Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cut Along the Dotted Line

Ever cut somebody? I mean, on purpose? Apply a sharp to human flesh–not counting all those times you accidentally cut yourself? Me, I've had more than a few stitches to fix places where I zigged when I should have zagged and managed to slice my ownself: Dropped a sword on one foot once; dropped a sharp kitchen knife on a foot, too. Dangerous, being my feet. Play with sharps, probably you'll cut yourself. Chefs with twenty years in a restaurant kitchen still slice themselves. (Although surgeons mostly don't. Probably because opening up a patient gets more attention than chopping carrots.)

I've never been in a knife fight, don't want to be. I'm not one of those lives-for-danger, volunteers-for-the-probably-won't-come-back missions. If something goes bump in the night at my house or in the yard, I'll arm myself and go see what it is, but I'm not the guy who signs up to go to distant lands and kill folks who live there. It takes a different mind set to be a deliberate warrior, and I don't have it.

Warriors are folks to go to war. They might not always do it voluntarily, but because I've studied a lot of marital arts, that does not a warrior make.

I know guys who get bored if somebody isn't shooting at them or waving knives in their direction. I don't get bored, way too much interesting in life and it's short at best. I literally cannot remember the last time I was bored.

But: Back to cutting. I've never been in a knife fight, but I have used a scalpel. I know what it feels like to lay one on somebody and open up a part of them. What the suddenly welling-blood looks like, feels like on a latex-gloved hand, even how it smells. Of course, the intent  in those cases was the healing edge–to make a patient better by excising something causing him or her illness and discomfort. Lance this, cut that out, resect that down there. My skill is minimal, lumps and bumps, and I've sewed shut more than I've opened up. I've stood next to those who did way more. I watched an autopsy back in the day, I've seen people who went from alive to dead as I watched.

This doesn't make me special. But it does mean that I have a certain familiarity with what happens when steel meets flesh, and as a result, if push comes to shove, a belief that I can do that if my life or that of a loved one rests on my ability to do it.

If the choice is cut or die, I'm comfortable with which way I'd go.

Not that it would be fun. And not to say that in the moment, my personal narrative will go as I believe it will. But I'm of the mind that if I have done something once, it will be easier to consider the notion of doing it a second time, come the necessity. I don't revere all life equally. Some folks are way more important to me than others.

If you can't look at the image above without feeling queasy, or if the notion of cutting somebody, makes you quail so that you aren't sure you could do it? Don't carry a knife for protection. If you aren't willing to use the tool, it just takes up space, and it might get you killed if somebody who will use it takes it away from you. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pusaka - New Djuru

Pusaka is a Sanskrit word; it means, "heirloom," or "treasure." In silat, you sometimes see this term applied to mean that the art is thus immutable–the moves are treasures, and supposed to be passed down without any changes. 

In this view, if the founder of the art did it a certain way a hundred and fifty years ago, then you are supposed to do it exactly the same way today. Exactly.

This is pretty much impossible no matter how hard you might try. Each student, each teacher, will internalize a move and adjust it to suit his or her physiology and psychology. If you don't think so, watch a group class practicing the djurus. No two of them will look exactly alike.

Nor should they. Martial art forms are not synchronized swimming, nor ice dancing. Adjusting an art to suit your physical characteristics is necessary to keep it alive. A five-foot tall hundred woman won't move the same way as a six-and-a-half foot tall, two-hundred-and-fifty pound man will, and it would be unrealistic to expect that they would.  

One size does not fit all.

So there is going to be a certain amount of drift over time, even if your intent is to keep it the same.

Ever ask a senior student to show you a move, then later have the teacher correct it? Every martial artist I have ever talked to about this has had this experience. We aren't cutting cookies here, we are not clones. We don't all look alike, nor do we move alike. The essence can be the same, but the fine details will sometimes differ. 

Then there are going to be those changes that are deliberate. 

I've spoken to this before. In our Djuru One (as taught by Maha Guru Plinck), his teacher's teacher began it with a lowline move, because in the old country, attacks to the body were more common. (Hit somebody in the face or head, you risk a tooth ripping open your knuckles or maybe breaking your hand, neither of which are good things in a place where the nearest medical help might be a long way off. The human mouth is full of germs; the human skull is harder than a finger bone. It is harder to support your family if you are dying from blood poisoning or your hand is busted.)

