It Takes All Kinds
So I know I’ve been silent but life happens. And so does training, but I do want to keep the conversation going. I am not a writer per se, this is new to me. I usually write because I’m inspired, not because of a deadline. That is hard for me. Not that I haven’t been inspired of late. Quite the contrary, and maybe that’s the issue with my writers block. There are just so many different directions I can’t seem to choose. So knowing that I needed to add some content to this site was in the back of my mind going into a recent seminar on the spear. I was hoping to key in on something to write about and sure enough I did, but not just one thing, many things. On many varied subjects. Where to begin? Argh! Sure, all can and maybe will be featured articles or thought bombs at some point but with in-spear-ation overload I couldn’t settle on one. I shut down. And that’s when it hit me. Let’s talk about that very thing that caused the overload of great ideas and inspiration explosion.
It was quite literally the varied subjects that we touched on over the weekend and how they all related to what we do. This was due to the subject itself, the spear, as well as the varied backgrounds of those in attendance. Some subjects were far removed from the spear, like breathing exercises or natural healing teas. But not really so far removed, not in the realm we were in that weekend. It all made sense and fit in its own way and rounded out everything. And that’s just it right there. Rounded out everything. Because its not just about the training and the combat in a bubble, it’s cultivating and maintaining our ultimate weapon, ourselves. In mind, body and spirit. As Thulsa Doom said in Conan the Barbarian, “what good is the sword but for the hand that wields it?” Preach it Thulsa. What we do requires a bit more than the average pursuit due to the high level that we must operate on and we do operate on all three. So all three must be cultivated.
The mind. Cultivate it. Meditate. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Maybe 15 minutes of no stimulus. Or full on guided meditations for specific purposes. The goal is to help clear your mind and reset. Also learn to call on that state on demand. Read on your subject. Read on varied subjects and maybe see if it relates to what you do and how. Learn memorization techniques. Play Kims game, Sudoku, I Spy on family trips. Knowledge is power eh?
Body. Yeah, you kinda wanna take care of that too and if ya can optimize its use all the better. Pushups are great but the body has so many more aspects to it. Like the fuel you put into it. Both through food as well as air. Eat right, and not in excess. Try natural healing where you can. Learn to breath, do some breathing exercises. Learn the energies that run through your body. Keep it fit in some way. Don’t beat on this body too hard if ya can avoid it, you cant get a new model next year, you can only patch it up. Learn some low impact arts so you can keep going in your later years. Taichi for example.
Spirit. This does not just mean religion but it can of course. In this day where some don’t want to practice any religion that’s ok. Its your “intent” that you are working on. Be light of spirit and have good intentions. Walk the Red Road. Have a moral compass and follow it. Cultivate your spiritual side how you want but meditation is again a good form of spiritual maintenance that can be non denominational or not. You can even find exercises that encompass all three. Like a taichi or qigong or a breathing exercise. Mind body and spirit in one. The body’s trifecta.
So, did we really talk about all of these subjects? You betcha, and we did more than talk too. We walked the walk, in mind, body and spirit. So here are some links to get you in the mode to remember to cover all three.
“Two hands and two feet. Until some of us have four hands and four feet we will have just one style.” Thank you Bruce. Yes, one style. And the same few tools. You may call it a firedragonjackrabbit punch while I call it an uppercut. It’s still the same tool. So here we are, we all have the same amount of tools moving on the same angles and planes as everyone else, what do we do? How do we gain an edge? We do what the boxer or fencer, with their few tools does. We vary our attacks and try to trick them. Set them up and get them to do what we want. Just like the chess player, with their limited tool kit, it becomes a mind game. Skill isn’t necessarily how well you do that lunging thrust but “why and how” you’re opponent, who we will assume has the same skill set as you for now, is letting it land. It is skill in getting it there, by varying the attack.
There are five ways of attack. Fencers know them, boxers know them, Bruce Lee showed us we could all know them. You know them too. They are:
Single Direct Attack
Attack By Combination
Attack By Drawing
Hand Immobilization Attack
Progressive Indirect Attack
Your base attack is your single direct attack. Each progressive attack all have inside them the SDA. It is the culmination and the end result of each attack. That is to score, which is a single direct attack. The rest just add spices and are used to make the opponent do what you want them to do. Either physically, HIA, or psychologically, ABD, PIA. Once we “get them where we want them” (that was no accidental play on words) we can apply what? The single direct attack. Attack by Combo contains nothing but a series of single direct attacks and each SDA in the combo serves the dual role of attacking and setting up the next attack. How Kung Fu. Hmm.
