Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A modest proposal for the jiu jitsu community.

I, as a jiu jitsu black belt and member of the community, am sick to death of hearing that a black belt instructor, one who should be a role model and paragon of our community, has raped, abused, and/or sexually assaulted someone. I cannot overstate how pissed off I am at the general shrug of the shoulders from the community and deafening silence coming from our supposed leadership. Its nauseating. I want it to stop.
I have a solution:
If a black belt is indicted of any sexual crime or domestic abuse that individual loses their rank. Not only does that individual lose their black belt, but whomever they received their belt from ALSO loses their rank. So too does everyone either of those individuals have given rank. All IBJJF timelines for promotion apply beginning from the date of indictment. All individuals who have been specifically "de-ranked" are no longer allowed to compete at any rank. Individuals who have lost their rank because their instructors have been stripped of their belt are not allowed to compete until they once again climb the belt ladder to their previous rank.
So if Ze da Silva ranks John Doe to black belt. John starts his own academy ranks Dana and Joe to purple belt, and Steve to black belt. Meanwhile Ze ranks Mike to black belt. Mike then ranks Sue and Jane to brown and blue belts respectively. If John gets indicted for sexual assault, EVERYONE becomes and instant white belt. And because the IBJJF has time standards at each belt even Jane and Joe have several years in purgatory before they can compete again. Ze and John can never compete. If Ze has an affiliation it's functionally dissolute.
If this policy were in place folks would be much more careful about whom they accept belts from and who they give them to. No one wants to end up an instant white belt and spend the next 5 or so years climbing back up the ladder again (assuming they can find someone to give them the belts in question).
The only legitimate concern I would have about a policy like this is that it would create a culture of "shut up or we'll all lose our belts" but truthfully the culture in jiu jitsu right now is such that it couldn't get much more repressive of victims. So that objection is functionally moot.
Lets not mince words, this is absolutely a nuclear option. Total scorched earth policy. I have no delusions that the IBJJF or anyone else will ever implement this, but my question is: why not? If you find yourself uncomfortable with this idea, what are you afraid of? If you have given or received a belt from someone you are not 100% sure might not rape, assault, or molest someone, why are you training with that person? If you are teaching people and awarding the rank of black belt someone you suspect could be a rapist why are you teaching them to more effectively hold someone to the ground?

If you found out your instructor, or one of your peers raped, molested, assaulted someone would you feel that same pride in your belt? I am 2-3 degrees removed from an instance where an instructor raped a young girl. It makes me ill to see my association in the same article as rape. I didn't want to train for months. I got depressed every time I trained. If it were someone in the same school I'm sure no one would have to take my belt away.
Maybe this is too much, too far, but something needs to be done. We need leadership. People to stand up and say "This is not OK!" So far the silence is deafening. Maybe we should all act as if this policy were already in place. We should level a degree of scrutiny on each other. We should stop promoting evil scumbags to the highest rank in our sport. What could possibly go wrong? Comment and let me know, because I can't think of a single thing.


PS: Ze da Silva is the equivalent to John Doe in Portuguese and is not a reference to anyone.. so says Wikipedia any way. I'm sure if I'm wrong I'll hear about it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Newer gear, better performance and an error in judgement.

