Thursday, December 27, 2007

Unleash the Beast

For the past couple years the Buffalo Beast has raised cynical curmudgeonhood and hypertensive outrage to new heights with its "Fifty Most Loathsome People in America" list. This year's offering is as good as ever.

48. Carson Daly

Charges: Otherwise too banal for derision, Daly, who cut his shmuck-teeth warming musical Similac for tweens on MTV, acted as Writer's Guild strike breaker by returning to air without them.

Exhibit A: We didn't know his show employed writers.

Sentence: Forced to appear nightly on The Carson Daly Show.


30. Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman

Charges: Shocked a handful of innocents and turned into self-recriminating chum for Sean Hannity with the revelation that a redneck bounty hunter is-gasp!-a racist. Looks like an extra from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Married to a silicon-based life form. When a guy's own son intentionally destroys his career, you know he's got to be a singular fuckhead. Played at extraordinary rendition this year; got arrested for trying to physically extradite a Mexican national.

Exhibit A: "I'm not gonna take a chance ever in life of losing everything I've worked for for 30 years because some fucking nigger heard us say nigger and turned us in to the Enquirer magazine." Yeah, 'cause not saying "nigger" is just out of the question.

Sentence: Neutered, dewormed, given to Michael Vick's buddies for sparring practice.


23. Bill O'Reilly

Charges: If judgmentalism were sugar, anyone in the same city as this paragon of intellectual overconfidence would lose their teeth within five minutes. O'Reilly is everything that's wrong with America: Won't ever admit he was wrong about anything (and will lie repeatedly rather than correct himself), accuses all who disagree with him of treason or insanity, attacks all who criticize him, and glories in his own troglodytic bluster. Anoints himself an authority on morals, despite common knowledge that he is a sexual harasser. Pretends to be an "independent" who just happens to look, sound, and act exactly like a Republican. Hasn't engaged in a valid exchange of ideas in his entire career, because he knows he'd be crushed in seconds by an average college freshman. O'Reilly wins by interrupting, shouting, and if all else fails, cutting off his opponent's microphone. A tiny, scared child of a man.

Exhibit A: "And this is what white America doesn't know, particularly people who don't have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg." Gee Bill, where would they get that idea?

Sentence: Marinated, barbecued, and served at Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem, where the blacks eat just like real people.


17. Hillary Clinton

Charges: Began in politics as a teenage Nixon supporter -- that's twisted. Moved on to corporate law, representing Wal-Mart and bravely defending Coca-Cola from disabled employees. Married out of ambition. Failed miserably as the first lady of health care. Has spent whole of senatorial career as a hawk and a panderer. Would have no shot at becoming president if she didn't just happen to be married to one already.

Exhibit A: Has deftly avoided the flip-flopper label -- by never, ever answering a question directly or committing to a position in the first place.

Sentence: Victim of vast right wing conspiracy to shove a brick up her ass.


9. You

Charges: You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You suddenly give a damn about border integrity, because the automated voice system at your pharmacy asked you to press 9 for Spanish. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary. You know the difference between patriotism and nationalism -- it's nationalism when foreigners do it. You hate anyone who seems smarter than you. You care more about zygotes than actual people. You love to blame people for their misfortunes, even if it means screwing yourself over. You still think Republicans favor limited government. Your knowledge of politics and government are dwarfed by your concern for Britney Spears' children. You think buying Chinese goods stimulates our economy. You think you're going to get universal health care. You tolerate the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques." You think the government is actually trying to improve education. You think watching CNN makes you smarter. You think two parties is enough. You can't spell. You think $9 trillion in debt is manageable. You believe in an afterlife for the sole reason that you don't want to die. You think lowering taxes raises revenue. You think the economy's doing well. You're an idiot.

Exhibit A: You couldn't get enough Anna Nicole Smith coverage.

Sentence: A gradual decline into abject poverty as you continue to vote against your own self-interest. Death by an easily treated disorder that your health insurance doesn't cover. You deserve it, chump.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Excellent use of self defense principles

From comes this story:

December 20, 2007 06:51pm

A 95-year-old World War II veteran dared two knife-wielding home invaders to kill him.

Robert Taylor was sitting on the front veranda of his home in Liverpool, in Sydney's southwest, when two men tried to rob him yesterday afternoon.

One of them threatened him with a knife while the other went inside the house, cut the phone line and then rummaged through the elderly man's belongings.