So, because I really enjoyed it, and I have to get to work, here is a video that does an excellent job of not just explaining but giving plenty of examples of the 5 ways of attack. Learn the five. Stay alive.
Do you take notes during class? After class? Do you journal? I try to. I've gotten better at it. Or at least more consistent. I was not a great note taker in school, for some reason the concept eluded me. Where I learned note taking was at work. The endless meetings or training classes. Any time I moved into a new role I would take copious notes and refer to them as I did my job until I knew my job. I guess that's the whole point yes?
But it can be hard to take notes while your stepping, lunging, wielding your weapon of choice. So at first I tried just sitting down immediately after class and tried to write down everything we did that night in class and try to remember some sayings or tips etc. That worked ok but it took away reflection time with the group as you packed up so then in became a choice of write or review with group. Going home and writing it then didn't seem to work either. After the drive home and settling in i may put it off. Or I was not always consistent in remembering everything due to tangents on subjects or just plain forgetting. Maybe this style works for you? If so great, because it also takes care of the journaling portion at the same time. Very Kung Fu.
What I found worked for me was the meeting style of note taking. Just jotting down thoughts, sayings, whatever, throughout the class. Sometimes there's time to flesh it out a bit or sometimes just enough for a word. Leaving spaces in between these jots for fleshing out later. I always try to be respectful and not interrupt the lesson or miss out because I'm taking notes. Just like in a meeting but here I keep my pad and pen in easy reach but out of the way. Then, at home that night I can go through and reflect on each piece fleshing them out in the spaces I left or just using them as a reference to journal out the night. A conversation on the nights events so to speak. Reliving it so soon and having to write out what we did is almost like teaching and we learn so much more when we teach. Having to explain it puts it into a different perspective and uses a different part of the mind aiding in memory retention. But remember to forget or you'll forget to remember.
So if you do notate your lessons how do you do it? What works for you? If you don't currently, give it a try and see if it doesn't help a little. Pen and sword in accord.
Off to train....
Today's article is from guest contributor Master At Arms James A Keating - ed.
Use of the "BEAT": The Comtech Perspective
The subject of this piece is the fencers tactic known as a "beat". It is defined as: A simple preparatory motion. A sharp controlled blow to the middle or 'weak' of the opponents blade, with the objective of provoking a reaction or creating an opening. The action should knock the opponent's blade aside or out of line. Found here (wiki) for future reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_fencing
The action of the "beat" can be employed as a probe to test the opponents defenses and to gain critical knowledge of how they fight. In this case the beat is done lightly. Just barely making the action itself. A non-commital testing, harassing and sniping. How does the opponent respond? Is his energy soft or rock hard? Is he aggressive or is he defensive? All questions that can answered silently, swiftly when the beat is used as an information gathering probe.
Italian - Battere / To beat aside your adversary's blade with rapier, foot or hand.
(Pallas Armata p.7) The beat is a prompt in some cases. You apply the beat and they angrily return it harder with an attack backing it. You wanted this response. Your "prompt" has worked. Now apply the beat once again, allow them to come back as before, but this time remove your blade. Circle under just as his blade touches yours, ride that direction & energy and strike him down from the other side.
In the instance of the beat and the use of stage magic principles it is often done to distract and is mixed in with other aspects like threats and attacks. While the beat is being performed the next phase of the encounter is the angle (this involves the spanish guard). This shows the psychological side of the beat tactic where distraction will cloak the true intent of your attack. The blade suddenly "disappears" and the "appears" again from the opposite side. This now presents you with four basic elements of the magician that you may employ in your overall assault. There are more to be sure, I limit myself from further discourse on magic since our topic is the "beat" not the creation of illusion.
