Thursday, 31 October 2013

Halloween!!


            Following the success of last year’s “How to Survive a Slasher Movie” and the sequel I need to post something memorable for this year’s Halloween.
 
           Will it be something scary? Something funny? Or will it salute the connection between Halloween and confectionary? I have found something that does all of these and more!

            Be warned!

This is Not Suitable For Work.

You may find it disturbing.

It may not be suitable for those of faint heart or weak stomach.
 
Yes, I am serious!

Having been so warned, click the link if you dare,

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Fighting with Spears

It seems my cold has not done with me yet so I will not be writing a lot today. Instead I am posting some interested spear related-videos. The first few are for the Dagohir LARP events but have some interesting points.









Some interesting information on the one-handed use of spears.




A nice video on the use of Wing Chun pole, since a spear is more than simply a point. Shafts can both parry and strike too.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Military Fork


            Given the subject matter of the last few blog posts it seems logical that today I feature a polearm with poliorcetic connection.

            The military fork is obviously a weapon derived from the agricultural pitchfork. What is interesting is that one reference book I have mentions that it is a particularly useful weapon to have around during a siege. The fork can be used to hold up ladders, or conversely, push them away from walls. It can also be used to raise supplies up to the battlements. The backward facing hooks might have seen application in fighting fires, pulling ignited thatch down from roofs. Given this is essentially a pitchfork, the tines themselves might be used to relocate burning thatch.

            As a weapon, the fork part could be used to catch weapons or limbs, perhaps pushing the victim’s guard to one side for the vital seconds needed for a comrade to make an attack. The backward facing hooks could be used to pull an enemy off balance or from his horse. Like many multi-tined weapons penetration depth would be limited, preventing the weapon burying itself too deep in a target so that it became difficult to withdraw.
            A not widely known fact is that the tines of a gladiator’s trident were so spaced that they prevented the likelihood of a point entering the eyehole of a gladiator’s helmet. Blinded gladiators were a poor investment so trident-armed retarius were therefore always paired with opponents with closed helmets. The military fork seems to have the opposite design strategy. Those two very slender but deadly points would doubtless sometimes menace the eyehole’s of an enemy’s visor.
 
The Books
http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/epsdbook.html 

http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/phil-west/survival-weapons-optimizing-your-arsenal/paperback/product-21488758.html

http://www.lulu.com/shop/phil-west/crash-combat/paperback/product-22603842.html


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Poliorcetics and Kulgrinda


            As a change of pace from the recent discussions on pole weapons, today’s blog is instead about a couple of rare but useful terms.

            The first is Poliorcetics, which means pertaining to the science and art of siegecraft, both its application and resistance. From the Ancient Greek πολιορκητικα (poliorkētika, “things related to sieges”).



            The second term is “Kūlgrinda”, a Lithuanian word meaning an underwater road or artificial ford. “Kul” means “stone” so similar structures of wood or earth were known as Medgrindas and Žemgrinda. Underwater bridges were used during the Second, Korean and Vietnam wars, some of them capable of supporting tanks and trucks. I seem to recall in at least one instance the Russians constructed a crossing by driving damaged and obsolete vehicles into a river until they were piled high enough for the troops and tanks to cross safely.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Staff Fighting Grip Techniques.


            My cold is still messing with me, but I am on the mend. There is a severe weather warning for monday, just in time for me to go back to work!

            The cold has been messing with my sleep patterns, so I ended up lying awake in the early hours of the morning, drinking copious amounts of water and my slightly fevered brain processing ideas about quarter staves and naginata. One revelation that came to me was that the seemingly complex and dexterous manipulations of these weapons boiled down to just a few simple principles. Simplifying things down to simple principles is what my book is all about.

·         If you left hand (for example) is near the centre of the staff, bring your right hand to the centre and them move the left hand to grip elsewhere.

·         If one hand grips the staff near the centre, move your other hand from the lower quarter to the upper quarter, or vice-versa.

·         To switch between thumb inward and thumb outward grips release one hand and rotate the wrist.

            You may also care to practice the baton twirling technique in the book too.