Mr Taylor said the men told him to get inside the house or they would kill him.

He said he refused and dared them to carry out their threats.

"I said to them while they were standing there,'If you are going to kill me, kill me now','' Mr Taylor said on Channel 10.

The men fled without taking anything.

Mr Taylor, who served in New Guinea and Bougainville during WWII, had a message for the men.

"Wake up to yourselves and go and get a job, there's plenty around,'' he said.

Police described the incident as a "callous, cowardly attack''.

I really like this one. It demonstrates a number of important self defense principles that are easy to forget under pressure.

First, most people are lazy and prefer to do things on autopilot. This includes a lot of criminals. As long as things are going the way they want everything is good (for them, not for you). When something unexpected happens it takes time to refocus and do something else. Effective self defense rests on making things not go the way the criminal wants. Mr. Taylor made the lowlifes start reacting to him instead of the other way around.

Napoleon said "I might lose a battle, but I will never lose a minute." The earlier you mess with the bad guys' plan the better. This gentleman started his self defense the moment the criminals started their crime. The further along things go the more he's got invested in doing this particular crime right now.

Make them realize that what they want from you is not worth what they're willing to pay. Mr. Taylor guessed (correctly) that they weren't willing to kill someone in front of witnesses in the middle of the day. He gave them the choice of doing that or leaving. They left.

All of these are principles. When we taught self defense we had very few iron clad rules. One of the biggest was "Never ever allow yourself to be taken to a secondary crime scene or restrained. Nothing good can happen if you give a criminal the time and privacy he wants. If you let yourself be made helpless it just lets him get creative with the blowtorch and pliers." The defender refused to go into the house where g-ds alone know what the two thugs would have decided to do.

I suppose it could have been better. He could have shot them both between the eyes. The story is a beautiful example of the fundamentals of self protection.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A little good news with the bad - A real American Hero

A Muslim saves Jews who were being attacked by Christians for saying "Happy Chanukah." Sometimes things happen that give you a little hope for the human race.

A suspected bias attack on four Jewish subway riders has resulted in a friendship between the Jewish victims and the Muslim college student who came to their aid.

Walter Adler is calling Hassan Askari a hero for intervening when Adler and three friends were assaulted on a subway train in lower Manhattan on Friday night.

The altercation erupted when Adler and his friends said "Happy Chanukah" to a group yelling "Merry Christmas" on the Brooklyn-bound train.

The 20-year-old Askari said he tried to fight off the 10 attackers, giving Adler a chance to summon police by pulling an emergency brake.

"I did what I thought was right," said Askari, a student at Berkeley College in Manhattan, who was allegedly punched and beaten. "I did the best that I could to help."

Eight men and two women have pleaded not guilty to assault, menacing and other charges in the case. Prosecutors have said the charges could be upgraded to hate crimes.

According to this article

Four Jewish subway riders who wished other people "Happy Hanukkah" were pelted with anti-Semitic remarks before being beaten, police and prosecutors said. The incident was being investigated as a possible hate crime.

The four were on a train in lower Manhattan on Friday night, during the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, when they were approached by a group of 10 people who offered holiday greetings. The victims responded, "Happy Hanukkah," and then were assaulted by the larger group, police said Tuesday.


One of the men charged, Joseph Jirovec, pleaded guilty last year to attempted robbery as a hate crime and was awaiting sentencing, prosecutors said. Jirovec, who is white, was part of a group that yelled racial epithets and assaulted two black teenagers in Brooklyn, prosecutors said.

Jirovec's lawyer, Peter Mollo, said Tuesday it was very unlikely his client would attack another person for being Jewish.
Hassan Askari, you're an authentic American Hero. If you weren't Muslim I'd say "Drinks are on me." But as it is, you have my profound thanks and heartfelt prayers. You fought evil, protected the innocent and brought honor on Islam. That's Muslim Chivalry and American ideals at their best.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer's.


I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news. I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of early
onset Alzheimer's, which lay behind this year's phantom "stroke".

We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism. For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, I
expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers. Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet :o)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Today's Martial Arts Topic: Affect

A long time back, when dinosaurs strode the Earth, before Martial Talk, before Instant Messaging, before HTTP, when e-mail addresses (if you were lucky enough to have one) had !s in them, I did Kajukenbo. Al Dacascos was in Portland. He'd moved his school from Murray Road to Highway 8 right across from the Lexus dealership and the Dairy Queen. One of the new features of the school was notebook pages and lists of requirements for every student at every level.

