Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review of Women in Martial Arts, Edited by Carol Wiley

Women in Martial Arts, Edited by Carol Wiley

   I actually got this book by mistake.  I was trying to get another book by the Carol Wiley.  However, I was curious and decided to give it a shot.  For a little while now, I've been curious about the reasoning why people take martial arts.  There are many logical reasons and valid points as to why, but I wanted to look at psychological studies of the reasoning process.  I had honestly never given a thought to the fact that females would have a different motivation than males.  It seems to me, that in most martial arts, females are an extreme minority.  For many reasons, martial arts are part of the "male domain."  I don't think it has to be, it just statistically shows up that way.  Then it becomes a chicken and egg kind of thing.  Because it is part of the male world, then women feel reluctant to join a dojo.  Because women feel reluctant to join a dojo, it stays part of the male world.  See the problem?  It takes some daring women to break the cycle, and join.  This requires some strong sense of self, and strong reason.  Looking at these reasons for women, could shed some light on why women join, or at least, how to make sure women are not turned off by the dojo environment in the first place.

    The book itself is a collection of essays from female martial artists of various styles.  Different forms of Chinese, Filipino, Karate, and Aikido were represented.  It seemed to me that there were more essays on women in aikido than the other arts combined, but that may deal with the facts that 1. The editor is an aikidoka, so that is her community and the basis of contacts, 2. Aikido is generally thought of as a more feminine (softer) art, so it may have a higher percentage of women involved in it.  I don't have any statistics to back up the second point, it is just a gut feeling.

    The essays themselves were various points of view on why these women authors initially joined a martial art, and what benefits they received from their arts.  It seemed to me, that they were trying to motivate other women to join a martial art.  That very well may have been the point, but as a male who has been in the arts for a while, it didn't apply to me.  I have to say, that all the benefits they applied to women learning an art, could very well be applied to motivating males to take up the arts.  There was nothing specific to females in their arguments, though they probably apply to women more often.  For example, the learned victimization seemed to be involved in a couple of essays.  There are males that need to get rid of that as well, but it probably applies more to women.

    I'm going to give the book 2.5 Ninja Stars out of 5.  Overall, the book was good, though a bit dated.  It was published in 1993, so its over 20 years old now.  It seemed a little lightweight for me, but I in fairness, I was coming in wanting more of an academic type writing.  There is nothing bad about this book.  It is good for what it was meant to be at the time.  In fact, if they did a follow up book, and basically wrote a response, 20 years latter, how are women doing in the martial arts today, I'd read that too.  Maybe this time on purpose.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to be a good martial art student

    In a previous post, I've talked about what it takes to be a good martial arts instructor.  For this column I'm going to write about some of the characteristics that make someone a good martial arts student.  This is as much a learned behavior/skill as teaching is.  If you want to get the most out of your time, here is some pieces of advice that may help.

1. Empty you cup

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.  The Professor started talking to Nan-in trying to impress him with his interpretation of Zen.  Nan-in suggested they have some tea.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"
"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
Reprinted from wikipedia
 You are in the class to learn.  So listen to what the instructor has to say.  One of the things I hate in new students, is when they're coming from another martial art, and would rather tell you how their art does it rather than listen to what you have to say.  They essentially are telling the instructor their way is better, and won't listen to the reason why that art does the technique that way.  I'm not saying you have to forget everything you learned in the past, but at least listen to what the instructor has to say.

2. Know the forum for asking questions

  Every school is different in how you are allowed to ask questions.  For example, in traditional Japanese system, students don't ask the instructors any questions.  If they need to, they'll correct you.  In my opinion, that leads to a slower learning process, but it makes the student internalize the small issues first, before they get to the bigger issues.  In our school, we demonstrate a technique a couple of times, ask for any questions, and then the students practice the technique.  Most of the time, this is when questions actually arise.  In our case, our system is, the student asking the question goes to the instructor (rather than calling them over).  The instructor also walks around and corrects things, or answer questions as the students practice. 

3. There is always more to learn

  At some point, you will start to see techniques repeat themselves.  Don't fall victim to the "I know
this one" line of reasoning.  You can always learn more from a technique.  Look at the details.  I've been doing aikido for 12-15 years (I'm not quite sure myself) and even when I see something as simple as ikkyu, I still can catch details about how another person does the technique.

4. Do your homework

  I heard a good line about martial arts classes.  I'm paraphrasing, but it goes something like this "You're here to learn, you can practice at home." Use your time in the dojo wisely.  You have such a short time with instructors who have more skill than you do, why would you want to spend it practicing things you can do at home?  Unless you're getting your movement's critiqued, in which case, it is valuable time spent.

All in all, keep an open mind, be sincere in your training, be polite, and follow the culture of your dojo. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Podcast Interview with...Me?

Episode 49 of the Hiyaa Podcast

    If anyone hasn't listened to the Hiyaa Podcast (after my repeated recommendations) maybe this will be the final straw that pushes you over the camels back.  Mr. Dave Jones was kind enough to cross interview with us.  I talk about aikido history, some hidden aggression in aikido, and even go as far as Skunk Ape.  It was my first interview I've ever give, but I think it was pretty good.  Give it a listen if you're interested. Click on the link, laugh, and then subscribe to their show and ours on iTunes.  We're also on Stitcher for those non-iTunes people.  You know who you are...

