Thursday, 27 October 2016

Dragonball Book 5: The Red Ribbon Army

"From now on you must blaze your own trail! You need to discipline and train yourselves" - Kamesen'nin

This is my cut n'paste intro for my end of month indulgence (if I feel like it) as I make my way through all forty-two collected volumes of the enduringly popular and influential manga Dragonball. The series used to be split into the fantasy and whimsy filled Dragonball and the more serious, sci-fi orientated strip it became after sixteen volumes known as Dragonball Z, but now the series is being released under the one "Dragonball" title again; uncut and with a spiffy new translation.  The series first ran in the famous anthology magazine "Shonen Jump" from 1984 to 1995 and was written and drawn by Akira Toriyama (It has been translated here by Mari Morimoto and adapted into English by Gerard Jones, the western publisher is Viz Media) and pretty much set the standard for the similar shonen manga and anime that came after like Bleach and Naruto.  It follows the adventures of the kindly if somewhat sheltered and simple "Son Goku" as he trains, goes on adventures and enters competitions all with the aim of making himself a stronger and better fighter.  Along the way he accrues a colourful cast of friends and rivals in a world where humans live alongside anthropomorphised animals, dinosaurs never died out and tiny capsules can contain vehicles and houses to be easily carried around.

[Note:  This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left]

Previously On Dragonball:  After the hunt for the dragonballs was over, Goku parted from his new friends to go and train to become a better martial artist under the tutelage of the perverted old Kamesen'nin (Kame for short).  Joining him was a young buddist monk called Kururin and they initially had an antagonistic relationship before bonding through nearly a years worth of training.  Kame entered them in the Tenka'ichi Budokai or Strongest Under the Heavens tournament to finish their training on a high note and they easily fought their way through the qualifiers to the final eight and fought in front of the crowd which includes their friends Bulma, Puar and Oolong who are also there supporting Yamucha who has made the final eight as well.  Kame himself has also entered in disguise as "Jackie Chun" because he doesn't actually want his students to win in case it stops them wanting to improve their skills.  In book three everyone was knocked out of the competition except for Kame and Goku, and during the competition Goku's tail which got snipped off in an earlier volume, suddenly grew back.  This will be important later.  Thus began the final and an epic fight between them that we return in the middle of.  And now the continuation.
Kame's lullaby attack.
Goku keeps running rings round the increasingly frustrated Kame so he decides to bust out a big attack.  He stands and waves his arms and slowly sings a lullaby.  Goku is transfixed and falls flat on his face, fast asleep.  The announcer starts the count, but Bulma (one of his friends) in the audience has an idea and just as the count reaches nine she yells "Goku!! Dinner Time!!!!" And Goku jumps to his feet in before the count hits ten.  He scampers round looking for food but the announcer tells him he gets to eat when the match is over.

Goku knocks Kame down using his "Janken" (Rock, Paper, Scissors) attack, so Kame gets up apologises to him saying he is about to lose.  He's going to use a move that only Goku's adoptive grandfather had experienced.  He puts his hands together, draws power up until he glows then fires a stream of light at Goku and it envelops and starts to crush him with it.  It is the "Bankoku Bikkuri Shou!!!!" attack.

He demands Goku say "mercy" and he'll let him down.  Goku refuses, and gets squeezed harder.  Yamucha (another friend) shouts that "you fought well!!! Now give it up!!"  Goku listens and starts to stammer out "M... Mer..." when he looks up and sees the full moon in the sky.  And now he's got his tail back that's bad news, because if he sees a full moon now he'll transform into a mindless, destructive, giant, raging ape.  Which is indeed what happens.
A surprise ape!
He breaks out of Kame's attack easily and starts destroying the combatant's waiting area attached to the stage.  Kame doesn't know what to do because he doesn't want to forfeit the match by leaving the stage.  Kururin tries to get through to Goku, but Yamucha shouts that it's no use and that when he sees the moon this is what he becomes.  So Kame realises he only has one option.  He puffs his body up with maximum power and fires a HUGE Kamehameha blast.

When the smoke clears, the giant Goku ape is gone.  Everyone accuses Kame of killing him, but actually he blew up the moon and Goku's is back to normal though stark naked.  Goku has no memory of what happens when he transforms, a little confused he borrows Kururin's uniform so he can fight on. Goku goes back out into the ring and says he's so hungry he can't fight.  Kame says he'll be vulnerable to his last Kamehameha, but only manages a little poof of energy.  He's much weaker now.

Goku cheers, fires a kamehameha at Kame, followed by a kick which knocks him flying.  Thinking he's knocked him out of the ring he starts to celebrate but Kame managed to jam one foot into the stone edge of the ring and is still a few inches about the ground.  He climbs back in noting Goku's attacks are weaker now as well and they both size each other up for the final attack.

They then run at each other and deliver a flying kick to each other's heads.  They both sail through the air and land hard.  The announcer starts the countdown but neither of them manage to stand when the ten is reached.  But there can't be two winners, so the first one to climb to his feet, smile and say "I did so win" takes the glory of first place.
The final strikes.
Goku manages to get to his feet, smile and say "I... I d...did..." and he falls backwards completely out.  Kame makes it to his feet, grins and says "I.. did... so... win!!!" and so "Jackie Chun" becomes the official winner of this years Tenka'ichi Budokai Tournament.  But as he looks down at Goku he thinks:

Kame: "My legs are longer dear boy. And so in the end my kick struck deeper than yours.  And that is the long and short of it.  But you made me proud... No one has ever pushed the invicible old master this far before."

