Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Hobby; My Rights

Anyone in the least familiar with the discussion surrounding the general topic of "Human Rights" (see also: Civil Rights) will likely be aware of the distinct viewpoints regarding whether, or possibly to what degree, rights are an individual or collective phenomenon. My own belief is that this dispute arises mostly as a result of a general lack of mutual understanding about the nature of rights.

Human rights are an inherent component of the individual human condition. At their most basic conceptual level, human rights devolve from the principle of "right to property", or the idea that we each of us inherently possess the right to ownership of our individual selves; all rights are extensions of this fundamental principle. Thus, rights are both individual and universal among human beings. The generally misunderstood part of all this is that rights are also limited in the means and degree to which we may each express or exercise them in our collective existence within human society, if only as a necessary precondition to there being such a thing as "human society" at all.

I am a recent life member of Historical European Martial Arts Alliance, and, here in Tyler, of East Texas Historical Fencing. As a HEMA member, I am a practicing martial artist (with a, to this point, somewhat theoretical scholastic bent), and like all such I own weapons (though it must be acknowledged that, as an American living in Texas, it is only to be expected that a goodly number of those weapons are only notionally "historical") (cough/NRA member/cough). To own such is a direct extension of my inherent human rights, but the active exercise of my right to such ownership is constrained and infringed upon by the self-same inherent rights of all other members of human society with whom I inevitably interact. To quite cheekily paraphrase: wherever two or more of ye shall gather together, there too is society.

Having determined that rights themselves are an entirely individual experience, it remains universally true that ownership is distinct from use. A martial artist cannot use the weapons being studied without regard for others, and neither can ordinary human beings use (exercise) their rights without regard for other human's exercise of their rights. Much like the United States is made up of 50+ different ways to collectively exercise individual rights, the Earth is comprised of (what is it now, 168?) many different ways for societies to organize the collective expression of individual, universal human rights. HEMA Alliance being international in structure makes this realization an everyday experience for we individual members in our efforts to interact with and learn from each other.

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution stipulates in part: "... shall not be infringed." This is a specific limitation on the federal (national) level of government within the cooperative construct between now-50 individual States, and demarcates the legislative boundary of the several states internally, but has no direct application to individual citizens therein. One of the foundational assumptions to creation of the USA was that governance of human society ought to be the minimum necessary collective balancing of exercise of each individual human's rights within the boundaries of a stipulated society. Providing express limits on how and why government may limit the exercise of human rights has the intended benefit of maximizing individual opportunities to use the rights we all own.

HEMA designates procedures whereby stipulated persons may regulate and, when necessary, infringe upon individual members exercise of their human rights within the collective HEMA society. Would the "real world" had it so easy. Instead, we tiredly trudge our collective way through often-obstinate individual efforts to achieve short-term, personal goals using methods having long-term, wide-spread consequences, but which are in themselves arguably legal. In HEMA (as in many other physical activities), we wear protective equipment to prevent individual injury from our or another's exercise of weapons. In life, we find ourselves having to resort to the law should there be injury resulting from the exercise of our rights. If I only get to have one or the other, I'll take the second option every time. Fortunately, door #2 includes the possibility for HEMA membership, so it has that to recommend it.

How well or honestly any given example of human society achieves the laudable goal of equable exercise of human rights is beyond the confines of this essay, but if I have managed to add some clarity or understanding to the practice of my hobby or my philosophy then I will not have wasted either of our time.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Kodak Moment

I'm in Oregon for my son's wedding, which is tomorrow, and I volunteer to drive us over to McMinnville (about 25 miles away from Dallas) so he and my 11 y/o grandson Asher can get haircuts.  In an effort to lessen the stress levels for his almost-wife (and decade + partner) Amy, we bring my 9 y/o granddaughter Rayna along with us.  So, we're driving along, the local oldies station on the radio, and this classic from the 60's comes up in the play rotation.  Duncan and I start spontaneously singing along to the lyrics; it was one of the more emotion laden moments of my life.

I could feel the eyes rolling in the back seat the whole time.

It was great.

I've also discovered that I've been living alone for way too long.  I need to do some research and find something to help me restore my patience (which was always in short supply) and develop a better ability to focus my attention in the moment (without the usual elevated intensity of martial arts/shooting practice).  I train to keep my mental focus during crisis events; there ought to be something similar for relaxed conversational settings and the like.  There's the occasional time when it's desirable to be a competent asshole, sitting around with your family ought not be one of those times though.

Monday, May 2, 2016

So, I finally found something to say ...

... that I want to say forever.

We all have our personal kinks and quirks.  One of mine has been a 40+ year belief I expressed as, "Why would I want to help the cops identify the body afterwards by having a tattoo?"  Like I said in the title, now I finally have something I want to say just that permanently.

