Monday, September 26, 2016

On Alliance, Part 1

We in HEMA are all too aware of the vast uncatalogued collection of historic arms and accouterments, along with the supporting documentation and instruction in its use, that exist in libraries, book stores, museums and personal collections that is known to exist around the world. The frustration we feel at our inability to translate so much of that into tangible items we can use is almost constant. Those few items, swords mostly, that have been faithfully reproduced from historic specimens are, to be blunt, priced as the rare objects they are. The object of this series of posts is to suggest a means whereby we may alleviate that frustration, and quite possibly make a buck or two in the process, while at the same time safeguard our ability to continue doing so.

Come now Mr Marty Daniel and his company Daniel Defense, makers of components, and in recent years complete firearms, for the modular AR rifle platform. Some years ago now, Mr. Daniel began posting construction designs and engineering plans for 3-D construction of the components of an AR-platform rifle for sale to individual customers from his company's website. A recent court ruling has forced Mr. Daniel, along with others in the firearms and 3D, or additive, manufacturing industry to shutter his company's webpage link to online sales of "instructions and manuals".

I submit that this confluence of mutual interests presents all parties with a classical strategy Opportunity of such proportions as would make Sun Tzu himself drool, at least a little.

Daniel Defense is an established manufacturing business with a proven model for online sales of digital designs and engineering plans. HEMA Alliance, through its members, possesses a trove of historic designs for both (A) weapons that do not violate current legal interpretation regarding international distribution or personal ownership (yet) and (B) the safety equipment desirable for training and usage of those historic weapons in a regulated and competitive environment.

Were the HEMA Alliance Governing Council to contact Mr. Daniel and arrange a partnership between the HEMA membership and his company, he would benefit by rather quickly (12 to 18 months?) developing an effective counter-argument for his attorneys to beat the US State department over the head with in court ("Your Honor, here is 1001 weapons and armor designs and plans that don't violate existing law and treaty due solely to the age of the design. How can free discussion of improved versions of these historic designs not be regarded as being exactly the same under the law?"), while we in HEMA obtain access to modern digital design and engineering plans (which we can license at a discounted rate for commercial purposes, but have free access to for our individual personal use) of all of the historic items which we can identify and help translate.

The Devil is said to be in the details, and I will point out at least a few of those in Part 2. On a more philosophical level of discussion, I submit that if the US State department can decide on its own that enforcement of a UN Arms Treaty extends to individual purchase of weapon component designs and plans (speech), is it that much of a stretch of the imagination to suppose the same people might decide the same prohibition can be extended to less modern examples of weapons and their design and sale? If we cannot discuss historic weapon design, nor sell historic weapon replicas for training and competition purposes - without previously purchasing the requisite national and international licensing approvals to be international arms dealers - I think we would find ourselves confronted with the end of HEMA (and SCA, LARP, War of the Nations, etc) as a functional organisation on anything beyond the immediately local level of activity. Certainly all HEMA Facebook and other web pages would have to be shut down immediately, judging by the extant example cited above (cross-national border communication of weapons technology being the pertinent action the court has ruled against and the treaty forbids).

Maybe the Powers That Be won't notice us. Maybe they'll continue to look on us with amused condescension. Or, maybe, some "political activist" of the more direct action persuasion will pull off a more extravagant act of violence with a bladed weapon than has occurred so far in a street or mall somewhere.

Then, I suspect the regulatory hand may come down on us very hard. Or perhaps not.

Whatever any of our personal opinions regarding modern weapons (and firearms specifically) and protective armor might be, we need to do what we can to protect our ability to pursue our martial art and history research in as unimpeded a fashion as we can arrange. Arranging an alliance with an independent business entity that mutually benefits all parties seems a reasonable topic for us to begin to consider and investigate.

We also need to begin developing our ability to equip ourselves in a more dispersed and individual fashion.

More on that in Part 2.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Questions

Oh my soul is troubled, Oh my will is worn,

Tired and discouraged, trampled on and torn,

Every breath a battle, every step a war,

My heart a broken vessel, this night an angry storm.

When sadness crashes like an ocean, 

When fear is deeper than the sea, 

When I am swallowed by the darkness, 

Will you come and anchor me?

I cannot see through this, can you be my eyes?

I'm completely hopeless, can you shine a light?

I have no more strength left, can you stand and fight?

I'm dying in this doubt, can you be my faith tonight?

When sadness crashes like an ocean,

When fear is deeper than the sea,

When I am swallowed by the darkness,

Will you come and anchor me?

The Tenors

There is one who knows the answers.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

On Pain

I'm not certain now when I first heard the phrase, "Are you hurt, or are you injured?" Probably in some otherwise mostly forgettable football movie since this caliber of dialogue is pretty non-standard IRL. Or, maybe, this sort of question is more a reflection on just how non-standard my life has mostly been. Something to that last bit, regardless.

