How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

One of My Favorite Songs

An Inspiring Song


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Has It Come to This?

By now you've seen it: a video gone viral, "The Most Vicious Taekwon-Do Fight Ever."

All I could think when I saw it is that this is why people don't think that karate works.

Shoot, when I was training in TKD those many years ago and made it almost all the way to black belt, it wasn't worth much, but dadgummit, I did at least get to where I could hit pretty hard and mostly avoid being hit. I did successfully defend myself a few times. Now, it's a laugher for adults.

Nobody's ever going to think of Taekwon-do again without laughing, and it's the people that just had to make a sport out of it that let it happen.

Congratulations, guys, you've destroyed your art.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Death Rattle of a Church

I got something of a surprise in the mail the other day. It was a letter from the pastor and a "commitment card," something the church leadership is hoping the membership will fill out and return shortly so they can plan financing for next year.

I am not trying to be negative. There is nothing unbiblical about it, that is, there's no prohibition of such things in scripture. On the other hand, there's no example of it in scripture, either.

I see it as a very bad sign, the death rattle, really, of a church that will soon either change drastically or cease to exist. I write about it only because I guarantee you that unless you live in a demographically-blessed part of the country, there are churches around you--Southern Baptist churches, anyway--in very similar shape.

You see, this church was once packed to the gills, but over the years, the city grew, the 'burbs got farther away, and now, pretty much the only people left are older people who still live in the area (and are, obviously, much closer to dying off) and a few people buying "starter homes" in the area, and the children of the older folks who, for some reason, are still going to this church in spite of the fact that they live much closer to some other church.

You'll say, if you're a typical Southern Baptist, "Evangelize!" and I would agree, except that "evangelism" as the SBC has been doing it for decades MOSTLY hasn't worked. The Fall Festivals produce few visitors (after Hallowe'en), same with the Christmas musicals, the Easter services, and so forth, and ALL of these are touted as "outreach" tools. All touted as outreach tools, but they have, decade after decade, either not been successful at all or only marginally.

"Visitation!" you will cry next, and I would agree, except that "I've been there and done that," as they say, and you will not like to hear this, but in my opinion, you are most likely doing it wrong. You see, most churches, if they HAVE a visitation program (one for outreach/evangelism as opposed to visiting shut-ins) INSIST on visiting lapsed members first, then people who have visited the church (often as the result of a Fall Festival or Christmas musical or Easter service...), and then, and ONLY then, will they knock on strangers' doors. Actually, forget that. They never knock on strangers' doors.

Not a lick of this does any good. They are either ignoring or have never realized a fundamental truth. You won't believe me at first, but ask your church buddies, one at a time, and see what they tell you.

That fundamental truth is that most people are not brought to Christ by a revival, or a Billy Graham or Franklin Graham crusade, or an "outreach event," or a visit after they've been out of church for six years, or even evangelistic tracts. Oh, sure, you will find some. You cannot sow a thousand seeds without producing an occasional turnip. But MOST people, friends, MOST people who are brought to Christ are brought to Christ through the testimony and influence of someone they know, a friend or a relative.

Ask around. It is the truth. Receive it and believe it.

What does that have to do with a local church dying? Just this: most people, if they could, prefer to go to a church in their area--about three miles or less from their home, actually. Which means that if a church is to grow, or at least avoid death, and most people in the church hear about Christ from friends or relatives, the people in that church HAVE TO KNOW PEOPLE WITHIN ABOUT THREE MILES OF THE CHURCH. If they don't, the church will slowly die off.

This is exactly what is happening in our church. It is amazing to watch, for no one seems to "get it." We have a Hispanic congregation that meets in our building. I know some of the members fairly well. Their congregation has doubled or more in the last six months. I asked one of them this morning, "Where do most of your people live? Within three miles or so of here?" He thought about it and then answered in the affirmative.

That, friends, is it. As the neighborhood ages, as the Anglos move out into the 'burbs or die, the Hispanic immigrants are moving in. We don't know them, but the members of the Hispanic church do. The results are predictable. We are dying, they are growing.

And as long as we are dying, friends, church revenues are going to go down, even when or if the economy recovers. There is nothing you can do about that. "Commitment cards" simply do not address the problem. Their very existence demonstrates that people either do not know what the problem is or are unwilling to face up to the problem. That is why I termed it the "death rattle" of the church.

The problem is lack of people. That always leads to lack of money. It is very simple. Church giving, on average, is always about three percent, despite much very misleading preaching on the "tenth," or "tithe." ("Tithe" does mean "tenth." It is not a synonym for "regular gift.") This is consistently true. The answer to church financing, in practical terms, is never to get the members to give more. History demonstrates that this never lasts (even if it gets started). The answer is to have more people--and in our case, that means, if we are smart, merging with the Hispanic church.

'Cause if we don't, you can bet your bottom dollar that in less than ten years, what's left of our congregation will be selling them our building.

Just my two cents. A one-draft diagnosis and glimpse into the future. No offense intended, just bluntness.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Takamura Naihanchi

A version of Naihanchi Shodan I haven't seen before. Stumbled on it whilst perusing the newest addition to the blogroll, Sipping Ti.

This interests me. I might work with a couple of these moves and see what I come up with.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fragmentation and Preservation

Only a few short days ago, Tashi Jim Logue, Taika Seiyu Oyata's senior student, passed from this world. It came as something of a surprise. I knew he'd had cancer. I knew he made trips every so often to a cancer-treatment facility (all of which I assumed were to verify that he was still cancer-free). I knew he'd been in the hospital recently. I did not know, and possibly others did not know, that his death from cancer was so imminent.

The whole thing put me in mind of something that I've thought about from time to time: what will happen to Taika Oyata's karate when the inevitable happens and he, too, passes from this world? It is true that Okinawans are the longest-lived people on the planet, on average, and it is true that Taika Oyata's father lived to a very old age, and it is true that Taika Oyata may well live another twenty years. And yet it is also true that he cannot live forever, and eventually, his organization, the RyuTe Renmei, will be headed by someone else. I am sure that that person will be someone of knowledge and integrity. Every person within the RyuTe Renmei with whom I've talked or corresponded has been very dedicated to Taika and his system. They have all been classy people. I have not met any exceptions.

And yet the good folks in the RyuTe Renmei are not the only people Taika has taught. There are a number of people who have studied under Taika and who are no longer with his organization for one reason or another. Do not ask me why. I know none of them and cannot even begin to speculate on why they left or were shown the door. But there are a number of them, some of whom were promoted to fairly high rank before they left. Now, it is true that the art as Taika has taught it has changed somewhat over the years. My own teacher thinks that this is because Taika is still analyzing the art, as he was taught to do by his teachers, still splitting pages within the book, as my teacher might put it, and also because Taika has revealed more of the art as his students have demonstrated themselves capable of understanding and handling it. This should not surprise anyone who has seen a person learn--well, anything, even simple cooking. It is pointless to try to teach a person how to make puff pastry if he has not yet demonstrated the ability to make egg noodles. So it is true that a person who left Taika's organization years ago, despite having attained high rank, would not be teaching exactly the same thing that is being taught in the RyuTe Renmei right now.

And yet, nevertheless, regardless of the circumstances under which they left, and regardless of how long ago they left, each of these people can legitimately claim to have been taught by Taika Oyata and to have been promoted to high rank. And that is nothing to sneeze at! I well remember having first been introduced to what was then called Ryukyu Kempo, back in the eighties (I trained for a while, then dropped out for many years, in case you were wondering. I have not been training continuously since the eighties!). I had been training in Taekwon-do for some little time; my next promotion would have been to black belt. I had trained under two seventh-dans, one sixth-dan, and two third-dans. Not one of those people showed me material as advanced as what my teacher showed me then. Not ONE. Not even close. Nor have I seen the like amongst the local Japanese Goju Ryu crowd (though I have much respect for them and their organization and follow them closely online). In other words, a person might have left Taika's organization fifteen years ago and "missed out" on some of the information he's revealed over the last several years, and he would still, in my opinion, be teaching material vastly better than most people in most "karate" classes around the country are getting.

And that is where I start remembering Yip Man. You may not know about him (I'm sure many do!). He was a very famous kung fu teacher in Hong Kong, a remarkable fellow who'd learned Wing Chun back on mainland China before managing to escape to Hong Kong. Yip Man's kung fu was widely known to be extremely street-effective. He taught a number of people over the years, and last I heard, I believe that there were a minimum of three people claiming to have been his "closed-door" disciple, the only inheritor of the true art of Wing Chun kung fu! And the thing is, each of these people is apparently good enough that you might well believe their claims!

I'm sure there are other cases like this. As a matter of fact, I know there are. Look at the history of the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu in Japan. Apparently, that system didn't survive intact past the death of its founder. If I understand correctly, one of the founder's sons went on to teach the Shogun's family, and another stayed behind in the family village, with the one son eventually deciding that the other son had changed some elements of their father's system, and founding his own sub-system, the Owari Yagyu Shinkage Ryu (Don't quote me on this, I may have the details wrong!). And it went downhill from there!

Look at the history of aikido since Ueshiba Morihei's death.

