Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What is the Speed of Dark?

If you are wondering what this has to do with martial arts you'll have to watch till the end.


Sunday, July 27, 2014


Bernard Hopkins won a title fight at 48 and in the interview clip below he rails against the idea that it's because he's a freak, or as he puts it, an 'alien'. He suggests that pay per view ratings demand spectacle and that in the eyes of the promoters this means fighters taking hits and hitting back with no concern for their health or their longevity in the game. It's a shame. They call boxing the 'sweet science' - Science, not the Spectacle. Where did that get lost?

Here's Steve Morris talking about the same thing:

"Fighting is about hitting without being hit whilst training is about learning how to be able to realistically do that without suffering long term brain or physical damage . The trouble is a lot of the professional fighters i was once associated with were all too willing to take a beating in the ring , arena or during sparring in order to give one. Like i said seriously dumb ....."

And :

"None of the professional mma fighters ive taught over the past ten years on a casual basis (maximum once a month) were ever interested in that mind set, attributes, skills or those concepts and principles that would allow them to increase their chances of taking someone out on the feet or the ground whilst reducing the chances of being taken out in turn. The only thing they were ever interested in was taking the other guy out. The trouble is with such a primitive approach to the fight and training many of them were losing more fights than they were winning they just couldnt seem to be able to get past the oversimplified strategic and tactical objectives and formulated skilled patterns their more regular trainers were spoon feeding them on daily basis. Theres far more to the art and science of fighting than the daily repetition of some prescribed movement pattern or trying to beat each others brains out during sparring ..."

It's not a view you hear that often, but recently seems to be being said out loud more often. It's close to my heart because it is also what Sonny thought and taught. It is also what my book is about. I have written about it here many times and perhaps the zeitgeist is coming right for it to finally, actually be heard.

If I was to guess why most do not train the 'not getting hit' part, it's because they don't know how to do it. 

Well, I'm telling you, there are ways to, you just have to have better skills and be motivated to learn them.


Monday, July 21, 2014


Ladies and gentlemen, may I present a fabulous compilation of the boxing skills, particularly the defense, baiting, evasion, and footwork, of Guillermo Rigondeaux
His control of the tempo of the fight: throwing jabs to play with the rhythm, alongside his evasive footwork, his exits, his balance and ability to exploit open targets, is really a pleasure to watch.


Especially note the commentary at 2 mins 20ish, 4 mins 30ish and 4 mins 50ish.


EDIT:  I found out from a fellow student of Sonny's who follows boxing that they won't put this guy's fights on TV because he is 'too boring'. Anyone who watches this and finds it boring clearly needs to be hit in the head a few more times so they can appreciate how good he really is. ;-)

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Political and martial discussions on the internet often follow a predictable pattern, usually ending with snide remarks, and with either one party leaving the conversation, or with the argument raging on and on with no purpose.

The common thread through most of these interactions seems to be a refusal to accept the concept of uncertainty. Both parties believe, truly believe, they are right. They are certain of it. Just as they are certain the opposing view is contemptible/idiotic/misguided etc etc.

And whilst I understand that certainty is a necessity in particular situations: When you have committed to a course of action, you go. No dithering. When the fight's on - Fight. But conversation is not a fight!!

You are not fighting when you are training or debating, you should be learning (also known as finding stuff out you don't know yet).

If you are always certain, there exists no place for experimentation or imagination. No place for acceptance of error or that there might be a world outside of the box you are familiar with. No space for the unknown.

(As a side note, this box becomes particularly fixed when you only spends time with people that agree with you, a.k.a. your own system/friends.)

In fact I equate interacting with someone who is certain, to sparring with someone who needs to win. They are doing their thing, and often even if they 'lose' they fabricate excuses why they actually did not. (Their opponent cheated. They were just not trying. Their equipment was not performing etc etc).

Certainty to me implies fear. Fear of losing. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change.

How are any of us meant to improve ourselves if this is the place we start from?

Conversation and debate are the same as training. They are practice for making the best decisions you can when it comes time to do so for real.

By all means test the robustness of your argument with vigor and clarity, but also try to draw out what you might have missed, what you may not have thought of, from the other person. That's what they are there for.

You'll never learn anything if you don't listen, and conversely, if you actively listen, you'll learn much, much more.

And remember, we cannot see our own blind spots, that's why they are called 'blind spots', and like Sonny said: "It's the one that you don't see coming that will hit you, so best see as much as possible in training".

Will it work? I don't know. Let's see.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Everything and Nothing

Just SAY ... All the technique taught in traditional systems work.

And, SAY ... we accept that pretty much anything CAN work given the right circumstances - My sword teacher escaped once from a multiple attacker situation with a blade made from the foil in his cigarette packet.