Goku wakes up and doesn't seem to bothered by losing "oh well" he says, then asks if he can fight Jackie Chun again when he's trained and gotten stronger.  "S.. sure" says Kame.

Kame gets his prize money of 500,000 zeni and goes into the combatant's waiting area where Kururin and Goku are wondering if Kame watched the matches like he said he would. As they leave Goku groans at how hungry he is.  In the bushes, Kame rips off the wig he was wearing and puts on his shades and hat and meets up with the others.   He tells Kururin and Goku they fought "magnificently".  He's very proud of them.  Kururin wonders if Goku might have won if he'd been less hungry.  Goka says "nah" the old guy was great.

Kame: "That's right!  As great as you may be, there will always be someone better!  There are many more warriors more powerful still!!  The way of the warrior is not so easy that you can now be satisfied with today's performance! Your true training is only now beginning!"

The boys smile in agreement.   As a reward Kame will treat all of them, including Bulma, Yamucha, Oolong and Puar to a slap up meal.  This proves to be his undoing because Goku has something else unnatural about him, his appetite.  He can easily eat enough for thirty people and does so.  The bill for the meal comes to 470,000 zeni.  Alas all the prize money gone.
It's a joke now, but his huge appetite is another clue he isn't quite of this planet.
After dinner Goku says he is going to search for the Dragonball that belonged to his grandfather.  The four star ball.  Bringing the seven Dragonballs together summons a dragon who will grant one wish per year. When a wish is made, the seven balls fly off to random parts of the planet, fortunately Bulma (a teen genius inventor) created a radar capable of finding them, and she gives it to Goku.  He packs up his stuff and summons his magic flying cloud Kinto'un and all his friends wish him a safe journey as he flies off to begin his search.

Sometime later Goku gets close to one of the balls on the radar and lands Kinto'un. However he is not the only one searching for the magic balls.  An organisation called "The Red Ribbon Army" is also looking for them and they even have dragon radar of their own although their radars aren't as sophisticated as the Bulma built one and can only give a rough idea of a balls whereabouts so a ground search has to take place.
Kinto'un and the Dragon Radar in action.
There are several squads all searching in different places, Goku has arrived where the "Silver" squad led by Colonel Silver is looking. The soldiers are hunting when Goku comes racing up, feels behind a rock and finds a ball.  Sadly it's the six star one, but he is going to hang onto it anyway. The two Red Ribbon army guys point guns at Goku to take the ball from him but he knocks one out with a contemptuous leg sweep and dodges the bullets from the second and punches him out as well.

He flies off, but one of the men calls Colonel Silver who rushes out with a bazooka and fires upon Goku.  It hits Kinto'un and the cloud dissipates and Goku falls to the ground.  Colonel Silver then demands to know how Goku can find the balls so easily and why.  Goku refuses to tell him anything so Silver takes his jacket off and gets ready to kick Goku's ass.

He charges at Goku and snatches the bundle with the ball in it.  But Goku grabs it back.  He goes to attack Goku and Goku kicks him hard in the stomach which doubles Silver over in pain. Then Goku jumps up and kicks him in the head, knocking him out cold.  Goku then goes to look in the nearby house for a capsule that might have something to fly in it (capsules are small cylinders that hold anything from a small house to a car to an aeroplane which pop into being when the tip of the capsule is pressed).
Colonel Silver is no match for Goku.
He finds some capsules and opens one and gets a robot.  The robot tells him which capsule has a plane in it and also that it can fly it.  So off they go.  We then cut to the leader of The Red Ribbon Army, Commander Red who is angry they aren't making any progress finding the Dragonballs.  Then he is shown a map with the rough locations of the balls on and that the ball Colonel Silver was searching for is heading north towards General White's area.

Commander Red yells at Colonel Silver over the phone when he finds out what happened and sentences Silver to death.  Meanwhile in the plane, it's starting to get cold.  Commander Red orders General White to take care of Goku and get the ball. The robot completely freezes up and the plane crashes into a snowy landscape.  General White's forces go out to look but a young girl drags the unconcious Goku back to her home and mother.

They wrap Goku up by the fire and he gradually comes around. She tells him he is in Jingle Village, he explains he what happened, that he was looking for Dragonballs and the Red Ribon Army attacked him.  Outside some of White's soldiers spot the drag marks in the snow and follow them.  Inside the house Goku ponders what the Red Ribbon Army want the Dragonballs for.
A quick summary of the Dragon Balls.
When Goku explains to the girl and her mum that bringing the seven balls together summons a dragon who will grant one wish, the mother says they must be plotting something evil and need a wish for it to go ahead.  The Red Ribbon Army are holding Jingle Town's mayor hostage in Muscle Tower to force the villagers to help look for the ball in this area.  Goku says as thanks for helping him, he'll go and rescue the mayor.

