Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The problem with translations

Before embarking on the next set of essays, we need to consider something.

Much of what I am going to be writing about is translated from languages with little to no relationship to English, such as Arabic, classical Persian and Turkish. Because of this, confusion can ensue if we are not careful.

When looking at the meanings of words it is very important to understand the cultural context of their use.

for instance, I have been translating Patanjali's Yoga Sutras for a while now and I often have to do a lot more study to understand the context in which a word or phrase was used than to understand the "base meaning".

As an example, in English the words "marvelous", "fantastic", and "amazing" have very different meanings in context today than they did a hundred years ago. If this is not taken into consideration, the meaning of a sentence can get quite skewed.

To give another example, most people here are familiar with the aphorism of Jesus (as) "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven".

Today, when we read this it most often invokes an image of a large, gangly-legged beast fully laden with packs trying to squeeze its head through a Nicholson #12 sewing needle. But is this what a fisherman 2000 ago in Galilee would have thought of? The answer is no, most likely not.

As most of us know, if we give it any thought, Kleenex is a brand name for a paper tissue used for wiping your nose, but the word has entered common usage as ANY tissue paper used for this purpose regardless of brand. It is so common an understanding that my spell checker didn't even blink when I typed out the word here.

So, 2000 years ago, sailors in the Middle-East used a lot of rope and cord. One kind of heavy cord was made out of, you guessed it, camel hair. It became common to refer to this kind of cord as "camel" ("Hey! Ben Yeshua, cut me five cubits of 'camel'")

Furthermore, a fisherman in the Galilee area 2000 years ago, when you say to him "needle", is not going to think of a thin, delicate, sewing needle of today but of the huge, wide-eyed things that they used to mend nets and repair sails.

So the metaphor is going to have a very different feel to its original, intended audience than it will for a reader today. So much so that the meaning could be totally different for them than it would be for an uninformed reader of today.

Please bear this in mind when we talk about things like "Chi, Ki, Prana, Ruh, Nafs and such-like. While we have one cultural understanding of these terms today, the original meanings of the words will be found to be quite a bit different.

One example of what I am talking about here is the word "guru" which has a strong connotation of the mystical in its western usage that was not, and is not found in other places. In some places guru is the proper form of address today instructor, such as an elementary school teacher.

So it is not marvelous to imagine that even when we read the same words exactly as spoken several centuries ago, we may not come up with the meaning that the speaker intended.


Oh, and while we're at it

Here is another shameless plug.

There are a surprising number of people from Texas who read this blog, and you are about to have something very kewl happen in your State.

One of my favorite musical groups, the Burns Sisters Band is going to be playing in Austin this February.

If you are anywhere nearby you should check out their calendar page and go see them.

If you are unfortunate enough to have never heard them, they do a folksy, country, sort of music with some real interesting harmony and an undertone of spirit and a good ethical foundation. When I hear them, they remind me of home. (You would really like them Mike so think about grabbing Anna and going to see them).

So y'all go check them out, you'll be happy you did.


Monday, December 26, 2005

Breath Play

I have been thinking about what I want to do with this blog over the next year.

While I will continue to speak out against the stupidity and fascism of the Right and the stupidity and cowardice of the Left, and the tyranny of fundamentalist religion of every flavor, that has never been the first purpose of this blog, just something done out of necessity.

I have decided to focus on the things that are most important to me for the next couple of months to see what people do with what I have to say.

What I find most important is Human evolution, both general and personal, and movement disciplines, especially martial arts as a tool for this.

In part I want to focus here because no one else is doing this (that I know of) from a Sufi perspective.

This is unfortunate because it used to be that Sufis had a good grasp of this subject.

I am also going to address the enneagram as a tool.

I am not talking about the bullshit pop psychology "personality profiling" crap that has flooded the more gullible areas of the so called New Age movement, but the process mapping tool as it has been used for quite a while by those who actually have a clue about what they are using.

As a matter of fact, let's start with giving you, my dear readers, access to two documents that will prove useful for gaining a basic understanding of what an enneagram is and how it works.

These are two essays written by your humble servant at different times for different audiences, but which have proved to have some general use.

The first offers some history of the enneagram traced from its earliest sources to its introduction at the beginning of the twentieth century by G. I. Gurdjieff.

The second document is more of an introduction as to how to use the enneagram as a map making tool for process. While it was written quite some time ago it is, I think, still useful.

With that out of the way (though we will revisit this information again and again) let's start by talking about breathing.

Every spiritual path starts with breath. Some do so overtly, some not, but nothing is more foundational, so here are a few thoughts.


I have noticed over the years that many people tend to think of the respiratory system as analogous with the digestive system, that is to say, some people are under the impression that we breath in to get the food (O2) and breath out to expel the waste (CO2). This leads to the assumption, O2 = good, CO2 = bad. Sadly for those that see it this way, nothing could be further from the truth. The function of the respiratory system is really nothing like that of the digestive system, and trying to view them as the same leads to dysfunction.

I remember years ago reading a book by a Norwegian Olympic athlete by the name of Thorleif Schjelderup, (not to be confused with Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebb who is another interesting person) who suggested that if things continued to progress as they had been in the Industrial World, that one day we would have to attend classes where we could learn to walk and breath. (Or something very close to this).

Well, that day came quite some time ago and we just didn't notice.

One of the things that I watch as I travel around the world is how people breath, it is a professional interest, being as I am a martial arts instructor.

Outside of sports and music there is very little attention paid to breathing, and even in these areas there is a lot of misunderstanding.

What I have seen is a substantial increase in pathological breathing over the years world wide. I am not sure of all of the reasons for this, but the effects are quite obvious.

A good number of the maladies that the "First World" countries suffer from can be linked directly to pathological breathing patterns. Interestingly, a good number of problems health-wise found in the Third World can also be traced back to other pathological breathing patterns.

As long as we as a species are willing to live at the level of Darwinism this is not too much of a problem, enough of us will breed before we die to keep the species going.

The problem comes when we want a little bit more than the continuance of humanity for its own sake. Allah has set up things so that the species will continue, and evolve according to environmental pressures, but if the individual wants to evolve it is a different game entirely.

It only takes about fourteen years for a member of our species to pass on his or her genetic inheritance, but it takes several decades at least for the individual to do the work necessary to evolve.

The Sufis of Central Asia were well known for their longevity and good health. The all attributed this to Breath Work. Breath work is also essential for bringing the Nafs (mechanical ego) under control and bringing the individual to a state of true consciousness.

The problem here is that by and large, the true understanding of Sufi Breath disciplines have been lost or hidden away from public scrutiny. I suspect that this was mostly done as a defense against the rising tide of fundamentalism, which makes any spiritual practice dangerous.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this message, the "digestive" model does not work well for breathing. Let me give you a different view on the process of breathing and you will understand why.

Unless you have a medical background you most likely have never heard of the "Bohr Effect", but it is essential to the understanding of proper breathing.

