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

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Spring 2008 Gathering of the Tribes

This is, I think, the seventh year for putting on this event, and it has truly grown from a small seed to something very special.

The gathering is put on by a group of people who have loosely organized themselves into

This is a group of people, many, but not all of whom are teachers of the martial arts, who became fed up and disgusted with the petty and juvenile nature of martial arts politics. We had all seen just one too many petty tyrant who believed that having someone pay them for instruction gave them the license to try and control every aspect of a student's life.

The martial arts world has far too many egomaniacal narcissists who demand "hormat" as a divine right and define hormat as complete unquestioning submission of the student to the every whim of the teacher.

So a bunch of us voted "with our feet".

It was perhaps inevitable that we managed to find each other and began coming together to share ideas in an open forum where everyone was equally respected.

This is how the Gathering of the Tribes started.

This year's Spring Gathering started in the usual fashion, with the Friday evening "meet and greet". This is a social/free training time that allows us to catch up with friends who we have not seen in a while and for new people to to get to know, and feel comfortable with everyone. As one might imagine, the party went late into the evening.

As per usual, Saturday morning started out with a pancake breakfast for anyone who was staying on the property or could manage to drag themselves over here that early.

Our first clinic of the day was given by Maha Guru Buzz Smith of Maharlika Kuntaw.

Buzz introduced us to his Kuntaw "lock and flow" exercises.

Buzz was assisted by his very capable student Anton. Since Anton is about twice Buzz's size there was no doubt that the material was going to work against a larger opponent.

Everyone has lots of fun learn to flow from one lock to another under different circumstances and in real time.

Buzz managed to give personal instruction to everyone. Buzz's clinic set the tone for the gathering in that most of the clinics worked different aspects of close range fighting, clinching and takedown.

Next up for a clinic was our own Guru Bobbe Edmonds. Bobbe segued naturally from Buzz's material into Pangamot and Dumog.

Bobbe made sure to work with everyone in the group.

And his instruction was first rate. It was easy to see the relation between the Kuntaw empty hand locks and flows and the use of the stick as an extra lever.

But for some reason Bobbe kept sneaking up behind me and hitting me in the head with his stick every time my partner applied a lock.

I would have to say we all had a lot of fun.

The next session was with RMAX Head Coach Cody Fielding.

Cody did a grappling clinic, working pummeling drills and other clinch work, and takedowns from the clinch.

He also addressed environmental factors, like the cage in MMA fights or the use of a handy wall. This turned out to be a great addition to the theme of the day.

Up next were our own Sterling and Dan who did a fascinating clinic on building and using an inexpensive "wooden dummy"

They brought several of the home made dummies along,

And ew all got to try our stuff on them to our heart's content.

This ended the formal part of the day but for one thing. We, the League that is, has some presentations to make.

First, we had certificates of acknowledgment for Norm and Marsha. We wanted to stand behind them and be witnesses to their rank in Shorin Ryu.

Then we had something that we had been plotting for a year.

We wanted to do something for Buzz to affirm him as both a consummate martial artist, a great teacher and as one of the elders of our Tribe. Buzz has been unstinting in his support for the Gathering of the Tribes and the League, so we wanted to acclaim him to the station he deserves.

Bobbe outdid himself (don't let it go to your head ya young whipper snapper) with the designing of the certificate and it was signed by all of the founding members in attendance.

Bobbe read the certificate and I gave a little speech about what it meant to us to have had Buzz's support these last few years. When we presented the certificate to him Buzz was quite moved.
So with that we wrapped up the formal part of the day and got to the Saturday evening feast.

As usual Jeanne made satey and Chuck grilled. We had tons of food and everyone ate, hung out watched movies (Remo Williams, the Adventure Begins and Forbidden kingdom) and generally had a great time.

Sunday morning say people up and shaking off the cobwebs with warm-ups. It was just another day in paradise thanks to the glorious Michigan spring weather.

Sunday's first clinic was lead by your humble servent and covered a bit of Silat knife work with emphasis on clinch and grappling. I was able to relate what we did to Saturday's materal with some success I think.

Everyone has fun poking each other with training knives,

and trying out different variations

and just generally enjoying the day.

The second formal session of the day was with our own James who worked the group through some trigger point release work.

After all the working out it was nice to do some things to get the soreness out of the body.