Then some soldiers kick open the door, so he knocks them out.  He races out to get the rest but is driven back by the cold.  So he is given some warm weather clothes to wear, then runs off to Muscle Tower ready for a fight or two.  The soldiers outside fire upon him but he uses his staff to reflect the bullets and knock them out.

White: "Ho! Not bad for a kid.  Pity he'll never be able to conquer the top of the tower... heh heh heh".

Goku walks into a room full of men.  They are no match for him though and he knocks them all out and moves up to the next floor of the tower.

That floor contains a huge man called "Full Metal Jacket".  Now he is in the warm, Goku ditches his cold weather gear so he can move more freely.  He and Goku set to, and although Goku keeps knocking him down he keeps getting back up.  Goku hits him with all his strength but Full Metal Jacket takes it and punches Goku into a wall. Goku recovers and headbutts F.M.J and again knocks him down, but he gets up and then fires a rocket at Goku from his mouth.
Versus Full Metal Jacket.
Goku dodges it and fires a huge kamehameha blast at F.M.J and blows his head off revealing wires underneath. Thinking he's killed a human, Goku says "I did a bad thing.  Um sorry".  But then F.M.J attacks sans head and knocks a surprised Goku around.  Goku says he's going to give it all he's got but F.M.J's battery runs down.  Victory to Goku.  He heads up the stairs to the fourth floor and the "formidable ninja.. Sergeant Major Purple".

This floor is a full on village, with grass and trees, houses and a pond. "There's an outside inside" says a confused Goku.  Then some knives come flying at him which he dodges and the unseen Purple taunts him that he won't even see him before he dies and hurls shurikens at Goku who dodges them too.

Goku picks up a stone and throws it in the direction the shuriken came from and hits Purple in the face, knocking him from the tree. "Beginner's luck" says Purple, Goku says it was not luck.  Purple says it must have been, a mere child couldn't have deduced his location.  Then he drops some smoke bombs and hides again.

Goku walks up and picks him out rather easily as he is hiding behind a US flag. Purple tells him to count to thirty and then try and find him.  Goku gets as far as nineteen before his lack of education causes him to turn and ask what comes next and he sees Purple about to hide under a fake rock.  He tells him to count again and tells him what comes after nineteen.

Goku counts to thirty, wanders about and spots a bamboo pipe sticking out of the water. He runs into the nearby house and grabs a kettle and pours boiling water down the pipe and Purple comes flailing out of the water.  He composes himself and says "now see what happens when you scald a ninja".
A crap ninja.
He comes running at Goku who runs at him, Purple tosses some caltrops down.  Goku picks them out of his feet and puts on wooden clogs and chases Purple laughing as he does so.  Watching over a CCTV camera, General White can only facepalm at what is going on.  And that brings this volume to a sudden end.

As per usual, this was a lot of fun.  What's interesting about Dragonball is that so much of Goku's character is meant to represent the constant striving to be better than you have been before.  Not so you can laud your achievements over others, but that you can be humble and proud of yourself for overcoming the obstacles in your way.  Goku might have lost the Tournament but he doesn't treat it as a setback or as a failure, he knew he did the best he could and most crucially, he knows he can do better.  He's the embodiment of the human need to always be the best you can be and if you aren't satisfied with that best, strive harder. That the manga always wraps these serious messages up in exciting tournaments and ever more difficult and colourful baddies is Toriyama's genius.  Many mangas have done it since, but he blazed the original trail.  The goofy sense of humour makes it a serious guilty pleasure for reading as an adult, but the art is always fantastic, full of energy, spirit and fun.  No two Toriyama designed villains look the same, and as the story blooms into full on fantasy whimsy there are some real corkers to come.  But for now it's mainly humans and the humanoid animal people of Toriyama's world versus Goku.  Guns are useless, believe in yourself and if you're lucky you'll get to make a wish at the end of your quest.  Volume six to come early next year.


  1. I've never actually read any manga. I did use to browse at some of the stuff in Forbidden Planet. I liked the way they re-imagined the Star Wars movies in that very cartoony style. (Of course now you've explained that you have to read backwards it makes a lot more sense. It's no longer the tale about how a fighter pilot fails to prevent the very sudden construction of the Death Star so retires to live with his aunt and uncle on a moisture farm)

    You can probably educate me here, but to me it seems there were two main styles of Japanese comic art. It was either very realistic, almost Moebius like or that cartoony stiff as seen in dragonball. So I liked things like Akira with all the whizzy future tech. That was a long story though, even with FP's rather relaxed approach to hanging around and not buying anything.

    One thing with the cartoony stuff is I've never seen anything quite like it in western comics. Not the style as such but the actual 'look'. I wonder if there's like a different printing technique or something, or maybe it's the drawing method. Seems to be a lot of white space on the page, even when they use a lot of block black. Is that it maybe? Not using shading as much or backgrounds? Luckily I don't need to figure that out. You're the accredited media studies expert so technically it's *your* job to translate my gibberish into an actual question and then just hand the explanation to me on a plate. :-)

    Learning is fun!