            Watch the naginata videos in the previous blog post and you will see that the above simple combinations of hand movements are frequently used.
 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Naginata

I have a cold, so only a brief post today. Following on from the topic of quarterstaffs, some nice video clips of Naginata.


 
 

 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Perfect Length: Staffs


            One of the explanations as to why a quarterstaff is called a quarterstaff is that it is gripped “at the quarters”. One hand is placed a quarter of the way from the bottom and the other is placed at the mid-point of the staff, leaving about half the weapon’s length as the primary striking part. In a previous post I discussed the  “perfect length” of swords and offered the theory that the optimum length of a blade would be that sufficient to defend the remotest part of the body, the ankle/foot area. For me, being 5’ 11” this required a blade of about 28-30”.

The same logic can be applied to a fighting staff. The “top” part needs to be about 28-30” for me. For leverage and comfort my hands want to be about shoulder width apart so the middle part of the staff wants to be at least 18”. According to Vitruvian proportions shoulder width should be a quarter of my height.  I also want a section of staff projecting below my lower hand for both defensive and offensive purposes but don’t want this so long that it gets in the way when using the primary striking part. About 12” sounds about right. 30 + 18 +12 = 60”, or thereabouts. This is a bit shorter than I am, but that is not a bad thing since it makes the staff easier to get through doorways and more useful if fighting indoors or other restrictive terrain.

If we are considering fighting staffs the Japanese Bo and Jo will come up. The Bo is usually the Roshakubo (Six shaku long staff), which is about 1.82 m or 71.6 inches long. This is probably taller than many historical Japanese Bo users. Most staffs sold in martial arts stores these days are a round 6 foot length or longer. The Jo is usually defined as being 4 foot long but more accurately is 4 shaku, 2 sun, 1 bu = 127.56 cm, 4 foot 4¼ inches or 50¼ inches. An alternate convention is that it should reach up to just under the user’s armpit height, which would be about five-sixths of total height. Readers who know their weapon history will know that the Jo was allegedly invented by a Bo expert Muso Gonnosuke who wanted a faster and handier weapon after being bested by the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Although not as well known, the classical Japanese arsenal also includes the Goshakubo or 5 shaku staff of 1.52 m or 59.7 inches. If we look further afield we will discover that many martial traditions, from Portugal to India consider around 5 foot to be the preferred length for a fighting staff. Sometimes these are given as measurement related to the user’s stature, suggesting the staff should be as high as the chin, nose or forehead, for example. Many Chinese martial arts consider the correct length for a staff to be up to the user’s eyebrow. An interesting snippet of information is that your eye-height is 93% of your total height so an eyebrow height staff for me would be about 5’ 7”.

A good length for a practical fighting staff seems to be within a range from “armpit to brow” height, which for me is from 59” to 67”.
Interestingly, 5 foot is the recommended length for a boy scout hiking staff, which reminds us that a fighting staff has many other applications as well as defence.

For techniques on using a fighting staff, see my book Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence. There is also a brief discussion about hiking staffs in my other book, Survival Weapons: Optimizing Your Arsenal.

 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Plate Armour Mobility

Today's blog post is just a link, but an excellent one on how mobile a fighter could be in plate armour.

 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Dumbbells!


            It is turning into quite an eventful Monday, and not in a good way, so today’s blog post will be rather brief. In fact I may have posted this link before, I haven’t time to check.

            Flies and Presses are very good exercises for building up the chest and it is worth emphasising that you do not need an exercise bench to do these. It is in fact easier and safer to just lie on the floor with your knees bent and your soles on the floor.
 

            A special hello today to Gabriel in Brazil! See you soon!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

First Copy Sold


            Just looked at my receipts  and noticed someone brought a copy of Survival Weapons: Optimizing Your Arsenal at the end of August. That is actually the first copy sold that I am aware of, so I hope you are enjoying it.
 

 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Life Hacks and Split rings.


