[Luke:] I can’t believe it. [Yoda:] That is why you fail.

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I am one of the “old men” (growl) of historical European martial arts and historical reenactment, having been passed the baton by Hank Reinhardt in the mid 1980s, while he was still living in a small apartment, before he made good money with Museum Replicas and became somewhat famous. Many of the observations I enthusiastically put forth back in 1985 as a young man have still not been over-ridden or surpassed today, and are in fact often “borrowed” and used by others without permission or reference.

Back then, we had an advantage that younger folks today do not have – there was no internet, and everything cost money. When I wanted pictures of something in a museum, I had to actually go out to said museum and take the photos myself. That, of course, required both time and cash on our part, hell, even the film and photos cost money vs. digital technology today. Having to spend energy and income to go about from place to place gave one a certain level of respect for both the project and its outcome. It also gave us the opportunity for close proximity with the actual weapons and artifacts, something less likely today in view of their increased popularity (which is why “noted authorities” routinely rip off my photos without credit, permission, or reference).

We were not imitators nor were we following a fashion; we were breaking new ground. We did not, for the most, base our results on popularly available translations, but sought out academics for same. The very small group of us that was involved with these studies back then was searching for answers, real answers to questions that bothered us some, not fame; Facebook and youtube did not exist, hits and like were not counted, and we were not engaged in a popularity contest.

To give you an idea of how the community viewed historical European martial arts, in 1986 when I published a photo of myself holding a German two-hander and a Turkish sword and shield in the most popular Greek martial arts magazine, I was openly mocked by its readers.

Today, HEMA are growing in popularity around the world, as well they should be. As for me, I got lucky with my efforts several times over the years. I offered some theories on Bronze Age Mycenaean hand-to-hand combat that turned out to be accurate (Bettany Hughes, Helen of Troy). I suggested that Pammachon was something separate from pankration long before most people had even heard the word, based on simple etymology; Sofie Remijsen of Leuven University later proved that theory correct by translating an ancient papyrus. I made it clear that pankration was a combat sport and not a martial art, and, together with Nektarios, offered perhaps the most comprehensive analysis available today of its techniques, based on the ancient records: this book has been accepted as a reference by the US Army War College. I stumbled onto 19th century Pammachon much to everyone’s shock, including my own, and was stunned to find that it had been practiced in my own village and by my own family members (It was like a scene from a movie: imagine two sweaty men tearing up a stone floor in a 400 year old family farmhouse and stumbling onto a pack of photos, old letters, contracts, official documents, etc.). And all that hoplological work served to enhance my perception as a martial artist: in the face of the popularity of BJJ and the Gracies, I was one of the few people worldwide who had the backbone to openly state that the 2003 US Army combatives system, based on Brazilian jiu-jitsu, had serious tactical flaws involving its stances and the presence of bladed weapons (Guess what? I was mocked.); seven years later, the US Army, after spending millions of dollars and after 900 cases of hand to hand combat, was forced to capitulate and admit that their system had the flaws I had identified from the very beginning. So, am I so great? No. Rickson and his kin can most likely beat me up in the ring. But in the course of my life I have come to understand and learn from the lessons of history, and that is something that is not very common after all. Whole governments and nations often fail bitterly in the attempt, as we have seen, and individuals far more often.

All the above grant me a pat on the back every so often, and, together with one euro, will buy me a cup of coffee these days, since I don’t teach professionally. But these little laurels also give me the right to make a few observations, and those observations are the purpose of the rant today.

See, I’m disappointed with the HEMA community.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m very happy to see the art grow, and happier that students and students of students and friends and students of friends have contributed towards making the community blossom, and hope for a great future. I am often stunned by the observations made by the (typically) young men involved in HEMA today and, believe me, there have been many times when I have sat back and said, duh, why didn’t I think of that? Or, damn, that kid is goooooood.

But I believe we are missing the point. I don’t think the “founders” of the school would be pleased.

Let me explain. I am disgruntled for reasons of both philosophy and technique. Let’s begin with the philosophy.

We must be able to separate fact from both fantasy, and fact from wishful interpretation. It is possible, if I bend the rules, to mathematically prove that 1 plus 1 equals 2. And if I want to present history in a specific light that will be useful for my own purposes, well, it’s the easiest thing in the world, right? But is it correct? Must we not, as martial artists, insist on integrity first and foremost from ourselves, before we ask it of others?

We must do better. We deserve better. We must be grounded in fact. We must operate with complete integrity at all times, and demand it of the world around us.

I have often commented on the work done by Bowdoin professor Thomas Conlan in clarifying the world of the samurai. The myth of the Samurai is just that. The folkloric vision of the Samurai — a loyal warrior, ready to die for his cause, riding into battle with his sword — never existed.

The ideal of the samurai with which we are so familiar was born in peace. The image was created by the Samurai themselves, during the 17th century, when they felt a need to justify their own existence.

By translating 1,302 military documents, Conlan was able to re-create entire battles and gain an understanding of the life a warrior in 14th-century Japan that scholars previously lacked. The documents are narratives of battle including mentions of wounds, fatalities, and who had witnessed them.

Unlike the Europeans, the Samurai rarely used swords in battle — swords were very expensive, and were passed on to heirs as a status symbol rather than actually being deployed. Instead the samurai most often used arrows and spears (swords account for 5% of all documented wounds).

The popular image of the Samurai was created by the warriors themselves in the 17th century. Unlike 14th-century Japan, 17th-century Japan was not ravaged by war. The country labored under a centuries-long dictatorship, and, like today, in order to keep peace people willingly gave up many of their rights in service to the law. Because so many disputes in the past had been rooted in land rights, the rulers systematically broke the Samurai’s ties to the land, so even though they remained an identifiable class, they lost their land rights. In order to survive, they had to prove their worth to their overlords. To do so, they created a mythos founded on loyalty and servitude. A whole hierarchy, an entire fictitious tradition was developed in the name of the survival of a particular caste, and became so popular it entered mainstream culture as reality.

