Thursday, 13 October 2016

Daredevil Book 1: Devil At Bay (#1-5, #0.1)

"Dear City Planners, try putting your buildings a little closer together, okay?" - Matt Murdock

I've apologised for this before but I am acutely aware this blog o'mine has a heavy DC bias when it comes to the Big Two.  This was mainly due to the UK writers and artists I loved when they wrote for 2000AD in the mid-to-late eighties being head hunted by DC editor Karen Berger and the more "grown up" takes they had on various DC properties resulting in the creation of the mature reader orientated Vertigo imprint which of course appealed to someone coming to superheroes in her mid-teens rather than as a kid.  Because I had been drawn into that universe already I picked up a wider love of the DCU overall which has resulted in me jumping into it again on my return to comics a few years ago.  Now, I have started reading a lot more Marvel recently (Garth Ennis's Punisher MAX, Grant Morrison's New X-Men, Brian K.Vaughan's Runaways, Brian Michael Bendis's Daredevil, David Lapham's Deadpool MAX etc), because Marvel have been putting out some really big omnibus volumes of popular runs of various series but I haven't figured out the best way of tackling them yet for this blog.  Now Garth Ennis has made me love The Punisher, and having read Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's Daredevil run as well as Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's extraordinary Daredevil: Born Again they have made me love that character as well. A few years ago like many other Marvel properties, Daredevil was restarted at number one under the "Marvel NOW" imprint and veteran writer Mark Waid teaming up with artist Chris Samnee gave us their take on Matt Murdock aka Daredevil, a lawyer blinded in a childhood accident involving radioactive waste but who developed super senses to compensate and now fights crime in the area of New York called "Hell's Kitchen". 

Of course this leads us straight into the first change this series has in store for fans, he's based in San Francisco now. Which automatically has my interest because New York has been so integral to his character for a long time.  So seeing him adapt to an unfamiliar setting should be very interesting. And don't worry, his reason for being outside of his New York comfort zone is elaborated upon in the following chapters, this book contains the first five issues drawn by Chris Samnee and the done-in-one prequel "Road Warrior" drawn by Peter Krause.
Matt Murdock, official investigator now.
The story begins with the San Francisco cops dealing with a child abduction and ransom.  The woman in charge is the mayor whose daughter has been taken and is told her expert has arrived.  Another cop says giving this expert access to all the evidence isn't sitting well with the comissioner, but she says "I'm not going to prioritise his ego over my daughter".
The expert turns out to be Matt Murdock using his supersenses to check the dropped doll and panicked recording of the abducted girl out this is our first notification that his secret life as Daredevil is now known.  He has a breakthrough in that he detects the very faintest trace of radioactive waste on the ransom note as well as hearing noises in the background of the recording that indicate a bowling alley is nearby. The radioactivity most likely comes from a naval base in the city, so it's time for Daredevil to check out if there are any bolwing alley's close by.

We then get an introduction to Daredevil.  When he was a kid he saved a man from being hit by a truck, but was hit in the face himself by a loose radioactive waste canister.  He was rendered blind, but all his other senses became superhuman, giving him sight in the form a radar sense.

Matt: "I grew up using those gifts to become a lawyer by day... and a crimebuster by night. All to help balance the scales in an unjust world.  My name is Matt Murdock... and that's my mission".
He quickly finds the girl and scoops her up, but is chased by the costumed abductors.  As they race across San Francisco he notes that although he isn't a stranger to 'Frisco, really needs to reacclimate himself to the city now he is based there.
Daredevil finds Chealsea.
He's tried to cheat the reorientation process with an earpiece link up to his "let's say 'friend' Kirsten McDuffie".  But it leaves him deaf in one ear, and this allows one of the pursuers to crash into him on a glider which causes him to drop the kid.  Birds further interrupt his radar sense, so he concentrates on the ticking of her watch and manages to catch her before she hits the ground.

He takes out one pursuer, but still has another on his tail.  He manages to set the girl, who we find out is called Chelsea down on a window ledge and reassures her she'll be OK.  he says he likes her watch.  She says it's not a watch, it's a bracelet.

Matt: "Wait, what? Then where's the ticking coming... from?  Oh dear Lord, it's coming from HER."

Gently he pinches Chelsea's neck and renders her unconcious, then he yells at Kirsten to direct him to the nearest hospital, and it must be a tall one.  He thinks that the bomb is likely a "microdevice" that was fed to Chelsea while in captivity.

