Monday, January 27, 2014

52 Vids

Turns out I have 89 drills to video for the book .... Yes, 89.
And that's without any preliminary blurb about safety, cut angles, targeting and how to feed well ...

Sat down with G today and by putting together some of the add ups with the basics, we managed to whittle them down to 52.

My next job is to write a script for each, more like bullet points ... No doubt I will ad lib, but keeping on point and not waffling off on a tangent is kinda important when you are filming so many clips.

Then, looking at which angle to film from, head on, or side, lighting, and the intro/extro format to tie the whole thing together ....


I also reckon this batch is just the beginning. As G put it, all the drills are 'rich', meaning there's alot in them, and who knows what will make light bulbs go off for people and what will be complete gibberish.

I am hoping at least this first set will start a dialogue with folks to find the gaps - what needs more explanation, and what flows together well. It's a bit of a departure from other things I've seen on line, and as with any experiment ... I'll just ave to throw it out there and we will see what comes out the other end.

Funny thing is, none of these are really even random flow yet ... More like a variety of games focused on particular aspects of the whole - Some stuff you don't even need to move your feet for!

I don't think Sonny will be turning over in his metaphorical grave though .... There are no preset patterns, and the only repetition is in the solo practices working on blade manipulation.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ball Games

I keep throwing up clips of ball games for examples of tactical thinking.
I've posted quite a few basketball clips, and now an American Football clip. So why the similarity with tactics in sword play?

At it's simplest, it's because in these sports you have to get past the opposition to score ... in other words there is an 'after' to the interaction with the opposing team, a thing you have to do once you are past them.

Replace the idea of protecting the prized object that the other side wants to take from you (the ball), with protecting your life which the other side wants to take from you, and replace the goal line or the basket with 'going home', and the parallel is clear.

You don't win if you lose your ball.

A long time ago I was part of an on line debate about how to make knife sparring more 'sensible', I mean as sensible as it can. The problem was that everyone, without exception, was running at each other and dying in the process. Didn't matter how many hits one person got on the other, they took about the same amount in return.

Obviously if both carried real, live weapons, the behavior might change, but acting completely differently with training blades is pointless - there is nothing useful to be learned here, and in fact reactions detrimental to one's health are superseding smart decision making! Kinda the opposite of what training is meant to be FOR ......

So way back when, in this conversation, I suggested a scenario where one person needed to get past another with a 'prize', to emphasize this idea of exit and that there was meant to be an 'after' to the interaction. I also suggested a similar idea where every minute or so, another threat would get added, introducing some necessity to leave the area as soon as possible as the odds would get worse and worse the longer one stayed .....

My ideas were never tried as far as I know ... but the fact still remains - There is an AFTER .... at least there should be .... And that thing you hold so precious, that you need to protect? Get it home safely for the win.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Richard Sherman Talks Tactical Thinking

Sorry to 49ers fans, I know it's time for hating on the Seahawks ... but this guy is very, very, smart.

Listen particularly to what he says about giving the impression to the quarter back as to what he is doing, whilst he does something else. How he studies patterns of movement and decision making in the opposing team players, and how he reads the intent of the quarterback by when his shoulders stop.

So many parallels. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sunflowers and Blood

I'm not sure why Van Gogh appears in 2 quotes about boxing, but it gave me the excuse to finally use this title :-)

On the one hand, boxing writer Pat Putnam said -"Most fight fans would not spend a dime to watch Van Gogh paint Sunflowers, but they would fill Yankee Stadium to see him cut his ear off."

And I'm sure he's right.

Blood and guts keeps a audience entertained, and generally a betting crowd is far less interested in subtle technical skills or the fine art of defensive positioning than in watching one fighter knock another down.

