Blog Post

You are currently browsing the archive for the Blog Post category.

by Eric Oram and Robert W. Young
Photography by Rick Hustead | Lead photo provided courtesy of William Cheung

William_Cheung_wing_chun_wooden_dummy_1981_150px-OPT“I fear not the man who practices 10,000 techniques once, but the man who practices one technique 10,000 times holds my respect.”

The gist of that old Chinese saying is obvious: The key to reaching the highest levels of any martial art is practice. Only by executing thousands of repetitions of your style’s blocks, kicks and strikes will you be able to use your strategies and techniques in a natural and spontaneous way. Without that kind of preparation, in a fight you’ll be forced to think about what you should do next when you ought to be doing it.

Traditional wing chun kung fu instructors address the need for practice by emphasizing to their students the importance of developing their reflexes. They stipulate, however, that you cannot rely on just any set of repeated movements to hone your ability to defend yourself. To ensure that you respond with optimal timing, balance and accuracy, you need to learn the lessons of the wooden dummy and integrate it into your wing chun training.

Enter the Wooden Dummy

For more than two millennia, the fighting monks of China’s Shaolin Temple have used clever training devices to supplement their martial arts education. Legends tell that the old southern Shaolin Temple in Fujian province featured a unique collection of man-made warriors.

William_Cheung_wooden_dummy-150px-OPT1“There was a corridor that consisted of 108 wooden dummies representing 108 different attacking techniques,” says wing chun training expert and Black Belt Hall of Fame member William Cheung. “The monks would move down the hall and practice their defenses and counterattacks on them.”

After the Manchus razed the temple three centuries ago, one of the few surviving masters, a nun named Ng Mui, constructed a training device based on the principles of those dummies. “The positioning of the three arms and one leg of the wooden dummy was designed for 108 specific techniques parallel to the 108 techniques performed on the original dummies,” William Cheung says.

In the old days, dummies were built using a large central trunk — sometimes as long as 9 feet — with a tapered bottom, he continues. “A hole would be dug in the ground, and the dummy would be buried about three feet or four feet deep with gravel packed around it,” William Cheung explains. “The gravel would give way slightly when the wooden dummy was struck in order to soften the practitioner’s contact point.”

In traditional Shaolin kung fu, hard contact with a training dummy was used to condition the practitioner’s arms in preparation for combat. Although some martial artists still aim for that goal, wing chun training does not focus on making direct contact with the device’s wooden appendages. Instead, it uses the dummy to instill the ability to deflect or release an opponent’s force. This principle is particularly important for people who must fend off a larger or stronger assailant or who simply wish to employ a more efficient and fluid method of defense.

Wooden-dummy workouts help you develop all the attributes needed to actualize wing chun’s avoid-using-force-against-force principle: correct angle (of deflection), balance, accuracy, timing, mobility, positioning, speed, flow and power. But the training also endows you with numerous other skills and abilities.

Perhaps the most obvious is toughness. “Because wing chun uses the palms and forearms to block kicks — for example, the rolling block and the cross-arm block — it’s necessary to toughen these weapons, and that’s what wooden-dummy training does,” William Cheung says.

Wooden-Warrior-285x285Even though the dummy is an inanimate object, it can still help you polish your visual and contact reflexes during wing chun training. It does so by teaching you how to execute blocks and strikes in concert with each other, thus making them almost simultaneous parry-and-counter combinations. Just before you execute your counterstrike, there’s a moment of contact when your parry deflects the incoming blow — or the arm of the wooden dummy that represents the limb of the assailant. This contact is your cue to unleash your strike. To an observer, however, your full-speed block and strike appear to arrive simultaneously.

Over time, making contact with the dummy becomes your trigger to launch a counterattack. The result is the development of your contact reflexes, which constitute an essential element of real-world combat proficiency.

Using the wooden dummy in your wing chun training also builds your visual reflexes. It requires a little more imagination and focus than does the sharpening of your contact reflexes, however, for you must pretend not to know what comes next in the form you’re doing. By allowing yourself to be surprised by the next strike, you force your eyes to visually lock onto your wooden opponent before following up.

Stay Safe During Wooden-Dummy Training

Because wooden dummies are usually made of teak, it’s essential to practice all your offensive and defensive moves slowly and softly at first to minimize the impacts your body is forced to absorb. Then, as your accuracy and technique improve, you can put more energy and intention into it.

“In wooden-dummy training, the blocking areas of the arms are the palms and the inside and outside of the forearms,” wing chun training master William Cheung says. “With the lower extremities, it’s the outside and inside of the legs just below the knees.”

Whichever body part you use to make contact, care must be taken to minimize the impact between your body and the wooden dummy — especially your bones and pressure points.

“When striking with the hands, your primary weapons are the heel of the palm, the side of the palm, the knuckles and the phoenix knuckles,” William Cheung explains. “With the feet, the ball of the foot, the side of the foot and the heel are used. If the wooden dummy is adequately padded, the elbows and knees can be trained, as well. However, without proper padding, serious injury to the arms and legs may result.”

Always remember that the deflection of the incoming force is your goal. You are not out to meet an opposing force head-on. According to William Cheung, if you take pains to implement that principle before you try to gradually build your speed and power, you’ll heighten your ability to deflect while reducing the risk of injury.

“Beginners can benefit from the wooden dummy without unnecessary risk of injury as long as they are patient and cautious during the early stages of their training,” William Cheung says. “The key is to make light contact until the body is sufficiently conditioned.”

