Silly Grins

Friday, January 18, 2013



Maintaining Order at Any Cost 

There's a lot here. Maybe too much stuff for anyone in a hurry. But that's okay. Take it or leave it.

At the beginning of this week, I had no idea anyone like Mr. Steve exists – had no idea who he is. And I still don’t. But he talks about important things.

Yeah, important things not everyone is comfortable with.

His sort of open autobiography  - what’s on the Net -  is there for anyone, though maybe not everyone, to read.

The link is provided below.

The first time through his story (it takes a while, but worth it)… the first time through, not being familiar with the fighting world, I didn’t have such a clear picture.

What I did get out of the reading deals with the issue of maintaining order in this society. Japan is vertical. And some places are vertical in an unforgivably extreme way. Mr. Steve is not the only 'outsider' who has been through it either. 

No, I don't intentionally live in a way that takes me anywhere near the world of violence experienced by the Gary, Steve, or anyone else. I got close enough... once.  And after hearing what they had/have to say, I'm glad I didn't fall for it.  But I am here.

My Background:

Violence has become something I simply do not care for.  Television glorifies it in such a misleading way. Movies too.  As the Razor Man mentions, funny how it’s somehow okay for the media today to openly show so much violence, termination of life, while being so hush-hush about the other end of the spectrum.

No, I don’t care for violence.

At the same time, I find myself thinking about it. Like when the lights suddenly go out… the eyes take time to adjust.  I know I like to keep the light on until I’m ready to retire for the day. Who in their right mind would decide not to have the lights on in the evening? For me to seriously think about violence, it feels like shutting off the lights.  Especially in those first few moments.

There are individuals who have experience on the steepest parts of the vertical core that holds this place together. One of them was named Gary Spiers, a warrior whose words are featured in Dennis Martin’s book. Gary talks about how people are ranked as senpai  (senior) or kohai (junior):

Your sempai in the ranking system could hit you as hard as possible, as often as possible, and yet if you were to use your size and strength to grab them, throw them down and then to drop your knee into them as a follow-up, to maybe rupture their bowels or spleen, they would have a shit-fit. Eventually a lot of us got fed up with this attitude and we began to stop it in the only way that you possibly could: to knock them right off their silly feet and put them out of commission.

The attitude from the hierarchy permeates outward, a lesser variation of what can be found in the middle. At least that's the mental model I use to understand what's going on.

Now… the title of this post, Ambivalence, refers to a most recent article written by a Dr. Aaron Miller regarding corporal punishment from revered authority figures.

 The coach inflicting the corporal punishment, or “taibatsu,” always believes that his “victim” is actually not a victim at all, but rather an especially “chosen pupil” who must be trained strictly to maximize his potential. The coach always expects that the young athlete will accept his punishment without a word of complaint, too, in order to set an example for his teammates of steadfast perseverance in the face of hardship, absolute obedience to authority, and constant loyalty to the team.

Violence is almost an unquestionable part of  competitive sports as, let's say, performance enhancing substances have been for many people in le Tour de France get the picture.

Steroids give people an edge that cuts both ways; so does corporal punishment.

*     *     *     *     * 
Welcome to the edge. 

Mr. Steve is him, the remarkable fellow in the video clip link below. If you’ve got just a little time and want to turn the lights off to look into the shadows, I suggest reading his autobiography first. If you haven't got time, this is the part that jabbed me in the face: 

The idea that seriously injuring or humiliating someone contributes to their learning experience as a fighter is nonsense, and such views are usually put forward by those who can't fight, in that it's the only way they ever get to beat somebody up.

Who said this? Got a few minutes to just listen? It's your choice. 

Either way, having a chance to hear this phenomenally rare individual is never something I’d thought possible. Now, thank Tech, it is. I spent the afternoon listening to all seventeen of the videos in the series on his YouTube channel.

No, I didn't know who Mr. Morris was until I read this article. And subsequently learned about him and what he'd been through.  


As an 'other', I don't fit in. And I never will. Which doesn't bother me so much. But I've got kids. And it's them I care about. While I don't want them to be subject to brutality, it is something very real they will have to deal with, each in their own way.  

Wifey and I talked bout what the vertical society is like. It's not absolute, nor is it uniform throughout. But it is here. At times, I feel just about as comfortable with the vertical culture as I do with violence. Remaining unaware of either is not an option while participation is. 




