Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Years Misogi Training

I found myself in Deauville France, on the Normandy Coast at noon January 1, 2017, after partying until 4 in the morning.  I and about 100 of what became my closest friends for a few minutes went in to the Atlantic Ocean (or whatever it is called there, heck, I don't speak French) for a dip. To the delight of about 500 spectators.

The weather was freezing, but the ocean there was a nice 50F (10 celsius) rather warm I understand but  the cold but calm weather meant the ocean was not kicked up so the lower colder water was not on top where we were swimming.

This is what one would call misogi training, but that has a spiritual dimension, and I get my spirituality from G-d, through the Catholics, as long as they'll have me.  (Christianity is voluntary, but they can throw you out.)

And besides, this was too fun to be any sort of penance.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In Defense of Anarchy

Anarchy simply means "no king" (an + archy).  it has a grand tradition of peace and prosperity, and so the perfectly good description of a fine milieu has been abused to mean the exact opposite in general use, that is instead of peace and prosperity, the implication of anarchy, people associate anarchy with chaos.    The funny thing is kings, states and such hegemon centered entities bring with them chaos.  The hegemon always presents what must be the finest example of a false dilemma ever devised: hegemon or chaos.  Well, the hegemon is chaos, so in essence chaos v chaos.  Like when the British queried the Irish, indeed everyone, what would your country be like without us ruling you?

Of course, the question was considered between a British overloard and an English speaking colonial subject, and as such harldy represents the colonized people. Preaching to the choir, the British came to believe their own PR, disastrously, as all Hegemons do.

Believing your own PR is probably the worst mistake you can make in human relations.

In the case of the Irish, those who wanted to overthrow the Brits were in fact those who benefitted most from british occupation. They did not want anything to change, they just wanted to be in charge.  And indeed they did get there.  As soon as the Brits quit Ireland, a civil war broke out, to the amusement of the British, and an example for all other colonials.

Anarchists, properly defined are not against heirarchy or order.  Quite the contrary.  they believe in leadership, and rules, but a constant flowing regime with certain aspects:

1. The regime is voluntary, you can participate or not, up to you.

2. It is nonviolent.  It has no sanction for non-participation or malefaction except shunning.

The hegemon needs both, can not work without both.  People need neither, but sadly, we have voters, and in his way people harmed are not victims, but complicit perpetrators in their own degeneration.

We have had working anarchy, relative justice, peace and prosperity, many times in history...  the earliest record is the 400 years after Exodus, there is the Iceland 200 year experience, Carthage may have been, but just not enough information, and the American West 1820s on until the 1870s is a surprisingly good example.

Even when regimes are operating at their nadir, with their requisite "monopoly on violence within a given territory" we still have working anarchistic regimes, which the lawyers call "private law." Lex mercatoria has been around 1000 years, and states find they must comply with this private law if they wish to benefit from world trade.  Try as they might to fight it, anarchy wins.

I am an anarchist because it is the only politics that can approximate, justice, peace and prosperity.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Aikido Everywhere in the World

No matter where you go, from Homer Alaska to Hong Kong, from Aruba to Tokyo, from Saigon to Paris, there is aikido and a club where you are welcome to practice.  And happily in Paris after an excellent practice under the tutelage of Shihan Becart, there is the de riguer beer in a bistro.

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Grab My Wrist!

Some of the most unfortunate 'aikido fail' videos feature a black belt sparring (so to speak) with another martial art, say BJJ, and requests the BJJ partner "grab my wrist" or shoulder or whatever.  I note the BJJ fellow usually complies and then proceeds to trash the aikido fellow.

Pride before the fall. Too many practice without a thought to application.

The fact is aikido depends on the other's force, and one of the most difficult attacks is when one simply comes up to you slowly and then latches on with a grab.  Now what.  The force is just a lockdown, and it there is no force directed at you.  And there you are, looking silly as someone has grabbed you, wrist or elbow or shoulder.  And maybe just cussing you out to threatening you, but no force.  What to do?

Of course you can counter by grabbing the wrist on the same side, drop your weight, irimi, then whatever.  Except not in this day and age.  If someone "only grabbed you" and you in turn hurt him (and assuming the cops show up, always bad news), then the cops are obliged to arrest someone, given the "domestic violence" laws, which require someone be arrested if there is an altercation gone physical.

These laws began to show up in the 1980s, with a view to curbing men beating up women, but lo and behold! It turns out far more often women are the ones doing the beatings!  The laws feminists pushed through seemed to backfire.  Amendments were effected, and now a person with bruises is assumed to be the victim, and if in doubt, arrest both parties.  Well, when being assaulted today, it's a good idea to get a bruise or two, to prove you were defending yourself.  Yes, that's right, take a hit.

