Thursday, 30 June 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Martial Arts and Martial Artist – How are they Defined?

by Zad Datu

Which disciplines can we consider as martial arts? Who do we consider as martial artist?

The common definition of ‘martial arts’ seems to be vague, at times. Martial arts are commonly attributed as ‘oriental’, ‘self-defence’, ‘form of combat or fighting’, ‘unarmed’ and sometimes ‘sports’. But not all martial arts constitutes of these attributes. Many of the disciplines that are widely accepted as martial arts do not follow these descriptions. Vice versa some disciplines are combat sports but are not considered as martial arts.

For example, many did not and still do not consider boxing, kickboxing and wrestling as martial arts even though they clearly do consists of fighting forms or systems, until it started to be presented in martial art documentaries such as Human Weapon and Fight Quest especially. Other documentaries tend to only venture into martial arts which falls into the more traditional definition – eastern, artistic and somewhat mystical such as Kung Fu, Wushu, Wing Chun, Karate-do, Judo, Jujutsu, Taekwondo, Hapkido as well as other Chinese, Japanese and Korean martial arts. Some of which do not have its emphasis on actual fighting but rather more on to choreographed performance which utilises punching, kicking and striking techniques as part of their movements, and yet they are undeniably widely known as martial arts even though the common first notion of a martial art is as a fighting form.

How about the word ‘martial artist’? What does it take to be labelled a martial artist? I am a karate black belter. But nobody, even myself, would label me a martial artist. I would label myself a karateka (karate practitioner), or martial art practitioner; I would label myself a karate competitor or exponent, or a martial art exponent; I would label myself a karate instructor, or martial art instructor, but martial artist – me? This sounds too farfetched. Why? – Because of the movies, of course. Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa are some of the few whom the general media and public widely accept to place the label ‘martial artist’ on them.

For those who don’t make it to the movies, we label them as martial art practitioners, martial art exponents if they compete, and martial art instructors if they teach. I’m not just speaking of martial art practitioners like me, but also high ranking and achieving practitioners. We seldom label WKF (World Karate Federation) champions as martial artists; neither do we call WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) champions or ITF (International Taekwondo Federation) champions as martial artist; same goes with IFMA (International Federation of Muay Thai) or the WMC (World Muay Thai Coucil) or the WBC Muay Thai champions, and IWUF (international Wushu Federation) champions. Not only do these champions take their martial arts as profession, they are also the most skilled in the world.

In contrast, Bruce Lee was not a competitor – he did martial art movies. Jackie Chan’s background wasn’t martial arts, it was the Opera Peking School of traditional acrobatic Chinese acting – and then he became a stunt man for martial art movies to later star in them. Tony Jaa on the other hand was simply a fan of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan as a child which inspired him. Jaa has trained in Taekwondo and Muay Thai but there is no record of formal training or competitive career. Even if his Taekwondo training was formal it was part of his stunt team member apprenticeship. He built his career as a stuntman and later starred in martial art movies himself, which earned him the label ‘martial artist’. What these men share in common is that their rise to fame to earn the label ‘martial artist’ is through the movies. To be more precise, not just any movie would work, you need to do martial art movies. A more suitable label I would give for this group would be 'martial art entertainers'.

Tony Jaa in Ong Bak (2003)

I do come across those who only know about martial arts from what they see in the movies, and when they get to know of my involvement of in karate, they seem to ask “can you do this or that” questions. And often the acts which they wish to see me perform are those that resemble more that of a stuntman’s profession. As a fighter, I don’t see myself performing acrobats or gymnastics to win a fight, no matter how beautiful they may be. Imagine a boxer jumping up and down and spinning in the air competing to who can make the most beautiful moves. Or vice versa, imagine gymnasts punching and kicking each other in the Olympics to earn first place.

Well known American actor Wesley Snipes has a 5th Dan in Shotokan Karate. American actor Michael Jai White, who starred in Tyson (1995 HBO film), Spawn (1997) and Undisputed II: Last Man Standing (2006 direct-to-video), and has starred opposite Van Dame and Seagal, and have black belts in Shotokan, Tae Kwon Do, Kobudo, Goju Ryu, Tang Soo Do, Wushu and Kyokushin. But because most of their movies are not in the martial art genre the label ‘American actor’ falls more comfortably on them over the label ‘martial artist’, even if they may be more qualified in the martial art profession than some of their movie martial artists counterparts.

Wesley Snipes in Blade (1998)

Michael Jai White in Spawn (1997)

So is the current usage of ‘martial artist’ so misplaced? – Actually, in some aspects, yes, but not completely I must admit. These modern martial artists have authority in their fields. Even though Bruce Lee was not a competitor and made his name through the movies, he practiced Wing Chun and studied other forms of styles intensely. He got into many fights as he received many challenges due to his reputation – not safe regulated matches, but actual bare fisted fights. He challenged the secretive tradition of Kung Fu and spread martial arts to the west and eventually the world. He was respected as a martial artist and a philosopher who fused the two and revolutionised the understanding of martial arts influencing the entire world. Bruce Lee had authority in the martial art community.

Regardless of Jackie Chan’s background, he later ventured into martial arts and earned respect in the field. Chuck Norris had the 7 year long karate/kickboxing world title and was later awarded an 8th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. Van Damme too was a karate/kickboxing competitor who has a black belt in Shotokan Karate. Jet Li was a wushu competitor and champion with outstanding achievements. Donnie Yen was not a competitor, but was exposed to martial arts by his mother who was a world famous Wushu and Tai Chi master and ran the internationally known Chinese Wushu Research Institute. Steven Seagal has a 7th Dan in Aikido and is a Shihan (Master Level Instructors). Profession in the arts comes first which then develops into authority. Then of course to be widely known, fame is required. In modern days many earn fame through making movies – martial art movies for martial art reputation.

