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

Monday, December 24, 2007

¡Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo!

As we say where I come from.

That would be the good old US of A, the State of New Mexico.

People who go around talking like America is an "English speaking" country really don't know much about our history. I grew up around people who's families had Spanish surnames, who spoke Spanish at home and who's family had been living in New Mexico since before there was a United States.

And of course there is a reason why there are so many Spanish place-names west of the Rockies.

I would hazard that Spanish is as important a language to the history of the US as is English, and more important than German, Italian, Dutch or French (though each plaid important roles in the building of America).

So for those of you not lucky enough to be from the South West, I want to share with you one of my very favorite Christmas traditions, Luminarias.

Usually, on the day of Christmas eve you will see all these brown paper bags lining the streets.

The Plaza at Santa Fe Christmas eve day

It looks like a big work crew just up and left their lunches laying about. But at night......

The candles, which are placed on a pile of sand inside the bags, are lit, and the streets and homes take on this warm glow that is like nothing else I know of.





There is nothing quite like going up in the foothills of the Sangre de Christos and look down on the town of Santa Fe to see it lit up with the glow of the Luminarias.

Or to wander through old town Albuquerque, following the lights to see where they lead you.

So Feliz Navidad Amigos, and remember, either we all belong here or none of us do.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My most popular blog articles ever

I have a bit of code installed on this blog that allows me to see who comes here and what they read.

I do this mostly for the sake of curiosity, and to know what people find interesting. Sometimes what other people find interesting surprises me more than a little.

I started writing this blog in November of 2004, mostly as a method of 'decompression" after being so long outside the US.

I have to admit that I have come to enjoy the exercise.


In the Number Ten slot

I wrote this in reference to the movie "Equilibrium" and its martial art. While the fight choreography in the movie was mostly just for fun, the last fight gave me an idea for working with pistols at trapping range that actually had some merit.


Number Nine

I wrote this just after the bombing attacks in Great Britain. The Times of London actually picked it up and published it. That was the first time I had ever had an article published in a major newspaper, how kewl is that?

number Eight

This is a short story I wrote illustrating the deeper meaning of the Bush presidency.

Number Seven

This contains the guidelines for Silat (with tongue firmly in cheek)

Number Six

This was my way of dealing with a little tin god of a Silat instructor and his stooge. Lots and lots of people have read it since it was published. The Stooge has stabbed Leonardo squarely in the back and both their houses are in disarray. Karma is a wonderful thing.

Number Five

This was just some thoughts on teachers and students, but people seem to like it.

Number Four

This was devoted to keeping yourself healthy while training. It was picked up and published in Circular Strength Training Magazine.

Number Three

This was my opinion on the Martial Arts industry versus the Self Defense industry flame war.

Number Two

This is actually a series of articles on martial arts. It started because there was a thing or two I wanted to say about an event that happened many years ago that somehow managed to get talked about quite a bit. The series grew from there. In some ways I think that this is my best work.

And the single most popular story on my blog
Number One

I have always found it very surprising that this story is so popular. It was just a bit of history I related because of being reminded of the events. It was also the first time anyone every quoted my blog on theirs, when Nietzsche's Wife posted a line from it on her blog. At least twenty people a day are reading it for whatever reason. Go figure. I hope it is helping Jen sell a few CD's

Monday, December 10, 2007

Flat or Edge?

Or "The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there is no difference".

My friends often send me things that they think I might find informative, or amusing, or that they would like my thoughts on.

I just got a message forwarded to me by a friend from one of the Filipino Martial Arts lists regarding a video clip. He was interested in my opinion of a comment about the clip.

The clip in question was of another friend explaining some points on machete work from a couple of different perspectives.

Here is the clip:


Bobbe does his blade thing

Now before we go on, I should mention that there has been, among the academicians (or perhaps the theologians) of the so called "blade culture" a debate raging for years. One side states that "a true and realistic swordsman will never parry with the edge of his blade, it is just not done, and has never been done by real swordsmen."

The other side of this argument claims "a true and realistic swordsman will never parry with the flat of his blade, it is just not done, and has never been done by real swordsmen."

The argument between these two camps blazes up in the flames of Internet controversy every now and again across the various forums and lists. Names are called, insults are delivered, nothing is solved.

This brings us to the comment in question:

A very good clip. The most revealing piece on this clip was at the very end when the instructor used a blade edge to blade edge deflection as he ducked to his left and set up his counter. The long and short of it all? He's not a realistic blade-man.
You should NEVER go blade edge to blade edge! Flat side for either a forehand or backhand position is fine, but NEVER edge to edge!
Now I don't know this guy. Like all people who have been involved in the Martial arts for more than an hour and a half, there are people who think well of him and people who hate his guts. (what a surprise) but from talking to people who have had contact with him, who's opinions I trust, I understand that he is a competent stick player, Modern Arnis I believe.

What he isn't is anyone who has real knowledge of fighting with a long blade. Please note I did NOT say "sparring" or "training" or "doing drills", I said fighting.

Fighting, as in combat with real blades, with the intent to bring death or grave bodily harm to your opponent, who is trying to do the same to you.

If you are wondering what makes me draw this conclusion, it is this sentence. "He's not a realistic blade-man. You should NEVER go blade edge to blade edge!" Notice that all caps "NEVER"?

Spoken like a true ivory tower academic!

I am going to address this statement from a few different viewpoints.

First from the point of view of a blacksmith.

I have about forty years of experience in the art of shaping iron and steel. In that time I have made hundreds of blades, large and small, and have tested many of them to destruction in order to understand the truth about their properties.

I have also examined literally hundreds of blades used in combat over the years in museums, exhibits and private collections to understand the kinds of stresses that they underwent.