We live in strange times. Adjust.  Just grin while they have you grabbed, and take a smack, a bruise maker.  Then you can get to work.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Aikido For Police and Schools

Of my three original instructors, the only one still alive, Bernie Lau is famous for having a crisis experience regarding the efficacy of aikido in real life.  The crisis involved an encounter trying to arrest a drunk lumberjack.  Lau Sensei felt his actions led to two police officers getting injured, plus the lumberjack winning a excessive force lawsuit against the city.  For a young cop that would be a crisis.

Lau Sensei is legendary for his many martial arts exploits, starting with being recruited into aikido off the beach in Hawaii in 1954 by aikido Chief Instructor Tohei Sensei himself.  He was physically formidable, and for someone in his 70s, still is.  When aikido did not work, he switched to his Goju Kai karate and began delivering punishing blows.  That doesn't work on a drunk lumberjack either.

The crisis story is much longer, but the point is aikido is not designed to be an aggressive, offensive art.  As Lau Sensei himself notes.

Here is an article on aikido gone wrong in application:
It appears the use of Aikido began around 2012 at Buechel after the principal hired Ron Boyd, the Richmond martial arts instructor, to train some staff members at the school, according to JCPS records. Boyd has told the CJ that when properly used, the Aikido method shouldn't result in injuries.
In February 2016, JCPS' director of security and investigations, Stan Mullen, suggested that another look at the use of Aikido Control Training in schools may be warranted.
Mullen pointed to the broken wrist at Buechel as well as the head injury and the broken collarbone at Breckinridge Metro as "three significant injuries directly connected to Aikido," saying the injuries may have been due to improper uses of the technique.
At least three Jefferson County Public School students suffered serious injuries in the last three years after staff reported using a method of physical restraint known as Aikido Control Training, a technique the state Department of Education banned last month from all public schools amid concerns about potential injuries.
You can google the aikido instructor behind the program. I've never met him, he seems a typical aikido instructor, so how could aikido application go so wrong?

In my time I have taught in K-12 schools, usually in inner city rough neighborhoods.  Indeed, in some schools we were given hazard pay.  Yes, most states allow kids to stay in K-12 schools until they are 21 (not sure anyone ever takes advantage of that opportunity) and I have met elementary kids bigger and stronger than I am.  High school kids can be Goliaths.  Lesson #1 in K-12 education: never get into a power struggle with a student.  You'll lose.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  Yes school districts have their own fully trained and armed cops, and yes, they will come in and handcuff a first grader and take him away, let alone a high school senior.  And I have also taught in Juvie, where the kids are already under arrest.  But when the cops have to be called, it is generally assumed an adult got into a power struggle with the kid, and failed to de-escalate.  (So even if the cops take the kid away, you lost. And the kid knows that too.  He knows he'll be back, you may not.)

Most school districts offer training on how to restrain a child who is about to commit serious property damage (is a student dropping your cell phone in the classroom fish tank serious property damage?) or physically harm another.  But that training is more to protect the school district from a lawsuit than protect the teacher. Most teachers will not intervene in a fight, they just let the students beat each other, mostly because the pugilists' friends end to break it up.  For my part I was able to simple step in between kids and they simply backed off.  Who knows what would happen if one of the kids came after me?

(An interesting lesson from the school self-defense training:  If you are restraining a kid, you are usually safe as long as the target of the kid is out of range.  The kids rage is focussed on his target.  Once the kids attention turns from the target of his rage, to your restraint, then you are in trouble. The kid will now fight you.  You can spot this transference when the kid starts looking at how you have him pinned, when he starts probing how to get away from you.  At this point the advice is ask the kid if it is ok to release him, and do so anyway after say 3 seconds.  This gives the kid power, and shows him respect, which might translate into working with you, instead of fighting.  To me a fascinating tidbit.)

Although many kids want to destroy teachers, a common tactic among teachers is if a kid is getting into it with one teacher, another teacher will walk up and take over as the first teacher simply turns and leaves. The first teacher will get a barrage of insults but if you cannot take that, then you do not belong in a school. What kids do is offer their best effort at all times.  If throwing things and cussing and stealing from you is what they are doing, that is simply their best effort, given their background.  You don't beat up a kid for doing his best.

Teachers do get cold-cocked, as well as administrators.  But given the amount of interaction between civilized teachers and yet-to-be civilized impoverished youth, the ratio of assault to interaction is near nil in schools.

So the application of physical aikido to this setting makes no sense.  Of course tenkan and irimi, on the emotional level, is a constant event.  When a kid makes fun of your receding hairline, or worse, your shoes, he is just probing for a button to push.  If he gets near a button, you simply reply, "you are right to criticize me about my hairline" (tenkan).  Or "what would you recommend I buy when next I have enough money to buy shoes?" (Irimi).

Aikido as a physical event has no place in schools, for the threats do not warrant a martial art response.