Guru's teacher moved to America where, he realized, that American fighters were headhunters, so he adjusted the first move to cover that line instead.

Guru Plinck looked at the form and decided that both moves were valid, so he does them both–you cover highline, and then lowline. That's how our branch of the art does it.

He explained how he came to this choice, and who did it which way before, and that has always been part of the teaching as long as I have been involved, coming sixteen years next month. 

(As a watermark, you can tell which branch of Sera a student is from by watching the first move of the first djuru–we do it this way; they do it that way.)

So. All if this is to say that if you are a student of Maha Guru Plinck, you will, if you haven't already, be seeing some changes in the way we do djurus. 

Don't panic. We aren't throwing anything away. The basic motions will be mostly the same. Punches, elbows, wipes, all like that; however, there will be adjustments in the stances and angles and the focus. 

Guru has studied this for a long time, and he's come to the conclusion that there is a better, more effective way, and next time you see him to train, you'll likely be exposed to it.

This is in line with the immediately previous post, talking about a teacher's personal evolution. If you see a better path, why wouldn't you consider taking it?

This isn't the first adjustment. Several years back, Guru incorporated more of a pukulan aspect to the djurus, smoothing out the wipes and highlighting the hip-driven whip-action to add power to the moves. The new focus will augment that even more, incorporating what he sees as beneficial tweaks. The old way isn't wrong, it's that the new way adds something to it. 

If, as I have, you've been doing the djurus for a long time, this refocus is going to require some getting used to. Motions with a deep groove need a conscious, mindful intent to alter. If you have done it one way for ten thousand times, then doing it a different way won't come easy. 

I can already feel the differences in the delivery, but it will take a while to be comfortable doing the new version. 

Just a heads-up for those of you who are in our branch. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Teaching Window

Great teachers don't stay the same. And they have a teaching window that starts wide open but gradually closes. They may still have students when they are eighty, but the gap in that window will be open only a hair–if that. It's not that they become too old to teach; it's that their students are too young to learn.

If you study with an instructor when he is thirty, you won't get the same experience as when he is forty; at forty, not what you get when he is sixty. Because, assuming he keeps on learning and improving, the teacher won't be the same. The menu will be similar, but the food will be cooked and spiced differently.

Here's what I mean:

Once students becomes adept enough to begin teaching on their own, there is an arc that will apply to most of them. It goes something like this: A young teacher has a certain amount of technique and enthusiasm. They tend to be physically fit, as strong and fast as they are going to be, and a lot of what they will show students will rely on being physically fit and athletic. Look at Bruce Lee, who died in his early thirties. Guy trained four hours a day, was always in shape, and was formulating his system. What he taught mostly works only if you are fit and strong and fast. That's because he didn't live long enough to need old man moves.

Just for numbers sake and purely arbitrarily, let's say this age is from 20-35 years.

After a time, and how many years this is will vary, a teacher becomes smoother and more adept at what he or she knows. S/he internalizes the art, adjusts it to personal preference, and masters aspects of it so they become automatic. There may be other influences coming in, other arts, or more instruction in the primary one, and these are blended into what he or she knows–and for the sake of brevity, I'll just use "he" from now on–and the new stuff is passed along to students who are capable of understanding.

Let's say this is from age 35-55.

If a teacher continues questing for better ways, he will start to see patterns and ways of moving more efficiently. He may see other arts, or pieces of his own art he didn't focus on before, and figure out ways to assimilate and blend those in. Technique tends to fade into personal zen. While his physicality can be mostly maintained, there will be a drop in pure strength and speed, the nature of growing older. To counter this, a competent teacher will begin to compensate. His circles will get smaller, i.e., he will shift to more efficient ways of doing the same thing, those that need more skill, but less power. 

From, say, 55-70.

After this, the teacher's skill, if it has been improving, will be of a level that his efficiency of movement is much finer, but his physicality is necessarily less. Much of what he does will be difficult, if not impossible, to show to beginners, because they won't have the ability to understand and utilize the material. Think of it like teaching a first grader to read, but the only material you have to do it is the Essays of John Locke–the material will simply be beyond their ability to comprehend.

This is why the window has narrowed. The pool of potential students has vanished–those students with the capability to see and understand the moves at this level will already be on the path and working through their own transitions to get there. Not to say they might not pick up a thing or two, but they will get it on their own if they keep going. 

