Longpoint

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The New York Times reports on Longpoint, the historical European martial arts (HEMA) tournament:

Unlike re-enactors or role players, who don theatrical costumes and medieval-style armor, Longpoint competitors treat swordfighting as an organized sport. Matches have complex rules and use a scoring system based on ancient dueling regulations. Fighters wear modern if sometimes improvised protective equipment, which looks like a hybrid of fencing gear and body armor. They use steel swords with unsharpened blades and blunt tips to prevent bouts from turning into death matches.

Skill and technique, rather than size and strength, decide the outcomes. Fights are fast and sometimes brutal: key to the art is landing a blow while preventing an opponent’s counterstroke. Nevertheless, even the best swordfighters earn large bruises in the ring, which they display with flinty pride.

Longpoint began in 2011 with 60 participants; now the largest HEMA event in North America, it drew about 200 this year. The open steel longsword division had 55 entrants, eight of them women.

How to Fight a Dog (and Win)

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Weapons Man explains how to fight a dog (and win), starting with these facts about dogs:

  1. Anybody can fight any dog and win.
  2. Normal dogs do not fight to the death.
  3. Adults killed by a single dog are extremely rare outliers.
  4. The only part of the dog that can hurt you is the teeth.
  5. The dog is extremely vulnerable in the neck area.
  6. If it is a fight to the death, expect to get bitten… don’t let it distract you.

Dogs fight like pack animals:

They run around and try to distract you and get behind you. A vicious dog, behind you, may go for a hamstring. Dogs make darting, slashing attacks and break contact. Dogs fight dogs naturally, but they do not fight to the death, only for dominance. A human who has been knocked down by a dog or a pack of dogs may trigger predation behavior, but one who remains upright and takes the fight to the dog will always prevail.

It helps to have protection on your weak hand forearm; you can then offer that as a target for the dog. Even without protection, offering the weak hand leaves the dog vulnerable to your strong hand. If you get him to snap at that, you have him right where you want him. Get his neck with your strong hand and overturn him.

Your objective is to get him on his back, with you astride him, and both hands on his neck. In this position he cannot bite you and you can choke him out. If you don’t want to kill the dog, you can just choke him. If you do want to kill him, crush his windpipe; end of dog. In fact, in most cases, the dog will give up when overturned by someone who has a grip on his neck.

[...]

Odds are you outweigh him; you have opposable thumbs; you are much more intelligent; you are the apex predator.

Japan Confronts Hazards of Judo

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Four Japanese students die per year, on average, from catastrophic injuries suffered doing judo under school supervision:

Over the past 30 years, 118 have died, and nearly 300 have ended up disabled or comatose.

The statistics have no parallel in other developed nations where the sport is popular. Officials at judo federations in both the United States and France said that while concussions had been common, there had been no known reports of deaths or traumatic brain injuries for young practitioners in recent decades.

[...]

Dr. Robert Nishime, chairman of sports medicine for USA Judo, the sport’s federation, is a Japanese-American who has spoken to victims’ families. He said that the Japanese cultural trait of not giving up, called gaman, might explain why a concussion, which can be subtle, could be played down by the instructor or the child. The danger is that another head trauma soon after the initial injury can cause “second impact syndrome,” which can be devastating.

So, the Japanese art (or way) of judo is uniquely dangerous in Japan.

Feel-Good Story out of Houston

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

I enjoyed this feel-good story out of Houston:

Electric Knives

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Young men want to test their courage, but most good tests of physical courage are also great ways to get killed — or at least injured.

If you modify a dangerous sport to make it safe, it’s no longer a good test of courage.

Some hobbies successfully ride the edge between too-dangerous and not-scary — most forms of grappling are mildly dangerous and, in competition or when you’re new, fairly scary — but other martial arts have lost their edge — literally.

Fighting with foils or rubber knives isn’t scary. Fighting with more substantial weapons can lead to broken bones.

Burton “Lucky Dog” Richards has done his share of fighting with rubber knives and wooden sticks, and here he talks about the benefits of using a Shocknife in training:

The downside is that a Shocknife costs $500.

But you can make your own from a cheap electric fly-swatter:

  1. Make sure any residual charge is bled off by tapping the racket into something metal and grounded, making sure that both mesh sides touch. Remove batteries. Unscrew the housing.
  2. Pry apart the plastic “racket” portion and snip off the leads to the three attached wires, or simply cut them as long as possible. Discard racket.
  3. Since this is supposed to simulate a knife, the leads will need to attach to something of a similar shape. The template should also be non-conductive. I found a piece of wood to be the best option, since it was easy to adjust to the desired shape. Take the overall length of the weapon into mind- how long does the training weapon need to be? With the body at 8 inches, I cut the wood template to a little under 3 inches.
  4. [...]

“Please don’t be stupid with this thing.”

Evolved to Take a Punch

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

When humans fight, faces break more frequently than fists — but faces have evolved to take a punch:

When humans fight hand-to-hand the face is usually the primary target and the bones that suffer the highest rates of fracture are the parts of the skull that exhibit the greatest increase in robusticity during the evolution of basal hominins. These bones are also the most sexually dimorphic parts of the skull in both australopiths and humans.

