20060502 Tuesday May 02, 2006

Toss This Guy

I just wanted to give you a flavor of the tournament. The pics are up on my karate set at flickr.

I got to throw this guy:

Like This:

It was quite fun. :) BTW, that‘s my sensei in the red gi on the far right (one of the judges).

(2006-05-02 09:35:29.0) Permalink Trackback Comments [2]

20060501 Monday May 01, 2006

Trophies in Every Event

I participated in the TKA regional tournament at Montgomery Community College, Rockville Campus on Saturday. I placed in every competition I participated in: forms, fighting, and one-steps. In forms and fighting I got second place, and in one-steps I kept my reigning champion status of first place.

I faltered a bit in the middle of my forms, because I pulled a blank as to what the next move was. While I was very frustrated, I told myself to keep going and hope they didn‘t see the moment of doubt. I did have better power and precision than many of my opponents, of which there were only 8 in my division. That saved me. Safe to say, I wasn‘t too dissapointed with a second place trophy.

Fighting was a lot more fun this year. Having learned from the last time I participated, I kept a liter of water on hand for between rounds. I was much more prepared and ready for each round. The first three people I fought were definite victories. I‘m more of a hands person, so once I got inside I dominated. One person I fought was afraid to make the first move, so I had to move in slowly, lead with a kick and follow up with the hands. The last guy is the one that gave me the most fits. I‘m not used to fighting someone who will kick to the head, so I just don‘t have the arsenal in my repetoire to deal with that — legally anyway. I made contact twice. Once to the face, not hard, but enough to get a warning — IMO we should be able to handle contact like that in a tournament. The second time, my opponent faked a punch, so I responded with a kick aiming for the floating ribs. He switched it to a high kick to my head, leaving only one target to the side kick already in progress…. I got disqualified for second contact to the groin. So, I got second place for fighting because I lost the match but one the street fight.

One-steps seems to be my natural arena. My first time competing I got a first place trophy, beating two brown belts. This time there were no brown belts, but I still got first place. Instead of doing the Okinawan one-steps, I switched it up and performed some Jujitsu techniques to keep things fresh and interesting. The techniques I demonstrated were a full nelson, two punch defenses, a mugger‘s grip, and finally a head lock where my opponent takes me down. It helped that I threw around someone bigger than me.

All in all, it was a very good tournament. It‘s the first time I placed in everything I competed in. I have some work to do in the fighting event, but I don‘t have anyone that is able to kick to the head. My sensei gave me some tips, and I‘ll have to work on those. I have pictures that I‘m getting back from the developer today so by the end of the week they will be up on Flickr.

(2006-05-01 10:59:21.0) Permalink Trackback

20060216 Thursday February 16, 2006

Modifying the stance on Knife and Club defenses

When Mr. P (my sensei) first taught me knife and club defences, I stood facing the person head on. The purpose was to teach the technique in a simplified way. The beginning scenario was basically somebody gets mad, their out of control, grabs a knife and attacks. This person isn‘t worried about tyring to fake their opponent out, they are fully committed. It‘s not a realistic expectation if someone were to pull a knife on the street. That person, whether they are trained professionals or not, aren‘t going to fully commit themselves until they absolutely need to.

Tuesday, Mr. P had me start in a modified fighting stance. The arm closest to the assailant was tucked going straight down right along my body. The arm away from the assailant was in the normal ready position — even though it doesn‘t always do much. The different techniques I‘ve already learned work better either from a closed stance or an open stance (i.e. the bellies facing in opposite directions or the bellies facing the same direction respectively). It adds a whole new dimension to the same techniques I already learned.

Even if the assailant likes to nick and poke, they have to commit if they are going to do any damage. All the vitals are pretty well protected. From there I don‘t have to worry about getting my body into position because I‘m already there.

I have no allusions of grandeur, nor do I think I‘m ready for a knife fight. Honestly, I hope I never have to use this knowledge. A knife is one of the most dangerous weapons on the planet. Within a certain range (like 2 meters), a knife is far more deadly than a gun. Its range of motion and ability to cut at almost any angle makes it a losing proposition. By comparison, a gun is much easier to disarm and clear the line of fire. I‘m not saying I want to find out by experience, I‘m just saying that any situation where your assailant has a weapon your chances of survival go way down.

As usual, I will stick to Verbal Judo as my first defence.

(2006-02-16 09:41:23.0) Permalink Trackback

20051230 Friday December 30, 2005

New Weapon for my Collection

Chinese Chain Whip
Originally uploaded by Berin Loritsch.
My friend Mike gave me another weapon for my collection. This is a Chinese chain wip. As you can see, this type of weapon is not easy to control.

If you were to try and snap this wip like you would a bull wip, you would probably hurt yourself. The goal with a weapon like this is to let the weight of the wip drive the point at your target. Like other linked weapons, you control it by using your arms and legs to redirect it.

