The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, December 01, 2008

Lost my voice at LosCon

"No room for langhkas in that situation, but I'm guessing the principles in the jurus would have hepled you defend yourself just fine if necessary?"

This reader is referring to the reference motions in Silat, langhkas guiding lower body movements, jurus (primarily) guiding the upper body. He is asking what I would use to defend myself, if the passenger next to me went berserk.

Well...Since I could see both of his hands, and they were empty, he couldn't use a weapon without forewarning. And metal detectors limit what he might have to use. So it would be a matter, in all probability, of him slapping or punching me. Without his lower body, he is confined to upper-body generation of power, without much torque. That means that he might sting me, but hardly do any real damage. So keeping center line, a martial principle found in Silat, Wing Chun, fencing, kempo...heck, it's everywhere...was my best bet, as well as maintaining a neutral "ready" position: in this case, resting my chin on my left hand, to partially neutralize his advantage in initiation speed. Then, it was just a matter of softening my breathing to maintain wide focus in my peripheral vision, and keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing.


I think that I'm researching something called a "quantum vacuum collapse" as my method of destroying the world. Anyone with valuable links, please feel free to offer them.


Happy Thanksgiving! Today is a fasting day, but I'm having tons of family over. So...I'll fast until I feast.


I've been VERY pleased, by the way, at general behavior from Americans when I travel. I swear to God that since the election, I've seen a level of politeness and courtesy that wasn't quite there before. I've had other black folks tell me they've noticed the same thing. Whatever it is, that is the way for a country to deal with stress: pull together, make nice, smile, center, offer courtesy. We're all in this together.


The next time you are upset, notice where you are breathing. Chances are you are breathing high in your chest. Lower it to the pit of your stomach, and you'll feel calmer. Practice breathing smoothly while you are under exercise stress, and you'll have a valuable technique for controlling emotions. THIS is one of the beautiful secrets: link the breathing to both emotion, meditation, and exercise, and everything you do to steady your breathing makes your whole life better.


Read an article over the weekend with John Travolta's career regrets. They include giving two roles to Richard Gere: "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Chicago." He said he passed on the Billy Flynn role in Chicago because he wasn't impressed by the play. In his mind, it was about women who hated men, and men who hated women. Travolta felt that the director had given the movie more of a heart...not having seen the play, I cannot say.

But I've always felt that men and women with a wretched relationship history are merely externalizing something damaged within themselves. There are plenty of great men and women out there. The fact that statistics show a shortage of one or the other in some specific age range, income range, or context has a lot to do with groups, but nothing at all with individuals. The question to ask isn't "why 20% of X are unmarried" but rather "why am I in that 20%?" Personal responsibility kicks in the exact same way it would if the issue was getting a job, or protecting your health. SOME percentage of any group is always in trouble. The truth is that you don't have to be the best in your field to be employed. Just be in the top 20%. The top 20% in any field is always employed. The top 20% of your age bracket in fitness is in decent shape. The healthiest, happiest and most loving 20% of your gender have terrific relationships.

What does it take to get into the top 20%? Daily work and care (or good luck and good early education). Every day, think of your long and short term goals. Be certain that they are in alignment with each other, and with your deepest values and beliefs. Can you accomplish them in a loving way? Can you see how bringing them into reality will increase the net amount of light, warmth, and love in the world? What can you do today to bring those goals one step closer to existence?

Every day, learn one new thing to improve your career skills, your health, your relationship with self and others. One new thing.

Or conversely, every day peel away one lie. More on that tomorrow.


Sorry I had to leave LosCon early. T had a bad cough for the last week, and I had wretched sleep Thursday night. Germs in my system when I get short sleep is a perfect recipe for disaster. By Saturday afternoon, I could barely speak, and decided the better part of valor was heading home. I'm much better this morning.


Josh Jasper said...

Sorry to hear you're feeling ill. By all accounts, John Scalzi had a great time there. Wish I could have made it myself.

I hope you feel better soon.

Bennett said...

This is a wonderful resource on various mathods of completely destroying the earth. Not just all the life on it, mind you. That's chlid's play. Complete annihilation of the whole kit and kaboodle. Could be a whole mess of things in there that might help you out.

Pagan Topologist said...

The increasing level of politeness you mention is very reassuring. I hope it is not just a transient effect.

Anonymous said...

"Well...Since I could see both of his hands, and they were empty, he couldn't use a weapon without forewarning. And metal detectors limit what he might have to use".

Edged plastic items.
Rings ... adapted or otherwise.
Ad "creative-um".

Sensi Mitsugi Saotome and the Art named after him old son. Basically, anything goes and whatever's available or what can be improvised.

You're getting closer and closer to getting us in a dojo and sparing. Be kind, I'm old.

Marty S said...

Hope your felling better. I really liked Officer and a Gentleman and am glad Richard Gere played the role.

Rory said...

Do you practice the short range wrist-break strikes? Small bone breaking/concussive power at contact range without using lower body. I thought we played with those once.

Master Plan said...

Upright grappling\trapping. For the airplane scenario. I think it would be best to assume that you'd be attacked by an EDP and that they'd be real real nasty. Digging your eyes out, fishhooking, ripping your ears off, etc, etc.

Given the limited space and positioning options I think you'd be best served to trap them\pin them against their seat.

You could almost get their back and at least control their elbows such that their weapons would mostly be turned away from you.

Or, the reverse, trap them against the seat in front of them.

If you are window\center and they are aisle this is trickier, but still doable.

The principles of the djurus would suggest things like:

Turn the head and the body follows.

If they are reaching for you (as opposed to moving their body towards you and keeping their arms close) then you can do the same thing with an arm lock.

You know, ideally, for purposes of a fiction novel.

What would be off the table?

Changing levels doesn't seem too too likely.

Counter dirty-tricks would seem like offense vs. offense and if they are an EDP or MICA or what is it Rory says: Excited Delirium? then I think they are unlikely to respond as they "should" to such pain\damage.

This might also be a case for improvised..not weapons exactly, but if you had one of those cheap little airplane blankets at hand that might help in the restraint department.

You might go for some side of the neck KO shooto type stuff if you got the opening, I've seen similar types of attacks to the same area in the silat.

Anyway. Mostly I think trapping the person against the seats and getting them off-line as you mention, seem best.

I don't know if I would call those "djuru" principles specifically tho, more like general martial\combat principles.

Steve Perry said...

There are long-running discussions on the net regarding what legally can be taken onto a commercial plane that can be made into a weapon, and the list is limited only by one's imagination.

Know what you get if you break a CD in half? Two knives.

Some yahoo a few years back was making such a point to a flight attendant on a jet from L.A. to Portland. He took a Coke can, flattened it, folded it in the middle and worked it back and forth until it broke apart, and held the halves up. See? I could slash your throat open with this!

FBI was waiting for him when the flight landed.

The silat djurus, for those of you who don't know the art, are the upper body tools. The lower body moves are called langkha. In class, the two are combined for practice, but most of the djurus can be done sitting in a chair. Barnes had all kinds of tools available to him -- and that's just the silat stuff -- he's been studying other arts for years.

Whatever limitations he had sitting in the seat, the other guy had sitting in his seat, too ...