Saturday, February 26, 2011

use-of-force by Ottawa Police

The police use-of-force debate is once again upon us.
I suspend any judgement on this right now--I don't know enough about the particulars of this specific incident for an opinion--so don't shoot the messenger.
As with any debate, there are always two sides, and most of us would just like to find the best answers.
An investigation is taking place by the Ottawa Police Service's Professional Standards Section following this incident in the Byward Market (downtown Ottawa). While law enforcement spokespersons are saying hard techniques are often required during an arrest, they plan to look at the specific incident closely after a video clip of the January arrest garnered much attention on Youtube.
"It's always difficult to make comment on a short video clip not knowing what the circumstances were," Staff Sgt. Michel Marin was quoted saying in the Ottawa Citizen.
A recently tabled Ottawa police report suggests physical force during arrests has tripled from 2009 to 2010.
Says use-of-force instructor Nick Mitilineos, "We don't use force on someone who is co-operating."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What is Truth?

The Truth, say the sages of Taoism, is often paradoxical.

I find this to be accurate, as my entire journey along the path of the martial arts has been this way.

As a child, I was sheltered, living in a remote, forested area on the edge of the rocky Canadian Shield. My worries were much more to do with bears than street thugs, and I really hadn't witnessed true violence until my family moved to an urban neighbourhood after I was close to becoming a teenager.

Then I was exposed to violence--in the world around me and on TV--and I found it to be disgusting.

Don't get me wrong, I knew how to throw a hard check in hockey, and I proved to be a decent wrestler in gym class, but the intent behind true violence sickened me.

And it still does.

Again, it is the intent--as much or more than the action--that even in my youth, struck me as primitive.

"Silly monkeys, give them thumbs, they make a club and beat their brother down...." (lyrics from the band Tool, whose singer is a student of Gracie Jui-Jitsu).

Anyway, to skip a lot of unnecessary details, and rescue this post from becoming an autobiography, I'll return to the concept of paradox, which is this:

That many of us studying violence, in depth, are doing so to become less violent humans.

It is paradoxical. And if you were to break it down and intellectualize it you might, perhaps, come up with good theories as to why it is true. Maybe by better understanding specific behaviour we can change it; maybe by increasing confidence and discipline we can better curb our ego's need to prove itself.

But I don't know, for sure.

We all just know the paradox is true.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


The Zen tradition of haiku--although I don't study it in depth--is worth some serious thought.

Why? Because it is probably the strongest example of the ancient Japanese obsession with simplicity, effectiveness, and critical observation. It is an exercise of clear mind and articulate execution. Really, it is a reflection of the culture's views on combat, as well, where a warrior seeks to attain the deepest energy and control with the least amount of external effort.

In fact, many samurai were obsessed with this art form, and myth suggests that capturing the perfect words before a battle-induced death was an example of true virtue among the warrior class.

Here are the words of Basho, a samurai's son:

Summer grasses

all that remains

of soldiers dreams.

This work is not only a lesson in the philosophy of war, but life, itself. All in seven words (translated, of course).

It is the same concept of spending one's life trying to make the perfect throw; the perfect strike; or the perfect ukemi. It is akin to summing up a lifetime of training with one perfect thrust of the katana.

All so simplistic but never easy to attain.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

real knives...

Knife attacks are gruesome.
Do not be mislead into any false security.
I highly recommend reading the entire series (on-going) of knife defense at ol' Journeyman's site. It is a community dialogue on the subject, directed with insights from a very qualified professional.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


When I was much younger I did an experiment of intention.

I cleared my mind prior to lifting a full, multi-litre water jug and imagined the object to be extremely heavy as if full of concrete. Grunting, I lifted it with my weak arm a few inches off the ground.

I, then, cleared my mind again, and thought of the jug as being empty. With the same arm, I lifted the container up to my waist with ease.

Another experiment is the following: Sitting in a chair, slow your breathing until you are very relaxed. Go through each part of your body, from your toes to your eyelids, consciously telling each and every muscle to loosen and unwind. Breathe more.... even slower. After several minutes, imagine two helium balloons attached to each wrist, and ever-so-slowly, as you breathe, visualize the balloons slowly rising into the air, inch by inch. The process will take several minutes, if done correctly, but by the end you will find your arms have been raised up over your head without any direct signals from your ego-brain.

You have just hypnotized yourself.

Now, on a heavy bag, imagine the target is soft and that your leg is full of qi energy. Loosen your muscles and unhinge the joints so you can visualize the energy move like a whip.

Regardless of why, or how, it will somehow feel better.... stronger..... and easier.
Now, have you just hypnotized yourself, or have you just allowed your energy to behave how it really is?