I couldn't stand the half handwritten half typewritten badly photocopied pages. So I typed them into MacWrite and printed out master copies. Strange things happened because of that. I ended up editing the IKF newsletter for a couple years and tried to make working class guys from Hawaii sound like college professors - a challenging job of editing. They also had me go to a couple of the yearly meetings and write them up making it sound like everyone got along swimmingly and peace, love and brotherhood were the orders of the day.

These are martial artists we're talking about. Let's say that a bit of selective blindness and some out-and-out lying was required. Watcha gonna do

The first meeting was in a hotel. Tiel and I were supposed to direct everyone to the meet-and-greet as they arrived. It wasn't hard. A few people were wearing Kajukenbo t-shirts of one sort of another. But the rest? There was a look, an affect that was very common. We didn't miss many. There was a sort of walk, almost a swagger, that a lot of them had. There was also a certain sort of erect carriage and highly developed forearms that set them apart from everyone else.

I think Tiel had it pegged. She was talking about a group of the senior practitioners and said "They're Palama boys. They grew up on da Islands and some of them never did adjust to the mainland. Most of them [one group] except X and Y and Z are still kids. They take their martial art seriously, but they're basically tough guys, brawlers who are up for a fight on Saturday night." There's a quality to the way a lot of them move that reminds me (surprise, surprise) of a lot of Kenpo stylists. It's like the torso is a solid gun platform, and the arms and legs moving around are the guns. I don't know how to express it.

Now, that's not to say that all Kajukenbo practitioners are like that. Not at all. But when you compare a chunk of them to a lump of other martial artists it sort of stands out in the aggregate.

Just recently I was reading an Australian kids' book called "Toad Rage". That led to thinking about Cane Toads and the last thing I tried to put in the Kajukenbo newsletter. And that finally led to thinking about the Kajukenbo Look and what stands out in people from other styles.

Some. I don't know exactly what it is that screams "Cop" in a person's bearing, but Phil Messina's people all seem to have it, even the ones who are not in law enforcement.

The smug superiority and false politeness of just about every single Ki Society Aikidoka I've met never fails to set my teeth on edge. It's led to more than one unfortunate but amusing incident

When Tiel met three koryu practitioners who teach under the same instructor here in Portland she said "Thugs. Well behaved, educated amiable thugs." And she's right. They're not that sort of person, but they sure carry themselves that way.

Krav Maga was a special case. When I took it for a very short time I talked to the guy leading class, and we've had conversations with other ones. They all agreed that if you don't have the right affect you aren't going to make instructor. Now, that's a little extreme, and I think it's unnecessary. But it's their party, so they can do what they want to. I think it's interesting that they're aware of the fact and use it.

A few things really stand out in the Thai boxers we've hung with. They don't swagger. They don't tend to brag. There's a certain value placed on politeness and humility though not subservience. There's also a serious "Show me" attitude. You make a claim, you'd better be able to back it up. That and the sort of toughness that comes from knowing you're fit, strong and can take it as well as dish it out.

It's sort of similar to the MMA guys. They look and act like, well, serious athletes in an extremely demanding sport. Excellent overall muscular development and a certain confident grace in movement. You tend to find the arrogance of the serious competitor coupled with very good sportsmanship.

A lot of people who do FMA don't have much contact with Filipinos. Still, there are things that rub off. A few years ago I would have said "quarrelsome". To some degree I still would. Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em. And I see 'em like I was There's more at work. And I think I've figured out part of it. In a lot of the "Chopstick Culture" Asian martial arts - Korea, Japan, China - there's a very hierarchical tradition. You have a rank, a title and seniority. That tells everyone (including yourself) who and what you are within the group. Things and people move in well-defined ways.

Among the FMA there's a lot of organizations and some fancy titles and ranks. But it's more fluid. I swear that every guy who had a fight with his teacher moved to the other side of town, made up a new salute and became the Grandmaster of his own slightly modified system that had absolutely nothing to do with the guys across the way

It's less like a beehive than a wolf pack. In the hive your duties will change, but who and what you are is always rigidly defined. Among wolves it's all about respect. The respect you get and your position is always up for negotiation. Back down from a challenge, and you've negotiated yourself downwards. Make too many challenges and you're a troublemaker. Challenge too high or too low, and you're not to be taken seriously.