Stated very simply, Oxygen does not transfer from hemoglobin to tissues except in the presences of CO2.

When we breathe normally (Reflexively) hemoglobin, the principle carrier of oxygen in the body, remains about 98% oxygen (O2) saturated. When we breathe more, we increase O2 saturation negligibly but lose the CO2 that is essential for O2 utilization. If the level of CO2 in the body decreases our hemoglobin does not release O2 to the tissues, which in turn causes O2 starvation. As a result, the more you breathe the less oxygen the tissues of your body might receive! This explains the light-headedness associated with many breathing practices such as "re-birthing", it is oxygen starvation.

So breathing is much more about maintaining the correct balance of blood gases than it is about taking in a "nutrient" and expelling a "waste by-product".

To read more about this, check out counter-conditioning dysfunctional breathing
by Scott Sonnon

Here is an interesting thought for you.

A person who has been correctly trained can tell a great deal about the state of a person's Nafs just by watching them move and breath. This is of course because the Nafs is directly connected with every aspect of a person's physicality.

The patterns of tension held throughout the body, and the pattern of breath that a person habitually falls into are the "matrix" that "grows" the "mechanical nature"

If there are any questions about this material please feel free to use the comments area.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Very Merry Muslim Christmas

During this time, which has been one of the Holy days for most peoples, for most of the history of the human race, it is good to focus on our similarities rather than our differences.

For a few centuries now we have used the winter solstice time to remember the birth of Isa ibn Maryam, Ruh Allah, al Masha, as he is called in Arabic by Muslims everywhere (That would be translated as "Jesus, Son of Mary, Spirit of God, the Messiah, in English).

This year, more than any other I have been troubled by the hate and divisiveness that the so called "Christian" far Right has spread while attempting to connect it to this day of remembrance.

I feel that this happens because so many have become disconnected from the teachings of Jesus (as), and instead focus on the speech of men who would have you believe that they have God in their pocket.

During the Christmas season it is good to reflect on what Jesus (as) actually said, to contemplate how he told his followers to live.

I know that many Christians no longer consider the words of Jesus (as) to be important, being happier to put their faith in Paul rather than Jesus (as), but somehow I could never come to think that the instructions he left us should be cast aside.

So on Christmas I read the words of Jesus (as) in the book of Matthew, chapters five through seven, and think about how far we all are from following his teachings.

And I remember his answer in the Book of Matthew when the Pharisees ask Jesus (as)

22:36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?"

22:37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'

22:38 This is the first and great commandment.

22:39 A second likewise is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

22:40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Then I read the accounts of Jesus (as) in the Quran, starting with Sura al Maryam

Sura 19:16, The Chapter of Mary:

In the Name of Allah, The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful.

16. Relate in the Book the story of Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.

17. She placed a screen to screen herself from them; then We sent her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.

18. She said; "I seek refuge from thee in Allah Most Compassionate. Come not near if thou dost fear Allah."

19. He said: "Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, to announce to thee the gift of a holy son.

20. She said: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?"

21. He said: "So it will be. Thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for Me; and We wish to appoint him as a Sign unto men and as a Mercy from Us, It is a matter so decreed."

When I read these things I see that the only conflict is to be found in the hearts of men who have fallen away from the message that God has been giving to us for the entire history of mankind.

So this Christmas is is my hope that people will take the time to hold their lives up against the instructions about how to live that Jesus (as) gave us and ask (where do we fall short and how can we follow these words and teachings.

So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessings of the solstice, Happy Holidays and Salaam Alaykum to everyone who follows this blog.

Friday, December 16, 2005

PodCast December

The latest Podcast from Chuck and Mushtaq's Martial Musings is up.

Check it out by going to Innovative Martial Arts and clicking the "Podcast" button.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

San Shou Review Part Two

There are some advantages to being a graphics geek.

That is how I make a good part of my income, doing all manner of computer graphics including video and 3D composing. So I have the software to take a video clip and slow it WAY down (considerably slower than you can with most video viewers).

So, That is exactly what I did with Scott Sonnon's fight clip in order to bring out some things that happened too fast to see clearly. I wanted to use these to make a couple of points about mastery in the martial arts. I have talked at length on the subject in my "Slicing Time" entries but this is a good opportunity to show you what I am talking about rather than just using words.

If you have read those entries you will remember that I have talked about good fighters fighting heuristically and masterful fighters transcending the heuristics of a style and operating from flow.

One of the things I have found useful for developing and entering into flow is a model Scott developed called "Flow State Performance Spiral". This model, at least in my mind, bears some similarity to some of the older "internal boxing" texts of China (like the Tai Chi Classics) and some of the old Yogic texts of India (such as Patanjali's Yoga Sutras) but there are important differences as well.

Probably, the most important difference is, though these texts are attempting to describe the same set of experiences, when they are translated into another language and taken out of the cultural milieu that creates a natural understanding of the metaphors used, all manner of confusion and misunderstanding can become attached. This is why we get the sometimes weird "metaphysical" explanations of "Chi" and "Prana" that in fact have no basis in reality.

While the original writers probably had a first person experience of what they were talking about that conformed to the basic laws of physics, all the baggage that has been attached because of misunderstanding has obscured the real knowledge to the point of fantasy.

Scott's work on "Flow State Performance Spiral" produces exactly the same observable phenomena as are described in the texts mentioned, but without the cultural and pseudo-metaphysical baggage that has become attached to the older traditions.

So Scott's explanation of how to enter "flow" does not contain anything like "the light of creation must be drawn from the center of the lotus and rooted firmly in the kwa".

In other words, us poor English speakers can actually understand, and more importantly model and duplicate what he is talking about and demonstrating.

So I would like you, my dear readers to view these clips I have prepared for your edification with the idea that what you are seeing is "internal martial art" in action.

Let me direct your attention to the first clip

Download by right clicking Clip 1

There are two things I would like to draw your attention to here. What the clip shows is Scott's opponent delivering two low line round house kicks to Scott's thigh.

Now we have all seen the standard way to deal with this kind of kick. The heuristic is to raise the leg and take the strike on the shin so that the force is partially dissipated by the hinge of the knee. What we see here is a bit different. It follows the axiom from the Tai Chi Classics "The yielding overcomes the forceful and the soft overcomes the hard".

Scott raises his leg as if to take the kick on his shin, but as the kick comes in he times his own movement to absorb the energy of the kick by yielding along the line of force. You will notice that Scott maintains his balance throughout this maneuver. This is because he is using the energy of his opponent's kick to help "root" him, transferring it through his pelvic girdle and out the opposite leg.

The second kick is even more interesting. Pay careful attention to the timing on this one. Scott has to feel the commitment of the kick at a level deeper than conscious thought in order to time his move correctly. You will notice that as his opponent's kick comes in Scott rolls his leg over it using the point of contact as a pivot. Then from behind, he then adds a little energy and direction to his opponent's blow, completely breaking his structure and turning him so that his back is to Scott. This is just about the worst possible place to be when dealing with a grappler. It looks like Scott swarms him only to remember at the last moment that chokes are not allowed, and then switches to a throw.

