May. 6th, 2003 10:07 pm
tmcg: (scream)
PBS's The Warrior Challenge was way, way cool--more educational and informative than I expected, and as fun as I hoped it would be. But I spent the whole time with a little voice in my head wailing, Gaaaaah! I want to be the one doing all that stuff! I want it to be meeeeeeee!!!!
tmcg: (Default)
From the PBS Website:

"Find out if four groups of British and American soldiers, policemen and, yes, the odd polo player and archaeologist are up to the task of fighting as knights, Vikings, Roman soldiers and gladiators in WARRIOR CHALLENGE. This four-part 'hands-on-history' series challenges participants to find parallels between their modern skill sets and those necessary for success as ancient warriors -- with surprising results."

Polo player and archaeologist? But no fantasy writer? Not even a historical-fiction writer? Or an historical-fiction writer? Foo on them.

And of females I see nary a picture.
tmcg: (Default)

While we are quick to judge the human rights record of every other country on earth, it is we civilized Americans whose murder rate is ten times that of other Western nations, we civilized Americans who kill women and children with the most alarming frequency. In (sad) fact, if a full jumbo jet crashed into a mountain killing everyone on board, and if that happened every month, month in and month out, the number of people killed still wouldn't equal the number of women murdered by their husbands and boyfriends each year. --Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence


Dec. 31st, 2002 11:00 pm
tmcg: (obelisk)
At the beginning of 2002...

I was profoundly happy to see the back of 2001, which was a hard and terrible year in a variety of ways (with the exception of the publication of my first novel, which the rest may have happened in order to cosmically balance).

I didn't yet have a completed second novel in hand.

Because I was writing twenty hours a day and permitting myself anything that would help me get that novel done, I weighed about eight hundred million pounds and was living on Entenmann's doughnuts, Dr Pepper, and mozzarella sticks.

I didn't have a yellow belt in Krav Maga. I hadn't even heard of Krav Maga.

I didn't have an ARMA Workshop 1.0 certificate in longsword, or a longsword waster, or any experience actually using a longsword.

I had only a dim recollection of CPR and no first-aid training.

I had never made an illuminated manuscript from scratch with authentic period materials.

I couldn't read, understand, or speak any Japanese.

I had never played at the Blarney Star. Playing the Blarney Star is to Irish traditional music what playing the Palace was to vaudeville and playing Carnegie Hall is to mainstream musicians.

I was still in my thirties.

I had never grown tomatoes.

I didn't have a Livejournal.

At the end of 2002...that's all changed!


Dec. 19th, 2002 11:40 pm
tmcg: (gargoyle)
It's the freaking touch drills that get me every time. The last time I hurt a finger enough to worry me was at the longsword workshop--not from getting whacked by a sword, but during the warmups where we used outstretched arms as surrogate swords to work on moves. Tonight, owing to new security procedures where Krav Maga class is held (I now have yet another Gloriously Spastic ID photo), I was too late to get wrapped, but after much punching my hands were fine. Then we do a touch drill at the very end and I bang up a finger. Feh. If I'm gonna get injured, it oughta be in battle. I wear the Klingon Pajamas of Shame.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to learn some kanji. I got kanji flash cards. They're really cool. But daunting. There are 440 of them in the first set. And these 440 are what you learn in first through third grades in Japan. And I gather you're learning the Hiragana and Katakana syllabaries at the same time. We had to learn 26 letters (albeit in increasingly bizarre, unphonetic, and illogical combinations). It's one thing to be a beginner in a language, but a whole nother thing to realize you're 1,945 characters away from basic literacy. Okay, maybe 1,930; I've picked up a few kanji by osmosis. But still. Jeez.

This evening's venting is now complete.

tmcg: (Default)
So this guy I know from Krav Maga turns out to be a musician, too. (We find this out when we're supposed to be practicing nasty thumb-destroying shirtfront-grab releases and we're both totally wussing out. "I play the piano!" the guy says in a tone I've never heard even from someone announcing a lack of groin protection. "I play the pennywhistle!" I cry out in reply. The instructor comes over because we're being totally pathetic. Even offering up his own thumb in sacrifice, he has to work for several minutes to get me to do it right. I was too ooked out to hurt the ooky.) So it turns out he's from around here, too, and plays in places I know. So he hands me a copy of his band's CD after class. I think, Cool, a local group, this should be fun, and I'll be supportive no matter what it sounds like. Today I listen to it while I'm walking four miles in the ongoing process of breaking in new hiking boots (and clearing my head from the rush copyedit that's keeping me from the World Fantasy Convention this year, sigh).