He says that's why he's being chased but not caught, he's "being played."  The kidnappers wanted her handed over to the police, "they want to set her off where she can do most damage!"  Kirsten asks why he is going to a hospital, because there are plenty of crowds there.
Daredevil gets Chelsea to safety.
He races into the hospital and slides into the lift with Chelsea still unconcious.  The lift is a workable "Faraday Cage" designed to block electric electric signals of all types. He leaves Chelsea safe inside and chases down the last bad guy.  He wonders what kind of person would do something as monstrous as use a little girl as a bomb.  "I suppose I'll ask when he wakes up" he thinks as he punches the baddies face in.

We then jump to "three days later" and the start of a running joke involving the signage on Kirsten and Matt's law practice.  This time Matt's name is in teeny tiny writing.  The mayor has come to give thanks, her name is Charlotte Hastert.  Matt introduces her to Kirsten, who helped get them their office here in San Francisco.  Kirsten is thankful and comments drily:

Kirsten: "Strange how so few landlords want to rent to a super hero who got his office blown up every six months even before his identity went public."

Charlotte tells them Chelsea is fine and the bomb was removed safely.  The captured henchman has given nothing up though, he didn't even know what the ransome was for.  Charlotte mentions she thought Matt had a different law partner back in New York.  matt looks pained and says "Foggy... his name was Foggy Nelson" as we see an urn.  But the final panel of this first chapter is Foggy, very much alive watching them as he repeats the word "was" to himself.
Max Coleridge, not a well man.
The next chapter begins with a recap of Daredevil/Matt Murdock's celebrity status in the city.  But it turns out to be a hallucination of a man called Max Coleridge aka "The Shroud" who is lying on the floor of his apartment. He comes round and hears the news story about the "fourth missing persons case in as many days".  All four had links to organised crime. The Shroud then walks into another room in which four men are restrained, ignoring their pleas for mercy, he leaves via the window.

We then cut to Matt Murdock having a meal in with Mayor Charlotte and his law partner Kirsten.  As they eat, Charlotte says that she fears that an old enemy of Daredevil's is in town, "the Kingpin of Crime... Leland Owlsley"  This just elicits laughter from Matt who says he was worried she'd say Wilson Fisk, the real Kingpin of Crime.  He says Owlsley is "manageable" and that he needs a new project.

Charlotte says that The Shroud is being a royal pain in the arse.  Matt doesn't know who he is, so Kirsten says she'll look him up in the Avenger's files.  His story is basically a version of Batman's: parents gunned down by a mugger, threw himself into intense physical and spiritual training, travelled the world and studied martial arts under the "cult of Kali".  The only difference he was given actual powers to command shadow and darkness by them, in return they took his eyes.
Daredevil confronts The Shroud.
Matt then asks Charlotte to describe him and when she does so and asks why, he says "because I can hear him on the roof".  He puts on his Daredevil threads and goes out to talk with The Shroud who warns him that this city is his turf.  This results in the two of them getting into a punch up and Daredevil manages to knock him down.

Matt: "Now, we either have common enemies.  In which case we ally for greater good... or you come at me again and you'll be in jail in less time than it took to lay you out."

The Shroud calls him an "overpriviledged glory hound" and Daredevil is an inch away from giving him over to the police, but The Shroud says then "four men starve to death", giving Daredevil pause.  The Shroud says he can take Daredevil to the "new boss in town" so Daredevil agrees to go with him.

Back in the flat, Charlotte has called the police and tells them to follow Daredevil and The Shroud.  As she leaves she mentions she would like to have met Foggy, and that of all the things that could have got him she never would have thought it would be cancer.  Left alone, Kirsten logs into the Avenger's files again to check on Leland Owlsley.
The Shroud shows off his powers.
Outside The Shroud's flat, Daredevil begins to think he's been led into a trap as he becomes shrouded in darkness, muffling his supersenses.  Then the void fades and he comes face-to-face with the prisoners and realises that The Shroud is in fact San Francisco's new mob boss.

We then cut to a park, a frightened man gives a report to a shadowy person up in a tree he addresses as Mr Owlsley, telling them that The Shroud is definitely making a play to "challenge your empire". The four Capos are still missing bu their four leiutenants have been put back on the street with a mark branding them on their faces.

