Sunday, December 16, 2007

GI Joe redeemed... just a little.

Amid all the PC BS floating around about next year's GI Joe movie, this rumor has emerged.

If true, I might reconsider my boycott. It is posted as true on the IMDB.

Bujinkan 2008 Theme

Every year, Hatsumi-sensei chooses a theme around which to focus his teaching for the year.

For 2008, the theme has been announced as: Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu and Ninja Biken.

Here's my source.

Two caveats here... First, Don't count this as official until Hatsumi actually starts teaching this in Japan. Second, my theme for this year will continue to be Kihon, or Basics.

Train Hard...

Human Weapon: Ninjutsu

I have not yet seen the Human Weapon episode focused on Ninjutsu. I did see the preview available this week on their website, so I know they did not spend all their time with the Bujinkan.

I'll be eager to see the episode at my earliest opportunity, and perhaps I'll have some comments after that. Hopefully I won't need to become too much of a Boojie Apologist...

Anyway... These are some comments from one of the Bujinkan members who participated. I'm sure there will be plenty said in the near future about the episode, and lots of people will say very negative things because it fits their agenda. But if you bother with my blog, maybe you'd care to start by reading someone who was there.

You can see what we are saying about ourselves here.

And you can see what the hardcore fans of Human Weapon think here.

And, of course, the obligatory "reality" check with Bullshido...

Keep training, folks.

Camille Guaty

The Kris Knife

The Silat episode of the Human Weapon spent a brief segment on the art's signature weapon: the flame shaped kris knife.

Silat is famous for its fluid blade techniques. And it is widely recognized that there was a cross-polination of technique with the Filipino arts. The kris knife is the principle weapon in the art, and holds a special place in Silat folklore.
Myths surround the kris, and somewhat surprisingly these superstitions still hold sway today. It is said the kris can be milked to produce water. Some believe the kris can project a flame, or kill an opponent merely by pointing it at him. In some stories, the kris will rattle in its sheath to warn of unseen danger. There are even accounts of the kris flying out of the sheath on its own to defend its owner.
Human Weapon perpetuated one of the less fantastic myths about the Kris: that the blade is poisonous, and can kell through nothing more than a scratch. According to the program's narration, a deadly toxin is infused in the blade during the forging process.

Every martial art has its cherished myths. These myths serve important purposes; they can, for instance, help form a sense of belonging within the group. Or serve as warnings to outsiders. Myths are vehicles for deeper truths. Myths can even serve as doorways to legitimate secrets. And in this light, I thought it was very respectful of hosts Jason Chambers and Bill Duff to accept the myth at face value during their visit. I wish they had identified the myth as such in the post-production.
In checking some reference material, I did uncover that a solution of arsenic and lime juice is used to etch the kris near the final stage of production. But even Arsenic is not so lethal as to kill through the minute strength in a scratch.
I suppose it is not impossible to coat the blade with some poison. Aside from the practical problem of carrying a poisoned blade (i.e. I know I've nicked myself on my everyday carry knife), pioneer martial arts researcher Donn Draeger has pointed out that poison is a rare tool in the Malaysian/Indonesian war and hunting arsenal.

What I think is more plausible is a common environmental explanation as the core of truth to this myth.
Silat originated in the jungle. It grew-up in the back alleys of dingy port cities. Medical knowledge and care was not widespread. These are not ideal sanitary conditions. An infection of even a minor flesh wound had the potential to kill a strong, healthy man.
One way to test this theory is to look for a corresponding myth and ritual -- perhaps more closely guarded -- on how to treat the venomous kiss of a Kris blade. Even then, there is always Tetanus, which simply requires a dirty, rusty blade.
Given the tight training schedule maintained by the Human Weapon crew, I don't expect them to also play Mythbusters for every outrageous claim made by an indiginous master. I'd prefer they continue to show respect toward these traditions.
On the other hand, when a patently unscientific, superstitious claim is made, I'd like to see more mitigation of the statement -- or at least a more reasonable explanation offered. Otherwise, we;ll all be enjoying Bill Duff crushing Kiaijutsu masters, or Jason Chambers shrugging off Dim Mak attacks...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A moment for Literature:

Rudyard Kipling knew a thing or two about wars in dusty places against a tenacious enemy that fades into the landscape. Although this poem may sound racist at first blush, it is actually a grudging respect for the opposition..

Fuzzy-Wuzzy, by Rudyard Kipling

WE’VE fought with many men acrost the seas,
An’ some of ’em was brave an’ some was not:
The Paythan an’ the Zulu an’ Burmese;
But the Fuzzy was the finest o’ the lot.
We never got a ha’porth’s change of ’im:
’E squatted in the scrub an’ ’ocked our ’orses,
’E cut our sentries up at Suakim, An’ ’e played the cat an’ banjo with our forces.

So ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
We gives you your certificate, an’ if you want it signed
We’ll come an’ ’ave a romp with you whenever you’re inclined.

We took our chanst among the Khyber ’ills,
The Boers knocked us silly at a mile,
The Burman give us Irriwaddy chills,
An’ a Zulu impi dished us up in style:
But all we ever got from such as they
Was pop to what the Fuzzy made us swaller;
We ’eld our bloomin’ own, the papers say,
But man for man the Fuzzy knocked us ’oller.

Then ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ the missis and the kid;
Our orders was to break you, an’ of course we went an’ did.
We sloshed you with Martinis, an’ it wasn’t ’ardly fair;
But for all the odds agin’ you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square.

’E ’asn’t got no papers of ’is own,
'E ’asn’t got no medals nor rewards,
So we must certify the skill ’e’s shown
In usin’ of ’is long two-’anded swords:
When ’e’s ’oppin’ in an’ out among the bush
With ’is coffin-’eaded shield an’ shovel-spear,
An ’appy day with Fuzzy on the rush
Will last an ’ealthy Tommy for a year.

So ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ your friends which are no more,
If we ’adn’t lost some messmates we would ’elp you to deplore;
But give an’ take’s the gospel, an’ we’ll call the bargain fair,
For if you ’ave lost more than us, you crumpled up the square!
’E rushes at the smoke when we let drive,
An’, before we know, ’e’s ’ackin’ at our ’ead;
’E’s all ’ot sand an’ ginger when alive,
An’ ’e’s generally shammin’ when ’e’s dead.
’E’s a daisy, ’e’s a ducky, ’e’s a lamb!
’E’s a injia-rubber idiot on the spree,
’E’s the on’y thing that doesn’t give a damn
For a Regiment o’ British Infantree!

So ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
An’ ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ’ayrick ’ead of ’air—
You big black boundin’ beggar—for you broke a British square!

Sho Kosugi

If you read my post on the Master, and you nodded knowingly as you remembered the good times watching the cheesy series back in the day... Then you probably also remember Movie Ninja Sho Kosugi!

Sho Kosugi was THE movie ninja through the 80's, and he had a huge impact on the popular cultures perception of the stereotype. He could fight anybody: other ninja, commandos, golfing mobsters, midgets, amazons... You name it. He always won.

And he never once flipped out...

Even his kid was badass.

Classic-style Pinup Artist Andrew Bawidamann

Santa's Little Helpers!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas: Don't be late!

Not exactly what you think...

This, on the other hand, you can share with your kids...

Blast From the Past: 80's Ninja Heroes!

In the 80's, the ninja craze was in full bloom. Everywhere you looked, there were ninja! A ninja even made an appearance on Magnum P.I. It was inevitable that someone would make a ninja TV show. Enter: The Master! Starring Lee Van Cleef, The Master followed the adventures of Peter MacAllister and his sidekick Max as they used their ancient ninjutsu skills to help the helpless -- all while avoiding Okasa, a deadly ninja sent to keep MacAllister quiet. You can actually watch whole episodes on YouTube. Just follow the links from this promo spot.

The show should not be confused with another short-lived series: Raven. You can get a taste of that here... And I'll let you decide which show had more potential.

Thieves, and some brief Administrative Remarks...

It recently came to my attention that at least one person living in the ether of the Internet has cut-and-paste whole posts of mine onto his own blog! (You'll have to scroll down apiece if you click that link.)

Let me say that theft is one of the sincerest forms of flattery. I'm glad you think so much of my posts that you have taken them -- without my knowledge or permission -- to share with your friends and readers. In the future, at least have the courtesy and decency to attribute me, or link back to my blog rather than leave the impression it is your own work.
Next, let me remind everyone of my regular readers -- my personal friends, in other words -- that this is why I maintain a certain... shall we say, discretion about names, locations, and (of course) affiliations. This blog is read more widely than we may realize, and it is open to the public. I'm very aware that anyone determined to learn more about me (or us) has a number of tricks and tools at hand, but let's not make their jobs any easier.
I also want to take a moment to reiterate that my thoughts and words are the results of my experience up until this point in my life. You might think this goes without saying, but I am always learning. One thing I learned a long time ago is that I do not know it all. This is particularly true of Martial Arts, where imperfectly passed information can be hazardous to somebody. Often, my posts will sound for more confident and sure than I actually am. Nobody likes a wishy-washy writer.

I am prepared to entertain calm, reasoned debate if you believe a fact or opinion or analysis is incorrect. Telling me, "You suck, and your martial art is a joke" will only amuse me. We may make fun of you in return, or we may simply ignore you until you go away. Being ignored is worse.