The ultimate goal of wooden-dummy training is the establishment of a good basic skill set you can tap into when you train with a live partner. That will enable you to respond with the right movements and principles without undue thought. Then, no matter where your martial arts journey may lead, you’ll be as prepared as you can be to handle any contingency that emerges — with an old wooden friend as your guide.

Share This Post
Share

by Raymond Horwitz and Bram Frank
Photo by Robert Reiff

Bram_Frank_150px-OPTBram Frank was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 2007 as Weapons Instructor of the Year in recognition of a career that’s spanned hung gar and wing chun kung fu, as well as jeet kune do, hapkido, jujitsu, shuri goju-ryu and aikido — not to mention exemplary proficiency in the practice and teaching of knife-fighting techniques.

A disciple of the late Remy Presas, Bram Frank has trained in numerous Philippine fighting arts and designed blades for Spyderco and other companies. Bram Frank has also created his own knife-fighting system, which has proved popular in, among other places, Israel, where they know a thing or two about close combat.

In this exclusive knife-fighting techniques video, Bram Frank demonstrates a variety of concepts and practices — including left-handed knife fighting!

ADVANCED KNIFE COMBAT VIDEO Join Bram Frank for a Mini-Seminar on Knife Combat Theory and Techniques!

Things to Remember

Bram Frank recommends keeping these concepts in mind as part of your training in knife-fighting techniques:

  • One of the most important teachings of the Philippine martial arts is “defanging the snake.” Also known as attacking your opponent’s weapon hand, it’s designed to destroy his ability to hold his knife.
  • When you use knife-fighting techniques to attack your opponent’s weapon hand, you eliminate the threat posed by the weapon. It’s relatively simple to do — fingers are easily damaged.
  • Often, the opponent’s hand is the easiest part of his body to reach during knife-fighting techniques. After all, when he’s holding a knife, chances are he’s extending it toward you.
  • In a life-or-death struggle, it’s a perfectly valid strategy to cut the inside of the adversary’s arms. In fact, it’s the most effective cut you can do during knife-fighting techniques. Eliminate the flexors, and your opponent has no ability to hold anything — including a weapon.
  • To guarantee the effectiveness of a cut to the outside of the arm, slice up to the biceps or down to the thumb.
  • Adhesion makes cutting effective. Cut and stick to the cut. Steel seeks flesh.
  • Lead with the edge of your weapon; thrust and rip with the tip. Keep the edge on the opponent.

  • Disengage by cutting through the enemy. Retreat with your body, not with your steel.
  • Strive to eliminate your adversary’s mobility. If you hamper his ability to maneuver, you remove the danger.
  • Aim once, cut twice. Now cut again. Cut one more time just to be safe.
  • Shoulders, especially the deltoid muscles, make easy targets. No deltoid means no arm mobility.
  • If the opponent’s blade is high, your blade is high. If his blade is low, your blade is low. In jeet kune do, it’s the intercepting fist; in knife fighting, it’s the intercepting blade.
  • Stabbing is for screwdrivers, shanks and ice picks. Knives are for cutting and thrusting.
  • Cutting takes no strength. Always cut with fluidity and intent. The longer the edge is in contact, the deeper the cut.
  • If your body is out of reach for your opponent, his weapon hand may be in range for you. Cut it.
  • Knife combat (or any form of edged-weapons combat, for that matter) is never the same twice. To maximize your chance of prevailing, hone your attributes (the skills you need for self-defense), your footwork (how you position and move your feet and legs), your timing (how you react within the motion of combat, using the full beat and half-beat), your concept of distance and range (gauging how far away your opponent is and determining which tools and techniques are best for that range) and defanging the snake.
  • The preferred way to develop all those attributes and abilities is to spar. Sparring with training weapons is the best way to safely practice combat.
  • Each sparring session should be 95-percent soft and 5-percent hard. If you go hard all the time, your attempts at attribute development will fade into chaos. Gross-motor skills will prevail, and fine-motor skills will be lost. In contrast, soft sparring locks in the fine-motor skills you need so they can be used in the 5 percent of your sparring that’s considered hard.

Share This Post
Share

by the Black Belt Editors

Think of a martial arts weapon — what do you see? A pair of nunchaku, a flashing blade, a Chinese spear?

Chances are, you didn’t think of karate weapons like the tonfa. The tonfa hasn’t been gIamorized in films, and it’s one of the less dramatic of the better-known karate weapons. Yet these ancient karate weapons are well-established in the art of kobudo (weapons use).

In application and training, the tonfa provides a vital link between kobudo and karate.

“Kobudo and karate are like the two wheels of a bicycle. They are separate, but they work according to the same principles. To be useful, they have to work together,” says karate weapons and karate techniques expert Fumio Demura, an instructor of both arts who teaches the use of the tonfa.

Fumio Demura holds advanced-dan rankings in kobudo and karate; he has trained in kendo and iaido; he was the All-Japan karate champion in 1961 and a Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee in 1969 and 1975. He sums up his perspective on the tonfa as follows: “lt doesn‘t have the popularity of the nunchaku, the sai or the bo. But I’m sure this is only temporary because the tonfa is an important weapon in kobudo. lt’s a very effective weapon for fighting and extremely valuable in training, as well.”

How the Tonfa Became One of the Most Versatile Karate Weapons

The tonfa originally did not exist amid the world of karate weapons but rather was an agricultural implement common throughout Eastern Asia. It was the “handle” by which a millstone was turned, so its basic, functional shape was repeated independently in many areas. The long, heavy end of the tonfa (or tui-fa, as it was also called) was fitted into a hole in the side of the millstone, and the smaller, handle end of the tool was used to turn the stone to grind rice.