Owlsley says it doesn't make sense, isn't The Shroud a crimefighter?  Apparently he came down on the wrong side of the superhero registration act and lost everything dear to him.  When the hapless man reports to Owlsley that he knows Daredevil's address, Owlsley rants about who controls the flow of information "who manipulates it? Who decides what's secret and what isn't? WHO?"  And he kills his informant.  Harsh.

Back in The Shroud's apartment, he and Daredevil have come to blows again.  Daredevil wonders what's going on as he thinks The Shroud could kill him easily.  He manages to get him in a headlock and pries some answers from him, "you're a resume builder" says The Shroud.  He was to beat him up, drop him in front of the Tv studio and this would make The Shroud come off as a credible threat.  "The fastest way to get an audience with the Owl".

Daredevil says it wasn't a bad plan as these things go.  The Shroud says they can still do it, Daredevil will pretend to be unconcious and the  The Shroud will hand deliver him to Owlsley who will open the door and they can double team him.  Daredevil is less enamoured of that plan.
Foggy in disguise.
We then jump forward a little to Kirsten chatting with Charlotte in her and Matt's law office.  Kirsten has been doing some reading on Owlsley and is worried that he seems more dangerous than before and Matt might be underestimating him.  Then a bearded man in a wheelchair rides up and says he has an appointment.  Kirsten says it must be with someone down the hall.

Then as she goes to give him a push there he slips his beard off and reveals he's Foggy Nelson underneath much to the annoyance of Kirsten.  She hustles Charlotte out of her office then gives Foggy a very loud piece of her mind.  "A lot of people went to a lot of trouble to fake your death for a very good reason!"  He looks downcast and admits he was going stir crazy.

He defends himself saying he wore a disguise, she says she's seen ventriloquist dummies more convincing.  The only people allowed to know he's alive are her, Matt, Doctor Pym (Ant Man) and his oncologist.  Before she can chew him out some more, Matt phones and asks her for something.

Later that evening at dusk, Max The Shroud takes him to a well guarded estate.  He's tried to break in before and never made it past the dogs.  Matt has a different approach.  He rocks up to the front gate in his civvies and flashes a subpoena at the guards.  They bring him inside for an audience with Owlsley.  Matt hands over the subpoena, which actually turns out to be a restaurant order in the envelope.  Matt was the misdirection, the Shroud is the main event as he looms up behind Owlsley and puts a shadow knife to his throat.
The Shroud threatens Owlsley.
Unfazed, Owlsley says Max won't kill him if he wishes to see his "precious Julia" again.  This gives Max pause and Matt thinks "oh hell, I haven't a clue who "Julia" is."  He feels Max starting to panic and yells at him not flinch, that Owlsley would say anything now.

Owlsley says do not call him a liar.  Julia is someone Max loved before the "law ripped her from your arms and from your life."

Owlsley: "But I know where she is.  Fight me and I will take that knowledge to my grave. Allow me to dispose of my greatest enemy and I will reunite you".

Matt frantically tries to keep to the plan but Max bellows, "Is he lying? Is he?" And matt has to say "no but..." and gets cut off because Max has withdrawn and Owlsley has activated a trapdoor over a burning pit that he drops Matt into.
Old skool traps are the best.
Fortunately Max realises he's being a dick and throws Matt's special cane which had been confiscated by Owlsley to him while covering him with his darkness powers.  Matt is able to extend the cane and flip out of harms reach.   There is a quick fight in which Matt is the only one left concious, which makes him realise The Shroud ran out taking Owlsley with him and he races out to find them.

He can't find them and we cut to him having a meal with Kirsten who says "so you just took your fake subpoena and went home?"  He says it's tempting to leave Owlsley, the "first arch-nemesis Daredevil had" in the hands of The Shroud, but not his call to make and the fact Max is a broken man who might let anything happen to be reunited with Julia means he needs to get a handle on the situation.

Kirsten says that Owlsley has been buying up Silicon Valley stocks left right and centre and is now very powerful in the tech sector.  But there is a cutting edge fibre optics start-up that refuses to business with him and Matt thinks that means it might be ripe for a break-in by The Shroud.  As Kirsten gets in a taxi home she says she'll text him the address.
Super telepathic wifi!
Sure enough, The Shroud attacks the building taking out all the internal security monitors. Max and Owlsley arrive inside, Max have fruitlessly tortured Owlsley is now forced to do his bidding in return for Julia. The item he wants is a wifi prototype that delivers information directly into the human brain.

