as I am aware, there are no laws regulating martial art schools, and their curriculum. Some states have discussed legislation to license schools, but as far as I’m aware this has not happened yet. Mainly, this is because lawmakers haven’t figured out what parameters they would use when determining to license a school or not.

Third, I am unaware of any laws, patents, copyrights, or any other limits related to specific martial art techniques, theories, principles, etc. In fact, I would think trying to claim sole ownership of anything related to the martial arts would be improbable.

Simply stated, there are only so many ways the body can be attacked and used as a weapon. Most of these skills were already employed way back in history, when fighting hand-to-hand was the norm, not the exception.

Anyone claiming to have discovered something new, or revolutionary is just delusional.

Lastly, in order to “charge” one of committing a crime, as the Martial Arts Police asserted I have been, there needs to be a law, and sufficient evidence to indicate a crime was committed under that statue. That means those making the charge must be able to show a criminal act, and an intent to commit a criminal act. They must also have a victim of the crime.

First of all, there are NO MARTIAL ART LAWS!!!!!!! (Except those laws regulated to weaponry possession and usage.)

So far no victim has come forward. In this case, the victim would be Don Angier, he hasn’t said a word. I’m almost certain he wouldn’t care. His biggest complaint most likely would be how much I still don’t understand, and all the stuff that may be inaccurate.

The charge against me is “stealing.” What did I steal? I was given the information freely and with no restrictions for it’s further use. In fact, I was encouraged to explore it further, and make my own conclusions. That came from Mr. Angier himself (It should be noted he told everybody in the room that, not just me).

The fact that I rustled a few feathers by bringing this information to the public’s attention before others—who I acknowledge may be better suited to do so—isn’t a crime either.

Furthermore, I gave credit where credit was due. I never said all the information I wrote was something I concocted out of thin air, or was given to me by some mysterious Tengu. I clearly admitted, conceded the fact that I don’t know everything. I also clearly stated that I’ve have been fortunate to studied with people who do, and they have helped me arrive at the conclusions I presented.

Lastly, and this pertains more to civil litigation than criminal, has anybody lost anything of value and have I profited from sharing the information?

The answer is no and no.

Mr. Angier freely and willing shares the information I wrote about with anyone who attends his seminars. Those who choose to use it, and explore it more in depth are free to do so. I’m sure that some of his ex-students teach these things whether or not those individuals have his blessing to teach his art. Clearly, they have profited more than I, which I agree they should.

The fact that I feel some of his principles, or terminology, are more important than others I use, past or present, is based on my respect for the man and his knowledge. I’ve said this time and time again, but since I’m on trail let me repeat: Mr. Angier has helped me tremendously in exploring my art, refining my art, and searching for the science that makes the techniques within my art work. With that said, it shouldn’t be surprising that if he places an emphasis on a principle, then so would I.

On the other hand, anyone who thinks I derived the information I presented from one source, especially from a few seminars where the topics are briefly discussed is crazy. I started looking into these things long before I knew Mr. Angier existed, and I’ll most likely be adding to my knowledge long after he is dead.

As for profiting from it, what have I gained? Besides being a better practitioner, and a better teacher, I’ve gained nothing. No one is calling me to do seminars now that they’ve read this stuff. I’m not making videos, nor are publishers offering me deals to write books.

The whole point of this rant, and I admit it is a rant, is that it all of these discussions are a waste of time. Who really cares, expect the few people who obviously have nothing better to do in life than surf the net and stir up controversy?

Yes, there are those who say my story and others like them affect the integrity of the martial arts in general (I won’t argue that assertion), but there are so many more, bigger fish to fry than me.

In addition, who has the right, or the credentials to question anyone’s legitimacy, especially when they start making criminal assertions? Just because you have a famous teacher, or a pedigree doesn’t make you or the art you practice any better than anyone else.

The Martial Arts Police

On March 1st, 2007 I received the following e-mail from the “Martial Arts Police”:

Gentlemen,

It is our duty to inform you that you and the Yachigusa Ryu are being discussed in a negative light on Aikido Journal and eBudo.

There are several people on these forums accusing you of being frauds and of stealing principles and techniques from Don Angier.

They are also saying that there was no such person as Mr Yachigusa.

http://www.aikidojournal.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=10072

http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?t=36607

You are hereby invited to join these forums in order to respond to these charges.

Sincerely,

The Martial Arts Police

Now I have no idea who the Martial Arts Police are, who they think they are, or what their intentions are, but I wrote them the following reply:

Dear Martial Arts Police,

Thanks for your e-mail. This is not the first time my school, and my reputation has been discussed. I’ve already addressed the comment on E-Budo once before, so has one of my senior students. I’m sure my reponses are still posted on that forum somewhere.