Like many people, I find practicing martial arts a useful means to achieving emotional self control.  It's the same mental process you go through developing physical self control, I believe.  The emotional stimuli that triggers the electro-chemical neurological process that results in a physical response in martial arts or a violent emotional response pretty much anywhere, is the same mechanism whether it occurs on a training floor, or a barroom or bedroom floor.  The difference is that regular martial arts training teaches an inherent level of control as part of the response mechanism.  In much the same way that we rarely read of a citizen with a concealed firearm permit using a gun in a deliberately criminal fashion, we rarely read of practicing martial artists being involved in physically or emotionally abusive personal relationships.  Maintaining a regular practice regimen imbues the individual with an emotional control mechanism as an intrinsic part of the training process.  I've long believed the training and interactive practice with others is massively helpful in dealing with other emotional issues like fear or anxiety (which are not necessarily extensions of one another).

What does all this have to do with tattoos?  I'm glad you asked.  :)

In a word: HEMA (which is actually an acronym technically).

Historical European Martial Arts isn't only about swords, although I do enjoy that part very much. It is very much about all of the history that includes all of the martial arts and practices that play an often under-recognized part in European (and the many places that derived from European) history more generally. Figuring out how what it says on the paper (or weaving, or parchment, or ...) actually achieves what we think it says it's supposed to achieve is a big part of the challenge. Often categorized as "western martial arts" to distinguish it from the multitude of martial disciplines originating from eastern and central Asia, as a functional matter HEMA includes pretty much any martial discipline or practice that has a surviving historical record of instruction and some interactive contact with a European nation or empire (which includes Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Scandinavia in its several political contortions, and probably several more I can't think of off the top of my head).  In my personal context, HEMA is a martial arts study that is in large part an intellectual process, something my 62 y/o arthritic knees appreciate quite emphatically about 30 minutes into the day's lesson.

24 hours after having the work done:

A few quick observations:

Being as it is a life membership, and I am a contributor to the SENS Foundation and supporter of the Healthy Life Extension philosophy more generally, stipulating even a hypothetical completion date will hopefully prove to be pointless.

Also, actually tattooing a registration number on one's forearm would be just that insensitive, don't you agree (that is, once the HEMA Governing Council comes up with an actual membership card that might, or might not, have a member registration number on it)?

On an artistic note, I was deliberately careful to make my design different from the actual HEMA Alliance trademarked design, although I was equally careful to include as many of the motifs of that design as the talents of the tattooist and the state of the tattooing art permitted (apparently the white color ink doesn't hold up nearly as well, or as long, as do the other colors and turns a funny beige color with exposure to sunlight).  Thus, a keen-eyed observer will notice that the Latin motto in the ribbon banner has been left off, and the font spelling out HEMA ALLIANCE is slightly different from that on the official image (I had a shadow line added as the easiest means to achieving this end). Hopefully all will agree that these modifications raise my tattoo from the category of "trademark infringement", to that of "unique art work, inspired by ...".

The lovely and talented Katrin Berndt, and if you don't follow her on YouTube and the rest of social media it's your loss, had a recent incident involving someone else "stealing" her original tattoo design of a seriously painful chest piece (scare quotes because her original is still safely in place, but there is a counterfeit copy being worn on someone else's chest; her video on the matter is here).  She also posted a video "Getting Your First Tattoo" here you might find as helpful as I did.  Unlike herself, I regard my tattoo design as being inspired by another design from the outset, so anyone else (who actually qualifies, you understand :)) certainly has my permission to mutilate themselves share my display of enthusiasm for HEMA on there own person, sanity and other considerations allowing.

Sensitively, of course.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Evitability Of Donald Trump

So, most of my FB feed is testing there hand (and credibility) at calling the election based on reported results and variably shaky math; here's my offering (and there will be no math here, I promise) (I'd say "So vote for me", but I'm concerned some really low information voter actually might).

As of today, 16 March, 2016, according to Real Clear Politics Trump has a total of 629 delegates (including Carson's 8), Cruz has 396 (which I assume already includes Fiorina's 1), Rubio has 168, and Kasich has 138, which combines to more than half of the total number of delegates available.

IF Ted Cruz can convince Marco Rubio to pledge his delegates to him in exchange for Cruz nominating Rubio to fill the open Supreme Court position, AND convince Kasich to pledge his delegates to Cruz in exchange for the position of VP, THEN Ted Cruz has 702 delegates to Trump's 629 and a very interesting bargaining position.

