Archive for June 2012

People almost killing while using a sword

June 28, 2012

If you like watching people “almost” kill themselves and bystanders, take a look.


Yeah. Now consider this. I have not cut myself or anyone else during practice with my shinken. I have yet to lose a sword and have it go flying. And yet… a bunch of people on this planet call themselves “proficient” without being anywhere close.

Martial Arts practice and theories

June 24, 2012

I’m rereading my sources on Chinese martial history in preparation for Part 3 of “How Martial Arts students should be taught”.

One thing I’ve begun to notice in my own training is that the Japanese katana, 41 inches in total, seemed very very long when I first started practicing with the iaito (blunt edged sword steel). The shinken (sharp sword designed to cut targets) also felt long and cumbersome, almost like a quarterstaff. After a few months of practice, however, the two handed sword begins to feel more and more like it is shorter and shorter. Partially this is due to the fact that I can maneuver it faster due to muscle and ligament development. Partially it is a psychological effect with familiarity. But when I became familiar with projection of kinetic energy in my arms, it felt longer and longer, the opposite of the sword. My nerves were able to command muscles reaching first from my elbows, to my wrist, to my fist, then lastly all the way to the ends of my finger tips: this is the often described “snap” in a strike. This progressive chain generated more and more links going farther out on my body. Yet weapon practice reduces the length of the sword when it comes to pure feeling. That is a somewhat strange dichotomy.

I’ve also noticed that when walking in doors, I have almost zero kinesthetic awareness of where the scabbard is. Which means it often bumps into things all the time. I’ve found that if I put a hand on the hilt of the sword and maneuver it up and down, sideways as well, that I would then gain a “kinesthetic awareness” of the sword+scabbard in 3d. Simply by touching it. But it being on my hips through the belt, didn’t give that sense by itself. For those wondering why I wear a scabbard indoors, it’s because I favor realistic training. If I am training with the scabbard through my belt, then I will try to train it in circumstances where I might actually need to use the sword, even if I don’t intend to keep the scabbard attached to the belt or if I didn’t wake up with a belt on to begin with. This seeking of realism has given me a greater appreciation for historical Japanese dramas. Also the reason why they left longswords outside houses. There’s all kinds of stuff you can learn in modern life, that allows you to understand the Ancients.

Another example of modern knowledge pertaining to ancient practices is the split trousers worn by kenjutsu users and aikido users; it has two very functional purposes when it comes to sword warfare.

1. it gives your scabbard a specific angle to be equipped, and allows you to sheathe and unsheathe it faster, due to the fact that your muscles will memorize the angle and trajectory.

You could still be pretty fast with a free moving scabbard or a scabbard stuck through a belt, but it is slightly slower. And slightly slower often matters in life and death battles.

2. It hides the movements of your legs, thus preventing your enemy from seeing where you are going before you actually get there. Number 2 may actually be more important than Number 1.

I have yet to cut myself or others when practicing, even though sometimes people walk by and I talk to them about my sword hobby. Sometimes I let them hold and swing the iaito. Other times if I have the shinken equipped, I just draw it out and present it so that it catches the sunlight. I give fair warning to people who wish to practice the sword. Don’t swing around a sharp one until you can swing around a blunt sword or a wooden one without ever, ever, hitting yourself or someone you aren’t intending to. There have been more accidents than I can count with iaitos, shinken, and bokken (wooden swords) in the training halls of the world because somebody was over zealous, playing around, or plain incompetent. I know I won’t cut myself. But if someone else swings a sword, I will be 3 times its length outside their range, irregardless of what “rank” they call themselves. This is good practice for gauging range, a crucial skill in aikijutsu and kenjutsu. A skill most people never pick up… then again, that was true in the ancient days as well. A bunch of semi trained idiots going around swinging swords, but they had no idea about the finer more subtle aspects of the art.

The iaito is a strange beast. Technically a “non-lethal” training tool, but in reality a very subtle covert weapon that has its function hidden. It’s a mighty good stabbing and piercing tool, plus it has the density, hardness, and flexibility to break bone better than any bat or crow bar. I’ve cut through small tree branches the diameter of my finger with a fast blow. Although it was more like it “exploded” through the branch. Only usable if you apply body weight to it though. I could easily defend myself from any melee armed mob rioting in the streets rapine and looting, with a blunt edged high carbon steel, correctly tempered, wakizashi or katana. I wonder what the police would call it. An edged weapon? A blunt force object?

A sword, like the gun, is a labor saving tool for humans. So that humans can get “work” done faster, quicker, and easier. It is a comment on human society that so many people spend hours of hobby time maintaining, cleaning, polishing, and training with a sword, both Western and Eastern variants.’relax-more-hit-harder!’-by-gert-jan-ketelaar/


Some other, side topic material about martial arts in general.

The World is Going to Hell and the politicians are drinking toasts to their absolute power in their mansions

June 19, 2012

Basically how it is.