  1. Morris is dead right in that link about Harry Cook. Funny, I have had the same thing on my mind for a few years. I've done a very little bit of Wu-shu, Karate and Iaido, and did several years of Aikido in my twenties. I only did enough of the latter to have an informed opinion: it won't work as told.

    Truth be told I have not needed it to work as technique. It's actually been very useful to me as I now fall really well, and given that I am physically active in outdoor sports, I fall often. This is a big deal when you have 6' 1" to lay on the ground without snapping any part of it. It also was useful to get me some grit I had none of in my teens, and good god could I have used some. I trained in 'hard dojo', by Aikikai standards, which ain't much.

    But for fighting? No, it's fucking ballet. For those few it might work, 4-dan black-belts, it's a shame that the other 99% without that much time or monomania get so little from it. To give you an idea of the difference between a 'hard dojo' and not: at my 'hard dojo' I was always told to attack sempai full-on, but expect to get lain out, so fall well; when we had meetings with other dojo I had 2-dan whining not to grab them so hard. I was a 3-kyu... a gnat.

    Aikido is pretty, but when there's a film of the 80yr old founder laying out three guys with swords, using nothing but a fan... there's more cooperation going on there than I'm going to face in the street. Ever seen drunks fighting outside of a bar? Not many wrist-locks and throws: grappling in the dirt and close-quarter punches and elbows. The good news is that you can't get enough power behind those to do much damage, usually. Which is why the goons can live to do it every weekend.

    1. When I read Steve's autobiographic post, I was disturbed from the bits I could recognize. At the same time, I felt the need to listen to what he was saying. He seems more than fully aware of what's going on and appears to love what he does with a passion and rage that few people dare to understand or even want to consider exists.

      As for learning to really fight, I may have been lucky there wasn't a gym near where I grew up. Now, cage fighting is practically all over the place. The closest I ever got was wrestling. Which still isn't fighting.

      I do remember getting a warning from a friend in high school. As luck would have it, he'd been hit across the face with a pipe before he was old enough to drive. He said, "No, you don't want to be a fighter. If someone on the street wants to start something with you, grab whatever you can and use it. And then run like hell. People won't just stop once you are down. It's not like that."

      Last time I saw him, he had a scar from his lip to his chin that he'd taken from a knife when he stepped in to protect a friend. He said it was the right thing to do at the time. And he's not even what you'd call a fighter. Never saw him cause trouble with anyone.

      One of the crew of misfits I ran with for a time went on to become a ju-jitsu fanatic. Kind of bad-ass, but mellow even though all he does is train. I think he still harbors a precious hatred for jocks. And for that, I do not blame him.

      Learning to fall is pretty fun and probably what a lot of older people could use in order to avoid injuries. Kind of like you said.

      Speaking of Aikido, someone from college did the yearlong Aikido course in Tokyo and said that they pushed really hard. A lot of the guys were riot police, which means they did other stuff too, basically whatever worked. Guess it was like what you describe as being the harder kind. Not pretty.

      Thank you for your comment. Have a nice warm weekend and may you not be hit with any really sharp chucks of ice falling from the Sky Tower (or whatever it is).

  2. This was my comment on another blog regarding the corporal punishment issue leading to the suicide in Japan last week:

    "I was not an easy child to rear. I was actually told by a teacher (an old ass teacher) that if the law allowed it he would have spanked me like he had spanked my mother. @_@ Though I required corporal punishment at home (yeah I was that bad) I am glad it was not allowed in schools. My parental units drew the line of what was acceptable and what was not. They drew the same line equally for my siblings. They were our flesh and blood. They had to live with us and be there to lecture, comfort and guide us after punishment was doled out. Teachers don’t have do that. Teachers punish and then send the student on home for families to deal with. In this case the student went home and killed himself. But you hear about fear of telling on teachers… especially with the sex scandals here in the states. Sometimes it takes students years or even into adulthood to come forward about abuse.

    I was punished properly while in school for my transgressions. I got detentions, sat out in the hall, sent to the principal, suspension, etc,. And then I had to go home and face the music for acting a fool. The school acted with in reason and then my parental units, being the good parental units they were, punished me at home for being bad in school. I think that’s how it should work. I also don’t think corporal punishment works for all. I needed it. But one of my siblings, you just had to talk sternly and give her the evil eye; that was it for her she was punished enough with just that."

