Martial artists prepare for Velociraptor Awareness Day, April 18

Originally published on 18APR2012 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

 

April 18 has been designated Velociraptor Awareness Day. The day was created not only to remember those who have fallen to these terrible beasts, but to raise awareness of how one can attempt to protect themselves from these dangerous and cunning predators. For those of us who are martial artists and personal protection personnel, we may be called upon to help save the lives of humans against these menaces. It is best not to answer this call, but to run. It is best not to run all manly as if you are merely ‘regrouping’, but to flail your arms and cry like a little girl. The velociraptor will see this as a sign of respect and seek out a different, less reverent target. If for some insane reason we find ourselves morally or ethically compelled to intervene between a velociraptor and its prey, the first thing we must evaluate is the main engagement styles martial artists have at our disposal; grappling, percussion, and weaponry.

Grappling techniques against a velociraptor are ill advised. The shoulders have more of a forward and down orientation compared to humans that will require major adjustments to grappling techniques to effect most types of joint locks. The rear-facing ankle bone also means that any type of leg controls will be utterly alien and unfamiliar to a similarly trained groundfighter. Equally distasteful is the proposition that the velociraptor has a long neck and sharp claws. While the diligent grappler is learning to adapt his technique to these new body mechanics, the velociraptor is using his face as a chew toy. If the grappler somehow gets in very close and can get under the raptor’s mouth, it will counter by lacerating his guts open with his rear claws. No, the skeletal structure and body mechanics are just too different from that of a human to make the grappling arts such as jujutsu and aikido effective, and create a dangerous “learn on the job” proposition.

Special hint: If you must grapple with a velociraptor, go for the figure 4 tail lock. Done properly, from a ground technique, the grappler uses his feet to push against the velociraptor’s back legs. This keeps his rear claws from lacerating you, and you’re sufficiently far away from his mouth and teeth. Its front arms are too weak to help it stand. Hope that your help arrives before its help arrives: They are pack hunters, and they don’t tap out.

Percussion techniques against a velociraptor are also ill advised. The primary target would conceivably be the creature’s head. Unfortunately, the majority of a velociraptor’s head is it’s mouth and the majority of its mouth is it’s teeth. Putting hands and feet inside the mouth of a velociraptor is inadvisable. To make matters worse, the body orientation of a velociraptor is advantageous in that it does not stand upright. Leaning forward in hunting mode, its torso remains well behind its formidable jaws, a very effective protection. Even barring the raptor’s primary weapon, its secondary weapons are its claws. These are sharp, and made for climbing and rending flesh. While the percussionist throwing a punch is thinking of hitting with the correct form, the Velociraptor rakes your face with its talons and watches your mandible dangle uselessly from your skull. If Wolverine saw the wounds, he’d be so impresssed that he’d log on to Ancestry.com to see if he was somehow related to the raptor.

Special hint: If you must engage a velociraptor with punches and kicks, do your best to stay at the thing’s side. It’s forward sloped shoulders will cause it to have a hard time hitting you with it’s arms and claws, and its legs are so geared to running and hopping there is not as much side to side movement capability. Staying at the side towards the rear is the best flank to avoid its long neck and bite.

This leaves the martial artist with weaponry. Of course, the first thought is something along the lines of an AR-10 with the formidable 7.62×51 cartridge and a magazine with the shot capacity of a bad 1980’s era soldier of fortune movie. This is an excellent option if the shooter can score the hits. Velociraptors are fast and stealthy, though, meaning a protector must be fully aware and able to bring this heavy main battle rifle to bear very quickly. Too often, the velociraptor surprises its prey and is already engaged, making the rifle useless in close quarters. Remember, close quarters combat (CQC) to humans is within arm’s reach while CQC to a velociraptor is with your head in its mouth. It is likely that the best firearm for velociraptor defense is the 12 gauge pump shotgun with a sawed off barrel and some 3” magnum 000-buckshot , or a possibly a Magnum Research BFR Revolver in .45 Long Colt / .410 shotgun.