  2. OKay *puts on glasses and steeples fingers* It's actually complicated stuff.... Nah. Actually what the main difference is something like Dragonball is aimed at a younger audience than something like Akira. Also most "mangaka" draw and ink all the strip themselves, although as strips grow in popularity they'll often get a bit more detailed as the mangaka gets assigned a couple of assisstants to help with bakcgrounds and colouring in.

    Also you have to keep in mind that with Dragonball these "Books" are simply a much later way to cash in some more with a second release. Hence them ending somewhat abruptly and not in climatic ways. "Writing for the trade" is a relatively recent phenomenon in Japanese comics, my own personal recent fave "Full Metal Alchemist" is probably one of the best examples. They all still initial run either weekly or monthly and the monthly ones tend to be more detailed than the weeklies. Also some mangaka have more than one strip on the go which usually results in a fairly stripped down style.

    Interestingly the biggest influence on manga is Walt Disney hence all the big eyes and strong, simple line drawing. Astroboy is the real trailblazer here, though I'd place Toriyama a close second because he basically codified the look of "Shonen" manga (manga roughly comes in four audience types, "shonen" - boys and teenage boys, "seinen" - adult men, "Shojo" - girls and teenage girls and "josei" - adult women). You don't see much in the way of Seinen and Josei manga in the west, I've covered those two Junji Ito books Uzamkai and Gyo and also Old Boy which are Seinen. I have never seen a Josei manga out over here and Shojo stuff has never appealed although it is a big market for girls in the west, and of course these are only rough guides. Full Metal Alchemist is ostensibly shonen, but handles seinen level topics and is beloved by as many women and girls as men and boys.

    Phew. As for the reading backwards thing LOL! Actually I'm one of those weirdos who finds it easier to read right to left and have to make a real effort readjusting back to western orientation after prolonged manga reading.

  3. "Everyone in Japan is either a 10 year old girl or a monster" ~ Peter Griffin

    That was really informative; thank you! (Not suggesting that you're not always informative but that was especially interesting). Amazing what I learn when I let someone else get a word in edgeways; I'll have to try it again sometime.

    The Disney thing is interesting; but so obvious when you point it out. Mind you, they got their own back when they nicked that Kimba movie to make the Lion King.

    It's funny how popular Japanese pop culture is here. They do have some cool stuff though. There's a great shop(s) in London called Muji. They sell all Japanese imported stuff. (Introduced by a friend who bought her pants there because she was quite tiny and it was the only place she could get comfy ones). I liked it because they sold all that minimalist space efficient household stuff which was handy for the flat.

    Have you ever read "the man in the high castle"? If not you might like it, it's an alternative history novel. Japan wins WW2. What's interesting is that it's set many years later and we're all friends now but the hip Japanese kids are obsessed with US pop culture. Now this was written well before the western obsession with Japanese things kicked in, so it was quite prescient in a (flipped) way.

    I seem to remember reading (probably inaccurately) that it's actually more intuitive to read that way which is why the oldest written languages tend to do so. There is one language that alternates each line, like a daisywheel printer. Harder to learn but slightly faster to read (you don't waste time with the 'return' bit)

    You probably know that there has been a bit of confusion and unintentional laughter when ad agencies have forgotten to flip 'before and after' ads for countries that read right to left. "Buy our shampoo to give yourself dandruff" sort of thing.

  4. I must say having read a lot about just how ghastly Imperial Japan was, towards their own people, towards the Chinese and Koreans, towards western P.O.W's I've never been able to take seriously an alt-verse that presumes it democratised peaceably after winning WW2. Mainly because the USA had such a huge influence on de-imperialising Japan and contributed muchly to the development of it's pop culture.

    Ah the flipping thing isn't so bad. What always confused the hell out of me is the pratice of most East Asian cultures of placing family name first. Which some western publications will then reverse and which others won't and gah wikipedia does not help, so I just always write mangaka's names in full most of the time to avoid inadvertant disrespect. I sometimes um and ah about adding the "-san" honorific to demote respect, but then worry it might be seen as patronising coming from me. Truly the more you research a culture the more landmines you realise there are to accidentally tread on. The honorific debate is a hugely contentious one when it comes to Anglicising manga and anime. This translation has dropped them, for some people this is UNTHINKABLE!! Yet the dvd's keep them for the subtitled track but not the dub. Personally I do enjoy seeing honorifics used, they denote interesting relationships and webs of respect (in this book Goku for example never uses honorifics because he's been alone most his life and has only come into contact with the rest of the world relatively recently. He's a bumpkin basically) but I can see why dropping them has arguments for it to.

  5. Yeah, I've had a few discussions about this in relation to the question of what would have happened if Operation Downfall had been necessary. A lot of that is still very controversial today, especially the comfort women compensation claims. Of course it's not like our own imperial history is entirely laudable.

    I also made a study of the Tokyo Tribunals. Nuremberg is the famous one but legally that was pretty straightforward. A lot of the stuff that's relevant today (like 'waging aggressive war') actually derives from the Japanese trials. And of course that involves delving into Nanking, Manchuria, Burma etc.

    But moving on to a nicer topic honorifics and greetings can be a very complex topic. A mate was trying to teach me some Yoruba. Just wanted a few phrases so I could be polite. But it's a nightmare. There's like 200 different greetings depending on stuff like relative status and closeness of family ties. You need a genealogical printout and a copy of someone's CV before you can even say hello.