As to aikido "not working in real life" the statement is odd. The funny thing is, as a student of Lau Sensei, we learned arrest techniques.  When Lau Sensei built his own dojo in his back yard, his students were mostly cops and military (plus some awesome visiting instructors.)

L to R Wally Jay, James Demile, John Spiers, Bernie Lau, at Lau Sensei's dojo.  Wally Jay taught Bruce Lee, James Demile was one of Bruce Lee's first ten students.
Arrest techniques were a common lesson, although I am no cop. But, having been so specifically and intensely trained,  I've personally made over a dozen arrests in my time,  what we call in the USA "citizen arrests."  It's tricky business as a legal matter, but even trickier as a practical matter.  A kidnapper, a rapist, a second story man?  (Also a chicken $#!+ dine and dasher, and other petty fools who just pissed me off).  The funny thing is, as someone ready, willing and able to mix it up hand to hand, people seem to be pacified once they are placed under arrest.   It's never happened that someone came back swinging at me when I arrested him, so who knows what would happen then?  I can think of maybe four instances of the dozen where I had to pin anyone.

But the fact is I cannot do anything to anyone who does not come at me, because if I am not attacked, aikido won't work.  I need the attacker's energy to fuel an aikido move.  On the other hand, police are obliged to initiate violence to effect an arrest.  You may say that statement is too strong, but today an arrest is an act of violence, with overwhelming force brought to an arrest event.  That is relatively new.  Back in the 1970s when I made arrests, my perpetrators tended to think I was a cop.  OK.  Now they know I am NOT a cop, because I am alone when I make an arrest.  Cops don't do that anymore.  The last two arrestees argued with me, denying my right to arrest them.  In both instances I simply said they were safer with the cops than me, and in those two instances, convincingly. The world has changed.  And again, who knows what would happen if my perpetrator comes up swinging.

Aikido works, if you are not doing police work.  Our trying to stop a kid from doing his very best in school. If "citizen's arrest" is not police work, then what is it?  I call it anarchy, escaping the chaos of failed government by being the government. Schools are chaotic, and they are a great place to practice anarchy.

If you are a martial artists, especially and aikidoist, you ought to be making arrests.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Is Aikido Graduate School?

Aikido was sort of a graduate school for martial artists.. the study of the sublime moves.

Aikido was not so much training up new martial artists, but a migration for many martial artists from kendo and judo to aikido.

Indeed, when I was starting the dojo was heavy with judo and kendo men.  The kendo men had been studying kendo for say fifteen years and were nidan in kendo...  and the judo men were tough fighters.  And they were happy to wear yellow and blue belts after even two years of aikido.

What was new was taking scraggly kids who were terrible at anything spoirting and training then to be martial artists, lucky for me they needed my $10 a month.

It took me nine years in the 1970s to get my shodan.  never bothered me to wait, as long as I got to practice.  I got to practice, 4 times a week for 4 hour shots, the times a week for 2 hour shots.  And the instructors were exceptional.

I must say there were long stretches where I hated practice, but then I'd go try to break off the platreau by studying judo (remedial aikido) to make some progress.  My koshi nage was terrible (I tried too hard).  I practiced kendo for a while too, because the jo and ken work can get boring in an aikido dojo, since it is all forms.  I like trying to get someone who is trying to get me.  So occasionally I had to cut back my weekly aikido schedule to work in some kendo or judo time.

Aikido comes from kendo, and it was very helpful to have so many kendoka as aikidoka. And the judoka set the tone for falls, hard falls mostly.  A brief and shining moment, that decade.  Hard to find that kind of training anymore.  I am over 60, because I trained with that intensity, I still train with that intensity.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Israel Throws Girls In Jail Who Don't Want To Fight

Back when Israel was fearsome and great, before they had kings, let alone government, and went downhill fast, here is how they rolled.

4And the Lord said to Gedeon: The people are still too many, bring them to the waters, and there I will try them: and of whom I shall say to thee, This shall go with thee, let him go: whom I shall forbid to go, let him return. 5And when the people were come down to the waters, the Lord said to Gedeon: They that shall lap the water with their tongues, as dogs are wont to lap, thou shalt set apart by themselves: but they that shall drink bowing down their knees, shall be on the other side. 6And the number of them that had lapped water, casting it with the hand to their mouth, was three hundred men: and all the rest of the multitude had drunk kneeling. 7And the Lord said to Gedeon: By the three hundred men, that lapped water, I will save you, and deliver Madian into thy hand: but let all the rest of the people return to their place.

Today, Israel throws girls in jail who do not want to fight.
At the end of their current prison stint, the two will be released, after which they will be required to once again present themselves at the induction base. They will then likely declare their refusal once again, and be handed a fourth prison sentence, a cycle that can repeat itself for months on end.
I like the old Israel better.

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