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The thoughts and viewpoints on this blog are my own and represent my skeptical, critical-thinking approach to martial arts, combative training, film, the field of cognitive science, and random subjects.
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IN EVIDENCE WE TRUST

Sun, 2016-01-10 23:17
IN EVIDENCE WE TRUSTTHE ON-GOING STRUGGLE FOR RATIONAL THINKING
"Beware the irrational, however seductive."Christopher Hitchens


The late great Johnny Carson, when confronted with something unusual or novel, used a phrase that I love. "THAT," he would say, "is some weird, wild stuff."

The way I see it, the thoughts, functions and processes within the human mind are some weird, wild stuff.  

We can create images in our mind's eye and mentally project ourselves forward or backward into both time and space. We can make ourselves believe in things that do not /can not actually exist in the physical world and make them seem all too real.  Our minds can invent supernatural agents which have purposeful intent as well as the ability to influence the thoughts, attitudes and actions of actual flesh and blood beings. Some people believe that they can harness a unique, metaphysical force that cannot be detected or measured by scientific instruments, and they believe that they can then use that ability to harm or heal others.  

It amazes me that fortune tellers, faith healers, spirit communicators, witch doctors, shamans, energy workers, and channelers still abound in the 21st century.  After all, this is the age of incredible scientific advancement where technology has reached unimaginably incredible achievements.  Case in point, the New Horizons spacecraft, that was launched from earth in 2006, after almost a decade of travel, recently arrived near the farthest reaches of our solar system and provided awe-inspiring photography and enhanced imagery of the dwarf planet Pluto. Something that before now had always been a mere blur on our best telescopes could now be seen in magnificent detail.  It is hard to grasp the sophisticated knowledge, precise engineering and the mind-boggling calculations that went into such a mission. 

But, in spite of this, rational thinking is still a rare commodity.  People, it seems, tend to believe in some weird wild stuff.

Not that I am somehow immune to irrational thinking. Brought up in the American South, right smack in the Bible Belt, I truly believed, however briefly, that we were living in the end times.  In the 1970s I read Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth," and I was convinced that the words of Biblical prophecy were coming true right in front of my own eyes.  Wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famine; all of this convinced me that the words of Revelations were not so much written by ancient scribes who didn't know what germs were, but instead were hot-off-the-press news alerts. I sincerely believed that everything would end before the end of the decade.  Obviously, we're all still around to look back on this era as a more simple, gullible time, a time of naivete and silliness. 

But weird beliefs have firmly taken root in our society.

According to Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero, the authors of Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie and Other Famous Cryptids, a whopping 68%, over two-thirds, of Americans believe in at least one of the following: "telekinesis, fortune-telling, astrology, communication with the dead, haunted houses, ghosts, Atlantis, UFOs and monsters."  

Some, believe it or not, actually believe in every last one of them.

In the martial arts world, where people train to fight with fists and feet, you would think that people would be down to earth; skeptical about metaphysical, supernatural powers and unusual claims.  Fighting is a matter-of-fact enterprise, and boils down to nuts and bolts, cut and dry reality. However, I have encountered lots of martial artists who are willing to suspend logic, common sense and rational thinking and accept some pretty amazing ideas.

First up:  Dim Mak "The Death Touch"



Dim Mak was all the rage back in the 70s.  People claimed to be able to hurt or even kill an opponent with a couple of light touches to vulnerable parts of the body.  Case in point, Count Dante, the "deadliest man alive."  Count Dante was actually a hair stylist who found out that advertising in comic books could make him a TON of money.  Kids gobbled it up and ordered his books and courses.

I have a dim view of Dim Mak.  I'm not saying that there aren't vulnerable or sensitive areas on the human body.  I'm also not contesting the fact that it might not take a lot of power to induce pain or disorientation by striking these points.  

But to claim that there is a science to all of this; that certain points are more sensitive at certain parts of the day or on certain days of the calendar is ludicrous. It's just fantasy.  My guess is that imaginative kids, picked on and dominated by bigger kids, wanted this power and bought the books, believing that they could bring down the bully with a gentle touch to the shoulder or a light brush on the forearm.  What's not hard to imagine is their surprise when it didn't work and it only made the bad guy madder.