How about, perhaps, other than the movies, the notion that the ‘martial artist’ label goes to someone who ventures deeply into more than just one martial art? Not completely true either. Historical martial arts figures often are martial arts purists. In the past perhaps it’s just about reputation of your skill as a martial arts practitioner or as a teacher, developer or founder. For example, Historical figures such as the first generation masters and developer of Tode, direct predecessors of karate, such as Kanga Sakugawa, Kishin Teruya, Karyu Sokyu, Arakaki Seisho, and their masters mostly from China, Takahara Peichin (an Okinawan), Kusanku (a.k.a. Kwang Shang Fu), Wai Xinxian and Xie Zhongxian are referred to as martial artists today. So maybe martial art practitioners and authorities today mill be referred to as a martial artists in the future.

But one more conflict still lies firmly. What about boxers, wrestlers, kickboxers, MMA practitioners and competitors who have championship titles, authority and fame in these professions? We don’t label them martial artist, do we? No – because these are western combat ring sports, and not eastern martial arts. So even if the western ring sports are starting to be portrayed as martial arts, most of the time they still aren’t taken as such after all.

It is common for definition of words to changes over time. The word ‘martial art’ is changing over time as martial arts in general and the general understanding of martial arts develops. So to end this self-debate, rather than trying to come up with absolute definitions of ‘martial art’ and ‘martial artist’ I prefer to refer to the of arts as art/combat/defence disciplines rather than ‘martial arts’, and the practitioners as art/combat/defence practitioners rather than ‘martial artist’, whilst recognising that there are three general training forms in which just one or some or all of these training forms may be present in a specific disciplines. The training forms are (1) Choreographed Art, (2) Non-competitive/Competitive Bout Fights and (3) Self-Defence, and based on which combinations of training forms specific disciplines consists of, they can be classified into categories of art/combat/defence disciplines.

Related articles:
What Lay People Should Know about Karate – Karate Chops, Taekwondo and Chuck Norris
What Lay People Should Know about Karate – Peasants or Noblemen?
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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Evolution – Natural Selection (video)

Here is another explanation of evolution which touches certain aspects of evolution as  my evolution article did, but in more detail and perhaps better explained, and touching certain aspects which my article did not, as well as not touching certain aspects which my article did, and addresses other misconceptions about evolution.

This is not my video.

Related article:
What Lay People Should Know about Evolution – General (non-technical)
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Sunday, 19 June 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Male Circumcision – General

by Zad Datu

Religious circumcision today is practiced mainly by Jews and Muslims. Circumcision is not discussed in the Qur’an but it is practiced widely amongst Muslims and often considered to be a sunnah, and some even say it is religiously mandatory – at least the religious teacher in my secondary school said it was. In Judaism, male circumcision is a commandment as written in Genesis 17:9-14.

{9}Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. {10} This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. {11} You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. {12} For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. {13} Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. {14} Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Historical evidence shows that this culture predates Judaism. The oldest documented evidence of this practice dates back to Egypt’s sixth dynasty (2345 - 2181 BC) through a relief on Ankmahor’s tomb. Another evidence of circumcision from ancient Egypt is of a statue of a man named Merire-hashetef, who must have been a person of importance locally but not a king. He had a provincial tomb cut into a cliff face at Sedment el-Gebel, a three to four mile long ancient Egyptian cemetery – seventy miles south Cairo, where three statues of him at different stages of his life, which dates back to about 2230 BC stood. The middle and largest statue depicts Merire-hashetef as young naked man without the foreskin on his penis.

Relief on Ankmahor’s tomb of boys undergoing circumcision

Illustration based on the relief

Statue of Merire-hashetef, Egyptian Museum, Cairo

It is believed that circumcision in ancient Egypt marks the passage from childhood to adulthood, where this ritual is suppose to give access to ancient mysteries to the circumcised. Another source also suggests that the ancient Egyptian observed that when a snake shed’s it skin it becomes renewed, seemingly immortal. So it occurred to them that a human male too might become immortal if he were to shed a piece of his skin. It became clear that the skin to be shed should be that of from an organ which best resembles a snake – the penis. The Niger-Congo speakers of Africa too had an ancient male circumcision culture which also serves as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.

The ancient Greeks and Romans, on the other hand, disliked the look of a circumcised penis and considered circumcision a mutilation of a previously perfectly shaped organ, and this lead to a decline of the practice. This dislike becomes obvious if you observe ancient Greek and Roman statues of naked men – they obviously prefer the aesthetics of an uncircumcised penis.  The only groups of people during the Roman Empire who practiced circumcision were the Jews, Jewish Christians, Egyptian priests and the Nabatean Arabs.

Bronze Sculpture, thought to be either Poseidon or Zeus, c. 460 B.C, National Archaeological Museum, Athens

For those of you who were brought up in a culture where child circumcision is practiced, such as me, nothing about it may seem anywhere near to a criminal act to you. Often, parents who send their child for circumcision do not consider the benefits and risks of the medical procedure. Neither is the practice reasoned with medical purposes. Such an act by a parent seems to not be in the wrong in such communities. In fact, not having one’s child circumcised is more likely to be viewed as wrong and taboo. Hence we all must hire an expert to slice off the foreskin of our children’s penises regardless of the child’s wishes, and if the child wishes not to, we shall to convince them that they have to.

If you are from a community such as mine, try imagining the following scenario: There is a couple who decided to hire a surgeon to pluck of the nails of all the toes of their child for no apparent medical reasoning and without even placing a thought onto the benefits and risks of the procedure. Such an unethical act may get them into jail. Exaggerating this further, imagine an entire community which has a culture of parents sending their children, some newborns, to undergo this procedure with no medical reasoning and without taking any consideration about the benefits and risks of the procedure regardless of the child’s wishes, and if the child wishes not to, the parents would succeed to convince their children that they have to. This clearly is an act of unethical child mutilation. The culture of circumcision is therefore a culture unethical child genital mutilation. Disgusting isn’t it?