In exchange for Trump throwing his support (and his delegates) behind a Cruz/Kasich ticket on the first convention ballot, Cruz offers The Donald the position of Councilor-to-the-President and Ambassador Plenipotentiary (either of which is a good, solid, insider-power-broker position).  As CttP, Trump is an active participant in Cabinet meetings at the Presidents discretion and serves as Cruz's direct representative overseeing such national interest efforts as hardening the national electrical grid infrastructure or maintaining the nations interstate highway system and bridges for example (all matters of legitimate federal concern and projects that Trump has no little degree of practical experience with).  As Ambassador Plenipotentiary, Trump serves as the President's personal envoy to foreign governments and individuals.  I rather imagine the "smoke filled room" conversation between Cruz and Trump might go something like this:

Look Donald, I need you to kick ass and take names on these national infrastructure projects so I can dump specific instructions on the cabinet officers responsible for actually running the works projects.  At the same time, I'm occasionally going to want to send you to some foreign capitol to give them a healthy dose of the heebie jeebies.  That way, when I come along a bit later and tell them, "look, fellas, it doesn't have to be that way, you know" they'll be a lot more likely to see the advantages of whatever I throw down on the table at them, cause let's face it, you've got the "scary mofo" ju-ju hands down.  Take the wife along; there'll be plenty of opportunities to keep her sweet with some power shopping afterwards.  You occasionally go throw a scare into the chinks, russkis and whoever else jumps ugly, so I can come along after and get us what we really want.  That is the art of the deal, right?

Using today's numbers, that gives Cruz 1,331 delegates, which is more than enough to secure the nomination on the first ballot with no convention jiggery pokery from the GOP good ol' boys needed.

This also sets up a general election campaign that looks something like this:

1. Carly Fiorina earns her cabinet appointment by cutting the feminist legs out from under the Hillary campaign and savages Democratic party campaign positions and statements savagely.

2. Marco Rubio keeps the GOPe in line and supportive-ish (and he and Cruz as sitting Senators do whatever deals need be done to keep that Supreme Court appointment "open") and savages Democratic party campaign positions and statements savagely.

3. John Kasich gets a new wardrobe for the traditional VP international funeral gig, as well as bones up on space policy in a "private space access" economy, and savages Democratic party campaign positions and statements savagely.

4. Donald Trump spouts the Cruz/Kasich campaign positions ruthlessly, tosses the occasional (and thoroughly vetted-in-secret-in-advance) foreign policy knee-wobbler to the media, and savages Democratic party positions and statements savagely.

5. Ted Cruz campaigns in a statesman-like, generous and positive manner, always taking the high road on any policy dispute with the other party's positions and campaign statements, interspersed with content-free but encouraging statements regarding foreign policy.

See?  No math (shut up back there, addition is not "math"), no charts, no graphs; just a simple narrative explanation that has as good a chance of meeting reality as most members of Congress ever seem to, so it has that going for it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Will There Be Room Service In Our High Speed Handbasket?

Via the much-lamented Drudge Report comes this headline:

Trump breaks 50% in national support for the first time

Even though this is my self-declared Year Of The Old-School Diet (eat less/do more; it's only for a year, you old wuss), I do still eat, and rather better quality eats too.  Since there is less volume being purchased, I buy more tasty/expensive selections.  Thus my question regarding the growing inevitability of our apparent mutual electoral experience-in-the-making.

Get'chere context!  Get'chere context here.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

HEMA practice

Met with William Phillips this evening and we got in a couple hours of good practice on Fiore's hand-to-hand, dagger and sword techniques.  I was able to demonstrate my adaptation of the Absolute Force chest protector to good advantage, I think; Will seemed positively impressed.  The basic idea is to sew the AF chest protector inside of an airsoft chest-and-back protector (which is itself water proof) thereby making placement retention of the chest protector more secure during active practice while increasing the level of protection by some degree.  This airsoft device isn't adequate protection on its own from a thrust, but the combination is able to handle a quite firm thrust to the chest with little-to-no slippage of the blade point across the surface of the protector. I did have Will deliver a medium strong cut with his nylon feder V-3 to the back panel and the result makes me confident this will be useful in any kind of fall or roll.  By wearing this under a sparing jacket, this will hopefully reduce the sponge effect in the torso area as well.

The V-TAC airsoft chest protector is available from Amazon for $21.95, this spool of waxed thread is listed at $6.95, and the Absolute Force chest protector is available from Purpleheart Armory for $27.00 (plus shipping; no Prime membership there).

A few minutes with an electric drill put 2 pairs of 1/4 inch dia. holes (spaced about an inch apart) along the bottom of the AF chest protector, following which I sewed it to the inside of the airsoft protector.  Maybe 1/2 an hour all in?  Pretty simple really and I'm quite pleased on my brief experience with the combination so far.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

It's Only A Cat

15 years ago my daughter dropped off two kittens at my house; my "grandchildren" she called them laughingly.  On a stormy night while I was at work, the last of them died in her sleep last night.

