Lessons from a Martial Moron

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Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Bill Glasheen » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:18 am

This isn't any easy thread to write, but I'll do the best I can with it. Understand that I write it with the best of intentions in mind.

In all the years I have taught, I've taken an injury in one of my classes as an opportunity to learn something. The most pressing matter of course was immediately to deal with the injury and get the individual better as soon as possible. But I've always insisted in a debriefing afterwards. And I've taken what was learned from the debriefing and treated it as an opportunity for others not to make such a mistake.

For now I'll keep this relatively brief.

The person involved is a fairly highly-ranked martial artist who came to me years ago as a raw talent and a product of someone else's effort to teach Uechi Ryu. In the past when I got such a person, I tried to over-teach them and mold them to what I thought was right. But in this case I discovered someone who had both raw talent and some unusual ways of performing our techniques. This person "got" the martial principles. I was dealing with a diamond in the rough, but it was precious material for sure. So over time my approach to teaching was not to show what should be done, but instead remove what shouldn't be there. I knew there would be enough spontaneous learning without me suggesting a lot. My job was just to clean it up and see what remained.

At some point the individual came to me and remarked that George was having this "world tournament" and did I think it might be cool to enter. Well, I thought, this is an opportunity to treat a public event like a practice nidan test. So I said "Sure, why not?" Much to my surprise, the student came back with a first place kata trophy in hand. I didn't realize we had progressed that much, but we had.

Now this individual is one of my instructors, and teaches where I can't be.

Well... I encourage my students to explore. I encourage them to go off on their own paths and do new things. And all my students understand that I walk a fine line between being safe and being realistic. There is a right place to be in your practice.

Well..

I teach Okinawan kobudo and I teach some Filipino knife and stick. I have a nice bo, sai, and tonfa kata that I teach, I'm learning an eiku form, and I teach "flash nunchaku" strictly for hand coordination.

I do not teach kama.

My student decided to learn a kama form from tape. So the student purchases live, sharpened blades and tries to learn a first-ever kama form from scratch off a tape.

The student almost completely cut hand off. The blade cut cleanly through all tendons, arteries, nerves, and veins, and ligaments that attached ulna and radius to the hand bones. There was just a bit of flesh left holding it all together. This was done while practicing the form alone, in the kitchen, out in a country home away from everyone. Fortunately the ambulance that came took the student straight to The Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, which is a Level I trauma center. The head of plastic surgery and a chief resident took the case on. There were/are issues with financing, but we're talking about a teaching hospital. All the good things that needed to happen did happen. Hand was reattached.

It's 5 days later, and I finally got the story first-hand from the victim. Thankfully I didn't need to preach. The gravity and sheer stupidity of it all was understood. I came up with the phrase "martial moron", and it was received with a hearty laugh.

This is far from over and there are many issues ahead. But for now... we all can learn. Something..

- Bill
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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Bill Glasheen » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:23 am

For those who are not familiar with the weapon, I've included a picture and explanation.

Image

The kama is an agricultural sickle and many were certainly imported from China for the farming classes. It has a long wooden handle and a thin razor-sharp curved blade at one end. It makes a formidable weapon even against the most determined enemy. Used in pairs they were flexibly reversed in the hand for both slashing and striking in a great many directions. If, however, the modern sickle resembles the ones used by the feudal farming class, it is apparent that one single blocking technique would sever the blade from the shaft and make it useless.

(The Shureido kama, above, has blades 3/16" thick and sturdy red oak shafts to withstand the rigors of kobudo. The shafts have been wrapped where they come in contact with other weapons. It is, however, very heavy to use and requires consistent training to strengthen one's hands and avoid flying, sharpened kama!)

Once again it is probable that more sturdy kama were constructed for fighting - although farming ones were no doubt also used. The techniques of this weapon are not often seen in modern times and there are only two registered kata in Japan today, called Kanigawa and Tozan.


-Michael Finn, Martial Arts: A Complete Illustrated History, The Overlook Press, 1988
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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Stevie B » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:38 am

Everyone I have known to work with these things have suffered bad injuries from them!! ( That includes the "Kama Master" in Okinawa who lopped off half of his ear swinging them around) :lol: :lol: :lol: .. I see no real use for them other than a Okinawan landscape artist to slowly trim hedges.. If you want to learn a Kata for tradition or whatever, please at least use unsharpened stage Kamas..




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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Bill Glasheen » Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:12 pm

When I consider what happened, what comes to mind is my own childhood training with blades. Although I never stuck with Boy Scouts long enough to get very far (our troop just wasn't that good), I did gain much from it. Two of the things I learned on various Scout camping trips was proper handling of a knife and proper handling of an ax. Some of the simplest things were taught and drilled over and over such as ALWAYS cutting away from your body (and other hand) and how to pass the blade from one person to the next.

I have a special knife I use at home for sashimi which I keep razor sharp. I keep that one locked up so none of my family (without similar training) can get to it.

As I said, I've never taught kama. I may one day, but not for now. I have however taught nunchaku work. And with that weapon, I do not allow students to use "practice nunchakus" when learning their routines. I want that thing to smack them upside the head when they get it wrong. You won't lose an ear doing that, but you will learn to respect the weapon.

