Welcome to The Palace Guard, the tai chi chuan and martial arts blog for intelligent martial practitioners. As the blog develops, I hope to feature other writers with a fresh take on the martial arts and related subjects. For now, I hope you enjoy my posts: feel free to leave comments, or email me at the address available on the profile.

Saturday 30 January 2010

Barbarians at the gate of the Big Apple

Today I read that New Yorkers apparently are against hosting and promoting UFC fights in their city, an idea put forward in order to inject some cash in to the city economy. Critics of the "Ultimate Fighting Championships" argue that the sport is barbaric and brutish. I couldn't agree more; at the same time, as a martial arts practitioner, I find it to be compelling viewing.
Violence, like any cultural phenomenon, goes through fashions. Here in Britain, knife-crime is in the spotlight: youths that have confused notions about respect and esteem are bolstering their weak characters with easy-to-obtain, easily concealed and horribly deadly blades. Initiatives to fight knife crime in fact seem to have had the opposite effect in certain areas: the more exposure knives get, the more popular they seem to become. As far as the popularisation of violent trends goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Many people when it comes to street violence,  try to model their physical efforts upon boxing.In British pubs, or rather outside them, people don't square off for a wrestle or a capoeira match. They try to hit each other.  There is a notion that fighting should look a certain way, and the spread of UFC may result in copycat "ground and pound"-type attacks. The preference for discerning thugs at the moment is to apply the boot to the head, after accompanying flunkeys have knocked a lone opponent to the floor. I'm not sure where this delicate technique derives from: football hooliganism maybe?  At least ground and pound is one-on-one...
For the story: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/mma/2009-05-07-ny-regulation_N.htm

Saturday 23 January 2010

George Leonard dies at 86

I have just learnt that George Leonard, aikido pioneer and human potential movement writer, died on the 6th of January aged 86: an obituary was printed in The New York Times.

Friday 22 January 2010

The reactions of martial artists to an attack

Back in the summer months, my friend and I were attacked by a large group of young lads, who ambushed us on a dark street fuelled by alcohol and teenage hormones. Blows were exchanged and we punched our way out of the situation. A couple of them were felled, but no serious, lasting  physical damage was wrought upon them, nor indeed ourselves, though there was some psychological and emotional fallout on our part.
Unexpected, and perplexing, were some of the reactions that I experienced when recounting the incident to others.
One response came from a martial arts instructor of some twenty to thirty years of experience, who trains and teaches a "realistic" type of martial art. "I was attacked some lads the other night whilst I was out with a friend." "Did you take them down?" came his reply, and he was quite serious about that. Slightly bewildered, I answered thus: "Well, not really. We escaped without being injured, and without injuring any of them so...." To me, this seemed like an out-and-out victory. Sure, we had failed on awareness of the situation: we could have spotted our attackers if we had been more alert. But a victory, nonetheless...? "Mate, mate you want to do something a bit more aggressive, this tai chi's all very well but you need some proper training..." What did he see as a victory? Was some tangible sign of dominance was required? Perhaps breaking someone's limb? The courts tend not to look too favourably on grown men assaulting minors. I continued in a slightly different vein, because this conversation was beginning to tick me off. "It's lucky they didn't have a knife or else we would have been in real trouble" I said, thinking that one couldn't possibly argue with that. "You can train for that eventuality" he said, "Come and train with me, we do all that: I can show you how to deal with knives." Knowing him to be a doorman, I thought perhaps he'd had experience: "Oh, have you been attacked with a knife?" "No mate, but I've seen it a few times". I ended the conversation there.
Another martial artist, though not a teacher, had this to offer: "What I would have done would be to square off with them and say "get back or I'll knock you the fuck out." I could only nod in feigned agreement. I couldn't bring myself to tell him that, in the time it took him to deliver this monologue, the encounter would have been well underway. He meant well, and his re-imagining of the scenario was as much to do with allaying his own fears as actually advising me of a course of action. In the future, I might keep such things to myself. Unless it's worth sticking on the blog of course...

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Pat Morita spins in his grave..

The remake of Karate Kid: why? I could simply end there, but I need to vent spleen. Karate kid was a great, great film, albeit featuring some rather cheesy martial arts. It's the only film I've seen which manages to do something different with martial training other than the straight-up montage: wax on-wax off at least conveys some of the sense of the sometimes labourious nature of training. Quite aside from this, Mr Miyagi is simply excellent: Jackie Chan might have the moves, but he doesn't have the charisma.  The moves, as far as one can tell from the trailer, will be the usual overly-acrobatic Wu Shu nonsense that has bored us for the last decade or so. I say why not do a sequel where Will Smith's sprog is sent to a Russian gulag to learn Systema from a crazed ex-Spetnatz officer, ending up with a penchant for vodka and black market Rolexes? That I would watch.