The rest of Sunday and Monday were devoted to more informal sessions. Our friend Keith Zahn, a master bowier, brought over several of his hand made long bows and gave people a chance to get a little archery coaching.

Ian and Chuck opened up the Smithy and helped anyone interested work on making their own knives.

Here is Ian taking a break from the forge to shoot a few arrows.

The kids in attendance loved the archery as well.

And Bobbe has his Robin Hood moment.

Mariah did a little teaching as well, giving lessons in Filipino style rope swinging.

Don managed to get the ropes going pretty well after a little coaching.

Then it was time to say goodbye to friends new and old,

Until next time, September's Fall Gathering of the Tribes.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mind Armor

An incredibly kewl article by my friend Cody Fielding.

Cody is pretty brilliant. He works full time as an athletic coach and trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area. To be successful at that out there where trainers are so ubiquitous is fairly impressive, but Cody's credentials are impressive and his results also. Cody is a certified Olympic lifting
coach, CrossFit trainer, and Head Coach under Scott Sonnon's circular strength training/CST system.

Cody has just had an article published for Organic MMA that is a must read on the subject of mental preparedness. Check it out here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Apropos of nothing

I woke up this morning with this song playing on my mind's juke box.

Perhaps nostalgia is setting in or something. I'm told it happens when you get old.

When this opera first came out it ruffled the feathers of a lot of people though it seems tame by today's standards.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another Good Knifemaking Video

Even better, this one's free.

The fellow who put this together is a Brit who goes by the handle of "Green Pete". He's a sort of minimalist, eco-friendly guy with a lot of good ideas.

I was pointed at this video by a friend, not because he wanted my opinion but because he couldn't figure out how to play it.

The video is downloadable as an ISO (which is burnable directly to DVD) and is very good quality, but it is PAL format, the video format that the rest of the world uses. I had no problem converting it to NTSC (the format that we use here in the States), but it is a consideration if you are not used to such things. However most computers will play both PAL and NTSC without problem, so if you don't mind watching the video on your computer screen you are good to go.

You can download the video here.

This video examines methods of knife making using the stock removal process rather than forging. Stock removal is the process of grinding off metal until you get what you want. Green Pete has several interesting and innovative ways of doing this.

He uses an old file as the steel for making his knife, so of course you will have to anneal the metal so that it will be soft enough to work. He takes you through the process in a pleasantly lo-tech way.

While you can spend literally thousands of dollars equipping a shop with the tools to do stock removal, this is not that kind of video.

Pete uses two power tools, and angle grinder and a hand drill, both run off a 12 volt car battery and an inverter. He also uses the battery to run the blower for his forge fire, a salvaged car heater fan.

The angle grinder is a very useful tool for both cutting and grinding. While you can spend lots of money on one (Metabo makes the best I have ever used, but they cost) You can spend around $15.00 US at Harbor Freight and get a grinder that can last you for years.

Afrer the rough grinding it's time for the file work.

One of the really valuable ideas on the video is this jig for keeping the right angle when filing.

It's simple to make and very effective.

The video also covers heat treating and finishing the knife. Everything is practical and workable in the simplest settings.

The video is well worth a look, the price is right, and there is some pretty valuable material for anyone who wants to live simply and yet have kewl gear.

After you have checked out the video take a stroll through the rest of Green Pete's website you will find plenty there that is worthwhile.

Hot off the forge

I've been catching up on work that laid fallow all winter.

There were a few things that brought production to a standstill over the winter, but Spring is here, and our smithy is going all out again.

I completed one project yesterday and will be finishing off several more in the next few days.

This was a set, an English trade pattern "scalp knife"

and a modified Woodlands style Tomahawk.

The knife is forged from 1095 steel, and has a deer bone and Osage Orange Wood grip. The Tomahawk has an L6 carbon steel head and is hafted with Allegheny Mountain Ash wood. The head has a hammer on the back rather than a pipe bowl and the poll is teardrop rather than round so that the handle can't turn under use.

These were made for use rather than display so I went for practical rather than ornamental.

More to come soon!

Friday, May 16, 2008

We All thought Bush was talking about Obama in Israel

Well, it turns out he was talking about McCain, go figure.

Here is a blast from the past, McCain saying that we need to work with Hamas.