I also encourage you to research anything that interests you. As I am always researching my interests, I find my opions are always changing. So don't expect me to say exactly the same thing all the time. I should be consistent only in so far as the best information available always me to be.

Thank you, and we now return to regular blogging...

Swords... and the 21st Century

The man on the right in this photograph is commiting an armed robbery with a samurai sword.

Last weekend, a Tae Kwon Do instructor in suburban Washington DC killed his wife with a samurai sword.

Black Belt Magazine recently reported three similar incident. In one, two young hikers got into an argument with an older man. The older man responded by macing one hiker.

The other hiker then attacked the older man with the samurai sword he was carrying. He later told police the sword was part of his regular hiking kit. (BTW, the older man survived a slash with the sword.)

Believe it or not, I tried tracking these stories for a while. I managed to collect at least one a month over the course of the year. My favorite on -- mainly because I can easily visualize the ridiculous scene -- was from the New Jersey shore. Two teenage boys decided to fight over some unmentioned slight. The first retrieved a full size katana and brandished it. The second boy produced what the report described as "two large martial arts knives." (Butterfly knives from Kung Fu? Barongs from Escrima?) The police blotter said the two fought and the fight broke up"without injury."
Three possibilities here -- 1.) They were both world-class martial artists. 2.) They were both the world's most inept fighters. 3.) And I suspect this was the actual case, the fight consisted of the two young men circling each other menacingly and occassionally calling out, "Come any closer, and I'll cut you."

I seem to recall a "48 Hours" episode detailing the murder of a college professor with a broadsword. This made the big news because the murderers were members of some weird vampire cult. And my memory keeps bringing up a man who attacked a church congregation with a broadsword -- I want to say this was New York, but it may have been London...

Despite being obsolete military technology, swords are far more common today than most people realize. The majority of jurisdiction do not regulate swords like they do firearms. Martial Arts schools across the country sell katana or jian. Renaissance Festivals in almost every state have at least one weapons vendor. The Internet makes it extremely easy to buy one -- just eBay the word "sword" and see what you get.

Of course swords tend to have a better PR image than firearms -- and even more iconic status. Mothers who would never think of giving a toy gun to their sons will happily hand them a plastic sword. I knew one guy who refused to be around guns, but had an extensive collection of prop weapons from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

You can get just about any historical bladed weapon made these days: kopesh, machaira, gladius, spatha, katana, dao, jian, kris, bolo, machete, rapier, claymore...

or Batleth. And I know, without any doubt in my mind, some geek with a black belt and physics degree is out there trying to figure out how to make a lightsaber.
I doubt that the FBI is keeping separate statistics on how often swords are used in violent crimes. Yet I suspect its more often than you'd think. This is certainly not a call to ban or control swords. Rather, I want to highlight the issue in regards to the charge from various brands of Modernist Martial Arts that Traditional Martial Arts waste time teaching old fashioned weapons teachniques and the defenses against them. Yeah, we should spend more time on countering pistols, knives, and sticks, but traditional weapons work may be more contemporary than we think.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Feeling Nostalgic for the 80's?

Then check out Metal Skool...

The return of Hair Metal/Glam Rock -- with a sense of humor!

So cool, even Kelly Clarkson shows up drunk at their shows.

Human Weapon: Ninjutsu Countdown...

Human Weapon will air the ninjutsu episode on December 14.

They will follow up with Tae Kwon Do on December 21.

Tina Fey: Funny Chick Smart Chick Hot Chick

Modesto County Ninja Parade

The Modesto County Ninja Parade: Celebrating a tradition of camoflage, stealth, and secrecy!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Hear them, listen to the voices: These are the Marines, the hard men who fight our wars, unscripted and always honest.

"Except, of course, when we lie."

from author James Brady in his new book, "Why Marines Fight." Click the link for a longer excerpt.

Yesterday was the United States Marine Corps' 232 Birthday, and all over the world Marines paused to consider their unique tradition of dedication and service to our Country.

I've come to know many Marines over the years, mostly after their time in the Corps. You can see a continued commitment to the Corps' values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. In two cases, I've seen former Marines called back into service, and despite the attendant sacrifice and hardship, they both went back to do their duty without complaint and shouldered the burden quietly.

I've come to understand that Marines are special people. And has been said before, as long as we have young men and women willing to become Marines, our Nation will endure.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


If you haven't bumped into the website yet... well, you aren't missing much. They haven't found a martial art they can say anything nice about. Still, you need to listen to their criticism to a certain extent. Are they talking about you? Can you do anything to fix it? Then, let them wallow in their intense negativism by themselves.
Keep training... There's always somebody out there tougher than you -- no matter what art you choose.

BTW, you'll need to scroll down the page a bit if you get onto one of their discussion pages.

80's-Style Chambara!