Epistimologically Vicious Circles

I’m always interested when academics look at the martial arts. I had a friend who once commented that in East Asian Studies, it was far more legitimate to write about the artistic decoration of a sword than how it was used. The exotic “material culture” is acceptable, while methods of violence are déclassé. For this and many other reasons, the majority of martial scholarship is incomplete, inaccurate, and/or biased.

So I was quite pleased to read this article that explores the reasons why martial artists seem to have an aversion to digging for the truth. The title is a bit of a buzzword-mouthful, but it thoughtful and written for a popular audience (i.e., it is low on jargon).

“Epistemic Viciousness in the Martial Arts” by Gillian Russell

I stumbled upon this paper because this blog was referenced in a comment on to a post about the paper on the blog “Less Wrong”. Oddly, while I had never read “Less Wrong,” I follow its sister publication “Overcoming Bias.” Such is the circular nature of the “Blogosphere.”

It’s Been a While

Well, I realize its been a while since I last wrote anything, but sometimes life has a way of getting so busy there just isn’t enough time to do everything one wants to. And contrary to those who think I burned myself out writing so much so quickly, I would love to have the ability to write every day. That said, I do tend to cycle through my interests, abandoning one for another.

However like I said some big projects at work, other obligations, and a very nice trip to Disneyland sometimes get in the way of normal activities.

Then there are also the times when I suffer through bouts of writer’s block, which I find very frustrating, since thinking of topics isn’t any problem. There are lots of things I want to write about, I just can’t seem to find the right words.

I also tend to research things I’m writing about to death, which of course just complicates the writing process. I start off with a specific idea, look for “facts” to justify my stance, and in the process come up with to many other things to think about, which more often than not distract me from my original goal.

This of course leads to my attempt to do several essays at once, often resulting in none of them getting done at all, or at least completed in a timely manner.

One day I may learn to disciple myself better, but for now I just have to accept that that is just the way that I am, and deal with it as best as I can.

Clearly, since I last posted many things of interest have come to my attention, and many of them are worth discussing, either because they have merit, are humorous, or because they expose the more “deceitful” side of the martial arts world.

However, some of these issues need to be discussed with tact, which means I have to sit back and wait until my initial reaction is over, and I can approach what I want to say in a more rational/prudent manner. Not that I won’t express what I feel, I just won’t express it as I would in my school among my students who know me. Not that that always makes a difference.

Case in point: there is a George Dillman video that is circulating around the Internet where he claims to be able to knock people out without touching them, or through barriers. PLEASE !!!!! These are the things that just make me want to scream.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-x4iJM2aU4&search=dillman

Of course I’m fully aware this topic has been discussed to death on the Internet already, and while I’m not going to discuss this matter today, all I can say for now is: Why, Dillman? Why?

On a more uplifting note I found two very interesting books, (neither of which I’ve had time to read yet), which look promising. If nothing else they cover topics most people are not familiar with, and that I’ve had very limited exposure to, which make these books all the more interesting to me.

While I only had a chance to glance through them at the book store, and haven’t received them from Amazon.com yet, I know I’m looking forward to reading them, and learning more about the history of these systems, especially the book on Lua, which I’ve I had some casual training in, but know very little about the art in general.

Of course what I’m really hoping for is that the book on Lua discusses some aspects of hakihaki (bone-breaking), and aalolo (pressure points), two elements of Lua I’ve heard a lot about, discussed with those that claim to practice/teach Lua, but haven’t witnessed first hand.

Of course when I’m done reading these books I’ll write a full review.

ISBN: 1581780281 ISBN: 1891448315

Lastly, while searching through my mother’s photo albums for a photo project I was doing for her, (and there are dozens of very large ones) I found several old pictures which I will also eventually add to the “blog.” An embarrassing thought in some cases to be sure. Of course I won’t be embarrassed alone since I fully intend on posting some of my kids in their Ninja/Ninja Turtle days, as well as some photos from the early years of the school.

Well, I won’t guarantee I’ll write daily at this point, but I promise it won’t be as long between posts from now on. Unless of course more work projects are added to my list, which I unfortunately have no control over.

Martial Art Stamp Collecting

Now here is a hobby I never even thought of. Not the stamp collecting part, I used to do that as a kid, but specifically collecting stamps related to the martial arts. What a neat way to combine two interests.