When you apply the beat concept it is done fast and sharply. In Wing Chun the slap or pak sao is similar to the fencers beat. It is a short, snappy action much like we also see in kung fu's "Fa Jing" training (Example: the now famous one inch punch of Bruce Lee). In this case where blades are used the energy is swiftly directed laterally to clear the line for attack. To learn more about fa jing energy try here: http://www.kungfumagazine.com/forum/showthread.php?10964-the-definition-of-fa-jing
In the case of smaller knives instead of the larger blades the beat tranforms into a hand cut. There is not enough blade (length) to apply a beat on the small knives. So the beat logically becomes an attack to the limb. But retains the same energy of the beat, it's in and out fast with a snapping cut. With knives the timing also changes due to the lack of of leverage that is normally provided by the longer weapons. With small knives none of that counts. Small knives dictate a far more primitive method of blade usage that is more likely akin to simply fist fighting (pugilism) than knife fighting proper. Stubby blades are sure handy, but for fighting they are unfit for many reasons. But in today's world it is the small units that are legal to carry so they have become popular, not due to their functionality mind you, but for their convenience and legality.
The beat can act as a bridge or bridging action too. When done in the range some call "medio" it effectively serves the role of closing the distance safely. Done with a bowie knife or sword a double beat can be accomplished - I like this because it's unexpected, deceptive and implicitly violent. If the right conditions occur one may even try a triple beat followed by a reversed backcut. If you use a checking hand in your knife fighting style then this is also where you would possibly add the check simultaneously as the blade applied the beat (as a bridge).
Once you connect with the beat then you can swiftly strike. We have spoke about this aspect at length now. But at that very same moment you may otherwise attempt a secondary concept and move. You might adhere to his blade instead of speeding away from it. This is suppresion of his steel via contact of blades through the beat action. Join with him and mirror his actions (mirroring is a skill like any other, it oft comes naturally and is one of the easiest to teach or learn). As before, the checking hand or binding hand might be inserted during the supression of his weapon.
Just some thoughts shared with you loyal readers on the use of edged weapons and the concepts that govern them.
M.A.A. James A. Keating
Master At Arms James A Keating - Well known for his knife fighting skills, especially the bowie, is also well versed in many other martial arts including FMA, Wing Chun, Silat and many others. He has appeared in numerous major publications and books and has a popular DVD series on his Comtech method. He offers seminars and private lessons virtually year round out of his school Combat Technolgies in the Walla Walla, WA valley. You can find him on his web page at www.jamesakeating.com as well as his instructional series on youtube.
“That” Guy - A Public Service Announcement Ep. #1
“Shh shh, here he comes”.
In todays issue of “That” Guy we will be discussing “That” Guy. Where he came from, who created him and, more importantly, how do we get rid of him? Why is it important to the martial arts? We will also introduce you to the first “That” Guy.
Ok, so who is “that” guy? “That” guy can be defined as someone that does something that affects others in a negative way. Maybe its against the rules, maybe it’s a detriment to others or to the task at hand or otherwise impedes something you are doing as a group. Examples include people that microwave fish at work or have their music too loud at a stop light.
Where does he come from? Ignorance mostly. They are unaware that what they are doing is affecting anyone. Whether they are unaware of the social cue, the rules, whatever, they mostly don’t know that what they are doing is wrong or has an effect on anyone. For the ones that do and keep doing it, we will have a series on “them” later.
Who created them? You did! Congrats. How is that, you say? By not communicating. By not expressing, as a group, or individually, that what they are doing has an adverse effect on others. Yes, some people are slower than others and have different life experiences, we are all different. Whatever the reason, we need to notice that and be willing to speak up to ensure they know or are aware. Either as a group or individually. “Excuse me Bob, you may enjoy the smell of blue fish microwaved in an industrial 1100 watt microwave but it’s making the rest of us nauseous.” Once you do, you have either prevented the creation of a “that” guy or destroyed him in one fell swoop because hopefully, they make the adjustment. If not they end up in that “other” series. On the other hand, if you don’t speak out and help educate, you are the reason they exist. And you just became “that” guy yourself. So don’t be “that” guy.