Academic dogmas of the edge versus flat schools aside, this is what empirical study has led me to conclude. (I will be speaking here in terms of swords, being as that gives us the most data on edge to edge and edge to flat contact)

Both being struck on the edge and the flat by the edge of another sword can and will damage a blade and both can cause failure. Of the two, edge to edge contact causes the most damage, and most quickly brings the blade to the point of failure. Every time a notch is made in the edge of a blade it creates a "stress raiser", which is a flaw that concentrates stress in that area. Stress raisers are probably one of the most common reasons for blade failure in combat, at least with a well made, well tempered blade.

When a (long) blade is struck it needs to deform in such a way that the stress of the blow is spread equally throughout the blade, and then be able to return to "true". A stress raiser stops the spread of stress through the blade and causes flaws to develop with each blow to the sword.

A blow to the flat of a blade can also cause stress raisers, but rarely to the extent that an edge to edge strike will. A strike to the flat of a blade with an edge at ninety degrees has the greatest possibility of doing damage.

For an interesting view of what I am talking about, the TV show Myth Busters did a segment on the myth of one sword cutting another in half.

They built a spring powered swing arm, mounted a good sword on it and tried to cut through (break) several different swords cutting edge to flat.

They only managed to break one sword, a cheap katana made fro 440 series stainless steel, which is an abysmally bad steel for swords. All the other swords flexed with the blow and did not break, though a couple took a set.

We can conclude from this that it is preferable to take a blow on the flat of the blade rather than the edge, ideally at an acute or obtuse angle.

That being said, of the swords I have examined which actually saw combat, almost all of them showed edge to edge contact.

This brings me to my second "voice", that of someone who has both been trained to the blade, has fought against people who were trying to kill me with a blade, and has seen real combat with long blades.

Anyone who uses words like "never" and always" in the context of real combat is likely not speaking from actual experience, but only from theory. Theory is great on the mat, but if adhered to rigidly in combat is likely to get you killed.

The other guy is called "The Enemy" for a reason.

He will do everything possible to make sure that you are fighting from a disadvantage. He will try to prevent you from making the perfect parry, he will try to keep you off balance, he will mess up your timing, he will confuse and surprise you. That is the point of the exercise.

Consequently, you may find yourself, from time to time, fighting from an odd position, or just a bit out of time, and, Heaven forfend, you may just have to parry with the edge of your sword.

In other words, "edge happens".

Now as it happens, I have crossed blades with Bobbe a time or two.

Love me or hate me, friend or enemy, I don't think that there is anyone who has spent time with me that would not say that I know a thing or two about blade combat. I don't claim to be the end all, do all of knife work, but I can say I am a survivor, which counts for something in certain circles.

Bobbe is smart, fast, smooth, cunning, treacherous, and has a survivor's instinct to do whatever is needed to go home to his wife, he is in fact everything a "realistic blade-man" is.

The dilettante who presumes to tell us what a realistic blade man will NEVER do is in fact not fit to hold Bobbe's scabbard. What a realistic blade-man (or woman as a matter of fact) does is survive, even if he gets a notch in his blade.

finally, I want to speak from the perspective of the anthropologist.

This is what I have determined, after years studying people who actually fought with blades from Sumer to Europe. A realistic blade-man when fighting in real combat, not some silly dual or the like, did not prefer to take a parry on either the flat or the edge of his sword, he would rather use his shield.


Swords are expensive, often the equivalent to the price of a car, shields are cheap and easily replaceable.

Realistic blade-men from Egypt 2000 BCE to the rice patties of Mindanao prefer to parry with their shield, but will use the flat of their blade, or even the edge if it keeps them alive and sends their enemy off the the after life of their choice.

Just say'n, ya know?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Freedom REQUIRES Religion?!?!?

Here's one of the uglier slippery slopes I have seen in a while

Las night on the news, most of the talking heads were raving about what a kewl speech Willard "Mitt" Romney, pretender to the throne, gave, and how "Kennedy like" it was.

Well, as it happens, I saw Kennedy's speech on his Catholicism when he gave it (on an old black and white, 19" screen TV with rabbet ears), it was one of the things I admired him for.

Romney is NOT Kennedy!

What Romney said, when you strip away the smoke and mirrors, is that there is no room in this country for anyone who is not a Christian.

As he said "Freedom REQUIRES Religion" And he goes on to talk about America in the context of the Christian view of God.

If that ain't downright Orwellian, I don't know what is.

What Romney wants is a theocracy, not a democracy. He wants an America that leaves no room for anyone who does not follow some religious (Christian) dogma, no matter how crazy it is.

It is telling that the President that Romney chose to quote was "His Rotundity", John Adams, who used the Alien and sedition acts for his benefit in a way that Bush would envy, who decreed days of fasting and days of prayer from his desk in the newly built White House as president.

I could only find one voice in the media who was not crying Romney's praises for his speech, that being Keith Olbermann. Take a look at his segment last night on Countdown. It is the only place I saw pointing out the really scary stuff in Romney's speech.



Countdown segment on Romney's speech

Of course all that lip service to religion is a bit questionable when contrasted with Romney's actions and his past. Let's not forget that Romney is the latest in a line of the American political nobility. Both his mother and father were politicians, his father being governor of Michigan, and a presidential candidate. (I could never figure that on out, being as dad Romney was born in Mexico where Grandpa Romney had fled to be able to continue his polygamous marriage).

So how do you find out the truth about a trained political chameleon like Romney? You certainly don't listen to what he says, he no doubt got his skills at dissimulating with his mother's milk.

The answer is to not listen to what he says, but to watch what he does, especially if he is caught off guard.

Take a look at this clip of Romney being asked an inconvenient question by a muscular dystrophy sufferer. Take a look at his body language (there are other longer clips of this confrontation, but I think this one shows enough). Ask yourself "Would Jesus have treated the man this way"? You can disagree with someone and still have empathy for their condition, still connect with them as a human being. Romney seems to have no empathy, just rhetoric.


Romney turns his back on the sick

Personally, that whole conversation creeped me out. It is obvious to me that Romney could give a shit about the guy in the wheelchair and was only interested in getting away. I consider that a perfect example of his "Christian charity".

