Awake

It’s been a long three years since we’ve been posting to the blog regularly.    In that time, I’ve started two new jobs, had my first son (with another now on the way), and shattered the navicular bone in my foot after being hit by a car.

I took a full two years off from martial arts after the accident. This was partly because of pain and slow healing, and partly because I was busy enough that I didn’t find the motivation to push through the pain. I’ve finally started practicing once a week this Winter, and it has felt good. Whether through injury, introspection, or age, I’ve become much softer and my techniques have changed.

In the meantime, Glen has been teaching well and the dojo has remained a good community. While the blog has been frozen out, one of our students, Grover has been maintaining a Facebook Group. I know that Gary has still been writing in the meantime, and I’ll start getting some more of his content up in the next while.

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Missing in Inaction

I just wanted to let folks know that Gary and I are still here and haven’t given up on writing, we’ve just both had a busy year with small children and haven’t had a lot new to say. It’s been a time to refocus on the basics.

It seems to me that we aren’t the only ones at a loss for words recently. There haven’t been many interesting discussions in the past year or so on blogs and message boards. I am curious to what degree this is cyclical, as folks have gotten tired of the boards and the arguing (just as there was a lot of discussion over email lists in the ’90s that descended into sectarian arguments and then dissipated). Or perhaps traditional martial arts are just in a lull with shifting cultural trends and the dire economy.

The one big exception is there have been some long simmering discussions, largely on the Non-Aikido forum of AikiWeb, about developing internal strength in the aiki arts. It seems that some practitioners are trying to apply both modern science and the theories of Chinese internal martial arts to understand deep aspects of the Japanese arts. If one can sift through repetitive arguments, there’s some useful gems. I’m hopeful that there’s an intellectual movement happening that could bear fruit in the future.

MUSA the Kendo Robot

I’m sure this may be old news for a lot of our readers, but who can pass up making a few comments about a robot that does Kendo? I for one can’t wait to put one of these on my Christmas list.

MUSA, a 163cm tall, 70kg robot, was developed by the Manufacturing and Mechatronics Lab of Seoul National University. It was designed to help Kendokas become more proficient with their techniques.

According to Prof.Young-Bong Bang, who led this project, Musa uses sensors to defend and attack his opponents using traditional Kendo techniques. It is the goal of MUSA’s developers to one-day program MUSA to a third Dan level.

As I watched the below video I have to say this project is pretty interesting, though Musa seems to lack a little spontaneity. However, I can clearly see how such a robot could help one with their forms, and who knows what such a robot will be able to do in the future.

After watching MUSA wield what appears to be a katana, I couldn’t help think about Yul Brynner’s deranged robot gunslinger in the movie “Westworld.” I certainly wouldn’t want the liability of a sword-wielding robot in my dojo, even if the developers guarantee MUSA is programmed not to actually strike/injure his opponents.

Okay, a Kendo fighting robot may not be my first choice since I don’t practice Kendo, but until there is a robot that does Kenjutsu or Aiki and has great ukemei (falling) abilities, this robot will have to suffice. Of course ,I’m still hoping that some type of holodeck, as seen in Star Trek, is developed in my lifetime, but that might be just too much wishful thinking.

Until technology catches up with my desire, I guess I’ll just have to do things the old fashion way and use white belts. After all, many of them do move robotically.

Time Flies

For those of you who might be regular readers of this blog, I want to assure you that Spencer and I have not abandoned it, and have every intention of posting a lot more material in the future. Unfortunately, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do everything we want to get done, and due to the fact that work and family obligations our our priority posting new material has just taken a back seat to the rest of our lives.

Please bear with us during this respite, and rest assure more entries will be forthcoming.

K-9 Self-Defense

In the February 2008 issue of Black Belt Magazine there is an article titled, “Karate Vs Canines,” written by Loren W. Christensen. I’m sure many readers, such as I, initially chuckled at the thought of such an article, but this is a topic rarely discussed and worth reading about.

My initial reaction to this article was based more on the title itself, and the image it evokes of a karate-ka sparring with a dog. Fortunately, this article is a serious presentation on the topic, and offers the reader some actual techniques intended to teach people how to defend against/survive a dog attack. While Mr. Christensen’s article is only six photo-heavy pages of basic information, I believe the article is worth reading, especially for someone without any knowledge on the topic.

It’s is especially worth reading when one considers the following statistics:

  1. There are currently 74.8 million dogs in the USA.
  2. A survey by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta concluded that dogs bite nearly 2% of the U.S. population, which equals more than 4.7 million people annually.
    • 61% of bites occur around the home (reported cases)
    • 77% of bites involve a family member or family friend (reported cases)
  3. Almost 800,000 bites per year — one out of every 6 — are serious enough to require medical attention.
  4. Between 2001 and 2006, 144 deaths were attributed to dog attacks (National Canine Research Foundation).

Mr. Christensen’s article is fairly basic, something unfortunately prevalent with articles throughout the pages of Black Belt Magazine. I am sure that he has a far greater knowledge of the subject since he claims to have been a US Army Dog handler for 14 months, and I would have to believe he learned a lot more about dog attacks and how to protect himself from them. After all, it’s not unusual for a K-9 handler to be bitten by their own dog–something Mr. Christensen readily admits happened to him–other service dogs, or the random civilian canine they are requested to deal with due to their supposed expertise with canines.