There's just no evidence, none whatsoever, that the Dim Mak death touch is real.

Next up:  Ninjitsu



For much of the late 60s and early 70s it seems you couldn't turn on TV or go to the movies without seeing ninja attacks. They were everywhere.  They were in the famed TV mini series "Shogun," and they were in the popular "American Ninja" movies.  I first saw them in my favorite James Bond movie, "You Only Live Twice."  Bond even gets to go to a private island and train to be a ninja.  Later he and a whole army of ninja attack the rocket launch site hidden in a volcano!

I met a guy in the mid 70s who said he studied ninjitsu.  He had the outfit and the special shoes, the sword, the claws, the ropes, the shuriken and caltrops, and even some type of blow gun that could launch out a dart or a smoke bomb. Thing is, he couldn't fight that well.  When it came to going up against someone one on one, however, he wasn't very effective.

Sure, there are plenty of guys who are fit and who can use this odd equipment to do some damage.  But it's merely cosplay, fantasy action, the stuff of imagination.  

The evidence surrounding the historical ninja is sketchy and limited.  

Want to own the night?  Forget all that comic book stuff and become an Army Ranger.

Similarly:  Shaolin Monks



The Shaolin temple is a popular tourist destination for thousands of people each year.  Visitors can see the depressions in the foundation stones where monks in ancient times practiced their martial arts patterns, stomping the ground as part of the exercises.  They can learn all about these peaceful monks who trained to fight and traveled the countryside teaching peace and harmony.

But much of the history is totally made up.  The evidence is very weak.  True believers point to modern Shaolin monks who practice a harsh form of Chinese martial arts and perform elaborate acrobatic moves and tests of skill and strength.  However, much of their performances are nothing more than strongmen and stage acts from street performers.  Sure, some of their WuShu takes incredible conditioning and perfect timing, but it's not really what most people think it is.

Also: Commando Combatives



I know what you're thinking:  "Goin, you're nuts.  Commando combatives is a REAL thing!"

I can't argue with you.  Elite operators across the globe must learn close quarters battle skills and be able to use knives, fists and feet to get the job done.

It's all quite real.  But that's not what I'm talking about.

What I'm talking about is people pretending to be something they're not.  Pretending to be warriors.  Pretending that warriors train hour upon hour to deal with all kinds of empty hand combat.  I think most of that concept is horse crap.  They have lots more to do than work on hand-to-hand skills all day long.  They have to spend hours at the gun range.  They must learn the technology of modern combat--communications and navigation for example.  They simply don't have time to become martial arts experts.  They need a few go-to, bread-and-butter, time-tested, battle-proven skills that work in a wide variety of scenarios.

I think it's time that martial artists let go of the b.s. that has so long fertilized crazy beliefs.  Get back to basics--hard work, smart training, and learn from as many valid sources as possible. Just don't let emotions and superstition take hold. 










THREE SIMPLE PRINCIPLES

Thu, 2015-11-26 02:53
THREE SIMPLE PRINCIPLES
"It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential."Bruce Lee

"You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
"Johnny Mercer
Chisel Away

Back in the 80s when I was stationed in Germany with the US Army, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Italy.  It was so incredible seeing the canals of Venice, to climb the leaning tower of Pisa and to go to the Uffizi gallery in Florence.  But for me what was truly awe-inspiring was seeing the statue of David up close.  I was speechless and reverential as I stood in the presence of this wondrous masterpiece.


There's a story about Michelangelo that's likely not even close to being true, but I love it anyway.  Seems there was a guy who asked Michelangelo how in the world he could have carved such an exquisite statue as David. Michelangelo is said to have replied, "That's easy.  It's the simplest thing in the world.  I just chipped away at anything that didn't look like David."

But that's not how most of us approach anything.  We like to add on.  More and more.  

We Are Collectors

Collectors are a strange and obsessive lot.  They may start out in childhood collecting comic books (I did, and so did all of my friends), or action figures (do NOT call my GI Joe a 'doll'), or baseball cards.  They enjoy their collection, enjoy looking at the items, trading them for others, completing a set.  Somewhere along the line, however, and soon the joy of collecting is gone.  The enjoyment is eventually replaced with an intense, rabid, frenzied search for more and more and more.  One guy I met was obsessed with McDonald's Happy Meal toys.  He had so many that he bought an outdoor shed to hold them, the kind where you normally keep the lawn mower and tools.

