Sunday, 18 November 2012

Cowboy Figure Eight

                I have been reading up on knots again the past few days. Knots are a subject we have touched on a couple of times in this blog. I used a Fisherman’s Knot to create an adjustable lanyard for my kukri and a combination of Overhand knot and Fisherman’s Knot to create my Tenouchi. I have been debating whether to add a post or two dedicated to the subject of useful knots since it is a subject some people have trouble with.

            While researching I became aware that the following application for a Figure Eight knot was rather conspicuous by its absence on the internet. I came across this in the Time-Life Book on Cowboys. I no longer have the book but fortunately I had sketched it and scanned the sketch onto my computer when I cleared out a load of old papers a few years back. Playing with my favourite graphics program produced the image below.

            The application is to quickly tie off a lasso to a saddle horn, but the knot itself and how it is tied can be used in other contexts.

            The left end of the rope has been thrown around a steer or mustang and is about to come under a considerable load. The cowboy holds part of the lariat in his right hand near the green arrow. The rest of the lariat is on his left.

            The cowboy pulls the rope against the left side of the pommel using his right hand and then brings the free end of the rope over the top of the taunt rope, around the right side of the pommel and through the loop held by the right hand.

            This is quite a useful technique. I have noticed that with some cordage the knot will tend to slip if the free end is not further secured. The cowboy doubtless made a loop in the free end and slipped it over the horn to create a half hitch. Once the figure eight has taken the initial strain this is easy to do. Alternately a couple of half-hitches can be applied to the standing part.

            My original sketch, also showing another method of dally. The advantage of the figure eight is that it can be applied to a mast or tree where you could not throw coils over the top. It is easier to apply under strain than, say, a round turn and two half hitches.
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Friday, 16 November 2012

Turkey Season

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

New iPod and Playlist

            One of my favourite pieces of technology is my iPod. Simple in concept, the iPod really has changed how people enjoy music, especially if you grew up with the Sony Walkman and Portable disc player type devices. I can carry every piece of music I own with me, and using shuffle I never know what will be played next, but know it will be something I like.

            What has my iPod to do with self-defence? Not much really, sometimes it is nice to just enjoy the music.

            I had a 30Gb “iPod Video” that has served me well for a number of years. I do not recall when exactly I brought it but this model came out in 2005, which sounds about right. The headphones it came with broke on me after a few years, which lead me to discover that the sound could be so much better with alternate headphones.

In the past few weeks it has become obvious that the headphone socket has worn out, so I only get sound in both earpieces if I lean against the plug. My girlfriend told me to go along to the Apple store to see what could be done, so I did.

Apparently my model is now classed as “Vintage” and being well out of warrantee could not be repaired. I was given a 10% trade-in on any new model.

The only thing I had used my old iPod for was playing music, so had no interest in something that could take photos, access the internet and play games for an increased price tag. For that reason my choice was the 6th Generation iPod Classic.

Someone at Apple has been very smart here, realizing that change for change’s sake is not necessarily a good thing. The Classic works and indeed looks a lot like my old model. The main difference is that it now has a 160Gb memory and the facing is made from aluminium rather than plastic. It seems to hold a charge better too and apparently the battery life has been extended to 36 hours. I have heard talk that Apple intend to discontinue the Classic in favour of the iPhone and iPod Touch. I hope that is not the case. There will always be a market for a music player that mainly just plays music.

I had expected the guys at the Apple store to transfer the content of my old iPod onto my new, but this service was not available. I had to wait a while until I could find time to make sure everything I had on my old iPod was on the copy I keep on an external Hard Drive.

Because it is so familiar setting up my new iPod was very simple. I copied my backup files into iTunes and then onto the iPod. 5,659 songs at 21.2Gb took a while though.

In fact the main difference I found was more to do with iTunes itself. The only playlist I have ever used are “Recently Added” and “Least Played”. These were standard options on my old iPod but I could not find them on the new model. I searched on the internet on how to create these using “Smart Playlist” but most of the explanations I could find were not satisfactory. As is often the case with Apple, the solution was a lot simpler than you think. Since correct information on how to create these particular playlists is hard to find I thought I would put it up on here to benefit those who have brought my book or read the blog.