Owlsley: "True sight Mr. Coleridge.  Utter and total omniscience as illuminating as the light that feeds it."

Then Daredevil drops down and punches him, Max yells at him to stay away and he and Dardevil brawl some more.  Matt thinks to himself that Max is either "unspeakably arrogant or deep down he knows he can't..." and his thought trails off.  Then he realises:

Matt: "No wonder Max Coleridge resents me so much... I've been saving his life."

Owlsley deliberately does.. something with the prototype that causes electricity to arc around his body.  Then we cut to the aftermath.  Daredevil and The Shroud are gone, Owlsley is trussed up in the wreckage of the lab, but he now has scary glowing eyes.
Daredevil lets Max have it.
On the roof, Daredevil has Max tied up and gives him a right talking too.  He tells Max he's been where Max has been, having lost everything including lovers, friends even his law practice.  But he has never once tried to "commit suicide by supervillain".  He offers his hand to Max to help him deal with the pain, but Max just yells that Owlsley gave him false hope.  Daredevil says he can help him find Julia, but Max just activates his darkness powers and disappears saying "I'll be waiting".  Pensively Matt says to himself, "I'll take that as a win."

The next chapter fills us in on why his former law partner Foggy Nelson had to fake his death and go into hiding.  We begin with Hank "Ant Man" Pym inside Foggy Nelson zapping errant "Circulating Tumor Cells".  Sadly Foggy has cancer and this is an attempt to limit the damage to his body.

It's more of an attempt to keep Foggy's spirits up but it isn't working and his relationship with Matt is getting strained.  They discuss Matt's recent unmasking as Daredevil and how this has painted a huge target on Foggy hence his need to go into hiding. They'll say the cancer took him and he can come with him and Kirsten to San Francisco and keep up his treatment in secret.

Matt says he can come back from the dead at a later date, Foggy notes that's something reserved for super heroes:

Foggy: "They go out with a bang.   I'm just a guy.  Dying because he lost a fight.  Who's even going to notice?"

He ruminates some more as they stand on a bridge looking out over the water, "not everyone gets to go out big" he sighs.  Then suddenly the water begins to churn and a huge robot rises up out of the water.

Matt picks up Foggy and makes a run for it as the big green robot comes jumping after them. This makes Matt think it might be an old enemy of his "Leapfrog" now seriously upgraded.  The robot catches up with them and grabs Foggy and tucks him into a compartment inside him and leaps off.
Foggy's hero moment.
Matt, now in his Daredevil costume, gives chase.  The robot taunts him saying if he wants his friend back to come get him.  They confront each other on a crowded street, the robot says it wants people to take pictures and remember this moment.  Daredevil has no idea why, and doesn't care, he just wants Foggy back.

The driver of the robot ejects and tries to run, but Daredevil grabs him.  As they struggle, Daredevil realises he reeks of "rising terror".  Daredevil ties him up and the man screams, "you've killed us both!".  Daredevil realises the robot suit is a timebomb about to go off.  Foggy has managed to climb out of where he was being held and Daredevil shouts to him that he has twenty seconds to get inside the robot and leap as high as he can.

So Foggy does so and the robot suit explodes in the sky above. As the bystanders ask him if that was really Foggy, but he takes off and goes some wayaway and finds Foggy in the arms of Hank Pym drifting back down to earth as minute sized beings.  They grow back to normal size and Foggy asks what just happened.

Matt: "You just sacrificed your life in front of thousands of onlookers in a blaze of glory my friend".

Just before the robot exploded, Hank Pym shrank him down to subatomic size.  So he went out big and small at the same time.
Now sequestered somewhere secret, Foggy writes in his journal that this is what it is like to live in the orbit of Matt Murdock.  He will make choices for you and manipulate you and you will want to punch him once an hour, "but he will care about you in a way no one else could".  And as he sees a newspaper headline dubbing him a hero he smiles and thinks that he doesn't need the world to know he exists, just having Matt know is enough.