            Like any modern male my house contains a multitude of electrical items. Television, satellite box, video game consoles, DVD player, computer, backup hard drive.. the list goes on and on. Several times I have pondered the idea that electrical plug should be made with those little windows so you can slide a label into them and know what you are unplugging. One day it occurred to me that I already have numerous pots of acrylic model paints and that a simpler solution would be to simply paint names on the plugs. And so I did. Each plug is now clearly labelled and readily identified.

            I mention this since recently someone sent me a link to this page of “Life hacks”.

            Some of them are frivolous, others are genius. The wooden spoon across a pot doesn’t work in my experience. You are better off using a wider pot.

            One “Hack” I particularly liked was this one.


            I seem to have had a problem with cheap zippers that will not stay up recently, even though my lean and mean program means I am losing weight. The trick to this is the split ring goes over the button before you button up your pants. The split ring also will make it easier to work your zipper if your fingers are numb or gloved. Apart from the social benefits of  having a zipper that stays up when you want it to this a useful thing if you are in places where leeches might seek your tender flesh!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Scientist and the Egg.


            Science is one of humanity's greatest inventions. When most people talk about science, however they mean technology, industry, business or academia. While many of these things use science and its products, they are not in themselves science.

            Science is, in fact, a mechanism for finding the most likely correct answer, based on the data available. The cornerstones of science are observation and experimentation, with contributions from other things such as reasoning and logic.
            The other day a colleague of mine posed a question to a class of students:- “When you cook an egg, why doesn’t it always turn out the same way?” A simple question, but it was gratifying to see the whole class puzzling over this. If boiling an egg is a simple task, why can the result be so variable. One answer is that apparently simple thing often involve more variables than you have considered. What are the variables for cooking an egg or any other job you attempt? A thought I will leave you with for today.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Codex Seraphinianus.


                Following my tradition of postings something humorous or a little off the wall on Fridays I offer this leaf from the Codex Seraphinianus.
    
        As you can see, Fornication carries the risk of Crocodilification, so I would avoid the missionary position if I were you.

            This would make a great sequence for some movie!

            Codex Seraphinianus can cost you $500, or….

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Spetznaz String Vest.


            Today I’m going to post another exert from the book Aquarium, again detailing Spetsnaz apparel as described in the book.

“As for the rest of a Spetsnaz soldier's clothing, his underwear is made of thin linen. It should be new but already used a little and laundered at least once. Over the thin underwear he wears a vest made of a thick string, so that there is always a layer of air about a centimetre deep between the underwear and the outer garments. This was cleverly thought out. If it's very  hot and you are running with sweat and your whole body is burning, the string vest is your salvation. Your clothes do not cling to your body and there is excellent ventilation. When it's cold the air pocket protects the body like a feather duvet, and moreover, weighs nothing. The string vest has yet another purpose. If a mosquito get its nose through your clothes it reaches empty space and not the body. Only in very difficult circumstances does a Spetsnaz soldier allow himself to be driven out into the open. He spends his time in forests and marshes. He may lie for hours in a burning hot marsh or in fierce stinging nettles with clouds of mosquitoes buzzing around him. Only the string vest can save him then. Over it he wears trousers and a tunic of green cotton material. All seams are treble-stitched. The tunic and trousers are soft but hard-wearing. At the elbows, knees and shoulders the material is trebled for greater strength”.

I have experimented with using a string vest as outdoor wear. The time that comes to mind is during a concert in a park on a very hot day. I wore the vest under a relatively heavyweight tee-shirt and had no problems with clothing sticking to my skin, despite the humidity. As the sun went down and the air got chilly I remained comfortable, so it is an idea worth trying out.
 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Greatcoat Tricks, old and speztnaz


I’ve just come across an interesting comment about greatcoats being used by Russian soldiers in the 19th Century. The author notes that the coats were long enough to fall somewhere between the knee and the ankle in length and that the bottoms would often become heavy from getting caked with mud. He observes that many soldiers solved this by adding hooks and eyes to the coat so the skirts could be hitched up to make a shorter coat. Regular blog readers will recall that most WW2 Russian greatcoats used hooks and eyes instead of buttons, which were probably easier to use when wearing thick gloves or mittens. The idea of shortening the greatcoat, in turn, reminded me of this interesting passage in Viktor Suvorov’s book “Aquarium”.