I don’t mean to say that parents never have the rights to have their child to undergo a medical procedure. Of course if a child is in need of medical operation, it is only the parents or guardian who has to make the decision. The act of doing so without medical reasoning and without taking the benefits and risk in consideration is simply completely unethical. This is the logic behind the points made forth by opponents of circumcision in my own words. I myself never saw this cultural circumcision to be unethical until I thought through it deeper, and being in my position I can understand why anyone from my community and others of similar culture would grow up to never find the culture to be unethical, hence continuing this tradition.

A review on male circumcision and heterosexual transmission of HIV in Africa, published in 2000, shows that the relative risk for HIV infection was 44% lower in circumcised men, and up to 71% for men at high risk of the infection, such as patients at STD clinics. Another review stratified by study type or population mostly in Africa, published in 2003, shows that 16 out of 35 observational studies, which were performed in the general population, had inconsistent result, but one large study of this group shows that the odds of infection were 42% lower for circumcised men. The remaining 19 studies were conducted in high risk population results in a consistent result that circumcision gives substantial protective effect. Ecological studies also show that African and Asian countries with less than 20% of the male population circumcised are significantly several times more likely to be infected with HIV than countries where more than 80% of the male population circumcised. The transmission of human papillomivirus infection, which promotes penile and cervical cancer, is also associated to lack of male circumcision. A meta-analysis of 26 studies concludes that there is a significantly lower risk of syphilis and chancroid among circumcised men. Studies in the US also show that among men with known HIV exposure, circumcision was associated with a significant 58% reduction in risk for infection.

Studies of risks associated to male circumcision shows that rates for inpatient complication are 0.2% to 2.0% of most commonly minor bleeding and local infection for infant circumcision in the United States, and 2% to 8% of most commonly pain or mild bleeding for adult circumcision in Africa. There are no reports of deaths as a result of circumcision.

As of the effect of circumcision on penile sensation and sexual function, there have also been studies on the matter but results are mixed and inconsistent to whether stimulation is increased or decreased after circumcision.

Circumcision is widely practiced outside of religious culture as well. In the United States 79% of men circumcised between 1999–2004 where the majority were non-Hispanic white men (88%), followed by non-Hispanic black men (73%) and Mexican American men (42%), according to a survey by National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. The remaining 50% are that of other ethnicities. National Hospital Discharge Survey reports that 65% of newborns were circumcised in 1999 and that this proportion was stable from 1979 through 1999.

The question is whether they choose to circumcise based on medical reasons or not. A 1999 survey study on the attitude of parents with children under the age of 3 years on circumcision in the United States, where 149 parents were surveyed, reports that 39.6% of them selected “medical reasons” as how they made their choice to circumcising or to not circumcise their child, and 12.1% selected “religious practice”. 20.1% percent selected “not necessary”, 12.1% selected “painful”, 4.7% selected “affect sexual function”, and 2.0% selected “dangerous” (there were more choices to select from in the survey which are not presented here). The study also shows that families who had their child circumcised are more satisfied with their decision than those who did not, and that parents with uncircumcised sons were are more likely to reconsider their decision.

Yes, it seems that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, and yes there are large populations who choose to have their children circumcised for medical reasons. Hence they find it ethically appropriate to do so. However there still are those who raise objections against the ethics of this act. The argument is that even though the primary purpose is to prevent HIV and STDs contraction, such risks do not occur until young adulthood.
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Friday, 17 June 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Norway (video; humour)

I did not make this video.
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Thursday, 16 June 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Belgium (video; humour)

Watch, observe the complexity, then you can faint.

A short animated film about the Belgian political structure.
The text was written by Marcel Sel, a Belgian writer, author of Walen Buiten, a best-seller on the «Belgian Crisis».
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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Marilyn Manson – The Blame on Him

by Jacy Ong

Yes indeed. Our kids were very young and innocent until the man that you fear came into the picture – Marilyn Manson.  It was a Tuesday, dated 20th in the month of April , of the year 1999, where two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, embarked on a massacre, killing a total of 12 students and 1 teacher, and injuring 24 students at the Columbine High School.

“How can America hate something that it create? Its like being mad at your own shit.” 

America loves to find an icon to hang its guilt on, thus came the witch hunt. Music was immediately the focus as to why these two students went on a killing rampage. Media started blaming ‘shock’ metal bands, like Rammstein and KMFDM. However, Marilyn Manson seemed to be a better scapegoat as he was the poster boy for fear. He portrayed exactly what the media needed, to point fingers at. Marilyn Manson was only someone who sang some rock and roll songs, but the President of America himself was shooting bombs overseas. I think that’s really ironic, that nobody said “Well, maybe the President had an influence on this violent behaviour.” But no, accusations have been made persistently on him, because the two students listened to his songs when in fact, responsible journalists have reported with less publicity that Harris and Klebold were not Marilyn Manson fans – that they even disliked his music. Even if they were fans, that gives them no excuse, nor does it mean that music is to blame. Did we look for James Huberty’s inspiration when he gunned down people at McDonald’s? What did Timothy McVeigh like to watch? What about Jim Jones? Do you think entertainment inspired Kip Kinkel, or should we blame the fact that his father bought him the guns he used in the Springfield, Oregon, murders? What inspired Bill Clinton to blow people up in Kosovo? Was it something that Monica Lewinsky said to him? Isn’t killing just killing, regardless if it’s in Vietnam or Jonesboro, Arkansas? Why do we justify one, just because it seems to be for the right reasons? Should there ever be a right reason? If a kid is old enough to drive a car or buy a gun, isn’t he old enough to be held personally responsible for what he does with his car or gun? Or if he’s a teenager, should someone else be blamed because he isn’t as enlightened as an eighteen-year-old? You killed someone, took someone else’s life, and you cannot expect to get away with it by blaming it on the music, or even having the god band-aid around your forehead. Killing is killing, nothing more; nothing less. It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian or Muslim or even Atheist.

