Browsing the blog archives for December, 2011.

The Hermit’s Bane


I occassionally write fiction. Here’s a story that I wrote last year.  I’ve recently read some things on the Internet that make it pertinent.

The Hermit’s Bane

A short story by Kostas Dervenis

Once, a long time ago, in the very far South there lived a great warlord who, through cunning, guile, and showmanship, not to mention a bit of outright strength and skill, conquered all the lands around him and ruled over others in a time of intense controversy.

To celebrate this feat, he built himself a great castle of wood, because in the South, although there were stones for building, wood looked really cool, and you got to pretend that you were a Viking and shit. In this castle, he lived for many years until the day that his wife was satisfied she was indeed a Very Important Person (which was what all the fuss was about). Taking great joy in this event, the King called all his subjects together for a grand celebration. As a sign of appreciation for all the showmanship that he had made, his subjects brought him many gifts of great value and these were hung from the tall wooden walls around the castle for all to see. The King, wise in these matters, immediately promoted to Prince the sons of all those who had brought him presents. And they were many.

In time, one particular Prince of the poorer sort grew to manhood and was trained (very well) in the arts of war. Then one day, the king called this foster son aside and said, “O noble Prince, my knights, everyone in the castle and I will go on a great vacation, and I have a most important task for you. While away, I want you to stand guard in front of the castle and protect it so that my wife and I will have a place to come home to when we are bored with making merry around the world.” Saddened that he was to be left behind, but obedient as all knights are, the foster son bowed his head and accepted his assignment. “There is one last thing my son,” the king added. “While guarding the castle, you must not go inside, you must not look at the castle and no one must come close to it. You will live in the cave across the meadow and each morning you will walk backward from the cave to the front of the castle. That way, no one may surprise you.”

So the young Prince spent his nights in a cold cave and every morning he would arise and turning around walk backwards to his post and spend all day with his sword drawn and his shield at the ready to protect the castle, that is, when he was not drinking booze and too drunk to get up.

Time passed.

Sometimes, robbers would approach the castle and the prince would drive them off. He recalled his King’s wishes that no matter how fierce the combat, he was never to look at the castle and walk backwards to his post. Being Greek, though, taking orders didn’t sit very well, so after a few years the Prince said “screw this”, and started taking a good hard look at the castle day by day. The Prince had studied engineering, and what he determined was that the castle, impressive and beautiful though it was, had been built on sand, and not very well at that. There had been a lot of emphasis on show and luxury in the design, but very little solid structure was in place – a single earthquake would knock it down. So one eventful afternoon, knowing that the castle was destined to fall, the Prince decided he didn’t want to be in it when it did.

It occurred to him though that the lands he surveyed were beautiful – why give them up because his King didn’t understand basic civil engineering? “While guarding the castle, you must not go inside, you must not look at the castle and no one must come close to it.” What kind of bullshit is this, the no-longer-so-young Prince thought to himself? Might be OK for other people, but not for me.  So the Prince resigned his commission. Once again, being Greek, he decided he had suffered enough for the King’s sake to be owed some compensation, and damn if the cave wasn’t on the best spot in the Kingdom, and didn’t the old fart owe all his Princes something for their troubles anyway? Good sturdy rock for a foundation the cave had, nice and roomy it was, and a great view it had as well (Yoda voice for all three items) – the Prince laid claim to the land around the cave and built a very small mansion there. If the King came back and asked him, “what da ef, homes?”, the Prince had decided to tell him and everyone else the Truth about the castle and its foundation.

In time, word spread of the strange Prince who stood guard over the castle filled with treasure and this caught the attention of other knights who wished to make their way in the world. Many rode out and challenged the prince and all fell to his superior skill. The Prince vainly tried to tell them that he was not at all interested in the castle anyway and that they could fry the castle in balsamic vinegar for all that he cared. But the Many would not listen, for he was on the land of the Kingdom, which looked pretty good, and he had the cave, which was clean and comfy, and damn if that mansion that Prince had built didn’t look pretty good, too. So the Prince had to kick their asses back into the next century. This only made things worse, because it pissed the Many off.
As time went by, the wooded castle began to rot and termites made their home in its walls as expected, since the construction was so shoddy. But the prince never looked at the castle and always ignored it as much as he could; it was a Stage after all, not a real castle.

More time passed.

