Video, Surveillance cameras and martial arts practitioners


September 25, 2007
Yossi Sheriff

Yossi Sheriff


Recent years has seen the number and spread of video and surveillance cameras on the rise. We can safely assume that the number is going to grow. The current terrorist fright that effected the western hemisphere since the September eleven attack, has given a green light to the explosion of surveillance and surveillance cameras. The state sanctioned videoing, and the fact that many cellular phones have video cameras, leads to a level of transparency unheard of: in youtube alone, 523,000 videos tagged with the word “street”, 15000 tagged with the word “neighbor”, 97,400 tagged with the word “violence”.

What we do can become visible and recorded. Exposed Recorded Action ( ERA) will be a feature of modern life.
Only three decades into the internet-cellular revolution, the lives and actions of an individual are more public then ever. Community and institutionalized surveillance present an immense cultural change. We in AKBAN try to factor this major change in our eclectic discipline.
ERA is intriguing because it has not yet passed the test of time, documented visibility did not have time to evolve and integrate itself into personal habits and individual lifestyles (1).

When we imagine surveillance or as we call it, Exposed Recorded Action (ERA), what might spring to our thoughts is a government taking satellite pictures of terrorists in faraway mountains (2), or the mall or municipal security handling disturbances using CCTV cameras (3 PDF) . But in addition, there are new concerns that rise due to the increase of documenting devices. For example, camera equipped cell phones (4) in private hands.

Whether it will be through “Google street view (5)”, cell phones posting or the far reaching percolation of youtube clips, more parts of our lives are going to be public. It can be safely predicted that new software capabilities will filter, search and sift through visual information, video and images. Some initial projects already exist. These have rudimentary abilities to do basic image processing. For example, search for a specific face in many images. Andy Warhol predicted: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” We might guess that this fame will be immortalized (6 PDF) and searchable using the World Wide Web.

Through legislature, communities might try to control the amount and scope of knowledge that various organizational institutions have on our lives, but controlling the crowds is not only a different problem but one of a completely different magnitude. Transparency will probably be a dominant feature of our life.

What has this to do with martial arts practitioners one might ask, well, we think, a lot. This immense cultural change has to be reflected by a change in practice, a change in that part of martial arts that is labeled as “self defense”.

Now, web literati are thinking about many ramifications of the exposure of the most private data (7), but what we suggest focuses on this part of personal security, our document-able visibility. The visibility problem is a small but significant part to the more generalized problem, the loss of privacy. Documented Visibility is not only martial artist’s problem, it’s everybody’s problem. Here we focus on the implication to the practice of “self defense”. We use our structured methodical practice to highlight the new challenges and to suggest some new solutions.

In a fight, most of the times, the proceedings are not always clear-cut. Sometimes something was said before, an incendiary remark, sometimes, way after there is no danger from the opponent, one of the involved hits again, carried by a wave of adrenaline, rage and fear. The possibility of the fight being documented must be factored in. Making the correct decision and protecting ourselves and dear ones from violence is one big part of what martial arts are. In AKBAN, we try to look at things from different perspectives. A confrontation does not end when the physical clash stops, it can reverberate for many years.

In this era, all actions of self defense oriented martial arts should be conducted accordingly. To put it clearly, we suggest a lower level of violence in all possible scenarios. Martial arts have many aspects and specializations, in the field of reactions that are intended for defensive use, whether the user is a cop (8), a security personal an soldier or a regular civilian – the possibility of Exposed Recorded Action must influence the level of aggression and the actual nature of the techniques used. Everything has to be moderated down.

Many koryu (traditional Japanese martial systems) techniques are not defendable under any scrutiny in the court of law. Western self defense law prohibits any violent action that is not in response to threat. Old style martial arts carry ancient messages that are just the opposite, for instance, Kendo seitei gata, that initiate a sword cut, cannot be legally justified under regular circumstances.

Even more potentially dangerous are sport oriented martial arts. In sport oriented martial arts a practitioner learns to do the routines, combinations and techniques under stress. Drilling and competing under stress enhance memorization and assist in automatic retrieval under stress (9). In duress, the adrenaline and usability that are gained in competition might prove to have a carryover effect: from the competition to the confrontation. Any automatic level of devastating responses might not be legally justified.

What we, in AKBAN, try to teach in recent years is a segregation of ancient and sport techniques from techniques that are self defensive. We can continue to learn tradition and accumulate a wealth of very devastating techniques, but we must try and separate these from those that will protect us both during violence and afterward, when the video of the confrontation will be public.

Failing to segregate sport techniques, or aggressive illegal ancient patterns might cause severe legal problems, even to an innocent defender.

Not all the time, but many of our actions, especially the dramatic ones will be watched. We must learn new strategies, ones more adaptive to the new circumstances, keep what is appropriate and legal and preserve all the rest as a relic in the training ground only. Failing to do so can get us into deep legal and monitory problems. The era when nobody was watching is gone, now comes the time when we all will be watching.

 

Fighting and sparring with friends


August 25, 2007
Eli Shirian

By Eli Shirian

Last year has been dotted with minor scuffles with friends and relatives. These people know I have been training for many years in Budo Ninjutsu; they want to check my abilities, even if it’s done jokingly.

