Monday, June 29, 2009

Seeking Help from Fellow Martial Artists

Hey all!

I'm sure most of you know that I do some writing for the martial arts press. Well, I'm turning to all of you for help with an article I'm writing.

The article is about dangers of MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) for martial arts practitioners. I've got everything I need for the article except for one crucial part - personal testimonies and experiences of those who've contracted MRSA through the practice of martial arts.

If you, or anyone you know, has ever contracted MRSA through martial arts, boxing or grappling, and if you're willing to share your story in a magazine article, please contact me at


Surviving the Traditional Dojo: A Book Review

Terms like “traditionalist,” “classical,” “modern,” and “eclectic” get thrown around a lot in the martial arts. Sometimes, the martial arts world can seem like a war zone between two camps. One group seems frozen in time and place in Feudal Japan or Ch’ing Dynasty China. The other believes that anything created before Bruce Lee’s treatise “Liberate Yourself from Classical Karate” is completely useless for modern times.

For me, practicing and teaching martial arts is a balancing act. We shouldn’t live in the past. On the other hand, we shouldn’t forget the lessons that history has to share with us.

Some modern stylists often treat me like I’m some kind of frozen chosen traditionalist because I will incorporate classical training methods, forms and weapons into my practice. Though I don't often use the traditional terms to describe techniques, I am very familiar with the terminology in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino martial arts.

Meanwhile, some hardcore traditionalists (mistakenly) assume I have no respect for the old masters who’ve gone before me. After all, I use modern terminology, keep up on the latest health and fitness news, and I support cross-training for martial artists. Unless I’m competing in a tournament or visiting someone else’s dojo or kwoon, my uniform consists of sweats, wrestling shoes, a t-shirt and a bandana to keep the sweat out of my eyes.

The reality for myself and other martial artists usually falls somewhere between those extremes. Matt “Ikigai” Apsokardu’s new e-book, “Surviving the Traditional Dojo,” illustrates this point. One thing I’ve always respected about his blog, “Ikigai” shows that there’s more similarity than difference between the various camps. Though he considers himself a traditionalist, he places a higher value on practicality than on blindly following tradition, a characteristic I’ve come to respect in him.

The book is very well-suited for beginners, as well as parents of beginners, in understanding martial arts, though advanced martial artists could benefit from regular refreshment of their basics. It introduces the proper Japanese terminology for the uniform, the instructor, your senior and junior classmates. But while the book is written from the perspective of a Japanese-Okinawan Karate sensei, it has a lot to offer practitioners of any art, whether Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Thai, etc.

Apsokardu is no fan of the current state of martial arts, particularly the commercialism which permeates the scene. He offers some great examples of a dojo vs. a faux-jo. Personally, I like the terms, “McDojo” or “Belt-of-the-Month-Club”, but faux-jo works.

He creates a great mental image for the reader as he compares the simple “Clean, modest uniforms” of the dojo to the “Fancy Uniforms with stripes, patches, logos, etc.” of faux-jos, which sadly, seems to be the norm these days.

There’s also a great deal of information on the traditional etiquette for practitioners of Japanese martial arts. Any new student, or that student’s parental units, would benefit from knowing what is expected of them in a traditional dojo.

From an athletic standpoint, there’s some practical, albeit basic information on stretching and warming up. Most of it should be common sense, but so many senseis, and other athletic coaches, tend to ignore this, much to their students’ and players’ detriment.

I hesitate to call this book a consumer guide, especially since the author eschews the commercial atmosphere of the current martial arts scene. But that is one of this book’s greatest strengths. The sections on “Warning Signs of Trouble,” “What to do if You feel At Risk,” and “Sensei Behavior You Don’t Have to Tolerate,” should be must-reads for any new student or the parents. In my 30-plus years in the martial arts, I’ve seen plenty of examples of all three.

The information on history also blows away the stereotype of traditional martial artists being completely adverse to anything new. His chapters on belt ranks, and his biographical information on judo founder Kano Jigoro and Funakoshi Gichin, who introduced karate to Japan, illustrates that the martial arts have been in a near-constant state of change.

The book closes with submissions from various martial arts instructors and writers, (including myself) on what they think is necessary to survive a traditional dojo. The suggestions are all pretty much just common sense.