It was in Okinawa that the tonfa first developed into full-fledged karate weapons. The Ryukyu Island chain (of which Okinawa is the largest island) has always suffered a dearth of workable metal, leading the inhabitants to experiment with various kinds of wooden implements.

During the 17th century, the islands were conquered by the Japanese. The invaders forbade native Okinawans to carry weapons — which made spear guns, swords and other “ordinary” weapons that much more difficult to obtain. Even empty-hand combat training was outlawed for a time in the interest of subduing the populace.

In response, the people of Okinawa developed new weapons — weapons that could be disguised as innocent tools. The tonfa was one of these early karate weapons. Any fairly large farm was likely to have a number of millstone handles available, so they could easily be explained away as tools of the trade (in case some Japanese soldier got curious).

On the other hand, the tonfa could — with training in the karate techniques of early Okinawa — easily be put to deadly use.

In those days, the tonfa was simply a convenient, hard and rather sophisticated club, used for striking or throwing. The farmer, trying to defend his fields or his family from occupation forces, might have carried three or four tonfa so he could throw some of these karate weapons at his enemy from a distance while remaining prepared for close battle.

Karate Weapons Today: How the Tonfa Figures Into Karate Techniques

Today, while there is no hard-and-fast rule, the art of kobudo generally uses two tonfa — one in each hand.

The powerful blocks and the straight, penetrating blows of karate all are strengthened by the tonfa, which can be used in simple adaptation of empty-hand techniques. These karate weapons are held in the hand, their long ends parallel to and under the forearms.

When holding these karate weapons, each hand becomes, in effect, as hard as the solid white oak or cherry wood of which tonfa are generaly made. One can strike at an assailant with karate techniques such as the punch, using the tonfa almost like a large wooden brass knuckle.

The heavy part of the tonfa also can be whipped or swung with great velocity, simply by keeping a loose grip on the handle, using the handle as a swivel and letting the tonfa build momentum by swinging it in a circular path to strike the target.

“You can’t swing the tonfa as fast as the nunchaku,” karate techniques expert Fumio Demura says, “but remember it’s a much heavier weapon, too. Nunchaku seem almost like toys — they’re small, but their momentum gives them power. Tonfa are quite a bit heavier, so with less motion you get the same or more impact.”

Using two tonfa, swinging them both in figure-8 patterns, the defender can set up a confusing and dangerous defense with these karate weapons.

Or he can change his grip, grasping the tonfa by its long end, and use the handle to trip, strangle or apply various joint-locking techniques to an opponent. Locking techniques are not a major part of the traditional kobudo applications of the tonfa.

But with the emergence of a new, extremely effective police baton, the PR-24 (which is based on the tonfa), these techniques have become more common. (Editor’s Note: Please remember this article about Fumio Demura and the tonfa was originally published in the February 1982 issue of Black Belt.) The PR-24 — essentially a normal police baton with a handle (sometimes a swivel handle) at one end — can be used in a number of ways in police work. If the suspect seems dangerous, the traditional striking techniques of the tonfa can be employed with devastating effect. lf the suspect is less dangerous but needs to be physically arrested, the shape of the tonfa is useful for grappling and controlling moves.

“It looks simple, but really it’s a hard weapon to use proper|y,” Fumio Demura warns prospective students. Fumio Demura stresses that karate weapons in general are not for the beginner. Karate weapons depend on a solid knowledge of empty-hand karate techniques.

Karate techniques and the integration of karate weapons such as the tonfa rely on good form, good body condition, perfect control, according to Fumio Demura. Otherwise, it can be hard to tell, from the injuries and so on, whether you’re learning to defend yourself or trying to commit a ritual murder-suicide. Fumio Demura recommends at least a few years of training in karate techniques before undertaking karate weapons.

But despite the warnings from masters such as Fumio Demura, the tonfa is a superb training device. The weight and length of the weapon alone could help most people develop stronger, more focused karate techniques. And the special uses of the tonfa are ideal for strengthening the hand and the wrist, essential for power in certain types of strikes.

The Physicality of Karate Weapons: The Tonfa and the Human Body

Swinging the tonfa requires a snap of the wrist not unlike that used in the last instant of a punch.

Developing control — for which you must be able to stop the circular movement of the weapon by gripping harder on the handle — is very much a matter of hand strength. The muscles of the hand and wrist become greatly developed through training with the tonfa.

“Many people think the key to powerful hand technique is having strong, invulnerable knuckles,” says karate techniques master Fumio Demura. “So they try all kinds of conditioning methods for the knuckles. People even break their own knuckles, hoping the fist will become stronger. But the key to a strong fist is the strength of the hand and the wrist, not the knuckles at all. A backfist or a vertical fist punch should end with a strong snap of the wrist, which can be enough to send an opponent fIying.”

How Competition Training Affects Karate Techniques and the Use of Karate Weapons

Fumio Demura believes that American-style competition may discourage using the wrist in hand techniques. In full-contact competition, padded gloves and the general denigration of technique detract from proper wrist use. And in point karate the idea is to score, not to garner every last bit of power. So with a combination like this, Fumio Demura believes, it’s not surprising that use of the wrist is a little neglected in American karate. But Fumio Demura — an All-Japan karate champ and Black Belt Hall of Fame member — certainly doesn’t underrate the value of competition.

“Competition is good,” Fumio Demura says, “but it should only be about 10 percent of karate training. People who train mostly for competition are going to lose the mystery of the art, and they could miss out on technical knowledge, too.”