This is getting a little long, as issue #0.1 takes place outside of the main series I'll just give it a quick summation.  In it Matt tangles with a rogue android that can take on the identity of anyone, including Matt who has to fight it as a Dardevil copy.  He tracks it down to a villain called "The Mad Thinker".  Matt suffers a beating at the hands of the Thinker's androids but manages to convince the rogue android that The Mad Thinker is an android and so the rogue android turns on him and beats him unconcious shutting the other self defence androids down, before Matt stops him by convincing him he's not sentient and causing him to shut down in confusion.  The story ends with him meeting up with Kirsten for a drive.

Overall this is a really enjoyable start to this take on Daredevil.  It's interesting for me, having been reading the much more angsty Bendis/Maleev take on the character to see Matt as a calmer and much more at peace with himself person.  It seems that now he doesn't have to maintain a double life and secret identity he's more relaxed and less wound up.  Of course this reveal lead to him being disbarred from practicing law in New York, hence his move to San Francisco but that just means we get to learn about his new surroundings as he does.  Setting him against The Shroud was an interesting choice, because The Shroud is very much like Matt has been in the past.  Driven to the point of madness having lost everything he cares about.  Through him we get to see how Matt has dealt with his demons and come out stronger on the other side, rather than do what The Shroud is doing and subconciously look for a way to end it all.  His support characters are good as well, with Foggy sidelined, Kirsten makes for a sharp and sarcastic foil for the madness that comes with being around Matt Murdock.  Charlotte the Mayor also gives Matt the link to authority he's never had in the past.  I absolutely love Chris Samnee's artwork.  It has a heavy "blocky" look to it that feels very Jack Kirby, perfectly matching the Silver Age writing style of Mark Waid's script.  All-in-all a swaggering, confident start to an acclaimed run.


  1. You might enjoy this

    Apart from looking at optical illusions (or as I call them, witchcraft) it also looks at how our senses work. The current understanding is that we all have synesthesia to an extent. So the old cliche about senses becoming more acute to compensate for the loss of a sense seems to have some factual basis.

    So what's this got to do with Daredevil I hear (or possible see, smell, feel) you ask?

    Well, theres a bit about a blind guy who can echolocate to the extent he can ride a bike.

    I know you don't have sound at present but if that blind guy can adapt another sense then I don't see why you can't. ;-)

  2. OK mind officially blown here. That's amazing, it's hard enough riding a bike when you can see (has the scars to prove it). Sadly while I do have a very powerful sense of smell I'm not sure how I could parlay that into fighting crime. Hrrrm.

  3. What's even more amazing is he sends out pulses by clicking his tongue.

    They put him in an MRI scanner and it seems that hes processing the sounds in the bit of the brain normally associated with sight.

    So he kind of is Daredevil.

  4. Ooh, check your email when you get a chance :-)

  5. Truly the human body and mind is an amazing thing. A real life Daredevil is one of the coolest things I've heard about in a while.

    Email checked!

  6. The very notion of The Devil of Hell's Kitchen being based in California already blew my tiny little mind, and then he starts using the Vulcan nerve pinch on chicks? I might have to check this out.

    I remember seeing a docu about the guy who clicks his tongue like a bat's echo-location: mind boggling. Sometimes reality truly is stranger than fiction.

    As i type this i am watching S2 of Daredevil (i am so far behind with TV stuff!) and the presence of The Punisher (Yay!) and Elektra (Rowwr!) tell me that - if you haven't yet - you should really check this show out at some point.:)

  7. I really want to see the Daredevil series but I'm gonna have to wait for a dvd release because I can't find it in a format I can watch, hem hem hem. ;)

  8. you should definitely try to see the daredevil tv show, it's ace! this comic looks cool too :)

  9. Well I just checked Amazon and Daredevil season 1 is out and at a reasonable price, so I'll be sticking that on my Xmas list now. Especially if it has Elektra and The Punisher in it as well.

    Daredevil Trivia: The can of radioactive stuff that hit and blinded Matt when he saved a man being hit by a truck rolled into the sewers and four baby turtles swam about in it, growing up to be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Of course being a different company they couldn't say it outright but Miller/Mazzuchelli's Daredevil run was a huge influence, hence the Ninjas. Teen was after the Teen Titans and Mutant after the X-Men. Quite cynically put together were the good old TMNT's. But it worked so it's all cool.

  10. They'll alway be *Hero* turtles to me.

    Little known fact, there used to be a nuclear reactor at Greenwich Naval College. When it was decommissioned they poured the coolant down the sewer.

    No mutant turtles though.

