Michael Crichton on Power

“A karate master does not kill people with his bare hands.   He does not lose his temper and kill his wife.  The person who kills is the person who has no discipline, no restraint, and who has purchased his power in the form of a Saturday night special.   And that is why you think that to build a place like this is simple.”
― Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park

“You know what’s wrong with scientific power?   It’s a form of inherited wealth.  And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are.”
Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park

I often think that, because it was so popular, people often downgrade Jurassic Park as a novel of real ideas.

I loved it and think it had a lot of pretty significant points to make.

The two quotes above I think are significant for martial artists.

The first quote I think speaks directly to the heart of the idea that martial arts are meant to build character.

The full quote was about what it takes to wield power.  To become a dangerous martial artist, you have to work hard for years and the required discipline tempers the character of the fighter.  To buy a gun requires some money and a driver’s license.  The first process builds character which is a control on the use of the resulting power.  The second requires no change in the bearer of the power.

Of course, many of us are not interested in this aspect of the martial arts when we start – I personally was driven into the arms of martial arts by fear.  I was small and weak and getting bullied (literally and psychologically) by people who were stronger or at least more aggressive than me.

But anyone who has “gone the distance” in martial arts know how true this quote is – ultimately you stay because of the discipline and the camaraderie and (for me) a fascination with the beauty of the technology and the desire to be able to use it at its highest level, which requires that you change yourself (in a good way) to achieve it.  You have to let go of some things (anger, fear, competition) and learn some things (patience, sustained determination, grit) and it makes you become someone else, someone a bit better.

The second quote underlines another aspect of the first quote and its something some martial artists don’t like to face but that I, masochist for the truth that I am, like to linger on.

A tenth degree black belt can be surprised and killed by an aggressive 13 year old with a sharp kitchen knife.  A Grandmaster can be killed from across the room by a five year old with a Glock he found in his parent’s closet.

This is where skill and discipline meet technology.  Technology will often “win.”  We must face facts and not be misled, like the men who died in front of the British guns in the Chinese Boxer’s Rebellion.  To fight with their hands, a person needs to cultivate their weapon by conditioning those hands, and by developing structure and timing and will.  To fight with a knife, a person need only have aggression.  The knife itself possesses structure and the only conditioning it needs is a sharp edge.

This is why the cops have their “21 Foot Rule.”  The technology of the knife alone is innately dangerous.

These facts should temper our fantasies about our martial power.  While its true that some highly trained individuals could walk naked (Terminator-style) into a room full of people and kill or maim most of them due to the overwhelming superiority of their training and physical power (sort of like Donny Yen in the Ip Man sequence with the Japanese soldiers), its also true that they could be taken out by one person with some nerve surprising them with a well-placed pointy letter opener.

I’m meandering a little bit but maybe the best lesson here is “anyone can kill anyone” (quote from the movie JFK) and usually what is most required to be dangerous is nerve. Look at the passengers of Flight 93.  This is what was needed in many of these shooting rampages.

So if you want power, martial arts is the “long way round.”  But if you want a lot of other attributes (confidence, integrity, strength, balance, dexterity, quick reflexes, etc, etc) then you are on the right track.


Combat Psychology with Nathan Wagar

“That person can only be a threat … if he does both of two things.  He makes consistent eye contact, whether intermittent or sustained, and he closes distance.  That’s it.”
Nathan Wagar in Self-Defense, Martial Arts and Tactics podcast

There are two general sorts of fights you’ll have.

nathan-wagar-cmd-pro-trainerThere is “getting jumped.”  This is straight up predatory attack by someone who wants something you’ve got (your money, your body, whatever) and they lay in wait and then jump you when they think they have an advantage.  Not much you can do to avoid that type of attack – its more surviving it once it starts.

The other, more common, type of fight is one that you got a little warning about, if you keep your eyes open.

As books like the Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker warn us, you need to walk around the world in a condition yellow (alert and aware) and not with your headphones on, staring at your phone, seeing and hearing nothing.  If you walk around like this, then all fights will be of the first type (no warning).

