Sunday, July 20, 2014

Welcome to my Blog!

           This blog is intended to be a place for study, conversation, and critical thinking for those interested in truly understanding the Martial Arts.  My intention is to bring the perspective of a Martial Artist, born at the end of the Kung Fu explosion and at the start of the Ninja Boom, into focus through the lens of training and the study of source materials, new and old.  We will discuss a lot of topics in this Blog, and hopefully a lot of preconceived notions will be challenged.
What could leave scratches like that?
 It is my intention to use this blog to sort out fact from fiction, fraud from prodigy, theory from practice, and reality from fantasy.  I have been a student of Japanese arts (Karate, Judo/Jujutsu, Aikido) since I was old enough to stand.  I have had many instructors in many systems over the years; as a result, I have a very strong overview of both grappling and striking arts.  Furthermore, as a product of the 80s, any interest I naturally had in Martial Arts was multiplied many times by the slow building interest of others around me; the Media included.  While my friends were talking about football players, I was thinking about Sho Kosugi movies.
Anybody got an itch?
 But slowly, my friends started seeing movies that caught their fancy, and then what I had been into for years seemed to make sense to them finally!  I remember the moment when suddenly the "cool" kids were asking me to show them some Karate ("Ninja stuff" as we referred to it); and we would practice things on the balance beam at lunch.  I wasn't the only person that wanted to be a Ninja, just the first in my school!  I remember when a middle-schooler on the bus challenged me in 3rd grade.  He said "I heard you're a Ninja and know some wrist thing"  and challenged me 
(in a most unpleasant way) to do it to him.  I put him in the only wrist lock I knew (clumsily), as hard as I could.  It worked.  I would later learn that it was Kotegaeshi, and it would even later, serve me again.  Then there were the Ninja Turtles; and life was good for a geek that was interested in Japanese Martial Arts!
Were you expecting Michelangelo??

Now we have come full circle.  The glory days when people knew nothing about Martial Arts are long gone, only to have come to an even worse place; where Martial Arts are so commonplace that far too many people are "experts" and "Masters", with no Martial Arts substance beyond their choreography; and every layman is of the mistaken impression that they too are knowledgeable about the Martial Arts because they recognize the term.  What used to seem to be a very sophisticated fight scene in movies is now seen to be garbage by modern audiences; unless people are flying all over on wires.
What a riveting moment to capture forever!  Clearly, the deciding moment
of a terribly exciting battle!!  How many back flips will you do
in your life-and-death sword fight (you know, with LASER swords)?
 Spectacle has overtaken substance. The original Star Wars film depicted a battle between Jedi Masters.  It was a slow and cautious death match.  They both knew one of them would die by the end of that encounter.  They worked on timing and distance, while they seemed to be bantering.  Yoda, in these early films depicted the epitome of the highest level of Martial Artist.  He who does not need to fight.  Yes, Yoda was of advanced age, but we are always led to believe that Yoda's powers are just as strong, if not stronger than ever.   

Yoda is able to lift the X Wing Fighter when Luke, though much younger, cannot.
This is what he looks like when he's going crazy!!
 Yoda to me was always exhibiting the characteristics of Morihei Ueshiba (to be honest, Ueshiba reminded me of Yoda, not the other way around...). Yoda is something like 900 years old.  The prequels take place about 20 years prior.  That means that for 880 years, Yoda was a lunatic.  Bouncing everywhere, spinning in little balls, flipping his light saber, being a showman.  It isn't until he hits 900 that he thinks about slowing down?
Not this...
 A real show of Yoda's power would be to demonstrate his reserve, even in his younger years.  When others fly at him, he stands ready only to move in the slightest at the last moment.  That is the essence of Yoda.  It was always supposed to be his skill with the force, not with a light-saber, that defined Yoda, and certainly not his somersaulting.  Like Ueshiba, an old man standing there laughing at you as he slowly side steps your fast, powerful attack.  

If you open the door the exact moment he expects to strike the door,
You have mastered Aikido, and the Martial Arts in general!
Bugs Bunny constructing a door, then opening it to reveal to a rapidly advancing coyote, the edge of a cliff.  That is what the Martial Arts are all about, certainly Aikido!  And a little knowledge is dangerous.  The Star Wars Team  clearly thought that they needed to inject "Martial Arts Action" into the new films
by choreographing complex athletic and gymnastic fight sequences.  But true Martial Artists know that those complex fight sequences in almost every way, are the antithesis of what the Martial Arts are about.  The original Karate Kid  movie addressed this very problem indirectly.  One of the subtexts of the film is that Karate had gone from a serious, secret practice in Okinawa, to a world wide commodity; diluted and spread thinly.  

While boards don't hit back...  
They portray "modern" Karate as 
a corruption of true Karate with big commercial Dojo, military discipline, point tournaments, and even belts themselves. And in the end, anything that becomes so big, inflated, and self-important must be torn down and rebuilt again.  Big Karate came about as a means to improve and expand backyard Karate, only to have backyard Karate eventually seen as the remedy to bring corporate Karate back to its core.
This guy is showing some SKILLZ!  This can't end well!

The takeaway from that is that even today, with Karate Dojo everywhere, it can still be hard to find Karate.  A lot of people like to use the term Krotty, or like to refer to those schools as McDojo.  When I say we have come full circle, I mean we have gone from a time when people knew nothing about Martial Arts, to a time when people think they know about Martial arts, but actually know nothing about Martial Arts.  And somewhere in the middle, I began training.  
           I am a traditionalist.  I don't think your weapons need to light up or make sound, in fact I think they should not.   I think you should instead make every movement with the knowledge that this movement will kill or harm someone (or protect against the same).  Good with a Bo can mean different things.  In the 1800s it meant you could protect yourself with it, and were willing to do so.  It should mean the same thing now; not that you can spin it behind your back doing a one handed head stand.  The best example of TRUE Martial Arts I've ever seen is when Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman after his technical display.  Indy doesn't engage in a contest of showmanship, and the other's sword technique is undaunting to him.   
And, it did not...

If you can do a 570 degree jump spin kick and land in a split on two folding chairs, that is truly impressive to me.  Nice!  But that has nothing to do with Karate.      

That is what this Blog intends to focus upon.  

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