In addition, my assertion that Mr. Christensen’s article provides only basic information is based on my limited exposure to police canines and police canine training (about a year). One of the first things I was taught was how to deal with an aggressive dog. Information I know was not covered in Mr. Christensen’s article. Furthermore, I was also given several long safety lectures, with specific self-defense methods, before donning the padded suit one wears when they help train attack dogs. I’ll be the first to state that these methods are almost impossible to execute during a dog attack, though they are effective in theory.

The dog attacks I experienced were extremely brutal and swift. All I ever saw were charging teeth, and the dogs (German Shepherds, Bouvier Des Flanders, and Belgian Malinois) hit with so much force that there was no way to maintain my balance and/or counter their attack with any sufficient force. Add the pain factor of the jaw pressure, and the fact that the dog is constantly moving in ways people don’t, and the whole ordeal is quite dumbfounding.

Fortunately the dogs I worked with were all highly trained, and only attacked specific body parts (normally the forearm), which made protecting one’s other body parts easier. That is, I didn’t have to worry about being bitten in the face, neck, or other more damageable parts of the body, which is a real concern when being attacked by an aggressive canine intent on hurting you.

The canine attacks I experienced were extremely controlled drills, but they clearly illustrated the lethal potential a dog could inflict if a dog had the intent to hurt someone. Unlike many humans, when these dogs attacked, they were rarely distracted by any actions one made to fend them off, and their intent to bite and pull their opponent to the ground never wavered. The attack was straight on, full force, unrelenting, with no remorse.

The truth is, once the dog was done and had been commanded to stop, they pranced off wagging their tail like nothing out of the ordinary ever took place. In fact they looked pretty proud of themselves.

The police force was not my first exposure to K-9 self-defense either. My first
K-9 self-defense came, from my uncle who used to raise hunting dogs (Bluetick Coonhounds). My uncle needed these skills since he was often dealing with the “pack mentality.” He was fully aware that if one dog attacked the others would join in.

Since being attacked by the pack would most likely be deadly, he knew several places to hit a dog that would instantly incapacitate them. I’m not proud to admit it, but I’ve tried a few of them–light force only–and they work. Just ask any of the three German Shepherds that I’ve owned.

Of course at this point, I most likely find myself in the same situation Mr. Christensen found himself in. That position being that if we share such techniques publicly every dog lover and/or animal rights activist will be up in arms and condemning us for doing so.

For now. I don’t feel the desire or necessity to share such information publicly, so I’ll close this blog entry by referring to an e-book Mr. Christensen offers for sale on the Internet; “Self-Defense Against A Dog Attack,” by Loren W. Christensen at http://www.lwcbooks.com/books/ebookdog.html While I have not read this book so cannot endorse its contents, hopefully the information contained in it will be a little more in depth.

* * *

Loren Christensen, is a 42-year veteran of the martial arts. He has learned the hard way that real fights are far more explosive and violent than karate sparring matches, a lesson proven over and over during his 25-year career as a police officer in Portland, Oregon and a military policeman in Saigon, Vietnam . He has earned a total of 10 black belts – seven in karate, two in jujitsu and one in arnis – and penned 34 books, 6 DVDs and dozens of magazine articles on the topics of the martial arts, street gangs, police-involved shootings, exercise, prostitution and various street subcultures.

James Williams’s Perspective on Martial Arts

James Williams of Nami Ryu Aiki Heiho and Bugei Trading Company has written an essay worth a glance as a response to a message-board argument with neo-traditional martial purists (but skip the comments). It is available at http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?t=38601.

In many ways, the content of what he has written is much less interesting than the language he has used. It is based on the language of Western honor, that would once have been familiar to any fighter in our culture, but now seems reactionary. For example:

‘[Writing on the Internet] gives you the feeling that you have a “right” to express your opinion with no consequence. This of course removes the foundations of courtesy and respect. It becomes about how you “feel”.’

In the end, this is not an argument about our culture, not about anything Japanese. I really believe that Mr. Williams is representing traditional Western martial values of honor and individuality, and is using his experience with Japanese culture to better understand that. While what he is arguing against is very modern (or possibly, though I hate the word, postmodern) values of cultural sensitivity and nostalgia.

Hands always push…an iaito

The Electronic Journal of Martial Arts and Sciences recently published a very well written article about the distinction between “pushing” and “pulling” when drawing a sword in the art of iaido. The article is available here.

While sword drawing is a very different facet of martial arts from jujutsu, this article sheds a lot of light on the aiki principle of “hands always push” that we often talk about in our art.

Often times, we will perform an arm movement during a technique that seems like a pull, but is better described as a push. This article does an excellent job of clarifying how the mechanics can be different when one visualizes a push instead of a pull.

[I’ve been meaning to put this up for a while now. To apologize to our readership, both Gary and I have had hectic lives recently, leaving writing and editing unattended.]