That's also how it is for this one guy I know who collects certificates.  He's attended dozens and dozens of martial arts seminars and specialty fighting camps, and he always makes sure to get a certificate.  Certificates of attendance, certificates of accomplishment, certificates of rank.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with getting a certificate.  You pay good money to attend a seminar or training camp, and you might as well get the certificate that goes with it. Something to be proud of.  For someone planning on becoming a martial arts professional and running an academy, with dedication to self-improvement so that he or she can teach others, certificates matter. They become a clear and tangible record of the training and advanced education one receives and the accomplishments one earns.

But this guy I know goes several steps beyond.  He is obsessive about it.  He's never satisfied and only wants more.  He sincerely thinks that somewhere, sometime, somebody is going to reveal to him the SECRET KNOWLEDGE. That one technique or trick that helps him finally see the proverbial light.

He sees martial arts as one giant buffet table.  And he wants to stack his plate as high as possible.  And then add some gravy on top as well.



I've gotta confess.  I've done this a little bit on my own path towards martial arts knowledge.  I have attended dozens and dozens of seminars.  I've bought books and videos and attended classes for over 40 years.  For a long time I was convinced that I needed more--a new technique, an advanced tactic, a neat trick.

Three Simple Rules

But somewhere along the path I had an epiphany.  My aha moment came when I went to a seminar one weekend and saw a very skilled instructor teach not one, not two, not 10, but approximately 20 different ways to respond to a specific attack. Those in attendance were absolutely confused and had no clue what they were supposed to do. There were simply too many options.

I decided then and there to have a garage sale in my brain. An everything-must-go, final clearance purging.  I have now spent the last several years trying to determine the bare necessities, the absolute essentials, and eliminating everything else.  

In a way, it's a return to my first introduction to JKD philosophy, and the three simple yet brilliant principles developed by the oft-imitated but never replicated Bruce Lee:  Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.

Let's break that down.

Absorb What is Useful

The 1st principle of JKD is not about simply adding more and more and more.  In the field of chemistry absorption is the condition of taking in another substance.  I like this brief description from Wikipedia: "The process of absorption means that a substance captures and transforms energy."  

That transformative process is key and involves thorough knowledge and understanding that is built on research and development, trial and error. To me it evokes the idea of a scientist in a laboratory who runs experiment after experiment, making adjustments and modifications, carefully gathering data from observation, and continually tweaking the final result.

In fact, martial arts shares much in common with the scientific process in that knowledge is provisional and never quite complete. New information may come along, a new idea, a rediscovery of something forgotten, an awareness of radical concepts from other fields, and things are shaken up.  Think back to 1993 when the UFC came along, and grappling skills began to dominate over striking.  Soon people were rethinking the ground game and adding (or rediscovering) long forgotten yet vital grappling techniques.

Discard What is Not

This 2nd principle of JKD encourages letting go of that which does not have a practical purpose. It seems that there is a tendency to promote form over function. While some people may be content with efficient, ordinary, nuts-and-bolts, bread-and-butter skills, most are not.  

Instead of plain they choose fancy every time.  

Watch a martial arts demonstration and you're likely to see complex, elaborately staged, intricately choreographed routines that resemble nothing like what you'd see in a real, violent street encounter.  Is what they did useful?  Probably not. But it sure looked cool.  

This 2nd principle urges us to not lose sight of functional, no frills, common sense, time-tested, battle-proven skills. It challenges us to forget about the complicated, the grandiose and the embellished.

Add What is Uniquely Your Own

The 3rd principle is often skipped by the average martial artist.  So much of what people do is simply a regurgitation of what they learned coming up through the ranks.  Rarely does someone develop a distinctive and unique movement or application. They strive to do something exactly as they learned it instead of having a jazz musician's attitude of improvisation.

Some great examples of the 3rd principle in action: Combat Sambo, the Israeli combat art of Krav Maga and the highly popular BJJ are incredibly practical, recent developments which gathered previously existing skills and combined them and refined them, using troubleshooting and pressure testing to remove impurities, hone their fighting capabilities and focus on functional application.

