dal niente

Month: April, 2013

Pyjama Game

I got to spar with [JJT] for the first time in a while.  It’s been perhaps a month since we last crossed paths.  He’s about 10kg lighter than me, so I have a significant weight advantage, but he’s got a lot more Brasilian Jiu Jitsu training than I do, so his newaza (ground fighting) is way better than mine, and he has a lot better instinct on his feet as well for tachiwaza (stand up fighting), even though the gameplay rules for judo differ slightly.  Mostly, the big difference is that Australian rules judo doesn’t allow you to grab below the belt anymore– so the most common MMA and BJJ takedowns, namely single leg and double leg takedowns, are not valid.


Regardless, JJT and I started judo at the same time.  I’m not sure who of us gets more or less training because we both go when we can.  For the longest time though, I felt that he was winning 51% of our standup fights and 100% of our ground fights.  Indeed, now that I think about it– to this day, I have never submit him on the ground before.

The tides have changed lately. In standup fighting, given about 5-10 minutes to go at it, I’m the one scoring about 2/3 to 3/4 of the takedowns.  And on the ground, although I still haven’t managed to tap him out, I used to be submitted 4 or more times in 5-10 minutes– now, going at it the other night, he only got me once over 10 minutes.


I think the differences are due to the fact that simply, I’m getting more comfortable using my body for judo.  I’m better at controlling my own momentum and maintaining my balance.  I don’t feel I’m as good as JJT at initiating throws that rely on redirection finesse, but I am finally getting some basic “power” throws and sweeps.  Basically, I’m making the 10kg difference count.  Which doesn’t say very much– but at least I’m using my weight and strength more efficiently.  In the past, not only was JJT superior in technique, but I wasn’t using my weight and power properly, which made it a contest of just technique. 


Although… 10 kg of difference is pretty huge.  Like… 22 pounds!  Mind you, we haven’t compared weight in a while and I’ve lost 5kg since I started judo, so maybe I’m getting better than I thought…

Cashing Out

I brought my giant ass, 10kg kimchi jar of loose change to the bank.


A bit over $140. Ka-ching!

“Safe again”

This is a post that wrote offline but forgot to post, so it’s a bit dated at this point.  It’s not really complete, but I thought I’d post it before I forgot.




They caught (alive) one of the Boston marathon bombers, and in the Australian news, it’s pretty huge.  They are showing Obama at a press conference just because of it.

The news report spent a lot of time talking to a Boston resident, who was talking about how she’s so glad that #justice is served, etc.

A while ago, I went to dinner with some classmates– one of them had switched to postgraduate law after spending some time working as a social worker, and she commented on how purely difficult the job is sometimes.  In the course or our discussion of the matter, I remember saying something, and I wouldn’t normally remember what I say so closely, except that the ex-social worker commented on it.

“The thing about our classes that pisses me off sometimes,” I said, “is that when it comes to discussion time, everyone is always pointing at corporations as criminals, and criminals as others.  I mean, sure, they do bad things– but so many of these people, fresh out of undergrad, fresh out of high school, have clearly no idea about human suffering except what they’ve seen on television.  You say you worked as a social worker– I have a lot of respect for that.”

“Thanks,” she said.


“No, seriously! The truth of the matter is everyone wants to be good, but frankly, that’s all talk.  99% of the people who talk about good and evil aren’t bad enough to do good.  I was helping out at a board meeting for the National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre– do you know what’s the problem for them?  When they’re pitching ideas to companies like Telstra or Optus (two of the biggest telecom providers in Australia), the companies like the idea of being attached to helping kids and all that.  As soon as they find out that we’re trying to work with child criminals, they back off.  Why?  Because they like the public image of helping children and the poor– but they wouldn’t touch the image of helping out in real situations of dirt and grit, like when a child due to poverty goes and steals and is sent to jail at 17 years old.  They wouldn’t touch a kid like that with a 10 foot pole.”


When they caught one of the bombers, first thing the news did was show this relatively long interview of a Boston local, who went on about her toughts about the situation.  Basically, in order: shock, sadness, relief, happiness.

I guess my problem with social mentality is that it’s a lot like being a sports fan– you root for a team, but very often, you don’t actually play the game.  People and a sense of morality are similar– we root for good causes, but we’re not willing to roll up our sleeves and actually do the deeds that need doing.  It’s much easier to join in the herd and root for the good guys– but who actually wants to be a good guy? Being supportive in words has it’s uses, but I think that it masks the fact that very little positive action is actually going on to back up those words.