You can see that in many traditional Japanese sword schools. Most of the techniques are clearly designed for duels in a civilized environment, combat on tatami mats as it were, not for the battlefield. For the most part, they would not work on the battlefield; I have tested this hypothesis time and again, and am often hated for it (actually, to be frank, I am hated for saying so to the face of the people involved, and they being unable to prove otherwise). Which is not to say that there are not extraordinary masters and swordsmen involved with the Japanese martial arts – I am speaking as a generalization.

And so here we HEMA students are. Are we also going to chase after the Lord of the Rings and the Game of Thrones, or are we going to actually study western martial culture and draw meaningful lessons from it that can contribute to our own future? Are we also going to invent a sub-culture for the express reason of giving our lives purpose? Please. When I want to LARP, I play airsoft, it’s more fun.

Because, you see, HEMA are actually founded in the pursuit of integrity, independence, and human dignity; this spirit of the Renaissance infused their teaching before the Renaissance actually took hold on Western society. Historical European Martial Arts have a very Zen-like spiritual foundation. You don’t believe me? Let’s take a closer look at their very foundation.

Johannes Liechtenauer was a 13th or 14th century German fencing master. No direct record of his life or teachings exists, and all that we know of him comes from the writings of other masters and scholars. The only account of his life was written by the authors of the Nuremberg manuscript MS 3227a, the oldest text in the tradition, who state that “Master Liechtenauer learnt and mastered [the] Art in a thorough and rightful way, but he did not invent and put together this Art. Instead, he traveled and searched many countries with the will of learning and mastering this rightful and true Art.” Liechtenauer seems to have been alive at the time of the creation of the MS 3227a in 1389.

What is interesting to point out here is that the MS 3227a pretty much admits that Liechtenauer engaged in a reconstruction of an art that was almost lost in his own time, something that Alfred Hutton did 500 years later, an art he was trying to save and codify. He was eminently successful.

Liechtenauer was described by later masters as the “grand master” of the art, and a long poem called the Zettel (“Record”) is generally attributed to him by these masters (and many more masters and manuscripts quote some version of this poem without attribution). In short, everyone pretty much admits that Liechtenauer put the method together as a compilation of existing material that was at risk of fading away. The masters of the Society of Liechtenauer were responsible for most of the most significant fencing manuals of the 15th century, and Liechtenauer and his teachings were also the focus of the German fencing guilds that arose in the 15th and 16th centuries, such as the Marxbrüder and the Veiterfechter.

Hans Döbringer, the first master of the Liechtenauer tradition, is one of four authors of a section on the sword in the MS 3227a. The rest of the manuscript is a compilation consisting of treatises on a variety of mundane and mystical topics, including metallurgy, alchemy, chemistry, magical recipes, medicine, and the martial arts. Let’s take a look at the words with which Döbringer introduces Liechtenauer’s teachings. I am going to venture my own version of the translation here, which is a compilation of several translations combined with personal interventions. I would not hesitate to wager that I understand a bit about martial arts and martial ethos, and have studied history somewhat, and so my observations are based on that understanding. I make no pretense of being a scholar of Mittelhochdeutsch (In fact, though I understand German well, no one who has heard me speak it would feel comfortable calling me a scholar of modern German. Or even a competent student thereof.).

Jung Ritter lere / got lip haben / frawen io ere /
So wechst dein ere / Uebe ritterschaft und lere /
Kunst dy dich czyret / vnd in krigen sere hofiret /
Ringens gut fesser / glefney sper swert unde messer /
Menlich bederben / unde in andern henden vorterben /
Haw dreyn vnd hort dar / rawsche hin trif ader la varn /
Das in dy weisen / hassen dy man siet preisen /
Dor auf dich zosze / alle ding haben limpf lenge vnde mosze /
Und was du trei wilt treiben / by guter vornunft saltu bleiben /
Czu ernst ader czu schimpf / habe frölichen mut / mit limpf /
So magstu achten / und mit gutem mute betrachten /
Was du salt füren / und keyn im dich rüren /
Wen guter mut mit kraft / macht eyns wedersache czagehaft /

Young knight, have love for god and honor women;
so grows your honor. Practice knightly disciplines and learn
the Art which adorns you and will glorify you in battle.
Grappling is good, yet better? Lance, spear, sword, and knife.
Make use of Manliness, which in other hands remains useless.
Strike hard towards, rush towards, hit or let go;
In this the wise hate
the man seen seeking praise.
Understand this, that all things have correct manner, length, and measure.
Whatever action you intend, maintain your good judgment.
In earnest or in play, have a cheerful heart, with decency,
So you may perceive and consider with good heart,
How you should act and move against him,
As good heart and strength
will intimidate your opponent.

These words, which commence Liechtenauer’s lessons and are thus the most important points he wanted to pass on, are staggering. “Young knight, have love for god;” Note that he mentions love for God but not a word about the Church, unlike the Code of Chivalry compiled in the 19th century by wishful thinkers. “And honor women,” he says. Unbelievable! In an age when life was cheap and women had few rights, the Master counsels young knights to honor women. And the rest of the stanza is incredible – he is basically describing the internal formation of a warrior, asking for integrity, asking for decency, asking for a good heart and strength in the face of death and war and terror. He is talking about maintaining one’s center, about limiting excess, about maintaining good judgment. Metron Ariston, as Cleobulus said in the 6th century BC. Wow.