It rocks! Billy Joel is a strong influence, which probably explains part of why I liked it so much. (I'm old enough now to admit being a lifelong Billy Joel fan. For years I hid this fact in shame.) But it's also got great guitar, great piano, tight harmony on the vocals, and an appealing mix of pop and rock.

So here's a plug for it, with an Amazon link. And a brief prayer to the patron saint of ookies that we don't break any fingers next time we're doubles partners.
tmcg: (sword)
During the lunch break at the longsword workshop yesterday, the instructor talked about medieval swordfighting in films. A couple of things struck me. (Disclaimer superscript exponent: This is filtered through my perception of what he said in informal conversation, and through my memory of my perception! All musings and paraphrases are mine own.) One is that the films he recommended--among them Yojimbo, Rashomon, Throne of Blood--are Asian films (as well as Kurosawa films). Another is what he said about how those films had budo either doing the swordfighting or advising on the swordfight choreography.

We seem to have a lack of equivalent budo in Hollywood. It would be so awesome if people highly trained in historical Western martial arts could start advising or doing the fighting in historical and, especially, fantasy films involving Western swordplay. It would be so awesome if the choreography could be more solidly, historically realistic than fantastical. There's nothing wrong with fantasy martial arts and balletic interpretations of martial arts. There are inspired experts doing beautiful stage-fighting choreography in Hollywood. But there's nothing boring about realistic swordfighting. In fact, it's cooler than fantasy and stage swordfighting. It's more intense, and because it's more physically plausible and far, far more deadly, it's more dramatic. And it could be accurately simulated while keeping the fighters as safe as stunt fighters are now. It seems to me that the same way there's room for both Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and realistic empty-hand or Asian martial-arts sequences in film, there's room for Highlander and also something else, something more--something real.

I'd give a lot to see a movie in which the head of ARMA organized the swordfights.

the workshop was great, btw )


Oct. 19th, 2002 01:42 am
tmcg: (Default)
Oakeshott's The Archaeology of Weapons is a wonderful, readable work. It was the first book I turned to when I needed to know more about the kind of longblades people in my fiction might use.

John Clements: "Ewart Oakeshott, the great 20th century British sword researcher and collector, passed away on September 20, 2002, at the age of 86. To say he was the most important figure in the subject in the last century is probably no exaggeration."

The rest of Clements' tribute is here.
tmcg: (Default)
Attended the intermediate (yellow-orange belt) Krav Maga class for the first time last night. Didn't occur to me till partway through that it was the first time I'd been there as participant rather than observer. Felt a gust of pride, remembering when my aspiration was to qualify for that class. Then it was back to work.
tmcg: (Default)
Got it!

Now I feel more determined than ever to earn it. :)
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There's going to be an ARMA workshop in NYC in October! To have an official workshop right here at home is incredibly, incredibly cool--ARMA is based in Houston, and I didn't expect there to be a workshop even close to here for some time yet. This will give me a huge push forward in longsword progress. In other happy news, I will have a waster to bring, since mine finally arrived. (A waster is a wooden sword with the approximate weight, balance, and aerodynamic qualities of a steel sword. You can use it hard in place of a good steel blade you don't want to ruin, and, while it's not preferred for sparring--there are contact-sparring weapons for that--it doesn't injure you as badly if you get whacked with it.) Not only would I not have been certain of being able to borrow one for the workshop, but now I have a month to practice with it ahead of time.

WEE-haw! So psyched!

Since this news came just as I had handed in revisions on my book, I have to say that this was a very good day.

tmcg: (Default)
Now that we're wearing wraps in class, I'm finding that I come home with skinned bloody knuckles every week. This didn't happen when I hit barehanded. I think I'd rather have the bruises.

Band-Aids under wraps under bag gloves?

tmcg: (Default)
I'd been up very late the night before writing a book about what happens after the world ends but life continues. At a few minutes after nine, the phone rang. The machine screened it. From Manhattan, K's voice said, "Get up. Turn on CNN. Something big is happening downtown."

I'm up on the early side to take care of some email I couldn't get online to answer last night. I find I don't have the focus to answer it anyway; instead I post a cranky wasp here, written last night. I live near an airport; the sound of aircraft is continual, and normally I tune it out, but this morning I notice it, am surprised to perceive it as ominous. At 9:06 the phone rings. Caller ID says it's K calling from work. I pick up and say, "Do not tell me that something big just happened downtown."