But training with the tonfa is a valuable accompaniment to competition training or sparring for improvement of karate techniques. Many tonfa techniques are the same as empty-hand karate techniques except that the weapon projects a few inches in front of the hand and along the length of the forearm, increasing the strength of strikes and blocks.

Training in karate techniques with this kobudo weapon not only develops the muscular strength of the hand and wrist but also aids in developing good form in karate techniques. In that sense, it is a crucial link between kobudo and karate — it accustoms the student to karate weapons while it also contributes to his empty-hand karate techniques.

Share This Post
Share

Share This Post
Share

by Raymond Horwitz Photo by Robert Reiff

Tim Larkin: How to Defend Yourself Against an Attacker Using Target Focus TrainingTim Larkin, Black Belt’s 2011 Self-Defense Instructor of the Year, knows how to get people’s attention.

One of his favorite ways is to rattle off a statement that just happens to form the nucleus of Target Focus Training, the fighting system he founded: “Violence is rarely the answer — but when it is, it’s the only answer.”

Intrigued? We were, too. That’s why Tim Larkin and his Target Focus Training system were featured on the cover of our February 2012 issue.

In fact, response to Tim Larkin’s cover article was such that we decided to feature him in our upcoming June 2012 issue (which ships to the printer this week with another Black Belt Hall of Fame member — Julius Melegrito, the 2011 Weapons Instructor of the Year — on the cover) to teach readers how to master deadly self-defense techniques without killing their partners.

For Tim Larkin, the name of the game in Target Focus Training is recognizing opportunity and turning it into an injury. “An injury, as we define it,” Larkin says, “is breaking something on the human body — either a sensory system or a structure — so that part of the body no longer functions during the time you’re involved with that person.”

In other words, Tim Larkin wants you to learn how to hurt “them” so they can’t hurt you anymore. He wants you to “put [them] into a nonfunctional state.”

“[‘Nonfunctional’ means an attacker] is injured to the point where you can turn your back on him and he’s no longer a threat, or he’s unconscious or dead,” Tim Larkin explains. “Only then can you disengage. If he’s not in one of those states and you turn to get away and he pulls a gun — maybe you thought he just had a knife — you’re dead. Making sure he’s in a nonfunctional state is the only way to guarantee your safety.”

In the video above, Tim Larkin talks about the methodology he developed for target selection through opportunity. Each strike you unleash against an attacker has the potential to cause damage.

When deployed correctly and effectively, a strike elicits an immediate reaction — a cringe, a collapse … some sort of alteration in trajectory and/or stance that opens up vital targets for a follow-up strike.

That strike then causes a reaction, which opens the body to another strike.

“We’ll do like eight to 10 strikes,” Tim Larkin explains. “Often times, people will ask, ‘What the hell are you doing? The second strike would’ve taken care of the guy.’ We assume you’re going to miss under stress.”

When asked about technique sequences in martial arts magazines like Black Belt, Tim Larkin says, “We assume that [the photos shown] are the success points. There may have been eight, 10 strikes back and forth. But you recognized that one [vital] are of the human body, you got right in and you blasted it. And now everything’s changed in your favor [because now your opponent’s] in trauma. He can’t respond anymore at this point.”

Share This Post
Share

By W. Hock Hochheim

Three Knife-Fighting Myths That Can Sabotage Your Execution of Self-Defense TechniquesAnytime martial artists get together to discuss defensive techniques that employ the empty hands against a knife in a real-life scenario, arguments ignite. Then proclamations start: “There’s no way you can make that work against a real attack.” “Do that and you’ll get cut for sure.” “That move will get you killed.”

So goes the banter in discussing self-defense techniques, and the debate often gets hot when practitioners are talking about knife fighting. It’s interesting that very few of the speculations about knife fighting are based on criminal case studies or military research. Instead, the speculations about self-defense techniques employed in a knife attack revolve around anecdotal observations and shortsighted, nonscientific testing.

Which “get you killed” self-defense techniques incur the greatest wrath of martial artists? The arm grab and the knife disarm are usually the first to go. Other tactics — such as verbal skills, footwork, strikes, blocks, passing and takedowns — are frequently relegated to the trash bin even though such self-defense moves are just as likely to come back into favor next year.

The debates about the dynamics of knife fighting really hinge on three critical points on which all false arguments are built. They are:

  • the myth of the first event
  • the myth that all knife attackers are experts
  • the myth that all knife victims stop and drop on first contact

Knife-Fighting Myth #1: The First Event

When a martial arts instructor declares that certain self-defense techniques won’t work against a knife, it’s usually because he’s tested it against a prepared, trained, athletic student. In this format, the stab or slash is the focused, first and main event of a staged knife-fighting experiment.

The star pupil attacks, and the instructor fails to pull off the intended move. Then he declares: “See? You can’t do this!” Thinking he’s proved to his students that such self-defense techniques can’t work in real-life situations, he eliminates them from the curriculum.

But what if your countermoves occurred on the fourth or sixth event of the fight instead of the first? What if the first event was a chair or lamp smashed across his head? The subsequent knife counters, once impossible in the isolated dojo test against “Superboy,” suddenly work with a little kryptonite.

To experience this, try catching the weapon-bearing limb of the most athletic martial artist in your class. Hard, isn’t it? Next, hit him in the head with a lamp and try the grab. Not so hard, right? Stick your fingers in his eye. Easier?