Interestingly, some others did catch the drift of Romney's real message and did ask the important question "where do us non-Christians fit in Romney's America?" As we see, he is playing it cagey and has no interest in telling us the truth one way or another. Romney Spokesman Won't Say If Atheists Have Place In America .

The thing is, once there is a religious test for what a "true American" is, where is it going to stop? Here we see a bit of what might be in our future. German ministers say Scientology unconstitutional .

Yeah, I know, it's Scientology, a very wacky religion by most standards, They believe in space ships and such. But is that so much more weird than believing that the lost tribes of Israel jumped into boats, sailed across the Atlantic, colonized America, built a vast civilization, had wars, had Jesus show up, then became American Indians, leaving no trace of their having been here physically or genetically? Frankly, Hubbard's fiction is more believable as far as I am concerned.

But with Romney and his ilk in power we will have a religious test, and there is no room for the "unorthodox" according to Romney.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Words

They're such funny things.

Last evening during the usual after class discussion, one of my students insisted that my use of a word, "drug", was incorrect.

He informed me that "drug" was only appropriate to use for psychotropics such as Xanax or Prozac. (I was using the word in the context of "a substance used to prevent disease).

Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback. I asked him why he thought this correct, and he told me that it was what he was taught in school.

I know that public education has gone down hill since the Republicans got enough power to hurt public education in the hope of privatizing it, but one begins to wonder if there is some sort of Orwellian newspeak going on here.

The funny thing is, my student is quite bright, so there had to be some real information twisting to leave him with that skewed definition.

In case anyone was wondering, here is the etymology of the word, and its definition from Webster.

drug
1327, from O.Fr. drouge, perhaps from M.Du. or M.L.G. droge-vate "dry barrels," with first element mistaken as word for the contents (see dry goods), or because medicines mostly consisted of dried herbs. Application to "narcotics and opiates" is 1883, though association with "poisons" is 1500s. The verb is from 1605. Druggie first recorded 1968. Drug-store is 1810; drug-store cowboy is 1925, Amer.Eng. slang, originally one who dressed like a Westerner but obviously wasn't. To be a drug on or in the market (c.1661) is of doubtful connection and may be a different word, perhaps drag, which was sometimes drug c.1240-1800.


Main Entry: Drug

Pronunciation:
\ˈdrəg\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Middle English drogge
Date:
14th century

1 a obsolete : a substance used in dyeing or chemical operations b: a substance used as a medication or in the preparation of medication c according to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

(1): a substance recognized in an official pharmacopoeia or formulary

(2): a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease

(3): a substance other than food intended to affect the structure or function of the body

(4): a substance intended for use as a component of a medicine but not a device or a component, part, or accessory of a device 2: a commodity that is not salable or for which there is no demand —used in the phrase drug on the market 3: something and often an illegal substance that causes addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness
— drug·gy also drug·gie Listen to the pronunciation of druggie \ˈdrə-gē\ adjective

Life is strange.


.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The End of America

In her book, "The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot" Naomi Wolf outlines ten steps for turning a Democracy into a Dictatorship.

They are:

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create a gulag
  3. Develop a thug caste
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens' groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. Dissent equals treason
  10. Suspend the rule of law
If you want more definitive descriptions of these steps you may want to check out her original article on the subject publish in the Guardian, Fascist America, in 10 easy steps.

Or you may want to watch this lecture on the subject. It is about 45 minutes long but well worth the consideration.

Naomi Wolf on the end of America



Regardless of if you think of your self as "conservative", "liberal", "progressive" or some other label, you owe it to yourself to consider this material. The only people who won't find it moving and disturbing are fascists and Right Wing Authoritarians.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

First Snow Winter 2007

We got our first real snow today

We have gotten flurries over the last couple of weeks, but nothing that has stuck......

First snowfall from the back 40
I guess winter is here.

loyalty oaths?

We know that the Republican party is the party of corruption, hypocrisy, crime and disloyalty to the Constitution, but this is over the top even for them.

GOP will demand 'oath' of February primary voters

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- If you're planning to vote in Virginia's February Republican presidential primary, be prepared to sign an oath swearing your Republican loyalty.

The State Board of Elections on Monday approved a state Republican Party request to require all who apply for a GOP primary ballot first vow in writing that they'll vote for the party's presidential nominee next fall.

There's no practical way to enforce the oath. Virginia doesn't require voters to register by party, and for years the state's Republicans have fretted that Democrats might meddle in their open primaries.

Virginia Democrats aren't seeking such an oath for their presidential primary, which is held the same day -- February 12th.
This is the most Un-American thing I have herd of since the McCarthy trials.

I find it quite troubling that the Virginia State Board of Elections approved this travesty, but is shows just how far gone the GOP has become. The right to vote one's conscience is fundamental to a free democracy, that the GOP wants to have its members sign away this right tells me that the Party is dead to Democracy and the American way.

This is still America! No one can, or should try to force you to vote the way they want you to.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bluegrass and Blogs

Up late, working, listening to Bluegrass.

I have been catching up on a great deal of work that had been put on the back burner when my computer went down for the count. A good deal of it has been in the area of web design this week.

I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, but when I work I tend to favor Bluegrass.

One of my projects has been to do a complete remodel of all the web site, blog, and forum for Steve Barnes.

When I put his blog together, it was a matter of getting something up so that he could start writing.

And then there is his main website (sigh) it was kludged together from about three separate sites, which was bad enough, but while I was off line he had to get someone to do some updates, and that never seems to work well.

I chose Rhonda Vincent as my inspiration for Steve's site.



Both web design and Bluegrass are at their best when they tell stories, and Rhonda knows how to tell a story.

I have the bones of Steve's new site sorted out and have his material "branded", a whole new look and feel as it were.

I took a lot of the artistic inspiration from Steve's novel "Lion's Blood", which I consider one of his very best works. (yes, that is in fact a plug for the book in case you haven't read it).

The main site won't be up for a bit yet as we are still working on content, but I have the new blog design online and you can check it out here.