This second leg maneuver is a great example of what the Tai Chi Classics call "Using four ounces to move one thousand pounds".

So let's look at the second clip

Download by right clicking
Clip 2

What I would like you to look at here first is Scott's kick. You will notice that it is delivered while his opponent is braced. You can see the energy of it deforming the guy's structure because he has nowhere to shed the force of the kick.

Scott's opponent then tries to return a kick, but he has not completely regained his equilibrium. Pay careful attention to Scott's right hand here. You will see him check the kick, then "throw the guy's foot to the mat.

If you have ever had this done to your foot you know that it completely mucks up your balance. The guy has to be getting signals from his body that things are not as they should be. His heuristic in this case seems to be to attempt to overwhelm Scott with a barrage of punches, I suspect to drive him back so that the guy can get his structure back.

Take a good look at his back as he does this. His butt is sticking out and his back is arched. He has no platform from which to generate any real power, so he is hitting with arm muscle only (or mostly) Scott sheds the force of the punches using shock absorption through his neck, moves in and takes the guy down. Hard.

If you look you will see that Scott controls the throw in such a way that his opponent hits the mat then Scott hits him full force in the chest, sandwiching him. I suspect that he was not able to breathe for a moment there, which may be what put his frustration level over the top.

You will also notice in this clip that Scott has almost no "micro-movements". These are the small adjustments that most of us make as we move and think. If this were a poker game they would be called "tells".

What we have here is an example of the "zone", the place within yourself where flow happens, and the vortex, the place where flow becomes bound.

Patanjali describes this in the first four lines of the Yoga Sutras;

1. These are the teachings of unifying the Essential Self.

2. Unity of the Essential Self is brought about by the stilling of the twisting and turning of habitual cognitive thought.

3. When habitual cognitive thought is still, the Essential Self is in its true function as presuppositionless observer of that which is experienced.

4. Otherwise the Essential Self is fixated and identified with the turning and twisting of habitual cognitive thought.
In this clip Scott is demonstrating line three and his opponent is demonstrating line four.

So let's take a look at the last clip.

Download by right clicking
Clip 3

This is the last moment of the fight, the knockout.

As I mentioned in my last entry, Scott uses a kind of "whipping" action (for lack of a better description) in his punching. Each joint moves in a tight line to "cast" the fist to the target. This recruits more joints and produced a great deal of force over even a short distance.

As the Tai Chi boxing Chronicle states;

Peng Jing is the power of resilience and flexibility. It is born in the thighs and called Chi Kung. Chi Kung is concealed throughout the whole body. Then the body becomes the wheel's rubber band and you can gain the achievement of defense. But this is not the striking aspect. When you have reaction force, you then have the ability to strike by returning the strike to its originator. This is the energy of defensive attack. It is used to evade and also to adhere.

When moving, receiving, collecting and striking Peng Jing is always used. It is not easy to complete consecutive movements and string them together without flexibility. Peng Jing is Tai Chi boxing's essential energy. The body becomes like a spring; when pressed it recoils immediately.

So there you have it, a look into a modern expression of "internal martial art" without any of the "mystical" trappings that have become associated with it.

What I hope you come away from this with is that this sort of fighting is highly effective and allows one to adapt to changing conditions more quickly than one might think possible, and that one can learn to respond to an attack with a sensitivity and flow that can be mistaken for something paranormal by those who do not know what they are looking at.

If you find this of interest you can learn more at RMAX and the RMAX Forum.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

San Shou Review

My friend Scott Sonnon just fought in an International San Shou Championship that was put on to raise money for hurricane relief.

This is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he had never fought San Shou before.

You can read a little about the tournament here.

For those of you who are not familiar with the sport, San Shou is a full contact contest that includes punching, kicking and take-downs, but not ground grappling. It is fought in three rounds, and can be won on points or with a knock-out, the matches go three rounds and are quite fast paced. Usually the matches are fought without much protection but in this case the fighters used head gear, chest protectors, shin guards and amateur style boxing gloves. (The kind with a lot of padding and usually a white rectangle over the legal striking area). I think the reason behind this was because the tournament was for charity, so the promoters wanted less damage in the ring, but this is just a guess on my part.

Now here are some of the interesting things.

  • Scott had never fought San Shou, as I had mentioned.
  • He had six weeks to train for the match.
  • He had to work in whatever training he could around a full teaching schedule.
  • He had to work in his training around his movie filming schedule.
  • He won the fight by knock-out (It is very difficult to knock out someone who is wearing headgear with you are wearing over-padded gloves) .
  • His opponent was ten pounds heavier, eight years younger and a professional San Shou fighter with twelve pro fights to his credit.
There are other things I want to mention about this fight as well, but before I do you should really see what I am talking about. Fortunately we have access to a "highlights" video of the fight. It is a fairly big file at just over 40 megs, but worth the bandwidth.

Download the video by right-clicking here.

Now the win would be enough for me to make mention of the fight here, but there is more to it than just this.

Ever since Scott started teaching his methods publicly he has had his detractors. (Can you imagine that happening in the martial arts world?)

For the most part, these detractors have fallen into two camps. The first being those who are trying to make a name for themselves by marketing their own thing. The criticism here has always devolved into "don't listen to him, my stuff is better!" without ever bothering to objectively demonstrate how this is true.

The second camp is in some ways more irritating. They are the "Hey, that will never work" gang, and when you inquire as to why this is not the case they will give you a variant of "because my sensei/sifu/guru/coach says it won't" or "because we do it differently" or something equally as lame.

Now to give them credit, the first group will often test out Scott's material. You can tell because parts of the Rmax corpus has appeared under different names in what they sell after Scott has published the material.

It reminds me of the way scientific discoveries evolve, from
"Everyone knows it's poppycock!"
"Well, it is true but it is not worth anything."
"Yes, it is correct, but you know, I discovered it first!"

The second group just never bothers to test the material in any meaningful way, which allows them to make fun of it.

Well, now we have a way to examine what really happens when you put Scott's material into practice.

So let's take a look at the tape.

One of the first things I notice is that there is a real difference between the way Scott is dealing with impact and the way his opponent does.

Look at the first few kicks that are delivered to Scott's legs. You will notice that he sheds the energy of the kicks through shock absorbing while his opponent allows Scott to deliver the full amount of energy to his leg. You will also notice something very cool on about the third low line kick to Scott's leg.

Scott not only sheds the force, but using subtle pressure redirects it to break his opponent's structure and turn him. You may have to run the clip in slow motion to see what I am talking about clearly because it happens pretty quickly. It's sweet though so take a close look.

Now one of the criticisms I have heard over and over again is that this kind of shock absorbing will not work in a "real fight". Obviously the people who think this are mistaken.

