A Cycling Cliché

Most people know the “angry cyclist” stereotype. I’m starting to wonder if it’s more than that. My family and I suffered a road rage incident today. My wife was taking me to a bus stop so I could get to the hospital for a day procedure - and she could get to work on time. My daughter works at the hospital so I was going with her.  We were driving through the morning crush - peak hour traffic in the busy café district of Leederville. As we were nearing the relevant bus stop, my wife stopped at a yield sign so my daughter and I could climb out (there was literally no where else to stop, never mind park).  We had passed a cyclist in a parallel bicycle lane about a minute before. Obviously he’d caught up as I fumbled the childproof lock. “Oh for fuck’s sake!” He shouted as I got out. It seemed he’d lost momentum coming in to the shared part of the road - indeed, horror of horrors, he’d actually had to stop (as if car drivers like me don’t regularly accept the necessity of slowing down to 2

Ideological shortsightedness: the story of Judo John

Some years ago, I bumped into a former senior karate student at the supermarket. I'll call him "Judo John" on account of his grappling expertise.  I‘d just been through all my tapes and had transferred the material to computer. I had heaps of student footage (kata, kumite, etc.) which I had burned onto DVDs for the students' posterity. Of course, I had made a video for Judo John. So I seized the opportunity to offer him his DVD (for nothing in return, obviously).  Judo John openly sneered and said “I have no interest in the external arts now that I do Yang style tai chi. What would I do with that video?”  I shrugged my shoulders. “Maybe show it to your grandkids?” I gave him my contact details and left. My computer hard drive with the backup videos failed spectacularly but I kept his DVD for years. He never collected it. Yesterday I threw it in the bin as part of a long-overdue cleanup. What a loss for him.  He really kicked ass, did Judo John. All those memories are

The importance of basics

Over the years, I have often written about basics but I don't think I've ever talked about them more broadly - in particular about their importance. Recently I have been watching excerpts of David Carradine in the television series "Kung Fu" (my YouTube feed has assumed I'm a huge fan and this is inevitably reinforced every time I watch another video). One thing I notice is just how bad Carradine's technique is. It's downright awful. In a way, it reminds me of young Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid: as the movie series progressed I kept expecting him to get better. I thought: "Surely he's been training in the meantime?" Only he didn't get better. Ditto Carradine. With the latter in mind, rather than show you a bit of the series, I thought it would be more illustrative to show you David Carradine demonstrating martial arts  after  he finished the series and had (apparently) undergone much, much more training. It's hard to explain exact

Robert Alwyn Davies: 1945-2018

Martial pioneer  Bob Davies  has passed away. Technically brilliant, encyclopaedically knowledgeable, uncompromisingly exact, frighteningly powerful, brutally efficient and unerringly resolute, he taught me that nothing is impossible. His biggest lesson:  endure . A flawed man who provided endless inspiration, his lessons will live on in me, my brother and our students. He will remain one of the biggest influences on my life. He was my  sensei .

"Looking away from your opponent" in traditional forms

The double punch of naihanchi by Choki Motobu In traditional forms-based martial arts, whether they be Okinawan, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian etc., there is an unspoken rule - a cardinal assumption - that your head should face your "imaginary opponent" at all times. And when you think about it, this seems to make sense. Almost every analysis (in karate called "bunkai") of traditional forms takes this into consideration. So, for example, the sideways punches of the karate kata naihanchi/naifunchin are interpreted in a variety of ways - but all of them are consistent with your opponent being generally to your side. Then along comes the odd form/kata where that rule is broken - for no immediately apparent purpose. The most obvious case I can think of in karate is in the goju ryu kata saifa (see the technique below). Higaonna sensei performing saifa kata This technique is commonly interpreted in a way that largely, if not completely, ignores th

3 reasons why learning to "horribly injure someone" isn't "self defence"

Introduction Photoshopped image. Original is by Wikimedia Commons user Stillwaterising A particular approach in reality-based self defence (RBSD) is becoming increasingly popular: that of learning how to inflict maximum damage to dangerous attackers. On paper this approach looks like it could have merit - and correspondingly any criticism (of the kind I'm about to make) might seem to be totally inappropriate. After all, consider this example: "He came in the door of my office and shot two people already. I saw him drop down for a reload. When he dropped down for the reload, I was able to tackle him and get him on the ground. Then the first thing I saw was his eye, and I gouged his eye out, which stopped him from going on."  I got this from an article titled " How to Horribly Injure Someone ". And yes, it is worded in such a way as to be rather unobjectionable in philosophical terms: first an horrific scenario is created - one where the worst violenc

"Combat tai chi"? Seriously?

Back in about 2009 I was talking to a friend of mine who does krav maga, telling him I was off to Taiwan to train in combat taijiquan (tai chi). He laughed. "Combat tai chi? Isn't that an oxymoron?" I can see why he thought that. Because when you look at the soft, slow art of taijiquan, adding the descriptor "combat" does seem to be a contradiction in terms. In fact, the idea of it being used for fighting can appear  ludicrously funny . And to be frank, in the case of most taiji practitioners - including many who profess "fighting skill" on the interwebs   - it almost certainly is. [In the case of the preceding link, note the string attacks against zombie opponents - more on that later!] By now, I doubt there is anyone in the martial arts who hasn't heard of the debacle that constituted the recent fight between MMA fighter Xu Xiadong and self-described Yang style taijiquan "master" Wei Lei. Xu beat Wei senseless in under 10