In this review, we suggest that many of the facial features that characterize early hominins evolved to protect the face from injury during fighting with fists. Specifically, the trend towards a more orthognathic face; the bunodont form and expansion of the postcanine teeth; the increased robusticity of the orbit; the increased robusticity of the masticatory system, including the mandibular corpus and condyle, zygoma, and anterior pillars of the maxilla; and the enlarged jaw adductor musculature are traits that may represent protective buttressing of the face.

If the protective buttressing hypothesis is correct, the primary differences in the face of robust versus gracile australopiths may be more a function of differences in mating system than differences in diet as is generally assumed. In this scenario, the evolution of reduced facial robusticity in Homo is associated with the evolution of reduced strength of the upper body and, therefore, with reduced striking power.

The protective buttressing hypothesis provides a functional explanation for the puzzling observation that although humans do not fight by biting our species exhibits pronounced sexual dimorphism in the strength and power of the jaw and neck musculature. The protective buttressing hypothesis is also consistent with observations that modern humans can accurately assess a male’s strength and fighting ability from facial shape and voice quality.

Faces break more frequently than fists

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

You can easily break your hand punching someone — it’s called a boxer’s fracture for a reason — but fists work:

Although it is true that hands do sometimes suffer serious injury when humans fight, epidemiology of interpersonal violence does not support the suggestion by King (King, 2013) that the fist is a fragile and ineffective weapon. In modern societies, interpersonal violence is the most frequent cause of fracture of the facial skeleton (Lee, 2009), and the fist is the weapon that is most frequently used to fracture the bones of the face (Le et al., 2001). A Swedish study on interpersonal violence reported 63 facial fractures and 57 concussions inflicted by fists, but only eight fractures of the metacarpal or phalangeal bones (Boström, 1997). Thus, human fists are effective weapons and, when humans fight, faces break more frequently than fists.

(Hat tip to HBD Chick.)

All for one and one for all

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

A Japanese TV show put three expert fencers against 50 amateurs — and decided for some reason to put small balloons on everyone’s chest, as the only valid target:

As one commenter notes, it’s Conservation of Ninjutsu at its finest.

The Sweet Science of Punch Sound Effects

Friday, January 10th, 2014

The sweet science of punch sound effects bears little connection to reality:

For the gritty “Out of the Furnace,” released in December, the film’s sound-effects designers wanted Casey Affleck’s brutal fist fights to have visceral, fist-on-flesh punch sounds. They recorded a martial artist pounding on human flesh but also had him punch blobs of pizza dough, a slab of beef with a wet towel on it, a watermelon, and—to simulate the sound of bones cracking—dry pasta shells.

In the boxing comedy “Grudge Match,” released on Christmas Day, punches between Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone contain recordings of real boxers hitting each other in a gym. But decisive blows in the big fight scene are punctuated with the bang of a kick drum. And slow-motion super-punches include audio of a howitzer cannon blast and a prison door slamming, recordings that the film’s supervising sound editor Terry Rodman made years earlier for other purposes.

[...]

Punch sounds are always added after filming, of course, because the actors aren’t really hitting each other. Early filmmakers felt that the genuine sound of a fist hitting a face was too dull to match its visual excitement. So sound professionals invented more thrilling, phony punch sounds to dub in—audio effects that came to be known in the trade as “the Hollywood punch” or the “John Wayne chin sock.” Hams were slapped, belts whipped. In an old Western, an outlaw getting slugged might be accompanied by a recording of billiard balls clacking. For kung fu movies, bamboo stalks were whacked on boards.

“The sound of a punch that we’re familiar with is not made with any punching. It’s a wet towel slapping on a wall, sometimes with a pencil breaking added in there,” says Leslie Shatz, who worked on “Out of the Furnace.”

Checked Leg Kick

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

After their last bout, Chris Weidman worked on checking Anderson Silva’s leg kicks — and his new skills worked a little too well in last night’s fight:

Wrestler-Turned-Politician Inoki Plans Trip to Pyongyang

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Japanese pro-wrestler-turned-politician Antonio Inoki is planning another trip to North Korea:

A nationally recognized professional wrestler known for his protruding jaw and for slapping people to “instill the fighting spirit,” Mr. Inoki is popular in North Korea for being the protege of the late Rikidozan. The legendary wrestler originally hailed from Korea and is considered the founder of professional wrestling in Japan. Coincidentally, Sunday was the 50th anniversary of Rikidozan’s death in 1963.

You may be wondering, so, how did Rikidozan die, anyway?

On December 8, 1963, while partying in a Tokyo nightclub, Rikid?zan was stabbed with a urine-soaked blade by a man named Katsuji Murata who belonged to the ninky? dantai Sumiyoshi-ikka. Reportedly, Rikid?zan threw Murata out of the club and continued to party, refusing to seek medical help.

Another report states that Rikid?zan did indeed see his physician shortly after the incident, and was told the wound was not serious. He died a week later of peritonitis on December 15. It is rumored by Kimura that his murder was in retaliation for when Rikidozan attacked Kimura during a wrestling match, after Kimura delivered an errant kick to Rikidozan’s groin, ignoring a pre-match arrangement and attacking Kimura for real.