I think that's why there's a stereotype that eskrimadors will fight at the drop of a hat, and if one doesn't drop they'll throw in their own. It's not entirely or even mostly true, but it stands out compared to a number of other traditions. And I think that's a good part of why.

When we did more FMA we picked up on it. We took more things as challenges and were more ready to see how our steel was tempered. Of course, we were also almost twenty years younger. But that couldn't have anything to do with it. Nah Tiel definitely picked some of it up from Suro Mike Inay's group when she studied there.

Just to pick an example, we had a table at the Oregon Knife Collectors' show once years back. A guy who later made quite a name for himself started talking trash about Guro Inosanto. "He's got some sticks, but that's it. He doesn't have any real martial arts." Now, people talk trash about Guro Inosanto all the time. It's usually pretty clear that it's a reflection on the guy doing the insulting, so you let it slide. At the time Tiel took it as an insult to her teacher's teacher and therefore a challenge. She was more than half serious about grabbing her sticks and seeing how the guy's steel was tempered. No matter how that fight would have ended it would have been bad for him. "Famous martial artist whacked upside the head by 120 pound gal" or "Big strong martial artist beats up woman half his size"

The point isn't who would have won the fight. It's that she had that FMA attitude of "Don't make challenges. Never back down if you are challenged."

Or there was the story Sifu Tony Ramos told about when he was working as a cop in Vacaville. The PR-24 had just come out, and everyone was getting trained. When the instructor uttered the sneer "Well, I see you're still carrying a baton," it was like a Greek tragedy. A Greek tragedy right after the main character has insulted Blind Tiresias and gone against the Will of the G-ds. I knew how the story goes after that. It ends a short act later with the instructor laid out on the floor.

These are generalizations. Obviously. Obviously. Obviously. No doubt. But there's a surprisingly large kernel of truth in some of them. You can learn a few things from the exercise. It's hard to say how much is self-selection and how much is induced. That varies from school to school and person to person.

One thing that's pretty clear is that nobody is qualified to apply the lens to his or her own style. It's like trying to see the surface from the inside. And all of us know we've got a case of "What I do is great. If there were something better I'd be training in it," when we're being honest. I know there's a Silat affect or a couple of them. But I'm too close to see it myself.

So what are some of the things that strike you about different traditions or styles? What can you look at in the practitioners that stands out and distinguishes them from other martial artists?

Friday, December 07, 2007


Six wise blind elephants had heard of human beings and wanted to know more about these mysterious creatures. So they had a human being brought to them.

The first elephant touched the human being and declared "Human beings are flat."

The other elephants touched the human being and agreed. Human beings are flat.

Rare Exports - What It Takes

Warning: These clips contain graphic footage of cruelty, hunting, brainwashing, imprisonment and worse. But it's a sacrifice we must make to preserve our most Sacred Traditions. This holiday season tell yourself "It's for the Children."

Part I - Rare Exports

Part II - The Consequences of Failure

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Kids' Martial Arts The Way it Should Be

Whenever people ask "What martial art do you recommend for kids?" I always answer "Judo. No question about it."

There's a lot of reasons for this. It's wrestling, and little apes love to wrestle. You learn to fall. Most people never get in a fight, but everyone falls down. It wears them out. It's great exercise and does wonders for balance and coordination. It develops fighting spirit in a good way. Striking is bad for young unfused bones and can lead to permanent joint problems in ways that grappling just isn't. It works just fine for schoolyard troubles with a lot less chance for accidental injury than kicking some kid in the head.

Most of all it was my own experience in the early 70s.

Saint Street goes from one side of Richland, WA to the other. It starts at the Columbia River and heads West past the water treatment plant. It goes up a hill and crosses Stevens Drive, right where Stevens merges with the Bypass Highway. The trees and grass end suddenly at the range of the last home sprinkler system and give way to bare dirt, tumbleweed and bunch grass.

Right across Stevens there's a gas station which used to say "Last Gas for 7o miles". In those days it was true. Back then there was a Coke machine instead of a mini mart.

Just beyond it are two WWII era buildings built by the government for some mysterious Hanford Project purpose. All that construction to the North and West in the picture came decades later.

The first one has a green roof and flaking white paint. It used to be a martial arts school. Sensei Rising taught Ju Jutsu, Aikido, Karate and a number of other mysterious things. Lord only knows where he picked them up. All I can say for sure is that he and a couple of the other teachers there had officially been frogmen during the Second World War. He had a signed picture of William "Wild Bill" Donovan in a place of honor and seemed to know a really strange array of martial artists. I'd still give a lot to know how to find the Ba Gua and Dog Kung Fu teacher he brought to the Judo school for a demonstration one evening.