Marilyn Manson has been dealing with false rumours about him as the media saw him appropriate to be alleged of such things. The most bizarre rumour yet about him getting his ribs removed in order to facilitate self fellatio. Sure, if you were a stranger and knew nothing about the man, yes he did undergo surgery for such purposes. It’s because he looked the way that he looked – he did not wear khaki jeans and Ralph Lauren polo shirts. People dismissed him immediately of that act, when actually he had undergone that rib removal surgery because he was beaten up so badly that he had to remove his ribs.

It is at time like these where it seems that the media does not work in that self-righteous way, you know. When it comes to who is right or wrong, it boils down to how popular you are, or which religion you’re under. After the interview with Marilyn Manson in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (2002), people started to realise what an intelligent and civil man he actually is because of some of the important things he said which most people have take for granted.

“I wouldn’t say a single word to the victims. I would listen to what they have got to say and that’s what no one did.”

When it comes down to who’s to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado for example, just throw a rock and you’ll hit someone who’s guilty. We’re the people who sit back and tolerate children owning guns in America (you can actually buy a gun in Wal-Mart), and we’re the ones who tune in and watch the up-to-the-minute details of what they do with them on the television. It is terrible when anyone dies, especially if it is someone you know and love. But what is more offensive is that when these tragedies happen, most people don’t really care about these tragedies anymore than they do about the season finale of Friends or How I Met Your Mother. I was dumbfounded as I watched the media snake right in, not missing a teardrop, interviewing the parents of dead children, televising the funerals.

That is how the media works. But, admittedly, he has assumed the role of Antichrist; I am the Nineties voice of individuality, and people tend to associate anyone who looks and behaves differently with illegal or immoral activity. Deep down, most adults hate people who go against the grain. It’s comical that people are naive enough to have forgotten Elvis, Jim Morrison and Ozzy so quickly. All of them were subjected to the same age-old arguments, scrutiny and prejudice. Marilyn Manson wrote a song called Lunchbox, and some journalists have interpreted it as a song about guns. Ironically, the song is about being picked on and fighting back with his KISS lunch box, which he used as a weapon on the playground. Because back in school if you were a jock and not athletic, you can’t drink out of the water fountain. In 1979, metal lunch boxes were banned because they were considered dangerous weapons in the hands of delinquents.

“I think guilt is the biggest problem in America. People are always feeling guilty about being themselves.”

“Should you follow the rules that the world has set up for you? Or should you make your own? I choose to make my own.”

Everything is so televised nowadays that you don’t really know what is right or wrong, what to believe and what not to believe. They’re supposed to make you fear, and consume. It is the campaign of fear and consumption, to keep everyone afraid so they’ll consume.

Even Marilyn Manson was a journalist himself before he formed the band. He got fed up of the same sort of stories everyone is feeding him over and over again, he decided to turn over and do the talking.

“I was once a journalist myself and I do understand how the media works. I don’t like the media, in general. But I don’t have a problem with most journalists. The journalists I usually meet are people who are interested in what I’ve got to say. Most of the journalists who write all the rubbish that I’m a devil worshipper and stuff like that are people who don’t know me, who never even bothered to talk to me.

When I started working on the album it was important that there wasn’t any communication, that I could concentrate on the album, but that changed. Right now it is important that I can talk about it, that you ask me about it and I answer the questions. We’re both just doing our job.

I don’t mind talking to people, answering questions about my work and explaining my motivations. In a way, I feel it’s something I have to do – to explain what drives me. I still see myself as some sort of journalist. We’re both doing the same job. You write articles to express your feelings while I create music to express my feelings and try to express what goes on in the world and in my head. That’s another kind of journalism.”

There was no doubt that more controversies arose when he released his album titled Antichrist Superstar. It was bound to get refuted by both the people and mass media. However, this album was about being your own Antichrist, it was about killing off old ways you’ve been told to adhere to, killing off what you’ve been told that you have to believe, and not what you want to believe, and believe in yourself. Be your own God. The most terrifying thing about him is that he’s trying to advocate and encourage individuality because at the end of the day everybody wants a world where people can do and say whatever they want, but nobody wants to accept the responsibilities that go with that.

“Stop relying on the crutches of religion that has failed us in the past and believe in yourself.”

“Everybody has the potential to be their own god. It just takes writers, philosophers, music, and others to get them to realize that.”

Most people think that Marilyn Manson doesn’t believe in God, he has actually found his own God, but in a different way. In America, religion, morality; it’s basically just created to benefit the people who made it up, not the people who are controlled by it. He does believe there is a higher power in nature, but not necessarily worshipping it.

“Do you believe in the existence of Satan as an entity?” Manson replies: “I think Satan is a word that you can use to describe your animalistic side if, as a whole, everyone’s animalistic nature - I guess Satan exists in that sense - that part of everyone’s personality. I don’t believe in it as a “being”. It’s a word that represents rebellion, represents Man, represents a defiance towards society and God and the things that are forced upon us and are considered to be normal and acceptable.”
—An Interview with Marilyn Manson at the Capitol Ballroom,
Washington, D.C.,November 9, 1995.

“I think that human nature is a desire for, or always pushing toward, destruction. Man has created the idea of heaven and hell; man has created apocalypse, no other species has. So, if there will be an end of the world, it’s something we brought upon ourselves.”

“Kid’s should think for themselves. Not to be like your friends who think they’re individuals, but to be like you. Not to be like us, but to be what YOU are.”

Man’s greatest fear is chaos. It is no wonder that kids are growing up more cynical; they have a lot of information in front of them. They can see that they are living in a world that’s made of bullshit. In the past, there was always the idea that you could turn and run and start something better. But now America has become one big mall, and because of the Internet and all of the technology we have there’s nowhere to run. People are the same everywhere. Sometimes music, movies and books are the only things that let us feel like someone else feels like we do. He has always tried to let people know it’s OK, or better, if you don’t fit into the program. Use your imagination – if some geek from Ohio can become something, why can’t anyone else with the willpower and creativity?

You may still think that Marilyn Manson is an evil, ugly, and hateful man.

But he really isn’t.