The Alpine archery bow I have been shooting was too short. I kind of knew that, but as I got more practiced I started missing shots as my overly bent lead arm began to 'jerk' after the release. I have been struggling a bit too with snapping the trigger pull, and wanted to change from a wrist strap release to a four finger release (more on that later) but I was worried that would make the problem even worse. So I started trolling archery-talk and craigslist for a new(er) bow with at least a 30" draw, and much to my surprise and joy, I found one. A Mathews z7 xtreme. Super cool bow, very fast, very quiet, all of the reviews on this bow are exemplary, and what's more I got it for cheap.
The gentleman who was selling it didn't have a paypal account, couldn't use google wallet, and wanted a check delivered via post before he would ship the bow. This could have set me up to get ripped off, but a couple things are in my favor: 1) I have friends that live within driving distance of his house. 2) I looked his house up on google maps (nice place, new(ish) vehicles in the driveway. 3) When I offered to have my brother pay him in cash and pick it up, he didn't balk. So I took a risk and sent the check. I don't regret it for a second.
I got the bow and saw immediate improvement in my shooting. I had no idea how much I was compensating for the shorter bow. It was terrible.
new release on top, old on bottom
From there I decided to go ahead with switching my release. I had confidence that I was shooting well, and decided to change my release as well. This gets a bit convoluted. When I started this debacle I had no idea what releases really were available. I simply took the advice of the archery shop on what to use. Most hunters use a release that straps to your wrist, then two small jaws clamp on to a loop that hooks on your string. You pull back on the wrist strap, settle in, and pull the trigger with your index finger. The good things about this are you are completely connected to your string, the release can't be lost because it is hooked to you. The downside is your index finger is connected to your hand. It can be hard to move your finger without moving your hand, I have a problem with it.
The four finger release is a small hand held grip that has a hook that sticks between your index and middle fingers. with a button for your thumb to release the arrow. I have found that with a four finger release I am considerably more accurate. This is not true for everyone. I have seen experienced archers who could not use the four finger to even draw their bow. It is very different, but for me, it is better. The down side to the four finger is that if it slips out of your hand you have just released an aluminum projectile into the heart of your bow.. which happened to me. There is a safety strap that goes around your wrist, but in my hubris I didn't use it. I got lucky. My new bow (one that I cannot afford to replace) was fine, but the rest was broken.What could have been a catastrophic mistake ended up being a $30 lesson. It did ruin my day though.
the up side is I'm shooting really well with the new rig.
 the picture is right side up, I have the target upside down to try and get some of the filling in the top to compress a bit. 5 arrows from 20 yards good tight groups. I'm super happy with that (it's not Olympic caliber archery, but it's progress) I've got some new arrows on order for two reasons. 1) I'm selling my old bow and if I include a few arrows it'll be more likely to sell, and 2) The arrows I have are cut a bit too short. They work, but it is a little dangerous to shoot a broadhead with a short arrow.
Once I get them wrapped and fletched I'll talk you through the process.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

40 random thoughts at 40.

Turned 40 this year. Here are 40 things I've learned.
1) For generalists movement trumps all other qualities: move, move well, move with intent, move with intensity (hr or lbs), move with intensity long enough to get tired
2)For specialist undo (rowers stand/squat/crawl, Jiu Jitsu athletes extend and stabilize, etc) then strengthen, then generalize.
3) Don't confuse more with better
4) Don't confuse sore with better
5) Don't confuse a great competitor with a great coach.
6) Look for coaches who consistently get marginal folks over the edge.
7) Don't confuse discomfort with improvement
8) Don't confuse hanging out on end range for stability
9) If you don't know where your meat comes from you don't need supplements you need to take a closer look at your diet.
10) Drink water.
11) Drink your coffee black.
12) Sleep in the dark, if you don't want to get blackout curtains wear a thinsulate stocking cap, pull it down over your eyes.
13) No one is impressed with your abs, and they're less impressed if you weigh less than 190 lbs.
14) Teeth Brain Knees and spine take care of them, if you do not you will suffer.
15) Don't pretend dislike shit you like.
16) Tastes change, so do people. Give second chances for trivial shit
17) Be nice until it's time to not be nice
18) Marry someone who makes you laugh
19) Learn the skills you wish your dad taught you, teach them to your kids
20) None of us are going uncharted territory, seek mentors
21) We were all mentored, find a student who can surpass you.
22) Learn to cook
23) Try cooking different things, fail spectacularly.
24) Whiskey neat, bourbon with water
25) If you're not sure you need it, save your money, buy it later.
26) Pick your own apples, berries, plant a garden.. At least once.
27) Don't be shy with the salt
28) Learn to fight or shoot, preferably both.
29) You probably don't need a gun, but if you want one keep it safe and practice.
30) Grilling ain't bbq
31) Listen to both sides even if you think you've already made up your mind
32) If two successful people disagree look for the similarities, that's where the fundamentals lie.
33) Avoid always and never.. life is exceptional.
34) Make an effort to be content.
35) Joy will show up if you look for it, sorrow will even if you don't, be content in between.
36) Taste your food before asking for the condiments, trust the cook.
37) Don't confuse fundamentals and basics. Basics display fundamentals, if you have good fundamentals basics are all you need.
38) Practice.
39) Games/sports are meant to be fun.
40) Do things to help people for no reason.