You will also notice that Scott's strikes are interesting. You may have to slow the clip way down to see this clearly as well, but you will notice that his kicks and punches both shoot out with a sort of loose "whipping" motion where each joint is entrained sequentially along a very tight line, almost as if he were "casting his hand or foot. This is another area where some people insist that what we are seeing is not a useful way to hit or kick.

What we see is that it is a VERY effective way to deliver energy to ones opponent and that it is not very easy to block or counter.

The third thing we see in the clip is that one closes to grappling range with Scott at their peril. I suspect that Scott's opponent was feeling a lot like a basket ball being dribbled at some points in the fight. Scott's Sambo skills really came into play here. You will notice that he not only throws his opponent, but does so in such a way that he is always in an advantageous and dominant position. I suspect that the psychological effect here was substantial.

Scott has very lucid ideas of how to remain in "flow state" while driving your opponent out of flow. We see this clearly demonstrated in this match. Every time Scott's opponent gets up from the mat he looks to be more frustrated. At one point near the end of the match, after a particularly sweet throw he can't contain himself any longer and strikes the mat in frustration/anger with both fists. At this point the guy has lost the fight in his own mind I suspect.

The crowning moment of the fight is the point where Scott lands one of those "whipping" punches on his opponent at his moment of greatest "density", and there is no place for the energy of it to shed. It looks almost as if the punch sticks to his face for a moment to unload all of its force. The guy goes down for the count.

Another thing to notice here is that Scott is quite fresh at the end of the bout. I attribute at least part of this to his Clubbell work. Using Clubbells in a "ballistic" way really helps endurance.

So here is a person going up against a very competent fighter and taking the gold at his first San Shou tournament, pretty kewl.

The thing is, those of us who have taken the time to work Scott's material knew that he would do well because we have seen the results with ourselves and our students, but it IS just a little nice to be able to point this out to the people who have disrespected the work that Scott has done with RMAX.

I should mention here that Scott was not a fluke. His team mate Joe Wilson also took a gold in his division, it was also his first San Shou tournament, he fought an opponent fifty pounds heavier than him.

Coach Scott Sonnon and Coach Joe Wilson taking home the gold for team RMAX!

I have been privileged to know and learn from a number of people who have reached a level of mastery in their art, Scott Sonnon is one of them and has brought something important to the table.

He is an American, he speaks perfect English and can express all of his ideas in my native language (which is more important than you might think) He speaks in contemporary scientific terms and uses the metaphors of this culture. This means it is easier to learn from him and model what he does than most anyone I know of who is operating at his level, and that is priceless. He is also willing to share everything he knows, unlike so many who try to make their students jump through hoops for years to prove that they are worthy (as long as they remain under the control of the "teacher") It is really a breath of fresh air to me.

Most importantly, he walks his talk and is willing to test his insights in the arena that really matters.

I have to say that I wish more teachers of all types would do this.

So what should you do?

Well, if you are a friend, you should head over to RMAX and get some of Scott's material and start applying it to your art. You might want to look into getting the Intu-Flow and Xtention Package, it is a great, low cost introduction to Scott's work. You will also want to check out the RMAX Forum. It is one of the most information rich, troll free places on the 'net. You can gain whole bodies of knowledge just from reading the material there.

If on the other hand you are one of those people who spends his time bad mouthing people behind their backs you won't like the CST material very much and should probably go become a certified SCARS instructor or some such.

The really fun thing is that you will still have your art you will just end up with more insight and skill. I have been applying Scott's models to my Silat for almost six years now, and it is still exactly the same Silat only entirely different. Go Figure.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Entries of note

From the blogs of a couple of friends.

This Entry by Sume from Ethnically Incorrect is well worth reading.

It reminded me a bit of my own childhood, being the only light skinned, blue eyed kid in my area, then moving to the Great White World (tm) and discovering I was just as much an oddity there.

On the other hand, Jeff from My 142857 Work has this perspective to offer on being in the world. Who knows, if enough people think about this it just might become a potent meme.


Yet another wacky test

For your enjoyment

You are Form 3, Unicorn: The Innocent.

"And The Unicorn knew she wasn't meant to
go into the Dark Wood. Disregarding the advice
given to her by the spirits, Unicorn went
inside and bled silver blood.. For her
misdeed, the world knew evil."

Some examples of the Unicorn Form are Eve
(Christian) and Pandora (Greek).
The Unicorn is associated with the concept of
innocence, the number 3, and the element of
Her sign is the twilight sun.

As a member of Form 3, you are a curious
individual. You are drawn to new things and
become fascinated with ideas you've never come
in contact with before. Some people may say
you are too nosey, but it's only because you
like getting to the bottom of things and
solving them. Unicorns are the best friends to
have because they are inquisitive.

Which Mythological Form Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, December 01, 2005

An epiphany from class tonight

Good Silat is very much like Calvin Ball.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Y'all should check this out

The five questions that non-Muslims would like answers to.

I have seen these or some variation of them floating around for a while now, and have sometime thought I would take a stab at answering them, especially question one, which is always a variation of

"why don't we see Muslims condemning terrorism???!!??"

I am so sick of sanctimonious self absorbed hypocritical right wing so-called "Christians" throwing that one around I have come close to bitch-slapping one or two of them into next year. (the answer of course is that there have been hundreds of condemnations, if not thousands, but you ain't gonna see them here because it does not serve the power elite to have you know that most Muslins are just as moderate as most Christians and would just like to be left alone to live their lives and take care of their families)

If these people would ever expand their awareness beyond Fox News and the 700 club they might have noticed that mainstream Muslims are quite appalled by what has been going on in the world, just like everyone else. But then the Right wingnuts wouldn't have their "designated enemy".

As it happens, my friend Aaminah has answered these questions, and done a very good job of it. So check out her blog, WriteousSister Speaks and take a look at her answers.



Back from the Holiday

And this was fun, if a little weird.

Your Personality Profile

You are funky, outdoorsy, and down to earth.
While you may not be a total hippie...
You're definitely one of the most free spirited people around.

You are very impulsive - every day is a new adventure.
However, you do put some thought behind all your actions.
Still, you do tend to shock and offend people from time to time!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Someone wrote and asked me....

"What the heck is a sling staff?"

Interesting question, (where do people come up with these things)?

A Sling Staff is a weapon that has been used since at least classical Roman times as a military projectile weapon.

It consists of a staff, from four to six feet long, that has a post set in the top, One end of a sling is anchored the base of the post the other end of the sling is formed into a loop, or is attached to a metal ring (which works better).

To use a sling staff, you slip the ring over the post and load the sling pouch with a bullet or stone.

Sling staff

The staff is then swung over head two handed, flinging the bullet forward with considerable force. The sling and the staff part of the device act as levers to produce much more force and velocity that could be achieved with the arm alone and the weapon is quite capable of killing a human being. The weapon was used into the Middle Ages.

So there you have it, the sling staff.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

And they said it wasn't about oil

For those who have bought into the Bush regime's BS about protecting American citizens

This just in

It's always been about oil, that's what we are spending the blood of our best and our brightest for, so that a bunch of oil barons can get even richer.