Never dismiss self-defense moves to counter a knife solely on the fact that you can’t do them on the first event. First-event responses against blade attacks should be blinding and stunning strikes effected while you evade. Such self-defense techniques shouldn’t be complicated, multi-step sequences.

Knife-Fighting Myth #2: All Knife Attackers Are Experts

Beware the street fighter! He slashes tight and fast. He stabs like a pumping machine! His other hand strikes, pushes, pulls and confuses you!

How many times have you heard warnings such as those? They’re designed to convince you that your worst nightmare is the trained knife-fighting expert that has set you up for an ambush in the worst possible surroundings so he can exploit, yes, the element of surprise. The greatest armies of the world have been defeated that way.

The good news is, martial artists are usually forced to use self-defense moves against people who are referred to in professional circles as zero-to-moderately-trained opponents. Even then, real life has shown that they fall closer to the zero end of the spectrum.

Such nonexperts frequently make a host of mistakes in knife-fighting scenarios. In fact, they often do the opposite of what was described at the beginning of this section. They don’t plan. They’re overly emotional.

They overextend their arms in power stabs and slashes. They fail to adequately use their free hands for support. And worse for them but better for you, they tend to be out of shape, slow, uncoordinated, drugged or drunk.

Of course you should train and practice self-defense techniques for the worst-case scenario, but you should never dismiss a tactic based solely on the expert-attacker myth.

Knife-Fighting Myth #3: All Knife Victims Drop at First Contact

In a fencing match, one opponent’s epee touches the other person. The buzzer sounds, indicating a point. The toucher wins, and the touchee is theoretically dead. The crowd applauds.

The dirty little secret of the match? A split second after the winner touched the opponent with his weapon, the loser touched the winner with his. But the match was already over because of first contact. Hypothetically, both combatants would have died in seconds.

It gets even more complicated because in a street or battlefield fight, would either person have died? For an answer, let’s move that edged-weapon clash to the typical prison, where victims are stabbed and slashed 10 or 20 times but still manage to fight.

Consider the common street fight or, as the military calls it, close-quarters battle. Once again, multiple wounds and prolonged encounters are the norm. A modern-day knife-fighting situation is more like making contact in a football game than receiving a thrust in a fencing match. Rarely will a first-contact stab or slash put a person down. To be truly prepared, you should plan on fighting long after one of you is wounded.

Past the Myths

If those are the main myths, you’re probably wondering, How do knife-fighting encounters really end?

Research tells us that one common way is with an arm wrap that targets the weapon-bearing limb. Once the arm is slowed or stopped by a block or a successful stab or slash, it’s easier to effect an arm catch.

Other frequently used methods to end knife-fighting situations include the ones “dismissed” above. Yes, verbal skills, footwork, strikes, blocks, passing and takedowns account for most success stories on the street.

The best way to develop your counter-knife skills is to focus on realistic scenario training. Acting is essential. The latest trend in police training and some martial arts circles is force on force. It involves suiting up and fighting full speed, low drag.

The underlying idea is that if the self-defense moves don’t work in this rabid experiment, it won’t work at all. Not so, macho grasshopper! Such suits protect the attackers from realistic injuries that would stun them and break them down. If the man in the suit doesn’t act wounded, the value of this training method drops considerably. Realistic acting on the part of the attacker is mandatory when evaluating self-defense techniques for their usefulness.

As in all fights, knife attacks are situational. We live in a world in which an obese, 54-year-old New York City bus driver recently grabbed the weapon arm of a 20-year-old, drug-pumped passenger and disarmed him. How can anyone say that knife disarms and arm grabs are impossible?

If you get lost in the three myths, you might mistakenly remove viable tactics from your go-to list of self-defense techniques training and thus rob yourself and your students of the opportunity to develop real lifesaving skills.

Share This Post
Share
We separate fact from fiction to stop your sniffling, sneezing and wheezing for good
By Aviva Patz, Photographs by Bill Diodato

YOU DON’T NEED WEBMD TO DECODE ALLERGIES. The reason for your sniffling is simple: Your immune system encounters a foreign substance (pollen, say), registers it as a threat (it’s not), and launches a counterattack. Cue the runny nose and itchy eyes. Straightforward, right? In fact, that may be the only thing about allergies that is straightforward. “Many people suffer quietly with allergies for decades,” says William Reisacher, M.D., an assistant professor of otorhi nolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “They don’t tell their doctors because of the false belief that allergies are a trivial problem with no solution.” Breathe a sigh of relief: We’ve uncovered the truth about allergies—and the best ways to keep airborne enemies at bay.

Allergies are on the rise because we’ve sanitized our lives

PROBABLY TRUE But Purell isn’t entirely to blame. One leading theory is that the uptick in allergies began with our shift away from farm life and has accelerated because of our obsession with antibiotics and cleanliness, says Estelle Levetin, Ph.D., head of biological science at the University of Tulsa. As a result, we’re exposed to fewer infectious agents than ever—with an unexpected side effect. In the absence of its usual targets, your immune system may become overly sensitive and attack harmless particles, says Levetin.
YOUR MOVE There’s no need to play FarmVille in your backyard. But the next time your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, ask if it’s absolutely necessary. When your immune system is forced to focus on invaders that matter, it may eventually start to ignore allergens, say researchers in France. Another strategy: Eat more fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir. They’re full of good bacteria that may boost your immune system and, say scientists in Pakistan, further help prevent it from reacting to allergens.

