Friday, August 25, 2017

Lots of Pushups

You may have wondered about the title of my previous blog post, "Musings of a Ronin". A Ronin, or Wave Man, is a masterless warrior, sourced from the Japanese samurai era, in which a warrior would travel around searching for work, typically as a mercenary, bodyguard or teacher. Of which, I've been all three to a point. My 23andMe genetics test claims I do have an ancestor whom was at least 100% Japanese about 350 years ago. So, hey, maybe I am descended from a Ronin!

Continuing off from last post, the story ended with me recounting my first school, and sitting in a loft watching the noobs learn deadly punches from horse stance. A horse stance is, feet spread apart to about twice one's shoulder's width, then squat like a bear taking a shit.

My next major flash of memory is standing in the bleachers of the school in front stance copying the adults in class. A front stance is a deep forward lunge to deliver strikes. If you've ever done yoga, this is identical to warrior pose. I could never quite do front stance perfect, due to inflexible ankles messing with my form. Which leads me to my next blurry memory: I'm doing pushups, in the bleachers, because the instructor of the class didn't like my front stance. My mother happily recounts this story often. She stated I had to do A LOT of pushups, even though I wasn't a student yet, I was merely spectating! Stupid inflexible ankles!

I have a few more early flashes of memory, then we start getting into full motion video, lessons learned and funny moments. My next memory is seeing the class train in the nearby park, in the grass, with their white karate gi's on. I see green knees and elbows. Apparently they were doing takedowns and the grass was thier mat. I like this. Train in real world turf!

At the same school, I am still about five, maybe even six by now. I'm sitting in the bleachers, it was a demonstration of some sort. Tons of students were on the floor. I remember seeing a black belt, I knew his name at the time, but cannot recall it now. He ran across the room, attempted a jump flying kick and failed to extend his foot in time. He violently smashed, awkwardly, into a stack of boards with his knee. I remember the rush of people around him, and me being worried. This was the first of many martial arts injuries I will witness. This is also the final memory from that school.

Next post teaser, I am about six or seven, and learn my first tactical lesson...from a girl!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Musings of a Ronin.

I remember quite distinctly my two earliest memories. The first is a confirmed account of a mere flash memory. Two frames out of an old, grainy movie film strip, of me reaching up for a bottle. The background is dark, the bottle, is the shape of a Flintstone cartoon character, and I can see both of my hands reaching for it.

The next memory, was while I was sitting on the floor of a living room in a old farmhouse near Medford, Oregon. My mother, sitting on the couch reading a newspaper, said something about karate classes. I remember being instantly focused upon her words. At this point, I have tons of life memories scattered in all directions. For purposes of this blog, I would like to take this path strictly down the martial arts memories, lesson learned, and interesting tidbits. I shall change the names to protect the not-so-innocent.

My first real martial arts memory. Once again, I am sitting on my butt, all I see is a single grainy frame. In my mind I am panning around looking at the details. I am sitting on a loft, with my back towards the railing, inches away from certain death. Watching the noobs, in the their workout clothes sitting deeply in horse stance. Later, I would learn, this was the introduction class to weed out the weak, before being thrown into the meat grinder. I recently spoke with my mother to get some approximate dates of these initial events. She said it was eight months before Chuck Norris's "A Force of One" came out. Doing some amazing math, this would have been about November of 1978. I would have just turned five years old.

Out of curiosity, I performed some Internet sleuthing. I found the school! The loft is still there, seen clearly in the background! The school looked so much bigger in my child hood mind. Talk about a serious blast from the past!
I have a few stories from this time period. Which I will save for next time.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"...lifting with one finger a good-sized man by the belt..."

..."feats that anyone can perform after persistent exercise."
Sourced from: A Triumph for Physical Culture” by Ron Tyrrell.

I persistently exercise...let's see if I can do this! I grabbed a 45lb bar, stuffed four 10lb plates on it. Squatting over the bar, I extended my most precious shooting finger out and confidently wrapped the bar. Breathing deeply in, then out forcefully, I gave the bar a solid pull...nearly ripping my shooting finger off in the process and crapping my pants. I'm not a strongman. Let's try two fingers perhaps. Sticking out a pair of eye pokers I gripped the bar. With a solid yank, the bar came off the ground unbalanced, one end clanging back to the mat. I was instantly surprised and amused at the possibility. Much like jiu jitsu, the ability to execute a technique is more often than not an issue with balance, not strength. Shifting my fingers to a better spot...VOILA! Three inches off the mat, I was able to hover the bar. Notice my shitty ass lifting form. I used my left hand on my knee to keep my lower back from super nova exploding. This was mostly deltoid, rhomboid, subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and probably a pile of other little muscles.