(For all scholars, I have translated “das in dy weisen / hassen dy man siet preisen” as shown because such a translation binds with the rest of the text, as opposed to having the knight trying to curry favor from fairground masters and contest overseers and other such theories.)

The text continues by stating:

He is a brave man who fights his own weaknesses.
der ist eyn ku[e]ner man der synem gleichen tar bestan

So, how many of us follow these directives in our hearts? How many of us apply these directives to our own lives, so that we can say without falsehood that we are employing what we have learned from HEMA in society on a daily basis?

Or, how many of you are simply LARPing? Because you cannot have HEMA without these foundations, and you cannot use Liechtenauer’s name without honoring his instructions. And, if you do NOT honor his instructions, then you have no business claiming you practice historical European martial arts. Period.

Oh, I get it! YOU’RE going to park philosophy by the curb, and just do the techniques outlined in the manuals because you’re cool! Well, I’ve got something for you too, right out of the same book:

With
their bad parries and wide fencing they
try to look dangerous with wide and long
strikes that are slow and with these they
perform strikes that miss and create openings
in themselves.

mit dem
ho[e]bschen paryrn und weiterumefechten
als sy sich veyntlich stellen / und weite und
lange hewe dar brengen lanksam und trege/
mit deme sy sich gar sere vorhawen und zeu[e]men /
und sich auch do mite vaste blos geben

It is interesting to note that Döbringer (most likely) is already complaining (circa 1389) about the dueling use of the sword as opposed to its use on the actual battlefield. What he is complaining about, and what is already problematic for him, is the fact that use of the sword in formation is rapidly being forgotten in his own era. The reason modern fencing is executed on a strip and not in a circle, for example, is that in battlefield formation there is no circle – a warrior has little room to move around in, and if you swing a sword around widely, you are most likely to cut off body parts from your own brothers in arms. You can only move forward, back, or up and down, or swivel around your own centerline. If you read Döbringer’s text and understand this particular limitation, then his words become crystal clear.

Argh, but, but, but, sputter! There is no but. I’ll give you another tweak: Döbringer never mentions the longsword. He refers to the sword in general. He refers to the Method of swordsmanship. The longsword is a unique weapon that only saw historic use for circa two centuries, plus or minus. It had deliberate tactical advantages and disadvantages and was found to be “cool” as a dueling weapon, which is why later masters concentrated so much on its use. But in the line, it was primarily a stabbing rather than cutting tool, and a shield and single-hander were much better: if this were not the case, you would have seen long swords developed and used before they surfaced historically (Although admittedly, the development of the blast furnace in Europe in the 13th century, allowing for better quality steel, probably had something to do with the longsword’s appearance).

(Outraged longsword dude gets up into my face frothing at the mouth, spittle dribbling from his lips and spattering everywhere) Oh yeah? Oh YEAH? Can you prove that, Dervenis?

Sure. Because the MS 3227a also refers to fencing with the long knife (messer, falchion, take your pick). And it says:

Because the sword was designed based on the knife, anyone who wants to learn fencing with the long knife should know that the foundation and principles that belong to the sword also belong to the knife.

Wer do mit dem langen messer wil fechten lernen / wen aus dem lãgen messer / ist / das swert genomen vnd funden / Der sal von ersten / merken vnd wisse~ das daz fundame~t vnd dy pñcipia / dy do gehoren czu~ sw°te / dy gehoren auch czum messer /

Ever try to use a knife like a two-handed longsword? Bit of an issue.

Let me clarify things more. When Döbringer says:

Movement [Motus], note that word well, it is to the fencing
a heart and a crown, it is the very matter
of fencing.

Motus das worte schone / ist des fechtens
eyn hort und krone / der gancze materiaz
des fechtens

he is not referring to hopping around like a bunny rabbit! We martial artists often judge each other by how well we move – the modern word for it is kinesiology. I often use kinesiology professionally to tell if someone is lying, for example. How efficiently, how fluently, how little effort one uses, this is the key to Motus, not moving back and forth and around like a boxer in a ring! Imagine being laden with armor, marching out into the dust in a hot sun, pissing and shitting in your britches, your brothers to your left and right and at your back, dust everywhere, the foe in front of you, intent on killing you, arrows flying, and then hopping around like a boxer in the ring with his trainer in the corner! What nonsense! Motus refers to the motion of the spine and torso, how well you move your hips, your efficiency of motion (allowing for reserves of energy), how well you align the blade, how well you discern and take advantage of openings, how you make use of the opponent’s weaknesses to effortlessly take him down.

So. You have your homework cut out for you, then. Forget about LARPing. Study the source, the original source, and try to track down what the fuss is about.

Then we can talk. Because the world needs martial discipline, since manipulation has been identified as violence per the World Health Organization, and there is a whole bunch of that going around. Determined individuals are required by society, if we are to survive.

The rest? It’s just LARPing. Lightning bolt anyone?

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The Zone

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On Mayday I went for a brief bike ride with my daughter through the nature park behind my house. A stream runs through this park, making it an island of green in the sea of concrete that is Athens. My neighbourhood is fiercely protective of our little preserve, actively opposing efforts at deforestation and construction, and even, in the past, forcibly arresting the lackeys of developers who tried to set it ablaze.

On May 1st we went to gather flowers, as is the custom in our country, and briefly entered the Zone.

Roughly ten years ago, on return from Dubai, I started marketing the CIS countries as a territory. The firm I worked for was bidding on tax systems in the Ukraine at the time. Looking for local partners, I stumbled onto a small company called GSC, which was developing videogames for the international market. In the end, nothing materialized from this particular project, but I kept the company in mind.

Some years later, in 2008 or 2009, when I was once again marketing the Ukraine, I attended a live show hosted by GSC featuring their videogame “Stalker,” which had become an international success.