I couldn't process the images on the television. They looked like the special effects from a disaster film. After I got through on the phone to as many people as I could, I went outside, shared a grim nod of greeting with a neighbor, went out behind the houses, to the water, to where I could see Manhattan--real light reflected from real objects to my real eyes, not filtered through a lens.

I can't bring myself to tune in to the television coverage. I go outside, share a somber greeting with a neighbor, and walk out behind the houses, to the water, to the place where I saw the first tower fall. To pay my respects to the dead, to say a prayer for the ones who loved them in this life.

It was a crystal-clear day, the kind that can't decide whether it's late summer or early fall. The water was luminous, still. The skies were silent. The skyline was burning.

It's a blustery day, warm as summer but restless as autumn. The water's current is audible, its surface whitecapped. Oblivious birds, some born in this last year, circle and keen. A flag at half-mast whips violently in the wind, making the sound of flames.

There was a crowd of people gathered, staring at the towers. Some had climbed up onto the bulwark to see over the chain-link fence. Others stood by their cars and trucks. A radio was turned up high, a reporter restating the confused facts as we already understood them. Suddenly the black smoke pouring from the towers in the distance was engulfed, eclipsed, by a billowing cloud of gray. It seemed to start from the ground and blossom up. The man on the radio cried, "Oh my god, oh my god." Someone in the crowd, someone from this town of cops and construction workers and firemen and steamfitters and EMTs and plumbers, said, "Oh shit, oh shit. The guys up in those floors." Someone else, nearer to me, very quietly, said, "I don't think they could have gotten everybody out."

There's no one standing by the water. There's one guy sitting in a pickup truck. His radio is on, but all I can hear is a low murmur of voices. We stare out over the water, separate. There's a haze over the city; the skyline is invisible. The town recycling truck rumbles out from the dirt road to the left, raising a thick, gritty cloud of dust. I close my eyes until it settles.

I cannot comprehend the number of people whose dying was, to me, a faraway billow of gray. The shock of it drives me away from the sight that I came here to see with my own eyes. All I can think is all those people, all those people and, selfishly, inanely, my home, this is my home, what they've done to my home. I walk home, through the clear still day.

No one else has come here while I held my private vigil and the pickup-truck guy held his. The wind is rising, sweeping through the trees like surf, whistling in crevices. Inside it is the queerest stillness. I walk home, through the wind and the echoes.


Sep. 7th, 2002 10:36 am
tmcg: (Default)
Our Krav Maga yellow-belt test has finally been scheduled. September 26th.

I want that belt. I'm prepared. I can do everything on the requirements list except for breaking a headlock, and the instructor says that it's only after passing the yellow-belt test that most people really "get" how the headlock-release works, even if they can go through the motions well enough to prove they know how to do it. I'm out of shape, after a week spent mostly sitting around hotel rooms and airports, but I have a time to get back in form and I've been working out pretty hard since I got home.

What it comes down to is a question of nerves. Until we had a date set, I was calm and energized at the prospect of testing. I've played complex musical compositions in front of the most critical audiences, I thought. I've spoken ad lib on the most intimidating convention panels. I gave a best-man speech at a wedding. I know from terror. This is nothing.

But now there's a specific day on which to focus, and wouldn't you know it, here come the giant mutant butterflies. It's not quite stagefright and it's not quite test anxiety. Whole new animal. Well, I keep claiming to embrace new experiences....

The question is how to approach the mental psych-out. The canny instructor wrote, as an aside in an email to us, "(and you should PLAN on passing!)"--which means that my high-school method of wailing "I'm going to fail I'm going to fail!" won't work. (I think it gave me permission to fail, defusing self-inflicted pressure so that I could function while keeping the adrenaline ramped up.) But I'm afraid to want it too much; saying "IF I pass" gives me an out, so that embarrassment and disappointment won't kill me if I don't...and I remember taking a huge spill in a softball game once because I put my entire being into beating the throw to first base. There's a fine line between being determined to succeed and tripping over your own wild desperation.

The redeeming factor here is that you get points for aggression in the test, and adrenaline converts more easily into aggression than into calm reasoned panel discussion or controlled, highly technical musical performance (or accurate regurgitation of classroom material). My favorite part of class is stress drills; I want more stress, I want to be tested harder, I want to prove myself and earn that payback of improved reaction speed and effectiveness.