Bush needs to shut up. Given his grandfather's connection to Nazi controlled business I'm surprised that Israel would even let him in the country.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Just so's we're clear

And I admit there has been a bit of confusion of late.....

This is how the Right Wing Authoritarian "Bottoms" who are pretending to be "Conservative" see themselves.

On the other hand, this is how the rest of us see them.

Think I'm kidding?

Check out the Right Wing sock puppet That appeared on "Hardball" tonight.

The only thing he could do is loudly repeat the talking points he had been programed with. When questioned all he could do was repeat said programming at greater volume and frequency.

Chris Matthews does a great job of unmasking the guy as a 'droid by nothing more than using a request for background information.

The poor 'droid can't function outside its programming and so melts down.

Take a look at the video, it's hilarious (if a bit pathetic)

This is what has highjacked the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Worst Nightmare, or Poster Boy?

Several days ago, John McCain, while making an appearance on the daily Show, make the claim that he would be "Hamas' worst nightmare".

The fact of the matter is that he would be embraced by terrorist groups like Hamas and Al Qaeda because without people like Bush and McCain it would be much more difficult to motivate the fear and hatred of the Muslim world.

What Right Wingers are loathe to admit is that GW Bush was the best thing to happen to Al Qaeda and other groups that would like to see America fall. The invasion and occupation of Iraq provided exactly what these groups needed to rally the disaffected to their sides, and to convince the more moderate Muslims of America's desire to destroy their culture and religion.

The hypocrisies of the Bush regime, their willingness to use torture and other crimes against humanity have in the last eight years done nothing but weaken our position while strengthening the position of our enemies.

Bush's war has weakened our military to the point where we are no longer being seen as a force to be reckoned with by the Russians and the Chinese.

John McCain is not just more of the same, he represents a heightening of the rhetoric of hate that has been the curse of the Republican party on America.

If he somehow gets into the White House, every anti American group in the Muslim world will be playing this video, along with the hundreds of others like it, of McCain's spiritual advisor outlining his vision of America.

That's what the Republican Party has to offer America, Hate for others, destruction of our economy, the disdain of the rest of the world for our unbridled aggression and disregard for human rights, the breaking of the best military that the world has ever seen, the use of mercenaries to do our dirty work, the massive corruption of the people who do business for our country, and the enrichment of the oil cartels at the expense of the American people.

That's John McCain.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Very Good Knife Making Video

A friend gave me this video, wanting to know what I thought of it.

Well, it's pretty much as good as it gets.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I am very much an advocate of the "lo-tech" school of bladesmithing. I like using live fire, preferably from natural charcoal , I like working with hammer and tongs, and two friends with ten pound sledges are better company than any power hammer. I like not spending lots of money for equipment. I really like making my own tools rather than buying them.

It's a bit old fashion I suppose, and admittedly it is slower going than having all the nice equipment of a modern shop (and our forge actually does have some pretty groovy power tools, which I have been known to use from time to time) but I still end up doing most of my work with hammer and file. But enough philosophy, back to the video!

The DVD holds a full two hours of high quality instruction by people who know their craft very well indeed.

The information includes how to build both a pit forge in the ground and a very nice portable forge from a galvanized tub. They even have a short tutorial on making your own charcoal.

The video takes you through every aspect of knife making, starting with hot cutting a chunk of steel from an old leaf spring, and finishing with how to do the stitching and decorating of the knife's sheath.

The camera work throughout is good, as is the sound. The instruction is clear and concise.

The instructors, Tim and Marian Lively, take their time with their teaching. You get plenty of opportunity to watch Tim's hammer work as he is forging out the blade, which is important. You learn more, in my opinion, watching a smith work than you will from verbal instruction.

From start to finish, the instruction is well organized, without being stuffy. The video actually has the feel of hanging out at a forge and picking up skills from the smith rather than a contrived set of instructions. Personally I rather liked the organic feel of the DVD, it makes learning a bit more natural.

Tim does a very good job of teaching something that is actually rather intuitive, forge tempering a blade. It's a skill that requires a lot of "feel" to get right. He makes it look easy, but it's not, so practice a bunch.

Having Marian Lively teach silver casting and smithing as part of the video was a treat, and seeing the methods she uses for building the fittings that turn a good knife into a great one were very helpful.