Bush needs to be tried for treason.



Monday, November 21, 2005

More well reasoned political dialog

Which just goes to show that people with differing views can communicate.


Hi Don,

Too much to cover as comments are limited, as can be witnessed by the cut off on the last comments.

Let me suggest then, if you would like to discuss these things further that you can either email me your reply, which I will post in its entirety, or you can put your reply up on your blog and we can link to each other and let our readership know that there are new comments.

I think there comes a time when you have to put down the dream and pick up the club of reality and realize that there really are certain things that we cannot change.

That sounds good I guess, but if it were true we would all still be singing "God Save the Queen".

The history of our country IS the history of a people who did not accept the status quo. If we had allowed ourselves to believe that we could not change things we would not have seen the successes of Universal Suffrage, collective bargaining and unionization for workers rights, the free speech movement, the civil rights movement, the abolition of slavery and suchlike. That's what Americans do, the imposable.

The Republicans have swung hard towards fascism. It's not the way they treat the media as some claim because the media was chained down and controlled even more by FDR, who was a left-leaning Democrat. The swing to fascism has more to do with how working people are treated, how their retirements are being robbed so some fat bastard can have a small fleet of fine vehicles instead of a couple SUVs, a Beamer and a Mercedes. So they can have three houses instead of merely two. These things are purchased with the very promise of employees at General Motors (now), possibly Delta Airlines and what was it? United? I believe they were the ones that started the ball rolling on the retirement heist.

What you wrote about the oil companies in another entry is also true. If I hear Oxycontinboy telling me one more time that this is the way the market works and nothing is wrong, I'm going to gag. Now they are going to make people choose between warmth and food this winter. Why? Oh, I see, the pipelines are still damaged from hurricanes, that's why the propane, heating oil and natural gas prices are expected to be 50% higher this year! Silly me. The gasoline prices went down because the market is now normal, but apparently there are phantom hurricanes that have done invisible damage.

Well you won't get any arguments from me here, we are in pretty close agreement on these subjects.

I can particularly relate to the choice of heat or food. I think a lot of people are going to be running up against that one and not everyone is lucky enough to have timber to harvest.

You are correct that there is a Puritanical streak in the United States, but you see, that is constantly battling with the Hedonistic among us. I am neither and find both of them repulsive in the extreme, but that's just me. I think you can take a look at the STD rates, abortion and the divorce rate and come away with a very sad picture of the way people run their lives. Alcoholism and drug abuse, etc.

I don't see it in quite the same terms, but I understand your point. Rather than hedonistic I see it as self absorbed ans selfish, a slight but significant difference.

Getting back to my earlier comment about a pipedream, I believe, 100%, that it is a pipedream that we will ever sever ties with or even change Saudi Arabia. You believe that if enough people scream for change, there will be change. I don't think that's realistic. Hopelessly optimistic. I know, I know, "You will never change it if you don't try!" But in trying, a lot of time is wasted because the threat assessment was wrong to begin with, do you know what I mean? You can pay so much attention to something that you have little chance of changing - that other things you could have done...don't get done.

You may end being correct, but as I said earlier the American character is to attempt the imposable (and sometimes succeed).

Also, I think that you are wrong about our chances of making needed change in our government. As used to be taught, despair is the only unforgivable sin. The attitude that we cannot make a difference is one that has been carefully fostered by the corporations to keep us in a hopeless state. I refuse to buy into their game myself.

I don't know where the homophobic commentary came from, I think the gay community is its own worst enemy, but that's just me. They, too, could have gotten farther with honey instead of vinegar, but they chose in-your-face-vinegar. I think "homophobia, racism, bigot, racist," are totally overused words in this country and they are used by one group to demonize another group of people and shut them up, i.e., if you don't agree with everything the gay community says or wants, your're "homophobic." That's pure nonsense! Same thing with race in this country, you're a "racist" and a "bigot" and you "hate" if you don't agree with everything whatever minority has to say. It doesn't have to be that way, but it is.

I was using the far religious right's attitude on gays as an illustration of what they are capable of and are willing to do. I don't know how many times I have herd the old "stoning them to death in the public square is what God wants" line from them.

Lots of things to talk about, so little space. As I type this, I don't even know if it will let me post twice in a row.

Agreed, and I think that this is productive, so let's see if we can find a way to do this that will give you more of a voice.



Sunday, November 20, 2005

Happy Birthday !!

It was a year ago today that I started this blog!

It has been a fun ride and I have enjoyed just about everyone who I have met here.

So thanks to everyone who reads this humble effort of mine, you have all made it worth while.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Comments on my rant

Someone named Don made some interesting comments on my last political rant. (I don't think this was our own Don, so I am assuming he is someone new to the blog).

I wanted to reply at length to these comments because they make some important observations, so please bear with me, and perhaps we will experience the rarest of things, a polite political discussion.


Hi Don,

You said;

"I come here to read incredibly interesting things about martial arts and primarily edged weapons - even though most places on the Internet that discuss knives and martial endeavors related to knives have devolved into childlike scrawl or grown men who act like high school students smelling each other's jocks or fingers after flatulence."

And I am happy that you do. It is very gratifying to know that people find a little value in my ramblings about things martial.

"They say you have to take the good with the bad and I always have. I have wanted to say things, but I would not because I did not want to stir the pot."

While I tend to think of "good" and "bad" to be something of a personal view in this sort of thing I am happy that you have stuck it out. Do feel free to stir the pot any time you like though. Reasonable discussion of these matters can only be a benefit to all of us.

"I have no love for Neo-Conservatism. If there is one thing I despise is the current empty-headed, follow-the-herd, just-another-cow, jingoism that people like Sean Hannity regurgitate every weekday on the radio."

See, we have found a point of agreement already :)

"I would like to touch on a couple of things, mainly because I do believe in God and I am a Republican...of sorts."

Nothing wrong with either of these things, I also believe in God, and voted for Barry Goldwater (perhaps the last real conservative to run for the office of the president)

"And I think that you have fallen into a trap of throwing so much mud that you just hope some of it sticks."

Let me give you an alternative perspective. What I am actually doing is trying a well thought out plan to use the same sort of tactics that the Neo-Cons use to influence public opinion, but for good rather than evil.

It became apparent after the last election that reasoned discussion and presentation of facts was a tactic that no longer produces results here in the US, so there needs to be some other way of getting people to think outside their habitual mindsets. Since Bush Corp was so successful at manipulating the focus of the nation by punching emotional buttons, I decided to experiment with the same tactics. So I very consciously frame my rants to mirror the tactics of the Neo-Cons and religious Right, hitting emotional hot buttons and repetitively delivering simple messages that have little logical content, but focus attention and emotion in a particular direction. I have also taken up the very successful tactic of demonizing the Neo-Con Right in the same manner as they did with the once honorable term "liberal".

"Remember, support for (King George) president Bush is support for the totalitarian theocracy of Saudi Arabia..."