If you have done your research and still think that it justifies you saying that he’s evil, I’m afraid I may need a word with you because I am willing to walk the extra mile to prove to people that Marilyn Manson is not what you think. And you sir, have been fooled by the media. We’re a copy staring at another copy so much that it degenerates, we do not know which came first, and that is where we are at right now. That is what I’d like to leave you guys with.
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EMPTY HAND – The Real Karate Kids

In reference to the What Lay People Should Know about Karate – Karate Chops, Taekwondo and Chuck Norris article, I would like to share EMPTY HAND - The Real Karate Kids is an upcoming documentary film on four karate young competitors in the US preparing to fight in the biggest US karate tournament of the year. These are the real karate kids.
A true story of four young karate competitors who prepare to fight against their toughest rivals in the biggest tournament of the year. This film is an open window into their private lives. From the confines of the Karate dojo, to the wider outside world and beyond their comfort zone, the four struggle to balance the rigors of training with the demands of being a young person in America. This is a tale of dreams, aspirations, and the hope of taking home the title of the next Karate Kid Champion.
The quoted text above is taken from their facebook page.

Related article:
What Lay People Should Know about Karate – Karate Chops, Taekwondo and Chuck Norris
What Lay People Should Know about Karate – Peasants or Noblemen?
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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Karate – Karate Chops, Taekwondo and Chuck Norris

by Zad Datu

Karate Chops
No! Karate people don’t chop wooden boards with their knife-edge hands or give out cat like screeches with long high pitched WOOOO!’s and WAAAAA!’s. Perhaps, certain dojo (training place) in America does resemble that. In fact, it is more likely that the term karate chop itself was coined in America instead of Okinawa, Japan, the birth place of Karate-Do. Perhaps in the west, Karate is often confused with Kung Fu, a general term for Chinese martial arts. Westerners generally seem to have difficulty differentiating one East Asian from another even if they are of a different ethnicity and come from different countries.

I am a karateka (karate practitioner), competitive participant and instructor and often get questions relating to board breaking such as “Which hand do you chop with?”, “How come this knife-edged part of your hand isn’t hardened?”, and “If you don’t chop boards in karate, what the heck do you learn in karate?” A sarcastic and impolite answer, which doesn’t really answer the question that I could give is “In karate, we learn karate. We don’t learn to chop boards. Chopping boards is not karate. Chopping board is chopping a board.” A less sarcastic but ruder answer would be “I learn to fight against people who can fight back. Why would I want to attack an inanimate object? Wood can’t fight back.”

However, for a more polite and agreeable way to explain why we don’t chop boards in karate is to refer to a scene in Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, where Just before a sparring bout between Bruce Lee’s character and his opponent, his opponent holds up a wooden board in one hand and punched it with the other and breaks it clean. But then Bruce Lee says “Wood can’t fight back.” Most people would immediately take this in and accept it without argument because Bruce Lee said it. And Bruce Lee is awesome…. Who can’t agree with awesome?

This board chopping tradition has been commercialised by the US of course, especially through their movies – notably the classic Karate Kid movie series – and their culture of changing anything they import into the country. Karate have even been Americanised to hold competitions to break boards and blocks of cements or ice, and call them martial arts. No doubt that the traditional forms still exist in America, but the more commercialised form of karate by the American media are the breaking arts. Also, before the general teenage and young adult western public became fans of martial arts, or basically before Bruce Lee influenced the world, the term karate was used as a generic term to describe martial arts.

Here in Malaysia, karate classes, karateka, karategi (karate uniform) and karate itself are often mistaken for that of taekwondo, especially when it comes to practitioners violently or flimsily punching and mostly kicking, defenceless, inanimate, innocent and harmless very thin and delicate boards made from pieces of dead trees which have been chopped down unnecessarily, and breaking them into two. Even though it is the Taekwondo practitioners who have the convention to perform such demonstrations, it is karate practitioners who are thought to have such a tradition.

So why do I so often irritatingly find people referring to taekwondo instead of karate whenever there is a karate related subject in the vicinity? One reason is because in Malaysia, the martial arts which have dominated the primary school and secondary school market are Silat (a Malay Martial art local to Malaysia and Indonesia) and taekwondo. To be more fair and precise, it is WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) which has the market. Unlike ITF (International Taekwondo Federation), GTF Taekwondo (Global Taekwondo Federation) and karate, WTF Taekwondo has become more of a sport and less of a martial art, some may argue. WTF Taekwondo is much more commercialised, not just in Malaysia but most parts of the world. It is even an Olympic Sport, and karate isn’t.

Another reason is because taekwondo’s uniform also looks very similar to the karategi. To distinguish them, the karategi is plain white and the pattern resembles more of a coat whereas the taekwondo dobok (uniform) pattern resembles more of a long-sleeved T-shirt with v-neck collars, and with the words WTF, ITF or GTF Taekwondo printed on the back. There are also black stripes pattern on the dobok which varies between the federations – commonly on the v-neck. They even have similar syllabus, in terms of basics or kihon (fundamentals in Japanese language), belt ranking and taekwondo’s hyeong is very similar to the kata of karate. Kata are the prescribe form of movements which a karateka has to perform during the grading in order to move up in the belt ranks. The reason for these similarities is because taekwondo has its roots in karate, or more specifically Shotokan Karate, one of the four major styles of karate.

karategi (left) and taekwondo dubok

Karate History and Development of Taekwondo
Karate started in the Ryūkyū Kingdom of the Ryūkyū Islands of what is now Okinawa, Japan. It was a combination of Te, the indigenous fighting arts of Okinawa which translates to hand, practiced amongst the Penchin, a social class in Okinawa comparable to the Samurais of Japan, and Chinese Kung Fu which was introduced to Okinawa in the 14th Century during the tributary relationship between the three kingdoms of Okinawa – Chūzan, Hokuzan and Nanzan, which later unified into the Ryūkyū Kingdom in 1429 which lasted to the 19th Century – and the Ming Dynasty. The resulting martial art became known as Tōde, which translates to “Chinese hands”. This developed further in three villages which by the 18th century developed into three different types of Tōde known as Shuri-Te, Tomari-Te and Naha-Te respectively named after the villages. This later developed into modern styles such as Shōtōkan-ryū, Shitō-ryū Gōjū-ryū and Wadō-ryū, which became known as karate, a homonym of Tōde.