Martial Thoughts Episode V-The Podcast Strikes Back

Martial Thoughts 

Episode V-The Podcast Strikes Back

Click HERE for the episode (if you don't like iTunes)

Recorded on 2/7/2014

Introduction:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifri

Discussion Topic: Inclusion and Accommodations is the martial arts
  East Coast Yoshinkan Aikido

  Kung Fu Black Belt Shopkeeper
  Alien Sex Fiend
  Iron Shiek
  Ruroni Kenshin/Samurai X Blade Found
  Caregiver Arrested After Practicing Karate on Patients
  "Mayhem" Miller
  The Putin Prize
  Kung Fu
  Linda Lee (Caldwell)
  Jean Claude Van Damm in Welcome to the Jungle
  Year of the Horse
  Cynthia Rothrock in China O'Brien
Deer Horn Knives

Contact Information
  Martial Thoughts on iTunes (Crappy Reviews!)
  Atemicast Network on Youtube
  Amazon Store

Interlude Music: Zombie Stomp by Ozzie Osbourne

Interview: Dave Jones from the Hiyaa Podcast
  Hiyaa Podcast
Zombie Bruce Lee Action Figure
  Allan Pitman
  Xing Yi
  Allan "Big Al" Carrol
  Deer Horn Knives
  The Skeptics Guide to the Universe
  Michael DeMarco of Journal of Asian Martial Arts
  Zombie Bruce Lee
  Open Letter to Martial Artists
  TAM-The Amazing Meeting
  Blade of Fury
    Directed by Sammo Hung
  Bey Logan
  The Blade-Tsui Hark
  The One-Armed Swordsman
  Once Upon a Time in China
  Walking the I Ching by Allen Pittman
  Asian Martial Arts Edited by Michael DeMarco
  Martial Arts and Philosophy: Beating and Nothingness
  Complete Jumping Kick Hee Li Master Cho

Outro Music: Outro MusicVoodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review of Asian Martial Arts; Edited by Michael A. DeMarco

A Sad Farewell

    It is with a sad and heavy heart that I review Asian Martial Arts: Constructive Thoughts & Practical Applications; Edited by Michael A. DeMarco. 
    I say sad, because this book marks the end of the Journal of Asian Martial Arts.  A noble and herculean endeavor first started by Mr. DeMarco in 1991.  His goal, and I believed he achieved it during the time the journal was being published, was to provide a congregated platform for serious, academic study of martial arts.  It was a place for serious scholars, who didn't get much attention in their own fields, for writing martial arts articles.  There was also a place for in depth, reviews of martial arts themed books and movies.  Instead of coming from a film or book critique point of view, these reviews came  from a educated martial artist point of view.  Unfortunately the Journal ceased physical publication in 2012.  Though it is still available, and possibly ongoing, in electronic format (and you can buy individual articles).  This book is a sort of farewell to the journal.
    I say guilty, because I let me attention of the Journal lapse.  I would get the journal from the giant bookstores, but more often then not I would flip through it in the store to determine if I should get it.  As it turns out, in this book, Dave Lowry give the Japanese term for doing that (tachi-yomi).  So at least, I know I'm not alone.  I actually learned of this book through an interview with Mr. DeMarco from the Hiyaa Martial Arts Podcast

Physical Appearance

    The book itself is around 6.5x9 (inches for any international readers whose country is smart enough to use the metric system).  I normally don't really talk about the cover of the book, but this book is beautiful.  The cover is gorgeous.  When I opened the package from Amazon, I was taken with the cover of the book.  It doesn't show on the picture, but the red lettering of the title is a embossed red foil of some sort.  The brush art of the warrior conveys the motion of the sword swing better than most art I've seen.  It does a great job of showing the martial spirit of the man.


    The content is broken into two parts.  The first is different martial arts scholars and authors sort of giving their take on what the Journal was, and saying their goodbyes.  The second is an interesting collection where Mr. DeMarco had asked martial artist from various schools, styles, and backgrounds, to demonstrate, and document one of their favorite techniques.  As I love looking at different martial theories and tactics, I loved this section of the book.  There was a great variety, and they all held value.  It was a nice little glimpse into the minds of great martial artists.
5/5 Ninja Stars


    This book is bittersweet in that I loved the book, but felt that it signified an end of an academic center of martial arts, for martial artists.  The cover alone should grant it a couple of stars, but the book itself is great, even if it does signify an end.  That's why I give it a full 5 Ninja Stars out of 5.

