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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Life at the edge, more on the African Knife

Evolution is an interesting process, and no evolution is more interesting than that of ideas.

One of the things I find so interesting about Piper system, the South African method of knife combat developed by Nigel February, Lloyd De Jongh and a small group of people in Cape Town, South Africa, is that it represents an evolutionary cusp, a transition point where a martial practice moves to a new form qualitatively.

There are two examples from recent history that are salient. The first can be found in Brazil in the early 1930's. At that time Capoeira was regarded as part of the criminal subculture, and decent people didn't want to have anything to do with it. As a matter of fact, Capoeira was outlawed by the Brazilian government.

Then, thanks to the work of just a handful of people, Capoeira was transformed from something that criminals used to settle differences and to rob people to one of the most exciting and beautiful martial arts.

The other example of course is found in the work of Bruce Lee, who managed to successfully question tradition in a very productive way, and in doing so change the face of martial arts forever.

I see the same thing happening with Piper System. We have a grouping of fighting techniques developed in large part by the disenfranchised, the criminal elements and the gangs in and around Cape Town SA. This fighting method (or group of methods) never managed (or needed) to be anything more than a loose grouping of techniques.

Then along comes Nigel and his group, and they begin to analyze, question, test, and outline underlying principles. What we are seeing is the evolution of a group of fighting methods into a martial discipline (A "jitsu" rather than a "Do" to use the Japanese way of looking at these things)

the other thing that the Piper System does is challenge the "conventional thinking" of many martial arts when it comes to knife methods.

In some of the traditional martial arts, thinking about the knife has become channelized into one or two general methods of attack and defense, Piper thinks way "outside the box" in comparison. The fact that Piper has a base in African style and rhythms of movement make it quite a bit different than the Asian based methods. The fact that Piper has drawn from its contact with Malay and Indian fighting traditions has, I think made it more flexible.

Piper will force all of us to reevaluate what we do, much in the same way that Bruce Lee did with his approach to Jeet Kun Do.

So what we see with Piper System is something like being able to observe the emergence of a new species, shaped by its genetic history and the unique environmental factors it has developed within.

I feel profoundly lucky in that I have been able to observe this not once but twice in my lifetime (the other being Scott Sonnon's RMAX) I can think of little that is more exciting.



Mike Blackgrave said...

HIya Mushtaq....good article....This is the first i have heard of this methodology....I will definitely do more research on the subject..thanks for the heads up...PEACE!

Anonymous said...

Mushtaq --

I look forward to seeing what the Piper guys do -- I believe it has real possibilties.

However, a caveat: I think Bruce Lee (tm) was adept and trained to the point of fanaticism, but to be perfectly honest, I haven't seen anybody come out of his system who demonstrates his ability. And from what I've seen of JKD -- which I had a chance to see when Lee was teaching in L.A.'s Chinatown in the late sixties, just before his movie career took off, I don't believe I'd give it quite the art-changing impact you do.

Some of his students used to drop round the Okinawa-te school where I trained back then, and I have to tell you, they didn't kick ass and takes names. We had brown and black belts who never lost a match against anybody who came in through the door, and that was as much a "classical mess" as any art in town.

Of course, in a streetfight, maybe things would have been different, but JKD on the mat just wasn't that impressive back in the day.

Lee stripped wing chun down to suit his abilities, padded it with stuff he could do because of his talent, and for folks with lesser physical skills and drive, JKD simply doesn't play quite as well. I think Lee could have made pretty much any art he picked work better for him than most people, and that speaks to him more than it does either his art or his teaching.

My opinion, which with a dime, might get you ten pennies -- if somebody wants to make change ...

Anonymous said...

Hi guys. Nice to see everyone is blogging. I see that Lloyd has updated his page and the new video is interesting. I look forward to seeing more from the Piper gang. Guru Bruno Cruicchi sends his regards. We had coffee last week and he updated me on his latest material (martial arts travels and adventures).

Anonymous said...

Hello Mushtaq,

I was roaming around the net and was surprised to find you had a blog. It was also strange because i was watching a 2 part video series on knife fighting that has a certain someone from your past...but that is a WHOLE nother story.

Your post have been enlightening to read. With you bringing the piper system more out in to the open has also caught my eye. From the small clip i saw from the piper site it does look like a different animal. Will be interesting to see what it does compare to other systems of blade work.

best to you

Dan Gambiera said...

Steve, I'd say that the big difference here is history. As you point out JKD largely depended on Bruce Lee's unique physical gifts. Well, that and the fact that in the Kingdom of the Blind anything with an eyespot has a coat of arms. Piper has a good record in the real world when used by criminals who are trying to shank innocent victims and each other. From the little I've been exposed to - thanks Mushtaq! - it isn't technique so much as the quality of movement that makes it different from other knife combatives. Think back to when Guru Plinck started doing broken rhythm and timing changes. It wasn't the sequence of moves, it was how we moved that made the difference. Very similar here.

Anonymous said...

I see that Piper has potential. If, as Mushtaq says, they are systematizing so there is a core of principles, then it will have something unique to offer compared to most of what we see with points and edges. Assuming, of course, that the principles are solid and realistic. All I've seen of it so far are that old tape we watched, and the download on their site, and by their nature, those aren't going to be able to get the reality of what they are doing across -- all you see is technique, and as we all know, that's not the important part.

And how it works against somebody who's the target of assassination and unarmed is not the same as how it will work against somebody who has a blade, sees it coming, and has a few verses of the song of steel to sing in return. I like that old Javanese proverb, "In a knife fight, the loser is ashes, but the winner is charcoal." That the other guy might be a little deader than I am when the cutting is done doesn't sell all that well for my money. Ai-uchi requires less skill than determination. I'm going, but I'm taking you with me ...

Even in the hand of a somebody untrained but willing, a knife is a great equalizer. So far, I haven't seen the stuff that makes these guys the ones who will walk away consistantly against somebody skilled in some other knife arts -- silat, say ...

But I want to keep an open mind about it and I'd love to see how they refine it.