Another project was to help my buddy Buddha get a blog up in honor of his birthday.

This entailed both doing up some graphics and code for him and teaching him how to use the blogger interface to add his own content to his blog.

I chose Alison Krauss to do this work by.



Here is a piece that shows some of the roots of Bluegrass, The Chieftains & Alison Krauss performing Molly Ban, an old Irish ballad.

You can (and should) check out Buddha's new blog here. Buddha is on my short list of "people who I want with me when civilization as we know it comes to an end" (something more likely to happen soon as no one seems able or willing to stop Bush) and is one of the more interesting and colorful individuals to hang out at Innovative Martial Arts and Casa Pippin.


For working on my own blog I threw on some Dixie Chicks to work by



Here's one of my faves, The Dixie Chicks performing "Cowboy Take Me Away".

You are already here so you can see the changes I have made to this blog.

This is just by way of a quick update, more later.

Cab Calloway

If you need to ask, you're too young to understand.


Friday, November 23, 2007

House Cleaning

I have not updated the look and feel of this blog in quite a while!

Over the next couple of days I will be completely redoing the design of the blog, so please bear with me.

(no content will be harmed during this process) ((I hope))

For all those who are still waiting for me to return their emails, I am working on that as quickly as I can. I promise to grovel for forgiveness in an appropriate manner soon.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"It's not a democracy if you die before you're old enough to vote"

Stockholm is a beautiful city.

And here was I, walking down the street with an intelligent, articulate, highly educated (and gorgeous) woman (she looked a lot like Ingrid Bergman did in Casablanca. Sadly, I look nothing like Bogart, but then again, I am almost as cool in spite of that) who I had been spending a great deal of time with, and who had taken it upon herself to make sure I experienced her city in a way that would do it justice.

We were discussing all manner of interesting things as we strolled arm in arm down Vasagatan toward the metro station after a truly wonderful summer's day on the town.

Summers in Stockholm are quite amazing, it is light out for something like twenty hours out of twenty four, the weather is usually quite balmy and no one wants to stay inside.

Stockholm is built on a series of islands, so the city is crisscrossed by canals, it's a bit like Venice, but without the bad smell. As a matter 0f fact it is both one of the most delightful, and one of the cleanest cities I have ever been in.

We were returning home from a day of wandering the city, exploring it on foot, by bus and ferry.

She had decided that morning that we had to visit the Museum of Medieval Stockholm, a rather unique place. The city had planned to build an underground parking lot near Parliament, but when they started digging, they discovered a section of the original city, houses, artifacts, streets, a longboat, part of the city wall and much, much more. Rather than doing what we do here when a builder finds an archaeological site (try to hide the fact, destroy the site before anyone knows about it, complain about how much money it's going to cost you to let people come in and preserve the artifacts, and pour concrete over it as soon as you can) the city did something interesting. They built an underground museum instead of a parking lot.

To get in, you went through a rather nondescript door in a little cul-de-sac, down a narrow flight of stairs, and into a HUGE underground chamber.

It was truly amazing, to walk streets that were laid in the thirteenth century, peering into the buildings, touching the stones. The fact that we were in a giant man made cave with lights strung like stars across the sealing gave it a dreamy, surreal quality.

After prowling about for a while, taking in the atmosphere of Medieval Stockholm, we decided to move on.

We cut through Parliament, which is nothing like going to the houses of congress here. It is just sort of open and people walk through. No guns, no secret service, no guards. It was even more surreal than the museum for an American used to US government paranoia about the intentions of its citizens.

Coming out this entrance, there were almost always street musicians, often from South America, playing native flutes, Charango and drum. We were on our way to one of my vary favorite parts of Stockholm, the Gamla Stan (Old Town) for lunch.

The Gamla Stan is a tourist attraction to be sure, but a rather nice one. It was in fact one of my favorite parts of the city. I love the narrow, cobblestone streets, the shops, outdoor cafes and buildings that have been standing since before America was a country.

After grabbing lunch, we headed over to Skansen.

Skansen is an outdoor museum, and it's huge. It includes a zoo, houses and other buildings from every part of Swedish history as well as other exhibits. I suspect you could spend a week there ans still not explore everything the place has to offer.


As you may have figured out by now, I have an enduring fascination with history, and since most of my mother's family came from Sweden, I found my trip to Skansen to be particularly engaging.

I loved tins little house from Sami land. It reminded me of something out of fairytale.

And this house looks very much like the one my Grandfather was born in, before his family upped and moved to the States.

There was also a zoo that had many of the indigenous Scandinavian animals, wolves, and wolverines, moose, reindeer, European bison, and this fellow,
The Swedish lynx. Don't think bobcat here, he was about sixty pounds, the size of a small cougar. I was impressed. I had not realized that the European lynx was a large as that, or that they had managed to survive as well as they had.

After a good day's wandering, we headed to the Hötorget (the hay square).

This is an indoor-outdoor market, sort of a farmer's market on steroids. I had promised my friend that I would cook her a real southwestern meal, and this was one of the few places I might be able to find the required ingredients. (chilies were not common in Sweden, nor are some of the other spices we take for granted here)

We managed to find everything I needed and we headed off to the metro station to catch the Blue Line home.

As we walked the conversation drifted to some of the differences between Sweden and the US.

"We are a social democracy" she said. "We understand that the government's job is to serve the collective needs of the people, the US seems to think that it is government's job to rule the people as if they were all slightly naughty children". I of course protested this characterization.

She pointed out that our government seems determined to use our tax money for thins that do not in fact serve the people who give the money, but rather to benefit those dubious, sociopathic pseudo-entities called corporations. (note: "sociopathic" is defined as behavior that is antisocial and lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience). She explained that "Social Democracy" means having a conscience as a people, and acting on it for the benefit of ALL citizens. She pointed out two major differences between our countries. The first was in education. She said (and she was a school teacher, so I suspect she knew what she was talking about) that the quality of education was uniform across the country. You would receive the same high quality education in a big city school and a rural one room school house. This was why Sweden had near universal literacy, and such a low crime rate according to her.