Kids my age weren't allowed to study there. He sent anyone under 21 including his own sons next door to the building with the brown roof where a really great group of men taught Judo.
It's the standard by which youth martial arts should be judged. I've seen a lot of kids' classes - all the Karate/TKD/Kenpo variants, Kung Fu, and about a million "Little Dragons" and "Junior Ninjas" programs. Some of them are very good. The Richland Judo Dojo could hold its head up with any of them and outshines almost all.

The facilities were nothing much to look at. It was a mid-1940s military building, ugly and sturdy. There was some heat in the Winter, no air conditioning in the Summer, a kids' locker room, and adults' locker room, two rooms with tatami mats and a back room filled with dusty exercise equipment. Dues were minimal and barely covered the costs of the facility. A couple times a year one of the school mothers would do a group buy of gis.

The teachers were a collection of friends. Most of them had picked up their Judo in the Service. They were mostly steam-fitters, engineers, government employees and other people who worked out in the Hanford area. Many of them had sons in the classes they taught. Years later a lot of them quit Judo and formed an amateur soccer team. They had a refreshing faith that if everyone just went to the dojo three times a week and trained hard in Judo the world would be a better place. And do you know, I think they were right.

New kids were taught in a group in the back room. When they could fall without getting hurt and had learned a couple throws they were moved into the main class. There were classes for adults and advanced belts only, but for the most part everyone was taught together. Everyone did light randori together. Everyone lined up by rank together.

Competition was important. We worked extra hard and got a lot of motivation before big tournaments. But there were no display cases of trophies, and there was no special emphasis on the hot competition prospects (and there were some). The emphasis was taking part, fighting hard, and learning.

Looking back I'm impressed by the results. Over the four years I was there less than half of the students I started with left. Everyone progressed, but nobody passed a belt test who didn't deserve to. There was a group identity that extended outside the dojo. Effort was rewarded more than talent. A number of kids got things important things from Judo that they didn't get at home. We got good solid Judo training and had a lot of fun. You really can't ask for more than that.

Why was it so good? Can it be repeated?

It would be hard. It was a combination of time, place and people which made the school what it was.

There is a lot more martial arts now, and for better or worse people have expectations about them and what a school should be like. It is much harder for kids and parents to take a school on its own terms instead of in the light of Karate Kids, sword-wielding reptiles, Jackie Chan and the UFC. Judo classes were more an alternative to basketball or wrestling than they were to Karate or Ninjutsu. The only other dojo I had heard about taught Tae Kwon Do out in the wilds of West Richland.

Part of it was the teachers. They were an exceptional bunch. There was a most senior teacher, but he didn't run the school. A loose group of school mothers did that in one of those mysterious female networks what men wot not wot of. The fact that their own sons were in the class helped keep quality up. The fact that there were several prevented favoritism. They really believed in the benefits of Judo and felt that it was something bigger than them. They took a very paternal or at least avuncular role to the students. A lot of them had what I now see as a top sergeant's attitude. No nonsense, not soft, but dedicated to the people for whom they were responsible.

Another important thing was the students. Since there was no need to make money the teachers could take whom they wanted and teach the way they thought best. I'm sure a few kids never made it past the initial interview, and trouble makers shaped up or didn't last long. Bad behavior was not tolerated, and their response to the one ethnic slur I ever heard was grimly intolerant. They acted shamed that something so "against Judo" would happen in their school. They were there to get a workout and teach Judo. Part of that was turning out young people who would be a credit to the Art and their country.

The club didn't take any students younger than nine or ten. The childhood development issues that you get with the three-to-eight set just weren't there. It was a club that met in the evenings, not an unlicensed after school daycare program. And it was part of "family and friends life" for the teachers rather than a separate activity. All of this set the tone in a lot of subtle ways. Most of them were good.

I don't know if mixed-age classes were an official part of Judo at the time. That's the way it worked out. I think we were better for it. Most were at an age where they wanted to copy what adults were doing and were proud to be accepted into an adult activity as junior but definitely part of the group. We were all Judo players together. Obviously, a six foot four wrestler who had been to the Nationals was going to go easy on a skinny ten year old in light randori. Just the fact that they worked out together was valuable.