I’m more and more interested in the flash point in fighting, that spot between the actual kickoff of the fight (fists flying etc) and when you saw the opponent for the first time.

There are methods of de-escalating fight situations (apologize, don’t be belligerent or macho, but stay firm and indicate readiness to fight with demeanor and body language) and there are methods for spotting them as they arise.

This excellent resource was brought to my attention by a comment from one of our readers (Thanks Joe).

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Path of the Assassin

“To come to know your enemy, first you must become his friend,
and once you become his friend, all his defences come down.
Then you can choose the most fitting method for his demise.”
Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the last Japanese Shogunate (which lasted 265 years)

I loved comic books as a kid.

In 2000, I got back into the art form, reading many of the new “graphic novels” such as Watchmen, From Hell, Powers, and Persepolis.

Path of the AssassinAt first I bought them, but that became prohibitively expensive, so I switched to getting them from the library (via InterLibrary Loan – check it out, they can get you anything you want for free).

I also discovered manga, or more precisely, Gekiga Manga.  Geika is Japanese for “dramatic pictures.”   It’s like using the term “graphic novel” as opposed to “comic book.”

One of the most successful manga in history was the series Lone Wolf and Cub, turned into a series of films  and edited into a version for the US called Shogun Assassin (which I reviewed HERE).

The guys who created Shogun Assassin also created what I think is a superior series (because its one long integrated novel instead of a bunch of semi-related short stories) called Path of the Assassin.

It follows the story of  Hattori Hanzō, assigned as a teen to protect Tokugawa Ieyasu, who would grow up to become shogun and unify Japan.   The series has been released by Dark Horse Comics in a 15 volume edition, translated into English and oriented in the original right-to-left reading format.

Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu put his son in the office in 1605, but ruled from behind the scenes until his death in 1616 and his children and their descendants ruled until the modern age.

The story is a fascinating one with the historical saga of Ieyasu’s rise to power supported by the (I assume) mythical or entirely made up story of how he was helped by the Ninja

and his Master Ninja’s supernatural and natural battles to help his master survive and prosper.

A great mix of history, friendship, male bonding, sex, and violence, I loved this series and would recommend it to anyone.


Get it from a library for free (ask for ILL if they don’t have it at your library) or to buy it from Amazon (and have them give me a finder’s fee), click on the image below.

Ving Tsun Misconceptions: Sifu Philip Bayer video and article

“Throughout my seminar teachings, I have consistently pointed out the simplicity of our style. This simplicity made it possible that Ving Tsun developed into one of the most effective fighting styles of the Chinese kung fu system.Unbridled imagination is the biggest enemy of Ving Tsun. It can lead us into the land of make believe -and this to a degree only seen in other styles until now. One of the best ways to judge the quality of Ving Tsun is the degree to which it adheres to its core principles.”
Sifu Philip Bayer

An interesting article by Philip Bayer titled “Ving Tsun Misconceptions” can be found HERE on the Ving Tsun Serbia site run by Nenad Koviljac.

And here is a cool video I found on the Facebook page of Will GK Li, from Inclusive Ving Tsun up in Thunder Bay Canada.

Lots of cool things happening in our art these days! Exciting times!

More Wing Chun In-Fighting – the Sad Kind

Chinese kung fu masters battle over inheritance of Yip Man’s Wing Chun legacy
“A controversy has erupted in Chinese martial arts circles over who will be chosen as the officially sanctioned inheritor of the legacy of Wing Chun-style kung fu.

Nine martial arts groups from Guangdong province have signed a letter contesting a suggestion by the provincial department of culture to list Ip Chun, the son of kung fu legend Yip Man, as an official standard bearer of the martial art.”
South China Morning Post

Its “beside the point” politics and bickering like this that give our art a bad name.

While what we need to be doing is refining and developing ourselves and our individual abilities, people who are more concerned about the financial bottom line and reputation fight these political battles.

How about putting your school on the map by being awesome and training your students to be amazing?