Friday, April 17, 2015

On giraffes, trophy hunting and social media.

Good day all. It has been a while. I have been busy, but there is something going on social media that I had to speak about.
Ricky Gervais posted a photo of a young lady posing with a dead giraffe to his twitter. Captioned with the text "What must've happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal & then lie next to it smiling?"
Humans are complicated things. We are very tribal, and we are prone to apophenia (recognizing a pattern where there is none). It takes a lot of cognitive effort to avoid making snap judgements about people based on "tribal" lines.
I generally sit in the middle of the two tribes: protect animals from needless harm, not all harm is needless; proper hunting and management is a net positive for the species.
I don't know that Gervais is guilty of tribalism, but I was. 
I think trophy hunting is unconscionable. Killing an animal that does not consider humans a predator to be avoided is not hunting it is just killing. Killing animals that are not food to hang one on your wall is even worse. Killing needs to have a purpose: harvest food, protect specific people or livestock (not just wolves eat cattle so kill all wolves, but that wolf is attacking that cow and must be killed).
My first thought with the woman and the giraffe was in agreement with Gervais. Giraffes don't worry about getting within 20-40 yards of a human (effective killing distance of a modern bow). In this case the picture didn't tell the full story. So now I'm conflicted. On one hand that animal was kicked out of it's herd. It was old, and was on the way to the grave. It fed a large number of people. All of which I am in favor of.. however.. this kill still leaves me feeling sick. It's just not hunting. Sure, if a ranger had shot it, and posted no pictures, I'd be all in favor, that is game management and sometimes it's ugly. I recognize the ridiculous sum this woman paid to shoot this thing went to manage a large game preserve for a long time so the net was positive (her other big game hunts in Africa are a different story).
I still think she's foolish. The same way I would think someone foolish for bragging that they had drove around the block. I recognize that when you first learn to drive this is hard, but once you've been around the block a few times it's just not all that impressive. This woman has 30 years of hunting under her belt.
For Gervais, he sees hunting as evil full stop, and while I think he's witty and smart most of the time, this is a childish view. I watched a video last week. I often seek out opinions contrary to my own just to keep honest. It was from a pro-vegan YouTube channel. This person's response to hunting as a means of  herd management was "there's already a mechanism for that, it's called NATURE!" Which sounds good on a YouTube video, but in practice it's actually quite horrible. I don't know if Gervais believes this to be true, he hasn't expressly said his thoughts on the subject, so lets use this as the contrary position.
Nature is an excellent corrective mechanism, but she is brutal. Animals in the wild (including humans) starve, die of exposure, disease, predation, or accidental injury. Overpopulated animals generally die of the combined effects of these.
The mouth to food ratio goes too high, and animals slowly starve. All of them starve, not all of them die, but all of them starve. The ones who get enough calories to live have compromised immune systems, many of them sicken and die. The ones who sicken but don't die are less able to migrate on proper timelines, so they are more at risk of getting caught in weather, or being unable to find water and they die of exposure. Others weakened by starvation and/or disease are not able to run from, detect or fight off predatory animals (including humans)and more of them are killed.
Most predators kill by attrition. A few don't (brown bears, humans with modern weapons). Canines especially, will harass and injure a prey animal to exhaustion, then drag it to the ground by force of numbers, and just eat it to death. It's a terrible reality.
Modern hunting comes in two basic varieties: gun and archery. Gun shot prey animals generally go in to immediate shock. It's harsh, but immediate. Modern bows push a razor sharp arrow all the way through the animal, it's more painful* and less immediate than a gun shot, but there is less shock, and the animal gets the dignity of running off, laying down in a quiet spot to die in peace. If I had to die not of old age, or disease, I would prefer that to exposure, starvation, or being consumed alive by a pack of coyotes.
I just don't think hunting is evil, but just killing animals because you want to kill things is. There is a difference and for folks who don't inherently understand the difference, I fear I'm not eloquent enough to explain the difference. This woman for instance clearly doesn't understand. Does she think all hawks should altruistically starve to death? A person who would insert themselves so forcefully into the food chain (livestock are a bit different as that is one's property and livelyhood but still I think ranchers kill too many predators.. back on track) she is wrong. Ducks and raptors exist in the same food chain, and what this woman did is reprehensible. Even if the raptor was wild, she killed a rare, endangered, animal to try (and fail) to save an animal that is prolific.
Things just not simple. We are in the food chain. Even if you don't eat animals, the space you take up, resources you use all are a factor in the food web. The days when humans could let the wild spaces be wild and just react are long gone. Our population is too dense. Management is required, however management is not indiscriminate killing of any and all animals because they look cool, or because it is fun. Taking a life is no small act, it has gravity and people who treat it lightly are reprehensible, but people who pretend that it is unnecessary are short sighted and childish.
This is not a binary issue, it requires thought of a level with which most folks are pretty uncomfortable, but we're all capable of it. Don't snap to conemn or defend someone just because generally you agree/disagree with their position. You may end up in the wrong.