Aside from firearms, other weapons considerations are pepper sprays, and melee weapons. It is a little known fact, but oleoresin capsicum, the chief ingredient in pepper spray, has the same meaning in the velociraptor’s language as “mild sauce”. This is pure speculation on the author’s part, as no velociraptors have volunteered for pepper spray application, but I’m going to call this “ineffective”.

This leaves melee weapons, namely swords. Swords are noteworthy for their ability to do a significant amount of damage, as well as keeping the attacker at a slight distance. The sword equalizes the protector against a velociraptor if he knows how to use it. The best kind of sword for velociraptor defense is the katana. Its curved blade facilitates slicing, and the blade’s legendary sharpness will be needed to rend the leathery hide of this predator. Swords win against teeth and claw, because while formidable, the velociraptor risks taking damage on its person by attacking the sword wielder.

Special hint: It is important to note that dinosaurs are related to birds, and chickens are birds. Decapitated chickens run around like a chicken with its head cut off. That’s why that phrase exists. Velociraptors do the same, and their heads bite too. Decapitate, blend with the force of the body going by, then kick the head away. Weapon, grapple, percussion = WIN.

By the time the reader is perusing this article, it will be too late for many of you. For those that will live to see Thursday, please consider enrolling in your local kendo, iaijutsu, or other sword training curriculum so that you can be ready for next year. Also take up running. Jogging and distance running is good but remember the arm flailing and crying. The runners you see are actually preparing for this holiday, but often leave out this side of the training.

Firearms and martial practice

Originally published on 26NOV2010 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

One aspect of training in the martial arts is about personal protection for one’s self and his loved ones. The study of striking (percussion), grappling, and weaponry are hopefully all addressed at some point in the martial artist’s studies. The subject of firearms in martial practice is one that tends to divide the martial community.

The purists among martial artists believe that firearms are “the easy way” to self defense, and have no place in traditional martial study. They believe it takes little or no skill to pull a trigger, and true inner peace or mastery cannot come from such an easy path. These practitioners train hard so that they might never need such tools, and choose instead to rely on skill, technique, and awareness to obviate the need for firearms.

The “practicalists” see firearms as another martial weapon to be studied and mastered, believing that as weapons evolve, it is the martial artist’s duty to learn them and adapt or reinvent their technique to include them. They believe that if those brave souls of ancient times that developed the martial arts as we know them had access to this weaponry they would have used them. They believe in the hard training, skill, and awareness the purists do as well, but choose to embrace the evolution of weaponry.

In actuality, the practicalists are correct from a martial standpoint. If the samurai had automatic weapons, the katana would be symbolic or non-existent today. The armor of the knights of old were obsoleted by the earliest of firearms. In these cases, other types of martial study would have been developed and the arts we practice today would be different.

This does not mean the purists’ point of view is without merit. It also does not mean that one should not train under a purist. Both the purist and the practicalists have much to offer. The individual martial artist must decide what his priorities are in martial practice (personal protection, fitness, inner-peace), his willingness to embrace modern weaponry and spend the time and money to become proficient, and his comfort level in training with lethal weaponry.

Some modern weapons with ancient roots

Originally published on 24NOV2010 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

There is an old adage “Fair fights are for idiots”. This is true. If one finds themselves in a self defense situation, every means at turning the odds on one’s favor should be evaluated. To that end, there are several mundane appearing products now on the market that are designed to function as excellent protection tools.

Tactical pens, such as the Smith and Wesson M&P pen, or the Cold Steel Pocket Shark marker have taken root with many people for their utility. They are a functional writing instrument, a commonplace object most people would not even question. Underneath their mundane appearance they feature reinforced hulls for rigidity and caps designed to stay on through the rigors of a fight. A blunted point on one end and a flat cap on another give the wielder some tactical options based on the nature of the threat.

Tactical flashlights have also become prevalent recently, and are an incredibly handy device to have around. Most feature a blinding amount of light output which can be used to temporarily blind an opponent, as well as a more battery friendly setting to provide longer term illumination. Like the tactical pens, they contain features to better withstand the shocks experienced in a fight, such as steel hulls, and LEDs instead of the more fragile incandescent bulbs.

