Wednesday 21 April 2010

Actor guilty of offensive weapon charge

So it seems that the Scottish courts have judged that the kubotan that Darren Day ('entertainer') was carrying when found drunk was an offensive weapon.

"the sheriff was told by two martial arts experts from Lothian and Borders Police that the kubotan was designed in the 1970s for use by the Los Angeles Police as a self-defence weapon and in a worst case scenario could be used to kill someone."

So there you have it. I'm guessing thought that the same martial arts experts could have argued that owning a pen or a credit card could also be judged offensive if used in an offensive manner. I guess their argument is that the kubotan was developed as a weapon in the first place.


Wednesday 7 April 2010

How a key ring can be an offensive weapon

A British 'entertainer' is currently in court for possessing an offensive weapon. The weapon in question is what he uses as a key ring and is a kubotan: a five inch metal rod developed as a self defence system in your pocket.

The 'entertainer' in question maintains that he wasn't aware of this aspect to what he maintains is simply his way of not losing his keys. I am somewhat intrigued to see how this develops and to see if this is seen as a weapon. Is carrying some offcuts of dowel home from the DIY shop an illegal act? Or indeed a six foot curtain rail in the same form and weight as a bo staff going to cause legal problems?

Admittedly the kubotan is directly advertised as a self defence weapon and as well as being able to be used to strike, and to gain leverage in locks and pins, when keys are attached can be used as a flail. But the kubotan is a development of the traditional 'yawara' weapon used in many martial arts which is simply a short stick. Just as the kubotan was used by police forces in the US in the mid 1970s it seems that the yawara was introduced some 40 years previously to the Californian police force by Professor Frank Matsuyama. Matsuyama's yawara use was seen as 'humane' as it "enables a man to overcome his opponent before trouble can really begin" (ref).

This following video shows a modern take on defence with the kubotan by some krav mga practitioners:

And another showing how effective and somewhat viscous this little stick could be in a self defence situation:

So I can see how these small sticks can be brutally effective but surely the intent has to be to use it as a weapon. Or is this a cop out? After all, if it's classified as a weapon, then there's not much to say in its defence. It'll be interesting to see how this current kubotan court case pans out here.

Can anything be used as a weapon? What about a magazine? Surely not...

Go to 1 minute 30...

Sunday 4 April 2010

Easter run

What a beautiful day! We all had lamb roast dinner (made by yours truly) so, much later, when I felt like going for a run I was well fuelled up and had a lot of energy. It's often a struggle to get out of the door to go running and today, despite the lovely cool Spring breeze and blue skies, was no exception. So instead of putting it off, once I had the idea in mind, I set to and didn't stop getting ready till I stepped out the door.

Mostly rural run passing along the river and Baits Bite Lock.

6.5 miles with a time of 1 hour 5mins. Not so great, could do better.

View Butt Lane run in a larger map

Friday 2 April 2010

Martial arts movement and dance

Whilst watching a video recently I was prompted to revisit a theme I've pondered on in the past: the relationship between dance and martial arts.

Funakoshi said about karate, "No matter how much time you devote to practice, no matter how many months and years pass, if your practice consists of no more than moving your arms and legs, you might as well be studying a dance. You will never come to know the true meaning karate". He was effectively saying that karate had an additional motive to simple body movement and that is application within conflict.

I'm not trying to equate dance with martial arts performance but I am intrigued by its sometimes balletic movements. Do we use dance or rhythmic movement within martial application? Particularly, of course, in randori.

Rhythm can be seen often in martial applications but mostly we aim to break the rhythm of opponents and many karateka would blanch at the idea that I'm proposing that these two disciplines could be related, or perhaps intertwined.

My interest was raised when I first heard of fencing being the direct ancestor of ballet. Fencing moves were practised in single form (like kata) when fighting was not convenient and they were ultimately set to music and performed in court for purely artistic reasons. Fencing is now divorced from ballet just as karate is from modern dance but the expression of one's body movements within a framework is, of course, a common theme.

Dance does not have any attacking or fighting principles: it's an artistic expression. Can it be fair to say that martial arts training leads to an expression of intent through the body? Or even that we simply use rhythmic movement in order to achieve martial principles.