At this point, new students can't understand what the teacher knows. Adept students who can understand don't need him to teach them. 

At different times in your life, you will need different teachers. Finding the right one at the right time is the trick ...

Monday, September 5, 2011

For Maha Guru Plinck's Students

If you are one of Guru Plinck's students, you can get the most recent videos, new from Guy Bowring, of Resonant Video, from a seminar in Colorado this summer. There are a couple of these, and they cover a lot of material. (Actually, there are three discs. The first is an intro to Langkah Lima and shield-structure.)

Please Note: If you aren't one of Guru's Silat Sera students, you can't get these, and if you are, Guy has to confirm it, via Guru Plinck, for you to place an order. 


• Empty Hand Knife Defense Drill
• Knife Defense - Position
• Knife Defense - 1st Beat & 2nd Beat Positions
• Knife Defense - Covering High-Line & Low-Line
• Knife Defense - Variations
• Knife Defense - Knife Disarms from Locks
• Knife Defense - Relaxation while Locking
• Knife Defense - Wrapup
• Knife - Basic Structure
• Knife - 4 Targets & Correct Striking
• Knife - When to Check the Blade
• Knife - When to Block the Blade
• Knife - Covering & Checking the Blade
• Knife - Avoiding Opponent's Checking
• Knife - Structure for Countering Stab Attacks
• Knife - Timing for Countering Stab Attacks
• Knife - Training Distance & Structure
• Knife Transfers - Overview
• Knife Transfer - Against Open High Stab
• Knife Transfer - Against Closed High Stab
• Knife Transfer - "Speak with the Knife"
• Knife Transfer - Clearing the Blade & Training
• Knife Transfer - Gaining Position for the Transfer
• Knife Transfer - Variations by Knife Position
• Knife Transfer - Controlling Opponent's Arm
• Knife Transfer - Countering Your Arm Being Controlled
• Knife Transfer - Drill "I Win, You Win"
• Knife Transfer - Adding Knife Blocks
• Knife Transfer - Blocks & Transfer Variations
• Knife Transfer - 2-Man Drill with Footwork
• Knife Transfer - Options to End 2-Man Drill
• Knife Transfer - 2-Man Drill With Position Emphasis
• Knife Transfer - 2-Man Drill With Position & Distance
• Knife Transfer - 2-Man Drill as a Live Exercise
• Q&A - Training Juru 1 & 2 Structure
• Q&A - Knife Transfer Structure
• Q&A - "5 Principles"
• Q&A - Fundamentals & Humility

• Langkah Lima - Structure & Timing Overview
• Langkah Lima - Training Structure & Timing
• Langkah Lima - Timing to Counter a Punch with Focus
• Langkah Lima - Shield Structure
• Langkah Lima - Entering to Opponent's Center
• Langkah Lima - Distance Equals Timing
• Langkah Lima - "Meet" Timing
• Q&A - Covering Your Center in Combat
• Q&A - Key Elements of Training for Combat
• Q&A - Structure for Weapons & Empty-Hand
• Langkah Lima - Structure & Shoulders
• Langkah Lima - Shield Structure as a Learning Tool
• Langkah Lima - Timing & Kicking
• Hand Position & Punching
• Langkah Lima - "Meet" Timing & Advancing the Timing
• Langkah Lima - Structure, Distance & Lower Art
• Langkah Lima - Stepping on the Lines vs. Sweeping
• Langkah Lima - Lower Art in Different Timings
• Langkah Lima - Stepping on the Lines with Juru 1
• Langkah Lima - Shield Structure & Pukulan Striking Options
• Langkah Lima - Shield Structure & Locks
• Langkah Lima - Transitioning Between Structures & Entering
• Juru Sepah - Overview & Demonstration
• Juru Sepah - Form Breakdown
• Juru Sepah - Moving One Base at a Time
• Juru Sepah - Adding Kicks to Form
• Juru 1 - Understanding Structure & Keeping Training Fresh
• Juru 1 - Elbow Analysis
• Juru 1 Transfer - 4 step breakdown
• Juru 1 Transfer - Application
• Juru 1 Transfer - Understanding of Structure
• Juru 2 - Understanding of Structure & Timing
• Juru 3 - Receiving with Your Pole
• Juru 4 - Stance Analysis
• Q&A - Juru 4 & When to Torque
• Sambuts - Juru Structure & Fighting Timing
• Sambut 1 - Structure Analysis
• Sambut 1 - Applications From the Structure
• Sambut 2 - Timing
• Sambut Training - Don't Push for Position
• Sambut Training - Using Either Lead Leg

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Been a while, so let's take pass by ... attitude ...