Come to think of it, since there is a sizeable Japanese Goju Ryu crowd 'round here, look at Goju Ryu! How many different sorts of Goju Ryu can you name? Off the top of my head, there is Goju Ryu as taught by the Jundokan, by Morio Higaonna, Seikichi Toguchi, Peter Urban's Goju USA, Lou Angel's Tenshi Goju, "Chinese" Goju, Gogen Yamaguchi's Goju-Kai, and who knows what else!

History and human nature being what they are, then, I find myself wondering how many of Taika's former students will someday be claiming to have been shown the real, true art of karate, of Ryukyu Kempo, to have been Taika's secret disciple. Will any of them have the cheek to claim that that they have it right and the RyuTe Renmei has it wrong? It sounds absurd, but--again, human nature being what it is--I would bet you dollars to donuts that that is exactly what happens.

I'd love to be able to say that I know how to prevent this, but I haven't a clue. And it will be a darn shame when it happens.

Tashi Logue's death also put me in mind of the vital necessity of teaching what you know whilst you have the chance. You never know just how much time you have. Tashi Logue certainly set the example in this case. He worked hard to share his knowledge.

The reality is that each of these systems--I am talking about the older, more classical martial systems--is, at any given time, but one generation away from extinction (the same has often been noted of Christianity, by the way). It is not possible to learn it all from a book or video and there are never enough people practicing them. They are not the same as systems like Taekwon-do or Shotokan or Japanese Goju Ryu or Aikido or Judo or Kendo, which have millions of practitioners throughout the world. I would not be at all surprised to find that there are fewer than five thousand RyuTe students worldwide. The majority of those, of course, are not yet qualified to be teachers. While I do not know, have never tried to make a count, it would not at all surprise me if the depressing reality is that there are really very few members of the Renmei ranked fourth dan or above. Or perhaps there is a high percentage of people ranked at that level, but a high percentage of a small number is still a small number.

This is very sad in a way, yet it is also completely amazing that there is a RyuTe Renmei at all. You can put it down to divine providence or sheer dumb luck as you prefer, but if I understand what I've read and been told correctly, the content Taika Oyata learned from his first two teachers might well have perished with them had he not encountered them. I have certainly not seen anything quite like what my own teacher has shown me anywhere else. That is significant. Over the decades, I have acquired what has to be, I think, as solid a martial-arts library as can be had in English. I have works on aikido, on jujutsu, on judo, on karate, on pressure points, acupuncture, and chin na. I have watched way too many hours of video online. And I am serious, as serious as a heart attack, when I say that what Taika Oyata has revealed, as passed on to me by my own teacher, is different. Not that you can't find similar techniques in those other martial arts. More than once my teacher has said things like, "This is how they do it in aikido. We just do this little (fill in the blank) to (fill in the blank)." There are techniques that look a lot like what we do in RyuTe, but in RyuTe there is always something, something that changes the results of the technique from the "oh-crap-that-hurts" or the "oh-crap-where-did-my-balance-go?" elicited by other systems to the "OHCRAPWHERETHE****DIDTHATCOMEFROM?" that you get with RyuTe. It is just not like anything else, and it was almost lost. As my own teacher has told me repeatedly, Taika's teachers were not, per se, teachers, they were upper-class fighting men, nobles. As far as I can tell from what I've read and been told, Taika Oyata was not simply their premier student, he was their only student, and had he not been there at the right time, huge chunks of the real Okinawan martial traditions would simply have vanished, lost to time. More, the world would not have even known it! The world would have gone right on assuming that what they were being shown in the dojo of modern karate systems was all that there was (as a matter of fact, I have read some fairly amusing stuff fairly obviously premised on the idea that modern karate is all that there is--that is, there are still a pretty fair number of people who simply will not admit to themselves that there is more to the kata or to vital point striking or to karate's grappling than Funakoshi revealed in Karate-Do Kyohan.)

But because Taika Oyata was there, and because he, in turn, has been willing to teach, those centuries-old skills are largely in the hands of middle-class Americans. I sometimes wonder if people fully appreciate what a huge leap he has made in choosing to entrust us with this art. I hope that we do not fail him--and in a larger sense, our neighbors--by failing to pass it on. I think he has certainly done everything humanly possible to make sure that the knowledge is not altogether lost, even if no one else of his capabilities arises for a long time to come. I hope also that everyone realizes that preserving that body of knowledge is going to have to be something of a team effort--have to be, I say, and I am quite sure I am not the first person to have thought along these lines! You see, as far as I know, the weapons knowledge--nunchaku, sai, bo, jo, and so forth--is split up, kind of as though there are, shall we say, "subject matter experts." My own teacher knows the jo very well, and also can teach sai--but although he has nunchaku and tanbo in the weapons racks, he does not know the kata for those weapons and wouldn't venture teaching more than the most basic movements. I am given to understand that this situation is not uncommon--that there are people that know nunchaku pretty well, but not chizikunbo, or vice versa, and so on.

This body of martial knowledge doesn't reside in one man--other than Taika Oyata--but in a body of men, in the RyuTe Renmei and especially in Shin Shu Ho. Part of me wonders if Taika Oyata didn't set it up that way deliberately, so that they would have to stay united.

I won't be in a position to teach much of anything for another couple of years. At that time, I hope to begin teaching on a modest scale, under my own teacher's direction. I particularly hope to spread RyuTe amongst the local homeschooling community. They--homeschoolers and RyuTe--seem natural fits for one another. And I hope that in a modest way, I can thereby contribute to keeping this system alive amongst people who truly need it. And I hope that when the inevitable occurs, I hope that it can be said of me that I played my part in keeping this knowledge available for others.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bad News

I just heard via e-mail from my teacher that Jim Logue, Taika Seiyu Oyata's senior student, just passed away from cancer.

Very bad news. I have the impression that he was a Christian man, though I don't recall where I heard it. He will be missed, and severely.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Thoughts on Taekwon-do, RyuTe, Ed Parker, American Kenpo an' Stuff

Beware: this post rambles. You have been warned.
I suppose, for the sake of people not familiar with this blog--that would be the overwhelming majority of people in the world--people that are just "driving by," so to speak, maybe looking for information on American Kenpo, I ought to briefly recap my experience in martial arts, just so you'll have an idea of where I'm coming from.

I first started martial arts with a class at age of fourteen, something called "Polynesian-Chinese Karate." I knew nothing at the time, had absolutely no idea that this was an offspring of Hawaii's melting pot of martial arts (from what I understand, it's more or less a meld of kenpo and Hawaiian lua, if you wanted to know). It didn't matter that I knew nothing. I was only there for a couple of classes, and the only memory I have is of a sparring session, wherein the other kid complained to the instructor, "He hits hard!"

Then I wound up in a local taekwon-do school, I suppose you could say by default. You see, although Japanese Goju-Ryu was huge in Northeastern Oklahoma at the time, and by huge, I mean it had been pretty much the only game in town for quite a while--OK, you're wondering: Lou Angel brought it to town, having learned it under Peter Urban. Lou later traveled to Japan and studied directly under Gogen Yamaguchi, and was awarded higher dan ranks whilst he was there. Lou taught in Tulsa for quite a while, promoted a pretty fair number of black belts, a number of whom still teach--or their students teach--around the area today. Some of these guys were fairly well known back in the day, like Billy Briscoe, widely reputed as having "the fastest hands in the West."

Another guy that came up in Lou's organization was Gary Boyd, who was my teacher's first teacher. Gary was a special case. According to my teacher, he never tested for black belt. It seems that Gary's job afforded him the opportunity for considerable travel, and it was his custom to visit dojos wherever he went and ask to train. He collected kata, and he loved free-sparring (at which he must have been, given the stuff I've seen from my own teacher, darn near brilliant). At any rate, as a brown belt, he wound up in Gosei Yamaguchi's dojo--yes, Gogen Yamaguchi's son--and beat all the black belts present in free sparring, whereupon Yamaguchi Sensei handed him a black belt, saying, "Nobody beats my black belts but a black belt, so here--you're a black belt!"

Some story, eh? You would think it inevitable that a would-be karate student in Oklahoma would wind up in Goju-Ryu, but as it happens, shortly before I started training in martial arts, the Goju community in Northeast Oklahoma was absolutely rocked by a series of events that led to Lou Angel leaving the state, never, as far as I know, to return. I have heard the story and will not go into it. Others who know it better can tell it on their blogs if they feel so inclined.

I knew nothing of what was going on, but I did know, and so did my mom (she was a single parent at the time), that the hot place to go for karate training in Tulsa at the time was a school run by a Korean immigrant who later touted himself as one of the world's top taekwon-do "coaches"--and he did indeed coach at least one competitor who, if I recall correctly, medalled in the Olympics. He was also the first teacher of a man who later achieved world-wide fame in the kickboxing ring (I am not exaggerating--world-wide fame) and several other people who did quite well over about a four-state area in tournament fighting competitions.

Taekwon-do as it was taught then, and as taught by this man, was different from much of what I have seen from taekwon-do people over the last fifteen years or so. Most of what I have seen over the last fifteen years or so has been nothing but beat-crap-out-of-each-other-with-wildly-unrealistic-for-the-street-kicks stuff, so completely removed from its karate roots (Okay, I know some taekwon-do guy out there is climbing out of his skin at that comment, so let me digress: No, taekwon-do is not the modern-day version of a centuries-old Korean warrior art. It is the result of a fusion between Japanese karate and some indigenous Korean kicks. Live with it.) as to be completely unrecognizable. Taekwon-do back then was (and still is, in some organizations) very hard to distinguish from Shotokan karate. Even the forms--kata, hyung, poomse, whatever you want to call them--were just modifications of the Shotokan kata.

