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Showing posts from August, 2009

Decadal Gashuku Part 2: Ten Blind Masseuses

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My favourite passage in the Hagakure1 is the one about the 10 blind2 masseuses. I have copied it below:
“Once a group of ten blind masseuses were traveling together in the mountains, and when they began to pass along the top of a precipice, they all became very cautious, their legs shook, and they were in general struck with terror. Just then the leading man stumbled and fell off the cliff. Those that were left all wailed, ‘Ahh, Ahh! How piteous!’ But the masseuse who had fallen yelled up from below, ‘Don’t be afraid. Although I fell, it was nothing. I am now rather at ease. Before falling I kept thinking “What will I do if I fall” and there was no end to my anxiety. But now I’ve settled down. If the rest of you want to be at ease, fall quickly!’” – Hagakure (Book of the Samurai), Yamamoto Tsunetomo I first read that in 1985. It's a shame it hadn't sunken in by the time of the Decadal Gashuku (training camp) held in the first 2 weeks of 1990. All the fretting I did leading …

A glimpse into the heart of evil

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By now many of you will be aware of the video below, apparently taken on 13 December 19841 at a karate dojo in Dumfries, Virginia. It shows a brutal, unprovoked and totally reprehensible bashing of a young mentally disturbed man who claimed to be a kung fu practitioner "taught by Jesus". The video has gone viral. Possibly the only good thing to emerge from this is the universal outrage and condemnation it has provoked.2 That people should have such a sense of outrage in this day and age of "ground and pound MMA" and other media violence which has a "brutalizing effect" is surprising, but also gratifying. It restores a little bit of my faith in humanity.


The now infamous video of the bashing at a Virginia karate dojo in 1984. Warning: this video contains highly disturbing footage.

For those who would rather avoid watching the video (I include it for the sake of completeness, but don't advocate anyone watching it) I can provide the following precis…

The anatomy of randori

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Introduction

I am about to reveal one of my personal "secret" martial art training methods. I would go so far as to say that it is the single most important way to learn how to applycivilian defence techniques in a dynamic environment. I am speaking, of course, of the sparring method we call randori.

As I have explained previously, randori is a kind of sparring analogous to the "playfighting" of dogs; the movement is continuous and flowing, takes place entirely within what I call the melee range and features strikes/punches/kicks that are controlled (rather than made to miss - see my article "Control vs. missing").

I'm sure most of you have seen dogs engaging in their playfighting. It really is the only "preparation" dogs have for real fighting. Yet I don't think any of us would doubt the ability of a dog to fight on the basis of this preparation. In fact, those of you who have seen real, all-out dog fights (and I have seen many) will …

Upset applecarts and the question of lineage

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In traditional martial arts the question of lineage is often seen as paramount. I remember well the debates that raged from issue to issue on the letters page of the (now defunct) Australasian Fighting Arts Magazine. Various taijiquan schools would send in letters that stated: "X does not do authentic Yang style because he only studied with Y and Z while I studied with A, B and C" etc. Eventually the editor would chime in and and say "I'm not printing any more letters on this topic". But before long another, similar, debate would fire up.

The question of lineage is by no means confined to taijiquan schools. Most recently I have been made aware of a huge "lineage upset" in Okinawan goju ryu karate circles, caused by the video below:


The controversial video of Alexandr Filimonov's and Kato Tomoyuki's "succession" to the late An'ichi Miyagi

For those who don't know, An'ichi Miyagi was student of the legendary Chojun Miyagi…

Decadal Gashuku Part 1: The Foreboding

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It's hard to believe we are rapidly approaching the 20th anniversary of the Decadal Gashuku, a martial arts training camp held by Lao Shi Bob Davies at Midmar Dam in Kwazulu Natal from 3 to 13 January 1990. It was an international event comprising 2 separate 5 day courses. Some of us (the "decadal participants") were there for both.

For those unfamiliar with the gashuku (training camp) concept, it typically features 8 hours of training/instruction per day. The decadal participants were in for a treat; we would have 10 hours instead. It was the theme - 10 lots of everything.

To better fill you in on the picture I should rewind a little.

My wife Maureen and I were newlyweds and I had freshly graduated from law. We wanted to go overseas for an adventure but we didn't have 2 pennies to scratch together. I had a job lined up, but wouldn't start till February. So we decided to take out a loan. Given my degree and my upcoming job, the banks fell over each other to …

Running with Bob

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In 1991 I had a visit from one of my former karate classmates in South Africa, Peter Banks. Peter started training shortly after I did, but where I was a fresh-faced teenager, Peter was already in his late 30s. And where I was pencil thin, Peter was not. To be blunt, he had a sizable middle-aged spread.

Imagine my surprise when, almost a decade later, Peter turned up at our dojo looking like an iron man. The paunch was no more. In its place was the proverbial "six pack". It was something I never imagined possible with Peter. "How did you do it?" I asked.
     He replied: "Running with Bob".

He was, of course, referring to our teacher Lao shi Bob Davies. I immediately understood how Peter had achieved his remarkable transformation. If you could keep up with our teacher you couldn't have a paunch. The 2 concepts were mutually exclusive.

I cast my mind back to my visit to Lao shi Bob the year before. My wife and I had arrived at his house in Durb…