And SAY ... that pretty much anything WILL fail at the wrong moment, at the wrong range, in the wrong circumstances - For instance any strike thrown from too far away, or lock put on badly etc etc.

And SAY ... we accept that anatomy, physiology, and the laws of physics exist.

Instead of arguing eternally about what technique 'would work', perhaps the more interesting question to ask is - In what circumstances is this technique worthy?

Is it only if you have the luxury of numbers and surprise? Is it if they rush you with their sword held overhead? If you have a wall behind you? If they are much taller than you? If they grab you above the elbows? If they try to sweep you from the left? Why?

When WOULD it work? Is it dependent on relative size? Amount of space? Teamwork? Relative geometry?

Perhaps the key lies in examining the principles behind the techniques? Perhaps it's worth looking at WHY things work instead of IF they work, and how often those perfect circumstances come about in the field in which you choose to play.

I would contend that every successful technique happens because of a gift. Either one handed to you, or from an offer YOU made that cannot be refused.

AND when you happen to be in just the right place and at just the right time to take advantage of it. Sometimes effortlessly and in one move. Sometimes not, and with a bit more adaption required as the situation changes.

My teacher got away because it was dark and he fooled his attackers into thinking he had a blade, something they were not expecting. The hesitation he caused gave him enough time to get to his car and escape, but would this work in different circumstances?

Is it worth teaching as a technique to actually practice? Probably not.

And how about a nice palm heel to an open chin? It has a high probability of doing damage, perhaps causing a K.O. But only if you can actually land the shot.

Is it worth teaching? Absolutely. But how about as part of a sword curriculum where there are more immediate options at hand using the weapon you are carrying?

How do you choose what is worthy in your own, personal, context and what is not?

Turns out, that to say that 'everything works' is pretty much as true as saying 'nothing works'.

WHY? and WHEN? Possibly the two most useful questions to ask when sorting the worthy from the not so much.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Guaranteed Success

I made the mistake of watching a video clip today that I kinda knew was going to make me crazy even before I pressed play.

I lasted through to the second time the student actually managed to unbalance the teacher by mistake and got yelled at for 'moving when I didn't tell you to move'. (The first time the teacher covered up by saying he had been afraid to throw the student in case he damaged some furniture, and then grabbed the students arms and reset him into the appropriate attacking stance again.)

But moving past the fact that the teacher is an ass ....

"Throw a strike at me. Anything you like"
Student throws a strike which the teacher intercepts and applies a technique.
Again, effortlessly intercepts or evades and applies another technique.
Over and over.

Audience is mesmerized by the skill and ease with which the attacker is dispatched, again and again.

Of course, the teacher knows when the strike will come, that part is arranged by the command. They also know what strike will be thrown, because they have gesticulated to a target or 2 as they say the words - subliminally influencing the student.

Then, they take a stance that usually negates some of the potential options, say by standing right lead at a certain angle and range from the student.

The student does not want to screw up in front of their teacher so the attack comes at a predictable and steady speed (even if it is faster, or done with power) when and where the teacher knows it will come.

Pretty much the perfect set up, no?

I honestly can't bear to watch these displays. They have little to do with learning or teaching someone how to fight in my opinion, and are mainly just photo opportunities for those that want to keep their status above that of their students.

Please don't misunderstand me, it's often not that their techniques are 'wrong' or bad, or that their understanding of geometry and physiology is poor. These folks are mostly well practiced and smooth, it's just that the whole thing is wrong.

"IF they do this, I can do that"

OF COURSE you can!!

IF they do this .... And IF they do it when you see it coming, and IF you are ready for it. Sure!

It's incredibly easy to avoid being hit by a ball someone is throwing at your head if you know when they are going to throw it, but playing Dodgeball is another thing altogether. Play with skilled people, and suddenly you know how hard it can be to avoid taking hits.

What's the difference? One is knowing what is going to happen next and when. The other is not knowing what is going to happen next, or when ... or if.

Technical body manipulation, control, and target acquisition are of course part and parcel of the whole, but they are truly meaningless if you never have an opportunity to use them.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Good Manners

 ''...think not yourself invincible, but consider that often a very wretch has killed a tall man, but he that has humanity, the more skillful he is in this noble science, the more humble, modest and virtuous he should show himself both in speech and action, no liar, no vaunter nor quarreller, for these are the causes of wounds, dishonor and death.'' - George Silver, Brief Instructions Upon My Paradoxes of Defence

"The real rebels to me always had manners. Elvis, you know, and Roy (Orbison), Roy was a true gentleman. And that's a scary thing in a man, do you know what I mean? A man that's so sure in himself that he can be polite."- Bono

"I thoroughly disapprove of duels. I consider them unwise and I know they are dangerous. Also, sinful. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet retired spot and kill him."
- Autobiography of Mark Twain