"You are not politically ignorant. You know this is the reality of every President of The United States and in reality, will be the reality of any future Administration. So, while it sounds quite good and it's a nice slam, it becomes intellectually dishonest as you have forgotten the past and ignore the reality of the future."

Just because something has been standard operating procedure does not make it moral or correct. What you say about every administration doing this sort of thing is true, and we have paid the price for this sort of politics over and over with American blood. If we don't stop being sheep and forbid our representatives to support tyranny it will go on and we will continue to pay the price for it.

"I'm not saying I like the Saudis, I do not. I do not support them or their religion, I do not support making little girls burn to death because they cannot exit a burning building with their face exposed. I don't think we have ANY real friends over there at all as a matter of fact."

It would be good to remember two things here, the West created Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is the epicenter for the support of Wahhabi terrorism in the world. This goes back to my last point, by supporting tyranny we create our own problems, and the politicos are not the ones who spill their blood to fix the problems. If we do not insist that our representatives stop supporting evil governments then we are in fact supporting them if only by our silence.

"Clinton gave Most Favored Nation status to China as well. Almost every President in modern history without exception has put America in bed with tyrants while decrying human rights violations. It's not a Republican or Democrat thing, it's not even liberal or conservative, it's politics and that's that."

That is only "that" because we allow it to be "that" This is still a democracy, "we the people" still have all the political power if we choose to use it. The situation remains the same and the support of evil goes on being business as usual only because of the "that's that" attitude. The worst thing we have ever allowed any politico to do is lull us into thinking that we cannot effect change. Bush-Corp counts on Americans being somnambulists.

"They all do it, people I support do it and people you have supported and will support will do it regardless of what they preach to you on the television or campaign trail"

To belabor a point, they all do it because we allow them to do it.

"...and Saudi Arabia is an excellent example of what the Neo-Con 'fundamentalist' pseudo-Christians would like to turn our country into."

"While it might be the malignant pipedream of Dobson or Robertson, it will never come to pass so I would rest easy."

I would hazard a guess that you are not old enough to remember the days of Senator Joe McCarthy. Thinking that "it can't happen here" is a really good way to make sure that it will happen here.

"And I am leaning heavily on the "might be" because I don't think it would be like that. I certainly would not vote for either of them."

What makes you think that they need you to vote for them in order to further their agenda?

History is full of examples of evil people taking over everything from family businesses to countries.

If you examine the situation you may find that people like the ones you mention have already taken on too much power. The divisiveness we are experiencing today is a direct result of the power grabs by the likes of Bush and Dobson. I don't ever remember a time in this country that we have been so unwilling to find a way to all live together as Americans, and that is an essential step to destroying our democracy.

If you want to really see where they are going take a look at the position of the religious Right on homosexuals. Gays are the last minority that it is safe to hate, and the Right has used this to great advantage. Whatever your or my view on the subject might be, using Mosaic law to deal with a hated minority seems just a bit extreme to me. Rather like the "ethnic cleansing" attitude found all through the twentieth century by totalitarian regimes everywhere. It seems to me to be a good indicator of how these people will behave if allowed to have power. (and as Jesus said, "as you do to the least of these........")

"Most of this country is obsessed with finding another sexual partner and with getting abortions and being drunk or high or, in general, making a mess of their lives."

Do you really think so?

That has not been my experience at all. While I have not had contact with "most of this country", the people who I have had contact with have seemed to me to be pretty good sorts all in all. Most of the people I am acquainted with, even the ones who disagree with me on a number of things, seem to want to do what's right and fair and moral. Sometimes they just don't know how to break out of the somnambulistic trance that they have allowed themselves to slip into. My impression is that most of the Americans I have come in contact with are just trying to get by the best they can. I don't think I have ever met anyone here who thought that abortions were a good idea, let alone something to be obsessed with, except for the religious Right, which I guess could be seen as obsessed with abortion.

"The hedonistic among us insures that no one like a Robertson or Dobson is ever elected or holds great sway with those elected."

I think I will have to disagree with you on this one. I don't see much hedonism here in the States, I have always found more of a puritanical streak than anything else. So far no one has stopped people like Robertson and Dobson from gaining power in this country, and while they themselves might not be able to get elected, they seem to think that they can put the candidate of their choice in office.

"You could ban the entire Bill of Rights in this country and the majority would not care unless you touched their right to kill their own and be as"

Being as you were cut off in mid sentence I am not sure where you were going with this, perhaps we can take it up later.



PodCast again

The latest Podcast is up,

with Chuck and I talking about all manner of fun stuff check it out at


Friday, November 18, 2005

Six (or less) degrees of separation

By now most people have heard the idea that everyone can be connected to everyone else in six jumps or less.

Well here is a story of a connection between myself and Colonel Rex Applegate. (As well as some hopefully interesting talk about knives and their uses).

I have been very fortunate to have had some first rate mentors and teachers in my life. On of my early mentors was Mr. Fanning. I met him when I was working in Central California, we were both working for the State.

Mr. Fanning was the head of the unit I was working on. He was about sixty years old, small, perhaps 5'5", but built like the proverbial fire plug, but very little of his mass was fat. He had a florid complexion and graying hair. He was of Irish ancestry, with the sort of light hearted personality that is often found among the sons of Erin.

Over the first month or so I worked with him I began to notice small things about him (and perhaps some not so small).

He was hyper-aware of his surroundings. Most people never noticed, but he was always aware of where every person was in a room, who was potentially dangerous, where the exits were, and such. (I could tell by where he looked, how he positioned himself in relation to other people and other things like that, he never stopped watching what was going on around him).

Over several weeks, as I came to know him I discovered that he had served in WWII. More than that he had been one of a group of commandos dropped in four man squads behind German lines to wreak havoc on the enemy by destroying important and strategic targets.

He told me about his training before he was sent out. He said it was called "Kill or be killed" as was taught by a fellow named Rex Applegate. (who was a captain back then).

Mr. Fanning's job with his squad was to remove sentries and other human impediments to their operations. He told me that he had dealt with most of these people with a knife and had found this the best way to remove a sentry in most cases.

After the war, he became the bodyguard for a certain famous newspaper owner, but that's another story.

Over the next couple of years we became good friends, and I was able to prevail upon him to teach me what he could of the skills he has acquired under Captian Applegate, and refined in the crucible of combat.

What Mr. Fanning taught me made some serious changes in how I use the knife, and I have always been grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from someone who had experience beyond the theoretical.

So when I received a desert version of the Applegate-Fairnbairn fighting knife from my friend Terry (who happens to work for Boker USA) I was quite excited. I really wanted to get a feel for the knife that Colonel Applegate had designed as his answer to the needs of specialized combat troops.

Now I am not usually a fan of the dagger. This sort of knife is too specialized, and while you can perform a number of non-combat tasks with it in a pinch, I would much rather have a single edged knife for everyday use. I promised myself that I would try to keep my prejudice in check while evaluating this knife.

Here is a photo of the knife and sheath, with the write-up that Boker gave it.