The other area wan health care. She said " We think that it is not really a democracy if you die before you are old enough to vote because you were denied necessary health care because of money". She pointed out that America's health system was a parasite that preyed on the citizens of my country taking more and more money and doing everything it could to not give value for what was taken.

She pointed out that Sweden had universal health care that was quite good, that Swedes , had one of the longest life expectancies in the world, and were in much better health in general than Americans. That was, she said because the people all had access to the same health care as part of the social contract of her country. She thought commercial health care was an insane proposition, much like commercial air for breathing. She said she didn't understand why we put up with people being denied health care in the States when spent more money for less value than any other industrialized nation.

About this time we arrived at Näckrosen station, which was just a couple blocks from where I was living.

The Stations for the Metro, especially the blue line, were quite lovely. they were all decorated with different themes, and often left with the walls "unfinished". Näckrosen means "water lily" and as you can see, the station was decorated with water lilies painted on the naked rock.

We had a very fine dinner (if I do say so myself) and a delightful evening, a fitting end to an adventurous day.

Over the years I never forgot our conversation on education and health care. She made some telling points. The proposition that commercial health care is somehow better than universal care that a whole nation provides for all its citizens if just a flat lie. I have experienced both, I know this for a fact.

I was reminded of this conversation when I ran across this video on YouTube.



Think about it. Does it really do us as a nation to not look out for each other, but rather trust corporations who have a "fiduciary responsibility" to maximize profits above all else?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Other Blogs

I haven't talked about the blogs I read for quite a while now.......

And of course all my many fives of fans must be on the edge of their seats by now wondering.

Seriously, there is some really good material out there, and if you like, you can see what I find interesting.

First, let me introduce you to

Miss Stick

This is the blog of Mariah Moore, an average thirteen year old West Michigan farm girl who just happens to have a thing for full contact stick fighting.

I have to admit, Mariah is one of my students, and the youngest person I have ever allowed to train with me (she started when she was twelve). When Steve Van Harn brought her to me for consideration I thought he was a bit cracked, but it turns out the kid is a prodigy when it comes to whacking people up-side the head with a stick.

She is one of only two people I have/am training in my "family" style of South Philippines martial art.

She is also a WEKAF world champion. Take a moment and give her a visit.

Ecce Mulier

This is one of the very first blogs I ever read, and after a few years now I am still reading it. It is written by a young artist/poet who goes by the name "Nietzsche's Wife". She reminds me a bit of Anaïs Nin, only completely different.

She is creative, often brilliant, occasionally caustic, thought provoking, challenging, and never dull.

I have occasionally thought that she was born out of time. She would have made a great companion to Kerouac, Fariña, Pynchon, Kesey, and the like, back when an artist has more value in the world.

Poking the Tiger

My Friend and training partner Steve Van Harn decided to make himself a blog. It is just now in its beginnings, but I expect great things.

Magic Apathy Ball

The site run by my friend Todd Erven. Again, it's a fairly new blog and one can tell he has come under some bad influences in his life (not enough, but we're trying). Todd is yet another Silat player, and though his teacher has addicted him to French speaking beer, he is a pretty good fellow.

Blog bloggy blog blog

And yet another new blog, also by a friend. I have known John for quite a while, though we just met in person less than a year ago. He is a thoughtful fellow, check him out.

Chiron

I met Rory once through a mutual friend. He is the guy all these "self defense gurus" wish they were.

You know the ones I mean, coming up on the mean streets of Santa Monica or Scott's Bluff, got their training as a bouncer in a biker bar (while that sounds impressive, isn't really a good qualification. I've been a bouncer in a biker bar, it was a mostly pretty mellow gig, people came to drink and enjoy themselves, not beat each other over the head with bar stools). Beer gut hanging over their belts, telling us ad nauseum how bad they are.

Rory on the other hand is an understated, soft spoken fellow who has worked the really scary side of the street, dealing with people who are the worst nightmares of your worst nightmares.

He is an intelligent, thoughtful person and can comment quite lucidly on areas of the human condition that most of us have no understanding of.

The Heart of the Matter

My friend Terry introduced me to Barry Eisler's books, and I have been very happy he did.

Eisler writes about a half Japanese professional Assassin called John Rain.

While most of these sort of books are Right Wing monkey spank novels (I remember one of that type I read in an airport once, "The Warrior thrust again and again into the man beneath him. His victim's moans were music to his ears". This of course was talking about a knife fight, go figure)

Eisler is not that kind of writer. His characters have an inner life, they are complex and layered. The plots, while fiction, have at least a basis in reality, and he has done his research.

All in all, and interesting person, check him out.

The Guru’s Handbook

I have mentioned this blog before, but it bears repeating.

If you have anything to do with teaching on any level you will benefit from reading this.

Formosa Neijia

A friend just turned me onto this site, and it has loads of great information and useful material. If you are at all interested in "internal" martial arts or Qigung you will find much of use here. I particularly liked this post.

Visions of the World

This is the blog of my friend Sophia. It is a journal of her journey, and I have found it quite interesting over the months I have been reading it.

Gentle Creation

Lastly, let me point you to Liza, a rather sweet young lady from Malaysia who has an excellent eye with a camera. I have been enjoying her work for some time now.

Enjoy

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Time To Declare

I've given this a lot of thought, I've watched and listened to all the candidates from both parties


Barack Obama Logo

In some ways this has been one of the harder choices I have made for an election, in others, one of the easiest.

After Six + years of George Bush and company running our country into the ground the Democrats could run a hamster and get him elected (Assuming that there is an election, I notice that more of the far Right wants Bush to declare himself President For Life)

The entire field of Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, are so clueless that they think that acting like Bush is a good thing, Paul doesn't stand a chance of getting elected.