In mathematics, the equations are clean: If A is > B, and B is > C, then A is > C. Simple, neat, no pesky exceptions to the rule, the syllogism is always true–as long as you are dealing in numbers.

People are not so easy to equate. Adam and Bob play chess and Adam always wins; and Bob and Charlie play chess and Bob always wins, the temptation would be to say that Adam will always beat Charlie at chess, but it's not the same as the numbers-only game.

Here is where the X-factor arises. The human equation has all kinds of built-in exceptions. Maybe Adam beats Bob because Adam looks like Bob's uncle who used to stomp Bob at chess and Bob gets buffaloed and can't get past the resemblance. Charlie doesn't have that hang-up, and plays a different game, which gives him more of a chance against Adam. 

There are a slew of factors like this in human interaction and competition. On any given Sunday, the worst team in the league can beat the best team, it happens frequently enough that the phrase has become an axiomatic saw. The fluke run, the lucky punch, the distribution of great-day-playing versus crappy-day-playing shifts. It's like catching all the green lights on a drive versus catching all the red ones, you never know which it will be.

The smart money bets on Adam to beat Charlie, because if Adam consistently beats the guy who always beats Charlie, Adam looks better on paper.

People aren't paper any more than they are numbers, however, and herein the place where attitude can make a difference. 

Assuming anything close to equal ability, then what makes one player a winner and the other a loser? All kinds of things. In a dust-up, then the first punch landed solidly makes a difference, but so does the ability to take a punch and keep going. And attitude–or heart, guts, determination, whatever you want to call it–matters most of all. Or, as Frank Freak used to put it–in regard to another subject–Attitude will get you through times of no skill better than skill will get you through times of no attitude ...

I'm not sure you can teach this, but if somebody has it, you can certainly augment it. So the human equations I like are these:

Skill + Attitude is > than Skill.
Skill + Attitude is > than Attitude.

Doesn't mean that the guy with both will always beat the guy with only one, but that's the way I'd bet it, and I expect my money would be safe more often than not. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Revisionist History

I came across a link to the March, 1989 issue of  Black Belt Magazine that readers here might find interesting. As you can see from the image, it's a piece on silat, featuring Pendekar Paul de Thouars, and his "protégé," Stevan Plinck.

The article, written by Lilia Howe, who is, according to the article, Dan Inosanto's sister, has in it a lot of dubious historical material–I've discussed the problems of oral history at length in various postings here and on my other blog–but what is indisputable is that the student in the photographs with the Pendekar is our own Maha Guru Stevan Plinck.

Pictures. Grainy, dark, but right there in black-and-white, and the article is full of them.

The article mentions that the Pendekar is very choosy about who he teaches, and that Stevan Plinck is one of two students who have the art as he teaches it. Below, a snapshot of a graph in the story:

So, in 1989, the Pendekar was allowing that Guru Plinck was an adept at the art he renamed "Serak," from "Serah," and since there weren't any letters in the following issue from Paul allowing as how the writer misrepresented him, one assumes that such a statement was allowed to stand because he said so. 

In several places, there are interviews with other senior teachers who speak to this–you can go here, for instance, and read it. Or check out some of these links.

Now, to be accurate, because somebody said something doesn't make it so; however, if he's quoted that way and if he doesn't deny it, that probably means the writer wasn't too far off.  

Here is the wonder–and for some, a big drawback–of the internet: Once something is put there in public, it's out there, and while it might be hard to find, diligent folks can uncover it.

What does this mean? Well, it means that if  you said, "I never said that!" and somebody can access an article showing that you did? If, on Monday, you said it was so, and on Tuesday, you said it wasn't so, one could argue that either (or both) statements could be wrong, but that you contradict yourself stands there baldfaced on its own.

"Hey, I never said that!"

Why, yes, yes you did. And here it is, right fucking here ...