“Ah, but what of social graces and people’s feelings? Why is it my responsibility?” Yes I admit these are valid concerns. The issue may be of a sensitive nature and we don’t want to cause embarrassment. We also cant take on the world alone, but again, as long as you are silent, they exist and slip into permanent “that” guy status for you. If you can live with that, great, if not, what to do? We are not all, nor could we be, great communicators. We may be too nice, or not confident ourselves. We may not have the communication skills or social graces to do so. And that’s ok. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we cant do it all. We also want to avoid conflict, as that is not the goal here but too often a side effect. So we want them to get the message and we want to avoid conflict. Whats the best way to do that? We employ the help of others. Just like we go to someone that’s good at plumbing to fix our sink, we find someone who would have influence or the communication skills to be able to effectively communicate the message. This could be a mutual friend, coworker, loved one or Bill Clinton. Or, a public blog.
And that’s where I come in. For the Yang has a Yin and here in the martial arts it is in the form of politeness to the extreme. We are more apprehensive of insulting someone or creating conflict. A lot is placed on etiquette and respect and its level is directly proportional to the extreme violence that we train for. And this is a good thing, but also at times a hindrance. So I will offer this Public Service to you, dear reader, from time to time, to get the message out to those that need it in a safe and positive manner. To help others as well as ourselves to live and train harmoniously so we can get better and progress. In the end isn’t that what we want?
Todays “That Guy” is the bad training partner. You know the one, the one that goes too hard, or is always trying to one up you. Or prevent you from doing the drill/technique/exercise at all. Even doing something completely different than what the teacher showed. There is a time and place for all that. Its called sparring or actual combat. Not in the training hall. And not in a training partner. A partner is a beneficial relationship. Each time we work with a partner we have give and take. We each have responsibilities. And that is to be just as helpful to them as they will be to you. Some drills or exercises work both people at the same time and both benefit simultaneously and sometimes you just have to take turns. Either way, if you are on the receiving end you are for all intents and purposes the Uki. Don’t be a bad Uki. Bad Uki’s aren’t Uki’s for very long. It takes just as much skill to be an Uki as anything else. You have to do your job well. There are also benefits of being an Uki. See this. Be a good Uki.
The Paul Bunyun, The Arnold Schwarzenegger, the strong man. You know “That” guy. Always going too hard. Always leaning too hard or bending that limb too far. Maybe he thinks this is what he should be doing. Maybe he is unaware that he is doing it. Maybe he doesn’t understand his own strength. Many people new to the martial arts do not have the sensitivity or the proper movements in their muscle memory. Because of this they are awkward, put the pressures in the wrong place and by doing so wear us, and them, out. Now we are more tired than we needed to be or maybe even injured. So much of what we do is finesse and physical strength gets in the way sometimes or is just not needed. Let them know. Yes, sometimes we up the intensity in our training and this is needed but agree before hand how far. Where is the ceiling today? Let the newbie know they are putting too much into something. Teach the new guy how to be a good training partner. Tell them when they are too heavy or going too hard, too fast. Slow it down. Lighten up. Help them understand and we all benefit. You get a good training partner and they get better. I was “this” guy. I was always too heavy. I’m glad my elder brothers kept mentioning it. It has helped me be a good training partner and a better marital artist. Win/win.
One-up-manship. Yeah, that guy. The one that always goes above that ceiling. Instead of giving the same that they are getting they just have to go just one notch harder. A light tap to their shoulder will get you a punch in the gut that drops you. Why is this? I suspect that some may have different tolerances and maybe they think they were meeting you? Again, they may be unaware. Let them know they are going too hard. Be prepared to be told they thought you were. You may not know your own strength. And together find a common ground. We want to maximize our time with our training partner and progress. There are also the ones that just will always go harder because that’s the way they are. Those make good opponents, not training/sparring partners. Let them know as best you can that they either make it beneficial for both or they might as well marry that mook jong.
The “Oh no, youre not pulling that one on me” guy. Oh man. “That” guy. You know the one. He prevents you from performing the technique on him and stops you each time from doing it. You know, the technique you just willingly and compliantly let him put on you. What’s up with that? I have no idea but you need to tell him to stop. Again, this is for the ring or the street. When you’re working on defenses or doing a drill where you want the guy to try and stop you, fine, but not in an educational setting where we are trying to get it down. To get good at what we do we need to succeed. We need to feel what it is like to succeed. If we can’t, we can’t progress. This is why we do these things at half speed and quarter speed. Once we know what we are looking for then we make it progressively harder. We don’t learn to write essays right away, we learn the words then the sentence structure, paragraphs etc. Each time progressing and getting better. We do this by going slow. The race car driver doesn’t start out doing 200 mph. He starts out like everyone else. Doing 25mph down the side street on a Sunday afternoon. If you are training down to your partner’s level remember to recognize where they are so you don’t inadvertently go too hard or do a more advance version of the drill. New guys? Listen to your elders and learn how to train effectively.