Long after the annexation of Okinawa by Japan and the abolishment of the kingdom in 1879, in 1993, karate became recognised as a Japanese martial art by the Bottoku Kai (Japanese Martial Arts Committee). In 1935, the name karate was officially changed to a homophone meaning "empty hand”, and eventually adding the suffix to imply that the art is also a path of knowledge, hence "the way of the empty hand”, or karate-dō. The reason for these changes are the modernisation of karate and its introduction to Japan, highly credited to the founder of Shōtōkan, Gichin Funakoshi, – amongst Kenwa Mabuni, Chōjun Miyagi, Motobu Chōki, Kanken Tōyama, and Kanbun Uechi. This occurred around the time of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, hence referring to this now Japanese martial art as Chinese became politically incorrect. Karate Okinawan terms have been changed to the Japanese language. Karate also adapted the keikogi (training uniform) and coloured belt ranks, both of which were popularised by and inventions of Jigorō Kanō, founder of Jūdō – an original Japanese martial art. In fact the keikogi and coloured belt ranking system are used by almost all Japanese martial arts.

During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1990 – 1945), a number of Koreans independently travelled to Japan to study and finding themselves exposed to karate, dominantly Shōtōkan. Some practiced directly under Gichin Funakoshi, earning black belts to return to Korea to open, or schools of modern Korean martial arts, dubbed kwan. Five kwan were formed during and after the occupation, prior to Korean War, and four were formed after the Korean war. These martial arts were initially called Tang Soo Do which is the Korean pronunciation of "Chinese hand way”, referencing karate-dō. On May 25, 1953, these five pre-Korean War kwan formed the Korea Kong Soo Do Association, where Kong Soo Do is the Korean pronunciation of "empty hand way”, referencing karate-dō once again. Due to problems and disagreements relating to standardising of tests and promotion in the organisation, which was the main purpose of the organisation, the organisation failed as the leaders one by one left.

General Choi, the founder of one of the post-Korean War kwan, coined the term coined the term taekwondo, which literally translates to “trample (with the foot) fist way” or “the art of the foot and fist”, and sustained it by having students to yell “Tae Kwon” each time they execute a technique. Due to his close ties with then Korean President, his petition to form a new association called Korea Taekwondo Association was accepted, which included the five original kwan plus General Choi’s kwan, where he became the president of. Although there were different preferences over the name of the association, taekwondo was accepted due to its resemblance to taekkyeon, an ancient Korean martial art.

Due to a period of internal chaos in Korea in 1960, the association collapsed, which led to a formation of a new association called Korea Tae-Soo-Do Association on September 1961. Then, due to further intervening of politics, General Choi was sent to Malaysia as an ambassador in 1962, where he spread the art, while the association remained president-less until a non-martial artist, Che Myung Shin was chosen on December 1962. Taekwon-Do Association of Malaysia was formed in 1963 and was nationally accepted especially after a demonstration at the Merdeka Stadium at the request of then Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rhaman. This obviously explains the widespread of Taekwondo over Karate in Malaysia as mentioned earlier, hence the case of mistaken identity of the arts.

Soon after General Choi’s return to Korea in 1965, he was elected as president in which he convinced to rename the association to Korea Taekwondo Association once again. Eventually the five pre-Korean War kwan in addition to the four post-Korean War kwan united on January 8, 1977, recognising the Kukkiwon, what is now the official taekwondo governing organisation established by the South Korean government, as the black belt promotional body for Taekwondo.

Chuck Norris and Kickboxing
Aside for being famous for his appearance the classic fight scene versus Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon and other films, for the Chuck Norris facts, and for his iconic beard, he is also known as a karate practitioner where he fought and won the World Professional MiddleWeight Karate Championships, and held that title until 1974 when he retired undefeated. Firstly, Chuck Norris practiced what is now taekwondo but was then called Tang Soo Do when he was sent to Osan Air Base, South Korea after joining the United States Air Force as an Air Policemen in 1958 – and not Karate. He was even awarded the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master Taekwondo in 1997, which is often mistaken that he was the first westerner to achieve so where in fact there were two others before him.

Norris later created his own martial art in 1990 called Chun Kuk Do, which is primarily based on the Tang Soo Do he learnt, Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan. Although Tang Soo Do was used as a general term to refer to modern Korean martial arts near the end of the Japanese occupation which became taekwondo, Tang Soo Do nowadays referrers to marital arts which has its root to this one particular kwan which split from the Korea Taekwondo Association, hence not synonymous to taekwondo. Even though Chun Kuk Do has it’s basis on Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, his training studio is often referred to as a karate studio as karate was a generic term used to describe East Asian martial arts in the US.

Secondly, the World Professional Karate Championship is a championship held by the Professional Karate Association (PKA) which was formed in the 1970s is a martial art organisation majoring in professional kickboxing – not karate. Aside from the PKA a rival association, the World Kickboxing Association (WKA) is sometimes referred to as World Karate Association, in which the official name is actually World Kickboxing and Karate association. The International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) is another association based in the US regulates karate and kickboxing matches, which was actually the result of promoters of PKA defecting PKA to form ISKA.

What is now known as American kickboxing, invented in the 1970, was then called karate because the primary intention was to create a new sport where karate practitioners in the US could fight with full contact and with rounds like in boxing, unlike the semi-full contact traditional Karate tournaments under the World Karate Federation (WKF). Kickboxing in general also has its roots in Japanese kickboxing, the first combat sport to adopt the name kickboxing in 1966 created by a Japanese boxing promoter Osamu Naguchi and a karate practitioner Tetsuo Yamada. This then which developed into K-1 in 1993.