The game is set in an alternative reality, where a second nuclear disaster occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Exclusion Zone in the near future and causes strange changes in the area around it. The background and some terminology of the game are borrowed from the popular science fiction novella Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky and the 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky film “Stalker” that was based on it. As a result of the film, the word “Stalker” was later used for the scientists and engineers who explored the interior of Chernobyl’s sarcophagus after its hasty construction in 1986, and that probably inspired the videogame.

The key feature of the Zone in both the movie and the videogame was that “nothing remains the same.” You cannot retrace your steps. Dangers that were mapped one morning were no longer there the next, or had moved to a different proximate location. The key directive for survival in the Zone was that everything constantly changed, and you had to keep your awareness focused in the here-and-now in order to remain alive.

So, on Mayday I began introducing my daughter to the Zone.

As we biked through the nature park’s one and only trail, we found that four large trees had fallen across the path, torn up from the roots by strong winds. We were forced to dismount and carry our bikes over the obstacles. The uprooted trees confirmed the presence of environmental degradation close to my own home (four uprooted trees within a single square mile is not a coincidence); at the same time, the disaster provided an opportunity to explain to my daughter that Nature was forever changing, inconsistent, fickle, unpredictable, and dangerous. Nature is, in short, the core principle upon which the fictional Zone is based.

Tarkovsky understood the simile provided by the science fiction novella and used it in his movie. Stalker relies on long takes with slow, subtle camera movement, rejecting the use of rapid montage. Almost all of the scenes not set in the Zone are in a high-contrast brown monochrome, emphasising the monotony of Soviet existence. In contrast, he used bright colours when filming the Zone and portrayed it as filled with verdant nature.

As a follow-up to Mayday’s experiment, I took my daughter into the real Zone over Orthodox Easter: a trip into the wilds near my ancestral home. We visited a small chapel roughly two-hours uphill from our village. But many of the paths were no longer in use, and were overgrown. As a result, my daughter and I made many false starts and had to retrace our steps again and again, an exhausting foray for a ten-year old. What should have taken two hours wound up taking three; it was psychologically daunting to have your goal in sight, and not being able to find any clear way to get there, lost among the trees.

My daughter was exhilarated. It was all the confirmation I needed that what was missing from our lives was, in fact, the Zone.

“Kosta Danaos” still receives quite a few e-mails each week (damn youtube). Most are from Clark Kents who are convinced that, with just the right push, they could spread their wings and transform into Kal-Els (and then they´ll show all the dorks who were making fun of them!). But many e-mails are from people who are just looking for a meaning in their lives beyond their daily routine, a life less ordinary to quote John Hodge.

Here´s an example from a man named Marc:

Hi,

I read both of your books, they are very interesting. I am struggling with my spirituality along with the rest of mankind, there are so many pitfalls. I am interested in mind training, any books or works you can recommend would be appreciated. My emotions are far from being mastered, as much as I would love to say I am ready to go for the higher teachings, I am choking on the mundane. Hopefully, one day our paths will cross.

To the way,

Marc

When I wrote the Magus of Java, I made it very clear in the final chapter that what I personally was looking for were solutions to problems that we as humanity were facing. Most of these problems centre on the loss of Nature´s vitality. Intuitively, I understood back then that what humanity was missing, was staring us in the face all along.

In his 2012 book “2052-A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years,” Jorgen Randers, one of the original authors of the Limits of Growth, counsels us that change was inevitable, and that what we should do is “mourn our loss and get on with our lives.” Over the next forty years, efforts to limit the human ecological footprint will continue. Future growth in global population and GDP will be constrained in surprising ways, by rapid fertility decline as a result of urbanization, productivity decline as a result of social unrest, and continuing poverty among the poorest 2 billion world citizens. At the same time there will be impressive advances in resource efficiency and climate-friendly solutions. There will also be an increased focus on human well-being rather than on per capita income growth.

Professor Randers closes by affirming that, based on the extensive database underpinning the model developed for 2052, it appears that the human response will be too slow. The most critical factor will be greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. These emissions will remain so high that our grandchildren most likely will have to live with self-reinforcing, and hence runaway, global warming in the second half of the twenty-first century.

A summary of Randers model can be found here: http://www.2052.info/o121013%20The%202052%20Forecast%20(Pestel%20Institut)Slides.pdf

The hell I say. I can mourn when I´m in the grave.

Why should my daughter and her children have to live in fear of endless natural decline due to the short-sightedness and selfish greed of every Kardashian prancing around the world in designer thongs as we speak? Give me a break. And what Professor Randers model does not take into account is the decay of the human psyche that such events will inevitably bring into being.

The Zone is very much a part of our minds, you see. We were built for it. We have not evolved beyond it. The Zone is what we are missing in our lives, why so many of us have psycho-social problems, and why people are yearning for a life less ordinary. Living in a controlled, electronically-networked society and relying on others for our sustenance, we have lost the need to focus completely on the present moment because we are not faced with ever-changing dangers.

But since our brains are wired for the Zone, a good place to start solving our problems is by introducing people to the mental state required to survive in the Zone on a daily basis; this corresponds to Level Three in Pammachon, and I know how to take students who follow my method to this state. It is important that we reclaim our hearts and minds. The popularity of videogames and survivalism are both due to the desire of people to see themselves as heroes, defeating the rigours of a particular Zone; perhaps if we could teach a larger portion of the populace to know their own minds, they would go beyond dreaming to actually contributing towards making the world a better place. Who knows?

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Are you dumb? (Reloaded)

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Aug 14

This is an enquiry e-mail via http://www.pammachon.gr/ from:

Michael <sandy_phelps@yahoo.com>

{102}{}{You see an extremely tall and lanky ghoul with long hair.}

{110}{}{I am Wooz. What do you want?} {700}{}{Are you dumb?}

First, this isn’t my real email address or full name…after reading your last post my obviously horrifying fear of Woot….