Like I’ve said many times, there is no verifiable proof to my teacher’s claimed history. I don’t know how much more clearly I can state that. I’m simply repeating what he told me as I understood it. I tell that to everyone, so I’m not trying to “hide” anything. I’m very up front with the lack of evidence. It bothers me just as much as everyone else.

As for stealing principles I haven’t. All martial arts use the same principle. Science is science.

As for stealing them from Don Angier, who I have great respect for, I gave him credit numerous times for the terminology, and helping to understand them better. Clearly without his help, I would still be searching for a lot of ways to explain the things I do. I owe him a lot, and made sure to include that in my essays.

If I was stealing from Mr. Angier, as you say I’m “charged with,” why would I mention his name at all?

I should also point out I’ve written to Don Angier for clarification on how I understood things, and benefited from his corrections.

If I am stealing as accused, then I am stealing from countless others who have also aided me in my understanding of the listed principles. The accusation that I obtained all the info I wrote about from a bunch of seminars is ridiculous. I wish it had been that simple.

Thank you for your invitation to join these forums, but experience tells me its not worth my time. People will believe what they want to believe, no matter what is said. I also have no desire to involve my self in pointless Internet wars.

Sincerely,
Gary Moro

Yachigusa Ryu Jutsu

While I think my response is adequate I would just like to add a few more comments for anyone who really cares. (Comments relating to statements made on: Aikido Journal Forum.)

#1 – The last time I checked there are no copyright laws for martial arts terminology, so to say I’m charged with something is ludicrous. Martial artists throughout time have used other people’s information and terminology to express concepts and principles that they didn’t have their own name for.

In addition, it is not uncommon for martial artists to apply learnt knowledge from other sources, and add that knowledge to their curriculum. That’s how people get better. THEY LEARN NEW THINGS.

#2 – Richard Elias is absolutely correct that he helped me understand the concept of Back Pressure, as well as aiding in the clarity of many others. He has helped me a lot, so has John Lovato (so have other members of Don Angier’s school).

Similarly to what I said about Mr. Angier, Mr. Elias and Mr. Lovato have also helped me to better understand things I had already done to some extent. In many ways they opened my eyes about how detailed the techniques in the art I was taught actually are.

Their help has been invaluable, and I’m a better martial artist due to their efforts. However they are not the only source for the material I presented.

Of course based on the logic used on those forums, I also stole from Kano, since I often talk about Judo.

#3 – I will stress this point again: I gave Don credit time and time again for terminology in my essays. However, I have never been given a list Of Don Angier’s principles so I can’t comment on the similarities. In my system we have about 60 more principles I haven’t had a chance to write about yet.

I also have not been privy to detailed explanations of Don Angier’s principles, since I have never been a direct student of his, nor have even claimed to be one. At seminars he discusses various principles, but only on a superficial level. I wrote my explanations as I understand the principles from my experience and what I was taught by countless others, not just Don Angier alone.

Don Angier is extremely knowledgeable, but he not the only one with such information. Terminology maybe, but not content.

#4 – When I first met Mr. Angier I wrote him several times asking him about various elements and the principles he discussed during a seminar. In each letter I told him how I understood things, and his normal response was to tell me when I was right, or if I needed to explore things in more depth.

In other words, he was willing to help me explore my art, and help me further my education.

# 5- Mr. Elias asserts the techniques I use to illustrate the principles are from Don Angier. Be serious. I’ve never seen Don do Osotogari, and many of the techniques depicted are done in countless other styles. Most are very basic, and that was intentional. I tried to use techniques a variety of people could relate to.

Mr. Elias even states that they are technically different than what Don Angier teaches, and he is right, because I learned them from someone else. I’m not copying what the Yanagi Ryu practitioners do, but to be completely honest I have adjusted some of what I do thanks to their corrections.

Like I said, I try and learn from those I respect and who have the knowledge and skill to teach me. If that’s a crime, I’m guilty as charged.

#6 – I have never ever studied karate, nor have I claimed to be a samurai. I’ve even stated that my teacher would laugh when I referred to him as a samurai, which should be enough o dispel that myth.

#7 – Mr. Elias asserted I didn’t know how to tie a hakama. However the truth is I just tied it differently, like many jujutsu and Aikido practitioners do. When I was informed of the proper traditional method, I adopted it. Once again, when I was shown the proper way to do something I corrected my methods.

If that proves anything all, it proves is that when I’m shown that I’m doing something wrong or if I’m shown a better way to be effective I take full advantage of the information.

Indeed, it is the case that Mr. Elias did teach me how to fold the hakama correctly, a skill I’ll be the first to admit I lacked.

