Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Lighter Side of Martial Arts - Arizona Karate and Kobudo

'Bruce', pencil sketch by Soke Hausel
When we think of traditional martial arts, we think of near super humans who carry power in their fingers, hands and feet to break rocks, tear bark from trees, chop horns off bulls, smash blocks of ice, accept full force kicks in the groin with a smile and...  ...well there is another side that is hidden – that of the lighter side of the macho and mystic of martial arts.
 I remember one event that happened many years ago that was material for Hollywood. I was working at a planetarium while attending college and just finished working while I walked out of the door to see two of our female staff members begin accosted by a couple of goons driving down State Street, who saw the two attractive women and made a quick turn into our staff parking lot, jumped out of their car, and would not let the ladies close their car door unless they provided some personal information.
Being a martial artist, I stepped in and challenged them. I told them to get away from the car or else. They refused. Thus, I took a karate stance while facing them. In my mind, I visualized myself as Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon getting ready to do battle to the end. And it worked!

 These guys obviously saw the killing instinct in my eyes! All of a sudden, I saw the fear in their eyes explode with the diameter of their eyes suddenly growing to nearly twice their normal size as fear raged through their primitive minds. This was followed by a quick about face as they ran as fast as they could to their car. As I was mentally patting myself on my back for projecting my ki and scaring the daylights out of them, Louis, one of our other staff members who moved to SLC from Detroit, ran past me swinging a 2x4 over his head chasing the thugs out of our parking lot.  Well, maybe I projected my ki to Louis?

Kubi ashi waza - ankle lift defense using expandable police baton (ASP or kibo) performed by
Shihan-Dai Kyle Gewecke (4th dan) from Gillette against Sempai Brett Philbrick from
Laramie (2nd dan). The same technique can also be performed without a weapon must by
grabbing the attacker's ankle.
During my jujutsu classes at the University of Wyoming, two of my more entertaining students were often reinventing techniques (not on purpose, but by accident) and if only video cameras were as common then as they are today, maybe I could have caught this husband and wife team and made a few $hundred thousand on America's Funnies Home Videos.

During one class, I demonstrated a technique I will refer to as kubi ashi waza in which an attacker bear hugs his intended victim from behind. The defender quickly thrusts his or hers buttocks into the attacker while reaching down to grab one ankle of the attacker and lifts his leg to drop him on his back.  Sounds pretty straight forward - but not for my favorite married couple.  Imagine this, an attacker comes up from behind and grabs you in a bear hug. You reach down, thrusting your buttocks into him while reaching down for an ankle. You lift up the ankle and, surprise, you have your own ankle. Yes, my student Glenn actually did this.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Health and Arizona Martial Arts

People are surprised at how healthy many martial artists appear. One of my student sensei (instructors) from Mesa, Arizona, who practices karate in mesa, is a retired pilot in his late 60s who has suffered through many physical ailments. We are surprised to hear about his many past problems. Nowadays, when he visits the doctor for a checkup, his physician asks, "How old are you?" apparently impressed by his overall physical condition expressed by favorable blood pressure and heart rate that this Sensei directly attributes to his training in martial arts since retirement.

Another student was a professor of linguistics when I taught martial arts at the University of Wyoming. This student began training while in his 70s and told me that he looked forward to learning martial arts much of his life. However, when he was younger, he was a professor at a university ruled by communists in Estonia, who would not allow him to train in martial arts. This is something people should think about before they again elect a person with ties to a communist and socialist past. This was a common phenomenon behind the Iron Curtain where the government first took away all civilian guns, then eliminated perceived political opponents through mass genocide (as many as 100 million people have been murdered by communists), and restricted all freedom at every level. At least three of my students and one co-author suffered through communists regimes, and they still suffer though nightmares of those times. I suspect that many of my Vietnamese students also suffered. But back to this student. When he was in his 80s, he was in excellent health and had excellent memory and was actually the fastest of any of my students.

Sketch of Funakoshi by Soke Hausel
This is a common phenomenon in martial arts. The father of modern karate and a Shorin-Ryu Karate Master, Gichin Funakoshi, wrote in his book - Karate-Do - My Way of Life about health and martial arts training. He wrote, while in his 90s, "Thanks to my devotion to Karate-do that I have never once had to consult a physician. I have never in my life taken any medicine, no pills, no elixirs, not even a single injection. Karate-do is not merely an art that teaches how to strike and kick, it is also a defense against illness and disease".

Personally, when I see people who are out of shape, like those folks we see in Walmart who waddle into the store and immediately plop down on an electric scooter to usher themselves around the store, I have to feel for them. All it would take is for them to get out of those chairs and start training in martial arts to see a dramatic change in their health.

A few years ago, I tore a meniscus in my left knee due to a physical defect I was born with. I had to have surgery and they gave me crutches to walk out of the facility, which I did not use - I barely had a limp. I attended physical therapy where the therapist was amazed at my abilities the first day of therapy and progression over the next few weeks. I was told they only had one other person who was as far as long as me after similar surgery, a professional basketball player who was nearly 45 years younger. This was all due to my training in Shorin-Ryu Karate-do.