Bob Patterson over at Striking Thoughts must be absolutely thrilled. The much anticipated “Lawman” has finally premiered.
For those of you not paying constant attention to the activities of Steven Seagal, shame on you. You SHOULD know that he has been working on a new series called Lawman, aired on A&E. In the series Seagal reveals that he has been an official deputy for Jefferson Perish Louisiana for the past 20 years. In between making martial arts movies he serves as a real life cop hitting the streets.
The series is set to focus on Seagal and the Jefferson Perish crew taking on bad guys ala COPS. When they aren’t on patrol Seagal takes the time to help fellow officers in learning shooting, combat, tactics, etc.
Is Your Interest Piqued?
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t Seagal a bit on the old and fluffy side for this kind of work? He doesn’t think so, and it seems like his police brethren are willing to hang on for the ride. If you’d like to see the first two episodes for yourself, the magic of the internet will provide:
A&E did the smart thing and posted the episodes online. They must have realized that the viral value of a show like this is going to be significant, and online chatter is what makes shows like this and Deadliest Warrior a success.
The first episode, The Way of the Gun, focuses on Seagal’s shooting capabilities and (of course) some street busts. The second episode, The Deadly Hand, shows Seagal running the officers through some basic Aikido and then (you guessed it) some street busts.
It’s a surreal experience watching this show. Anybody who follows Seagal knows he has a bit of an ego trip going on, and while he is indeed skilled at aikido, he excessively takes on the ‘master’ role. As I was watching I could tell the other cops humored him for the sake of the show.
That being said, Seagal does show off real skill from time to time. His shooting is undeniably good and his aikido is still effective. One thing I noticed, and was disappointed by, was that he never seems to run during chases. Seagal-Running is a classic part of his movies, but his larger self doesn’t seem too up for it anymore. Through clever camera work it seems like he is in the thick of every arrest though.
When I first started watching Lawman, it felt weird. I wasn’t used to what I was seeing. By the end of the second episode however I actually started getting into the groove of it…a little. I think I could stay tuned for a few more episodes to see where they go with this. I would like it if they deemphasized the “busts” because that is where things seemed most forced. Forced drama, forced Seagal-activity, forced Seagal-advice, etc. His cutaways in helping the officers I thought were more genuine and interesting.
A&E gets another high five from me. They included a game on their website called ‘Firearms Qualification‘ that puts you in the hot seat (watch the first episode and it’ll make sense). Hold on to your hats because it’s actually kinda fun.
You go through three rounds of slick shooting and try to accrue a high score. Each round relates to events in the first Lawman episode.
I tried it out three times and got a high score of 108 (which makes me a Zen Master under Seagal Ryu shooting). Think you can top me? OHH we shall see.
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It’s important not to leave your martial arts at the dojo door. All too often the training floor and ‘real life’ serve as different worlds, never touching but allowing people to transition back and forth.
The problem with such a separation is that training becomes something abstract. Something that exists while wearing a white gi, colored belt, no shoes, and a well established sense of space. The experienced practitioner will realize that it is crucially important to take concepts, both mental and physical, out of the dojo and into day-to-day activity.
Acquiring a mindset that follows the martial way involves honing the natural abilities of perception and preparedness. Today I’d like to focus on one little matter that many people overlook – footwear.
The Old School
Most martial arts training is done barefoot. Why?
The answer is a two-parter. First, a lot of training (both now and back then) took place indoors. This is more true to Japan than Okinawa, but true for both nonetheless. For Japan, most techniques required secrecy from other clans. Therefore it was prudent for them to train behind closed doors in buildings with high windows. In Okinawa there was a lot of backyard training done during earlier generations, but things ultimately moved indoors similar to what we see today. And, as is still a part of Asian culture, people take off their shoes when entering a building to avoid tracking dirt and damaging flooring.
Second, people simply didn’t have a lot of money to spend on shoes, so they went barefoot. The main shoes of the common class were predominantly Geta and Zori, both of which were designed for environmental needs.
the zori are the very standard sandals you see in the black and white photo above. Geta are of wooden construction and involve raised platforms. Due to the changing weather patterns of Japan, individuals used geta to stay out of snow, rain puddles, and mud while gaining an element of traction in those slick conditions.
The martial tradition of no shoes (or at maximum sandals) is still with us today and is an ingrained part of traditional training. We shouldn’t, however, assume it is the ultimate option in footwear for real life. After all, don’t you think low ranking Japanese soldiers would have loved water proof hiking boots with traction soles and a lightweight steel tip toe?