#8 – I do own a lot of videos Don Angier has produced. However, they are mainly on weaponry and do not go into any detailed information. Having been to enough of Don Angier’s seminars I know that there is no way to copy what he does without first hand instruction. His stuff is too detailed and technical to make it work if you don’t know what he is doing.

In other words, it would do absolutely no good to copy the stuff from his tapes, because it would be next to impossible to get the techniques to work properly. It would actually be more frustrating than fruitful.

Okay, that’s my statement, and that’s all I have to say on the matter. People are going to believe what they want to believe, no matter what. Enough said.

No-Touch Knockouts – Why do I care?

For those that are regular readers, and for those that have stumbled onto this blog and have read a few of my previous posts regarding the no-touch knockout controversy, one may wonder why I care.

I ask myself that very question all the time. I mean why does it bug me so much? Why can’t I just overlook the nonsense, and just forget about it? WHY!?

Well the answer isn’t because I’m such a fine upstanding citizen or that I want to see truth and justice prevail. It’s not because I think my purpose in life is to expose fraud and corruption where and when I can. And its not because I receive accolades from my martial art contemporaries, martial art students, fellow workers, family, or friends because I’m willing to fight the good fight. To be honest most don’t care.

No, the reason is more personal; I simply take offense to the idea, and feel this affects the credibility of the martial arts in general. Clearly with the current state of martial arts, where schools exist that churn out black belts like McDonalds sells burgers, we in the industry don’t need this.

The last thing we martial artists need are people discrediting what we do, and giving the public further ammunition to ridicule what we do. Hollywood has done enough of that already, by highlighting the flash and the fluff, as well as the mystical more-than-real world fighting techniques that work.

I learned a long time ago that credibility is everything, and one’s reputation is all one will ever truly possess in this lifetime.

Now some will laugh at the above, once again questioning the legitimacy regarding the history of my school. However, I’m the first to admit that what little information I’ve pieced together has enough holes to leave room for lots of speculation and suspicion.

I for one would carefully scrutinize someone else with the same story as mine. However, I would never be flipped enough to call them an outright fraud in public forums as others have done to me. Without meeting the person, seeing their skills first hand I wouldn’t be comfortable or feel justified making any assertions.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m the first to stringently question the information my teacher gave me, but it’s all I’ve got to work with. I’m also the first to say there is absolutely no proof to verify anything. I’m not trying to deceive anyone by saying there is. I tell people what I do and do not know and let each individual believe what they want.

With that said, back to my point.

As any student of mine will tell you, I’m a big proponent of vital point striking. I believe understanding the various methods of applying vital point striking and other elements of Kyusho Jutsu is extremely important in maximizing the efficiency of ones martial art techniques.

My honest opinion is that you can’t call yourself a martial artist if you have no concept of them, or at the very least some basic tools to utilize them. All real authentic martial arts attack weak points of the body, and that is all the art of vital point striking is about.

I also realize that relying on vital points alone in a real fight is ludicrous. It’s borderline suicide. The art of vital point striking is nothing more than an enhancement system to viable techniques. The art of vital point striking is sort of like adding the whipped cream to the milkshake. You don’t need the whipped cream to make the milkshake taste good, but you want it anyway. It’s that little extra zing that makes the milkshake so much better.

So what is the connection between the art of vital pint striking and no-touch knockouts? The answer is simple; most proponents of no-touch knockouts are also proponents, even major figures—dare I say modern day pioneers—in the art and dissemination of vital point striking.

Given the fact that many people already questioned the validity of vital point striking as they presented it, and believe these proponents were frauds regarding that topic, imagine what they must think now.

Clearly, there is more proof to substantiate that vital points exit. Just spend a few minutes at a vital point class/seminar and your opinion regarding their existence will quickly change (note I didn’t say one’s opinion on their application in a real fight would; that requires a little more time).

My problem, the reason I’m so adamant regarding the topic of no-touch knockouts and extolling the insanity of this belief, is that those who perpetuate martial art myths such as this discredit all the real hard working martial artist who spend numerous years enduring physical hardship to hone their craft.

The martial arts are nothing mysterious or supernatural. They are all based on applied sciences. They were all tested and refined during a time when warriors actually utilized these skills.

To make martial arts something they are not, to take these skills and try to place them in a position akin to supernatural powers is just wrong. It’s a lie. It’s dishonest.

I can’t tolerate dishonesty, and I guess in the end that’s what really bothers me about this topic the most. Clearly, it’s the reason I can’t put this topic to rest.

Lastly, I dislike having to dispel preconceived notions potential students bring into my school. Explaining to someone that their belief, that what they’re searching for, does not, nor ever did exist is just not good for business.

No one likes or respects somebody who “bursts their bubble.”