Sunday, October 28, 2007

And now, the musical stylings of... Patrick Swayze!

Patrick Swayze! He's no Freddie Mercury.
And just for Shinobi.wind... The musical stylings of William Shatner...

Dumbledore is gay?

Honestly, I don't care that J.K. Rowling has outed her master wizard, Prof. Dumbledore, as gay. She had the good sense not discuss or disclose the detail in Children's books. Author's often know (or design, depending on your view) far more about their characters then they ever put into print. The trick is to only disclose those details that are vital to the immediate plot.

What bothers me about this confirmation is that it will proliferate in the seedy sub-genre known as FanFic (for "fan fiction) all across the internet. Do we really need even more stories of how Dumbledore initiated young Harry into the love that dare not speak its name?

Believe me, nothing is sacred in FanFic. Star Trek has been suffering from its fans for decades. Kirk, Spock and Bones have been stuck in a three-way triangle since Starfleet Academy, and the Enterprise was some kind of star voyaging orgy!

Ok, now that Shinobi.wind has left us to google "Star Trek Fan Fiction," let's talk about him behind his back...

You Little Devil!

Human Weapon, yet again...

Mmmm... Human Weapon. This show is the American approach to martial arts at it's finest. Get dazzled by the exotic, sample the techniques, take what is best, and fuse it into something new.

Anyway... For the rest of you who are Human Weapon fans, they have a discussion page where you can roll on the virtual mats with other fans (some of whom may actually know what they are talking about). This thread asks for suggestions for future shows. I recognized at the outset that the show's format might limit it's lifespan, but even so, there are plenty of choices left. Sp let your voice be heard!

Word has rapidly spread through my own community that Jason and Bill filmed a Bujinkan episode, so we can safely leave Ninjutsu off the wish list. But just to get your creative juices flowing, here's my short list of potential future episodes:
Aikido Kendo Jodo Iaido Capoeira Gracie JiuJitsu American Kenpo Lua Shippal Gi Tae Kwon Do Olympic Boxing Olympic Wrestling Tai Chi Wing Chun Chin-Na Systema Defendu/World War II Combatives Hapkido Kuk Sul Won Jeet Kun Do Kajukenbo Shotokan Karate Goju Ryu Isshin Ryu Hsing Yi Bagua Chuan Kalarippayuttu Indian (subcontinent) Wrestling ARMA (Reconstructed Medieval/Renaissance fighting techniques)...

They still have a couple of potential seasons left before they resort to calling on the ultimate martial arts: Kiaijutsu and Greenoch! You never heard of Greenoch? Why, it's ancient and deadly, and Celtic!

Here are a few snippets posted on YouTube of the best moments from Human Weapon...

LI'L RED RIDING HOOD (Ronald Blackwell)
Owoooooooo! Who's that I see walkin' in these woods?
Why, it's Little Red Riding Hood.
Hey there Little Red Riding Hood, You sure are looking good.
You're everything a big bad wolf could want. Listen to me.
Little Red Riding Hood I don't think little big girls should
Go walking in these spooky old woods alone.
What big eyes you have,
The kind of eyes that drive wolves mad.
So just to see that you don't get chased
I think I ought to walk with you for a ways.
What full lips you have.
They're sure to lure someone bad.
So until you get to grandma's place
I think you ought to walk with me and be safe.
I'm gonna keep my sheep suit on
Until I'm sure that you've been shown
That I can be trusted walking with you alone.
Little Red Riding Hood I'd like to hold you if I could
But you might think I'm a big bad wolf so I won't.
What a big heart I have-the better to love you with.
Little Red Riding Hood
Even bad wolves can be good.
I'll try to be satisfied just to walk close by your side.
Maybe you'll see things my way before we get to grandma's place.
Little Red Riding Hood
You sure are looking good
You're everything that a big bad wolf could want.
Owoooooooo! I mean baaaaaa! Baaa?

I don't think it takes an advanced degree in Comparative Mythology to realize why this classic number still has magic on Halloween.

Zuni Fetish Doll

Holy Cow! This may not look like much, but if you mention "Trilogy of Terror" or "Zuni Fetish Doll" to anyone who saw this movie as a youngster -- and be prepared for some screams.
"Trilogy of Terror" is three short stories linked by a common actress playing three different women. Don't ask me to tell you about the first two stories. I don't remember a blinking thing. All I remember is that the wisely saved the best story for last. A woman receives an odd gift, an ugly, fierce-looking African warrior doll, identified in the movie as a Zuni Fetish Doll. (Now, I understand that Zuni Fetish Dolls do exist. But they are made by the Zuni American Indian tribe... But don't nitpick when it comes to visceral horror.)
The doll has some ominous instructions: Don't remove the gold chain around the doll's waist...

Of course, that chain does come off. And the 12" doll comes to life, chasing the woman around her apartment, first with his spear, then with a carving knife, and even using his wicked teeth...

Does the woman survive? That would be telling too much. Maybe you should just see the movie. This was back in the day before Chucky played the homicidal doll as camp. Zuni was surprisingly terrifying. Even the old-style stop-motion photography that was used to animate Zuni added to the creepiness.

Have a "fairy" nice Halloween!

It's really very strange...

I bought a pumpkin for my daughter this morning.

On my way home, I was in a mood to notice how people have pumpkins on display. Sure, it's a given this time of year to see so many pumpkins. But I realized a simple truth. For most people, putting the pumpkin on the stoop or porch is all they'll do with the fruit.

A few people will still carve a Jack O-Lantern. But this seems to be a dying art as we all are too busy to even find a knife, let alone cut into a pumpkin and clean it out. I don't know anyone who actually uses a real pumpkin to cook a pumpkin pie from scratch. Everyone uses canned pumpkin.