    It's funny, there's an old army saying "nobody minds being called sir" But of course NCOs hate it "Don't call me sir; I work for a living!". Similar with judges.

    Youre definitely my sempai or is it kempai, whichever one's the teacher anyway. I once asked "my Japanese mate (tm)" about all that. He came out with an explanation that had me going "Hang on, are you just quoting that bit from Rising Sun too?" In all fairness he is from London.

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  7. Close, it's Senpai and kōhai, with Senpai being the senior and kōhai the junior. Strictly speaking me being your senpai would be considered odd because I'm a bit younger than you. Anyway, if I keep at this long enough maybe I'll level up into a Sensei :D

    I'm a bit jealous of cultures with complex honorific systems, it seems to tie into nice ideas of geunine politeness and respect (though probably has problems of class and gender rigidity as well). I basically gave up trying to have myself recognised as a "Ms" a few years ago when my bank once again sent me a new card with "Miss" on it and I found I couldn't be fussed getting it sorted. Sigh, my teenage self would be shocked at my can't-be-arsed nature these days.

  8. Heh, you already are. Award yourself a redbelt and I'll start doing a little bow. One of my Krav teachers started bringing a bit of ritual into lessons trying to make us less of a rabble. Didn't really work.

    Him: "Oss!"

    Class: "Huh?"

    Theres lots of weird little things like that at The Bar. They're dying out now but 1 Dr Johnson's (where I was) was 'the last of the old school chambers' so I still do them. It's nice to have q bit of tradition, but I think there's also a practical benefit. Helps things run more smoothly if theres a culture of civility.

    So feel free to call me 'Robertshaw' and don't think I'm.being rude if I don't shake hands.

    Heh, speaking of tradition, I was doing a court martial once with a colleague from chambers who was senior to me. Because we're civilians we get a 'simulated' rank. We were told we were both to be Majors. Dingle didn't approve.

    "I'm not having that. Either promote me or demote Robertshaw. I don't care which but we must maintain a differential" :-)

  9. Oh I don't do handshakes either, I wish we all did bows to each other in this country. But I think of you as Alan :)

    I quite like the idea of being a Sensei. Although in this manga "Kamesenin'nin" is the sensei and he's a terrible perve. Hmm, OK maybe I do fit the stereotype despite my lack of baldness or beard...

    That "promote me or demote me" is hilarious! And super-English as well lol.

  10. Dingle is hilarious. Proper English eccentric. If I ever do my memoirs I could fill a chapter just on him.

    He's the chap I mentioned who stood as an MP and would have voted for his opponent (another lovely tradition) but for the fact he wasn't on the electoral register ("I'm not really into politics")

    He's also a deputy coroner, but will only do treasure trove cases because the normal cause of death cases are "a bit depressing"

    But my favourite was when we were doing a 5 handed gangster case. 4 of us had already made pretty much identical speeches to the jury. Dingle then stood up:

    "Members of the jury, I feel a bit like Joan Collins' latest husband. I know what to do; I just can't think of a way to make it interesting for you"

    *sits down*

    Well have to think of a sensei name for you. What's the Japanese word for perv? Theres probably loads, like with Inuits and snow.

  11. Oh sleep, why is my relationship with you so fractious?

    Your mate sounds a right laugh!

    Ah Japanese word for perve, well there is the all encompassing word "Hentai" which means both a pervey person and the pervey genre of manga and anime they enjoy.

  12. "Tonight on 'Hentai Wainthropp Investigates' the residents of Darwen get more than they bargained for when it transpires that an invitation to watch 'The Great British Bukkake-Off' was not a typing error"

    (Theres a boringly innocent explanation as to how I know that word, honest)

    Does your relationship with sleep get even weirder at this time of year anyway? Mine does. When I'm ruler Britain is going on to permanent double summer time. (I'm also going to shift the Earth's orbit so each month just has 30 days)

  13. I'd watch that show. :P

    Oh yes, during most of the year I can maintain a relative normal sleep patterns, aided by sleeping pills though. Then come the end of October until the end of Feb my body clock just goes haywire and my sleeping pills stop working (luckily I can use them as concetration aids so they ain't wasted) and I just have to accept that I'll have to grab some shut-eye when my body decides it wants it. Right now it's decided I really want to be asleep all damn day and awake all night. >_<

  14. My sleep patterns are all over the place but for most of the year that's 'voluntary'. It's just this transitional time feels really disorientating. There are lots of reasons but I think fundamentally it's because I'm a primitive chap living in the modern world. Ironically one thing that really settles me is mooching around stone circles and the like. Sort of refocuses my ability to live with the natural rhythm of the seasons. The midwinter solstice is a big thing for me. It's like a shot of adrenaline. It's the one day of the year when I'm guaranteed to be genuinely euphoric. (I also love May Day. Especially down here.)

    Of course it's Samhain now. When I lived up North our tradition was to trudge up Pendle Hill. My role was grumbling about the rain and reminding everyone "But the whole point is that they weren't actually witches! So why are we doing this?"