I guess I just get rather annoyed when people go all pitchfork and torches in news interviews when they have done nothing to contribute to that particular situation.  In which case– why are we asking your opinion, if, effectively, you’re not involved?  All they’re really doing is testifying of themselves being bystanders.  Talk to the people who are involved.  And by involved, I don’t mean implicated because the whole community is affected– when do we get over this first world shock of bad things happening, and start taking action to prevent it?


The person being interviewed at some point said just something along those lines: “I know this kind of thing happens all over the world every day in some places, but for us, it’s not normal.  We don’t know how to deal with this.”


Well, start learning how to deal with it.  It isn’t easy– but I don’t see why we should give so much attention to people who are simply “shocked.”  All that demonstrates is a class divide from people who have experience with  “problems” and people who have experience with problems.  The former, I am totally uninterested in.  The latter, that’s what matters.




This is probably a roundabout way to get at a very simple point– yes, there are bad individuals out there.  They should be held responsible for their actions.

I’m really impressed with the work that went into catching the guy– “manhunt is over… justice is served!” was the headline I think.  

But here are my thoughts, in bullet form, because there’s a lot going on here:

  • Is justice served before we actually convict the guy at a fair trial?  Does catching a suspect mean that you’ve got the right guy?
  • Further, even if we have the right guy– is locking him (like every other problem we have in society) the right thing to do?
  • What kind of social system do we have in place that produced a person like that in the first place?
  • Why is it so easy for us to think that a perpetrator is so different from us?
  • The person in the news interview seemed to think that it was great that the community was getting together and all that.  In retrospect, isn’t it kind of sad that bad things have to happen before we appreciate small things enough to do good things?
  • Why do we feel “safer” when a “criminal” goes to jail, when the society that produces the criminals carries on?


Eternal Flame

From New Zealand Parliament:




I have every friday off from both school and work.  Usually it’s my catch up day.  That means catching up on homework, laundries, groceries, etc– in reality, it’s not much of a day off, but it’s a flexible day that I can do whatever I want with.

Some things I’ve done so far:

Laundries.  The problem with laundries and judo is that a judogi (the training jacket and pants that you wear) are super thick cotton– they have to be much thicker than the normal karategi or dobok, because the fabric and seams need to support your weight.  Otherwise, when someone tried to lift you, your clothes would just shred.  The problem with this heavy duty cotton is that not only does it smell awful (think gym clothes, only worse) but when you wash it, it takes up craploads of space in the machine and it takes forever to dry.  I’m someone who doesn’t believe in using dryers, because, well, if you hadn’t noticed, there is a sun if only you’d go outside.  So that means that I have to time my laundry days for sun.

Exercise.  Well, there’s no judo today, and there’s no badminton.  So I’m taking it easy– did a bit of warmup exercising, because I hurt my shoulder pretty bad last class.  My partner was using sasai tsurikomi gaeshi, which is a method of blocking your opponent’s foot (kind of like sweeping).  But he dragged me forward in a really strange way and didn’t let go of my sleeve, and as a result, I basically kind of lept headfirst forward– would’ve faceplanted if not for my reflex to try and roll, but because of the way he tangled me, I was at too shallow an angle to roll and instead ended up spearing the ground with my left shoulder, which is now pretty bruised and sore.  I guess a day off is not a bad thing.

Baduk.  At the club, we’ve recently started up an internal seeding tournament.  The whole point of this is to figure out what everyone’s level is, so that when it comes to an actual tournament, we can apply the proper handicaps and make it an interesting game for everyone.  Out of the 20 or so regulars at the club, I’m actually one of the less than a handful of people who has an actual rank, from online play.  So, basically, that means that we’re getting people to play eachother, with me as a benchmark.  Currently, I’m a 7 kyu player– for a while, I was 6kyu, but because of this semester, I really haven’t been able to improove very much.  However, I want to at least be a true benchmark 7kyu, so that means I’ll have to play a few games online here and there to calibrate my ranking.  I played a game this morning, getting matched in a quick game (10 minutes per player total).  Quick games are always kind of interesting because players don’t always play the best move– they play what they think is the best move, given the time restrictions.  I managed to win when the opponent resigned, but in reviewing the game, it was pretty hairy– I had gone headfirst into an epic fight that I wasn’t sure I could win.  My reasoning was that if I couldn’t win it, it would set me back quite a bit, but the game would still be playable given the opponent’s personality– but if it turned out in my favour, it was such a huge battle that it would cost my opponent the game.  Turns out that things worked out for me despite me not reading it through (it would have required me to read a dozen moves in advance, which is quite hard to do under time pressure), and when the area filled out it became clear that my opponent had lost.  That wasn’t a great calibration win, because those sorts of epic battles are usually decided by a momentary lapse of judgment or by chance (if neither player is thinking far enough ahead to actually know what’s going on).  But well– I guess my fighting spirit and luck is partly what got me to 7kyu in the first place, so perhaps it is indicative.


