Monday, June 29, 2009

American Ninja - martial arts movies definitely suck

Stumbled across a post today about the movie American Ninja. Here are some clips:

Trailer for American Ninja:

Trailer for American Ninja 2:

Trailer for American Ninja 4:

I didn't actually think it was real after first reading that blog post on Martial Development.
By far this looks like a horrible movie series. Maybe one of the worst ever. An IMDB search on American Ninja shows the truth: 2.1-4.7 out of 10. Amazingly, none of them bad enough to make the IMDB bottom 100.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Surviving a Traditional Dojo

A fellow martial arts blogger I follow, Matt Apsokardu, just released a free e-book on surviving in a traditional dojo. It focuses on life in schools of very traditionalist-style arts such as Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido and others. People studying arts such as Krav Maga or any street-style defense won't find it as useful, but there's still some interesting content for those folks as well.

Matt's a smart guy and a great blogger. He's been blogging about traditional arts for quite awhile and has been practicing martial arts for over 13 years.

I just got done reading it and I'd have to say it's pretty good stuff. People I'd recommend it to most:
  • Anyone considering getting into martial arts - especially those scared to death of trying
  • Martial artists of 0-5 years of training

This book outlines the culture of traditional martial arts and will inform you of just about all aspects of it, not only to make you more comfortable in knowing what to expect, but to make you a better student.

Here's Matt's summary of what's in the book:
  • Achieving a beginner’s mindset
  • Learning the martial arts uniform and belt
  • Taking care of yourself and avoiding pitfalls
  • Stretching and effective practice
  • Handling problems with teachers and other students
  • Fighting and self defense
  • Dealing with rank and hierarchy
  • Shuhari and lessons in being advanced

Matt's terminology is very Japanese-oriented, so you may find some terms different depending on the origins of your art. Largely though, much of his advice can easily span the most common traditional arts taught here in the United States.

Another great part: I'm in it in the "Words of Wisdom" section.

It's free. If you do a traditional style or are thinking of trying one you should definitely download it: Student’s Guide to Surviving a Traditional Dojo

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Teaser video and stills from the NEW machete fight (professional version)

So our machete fight got us another gig doing a short action flick of the same fight, but this time with a plot, costumes and professional film people!

Jesse Crouch
Louis Moncivias Gutierrez

Jack Daniel Stanley - Director

Brandon Boggs - Camera
Drew Ott - Camera
H. Cherdon Bedford - Still photographer

Here's a very short clip:

Here are some still shots of the production, courtesy of Cherdon:

There will be a full video coming out soon. Not sure exactly when though. Subscribe to Jack Stanley's mailing list to get notified. Expecting it to be awesome =)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Street Sword Update

I received a reply directly from Phil Elmore in response to my previous post about his book. Here's what he had to say:

...the purpose of the book is to impart the basic physical mechanics of using a long blade (a blade longer than can be rotated within the arc of your arm, as in, most swords). The book does not teach you to carry a sword about with you in your day to day life; it asks the question, "If a sword was all I had to use as a weapon, would it be effective, and how would I use it?" It includes a great deal of material discouraging the type of fantasy swordsmanship that prompts reporters to write news articles.

Seems the title has thrown me and a few others off into thinking that the book is geared mostly toward day-to-day sword carrying. Phil's message indicates that it is more geared toward practical use of a sword - exactly what is not what is taught in most sword schools.

Thanks for the clarification email, Phil.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Man stands still, I look awesome technique - Crappy technique of the week

This isn't a specific technique, but is something I see way too often in the martial arts world. The variations are many, but this is what it is:

  1. Guy strikes at you and does not retract his arm
  2. Defender moves in, possibly parrying his strike
  3. Guy stands still while defender delivers anywhere from 4 to 100 high-speed strikes. Guy doesn't block, move backwards or do anything within the realm of realism.

This is typical martial arts practice for showing those around you that you are an awesome and very clearly badass martial artist.

This guy's intro:

First thing in the video:

Didn't mean to pick on Karate, these were just good examples. You'll find this "technique" in every art and with many practitioners.

What actually happens and what you should do

  • Watch any person being hit - they will react in some way. Even the untrained will put their arms up to try to passively block your strikes.
  • Nobody leaves an arm out, even the untrained - They might be slow to pull it back, but nobody is going to leave it out there for you to do whatever you want to it and neglect using it to protect themselves.

If you manage to get the time to hit somebody 50 times before they react you should throw in some power or dysfunction-causing strikes instead of just a bunch of good-looking high-speed small-damage strikes.

Likely thing though is, you won't get the time. If you want multiple shots you'll either have to move with the person or restrain them. Even this little kid demonstrates more effective technique by holding his attacker while he delivers his multiple strikes:

Anyone can deliver a million strikes to a stationary opponent. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking they're "all-that" when they do something like this.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Machete fight scene video!