To be honest, this is not really the kind of weapon on my list of things I'd like to learn. I'm learning the basics of weapon control with the bo staff, and I've learned some knife, club, and gun defenses. The first on my list of weapons I'd like to learn is the tonfa. The tonfa look like police batons, and are made of wood. Much more practical for an improvised weapon should a situation ever occur (which of course I hope never happens).

The biggest challenge with the wip will be how to display it. Having something and not doing anything with it is kind of pointless in my book. Either learn how to use it or display it (or both).
(2005-12-30 09:53:21.0) Permalink Trackback

20051109 Wednesday November 09, 2005

40 Years of TKA

My sensei gave me a copy of the 40th Aniversary DVD of Tompkins Karate Association for some inspiration. Let me tell you, some of the vintage footage on that DVD is incredible. There were a couple demonstration routines with bo staff that had a combination of incredible skill and elements of humor. It's interesting to see the evolution of the art. Back in the 60s and 70s when we had a combination of less litigation and more of a need for self defense, the techniques were simple, effective, clean, and powerful. Today we have more litigation, less patience, and a desire for more flash. The techniques are more intricate, less practical, and less effective. It lacks the elegance of simplicity that the art originally had.

One of the more humorous demonstrations was a weapons kata with a mug rack. That's right, one of those collapsable mug racks. I can't imagine that the mug rack would really be that effective (I think it would break on first contact), but it would serve to distract pretty well.

On another unrelated note, I was practicing my breaking for my belt requirements and finally got the speed break working properly for my hand techniques. My son saw me perform the speed break on the wood held in one hand while I broke it with the other. His reaction was priceless: "I'm never getting spanked again!" (if he keeps up the way he's been behaving anyway there won't be a need for it--he's been doing really well). (2005-11-09 11:10:24.0) Permalink Trackback Comments [0]

20050509 Monday May 09, 2005

As Promissed... The Sparring Video

For what its worth, here it is. I have high bandwidth 320x200 streams straight from the camera and low bandwidth 160x100 streams for real media:

High Bandwidth

Low Bandwidth

I'm the big guy in the blue belt/red head gear. (For the most part I controlled the rounds. The only reason the green belt in round 2 beat me is because the refs called nothing for a long time and I got wore out.) BTW, the green belt is my class mate. (2005-05-09 12:48:24.0) Permalink Trackback Comments [0]

20050506 Friday May 06, 2005

I have some sparring video...

I have some video that a friend of mine shot for me. Its not terribly high quality or processed at all, but its me in action. Something I realized after whatching the video is that I'm a serious hands kind of guy. I like coming in close and working the person over. Most of the folks from other schools don't know how to deal with that as they are trained to be feet people. I.e. they favor kicks to hand strikes. To tell the truth, this is a problem. My sensei tries to teach us how to be both. In other words use the opposite tool than the other person is using. If the other person is a feet person, come in close with the hands--I have no problems with that. If the other person is a hands person keep further back and use more feet.

Sparring is a bit artificial anyway in the sense of the fact that there are so many more tools that I as a fighter could use--but are illegal in tournament. I had a chance to talk to my "grand sensei" (my sensei's sensei) who just promoted my sensei to 5th degree black belt. Back when he was studying in Korea (yes he is a Korean War veteran) it was a legal shot to the groin, and light contact meant the person was able to get up after you hit them. Needless to say, you learned how to block really well.

Anyhoo, I'll try and get the footage online relatively soon. (2005-05-06 09:20:01.0) Permalink Trackback Comments [0]

20050422 Friday April 22, 2005

My Iaito arrived yesterday

I ordered my Iaito from Swordstore.com, which is generally a good place to buy something of that nature. The physical offices are in Maryland which is very close to where I live (it seems most resources for Iaito in the US are on the left coast). Anyway, four months after the initial order I got it and it is beautiful. I went for a cloud/lily motif (think of who the Lilly in the Valley is in the Bible and the promise of his return through the clouds), with a blue saya (scabard) and sageo (cord for the scabard). The koshira (pomel cap) does seem a little on the loose side, but I wonder if that is because I haven't used it alot yet (the tsuka ito [handle wrapping] gets tighter with more shiburi). I ordered a slightly longer 2-5-5 blade (2 shaku, 5 sun, 5 bu--approx 30.5"). It's amazing what the extra length does for my noto. The swords that I borrowed from the sensei in the past were all a bit short for me and I ended up having to bring my sword hand back toward the saya to avoid putting the tip of the blade right on mouth of the saya--which incidentally helps avoiding cutting your hand holding the saya in the same area. The tip comes comfortably a couple inches past my saya hand so that I can perform the noto safely and accurately. I'm 6'1" so I probably could have gotten away with a blade that was even longer (a 2-6-0 blade), but I couldn't justify an additional $300 jump in price for another half and inch of length. I did practice a few kesa giri techniques with it and I got that sweet "woosh" sound rather easily. The iaito is meant to be a blade to use for practice without risking getting cut. Sure enough the "edge" is rounded off and the zinc-alluminum alloy wouldn't be able to hold an edge if I wanted it to. I like the overall aesthetic of the sword, and the sales staff were very helpful and courteous. The tsuba isn't as thick as I am used to, and the sword in general feels very light compared to a cutter. I look forward to using it when I find the time to get back to class. (2005-04-22 11:49:00.0) Permalink Trackback