But sometimes, that’s what we need most to be reminded of.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I'm in a Grapplin' Kinda Mood

Entries for an osoto gari-type takedown on the wooden dummy

Ever since my attempt to learn the sam jei guan (three-sectioned staff) set from Yau Kung Mun, I've been in a grappling state of mind.

That set has two rollouts in it. True, I hadn't practiced them in years, but I figured "What the hell." I did them enough in my teens and twenties that it shouldn't be any problem.

Being laid up with a bum shoulder for several days got me thinking I needed to get back to the basics.

Since the start of this week, I've been doing the maki komis (entries for throws) using my old obi (judo belt) tied around my heavy bag. I'm getting a hell of a core workout from it. I've also been using my mat for something other than stretching.

Today, I warmed up with two sets of 25 maki komis, doing the ippon seio nage (shoulder throw) and the koshi garuma. I settled down with a full-body stretch before getting back into some more entries on the o-goshi (hip throw).

I ran through some Ly Jik Bo before moving onto the wooden dummy. I started out with some trapping drills, working up to some combinations. But for some reason, everything just naturally seemed to end in a takedown. I'd do a chi sao roll, then pak, lap, tan or kan sao a dummy arm while hitting with the other hand, then use the hitting hand to block or grab while I hit with the other.

This went on, always keeping a check on the dummy arm while hitting with my free hand. After three or four hits, I'd move in with a takedown involving a sweep, stomp or kick to the dummy leg.

I've never been one to make it as a pure grappler. But I can make grappling work if I soften up the other guy by hitting him. That seemed to be my strategy with the dummy today.

It gave me a lot to think about, like whether I could use this in chi sao competition. But I didn't take too much time for rest. I took the old bag-of-beebees and worked my grip by throwing it up, hitting it with a claw and catching it. I hadn't done it much lately, but I still eked out the traditional 108.

I closed with a variation of a sweep drill, combining methods from judo and shuai jiao. Stepping around the mat, I would sweep with one foot while pretending to pull someone down with my hands. But instead of doing it empty-handed, as judokas will do it, I doubled up my obi, took each end and snapped it as I did a sweep, to simulate violently pulling someone to one of his off-balance points.

It was a helluvan isometric workout. I had to do my 108 reps in two sets.

My shoulders and lats hate me now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Getting Lazy has its Benefits

After a period where I'd done some hardcore work on my abs, I got a little lazy. I'd been neglecting my crunches, my sit-ups, my gutbusters (aka "the plank") my leg raises and other exercises.

I knew that I had to get back to working them. I recalled an exercise from my judo days, where I tied an obi (judo belt) around a tree. Holding onto the ends, I would practice my entries over and over. Usually I'd do 100 reps on each side.

This homemade video shows how to practice judo throws solo by tying your obi around a tree. The demonstration starts at about 1:50, so you may want to skip the earlier stuff.

It's a great cardio workout and you will really feel it in your hips, glutes and core.

Trouble was, I'm still not finished cleaning up the Carport Kwoon. I still had a pile of scrap wood around the grapefruit tree I previously used for that purpose.

No problem. Since I laid out some mats around my heavy bag, I decided to simply tie the obi around the bag and do my entries that way. Why waste valuable time and energy that could go into my workout cleaning up around the grapefruit tree?

Turns out, I got more of a workout than I planned. Since the bag swings and hangs from a chain, I can actually pull the bag partly onto my back. It's actually more like loading some guy up before slamming him onto the mat than if I jus
t pulled on a tree.

Eighty reps on each side was all these old muscles could stand. Following a short break, I started work on a new drill, Ly Jik Bo, that Don taught me from Yau Kung Mun Kung Fu. It's a short, aggressive combination that uses a bui sao (shooting hand) to the face, a low cross and an armbreak. Going back and forth on the mats, I only managed about eight trips of four.

As tired and sore as I was from those two exercises, I was still having too much fun to stop. I closed with some drills on the wooden dumm
y. The first two drills, which I did 20 times each on each side, used a pak sao da (palm block hit) combination ending with a leg takedown.

The final combination, drawing from Preying Mantis Kung Fu, involved a huen sao (circling hand) move ending with a takedown based on the famous Seven Star stance.