The final video is here for our machete fight scene practice (highly recommend you hit the HD button in the player to watch it in High Definition):

Stuntman Louis Moncivias Gutierrez
Martial arts expert Jesse Crouch

This is footage from practice of our fight. Note that we're still wearing safety gear. This is not the final product. We're planning on eventually doing full costumes without the safety gear and getting some better camera footage.

How we made it

Louis and I did the fight choreography together from scratch. We first practiced with rattan sticks in place of the machetes. Worked our way through some motions and gradually added on as we practiced. We started on May 20th (today is June 8th) and practiced about three times per week for a couple hours.

Martial arts wise there's not really anything specific, but Kali was my main driver for choosing technique.

Louis did all the stunt coordination and is the one that jumps rail-to-roof (8ft+ jump at at least 12ft high) at the beginning and then gets kicked off the roof (12ft+ fall) at the end. We're using real machetes in this. Yes, we're really hitting each other in a lot of these shots.

Louis also did the camera direction and brought us through with all of his film knowledge and experience.

I did the film editing. It's my first time doing any editing for film, so go easy on me. Used Adobe Premiere. Nothing is altered using After Effects or anything, this is just raw video footage. Video is shot using the 720p setting on a Casio EX-F1. We didn't use the slow motion settings (300fps+) so that we could preserve the aspect ratio and 720p quality.

Music is "Suicide Man". Came from the site Jamendo (creative commons licensed music) and is by nocreeps on their album "Time to Differ".

We used my fight choreography notation method to keep track of our fight sequence. It worked out really well.

Credits to everyone else involved:
Raven, John "Chester" Brzozowski - Camera operators
nocreeps - "Suicide Man" - background music
Virginia Ray, Lauren Cylkowski - Special thanks

Leave comments either here or on the YouTube page.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stills from my first fight scene with Louis Gutierrez

First update about our fight scene! I'm in the middle of editing the video from some of our practices of the fight and I thought I'd share some still photos. These are screen caps from the actual film footage that I'll be releasing soon. Here are a few of my favorites:

Louis jumping from the railing to the roof (8 feet+)
Our first fight scene

Me dodging a shot to the head from Louis
Our first fight scene

Machetes about to clash
Our first fight scene

Me attacking Louis
Our first fight scene

Me kicking Louis off the roof
Our first fight scene

Make sure you check out all 51 photos in the fight scene set.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Update: MS Project Natal cooler than expected

Update from Engadget who got to demo the unit. Sounds very promising so far:

The first demo that we played was a 3D breakout game, where the player is trying to bat a red ball (or in the case of this version, sometimes 10 red balls) toward a line of bricks at the end of a long (virtual) space. The body tracking is truly impressive -- according to Kudo, it's picking up 48 joint points on the human body. As soon as we stepped into line in front of the box, the avatar immediately took on our stance and movements. And we mean really took them on -- little gestures with our arms, the posture we had, front and back movements -- it tracked with complete accuracy. We did notice a bit of stutter during some finer movements, but overall the effect was impressive (and more than a little eerie).

Sounds even more promising for the world of martial arts than I expected. Knowing the gaming industry and Microsoft in particular though, the potential for small-time developers to create anything for this is probably minimal at best. It's a good first step for the technology though.

African stick fighting and other updates

An update on what I'm up to these days:

African stick fighting

I'm currently learning African stickfighting here in Austin from Da'Mon Stith at Dynamic Arts Academy. Tried a little 52 Blocks, a prison fighting style, as well, but focus is the stick fighting.

So far pretty interesting. The art has similarities to Kali, but no more than any other weapons art really. It is far from being the same. Lots of new concepts and it's been a lot of fun so far.

Film, Stunts and Louis

Also doing some work with a stunt guy. Louis and I are working on putting together a fight scene for film and various other purposes. Going to be doing some brief 'behind the scenes' style footage of what we've been working on soon here, so stay tuned for the video.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Microsoft Project Natal captures motion, can't capture Chuck Norris

Found this while reading a post about it on Supposedly it will do full motion capture. This is a big step ahead of what the Wii will do in some ways. Potential applications for the use of this with martial arts are huge, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up. Looks like most movement is expected to be pretty big (understandable), even in this 'vision demo', to register. Who knows though.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lloyd: A martial history researcher

Lloyd is Wing Chun practitioner; has studied warfare from the perspectives of archaeology (in which he has a degree), experimental archaeology, history, re-enactment, martial arts, and simulations; and is a man of many other interests.

He's got a lot of videos on YouTube. I like his "A point about" series on various aspects of martial history. His format is very rant-ish and I love it. Good dose of humor too. He's got a ton of good information. These are some of my favorite ones:

Another point about drawing swords (Here's a link to the first point about drawing swords, and here's yet another point):

A point about shields:

Some points about pommels:

If you're into weapons or martial history at all I'd recommend you subscribe to his YouTube channel. Also check out his page on ancient weaponry.