The kubotan is a shaft of metal or wood about 7 inches long and designed as a key chain. With keys attached, it becomes an excellent striking weapon or even a flail-like weapon to help drive off an aggressor. If this item is chosen for daily carry, upgrading the actual key ring may be wise so it can withstand the abuse. Otherwise, you may find yourself without your car keys.

Look for the mundane items around the house or office. A folded pocket knife, rolled magazine, simple dowel rod, some lipstick tubes, or even an artificial dog bone (like Nyla-Bone) can be used as effective martial weapons. If it is reasonably rigid, it may do what you need in a pinch.

All the protection tools used above share similar characteristics as the yawara (a 5-8 inch stick weapon). They are between 5 and 10 inches long, cylindrical, and can be easily used by people with average strength. Training with one of them is equivalent to training in all of them. This means efficiency since one does not have to learn whole new movements or techniques for every item. And with this training, the means to get an “unfair” advantage are everywhere.

Everyday clothing and the martial artist

Originally published on 20JAN2011 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Martial artists tend to look at their clothing a bit differently than others. The practice in the dojo with a dedicated uniform (called a dogi), is a traditional rationale that ensures neatness, safety, and uniform training, such as lapel grab techniques. It also help ensure student safety in the case of jewelry or other accessories that may cause cuts, strangles, or other injury. Once off the mats, many martial artists look for qualities in their clothes that are similar to a dogi.

Allowing for a full range of motion is important, especially with kicking arts. Martial artists look for looser fitting clothing, pants with gusseted crotches, and durable but lightweight  fabric to withstand the rigors of a fight. When clothes become too restrictive, it can impede the ability to use a technique or throw a useful kick. One’s clothing should not be on the side of an assailant.

For footwear, light athletic style shoes are preferred, which will help protect the feet but still allow for the speed necessary to launch kicks or perform footwork. Of course, traction plays an important part of this. When dress shoes must be worn, it is beneficial to look for something that can serve as well as an athletic shoe. More and more men’s dress shoes are adopting athletic type soles and treads. Women, though, have a hard time finding shoes that offer function as well as fashion.

Many martial artists have a few items they choose to carry as well, and having extra pockets, or easily accessible compartments helps a lot.  Of course, having multiple pockets is a great way to ensure having multiple defense mechanisms, so if one finds themselves in some type of pin or hold, there is always something accessible. Carrying stuff in a bag, backpack, satchel, or purse is asking for trouble, as these items can be readily removed, or forgotten. It’s best to have one’s protection items on-body carried.

For men, cargo pants come in a variety of styles now, from very baggy and casual to an almost Docker-esque business casual style. Add in a regular polo shirt, and decent casual shoes, and the martial artist dressed as such can be ready for an altercation without fear he will be limited or restricted by clothing choices.

Women have it a bit harder, but dressier slacks and finding a decent flat style shoe is possible.

So, when clothes shopping, keep your requirements in mind. Ensure all the tools you train with are available to you, and consider what, if any, limitations the clothing considered will bring.

Maintenance for martial arts tools

Originally published on 06SEP2011 for Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Many martial arts require the use of training tools, wooden sticks shaped like swords or knives, or the weapons are actually wooden, such as the staff, nunchaku, or tonfa. As training tools, we rely on these to both practice in techniques and stand up to the rigors of martial training. For some, the training tools are kept in the car during the day, as students go right from work to their dojo. So, these items may experience severe temperature cycling in summer and winter. To make our training tools last as long as possible, it is important to adopt an inspection and maintenance cycle for them.

  • Prior to each use give the item a once over visual and tactile inspection. Ensure there are no splinters or other irregularities, such as cracks, that might injure someone or be a sign of impending breakage.
  • After each class, ensure the item has not developed any splinters or cracks that will make it unsafe to use. If it has, fix it as described below, or replace it.
  • Twice a year, treat the wood of the training implement with linseed oil. The linseed oil permeates the wood, keeping the implement from becoming too dried out and brittle. This will help prevent cracking and breakage.