I may not know much Preying Mantis, but I know what I like and I know what works.

A demonstration of a Preying Mantis form on the wooden dummy. If you look closely, you'll see some applications of the Seven Star Stance as a takedown.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Place Where Battles are Won and Lost

In the words of Joe Lewis, a man considered by many to be the greatest fighter in the history of sport karate, battles are won and lost in the gym. What you do, and don't do in preparing for your battles, whether in the ring, in the street, or with oneself, depends on how you train.

Joe Lewis vs. Fred Wren

So it makes sense that you should treat the place where you train with some respect. It means keeping it clean and keeping your gear in working order.

I've been pretty lax on that. I keep meaning to make the necessary repairs and maintenance, but sometimes I've let other things, including training, get in the way.

Today, I pretty much went back and forth between training and cleaning and fixing things in the Carport Kwoon. I started by taking one of my old judo obis, tying it around my heavy bag, and doing entries for my ippon seio nage (shoulder throw). It may not sound like much, but it will give you a hard workout for your core and your legs. After a good 50 reps on each side, I started with my usual Monday ritual of a full-body stretch.

A great way to practice grappling moves without a partner. It also really works the core and the legs.

I think working the entries did me some good. I noticed my hips and glutes were much more warmed up and I was able to do some better stretches in that area. Following the stretches, I felt so good, I decided to do some entries for the o-goshi, the hip throw.

While resting, I looked around at my training area. There were rubber mats scattered all over the place. The hand tools that I rescued from my late father-in-law's old shed had fallen off the table saw and needed to be picked up. And I still hadn't finished the sweeping I started last week.

I set about laying out the rubber mats around the wooden dummy. I even trimmed one of the mats and attached it to a complete one, making for a snug fit between the dummy's supports.

That done, I did some huen saos (circling hands) and pak sao da (palm block and hit) drills. The new, snug fit for the mats held, giving me a much safer place to do the dummy work. I won't have to worry about sliding on the mats. That means I won't have to choose between using the mats and minimizing impact on my joints, or not using the mats and having to worry about slipping.

I wanted to do more, both with training, cleaning and repairs, but my wife's car was in the shop. Being a one-car family meant I had to pick her up at work.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Getting Back to Basics

"You can't take a shower just pouring water on your body. You also have to use some kind of soap. The soap you use in this case are mantras, which go between the mind and the body....(But) at a certain point, the mantra becomes a hang-up. It becomes another form of dirt. Like Soap. If you don't rinse it off, soap becomes a hang-up, a problem, extra dirt on your body."

Rinpoche Chogyam Trungpa, from "The Lion's Roar"

It's been said that martial arts can be considered a form of moving zen.

If that's the case, I suspect that forms are a moving mantra. Like a mantra, it can be used to purify yourself, mentally, spiritually and physically.

And as Chogyam Trungpa said of mantras, a kata/kuen/hyung can be something done just out of habit, without any thought going into it. When that happens, your form becomes just another piece of clutter, something dirty for which you need purification.

I've been dealing with that a lot since last week's attempt to relearn the sam jei guan (three-sectioned staff). The form includes two rollouts, something that I first learned more than 30 years ago. I was fortunate that my early Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu teachers included breakfalls and rollouts in their training.

An example of a rollout, done by an aikidoka

But over the years, as with other very basic techniques, it fell by the wayside. I became more interested in learning more and new techniques and forms. As a very sore shoulder taught me last week, without strong basics, you haven't got shit.

During my recovery, I decided that I would make a strong focus
on the basics become my focus for summer training. I do things like this from time to time. It's good to change your workout, or some focus in your other health practices, to keep yourself fresh. Just in the past two years, I did a lot more with circuit training, calisthenics and, during Lent, I abstained from red meat.

So between now and when Vitaly returns to school, I'll be doing some heavy conditioning combined with sheer repetitions of basic techniques and short combinations. The combinations I practice will consist of both combos that I create as well as short sections from the forms I know.

But I will not do any forms.

Today was my first such workout, after spending Monday and Tuesday's training time to clean my kwoon. I warmed up with a full-body stretch and launched right into some strong Wing Chun basics.