I had entertained a couple of good thoughts about Romney, but after seeing the way he turned his back on that Muscular Dystrophy victim, I realized that the guy was barely human, and we have had enough of that with Bush and Chaney.

I have to admit, I am not totally happy with any of the democrats, all of them have problem areas.

I just can't bring myself to vote for Clinton. She is just another prepackaged political robot as far as I can tell.

She would do a better job than Bush, I have no doubt of that, but I suspect she owes too much to the various special interests that have given her lots of money. Bottom line, I think she would rather be a ruler than a leader, and we have had too much of that already.

Richardson has a lot going for him, he IS from New Mexico after all :-) but I don't think he has the charisma the job will require to unite the country again.

In some ways I like Kucinich best of all, but I don't think he can win, and it is essential that America elect someone who can and will restore our democracy, and that means no more Republicans in the White House for a while.

Obama has his problems. The fact that he was working the same stage as the anti-gay preacher lost him a few points with me. One of the things I use for judging a politician is how they treat the least powerful, most disenfranchised people, and in today's America that would be illegal immigrants and gays.

What finally sold me on Obama was listening to him during the MTV MySpace interview yesterday.

He is actually willing to dialog with people, not just feed them slogans and sound bites. I came away from that interview feeling like he would do a good job, and he is not afraid to actually interact with the people he is representing.

So I came to the conclusion that I had to support him as the best one of the bunch and the one most likely to restore America to a Democracy.

So my dear readers, what I would ask you to do is this. Think of what kind of country you would like to live in, then listen to all the candidates. Listen to them beyond the canned messages and slogans, find the one that will do the best job (and I don't mean the one someone else told you was the right one) Think For Yourself, and really participate in this election. Remember, this is not a sports event, even though we often act like it is, this is the single most important thing we do as a nation. Vote for the country you want to live in, not just one issue.

The Ticket I'd like to see? Obama for President, Kucinich for VP and Richardson as Secretary of State. New York can keep Clinton.

What Planet Should you Rule?

This is Bobbe's fault

I checked his blog this morning to see if he had posted anything of note and discovered that he had declared himself Emperor of Mars. (John Carter may have an opinion on this)

OK so I am a sucker for some of these little tests.

You Should Rule Mercury

Close to sun, Mercury has very long days - and is rarely visible to the rest of the solar system.

You are perfect to rule Mercury, because you live for the present - and can truly enjoy a day that goes on forever.
Like Mercury, you are quick and elusive. Your wit is outstanding, and you can win any verbal sparring match.

Some people see you as superficial, but in truth, you just play many roles and have many interests.
A great manipulator, you usually get what you want from people. And they're happy to give it to you.

It is just a little spooky though, me being a Virgo and all.

(And NO, I don't believe in astrology. I just learned my whole chart in depth so that back in the sixties, when someone came up to me and said "Hey. Peace, Love, Hare Krishna! What's your sign?" I could tell them in in such depth and detail that their eyes would eventually glaze over and roll up in their heads as they slumped to the floor in a stupor of astrological confusion).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How to make a Cheap Kettlebell

For fun and bulkiness of muscle

Some years ago, my buddy Steve Barnes showed up at my door with a new toy, a thing called a kettlebell, which was basically an iron cannonball with a handle.



We spent several hours playing with the thing and getting a feel for exactly how it might differ from conventional dumbbells.

They were a lot of fun, and we both thought that they had several advantages over conventional weights, but there was one BIG disadvantage, They were EXPENSIVE!!! I could buy a whole set of dumbbells for the price of a single 35 lb kettlebell.

I was interested in exploring this piece of equipment though, so I went out to my shop and gave the problem some thought.

I came up with a very serviceable alternative, which looks like this.

While there are one or two things that you can't do with these (they do not lend themselves to being used inverted) you can do 98% of all kettlebell exercises just fine with them.

I did a short instructional file on how to make these for some friends, but managed to misplace the thing. Well I found it tonight!

I have put it in a much safer place, and now I can share the thing with anyone who is interested and doesn't want to drop a few hundred dollars on a set of kettlebells.

Click here to download the PDF

and may you have a good time building them and a better time using them.

If you find that you have gotten value from this and saved a bunch of money you can say "thank you" by doing something like feeding someone who is hungry with a little bit of the money you saved by not paying the usurious prices charged for the commercial ones.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Perfected?

Ann Coulter Strikes again, Leah Kauffman strikes right back.

By now, most people have head Coulter's latest racist remark, that "Christians just want Jews to be perfected".

I could spend several paragraphs detailing everything wrong with and about the poster girl for bushCo and the religious right, (starting with her profound hypocrisy) but Leah Kauffman says it a whole lot better.



How much do you want to bet that at least one right wing wacko writes in to ask me why I, as a Muslim, am not "hating the Jews"?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Skype

Strange as it seems, since I started this blog I have had several requests from people to speak with me person to person.


Well, I was inspired by my friend Sophia to add a Skype button to the blog so that on the off chance that when I am online (rarely I admit) someone could reach me if that was what they wanted.

I have, I admit, just started using Skype as a communication method. I had, in times past, used Yahoo messenger, but there have been so many problems with it that I have sort of let it fall by the wayside.

In any event, I am trying this out to see how it works.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Fall Gathering of the Tribes

At an unassuming farmhouse in the backwoods of Western Michigan an event of momentous proportions takes place twice a year,

Just an uninteresting house, nothing to see here folks, just move along

The Gathering of the Tribes (Flourish of Trumpets)

This event, which has been going on for some years now has really grown, far beyond what anyone ever thought it might be.

The Gathering has become a place where martial artists and combat athletes of all levels can meet and share knowledge and experience twice a year in a safe, ego free, family friendly environment. The event has grown to such an extent that it is now an "invitational", you need to know someone who is already a participant, or a member of "The League of Nonaligned Martial Artists" (another flourish of trumpets, and perhaps cornets as well), the group that puts the event on, in order to be invited to come play now.