Floyd Mayweather's focus mitt drills, in my opinion, are extremely innovative.  Mocked by his competitors early on, several boxers have adopted similar training routines to improve hand-eye coordination, head and body movement, and accurate and rapid hand strikes.

And innovations are not just specifically about fighting. CrossFit, for example, aims for functional fitness. Cardiovascular endurance, speed, agility, power, and balance are targets for improvement in CrossFit workouts, and when you think about it, solid foundational attributes for fighters.

So innovation and improvisation may be more important than merely the gathering and systematization of techniques, training methods and applications.

As my favorite author, Tom Robbins so aptly puts it:

“Mockingbirds are the true artists of the bird kingdom. Which is to say, although they're born with a song of their own, an innate riff that happens to be one of the most versatile of all ornithological expressions, mocking birds aren't content to merely play the hand that is dealt them. Like all artists, they are out to rearrange reality. Innovative, willful, daring, not bound by the rules to which others may blindly adhere, the mockingbird collects snatches of birdsong from this tree and that field, appropriates them, places them in new and unexpected contexts, recreates the world from the world. For example, a mockingbird in South Carolina was heard to blend the songs of thirty-two different kinds of birds into a ten-minute performance, a virtuoso display that serve no practical purpose, falling, therefore, into the realm of pure art.” 






SHOOT HAPPENS

Fri, 2015-11-20 18:49
SHOOT HAPPENS


I had the opportunity (maybe I should say misfortune) of sparring a champion high school wrestler way back in my early martial arts days.  This guy was a true athlete--dedicated, strong, fit, coordinated, competitive and highly talented.  Me?  Not even close.  This guy, like most wrestlers I knew, lived, breathed, ate and drank wrestling. It was an obsession for him whereas what I did was more like a dedicated hobby.

Most of my sparring in those days was against other martial artists.  I had done some judo, a little karate and quite a bit of gung fu, and a lot of our sparring was full contact. We even did a lot of full contact stick fighting in those days. But even with some of the grappling training I had done, my skills were weak compared to his.
Here's what happened.
We shook hands, and he moved in quickly to attempt a tight tie-up, clench move.  Oddly enough, I scored the first take-down with an outer leg sweep, just like I had learned in judo class.  It was quick, and he went down hard.  
But then he got back up.
And then he smiled at me.  

It was not a friendly smile.
When he shot in on me and proceeded to lift me up, I felt like I was being launched into orbit.  I hit the ground much harder than he did.  I'm pretty sure that I left a little crater.  After that he tied me up in what I can only describe as a slip knot.
Shooting, in wrestling, is an art unto itself.  The best wrestlers can move in like a raptor strike and get an ankle, a leg, or even both legs.  They can then scoop, lift, turn, tackle or sweep.  These guys can change levels and penetrate so fast, they're like a blur.

Those from a fighting style that emphasizes striking have trouble facing a grappler.  Think back to the first UFC in '93.  Since then fighters with strong grappling/anti-grappling skills have now learned how to neutralize some of the grapplers' primary weapons, and we are now seeing more and more strike-heavy matches in the cage.  In fact, the most recent Ronda Rousey match illustrates perfectly what happens when a striker knows how to use footwork, distancing and timing to avoid grappling attacks.

But early on those cage fighters  with a background in wrestling, judo and BJJ were able to smother the strikers' fire.  Catch wrestlers, shoot fighters, judoka, and BJJ practitioners simply had the advantage over guys who knew nothing about sprawling or defending against takedowns.

It was my experience in sparring this wrestler, along with other not-so-pleasant experiences such as boxing against a Golden Gloves champ, sparring with a Muay Thai fighter, and going toe-to-toe with some full contact kickboxers, that I started thinking in terms of a rock/paper/scissors approach to fighting.  When the wrestler defeated me so easily I reached out to some grappling instructors and learned a few tricks on how to defend against the shoot. I'm not saying I could stop it all the time, but I learned just enough to be able to stay on my feet a little more frequently and thus be able to use striking.  In an aikido class I learned a little about redirecting the attacker's energy.  In some judo classes I learned about clinching and hand control.  From a Muay Thai fighter I learned about controlling the head, and from some catch fighters I learned about duck unders. From some boxers I learned about matador-type footwork and evasive head movement and counter attacks.  They also taught me about clinching and tying up the arms of the opponent, things that the referee will work to interrupt.