Change.  As in, money.  I hate change– I miss the days of Korea where I could just use cards for everything, and if not, where small change could actually be enough to afford something to eat.   Here… well, we have PayPass in Australia, but there are still a lot of places where you can’t use cards and that annoys me.  I get given change, it goes in my pocket, and then it goes in jars on our shelf.  Same goes for [CM].  I found out recently though that the Commonwealth Bank near my workplace has a change exchange machine, where you can literally dump a bucket of change in it and it gives you credit for bills. I have about 5 kilograms of change, which I will, after lunch, bring to the bank and exchange.  I wonder how much I’ll get…?  It’s hard to estimate, because in Australia, the 50 cent coins are enormous, wheras the 2$ coins are one of the smallest ones.


Paper writing.  Oh GOD what am I doing blogging

public transport

10 pm in downtown Sydney, and I’ve been waiting over 15 minutes for a bus. So slow.

At the edge of the pool

I think it was [Zanshin] who told me a parable which I often refer to: there is a big difference from being in a pool, and peeing, and standing outside of the pool, and peeing into it.

The question is– how does this difference define our sense of what is lawful, and what isn’t?

I’m working on an paper for an intellectual property class.  It will deal specifically with the usefulness of the law in an age of digital media.  The paradox of it all is that I’m a law student– I would like to work in an area where I can help to reform laws to help the underprivileged and the marginalised; yet what I do in practice is break the law in many small little ways on a daily basis.  I won’t admit what laws I actually break– lets just say that hypothetically, I do.


Why do people break the law? Because doing something by the law is often tedious, and it costs more.  It’s so much easier for us to offset our costs onto someone else than to do the legwork ourselves.  That’s the whole point of stealing: it’s to save the amount of work hours taken in producing a unit of something, by skipping the production phase and just having a product instantly.  Don’t have a job? Don’t have money?  That’s all units of work hours– but if you just steal the apple, you can bypass all of that.  Of course, the fundamental problem with stealing is that if it goes unchecked, then the people who actually do put in the units of work hours will just die because they can’t cover their costs.  They’ll have no apples for themselves.  And they’ll have no incentive to be involved in producing apples, if they can just steal them from someone else too.  This all results in a race to the bottom, where eventually, all the apple trees are bare, every last apple gets eaten, and not a single apple tree ever gets planted again.


So where does the line get drawn?

Stealing a grape at the grocery store (like every good asian kid learns from their parents and grandparents, to check if it’s tasty before buying)?  An apple?

Perhaps our sense of moral relativism connects guilt with public shame only– that’s why there’s a much higher chance that we’ll download a music album by torrent, but we’ll be super scared to walk into a music store and put a CD in our jacket when we think nobody is looking.


I guess the questions I’m getting at are these– do we actually feel any genuine guilt about anything, or are we just scared of being punished when we are caught?  Do we really have a sense of morals, or is that gut feeling just a conditioned aversion to public shame?


I often joke that I’m a sociopath, but sometimes, it’s only half a joke.  That’s because I’ve really spent a lot of time defining, for myself, what I consider right and wrong.  And the conclusion I’ve reached?

Like I said, I won’t admit to actually doing anything wrong– but, hypothetically speaking: If I wanted to, I would feel no more– or less– guilty downloading a movie than I would walking into a shop an just stealing a DVD. The only considerations that would cross my mind are if I could be caught.


The important thing is that guilt doesn’t play a part in my life– but that doesn’t mean I know right from wrong.

The difference between what I’m saying is that I make my decisions in life, both right and wrong, based on a consideration of my relationship to my environment and the people around me.  My actions are justified by the relative importance of these connections, weighed against others.

I am not driven by guilt, or remorse– although I might learn from regret.


It could be phrased within a religious context.  Since I come from a Catholic background, I can distinguish between two basic types of followers.

Group 1:Do you do this thing, X, or not do this thing, Y, because God said you shouldn’t?  This is the guilt approach– you don’t care what’s right or wrong, you just are following your conditioned reflexes to prefer or avoid certain behaviors.  It’s a passive role in life– because if you go this route, you are basically taking a back seat and trusting the reasoning of someone else.


Group 2: Or do you X or Y because you agree with God’s reasonings to encouarge X and ban Y?  Do you understand that the reason why God made these rules is because these things have implications on the systems that you must cohabit with others in?