"And he could perform a one-arm pull-up by pinch gripping the bottom link of a hanging chain, and even holding the link with only his index finger. He could do as many as ten of these one-fingered pull-ups at a time, and could still perform this feat when he was 68 years old." Source: ""
I don't think I could pull off that party trick. But as a BIG fan of pull ups, I figured well fuck yeah I can get my fat ass up there with a two handed pull up...with one finger per hand. NOPE. I hooked my claws onto the bar and tried..miserably. The second I got a third of my weight onto my pair of videogame trigger fingers, they failed. So...back up a bit and I tried two fingers per hand...I was able to pump out two solid reps, and a craptastical third.

Not a bad fitness feat for a 40 year old huh?

Now go train!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ten soldiers

...wisely led will beat a hundred without a head. ~ Euripdes

When I was 12 (many years ago), I was learning Shotokan Karate from my father. Back then, the comparison between styles was the normal calculator for effectiveness. For example, one guy would say he trained in some esoteric form of Tree Rat Krav Maga, which of course would beat mall karate. People were stylistically fearful. Of course, this is all horseshit. How vigorous the person training is the key.

Yet, there are exceptions to the above.

On the way home from karate class, I had asked my father one question, "Where there any other martial arts you would like to learn?" Anticipating an answer of ,"No, Shotokan is the little shit. Now shut up!"

His answer was different, "Jiu jitsu."
Me, puzzled, "Why is that?"
Him, "Because it's a killing art."

Fucking mind blown. That is the specific moment which started my search for jiu jitsu. Not because I wanted to kill anyone. But rather for the serious effectiveness of such an art. For karate by then early 80's had already began heavy watering down, and started to become jazzercise with elbow strikes. It eventually became bullshit. My dad hated this crap, as do I. Although my dad no longer really trains, his mental capacity for it is still very sharp, and can read an opponent incredibly well(something rarely anyone teaches anymore, except when I'm teaching the noobs). When we watch the UFC, he complains about hand position, foot rotation, balance, sloppy execution and generally poor technique. Often times before Joe Rogan can fire off the same critique.

Modern jiu jitsu (the Brazilian variant) is just now, slightly starting to see the same shift. There are a few out there who speak fondly of old-school "1994 jiu jitsu". This is the key indicator, the same warning we saw with karate in the 80's; this is the demarcation between good and bad. Many years from now, if my progeny asks me what style I would consider learning:
Me: "1994 jiu jitsu."
"Why?", they ask.
Me, "Because it's a killing art."

Thanks pop!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tactics Vs Technique

It seems all good stories start with either, "So, there I was..." or even better, "Hold my beer, let me show you something...".

I don't drink. So, there I was, on my grade school playground about nine years old. I was playing tether ball by myself, happily smashing the shit out of the ball. Watching it twist around the pole was both physically refreshing, and mentally exciting. Watching physics at work is mesmerizing for me then and still is today.

A few minutes into my fun, this little turd approached my laboratory. He decided he wanted to perform some research on his own. I wasn't all that interested in sharing my certain future as a Nobel Prize winner in low-Earth orbital mechanics. This advanced aged spermatozoa grabbed the ball and locked onto it. My demeanor went instantly from quiet nerd into a mutant, flesh eating virus from a Cold War East German biological weapons lab. I wanted to expand wreckage across his smiling face.

I reached for the ball, fingers extended (mistake #1), and started to yank the ball back. The asshole bit my right middle two fingers. I'm talking an accurate, interpretive dance of a bear gnawing a camper's legs off. I was paralyzed! "Ahh fucker! Let go you cock gobbling asshole!", I screamed. (or something along those lines, but I am CERTAIN I said fuck or ass in there somewhere...) Eventually he let go, and still had the ball. Mother fucker.

So...this butthole executed a nice technique: biting. Practiced three times a day of course. His excellent tactic though, involved waiting (or baiting?) me to attack, then stupidly extending my arms in a weaker position. His tactic, empowered his technique. Not the other way around. Jiu jitsu, work or whatever, I believe can leverage this principle. Next time you are stuck in a scenario requiring you to act...think about what would ENABLE and EMPOWER your action. Is there a strategy to weaken my opponent's balance? Can I orient myself at his weakest angle? Can I force him to over-extend his attack? Can I read his movements and feel for when he is about to act? Can I wear him down? Can I use my attributes (speed, power, flexibility) to counter his action? Can I keep him from not acting at all?