I started out with verticle punches, both standing and with a pivot. I repeated those punches on my heavy bag before going into some straight blas

Taking a few minutes to do some sweeping, I spent a good half-hour on my favorite training aid, the wooden dummy. I started my practice on that with some huen sao (circling hands) practice, with various pivots. I also worked on some techniques from chi sao (sticky hands) practice doing, sparking in with the pak sao da (palm block and punch).

Huen sao (circling hands) practice on the dummy

Drawing and improvising from the wooden dummy set, I did 10 runs each of the first two sections. To keep myself fresh, I added some pak sao da's, lap sao da's and elbow strikes after each tan sao(palm up block)/palm strike combination.

So I basically just did a technique I've done thousands of times and added some overkill to it. I don't believe in seeking out trouble. I go to great lengths to avoid violence. The fact that I don't drink anymore has more to do with avoiding violence than with any health concerns.

But when trouble does find me, I want to be ready to end it quickly and efficiently as possible.

Since I wanted to include some weapons work with my training schedule, I did a couple dozen runs of some blocking, thrusting and circling moves, taken from the Luk Hup Guan staff set of Yau Kung Mun.

I closed with a couple of sets of pushups and crunches.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Treasure of Don Weiss

The secret kung fu treasure of Don Weiss

I love comic books.

It shouldn't come as any surprise. The fact is, kids don't read them anymore. They get their superheroes, like Superman, Batman, the X-Men, Spider-
Man from the movies or TV. It's only old guys like me that still dig them.

Don't believe me? Just go to any comic book store on a Wednesday when the new comics come in. Starting about 5 p.m., you'll see a lot of customers with suits and ties and they're not buying for their kids.

The other reason it shouldn't come as a surprise is that I'm
a martial artist. Martial artists love comics. I personally know four black belts who manage or have managed comic book stores. One of my sifus, John Angelos, said he used to love reading "The Phantom" every month, in part because they had a page with "judo and karate tricks" in the back.

One of my favorite comics of the late 80's and early 90's was produced by Jademan Comics out of Hong Kong, called "The Force of Buddha's Palm."

It told the story of Nine Continents, a renowned master of Buddha's Palm Kung Fu who is taken prisoner while searching for the killers of his sworn brother. While he is a prisoner, a subplot deals with other Kung Fu masters searching for the Treasure of Nine Continents, namely the secret manual of Buddha's Palm Kung Fu.

For me, I have The Treasure of Don Weiss. It's actually a few videotapes of Don training by himself or with his classmates in Yau Kung Mun and Hung Gar Kung Fu. I've copied it onto several DVD's.
One of the greatest training aids for the martial artist

It comes in handy as his job regularly takes him on the road. It's much better than an old notebook or secret manual. I just copy the tape to DVD and pop it into my laptop when I need to check something I'm practicing.

From one of those tapes, Don and I were able to piece together a Kwan Dao set I intended to use in a tournament. That same tape has several other sets I intend to learn, including the one I practiced today - Sam Jei Guan or three-sectioned staff.

I haven't used my tri-staff in many years. I'd forgotten the form I used to practice with it. But I still remembered the basics, so I thought it would be easy to put together the tri-staff form from that tape.

Technically, that form is very simple. I don't know the official name for it, but I call it "Six-and-a-half trips," because that's how many trips back and forth you take.

After warming up with the Siu Lam Tao and some straight blasts from Wing Chun, I set about to practice that set. How hard could it be?

Heh heh heh.

The three-sectioned staff is deceptively strenuous. There's almost always at least one section out of your control. Lastly, (and this is what killed me) is that there are two rollouts in the form.

I know I should keep up on practicing rollouts and breakfalls. I credit that training with saving me from serious injury or worse, in fights, in tournaments, in practice sessions, or even the occasional slip and fall in everyday life.

Still, I managed to practice the first three trips of that form without crippling myself. Even doing rollouts on the lawn didn't hurt as much as I thought it would.

Secure that I was going to life, I went onto some dummy training - both individual techniques and the wooden dummy form. I closed with some strength training using bowling balls. Mostly doing curls and wrist rolls with them. It may not sound like much curling a 12-pound ball, but when you factor in all the stabilizing you need to do to keep it from rolling out of your palm, it's a workout.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Forkin' Around on a Monday Afternoon

Today was supposed to be the start of a new program of physical fitness, organization and self-improvement, but it got off to a late start.