Check out the following video. Although this seems like randori, I admit it may be a drill sequence and the dance-like quality could be deliberately manufactured.

Taekkyun (or Important Intangible Cultural Asset No.76) is a Korean martial art with distinct dance-like qualities. Not the smashing of feet into partners' heads but the initial preamble of a bout which seems similar to the Capoeria 'Jinga'. In the following video this is clearly demonstrated. Not sure that the cheesey pop music is obligatory though).

Furthermore, Dr Dae Yung speaking in the BBC 3 series, Mind, Body and Kickass moves clearly states that Taekkyun's movements are based on traditional dance. He says, "Also, Korean dancing move like this. Move like dancing" (showing the Taekkyun formal footwork). He goes on to explain that this happy type of movement also helps his mental state rendering him happy when he fights!

The following is, however, purely dance (amazing gymnastic dance albeit) and as far as I can see not related to martial arts but for the fact that it mimics certain martial formulas (blocks, kicks and punches). Even though these techniques are performed with speed and flexibility, I doubt the accuracy and power. Certainly the intention is not to show fighting skill but dancing (body movement, no martial intent) and choreography.

Maybe one last thing to mention when thinking about the relationship of dance with karate is randori. Randori can of course be chaotic, but at its simplest isn't it locking onto another beings rhythm in an attempt to disrupt it? The best randori I ever have is with an opponent who can feel my rhythm of movement and whose rhythm I 'get' immediately. Although this makes for tough randori (in order to point score) it means there is a connection of the two fighters. The most unconvincing of randori consists of when I feel the other person is jittery, or ungrounded and certainly not flowing (or when I get knocked on my *rse). This doesn't mean it is wrong, just not as 'easy' for me to tap into.

The closest I could possibly put forward as an example of connection of adversaries through conflict is pushing hands in Tai Chi. This is essentially a flowing action to feel the opponent's energy/physical state and to take opportunities in weaknesses therein to imbalance it. It's not dance at all but there is a connection of rhythm in the practitioners and a sense of feeling the sensitivities of the opponent in order to effect a change.

Dance is defined by wikipedia as: "An art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting.

Dance may also be regarded as a form of nonverbal communication between humans, and is also performed by other animals (bee dance, patterns of behaviour such as a mating dance)."

Am I way off?

Just plain insulting?

Check out Cat's post on dance and movement:

Learning with a clear mind

Last night's Shorinji Kempo lesson turned out to be a good, sweaty session with lots of refining technique and learning formats ready for the grading. Unfortunately as I entered the dojo I had a few things on my mind and I was in a dark and painful mental state. These, typically (for me, at any rate), can be difficult to shake and the first 20 minutes training (warm-up and kihon) were not easy. Interestingly the light randori I did with sensei TO to warm up was easy. I find randori really helps clear my mind. Sadly, just after I finished warming up with the randori I descended back into my dark mood and I could see the black dog was following me.

My main worry was that I was more concerned about my mental state than learning. This is a crucial lesson for me as it's the run-up to the grading and I want to fill in any gaps of knowledge I have so I needed to buckle down. During this period when I was preoccupied I wasn't learning effectively. At times when sensei explained something to us in detail, I glazed over and ended up thinking about my preoccupations. "Clear?", he asked. "Hai!" I replied, then thought, "Uh oh...what did he say?". I'm sure lots of people encounter this but it struck me how it impacted on my learning last night. By the end of the session I'd shaken it and was focused on techniques, especially my kumi embu, and was learning well because my mind was clear(er).

Interestingly sensei TO pushed me out of my mood without realising it simply by creating an atmosphere of determined and focused repetition of the kumi embu. The determination and focus on the techniques meant I had no space in my mind for other worries. Excellent!

For those interested, the kumi embu for 2nd to 1st kyu is as follows:

1. Uchi uke zuki - ren hen ko
2. Soto uke zuki - ren hen ko
3. Sode nuki
4. Sode dori
5. Kusshin zuki - ren hen ko
6. Soto oshi uke zuki - ren hen ko
7. Kata muna otoshi
8. Eri juji
9. Ude maki
10. Chidori gaeshi - ren hen ko