Based on the original Applegate-Fairnbairn fighting knife (A-F12) this desert version resulted from operation Desert Storm. all of the features that made the original fighting knife a classic are retained in this desert version - 6" 440C stainless steel blade (10 3/4" overall length), forward-bending cross-guard, weighted handle of durable Delrin ® - and are enhanced with a black stainless steel cross-guard, black screws and a desert colored handle. The knife is carried securely in a desert camo Kydex ® sheath. Each knife is serialized.
The first thing I noticed about the knife was its balance, which was superb. As it turns out, inside the handle are two weights that can be moved closer or further from the hilt to give the knife the balance you want. As it happens it was perfect for me out of the box, but it is a nice feature.

The edge was pretty good right from the factory, and with a little time spent using my grand pappy's razor stone, the edge was as sharp as you could ever want.

The kydex sheath is very solid and holds the knife quite securely and without any rattle. Even without the rubber O ring holding the knife in, you are not likely to lose your blade, with it slipped over the grip, the blade is not going anywhere.

The fit of the various parts was superb, with no slop anywhere, even after I had abused the poor thing for several days.

The grip is very comfortable for me in both forward and reverse grip.

So I collected up the various things I would need to test out the knife, carpet tubes, old office carpet, torn up blue jeans, cardboard, news paper, pine 2x4, duct tape and such, and went to work.

The first thing I wanted to test was the knife's ability to effectively thrust while not having it's tip break off. So I took a 2 x 4 and wrapped it with about four inches of corrugated cardboard, covered it with a couple of layers of denim and wrapped it with duct tape.

I worked about fifty thrusts into this, twenty five forward grip and twenty five reverse grip. The knife went through the material without problem and stuck into the pine at the center. I then pulled it out with a twisting action. The point sustained no damage.

This was a marked improvement over the old Sykes-Fairnbairn dagger which was prone to having its tip break off.

There was also no tendency for the hand to slip down the blade (always a consideration with a thrust or stab) the grip was very positive and comfortable. The guard worked well to protect the hand.

Next I wanted to test the knif's cutting ability. That was the other problem with the Sykes-Fairnbairn dagger, it was not great for cutting because of the blade shape. All knives are a trade-off in different attributes, the trick is to get the balance that is best for the job.

I started with newspaper rolled around a piece of PVC pipe, then covered with a couple layers of denim pants leg and taped down.

I started with draw cuts in forward grip and the knife performed quite well. I then repeated the process in reverse grip. The cuts were a bit more shallow, but quite acceptable.

I then tried hacking cuts. These did not work well at all, but I would not expect a dagger to be able to hack like a Bowie knife.

For my final test I got out the carpet tube. I wanted to see how the knife would do with a "thrust then cut" attack. This is (or at least was, things may have changed) a pretty standard sentry removal technique. Come up from behind, insert the knife in the side of the neck just in front of the spine, the cut your way forward to remove the knife (and the sentry).

The Applegate worked flawlessly piercing, then cutting the heavy cardboard of the carpet tube without trouble.

After I had finished with my tests (there were several more) I examined the knife and found it to be in very good shape, nothing had worked loose, there was no damage to the blade.

So here is my take on the knife.

It is damn good at what it was designed for, a combat knife primarily used to remove enemy in a sneaky and quiet way. It would be aexcellentnt "fighter" all round, but would not be a good choice for basic camp chores and survival situations.

If you like to collect military weapons, this is something you will want to add to your collection. If you know someone in the military, this would make a fine gift. If you think you will see combat you could do a lot worse than taking this blade with you, but pack a good folding knife as well for the everyday stuff.

All in all though, this knife is superbrb example of the military dagger, Mr. Fanning would have loved it.


And Just For Fun

What your birthday means

(Or in this case what my birthday means to someone, not necessarily me).

Your Birthdate: September 5

You have many talents, and you are great at sharing those talents with others.
Most people would be jealous of your clever intellect, but you're just too likeable to elicit jealousy.
Progressive and original, you're usually thinking up cutting edge ideas.
Quick witted and fast thinking, you have difficulty finding new challenges.

Your strength: Your superhuman brainpower

Your weakness: Your susceptibility to boredom

Your power color: Tangerine

Your power symbol: Ace

Your power month: May

Meet America's Greatest Allies in the Mid East

The Saudis are without a doubt the Bush regime's strongest supporters in the Mid East, and why not? Both governments have basically the same values.

If you would like to know what America would be like if Bush had complete control over our country just take a long look at the Wahhabi controlled theoracy of Saudi Arabia.

Here is just one example of Saudi justice, one that mirrors perfectly the ideals of people like James Dobson and Pat Robertson.

Remember, support for King George president Bush is support for the totalitarian theoracy of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is an excellent example of what the Neo-Con "fundamentalist" pseudo-Christians would like to turn our country into.



Thursday, November 17, 2005


Someone asked "How do you teach intent?"

Anything that one person can do can be modeled. Any model can be taught to others.

So the easy answer to the question is find someone who does intent well, make a model of how they do it, teach others the same model.

Of course you have to learn to make effective models of skills and behaviors. This of course can also be modeled and taught as well.

Here is a simple example of what I mean.

People who spell English well tend to use the same strategy.

They will make a picture of the whole word in their mind's eye, then have a feeling as to the word being correct or not. So the model would be a visual "lead" with a kinesthetic confirmation. When you understand this you can teach anyone to spell English well. (Even the poor folks who were initially taught to spell English by "sounding out the word").

So if one were to want to model "powerful intent" they would need to find an example of someone with this skill, then build a good model of how they do the skill, the teach themselves to do the skill in the same way.

That, in a nutshell, is how you teach intent.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

First Snow

Falling Now

I have always liked snow, it makes the world look clean again.

The world seems a little quieter, and only those with need venture out.

I like the snow.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Republicans finally get a visit from a very overworked Clue Fairy

It is sad really, the poor thing has worn her wings out getting to all the so called conservatives so desperately in need of a clue.

But she seems to be catching up.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has figured out that he has been sucked into a neo-McCarthy nightmare.

I had become convinced that there were no true conservatives left in politics, and that all we had were the right wing fascist neo-cons with their religious fanatic fellow travelers. I have a little hope though that people like Senator Hagel might be waking up from the seductive dreams of power at the price of freedom.

The Bush regime's attempts to destroy the constitution and replace it with a religo-fascist dictatorship have been even more worrisome since this came to light.

I do not consider this bit of information completely substantiated yet, but given everything else that has come down since Bush-Corp grabbed control of the White House, it seems near fetched. The right wing has wished terrorist attacks on US citizens and cities in the recent past, so perhaps turning a blind eye to intelligence reports (again) may be seen as a way to maintain power.

Jimmy Carter has this to say about the state of the Nation.

There was a time when there was little doubt that America held the moral high ground in many ways, but those days are long past, we just don't want to admit that greed and sloth have allowed the ideals of our country as outlined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights to be traded for corporate dollars.