I fully intended to get up at 5 a.m., the same time my wife gets up for her job, do my workout before my son wakes up, get him ready for a thrillin
g summer at the Boys & Girls Club before getting to work.

But I was just too damn wore out over the weekend. Actually, between family and social obligations the past three weekends, with work commitments during the week, I needed the extra two-and-a-half hours of sleep I got this morning. It would have been more, but Frannie does not believe in having a lazy master.

Frannie, a German shepherd/Florida red wolf hybrid

By noon, I had completed pretty much everything I intended except for the workout. I used it as an opportunity to challenge myself once again in a noontime Florida sun.

Like I do most Mondays, I started out with a full-body s
tretch. That's my Monday ritual. I try to do it at least twice a week. I find that if I don't, I tend to suffer from greater neck, knee and back pain. By keeping things flexible, I find I usually avoid it altogether.

Following the stretch came the hard part. I had a limited amount of time to workout and still be able to have lunch and do all the things I needed to do this afternoon, including posting this workout.

With little more than a half-hour remaining to train, I set
a kitchen timer for 15 minutes. In that time, I did eight runs of the Tung Jee Kuen, the first set of Yau Kung Mun Kung Fu. Like most Yau Kung Mun sets, Tung Jee Kune is short, fast and agressive. There's also several times when you drop to one knee and block a strike. Those knee drops take a lot out of you if you aren't properly warmed up.

Feeling the burn, I then challenged myself more with five runs of the Hung Gar Dai Pah (Great Fork) set. Some Hung Gar schools won't teach that set until the very end of the student's training. It's easy to see why. Though it only has about 25 to 30 moves, it is one of the heaviest, most physically challenging weapons there is. In my experie
nce, it is right up there with the Kwan Dao for the most strenous weapon set.

I managed to push myself through those five runs, again in less than 15 minutes. I needed the extra break time between runs, which is why I gave myself 15 minutes. I closed with a run of the wooden dummy set.

POSTSCRIPT: Remembering Shek Kin

With all the hoopla over David Carradine's passing last week, it was easy to miss the news of the passing of a true giant of the martial arts and cinema.

Shek Kin, 96, was best known as the renegade shaolin priest, Master Han, in the Bruce Lee classic, "Enter the Dragon." However, he has a history of martial arts teaching, training and performing that goes back almost 75 years. He was a sifu of both Eagle Claw and Choy Li Fut styles of Kung Fu. One of his most famous students was Choy Li Fut master, Lee Kune Hung.

It should be noted that Shek Kin would have to have been in his 60's when he shot that classic fight scene with Bruce Lee in the hall of mirrors. Considering how well he could still perform his martial skills at that age, it's no wonder that Lee respected Shek Kin, calling him uncle.

Shek Kin continued working in cinema well past 90, making him one of the oldest, if not the oldest, working actors of his time.

I think that speaks volumes about the health and longevity aspects of the martial arts.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

David Carradine - The Man Who Inspired Thousands of Sifus

David Carradine
Dec. 8, 1936 - June 4, 2009

Two days ago, I wrote that I was bummed.

Today, I'm fairly pissed.

First, I got the news that Koko Taylor, Queen of the Blues, died in Chicago yesterday at the age of 80. She was probably best known for pitching a "Wang Dang Do
odle" all night long.

Then I go to my Facebook page and I hear that David Carradine, star of TV's "Kung Fu" hanged himself in a hotel in Bangkok.

To those who are too young to remember the early 1970's, "Kung Fu", Bruce Lee's classic, "Enter the Dragon" and blaxploitation movies with the likes of Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly, were the catalysts for a major martial arts fad. Every kid wanted to be just like those guys. It no longer was considered "dirty fighting" to kick someone in a fight.

That martial arts fad flamed out pretty quick, but by the early 1980's, Chuck Norris, the Karate Kid and the whole ninja fad brought the martial arts back to the
forefront of American pop culture. It was at this time that WPIX, Channel 11 out of New York, brought back "Kung Fu" in syndication.

