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

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Proof that one can have an intelligent, reasonable discussion about Piper

Leave it to Steve Perry to come up with interesting questions about South African knife skills

Steve made this comment to the post I did on the Piper System blog. I thought that the questions were important enough that I pulled the comment out so that no one will miss it.

Before I answer though, I want to make sure that I am clear on a couple of things.

First, I don't speak for Piper System. I have not trained in the system, I am not a member of the system. Nigel, Lloyd and Jason do a good job of speaking for themselves and I am really happy that they are developing ways to do that more publicly. I am however also happy to call them friends, and because of my own experiences I have enough background in SA-Knife to understand what they are saying.

Second, I am not an expert in South African knife fighting.

I have however followed a parallel path, in that I studied Cape style knife methods while I was living in Africa. I learned from two African fellows who grew up in Cape Town and learned what they knew on the streets. They told me that they were only "average" in their skills and there were people who would take them "while reading a newspaper". Never the less I found their skills to be formidable, and I am considered not entirely unskilled with a knife. I was only able to study with them for about six months (though it was a very interesting six months). The guys I learned from just did what they did. They had no system or theories, no set of principals, it was all "hands on" material of the "learn by doing" sort.

That being said, I will presume to answer as a neutral, but informed, party.

Steve Perry speaks in green:

Hmm. Sounds from the tone at the blog that the Piper guy are getting a lot of flak. Understandable, given that we all tend to think our arts are the cat's pajamas, else we'd be training in something else, but I still see promise.

Indeed. Think back to the sort of flack they got on the Animal list, only quicker and perhaps with a bit more venom.

As I like to point out in situations like this, there is a time lag of one generation between the time that a new scientific theorem is proven and the time that it is generally accepted. People just don't like to deal with paradigm shifts. Remember Einstein never accepted Quantum theory, the British medical community tried to pillory Dr. Lister for suggesting that people would be better off if doctors washed their hands from time to time. History has demonstrated over and over that the majority is uncomfortable with new ideas and just want things to be comfortably the same. You are one of the rare ones who enjoys new information, much more often the novel is perceived as a threat.

My knifefighter Mourn in the Flex wasn't too impressed, but he'd seen the stuff before and was an adept with a blade on his own, so that's understandable, too.

Morn was at the top of his game, and a thinking man's fighter. I am positive he made sure he understood what he was up against in regard to any martial art he might encounter.

Which brings up a point -- excuse the word play -- how well do you think Piper stacks up against somebody else also using an art that came out of the jungle in the last generation or two? I mean, I'm not the expert at flaying, but at least some of the stuff Piper shows on the two vids I've seen doesn't really look that unfamiliar -- elbows in, closing, level changes, arms tight. And I believe that if slash came to stab and I had my knife, they wouldn't be walking away any faster than I would when the cutting was done.

while I hesitate to speculate without knowing something about the art in question, I have to say that in general Piper will do well against anything I have run across. That doesn't mean that it is unbeatable, just that it has some interesting things going for it.

there are some things that are going to be familiar, as you mention above, and there are some things that are unfamiliar. Those are found in the rhythms and in the way the movements are chained together.

Not talking about a gifted player, but as a system -- do you think that Piper is intrinsically superior to say, FMA or silat? I give 'em the mean-streets and intent, and a "do" isn't a "jutsu;" still, I don't see that the Piper guy has it all over the silat guy to the point that he wins every time.

Am I missing something?
I don't think you are missing anything, though you may be being a bit too general.

I will speak to Silat as I am most familiar with that.

In my opinion, there are some Silat players in the States that would fare well against Cape style knife, but many would not.

I don't know if you noticed that when I was up at the welding shop, Guru Plinck and I spent a bit of time over in one corner. We were going over the ideas he had come up with to deal with Cape knife work. To be totally honest, and at the risk of offending some people, he is the first Silat player I have run across in the States who had come up with something I thought was workable. I do suspect that Bobbe might have something up his sleeve that would be useful, but these have been, in my experience the exceptions rather than the rule.

There are a couple of things that make Piper different enough that it is quite dangerous to people who have not examined it with an open mind.

First, to put it bluntly, Africans tend to be less inhibited about hurting, maiming and killing someone than most of us in the West. Africans tend to go from "mellow" to "kill you right now" without hitting any if the intermediate steps that you or I might pass through. For instance, one of the first things I learned about the Maasai is that they would not hesitate in the slightest to kill you if you crossed the line with them. There were absolutely no inhibitions that you would find here in most people. The willingness to do violence without having to justify it gives one an edge, at least in Africa.