{510}{}{Usually I just pound on the hollow heads of my customers -— sort of like bongos. How the hell did they ever let you out of your village? You’re a danger to yourself and others.}

{511}{}{Bongos?}

{520}{}{You fell out of the stupid tree and hit every damn branch on the way down, didn’t you?} {110}{}{I am Wooz., not Woot.}

…has forced me into hiding behind this persona.  However, I doubt that his services will be needed for this. All that I am asking is that you take a couple minutes and read this brief email, and then I won’t bother you again.

{122}{}{I’ll show you dumb. Talking to me like that is dumb. I’m the Chosen One, you know.}

{260}{}{Oh, the Chosen One. Oh my, I didn’t realize. I’ll just try to stop shaking long enough to tell you something then. (Wooz smiles) Come closer and I’ll whisper it to you.}

To be completely honest, I don’t care about John, and I really have no desire to meet him or ever know where he lives.  Its very clear that he has no desire to teach and may never have in the first place from the research that I’ve done.  And I don’t need any significant education from you either, so after this you don’t have to worry about me taking up any more of your time.

{220}{}{ Have you seen an apple, lately?}

{221}{}{An apple?}

{230}{}{I just love apples, but there aren’t many left anywhere. I hardly ever see them.}

{231}{}{I didn’t know you were such a fruit fetishist.}{232}{}{I’ve heard that you could really savor an apple because they were so slow to eat.}

{240}{}{Slow?!? You are dumb. Fuck you! Apples are just as fast to eat as any other fruit. Apples rule. If it weren’t for a conspiracy on the part of fruit manufacturers we’d all have apples.}

{242}{}{Oh, yes… apples really are wonderful. (You back away slowly) Yes, that’s right. Good Wooz, easy there.}

As you can imagine its been a complicated road trying to find some answers to some very simple questions.  You probably don’t remember, but my first step was to try and contact you about two years ago now.  I obviously had no luck.  Then about a year ago I was able to make contact with Jim McMillan.  At first, I thought I’d struck gold.  We exchanged several emails with me asking quite a few questions, and him ultimately ranting about how John wasn’t the man he thought he was, and how his life was unfair because he’d worked so hard, etc. etc.  After that…more failures elsewhere.

{301}{}{Uh, I’m really sorry I pissed you off, Mr. Wooz. I just wanted to ask you something.} {304}{}{Uh, did I tell you how much I really just love apples?}

{310}{}{Really? I didn’t know that. Well, if you love apples, I guess you can’t be all bad. Now, what the hell do you want?}

In any case it seems I’ve come back “full-circle” in taking one last shot in the dark that you might be willing to give me some kind of answers.  I understand your annoyance of being bombarded by probably thousands of emails, calls, etc. over the past decade, but I’m hoping you can at least understand that you really are my last real option.  Also, on a side note, I hope on some level that despite your annoyance you feel a little proud that your work has reached so many people.  Its something that most authors never accomplish so for what its worth, congrats on that.

{530}{}{Yeah, it’s all about a head, see. But it’s not attached to a body. You see, it’s been severed.}

{531}{}{A severed head. I see. And this becomes entertaining when?}

{540}{}{Now just hold on a minute. This severed head, you see, it’s in Hell. (hah, hah) And it flies around there, you know, in Hell. And it runs into all kinds of famous people there… (ho, ho, ho)}

{541}{}{Wait, a severed head is in Hell, and it flies around…doing what?}

{550}{}{Well, it’s doing stuff. (hee, hee) You know. It’s got, things that it wants to do, or maybe things it’s forced to do. The point is, it’s doing stuff, you know, there in Hell. Oh God, (hah, hah, hah) I just can’t stand it!}

{551}{}{You kind of obsess about this, don’t you? Hmm.}

{560}{}{No, you just don’t understand. It’s all about a severed head. Get it? Heh, heh, heh, It’s funny! How can you think about a severed head, in Hell of all places, and not laugh?}

{562}{}{Oh. I see. Why, yes. Of course; that’s very funny. Heh heh. I just can’t contain my amusement… But enough enjoyment — oh, my splitting sides — I need to ask you something.}

{570}{}{Fuck you! You’re just like all the rest of them. I tell, you it’s hilariously funny. It’s not my fault that you don’t have a sense of humor.}

{571}{}{You’re right, Wooz. I guess I’m just not as clever as you are. You’re truly a pearl amongst swine. Now tell me something else.}

What I am looking for is simple, yet something that few people really know.  A few basic questions that have been gnawing at me for years…

{601}{}{See? I told you it was funny. Is there anything else you need?}

Can the correct training produce the results that you wrote about in your books? Essentially, can people with proper knowledge and training become something…more?  In your opinion (with your experiences and knowledge), what are the depths of this…in other words, where do you personally think the limits of this training are?

{600}{}{Are you dumb? I already told you all about it. You must have a really short memory.}

You’ll see that these are pretty basic in nature.  I am not looking for lessons, or to become a student, or anything like that.  All I’m asking for is 5 minutes of your time; a short response that at least gives me some basic answers that I’ve been trying to find for far too long.

{706}{}{I wouldn’t shit you on this one.} {745}{}{Is Wim Hof the Buddha?}

In any case, best of luck to you in the future.

{300}{}{Fuck you! You are dumb. What the hell do you want here?}

{302}{}{Fuck me? Fuck you! Your bar sucks. I’m out of here.} {195}{}{ I must have a hole in my head for wanting to buy drinks for a bunch of rotting zombies.}

9 Comments

YOU ARE DUMB!