Friday

This gathering started the way they all do, with people arriving Friday evening for the informal "meet and greet". I cooked up a HUGE pot of coconut ginger basil curry to feed people as they arrived.

By seven or so most of us were out in the Dojo for some light sparring. There are probably other ice breakers that we could do, but there is really nothing quite as much fun as a sparring session to get reacquainted.

I did manage to accidentally catch Cody in the eye with a thumb, but that was the only downside to the evening.

We all managed to get to bed by two or so, plenty of time for sleep after the gathering.


Saturday

As per tradition, we had breakfast going by eight AM, the usual pancakes, along with giant pans of scrambled eggs (donated by Randy, Margie and Mariah)


The breakfast of Champions

After everyone was well fed we began the day.

The first session of the day was taken by RMAX Coach, Cody Fielding.

Cody did something a little different this gathering. He introduced us to a process he has been working on that involves being a competitor, coach/corner and referee.

We used some grappling as our learning vehicle and everyone took turns in all three positions.

Adam shows Buddha his impression of a reticulated python

There were pre and post match analysis of what each fighter needed to work on......

Scooter attempts to sink a guillotine on Jason

and lots of coaching during the matches. This proved to be truly useful and I am looking forward to a time when Cody will offer this model publicly.

Next up was Chuck and Don, who gave a clinic in kicking concepts.

Chuck works with Aaron on long range kicking

They worked from long range to short range and rather than working separate technique, they emphasized the principles which allow one to spar with kicks in the same manner that one would with upper body strikes.

Mariah and Aaron explore short range methods.

One of the fun things was using kicks at unusual ranges, creating unexpected attacks.

Next up for the day was Maha Guro Buzz Smith of American Maharlika Kuntaw.

Buzz is a regular at the gatherings and is one of our secret weapons against boring martial arts.

Buzz split his clinic into two parts, first he introduced us to some of his Kuntaw staff work, this would be the same staff material that helped him take first place in Masters weapons at the Sulong tournament last month

The finer points of hitting someone up-side the head are discussed

Buzz led us through the basic principles of Kuntaw staff then took us right into application.

James and Jason try out the new material for size

After the staff portion Buzz took us through some Kuntaw ground work.

Buzz demonstrates the Kuntaw version of yoga stretching

So we all returned to the Dojo and its forgiving floor to toss each other about and try different pretzel ties out.

The last formal session of the day was something rather unique. We had a teacher of Kalaripayattu, the ancient Indian martial art from Kerala join us for this gathering.

Leland leads some basic kalari forms
Leland J Belding III joined us from Kansas (and alas, the only pictures we got of him were of his back for some reason) and shared with us some of the Kalaripayattu he picked up in India.

Kalaripayattu has been described as "yoga, with hitting"

This was something delightfully different and it was greatly enjoyed. It was very interesting for those of us who practice Southeast Asian Martial Arts given the likelihood of their origins being at least in part from South India.

This ended the formal clinics for the day and it brought us to The Potluck


It was a beautiful weekend so we mostly hung out on the deck in the evenings

We dined on Satay and other wonderful goodies until we were all stuffed to the gills (yes Bobbe, the Dagon folks showed up again)


Fire (he he he)

And it wouldn't be a Gathering without a bonfire for us to sit around.

We spent plenty of casual time in the Dojo dissecting the events of the day, swapping technique and generally having too much fun.

Sunday rolled around and after another breakfast that couldn't be beat we got the day started.

This will only hurt for a moment

As usual, Sunday morning sessions are devoted to Martial Arts and healing.

This gathering we invited our friend James Kohlenberg to do a clinic on myofascial release. Using nothing more complicated than a tennis ball.

No really, it will stop hurting after a while

Being as we were all a bit sore from the previous day this was a very welcome event.

We finished the martial portion of the day with a Silat clinic given by your humble servant.


We addressed such ideas as compressed space, rotational force, turning "failure" into feedback

"Oh shit, gravity works"

And gravity as a weapon (you can even take it on an airplane or int a government building and no one gets upset)

A flock of pigeons

We ended the day by having Cody lead us in some CST active recovery material from Presara Yoga.

The Group
And here is the obligatory group photo. It is not everyone, but we have never manages to get us all in the same room for one of these yet.

I am already looking forward to the Spring!

Back

(With a Vengeance)

For the last while I have been without a computer to call my own (insert sounds of soft weeping and heavy sighs in background) and so my blog entries and email have suffered greatly.

The sad thing about electronics is that they occasionally destruct in spectacular and inconvenient ways, and we must endure as best we can. (more sighs here)

Well, things have changed for the better and I am no longer a member of the computerless underclass! (digitally homeless as it were, crashing on the virtual couches of my friends)

So, as I begin to catch up on my blog entries, private messages, email that I have not been able to get to and all the projects that have been setting on the back burner, I want to thank all the people who have helped me in various ways.

They would be, in no particular order
Bobbe
Janet
Randy, Margie, and Mariah
Jeanne
Chuck
Steve B
Steve VH
Buddha
Cody and Wes
Alex
David

These are the people to thank (or blame) for my being able to stay in contact and for me being back online.

I thank you, and I am sure my many fives of fans thank you!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Sulong Tournament

Fun Times in Chicago.

Last Sunday (Sept 16) I took some of my students to compete in their (for most of them) first tournament.

The event was put on by Sensei Norm Basile, Sensei Marcia Chandler, and Guru John Bednarski. Norm and John attended the Spring Gathering this year and suggested that we might enjoy participating in their tournament.

I talked the idea over with my students, and they thought they were ready to step outside the safe confines of our school and discover how they might fare in the larger world of open competition.

I should mention at this point that Silat schools here in the States don't really compete very often, and never, to my knowledge has their been a Silat tournament here in the US.

There are a number of reasons for this I suspect.

First, all the older Silat teachers seem to hate each other with a passion equaled only by a Republican at a Gay Pride parade.

Most of them would not be willing to be in the same town, let alone in the same room with each other. Unfortunately, this is something that has been passed down to some of their students, much like racism can be passed down in dysfunctional families.

