Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I know, I know. Most of you probably have an inner cringe when you remember how cool The Karate Kid seemed way back when. But come on... Admit it: you genuinely liked it. This was an inspirational movie. It was like those young adult books your middle school English teacher assigned for book reports. You didn't want to admit to anyone that you liked the book, but you did.
And a large part of the reason we all liked the movie was Pat Morita's iconic -- if stereotypical -- Mr. Miyagi. Sure the film is somewhat predictable, but it is solid story telling with likable characters and compelling values. The "wax on, wax off" line may have become a frat house joke. And the undefeatable Crane Stance is a visual cliche. But none of that matters when you go back and watch this film. It sucks you in. You care about these people. You believe this story could happen. And we all wish Mr. Miyagi was someone we knew; because he's cool by being uncool.
This is the kind of movie you want to share with your kids. And I intend to do just that when my daughter is old enough.
Sayonara, Miyagi-San. Domo arigato gazaimasu.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Here's what you get in you box. The figure is already fully dressed. He's dressed in layers that aren't readily apparent until you examine the genuine article. He's wearing a mail hauberk and laeggings, with a mail coif. The mail is actually fabric, but the visual scale effect is superb. His hauberk is edged in faux leather, and underneath he is wearing an undercoat gambeson to pad his body against the mail.
Over his armor is the Templar surcoat with the large emblazoned red cross centered on the chest. I was pleased that Ignite got the cross type correct. Templars did not use the pointed Maltese cross, which was in fact used mostly by the Knights Hospitaller. There is a great deal of controversy about exactly what type of cross was used at what time, but this pattern with the flaired ends is widely recognized as being in use by the Order. The other controversy about the cross has to do with how it was worn. Some records indicate a smaller cross worn over the heart, but this would have been obscured in battle by the shield held against the left side of the body. Also, "small" is a subjective term. Although we don't know if the centered cross is 100% accurate, it is at least universally recognizable.
The figure's head is well-sculpted and painted. He actually has a cloth headpiece underneath the mail coif to protect his scalp. His helmet is a simple, riveted Norman style without a nose piece. This would've been somewhat unusual for the era, which was moving toward greater facial protection, not less, but not unheard of.
You'll note the beard. Shaving was actually the norm for most Frankish nobles. They were a vain bunch, and shaving made them appear younger. There may have been a hygiene component to the practice too. Military men would've been happy to give lice and vermin one less place to hide. However, Templars were required to grow beards as a sign of masculine power to the Muslims, who regarded clean shaven men as sissies.
Here's a good shot of the sword and sword belt. Also note how good the mail mitten looks close-up. The sword belt is wonderful. It's more accurate than belt and frog I have for my own 12th Century-style broadsword. It's a little more ornate than I would've expected for a Poor Knight of the Temple of Solomon, but not too far off the mark. A nitpicker might ask if the sword is in the appropriate time, it appears to be a sword from the High Middle Ages, but you really have to know your swords and be looking super close to notice that kind of detail.
Strangely, the knight comes with a battle axe. Axes were fairly common as a Crusader weapon, but were used mostly by foot soldiers. This Templar is recognizable as a true knight by his white surcoat. He would've fought mostly from horseback, and should be have a lance as his primary weapon. However, since no horse is included, maybe he's besieging a Saracen castle and like the axe for close encounters.
The shield is gorgeous. (The photographer has positioned the arm wrong here. The figure's holding it upside-down.) This a back view showing the enarmes straps for the warrior to grasp the shield, and the guige strap to wear it between fights. There is also a padding strip to cushion blows against the arm. This padding was common, but not universal.
This is the escutcheon of the shield, showing the Red Cross of the Order. Again, there's controversy about the device displayed on the Templar shields. We're fairly certain there was more-or-less uniformity, but uniformity of what we don't know. It may have been crosses. It might also have been a black band across the top with a white field below -- or vice versa. Confused?
All in all, a great figure with a high level of authenticity.