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Gentlemen,

Despite many posts requesting the contrary, I keep getting e-mails and contact requests regarding the Magus of Java or the Mo Pai. I have stated repeatedly that I have not been a member of the Mo Pai for a decade. I had not foreseen the development of youtube or the extreme loss of overall IQ among the general populace when I wrote the book in 1999 – otherwise I would have never written it. I mean, come on, guys, you are not very clever; think about it: The reason you know my real name in the first place, is because I no longer have an active interest in the subject matter of the book. And, very important, I have no interest in taking your money. Which means, in order for me to bother with you in the first place, you have to catch my interest as a human being. Please note that I retain the ancient Greek conviction that expressing your opinion is not a right, but a privilege that must be earned and maintained through constant contribution and growth.

So here is what is going to happen: if you write to me about the Magus of java or the Mo Pai or any related subject, I will turn you over to my buddy Wooz. Now, Wooz owns a bar, is very old, unpleasant, smells very bad, and looks like a zombie. As such, he has a sparkling personality that is fait accompli the inevitable result of his good looks. Wooz is apt to answer your questions with retorts like: “YOU ARE DUMB! F@@K YOU! I HAVE CRUSHED YOU!” (Insert choice of verb or noun: fink, fork, folk, funk, etc). Along with Wooz’s reply, he will most likely post your name and e-mail address. I still get a couple e-mails a day (and yes, many people wonder why I do not simply charge 400 dollars a pop, but that is not me and never has been), so probably what will happen is that Wooz will gather the results and hoist up each fool on his own petard at the end of the month.

I am sure you do not want that, unless YOU ARE DUMB.

My advice? Stay away from Wooz.

Thanks,

Kostas

13 Comments

The four-fold path

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As I get older, I fully comprehend that I’m not that bright. Don’t get me wrong, I never thought I was that bright in the first place. I mean, I could follow Einstein’s math in class when I was a kid (circa 24-25 I think), but that phase passed very quickly, and I just went back to being lil’ ole me. Most of what I have learned in life has been through trial and error and persistence, not great insight. The school of hard knocks as it were.

So as I get older, I understand that far brighter people than myself have tried to tell us the truth for a long long time, but we, not being as bright as they were, cannot discern the wisdom in their words. Or possibly worse, we do not believe them, and think we know better. Then we learn.

Cleobulus (or Kleoboulos) of Lindos in Rhodes was one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece. He was both the tyrant (absolute monarch) of Lindos and a scholar. Clement of Alexandria calls Cleobulus “king of the Lindians,” and Plutarch speaks of him as a tyrant. But Cleobulus is said to have studied philosophy in Egypt, and was the author of poems, songs and riddles. He advised men to be listeners rather than talkers, to do nothing by violence and to educate all children, both sons and daughters – extraordinary opinions for the times and for a man for which we now use the appellation “tyrant.” In fact, the city-state of Lindos, which also governed much of its neighboring area, reached its peak in the 6th century BC under the reign of Cleobulus, becoming a prosperous town known for its quality of life. Cleobulus is said to have lived to the age of seventy and to have been greatly distinguished for his strength and beauty.

Cleobulus is best known for one quote: “moderation is the best thing” (Μέτρον ἄριστον, which actually doesn’t translate well from ancient Greek, as the word ἄριστον is better expressed as “the best of all things”). When I was younger I scoffed at this, retorting with Heinlein’s quote “Μoderation is for monks, everything in excess!” I no longer believe that this is even remotely true.

It is very easy to get dragged into excessive practices, moreso in the worlds of martial arts and the esoteric quest. In many cases, this leads to catastrophe and a quick death.

Take Bruce Lee for example; he died when he was thirty-three. He is widely considered by many commentators, critics, media and other martial artists to be the most influential martial artist of the 20th century and a cultural icon. Let me quote from wikipedia, editing the text to describe his life in summary, in the context of this blogpost:

Lee’s father, Lee Hoi-chuen, was one of the leading Cantonese opera and film actors at the time, and was on a year-long tour with his family on the eve of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. Because of this, Lee was born in the US in 1940 (San Francisco).

Lee’s mother, Grace Ho, was from one of the wealthiest and most powerful clans in Hong Kong, the Ho-tungs. She was the niece of Sir Robert Ho-tung, of Eurasian descent and patriarch of the clan; perhaps this factor influenced Lee’s stance toward Caucasians. The young Bruce Lee grew up in an affluent and privileged environment.

At the age of 18, Lee returned to the United States because of a fight with the son of a leader of the triads. With $100 in his pocket and the titles of 1957 High School Boxing Champion and 1958 Crown colony Cha Cha Champion of Hong Kong, he moved to Seattle in 1959, where he worked for Ruby Chow as a live-in waiter at her restaurant. In December 1960, at the age of twenty, Lee completed his high school education. In March 1961, he enrolled at the University of Washington, majoring in drama according to the university’s alumni association information; he never got his degree, but dropped out in the spring of 1964.

Lee began teaching martial arts in the US in 1959, almost immediately upon arrival. He first taught friends in Seattle, starting with Judo practitioner Jesse Glover, who later became his first assistant instructor. Lee opened his first martial arts school, named the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, in Seattle (Lee Jun Fan was his real name).

Bruce then moved to Oakland in the spring of 1964 to live with James Lee, a well known Chinese martial artist in the area. Together, they founded the second Jun Fan martial art studio in Oakland. James Lee was also responsible for introducing Bruce Lee to Ed Parker, organizer of the Long Beach International Karate Championships at which Bruce Lee was “discovered” by Hollywood. Because of his demo at Long Beach, Lee got the role of Kato alongside Van Williams in the TV series The Green Hornet. The show lasted just one season, from 1966 to 1967, with three crossover episodes in Batman. This was followed by guest appearances in three television series: Ironside (1967), Here Come the Brides (1969), and Blondie (1969).