In any case, a practicing student of martial arts should be familiar with the distinction between the two conditions. And if this doesn't describe you yet, keep showing up.

Pain is how our bodies tell us we're doing something in a less-than-optimal way. In martial arts, feeling pain makes it frequently necessary for us to make a quick self-diagnosis between hurt and injury. The primary distinction I make between the two conditions is, does this pain require invasive (surgical) or restrictive (plaster of paris cast or neck brace for example) intervention by a medical professional for me to continue? If so, I'm injured.

Much of the time though, I'm "only" hurt. Hurt is a condition that a brief-ish period of recovery will alleviate sufficiently for me to continue with the practice/bout/game/etc. Allow me to illustrate by recounting a recent incident from HEMA practice.

We were practicing the basics of falls and rolls. Following a simple leg sweep (or trip), we were to fall into a rolling break-fall. I managed to land on the top of my shoulder in a very unglamorous pile of OUCH! instead. Due to my several-years-long relationship with my physical therapist (and there's a non-standard friendship for you), I am aware of the structure of the shoulder - I am, in fact, in the process of relieving an impingement (her word) of the ACL in the same shoulder (of course) - and discovered I still had basic joint integrity while I was un-piling onto my back by the simple expedient of using the same arm to move with. She, at least, will not be shocked by my choice of diagnostic technique.

The point being that it was immediately apparent to me that I was "only hurt" and not injured.

In our study of the historical treatises, it is just basic good sense to also make a study of the current best understanding of our own human anatomy (and never mind what the cutting edge thinking on matters medical was "back in the day"). Knowing how a wrist joint is structured, or the bones in the hand, would probably apply fairly directly to at least half of all HEMA-related injuries - and is pretty critical knowledge to making a self-diagnosis that won't get you sued for malpractice later.

By its very nature, HEMA involves experiencing pain - the hopefully modest pain of physical exertion, if nothing else. Having a conscious mechanism whereby we can categorize the nature and degree of the pain we will undergo seems a useful capability for us to develop.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Belief vs Knowledge

People mostly believe they understand what they know.

Take "Free Trade", for example. It's held as common knowledge that import levees, export duties, taxes and the like are contributing factors to measuring the degree of free trade between countries.

"Free Trade" is a myth.

Or more precisely, "Free Trade" is an arbitrary, hypothetical metric that establishes an unattainable standard of uninhibited trade between distinct market entities. Arbitrary, because there has never been a documented example to reference against. Hypothetical, because no one can describe how to realistically achieve such a transaction. Unattainable, because no transaction can be cost free.

"Free Trade" is a fictional economic standard to be forever striven for. As such, it serves as a mechanism whereby all trade can be comparatively analyzed to measure the relative costs of separate and otherwise incompatible transactions. From this, the actual transaction costs can be distinguished from the rest of the component costs that contribute to "value" (itself a largely individual standard irrespective of the item(s) being measured).

Free trade is also frequently a political illusion, served up to distract the voters from the blatant manipulations imposed on trade transactions by, or in response to, government.

Of course, if government went away with the morning sunrise, free trade would still be unattainable since all parties to a transaction would still have to exert some measure of expense in order to effect a transaction at all. Government makes sure the traders aren't the only one's to get something from the deal. Theoretically, in exchange for that added cost, government provides an independent recourse for dis-satisfied traders to seek recompense less directly than might otherwise be the case.

Because free trade is something people believe in, they think it must also be "real" in the same sense items being offered for trade are. Just because we know trade exists, doesn't mean we understand it.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

How Did That George Carlin Line Go?

"I stand here before you, completely behind you, ..."?

Sorry Gary Johnson, I had to stand with my DV Brethren and Sisteren on this one.

Catch you in November.

NBC Poll results

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Strategy Of Ideology

From my Facebook timeline.

In classical strategy, Advantage is pursued by everyone to advance one's Position (remember, Position is measured as a constantly varying relative value against other's, as well as your own, existing condition). A common technique used to achieve such advancement is Misdirection - saying or doing something in an apparent effort that disguises your own benefit from other's view (and the reason there really are essentially no "unintended consequences"). If you want to avoid imposing possibly misleading or simply incorrect value judgements on the actions of others - and your reactions to them, I recommend applying the above metrics to all aspects of your life.
Political ideology is rife with misdirection, both to gain and retain adherents as well as defeat the efforts of competitors in their positional maneuvering. The temptation to address ideological arguments in ideological terms is a two-fold mistake, you limit the structure of your own arguments to meet the assumptions of your opponents ideology.
The linked blog post below is an excellent example of a fact-loaded ideological argument that ultimately fails of its full potential due to the acceptance of the ideological terminology it confines itself to. That it succeeds to the extent it does (and I find the underlying observation inescapable personally) is testament to the authors writing skills:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