The Alternative Drill guy. Yeah, “that” guy. You know the one. The teacher spends however long showing you the drill or technique and goes over the nuances and you go to do it and the guy you’re working with is doing it slightly different or he was watching another show entirely. Why? Maybe he didn’t understand it. Maybe the way that concept was shown is not what is going to ring for him and he is exploring. Or maybe he did get it and is already moving on with it conceptually without regards to your level of understanding. They are all valid reasons for this happening but what to do? First, the teacher showed you this specific way or example for a reason. If your English teacher said to go read Hamlet you don’t go and read Harry Potter. You read Hamlet. So lets see why the teacher used that example by doing it correctly. If you feel you have it then try and correct them or ask an elder or the teacher themselves to help assist if you can’t both agree on how it should be done. Others may have a hard time performing it or understanding the concept and you’re doing them a service by getting the teacher involved. But communication is key. Learn the move/drill as shown and explore the lesson there. Be a good training partner and make sure you both understand the lesson. Then once understood communicate that you want to evolve your understanding of it by exploring other options etc. and be open to their ideas as well. Give and Take. If they are not ready, that’s ok, a good session will have you switching partners often or even just ask to switch.
So the next time you touch hands or cross weapons with your trainer partner do a self check and make sure you’re being a good training partner and not “that” guy. And don’t be afraid to speak up. An opponent only has a responsibility to himself. A training partner has a responsibility to both himself and his partner.
I sat there, in the back of the English class where I usually try to sit, waiting for class to start and I noticed the teacher acting strangely. I looked around and no one else seemed to notice. Ms. Blume was one of the most laid back teachers who never even got mildy upset. Ms Blume was just pacing back and forth in the front of the class. A real concentrated look on her usually jovial face. I had no idea what kind of mood this was. I again looked around and no one seemed to notice. Then I realize she had a very large book in her one hand and was moving it up and down in a weighing motion. As I thought to myself that the book must have some significance, she suddenly turns and slams that large book down on the table with a loud BOOM! and with a look of absolute sheer terror, eyes wide as they can go, she shouts “THE DEVIL IS REAL!”. Every head snapped to her. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone stood frozen waiting for what would happen next. Myself no less affected by this event though I had something of a warning. Ms Blume, who had been running her maniacal gaze across the room touching everyone like a good speaker can do, stood up straight and let her features return to normal and said, “The extreme always makes an impression. So said Jeff Hardy. And he was right.” Yes, I thought, he was. I knew then that I would never forget this. That the imprint was already there.
I have thought of that moment many times over the years and how it can be applied to the situation at hand. Her examples were of the literary kind, but as a concept it can be easily applied to anything. From military strategy to politics to music. So lets apply this to combat. We want to create a reaction in them that will affect them psychologically so they will pause and/or react a certain way. We need an edge. We need a way to make them play our tune and do what we want them to do. So do something extreme, make them not want that to happen again so they have that nervous tick.
I was having a hard time deciding on an example I wanted to use for the article until I came across a video of Maestro Selberg discussing feints. And right there in the middle of the video was the concept of the extreme making an impression. Thank you Maestro. Please enjoy the video.
The Psychology of Feints
Time is like a river. You cannot change the path over which it has already flowed, but you can change the course of where it is going. In combat, do not dwell on your mistakes or the play that didn't work. Instead, keep flowing, forging a new path. Always moving. Always inevitable. Be like a river. Follow the path of least resistance. If you see emptiness, fill it. If an obstacle gets in your way, go around it. If it cannot be avoided crash over it. Be like a river. Remain calm and indifferent. Never show the torrent that lies underneath. Let them be lulled in thinking its safe to enter then suck them in! Be like a river. The river cares not in which way it flows or where it is going. It just knows that it must keep moving or it becomes a lake. Do not anticipate the outcome or how it will look getting there. Accept what comes and deal with it. Victory is your destination. Be like a river.