So really, all we're doing is buying a fruit for display. Weird, huh? Now, don't get me started on Christmas Trees...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Well, at least it ain't Queen...

Time for some Glam Rock love!


I stumbled onto this while researching the Gladiator videos.

It appears to be some sort of perverted subculture on YouTube. I only bring it to your attention so you all know what's out there. Follow the rabbit down the hole at your own risk...

I am Spartacus!

"Ciao Gladiators from all over the world, my name is Spartacus from Rome and welcome to my Roman Gladiator School..."

That greeting (laced with unintentional innuendo) begins the home page for an online Gladiator School. I have my doubts about distance learning a combat sport, but there is also the live version in Italy.

Or maybe this is just an excuse for me to ask the immortal question: "Do you like gladiator movies?"

Some observations on my newly acquired book...

I've had a chance to read some of my new book on Medieval and Renaissance dagger fighting. I'm very pleased with it.

The author is both well-researched, and well-practiced. He notes that the majority of historic manuals concentrate on unarmed defenses against the knife. He says, and I think the logic is sound, this wasn't because most medieval men went unarmed, but because knives tend to be used as ambush weapons. When an attack is launched, the defender rarely has a chance to deploy his own weapon. The defender is forced to act, initially, unarmed.

The author then cites evidence that this fact of combat has not changed. Most modern knife encounters feature an assailant with a deployed knife against an unsuspecting, unarmed defender. Food for thought.

The author also points out that the manuals emphasize the stab over the cut. Most common medieval knives did have sharp edges; a few battlefield types did not. But medieval fighters recognized the greater lethality of the stab and used tactics to employ the move.

The most common medieval dagger attack was a downward stab from the reverse grip, or what's commonly called the "psycho stab" today. The author believes this is partly from the wide-spread convention of wearing the dagger on the strong side. It was natural to perform a reverse grip and draw, raise the arm, and then stab down. This attack has great power, and can crash through half-hearted defenses.

Legal documents from the Renaissance period show that in many cases, this stab could penetrate the bones of the skull. Just ask Kit Marlowe, who might've exceeded Shakespeare's enduring fame -- except for an ill-chosen knife fight.

The psycho stab is still very common, because of its increased potential for a kill. Some studies show it is very popular in prison shankings. In case you're interested (and I know you are...), the proper way to perform the downward stab is swinging from the elbow, not the shoulder. The attacks should come rapid fire to overwhelm a defender. Your target is the head, neck,and soft spot of the shoulder just behind the collar bones. Just keep stabbing -- you'll hit something important.

This action -- which is very instinctive -- is why you'll often read of murder victims with an astounding number of wounds. Remember, "I didn't stop because he was still moving, and I was still in fear for my life.

I haven't gotten to the elegant section on dagger vs. dagger dueling yet. the unarmed section is too fascinating to rush through. It just goes to show that there is truly nothing new under the sun. Maybe I'll describe more next time...

A quick time-out for whining...

Don't you folks post any comments anymore? I'm feeling lonely here.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Medieval Knife and Dagger Fighting

I recently purchased a book on medieval and Renaissance knife fighting. There is a misconception that highly technical martial arts are an "Asian-thing" when, in fact, there is plenty of evidence that armed and unarmed martial arts thrived throughout Medieval Europe. Most of these arts died out as firearms came into wide use, fencing modernized into a sport, and conscription armies changed the methods of training warriors. There was no drive to link combat techniques with spirituality in the West, so that avenue of preservation was lost.

But I digress. When I found the book, I thumbed through the pages and was pleased with the picture sequences and references. The action photos showed many similarities to Japanese and Filipino techniques I've seen. Now you might think this is a red flag; maybe it's just repackaged jujutsu and Kali. That's why I checked the references to existing medieval fighting manuals to see that the techniques tracked to these books and authors. While I do assume that existing knife fighting arts were used to inform the re-interpretation of the movements, I suspect that good technique is just good technique. This is why I like looking at books and films from different martial arts -- to watch the similarities and commonalities. As Bruce Lee points out: what works, always works.
I'm interested in analyzing the book. It seems that much medieval dagger fighting was done with the reverse grip. Since so much modern advice weighs against this grip, I'm curious to see why this grip is popular. It might be related to fighting in armor, as this grip affords power in a stab. You could use it to punch through light armor, or gaps in heavier armor.

I'm also curious about a paradox. Modern science, and I think Sky Ninja has the name of the study, shows that in combat we resort to large, swinging, clubbing motions and fine motor skills go out the window once our heart rate rises above a certain level. So why is it that we have a history of highly developed fighting techniques that cross cultures all demonstrating relatively complex movements? I'm not sure this book will resolve that question for me. But the presence of similar techniques in different, isolated cultures makes me wonder how they developed if no one can pull off the fancy martial arts moves we practice in the dojo?

Renn Fest

So I just returned from my state's Rennaissance Festival, or Renn Fest, as insider's call it.
I've been almost every year for ten years. I'm not one of those people who gets all dressed up in costume, but I do enjoy watching the people who do get dressed up.

I take my daughter now. The Renn Fest is a celebration of imagination, romance, and chivalry; all values I'd like my daughter to learn. She likes the pony rides, the knights and horses at the joust, and watching the funny people.

When I go, I try to switch off my inner historian while I'm there. Otherwise, my head will explode. Nominally, the period for the Renn Fest is the reign of King Henry VIII, or the 1500's. But in practice, anything goes. Everything from Vikings, to Crusaders, to Pirates of the Caribbean. This year's outliers were a British Paratrooper from WWII, and Boba Fett. Yes, that Boba Fett.