In a court of law, a sharp attorney would elicit inspection of this kind of revisionist statement thus: Well, sir, on Monday you said this; but today, you said the opposite. So my question is, were you lying on Monday, or are you lying now ... ?

Why do I bring this up? Because I am pissed off. And because somebody needs to say it.

Because in our martial art, and this is no secret to long-time players, some of our seniors are big on revisionist history. They change it to suit their whims, and it is wrong. And downright ugly at times.

How does this happen? Typically, like so: A teacher has a falling out with a senior student, and they part company. The teacher, who has extolled the virtues and skills of his student until that point, can and usually does, rescind ranking in the system—hey, he quit, so his certificate isn't going to be renewed. 

The teacher can do that. 

However: The teacher can't take away the knowledge the student has, so instead, he belittles it: "Oh, him? Well, he only studied with me for a couple-three years, and I never gave him the final secrets, so he never really had the art."

Really? But that's not what you used to say.

"Well, he had it when we were getting along, but now that we aren't speaking, he doesn't have it any more."

Uh huh. So that's how it works. 

We have a term for that where I come from: Bullshit. 

Personally, I find this kind of behavior reprehensible. It rises from an insecurity and a mean-spirited place where one tries to inflate one's own talent by attacking another's.

It's happening again, which is not a surprise to me, but it is no less despicable, and here is the thrust of this:

Anybody who says that Maha Guru Stevan Plinck isn't the real deal in this art? They are full of crap. They don't know what they are talking about. 


I hope I said this clearly enough. Be sure you get the name right if you want to tell somebody I said it: Steve Perry, that's S-t-e-v-e P-e-r-r-y. And if you have a problem with it? You can put it where the sun don't shine.

And have a nice day.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Because I have opted to walk away from the battlefield of silat nyah-nyah, life being too short, I don't look for, nor particularly care what my old sparring partners who are still at it have to say. They have their views, I have mine, we will just have agree to disagree, and have a nice life.

Still ...

Recently, I heard another story and I had to shake my head. I'm not gonna name names, and if you are somebody who wants to get all het up about stuff because you think I'm talking about you, be my guest. Almost certainly you will be wrong, and steaming your own ears for nothing.

Here are the broad strokes: A well-known and well-respected silat teacher offering a seminar away from his home base thought he'd be well-mannered and drop by another teacher's place for a friendly visit. Same general art, different branch, no apparent ill-will between the two. 

So he gave them a call. 

Turned out he had the wrong number, so he sent an email. Hey, I'm gonna be in the neighborhood, how would it be if I stopped by?

Understand that this teacher has the chops, and something he could share, and was willing to do so, teacher-to-teacher.

To which he got a response that was, in essence, Sorry, but you aren't up to our standards, we have aligned ourselves with another faction, and so, uh, don't darken our doorway.

Fair enough. If you want to tell it like it is, that's your right, but ... what a waste.

You have no doubt heard the old saying about cutting off your nose to spite your face. I have certainly remarked a time or two on the unfortunate instance wherein somebody moving along at a good clip suddenly feels an insane urge to pull out a gun and shoot himself in the foot. 

Here is such an instance.  Here is a world-class teacher, holding out a hand, offering somebody something they don't have, and who would, if they had the chance, be thrilled to get it once they saw it. And over here is somebody who turns away because of a foolish political stance.

Back in the day, before the first Star Wars movie came out, George Lucas shopped the book tie-in around to various publishers. Nobody wanted it. They didn't think it was worth anything. Finally, a small start-up line made an offer, and Star Wars made them rich.

This wasn't in the same category, of course, but it does make me, as a martial artist, shake my head in wonder at the outright stupidity that permeates dojo politics.

Dude, you could have been a contender, and you shut the door on the guy who could show it to you. 


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Martial Art Musing

Broad, sweeping, all-encompassing generalizations–including the one I am about to make–are, in my experience, wrong more often than not.

Here's the one under discussion today:

Martial arts don't work for self-defense.

I heard that one again recently, and I had to smile.

This is, not to put to fine a point on it, demonstrably horseshit. All anybody needs to is provide one example where a martial artist used his or her skills to survive an attack and the black and white statement is false. 

A swimming pool full of white paint becomes, however slight, gray when you add a cup full of black paint. 

Having used a martial art to defend myself, I can personally attest to the statement's invalidity.