 

Almost all the confrontations looked like this; a friend was talking to me and then suddenly charged forward with pushes and shoves that end with my back to the wall, meters behind me.

 

All these incidents happened in the gym I work at, and the machinery and free weights lying around make every throw an imminent danger for my opponent. Now, if this was a regular confrontation against someone I don’t know I would deal with it rather easily, but when my fight vocabulary is restricted because of safety reasons my response will always be lacking. I did not mention this, but an important fact is the weight difference, all my friends are very muscular bodybuilders, and weigh at least 90 kilogram (180 pounds) that’s much heavier than me. The weight and strength differences are a major factor, because it makes “playing” the confrontation very difficult.

 

In all these cases I was pushed against the wall and only then, when the wall countered the push and helped my position, I managed a guillotine or carefully went down to the floor with my friend.

 

I recalled what yossi said: “you shouldn’t be in these situations”, but for me not to reach this situation means being tense and ready all the time, even with my friends, and that’s a lifestyle I do not want to adopt. A tense state of mind is not something I am willing to experience all the time. At this phase in my life these confrontations are a given, my close social circle know I am an AKBAN veteran so friends will check my abilities.

 

Technique is not the main point here, as my abilities can be shown only against an experienced practitioner or maybe in some severe, real-life situation. The main point is the attitude.

 

When you lose you learn to deal with your surroundings, it is a problem. Some martial arts systems do not prepare the practitioner for different grades of confrontation and the shame that losing carries with it; so even in sparring people tend to come on strong, to try to “win”. This is not our way here, in this school; I can see all the time veterans spar and intentionally lose – they play. If someone is just looking from the side, if someone does not initiate him or herself into this intentional playful loosing frame of mind then there is no way to understand the real world usage of this behavior, but I know.

Kata analysis from Koto ryu


July 7, 2007
Asaf Hochman

By Asaf Hochman

Go to Setto no kata in the AKBAN-wiki

Koto Ryu is one of the Japanese martial arts systems learned in Bujinkan and the various X-Kans. It is an extensive martial art system that exits also outside the Bujinkan.

In Koto Ryu Kata we can see, even before applying reverse Kata analysis the extensive use of Daken, hitting vulnerable points, and the use of the third AKBAN timing – attacking simultaneously with the opponents attack.

The Kata I’m referring to today is Setto no kata, where, even in the variations, one can see the use of pressure point hitting and various timings used in Koto ryu.

In Setto no Kata tori pushes a pressure point with the boshi, the end of the thumb, to unbalance the opponent. This unbalancing (kuzushi) using pressure points is very common in some of the martial systems learned in AKBAN. Here, in the variation it is used to move the opponents balance to the rear leg enabling the front single leg grab.

Different stages of Kata learning according to the Methodical pyramid

1. Preserve – in this stage we do the Kata exactly as it was transmitted.

The tori stands in hidari seigan no Kamae, uke grabs with right hand, tori uses a boshi to unbalance uke and uses a second punch to the ribs to push tori away.

2. Break – this is the stage where we change different parameters of the kata, look for a different ways of doing it and for context usability.

Tori now can do the kata against a Tsuki attack and use the first or second boshi to unbalance the Uke to prepare him for takedown.

3. leave – this is the stage where we try to perform the kata or the sequence in free sparring.

My advice is to practice this and other kata in randori situations. It is also important to practice the simultaneous timing as it is this feature that make these Koto Ryu kata so useful.

Old School Sparring


January 25, 2007
Elli Attias

By Elli Attias

Problem:
Sparring between training partners tends to be more aggressive than one’s preliminary intention.
Potential hazards:
Physical injuries, bad training atmosphere, and ill learning process due to a usage of unnecessary force, focusing on the one big blow instead of rhythmic, flow multi hitâ combinations.

Possible reasons for a rigid sparring:

  • A lack in communication: verbal signals suggest that all is well, while body language orders you to be alert.
  • Escalation in violence due to misconduct: intentionally or not, one does not act according to what is considered acceptable; the partner reacts by escalating his reactions.

Suggested remedies for rigid sparring:

I call it the Muai Tai way, just for reference. It begins by constructing the training session as follows:

  1. Repeating basic techniques alone at the beginning of the lesson, supervised by trainer. Gradually, the sequences get more elaborate and complex. This is the time in which the trainee is working alone, honing his moves while facing ever increasing physical demands.
  2. Drills, executed with a partner, require working by the book: each technique should be executed with full intention, maximum accuracy, and significant power, usually using guards. (Shin guards, gloves, etc.) One attacks, the other defends, in a role. It is common to match partners with similar physique, at first. After a while, you change partner.
  3. Heavy sparring: (Heavy = with guards) that focuses on stamina, quick response to opponent moves (tiger eye), and fight tactics. Contact is significant yet safe: one does not invest in sheer power but in speed & leverage. Techniques are tested live. In this part one can change partners often to explore various fight conditions and to defuse potentially explosive situations.
  4. Light sparring: no guards. Suitable only for partners who know the lingo, know and trust each other well enough to play.