    If I was a parent, I would be the first person to serve up a knuckle sandwich to a teacher/coach who laid hands on my kid. That's MY job to decide what punishment to dole out to my kid. I know several kids that played football in high school were roughed up by coaches. Nothing too major just bonking on their helmets and shouting in their faces but I guess that's enough to push some sensitive kids over the edge. I would probably also rear my children much like I was reared. "Never hit first. And don't turn the other cheek cause it only gives them a fresh surface for the second hit. Hit back and hit hard." Maybe it's a good thing I will not be helping populate Earth.

    1. For some reason, there's part of the culture here that really has a thing for dealing out the pain for those lower on the social food chain. Some teachers (but usually coaches) seem to get off on it.

      Doing something wrong and facing consequences is fine. But being ripped apart 'just because' is abuse. And what I think I'm starting to see here is a social system that is becoming increasingly fueled by a cycle of abuse (not always physical). It's one of those things I noticed when I first came over here and nobody wanted to talk about it.

      From time to time, the beast rears its ugly head and spits out another set of bones as with the most recent suicide case covered in the news. Yeah, it might make a few kids really tough, but it also has a way of sapping the fight out of them. Unless, of course, the promise of one day being awarded with a 'kohai' of their own to bend over and just take it is what motivates them.

      Wifey and I talked about The System, something she isn't really comfortable with (the talking about it part). The unwritten rules of the hierarchy here are something that everybody knows about doesn't seem to question. Bad Boy Chris' recent post addressed that bit, right at the end with the meeting about the meeting.

      The cost of maintaining order is ultimately geared to self-destruct, I think. Too many 'senpai' wanting all their minions to excel at putting in all that unnecessary overtime.

      Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of decent and sane people here. Somewhere. There's gotta be.

      About football... I fondly remember having my grill grabbed by a coach who then spat right in my face. You see, he thought I'd wiped a booger on him when it may have only been just a little snot. I can't say the experience was bad according to my inner 'kohai'. Didn't try anything like that again though.

      But that was long ago and oh so far away. Now I tend to listen to The Carpenters, read more than before, and try not to eat anything that GreenPeace won't put on their menu.


  3. I have a lot to say but I won't.

    If I gave you a stun gun and knuckles and the chance to get away with zapping someone under the armpit/neck then pounding their knee and repeating until their knees were like punching rocks and jello in a hefty bag would you do it?

    Hurting someone you don't like is like water for a dry seems automatic to the point I don't believe anyone who answers "no"

    1. I want to tell myself I would say 'no'.

      But not without hesitation. Which means...

      There are a few people I can imagine giving a little bit of a nasty shock to. Hmmm... going as far as turning knees into lumpy, rock-filled jelly doughnuts - it would take at least a few cups of deep, dark roasted hatred to make that palatable. With cream of course, but no sugar.

      Thank you.

    2. No, I wouldn't torture, because I don't want anyone to make me a sadist. Are there hypothetical situations where I would execute someone? Yes, certainly, but never as the agent for another person/organization/state.

    3. The lure of investing emotion into hypothetical situations is something I am not comfortable with due to practical experiences. Even in the most subdued settings, people I've interacted with have come close to going off the cliff in mistaking hypothetical for real. That said, when confronted with very real situations, hypothetical hasn't done me a lot of good.

      For me to say that I would or would not do something is difficult. To say what I have done, what I haven't done, and what I am doing is much more useful if I want to modify my behavior in one direction or the other.

      In a sense, I've been blessed (perhaps initially cursed) with a number of experiences that I'm only now finding valuable. At the time, who knew? How could anyone have known?


      In all likelihood, the crunchy-jello question is a very practical one. Of all the people I've me in life, there are few who would merit such sweet treatment. Of those faces I can recall, no one would be surprised if something of that nature has not already occurred.

      For some people, there are lines that may never get crossed. In day to day living, I never know where the threshold is in terms of how people operate, particularly in this culture given the comfortable mental environment. More often than not, I find myself having to coax people into thinking critically within a herd mentality.

      The more miles that get racked up on life's odometer, the more important maintenance becomes. The last thing I want to be doing is nodding off at the wheel.

      All discussions in this 'virtual' environment are very real for me in that I have been inspired to take positive actions that help me build skills which consequently benefit other people. Everything has been constructive so far and I'm good with that.