I got up to blue belt--the rank just below brown--with this man, and if nothing else, I learned how to hit pretty darn hard and improved my coordination, which, at the commencement of my training was absolute crap, quite a bit. Then, for reasons I just honestly don't recall in detail, I dropped out. I started and stopped a couple of times over the next few years, spending time with one of my first TKD teacher's students, then with the karate club at the university I was attending (where I made it to brown belt) and then with a gentleman from Korea who also ran a donut shop. I was working at Arby's at the time, and couldn't afford diddly, so I managed a special deal with this guy. When I wasn't working, during the daylight hours, I would just come and sit and answer the phone. In return--free lessons!

The school wasn't very old. I soon made it to first gup (ikkyu in Japanese) and I was the senior student. And it was just about that time that I really began to understand that something wasn't quite right with taekwon-do.

There I was, within spitting distance of getting my black belt, and one day, when my instructor and I were alone, I was sparring with him, and I suddenly realized that I was manhandling him--that he might outpoint me, but if I really chose to press it, it would have been him getting hurt, not me. Now, it is true that I was no midget (about five-ten and about 180 pounds at the time) and he was a little Korean guy, but he was a sixth-degree black belt and I couldn't help but think that if, not even being a black belt, I could "handle" a sixth-degree black belt, then maybe taekwon-do was never going to be, for me, the ferocious fighting art that I had always heard that karate was. You see, I had had my suspicions for a long time. I had read Richard Kim's book, Funakoshi's autobiography, and several other books, and I knew that karate was supposed to be bad, that genuine experts were supposed to be able to achieve remarkable effects, but the reality is that I had never seen any such things and had been training and waiting a long time so as to reach a skill level where karate's "badness," if you will, would show up.

It's not that I believed taekwon-do was useless, mind you. I had used it--simple reverse punches to the solar plexus--several times to put a stop to attempted bullying in high school. I was quite capable of manhandling the other students in my instructor's school. And I had this abiding conviction that there was something there, for I found it impossible to believe that people would preserve kata for so very long if there was nothing to them. I had heard the instructions about "chambers" and "blocks," and, knowing no better, accepted them, but with a grain of salt.

I mean, some of that stuff was just impossible to believe. You're going to "chamber" for a block on the right side of your body by first withdrawing both hands to the left side? Seriously? But I didn't believe the old masters were stupid, either.

I knew there had to be more.

Well, eventually, I quit Arby's and joined the Marine Corps Reserve. During our last week in boot camp, we were allowed to visit the PX, and on the cover of BLACK BELT magazine, which I bought, was a man named Seiyu Oyata. The article was about the hidden meanings of kata, and you can imagine that I was interested. At last, here was someone saying that my suspicions were right--the kata motions weren't useless, but they weren't what I had been taught, either.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I got back home and, through sheer dumb luck, found that someone was actually teaching Taika Oyata's system (known then as "Ryukyu Kempo," now as "RyuTe") in my city. This was amazing. I joined the class and was there regularly for some few months, happy as a clam.

Then I got married, and, as those of you who are married know, things get complicated. I dropped out of the class and didn't return for a long time. So long, in fact, that I had an almost-grown son. Life had grown somewhat more manageable, and he had an interest, and at first I thought, "Well, we'll take a look at the Shotokan class at First Baptist, it's probably the best we can do, we'll order some of Taika Oyata's tapes and see if we can't apply some of what we see to what we do in Shotokan." But then I thought, "Well, who knows? Maybe my old teacher is still teaching."

At first I couldn't find him. He certainly wasn't teaching publicly. I finally found a stray blogospheric reference to him, and then--duh!--decided to look him up in the phone book. He had since become a very sick man, but he remembered me, and after talking with me and my son, agreed to take us on as private students in his home. We have been with him now for some little time, and it has been amazing. He's about to turn 63, and is an oxygen patient, not very big, not strong at all, and he can make the techniques work on me and my son. He is living proof that real Okinawan karate works, that it's skill and knowledge that rule, not size and strength. He validates everything he says by his ability to make the techniques work on healthier, younger, larger, stronger people.

So, there I am. Not as "brief" as I initially intended it to be, but I warned you that the post rambled!

Now, about American Kenpo. Obviously I do not practice the system and am never likely to, but it has intrigued me for a while, as have other "American" martial arts, like Danzan-Ryu jujutsu, Budoshin jujutsu, Small-Circle jujutsu, Vee-jitsu, Kombido, Kajukenbo, and so forth. I mean, I can see how these things arise...

...pardon me while I digress for a moment. I have to tell a story about a local kenpo teacher, one I heard from my own teacher.

You'll recall that I said Japanese Goju-Ryu was once the game in town around here, only to lose first place to taekwon-do. However, there was a kenpo school here for a while, a franchised one, and the teacher was a man of considerable ability who remains quite well known around these parts, although, as far as I know, his teaching is limited to a handful of students in the Tahlequah area.

My teacher told me that this man once attended the local state fair and got drunk whilst he was there. The local sheriff's department was providing security and made their intentions to take him in known, and he said fine; he wasn't going to resist, he would go with them, but not to touch him--he couldn't stand to be touched. Now, I know that makes no sense at all, but you have to bear in mind that the man was drunk. Well, the deputies had already put out a call for backup, for the man was known to them, and as deputy number four arrived on the scene, overhearing the conversation, it climaxed with deputies one, two, and three trying to take the kenpo teacher down from behind in order to cuff him. In a trice, the kenpo teacher had downed all three deputies and turned to the fourth one, who, not being a fool, announced that he wouldn't touch the kenpo teacher, just, please, sir, would you take these and cuff yourself?

In court, the first three deputies naturally wanted the kenpo teacher to serve time for resisting arrest, battery, and so forth, but when deputy number four took the stand, he confirmed everything the kenpo teacher had said and the judge tossed those charges, apparently on the grounds that deputies one, two, and three were idiots! The kenpo teacher was found guilty of being drunk and disorderly and that, apparently, was it.

My teacher had a job in city government at the time and deputy number four, in addition to his duties as a deputy, was one of my teacher's employees, and that is how he heard the story. Hope you enjoyed it.

As I was saying, I can see how these things arise, especially given my experience with taekwon-do. I mean, you get some training in something, you can tell something's there, but you can also tell you haven't quite got the whole picture. So you start seeking out knowledge from other sources, hoping to fill in the gaps in your "picture." How many people have you known who have achieved black belts in karate, and then judo, and then aikido? A lot of people are satisfied to leave it right there, apparently content with the idea that karate really is mostly block-punch-kick and you have to get grappling from elsewhere. Some of the arts I mentioned above really don't amount to much more than collections of techniques drawn from karate and judo and, maybe, arnis. I don't blame the founders of those arts. What would you do if you came home from military service with a black belt in Shotokan and your neighbor came home with a black belt in judo, and you went to the same church? Or something like that?

But American Kenpo seems different to me, and I think it is different principally because of Ed Parker.

Now, there is more than one theory of how American Kenpo came to be. It may very well be that some people came here to read this post just to see what this no-name blogger had to say about its history. I am not going to get into an argument about American Kenpo's history with anyone, so if you disagree with me, that is fine, you are not the first and you will not be the last. I may well be wrong and if I am, I will still go home and sleep well.

Having said that, for those of you who haven't heard it, the story in many kenpo circles is that James Mitose was born in Hawaii and was then sent back as a lad to Japan for training in his ancestral religion and martial art, that art being a variety of kenpo. He then came back to Hawaii and taught a number of students.

Mitose eventually left Hawaii. My understanding is that he was eventually arrested on the mainland, charged with being an accomplice to murder, and died in prison. That much seems to be fairly certain. However, I don't believe that story about James Mitose bringing an ancestral Japanese martial art to Hawaii at all. You can poke about the web for people making arguments for it and arguments against it, and in my opinion, those making arguments against it have much the better of the argument.

What I think happened is this: Mitose picked up a smattering of martial arts from only-God-knows where and combined it with what he had seen of Okinawan karate. If memory serves, both Choki Motobu and Chojun Miyagi made visits to Hawaii within Mitose's lifetime. I think (though I cannot prove) that Mitose took what he had learned and turned it into a temporary means of making a living. You may wonder how he was able to do this, probably not being what we think of as a genuine karate master, and all I can tell you is that in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king! Back when I was in taekwon-do and defending myself with a simple reverse punch, the people on the receiving end of that punch, simple as it was, certainly thought that I knew what I was talking about.

I don't think Mitose had to be a real "master" for people to be impressed with him.

One of Mitose's students was William K.S. Chow, who had apparently learned some kung fu--what kind? Heck if I know--from his father. "Thunderbolt" Chow took what he had learned from Mitose and blended it with his father's kung fu and passed the result on to, among others, Ed Parker. If nothing else, it was rough stuff and the people behind it had a vital--vital--interest in being able to stay alive on the street.