P.S.  If you are interested in getting this book, please go through the Martial Thoughts Amazon Store.  It gives us a small bit, for getting more books to review, and you doesn't cost you anything extra. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Martial Thoughts Episode IV Shownotes

Martial Thoughts-Episode IV "A New Podcast"

Click HERE for the Episode

Recorded on 1/17/2014

Show Notes

Introduction Music:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifrin

Discussion Topic:When should kids start martial arts?  When do kids start to learn actual martial arts? Kids Black Belts
  The Wolverine
  Call of Duty: Ghosts
  Battlefield IV
  Lawrence Kane
  Chris Wilder
  (Martial Secrets Podcast)

  Run Run Shaw-R.I.P. (11/23/07-1/7/2014)
  Shaw Brothers
  Bruce Lee
  Steven Seagal
  Steven Seagal: Lawman
  Joey Fattone
  Bruce Lee Yellow Jumpsuit Sold for $100,000
  Roxxo the Rock and Roll Clown
  Free Tacos or Death
  Kung Fu Smog Defense
Top 5
Most Influencial Representative of Martial Arts
  Tony's List
    Hong Kong Phooey
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    Race (Bannon)/Johnny Quest
    Adam West's Batman
    Ryu and Ken from Streetfighter
    Snake-Eyes and Stormshadow from G.I. Joe
    Blue Falcon
    Tiny Death Star
  Rick's List
    Power Rangers
    The Green Hornet/Kato
    G.I. Joe the Kung-Fu Joe
    Bruce Lee Video Game
    Karate Champ
    Ultra Man
  Jaredd Wilson
    Ninja Turtles
    Power Rangers
    Chuck Norris Cartoon
    Mortal Kombat
    Double Dragon
    Karate Kid the Video Game
    You Only Live Twice
    Star Wars
    Ninja Scroll
Contact Information
  Martial Thoughts on iTunes
  Atemicast Network on Youtube
  Amazon Store

Interlude Music: Coast to Coast by the Scorpions

Interview with William Dockery
Outro Music: Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

3.5 Stars for Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear

Review for Ninja II: Shadows of a Tear

    The ninja craze moved through the early 80's like wildfire, and American audiences ate it up.  We loved the idea of deadly, stealthy, unstoppable warriors wearing black.  Sho Kosugi was one of my heroes.  It worked its way towards US kids shows.  GI Joe had Snake-Eyes and Stormshadow, the Thundercats had Panthro with his "Nunchucks" and it hits its peak with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  But like all fads, it wore its way from admiration to absurdity to parity.  Let's face it, some of those later Ninja and American Ninja movies were not just cheep, but cheesy past the point of acceptability (even for the 80's).  The ninja movies died and we didn't see much in the 90's through the 2000's.
Scott Adkins
    But everyone should know a ninja can't die.  They just lie in wait to get their revenge.  Recently, ninja movies have started to make a comeback.  2009 saw a major release of Ninja Assassin, and a lesser seen movie known simply as Ninja.  This movie that I'm reviewing is the sequel to the 2009 movie, and to be fair, I haven't seen the original.
    The movie was released in 2013, and I picked in up at Target for under $15.  I had heard some good things, and figured it was worth the monetary risk.  It stars Scott Adkins as Casey Bowman, a martial artist/ninja heading a school in Japan, and is directed by Isaac Florentine, a martial artist himself.  Scott Adkins has some pretty big movies under his belt.  He was in Zero Dark Thirty, Expendables 2, Ultimatum II, The Bourne Ultimatum, and was the Body Double for "Weapon XI" in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Isaac Florentine's main movies were Ninja (2009), Ultimatum II and Ultimatum III.  The last was where he worked with Mr. Adkins.  The initial reason I wanted to see the movie was because of the supporting actor Kane Kosugi, son of legendary ninja actor Sho Kosugi.
Kane Kosugi: Rising Ninja Star
    The plot wasn't exceptionally original, but there is the proverbial twist at the end.  I think that the plot actually works in the movie's favor.  It's a ninja movie.  You shouldn't come in expecting something that original.  The acting was a little wooden in some parts, but I've definitely seen worse in bigger budget movies (see Russel Crowe... nothing personal, I just don't like Russel Crowe).  The martial arts was actually pretty good.  There were a couple of decent things.  First off, having a director who is a martial arts definitely helps.  Unlike some movies, the fight scenes are filmed far enough away so that you can see what is going on.  I hate it when directors can't film a fight scene.  There is one really good, no-cut, scene in the "enemy" dojo which was great. Casey fought 5 or 6 people transitioning from one to another all without film cuts.  It kinda snuck up on me.  I was watching it enjoying the scene, and then it slowly dawned on me that it was all one scene.  It always impresses me when the actors/directors can string more than a couple of moves together.  There was a definite mix of martial arts techniques, it wasn't obviously a karate or tae kwon do guy dressed up as a ninja.  There was plenty of kicking and punching, as well as join locks and throws.  He also uses a whole arsenal of "traditional" ninja weapons.
    Overall, I give the movie 3.5 stars (Ninja Stars?).  If you liked the 80's ninja movies, this is just an updated, probably better, version of those movies.  The movie was really good at what it was trying to be.  It had a lot going for it, so grab a beer and enjoy an improved throw-back film.

If you are interested in this movie, please visit Martial Thoughts Amazon Store.  It gives us a little bit of money, for buying new movies to review, and costs you nothing.