Priorities:

  1. No injuries. In this level of sparring there are no “oops”. Each action you took is considered to be an action you chose to take.
  2. Move! Be dynamic: no moves – no play.
  3. Minimum power.
  4. Flow.
  5. Act & react. Take turns, allows your partner to explore, let yourself in situations you wouldn’t normally do.
  6. Speed. In accordance with your partner.
  7. Contact. In accordance with your partner. See rule #1.
  8. Combinations. Low points for single hit…
  9. Rhythm.
  10. Just play.

Using an aggressive attitude in sparring makes an unimaginative, rigid fighter, while flowing/using technique/lighting up… should contribute to an open minded, adjustable fighter.The way you spar is the foundation of the way you fight.

Practicing Targets for a Short Chain


January 15, 2007
Yeruham Levitt

By Dr. Yeruham Levitt

The AKBAN short chain, the one that Lior has made, is called Kusari Fundo. When I showed it to my friends from Kashima Shin Ryu in Japan, they told me that there it’s simply called Nunchaku. It may be most easily described as “Combat chain”.

I have been training with a combat chain for a few years under Lior’s supervision. After six months of practicing with a rope (imperative in order to learn not to be hurt or hurt others), I switched to a metal chain. Practicing without a target did not suffice, so I turned to metal poles. After a while, Lior asked to inspect my chain and found one link to be cracked.

A cracked link can easily break. It’s very dangerous; the weight can get loose and fly into somebody’s face. I removed the cracked link and shortened the chain. (You need to use a hammer and a nail to remove the hinge), before putting it back together, I rounded the edges (the place where the link and the weight connect) in order to lessen the strains on the chain.

I stopped working on metal poles and began working on wooden ones. I refuse to practice on trees. The tree has done nothing to harm me, and I don’t want to harm it (not to mention bad karma – Song of Songs 1:6 – the evil created when needlessly harming a creature).

In the Taubel community center in Beer Sheva where we train, there are two unused electric poles; these are great for all sorts of training. One of them has knife and ax marks and also some from my chain. After a while I broke another link. I didn’t want to shorten the chain, and Lior gave me one for free. I attached the old hinges and weights to it.

I understood I needed a softer target. I took a piece of wood the length of my head and about 2.5 cm in depth. I drilled a whole on one side, tied a two meter rope to it and a big bolt at the end. The bolt is used to throw the rope over a branch or a goalpost.

The higher the branch or beam, the less the chance of the target getting tangled up. Only, if the branch or beam is too high, untangling becomes more difficult. This target it also useful for boken training (wooden sword), and if one is nearby, it becomes very useful for untangling the target.

The problem with using a piece of wood, is traveling abroad, when you want to spare weight and room in your luggage (especially if you’d ever been caught at the airport with overweight). The wood takes up both space and weight. When I traveled to Japan on Sabbatical for two and a half months, I took only the rope. In Japan I bought a bottle of Coke, drank it and tied the empty bottle to the rope. An empty plastic bottle swings nicely in the wind, making a more challenging target than a piece of wood. I started off with a bottle of a 1.5 litter, worked my way down to a half liter bottle, then to a 400 ml one. This is a challenge of precision.

In order to improve my aim, I took a rubber ball the size of a tennis ball, drilled a hole in it and put the rope in it with a plastic bit at the end so it wouldn’t fall apart. I still have not managed to hit the ball well, but it is fun. Even if I miss the ball, I would still hit an enemies head. A rope with a plastic bottle on one side and a rubber ball on the other is also good. It’s fun to work it 1 and 2: striking the first target, and, even if you miss, striking the second.

It’s nice to work with pine cones, playing “miniature golf” with a small improvised goal. I don’t know if this is a useful skill. Maybe working on a low target is good against dog attacks. Though I wouldn’t want to hurt a dog, even an aggressive one, before I try techniques like smart calm behavior combined with self confidence. The wild dogs in the Negev and the Hebron mountains are used to being attacked by stones for generations. If you just stop to pick up a stone, they will usually run away. However, the chain may be useful in case of crazy dogs.

The targets listed above are useful for precision and speed training. However, I wanted something with the size and feel of a human body. I have a punching bag at home. I wrap it in a heavy blanket to protect the sac. Then I work freely. It also helps to tape small targets on the blanket with masking tape.

The nice thing about the punching bag is that the chain bounces back in unpredictable directions and can hurt you. I hear that there are those who practice while wearing protective clothing against the stinging. Good for them!! I prefer working without protective gear and get some painful injuries occasionally. I also get injured sometime, even with quite a bit of experience. Just as while rolling on a stone floor, every ache is a sign of a mistake, that helps me to correct it.

Instructors note: It is not recommended and unprofessional to be injured, even a little, not from the floor and not by a 300 gram weight at the end of a chain – please do not practice without supervision and guidance of your instructor!

You can, with the proper technique, protect yourself from injuries. But I leave the matter of technique to the AKBAN instructors. I just wanted to write about targets for the short chain.

Link to the AKBAN-Wiki basic short chain techniques