“The saboteur also wears an outer garment like an anorak. It is thick, warm, light and waterproof. In it you can lie in a marsh without getting wet or sleep in the snow without freezing. It comes down to the middle of the thighs so as not to interfere with walking, and if need be you could sit for days on a patch of ice, as it provides something to sit on. It is very full at the bottom, which is important when running or walking fast. But if necessary the lower part can be pulled in tightly round the legs and so keep the warmth in. The Spetsnaz used to have similar trousers, padded and warm. But that was a mistake. When you have to walk for days on end without stopping such trousers are a nuisance. They upset the ventilation. Our wise ancestors never wore fur-lined trousers. Instead they had fur coats reaching down to their heels. And they were right, because fur trousers make you sweat but a long coat doesn't. We have now learnt this lesson, and a Spetsnaz soldier has not only a top coat, but a long skirt covering his body almost down to the heels which he can attach to it. In this way he can keep warm, but is never too hot. The skirt is easily unbuttoned and rolled up so that it does not take up much space in the man's kit. In the old days the top coat was reversible. One side was white and the other grey and green in patches. But that was also a mistake. The coat had to be soft inside, like a woman's skin, but on the outside it had to be as rough as rhinoceros hide. That is why the top coats are no longer reversible. They are soft inside and rough on the outside. And they are light grey in colour, like last year's grass or dirty snow. It's a very well-chosen colour. But in case of great need a white camouflage smock can be worn over the coat.”

 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Out in The Snow. Part Two : Footwear.


            Today I am going to continue on the previous topic of cold weather clothing, with an emphasis on footwear. Once again, we will start by looking at the Inuit solution to keeping your feet warm while the snow is on the ground. Mukluks or Kamik are constructed in the same way as the clothing already discussed. Two layers of fur, the inner with the fur facing inwards and the outer with the fur outwards. Interestingly Mukluks are sometimes used with a sealskin moccasin that fits over the outside and provides extra insulation and reduces wear on the mukluk.


 

            The Russian solution to snow on the ground is the valenki. Valenki are similar to the Mukluk in principle but made from thick felt rather than a double layer of fur. Like the Mukluk they trap a layer of warm air while allowing the free passage of perspiration. I have heard that valenki are quite good for when the snow is deep and temperatures low but not so good when the coverage of snow is less even or when temperatures are warm enough for snow to get slushy. Not surprisingly, anuseful addition to Valenki are galoshes. These add a sole that provides grip and prevent water soaking into the valenki. Galoshes are of course impermeable but I suspect this is not usually a problem since the rest of the valenki is exposed to the air. Perspiration that accumulates within the galosh is soaked up by the felt and wicks up to the higher parts of the valenki where it can escape.
 

            Famously, Russian soldiers order their winter boots a size larger than their summer boots so they can wear more insulation within them.  I don’t know if this is applicable to valenki too but this does bring us to the interesting topic of what is worn within boots. Up until about 2008 Russian soldiers wore foot wrappings (Portyanki). Foot wrappings were once the norm for footwear in europe, socks being more labour intensive to make and expensive. The use of foot wrappings persisted longer in military circles, surviving into the 21st century in the Russian army. This site nicely sums up the merits of foot wraps.

“There are some advantages to wearing foot wraps as opposed to socks. Portyanki better support the foot and air trapped in the folds better insulate the foot. Also, when wet they can be dried quicker than traditional socks. Wrapping the portyanki is a difficult technique to perfect and getting it wrong can cause some discomfort. However, once perfected, they are extremely comfortable to wear and obviate the need to perhaps wear several pairs of socks with sapogi boots.”

            Apparently Russian soldiers would wear their Portyanki for a week at a time, exchanging them for fresh ones when they took their weekly shower. The old ones were boiled. Not surprisingly many soldiers joked that that Portyanki were the true chemical weapons.

            I don’t intend to abandon my socks, but foot wraps are a useful idea to know about if need to improvise footwear or provide extra insulation to go over your socks.