A former H2H combat instructor in the military taught me about disruptive/destructive low kicks to the shins, insteps, knees, and groin.  A Wing Chun gung fu instructor showed me some other low-line kicks that were hard to catch, difficult to see and almost impossible to counter.  One TKD master I trained with was able to kick high, powerfully and accurately and could shut down a lot of grappling attacks.

All of these skills however are no match for a good wrestler, one who spends hour upon hour in the gym, in the weight room, and on the mats perfecting his shooting skills.  They are lightning quick, with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it speed. They are strong and powerful and know how to set up their attacks with feints, slaps, grabs and fakes.  Take a look at the number of UFC champions who have strong wrestling backgrounds and you'll understand the mantra:  SHOOT HAPPENS.





PEOPLE ARE CRAZIER THAN ANYBODY

Sun, 2015-11-08 19:28
PEOPLE ARE CRAZIER THAN ANYBODY"A question that sometimes drives me hazy; am I or are the others crazy?"Albert Einstein
Manure has been used for thousands of years as a fertilizer. Apparently high quality manure adds vital nutrients to the soil.  In a 2011 article from Mother Earth News, Carol Steinfeld encouraged people to compost their own waste! But be careful, unless you dilute your urine by as much as 20-to-1, you just might burn your plants.

Some manure, such as guano, or bat feces, is a much sought after substance because it has particularly high levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphate.  

In one nature documentary I recently saw there was a 300 foot mound of guano in a cave.  Referred to as "Dung Hill", the mound in Deer Cave is literally covered in cockroaches. Should a bat lose its grip and fall onto the mound, the cockroaches will reduce it to a skeleton in short order.  I don't consider myself all that squeamish, but I found myself doing upchuck sounds as I watched the insects crawling around in the dark, gnawing on those bones.

Here's what Jothan Yeager, aka "The Bald Gourmet," said about that 100 meter mound:

"When planning a trip to Deer Cave, you should know that you are in for an awesome but smelly experience.  With over 3 million bats living inside the cave, there is bat crap all over the place inside.  The stink is a bit stifling.  It smells oddly like bad body odor, but with a wet mustiness that is hard to explain.  If you’re sensitive to these sorts of things, you could rub a little Tiger Balm under your nose."

I need to remember that tip and always have some Tiger Balm ready for special occasions, when the guano mounds are particularly big and stinky.  

Like, anytime when I go online.

People, it turns out, are crazier than anybody.  There are mounds and mounds of crap everywhere you look.  I'd like to think it's just fertilizer that helps rationality and critical thinking to move ahead.  But I'm afraid it's just a load of bullsh*t. 

Get your Tiger Balm ready.  Here are just a few examples of some of the stifling, wet mustiness you might encounter:

1.  People who have visited heaven and/or hell:  There are some folks who have made a decent living out of writing books and giving lectures about their visits to paradise, purgatory or places of punishment.  They describe the feeling of warmth and comfort of being in heaven.  The sensation of joy and peace.  Others describe the horrible tortures, the sense of dread and despair of hell.  This is all just a vivid imagination, a misfiring of brain cells or even symptoms of mental illness.  Just because someone believes it, doesn't make it so.  I worked at a mental institution many years ago, and many of the patients had very accurate, lucid, consistent and persistent images in their minds.  I never once considered that their thoughts had any connection to reality.  The same goes for normal people who read books or go to movies to watch the fantasies of the "Heaven Is Real" proponents.

2.  People who insist that angels are real:  They will tell you that angels have saved them or their loved ones.  They swooped down and rescued someone in a car crash.  They pulled a child from a burning building.  Or they stopped a terrible event from occurring.  In a plane crash, the survivors will tell you that angels protected them, while forgetting to mention that others had no such protection. My number one issue with this belief in personal angels is the bias the angels seem to show by letting one person live and at the same time allowing hundreds of others to perish. This, to me, is the epitome of narcissism.