Parker took the art to the mainland and, as far as I can tell, kept "cooking" it. You can see a real progression in Parker's kenpo from his first books to his last. Although I am convinced that he added to what he learned from Chow (I have read at least one source that strongly suggested he spent some time training in Hung Gar kung fu), it does not appear to me that he just added techniques willy-nilly to his system. It appears to me that he really attempted to understand what was going on anatomically and in terms of kinesiology, and he made a serious effort to systematize what he had learned and come up with. Parker, as far as I can tell, accepted and absorbed what he had an opportunity to learn, but he didn't blindly accept it. He kept asking himself, "Why does it work? Can it be improved? Can I prove that it works in real life? Is it the best way to do it?" His life vis-a-vis martial arts appears to have been a continual process of absorbing, refining, and improving whatever he could find, from whatever sources were willing to part with it. It intrigues me because it seems a peculiarly American approach to martial arts, and because it seems to me that it is the same approach that the Okinawan masters of karate took . If Ed Parker's American Kenpo isn't the equal of classical Okinawan karate (specifically RyuTe), it's not his fault. The Okinawan masters carried out their research over the course of centuries, and through Taika Seiyu Oyata, it is still going on. Ed Parker had only his own lifetime and during it, he created an art that while, again, not the equal of classical Okinawan karate, is sure as **** better than most of the "karoddy" (to borrow a term from Openhand) that you find around this country today.

At least when it's taught well. That is an issue. Not every kenpo instructor out there is a good one.

Oh, well. Just some meandering thoughts from a middle-aged man without any particular claim to expertise. Hope I didn't bore you too much.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why You'll Never Impress Me with Stories of Conservative Racism

I use the term "libtard" a number of times in this post. If you are one of my liberal friends, rest assured that you are not a libtard. There is a difference between a liberal and a libtard. I have liberal friends; I have yet to acquire any libtard friends. My liberal friends, this post is not about you.

I got to thinking about this subject this afternoon, and unfortunately wound up with too many good ideas (and titles! I will be writing another post, to be titled, "Curse of the Libtard" shortly) to work into one post, especially one (hopefully) short enough to be suited to the short attention spans of the few liberals that might read it.

I'll try to be brief:

1) You'll never impress me with stories of conservative racism because there are too many conservatives. That is, there are millions of people who claim to be conservative in this country alone, and you don't have to have more than two brain cells to rub together (Unless you're a libtard. You might need a few more, yours being of low quality.) to figure out that in any group of that size, of course there are going to be some who hold opinions that are, shall we say, less than optimal. Just because, in a nation that probably has a minimum of thirty or forty million self-identified conservatives, you can find a few--or thirty, or forty, or even thousands, that have used the word "nigger," it doesn't logically follow that conservatives are racists.

Again, slowly, for the drive-by libtard reader: you may prove that there are racist conservatives, but that does not prove that conservatives are racists, just as you may prove that there are brown dogs, but that does not prove that dogs are brown.

2) You'll never impress me with stories of conservative racism because, dear libtard reader, you've too often proven to me that you do not actually know what racism is. You continually confuse racism with a host of other things, in such a way that it ultimately becomes clear that to a libtard, "racist" essentially equates to "not liberal." Honestly: I have seen libtards refer to opposition to social programs as "racist," for no better reason than that the beneficiaries of some of those programs are disproportionately black.

Why should I be impressed with your stories of conservative racism when you've spent so much time showing me that you have, at best, a tenuous grasp of what racism is?

3) You'll never impress me with stories of conservative racism because, dear libtard reader, you've too often proven to me that you don't actually have a clue what conservatism is. Time and again, I have watched you confuse the politics of various statist regimes with conservative thinking, completely oblivious to the glaring contradictions between the two.

Libtards almost never have any clue what the intellectual heritage of conservatism is. Talk to them of Russell Kirk, and they will look at you as though you've a horn growing out of your forehead. And you might as well mention the satellites of Jupiter as bring up Edmund Burke. They have no idea, as a rule, who he was or what he said.

Why should I be impressed with your stories of conservative racism when you've spent so much time showing me that you have, at best, a murky grasp of what conservatism is?

4) You'll never impress me with stories of conservative racism because racism is no part of conservative thinking. There are, to be sure, streams within conservatism, just as there are streams within liberalism (I would never confuse my liberal friends with libtards. God forbid!). I have written on this before; you can search the blog if you're interested. There are "mainstream" conservatives; Paleocons; Crunchy Cons; Neocons; "Social" (primarily Christian) conservatives, and so forth. Not one of these groups will tell you that some races are, by nature, inferior to certain other races (that is the definition of racism, if you were wondering). To be sure, you may find a few (darn few, in my experience) individuals within these groups that have racist ideas, but...see point one.

5) You'll never impress me with stories of conservative racism because you've too often proven that you're completely blind to the racism, bigotry, and hatred within your own libtard ranks (not to mention the other "isms" present there). I saw and heard the way you talked about, and drew cartoons about, Condi Rice. I've read what libtards have to say about Michelle Malkin. I remember the libtard that said she hoped Clarence Thomas died, like so many black men, of heart disease. It is despicable. But you libtards turn a blind eye to it because, in the end, to you, the charge of "racism" is just a tool with which you can assault your political enemies, not something over which you have genuine concern.

Yes, I just called you libtards "hypocrites." Congratulations on figuring that one out.

6) You'll never impress me with stories of conservative racism because I just know too many conservatives. I referred to this in my last post. Look, libtards and libtardettes, most of the people I know reasonably well are conservatives of one stripe or another. Some are more conservative, some are less, some are conservative on this issue but not on that issue, but I'm really not going too far in saying that most of the people I know reasonably well are conservatives.

I don't know any of them that are racists. Seriously. To tar any of them as "racist," you have to torture the definition of racism (see point 2).

How on earth do you think you're going to persuade me that conservatives are racist when none of the conservatives I know are racists?

7) You'll never impress me with stories of conservative racism because there are too many black (and brown) conservatives. Sadly, it is when you libtards write about them that your own bigotry and vitriol most often boils over. Words fail me when thinking of the venom that's been heaped on Clarence Thomas, on Michelle Malkin, on Condi Rice.

Libtards' thinking just can't quite grasp the significance of people like Clarence Thomas, Michelle Malkin, Condi Rice, Star Parker, La Shawn Barber (whom I follow on Twitter, and who has graciously responded to some of my tweets), Lloyd Marcus, Thomas Sowell, Herman Cain (currently near the top in Republican polling--kind of weird for an allegedly racist party, wouldn't you think?), and...Mike.

"Mike?" you ask? I don't know his last name, but Mike is a black gent, a driver for Triple A, whom I met a couple of years ago. You see, I drive this ratty old Bronco II, which I dearly love and hope to restore someday, and there for a while, a couple of years ago, I was having pretty regular trouble with it. One of the few benefits of my job is that I get Triple A coverage, and the first time I met Mike was when I had to have Triple A come out and pick me up on a back road. While Mike was lowering the platform on his truck, he was playing his radio at full volume because he didn't want to miss a word of what Michael Savage had to say. I guess people had commented on his taste in talk radio before, because he felt obliged to turn to me at one point and tell me, "Not all of us voted for Obama!"

Mike picked up me and my Bronco II a couple of other times over the next several months. He's consistent. He's not fooling. He's a conservative.

Mike and people like him fry libtard minds. The fact that there are black conservatives puts libtards in the position of having either to admit that conservatism doesn't equal being against black people, or of having to accuse people like Mike of being stupid or sellouts. With almost clockwork regularity, libtards choose the second option, apparently clueless as to how bigoted accusing a black man of being a sellout or a fool for disagreeing with them makes them look.

8) You'll never impress me with stories of conservative racism because--and this will no doubt come as a shock to your poor little libtard soul--I actually know, and have known, a lot of black people. Brown people, too.

I swear, libtards often write and speak as though conservatives have never actually met a person of color, like they don't know what they're like. It's amazing. You really seem to think you can say almost any stupid thing about black people and conservatives and since, in your libtard minds, no conservatives actually know black people, we'll never be able to call you on it!

I wrote about some of the black people I've known in this post, which I also linked in my last post, but I know perfectly well you libtards didn't read it.

Libtards and libtardettes, in my life, I have been in the Marine Corps Reserve, worked in the restaurant business for fourteen years, worked in call centers, and, for most of the last eight years, worked in a field that gives me direct and almost-daily contact with heavy consumers of social services. I know, and have known, lots and lots of blacks and hispanics. And having known so many, let me assure you, dear libtard reader, I have a much better idea how they behave and what they say than you might think!

It is almost comical to watch or read libtards act as though certain words were proof-positive of racism. Almost comical, that is, to anyone who actually knows a lot of black people.

One time, I brought a short stick with which I happened to be working to our summer training in the Mojave Desert. My A-gunner--assistant gunner--saw it, asked what it was, and upon being told that it was a martial arts weapon, said, "It sure looks like a nigger-knocker to me." He was, of course, a "dark green" Marine, that is to say, for those of you who haven't been in the Corps, he was black.

How seriously do you expect me to take your charges of racism when Lilly, one of the Wal-Mart employees I have gotten to know a bit over my years of shopping there, was obviously upset with someone on the phone, and, when asked what she was upset about, replied, in frustration and almost at the top of her lungs, "BLACK PEOPLE!!"? Racism? I have no doubt that if she was white, you libtards would charge her with it. But Lilly is black.