And then there is that little problem of one of their students losing a match. If you have been claiming for years that some other Silat teacher has no skills, or has gotten his rank off the back of a vegetable cart or some-such, then your students lose the tournament to his........... Well that might be a little difficult to explain.

Which brings us to the second excuse reason. That being "we would have to water our art down too much".

I have to admit, I do not see this as a problem. So far I have found that I can train my students for both competition and still give them the "martial realism" that is needed for more serious conflict. As a matter of fact, competition seems to help. Being able to work with fully resistant opponents, even when working under rules that protect the competitors from harm, can tell you some important truths about your game. Admittedly, sparring within one's own school can give a lot of benefit, but I personally suspect you will learn different, very valuable lessons from competing against people who have a different approach.

Finally, I have heard "our art is too deadly for competition". OK, maybe so, but then how do you learn such an art? Wouldn't you be losing students right and left to injury and death? And if the art is not tested, how do you know it is a deadly as you suspect.

The fact is, all the great warrior cultures from Japan to Northern Europe and Native America have found ways to test themselves without having to kill ones opponents.

But enough philosophizing, back to the tournament!

The Sulong has a "traditional karate" ring, an "open karate" and a "Pacific Islands" ring. The last is where we were going to play.

This ring had three events, forms, knife and single stick. This event has had mostly participants from the Arnis/Eskrima arts of the Philippines, but the rules were "blade rules", so I thought we might do OK. Indonesian and Filipino martial arts have enough in common that I was willing to give it a try.

Some of us met up at the school on the morning of the event to make the three hour drive to Chicago. Mariah, and her father Randy were providing one of the cars going all the way to the tournament, and Janet was driving some of us as far as Holland (MI) where we were going to meet up with my student/training partner Steve Van Harn and his son Cole, who would be the second car to the event.

So Stephanie, Scooter, Adam, Janet, Mariah, Randy and I headed off down the road to meet up with the rest of the crew. We grabbed Steve and Cole at a park-and-ride, divvied up people and set our sights for the Windy City.

We met up with the last of my hooligans, Marc, at the tournament site.

So team Zulfikari/Navadisha was ready to play.

We spoke with Norm and John, both of whom were holding onto their sanity by their fingernails with all the last minute details of the event.

We also hooked up with Buzz (that would be Mahaguro Brian "Buzz" Smith, head of American Maharlika Kuntaw) and Bill, his student, who had come down from the North Country to play.

Buzz had stayed at my place on the way out to Chicago a couple days before, so we had managed to catch up on things, and Bill had been down to train with us in preparation for the tournament so we had been talking about the event a great deal and were pretty stoked to be here.

The day started off with forms competition.

First we had the "beginners" forms and they were all pretty good, there was a lot of potential there.

Then came intermediate forms and Mariah was up.

Mariah getting some big air

Mariah is one serious player and took first quite handily. As she transformed from cute farm girl into blond Cuisinart with her double talibongs she even drew the attention of the spectators from the karate rings.

Buss gets ready to lay the smack down

Next came Master Forms. Buss did one of his superb Kuntaw staff forms and walked away with first place.

After forms came fighting. First we started with the womens competition. There was only one problem with this, the only two women competing were from my school.

Steph and Mariah show the boys how it's done

The girls were disappointed, as they had hoped to test themselves against women from other schools, but they got out and did their best. Mariah took first and Steph took second.

Then we had men's knife.

Scooter stabs Cole in the chest so hard it lifts him off his feet.

As the first couple of matches were going on the officials were consulting, they then invited Mariah to compete with the men, she jumped at the chance needless to say. The event was changed to an open ring, with no weight or rank classes, so everyone fought everyone.

This was great as it allowed my students to fight outside "beginners" class, being as most of them had been training for less than two years.


Mariah's first match with the guys

She won her first match.

Mariah with a bigger opponent

And her second as well.

At the end of this event Cole had taken first place and Mariah had taken third in Men's knife.
(I don't yet have the names of all the winners, but will add them as soon as I can)


Me either giving Mariah sage advice for her next fight, or teasing her about all the young gentlemen who were paying her much attention between bouts, I forget which.

Next came men's stick. This event had the biggest number of players and it would take making it through five fights to take first.

Cole doing his "death from above" attack (the funny thing is that it works for him)

after a few matches some of my guys ended up having to fight each other.

Adam and Marc show off our style

In many ways this was my favorite fight of the day. Adam and Marc are about the same size and weight as well as close in skill level. It was an excellent demonstration of our style. Marc took the match.

Mariah solves the problem of fighting people taller than her.

Mariah was doing quite well against the guys and winning their respect I think.

Marc and Scooter

Marc's next fight was with Scooter. This was a "David and Goliath" match, Scooter being about a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier than Marc. Marc too this match as well, putting him in contention for first place.

Bill and Mariah

Mariah's next fight was with Bill. It was by far her hardest of the day, Bill being a superb stick fighter. Bill took this match and Mariah retired from the field.

Bill and Marc contend for First

The fight for first place was between Marc and Bill. It was a hell of a good fight with each player reaching down deep and giving it their all. At the end of the match the judges counted up the score and gave the match to Bill by one point.

The rankings for Men's Stick were Bill first, Marc second, Cole third, Scooter fourth, and Mariah fifth with a field of about twenty five fighters.

The Masters bout

The last match of the day was between Buzz and a Modern Arnis Guru (I don't have his name but I believe his rank was sixth degree black belt)

It was a very well fought match, and Buzz won it, which gave him the Grand Champion spot.

Kewl toys

John understands these things, so instead of getting trophies or medals, the winners were given weapons.


At the end of the day

Here is the obligatory group photo. Not everyone was there, many having already left by the time this was taken, but it was a nice shot nevertheless.

Why do they always meke us hold these big knives?

And here is a final shot of Cole, Steve, Mariah, and your humble servant.

A good time was had by all and I am already looking forward to next year.