3.  People who have been aboard alien space crafts:  The stories are all quite similar.  There is often a vivid account of being used as a guinea pig in some painful experiment. There is often a time distortion, where there are hours of time that simply cannot be accounted for.  Perhaps they receive a message from the benevolent visitors, a message that we should love one another and eschew violence. They cannot offer physical evidence, and seem to believe that vivid memories are adequate.  As skeptics have been saying for years, "the plural of anecdotes is not evidence."

4.  People who heal others with the power of their minds: They feel your pain, perhaps diagnose a blockage in the flow of life-force, and then, with laser-like precision, they remove the obstacles and return the patient to health. Some do this telepathically.  Others need to wave their hands near the body.  The patient feels better after these sessions, so, of course, it WORKS!  This bullshit has been going on for much of the history of the human race.  Witch doctors, shamans and tribal healers had the power to heal. In some cases they legitimately knew about real herbs and plants that had medicinal value.  But in most cases they knew that those who BELIEVED they were getting better often did better than those who doubted.  The psychology associated with pain and suffering is still somewhat a mystery, but a positive state of mind might still be important in controlling pain and fear. In my own view, this is all a healer is doing--helping the patient tap into the inner power to manage pain and fear.

5.  People who can knock you out with their mastery of chi: I've written lots about these charlatans.  They can make you faint just with a few, strategic strikes.  The best ones (that is, the biggest bullshitters) can do all of this without even touching the target.  This is nothing but the power of suggestion, plain and simple.  There is no special power.  Chi does not exist.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  Ix-nay on the I-chay.

6.  People who believe the earth is young and that the global flood occurred: These used to be fringe beliefs, but now it's rather mainstream.  In fact many people who hold political office or who are candidates for political positions--including President of the United States!--now express a belief in these outdated myths.  Instead many will use the excuse, "I'm not a scientist," and they'll say that the voters should decide what gets taught in their local schools. They'll say that "intelligent design" should get equal time with evolutionary science.  They believe that the park rangers at the Grand Canyon need to teach both "theories" about how the canyons were formed.  They want taxpayers to foot the bill to build a replica of Noah's ark.

7.  People who believe in Shaolin monks and ninja:  There is scant evidence that the myths surrounding these groups is real.  Most of the stories are simply legends that have grown with the telling.  It's nothing but a Dungeons and Dragons type fantasy.  Or cosplay.  I feel a little embarrassed for the people who dress up like a monk or a ninja and who practice with exotic weapons.  I want so badly to scream, "leave this stuff where it belongs...the movies!"

8.  People who tell you that the risks of global warming are not real:  These, mind you, are the same people who tell you that they aren't scientists, but then dismiss the scientists who have actually done the research. They are the same groups who believe in Pascal's wager, "the argument that it is in one's best interest to behave as if God exists, since the possibility of eternal punishment in hell outweighs any advantage of believing otherwise," but who seem to think all will be well if we simply ignore what the science is telling us about the slow march to doom if we don't change our stinking ways.  Some actually believe that God Himself will not allow anything bad happen to the earth unless and until He wills it.  Or they believe that the rapture and end times will come long before the end of human life burns out like a candle.

I encourage everyone to become familiar with the late Carl Sagan's "'Baloney Detection Kit,' a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods."  It's easy to be deceived.  Even smart people can fall for propaganda, sensationalism and odd beliefs.

Learn to smell the bat guano mound before you get stuck in it.



Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit

Views on Evolution




GOING WILD

Tue, 2015-10-27 23:14
GOING WILDWHAT I LEARNED FROM WATCHING 
THE WILD, WILD WEST
"Conrad could be counted upon to engage in one or more knock-down, drag-out brawls with evildoers per episode, as well as any manner of stunts, all of which he performed himself with a team of stuntmen. This dedication to the show occasionally resulted in injury for Conrad, including a 12-foot fall from a balcony that resulted in a concussion."From TCM bio of Robert Conrad

In the 60s, this was my regular Friday night routine:  Fix a snack--usually a Chef Boyardee pizza, which I made from a kit--set up the TV tray, and tune in to my favorite show, "The Wild, Wild West."

I loved the gadgets and the girls.  Goes without saying.  But what I really liked, what I waited for every episode, were the fights!

Jim West was one tough hombre.  He routinely took on bigger men, he was often outnumbered, and he could take a punch.  His fight sequences had a fresh, spontaneous look to them, and I've read over the years that it was because they only rehearsed a few minutes before actual filming began.   Robert Conrad did most of his own stunts, and the stunt guys were part of a tight crew who were on week after week.