One of my best friends in this world is a 74-year-old black lady named Rose. When she tells me how she cautioned a grand-daughter to take her car to a real mechanic, not to get it "nigger-rigged," when she tells me how she told an errant male relative to "get his black *** over here," just how seriously do you expect me to take you when you tell stories about how some conservative or other used the word "nigger," and how that proves that conservatives are racists?

Haven't you libtards ever been around a group of black folks and heard one say to another, "Nigga, please"?

I'm not saying that it's a good idea to use the word "nigger," but honestly, has it never occurred to you libtards that if black people routinely use the word, saying "nigger" doesn't automatically mean you're against all black people? Are you really that stupid?

As I wrote in this post, I've had black folks tell me--quietly, as though they were afraid someone might overhear--that the behavior of some black folks made them ashamed to be black, or that they didn't like black people. Do you seriously expect me to consider the possibility that those black people thought that black people are, by nature, inferior? If not, why on earth would you expect me to believe that conservatives who say that black culture is deteriorating are racists?

Libtards, I know you'll never quit accusing conservatives and Republicans of institutional racism. If you admit that conservative opposition to your ideas has little to do with race and much to do with the feckless and often murderous record of your ideas, you are, conversationally and publicly speaking, cooked. Accusing conservatives of racism is just one of the ways you have of diverting attention from your failed ideology, so you won't ever give it up.

But I, and others like me, won't ever fall for it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Mark of the Idiot

Been a while since I've posted. Been busy, still am, so I'll keep this short and sweet:

You know, don't you, that I identify myself as a Tea Partier? Well, if you didn't, you know now.

Probably most of the people I know would describe themselves as Tea Partiers, or at least not unfriendly to the Tea Party. It's probably fair to say that most of the people I know would describe themselves as conservative, even the few that don't identify themselves as Tea Partiers.

I do know some liberals, and some of them I like and get on quite well with. Those are not the people I'm writing about today.

The people I'm writing about today are the fatuous twits who simply cannot see a Tea Partier--or a conservative, for that matter--without seeing a racist.

Friends, I know not one--not ONE--Tea Partier who could fairly be described as a racist. I do know Tea Partiers who oppose racial set-asides, who oppose welfare programs that mostly benefit minorities, who think that Black American culture is suffering badly, and so forth, but it requires an extraordinary degree of ignorance or stupidity to describe those as racist positions. Even to suggest that any one of them is racist shows blissful ignorance of the definition of the word.

It floors me that a political movement that currently seems to be enamored of, for crying out loud, Herman Cain, an obviously black man, can be tarred as "racist," but I have seen the attempt made. It floors me that a political movement that practically worships Col. Allen West, another obviously black man, can be tarred as "racist," but I have seen it done. It floors me that a political movement that has, for one of its most lively writers, Lloyd Marcus, another obviously black man, can be tarred as "racist," but I have seen it done, even by people who know that the Tea Party has blacks and other minorities in it. They do it, basically, by asserting that our minority members candidates aren't real minorities, or are sellouts, or stupid.

Mighty **** broad-minded of you, pally...

The situation has gotten so bad that I cannot look at someone calling Tea Partiers "racist" and fail to think of him as a complete idiot. Calling Tea Partiers "racist" has become a badge, a mark--the Mark of the Idiot.

For more of my thoughts on racism, go here.
And, of course, they're still at it, trying to tar the whole barrel with a few bad apples, in spite of headlines like this one. As God is my witness, one of the things I'm hoping for most is the sight of libtards trying to tell me that their opposition to Herman Cain's presidential policies isn't racist but that my opposition to Barack Obama's was racist.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Republicans, Democrats, and Raaaaaaaaaaacism

Every so often I have a series of encounters that forces me to take a step back for a moment, shake my head, and say, "MOTW, are you hearing what you think you're hearing? 'Cause it sure sounds crazy."

Of course, I am usually hearing exactly what I think I'm hearing, and if it's not crazy, it's borderline crazy.

From places here and there in the blogosphere and MSM, for example, I've been hearing the charge that Republicans are going to use, if I recall one writer's term correctly, "dogwhistle racism" against President Obama in 2012--that is, the charge is that Republicans are racist, oppose Barack Obama because of his race, and expect to win by luring knuckle-dragging, racist, redneck Republicans to the polls.

It's borderline crazy because it so neatly inverts the truth, and it's aggravating because some people actually fall for it.

I've written about racism before, and I recommend you go read that post before going on with this one. When you're back, I'll lightly sketch in the real history of Republicans, Democrats, and racism for you. I'm not going to bother to link to sources; I just flat don't want to take the time. But you can easily verify what I say here with a little digging, if you're willing to do it. If you're not willing to do it...

Oh, well.
Have you heard of Andrew Jackson? Oh, I know you've seen his face; it's on our money. But did you know he was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans? Did you know he was the only president every to see our national debt paid off? Did you know that he was also, in the words of a Democrat whose opinion I respect a lot, "a bigoted son of a -----?" That he oversaw the forced removal of the Cherokee and certain other tribes to Oklahoma? That he was the first Democrat president, and that one of the priorities of his Democratic Party was to preserve slavery in the South?

That's right: it wasn't the Republican Party that was born to champion slavery; that distinction belongs to the Democrats. The Republican Party was formed in large part to oppose slavery.

Think what you like of the issues involved in the Civil War. I won't pretend that the whole conflict can be reduced to slavery vs. anti-slavery. But I will tell you, and it is the truth, that during the Civil War and for decades and decades afterward, it was Republicans that championed liberty for blacks and Democrats that hindered it. I am speaking in broad terms, of course, and you can probably find exceptions on both sides, but in general, that is the truth of the matter.

The Ku Klux Klan, in its various incarnations? Democrats.

Lynchings? Democrats.

Cross-burnings? Democrats.

Suppression of the black vote? Democrats.

Discrimination against black workers? Democrats.

"Bull" Conner? Democrat.

Orval Faubus? Democrat

Virulent racist Woodrow Wilson? Democrat

Virulent racist Lyndon Johnson? Democrat

Robert "Sheets" Byrd, former Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan? Democrat

For decades, the Democratic Party was the national bastion of American racism.

For decades, blacks voted--when they could vote, that is--Republican.

Martin Luther King? Republican. Go ahead, call him a racist. I dare you.

You don't really think that Democrats genuinely morphed from the racists' party to the champions of black equality in the few short years between Orval Faubus's Little Rock escapades to the Great Society, do you? You're not really that naive, are you?

Of course, Democrats didn't do any such thing. In the sixties, thanks largely to Republican efforts to secure equal access to the ballot box for black Americans, blacks became a voting bloc worth courting. And the Democrats courted them! In one of the most brazen, cynical turnarounds in political history, the Democrats re-branded themselves as the party of black rights, instituting entitlement programs largely aimed at buying and locking up the black vote, and painting Republican opposition to those programs, programs that have wrecked the black family, as racist. Amazingly, they have successfully painted Republican opposition to racial set-asides, racial quotas, as racist! They have painted anyone with the nerve to say that popular black culture is disintegrating and dragging blacks down as racist.

Democrats have rewritten history in the minds of most Americans. In a twisted sort of way, I have to salute them. It is one of the most amazing feats of re-branding, of successfully executing the "big lie" technique, in history. And they have done it all, successfully, for the sake of securing the votes of black voters, for the sake of raw, naked political power.

There are, of course, Republicans that Democrats have a hard time successfully tarring as racists: black Republicans like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Star Parker, La Shawn Barber, Walter Williams, Condoleeza Rice, and the Filipina-by-heritage Michelle Malkin get a different treatment. They are not called racists; they are said to be sellouts, "Toms," and self-haters.

Some of the most blatantly racist political cartoons I've ever seen were directed at Condi Rice. You've probably forgotten.

I ain't never gonna forget.

The truth of the matter is that there is very little, if any, racism in the Republican Party. It is such a rarity that Democrats are darn hard pressed to come up with actual examples and are forever reduced to calling things racist when they aren't--things like welfare reform, or opposition to racial quotas. Or they'll out and out lie about someone being called racist names or spat on. Or they'll decide that a Republican's using "code words" to communicate with racists, or they'll selectively edit tapes to make someone appear to have said something racist when he hasn't. The truth of the matter is that the Democratic Party long ago decided that racial division was politically useful, and they've falsely tarred Republicans as racists ever since.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Christianity and Capitalism

Every so often it is my distinct misfortune to read or hear someone wax eloquent about the evils of capitalism and imply, suggest, or say outright that Jesus was a socialist, or that He would have favored socialism, or that the early Christians practiced some form of socialism, or that capitalism somehow violates Christian teaching.

It's aggravating as the dickens. Aggravating because it reveals, at the least, appalling ignorance of history, economics, and the Scriptures; or worse, familiarity with one or more of those subjects combined with a serious deficiency in analytical thinking; or, worst of all, outright mendacity and lying. Combine this with the usual syrupy, dripping condescension that accompanies the commentary and you have a perfect recipe for annoying anyone who's devoted, say, 60 seconds of serious thought to the subject.

For what, exactly, is capitalism? It is often said that it is an economic system, but this really isn't the case. Capitalism, beloved, is nothing more--and nothing less--than the economics resulting from people--the mass of people, not merely elites--having both documented property rights and liberty. To the extent you deny the people liberty, or the right to administer their property and the fruits of their labor as they see fit, you depart from capitalism and pitch your tent in the Land of the Planned Economy, aka Socialism. Some prefer to deny those rights in toto; they are communists or socialists (Or fascists, for that matter. Surely you weren't unaware that fascism is but a variety of socialism?) Some prefer to deny them in part; they are liberals. Some prefer to deny them on an ad hoc basis as benefits them personally; they are political hacks, thieves, and liars.