Special pillowcases and mattress covers will banish dust mites from your bedroom

FALSE You won’t win this pillow fight. Simply covering your bedding with miteproof covers isn’t enough to reduce your symptoms, a 2011 Cochrane review concluded. “Covers will work as part of a plan that includes other dust-mite control measures,” says Thomas Platts-Mills, M.D., Ph.D., director of the University of Virginia’s asthma and allergic disease center.
YOUR MOVE The first step in your mite-control mission: the right pillow and mattress covers. Skip the cheapie versions—their weave isn’t tight enough to block the little buggers, says Dr. Platts-Mills. Instead, invest in Mission: Allergy Premium Microfiber Allergen-Proof Shams and Mattress Encasings ($28 to $170, missionallergy.com). Also, regularly wash your sheets and pillowcases in hot water and clean your floors with a HEPA vacuum, such as the Hoover WindTunnel Self-Propelled Bagless Upright ($200, hoover.com). In a Rutgers study, HEPA filtration reduced dust-mite allergens by 81 percent. The key: After vacuuming, the scientists waited 2 hours to let any agitated particles settle, and then they vacuumed again.

You may have allergies and not even realize it

TRUE You’ve pegged your runny nose as a cold symptom, but could it be allergies? “Many people misdiagnose allergies as a cold or the flu, so they never receive appropriate care,” says Stanley Naides, M.D., medical director for immunology at Quest Diagnostics. This could prime your body for more misery: Untreated allergies can predispose you to sinusitis (a sinus infection due to fluid buildup), middle ear infections (inflammation/fluid buildup in your ear), or even asthma.
YOUR MOVE Take this test from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: (1) How did your symptoms start? Cold symptoms evolve, but allergy symptoms often strike all at once. (2) How long have you been miserable? Colds typically clear up within a week or two, whereas allergies may drag on. (3) Achy and feverish? Probably a cold or the flu. (4) Itchy eyes? Allergies, most likely. (5) Sore throat or coughing? Generally a cold. Bottom line: Don’t let symptoms linger. After 2 weeks of suffering, visit your doctor, who can spot subtle signs of allergies, such as pale nasal mucous membranes, says Jeffrey Demain, M.D., director of the Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Center of Alaska.

Hypoallergenic pets won’t stir up your symptoms

FALSE Don’t expect a hypoallergenic pet to sneezeproof your pad. In a recent Henry Ford Health System study, allergen levels in homes with “hypoallergenic” dogs were found to be no lower than in homes with other breeds. The reason: The particles sloughed off the dog’s tongue and saliva—not its fur—are what trigger your reaction, says study author Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D. Plus, pets are often covered in other allergens, such as pollen, dust, and mold.
YOUR MOVE The Obamas were smart to adopt Bo, but not because of his so-called allergy-free coat. A dog can be an allergic person’s best choice because cat dander is “stickier” and thus tougher to eliminate, says Dr. Reisacher. Shampoo your pooch regularly, and blow-dry its fur on low heat to fight “wet dog” smell, which is caused by mold. Finally, use bleach or a color-safe alternative to destroy any dander clinging to your clothes.

Nasal sprays are a safe steroid treatment

TRUE You may associate steroids with meat-heads, but what they use are anabolic steroids, which mimic male hormones. The corticosteroids in nasal sprays, on the other hand, are inflammation-fighting hormones. “They have fewer side effects than antihistamines because they go directly into your nasal tissue instead of throughout your body,” says Timothy Mainardi, M.D., an allergist at Columbia University. Studies also show that corticosteroid sprays reduce nasal blockage and discharge more effectively than antihistamines do.
YOUR MOVE Start spraying a couple of weeks before your allergy season typically begins, suggests Dr. Mainardi. Red, itchy eyes? Opt for Veramyst, a new corticosteroid spray that controls nasal and eye symptoms. Or pair Nasonex or Flonase with a second-generation antihistamine, such as Claritin or Zyrtec.

Skin testing is a waste of time—you’ll react to everything

FALSE If your test results say “allergic to the world,” find a new allergist. Skin reactions need to be at least 3 millimeters across to indicate an allergy that can cause symptoms, says Dr. Demain. Another key to avoiding false positives: Share your medical history before testing. If you now eat eggs without problems despite a childhood egg allergy, your allergist can skip that test.
YOUR MOVE This is one exam you don’t want to cheat on. Avoid antihistamines 3 days prior, since they may dampen your allergic response and skew your results, say Mayo Clinic scientists. And at your appointment, provide the full rundown: timing of your symptoms, family history, suspected triggers, and previously diagnosed allergies. Your allergist will then decide which allergens to test for.

Share This Post
Share

By: Allen St. John

Most of the time, it’s good that the little Vince Lombardi sitting on our shoulder tells us to shut up and play through the pain, otherwise we’d never get anything done. On the other hand, there are a few instances in which we can actually talk ourselves out of existence.
That’s what happened to NBC reporter David Bloom. While covering the war in Iraq from his specially outfitted armored vehicle, he began to feel pain behind his knee. He reportedly sought out medical advice by satellite phone, decided not to follow the advice—”Go to a doctor”—popped a few aspirin, and kept right on going. Three days later, Bloom died of a pulmonary embolism caused by deep-vein thrombosis. He was 39.
The ache that Bloom blew off is one of seven pains that no man should ever ignore. And no, this isn’t negotiable.