I mentioned that I teach Filipino knife. I have Raffi Derderian to thank for excellent guidance in this venue. As Raffi does, I teach with a wooden blade. I teach students to respect the weapon. And there are repeated suggestions that in a knife fight, you WILL get cut. The goal is survival with all caveats understood. I have a sharpened blade I often carry as a tool, and I treat that with the respect it is due.

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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Stevie B » Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:51 pm

That's a smart way to look at knife training..Bill, please check out Van's post on Power Breathing.. I'm interested to hear your views on it.. Thanks Steve




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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Glenn » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:51 pm

Stevie B wrote:That includes the "Kama Master" in Okinawa who lopped off half of his ear swinging them around

The story I heard is that it was his little toe (I forget which leg), sliced off at a point in the kata when the leg comes up into a crane posture while the kama blocks downward to that side.

Around ten or so years ago I ordered a pair of shureido sharpened kama on Ebay from a supplier in Okinawa (this was before Ebay adopted a policy forbidding the selling of most martial arts weapons on its site). The package they came in was labeled something like 'agricultural tools' on the import/export label. Anyway I opened the package when it arrived and examined the kama, and was suitably impressed with both their crafting and their sharpness. I decided I liked my fingers, toes, etc where they are and immediately locked the kama up in a storage cabinet in the garage with the other sharp tools (where the kids cannot access them), vowing to never work with them without getting proper instruction. I have videos that demonstrate kama kata and techniques, but to date I have resisted the urge to attempt anything with them. Reading the story Bill posted above reaffirms to me that I have made the right decision. Someday I hope to get proper training with them, but until then they will stay locked up where they are. I am truly sorry for what happened to your friend, but thanks for posting the story Bill.
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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Stevie B » Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:47 am

Glenn.. That may be another story as well.. The guy I refer to has long hair worn in a ponytail and swings them on the end of a chain.. I admire him for his dedication (but I.Q. not so much...LOL) Keep resisting that urge!!! :lol: Take up the Bo.. Much more effective to help your Karate training and you will walk away with all limbs intact..Best place for the Kama is hanging high on a Dojo wall in a case or outside cutting shrubs in the garden.. Even then I recomend great caution!




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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Glenn » Sat Apr 14, 2012 2:14 pm

Stevie,

Definitely different stories then, I was referring to a story about one of the Matayoshi, Shinko I believe. And yes, I do train in bo, as well as nunchaku and tonfa. I like to work with wood so of the many choices of kobudo weapons I have an affinity for the wooden ones, and of those the bo is my favorite.
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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby TSDguy » Sun Apr 15, 2012 5:37 am

Good grief. I'm glad he at least has his hand. You said it was reattached, but what are the complications of cutting your hand off?

My first instructor tore his finger off in a motorcycle accident as a kid. His mother taped it back on (duct tape of course) and it worked fine other than pointing in the entirely wrong direction.
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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Bill Glasheen » Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:21 pm

TSDguy wrote:You said it was reattached, but what are the complications of cutting your hand off?

It depends...

..... PATIENT: Doc, will I be able to play violin?

..... DOCTOR: I don't see why not.

..... PATIENT: Wow, you're good! I've never played before!


But seriously...

My student spoke of sharpening the kama on a regular basis, and having done so just before the accident. The surgeon stated that this very well may be a reason for hope. The cut was clean, and so all artery, vein, tendon, and ligament approximations were easy. Imagine the person whose arm was cut off because a psychotic pushed her in front of a subway train arriving in the station. That had to be one messy surgery.

When I was a kid I had food I didn't want to eat. Mom was giving me the bit about starving children in China. I didn't want to eat it, was bored, and chose to rock my high chair back and forth. It suddenly fell into pieces. The china bowl beat my head to the floor, and my forehead became hamburger meat. Thanks to the work of a plastic surgeon (50 stitches to be exact), most would never know I had the accident. You have to look to see it. That was in the latter 1950s. Today they have microsurgery techniques which make work back then look primitive.

The most serious potential consequence is permanent nerve damage. We won't know for a long time how much feeling and function will be recovered. But the limb will at least be there.

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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Glenn » Sun Apr 15, 2012 5:26 pm

What is his livelihood? I am assuming it will be some time before he can return to work, and with some jobs an injury like this could be career-ending.
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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Bill Glasheen » Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:14 pm

Glenn wrote:What is his livelihood? I am assuming it will be some time before he can return to work, and with some jobs an injury like this could be career-ending.

Alternative health care practitioner.

It's fair to say life will require hitting a reset button.

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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Jason Rees » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:57 pm

I've worked with a pair of kama with completely unsharpened blades. I've never been 'brave' enough to mess with something like that. I've got a fully functioning sword, too, but I've never practiced with it. Sorry to hear about your student, Bill. That's an awful lesson to learn like that.
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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Van Canna » Mon Apr 16, 2012 4:08 pm

The number of 'students' of any martial art, empty hands or weapons art_ that have either killed or seriously debilitated themselves over time_far exceeds the number of people...bad guys...who were hurt or stopped in real life confrontations. :(
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Re: Lessons from a Martial Moron

Postby Glenn » Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:45 pm

That makes sense Van. The odds of actually needing to use the skills on a bad guy is very remote these days, while the continued practice over an extended period of time that is required to build up the skills opens up plenty of opportunity for a serious accidental or wear-and-tear injury to occur.
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