Those who seek to guard and secure Man's God-given rights are commonly called "conservatives" these days.

It floors me that anyone even modestly familiar with Holy Writ would suggest that it does not recognize either the right to liberty or the right to property. How, if a man has not a right to life, do the Scriptures say, "Thou shalt do no murder"? And if a man has a right to life, how can anyone say that it is legitimate for another man to deny him the free use thereof, that is to say, to deny him his liberty? How can anyone be said to have a right to something if he has no right to control the disposition thereof? And if there is no right to property, how is it that the Scriptures say, "Thou shalt not steal," and "Let him who stole, steal no more?" How can any man steal what does not belong to anyone? The commands implicitly recognize the right to property.

And if the Scriptures recognize the rights to liberty and property, beloved, they recognize capitalism, for that is all that results when men have both!

These are amongst the rights the Founders of our country had in mind when they referred to certain unalienable rights granted from the Creator. Rights given by the Creator of mankind and which may therefore not be legitimately denied by men to men. It is largely the denial of such rights that constitutes injustice. Against this, the Scriptures warn us, and tell us that guarding against it is the proper role of the state. Hence, the Founders assertion that it is to secure such rights that governments are instituted among Men.

So much is obvious, as I said, to anyone willing to give the matter a few seconds of serious, analytical thought. I therefore do not hesitate to say that those who do not understand this have, at the least, simply not bothered to engage the material seriously. But there is more.

Consider, beloved, the track records of capitalism and the varieties of socialism. Capitalism has a track record of promoting liberty and economic growth and prosperity for masses of people. To this minute, it is the only economic--for lack of a better word, "system"--with a demonstrable track record of lifting millions of people out of poverty. (As an aside, the evils sometimes ascribed to capitalism are actually the evils resulting from greed, which usually results in the abuse or denial of property rights or liberty, and hence do not result from "capitalism" at all.) Socialism, on the other hand, especially when you consider that fascism and communism are but varieties thereof, has a track record of impoverishing and murdering hundreds of millions of people.

One is left shocked, stunned, in disbelief, at the notion that anyone could seriously suggest that a "system" that demonstrably lifts people out of slavery and destitution is somehow less charitable--and therefore less in accord with Christian beliefs--than a system that routinely enslaves, impoverishes, and murders people. But that is the position that people who take seriously the idea that Christianity is, or somehow should be, a socialist faith, are left with.

Ignorance can be cured. Here are some suggestions:

The Holy Bible
Money, Greed, and God
The Victory of Reason
The Theory of Moral Sentiments
The Wealth of Nations
The Mystery of Capital

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Simple Beef-Chub Chili

This recipe started off as someone else's: I modified it from "Norma's Original Recipe Quick-n-Easy Chili," found in the pages of one of my favorite cookbooks in the whole world, the remarkable and inspiring The El Paso Chile Company's Texas Border Cookbook, which you desperately need to add to your collection. You needn't worry about cost; it is available used for a pittance. And yes, it is that good, at least if one of your big culinary ambitions is to cook really tasty Tex-Mex/Southwestern home cooking. I could absolutely live with that cookbook and just one other, Bill and Cheryl Jamison's Smoke and Spice. But enough of that.

As I believe I've mentioned before, I like to keep some 3-lb beef chubs from ALDI on hand. It is not quite as lean as ground chuck, coming in at 73% lean, but it has consistently proven to be pretty tasty stuff and at a very good price. Naturally, I gravitate to recipes that can use it or that can be adapted to it, and this was one of them.

It wasn't 'til last winter that I began making chili on a regular basis. The last time I'd made the stuff was five years ago when I won 3rd place in the "medium" category at a church chili cook-off, and that was with an entirely different recipe which I will likely not ever make again. This stuff, you can make all the time. It's relatively quick and relatively easy. If you can't make decent chili following this recipe, I'm not sure there is any hope for you.

Just kidding.

At any rate, the kids and I liked it so much that I began to hanker after a new piece of cooking equipment. Y'see, I had an old Dutch Oven, but it was only three quarts, and the recipe calls for a five-quart Dutch Oven, preferably a non-reactive, that is, enameled, one. After reading the reviews on Amazon, it was clear that the best available Dutch Ovens are from Le Creuset, and about a month or so ago, I finally ordered one at an unbelievable price. Not only has it proven the perfect chili-makin' vessel, it's rapidly proven itself the ideal vessel for other dishes as well.

Enough of that. Here's how to make this stuff:

First, brown the ground beef in the Dutch Oven over medium-ish heat. Whilst the beef is browning, chop a white onion, a big one. If you insist on a measurement, you're looking for two cups, but "one big white onion" works perfectly well. Don't know how to chop an onion? Let Chef Ramsay show you how.

Then drain the fat from the browned beef. My advice is: don't throw this stuff away. I know, I know: you've been told for decades that fat is bad, bad, bad--bad for your waistline, bad for your circulatory system, bad for everything. Sorry to burst your bubble, but when you look hard at the evidence, none of that turns out to be true! Get yourself, or borrow from the library, a copy of Fat and learn how to do something with those beef drippings. Your palate will thank you later.

Now, while the browned dead cow is draining into whatever sort of collection vessel you are using, take about two tablespoons of bacon fat--yes, bacon fat--and, covered, over medium-low heat in the Dutch Oven, cook the onions for about fifteen minutes, stirring two or three times. While the onions are cooking and the beef is draining, you might want to go ahead and open up your cans--you will need two 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes (the ones from Wal-Mart work just fine) and four 15.5-ounce cans of light red kidney beans. Have you tried Kuhn-Rikon can openers? They are da bomb.

Once the onions are done cooking, go ahead and add the beef back into the Dutch Oven and stir. Cover the Dutch Oven and let the onions and beef cook for five minutes or so. Then open it up and add 3 teaspoons of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of Wright's liquid smoke, and 3/4 cup of chili powder. The original is Gebhardt's, and I've no doubt it is a fine product, but I've been using the stuff from ALDI and it has been just fine. Sooner or later, I will probably try making my own chile puree and making chili with that, but this turns out quite tasty as it is, so I'm not in a big hurry. Stir everything up and cook for another five minutes or so, covered.

Now you will want to take your two cans of crushed tomatoes and one cup of beef stock and stir them into the pot. Turn the heat up to medium--I ought to mention that if you're using something besides a cast-iron Dutch Oven,you may have to make adjustments to my heat recommendations, as cast iron does a superlative job of heat retention, far exceeding that of most cooking materials--and cook, partially covered, stirring frequently, for about thirty minutes.

Finally, take the four cans of beans, one tablespoon of honey (you will find that if you give your tablespoon a quick spritz of cooking oil just before measuring the honey, the honey will slide right out), and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, add them to the pot, stir, cover, and cook for another five minutes or so.

I usually serve this with corn chips on the side and shredded cheddar cheese on top. Iced tea or a cold beverage from Sam Adams make perfect accompaniments.

I have found that this freezes very well, if you have too much to eat at one meal.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pan-Fried Pork Sirloin Chops

I fixed these up tonight, and as they've become a fairly regular item in the Man of the West household, I thought I'd share the recipe, such as it is, with others.

First, you need pork sirloin chops. In the discount grocery stores where I often shop, these are a pretty cheap, and, for pork, quite lean cut of meat. Too lean, really, for grilling or barbecuing, though I suppose that you could do it, especially if the meat were brined. But I digress.

Once you have the chops, however many you are going to cook, look them over. These things are frequently sold cut very thick, too thick to quickly cook without leaving the centers raw. So, to any of them that are thicker than, say, about three-quarters of an inch, takest thou thy really-really-really sharp chef's knife. Cut them as though you were going to butterfly them, that is, lay them out flat on your cutting board, and holding the knife parallel to the cutting board, cut the meat in half, that is, thinner (hope I've been clear!)

Then take some warm water, add kosher salt and apple cider vinegar (How much? Never measured it. The simplest answer is "a lot.") and let your chops soak in the mixture for at least an hour.

Toward the end of the soaking time, take a cast-iron skillet and heat it to medium-high. Put at least half an inch of lard (lard will not hurt you!) or soybean oil or something in the pan and allow the oil to get good and hot. While the oil's getting hot, take some flour and throw in some chili powder (Say a prayer of thanks for Mr. Gebhardt's invention!) and garlic powder to taste. Add some fresh-ground black pepper, too, if you like.

Dredge the pork pieces in the flour mixture and fry them up, three or so minutes on each side, longer if you prefer to have all the glorious goodness God put in pork cooked right out of it your meat really well done. Drain on paper towels and serve with vegetables, or with mayo and pickles to make some tasty fried pork sandwiches.

Really easy, really cheap (these chops are forever being put on sale), really tasty. What the heck more can you ask for?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Beef-Chub Shepherd's Pie

I first learned to make Shepherd's Pie from my fire-fighter stepfather (he called it "Sheepherder's Pie"), and it wasn't exactly a formal process. I have modified the recipe each time I have made it, which hasn't been often, because, with a family of six, you need a big honkin' vessel in which to cook it, and I didn't really have anything perfectly suitable. That has now changed, as I am now the proud owner of a 5.5-quart enameled Dutch Oven, and the second day I had it, I thought, "There's the solution to my Shepherd's Pie problem." Here is what I did, together with some commentary on things here and there.