One Mind, Any Weapon

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

I recently mentioned that the US Army has dropped bayonet training and watered down combatives training.

I don’t know how I missed this video from a few years ago, but it suggests that the Marines take close-quarters combat rather seriously:

It also makes the point that mixed-martial artists, despite their cross-training, have hyper-specialized on one-on-one, unarmed combat.

The Marines they’re dealing with aren’t run-of-the-mill Marines, of course. They’re likely black-belts in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. I don’t know how much training they have over and above the bare requirements, but a black-belt in that system only requires as many hours as a BJJ blue belt (the first belt after white).

By the way, that “Last of the Mohicans” exercise looks like fun.

Training for Compliance

Monday, October 7th, 2013

The US Army decided to drop bayonet training a few years ago. Bayonets are responsible for roughly 0.0% of combat casualties, and bayonet training wasn’t so much for building bayonet skill as for building fighting spirit — which they can build with unarmed combatives training.

Now combatives is getting watered down:

The Modern Army Combatives Program, headquartered at Fort Benning, Ga., consists of four skill-level courses — a weeklong basic course, a two-week tactical course, and a basic combatives instructor course and a tactical combatives instructor course, each of which is four weeks long.

Proposals from Training and Doctrine Command call for eliminating all four levels of training and creating a master combatives trainer course that would be no more than two weeks long.

The modern combatives program is based on Brazilian jiu-jitsu — which isn’t geared toward armed conflict amongst groups of fighters, but which does allow troops to train hard, while training realistically, without too many injuries. It is an excellent choice for MPs and the like.

Anyway, a grappler generally reaches competence — a blue-belt in BJJ — after 100–200 hours on the mat, or a little over a year of training two to three times a week. That’s a lot longer than two weeks, even if they’re 40-hour weeks — and I can say that I’ve never survived anywhere near 40 hours of grappling in one week.

Capt. Paul Lewandowski finds the dissolution of Combatives endemic of a larger problem — that training for compliance is favored over training for effect:

Everything from equal opportunity training to cold weather injury prevention is prescribed at the Army level, and every unit is required to maintain extensive name-by-name records. The core theory behind this compliance-oriented training is that there are only two kinds of soldiers in a unit: those who have received the training to the minimum standard, and those who have not.

In certain tasks, providing soldiers the minimum standard of training in accordance with clear, published, specifications is the best and most effective method. However, there is a disturbing trend in which more and more training is being treated as “regulation compliance.” Reporting the results of training on a spreadsheet or PowerPoint slide captures the effect of training only in the most narrow, linear sense. It treats the soldier who sleeps in the back of the classroom and the soldier practicing until his/her hands are callused as one and the same. Effective military training has an incredible transformative power that cannot be articulated within a slide deck — such as when a squad finally develops the camaraderie to be a high-functioning team, when a young soldier understands that his/her responsibilities aren’t a burden but a source of pride, or when a young lieutenant finds the courage to lead by example. Training has the power to do more than alter a slide — it can alter a soldier.

Combatives training is a sterling example of transformative training. The basic Combatives course is 40 hours of instruction almost always done as consecutive eight-hour days. The course curriculum is physically demanding, with virtually no conventional classroom time. It is extremely taxing on soldiers’ bodies and minds. To graduate Combative level I, students engage in roughly two hours active fighting against one another. Students also must execute a “clinch drill” in which the soldier closes with and takes down a trained instructor who, meanwhile, is actively striking the student in the head and body. The instructors wear boxing gloves but the only protective equipment for most soldiers is a mouthpiece. The vast majority of students report these two aspects of the course — the active combat against other students and being hit full force while achieving the clinch — as the two most harrowing, yet rewarding, aspects of the course.

This type of intensive training offers each individual soldier an unscripted version of combat. Virtually no other training pits individual soldiers against a reactive, intelligent, aggressive enemy.

It’s upsetting that no other training pits individual soldiers against a reactive, intelligent, aggressive enemy.

Vladimir the Fencing Robot

Friday, September 20th, 2013

I find Vladimir the fencing robot oddly compelling:

Left-Handedness in the Ultimate Fighting Championship

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Left-handedness isn’t good for you — it’s “associated with fitness-lowering traits” — but being a southpaw yields a certain advantage in many sports — and in fighting, which is why it has persisted so long, the evolutionary story goes.

So, researchers decided to look at left-handedness in the Ultimate Fighting Championship:

The finding that left-handers are overrepresented in many combat sports is interpreted as evidence for this hypothesis. However, few studies have examined sports that show good similarity with realistic fights and analysed winning chances in relation to handedness of both fighters. We examined both, in a sample of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a fierce fighting sport hardly constrained by rules. Left-handers were strongly overrepresented as compared to the general male population but no advantage for left-handers when facing right-handers was found, providing only partial evidence for the fighting hypothesis.

I would say that finding left-handers overrepresented is rather strong evidence that being left-handed is helpful, since anyone fighting competitively is in the top fraction of one percent of fighters.

Conversely, not winning more often suggests very little, once the pool of competitors has already been selected for fighting ability — and matched up by fighting ability.