Black Belt Magazine Article Review -“Deadly Weapons”

I have been a subscriber to Black Belt Magazine for over 20 years. Through those years I’ve seen the magazine evolve, and change along with the various “flavors of the month.”

For the most part, I approach Black Belt Magazine as if it were a Hollywood gossip magazine. There are lots of articles and photos, but little or nothing of substance. It’s basically throne room reading, if you get my gist.

More often than not, articles are poorly written, show bias, and really offer nothing new content-wise. In fact, if you look at many of the authors or who they are writing about, they are often the same people who purchase major ad space in the magazine. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

What really irritates me, even often perplexes the hell out of me, is how often Black Belt Magazine asserts something new and revolutionary has been discovered or created by so-and-so-bigwig. Ninety-nine percent of the time, these articles turn out to be nothing new or innovative at all. For a publication specializing in martial arts, they should just know better.

However for all the magazine’s faults, every now and then they do produce something of value and worth reading.

In this instance it’s a two-part article titled, “Deadly Weapons,” by Scott Marrs and Andy McGill, which appears in the August and September 2007 issues.

Basically, the articles are written to inform people how the law really views the martial arts, the liability of combatants, self-defense issues, and how hands and feet are viewed as deadly weapons.

While I feel the articles are too short to do full justice to the topic, the authors did a good job answering a lot of questions martial artists may have about the law. Certainly, this is one of the few occasions where I’ve seen these questions–man of which I’m asked in class–covered to any extent. It’s also nice to see someone actually addressing known fallacies, and setting the record straight.

I, for one, feel it is extremely important to teach my students the law as it relates to using martial art skills, even in a life and death situation. This is especially important given the fact that any civil suit filed regarding possible excessive force has the potential to include me, as the teacher of those skills.

Unfortunately, very few schools discuss martial arts and the law. As a result there is a lot of misinformation out there. I can’t start to tell you how many times I’ve been asked if my hands are really registered as deadly weapons.

I know I will encourage my students to read this article. Not because we haven’t covered most of this material in class already, but just so they can get another perspective on the material.

I also recommend anyone involved in the martial arts should also read it. However, like the authors state, “Don’t’ rely on this article as legal advice. The jurisdiction in which you live may have different laws and standards than discussed here.”

View the article in PDF format: Part 1, Part 2.


A Review Of The Yanagi Ryu Aiki Bugei Seminar 09/23/07

Every year in April I look forward to Mr. Angier’s trip to the S.F. Bay Area and the seminar he teaches. This year that seminar didn’t happen, and for a while my students and I played with the idea of hosting him ourselves. Unfortunately, we came to the conclusion that financially and logistically that just wasn’t possible. In the end we just decided to wait until next year and hoped for the best.

Luckily for us, it turned out that a seminar was then scheduled for the weekend of September 22 and September 23. While attending both days wasn’t possible due to prior commitments (mainly that my wife is now over 7 months pregnant), we looked forward to attending the seminar and learning some new things. Or should I say, we to learning new methods/concepts that with some further study/practice can aid in the overall effectiveness of the techniques I teach.

Clearly, we missed a lot by not attending Saturday’s seminar; it appears a lot of information related to making proper “hand shapes” to attack and lock up one’s opponent’s skeletal structure, and the principle of “Back Pressure” was covered.

I for one would have certainly welcomed the information on the different types of hand positions one must use to affect one’s opponent, since that is clearly something I don’t know enough about. While I may apply such methods already in certain circumstances, sometimes without even realizing it, I currently lack the ability to explain what I’m doing or why it has to be done in such a manner.

It’s information such as that which is invaluable in these seminars. I have come to the realization that there are only a few instructors that truly can teach it. Mr. Angier is one instructor I know has the ability to do that, and the ability to teach it in a manner that–if one pays enough attention–will give a practitioner some basic information to study the topic on their own in more depth.

Learning more about the principle of Back Pressure would also have been great, especially after writing about the topic on this blog. While I’m comfortable with what I wrote, and the accuracy of the information presented in that essay, I know there is still much more to learn about it, and I’m sure that essay will be revised in the future.

While my students and I missed some valuable stuff on Saturday, Sunday’s seminar was still worth attending, even if the class was clearly designed to review material covered the day before.

As is often the case when attending a Yanagi Ryu seminar, it’s hard to describe what we actually did, and I would be lying if I said at this point I understand all the subtleties of the movement within the forms/techniques we did. Then again I don’t go to a Yanagi Ryu seminar to learn “techniques.” I go there to learn the science behind them, and why moving this way or that way makes things work better.

I go to these seminars to correct bad habits, expose myself to new concepts/ideas, and gain further insight to my own art. And yes, I did gain some insights on Sunday, mainly by carefully watching Mr. Angier demonstrate things on various people. By watching his movements, at least the ones that are observable, and listening to his explanations I can honestly say I have a lot of new information to ponder.

In my opinion the fact that Mr. Angier gets me thinking and investigating what I do in more detail, as well as visualizing the potential I could achieve with further study and discipline, is as I’ve stated countless times more valuable than the techniques taught.

As anyone who has been involved in any profession or hobby for any real length of time knows, we all go through bouts of “burnout” from time to time–periods where we feel we’ve hit a dead end, or the mountain before us is too steep to climb. No matter how self-motivated we may be, sometimes these feelings can be overwhelming. Its at these times where we need a little something to rejuvenate are enthusiasm, and that’s what these Yanagi Ryu seminars do for me. That’s why I look forward to them every year.

Lastly, some folks who recognized me from this “blog” had nothing but good things to say about the information I’ve presented. While I don’t write this blog in order to impress others or to have them validate me, it’s very nice to hear the positive feedback. I did appreciate all the comments, and the fact that many of you stated you you’ve been loyal readers since the blog started.