Tactics bitches. This shit works! A slightly off-tangent BJJ concept is position before submission. Yet, I believe a position is still a technique, and tactics need be employed to gain that position, which can then lead to another tactic, which may then lead to a submission.

The military has a concept called OODA. Orient, observe, direct, act. Look this shit up, it's gold. It's full of details, concepts, feedback loops etc..

That is all I have for today.
As far as I can remember I've never played tether ball again, but I'll never forget that little fucker.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Old age and...

...treachery will always beat youth and vigor.

I fucking love that saying. As I leave my 30's, this has entered my mind more frequently. Probably because I now feel the challenge isn't between my opponent and myself, but rather my age and my opponent's youthfulness. Quite often I pride my self on beating the run times, pushup counts, cardio-what-the-fuck-ever of those half my age. Gleefully snorting by badassery, which really isn't all that impressive. It's really just for my own self-esteem mostly.

There is some merit to be rewarded to the older individual, when challenged by a younger, less weathered body and mind. My dad for example is an old school traditional martial artist. Training since the 1970's, that's 40+ years! The constant repetition of the same mental activity: kill the other mother fucker before he kills you...and kill him quickly, brutally and efficiently (scare off and terrify his friends). I am 100% convinced there is no doubt in his mind, he would not hesitate for a nano-second to stab a dude in the trachea with one of his really awesome homemade wooden pens, if said dude crossed my dad in a life threatening way. I've seen my dad kick a side view mirror off a car once. I've seen him slice all four of the sidewalls(tires) of another car... All moments of exact execution of his intention. A rather large individual of African heritage once beat down a chick in a restaurant we were at in Las Vegas. My dad smoothly stood up and moved toward the douche nozzle. The casino security intercepted the potentially lethal situation before my dad had his chance. He simply stopped, and turned 180 degrees. While walking back to our table I could see the him putting away an aggressive looking folding-fighting knife. He was serious. Interestingly, his demeanor didn't really change as he sat down to continue eating whatever-the-hell he was eating. As if nothing happened. To him it was just another step on the road.

Last night, I was able to experience a tiny bit of this. Perhaps one day, I'll be just as efficient as my dad in such endeavors. My nightly ritual: brush my teeth, piss, disrobe completely, and run from my master bath toward my bed at full steam, so that I can get maximum airtime as I leap into my soft, squishy bed. I land, wrap up like a mummy in my bedsheets and close my eyes. Not more than five minutes into my dreams of armbars, stripclubs and Taliban hunting, I hear what sounded like a hammer hitting my front door. I'm happy to report, instead of shitting myself, I simply opened my eyes and laid still. I was listening for movement. I wanted to know if there was an actual threat incoming or not. Since I wasn't nervous or excited, I was able to quietly listen, no heavy breathing or heartbeat interfered with my aural scanning. I couldn't hear shit, my damn door was closed. For tactical reasons, I figure someone would have to open the door which would alert me, plus it offers concealment from vision. I felt safe enough to sit up, and continue staring into the darkness. I did not want to look out my window with a streetlamp on. This would fuck up my night vision. I stood up and took a step to my door. Put my ear to it and listened. Nothing. Fuck. Should I get my gun? Fuck, it's all the way over there. Dammit, I put my gun on the defensive side of the bed, opposite side of the door so that I could roll off onto the safe side, get my gun and use the bed as concealment from the door. Hmmm what to do.... Fuck it, next to my head is a eight foot long African hunting spear, with an eight inch long sharp as hell, leaf shaped blade on one end. The other end is a two foot long, half inch diameter spike. It will FUCK YOU UP. I grab that bitch and open my door.

So now, I'm thinking. I'm butt ass naked with an eight foot long spear about to pounce on some fucktard, whom is either one, going to shit himself to death when he sees me. Or two, try to kill me with fire, because I'm the baddest mother fucker he's ever seen: a stark naked, smiling white guy, with an African weapon of war, poised for battle like a Greek warrior. I'm secretly hoping for number two. Although I do not have a helmet nor a shield, I will HAPPILY don that gear upon the next intrusion into my domicile. Fuck yeah!

I take a nice step forward, positioning the long ass spear in my skinny hallway in such a way as to use it effectively. Which in this case means, it is pointed nearly straight fucking down and all I'll be stabbing will be the anterior tibialis muscle of the shin. Not very sexy. I peek out and see nothing. Fuck. I step out into my Spartan living room, and then all of a sudden I see the fucking most awesome thing ever. There is a night light near the floor right behind my ankles, shining the most amazing huge, silhouette of a my naked ass, with a spear, upon my white living room wall. It looks FUCKING COOL! Forget the intruder, check that shit out! I narcissistically stare at that for a minute (or three) then realize I have work to do.