American kickboxing is also often referred to with the term full contact karate, which should not be mistaken for Kyokushin kaikan, a style of karate which uses full contact sparing founded by a very notable karate master known to fight and kill bulls with his bare hands and a student of Gichin Funakoshi, Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama, who was in fact a Korean living in Japan. The Kyokushin style of karate is arguably less authentic than the other styles of karate as it was founded by a Korean in Japan, whereas other styles were founded in Okinawa by Okinawans, as well as due its difference of emphasis on their fighting method.

Related articles:
What Lay People Should Know about Karate – Peasants or Noblemen?
What Lay People Should Know about Martial Arts and Martial Artist – How are they Defined?
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Monday, 13 June 2011

What Lay People Should Know about Men – The Alpha Men (personal; humour)

by Zurina Ismail (with permision)
originally published at
original title: What We Need to Know about Men

A lone bull swaggered towards a small pack of musk oxen. The fight of intimidation had begun. They glared. The younger one pacing back and forth, swinging its head, testing his chances. The old bull feeling threatened pawed the ground. His position as the alpha male was at stake. But he would fight to the end.

Like men. Like alpha men. And it was only when I married, ate and slept with a man and had more sons than daughters did I begin to grasp a deeper understanding of the beast mentality. I found it wondrous in its primitiveness, its wildness, its beastliness and most of the time I would be flabbergasted. At times I would be stunned into a subservient silence.

My early introduction to men's minds was of course gleaned from my father. He loved cars that looked masculine. Like the Valiant. Or the Ford Cortina. Being overtaken was one of his pet peeves. He would turn dark and fume silently. And I knew exactly what would happen next. He would step on the accelerator, the car would speed up and finally he would be Overtaker. I could almost feel the vibrating strings of satisfaction drifting in the air. As a teenager I was mostly bewildered by such a display of childish competitiveness by my father. The working of men’s minds was completely beyond me. They were alien.

Then I watched my sons fight opponents in the ring – their karate keikogi snapping sharply with each kick and punch. Sweating, soaked, each intimidating the other, each psyching the other, each glaring, occasionally stamping their feet or pawing with their fists, each strategising their next move. Like musk oxen bulls. But when the final score was on their side my heart swelled. "Them, my friends, are my alpha sons!" my mind would shout, my head would nod and my fist would punch an imaginary sand bag. Short of thumping a hairy chest I was for that very moment quite the man. My alpha husband would be close to the ring. Stamping and roaring like a triumphant bull.  But in the secret pocket of my woman heart I am thankful that theirs is a fighting sport that is controlled, where full contact is not allowed.

When they emerge from the ring with their keikogi unravelled, their black belts loose and pendulous, their hair dishevelled, strands of it glued to their foreheads with sweat, skins glistening, eyes shining, bodies a little bruised and their breaths coming fast and heavy I would feel primitively and beastly proud. Like a man. Like a beast.

So it is only now I know that a tattered keikogi is macho in men's eyes. I've always wondered why Zad treasured his and was taken aback when asked if he was going to throw it away. Quite the contrary he wants it framed, hung and displayed. It is only now I know why some young alpha men have their hair closely cropped. It makes them look intimidating to their peers. It is only now I know why some alpha men have their hair longer than usual. It makes them look rugged and rough. It is only now I know why alpha men sit at the head of a table facing the entrance. So they will be the first to sight an enemy when he enters. It is only now I know why alpha men make every littlest thing they do appear important. They regard everything as a contest. To get the upper hand. To prevent others from pushing them around. It is only now I know why my alpha men love Swiss knives. It makes them feel like a MacGyver. And it is only now I know why alpha men never ask for directions. It makes them feel incompetent. And literally lost. Sometimes, exasperatingly and alpha-ingly, lost. Like little boys. Forever.

Now let me there anything else I need to know about alpha men?

Uh-uh I don't think so. That about covers it all, don't you think?

*SIGH* We women. Therefore we are............More complicated.
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What Lay People Should Know about Evolution – General (non-technical)

by Zad Datu

Charles Richard Darwin did not come up with a theory called evolution. Evolution is a well known fact long before Darwin's birth. What Darwin did come up with was a theory about evolution which he called Natural Selection, and published this idea in the year 1859 in his book titled On The Origin of Species, just as another evolution theorist did before him did. French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck's theory of evolution states that an organism can pass down characteristics it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring. According to Lamarck, an ancestral giraffe may initially have had a short neck but stretched out to reach leaves high up in the trees. This stretched neck was passed on to the next generation who in turned have stretched their necks even further, hence evolving and producing the long necked giraffes that we now know of. Coincidentally, this Lamarckism theory was published in his book titled Philosophie Zoologique in the year of Darwin was born – 1809.

So what is evolution? Evolution is the phenomenon or process of changes which occurs in a species over generations. How do we know that this phenomenon a fact? – Artificial selection, also called selective breeding. Mankind have been breeding animals and plants for many generations long before Darwin. All the different breeds of domestic dogs we know of, the Chihuahua, the bulldog, Rottweiler, greyhound just to name a few, were bred by men to posses the features that they do – where certain individuals of the dog population were deliberately and intelligently selected for particular preferred characteristics that they posses, allowing them to mate and reproduce while ignoring the others, in order to pass on the selected characteristics to the next generation resulting in a higher percentage of dogs with the characteristics in the population, and repeating the process generation after generation would exaggerate the characteristics further resulting in a population of dogs very different from their ancestor. Just as what was done to wolves to produce all the various breeds of dogs. This is evolution.

Artificial selection does cause problems, though – survival problems. For example, the bulldog have been bred to have such a large head, that without Caesarean section pregnant females and her unborn will die in labour when it is ready to conceive. The English short-face tumbler pigeon have been bred to have such a short beak that they are not able to feed their own young. The survivals of these two species are entirely dependent on the survival of men.