The simple method is:- Open “New Smart Playlist”. In the top left corner there is a section saying something like “Obey rule”. Untick this box. Go down to the line that says “Limit to” with a number beside it. Set this number to how big you want your playlist. I set mine to 250 items. Right beside this is a box that says “Random”. Open the drop down menu and change Random to either “Most Recently Added” or “Least Often Played”. Name your playlist and you are done. Took me several hours of looking through webpages to find that!
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The Books

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Shark Night

            There are things in life that you want to learn, and there are things in life that you need to learn. You may not have a desire to know how to stop arterial bleeding, but it is something you should know.
If you look very closely there is a shark in this picture
            The other night I was watching a movie called “Shark Night”. Now, I enjoy a good creature feature but cannot say I was impressed by this one.
            In the movie there is a scene where the character “Beth” (Katharine McPhee, above) conceals a knife in the back of her panties. She uses the knife to stab the evil redneck. In the movie, the redneck swears and his mate laughs and says “Scars show character”. The shoulder wound doesn’t seem to bother the redneck much and they feed Beth to the sharks. I could not help but think that if Beth had known a bit about combat anatomy, as described in my book she might have known to drive the blade into the spot beneath the redneck’s ear or into his kidney. If she had read the sections on knife use she might have known enough to keep her blade and use it against the other redneck. OK, the other redneck has a pistol, but at that range she might had had a chance rather than no chance at all. If she had read the book she would have known about gaining the outside gate and could have used the first redneck as a shield.
            Most people don’t want to know how to use a knife against another human being and that is to their credit. Most will hopefully never need to. But some of them will, and knowing how to defend yourself with likely available weapons or how they may be used against you comes under “should know” rather than “want to know”.

            Visit the preview page for my book and invest in a copy. It might save your life, and not just against shark-fixated rednecks.

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Monday, 5 November 2012


            Today is Guy Fawkes’ Night, a time for fireworks. Of course, fireworks have actually been going off since before Halloween. There are also likely to be fireworks for the next week or so. The Hindu festival of lights, Diwali is nearly upon us. Its proximity to November 5th means that the modern festival of lights now includes fireworks.

          Although there will be firework displays tonight many individuals and local councils chose to schedule theirs over the last weekend. Over the last two days fireworks have been going off sporadically. Some people have even been setting them off during the daylight, which seems pretty daft.

            Just once I’d like to see everyone keep their fireworks until a scheduled hour, and then the whole city let off everything they have all at once. Fill the whole sky with light and colour. That would be a sight to see.
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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Phoenix Eye Fist

            Further on the topic of Phoenix-eye fist.
            On the left is a twisting punch viewed from the front. Note that the hand starts off open and is closed on its way to the target to create greater initial speed. Also note how the non-punching left hand maintains a constant guard. Initially the palm defends the right side but in 5A it becomes mainly a left side defence as the extended punching arm moves into a position where it can cover the right side.

            The right side of the scan shows a punch from the side, but in this instance the non-twisting variant. Note that in photo 6A the arm is not fully straightened. In fact it can be seen that forearm, hand and the proximal bone of the finger form a smooth curve to allow an uninterrupted flow of force.

            Image scanned from “Phoenix Eye Fist” by Cheong Cheng Leong and Don F. Draeger.

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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Folding Principle counter to the Scissors Block

            This is a quick follow-up to my recent Halloween themed posts. In “How to Survive a Slasher Movie –the Sequel” I detailed some of the proposed defences against an overhead attack. In keeping with the theme we were assuming a knife in icepick grip, but these discussions are equally valid against a club, lead pipe or many other weapons.

            If you refer back to that post I will draw you attention to the observation that many of these proposed counters seem to assume that once the attack has been blocked the attacker will leave his arm stationary long enough to apply a lock or execute a throw. Assumptions are often dangerous.
            For example, let us once again consider the cross-block. I recently read that “the scissors block is good for when there is a flurry of punches” –which I have to disagree with. A flurry of punches is one of the best ways to defeat this move. The scissors block may stop the first blow, but you have effectively occupied both your arms and obscured your own vision while leaving your flanks and lower body exposed.

            Let us consider an overhead knife or club attack. Will the attacker leave his arm up after his strike is stopped? Many fighters, including those that have read my book will be familiar with the “Folding principle”. In this context it means that once the attack is blocked the arm will relax, fold at the nearest joint and re-attack on another line. In the above examples the attacker would bend his elbow and then make a fast lateral strike under the defenders arms and into his side or belly.
            Another thing to consider is that most attackers have two arms. If my overhead strike with my right was blocked as shown above one of my first reactions would be use my left palm to knock his arms off to my right. If you want to think of this in esoteric eastern terminology my blocked arm goes from Yang to Yin, allowing the other side of my body to become Yang and strike/deflect/parry. The Yin-state right arm can of course fold so as I am knocking his guard aside and him off balance my knife/club/fist is coming in the other direction to hit his abdomen.
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