*a number of folks I know have reported cutting themselves on hunting broadheads and being completely unaware until they felt the blood. Deep cuts from very sharp implements are not that painful, but I don't have conclusive data.

Monday, March 2, 2015

New stablizer, new target.

I am in the process of slowly upgrading my archery gear. The first thing I upgraded was my target. I have been shooting at stacked up cardboard boxes. They were fine for the recurve not so fine for the compound bow. Precision of the modern bow combined with power and I was blowing right through the boxes. So I spent 50 bucks on amazon, and bought a Morrell Yellow Jacket target. Vast improvement. Stops arrows dead. They come out like a dream and it's holding up better than I expected. If you're interested in archery, don't waste effort trying to figure some homemade rig. This is far better and not much more expensive than anything you could make. Heck I prefer it to the targets at the range "near my house" (which is nearly 45 minutes away). I took some PVC from the hardware store and built a sling for it. You can see it here (backstopped by my old cardboard target.

old stabilizer and sling above no longer attached. New stabilizer below.
The next improvement was less for performance and more for comfort. New bows have limbs that come out of the riser nearly (or exactly) parallel to the ground.So when the arrow is released the energy from the top limb releases up, and the bottom limb releases down, and they (mostly) counteract one another. My bow is not new. Not by a sight. So the limbs both release forward. Which causes a ton of vibration in my hand. Also the sling that I had/have was made out of a fleece material that was making my hand sweat and itch like crazy. So I decided the first component upgrade I would make was a new stabilizer (one that did a better job of absorbing vibration), that also happened to include a new sling. Now the new sling is nothing fancy, it's braided nylon that attaches to a metal bracket that sits behind the stabilizer, but it's sturdy enough, and it doesn't make my damn hand sweat. I'm super happy with the vibe dampening effects. I'm getting a fraction of the vibration in my hand. I'm not a good enough shooter to notice the stabilization effect (or lack there of). Over all, I'm super happy with the upgrades. More comfortable shooting is (generally) better shooting.
More updates when I have updates to update.