A knight from a next fiefdom over heard the tale of the lone prince and decided to go take a look himself. However, the minute he approached the castle, the prince drew his sword and engaged him in fierce combat. They fought all day and only stopped when the sun when down. Exhausted and nursing many wounds (the Prince liked him and let him go rather than plant him in the ground, since that would have entailed digging a hole in any case), the neighbor knight retreated to his fief. Not willing to give up, the knight hit upon the idea of asking the Kingdom’s hermit for help.

This hermit lived high up in the mountains. Some say he was a myth, yet the knight’s old father assured him the hermit was real and lived a boring life in the mountain tending his garden and raising the flowers he sometimes sold at the market. It had not always been so. For many years the hermit had served his King well fighting in countless battles, and once he had hung up his sword, he had served faithfully in his king’s court. Then one day the hermit had packed up his beautiful wife and belongings and disappeared into the mountains. Few ever spoke of the hermit and few visited. Much to the hermit’s dismay the reputation he had earned on the battlefield never left him. Still, the knight’s father assured him that if he visited the old man perhaps he could find a way to best the Greek in combat.

After days on the path, the knight found the old hermit. Polite and retiring, the hermit listened to every detail of the young man’s story. At first, the old hermit wanted nothing to do with any of it. He had no need for treasure and was content to live out his days in his mountain hideaway. Yet there was something compelling about the young knight’s pleas and eventually the old hermit agreed to help. Retreating into his little shack, the hermit emerged with a large bag. He did not seem to be carrying any weapons but since the young knight had heard of the hermit’s past battles, he said nothing.

A few days later the young knight and the hermit arrived in front of the small mansion and wooded cave. Outraged, the king’s foster son drew his sword and challenged the two. “What the hell is wrong with you people?” he screamed. “That building should be condemned! Who’s responsible for Zoning around here anyway?” The young knight leapt from his horse and made ready for combat (the Prince groaned, as his knee was hurting him that morning and he was in no mood to be benevolent), yet the old hermit gently held his arm and asked him to wait. Getting down from his own horse, the hermit took down his bag and approached the king’s son.

Enraged at being approached by such an obviously old and broken down man, the Prince smacked him upside the head, so that the old man might be overcome by fear and run away. After a brief journey through the air, a thud and a yelp, the old man regally stood on shaking legs, dusted himself off, and looked back at the Prince, who laughed like a wolf eyeing a rabbit.

“What the hell u doing up here, homes?” the Prince asked him. “Didn I tell u the last time to back the ef up before u get smacked the ef up? Lots of water under the bridge since we last met, homes, and Geronimo say white eyes speak with forked tongue. That was your problem all along, u know, you never understood that it was either a Kingdom of Conscience or Nothing at all. And whadda ef u doin pretendin yo an old man anyhow? Shit B, u ain’t even finished wid yo mid life crisis yet! Is that what dis is efin all about? Back off, a’ight? Take some of that efin money the King has stashed away and go buy yo beautiful wife some beautiful panty hose or something. This here be bandit country, and you two be trespassing big time, you know what I’m saying? I’m not in the mood.”

The young knight was shocked. He had been sure that the Hermit could easily best the Prince. 

Yet the old hermit walked straight toward the prince showing no fear. He held the large bag under one arm, and for all the young knight could tell, felt no more concern with the prince than he would be a butterfly in his garden. He stopped a few meters from the prince who was leaning on his sword in a stance which showed that he did not give a shit.

The hermit stopped and smiled and then he slowly unwrapped the package. In it was a silver shield that shone with mirror perfection. The prince took a step forward and the hermit simply held the shield towards him. There was a whirring noise and the Prince struck the Hermit on his legs with the flat of his sword, causing the not-really-so-old warrior to tumble onto his regal butt. The Prince snatched the mirrored shield from the hapless hermit’s hands.

“Good idea, that,” the Prince said, and grabbed the Hermit by the hair, shoving the shield into his face. The Hermit gasped and his eyes bulged.

…and there in the shield’s surface the Hermit saw the truth for the first time in decades. The castle’s walls were rotten and falling, the windows broken and the treasures that once hung brilliantly on the walls had rusted way. The castle was sinking into the sand because it hadn’t been built right in the first place. Plus, the Hermit had a cavity in a maxillary lateral incisor that needed to be looked at immediately.

“What the hell did you morons think?” the Prince asked. “That the Castle was forever? That the King was a god? He was a great warrior and a mediocre actor, and I owe him a lot, and so do you, but there is no reason to be an idiot about it. The King had no background in engineering, he built his castle on sand without a foundation, and most of the treasures he had in there were glitz and fool’s gold anyway. I’ve been here since the beginning… you think some teenage runt is going to come off the street and tell ME about this castle? BULLSHIT! You morons get your shit together before I really get pissed off and use the edge instead of the flat of my sword.”