Now, once you start ladling in the qualifiers, the statement changes. Some martial arts won't work some of the time. I'm good with that. (But not "most martial arts." That requires knowledge I don't have–I don't know most martial arts. And neither does anybody else, so that one ought not to be used.)

Perhaps somebody might say, "In my experience, I've never seen a martial art that works for self-defense." That I can buy.

But either/or needs an absolute level of certainty that doesn't exist when this argument gets trotted out. There may not be exceptions to every rule, but there are plenty such to be found here. Any one will do.

It is amusing that most of the time when you hear this statement, it is pronounced by somebody with a fairly deep background in martial arts. They learned something, took it onto the street, and it didn't work the way they expected. So they revised their technique, adjusted it, made it into something that would fly.

Which I read as, "My traditional martial art didn't work in that instance."

However, the repair is, by my measure, still a martial art; it's simply an improved version, and it's how martial arts came about in the first place, and how new ones have been created ever since.

Shift it enough, it's not traditional any more, but where does one draw that line? Three hundred years? Fifty? It's still walking and quacking like a duck, and calling it an eagle doesn''t make it so.

Hey, that block didn't work, I got a broken nose! But when I changed it, thus, now it does work, and next time somebody threw that punch, I didn't get a broken nose and I decked the sucker!

Serious folks who train and alter their stuff to improve it? More power to them. Sometimes they come up with ways that make things better. 

Sometimes, they are just cherry-pickers who think one from this art and two from that one are all they need, and such can be blended together without any worry about their underpinnings. Sometimes, they are probably right.

Sometimes they are simply wrong. Not everything can be isolated and kept functional. If you take the salt out of a bread recipe and put it on a plate, you don't have a different kind of bread, you have salt.

I'm not a bad-ass streetfighter. Never claimed to be, never was, never will be. Lot of guys out there who can take me out without raising their heartbeats. But I do know a bit about martial arts, and I'm here to tell you, sometimes they work just fine. If you are going to make claims, then don't overstate them. It just makes you look ignorant. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Revisiting the Iceberg

I know a guy–probably most of the folks who drop round here know him, or somebody like him–who has been swimming in the Sea of Violence so long he doesn't have to hold his breath when he dives under the water, because he has developed gills. 

He's not like most of us. He doesn't think like most of us.

People in martial arts, who train long enough, and especially those who use their training, eventually can get to a place that is usually referred to as "beyond technique." That's not literally so, but it can be to a level of functionality that is like zanshin or zen or some altered state wherein they Just Do It. They move with optimum efficiency, they are focused (and not focused, if you understand what I'm driving at here), into that realm where it all starts to look alike. They don't choose one from column A and two from column B, they don't have to think, the tools are part of them. This is mastery of motion, and not limited to the physical actions once things commence, but an awareness that permeates most everything they do, most of the time.

How great that must be. 

These folks are going to be outstanding players, with abilities that will seem almost magic to somebody watching them. Not somebody with whom you want to fuck around.

There are all sorts of old sayings about who can do and who can teach, but the two don't always go together. Because you can do it doesn't mean you can easily pass it along; and you can teach a thing without being able to do it yourself–look at any world-class gymnastics coach if you don't believe that. Doing and teaching are related, but not the same skills.

The ideal is somebody who can do and who can teach, and those folks are rare jewels. 

Brings us to the iceberg. I've used the story for years, talked about it, put it in books, and here, but a recap for those who came late to the party:

In a children's aikido class I watched many years back, the teacher, who was second or third dan, spoke to the students, using an iceberg as a metaphor. About how what you saw above the water was only ten percent of what was there, and how ki was like the ice below the surface, and how one could access that hidden part, and why. It was a great metaphor, he delivered it well, and from where I sat, it was a terrific teaching tool. 

Then a little boy who looked to be about five raised his hand. 


"What's an iceberg?"

Sometimes in martial arts–or in anything, really–the teachers are so far along that they lose track of the fact that newbies might not know what an iceberg is. That a reasoned, well-delivered lecture on a five-strike combination ending in a takedown will blow right past somebody who doesn't know how to make a fist. 

That Just Do It is a waste of time when you are speaking to folks with no knowledge about how to Just Do it. 

You can't run a track race in the Olympics until you learn how to walk. 