    (Opportunity for underwhelming firework display and only marginally less underwhelming romantic shenanigans usually)

  15. I think it's the darkness that screws me up. Of course there is also the fact that I am on 8 different medications 7 of which list drowsiness as a side effect and my body seems to have learned to resist that side effect most of the year, then come winter I'm knackered all the time. I have an amusing tendency to nod off in the middle of reading or playing a game like someone switched me off. I'll then wake up still sat up holding the book or controller and just pick up where I left off.

  16. Same here. Friends have suggested it's that SAD thing, but I think it's just simply that I like long days. You know, sitting in a beer garden at half nine sort of thing

    I also plan to adjust the pressecional period of the earth to one year so it's always summer in the northern hemisphere. Either that or permanent double summertime. Whichever's easiest to arrange from a hollowed out volcano.

    Oh, and just seen your response on the other thread. I like the sandbox idea. I enjoy random wondering around in real life so it might be fun to try it in w virtual world.

    Oh, and that fighting game! I'll have to suggest that as an addition to the Krav syllabus.

    (In all seriousness we often have sessions where we get people to wear what they normally do. I advise the girls may want to wear shorts underneath skirts for that but we've had some interesting chats about whether it would be a factor in a real fight)

  17. I've wondered it it's related to SAD as well. Thing is the dark doesn't make me extra depressed or anything I just suddenly need twice as much sleep as usual. So I will appreciate your eveil overlording making it summer all year round.

    There is one downside to sandbox games, you come out of the tutorial all fired up to save the world... then 100 hours of arsing about later you're all "I'm sure I had a world to save or something, ah well." Most sandbox games will let you carry on playing after you finish the main questline, Fallout 3, Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto being the ones I am bouncing between right now.

    I know if a woman I was fighting suddnely flashed her undercrackers at me, I'd definitely briefly falter so it could be a valid move against the likes of me anyway ;)

  18. There are supposedly physiological reasons why dark makes us more sleepy. Before electric and stuff it probably made sense to save energy when you couldn't actually do anything. I've often thought hibernation has a lot going for it.

    Saving the world is like putting up shelves. It's all in the preparation. So no need to rush.

    I was thinking more along the lines of the risk of feeling inhibited in a real fight through modesty but yeah the whole distracted by the sexy thing. Funnily enough I've had that done to me in court.

    (on purpose, not just me perving)

    Oh and even more points for undercrackers. Did you ever watch 'Ideal'?

  19. I definitely think I was a bear in a previous life, I'd love to spend all of winter fast asleep.

    Actually you make a good point about feeling inhibited in a fight by modesty. When I have advised female friends on self defence I always emphasise the whole "don't hold back because you feel embarrassed by fighting" I had drilled into me. Also always go for the knees and throat and punch from the waist.

    That said I was always mentally imagining fighting off a man. I honestly think I might hold back against a woman, especially one who is more petite than me, which is ridiculous. My army gal pal was shorter than me and she could flip me over her shoulders with no effort at all. Yeah that was our sexy foreplay >:D

    I haven't watched "Ideal" no.

  20. Heh, I was actually going to suggest that. Bears do seem to have sussed a great approach to life though; we could learn a lot from them. *has good scratch*

    There was just a rather good delivery of a line involving undercrackers in Ideal. I loved that show. Very surreal and good soundtrack. But mainly because the underlying premise made me very nostalgic for a certain period of my life. Happy memories.

    The inhibition on the use of violence is one of my specialities. I've written loads on this (including stuff for the military weirdly enough) but it's something I spend a lot of time on in classes.

    The never hit a girl thing is an amazing topic both in real life and media as is what you say about size differential. I understand exactly where you're coming from. I'm the same. Hmm, I'm going to put some thoughts together for you. I'll stick them in an email though.

    Ha, yeah the foreplay thing. Some thoughts on that too. I'll leave that also to the email though; people might have eaten.

  21. I shall read them, just managed seven hours sleep so feeling abit brighter.

    One thing I could never get my head around with combat was being the aggressor. I had all my moves worked out as being on the defensive so I was always useless when it came to attacking. I'd throw a punch and before I knew it I'd be lying on the floor with a foot on my chest!

  22. Ah yes, the joys of being the aggressor. It is surprisingly difficult. One factor was that we knew that the other person knew how to deal with just about every attack. So you'd be thinking "If I do this then they'll do that but if I do the other then..." ad infinitum. The mindset would be 'one who goes first loses' so we'd just end up cageley circling each other. To get round that in Krav we have a system where the person to be attacked has to stand with their eyes shut.

    The funny thing is how often people forget that they're allowed to open their eyes once they start to fight back. Or maybe everyone fancies themselves as Daredevil?

    I like the foot on chest thing though. Tarzan is my role model so I also like to throw in a bit of chest beating. Although for a system that harps on about how it has "No rules" eating your defeated enemy's heart is surprisingly frowned upon.

    (but how else are you supposed to gain his strength!)

  23. Yes the mental chessgames can induce a difficulty in starting. When I did JKD and we sparred we took it in turns to open and the opener had to throw a punch to begin. Interestingly I used to fight fairly defensively when I fenced as well and when I play a fighting videogame like Tekken I pick the defensive characters.