- REF 4/2017
The knife is one of man’s oldest tools. It can feed us, protect us, and give us shelter. It has forged dynasties and gangs alike and taken them down just the same. It has been man’s best friend for millennia. Sorry doggies.
In the 1800s no man went without a knife, it was survival tool number one. And for a short but very intense time no man went without a Bowie knife. The knife inspired awe and fear, It was simple and direct in its complexity. A true innovation in knife design. Till then knifes either slashed or thrust, but this knife could do both, and just as well one as the other. No decay in performance by its multitasking nature yet it only had one job. And it did it well. Soon after its inception by the collaboration of Jim Bowie and James Black it rocketed to the forefront of the American conscious riding on the fame of the man whose name it bore. Schools cropped up on every corner in New Orleans. England, seeing the craze, started exporting “Authentic” Bowies en masse to the shores of America and the people ate them up just as fast. This was no ordinary knife. It was magical, it was mysterious. It was forging a new country.
But like most things that flash so brightly into existence its downfall was just as meteoric. The shark like efficiency at which it did its job was too much for the new softer sensibilities of the city folk in industrialized America and the rapid advancements in firearms soon relegated it to a side arm, a back up to the American cowboy or mountain man expanding into the Wild West. Anti-dueling laws and even laws against the dreaded Bowie itself were the final nail in this coffin. Yet the mystery lived on.
While the methods and men of the bowie were slowly fading into the past it found a way to live on the fringe. Its namesake was a national hero. Not soon to be forgotten. And you just really can’t get rid of something that just makes that much sense. It stayed on with the mountain men who explored and trapped but that too was soon over. So it went where all tools end up in this industrialized machine that was America. The War department. Over the years it was made into a jungle knife and bayonet called the Krag Bowie Bayonet and returned as a favored service issued knife for our troops in Vietnam, in the form of the Western W49.
But the bowie never really left the conscious of America. It was America. Hold a katana and what do you think of? Japan. Hold a rapier and you think Italy, a claymore you think of Scotland. What is more American than a Bowie? But while the bowie knife itself will probably always be a popular choice, correctly made or identified or not, it’s the use that almost truly died out.
And it was with that in mind that a group of 12 men collected in the Pacific Northwest at the Comtech Bowie Seminar in April of 2017. All the players there had strong skill sets and a high aptitude for the material being presented making for a “stellar” weekend. The 2017 Comtech Bowie Seminar kicked off with the clang of steel and the twang of a banjo as we commenced a quick review of the basics. Task accomplished we wasted no time flowing into foot work, stance work, a few drills and master combos. Master at Arms James A Keating had planned the work and we were working the plan and the pace was brisk. After a meal break we covered some of the nuances that make up American fencing and then we masked up. En guard! And that was just day one. It was a very full 3 days and being an instructor level class there was much to go over.
Master at Arms James A Keating brought his seemingly endless knowledge of the rich history and use of American fencing and the way of the Bowie. Keeping alive that which was almost lost and carrying on the echo of a knife and of a man that made a permanent and lasting impression on the foundation of this country. Passing down the secrets verbally and with action! Giving us the task of discovering its secrets, and of evolving the art. Endowing to us the responsibility of keeping this piece of American history alive and sharing with others as he shares with us. Of continuing the echo. Task accepted Maestro.
What a great group of men to train side by side with. A real treat. Its rare to see such a keenly focused group, a thirst for this knowledge a common bond creating instant comradery. The task at hand always in front, always forward. Sharing knowledge and insights, students and teachers at once. I am proud to have trained next to these renaissance men. I am proud to carry on these teachings. But lest you think we would incur the wrath of the gods and our forefathers, homage was paid to those who came before. For like anything else, American fencing has even deeper roots and we must acknowledge them as well. The unique nature of the Bowie allows both longer and shorter range weapon concepts to be used. Of both slashing and thrusting. And in its, once again, unique way, a third dimension, the dreaded…shhhhh, it’s a secret. Ha!, Not really, but I’ll leave something to the imagination, I’ll contribute to the mystery of this American legend. But if you really want to know, stick around and we’ll have a “conversation”.