Sudden Groin Pain

Not as severe as a shot to the crotch, but pretty close. Sometimes accompanied by swelling.
The condition: Odds are it’s something called testicular torsion. Normally, a man’s testicles are attached to his body in two ways: by the spermatic cords, which run into the abdomen, and by fleshy anchors near the scrotum.
But sometimes, in a relatively common congenital defect, these anchors are missing. This allows one of the spermatic cords to get twisted, which cuts off the flow of blood to the testicle. “If you catch it in 4 to 6 hours, you can usually save the testicle,” says Jon Pryor, M.D., a urologist with the University of Minnesota. “But after 12 to 24 hours, you’ll probably lose it.”
Another possible cause of the pain in your pants: an infection of the epididymis, your sperm-storage facility.
The diagnostics: A physical examination, possibly followed by an ultrasound. Antibiotics can stifle an infection. And if your testicles are doing the twist? A surgeon will straighten the cord, then construct artificial anchors with a few stitches near the scrotum.

Severe Back Pain

Similar to the kind of agony you’d expect if you’d just tried to clean-and-jerk an armoire. The usual remedies—heat, rest, OTC painkillers—offer no relief.
The condition: “If it’s not related to exercise, sudden severe back pain can be the sign of an aneurysm,” says Sigfried Kra, M.D., an associate professor at the Yale school of medicine. Particularly troubling is the abdominal aneurysm, a dangerous weakening of the aorta just above the kidneys. But don’t worry; eventually, the pain subsides—right after your body’s main artery bursts.
A less threatening possibility: You have a kidney stone. More pain, but you’ll only wish you were dead.
The diagnostics: A CT scan using intravenous radiopaque dye does the best job of revealing the size and shape of an aneurysm. Once its dimensions are determined, it’ll be treated with blood-pressure medication or surgery to implant a synthetic graft.

Persistent Foot or Shin Pain

A nagging pain in the top of your foot or the front of your shin that’s worse when you exercise, but present even at rest. It’s impervious to ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
The condition: It’s probably a stress fracture. Bones, like all the other tissues in your body, are continually regenerating themselves. “But if you’re training so hard that the bone doesn’t get a chance to heal itself, a stress fracture can develop,” explains Andrew Feldman, M.D., the team physician for the New York Rangers. Eventually, the bone can be permanently weakened.
The diagnostics: Radioactive dye reveals the fracture in the x-ray, and you’ll be told to stop all running until the crack heals. Worst case, you’ll be in a cast for a few weeks.

Sharp Pain in the Abdomen

All the metaphors apply—knife in the gut, bullet in the belly, skewer in the stomach—except this attack is from within.
The condition: Take your pick. Since the area between your ribs and your hips is jam-packed with organs, the pain can be a symptom of either appendicitis, pancreatitis, or an inflamed gallbladder. In all three cases, the cause is the same: Something has blocked up the organ in question, resulting in a potentially fatal infection. Exploding organs can kill a guy. See a doctor before this happens.
The diagnostics: If the pain is in your lower-right abdomen and your white-blood-cell count is up, says Dr. Kra, it’s probably appendicitis (out comes the appendix).
Pain in your upper abdomen with high white blood cells usually spells an inflamed gallbladder (goodbye, gallbladder).
And if it hurts below your breastbone and certain enzymes in the blood are elevated, then pancreatitis is probably the culprit. (The pancreas stays, but a gallstone may be blocking things up. If so, the stone and the gallbladder may have to come out.)

Transient Chest Pain

Not a type of pain that strikes only homeless people, but a heavy ache that comes on suddenly and then goes away just as quickly. Otherwise, you feel fine.
The condition: It could be indigestion. Or it could be a heart attack. “Even if it’s very short in duration, it can be a sign of something serious,” says John Stamatos, M.D., medical director of North Shore Pain Services in Long Island and author of Painbuster.
Here’s how serious: A blood clot may have lodged in a narrowed section of a coronary artery, completely cutting off the flow of blood to one section of your heart.
How much wait-and-see time do you have? Really, none. Fifty percent of deaths from heart attacks occur within 3 to 4 hours of the first symptoms. You’re literally living on borrowed time. The diagnostics: A blood test checks for markers of damaged heart tissue. Treatment: angioplasty or bypass.

Leg Pain with Swelling

Specifically, one of your calves is killing you. It’s swollen and tender to the touch, and may even feel warm, as if it’s being slow-roasted from the inside out.
The condition: Just sit in one place for 6 or more hours straight and wait for the blood that pools in your lower legs to form a clot (a.k.a. deep-vein thrombosis, or DVT). Next thing you know, that clot will be big enough to block a vein in your calf, producing pain and swelling.
Unfortunately, the first thing you’ll probably want to do—rub your leg—is also the worst thing. “It can send a big clot running up to your lung, where it can kill you,” warns Dr. Stamatos. The diagnostics: A venogram, in which dye is injected into the vein and then x-rayed, is the definitive way to diagnose DVT. They’ll try to dissolve the clot with drugs, or outfit vulnerable veins with filters to stop a clot before it stops you.

Painful Urination

Relieving yourself has become an exercise in expletives. Also, you could swear (and you do) that your yellow stream has a rusty tint.
The condition: Worst case? Bladder cancer, according to Joseph A. Smith, M.D., chairman of the department of urologic surgery at Vanderbilt University. The pain and the blood in your urine are symptoms of this, the fourth most common cancer in men.
Smoking is the biggest risk factor. Catch the disease early, and there’s a 90 percent chance of fixing it. Bladder infections share the same symptoms.
The diagnostics: It’s a sick joke, but true nonetheless: They’ll diagnose by process of elimination. Urinalysis first, to rule out bugs, followed by inserting a scope to look inside the bladder. A tumor will be treated with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.