First, you will need something about 5.5 or 6 quarts in capacity that will withstand an oven temperature of 325 degrees. You will want to preheat the oven before starting to brown the beef.

Now, takest thou thy 3-pound beef chub--I generally have some frozen beef chubs from ALDI on hand. They are labeled 73 percent lean, 27 percent fat, and they have been consistently good, and at a good price--and let it thaw. The smart way to do this is to put it in the fridge the night before, but you can do it quicker by putting it in the sink and letting a thin stream of cool water run over it for a while. Then brown it. I did it over medium heat--and use a colander to drain off the fat. It is not that I am afraid of dietary fat, not at all, but I object to having so much of it in a finished dish that the rest of the food is swimming in it. You will want to add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per pound--that is, three teaspoons each, total.

About liquid smoke. You may be wondering just what the heck liquid smoke is. Well, it's not something cooked up in a lab. It's very simple. Have you ever seen people smoking a hookah, or a water pipe? Experienced pipe smokers--I used to be one--know that the purpose of the water is to cool off the smoke, and the pipe does indeed deliver very cool smoke to the smoker. However, much of the flavor is lost, trapped in the water as the smoke bubbles through it. Liquid smoke is made much the same way: hickory smoke is bubbled through water, which traps much of the flavor, and the water is then reduced to a concentration suitable for home cooking. It is real smoke flavor, in teaspoon form. I use Wright's: the only flavor, as far as I know, is hickory, but there is nothing else in it, no artificial colors or anything like that. Other brands I have
looked at have other stuff in them.

Now, as the meat is browning, you will also want to have about three pounds or so of sliced potatoes boiling. The experts tell me that russet potatoes are best for mashing, but my family, for whatever reason, has a definite preference for the flavor of red potatoes, so that's what I use, skins and all. When the potatoes are done cooking, throw in a stick of butter and whip 'em up with your mixer. No hay problemo.

Once the meat's brown, drain the fat, like I said, and toss in--well, I don't actually have a hard-and-fast rule. When my stepfather first taught me how to make this, he always threw in "vegetable beef" soup, but mi esposa has a hard time with the peas that come in that, so over the years, I have tried different things. This time, I threw in about 3/4 pound of string beans, a can of creamed corn, and three 10 3/4 oz cans of Campbell's "Golden Mushroom" soup. I am sure that you could use beef stock, reconstituted dried mushrooms, perhaps a dash of soy sauce or worcestershire, or red wine, perhaps some sauteed onions or bell peppers--whatever floats your boat.

Then spread the mashed potatoes out over the top of the beef mixture, and throw--in this case--a 3/4-pound bag of shredded cheddar on top, the sharper, the better. Then put the lid on your dutch oven (It will be almost full by this time) and put it in your pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.

Dinner is served. We polished off almost the whole thing in one sitting.

The Perfect Church

This is a still-in-development part of a much larger post I'm working on. There might be a couple of people who might find it interesting.
I belong to a church in the heart of Tulsa, a church that you could describe as "big," in the sense that the physical plant is pretty big, and "average" in that the total attendance on Sunday morning is about average for most Southern Baptist churches, which is to say, about 200 or so. It is a church like so many in this part of Tulsa, like a very great many across the country, really. It's dying. Most of the churches in the heart of Tulsa are graying and thinning out and they are dying.

Some of them used to be among the fastest-growing and largest congregations in the country.

What happened?

Well, there are a lot of things that have happened. I am still learning about some of it But one of the things, I am convinced, is that transportation and ease of communication are actually working against the neighborhood church.

If you go to a seminar, or have a workshop on church growth, one of the things you will find out is that a church's natural territory--at least in a city, I don't know about in the countryside--is considered to be everything within about a three-mile radius.

Couple that with the fact--at least I think it's a fact--that the majority of people hear about Jesus from a friend or a relative.

Then ask yourself if you, or any of your friends and relatives, live within a three-mile radius of your church. If you go to an older church, in an older part of the city, I think it is likely you are going to say, "No!"

People can drive--so they, or their children, move out to other parts of town and if they're so inclined, they can still attend the old church they've always attended, but their friends, their relatives, their lives, are all outside that three-mile radius around their church. Naturally, it then becomes very, very difficult for the church members to reach the people around the church! Nobody should be surprised. Nothing could be more natural.

Some people are going to home churches or things like that and I see nothing wrong with that, if that's what you want to do, except that I think that it tends to reinforce a certain cliquishness in some cases, that is, I think there is a pretty good likelihood that you are going to get all eggheads in one group, all the emotionistas in another, and so forth, and that's not altogether good.

And then there's the bad teaching--not in my church, actually, I think our pastor is pretty good (critics would say that he appeals to "eggheads" like moi), one of the few left that actually does expository preaching, and he's not inclined to dumb things down--but it seems to me like there's almost an active contempt rampant in the North American church, a contempt for any sort of teaching that goes beyond the very basics. I will never forget asking my then-teenaged oldest son what the problem with Adult Sunday School lessons was, and he immediately shot back with, "It's the kids' lessons, only with bigger words." If you question this, in most churches and most Sunday School departments, you will be told that the material cannot be made too complex or we will alienate visitors, completely overlooking the fact that visitors are not exactly overrunning the building. And then, if you are not already a teacher of some kind, you will be told that you know so much, you ought to be teaching!

No thought will be given to the possibility that most visitors are not so stupid as to be unable to figure out when their intelligence has been insulted.

In my opinion, the teaching in most churches in North America is execrable. I do not even have to go to them to see in order to have a pretty good idea. Why? Well, just ask around. For example, how many Christians do you know that feel confident in their ability to clearly articulate the Gospel? In my experience--and yes, I have asked--most Christians don't feel terribly confident in their ability to clearly articulate the Gospel, or to answer questions and objections, and more often than not, they don't even try (I believe the stats indicate that something less than 10 percent of all Christians will ever share their faith with strangers).

They just keep coming to Sunday School and church services, hoping all the while, I guess, that they will eventually gain enough knowledge to be able to tell other people what they believe about God, life, death, eternity, and salvation. To my mind, the situation looks like a massive, systemic failure to educate and train, despite a massive Sunday School program and the availability of enough literature to choke a moose. It doesn't help that a lot of people seem to like it that way. It amazes me how many people say they're afraid to share the Gospel, on the grounds that they don't know enough to answer objections, and then won't come to a Sunday School class heavily geared to equipping people to explain and defend their beliefs.

What to do? How to keep my church and others like it from dying? Well, I envision building a church like this:

On Sunday mornings, first, in Sunday School, we'd tackle whatever subjects the class was interested in pursuing in depth, getting people involved in the discussion and accustomed to discussing and defending what they believed. Then we'd have a service where the Gospel was preached, the text of Scripture was expounded, and Christ exalted. Then there'd be a potluck lunch, and maybe a softball game, or maybe some indoor games (chess or go, anyone?). Then everyone'd go home for a nap, and come back at night for more preaching, teaching, and prayer, maybe followed by some sandwiches (Potluck sandwiches. If you try to make the church responsible for the sandwiches, it'll just create a burden that nobody wants to bear).

I have to say a word about "worship," or, more specifically, about music.

Worship is an absolute joke in most churches, at least most churches I've been to--including ours. That is not to say the music is, quote-unquote, "bad." Often, the music minister and musicians and choir are very capable.

But that is not corporate worship. In all the years I've been going to Baptist churches, I have seen precisely one man I would call a worship leader, in that he always managed to get everybody in the sanctuary singing their hearts out. Most music ministers, together with most choirs, are not leading worship. They are performing for the congregation. That is not right at all.

A worship leader needs to be far more concerned about leading the congregation in corporate worship than about how he and the choir sound.

Monday night'd be visitation. Not like most churches, where "visitation" means visiting people who should've been removed from the rolls years before, or visiting people that brought their kids to the "Fall Festival" five years in a row (that kind of stuff is, in my experience, a complete waste of time), but visiting, first, the members who couldn't be at church due to illness or frailty, those who are having a hard time in one way or another (I am as convinced as I can be that one of the modern church's problems is that we have so emphasized ministry to the community that we have let our ministry to our members slacken. This should not be. Paul suggested strongly that we should tend to the brethren first), and then just going door-to-door in the neighborhood, asking people how we could pray for them, and sharing the Gospel where the Lord opens the door. I would suggest strongly that the same people not do visitation every week, not unless they feel truly compelled. Rather, a whole bunch of people should rotate visitation duties. Nobody should be allowed to become overwhelmed.

Tuesday nights, the clubs would meet. As I mentioned in the section on RyuTe, someday I'd love to teach a class at the church. I picture an energetic, sweaty class, where the emphasis is on health and self-defense, not fighting, not aggression, with maybe just enough free-sparring thrown in to satisfy those that want to compete in an occasional tournament (Tournament fighting is useless for self-defense, but some people find them a lot of fun). There could, and should, be other clubs--whatever people were interested in. Maybe Praisemoves for some. Maybe Pilates. Maybe a homeschooling support group. The point is to have neighborhood Christian people with a common interest be able to satisfy that interest and desire for fellowship through the neighborhood church, not so much to use those activities to attract lost people to the church--although, God knows, you wouldn't want to turn lost people away from those clubs, and you'd certainly want lost people taught the Gospel while they're at the church.