Here's what I learned from watching Jim West go wild every week:

1.  Move fast:  Say what you will, but Jim West was quick. He had raptor-fast hand strikes, and he moved through his opponents like a Ferrari on high performance fuel.

2.  Use what's around you:  Jim West would swing from a chandelier, throw a bottle of champagne, use a bar stool, or use anything else he could get his hands on. Essentially he cheated.

3.  Practice:  There were a few scenes showing Jim West practicing his karate/kenpo moves back in his specially equipped, luxury rail car.  In real life Robert Conrad studied boxing and martial arts.  It was, to many, their first exposure to the exotic Asian fighting skills. While his fights didn't adhere to any specific style, he nevertheless incorporated punches, kicks and defensive maneuvers not usually seen in Western TV programs. 

4.  Stay in fantastic shape:  Jim West (Robert Conrad) was truly a lean, mean fighting machine.  He always had washboard abs, and for a small guy he had an intimidating physique. He looked like he could out run, out swim, and out fight 90% of the bad guys in the show.

5.  Don't show fear:  Jim West was supremely confident. You might even say he was cocky.  When facing a big, bad, bad guy, he faced his fate calmly.  He didn't let fear or anxiety zap his energy.  In one memorable fight sequence he faced off against Richard Kiel, the 7' 2" actor who went on to play Jaws in the James Bond movies.  He leaped off of a balcony and punched Kiel down the stairs, and it looked unbelievably real.

6.  Tactical Parkour:  Go back and watch some episodes or stunt sequences from any WWW season, and you're bound to see Jim West climb, jump, tumble, and swing.  He used his environment for offensive and defensive purposes.

7.  Keep moving:  Jim West was a man of action. Constant action.  Once he started fighting, he didn't stop until he or the bad guy was down and out.  He ran when escape was an option, and he dove into the crowd when escape was out of the question.

8.  Adapt:  Jim West could box, do gung fu, duel with swords or even use a bull whip.  We never got the sense that he was an absolute master of any particular style, and instead we saw that he was versatile and deadly with a wide array of fighting skills.

9.  Preemptive striking:  In many, many WWW fight sequences Jim West threw the first punch.  Often a quick right to the jaw of whoever was standing in front of him. He often body checked somebody, ramming his shoulder into someone's chest to knock his opponent off balance.

10. Fight through the pain:  One thing I liked about WWW fights was that Jim West took a lot of punches.  He was ambushed, thrown off of balconies, slid on bars through barroom windows, and knocked down stairs.  He was beat routinely beat up, but he kept getting back up.  He was indomitable.

Yes, I know they weren't real fights.  I know it was just a TV show, but I tell you...to me?  They were REAL!  Now let's see...will it be cheese or pepperoni tonight?




WHICH ZOMBIE ARE YOU FIGHTING--The S.A.D. Method of Training

Wed, 2015-10-21 23:03
WHICH ZOMBIE ARE YOU FIGHTINGThe S.A.D. Method of Training
"We have all the time in the world, Time enough for life..."Louis Armstrong
"Believe we're gliding down the highway
When in fact we're slip slidin' away"
Paul Simon

Zombie Attacks

I am a huge fan of AMC's television hit series "The Walking Dead" (TWD). Who knows what the world would be like if the unimaginable happened and people started turning into flesh-eating zombies.  But I think TWD does a fantastic job doing precisely that--imagining the worst in the most realistic, harrowing and gruesome way possible.

In TWD individuals and small groups of people are trying to survive, not only struggling to get enough to eat and drink, but also constantly fighting off hordes of zombies.  And, perhaps even worse, fighting off evil humans who have decided to throw conventional morals onto the trash heap.

You can learn a lot about fighting, real fighting, by watching TWD and zombie movies in general.  In some respects the various defenses against zombies represent the way that self defense and reality based combatives (RBC) are currently taught.

Let me explain.

Zombies, by and large, have traditionally been featured on film as persistent, slow-moving, mindless creatures.  On TWD the zombies, or "walkers" as they are generally called, are rotting corpses who shuffle along, slip-sliding away. The experienced survivors know to keep their distance, maintain vigilance, and go for the head to obtain a kill-shot.

