Friday, 19 August 2011

Never to old - Keiko Fukuda Sensei...

Next time you find yourself grumbling about your aches and pains and thinking you are getting to old for this game think about Judo Sensei Keiko Fukuda from San Francisco in the US. This great lady has just been awarded her 10th dan at the age of 98. And she's still teaching! She is the last surviving student of Judo founder Jigaro Kano himself. Fukuda Sensei was the first woman to be awarded 6th dan in Judo by the kodokan having been held back at 5th dan for 30 years...

Here's a link to a short news article about her: Woman 98-year old awarded judo 10th dan.  And here's a wiki about her : Keiko Fukuda

In this YouTube video where she talks about her life (up to 2006 when she was awarded her 9th dan). It's quite poignant and moving in places, particularly when she talks about making her choice between judo and marriage.

What an amazing lady and ambassador for Judo and women in the martial arts generally.

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Monday, 15 August 2011

My England and keeping the scum in check...

London riots 2011

I’m sure you can’t help but have noticed that England has been at the centre of some very serious rioting and looting last week. I say England not Britain because this has specifically been an English problem not Scottish or Welsh. Shameful acts of wanton criminality and greed have been broadcast all over the world. These were not politically or racially motivated acts; it really was just a case of rank opportunism and consumerism. Shoplifting with violence one commentator called it. What must you think of us?

St. Ives, Cornwall
I’ve heard many people say that ‘it makes you ashamed to be British.’ Well, I’m ashamed of this behaviour by a minority of amoral British people but I’m not ashamed to be British, or English. These acts of arson, rioting and looting are not a picture of England that I recognise. This is not my England or the England that the majority of English people will identify with. I would not like you to be left with the impression that this is the real England.

Perhaps you think I am naïve or have lived a sheltered life?  Well, I admit that I am lucky enough to live in one of the leafy middle-class suburbs of my city (which didn’t suffer any riots by the way). There is a very low crime rate where I live. However, I happen to work on some of the most deprived and notorious ‘sink’ estates in the city. These are estates that regularly witness acts of vandalism, anti-social behaviour, drug trafficking and the occasional murder.

Kinder, Peak District
My job is to visit people in their own homes and advise them on welfare benefits and help them to make applications/appeals. These are some of the poorest people in society. I have to admit that when I first started the job I was quite nervous about driving onto these estates and leaving my car parked in the street. I wondered if it would still have wheels on when I returned. I worried about what kind of people I would be visiting, what the state of their homes would be like. I no longer feel like that. What this job has shown me is that even on the worst estates the majority of people living there are decent, moral, law-abiding citizens who welcome me into their clean and tidy homes and offer me their hospitality – can I make you a cup of tea my dear? 
British Museum, London

I don’t think I am naïve or sheltered from the realities of modern life for some people. And I still don’t think England has gone bad. Britain is a beautiful place to live and for the vast majority of people, a safe place to live. My family and I visited London only the week before the riots and were very impressed with the magnificence of the city. We visited many of the usual tourist places – Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Madame Tussauds, Regent’s Park, Houses of Parliament, Horse Guards parade etc.  We had a great time and felt very safe.
Trafalgar Square

Both the police and politicians have been criticised for their handling of the riots, mainly for not getting a handle on the situation quickly enough. All the senior Cabinet Ministers (including the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Secretary) were all out of the country at the same time – not a sensible policy! (What company would allow all its senior directors to take annual leave at the same time? Who runs the ship?) The poor old police force are damned if they do and damned if they don’t – they get criticised if they are too heavy handed with rioters/protesters and criticised if they are too lenient, which is what happened in this case.  All this meant that it took a couple of days to get things back under control.
Horse Guards Parade

But it is under control now and hundreds of local people have voluntarily taken to the streets with brooms to clean up the mess in their communities – the British Broom Army, British people at their best, helping each other and sorting out the mess. Many people from within Britain and around the world have contributed to the many funds that have been set up to help the victims of these riots – people who have been burnt out of their homes, lost their businesses or been injured or murdered during these riots. Yes, it really has been that bad.
Big Ben

Over 3000 arrests have now been made with Magistrates Courts working late into the evenings and weekends to get through the cases. Justice has come swift and hard for these people with many receiving custodial sentences and/or hefty fines. One guy pleaded guilty to stealing a bottle of water and received a 6 month custodial sentence. Many people have had their cases referred to the Crown Courts where stiffer sentences can be levied. Britain will not tolerate this behaviour and is giving a stern message to people who might involve themselves in such acts in future.