Color Perception

June 19, 2012


One of those small details I picked up was that women have a far better sense of color perception than men. I hypothesized that this was due to our ancient gatherer/hunter days when women had to pick a lot of berries and had to distinguish between ripe ones, rotten ones, poisonous mushrooms and so forth and so on. Also helps with snakes and what not.

The Ruthless Playstyle of Eve Online

June 16, 2012

This was an interesting topic I came across.

If you believe that the news topic is embellished or fictional, then consider this video and the background threads.


Eve Online is a very interesting MMO simulation game. It simulates human conflict, morale, logistics, economic decisions, and several other things. At times it is a war game. At other times it is an espionage and financial game. Finding a warlord in Eve Online and seeing how they apply the Art of War to a simulated online environment, is very interesting since one of my primary interests is the freedom to express one’s will through physical movement in martial arts and H2H. This is a very tactically limited fight and is nowhere close to the battles Sun Tzu fought 2500 years ago in China, but the same principles apply strategically and even logistically.

Many people can read Sun Tzu. Few can understand it. Even fewer can apply any of its principles in actual practical fighting against real human opponents.



Serendipity in the Way of the Sword

June 2, 2012

Two people I’ve met through the coincidence of a shared interest, swordmanship or kenjutsu, comes to my mind recently. While practicing, a person named M drove by and started talking to me. I believe I’ve mentioned him before. This time, however, a little girl, J, started mimicking some of my moves with a plastic cane. She was shy at first, running away when I approach her, but eventually I was able to talk to her about learning how to have fun with these sticks in a way that wouldn’t hurt. Especially since she was trying to learn by sparring with her brother. Not a good idea at any age, if you ask me. I have no idea how much, if at all, I’ve helped them out with their problems or objectives in life. They are both free to come visit me again, although many lack the initiative. A couple of working teenagers, pushing a lawnmover on saturday/sunday visited my neighborhood. They wanted me to draw my sword, shinken at the time. So I did a basic iai draw and a few practice cuts, keeping far away from anyone, then sheathed the sword using touch sensitivity. I then talked to them about kenjutsu and how to buy iaitos and shinken online, what to look for, and the safety concerns. They’ll go far in life if they keep to that work ethic they’ve shown. Especially in this economy. So long as they remembered my instructions on buying blunt edged training tools first, and don’t cut off their ear, arm, or legs, that is.

I do not believe I was ever interested in teaching others as a primary goal in life, though helping them felt beneficial overall. I seem to recall a common saying that the beginning martial artist has too much on his plate to be much interested in teaching. Bruce Lee’s first generation students were more accurately his training partners that he taught Wing Chun trapping to, because it was Lee’s way to promote stronger opponents, which in turn forced Lee to evolve his personal art. The focus I’ve spent on improving myself, improving the efficiency at the rate I train via my independent study time and with various different open handed or weapon arts, coincidentally results in me having great fun at teaching or instructing others on how to have fun with this stuff. And having fun, makes life easier to live. It also requires me to gain a complete understanding of martial arts, to the point where I can instruct kids or complete beginners. I tend to use the touch sensitivity method of many Chinese gong fu instructors, combined with the martial theory present in various Taiji Chuan courses. I do not care to place a label on my own abilities, but it seems to jibe with the level where a student in the H2H fields begins to be interested in explaining, showing, and teaching others. And perhaps I’ve gained a greater than average level at teaching precisely because my original training was never a “hold their hands” kind of thing. A lot of importance was placed on individual initiative, responsibility, and independent study. If you didn’t want it bad enough, if you didn’t put in the work to come up with your own training regimen, you weren’t going to get anywhere. Certainly nobody was going to tell you to train or tell you how to do certain things a certain way.

Shinkendo/Kenjutsu training day

June 1, 2012

Started training outside. Burst of rain clouds came over and deluged my area. Sometime later it stopped. Good thing there was no lightning. Absorbing natural chi outside is all nice and good, but I don’t want to point my sword to the sky and call down a rakurai. Started feeling cold after, not during, the rain shower. Glycogen reserves were being depleted. Had a hard time increasing my internal temperature with chi gong, muscles felt like they were cold and depleted. Not sure how long I trained. 1 hour? 2 hours? 3 hours? Shrugs. Some guy drove past me, then stopped and started talking tom e about martial arts. I guess the white belt and katana belted to it, suggested I was a martial artist or instructor. I told him to look into Taiji Chuan, since he seemed like an external martial artist that toured around in various external styles, but recently has been injured and cannot keep up his external art activities. Whether you get old or get injured, the same limitations apply. Figure it out when you’re younger and you won’t waste as much time in the end.

There’s rust on my 1045 iaito from being in the rain for awhile. Time to polish it. Working, working. Rain made my sandals too slippery. Took em off and went bare foot on the cobblestone, that was running with water. Relatively pleasant overall.

Now eating pork. Good energy.

P.S. For questions on what sword steels there are, the differences, and why they matter: look here.