  11. Another bit of ninja trivia: I suspect through that being a martial arts aficionado you already know this, but just in case...

    The classic ninja costume has nothing to do with actual ninjas. It's just the standard dress of a kabuki theatre stagehand.

    In kabuki theatre there's a convention that anyone wearing that is 'invisible' to the audience. So, bit like the Lion King musical, where you pretend not to see the puppeteers. Or if there a ghost flying around you see the white sheet and ignore the bloke dangling it on a stick.

    When plays featured ninjas the mystique was that they were so stealthy you never saw them. People would just drop dead from arrows or other weapons and, to a Japanese audience, it was as if they'd come out of nowhere. So they'd suspend disbelief and ignore the bloke in the black hoodie that had actually stuck the knife in the actor.

    But when kabuki became popular with western audiences they just assumed the black clad blokes *were* the actual ninjas and thus a trope was born.

  12. Yeah I did know that as I am a massive anime nerd on top of all my other dorkages and you pick up quite a lot about Japanese culture from the various shows.

    There is some debate that ninjas actually existed at all, there is a theory that they were invented as a morale boosting exercise post WW2. It's generally agreed that working class assassins did exist and they'd just wear peasant gear because obviously that blends in better than a black jumpsuit. It's notable how several of the classic ninja weapons are repurposed farming equipment. They were considered pretty dishonourable which is probably why so little is known of ninja history as opposed to the honourable samurai class.

  13. I missed this: I got into the TMNT before the cartoon hit the UK in bowlderised form. I was surprised at the difference in tone, the comics at least the first twelve or so are dark. They kill the shit out of Shredder first time they tangle with him. And I'll always thank those Ninja Turtles for the Cerebus crossover which got me into that awesome comic that inspired me to start this blog.

    Also you explained the kabuki ninja costume thing very well for those not familiar with it soz should have said so in the previous post, I am very tired, didn't get a wink of sleep last night. Blarghle.

  14. Yeah, I kinda guessed you'd know :-)

    I'd call it expertise rather than dorkage though of course ;-)

    I could harp on forever about all that samurai/bushido/ninja stuff. But I'd be teaching you to sucking eggs. I do raise an eyebrow and a wry smile though when people rave about East Asian weapons. As you say they're generally just adapted farm implements. But then again so, ultimately, is the kukri and they seem to work.

    (After a collision with a tractor I can vouch some farm implements are pretty effective, especially the Massey Ferguson three point hitch)

    Even with actual weapons I do find myself yelling 'Sai don't work that way! They're not even meant to be pointy!" more than is probably healthy though.

  15. It is pretty funny when you first learn about East Asian weapons. Something like nunchuks look awesome and deadly and then you find out they are actually just rice flails. Which does make me wonder about what fights were like when folk were out flailing their rice and got into arguments. Lots of lost teeth I'm betting.

    I love the kukri because it's a weapon/implement that screams in its design that "I am designed for hacking up things: people, crops, whatever, I will hack them to bits". I'd even take a kukri over a katana. Oooh controversial. I think because the kukri is a brutish peasants weapon and the katana a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age (and harder to learn). :D

  16. Soldiers were issued with entrenching shovels long after trench warfare had ceased to be a thing just because they'd proved so effective as close quarters weapons, especially when they started producing them with a pre sharpened edge.

    I have to pop to a client meeting now, but I do have some thoughts on this whole area I'd like to bore you to tears with/share later.

  17. COol, share away. I'm always happy to talk weaponry :) But a meeting on a sunday? Damn. I might try and get a couple of hours sleep, my body clock is so messed up I think its actually based in a different time zone than GMT.

  18. Yeah, that's why I never feel guilty about spending regular working hours reading your blog. Still goes with the territory, especially the corporate stuff. 'Money never sleeps' and all that (be nice if it took a snooze occasionally though)

    But anyway, back now so stand by for incoming polemic.

    I share your fascination with weaponry. I guess 'hoplophile' is the term (as hoplophobia is the irrational fear of weaponry). Krav as you may know features a lot of weapon stuff, both defending against and using (in Krav philosophy thats interlinked). There's also a lot of 'X v Y' weapons training. So that relates to your kukri vs katana thing.

    One thing we used to do was teach police fast entry teams (basically SWAT but without the guns) in stick against knife stuff. That was very relevant to their work. Now I'd like to think I'm reasonably proficient in knife use (as much as you can be without having been in any real knife fights) but based on that experience I'd probably prefer to be the one with the stick. I'd rather have the reach than the lethality.