Nevermind that Group 2 doesn’t really need God to begin with, since they’ve arrived at the same conclusions.  My main point is that Group 1 makes choices based on guilt– which, the example of media piracy in an internet age points out, is actually dependent on the fear of public shame, not on an actual relationship with morality.




High Density

I moved a book on a shelf at work yesterday, because I was doing my Business Associations exam remotely via computer.  I couldn’t help but think that technology had changed so much about the way my everyday life goes about.  For one thing, the fact that I was dong an online exam– not just submitting something by email, which I’ll admit, even that is something new in the past few years.  It’s because as I cleared myself some space, I found a 3.5″ floppy diskette on the shelf.  It wasn’t dusty or anything, probably because it was under a box– but it looked like it might’ve been something I used just yesterday.

In reality, none of the computers at work even have disk drives at all.  Indeed, most of them are without CD-ROM drives, now that network installations, even at small enterprises, are becoming so ubiquitous.


In the past, when my friends and I were running the Dawson Martial Arts Club (MAC), when the jiu jitsu guys first started storming our strikers-only club, the only way we could learn their techniques was by trying to figure things out from pictures if we could find a book in a bookstore or library, or by finding a jiu jitsu guy willing to teach us.  The other night?  The other night, I was in randori (sparring) with one of the blue belts, a guy who is 20kg heavier than me and almost a foot taller than me– he got me in a kesa gatame (scarfhold, I think they call it in other styles) pin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kesa-gatame).  Since starting judo, I’ve been really bad at escaping pins– from my MMA days, most of the time the opponent will always try to pound or attack a limb, which often makes gives them (the attacker) one or two less limbs less to balance with.  But in judo, because you can win a match just by basically pinning the person, they have all four of their limbs to make sure you have a very hard time escaping.  Because of my lack of experience, I often have a lot more hard times escaping pins than I do countering attacks.


But when that blue belt got me in kesa gatame, I actually managed to escape– using a technique that I learned on YouTube.  (Stephan Kestings “How to Escape Kesa Gatame and the Headlock,” which you can find at  http://youtu.be/9Im8IKc8NeY ).  I know, I know, a lot of you people actually do brazillian jiu jitsu and you think that this is really simple stuff– but if you are like me, and simply are ignorant, where will you learn these things?  As a yellow belt, I learn a handful of new things every time I go to judo, and in a completely random order depending on what comes up.  Frankly, it’s a hella lot of information.  But sometimes, I want a particular solultion to an ongoing, specific problem– and as good as my instructors and seniors are, they only have so much time to share with me.

Technology, thus, allows me to do “judo homework.”

When I actually pulled the technique off, I think my opponent was as surprised as I was that we suddenly found our positions reversed.


On the flipside, I see a lot of ways that technology has not made our lives better… in fact, it might have made it worse.   Classrooms full of students on facebook instead of paying attention to a lecture– I’m not trying to be a luddite, but why not just do it the way I used to, and just skip the damn class and do something else?

This morning, I almost saw a girl fall off her bike, because she was listening to her iphone, while texting, and lost momentary control.  Almost performed a tank slapper.  Oh, and her helmet was hanging from her handlebars.  What can technology do for her… I guess it could get her a brain MRI after she gives flies off her bike one day.


End of the day, technology is just a tool, and it doesn’t automatically make us smarter.


[CM] has a cavity, so we’re trying to work out some of the insurance schemes in Australia.  I’m crunching numbers, and it generally seems that you can’t really win with what’s available to international students.  Of course, insurance companies wouldn’t make money if they were designed to dish out free money to anyone about everything.

It might just be though that it’s cheaper for us to just pay our way through general dental than it is to get insurance if all we’d use is dental.

I’m just thinking about how insurance people plan pricing and coverage– very interesting strategies…


I bet you the majority of people just sign on for packages with features that they never even use.

Lead Straight Punch

In Jeet Kune Do, one of the big concepts was the lead straight punch.  It’s very similar to what’s known as a “stiff jab” in boxing, with the main difference being that you are doing this punch with your dominant hand– so whereas the leading hand in boxing is usually your weaker hand (usually a left punch for most people) and the big hand is the rear hand (the big right cross), in JKD you are performing the big punch with your lead hand.


The philosophy is a bit different, because in boxing, the size of gloves makes the game particular– it’s easy to just cover up and absorb damage with your forearms up and your gloves braced against your forehead.  As such, the jab in boxing is a tool more for creating openings for more heavy-handed attacks.  Yes, it’s true, some people have nuts jabs and can win with just that, but for the most part it’s not the jab that seals a boxer’s win– it’s just the lead in to something else.  That jab is to psychologically disturb the opponent, to set your pace, to gauge distance, and to commit your opponent’s guard to certain positions so that you can smash through with the follow up.  A jab is almost as useful blocked or dodged as it is landing, because it sets your initiative up (assuming you haven’t been countered).