At the time, two of Lee’s martial arts students were Hollywood scriptwriter Stirling Silliphant and actor James Coburn. In 1969, Lee made a brief appearance in the Silliphant-penned film Marlowe where he played a henchman hired to intimidate private detective Philip Marlowe, (played by James Garner), by smashing up his office with leaping kicks and flashing punches, only to later accidentally jump off a tall building while trying to kick Marlowe off. The same year he choreographed fight scenes for The Wrecking Crew starring Dean Martin, Sharon Tate, and featuring Chuck Norris in his first role. In 1970, he was responsible for fight choreography for A Walk in the Spring Rain starring Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn, again written by Silliphant. In 1971, Lee appeared in four episodes of the television series Longstreet, written by Silliphant. Lee played the martial arts instructor of the title character Mike Longstreet (played by James Franciscus), and important aspects of his martial arts philosophy were written into the script.

Not happy with his supporting roles in the United States, Lee returned to Hong Kong. After negotiating with both Shaw Brothers Studio and Golden Harvest, he signed a film contract to star in two films produced by Golden Harvest. Lee played his first leading role in The Big Boss (1971) which proved to be an enormous box office success across Asia and catapulted him to stardom. He soon followed up with Fist of Fury (1972) which broke the box office records set previously by The Big Boss. For his third film, Way of the Dragon (1972), he was given complete control of the film’s production as the writer, director, star, and choreographer of the fight scenes. Warner Brothers then offered Lee the opportunity to star in Enter the Dragon, the first film to be produced jointly by Golden Harvest and Warner Bros. Filming commenced in Hong Kong in February 1973. However, only a few months after the completion of Enter the Dragon, and six days before its 26 July 1973 release, Lee died. Enter the Dragon would go on to cement Lee as a martial arts legend. The film sparked a brief fad in martial arts, epitomized in songs such as “Kung Fu Fighting” and TV shows like Kung Fu.

But Lee knew nothing of this. He was dead of a cerebral edema, most likely due to overtraining. He had enjoyed international fame and prosperity for precisely two years.

One wonders if he would have thought it was worth it, knowing he would be soon dead and unable to enjoy fame, knowing he would be dead at 33, knowing that his son would also die young and he would be unable to protect and guide him.

Watching episodes of Longstreet or his interview with Pierre Berton, one cannot help but be impressed by the depth of Lee’s philosophy and the scope of his learning, decades before such wisdom became commonplace. He was truly a driving force in the union of eastern and western culture. But he never got to see Enter the Dragon in its finished form. He never witnessed the publication of the Tao of Jeet Kune Do (purchased with glee, among others, by a young Kostas Dervenis). His own fame and passion were a platform capitalized on by others to develop their own fortunes.

So the question remains: do you think, that he would think, that it was worth it, being dead at 33, with his son’s death following on the heels of his own?

Incessant training, pushing the boundaries of the human envelope, is a function that requires a goal. Why are you training? Why are you doing what you are doing? Is it to be powerful? There is no point to this. As we have seen, tactics and science have always been definitive of human power, not speed and strength: otherwise, the dominant species on the planet would have been the cave bear, and not we human beings. Are you training for fame and wealth? A viable option, but one should always recall Bruce (and many others) if this is your goal. Are you a professional warrior? That is another matter entirely, and incessant training is a necessity in such circumstances – but one must always live close to death having made such a choice. Are you a spiritual seeker, a monk or meditator? Then your goal is driven by theology, and we have no right to discuss same on this blog.

Ι myself trained in excess for a decade. I now wish I had not done so. I now believe it is pointless, and will explain.

My intention then is to discuss an overall successful strategy for life. And the ancient Greek word metron (μέτρον), which really loses a lot when you think of it in the context of “moderation,” reflects profound wisdom in dealing with all aspects of life. Perhaps a better contextual interpretation of metron would involve concepts of “balance” rather than restraint.

In Pammachon, the way we study martial arts if as follows: we first train our bodies. When we complete this, we are said to have finished Level One. We then insert emotional context into what we do; when we complete this stage, we are said to have finished Level Two. Then comes mental training, Level Three, where we seek the still mind in the face of conflict. Finally, we may, or may not, choose to address Level Four, because at the end of the day, Level Four comes to you whether you address it or not. Or it doesn’t, whether you address it or not. It is not up to you or your efforts; Level Four comes from something beyond our own selves and opinions.

Confusing? Let me make things a bit easier for you with a diagram. We are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual beings whether we want to be or not, so the four levels overlap as shown. (You can leave the spiritual out as you will, it makes not one shred of difference in the end, as we will see.)

Look at the drawings. Assume the Levels are indicated as shown, 1,2,3, and 4:

So you see the overlap? Do you see how mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual share evident common ground? Let me make it easier for you:

So let’s assume physical, emotional, and mental training are represented by circles 1,2, and 3 respectively. As you can see, Part 4, the spiritual quest, is there whether it wants to or not, whether we want it to be there or not. You don’t have to strive towards it; it is already there.

The shaded area reflects metron. It represents the epitome of virtue, of a life in balance, according to the principles of a man who is remembered 2500 years after his death, who ruled a people with benevolence and led them to prosperity and independence, and about whom not one negative word has been said over millennia.

You decide whether or not this man knew what he was talking about. Then decide whether you want to follow his advice or not. You will have to face the consequences of your choices one way or the other.

For myself, I will try to comprehend metron and make it my flagship. Pammachon functions whether one is a superbly trained athlete or a desk jockey – that has already been proven. The art does not rely on exceptional physical prowess (though many students are unbelievably proficient physically) but on an understanding of human nature, of our body, emotions, mind and spirit. Maybe I had Cleobulus’s words in mind, I don’t know. But in any case, you have to decide for yourself whether you want to embrace moderation or pursue a path of excess. Who knows? Excess might even work out for you.