Wild Banana

Fruits and vegetables too were bred to accommodate ourselves. The famous elongated yellow and easy-to-eat banana that we are so familiar with does not exist naturally but was instead bred selectively. Bananas have been one of men's favourite fruit since the prehistoric times, but those were the wild bananas. Wild bananas are mostly red or green, short and stout, have large seeds, hard to peel and cannot be eaten raw. The bright common bananas that we are so familiar with were discovered as a mutation of a plaintain banana by Jamaican, Francois Poujot in 1836. The fluffy ordinary cabbage that we know of also exists for the same reason. They were selectively bred to have the features they do from a flowering plant brassica olerace, also known as the wild cabbage. So too are cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kohlrabi.

Darwin himself was a pigeon breeder, but for the research purposes. Pigeon breeding was very common at the time and still is now, so the ordinary people can easily relate to artificial selection through pigeon breeding, hence Darwin used this as an analogy to his theory of evolution via Natural Selection and that is why the first chapter of On the Origin of Species is about pigeons. Pigeon breeding, or in fact any form of breeding shows that given enough time any creature can be transformed into something very different from its ancestor – into an entirely new species. Darwin states that in nature the environment favours some characteristics over others – not in the sense of conscious intelligent favouritism, but in the sense that these features are advantageous for survival and reproduction. In essence, just as in selective breeding, features too are selected naturally causing the species to evolve into new species, and he called this process Natural Selection.

common pigeon

some of the various breeds of pigeons

Dutch botanist Hugo Marie de Vries on the other hand had his own theory of evolution. De Vries discovered that a type of evening primrose, the Oenothera lamarckiana on occasionally naturally produces variations of prodigies that looked very different from themselves were stable as new species. He called this phenomenon – this natural occurring discontinuous variation – mutation, hence coined the term. Another theory of evolution called Mutationism arose. It is a theory which emphasises on mutation as a creative principle and source of discontinuity in evolutionary change. Mutationism, which began in the 1980s, was popular in the first few decades of the 20th century and was, alongside Lamarkism, considered to be competing ideas of evolution challenging Natural Selection. But we now know that this particular phenomenon of radical mutation was a case of a genetic freak, not many other organisms mutated so radically hence Mutationism is no longer seriously considered. Similarly, due to the lack of evidence for heritability of acquired characteristics and the development of modern evolutionary synthesis, which was a union of ideas from several biological specialties providing a widely accepted account of evolution that began in the 1930s, Lamarkism died out too. Hence Natural Selection triumphed over Lamarkism and Mutationism.

So why are the Evolutionist vs. Creationist debates still going on? Or rather, how did it come about in the first place if evolution was a well known fact and natural selection is just a natural form of selective breeding? According to Darwin, all species must have evolved from a simpler or less complex species over time, and this was heresy to the Christians, who were the creationists apposing evolution at that time in Britain. The Christians believe that all the species on the planet was created by god exactly the way they are now and never changed one bit. The idea that all species must have evolved from a simpler species also suggests that men must have evolved from a lower being; Apes? Monkeys? – Another heresy.

So what did Darwin actually write about human evolution? In the final chapter of On the Origin of Species, Chapter 15 - Recapitulation and Conclusion, Darwin wrote “Much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history. And that is the only direct literary contribution Darwin made to human evolution.

All the other theories and facts on the evolution of modern man were made long after Darwin's death. The discovery of and scientific advancement in DNA which supports the theories of human evolution and the evolution of other species too were made long after Darwin's death. Coming back to the first question; why are the Evolutionist vs. Creationist debates still going on? The answer is simply because creationists choose to remain ignorant about evolution and the theories of evolution hence having their own versions of false understanding of evolution whilst trying to prove it wrong and debate against it. They choose to remain ignorant that evolution is a well known fact long before Darwin and that Darwin did not at all theorise about the evolution of man from ape or other lesser beings. They choose to remain ignorant towards the scientific advances, findings and evidence of evolution as well the evolution of mankind.

Some even question, attempting to point out a flaw in human evolution, why there still are apes existing if men came from apes – questioning why the apes today did not evolve into humans. Asking this is like asking why there still are Europeans if American came from Europeans - or about the dogs from wolves; or about the cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kohlrabi from wild cabbage. Another flaw in the question is the misinformation – the choice “to remain ignorant about evolution and the theories of evolution hence having their own versions of false understanding of evolution whilst trying to prove it wrong and debate against it”. None of the surviving species of apes today were ever said to be the species that we evolve from. They too evolved from ancient species of apes in the past.

Many creationists think that evolutionists merely believe in evolution as a theory just as creationists believe in creationism. To think that, is to think that evolutionists are merely speculating about evolution and the ancestry of modern humans as well as other species. To think that these are mere speculations, is to think that after years and years, and generations after generations, of studies, researches and experiments by hundreds and hundreds of naturalists, biologists, genetic engineers, archaeologists, palaeontologists and professionals of other fields confirming evolution and the theories did not end up with a conclusive evidence about their claims but merely speculating, that they are working together, conspiring and committing a fraud, by faking evidence that fits well with other fake evidence by independent professionals from different fields, that it was a concerted effort on staging contradicting evidence and disagreements between themselves which is supposedly resolved, while implying that independent journalists, filmmakers and the media too are part of this fraud presenting these speculations and fake evidence as factual findings.

One: the natural occurring phenomenon of changes in a species over generations, that is evolution, is a well known fact long before Darwin. Two: Darwin did not come up with a theory called evolution or a theory about the evolution of modern humans, but rather about how evolution occurs, called Natural Selection, which was proven correct by modern science by confirmed evidence. Three: the evolution of modern humans is not a mere speculation but an established fact supported by evidence from fields such as biology, genetic engineering, archaeology, palaeontology and others. Four: evolutionists do not merely believe in evolution, they know of evolution as a fact. One can’t believe in facts, but rather know of facts with the support of evidence. On the other hand, one can't know in beliefs, but rather believe in beliefs with the support of faith.

Related post:
Evolution – Natural Selection (video)
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