    Swords though combine both reach and lethality. So Id be interested in the kukri/katana outcome. You don't give away too much of a reach advantage (notwithstanding kukri are more slashing than stabbing) but you could adopt a lot of the short knife stuff to parry and trap. Also you have a spare hand and that can be really useful in a fight. Hmm, Id love to try this out.

    WE Fairbairn (whom I'm going to ramble about in another post) was a big fan of the medium.length very heavy blade combo (Google 'smatchet') and the kukri very much fulfils that role.

    Also a katana would probably just shatter. As you'll know contrary to all that bull about Japanese steel making they were actually pretty rubbish. Bessemer Process FTW!

  19. First a little background reading for you. Two of my heroes in one article! (Edith Garrud & WE Fairbairn). Today's lecture will be on Fairbairn :-)

  20. First a little background reading for you. Two of my heroes in one article! (Edith Garrud & WE Fairbairn). Today's lecture will be on Fairbairn :-)

  21. Be better if I remembered the link...

  22. Heavy blade is right. People who've held my kukri are amazed at how heavy it is. I of course notice that the weight is all in the top half of the blade so even just standing holding the sword at rest it's being pulled downwards hence the ridiculous hack n'slash power. Mine is in a leather scabbard with two little knives, they are intended for sharpening the larger blade but in a pinch you've got a second stabbing weapon for your other hand.

    I think one reason katanas got such a reputation in some parts of western culture is videogames from Japan who will often have famous blades named after Masamune as the ultimate weapons in games. I'm guessing samurai films added to the mystique as well. One of the reasons I've tended to prefer Chinese martial arts films is the massive amounts of different weaponry they have. One I'd love to have is the "sanjiegun" or three sectional staff. I've seen Jet Li use one in his films (and he is da man for weapons based martial arts films) and it looks amazing. Although after my misadventures with a nunchuku I'd probably strangle myself with it!

    That was a very interesting link, very ahead of its time with what's appropriate for a woman to do to fight back. One of the reasons JKD appealed to me was it was designed for short men and women. I note also that Bruce Lee like Mr. Fairburn wasn't afraid to fight dirty too if it meant he won. My feelings are if someone is bigger and more powerful than you anything advantage you can get and use against them is fair dos.

  23. Actually I just realised, to get back on topic, Daredevil's cane comes apart like a three sectional staff and he can also take it apart to give him his famous billy clubs too. Cool.

  24. OK, so now you know who Fairbairn is. He was responsible for the development of the Commando hand to hand combat syllabus. What may interest you is that, along with an MI6 officer called Eric Sykes (no, not that one), he designed the famous Commando dagger.

    But anyway, Fairbairn's syllabus was taught at a place called Camp X in Canada to other WW2 allies, including the Americans. (The CIA today acknowledge that they wouldn't exist but for Camp X and the Brits). But put that on hold for a moment whilst we pop over to Israel.

    The official history of Krav Maga states that it was developed by a Hungarian Jewish refugee called Imi Lichtenfeld who fought the Nazis in WW2 (definitely true) and then the British in the post WW2 mandate (sort of true)

    Now I'm involved with a little project called (in English) 1947 Krav Maga (Thats a translation from the Hebrew). Basically it's a study of the evolution of Krav from its early days, through to today. What's quite nice is we have on board some of the people directly involved, including some people who worked with Imi. It's interesting how little it has evolved. There's more variation between the syllabuses of the various Israeli agencies than there is between the original syllabus and the main one used today.

    My contribution is to collate stuff about military combatives generally for comparison. One thing that crops up is how similar Krav is to the Fairbairn syllabus. The controversy is whether it's parallel development or if there is a connection. One thing we have found is that some Jewish 'Palmach' units ('strike platoon') did train at camp x and some of those units became the Haganah (Jewish resistance/terrorist group depending on your point of view) that fought the Brits and Imi was in the Haganah. For diplomatic reasons we've agreed to leave that question unresolved :-)

    One thing is for sure though, because of the limited access to weapons the Haganah got really good at using sticks and knives and all the stuff Krav is famous for. One area where Krav is more advanced than the Fairbairn stuff is gun disarming. The Fairbairn stuff stops you getting shot but then Krav adds actually retaining the weapon. Stealing guns from British troops was a big thing for the Haganah (to the extent that they would deliberately allow themselves to be arrested so they could nab the guns)