I did the necessary on a rainy Tuesday midnight and now I sit here listening to Zara Larsson while pondering the severing of my final illusion of a connection with my oldest child and her actual children.

I will have no more.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Trumpenproletariat

Post-Super Tuesday: Trump 245, all-the-rest 241.

The great muss of the people have spoken.

Now we get to see what the GOP-member only end of the primary calendar has to say (see: Oklahoma for a clue).

Yes, I wrote this just mostly for the "bad hair" reference.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Click Here, A Click There ... It Adds Up

Went HEMA shopping today. Bought the 82nd Shorty face mask/helmet from Destroyer Modz, a cruciform feder from Castille Armory, a pair of Koning Gloves from St. Mark (which won't arrive 'till March maybe, depending on where I fall in the ordering que), and a nylon chest protector and HEMA gear bag ("fits a long sword" - worth a try) from Purple Heart Armoury. I've got a full set of general training pads, cup, etc from my Krav Maga training so I think I will hold off on buying a sparring jacket just yet. On that note, any informed opinions on the PBT sparring jackets? I suspect the included guards and pads (that have to be removed for cleaning - and then have to be put back into the now-smaller holes afterwards) (this is not my first rodeo) may be more trouble than they are worth.  It looks attractively priced compared to the basic Axel Petterrson SPES jacket, but ...

That was a quick thousand bucks; good thing it's only "fiat currency", what?

Thoughts, opinions, rude gestures?


Thursday, January 21, 2016

From My Martial Arts Bookshelf

I have, over the past several months, gradually become more interested in weaponed martial arts (other than firearms, of course :)); specifically Historical European Martial Arts, to the degree that this past weekend I purchased a life membership in HEMA Alliance to compliment my NRA membership.  It will be a few more weeks or months before I'm physically ready to take up active training with others.  In the meantime I am using the inexpensive Cold Steel nylon bastard sword, single-hand sword (that's their description - I don't believe the design can be traced to any specific period or style of sword other than possibly "viking" or "crusader", neither of which would be correct in this instance, just convenient examples of broad sword descriptive types), and dagger I purchased to begin practicing the basic stances, steps and grips for those type weapons.  I'm able to do these alone and in front of my apartment, further confusing the neighbors (it's no secret I'm a shooter; over Christmas I constructed a shipping tube out of PVC to send some fishing rods to my son in Oregon - several neighbors apparently thought I was building a potato cannon or rocket launcher).  I can't imagine what they are going to dream up as a result of my latest hobby.  Hopefully it won't require the participation of the local PD.  :)

I've never been a dedicated martial arts student, and I'm much too old to be a serious one these days, but I do have a rather extensive (and fairly eclectic by most standards, I expect) library of books and a few instructional videos on the general topic of human combat.  A fairly recent acquisition is Guy Windsor's VENI VADI VICI.  In the Introduction (page 17 of the paperback edition, for those following along at home), he describes several word translations that are pretty much essential for any student of historical European swordsmanship to know and understand.  One of these stood out for me in particular, Mezo Tempo.  The following may be pushing the bounds of "fair use", but the quote in full is:
This is literally "half time", but refers to the use of blows that stop in the middle of the target, instead of traveling through to the other side.  Tempo in this instance means "completed movement" or something similar.  So the "half time" is the use of "half blows".  
Anyone who has spent any time training in any discipline involving hand strikes (and even kicks) will recognize the technique being described.  One maneuvers an opponent with footwork, of course, but also by means of the type and force of blows delivered.  Boxers, for an easily accessible modern example, are trained to "punch through the head"; that is, to deliver a strike to the head or face that is from sufficiently close range to reach at least the middle of the opponents head at full extension.  By punching only to the surface of the head, you can conserve energy and deceive an opponent while you maneuver in a manner that makes your footwork more effective in setting up a structured attack.

What I take to be Vadi's meaning in Mezo Tempo is that this same category of tactics from the un-weaponed fighting arts also applies more-or-less directly to sword fighting/sparring too.  It has been my belief from the outset of my interest in swords, and western martial arts generally, that this would indeed prove to be the case. That strategy and tactics from one discipline would apply to swords and other historical weapons just as well (accounting for differences in distance and such, of course).

I will take this opportunity to throw this thought out for consideration and (probably separate would be better) discussion as well; History Begins Yesterday.  My cyclical involvement in Krav Maga is what made the observation above so obvious to me; it would be hard to argue that KM is not a direct modification of European historical martial arts forms, as are a number of modern martial arts (Imi Lichtenfeld's book is quite specific on Krav Maga's historical lineage).  Are there organized courses of study within HEMA that connect the modern expressions of western martial arts to the historical forms we practice?

I would value any thoughts of others, particularly critical ones, about my conclusions and observations.