As a young martial arts student, I was pretty much hooked. I watched it every Thursday on WPIX. When I spent the summers with my father and step-mother in California, I was overjoyed to see it on TV every night on Channel 44, much to Dad and Linda's amusement and chagrin.

True, the martial arts was pretty lame. Carradine had no training prior to the role. He was just a soft shoe dancer who could fake it pretty well. That, and
when he squinted his eyes, some bonehead TV executive could be convinced that he was Asian.

If there was one fault with "Kung Fu" it was that Carradine's character, Kwai Chang Caine, was one of a long line of Asian characters played by Caucasians. For some reason, even heroic Asian characters, like Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto, were always played by heavily made-up white guys.

It's also become widely known that Bruce Lee was originally up for the part, but didn't get it because Hollywood execs didn't believe that anyone would want to see an Asian lead actor. Bruce sure proved them wrong with "Enter the Dragon."

Still, despite the hokeyness, the show worked. It successfully combined two radically different genres, the western and martial arts. It challenged us philosophically while it entertained us. A great deal of the credit for that goes to Carradine for bringing humanity, heroism and (when warranted) humor to a character that could have been just another Asian stereotype portrayed by a white actor.

And it helped inspire millions of kids, including a certain middle-class-white-punk-from-the-suburbs in Hamden, Ct., to take up the practice of Kung Fu.

David Carradine as Woody Guthrie in "Bound for Glory." This role got Carradine nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1977.

A Postscript.

Carradine was more than just a two-hit wonder with his portrayals of Kwai Chang Caine in "Kung Fu" and as the master assassin, Bill, in the "Kill Bill" movies. He also starred in the original "Death Race 2000." Though it's pretty camp as film-making goes, the plot is surprisingly prescient. It shows a corrupt, dictatorial American government using a murderous cross-country road race to distract the populace, much like the Romans used gladiatorial combat, or "American Idol."

He also did an inspiring portrayal of America's greatest folk musician, Woody Guthrie, in the film "Bound for Glory." Check it out, not only for the musical history or as a biography, but as a dead-on depiction of the American labor movement in the early 20th century. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of what others have fought and risked their lives for so we can enjoy the lives we live today.

Lastly, he hosted Saturday Night Live in December 1980 in one of the rare, funny episodes of that otherwise awful season. That episode featured a number of obligatory jabs at his role in "Kung Fu". However, the best skit was his portrayal of Woody Guthrie being visited by a young Bob Dylan in the hospital, played dead-on by a young Joe Piscopo.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Green Hornet vs. Batman

The Green Hornet
1966-1967 and 2008-2009

I'm pretty bummed today.

I just found out that the American Life network, available on Veriz
on FIOS, is no longer running "The Green Hornet" at 9:30 p.m. on Friday. They've got some movie I never heard of scheduled for this week.

I've become an addict of that show since we switched our cable pro
vider. I never got to see it as a kid, though I wanted to. Even before I knew Bruce Lee played Kato, I thought the Green Hornet was cooler than Batman.

In my 20's, the Green Hornet and Kato made a brief reappearance in comic books. He was created by George Trendle for a 1930's radio show. Trendle, who also created The Lone Ranger and Tonto, was asked to create a more modern version of that character. The Green Hornet, in reality newspaper publisher and editor Brit Reid, was the grand nephew of Texas Ranger John Reid, who faked his own death after an outlaw ambush to become The Lone Ranger.

The Green Hornet's grand-uncle, The Lone Ranger

Reid, inspired by his uncle, created the persona of the Green Hornet to fight crime by pretending to be a master criminal. The fact that he was wanted by people on both sides of the law made for some pretty heavy drama.

Like most people my age, my introduction to the Green Hornet
came watching the crossover episode of "Batman" when Batman and Robin crossed paths with the Green Hornet and Kato. While "Batman" enjoyed almost as much popularity in syndication as it did when it was first broadcast, "The Green Hornet" never made onto any of the local channels where I lived.

Some background on the crossover episode, with commentary by Van Williams.

I was really pissed over that because Kato was played by a hero to
martial arts fans everywhere, Bruce Lee. He was such a hero of mine, that when I had the chance to learn the same arts that he studied, namely Wing Chun Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do and Kali, that I jumped at it! I know I wasn't the only one. I knew lots of guys with posters of Bruce Lee on their walls. I don't know anyone who had Adam West or Burt Ward hanging in their bedrooms or home gyms.

