Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More of the Silent Master revealed.

This is one of Hasbro's most recent Snake Eyes action figures, with his sword-brother Storm Shadow.

This is my "semi-custom" Snake Eyes action figure. The base figure is, in fact, a 12" Hasbro Snake Eyes; so the headsculpt was relativly easy. The other parts came from various manufacturers, which I put together to get this effect. The jumpsuit, for instance, is a wetsuit from a SEAL figure. I did have to get some modeling tape to make the Arshikage/I-Ching symbol on the shoulder. I based the figure off the comics... You'll note the simularities between my version, and the movie costume.

Mmmm... More Snake Eyes goodness from the movie... There are some subtle differences between the equipment here and the equipment in the first pic I posted.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

GI Joe fans, there may be reason to rejoice!

This is the official publicity photograph of Snake Eyes from the GI Joe movie. It appears they got this right, at least.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More Fight Science Episodes...

Special Ops

I've heard of Stewart Smith, a Navy SEAL, before... But they must've dug up Snake Eyes himself for this participant...

A classified identity? Whoa! How'd they find him in the first place?

Fighting Back

Stairwell Attack

Here's some potential Bullshido, let's see what happens when former Navy SEAL Chris Carraci is introduced to a Taser...

Now that the Taser is over, let's go get a drink. Yeah, that's realistic... Who's dumb enough to mess with someone who looks like Bas Ruttan? (Just kidding, I don't think Bas is the point of this.)

Happy 40th Birthday!

That good looking lug on the left is our dojo's very own Fearless Leader (or as my daughter knows him, Doshi-Doshi) accompanied by his lovely wife on the right. Believe it or not, he just turned 40 years old.

Yes, I said, 40!

All that martial arts training keeps him looking young.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Oh, I'm glad I found this before I logged off...

Semper Fi, gents...

From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Berkeley...

Damn hippies... Show your support for the Fighting Leathernecks and buy yourself a T-Shirt from Sgt. Grit.


Never Back Down -- Basically, it looks like The Karate Kid for the MMA generation. Nothing innovative, but probably some fun for a couple of hours.

This, on the other hand, is a David Mamet movie called Redbelt. So it's probably reasonably good. It's got some real martial arts star power behind it too. Randy Couture appears, and it looks like one of the fighters might be one of the Gracies. Mamet, who knows his tough guy movies, is a BJJ grappler so he knows the moves. You might also glimpse Tim Allen (Yes, Tim the Toolman) in the trailer too. Don't quote me on this, but I thnk I heard he's a BJJ guy in real life too. I don't know about the movie. It just goes to show you never know who's doing what with their time.

Kung Fu Election

Okay, I am not much of a finger masher game player, but the opportunity to watch my least favorite candidates get beat up is just too awesome not to share.

Be sure to try the training level to learn how things work first.

Kyuzo Mifune

I have to apologize. I name-checked Kyuzo Mifune in a post over the weekend. I should've included a link to his Wikipedia biography for those of you who are not familiar with the God of Judo.

Check out that anecdote at the end of the wiki page. I'm sure you'll note how these two Judo legends stack their opponents like cord wood. But pay very close attention to the fact that Mifune dispatches his share with blows. There was a lot more to Pre-World War II Judo than throwing for points.

How are we to properly judge the giants of today if we don't know the giants of the past? And now, the next time some wiseguy asks who would win in a match between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, you can respond, "Chuck Norris, of course. But: who wins a match between Kyuzo Mifune and Rickson Gracie?"

We care about gi care...

The Japanese martial arts uniform is familiar to just about everyone.

Generically, it is called a keikogi or dogi. Sometimes it is closely associated with the art, hence: Judogi, Aikidogi, or Karategi. Most often, it is shortened to the simple, if vulgar, “gi.”

Does something both simple and familiar even warrant a description? It consists of three parts:
1. the jacket, or uwagi
2. the drawstring trousers, or zubon
3. the belt, or obi – which, of course, has a life of its own.
There are many myths about the origin of this uniform. The best – which is to say both comprehensive and reasonable – is contained in Dave Lowry’s excellent book, “In the Dojo.” Like so many things in modern martial arts, the keikogi is a byproduct of Judo. And while we closely associate the keikogi with tradition, it was as radical in its day as the board shorts and rashguards are in our own day. In fact, the impetus behind the keikogi design was similar. There was a desire for durable, relatively cheap, comfortable clothing that would protect the wearer from mat burn. And if you think traditionalists are incensed today by board shorts, imagine the uproar when Judoka started wearing that very-Western innovation: pants! The horror.