Like I said, this idea never crossed my mind until I came across several websites written by individuals engaged in this activity. Several of these sites, are very informative, and clearly set up to be a reference source for collectors. Not only do they list what’s available by category and/or country, many of these sites also have numerous scans of the stamps themselves.

After spending some time looking over these sites I was amazed how many stamps depicting martial arts are available.

Sure most of the martial art stamps are related to the art of Judo, because of its relation to the Olympics, but I was able to find stamps that depict almost every martial art out there.

There are also stamps that depict famous martial artists; Olympians, famous movie characters and actors.

My favorite of all though are the ones that depict Disney characters doing martial arts, many of which I actually have in my stamp collection. (Though I collected stamps of the world when I was young, I only collect stamps with Disney characters on them now.)

Of course of all the 100’s of martial arts stamps I was able to view on the Internet I do have a favorite. That stamp is:

While I don’t think I’ll take up this hobby, I may consider it one day when I get bored of Disney related stamps. In the mean time however I would like to obtain one of the Samurai Duck stamps if I can find one. So if you have one for trade/sale let me know. My Donald Duck memorabilia collection can’t be complete without it.

Sushi Etiquette


When I was training with my teacher, part of what I was taught related to Japanese history and culture. My teacher believed that a person should be well rounded with their interests. Although he took his martial arts seriously, he also took great pleasure in gardening and reading religious scriptures.

Another pleasure he enjoyed was food. He loved to eat. Though with hi 5-1, 100lb frame, I was always surprised how much he could consume. While he wasn’t what I would call a gourmet, or even open to trying a vast variety of foods, he did look forward to mealtimes.

Food, was the only gift my teacher would ever let me bring him without a fuss. He really enjoyed the days I brought him burritos, loved cookies, and I think he would have eaten every Gummy Bear in the city of San Francisco if given the chance.

Of course his main staple was Japanese cuisine (rice, vegetables, and noodles), and since I would often go to his house directly after school I was exposed to a lot of various Japanese foods. Some I enjoyed, and others I don’t want to ever see again.

I don’t know about other people’s tastes, but squid, egg, mayonnaise, and bean sprouts should never be fried together. And what was in that sauce, I can’t even start to guess. Yuck!

My teacher was the first person that introduced me to sushi; long before eating sushi was in vogue in the US. I think I was about 13 years old, and initially the concept of eating raw fish was really gross. However, once I opened my mind enough to try sushi I loved it.

Many people eat sushi, but few know its history or that there specific etiquette one should observe when eating it.

Brief History:

The term “Sushi” means vinegared rice, not raw fish. It was originally a process designed to preserve raw fish, and had little in common with sushi as we know it today.

In ancient times the raw fish was cleaned and then pressed between rice and salt by heavy stones. After a few weeks the stones were replaced with a light cover, and the mixture of rice, slat and fish was left to ferment. After several months the fermentation process would be over and the fish would be ready for consumption.

This process of preserving fish was most likely introduced to Japan from China, who had already begun using this method of food preparation by the 7th century.

Sushi in its current form is attributed to an Edo based chef named Yohei Hinaya during the 18th century.

Etiquette basics:

1 – Chopsticks are proper tools for eating sashimi (slices of raw fish), but it is perfectly acceptable to pick up and eat sushi with your fingers.
2 – Don’t rub your chopsticks together. That is considered rude. If rubbing wooden chopsticks is absolutely necessary, do it under the table where no one can see.
3 – If you use chopsticks to pick up a communal dish always use the back end. Never pass food to others with your chopsticks, pass the plate. If taking something from another person’s plate use the reverse end of your chopsticks. When chopsticks are not in use they should be placed under you plate.
4 – Never bite into a piece of sushi and then return the uneaten portion to your plate. Sushi in its original form was small, and each piece was eaten whole. If the piece is big cut it before attempting to eat it.
5 – Sushi should be dipped into the soy sauce fish side down. Don’t dip the rice. The rice will absorb to much sauce.
6 – Sushi should be placed in the mouth fish side to tongue side.
7 – The pickled ginger that accompanies most sushi orders should be eaten between bites of sushi to cleanse the palate. This can also be accomplished by drinking sips of Green Tea. Green Tea is actually better.
8 – Don’t mix wasabi in soy sauce. The proper thing to do is request more wasabi on each piece of sushi when making your initial order. (My mother breaks that rule all the time.)
9 – Mixing wasabi with soy sauce when eating sashimi is acceptable.

I know thinking about to many rules takes the fun out of just enjoying a good meal. So now that you know what is proper, just go out and have fun.