5 Comments

Aristotle on the Middle Class (and the lack of)

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Not that I like Aristotle overly much, but the man did point many things out two thousand years ago. The problem is, no one seems to be willing to listen anymore:

Now in all states there are three elements: one class is very rich, another very poor, and a third in a mean. It is admitted that moderation and the mean are best, and therefore it will clearly be best to possess the gifts of fortune in moderation; for in that condition of life men are most ready to follow rational principle. But he who greatly excels in beauty, strength, birth, or wealth, or on the other hand who is very poor, or very weak, or very much disgraced, finds it difficult to follow rational principle. Of these two the one sort grow into violent and great criminals, the others into rogues and petty rascals. And two sorts of offenses correspond to them, the one committed from violence, the other from roguery. Again, the middle class is least likely to shrink from rule, or to be over-ambitious for it; both of which are injuries to the state. Again, those who have too much of the goods of fortune, strength, wealth, friends, and the like, are neither willing nor able to submit to authority. The evil begins at home; for when they are boys, by reason of the luxury in which they are brought up, they never learn, even at school, the habit of obedience. On the other hand, the very poor, who are in the opposite extreme, are too degraded. So that the one class cannot obey, and can only rule despotically; the other knows not how to command and must be ruled like slaves. Thus arises a city, not of freemen, but of masters and slaves, the one despising, the other envying; and nothing can be more fatal to friendship and good fellowship in states than this: for good fellowship springs from friendship; when men are at enmity with one another, they would rather not even share the same path. But a city ought to be composed, as far as possible, of equals and similars; and these are generally the middle classes. Wherefore the city which is composed of middle-class citizens is necessarily best constituted in respect of the elements of which we say the fabric of the state naturally consists. And this is the class of citizens which is most secure in a state, for they do not, like the poor, covet their neighbors’ goods; nor do others covet theirs, as the poor covet the goods of the rich; and as they neither plot against others, nor are themselves plotted against, they pass through life safely. Wisely then did Phocylides pray- ‘Many things are best in the mean; I desire to be of a middle condition in my city.’

Thus it is manifest that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is large, and stronger if possible than both the other classes, or at any rate than either singly; for the addition of the middle class turns the scale, and prevents either of the extremes from being dominant. Great then is the good fortune of a state in which the citizens have a moderate and sufficient property; for where some possess much, and the others nothing, there may arise an extreme democracy, or a pure oligarchy; or a tyranny may grow out of either extreme- either out of the most rampant democracy, or out of an oligarchy; but it is not so likely to arise out of the middle constitutions and those akin to them. I will explain the reason of this hereafter, when I speak of the revolutions of states. The mean condition of states is clearly best, for no other is free from faction; and where the middle class is large, there are least likely to be factions and dissensions. For a similar reason large states are less liable to faction than small ones, because in them the middle class is large; whereas in small states it is easy to divide all the citizens into two classes who are either rich or poor, and to leave nothing in the middle. And democracies are safer and more permanent than oligarchies, because they have a middle class which is more numerous and has a greater share in the government; for when there is no middle class, and the poor greatly exceed in number, troubles arise, and the state soon comes to an end. A proof of the superiority of the middle dass is that the best legislators have been of a middle condition; for example, Solon, as his own verses testify; and Lycurgus, for he was not a king; and Charondas, and almost all legislators.

2 Comments

We’re on Facebook

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We are actually on Facebook – one of my students took the ball and decided to run with it.

https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/200544753380775/

If that doesn’t work, look for Pammachon Πάμμαχον and it should direct you there.

4 Comments

Videos on Pammachon are coming….

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Hey guys and gals,

I think I’ve received my 100th message requesting youtube videos on Pammachon instruction.

Please understand something: I don’t like being a public figure. In fact, I hate it. You either have to charge a lot of money to make dealing with everyone’s whims worthwhile, and therefore become a “rockstar”, or, as I have done for the past decade, you simply don’t deal with it. I don’t want to charge people a lot of money for something that should be an integral part of their lives anyway, and I don’t want to have to suffer fools for no reason. So I simply don’t deal with it.

Most people want to be important, and that is their driving factor. In the martial arts world today, that covers 99% of all teachers and practitioners. Life has become so bland and grey and controlled that people seek to compensate for the experience of living by practicing extreme sports. Maybe it’s a generational thing, I don’t know – most of the martial artists I knew back in the day were interested in discovering universal truths via their practice. Today, most practitioners are more interested in seeing their face on youtube and facebook than seeking the discovery or admittance of any type of universal truth. Which is why, quality-wise, we are spiraling down in all things, and why Hollywood is vested in endless remakes for lack of real inspiration.

Still, though. Still. I reckon out of the 100 people who took the time to write me, there are ten I might want to have a conversation with and five I could actually teach. So, I will be in the process of developing some Pammachon videos over the next month or so. I’ll play it by ear and see how it goes.

One more thing – there are suddenly a lot of people on the electronic ether practicing Pammachon. If someone is claiming to be a Pammachon teacher or, worse, my student, send me a mail at timasitheos@hotmail.com to ask about him. I know of no Pammachon teacher at this moment who is actively teaching (living is far more important), so chances are, whoever is claiming to teach Pammachon, is lying. We are a very small clan, and I am debating whether it is worth it to make it larger or not. Whatever anyone else may be claiming, no one other than those certified by myself is authorized to teach Pammachon.

Kostas

16 Comments

The Hermit’s Bane

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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.

 

2 Comments

Carjacking the wrong dude

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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

Original:

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

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