Wednesday, April 18, 2018


The Indonesians have a word, “pusaka,” which loosely means “treasure,” or “heirloom.” In the case of pentjak silat, this has come to mean that an art is transmitted as learned.

With regard to respecting the source material, this is a good thing. 

However, if all you ever did was practice and teach every piece you learned, exactly as you learned it? 

You are failing in your potential as a student and teacher.

You can’t do it, anyhow, the nature of or bodies is such that we adjust whatever we learn to fit ourselves. If you are six-four and two-forty, you won’t move the same way as somebody who is five-three and one-twenty — you literally can’t. 

It’s an old joke in martial arts that when you show a newbie a move or a form, you offer a caveat — this is how I do it. When the senior teacher comes back, chances are what s/he shows you won’t look exactly like this.

Because it never does.

Bruce Lee spent only about four years in formal training, and from then on, he picked bits here and there and melded them into his own system.

This is how new systems are created, always have been, and always will be, if they are to thrive.

My teacher’s teacher learned some basics, then started to change them to suit his body and mind. My teacher learned his teacher’s basics, and then changed them. What he taught me is only distantly related to what he learned, and even that has shifted a bunch over the years. What you offer at sixty is not what you offer at forty. Yeah, the bottom-line basics are still there, but they have taken other roads to other places.

This is as it should be.

The danger is that you don’t learn enough to understand an art before you begin to add or drop things, and you can get lost. Guy trains for a year or two, thinks he knows it all, then goes off and creates his own art, losing the pieces that he thinks are useless. Sometimes he might be right, but often, he is wrong. 

If you have more depth in an art and you see somebody who doesn’t understand it trying to fix it, you can tell. Here is a bedrock part of what we do, and this guy has tossed it into the trash can because he doesn’t get it. What he is doing is not an improvement.

This is an ongoing problem with seminars. You go, and the guy teaching the session shows you something that is so foreign to what you know, you can’t buy it. That, you realize, will get you killed, and so you smile and nod and do it to be a good attendee, but you know it won’t go home with you.

Things evolve. Martial arts have to adapt to new influences. Yes, a punch is still a punch, but there are more ways to deal with it available, and that close-quarters knife defense might not work so well against a shotgun at fifteen feet. 

There is no magic secret knowledge in our art. Anybody who is holding something back to keep students is running a shuck, and if you see this, you might want to look around. Sure, the teacher can say he isn’t showing you everything because you aren’t ready to see it yet, because you don’t have the knowledge or skill to understand it, but if that isn’t on the table down the road? Best you move along.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Elixir Vitae

So, been several articles lately on the current, and promising research into the elixir vitae, the live-forever potion. Works in the test tube, seems to work with mice, and human trials are right around the corner.

Isn't that great?

Scientists have been working on this since before the days there were scientists, the alchemists and natural philosophers gave it a go, and so far, nobody has quite perfected it.

But, hey, they might. And wouldn't that be something? Take a pill, and if not live forever, maybe another couple hundred years? I'm not ready to go yet, I could get behind this.

Two quick observations: Side-effects, and unintended consequences. This is not to go down the road about how much this pill will cost. If you think it will be covered under any form of healthcare extant? Good luck with that. This will be a drug for the rich and famous, and your chance of getting it, should it come to be, will be that snowball-in-a-supernova.

Want to make a few million dollars? Hijack a warehouse full of this stuff.

Side-effects? Once you start to monkey with hormones and stuff at a cellular level, you are dicking around with an already-iffy balance. All the things that could go wrong will make the Viagra warnings on TV look like a walk in the park of a lovely Sunday afternoon. 

Not the least of these could be fulminant, raging, metastatic cancers. Go read about telomeres and enhanced cell production. 

Could also be the cure for such things, up to and including cosmic radiation, but I will opine that the side-effects will, in more than a few cases, be worse than the disease being cured. People will put up with it, they do that now. Listen to the warning under the smiling couple with the fluffy, happy dog about what might happen if you take that medication.

Unintended consequences? Well, lot of doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, and undertakers will be put out of work. And your next car will offer some serious changes at major cost. Why is that? Because if you are gonna live to be three or four hundred, you don't want to risk dying in a fender-bender at the 7-Eleven. And cars won't be the only thing upgraded if accident replaces heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and pneumonia as the top killers. 

Guy breaks into your house with a knife? Looking for enough money to buy the forever pill? You will want to have a gun, because, better him than you, right?

Marriage that lasts fifty or sixty years might not make it three hundred death-do-us-part years. What do you do with all the people who had to retired at seventy? Gotta change that. And how will young people get a job if nobody retires?

I could go on and on with this list all day. You get the idea.

Now, there exists already a magic bullet, at least of a sorts: It's called "diet-and-exercise." 

Latest research here shows that certain kinds of high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT) can benefit people in all kinds of ways, and that it might actually benefit older people more than younger ones.

As soon as I utter the word "diet," I invariably get a chorus of fat-shaming accusations. You can be fat and fit -- there are guys who run marathons who are morbidly obese -- and that is a clinical term, not fat-shaming, go look it up. Generally, this is harder to do, because morbid obesity carries risks of more than a few illnesses, including arthritis bad enough to make it hard to exercise.

Yes, to head off at the pass the next comment I usually get, there are some folks whose metabolic systems are so screwed-up that it is really difficult for them to lose weight. And there are folks who are so physically-challenged that any serious exercise is difficult, sometimes impossible.

Those with serious metabolic problems in this area number about 3-5%, and have been diagnosed thus. That means the rest of us have to use a different excuse for not losing weight, and there are several of those which are valid, I'll get back to them in a minute.

People who can't move know who they are, but a lot of people who can simply choose to not do it. My wife teaches chair-yoga to seniors. Some of them aren't real spry, but there they sit, giving it a go.

Mostly, if you look in the mirror and are okay with what you see? Then you have an advantage over most of us. If you look and don't like it, and aren't doing anything about it? The prime reason I can see is depression. That kills at lot of intent, and chronic depression isn't something you just man up and shrug off. Depression is a bastard, but it can be treated, and in many cases, with enough success to allow you do live a better life.

That extra thirty pounds you picked up over fifteen years? You aren't going to lose it in a few weeks, and you won't keep it off if you do lose it over the next year unless you change your life style from what it was; otherwise, it comes back for the same reason it get there the first time. Yo-yo dieting is a dead end. 

Eating right and keeping fit don't come in a pill, they require work, but the dividends are there. Sure, you can become a body-Nazi who chews on roots and twigs and jocks out three hours a day, and serious exercise also carries the risk of injury -- ask any aging jock. But there is a balance. 

The cure for death might be around the corner, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Meanwhile, diet-and-exercise? Already here. 

Something about which to think.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Battle Ground Seminar 2017

A few pictures from the silat camp last weekend:

Thursday, December 24, 2015


So, I guess this is the appropriate place for me to show this. At the recent seminar in Las Vegas, Cotten Blackwell and I were honored. And it is an honor, indeed.

Thank you, Maha Guru Plinck. I will try to be worthy of it.