The second thing that gives Cape knife an edge (no pun intended) is the use of African polyrhythms in movement. One of the hallmarks of this kind of rhythm is that it has an unpredictable quality. If you listen to someone like Mamaday Kita playing with group of drummers, there will come a point where he starts riffing. When he does he will be completely unpredictable (in the sense that you won't know when he will add beats, or in what patterns) but he will still be completely within the rhythm of the group.

Cape knife has that same quality. So if someone can't adapt to the seeming chaotic nature of that style of movement, it can be unfortunate.

That being said, no one wins every time. I don't think the Piper guys think that this is the case in any event. But they know that they have a very effective system, and it is based on rhythms and ways of chaining movement that we are unfamiliar with in the West.

In recent days I have seen people examine 1 minute 26 seconds of movement and then leap to judgment as to a whole system. This worries me.

On the other hand a very few others gave long thought to that 7 minute tape and came up with ways to counter what they saw. Like Mourn, they are a thinking man's fighter.

So I guess the answer is that if someone is flexible, willing to think outside the box, and can adapt on the fly, they will do well when the meet the unknown. If someone puts more credit in their preconceptions than in to actual reality, and is unwilling to let anything new into their thinking, they will not.

And of course I could be completely wrong about all this.



Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"I do suspect that Bobbe might have something up his sleeve that would be useful, but these have been, in my experience the exceptions rather than the rule."<

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but let me say that whenever I am faced with someone who is more fight than art, it makes me apprehensive. Piper sounds like something that could have just as easily come straight out of the orphanage, or a Southern prison. There is little or no bravado in such methods, they move, they kill. I hate fighting people like that, they aren't bound by style conflicts or Dojo habits. Ergo, the deck is stacked much less favorably in my direction. And what I have up my sleeve would probably be something from the colorful patois of my cheerfully misspent youth, less than something from the Aliran.

I don't understand what the problem is with accepting Piper, or why there is so much animosity towards it. I am insanely curious about it, and was hoping to maybe get Nigel & the guys out for a seminar or something. What, another bulldog moves into the neighborhood & all of a sudden it's a pissing match? Dude, WAKE UP!

>"if someone can't adapt to the seeming chaotic nature of that style of movement, it can be unfortunate."<

"Unfortunate" in this case, meaning "Yer gonna wake up with a knife shoved up your ass" then yeah, I'd call that unfortunate. Damn, Caren needs to hear this. She thinks I'M the master of understatement!

Michael Blackgrave said...

I agree Bobbe...from what little I know about Piper it seems to be as solid as any other methodology. for Christ sakes were talking about bladed combat here not tap dancing..less is definitely more and intent is the key. Now with that being said I also agree that there are other notable systems of knife work that would fair well especially in the hands of someone who really doesn't give two shits and a giggle about hurting another human being. I just came back from the Philippines and I witnessed Master Yuli work a blade, not only from the Ilustrisimo angle but also the Bahad was amazing. I personally feel that style be damned, what it comes down to is the moxy one must posess to do the evil deed if need be...and that is another question all together..very few martial artists have the nuts to escolate a confrontation to the ultimate level nor do they have the moxy to ambush someone...and in my opinion ambush is the best bet blade usage.

I would definitely be interested in knowing and perhaps learning this if a seminar is in the works count me in.

The above opinions are soley mine..I do have a bit of knowledge on blade craft and a few scars to show just how little I may or may not know!

Mushtaq Ali said...

Nigel is having problems posting to the comments section here but wanted to add his ideas into the mix so he passed them on to me to put up for him, so here they are

I'd have to agree with Mike & Bobbe with re to other blade systems doing well against piper,as long as the guy has the same level of killer intent his attacker possesses.

However,no one system can take out another system all by itself,as Mushtaq, Mike & Bobbe stated earlier,but it would come down to the individual's character & to what depths he will sink to take this guy out. As a martial artist,I'm still dabbling in other knife systems to increase my knowledge of bladecraft & must say that piper is NOT indestructible,just that it takes a whole lot less into a fight re techniques,doesn't care about its image when engaging & doesn't give 2 hoots about doing it 'correctly'.

People still ask me for counters to piper,& all I say is 'INTENT' thats all.I never even mention art or system as just having intent gives you purpose which breeds a habit to get shit over with..QUICKLY!! I.M.O,other blade systems are more than equipped to deal with a likened threat,only problem is the manner in which these systems are taught are more than often a letdown.In the Philippine provinces the level of intent is basically the same as in cape town, but its because survival is everyone's common denominator & the name of the ass-whuppin you just gave the other guy is not an issue at all here, but then again thats just my opinion.

Niger February