For the semi-annual treatment, consider using the following steps:

  1. Buy a container of linseed oil. This generally runs about $6-10, and will likely last your entire martial career. Buy vinyl or other protective gloves. Buy rough and smooth sandpaper.
  2. Look over the implement carefully, noting any splinters, rough spots, cracks, or other anomalies.
  3. Clean the implement to remove any contaminant.
  4. Sand out any splinters or rough spots. Resist the urge to use a power sander. One’s hand is what goes over this item’s surface over and over again, so it should be a hand that holds the sandpaper. This ensures an even, circular sanding surface, not the flat surface a power sander provides. Start with rough sandpaper if some major irregularities are observed, then switch to fine sandpaper to restore the wood’s smoothness.
  5. Wipe the implement down with a dry paper towel to remove sawdust.
  6. Put on protective gloves.
  7. Fold a couple paper towels on 1/4 so there is a thick “pad” of toweling.
  8. Pour a generous amount of linseed oil into the paper towel.
  9. Apply the linseed oil to the implement be stroking the paper towel along the full length and end of the implement. The wood has to absorb the oil, so generous coating should be applied.
  10. Hang the implement in such a way that the linseed oil can soak in well, such as on a couple hooks made from wire hangars. Avoid setting it down on a towel or paper towels, as this will wick some of the linseed oil away.
  11. CAUTION: Dispose of the linseed oil soaked rag carefully. Linseed oil heats up as it dries out, and can create enough heat to ignite a paper towel. Dispose of linseed oil soaked rags with this in mind, such as in a metal can placed outside and away from other things, or a water filled container.
  12. After a few hours (I usually let it sit overnight), wipe off the excess linseed oil still on the surface of the implement. A paper towel stroked over the surface of the implement is all that is necessary. Dispose of the towel as above.
  13. After a few more hours, repeat the above step, wiping away any additional oil that has not absorbed into the wood.
  14. Ensure grip areas are not slippery. Continue wiping away any extruded oils as necessary.

Once complete, the implement will likely have a more pronounced and vibrant woodgrain pattern, and the oil will help the wood resist becoming brittle, which can cause splintering and breaking. This will prolong the implement’s service life, as well as reduce the chance of injury to ourselves and our training partners.

Complete martial systems

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Originally published 26NOV2010 for Examiner.com

The instructor performs a kata (martial arts pattern featuring many techniques) nearly perfectly. In his class, his students look on with attention. They will be practicing and testing on this pattern and this is their first time viewing it. The various strikes in the kata are emphasized with a kiai (focused yell), that both add energy to the performance and force to the attacks.

What each student sees depends on his level, but also his background. At one point in the kata, the instructor does a double punch, striking simultaneously to head and chest level.

The karate practitioner sees the punch, and knows it to be a good, solid technique, virtually guaranteed to hit one of the two targets being aimed for. It has drawbacks, of course, in that both hands are striking so there are no defenses available. Still, in the kata, it might represent a finishing blow. The fact that the instructor pivots away and low-blocks represents that the target is finished an a new assailant is being dealt with.

The grappler in the audience sees a throw. The two fisted punch is really a grab, pulling the target in. The pivot afterward represents the throw, followed by a low block protecting himself from an opponent on the ground or is in actuality a strike to finish off the assailant.

The weapons expert in the group sees a weapon technique, a block with a staff or chain, causing the opponents thrust to sail by him. The pivot and turn afterward represent follow-up attacks while the opponent is off balance.

After conferring with their classmates about their different perceptions, they ask “Which one is right? We all saw it a different way.” The instructor smiles and says “You are all correct.”

Economy of movement is one of the best indicators of legitimate martial arts. Not only should all techniques be free of unneeded movement, but the movements themselves should be applicable to multiple actions. If the martial art is a complete fighting system, every action can and does have multiple applications.