Defend Thyself
by Meowaffles

Today, I'd like to discuss the most basic aspects of self defense. While I'd really rather get into more advanced topics; like how not to hurt yourself while punching; it would really be better to get this out of the way.

Some people consider unarmed conflict a thing of the past, either more of a pastime and spectacle with more cultural than practical value or as something of a barbaric pursuit that should be phased out by modern nonviolent society. Sadly, the world is not so ideal and a lot of these people somehow find themselves in violent struggles they are ill prepared for. Often, they fall victim to those other people who see violence as a tool to be used for personal gain. While there's a chance you may be one of the rare and blessed individuals who will never directly encounter violence in this lifetime, it is much better to learn the skills you might need for something that may never occur than to not have the skills for something if it does occur.

Just to be clear about this, self defense does not necessarily mean martial arts. Martial arts can be an aspect of self defense, but self defense covers more than just this. Inversely, self defense is only one aspect of the martial arts. What I'm really writing about here are the very basics of keeping yourself safe. These are as follows:

Prevention: One of the most basic and effective means of self defense is also the least obvious; prevention. This means manipulating conditions such that you are less likely to need to defend yourself from hostility. This includes cultivating good relations with others such that you do not make enemies, avoiding areas and situations that may be dangerous, and even things like doing your part to promote a society in which you and others are safe. This won't guarantee safety but will greatly minimize personal risk.

Awareness: More than just being aware of your surroundings and looking for signs of hostility so that you can avoid conflict, this also includes being aware of the actual consequences or ramifications of what you or those around you do such that you can prepare for any possible violent results.

Preparation: Even with all the precaution in the world, it is possible for just one random and unexpected event to mess things up. Also, there are some battles you just can't or won't avoid for whatever reason. Preparation means you will already have whatever you need to keep yourself alive, un-captured, and healthy when something bad does happen. This is done by knowing and being capable of using routes of escape; cultivating the skill, strength, and mental attitude to survive conflict; having the necessary protective equipment to defend oneself if the need arises be it a bullet proof vest, an actual weapon, your two fists, a can of mace, or something else entirely; having backup to assist you; and even just knowing how to dissuade and discourage an attacker.

Resolve: The fact of the matter is, a lot of people make plans and preparations and don't follow through with them at the crucial moment. Usually, when faced with real danger, they either space out in shock or take whatever ill conceived action their addled mind happens to consider. Then there are those people who defend themselves but give up easily when things aren't going quite as planned. For one to be truly prepared for danger, one has to develop both a strong will to live; by living a life worth living; and a sense of calm in times of danger; by carefully acclimating the self to the sensation of danger such that you won't be overwhelmed by your own fight or flight response.

Now all of this seems like a lot of work and I honestly haven't done all of it, but what little I do counts for a lot and it all pays off when you manage to use these principles to escape a mugging or random ninjas. Take care everyone. :)

by Meowaffles

A common concept among many traditional martial arts is the existence of qi, A.K.A. chi, gi, ki, khi, prana, or whatever else you might call a supposed energy or flow of life that permeates all things. Some would call this notion silly but, being the naturally inquisitive person that I am, I decided to do a little research on the topic to actually evaluate what qi really is.

This guy, Manfred Porkert, professor emeritus of the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich and authority on traditional Chinese medicine, explains that while chi has no real perfectly equivalent term in western terminology, it’s closest match would be the generic designation similar to our word “energy”.

Some early thinkers (5th century BC early) also seemed to think that there were differing formations or densities of qi, the coarsest and heaviest of which are in the form of solid objects and the lightest of which are the “life force” that makes living things the way they are. Putting this all together, this seems very similar to the idea that matter and energy are composed of much the same things.

In physics, we know that atoms contain a considerable amount of energy, as proven by the atom bomb, and that energy can be used to assemble the parts that make up the parts of atoms (I don’t think anyone’s made an atom from energy quite yet). So in this very broad sense, we must all be swimming in qi. Otherwise, we’d have no energy to sustain ourselves and we’d all be dead.

But this isn’t really the qi we’ve heard about in martial arts. The qi we’ve heard about in martial arts is a mystic force that supposedly allows those who can harness it to perform superhuman feats of martial prowess. Most western thinkers don’t accept the idea of qi, the life force that flows within and around us and gives us life. I won’t take such an idea at face value either but neither will I readily dismiss the notion. Heck, what do I really know about these things anyway other than what this famous guy or that famous guy seems to claim?

Researching thoroughly into the topic I find two main points that seem to support the idea of qi. The 1st is that an entire system of medicine being practiced today, documented to be consistently able to treat a wide variety of illnesses with comparable success rates to modern western medicine, is based on the concepts of the flow of qi in the human body. This would be traditional Chinese medicine, particularly the acupuncture branch of that system. I’d mention other systems but the documentation of their efficacy is poor at best.

With regards to acupuncture, researchers from the University of Southampton in the U.K. and Purpan Hospital of Toulouse in France; both investigating acupuncture with magnetic resonance imaging; have found that the acupuncture points attributed to certain body functions (like a point that supposedly stimulates hearing) really does cause brain activity in the related part of the brain (the part that handles auditory function). Other groups, like the Cochrane Collaboration, have found that acupuncture points stimulation to be definitely more effective than control placebo groups.

This brings us to the 2nd point. The placebo effect is the well documented phenomenon of a person’s belief in a false or dummy treatment sometimes being sufficient as a cure in and of itself. Western medicine has no sufficient explanation of how this really works. It is known that placebo effects are related to certain mental states and brain functions but few people can give any reason why the brain should be able to make someone better without proper medicine. The idea of a “life force” takes this into account in allowing for the mind to influence flow of energy in the body and thus influence health.