I recently purchased two new gi from Kinjisan Martial Arts, a New York based supplier. These are Ronin Brand gi, which were made in Pakistan. The quality, however, is excellent. I bought a black Judogi and a heavyweight, black Karategi. I won’t give a detailed review of these gi, but I am – so far – extremely pleased with both uniforms. The Judogi in particular, is of amazing quality. When I first unwrapped it, the judogi looked so tough, I thought it might walk over to my Gladiator gi from Asian World of Martial Arts and smack it around for impersonating a Judogi.

But, in addition to suggesting Ronin Brand for your consideration, I wanted to discuss the care and feeding of Keikogi. This is a subject that doesn’t seem to receive much attention these days. I’ve learned my method mostly by trial and error over the years. I can’t swear it is the best, but it works for me.

After unwrapping my two new gi, I immediately washed both twice in a row. I’ve also seen advice suggesting new gi be soaked overnight in water with a modest amount of salt dissolved in the basin. I’ve never tried that, so I can’t tell you about the effects. I’ve always found multiple, initial washing sufficient to soften the material for wear. Nevertheless, the heavy material of a gi doesn’t really loosen up until you start moving around in it. So it always takes a month or so of classes and related washings to work into a gi.

For most of my career, I would wash the go and then throw it in the dryer. For awhile, I even ironed it. Don’t do that. Especially, don’t iron the gi. The material will weaken and fray at the crease. If you do use a dryer on your gi, take the uniform out of the machine immediately when it stops and hang the uniform.

I’ve stopped using the dryer. I now take my wet gi out of the washing machine and hang them up to drip dry. I went out to LinensNThings (or was it Bed, Bath & Beyond? I can’t tell them apart…) and bought heavy duty, metal hangers for this task. Asking the plastic hangers I bought at Wal-Mart to hold a waterlogged Judogi top is too much.

Now my gi are not subjected to the damaging heat of a dryer or iron. Gravity pulls most of the wrinkles out for me, so the uniform doesn’t need to be pressed. I believe this method of drip drying will also help keep my black gi from prematurely fading. With my previous gi, it was too late to tell. I’m watching how long it takes for the new Ronin Brand gi to fade.

Another practice I’m thinking of implementing is buying some nametapes from a military outfitter and sewing them inside my gi jackets and trousers. Obviously, this helps identify your uniform. But if you buy the white tape and a laundry marker, you can also mark your pants and tops in such a way that you can always match the set. That may not be important to some people, but it is to me.

Recently, I purchased some 12oz. cotton canvas from a fabric store to affect a significant repair on an old gi jacket I believe still has some service in it. Fortunately for me, my mother has a professional grade sewing machine for the task I have in mind. Minor repairs can be made by hand, if you have the patience to sew a seam around the edges of a fabric patch. If the patch is small and discrete, the uniform is perfectly capable of soldiering on; if the patch is more obvious, you might want to keep the uniform for informal training sessions. Your uniform is a reflection of your training, and if you train hard, it is perfectly acceptable to have a few dings in the uniform. On the other hand, you don’t want it to be so ratty that you look like slob.
I have slightly more wearable gi in my closet than the number of classes I attend in a week. Generally, the gi will be worn once a week, and washed thereafter. This leaves me with minimal wear-and-tear on my primary uniforms, and still leaves some extra available in case there is a problem or an opportunity for extra training.

I’m not sure why keikogi care is not more widely discussed these days. I guess there is an assumption that people can figure out how to wash their clothes. Cynically, I suspect some schools would like the opportunity to sell you more uniforms more often, so why tell you how to extend the life of the uniform you have? I hope this information helps keep your uniform in good condition. If you have any additional suggestions or care tips, I’d love to hear them.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Some links

Grappler's Quest

Fight Quest homepage


Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy


For fun: custom ninja action figures

Remember, "Absorb what is useful."

Fight Quest

Sticks and stones may break my bones...

Old news for most...

Sarah Silverman's opening shot...

Her boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel's response.

As he says, this is bigger than the that fat kid with the lightsaber! If you're going to go; go big, and go all the way.

The first Saturday morning class is usually populated mostly by teenage students. Typically, these kids have the overly optimistic view that they know it all. I say that with all due sympathy, for I do remember the confidence of youth. I enjoy observing these kids and training with them because it provides a glimpse into the health of the student body. If they are making mistakes, it is a good gauge that most of the school is making the same mistake and should be corrected. And when they are getting things right… That’s a good sign.

So I note something they got pleasantly correct yesterday morning.

We’ve been incorporating more and more grappling in the Black Belt level classes for just over a year now. It’s been fed at home by watching the various MMA fights. Often you can find the youngsters stretching out on the mat before or after class talking about the fights, and the various BJJ or grappling techniques they’ve seen. Judging from the discussions and what I’ve seen them doing in class, they’ve been very observant. Some of them might even turn into real threats when they finally understand that positioning is more important than the cool chokes and submissions.