The true ending of this story has been lost to time. Some say the prince and the young knight became fast friends and went on to found a great empire that they passed down to their sons and their son’s sons. Some say the prince was so outraged with the hermit that he cut off his head anyway. In yet another telling the prince refused to believe in human nature and to this day still stands in front of the old, rotten castle watching the idiots go by to visit that decrepit rubbish heap. No one is sure which of the endings is correct. Readers must decide for themselves.

But hips don’t lie.



Carjacking the wrong dude


Recently one of my students was the victim of a carjacking attempt; things didn’t work out the way the carjackers planned, however.

Nektarios is one of Greece’s foremost grapplers and a well-respected member of the combat sports community both in this country and internationally. He has been featured in multiple historical documentaries on Greek martial arts and in the Human Weapon series. I asked him to write a brief account of the attack.

This was his first experience with actual conflict, and he handled it without a scratch. What is interesting is that one can see the effect of our various “brains” on his nervous system during the incident, and how he automatically “clicked” into what we call Level Three in order to deal with the attack.

I have translated the text below, trying to keep components of Nektarios’s style as much as possible (I hate translation with a passion). Any text in parentheses has been added by me for clarity.

My translation:

On Monday 07 November I was involved in an incident that I would like to share.

Specifically at 11 pm and while driving from my school in Piraeus to my house in Polygono, at the intersection of Mauromateon and Kodrigktonos streets, I stopped at a streetlight, with one car in line before me. As I was slowing down to stop I saw two suspicious-looking guys on the sidewalk watching my car, and as I passed in front of them I saw them deploy for action. From the passenger mirror I watched the two of them step off the sidewalk; one came towards me from the passenger side, while the other (let’s call him the second man) came around from the driver’s side. By instinct when I saw them I opened up my messenger bag and took out a collapsible baton I always keep with me.

I noticed that the button of the passenger-side door was down and so the door was locked; at that moment the second man tapped on my window and told me in broken Greek “hey buddy I see a problem with your car, get out, get out, problem” pointing to my rear driver-side tire. I immediately looked at my passenger-side window, where the first man was attempting to open the door. At that moment the second man opened my driver-side door and repeated “get out, buddy, get out, look a problem.”

Keeping the collapsible baton closed in my hand and with characteristic composure I told him “let’s see this problem”. While exiting the car I looked at his hands to see if they were holding anything.. There was something metallic in his right hand… I stepped down firmly on both feet and without any hesitation attacked him with a Hammer Fist, using my right hand holding the closed baton. The guy dropped like a dead chicken without even staggering around… Walking quickly I headed towards the other man who was stepping out between the parked cars and coming towards me. I snapped the baton open and hit him on the side of the knee and immediately tapped him on the side of his face as well… he dropped. Looking around me to see if there was anyone else, I quickly understood that I was alone; a single silver car passed us by without breaking speed.

Getting into my car I looked behind me and saw them slowly getting up .. I drove off.

I had not gone 100 meters when I began to comprehend what had just happened and I started shaking. My heart was beating like crazy and I was suddenly stressed out.

Later on when I had calmed down, sitting back and thinking about the experience, I realized the following had happened:
• I felt the danger approaching early on and this made me arm myself in time.
• At the moment the second man opened my driver-side door, a lot of things flashed through my mind, like my children, whether or not he was holding something in his hands, and that if he stood in front of my car door he would have prevented me from getting out, but he went to the rear of the vehicle, making room for me to get out…
• The instant he opened my car door, it was as if he had turned on a switch and I was programmed to do battle, basically I decided to fuck them up to give them a lesson. I felt like they had violated my home…
• My first attack was not planned and my first impulse was to throw a punch, but in a split second I realized that while holding the baton I could injure my hand and immediately changed to a hammer-fist. Fast and strong! The second attack was spontaneous and I thought it best not to let him close because I could not see if he (the first man) was holding something, so I struck his base and immediately bounced up to the side of the head. I admit that I checked the blow to his head considerably and so that I was certain it did not cause any damage.
• The whole time the battle lasted I knew beforehand that there were two opponents and the truth is that I felt no surprise. I most certainly fell prey about 70% to what we call “tunnel vision”, but when I saw the second man fall, I immediately and instinctively looked around to see if there was anyone else, even just a witness, and there the tunnel vision vanished and I was operating at normal situational awareness. When I drove off the strange side-effects I described above took hold of me.