Houses of Parliament
In Rory Miller’s book, Facing Violence, he mentions something that someone told him once about 3% of the world’s population being scum. The full quote was: “No matter what any bleeding-heart tells you, 3% of the people in the world are scum. The trouble is, if you spent 80% of your time with that 3%, you start thinking that 80% of the world is scum.” Three percent of any country’s population will always be scum; we can’t do anything about it except keep them in check. However, we mustn’t let that 3% rule our streets or define us as nations. Britain has its scum – they all came out on the streets last week, but we’ve got them under check again.
Buckingham Palace

I refuse to let the events of the last week define either me or my country. It is just a blip. Britain is still a beautiful place to live in and a great place to visit. I refuse to be cynical and I am still proud to be British.

 Hope you enjoyed some of my views of Britain...

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Pre-emptive striking - how do you define it?

Pre-emptive striking is one of those things that causes me some confusion in relation to self-defence and the law. There has been a lot of talk about it recently in the blogosphere – see: Should a practitioner use the pre-emptive strike for self-defence? And, Mind the Gap – Part V – The Law – a follow up.

Pre-emptive striking IS admissible in law (UK) as a form of self defence “…if [they] honestly believe that the circumstances demand it. This means that a person can use force if they believe that there is a threat of imminent violence if they do not act first.” Louise Smith, Barrister.

My question is – how ‘pre’ (in terms of time, distance and circumstance) can a pre-emptive strike be and still be a legally acceptable defence? People talk about the attack being ‘imminent’ but how imminent do they mean? Within half a second? A few seconds? Half a minute?

There seems to be a continuum which goes from attack through to pre-emptive strike to counter-attack depending on the timing of your strike. Strike after a punch or kick is coming towards you (whether it hits you or not) and you are counter-attacking. Strike before any punch comes your way and you are attacking. Or are you?

Take the following scenarios, read them and ask yourself whether the ‘victim’ became the attacker or merely launched a pre-emptive strike that could be proved admissible in court:

1.       You are a woman, it’s late at night and you are walking home alone. A man approaches you out of the shadows. He seems fairly relaxed in his body language with his hands in his pockets. He tries to talk to you, to detain you but he doesn’t touch you or take his hands out of his pockets.  He smells of drink and you feel uncomfortable in his presence. He is invading your personal space and you feel threatened. You try to walk away but he follows you, still talking to you. You are between him and a wall and you feel penned in even though you can still walk along the street. Ahead the building juts out into the street creating a corner that you can be trapped into. You are confused as to whether he is just a harmless old drunk just trying to talk to you or a predator who has a knife in his pocket.  You start to panic as you approach the corner and decide to strike him to give yourself a couple of seconds to run off. Is this an attack or a pre-emptive strike?

2.       You are a young man, its broad daylight and you are in a public place with other people about. A group of 3 youths approach you and start to taunt you. You recognize one from school days – you had been on the receiving end of his punch in the playground once. They are laughing at you and reminding you what a ‘nerd’ you were at school. You feel threatened and humiliated. They jostle around you and you keep moving backwards. The only place to run to is an alleyway directly behind you but you know it has a dead end. You are worried that you might be on the receiving end of that punch again so to get away you decide to barge directly through them using a shoulder charge. As you charge you think you feel someone grab the back of your coat and you turn and strike the person you think it is. You then run away. Was the shoulder charge an attack, pre-emptive strike or neither? What about the strike?

I don’t find it easy to decide the answers to my own questions regarding these scenarios. Perhaps you can give me your opinion or your definition of a pre-emptive strike….

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