Then Ben Dirs writing for BBC sports ( ) said:

"But even in the brutal world of boxing, there are some who are able to look both sweet and scientific. The beauty of Floyd Mayweather is that he manages to make the almost impossible - hitting without being hit - look simple. But perhaps boxing's greatest beauty was Mayweather's fellow American Pernell Whitaker, who won world titles at four different weights in the 1980s and 90s.
"Whitaker's moves," wrote boxing historian Bert Sugar, "were pure poetry in motion. Or, more correctly, pure poetry in many motions. Whitaker did for boxing what Edgar Degas did for ballerinas and Vincent van Gogh for sunflowers." In truth, what Whitaker did defied description. Get on YouTube and see for yourself.
Whitaker was able to appear weightless in the most oppressive situations. He made fellow legends - Oscar de la Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez among them - look like they were plodding after him in diver's boots."

And what do Mayweather and Sweetpea Whitaker have in common?

Great Defensive skills.

I quote Sonny often when I discuss martial arts, particularly when he pointed out that "To hit is easy. To get hit is even easier ... but to NOT get hit ...? That's where the art is."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


A couple things I'll talk about in the book:

Learning about them .....

Swordplay offers numerous opportunities to fail and to lose without injury to anything worse than the ego … yet as we know, this can be a far greater catalyst to draw out true character than physical injury itself. And it's 'truth' that we are after, the part of the person that their conscious mind has no control over, the reflexes and the snap judgments made without the interference of the higher functions. If we can access those, we can manipulate and deceive both the physical and the psychological parts of the opponent before they can gain conscious control of their actions. Once we find their 'freezing points' as Sonny called them, once we know who they are, we can use this information to beat them.

What made them blink/flinch?
Lose their cool?
Attack without thought?
Disengage from the play?

How to hide who you are .....

You have to be a good actor, and it is not enough to pretend …. or to assume you are giving off an impression when you clearly are not. You have to move and 'be' the person you want them to see. This takes practice and feedback from outside yourself. You need to know what you look like and how changing how you stand, move, walk, alters what others think of you. You also have to understand the way to use facial expressions and gesticulations to express different emotions. Can you communicate -


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Test, Watch, Act.

Here is a clip of Kobe Bryant talking about his 'signature moves'. Note he is using exactly the same tactical process as a sword player - Once he has the ball he is the target, and he needs to get by the opposition to prevail, not unlike an adversary with a sword trying to stop you from escaping.

He creates a buffer of time where he can test the defender in front of him, and he has 3 options available to him depending on what his test turns up. His body mechanics are so precise that he is in control regardless of which option becomes the best choice (dictated by his opponent's reaction). He uses 'jab steps', fakes and baits, jukes and stops - it all crosses over.

Added bonus is that he can also articulate what he is doing ..... What he is doing is both in the moment/reactive, and planned ahead. He does not know which option is best .... he has to choose once his opponent commits.

"My opponent moves first. I get there before him" .... A familiar quote to martial artists ... and yes ... BUT ..... It was Bryant that set it up first.

[Thanks to Steve Morris yet again for finding the clip]

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Book - Update

I think I'm actually done ... finally.

Videos still need making and there are ALOT of short clips to do, but ...... I think I said out loud all the things I wanted to, and slotted all the parts together, including the stories and the rants, the opinions and the poetry. Well, when I say 'poetry', more like sentences that amuse me but may be esoteric to some.

Still obviously need to edit etc, but here's a short excerpt -

"The Limits of Power and Speed"

Power, and by that I mean head-on-force-meets-force power, is too easy to rely on if you have nothing to fear. The large and the strong grow used to walking in and taking what they want without repercussions, and the smaller see their example and think that this is what they too should aspire to - including me. There is no incentive to learn anything else until using power fails, completely and utterly, over and over again …. and this was my personal path to learning that there is a much smarter way to fight than impaling myself on my opponent's sword … Not for real of course for that would be illegal and I would be dead, but in the safer setting of Sonny's living room.

My teachable moment came one day sword sparring. Sonny kept hitting me over and over again until the floor was covered in my imaginary blood -

"You cannot block all my hits. You must attack" 

….. So I attack, and every time I attack …. I get hit.

More imaginary blood leaks on the floor.

"Sonny, every time I enter I get hit … but if I do not attack I get hit"

"Yes …. It is a problem is it not …."?