Which is why you use baby steps. Why you check the level of the students to see what they know, then build on that. That before you can transcend the rote, the drills, and the pre-set one- and two-step dances, you have to go through them. 

People who think you can skip over all that and get right to zanshin? I don't believe it.

I don't think they believe it, either. They just forgot what it's like to not-know.

(This is part of my on-going argument about why a world-class teacher better spends his time with students who are advanced enough to not need as many baby steps. It's not that the teacher can't teach beginners, it's that anybody who knows the basics can do that; but who is able to teach the advanced class?)

As a writer, I often break the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Sometimes on purpose. I do it for an effect, and because I know what the rules are, but choose to ignore them for my own purpose. I'm not trying to score a good grade in Mrs. Cowsar's English IV class, I'm trying to communicate with a reader, and if I want to use ellipses when I'm supposed to use dashes, if it serves my purpose, then I'm going to do it, and when the copy editor gets all excited and changes it, I'm going write "stet" in the margin and put it back the way I had it. 

Who you want covering your back in a dust-up is a master. But he or she might not be the person you want training you, unless they have that skill, as well. 

Find somebody who can do both? Buy a ticket and win the lottery. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Simple Sequence - Meet Timing

 Steve throws a high R. punch at Cam's head; Cam blocks, R. arm–

–and steps in, R. lead, for a R. elbow strike to the ribs–

–the force of the impact and Cam's lower center of gravity combine–

–to take Steve's balance, knocking him backward, as Guru observes.
(Steve's ribs were sore for most of the following week, and bruised for two weeks.)

(Photos by Ashley "Mouse" Chung)

In this class, a technique showing the first of several ways to time a defense, which are: 1) Meet 2) Advance 3) Retard, or 4) Monty Python ("Run away!")

Meet-timing is what you are apt to do when you aren't quite ready and have to hurry, and the most simple, requiring the least amount of time and distance. 

Advanced, you get rolling before the attacker gets where he wants to get, beating him to the punch, and as such, needs a skosh more time. 

Retardation involves unexpectedly changing the distance a bit once the attack is in motion, so you aren't where the attacker strikes when he gets there. Also needs a bit more time than a direct meet.

Monty Python, (aka evasion), is when you have time to get out of the way without getting smacked.

There are other things to receiving an attack, of course, but these go to the timing and distance aspect of a one-on-one you see coming. Which you use depends on when you realize the shit is about to hit the fan.

You can also attack with these timings, and can mix and match them to draw an attack when you want it, or for more than one opponent. 

Stutter-steps, bounce-steps, kuda-kuda, stealing distance, feints, offering openings, breaking rhythm, lot of other things are there. But meet-timing is the "Oh, shit!" move you throw up when you miss the chance to go first ...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Knife Fighting Redux

Another discussion on another site, and the will-you-or-won't-you-get-cut? argument popped up again, so I thought here would be get a good place to speak to it ...

I've mentioned this before, but it bears restatement: After a long run of classes wherein we spent the entire sessions going back and forth with practice knives, bare against the blade and knife v knife, the conclusion I reached was that any kind of a knife fight was a bad idea for anybody allergic to the ER.

That against somebody who knows more about a knife than which end to hold and which end to poke with, such encounters are almost certainly going to result in cuts or stab wounds.

That would be the default position, and a contingency for which plans would have to be laid. If I get cut -- when I do -- then what? 

You can't stop because your arm is bleeding and say, "Time out! King's X!"

Not to say that you couldn't get stabbed and survive. Most people who are stabbed do survive. Not even to say that being cut or stabbed means you would lose. But given the numbers of practice encounters I've had with trained players on both sides of a blade, getting sliced somewhere was almost certainly going to be part of the deal–and we were stopping it down. Real lines, but not full speed nor killing intent. 

A trained knife guy who goes bugfuck on you with a knife is going to cut you if you stay there. Period.

If I have a knife and you don't and we engage, I like my chances better than I like yours, no matter who you are. I might not win, but you will bleed unless you are light years ahead of me in skill.

So when I get into the discussion about such encounters, those folks who say that they don't think that's gonna happen, based on their actual experiences, I don't find them completely convincing. 

Hey, I had an actual experience, too. And I didn't get cut. But I know it was a fluke, the guy was probably stoned to the gills, and I was lucky. You don't base a self-defense system on luck, nor on the other guy being inept. (Though that might make for a fun fantasy story.)