This is the way that RBC defenses are often taught.  The attacker, like a walker from TWD, is slow and methodical, and the defender has all the time in the world.  I have watched numerous demonstrations at martial arts schools and self defense academies, and you see this a lot.  In some cases the attacker, hands lifted in the classic zombie position, moves in like molasses, running uphill, on a cold winter day.

However, there are notable exceptions to the slow moving zombie cliche: For example, the zombies in Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" are infected with the "Rage virus," and they move incredibly fast. The zombies from the movie version of the incredible novel "World War Z" also move at almost hyper speed, as do the creatures from the "Resident Evil" film series and those from the Will Smith movie "I Am Legend".  There are also martial arts and self defense styles that feature speed and chaos as part of their training methodology.

Have you thought about which zombie YOU are fighting?

Perhaps both methods of training--slow and fast, methodical and chaotic--have specific benefits.

The S.A.D. Method of Training

I was first introduced to the S.A.D. method of training by a Sport Jujitsu competitor in the mid 90s.  This fighter trained under the exciting martial artist Ernie Boggs, founder of Sport Jujitsu.  In one of Ernie's videos he describes the S.A.D. method as training in 1 of 3 progressive ways.  I always liked Ernie's methodology, and I incorporated (blatantly stole) the concepts into my own training with a few modifications.

S=Static

In the early phases of training fighting skills or sequences are often taught in a by-the-numbers manner.  Using this method isolated actions, like slices from a pizza, are segments of a larger sequence of movements.  The new student or the practitioner being introduced to new movements will often stand facing their training partner. The partner attacks, moving in slowly thus allowing the student time to practice specific skills in a precise manner. The instructor can make adjustments, improve posture and positioning, and remove superfluous movements in order to increase efficiency.  

I have found that starting with a call-and-response, back-and-forth type of sequence is a good way of introducing new skills.  The defender is focusing on one specific reaction and is able to drill this movement over and over. As efficiency improves, I then layer on the 2nd or 3rd movement.  

With sufficient drilling the student will build muscle memory and be able to respond to an attack in a smooth, effective manner.

The attacker is compliant at this stage, and the aggressive actions are slow and deliberate.

A=Active

This phase incorporates 2 important features:  Quicker movements and more resistance.  The aggressor not only speeds up the attack, he also is less compliant to the defender's actions and counterattacks.  He adds energy and momentum to his own aggressive actions.  

The instructor may also begin adding complexity or variations.  Let's say the attack is option A, and the defender's response is option B.  At this phase, and after a number of solidifying iterations, the defender may answer not with B, but with C. 

With some creativity and plenty of time to familiarize and practice each sequence, the flow from attack to defense, and the flow from movement to movement achieves a smooth, almost effortless fluidity.  This fluidity then allows greater speed, more quickness from action to action, and reduces reaction time.

D=Dynamic

When you hear the word "dynamic" you probably think of such characteristics as forceful, chaotic, high energy, and the element of change or surprise.  All of these can be used at the next phase of training.  

Not only are movements more forceful at this phase, but there is an element of realism.  As Bruce Lee said in the movie Enter the Dragon:  "We need emotional content."  I would also add we need combative context.  In a real-world emergency self protection (ESP) scenario, there is plenty of emotional intensity.  There may be anger and rage (remember the rage virus from "28 Days Later"), and there will definitely be the intent to do damage.  

Using adequate safety gear the students can ratchet up their training to increase the force without worrying about injury.  Obviously the defender must learn to control his or her emotions and to use combat breathing skills so as not to waste energy.  The instructor must set limits on the force or contact level allowed and may need to step in if the action becomes too intense.  Good conditioning is a must not only to ensure a full gas tank of energy but also to help in avoiding injury.

At this phase the instructor may introduce what I call PIC or Progressively Introduced Chaos.  This means that methodical becomes improvisational with surprise variations added to keep students on their toes.  Remind students that they may make mistakes, but that each mistake is an important element of learning.  When mistakes occur allow the student an opportunity to revisit the same scenario with new and improved responses.  

Happily, the student who follows a steady and progressive S.A.D. training protocol will eventually switch to cruise control, responding automatically and instinctively to each attack.