The New School – Embrace Your Options
You and I are part of the new school, and we have more options that we know what to do with. Every mall contains 20-30 shoe stores with walls of shoes spanning the gamet of casual, hiking, work, dress, running, skateboarding, and who knows what else. They are all specially designed to optimize performance and comfort for various activities.
A lot of people think that bare feet provide the best feedback to the ground, and they’re right. Unfortunately, most ground these days involves some sort of concrete, hardwood, or blacktop. As good as bare feet might be for gripping grass and earth, they are not particularly good for negotiating loose gravel on a sidewalk. In fact, that’s a really quick way to get your soles torn up. In our modern day world, the best option is the scientifically designed rubber found on the bottom of most sneakers. After all, people don’t drive their cars on bare rims for a reason.
Thinking Self Defense
When considering real self defense or life protection, shoes are where it all starts. How you interact with the ground is going to greatly effect what you are capable of. As discussed previously, the most important factor is what kind of grip your shoe soles will give you. If you spend all day on the beach, I give you my bare foot blessings, but for the rest of us we have to consider different surfaces. Furthermore, we have to consider the day-to-day dress we have to wear for responsibilities such as work, weekend excursions, dates, etc.
Some people worry that shoes will hinder kicking, but I think the opposite is true. In classical Okinawan karate, there are a lot of toe kicks that are used to penetrate vital points. It can take many years to develop the kind of conditioning required to make toe kicks work. However, if you happen to be wearing shoes with a decent sole (or steel toe), you can immediately begin to penetrate without damage to your feet.
Other more typical kicks benefit as well. Good shoes protect both the instep and ball of the foot while providing a solid base with your support leg.
What about other shoes though like high heels? We can’t all go around in hiking boots all day. Heels and other less stable shoes come with the added responsibility of knowing their strengths and weaknesses.
On the plus side, heels offer a great resource for stomping and thrust kicking (especially to the feet, shins, knees, and even groin). The problem is that they are a real hassle to run in, and offer very little in the way of grip and traction. Furthermore, it can sometimes be difficult to kick them off when in a panic and hurry without injuring oneself.
Modern sandals and flipflops suffer from some of the same problems. They provide little in the way of traction and can’t really be kicked off to any benefit (as in to distract an opponent). In fact, as you twist and turn in a grapple situation, they will likely get caught up in your toes and create additional pain.
Every other kind of shoe can be analyzed in this fashion, and should be if you intend to wear them regularly. This includes kung fu shoes, Vibrams, Crocs, and Ugg boots.
Final Thought – Reverse It!
So far all we’ve talked about is bringing the dojo out into real life. What about bringing real life into the dojo!? Of course I don’t suggest you start wearing shoes on your training floor because that is both a faux-pas and destructive to the floor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t train outside. Find some open space and feel what it’s like moving around, trying techniques, and gripping one-another in a non-dojo environment. Heck take it one step further and wear street clothes.
You may be interested in what you find, and at the very least it will be a fun change of pace!
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With the holidays coming up, there are a couple of things going on around the site that I’d like to keep you up on. This is just a quick little interlude between regular articles.
As a reminder, there is currently a contest going on. The fine people at MMA Zone offered up some pretty cool prizes to give away to fans of ikigaiway. In order to be entered into the drawing, all you have to do is leave a comment here on the site, on facebook, or on twitter (see the contest page for more details).
For anyone looking for Christmas gift ideas, a company I work with called Mokuso Martial Arts Supplies is running a pretty great deal. They sell custom fitted, high quality uniforms from the Tokyodo Company in Japan.
From November 14th, to December 1st, Mokuso is offering a 10% discount on the Tokyodo Dogi Line. Built on top of an imbedded 5% discount,this makes for a rare deal (15% off compared to the Japanese retail prices). Available on AT-Series, K(b)-10, HR-series, SP-1000 and the WKF-Series. Input coupon code ‘kerstfeest’ at checkout.
Also TBO Tech is running a special specifically for ikigaway fans. At the checkout for any purchase you make input the coupon code ‘ikigai’ for 10% off your purchase. This is a great chance to get a self defense item you’ve been thinking about for yourself or a loved one that needs a little extra protection.
I’d like to wish everybody State-Side a happy Thanksgiving – I hope you and your families have a safe and enjoyable holiday. To everyone not indulging in the turkey event, have a great week all the same.
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