One of many Bruce Lee posters I had on my bedroom walls while growing up

True, "The Green Hornet" was not that popular when it first aired for one season in 1966 and 1967. But, I am wondering why with the popularity of Bruce Lee that the show has not been syndicated or even made available as a DVD set.

But after watching it almost every Friday night for mo
re than a year, I've decided it was a much better show than "Batman" for the following reasons.

First, "The Green Hornet" played it straight. He and Kato were real superheroes, going after realistic bad guys like mobsters, bootleggers, drug dealers, nuclear terrorists, etc.

The actors who played those villains played it straight, too. T
hey weren't washed-up has-beens who got their agents to get them an appearance on "Batman" so they could revive their careers. They weren't a bunch of screaming pansies with boneheaded henchmen and airheaded molls.

The Batman of the TV show was a joke compared
to the dark, often brutal character created by Bob Kane in 1938. But, thanks to the Comics Code Authority and the threat of a legislative crackdown on comic books, the character in the comics was a pussy for much of the 1960's. Thankfully, other writers and artists pushed the limits of what they could do with Batman in the 1970's, setting the stage for "The Dark Knight Returns," in 1986, or that once brilliant comic character would have continued to suck.

Second, Van Williams and Bruce Lee were much more believable as superheroes because they could fight better. Both men were athletes. Lee, as everyone knows, was renowned for his innovations to the Asian martial arts. He was so respected that the three American karate champions of the 1960's, Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis and Mike Stone, all studied with him.

So let's take a look at Van Williams. He was raised on a ranch in his native Texas. He competed in rodeos and motocross races. At the time he was discovered by Liz Taylor,
he was teaching SCUBA diving in Hawaii and she was one of his students.

Two of the most unathletic superheroes, ever.

Van Williams - This guy was an athlete. I could believe that he could hold his own in a fight.

When they mixed it up with the bad guys, they looked like they were really fighting. Though he didn't have Lee's training, Williams could throw a convincing punch. It probably helped that "Judo Gene" LeBell, choreographed the fight scenes. LeBell, who was called "The Toughest Man Alive" by Chuck Norris, is a high-ranking multiple black belt holder and was a coach for the U.S. Olympic Judo Team.

One of Lee's top students, Dan Inosanto, doubled for the actor, Mako, in one episode.

Meanwhile, Adam West and Burt Ward never came across as particularly intimidating.

Lastly, the Green Hornet was a pretty hardcore motherfucker. On his show, people were often killed, sometimes by the Hornet and Kato. In one episode, the bad guys were about to ram the Hornet's car, the Black Beauty, with their own van. The Hornet and Kato responded by firing an explosive rocket into the van. The van burst into flames and I never saw anyone get out of it.

If that happened on Batman, the armored car would be totaled, but the villains would be covered with soot, looking like Wile E. Coyote after one of his roadrunner traps blew up on him.

I don't know why it wasn't as successful as Batman. I can only surmise that being mired in the Vietnam War, seeing unrest in American cities like Newark, Watts and New Haven, and on college campuses, that the American public wanted something more lighthearted.

But I think the time has come for the Green Hornet be at large again. At least on DVD.

Back to Posting

I really have been training this past week. I haven't been blogging very well, due to work and family committments, but I have been training. Mostly, some short workouts on the dummy and some Wing Chun sets that won't take a lot of room to practices.

Today, after recovering from some hellacious swimming and a sunburn I caught at Ft. DeSoto, I decided to throw myself back into what I did last week. After a full-body stretch, I did a hard forms circuit, alternating between the Siu Sup Jee Kuen (Little Cross Pattern Form), the broadsword and the staff. I did it in eight sets of three.

To throw a monkey wrench into my workout, I limited myself to only an hour to do the eight sets of three forms. I knew it would tax my stamina to do that much training with so little rest. But it had two unintended benefits as well.

First, it forced me to relax as I ran through the form. By relaxing, I have improved flow, and learn to let the kinetic energy and the momentum of my movements do most of the work.

Secondly, to have good flow, I have to pay good attention to my stances. Without good stances, the momentum of your sword or staff can pull you off balance.