JKD’s straight lead though is a bit different.  First of all, it’s your dominant hand– this is the power hand.  When you go in with the power hand first, it’s because you mean to land it.  The straight lead in JKD is not nearly as combo  friendly as a jab, because there is a whole lot more body commitment to it.  If it’s blocked, that kinda sucks.  The thing though is that JKD normally isn’t taught as a sport, so without gloves on your hand making it fat, and without gloves on your opponent’s hand making his guard cover a lot more space, it’s actually surprisingly a lot easier to land a straight lead than one would think, if it’s done properly.  Or rather, dodging or blocking a small fist is a lot harder than it is to block a fully gloved one.


My point isn’t about JKD being better than boxing or vice versa.  They’re apples and oranges.  Conceivably, for all the power of your dominant hand in a JKD straight lead punch, you don’t even need it– to me, the main advantage of the dominant hand is that it has more dexterity to more accurately eye jab, throat strike, hair grab or ear rip.




The reason why I mention this actually has nothing to do with martial arts.  What I was thinking about rather is the ability to get an entire body behind a motion– to “burst” forward.

The thing about a JKD lead straight, more than a boxer’s jab (because the JKD straight has more commitment) is that it’s really a do or die technique.  IF you’re jabbing, a good jab has body commitment, but it also needs to have superior recovery time to either combo onto more jabs or crosses.  The JKD lead straight is a KO punch from the start, aimed at the chin or nose (or the eye, if you can really stuff a vertical punch in there).  As such, you have to make sure that the movement isn’t telegraphed and that you close distance as instantaneously as possible.


I was playing badminton with [CM] this morning, doing mostly drills.  She’s been interested lately in getting better to beat some of the people we play with, so normally when there’s just two of us, we spend a fair amount of time just working on technique instead of playing games.  We corrected quite a few things.


Like many casual badminton players, the main thing that I think she needs to work on is burst speed. I feel that hitting technique is one thing, but if you can’t get to where you need to be on the court, even the best hitting techniques are suppressed just beause you can hit from an ideal position.  If you have fast footwork, you can create opportunities and you have a lot more options– you can also fake a lot more, and causes enormous psychological strain on your opponents if they’re forced to wait for your racket to hit, rather than them being able to predict your weak, late return.

The proper footwork for badminton in many ways resembles the footwork from JKD.  Short, compact steps to get around.  And the hitting motion needs to be a whip which builds up all the way from your pushing foot to your racket hand.  Your whole body must be like a whip.

Unlike JKD, you are allowed a few liberties since you don’t have to worry too much about telegraphing your feet– I mean, the opponent knows that you will have to hit the bird, there’s no way around that.  So the footwork in badminton allows you a few liberties to make your burst super effective.

The split step is one of the important things.  As your opponent hits the bird, you do a slight “hop” that spreads your feet to shoulder width or wider… your feet should come down at about the same time the bird is leaving your opponent’s racket. 

The split step loads your weight down slightly.  Kind of like hitting the brakes on a car to load the weight forward and give you more traction, a split step is basically giving you a temporary boost in traction by storing the kinetic energy of gravity into potential energy.  As the bird comes off your opponent’s racket, you make a quick estimation of where the bird is going, then release the potential energy, using your calf muscles, quads, and back as a spring to dash in the direction of the bird.


Most people who don’t get good at badminton don’t get good because they are so focused on hitting that they don’t work on very simple things that are probably more important.  The split step, and the transition to the bursting dash, are a very good example of things people overlook, either because they’re so obsessed with the sound of a good smash or just don’t know any better.  By using a split step, you necessarily develop the habit of starting to move to get the bird sooner.


There’s a key difference here– physical limitations being what they are, it’s not only important to move faster but to move sooner.  The distinction I’m making here is the difference between acceleration (metres per second squared) versus time (seconds).  Basically, a split step buys you more time, because you’re starting sooner, so if you do it properly, you won’t have to work twice as hard just because you’re late.

Of course, if you’ve got speed AND you react sooner, then you’ve got everything!  But most people only have half the equation.


CM is improving quite quickly, but the main thing that needs constant work is the footwork.


We started workin on interecptions (cuts, or cutoffs).  As a result, she’s gotten in the good habit of keeping her knees bent and her racket up while at the net, which is a start.  The more she takes basics like ready position seriously, the faster she’ll get all this.