Finally, we have a good tutorial on sheath making. This is quite important as no one wants a good knife in an ugly and poorly made sheath. They use some interesting stitching methods, I personally prefer a stitching awl, but I suspect that what is shown here would work just fine if you have the right stuff laying around.

There are a few things I would have liked to have seen added, thought it would have made the offering a two DVD set I think.

I wish there were some discussion of anvils, which is an area that is often neglected. I also wish that Tim would have done a tutorial on the home made anvil he was using. It looks like a sweet piece of equipment and the details of how he constructed it would have been a nice addition.

I would have also liked to see some deeper discussion on the other tools of the trade, including choosing and dressing hammers, and perhaps a tutorial on making a set of tongs for yourself. Don't let these (very) mild criticisms put you off though, this would have just been "frosting on the cake".

All in all this is one of the best videos I have seen on the subject of knife making without electricity. If you are interested in bladesmithing it should be in your library.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Today's Ride

Took me to one of the local historical sites, the Ada Covered Bridge.

One of the nice things about biking is that it is easy to find the things you might miss if you were in a car.

The Ada covered bridge was built in 1867 across the Thornapple river, connecting one side of the town of Ada with the other.

I guess it's not a big attraction per se, but it is rather pretty.

One has to turn off the main roads to get to it and it has a little park connected to it. It's a nice place to have a bite to eat, or just to rest and enjoy the sites.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

A great North American Holiday!

If it were not for the 4000 brave Mexican solders who defeated the French at the battle of Puebla on May Fifth, 1862 the American civil War could cave gone on a whole lot longer (The French were intending to supply the South).

The history of North America has never been just the history of Anglos (as much as they would like to believe so)

So Viva Mexico! And thank you for your help in saving the Union that is the United States.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite poems by José Emilio Pacheco

Alta traición
No amo mi Patria. Su fulgor abstracto
es inasible.
Pero (aunque suene mal) daría la vida
por diez lugares suyos, cierta gente,
puertos, bosques de pinos, fortalezas,
una ciudad deshecha, gris, monstruosa,
varias figuras de su historia,
(y tres o cuatro ríos).
(and for those poor souls who do not speak Spanish, a translation)

High treason
I do not love my country. Its abstract splendor
is beyond my grasp.
But (although it sounds bad) I would give my life
for ten places in it, for certain people,
seaports, pinewoods, fortresses,
a run-down city, gray, grotesque,
various figures from its history
(and three or four rivers).

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Don't Forget

It was 38 years ago today that four students were murdered on the campus of Kent State

And the same people who were in power then (Right Wing Republicans) are still in power, the wars are still feeding the Mega-Corps and people are still dying.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Biking Season is Here Again!

It's (mostly) warm and sunny again, and I try to get out daily for a little riding.

I have been an avid bicycle rider since I was a kid. My first bike, a Christmas gift, opened up the world for me, or at least it seemed so at the time. I was no longer limited by how far and how fast I could walk. I could get to places on my own that had required the help of an adult (like the nearest movie theater).

Over the years I have kept up with my riding, mostly for recreation. That is of course until recently.

During the months where we have good weather I avoid using a car whenever possible, which saves me huge amounts of money. Probably 95% of my transportation needs are taken care of by riding my bike rather than driving.

Happily, last year our local government received a visit from the clue fairy and put a bunch of our tax money into building and improving bike paths around the area. This has opened up whole new vistas to riding that were at best unsafe before.

Along with just getting around while denying the oil companies my money, biking is my main form of aerobic and endurance training.

I usually ride twenty to thirty miles every other day for conditioning. My very favorite ride takes me in a long loop along both sides of the Grand River.

The ride takes me through gorgeous West Michigan farm country, along the banks of the river and through a rather nice park.

This is the bridge where I cross the river at the top of the loop.

This is a view of the Grand from the park trail.

One of the very best ways I know of to spit in the eye of the oil companies is to get a bicycle and use it as much as possible.

For anyone in the area who doesn't have a bike and wants one I recommend making a stop at the Grand Rapids Bicycle Company, it's right by Knapp and the Beltline. The people there are great, the prices are as good as you get anywhere, ss a matter of fact they compete quite nicely with internet prices. Check them out, get a bike and save lots of money while staying fit and healthy