The most important part of all, I left for the end.

As many people know, I coach grappling, MMA, Thai Boxing etc. Over the past years they have been part of my routine every day; simply because I teach them daily you understand that these arts have become an extension of myself … and yet … all my actions, not only from a technical standpoint, but also from an emotional, mental, etc standpoint, were from traditional combat systems, which primarily I have been primarily taught not only physically but also mentally and theoretically by Kostas Dervenis.

This forces me to say – which I knew anyway – that combat sports and hand-to-hand combat are two entirely different things … there is no relationship!

Teacher, thank you.

Nektarios Lykiardopoulos


Την Δευτέρα 07 Νοεμβρίου μου συνέβη ένα περιστατικό που θα ήθελα να μοιραστώ.

Συγκεκριμένα κατά τις 11 το βράδυ και ενώ ερχόμουνα από τηνσχολή μου στον Πειραιά προς το σπίτι μου στο Πολύγωνο, στη συμβολή των οδών Μαυροματέων και Κοδριγκτόνος σταμάτησα στο φανάρι, έχοντας μπροστά μου ένα αυτοκίνητο. Την ώρα που μείωνα την ταχύτητα για να σταματήσω είδα στο πεζοδρόμιο δύο ύποπτους τύπους να κοιτάνε το αυτοκίνητο και μόλις πέρασα από μπροστά τους τους είδα να ενεργοποιούνται. Από τον καθρέφτη του συνοδηγού καθώς έβλεπα κατεβαίνουν στο πεζοδρόμιο και ο ένας έρχεται από την μεριά των παρκαρισμένων και προς την πόρτα του συνοδηγού, ενώ ο άλλος ερχόταν από την μεριά μου. Από προαίσθημα με το που τους είδα άρχισα να ανοίγω το τσαντάκι μου και να κρατάω ένα πτυσσόμενο γκλομπ που έχω πάντα μαζί μου.

Βλέπω την ασφάλεια του συνοδηγού ότι είναι κλειστή, εκείνη την ώρα ο άλλος μου χτυπάει το παράθυρο μου και μου λέει με σπαστά Ελληνικά «φίλε κατέβα να δεις έχει πρόβλημα το αυτοκίνητο σου, κατέβα κατέβα πρόβλημα» δείχνοντας μου το πίσω λάστιχο. Αμέσως κοιτάζω το άλλο παράθυρο του συνοδηγού, όπου ο άλλος τύπος προσπαθεί να ανοίξει την πόρτα. Εκείνη την στιγμή μου ανοίγει την δικιά μου πόρτα ο τύπος που μου μίλησε και μου ξαναλέει «να φίλε κατέβα να δεις κατέβα να δεις πρόβλημα..»

Κρατώντας το πτυσσόμενο στο χέρι και με χαρακτηριστική ψυχραιμία του λέω – για να δω που είναι το πρόβλημα – ενώ την ίδια στιγμή βγαίνω από το αμάξι κοιτώντας τα χέρι του για να δω εάν κρατάει τίποτα. Διαπιστώνω ότι κρατάει κάτι μεταλλικό στο δεξί του χέρι. Επί τοπου πατάω στα δύο πόδια και σηκώνομαι χωρίς κανέναν δισταγμό επιτίθεμαι πάνω του και του δίνω ένα Hammer Fist με το χέρι που κρατούσα το γκλομπ. Ο τύπος πέφτει αμέσως κάτω σαν κοτόπουλο, χωρίς καν να παραπατήσει λίγο. Περπατώντας γρήγορα πηγαίνω προς τον άλλον ο οποίος βγαίνει ανάμεσα από τα παρκαρισμένα και έρχεται προς το μέρος μου. Το πτυσσόμενο έχει ήδη ανοίξει και του δίνω ένα κτύπημα στα πόδια στο πλάι από τα γόνατα και αμέσως άλλο ένα στο πλάι του προσώπου του… πέφτει κι αυτός. Κοιτάζοντας γύρω μου να δω εάν υπάρχει κάποιος άλλος, καταλαβαίνω πως δεν υπάρχει ψυχή, ένα αυτοκίνητο μόνο περνάει χρώματος ασημί αλλά ούτε που κόβει ταχύτητα.