If I can take that attitude with me into the promotion test, I think I'll be okay.

In the meantime, well, the best cure for nerves is to practice whatever it is you're going to have to do....

tmcg: (Default)
Tidbit of info from tonight's Krav Maga class:

If you can run a mile and a half at top speed, then drop and do fifty pushups, then turn and do fifty situps, and then drink a glass of water without your hand shaking, you'll last 90 seconds in a street fight.

If you can't do that, you'll last under a minute.

More motivation to make it fast and make it count, if there is no alternative but to engage.

tmcg: (Default)
More from Donohue, the chapter entitled "Void":

The feudal Japanese, with a dominant class
of warriors, developed a tradition that, in part,
emphasized the potential that martial training
had for human development. They came to believe
that the high standards and fidelity to form and
principle found in martial training were not, in
a spiritual sense, different from those embodied
in more scholarly and "refined" activities. Hence
the widely known saying *bun bu ichi*--the way of
the pen and the way of the sword are the same.

tmcg: (Default)
The sword is a living thing. Although a product of man's technical precocity,
it is far more than just a tool, a fusion of carbon and metals hammered
and shaped into utilitarian form. A sword is a conduit of power. It pulses
with the psychic energy of its wielder, and takes on the nuances of that
individual. It transofrms the holder, investing the swordsman with a form
of force that is the result of some occult melding of body and blade. The
Japanese tell tales of swords that sing in their scabbards to warn their
owners of danger, of blades forged by evil men that do evil deeds, of other
swords, created by beneficent smiths, whose razor edges would not cut a leaf
innocently borne to them by wind or water. The sword augments our strengths,
it magnifies our faults. It is an implement of discipline, a symbol of courage,
a tangible representation of justice. --John J. Donohue, COMPLETE KENDO
(Tuttle Publishing, 1999)

I'm not studying kendo or kenjutsu; although it's a beautiful martial art and a worthy Way, it's too stylized a form of bladework for me, like Western sport fencing. For research purposes, I'm interested in how blades were used when the footing was uneven and the opponent aimed to kill. After I took some sport foil and before I discovered ARMA, I was thinking about contacting a local kendo place about classes, and I'm glad now that I held off; I wouldn't have been able to enter a dojo in good faith, with a commitment to the years of study the discipline requires. (Plus, I can only imagine how confusing it would have been to add a layer of beginner kendo body memory to the layer of beginner sport-foil body memory I'd just acquired, in addition to the Krav Maga body memory I've been working on, none of which are quite the stances and footwork used with medieval longsword.) But I've been reading up on kendo with interest, and I liked that bit from the first chapter of Donohue.

Now to watch The Seven Samurai again.
tmcg: (Default)
This is totally irrelevant, but while I was driving to Krav Maga class tonight, I saw the unmistakable gaff-rigged sails of a schooner coming down a waterway next to the highway. There was nowhere to pull over to get a good look at it, so I have no idea which one it was or what port it hailed from. The banner was too backlit to read even when I slowed down. It was a beautiful sight, though--striking, unexpected.

Had a good two-hour KM class tonight, in a dance studio (not our usual JCC venue) incongruously filled with stuffed animals, toys, and children's costumes (the eeny pink crushed-velvet leotard provoked "Awww!"s from all genders).

It was pointed out, as we all got brand-new wraps, that mental giants have broken down and cried while trying to wrap their hands correctly for the first time. I'd been wrapping my hands based on some instructions I found on the net, and after doing it that way approximately seventeen billion times, I had concluded that THIS SIDE DOWN was on THE WRONG SIDE on my old wraps. I'm going to try it the KM instructor's way and see if the Velcro matches up. I'm hoping it doesn't. I sort of like having blooper wraps.

Random observation from this evening: Redirection of force is a thing of beauty.

Also: Not unlike boffer swords, padded safety sticks inspire silliness.

There's some good news to share here. [Update: The news has scrolled past in that link, but there's an interview with Fiona here, not sure for how long.] Fiona's wonderful comic No Honor is being adapted for a Showtime series pilot. You can't beat a haunted katana with a bokken.
tmcg: (Default)
It has the outward appearance of remarkable incomprehensibility to be in your backyard on a sweltering global-warming so-humid-how-can-we-possibly-be-having-this-drought day practicing the longsword stances and cuts of historical Western martial arts with a three-foot section of discarded aluminum flagpole.

Just in case anyone was wondering.