            So what the heck is it really? Studies in Shanghai using close-range infra red surveyors and studies into the nature of acupuncture points seem to suggest that qi is simply a form of electromagnetic pattern that exists in and around living things; detectable to sensitive infra red and infra sonic equipment; and that the human mind can influence its flow. Those who know how to use it can indeed do things that most people can’t, but like anything else, it does have its parameters and limitations. For example, proper qi flow can help you recover from illness or injury, but it will not make you wolverine nor stop a bullet. (They tried that sort of thing during the boxer rebellion and it didn’t work too well) Qi can give you surprising, but not superhuman, strength by regulating the function of your muscles. Of course the average modern couch potato often has no idea how strong a person can actually be. Of dubious practical value is the potential for qi projection through certain materials but not through glass for some reason. More often it is said that qi can be used on the body to produce remarkable curative or damaging effects.

            In the end though, this still isn't the qi force we hear about that will bring explosive force and speed to your combat techniques. When most traditional martial arts teachers talk about qi as a force to be used and harnessed, they are often referring to motion, leverage, and balance and using the broader term of qi as “energy”. In this traditional way of thinking, this dynamic qi was no different from the “life force” that permeates and surrounds us. They were one and the same, and so we are taught to draw from qi from within us and around us that we may use these energies to great effect. In that sense, qi is energy, all energy, and one could not hope to advance in the martial arts without the cultivation of qi.

Lots to do
by Meowaffles

Well, it's been a busy week for me. Things aren't going bad though, so I suppose I won't have any trouble continuing the comic. I'm very glad that a lot of people appreciate my work.

I'm currently working on getting a more professional online portfolio. This while making my webcomic, learning a really difficult form of Tai Chi, trying to make new art, get new clients, write fiction, and design a pencil and paper RPG. I'm everywhere I guess, but it's just fine so long as I stick to it and get everything I need to do done.


The Immortal Iron Fist
by Meowaffles

I just read my friend's copy of the 27 issue Iron Fist comic written by Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction and I'll have to say I was pretty impressed. Now I can't say it was the best comic I've ever read, or that the kung fu involved even really resembled kung fu, but the comic was pretty good nonetheless.

Somehow, those two managed to turn one of the more absurd superhero stories I know into an epic tale of heroism (all manner of heroism) despite impossible odds and human folly. I'm also glad someone decided to get rid of his gigantic collar when they have him his new costume. Before reading it, I could not have imagined giving much credit to writers of a tale of a blonde crimefighting billionaire in a yellow and green costume who gained mystic kung fu power by fighting a dragon in a magic city and who now goes around stopping crime, poverty, terrorism, other mystic kung fu guys, and the denizens of "heaven" and "hell".

I do kinda wish they had put a bit more detail on how the more esoteric martial arts of the marvel universe functioned and that they paid a tad more attention to distinct fighting styles, especially with regards to special moves and martial stances. The idea of named moves would've been better that way. I also wanted to see a bit more characterization of characters like Misty or the corrupt August Personage in Jade but I suppose they did what they could with the space and time they had.

Still, the whole thing was definitely worth the read. I used to know Iron Fist as that pseudo kung fu guy who'd make interesting appearances in other comic books but that's all changed. Pretty good move Marvel. You have a lot of heroes you can actually do this sort of thing with. I give due praise to Brubaker and Fraction for making it work.  Please don't make a bad movie about this.

Hung Gar Chicken
by Meowaffles

Sorry for the delay. I had a tough time getting the comic uploaded between work and internet connection issues. I hope you all like it.

On other matters, I've come up with this fun (or maybe dumb) idea to exercise my research skills, my cooking skills, and my Kung Fu knowledge while learning a bit more about Chinese culture along the way. It's Called "Hung Gar Chicken"!

Hung Gar is a Southern Chinese Kung Fu Style known for its very strong low and wide stances, powerful hand techniques (like the tiger claw), and extremely demanding training regimen. It is also known as "Tiger and Crane Boxing" and was popularized by popular Chinese figures such as Chiu Chi Ling (Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, Duel of the Seven Tigers, Kung Fu Hustle), Wong Fei Hong, and Jet Li (in the role of Wong Fei Hong). Fighting a master of Hung Gar with his extreme physical conditioning and overwhelming onslaught of powerful blows would be very much like resisting the relentless progress of a moving bus.

The style relies on building a strong foundation and then further building on that foundation using thorough endurance training and "external" techniques to build on "internal" power without neglecting softer "crane" aspects of the martial arts. It gets far more complicated than that but that's beside the point.

So what's this all about?

Well, the gist of the exercise is that I'm supposed to invent the recipe for "Hung Gar Chicken" (a recipe that does not, to my knowledge, exist). The final goal would be to make a chicken recipe that "builds on a strong foundation" using the "external" to improve the "internal" that is seemingly "hard" while incorporating "soft" aspects. The recipe should also be possible to make while in a low stance and a whole chicken for the recipe would be divided using a variant of Hung Gar tiger claw grabbing twisting and pulling movements. My friend, who is Filipino-Chinese, also suggested that it be a clay pot dish. Well, before any of the fancy stuff I have to find a proper basis for my recipe and will be starting by researching food from Fukien Province, the generally accepted birthplace of Hung Gar.

This will be a work in progress and I'll update you guys if this actually goes anywhere. Yes this is silly; but if I'm going to be silly I might as well go all out :)