Yesterday, two of the young men were talking about arm-locks, and I heard this gem:
“I really like the Kimura and the Americana. You know: they are really the same thing, just in opposite directions.”

Ah-ha! It’s good to see the Black Belt students making these connections on their own. It would be even better to hear them say: “You know -- Onikudaki is just a variation of the Americana…”

The comment also made me think of some reading I’d done last week in the introduction to Ultimate Fighting Techniques Volume 2: Fighting from the Bottom.

“Royce was not only able to protect himself from Severn’s attempted strikes, but he was also able to submit Severn with the then unknown ‘Triangle Choke.’ From that moment on everyone realized the immense power that Gracie Jiu Jitsu offered a regular human being.”

Advancing in the martial arts means learning to draw connections and see how all the pieces fit together. Often these connections are drawn on the mat, but sometimes you draw them from study in the library. The quote from UFT Vol.2 is most likely from co-author Kid Peligro, a Gracie BJJ Black Belt and spokesperson. It was so overblown in its enthusiasm I had to do a little double-checking and reached for my copy of Kodokan Judo, the standard reference work on Judo technique and practice.

Sure enough, on page 124, I found Sankaku-jime, translation: “Triangular choke.” The photo clearly shows a Judo yudansha with his legs wrapped around an opponent and applying choking pressure to the neck.

I further looked to The Canon of Judo, written by the legendary “God of Judo” Kyuzo Mifune, the last Judo 10th Dan. This was first published in the early 1950’s. On page 154 is Sankaku-Gatame-Ude-Hishigi, or the “Triangular Armlock.” Although the terminology is a little different, the technique looks substantially the same. Except here, not only are you applying pressure to the neck, you are hyperextending the elbow simultaneously. Mifune introduces the technique by saying, “I developed this technique myself, and it always proves effective.”

There is really nothing new under the sun. If you want further proof of that, while you’re checking out Sankaku-Jime in your own copy of Kodokan Judo (you do have a copy, don’t you?), glance over at page 125. You’ll find the Judo armlock called Ude Garami. One named technique, but two different directions you’ll clearly recognize as the Americana and the Kimura…

I don’t really believe Kyuzo Mifune invented the triangle choke anymore than I believe Royce Gracie used it for the first time against Dan Severn in 1995. I suspect it was already ancient when some forgotten Pankratiast snapped his opponent’s elbow and choked him unconscious in the Greek dust to the cheers of his countrymen.

So what lessons are we to draw here? For starters, we need to be looking for these commonalities. It helps us develop and understand our own skills and techniques. It also gives us an appreciation for the efforts of others that we’ve noted in previous postings is sadly lacking. It also saves us some effort by building on work already performed by someone else. Why should we reinvent the wheel?

The Escaping Rat Returns

He Who Shall Not Be Named, or HWSNBN, presented his Togakure Ryu seminars at our dojo recently. His first seminar covered basic information about Togakure Ryu and the Santo Tonko no Gata. The second seminar was presented to yudansha students and covered the kyoketsu shoge, an unusual weapon closely associated with the Togakure Ryu.

HWSNBN began with an informal lecture on various aspects of Togakure Ryu Ninpo. He listed the three special tools of the school:
Senban Shuriken
Shuko, or hand claws; and
Shinodake, a primitive snorkel or breathing tube.

He listed the six traveling tools of the ninja:
The straw hat,
A slate pencil,
A staff,
A fire starting kit; and
A 3 foot square towel

HWSNBN pointed out that it is not the specific tools that are important to us in the 21st Century, so much as the idea that the historical ninja maintained a kit of essential supplies – and was prepared.

He touched on some of the stealth aspects of the ninja, such as various breaking and entering tools, and the clothing. Although just about everyone in America is familiar with the black ninja suit, or shinobi shozuko, HWSNBN explained the limitations of black as a camouflage color. According to him a mid-tone gray, or “maroon” was best. He stumbled over the maroon before eventually saying “rust” to describe the shade he was trying to describe. Personally, based on other sources of information, I think “rust” may be the best choice for the color he is describing.

Then we did kata. HWSNBN did not give a precise, step-by-step on all nine kata. He showed a one-on-one kata, then the kata versus two Uke, and finished with the kata versus four Uke surrounding the Tori. He was far more interested in the proper feeling than the script. At one point he told us that the way the kata are scripted, and even shown on various videos, is NOT the way the shihan show it in Japan. They are not as rigid as the script.