More Of That Away Game Activity

From my facebook timeline:

Fellow HEMA member Michael Sims posted a link to something by one Arnold Ragas from (the US state of) Georgia according to his post. I made the following comment there and think it worth claiming publicly with the minor caveat that I intend the following in the most positive way I am capable of (however poorly I may have conveyed that in the original):

"Can't say about skin, but we all wear our own stereotypes and see them a lot too. The biggest difference I have with BLM (or AARP or the NRA for that matter) is I don't go around crying about how my life isn't immune to all of that ... and you shouldn't either. Anyone who doesn't know you personally is going to be at least a little bit suspicious of you (and even if they do know you if their like my friends). We pay cops to be suspicious. You may suffer from your own stereotypical burden, but you ain't special that way so get over yourself and get on with making your life as successful as you want it to be."

This is the Arnold Ragas statement I was responding to:

"Sometimes my black life matters.
It mattered the day I was walking to my car at Lenox when I was ordered inside a police car until I sufficiently explained my purpose for being in the deck. My keys in hand provided no clue. It mattered the very next time I was in the deck and again ordered inside a police car until I again sufficiently explained my purpose.
My black life mattered the day I was helping someone move her furniture from her apartment to a moving van when several police officers pointed their guns at me until I sufficiently explained my purpose. Carrying a microwave to a moving van provided no clue.
My black life mattered the day I was looking through storefront windows and police detained me and questioned me until I sufficiently explained my purpose. It mattered further when I reached into my pocket for my wallet and they pulled their guns on me. My black life almost became matter on the pavement.
My black life mattered the day I was ordered inside a room at the DeKalb county courthouse and forced to explain my purpose. Being a lawyer wearing a suit in a courthouse provided no clue.
My black life mattered the night I was jogging in my Johns Creek subdivision when a police officer drove 5 mph and followed me for nearly a half mile until I finally and exasperatedly turned around and yelled, “What?!?!” My Nike shorts, shirt and running shoes provided no clue of my lawful presence. After all, I was running.
I never really thought of myself as a thug. I’m clean cut. Clean-shaven. No dreads. No golds. No tats. No sagging pants. Hell, I even own a pair of khakis.
But what do I know. Maybe I AM a thug. I graduated college but it took me 5 years. I graduated law school but I wasn’t top ten. I served 3 terms in the state House of Representatives but I never got more than 60% of the vote. I served 9 years as a judge but does Probate court really count? I’ve appeared on news shows as an expert on political and legal matters but my tie didn’t always quite match.
Or just maybe my skin is the sin and no accomplishment vaccine can inoculate me.
Sometimes I wish I could try on white skin. Not to keep; just to test drive for a few days. But moreso, I wish my white friends who condemn the black lives matter mantra could wear my skin. They’d probably cut the test drive short. They’d know what it feels like to be routinely viewed as a suspect instead of a person. They’d learn that black lives do indeed matter.
But oftentimes, for all the wrong reasons."

I'm a high school dropout. I joined the US Navy during the tag end of the Vietnam War because I didn't want to miss my generation's war. I labor under none of the lack of recognition for the really commendable accomplishments Mr Ragas struggles with, but nobody in or out of my life really gives two shits about any of my "accomplishments" either ... nor should they. We are all to some degree the sum of our accomplishments, but we are even more the product of all the really crappy choices we didn't make instead. The only people who are likely to know very much of any of that are we ourselves. Thankfully (I don't know about you, but some of that shit I didn't actually do but semi-seriously considered is really embarrassing, you know?).

Life's a lot of hard work, and we all ought to know by now what the real reward for doing hard work is: more work. Now that you've had a good snivel, Mr Ragas (and everyone else who feels the same way feel free to jump right in here), shake it off and get ready to go back to work. There's always going to be a lot more need's doing than there are those of us to do it. From the sound of things in your life, you could really help us out getting some of it done, too.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Let's All Vote At Them

Something that occurred to me while on another forum, what if the EU doesn't accept a Brexit "Leave" vote majority? It's not like we have to look very hard to find other examples of the EU rejecting a plebiscite they don't like - Ireland's numerous votes rejecting the Lisbon Treaty come easily to mind. I do have to say that I'm finding it difficult to visualize a British government capable of taking the Iceland approach to recalcitrant officialdom, so just how is the UK going to counter an EU siege of their island Castle? It's not like the EU hasn't already undermined the moat or anything like that; can you see the for-so-long-stymied hordes being released by France charging out of the Channel Tunnels on the British end of things? The acts of piracy on the contested fishing grounds of the North Sea? All those banks on Jersey being "invaded" by hordes of heavily armed EU cops and regulators?