Μπαίνοντας μέσα στο αυτοκίνητο ρίχνω μια ματιά πίσω μου και τους βλέπω με αργές κινήσεις να σηκώνονται.. βάζω μπροστά και φεύγω.

Με το που προχώρησα 100 μέτρα με το αυτοκίνητο τότε συνειδητοποιώ τι ακριβώς έκανα και αρχίζω να τρέμω… τότε με έπιασε ταχυπαλμία και ένταση!!

Πιο αργά που ηρέμησα, καθόμουνα και σκεφτόμουνα την εμπειρία αυτή και συνειδητοποίησα τα εξής:
• Ένοιωσα από νωρίς τον κίνδυνο να πλησιάζει και αυτό με έκανε να οπλιστώ εγκαίρως.
• την ώρα που μου άνοιξε την πόρτα ο τύπος, πέρασαν ακαριαία ένα σωρό πράγματα από το μυαλό μου όπως , τα παιδιά μου, το εάν κρατάει κάτι στα χέρια του, καθώς και το ότι δεν έκατσε πίσω από την πόρτα γεγονός που θα με φρέναρε ίσως να κατέβω, αλλά πήγε προς το πίσω λάστιχο του αυτοκινήτου, κάνοντας μου χώρο να βγω.
• Εκείνη την στιγμή που άνοιξε την πόρτα μου, γύρισε ο διακόπτης και αποφάσισα να κάνω μάχη, βασικά αποφάσισα να τους γαμήσω δίνοντας τους ένα μάθημα. Ένοιωσα ότι παραβίαζαν το σπίτι μου…
• Η πρώτη μου επίθεση δεν ήταν καθόλου σχεδιασμένη μέσα στο μυαλό μου, ενώ το χέρι έφυγε να τον κτυπήσει σαν γροθιά σε κλάσματα δευτερολέπτου συνειδητοποίησα ότι κρατώντας το πτυσσόμενο μπορεί να τραυμάτιζα τα δάκτυλά μου και αμέσως το χέρι έφυγε για γροθιά – σφυρί. Γρήγορα και δυνατά! Η 2η επίθεση μου ήταν αυθόρμητη κι αυτή θεώρησα καλύτερο να μην τον αφήσω να πλησιάσει γιατί δεν μπορούσα να δω εάν κρατάει κάτι οπότε του χτύπησα την βάση και αμέσως μετά το κεφάλι στο πλάι. Ομολογώ ότι το κτύπημα στο κεφάλι το έκοψα τελευταία στιγμή αρκετά και έτσι είναι βέβαιο ότι δεν του προξένησα καμιά ζημιά.
• Την όλη ώρα που κράτησε η συμπλοκή ήξερα από πριν ότι είναι 2 οι αντίπαλοι και η αλήθεια είναι ότι δεν ένοιωσα αιφνιδιασμό. Είχα σίγουρα κατά 70% αυτό που λέμε “tunnel vision”, αλλά με το που είδα να πέφτει και ο 2ος αμέσως ενστικτωδώς κοίταξα γύρω μου να δω εάν υπάρχει κάποιος άλλος, έστω απλά ένας μάρτυρας, εκεί το tunnel vision χάθηκε αμέσως λειτουργούσα κανονικά. Μετά όταν απομακρύνθηκα από το αυτοκίνητο με έπιασαν τα περίεργα όπως περιγράφω πιο πάνω…

Το πιο σημαντικό απ όλα το αφήνω για το τέλος

Ως γνωστόν, είμαι προπονητής στο grappling, to mma , Thai Boxing κτλ. Tα τελευταία χρόνια τα έχω καθημερινά μέσα στην ρουτίνα μου μόνο και μόνο που τα διδάσκω κάθε μέρα καταλαβαίνετε πως είναι προέκταση του εαυτού μου… κι όμως…οι όλες μου ενέργειες, όχι μόνο από τεχνικής πλευράς, αλλά κι από συναισθηματικής, νοητικής κτλ ήταν από παραδοσιακά συστήματα μάχης όπου κατά κύριο λόγο έχω διδαχθεί όχι μόνο σωματικά αλλά και νοητικά και θεωρητικά από τον Κώστα Δερβένη.

Αυτό με αναγκάζει να πω – πράγμα που το ήξερα έτσι κι αλλιώς – πως άλλο τα μαχητικά αθλήματα και άλλο η πραγματική μάχη εκεί έξω… δεν υπάρχει καμία σχέση!

Δάσκαλε σ’ ευχαριστώ

Νεκτάριος Λυκιαρδόπουλος