In the single Uke kata, the idea was to match movement with the Uke. Tori needs to be smooth in order not to resist Uke’s pulls. The goal is to avoid adding extra energy to the encounter, but to get Uke to relax and believe he is in control. If Tori adds energy, he reveals his intentions too soon.

A question arose about whether this idea of concealing intentions was related to “mu” or “no mind” often cited in modern martial arts (gendai budo). Shouls Tori have a feeling of mu to avoid adding energy? HWSNBN does not believe it is possible to clear your mind of all thoughts – or you’d be dead. Instead, he says his concept of “still mind” is “don’t anticipate the outcome, and focus on the task at hand.”

[An aside that might be worth your research… Mu is a concept drawn from Zen Buddhism. The Bujinkan schools are connected to Mikkyo Buddhism, not Zen. So “Mu” is really a foreign concept to our arts.]

Another suggestion from HWSNBN is to be less “martial artsy” about the technique. Try to conceal your skills.

The next kata was an unarmed Tori versus two Uke closing in with bokken. The idea is simple enough: Tori needs to maneuver the Uke into position, fix them in place by throwing metsubishi, then escape. Practicing this form required some space, so we took turns doing the kata. I attempted to be Tori early in the session, and I met with limited success. I didn’t get whacked by the bokken, but I didn’t feel as if I owned the situation. I did have an excellent opportunity to observe while others did a far better job as Tori.

This kata is fundamentally the same as sparring against two people. The bokken change the threat and the distance, but it is still the same principles in action.

I did not attempt the four man escape, but watched several others gamely try. Not all were successful. HWSNBN commented that the people who were able to break out of the encirclement all performed some unusual action that caused the Uke to pause. Part of the kata is to use metsubishi to temporarily blind some of the Uke and shuriken to attack the others. HWSNBN was drawing attention to the moment just before Tori throws the metsubishi, the successful ones captured the Ukes’ full attention at precisely that moment, and then disrupted their ability to adjust in the next beat. I’m still pondering what I saw, but I believe this may be the first example of kyojutsu that I have consciously witnessed.

In the evening, the yudansha among us were treated to a special session on the kyoketsu shoge. HWSNBN explained the weapon’s various parts: a hooked spearhead broken off a shaft and modified into a dagger, a heavy iron ring, and a connecting rope. He showed a “secret” method of retaining the dagger end; which, like most martial arts secrets was mostly common sense.

He basically said the shoge was not one of his favorite weapons, and believes it is primarily of historical value. Nevertheless, we were all paired off and sparred shoge versus a shinai. HWSNBN had given some one sentence advice about using good taijutsu which I tried to heed. It seemed to work, and I discovered that if I kept good distance, and didn’t twirl the weighted end so that it was constantly ready as a threat, I could be pretty successful with the tool. Glancing around, I could tell everybody who had trouble wasn’t using distance to their advantage and didn’t understand that twirling the weight gave up timing to their opponent.

One of the themes HWSNBN wove through both seminars is his understanding of the ninja imperative: “I must do whatever is required to keep my enemy from learning my identity and escape.” If the enemy does learn your identity, then you and your entire family will be killed. It is absolutely critical that they do not learn who you are. Interestingly, in the variations of the single person kata, I found it was often possible to move in such a way that your face was not fully visible to the Uke. Escape was always emphasized in the kata. There was never a moment when Tori slugged it out with Uke, and if he saw you spending too much time fighting the Uke, HWSNBN let you know you were doing it wrong.

HWSNBN also stressed the importance of natural movement. Always smooth out the actions. Never look like you know martial arts. Just move where you need to be.

This is my report on the seminars. The rest is for my notes and those who were there.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Quick, True Story

I went to the airport last Wednesday night to pick-up my in-laws after their Winter vacation. When we got there, the folks had already cleared the security gate at the Terminal and the bags were coming off the conveyor belt. We were inside the airport 15 minutes -- 20 minutes tops.

Anyway, the place was crawling with military personnel, all going to, or coming from, someplace very sandy. While I was at the airport, I saw three different civilians walk up to three different groups of military and thank them for their service.

RIP: The First Dungeon Master

Gary Gygax, the inventor of Dungeons & Dragons, died at the age of 69 this week.

I've never been a big D&D guy, but I respect we all have our little obsessions. I tip my hat to the man who started it for so many others.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Modern Combatives Manuals

Looking for government approved training programs to keep you safe on the mean streets? Look no further than here.

A burning question...

Okay, so you've been watching both Human Weapon and Fight Quest, and you're trying to decide which is better.

Here's one way to answer the question...

The Man with the hat is back...

YouTube video trailer for the long awaited: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I dare you not to get a little chill when the trumpet fanfare begins...