    Games like Tekken are interesting, characters fight at different speeds, but the trade-off is in power. So the 16 year old girl character's attacks are weak but used correctly can be chained into a flurry of attacks that don't give the opponent time to respond. The heaviest characters generally had attacks that don't chain easily but if you see an opening and counter, BAM half your opponents healthbar is gone. Fighting defensively in these games actually has a name, it's called "Turtleling" and I am a proud Turtler. My two favourite characters in Tekken are the Jackie Chan one and King, he's a wrestler so is the slowest but if you can grab someone and know how to pull off all his throws, you can end a match by whirling your opponent round your head and flinging them into the crowd. Veeery satisfying. There isn't what I would call a proper JKD character, although there is one that is blatantly Bruce Lee, right down to one of his costumes being the infamous yellow tracksuit. But he's got mainly the more flamboyant moves from the films rather than anything JKD specific. Actually that teen girl character I mentioned earlier was designed with help from Lee's daughter which is cool. Sorry, Tekken-nerd digression there, damn I love those games.

    Interesting about people not opening their eyes, I've seen quite a few films ("Warriors Two" springs to mind) where students have to wear blindfolds when practicing against each other, it seems to be linked to the "sticky hands" blocking techniques of Wing Chun so I can see how maybe when people have moves as a second nature they would react more with instinct than with vision. Or they want to be Daredevil.

    We always used to have jokey "celebrations" of victory when I sparred with certain people (we did quite a bit of partner swapping so we didn't get complacent), for such a badass martial art folk studying it seemed to be the most mellow folk around. Certainly far less intense than my fencing class!

  24. I've never played Tekken but I've seen the film. I quite enjoyed it. But then I do pretty much any martial arts film. I'm easily entertained. I even like that DOA film; it's so wonderfully silly.

    But it's interesting what you say about the game. Resonates a lot with real life. As you know I'm living proof that a slip of girl can scrap a bigger bloke. It's all about playing to your strengths and, more importantly, not fighting on your opponents terms.

    I'm very much an attack is the best form of defence chap. I have to be. I'm quite big so Im not especially manoeuvrable and I tire quickly, so I just have to wail in there and finish things asap. If I let someone more agile run rings round me and use 'guerilla' tactics they'll just wear me down. I can take a hit though so that's handy. We do a conditioning drill where you have to put your hands on your head and let people hit you. It's weird at first but reassuring when you realise just how great your tolerances can be.

    I love the chin sau sticky hands stuff. It's great for getting an intuitive feel for where you and your opponent are in a fight. You can't really be looking around and assessing. Most of my moves are pretty much autopilot. One thing I do automatically is stand on the other person's feet when close range. It's weird how often people don't realise what you're doing and can't figure out why they can't move.

    Ooh, you've got me all itching for some sparring now.

  25. The Tekken film his terribad but good fun and the DOA film has the ridiculous "bra" sequence that I love. But I have over a hundred martial arts films on dvd so I has some pretty silly stuff in there.

    One thing I like about Tekken is it uses recognisable martial arts, so you can see how a capoeira fighter might face against a wu shu practitioner or how a muay thai fighting might fare versus a western boxer. Of course all fighters have flashy moves but when you get two experts fighting it's always the the more basic stuff and being good at when to catch and reverse or when to chance a throw. That said in the line-up of fighters is a bear, a few robots, a cyber ninja and a boxing kangaroo so not totally realistic!

    When I sparred I did tend to be the hold back and wear down type, I found you can usually annoy a bigger fighter into giving you a big opening. Of course when fighting women my own size I'd usually end up flailing and getting ass-whupped.

    I remember when we were first started off with the sticky hands, we were told to do karate style "hard" blocks first, so we'd appreciate how much the "rolling" with the punches levelled the playing field.

    Actually as we're talking about Martial Arts on a Dragonball post, which is a martial arts manga I often wondered how advanced you had to get before your sifu unlocked the secret of the energy blasts like the Kamehameha. What? It's not real? Damn!

  26. In all fairness there are boxing kangaroos and I bet that daft guy who got eaten in the Werner Herzog documentary would argue bears can fight, so it's not completely unrealistic.

    If I was a girl I'd definitely practice that bra thing, just on principle. Everyone should have one OTT signature move. I practiced and practiced until I managed to do a 'kip up'. That's the thing where you jump to your feet from lying on your back, like The Rock does. It is more a matter of technique than anything. It's incredibly impractical though. Everyone just holds out a fist and you faceplant right on to it.

    In Krav theres not a lot of emphasis on rolling. It's more about huddling and not presenting a target n the first place. And as part of that 'no defence, just attack' thing all blocks are actually strikes themselves. Why yes, we are all covered in bruises, why do you ask? :-)

    But I love seeing mixed styles. I'm just fascinated my martial arts generally but also you can pick up stuff. I have a few things in my arsenal from other styles, beyond the general Krav syllabus (which of course just borrowed from all over the place anyway)

    It's also fun to spar with people who are good at other stuff. Really ups your game. I also like going up against untrained people. Oftentimes the untrained amateur is more dangerous. They'll try something that no competent person would do because it's too risky but then they catch you unawares because you weren't expecting anything like that.