Wednesday nights'd be for discipleship training and prayer. Classes on all sorts of stuff, from in-depth study of various books of the Bible, to home economics (we all need to know how to stretch a dollar, folks), to New Testament Greek. Classes'd be preceded by a potluck meal and followed by a prayer session.

I think that's the way church oughta be. And very frankly, I think in our case, we need to seriously consider merging with the Hispanic church that meets in our building. They are actually growing, in part, I think, because so many Hispanic families have moved into the neighborhood, and, like I said, people do hear about Jesus from their friends and neighbors.

Many times I think the ideal is to have a little church like this in every neighborhood, with the social life of the whole neighborhood revolving around it. I'm about half-convinced that when we got to the point where you had to drive to church instead of walk (or ride your horse), it allowed us to be too darn selective about who we'd associate with. Being able to drive--I've run across people that drive thirty or more miles to church, folks--well, it seems to me that it makes it easier to ignore the people who are right around us, in favor of people that we find it easier to love. Why would we not expect our neighborhood churches to be dying if we refuse to attend the neighborhood church? And conversely, I can't help but think that if the people and their neighborhood church get all wrapped up in Jesus Christ and in one another, both the churches and the people will quit dying.

That's what, in part, I'm working on for the future. I may die before I see it fully realized. But that's the direction I'm headed.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Nothing Like a Certain Someone's Kyusho

I suspect anyone interested will know immediately to whom I am referring, and a handful may know what put the subject into my head.

For the one or two people out there wondering, yes, I have a Certain Someone's books, have read them, and I am also studying Taika Oyata's RyuTe under a seventh dan who has been with the system for something like thirty years.

If you're wondering, no, what I have been taught and/or have seen in RyuTe is, I do not hesitate to say, nothing like a Certain Someone's kyusho.

There it is, for what it's worth. People wanting more of what I think about the subject are advised to search Openhand's blog for "kyusho" and "kyusho-jitsu" (or "kyusho-jutsu"--can't remember how he spells it). He says it better than I do anyhow.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Brain is Full

I went to one of Taika Seiyu Oyata's seminars over the weekend. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, but could not escape the feeling throughout the seminar that I was an utterly uncoordinated idiot, quite unable to walk and chew gum at the same time.

All I was trying to do was learn a new exercise. You wouldn't think it would be that hard. I think I've got it, that is, I think I can execute the movements in the correct order. Haltingly and at a glacial pace, perhaps, but I think I can do it. Perhaps in a week I won't look like Frankenstein's monster whilst I do it.

This seems to be one of the benefits to training in RyuTe. You WILL, via some very considerable challenges to your physical coordination, forge new neural pathways. As some consider that sort of thing one of the means by which you avoid age-related mental deterioration, that is a good thing.

A note: if you, as a practitioner of some other martial art, had happened to be in a roomful of RyuTe yudansha on Friday night, and had you known no better, it is my bet that there is no way on God's green earth you would have identified what they were doing as Okinawan karate. It is increasingly hard for me to read people's commentaries on "karate" without thinking to myself, "But there is no way that you've seen 'karate,' at least 'karate' as it was 150 years ago." I'm very serious. What you are seeing as "karate" and what Taika Oyata is teaching his students are different. The surface appearance may be similar, but the underlying reality is very different indeed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Self-Defense: It's Not Just a Freakin' Hobby

More than a few times, I have read people pontificating on why they study martial arts. Some will tell you that they study to cope with stress, for physical fitness, for the cultural aspects, for the mental/spiritual effects, and so forth. Those are all valid reasons, too, and I don't wish to denigrate them, and yet...

It's amazing to me how many people study martial arts and are apparently utterly unconcerned (or else outright delusional--as in the case of people who study "martial arts" but spend most of their time on point sparring and so forth) about their applicability in real-world self-defense situations. It's like they just don't see a need to prepare themselves for conflict. It's like they think martial arts is a hobby, like tap or jazz dance, or ballet, or golf.

It's not. At least, it's not intended to be.

Let me suggest to you, if it hasn't occurred to you already, that you live in a world where people will cheerfully threaten you over your political views, as described by the father of one young lady, emphasis mine:
Kristen wrote this editorial (No thanks, Mrs. Obama ..) for her high school newspaper in February of this year. After the article was published, she underwent attacks from African-American students, parents, local church groups, and members of the community. She was called a racist, threatened with a knife, attacked verbally and physically in the hallways at school, and her vehicle tires were slashed in the school parking lot. Members of some local minority organizations even met to discuss how to retaliate against her and a boycott of her school newspaper was launched.
If you're interested, I believe that this is the text of article she wrote.

You live in a world where, through no fault of your own, you may, like a co-worker of mine, wind up the object of some drug-addled, bi-polar weirdo's obsession.

You live in a world where someday, they may be coming for you...

and you may find it vitally necessary to be able to break the grips of people attempting to take you somewhere you don't want to go, or to put a man on the ground with one technique.

And so many of you just don't seem to care. Frankly, you people freak me out.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More About Interpreting Food Labels

Okay, as another object lesson, here's the ingredients for another drink, one very popular, at least 'round here, where--amazingly, to my mind--moms often buy it for their kids under the mistaken impression that it's like buying their kids "juice." Remember, by law, ingredients are listed in descending order. Whatever is listed first is what there is the most of, okay?

Corn syrup

2% or less of each of the following: concentrated juices (orange, tangerine, apple, lime, grapefruit)

citric acid

malic acid

ascorbic acid (vitamin C)

thiamin hydrochloride (vitamine B1)

Natural flavors

modified cornstarch

canola oil

sodium citrate

cellulose gum


sodium hexametaphosphate

potassium sorbate to protect flavor

yellow #5

Yellow #6
Mmmm, mmmm, MMMMMMM!!!!!! Doesn't that sound yummy? Well, maybe to the uninitiated. Let's talk. First of all, let's see if we can't put everything--the amount of everything--in perspective. Look at that third line. Isn't that telling you that except for water and corn syrup--to which we'll get back in a minute--none of the ingredients make up more than two percent of the drink? Sure looks that way to me. So, being very generous, let's assume that there's two percent of everything, which would be ludicrous, nobody's going to make a drink that's 2 percent vitamin B1, right?

Still...there are fifteen ingredients after water and corn syrup, so that's a maximum of thirty percent, meaning that, at minimum, this tasty beverage is seventy percent water and corn syrup. The reality is that hardly any of those fifteen ingredients is likely to amount to even one percent of the total volume of liquid, so it's really much more likely that this stuff is 85 or ninety percent water and corn syrup, and that's being generous. It might be 95 percent or even more.

Now, that's bad, right off the bat. The water's not bad, of course, but corn syrup...

Corn syrup deserves a special circle in culinary Hell. It is a sweetener, obviously made from corn, and it is cheap, partly because the growing of corn is federally subsidized. It is a nutritional nightmare. If you deliberately wanted to make yourself fatter than--well, fat--and wreak havoc with your insulin mechanism, this is one of the means by which you would choose to do it. It is vicious, nasty stuff, not something you want to put in your body if you can reasonably avoid it.

So, right off the bat, just after the first two ingredients, you can tell you're basically drinking sugar water. Yummy.

Concentrated fruit juices? Okay. That might not be so bad. You just have no clue how much you're getting here. Remember, it's two percent or less. Could be next to nothing.

Citric acid and malic acid? Added to give the drink that citrus-y tartness.

Vitamin C? Very cheap to make. Putting it in the drink allows them to put "Vitamin C!" on the label, which makes the ignorant feel like they're buying their kids something healthy. Same thing with the B1.

Natural flavors? What the heck is that?

Cornstarch. Anyone who's done a reasonable amount of cooking knows what the cornstarch is there for. It's a thickener, so that this concoction pours out of the bottle more like juice and less like water. It's also starch, that is, it'll fatten you.

Canola oil? There are some scare stories circulating about canola oil. As far as I'm concerned, it's just oil, probably added here to improve texture.

Sodium citrate? More tartness.

Cellulose gum? Added to improve texture. Remember, they want this stuff to look like juice.

Sucralose? Basically chlorinated table sugar. It's an artificial sweetener. Like having a bucketload of corn syrup in it didn't make it sweet enough already.

Sodium hexametaphosphate: in all honesty, I have no idea why this is in here. It has a variety of uses, one of which is apparently as a water softener!

Potassium sorbate: a preservative.

Yellow #5 and Yellow #6: artificial colors, fairly obviously added to make this sugar water look more "orange-y."

And there you have it. The bulk of the story is told in the first three lines. It's basically sugar water with a few cheaply-made vitamins and flavorings and some gunk to make it pour more like juice. Practically guaranteed to make you and your kids fatter than you ever wanted to think about, at least if you drink it on a regular basis. Drink this stuff regularly, and you can pretty much bet on fighting obesity, and maybe someday, heart disease and diabetes, too!

The pitiful part is that you can buy this stuff for about 2.75/gallon, and you can get Wal-Mart reconstituted orange juice for about 3.25/gallon. You'd put up with crap like this to save fifty cents?