At this point I'm actually bored, I have my spear, I have no intruder, and no signs of anything. It was probably the wind or some animal. The thing I need to say is, much like my dad, I was in a fully stoic mindset. I knew for a fact, the bladed point would be piercing the neck of some crackhead if they had entered my domain aggressively. Not a single bit of emotional context, or worry. As they taught us in Nuclear/Biological/Chemical Warfare school: let the training take over. As I swept through my house with my African lance, the training had fully taken control of my mind and movements. No hesitation, nor care in the world to be had. A completely clear conscience, before, during and most importantly AFTER all of this.

I remember once being scared as a little boy about crickets, mummies under my bed, witches over my bed (still one of the reasons why I still feel more comfortable sleeping face down), and ghosts. Now, I WISH there were mummies, I'll fuck them up.

Jiu jitsu, work etc.. I believe may occasionally benefit greatly from this sort of stoic, steeled, and cold intention. Don't give a fuck at all about inconsequential outcomes, or during extreme cases where one may die (so long as it's YOU whom will live). Execute like a robot. Fail? Reprogram. Test. Fight. Repeat. This sort of reprogram, test, fight, repeat cycle as one ages gets VERY GOOD,  VERY FAST, and VERY EFFICIENT...

Look forward to your advancing age, and smile knowing you'll FUCK THEM UP!

p.s. I put my spear back in it's place. I then went back to sleep as before; as I always do...with maximum distance and speed, for maximum airtime.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

There is nothing...

noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.
~Ernest Hemingway

That's some tasty shit right there. Normally, "tasty" and "shit" should not be in the same sentence but you know what the fuck I mean.

Combat sports, crossfit, full contact bar mitzvahs, or whenever the fuck you like to do, one must ignore the victories of your opponents (or sometimes perceived opponents in the cases of rivalry) over oneself. Everyone progresses at a different pace, opponents may have a fucking amazing day, while you may have a shit day. It just happens. If you lose a fight, go back and read this shit again. If a rival beats your personal record, fuck 'em, then re-read this shit.

Secondly, Hanlon's Razor: it's not always about malice. I'm a firm believer in this. People aren't always out to get you. They may chase you a bit, you run a bit faster to escape, and damn you got a bit better. This is good. Or they may become victorious due to blind ass luck or perhaps raw stupidity; it happens. Or you may be the pursuer, and must over take! Think about your past pursuits in life, did they contain malice? Probably not, most people in my rose colored view of the world have mostly honorable intentions.

I had read a story a long time ago about a student judoka. He was an advanced student and was grappling with a lesser student. He took it easy on him, as people tend to do in combat sports. The sensei became enraged and admonished the advanced student for not properly training. The instructor considered not training at 100% was ineffectual. At all times, the mind and body should be pushing for 100%. But does this mean flip the noob on top of his head and break something? No. Does it mean smash the fuck out of him when on top and rain down some elbows? No.

It means, one's intent is 100%.

Apply your skill for the kill. Yet, protect your training partner from certain death. Control is vital. Yesterday, I taught a jiu jitsu class. I'm the senior ranked individual in a sea of brand new white belts. I have 30 years of experience, they have maybe 30 minutes. It's my class too, I want to train too, therefore my intent is 100%. I gleefully swept the fuck out of everyone I could get my hands onto, I passed their guards freely, I applied submissions at will. It was no big deal. We always left the mat sweaty and smiling(often laughing!). They lost, I won, no big fuckering deal. I trained at 100%, got a TINY, MICROFRACTION better, and they did too. Perhaps not in their own technique, but rather the experience of feeling effective technique. Now, they can mimic me and apply it to others. We are now both better than when we stepped onto the mat two hours earlier. Win for them, win for me.

In my classes, I always explain, roll with a fucking purpose, not to fucking win(I'll say it just like that when there no kids around). This goes for other sports as well(crossfit, archery, synchronized tea bagging to music), there must be a purpose. One cannot win in training. One shall only win in the moments of personal gain; you've bested your former self. So, when a noobie rolls with me, I fucking win, yes I go for the kill, but I lead them through the fight so that they may also learn, enjoy the struggle, have some fun, not get injured, and want to come back for more. If there isn't at least one moment of laughter during my rolls, then something is wrong. As they get better and craftier, I must also step it up a notch. Win for them, win for me.