Monday, October 11, 2010

Axe, Part 1

Alright, I've just started a new blade project, and it's another first for me: an axe. All my previous experience lies in knives and my recent short sword, but I wanted to make a functional and appropriate gift for my father and he's not so much a knife person.

Anyway, I thought that a few pictures might help bring variation to this rather dry series of articles.

So here's the hammer I started with. You can make an axe from just straight ore, but the workshop doesn't have equipment capable of welding the eye of the axe together. This seemed simpler.

That black finish is a sort of plastic. I'm not personally sure why it's used on a lot of tools, but I'm sure that it would melt in the forge and clog up the works. I took an angle grinder to it first to remove it.

These next two photos are after an hour of hammering- this thing is 3-something pounds of solid steel. It takes a lot of effort to shift the material.

I don't have any photos of the forge itself this week, but I will next week when I get back to work. Thanks for reading!

For alternate workout options:
Skull Crushers (triceps)

Friday, October 8, 2010

On MMA and the legitimacy of pre-existing martial arts

MMA is a revolution. In the past decade or so, fighting has become huge again- not just the peacock displays of professional wrestling or the respectable art of boxing. No, with MMA, we have once again embraced the spirit of the warrior.

It's interesting, then, to see the discrepancy of respect for older martial arts between MMA practitioners and the fans. This isn't solely the fault of the new wave, and in fact has increased awareness. The ignorant are all the more so, however.

First off, my take on MMA is roundedness. It's about being capable of handling any situation in a fight. Striking, grappling, groundwork, what have you. I respect that, I really do. But many martial arts, especially the most traditional, are focused on specificity. Wrestling. Boxing. Karate. Judo. Fencing. Assuming the traditional art makes the rules and keeps the fight to the appropriate specialty, it should be able to beat MMA. That's not the way it goes, though, and a competent MMA fighter will go for any weaknesses.

Does this mean that boxing is shit, that wrestling is nonpenetrative man love? Of course not. Our culture values boxers and wrestlers, as well they should- both styles are brutally effective in their given field. For some reason, this reverence hasn't translated as well to Eastern martial arts in the eyes of a nonfighter.

There are a couple reasons behind this. Eastern martial arts tend to contain more philosophy than a lot of people are comfortable with. Whether you believe it or not is up to you, but it's still taught with the techniques. Many of the underlying themes are parallel in Western martial arts, though often more elaborated.

More importantly, though, I blame the 70's. There was an influx of martial arts being taught, especially around California and the West Coast of the USA. Men and women who were already well-versed in their styles were impressive enough to draw customers, and it became quite profitable.

In China, Japan, Korea, wherever, the dojos were rather strictly self-regulated. A new one opens up, the local adepts come to test the newcomer, and the newcomer needs to prove themselves capable of teaching. This doesn't exactly work in Western culture- we know it as "breaking and entering with assault", rather than "dojo challenging". Groups like the WKF (World Karate Federation) and the ITF (International Taekwondo Federation) eventually gained control and stopped many corrupted schools, but the damage was done. In the public's eye, Asian martial arts were ineffective. In truth, most displays of taekwondo or karate are done by intermediate practitioners at best.

Today it is far too easy to become a black belt. Why put in a decade or more of training and practice when you can order a belt off eBay or a supply store and watch a few videos on YouTube? Then you can start luring in those who don't know any better and sell them belts and teach them useless lessons. This is not applicable to all schools- hopefully only a quarter or so operate like this, at most. But what kind of school is the most likely to go out and do mass demonstrations or performances?

To people who know what they're doing, however, the traditions can be powerful. Muay Thai is common in MMA. Karate and Taekwondo aren't unheard of, though rarely are they unaccompanied by some style that covers groundwork. The techniques taught work. You learn that, though, from utilizing them properly, and many fans don't have the fitness or skill required to pull it off.

Now, I might be a little biased. I'm pretty tired of telling people that I've practiced karate for a couple years now, and having them respond with random flailing and "hiii-yah!" Even worse is when some out of shape moron with a TapOut shirt tells me to stop skipping around like a fag. I spar with friends who do MMA, with friends who do BJJ, with friends that just do whatever. I win some, normally when I can keep them in kicking range but out of takedown range. I lose some, especially when people shoot past my guard and get in close.

The moral, I suppose, is that one singular martial art probably won't be perfect. It'll work for most self-defense situations if you can twist them to your advantage, but professionally you need a better foundation. Pick up a second one to cover your flaws, meld them together... Which is really what MMA is.

For alternate workout options:
19 Different Pull Ups

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why do we fight?

This seems to be a loaded question at first glance, especially from a evolutional standpoint. We fight to protect our own genetic material and our mate or children. We are thus guardians, protectors to be upheld.

Not everyone who fights is Batman. Some do share his principles, though, of vigilanteism. Those who learn to fight to keep their families safe, and on a greater scale, their country, can be said to hold the oldest motivation for war. This way of life relies completely on the discretion of the person, and the line can be blurry. Would you face down (and therefore be prepared to follow through and kill him) a man who shot your wife? What about a man who only pulled a gun out? Or a knife? Those who live by these rules can be some of the greatest heroes, but they can also be a danger to everyone around them. Vigilanteism is formally discouraged by society, but we still buy comic books....

There are those who will risk it all for the worth of the tradition. In this instance, there's a great amount of variation of opinion between cultures. Some revere these men of honour, and some think them simply inefficient at actual combat. The latter point is upheld by the rise of technology. To use an example of a warfare equalizer: A knight can train for 15 years and be killed by a man who had an hour with a crossbow. Traditionalists are found in most cultures, even those with a proliferation of firearms.

Some people do fight explicitly to fight. To feel bone fold beneath them, to taste sweat and see blood, to hear screams and cries and gasps of mercy. Notice, however, than these are desired sensations that will pass. If you find yourself thinking about this all the time, please seek help. Many will feel this way at least once: your first fight against a good opponent and it goes your way, a battle to uphold a cause that you believe in more than anything. This rage can also be felt in social situations, although it's considerably less encouraged to bite off ears at cocktail parties than it is in a ring. I personally (and feel free to disagree with me on this) don't have a problem with these people. If they keep it to whoever they're fighting and they listen to reason or show restraint when the foe is injured, then I won't argue with it.

I'm sure there are other intentions, and feel free to comment about them. Thank you for your time.
And for everyone interested in alternate workout plans:

First post, then

I guess some sort of philosophy should be explained. This was created primarily as a resource for those interested in hand to hand combat, both armed and unarmed, as well as the related blacksmithing, body conditioning, and... Well, generally life skills that people should know.

Now, I'm not one to insult your manhood, womanhood, whatever. This is more about the refinement of the human, being the best that one can actually be at as many things as possible. And realistically, most of the trades and practices discussed will (hopefully) be superfluous in your life. That being said...

Welcome to Fist and Blade.