    I'm surprised though you haven't covered energy blasts yet. You'll be telling me you don't do no touch psychic knockouts next.

    Oh, and yet another email for you

  27. That's an impressive move to be able to do. Interestingly in Tekken there is a huge amount you have to learn about the "ground game" which is what techniques to use to get up off the ground. Some characters have specific ground game moves, but everyone can do a couple of basic ones, the kip up being one though as you say it tends to lead to a fist to the face so only useful if you got knocked quite some way away. I preferred letting someone get in close and before they stomp on you rise with a kick to the knee. Which is probably what I'd do in reality.

    In Dragonball energy attacks are achieved by manipulating "Ki" which is the Japanisation of "Chi", focusing Ki in the early manga/anime does at least start out adhering to principles of meditation and life force, but by the end Goku is able to gather it from the whole planet and form it into giant bombs to destroy genocidal monsters, so alas not real. Curses.

  28. That is the best way of getting up. Kick to the knee and then straight to feet. It's one of the few times in Krav you go backwards. But you need to create a bit of distance so you're out of range whilst you're vulnerable. If you do it right you end up in your fighting stance ready for whatevers next.

    Theres no 'internal' aspects to my stuff, by which I mean the more mystical energy stuff (obviously there's a mental and psychological element). One thing I can do though is that thing where you can press against an iron rod with your throat. It looks all super Shaolin, but theres actually just a trick to it (basically you just 'growl' from your vocal chords. try it)

    You ever seen The men who stare at goats? Theres a great bit where some martial arts guru is demonstrating to a bunch of soldiers how he can dangle huge weights from his nads.

    "Any questions?"

    "Er, what are the practical applications of this?"

  29. Yeah our JKD teacher didn't teach anything "Internal" either, but I asked him about it and he said that meditative techniques could be very useful in focusing the mind and if I was interested to check out Bruce Lee's writing on the topic, which I did with the book I told you about.

    What's interesting about Dragonball and it's treatment of the spiritual side of fighting is that every single character bar Goku, hit a wall that they cannot pass at some point. Some get past it by "cheating" (having others lend them power), but Goku - who is the one pure soul of the show - is the only one to come up against his limitations and then smash through them by just training, training and more training. It's all very Japanese in some ways and in others quite an inspiring tale, we might not be able to destroy planets but train hard enough and who knows what we may achieve....?

    I have seen someone on TV do that metal rod thing! It was in the Jackass spin-off show where two of them travelled the world looking at all sorts of things. They met this whacky older man in Thailand who did the metal rod neck thing and he bent the rod as well. Didn't know the trick behind it though, that's kewl.

    And hahah, I haven't seen "The Men Who Stare At Goats" which I should have because I have a couple of Jon Ronson's books. The Jackass spinoff show had something similar, an Indian man who could pull a car attached to his testicles. All I could think was why and how you'd find this out? LIke did he start with bicycles and work his way up? Was this a method of impressing girls that he decided to turn into a thing? The show left many questions unanswered.

  30. There are some good psychological techniques. I'm a bit fan of 'port holing'. That's when you sort of remove yourself from your body (you ever seen Being John Malkovic? It's almost like that). I do get told off for 'zenning out' when I'm doing planks and stuff. I'm also a big fan of visualisation. That's almost effective as actual practice.

    I wish though we could just 'borrow' a bit of extra strength and endurance from people like in Dragonball. Of course, I still have my eating your enemy's heart thing, but then you have to win first. But in all seriousness there are some genuine techniques for smashing thorough the wall. The SEALs have some good stuff on that. It's all about tricking your mind to bypass the 'trip switches' as it were that make you think you're at your limit. It's amazing what your body can do really. All that's stuff about being thrown across the room by an electric shock is just because the normal inhibitors that stop you damaging your muscles are over written. It's actually you jumping that far. You have the strength to qualify for the Olympics, but you break everything in doing so. When you first reported your back problems did the doctor ask if you were an electrician? It's a common question where there's joint pain and similar. Oftentimes it has arisen from one of those events.

    I trust you're now bending metal rods left right and centre? It's also a useful defence against that thing where people put their fingers in that notch in your collar bone as a restraint or put down move.

    And yeah, check out Goats when you get a chance. Funnily enough that MOD thing I emailed you does go on a bit about the guy that film is actually based on.

    It is really funny.

    "And he just performed the Dim Mak on him and he dropped dead"

    "Wow, there and then?"

    "No, 18 years later. That's the thing with the Dim Mak, you never know when it's gonna hit you."

  31. No I didn't get asked if I was an electrician. The thing is the back pain started in 2004 as just an itch in my back, and has gradually got worse, hence "degenerative disc disorder". Thing if if it was just my back affected I could probably power on through with the pian meds and still train.

    But the discs in question are in my upper spine and have badly affected the nerves inmy left hand and arm. I have to take an anti-epilyptic to stop feeling like I have permamnant pins and needle and trickling sensations. Which work but have left my left hand and arm very weak and numb, I have barely any grip left in my left fingers (I can't pick coins and tablets without dropping them again), it sucks so much.

    I will check out that Goats film, sounds a right hoot!