May 30, 2006

Urban Samurai in NY Times

The New York Times profiles their local kendo dojo, in Sunday's Lifestyle piece:

Swords and Shouts Next Door, but Don' t Call 911

Something about this piece, and especially how it made it to, was really Ric Romero-esque, as if this centuries-old sport was relatively new.

It's been a world-wide sport for many years now--just check out my coverage of the 11th Kendo World Championships. Felt just like the Olympics.

Photo from the 11th World Kendo Championships

Best quote from the NYT article, on when the sensei's wife returned from Japan:

She had just flown in from Japan, and after weeks of separation, the spouses reunited not by embracing, but by exchanging blows to the head and shoulders.

Heh. Isn't that how it always is?

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May 26, 2006

More on Gun Grabbing

In my last post I lambasted writer Tom Grace for adding a gun takeaway scene to his action-adventure thriller Quantum, saying that it would be impossible to prevent a cocked Glock from firing by merely grasping the gun's slide.

I take that back--if you moved the slide out of battery, you could prevent the gun from firing because the internal levers would no longer be aligned--the striker wouldn't be able to transfer the impact to the firing pin and then on to the primer of the chambered cartridge.

But that would take some real presence of mind to do in a split-second gun takeaway move. You'd have to be Jet Li in Lethal Weapon 4, field-stripping Mel Gibson's Beretta 92 right before his eyes.

I think most martial artists can't even begin to compare themselves with Jet Li. So again, don't try this at home.

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May 25, 2006

Bad Glock Tricks - Reading List Thus Far

After finishing Double Whammy by Carl Hiaasen, I decided to switch gears and go back to some techno-thriller action.

But Quantum by Tom Grace turned out to be not up to par. I'm usually not the type to give up on novels--I've never walked out on a movie, for example--but I was hoping for more. Grace was doing fine with suspending belief on some big ideas--like breaking the First Law of Thermodynamics.

But I drew the line when he got the combat and gun-handling totally wrong. In the opening action scene, the hero grabs the bad guy's Glock and by firmly grasping the slide prevents it from firing. DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME.

Most sensible martial artists won't try this sort of thing anyway, but here's how to do a gun takeaway. Double-action handguns require two motions to occur before they can fire--the cocking of the hammer and the falling of the hammer onto the firing pin. The trigger pull drives both motions.

So if you're a real bad-ass martial artist, you could potentially block the hammer from moving back in the first place by closing your grip over the hammer. Hammer doesn't move? Weapon won't fire. Revolvers rotate the cylinder while moving the hammer, and so if you grasp the cylinder really firmly you can prevent the hammer from going back, even if your hand isn't anywhere near the hammer.

Got all that?

But Grace's hero does this gun-grasp move on a Glock, which does not have an external hammer. It has an internal striker, which isn't grabbable. Try this move on a Glock, or any cocked weapon, revolver or pistol, and the gun-wielder gets at least one shot off. Maybe into your chest.

You might be able to mess up the second shot though--if you prevent the gun's slide from moving correctly, you can cause a jam. So maybe the bad guy doesn't get to do a double-tap. Lucky you.

I was ready to let that one slide (no pun intended), but then a few pages later Grace has a cop confiscating the hero's scrounged Glocks, and then "checking the safeties". Glocks don't have external safety levers, other than that little flange embedded in the trigger itself. Excruciating!

Public service announcement to all fiction writers: There are a number of good resources to learn about firearms and martial arts for when you're writing action scenes in fiction. The NRA puts out a good book, but if that's too Republican for you, check out the book by Writers' Digest, which while still not authoritative, is better than nothing.

So I turned back to Carl Hiassen, and started Basket Case. You know how your Creative Writing professor would always try to tell you the difference between good writers and great writers? Hiassen's work is consistent and inventive, and, great.

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May 24, 2006

The Wedding Cinematographer: Brian Singer

Brian Singer, director of the great first two X-Men movies, discusses his work on Superman in Wired Magazine, and reveals that he used to be a wedding videographer:

Bryan Singer & the Man of Steel

Amazing, huh? Can you imagine having a big time Hollywood director do your wedding video? It would be like having Richard Avedon do your engagement photos.

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May 19, 2006

What's In a Name? Jail Time?

In my last post I joked about wielding the in-yo-face named "Death Stick Nail Exhumer" cats paw as a weapon--how it might not look that great in court afterward.

This is something that firearms writer Mas Ayoob discusses a lot--the legal aspects of using a weapon in self-defense. Like it's better to go confront the bad guy with a "Gold Cup National Match" target pistol (even if it is a 1911 .45 ACP, and thus an "evil" semiautomatic) than a 12 gauge "Streetsweeper".

Photo of stainless steel Colt Gold Cup 1911 pistol

Photo of Striker 12 gauge shotgun

Benchmade probably thought of this when they started calling the old standby AFCK the "Advanced Folding Camp Knife" instead of the fighting knife it originally was marketed as.

Purchase the Benchmade AFCK at

Spyderco is pretty good about their naming, preferring the quality of the product to speak more than some badass-sounding name. Even their most wicked-looking knife, the favorite EDC of Hannibal Lecter, is named the Civilian:

Purchase the Spyderco Civilian at

My favorite Delica, of course, is just a modest pocketknife. Really.

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May 17, 2006

Remodeling Demolition? Get FUBAR

Last year I ripped out ten walls' worth of drywall to replace the termite-ridden studs within, using a cheapo wrecking bar from the local Big Lots. But if I were to do some remodeling demo again (and I certainly will have to, if I tackle the hall bathroom), I'd want to get my hands on Stanley Tools' new FUBAR:

Buy the Stanley FatMax Xtreme Fubar Functional Utility Bar at

This incredibly-named (for a mainline company like Stanley Tools) tool combines the wood-wrangling aspects of a tweaker with a good old wrecking bar.

Before the FUBAR came along, you'd go buy a Mayhew Tweaker bar, like this one:

Buy the Mayhew Tweaker Bar at

I think Stanley caught on to all the buzz that Dead On Tools got with their bad-ass named product line. Like the Death Stick Exhumer cats paw:

Buy the Dead On Death Stick Exhumer at

Tool-wise, I think the FUBAR wins in both the naming category and functionality (And it looks better too, so it wins the swimsuit competition hands down). So what if it doesn't have a bottle opener like the Death Stick? With the quality of home center lumber these days, having a tweaker on hand is a great idea.

Obligatory martial arts angle: And yes, I'm sure all of these could be instant escrima weapons if need be. But think twice before doing that abaniko with the "Death Stick"--they'll really ream you (ahem) for that in court.

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May 15, 2006

"Be Able to Kill Your Students"

Words of wisdom from the "last ninja", Masaaki Hatsumi, printed in a ton of daily newspapers across the US last week:

Be Able to Kill Your Students

The AP story discusses the lack of a successor to Hatsumi's stewardship of Toshitsugu Takamatsu's legacy. Whatever happened to Stephen K. Hayes, who back in the early 80's was the only American teaching Hatsumi's doctrine, and thus rode the ninja craze to fame and fortune? Hayes has a page about his relationship with Sensei Hatsumi on his SKH site, but he doesn't seem to identify himself with "that ninja stuff" anymore.

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May 04, 2006

Reading List Thus Far

Finished up The President's Assassin, a pretty-good political crime yarn, with a not-hard-to-see plot twist in the last two cassettes.

Next up: Double Whammy by Carl Hiaasen. Finally, a good novel about bass fishing! I wonder if ESPN sponsored this thing under the table or something. I'm just through tape 2 and it's already laugh-out-loud good.

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