20050407 Thursday April 07, 2005

A good cut

This isn't based on much more than random thought so take it for what its worth. However, I got to thinking on what makes a good cut and how it influences the martial arts. No matter how sharp a blade is, knife or sword, if you simply apply pressure in a straight path the blade has a difficult time cutting the target. Truth be told there needs to be motion along the edge of a blade to make the cut efficient. This is why any machines that cut material angle the blade--it is cheaper to have one motion going straight down and build the motion into the geometry of the blade. That same principle influenced the Japanese blade. In the dawn of Japanese history, before there was the Samurai class, the swords were straight. However, due to the style of fighting the Japanese added a curve to the blade so that as the attack came from the side the geometry of the blade would take care of the motion across the blade's edge to make the effective cut.

You may be wondering about the cultures that got along fine without curved blades for centuries. The bottom line is that it was a different style of fighting. Typically the type of blade that does not have a pronounced curve usually is straight and comes to point. They are called "cut and thrust" style swords. The style of fighting that they are suited for is one where the primary attack is impailment, or tip first. The geometry of the blade is such that as the blade enters the target the motion along the blade is part of the natural motion of the thrust. While they can still cause damage from a lateral attack, in order to cause more damage the motion has to be transfered to a thrust on contact. While a katana can cut off a hand in one motion, the goal of a cut and thrust sword is to parry and impail.

Both styles of weaponry are quite deadly, but it is interesting to note how Japan dealt with the introduction of technology. In Europe, armor became the full metal plate armer that completely encased the knight. The sword had far less relevance at that time because even if the sword could penetrate the armor, it couldn't do the damage to the opponent it used to. The edge became dull and the sword became a two handed behemoth to bash the other guy. In fact the goal was to cause concussion rather than a deadly cut. Then came the musket. In Europe the musket completely revolutionized war. It was cheaper to train men to use the musket and the armies had ready supplies of arsenal to make it effective. The musket's bullet was able to penetrate the full metal armor and all advantage of having that heavy shell was lost. In Japan armor was always present, but the katana was wielded by skilled men who could penetrate that armor. In the 16th century, Dutch traiders introduced the musket to the Samurai. The musket didn't change war too much because the Samurai were more effective with their traditional weapons. The musket was still expensive and they had to be reloaded. Supplies had to be shipped in, so it was not a practical weapon to completely change the battlefield at that time--even though it was used in a limited form in some battles. The bottom line is that until the US showed up in the late 19th century to open trade with the Japanese, the Japanese style of war hadn't changed all that much whereas the European and US style of fighting was completely different, and blades were reserved only for officers. (2005-04-07 10:30:20.0) Permalink Trackback

20050209 Wednesday February 09, 2005

Getting ready to start the custom sword furniture

I got off the phone with Patrick Hastings yesterday, discussing the details of the project. I'm still undecided about the Menuki design--something I have to work out relatively soon. As I suspected I have very expensive tastes. Due to the cost of materials (the gold that goes into shakudo and the silver to be used) increases my up front costs in the six to seven hundred dollar range. Its only fair to cover the cost of getting those materials. If I stuck with copper or steel I probably wouldn't have to spend near that much up front. Still, if I am going to order custom I don't want to compromise on quality. I'm an all or nothing kind of guy when it comes to this. I had all the money to do get this ordered not too long ago, but then we had to fix the car. It looks like I will have to wait a month and a half for the money to build up in the account. I really hate that. I haven't gotten the full cost of the project yet, as Patrick is still figuring out the labor and such. Essentially it will be the smaller up front cost of the materials and a huge carrot at the end of a stick for when the work is completed. I'm going to guess the final project will be about $2500-$3000, based on a figure when I talked to Ted Tenold.

The tsuba is going to be a cloud motif, borrowing some structure from the yin-yang symbol and using silver and shakudo for the light and dark parts. The fuchi and kashira will be primarily shakudo with a silver border. The habaki will be silver, but with some patterns on it to make it seem less huge. The seppa will most likely be thin and dark. The end product will have an 11" tsuka with a tapered end (not an hourglass shape). The blade will be about 2.55 shaku (~30.5 inches) by Howard Clark (L6 Bainite). Of course I need to get the order on that as well. I just feel like I won't be able to do it all at once. I'll need to rely on some other folk's to make the thing really look good and pick the right colors for the tsuka ito and the saya. Currently I am leaning towards a blue as it will help subdue the contrast between the light and dark metals. I am planning on using horn for the saya ends. I'm really excited about this project, and I think it will look stunning when it is done. (2005-02-09 10:13:36.0) Permalink Trackback Comments [0]