    But it was the mandate period where Krav really refined the idea of improvised weapons so hopefully that ties in with the ninja thing where we started :-)

  25. Very interesting stuff! Due to my obssession with East Asian martial arts I confess I hadn't really heard of Krav until about a decade ago. Now I have actually had some virtual experience with the style thanks to a videogame called "Splinter Cell" which is all about stealth and infiltration having a pretty comprehensive Krav moveset including disarms, takedowns and so on. From that I could see that it's a pretty nifty fighting system. If I was fit enough I'd be interested in learning it alongside JKD, both seem to be taught as self defence rather than an "art".

  26. There's quite an overlap between Krav and JKD. Certainly in ethos if not in techniques. I suppose in a way they're both philosophies rather than styles.

    One obvious parallel is in how they develop. You'll be familliar with the Bruce quote "adopt what is useful; discard what isn't"

    Well the krav logo incorporates a bit of Hebrew iconography that represents that exactly.

  27. Re: Curious about the logo

    Its the "Kouf Mem", the symbol is the "K" and the "M" written in Hebrew for Krav Maga, which means Contact Combat. The broken circle around it sybolizes that the system allows for old techniques to flow out and new techniqes to flow in... if its no longer working, applicable or needs to change- it goes out and a new technique comes in to fit the need.

  28. "And add what is specifically your own" goes the full quote! Bruce Lee's early death was a real tragedy. I've got a thick book that puts together all the philosophical musings he was putting down on paper as he developed the JKD style and he was an incredibly intelligent chap. It'd have been wonderful to get the books he was planning to write not just the rough drafts. Sigh.

  29. Yeah, again there's a similar vibe.

    "The best technique is the one that works for you"

    Is that "the Tao of Bruce Lee" by any chance? I love his musings. You seen that black & white interview he did? The way he says "be the teapot" is wonderful.

    Such a shame about his early death. I suppose the moral of that story is, if you're allergic to painkillers make sure your girlfriend knows to ring the ambulance rather than your manager.

  30. No it's just called "Jeet Kune Do" and is basically a collection of notes he was jotting down for a future book. And to die of a painkiller allergy is such an avoidable tragedy too.

  31. I think I may have seen that. Certainly something similar if not. Is it the one that reproduces his handwritten notes?

    And yeah, so awful that something so seemingly trivial could have such an effect. Ironically it was his back pain that was causing him so much trouble so I'm sure you can empathise.

  32. Looks like it, there are also his little sketches of figures in various positions too. Hmm maybe time for a reread. Have also got "The Bruce Lee Anthology" which takes a broader view incorporating looks at his films and so on.

    I've often wondered what kind of back pain Bruce had that he was able to work through it. Mine's a degenerative disc disorder which means it's only going to get worse alas no cures avaliable just lots of pain medication which fortunately I am not allergic to!

  33. As you probably know he sustained an injury during a fight scene. I think the 'working through it' was a combination of sheer determination and high end pain killers. Apparently he was in pretty much constant agony though. Not sure if he used the hash as a painkiller or just cause he liked it.

    A big problem was that being able to do all the fancy stuff was pretty much an essential part of being Bruce Lee. So it's probably like American Footballers. They just dope themselves up knowing they're causing themselves irreparable harm but that they only have a short earning window and it's all they can do at that stage.

  34. I have heard as well that he was experimenting with getting his body fat even lower than he normally had it as well so that might affected his tolerance levels to a painkiller he wasn't used to as well.

    I think it's an occupational hazard for all film martial artists. I know Jackie Chan for example apparently wakes up barely able to move and has to do a lot of stretching before he can walk out the door.

  35. Yeah, he was down to like 3%. That's heart failure territory; your electrolyte balances is all over the place.

    There was a documentary that covered that. Although it went on to say that a small number of people just have an intolerance to that particular painkiller anyway. Generally the reaction can be treated if you get to hospital in time but with all the delays he unfortunately ended up with irreversible brain swelling.

    But it certainly damages your body. I'm no great martial artist but I have my share of souvenirs (I'm actually perversely proud of them). One of the freakiest is that the bottom bit of my sternum is detached so I can sort of move it around. (That was the first time a doctor used the words "at your age". Boo!)