The possibilities are rife, as they say, so I just don't see the EU politely taking their aspirations for world dominance (and the loss of all that British cash) and quietly giving up just because their British lackeys couldn't get this one simple thing right the first time 'round.

I'm not sure there IS a large enough pop corn supply for this show.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

History Matters

I've been flouncing around this idea for some time now; time to say something it seems.

Through much of the 1920's Germany was a battleground between numerous militant ideological groups, some of them actually German. Prominent among these were the groups generally lumped under the rubric "communist", who for the most part actually were an invading ideology from the not-quite-yet-established USSR. Countering this ideological invasion was a collection of mostly domestic German political factions, many of which were themselves socialist in nature, and the actual German government. The accepted history is that Adolph Hitler found employment with the German military intelligence establishment infiltrating many of these groups. By means obscure today, Hitler rose to legitimate political prominence by achieving control of one of these socialist political groups and "successfully negotiated" a merger with at least two others, resulting in the much-decried National Socialist Democratic Workers Party. And that's how arguably the raging flaming asshole of human history defeated an ideological invader and became a national hero. Briefly.

In related action, the leaders of the nascent USSR infiltrated their ideological invasion agents into the United States during the same time period. That invasion proved marginally more successful than in Germany in that no centralized opposition arose in the USA, but there can be no question that it occurred, as confirmed by the many former Soviet official documents that have become public knowledge in recent decades. The limited success these invasion agents achieved is of less modern importance than is the fact they developed many times their numbers of fellow believers and even more of those who achieve personal success by advancing arguments and beliefs long since disproved. This is an example of a successful change of a national political context.

Nearly a century of history later, we find ourselves targeted for ideological invasion by a different group of ideological activists. You know ... Muslims.

Human historical experience regarding ideological disagreement resolution doesn't offer much opportunity for a different process taking place this time, but one can always hope. And it is a process. A pattern of reinforcing incitements will continue to take place, many of them seemingly "obviously" unconnected (by those who don't take inspiration from them). And now that ideological conflict resolution process is blatantly occurring within the United States.

This promises to be a long, drawn out series of events dominated by more own-goals and blue-on-blue casualties than victims of actual attack, and that's not counting the casualties experienced by the ideological non-combatants of our attackers. There is no "enemy headquarters" to attack, the primary combatants make every effort to subvert our social and political structures against us, and there is as yet no widely adopted ideology specifically countering their beliefs for us to rally 'round.

Everything takes place in a context of events and beliefs. Hitler's "heroics" against communist invasion and domestic political success don't make him a good, or even arguably sane, man. People in similar-seeming circumstances to those from the "Good Hitler" days makes identifying with his actions and statements from then more understandable, but the cure for that is to improve the similar-seeming circumstances. New context leads to different beliefs resulting in different actions chosen. The trick for us today is to discover the means to arrange a new context for Muslims that makes their own "Good Hitler" ideological activists unacceptable to them. Good trick that, I agree, but it's what I've got so far.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

HEMA Thoughts

There have been several instances of HEMA members remarking on the politics and beliefs of others in recent months on HEMA forums and member's personal sites. In each instance, moderators of the various HEMA Facebook pages eventually resolved the discussions but were required to do so by repeated persuasions and/or ex officio diktats.

I believe there might be a better way to confront this circumstance in future.

A Proposed HEMA Standard:

Whenever any HEMA member believes the behavior or stated beliefs of someone involved with HEMA might be problematic, they should first seek to answer two questions on there own initiative before airing their concerns on any HEMA-associated forum.

First, "Is the person or group imposing their behavior or beliefs onto unwilling others?"

Second, "Are they infringing on other's study or practice of HEMA as a result of their beliefs or behavior?"

Unless, and to the degree, either answer is "Yes", then a problem with a measurable degree of objection and correction has been identified, and HEMA moderators should immediately be requested to resolve the potential for conflict.

To the extent the answers are "No", then a distinction of personal taste and social circumstance has arisen, and an assumption of HEMA neutrality is the appropriate response.

HEMA Alliance is an international organization, dedicated to the scholarly study and re-creation of historic European martial arts forms and practices. It is only to be expected that individuals or local groups from our many different country's of origin will find it necessary to motivate and structure their pursuit of our shared field of study by means different, or even unacceptable, to members from other locales. It should be remembered that beliefs and practices are frequently largely malleable responses to temporary circumstances, and that so long as the specific combination of these do not inhibit the free pursuit of HEMA study's and practice, they should be regarded as unrelated to HEMA.