Share This Post
Share

Written By Raymond Horwitz 

Is wing chun effective for self-defense on the street? In this exclusive preview from the DVD Grandmaster Cheung’s Wing Chun Kung Fu, grandmaster William Cheung and Eric Oram discuss wing chun history and how wing chun techniques developed over time. The kung fu moves they demonstrate focus on what William Cheung calls “the fourth center” — namely, how trained wing chun fighters can dominate this zone for maximum control over their opponents.

“Before the wing chun system came along, [Chinese martial artists were] using three centers,” William Cheung explains. “You [would] protect your center, and then you [would] attack the opponent’s center, and [then there would be] the center of exchange. But when wing chun was developed, they said, ‘Ahhh. We’re doing a 1-2-3-4.’”

William Cheung proceeds to demonstrate the 1-2-3-4 sequence with a series of kung fu moves and explains a pivotal moment in wing chun history. “So they developed a fourth center,” the wing chun grandmaster explains. “When you throw a punch, then I can counterattack at the same time.”

Using his senior student, sifu Eric Oram, to demonstrate the role of the fourth center in wing chun techniques, William Cheung elaborates on how this development altered the course of wing chun history and elevated the art into an effective self-defense arsenal that is still popular today.

“So when he comes along, I block. I’m facing this point here,” William Cheung explains, having moved around Eric Oram’s punching arm to the outside of his elbow — which Cheung refers to as the third center, from which he can readily access an impact point on Eric Oram’s head. This would be the fourth center.

“I free up [my] other arm to do the counterattack — so I don’t need to deal with [his] other arm,” William Cheung explains, demonstrating a strike to Eric Oram’s head. “You’re using the fourth center to fight on the blind side.”

The quick and fluid motion of wing chun techniques in action allows for minute gaps of time during which an opponent’s arm, although being contacted by the defender, is still relatively free. Some may ask: Is wing chun effective for street fighting or other close-quarters encounters if the attacker’s arm is not secured, pinned, bent or impacted by severe pressure-point manipulation?

William Cheung addresses this concern, deconstructing wing chun techniques as applied to a simple attack/response scenario: “One of the strategies is to control the elbow, so the leverage can control the person’s balance. If [the attacker] throws a round punch, I face [the inside of his elbow] — the third center — [and his face becomes] the fourth center. I’m away from the free arm, [but] I’m controlling the blind side from the inside. And then I can still deal with [his other arm].”

So is wing chun effective for fighting opponents in “the real world?” Experience is the telltale answer. Share your thoughts with us in the comment fields below! Sign in and voice your opinion today!

Share This Post
Share

by Julius Melegrito with Edward Pollard Photo Credit Rick Hustead

In recent years, the popularity of kali/escrima/arnis has skyrocketed among law-enforcement officers, as well as the general public. Experts believe the reason is threefold: The traditional Philippine systems offer all the benefits of the other Asian martial arts, wielding weapons provides a fine aerobic workout and, taught right, they serve as a functional form of reality-based self-defense. For all the essential facts on the stick styles, we asked Julius Melegrito, a master who runs a chain of schools in Nebraska, to weigh in. Here are some of his observations.

—Editor

  • Most untrained people see a weapon as having one attacking feature. With a little education, however, they learn that all parts of a stick or knife ― the tip, the body and the butt — can be used to attack.
  • Awareness of the versatility of blunt and edged weapons is more common in the Philippines and among those who practice the Philippine arts, but it can be learned quickly by any martial artist.
  • In stick fighting, you learn about the effectiveness of the punyo (butt end of the stick), katawan (body of the stick) and dulo (tip of the stick).
  • At close range, use the punyo. It can be devastating for gouging or striking.
  • At midrange, use the katawan. In self-defense, it’s best to aim for vulnerable areas such as the neck and face. Police officers are reluctant to inflict serious injury, however, so they might target the body.

  • When they’re not allowed to strike, police officers like to place one hand on each end and extend their arms to shove away an attacker. If need be, they can quickly switch from that orientation to a one-hand grip and strike.
  • At long range, use the tip. It’s by far the most devastating part of the weapon. If you smack your opponent with the first three inches of the stick, he’ll suffer the most damage because it’s the fastest moving part. It’s also the part that’s nearest to him, which means it’s very quick to bring into action.
  • The stick represents an extension of the human hand. So, putting the anatomy of the stick into more familiar terms, you get the following: Using the punyo is like nailing someone with an elbow strike, using the katawan is like chopping someone with a forearm strike and using the dulo is like jabbing your thumb into someone’s eye.
  • As lethal as one stick can be, two are even better — assuming that you know how to use them. Because wielding two is tough, most practitioners prefer single-stick techniques. Their reasoning is simple: You’ll rarely find yourself in a fight in which you have two sticks or two sticklike objects in your hands.
  • The counterpoint: What if you have one stick and the guy you’re fighting has one? If you manage to disarm him, you’ll end up with a pair of weapons. What will you do now? Throw one away because you don’t know how to use two?
  • To be fair to those one-stick enthusiasts, disarming an opponent can end with him dropping his weapon. You may or may not have an opportunity to pick it up and use it.
  • The bottom line: You don’t need      two sticks to fight, but if you have them, you might as well use them. Not      doing so is like telling an opponent that you’re going to fight with only      your right hand and not your left.

About the author:

Julius Melegrito is the founder of the Philippine Martial Arts Alliance. He operates a chain of schools in Bellevue and Omaha, Nebraska.

Share This Post
Share

« Older entries § Newer entries »

Get Adobe Flash player