Since Bush-Corp took over the country we are nothing more than a "stockyard" for corporate interests, especially the oil companies.

Did you know that while some stupid mother fuckers go around telling us that the oil companies price hikes are a good thing, Exxon has not yet paid a penny on the fines levied against it for the Exxon Valdez spill? An entire ecosystem ruined, the highest profits ever, gouged from the wallets of working people who can little afford it, using a national disaster as an excuse, and these parasites can't even see their way to paying for the clean-up of their mess. Go figure.

Once we believed in what America stood for, once we took the Constitution and Bill of Rights seriously. Now we are headed for another "Dark Ages" where our lives are dictated by the Religious Right, Christian and Muslim.



Sunday, November 13, 2005


Mr. Gurdjieff said "I love him who loves to work".

I have always found this to be an interesting statement, and one that has lead to all sorts of confusion and misinterpretation in Fourth Way groups.

I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of work lately, mostly because I have been doing a lot of work these last few weeks.

Winter is fast approaching here in West Michigan, and by all accounts it is likely to be a cold one.

When you couple this with the news that natural gas prices are expected to rise by about 40% this winter, it seemed prudent to arrange for an alternate heat source.

Give me a chainsaw and a place to stand.......
(with apologies to Archimedes)

We have a good fireplace with a "heatilator", and with a little testing we determined that the house could be heated just by burning wood.

Of course that meant we needed a lot of wood.

We needed to lay in at least five cords of wood for the winter. (A cord of wood can be best understood as 4' x 4' x 8' or 128 cubic feet of wood) eight cords would be better, the down-side of using a fireplace for heat is that it is not very efficient compared to a good wood burning stove, so you go through a lot more wood.

The woods on our "lower forty"

As fate would have it though, there was a ready supply of good seasoned hardwood right on the property just for the taking.

About two thirds of the property here is woods, and they have been virtually undisturbed for many years.

Even better, the property fronts the river.

The Grand River from "the lower forty"

A good portion of the woods is lowland, which means that it floods every now and again. When that happens it inevitably kills a few trees, which means Standing Dead Wood!

When you need firewood now, rather than having the time to cut green wood and let it season for a couple of years so that it will burn well, you won't do better than standing dead trees. You can use fallen wood, but by the time it has dried enough to be useful it is all too often rotted from contact with the ground.

As it turned out, I was the only one here that had any experience with a chainsaw or with working with timber. When I was much younger I lived in the Santa Cruz mountains, and for a couple of years made my living by cutting trees for firewood and Redwood burl for clocks and table tops. (To give you a sense of how long ago, I rented forty acres with a cabin for US $80.00 a month)

So I began cutting.

I discovered that using a chainsaw is like riding a bicycle, the skills come back quickly. I also found out that I can still drop a tree right where I want it to land.

Me, at the woodpile gym

So up until a couple of days ago I have been spending a good deal of time in the woods with a chainsaw and timberjack. (For those of you who don't know, a timberjack is like a peavey, but with the front spike at 90 degrees to the shaft, and a "foot" that allows you to roll a log end up off the ground for cutting).

The Timberjack, one of mankind's great inventions

I have been fortunate to have some help with getting the cut rounds out of the woods and up to the splitting area from a couple of my Silat students and from the household as time allows.

The local woodchuck, turning a gimlet eye to all the activity in his forest

So I have been going out each morning, felling trees or finding downed logs that have not rotted out. When enough wood has been cut we load it onto a small wagon pulled by a yard tractor and haul it out of the woods for splitting and stacking.

This of course has given me lots of time to think (always a dangerous proposition).

So I have been thinking about work.

Traditionally, a good number of traditional spiritual disciplines have put emphasis on the usefulness of fostering a good work ethic, and building a strong set of manual skills as an important step in personal evolution.

This is in part to help overcome the tendencies toward laziness found in humans (the "workaholic" is often just lazy in a slightly different way than the "slacker").

Another, all too often overlooked aspect of work though, is its capacity to keep the person fit. You cant really successfully work on yourself without sufficient energy, and you will likely only have enough energy if your body is fit.

For general fitness, full body work will get you in better shape than anything you can find in a gym, and for martial arts, tasks like splitting wood with a maul will develop you in ways that little else will.

The winter wood supply

And of course, there is the energy gained through completing an intention, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Mr. Gurdjieff also told his students that there are three parts of energy to right work. One part is the energy that is expended in completing the work. The second part is the energy that goes to "the reciprocal maintenance of the Universe. The third part is the energy that you gain from completing your intention (an no this does not violate the second law of thermo-dynamics) which you get to use for your own evolution.

Of course work should also have a sense of joy associated with it otherwise one is likely to fall into one of the big blunders of the Path.
The Super-Effort Error
Belief that one must approach the Work with a grim determination which produces feelings of tension, discomfort, self-punishment, and competition.
More on this in my next installment.


The Podcast

Here is the first effort on a project I have been involved in.

Innovative Martial Arts, where I teach Silat in Michigan, now has a weekly PodCast. The show is called "Martial Musings with Chuck & Mushtaq." Basically Chuck and I get together, suck down coffee, and ramble on about anything we can think about. (mostly cools ways of hitting people, training methods, sharp pointy things that we find cool, etc...)

We will be having interesting guests on our show on a fairly regular basis (heads up Bobbe)

So, check out this website...and tune in! (just click the PODCAST button)


Monday, November 07, 2005

An Incredibly Cool Thing!

Especially with Christmas just around the corner.

As people who have been reading my blog for a while know, I am a great supporter of Scott Sonnon's work.

I have been using his material for about five years now, and it has completely transformed the way I do martial arts as well as the way I keep myself fit and healthy.

I have also, as you may know, been urging everyone I consider a friend or at least on friendly terms with, to investigate Scott's material.

Some of his work has been so profound, such as his clubbell material, that I have made it an "official" part of the Silat Zulfikari curriculum.

The only objections to CST work I have ever run across from my friends is that there is a lot of material to choose from and it can be hard to choose where to start, and the equipment is not cheap.

Well Scott just released a new product (or set of products) called Intu-Flow and Xtention which, I gotta say, looks to be one of the very best fitness packages ever created.

Scott has combined a set of five pound "mini-clubbells" with the best of his Warrior Wellness, Maximology, Freedom by Degree, Be Breathed, Prime Bioenergy and Clubbell Training integrated into one program and all in one 3 DVD set and also includes two posters for quick reference. You just can't get better than that for the price.

It also looks like a perfect travel workout. I am always trying to come up with ways to keep up my training while on the road, and that set of mini-clubbells looks like it would be very happy in my luggage.

So get the set for yourself, give it to people who you really like as a gift. You will be healthier for it and so will your friends. Use it as your introduction to CST, you'll be glad you did.

(BTW Scott does not pay me to say nice things about him, I am not a member of his organization or anything like that, this is the famous "spontaneous and unsolicited testimonial" that you always hear about but never really see).