Sure, the street guys might have danced with attackers who were waving knives, but if I had to guess, I'd make it that those attackers weren't any kind of adepts with steel. Because if they were, steel beats flesh, else we'd still be fighting wars barehanded.

So if I think I'm gonna get cut, I have to see no other good option if I am going go there. If I don't get cut, then hooray! that's gravy. If I think I won't get cut and I do? Not so good.

That's what my experience tells me. Your mileage may vary. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fighting and Philosophy

Kerambits, L. to R.: Crowner, Rollert, Pippin

Even though I'm not actively involved in the silat wars online any longer, that doesn't mean I never have discussions about this, that, or the other. Martial artists exchange views, and there are a couple high-level ones I talk to now and then.

I find this useful. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't, and as long as the expression of views stays reasonable and doesn't venture off into ad hominem attacks or my-stuff-is-better-than-yours-nyah, nyah! these conversations can be beneficial. 

I'm happy with the path I'm on, and don't feel the need to leave it for somebody else's, but I am willing to exchange views. 

I get asked a question I haven't thought much about, and I have to formulate a reasoned response. 

I hear something I've heard a thousand times before, I offer the opinion I have come to about it, and why. 

I hear something I haven't heard before, and I have to think about how it fits into what I know. Unless you are already at the top of the mountain–and I'm not–then the view along the path can vary, and you can jaunt down a side trail if it looks interesting and pick up something you might have missed otherwise, without having to jump to a different mountain. That's how it happens, at least for me. 

Always something new I can learn ...

Saturday, March 26, 2011


At this time of the year, Cotten's garage is still fairly cold for class up here in the Pacific Northwet.

Sometimes, silat class is about technique–principles and applications.

John, L. Maha Guru, R.

L. to R.:  Olivier, Steve, Maha Guru Plinck

L. to R: Bill, Cotten, Orange Tabby and Steve

Sometimes, it's about the neighborhood cat who wanders into the garage to see what's going on ...

A typical gathering

L. to R. - Front row: Ashley, Tiel, Olivier, Todd
Second Row: Cotten, Maha Guru Plinck
Back Row: Bill, Steve, Cam, John

(All photos by Ashley Chung or Cotten Blackwell)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Update on the Silat Wars

It has, blessedly, been fairly quiet on the silat politics front around here of late. Partially, that's because I have disengaged from the repartee. Of course, I still now and then see something pop up on the web that makes me want to grind my teeth. The folks who don't agree with me, or each other, are still out there, I just stopped getting into debates with them. Serves no purpose. Even if I automatically assume I am right–which I have to admit isn't a given–minds-changing in this arena are as rare as hen's teeth. Zealotry hasn't died out, that I noticed.

Better to take a deep breath, spit out what I don't like, and go on my way. Ever so much better for my blood pressure. Life is too short to spend much of it like Donald Duck in a squawking rage.

So, Steve, Mr. Mellow, why even bring it up?

There have been recently a couple of things I've found interesting. 

In one instance, there was an overture from somebody not-well-thought-of in Sera circles, wanting to tell me his side of the story. 

There was a time when I would have turned a deaf ear to this. Instead, I listened, replied and the conversation was civil. I could even see his point.

On one hand, that's what has to happen if there is ever going to be any kind of peace. On the other hand, trust is not easy. You can give somebody the benefit of the doubt, but you also keep your eyes open–"forgive" isn't the same as "forget."

In another instance, I saw a posting from somebody I used to respect and enjoy talking to that indicated he's still somebody I wouldn't want to turn my back on if he was within striking distance. Having felt his metaphorical (and quite unexpected) knife twixt my shoulder blades once before was, like touching a hot stove, enough experience to make the case. Before I go there, I need more evidence that I'm not going to be a target and what I'm hearing doesn't offer such.

People can move on, and we have all made mistakes for which we would like redemption. Allowing for that possibility in others means you have a shot at it yourself. But it's like the old joke: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one–but the light bulb has really got to want to change ...

Sometimes, leopards might alter their spots. 

Sometimes, assholes continue to be assholes.

So it goes. I can shrug and acknowledge that the tempest still exists without wading into it up to my neck, and for me, that's an improvement.