I recommend several sources for training knives. Try:
Trainingblades.com, the Edges2 online store
Keen Edge Knife Works
Sunday, November 20, 2005
There are, depending on which reliable authorities you talk to, either no authentic ninjutsu traditions left in the world, or one extant authentic tradition, passed through Takamatsu Toshitsugu. Without getting into all the details here, I think there's plenty of evidence -- both internal and external -- to say that Takamatsu passed authentic ninjutsu techniques and teachings to his students, including his official successor, Masaaki Hatsumi.
But that hasn't stopped plenty of others from claiming ninja mastery (sorry, Tommy).
I think most martial arts enthusiasts have had a passing familairity with Ashida Kim, the most famous of all those who claim to be ninja grandmasters. His books are fairly laughable on the face, mixing Japanese history with Chinese kung fu terminology. Check out his website, in which he lays down a challenge to all those who doubt him. He will fight them anywhere, any time. All you have to do is fly him out, and pay him $10,000 up front -- non-refundable. You know what, I too will take all bona fide offers, but my fee is $100 Million up front, non-refundable even if I lose -- oh, plus any medical expenses. Why sell myself low?
There's also Konigun Ninjutsu. These guys are a "Christian" ninja group. I'm not exactly sure why that's important. This group too also seems to mix up their hoplogical history and mix Okinawan Kobudo weapons with Japanese weapons of the feudal period. Okinawan fighting systems are not the same as Japanese fighting systems. Neither samurai or ninja used sai -- I don't care what you see the Turtles using. Also, the Konigun rank system is a little funky; "Sashes" with titles like "bushi" and "samurai?" It's such an afront to Japanese martial history, I just don't know where to start complaining.
Finally there's Nindo Ryu; which at least doesn't pretend to be a true ninjutsu system. They are near the front of the pack of so-called "gendai ninjutsu" groups which claim to be "inspired by" traditional ninjutsu. These groups take other hand-to-hand combat systems and weapons systems and add a little combat/wilderness survival training, and who-knows what else to come up with a curriculum.
Ninjutsu is not just "karate plus (fill in blank)." Understanding that fact isn't easy for some people. Americans are part of a young country with a history of breaking from traditions to forge new ones. The current American culture is a robust juggernaut wearing blinders. It's sometimes hard for us to accept the sense, the wonder, and the use of tradition. By nature, we believe we can do better.
I don't want to come off as "holier than thou" on this topic. But I do think that the arrogance of others can sometimes illuminate the traps and pitfalls we all face on our paths.
Friday, November 18, 2005
I always thought I'd look better in black than white.
The reason is the sky-rocketing ratings for Benjamin Bratt's current TV show E-Ring. Bratt plays a Delta Force operator doing his career-ticket punching stint at the Pentagon. Every week, he manages to find a way to get out from behind his desk and return to the daring-do that Delta Force operators live for. I'm guessing whoever signs-off on Bratt's DoD travel vouchers is a transferred bureaucrat who use to sign-off on the FBI travel vouchers for Mulder and Scully... Anyway, pretty-boy Bratt can't find room in his shooting schedule to squeeze in his role as Victor Castillo, hero of TLTDS.
I can't say as I blame him, after all, Victor doesn't get to play with guns.
Delta Force, the real deal...
Delta Force, the real deal...
Delta Force, the reel deal. Damn, he's pretty.
OK, I'm about the only person who's been watching Threshold because I'm somewhat interested in the story. Everybody else has been watching the show because of Carla. If, like me, you're a Carla Gugino fan and haven't seen her in Sin City (and believe me, you SEE her), rent this Robert Rodriguez screen gem right away. You'll never forget her performance for sooooo many reasons...
Unfortunately, Threshold has been swapped with the extremely tepid Close to Home. I use to watch Carla battle aliens while painting my WH40K Black Templars on Friday nights. Now, I'm stuck with suburban legal drama. Boring.