Arx Hereticus

Welcome to the ramblings of a merry heretic, an ex-pat (Tex-pat?) American living in Maryland after having spent six years in Germany. Arx Hereticus is part travelogue, part cooking, part budo, part socio-political commentary and mostly just me BSing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Palaver Chicken

(So-called because when enemies met to palaver, this dish was good enough to make them sit down and shut up and eat)

Chicken breast (deboned or boneless and skinless) cut into 1.5 or so inch cubes
Can of diced tomatoes (or a couple of cups of skinned and diced 'maters"
Hot pepper (we use jalapeno) and/or sweet pepper if you're not a fire-eater
Peanut butter and/or/tahini
Feta (or other good goat-ish cheese)

Salt and pepper
Harissa (or dried red pepper flakes if you can't fine it)

Optional spices:
Chili powder

Dice half the onion, garlic and pepper very fine, the remainder more coarsely

Chop spinach coarsely and set aside

Brown the chicken pieces in good olive oil and/or (real) butter
Add the finely diced onion, garlic and pepper
Salt and pepper lightly
As the chicky cooks, spice to taste with the dried herbs and spices

When done, remove chicken from the skillet and let rest

Add tomatoes and remainder of onion, garlic and pepper and bring to simmer
Add spices to taste
Cook 15-20 min, adding water or white wine to keep soupy but not watery
Add in 1-2 Tblsp peanut butter and/or tahini (to taste)
Stir in well
Add crumbled feta or other cheese until all is thickened and stew-like

Return chicken to skillet and mix well, warming through

Add spinach and let wilt

Serve with rice, couscous or flatbread

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thoughts on Self Defense

Some thoughts on self defense, spawned by a conversation in an online forum:

First rule of self defense: Don't be there.


Don't go to bars or other places/events where people get drunk or high.
Don't go out alone. Don't go out at night. Don't go to bad parts of town.
Don't carry anything you aren't willing to throw away.
Don't wear anything you can't run in.
Don't hang out with people who attract trouble.
Don't get drunk or high.
Don't use an ATM in a lonely corner of the city at night.
Don't wear flash clothes or obvious bling.
Don't be a jerk.

Okay, I know that some of that is unrealistic for the average person.

But if you want absolute security, you aren't going to find it.

Self defense isn't fighting, it's escaping and surviving.

Being trained to fight, I'm talking military or police close quarters combatives type training, if taught properly, will probably get you in jail or sued if applied in most situations.

The things taught in most self defense classes and schools can bolster confidence and might give you an edge, but could also get you hurt or dead.

Carrying a weapon as a means of self defense is probably unrealistic unless you're trained and very fast. Chances are, you might wind up with your weapon used on you. No winners in a knife fight, really, only survivors.

What _can_ you do?

Be aware.
Be proactive.
Be reasonably fit.
Be smart.
Be present, reasonably sober and be reasonable.
Know where it's safe and not.
Have an escape route in your head.

A fellow I know on another (martial arts) forum is a cop and CQC instructor. He posted this recently:


... “magic formula” to avoid 99% of “street attacks”:

Don’t participate in illegal activity. Don’t hang out with people who attract trouble (need I clarify that?). Don’t hang out in places that attract trouble. Don’t get drunk or high. Don’t tolerate domestic violence, call the police and/or leave the abuser. Be alert to your surroundings and if something “feels” wrong…leave. Many people stick around thinking that they are being needlessly paranoid.

For that remaining 1% of instances where you are attacked while just “minding your own business”. Study an art that exposes you to striking/grappling/fighting with a resisting opponent and exposes you to getting hit and working through exhaustion and stress. Be aware of your states self defense laws, and have a plan for “post-incident” already thought out.


He goes on to say that for him, he's happy with about a 50% safety factor, and I pretty much agree with him.

The odds of getting into SD situations when the people around you are drunk and/or you are drunk are exponentally higher.

The chance of being a victim of violence in your own home by someone you live with is exponentally higher than being attacked on the street by a stranger.

Situational awareness is probably the best tool in your self defense kitbag ...

These are pretty much my opinions formed through about 35 years of study and teaching of classical and modern martial arts and combatives, and time in uniform as a cop and a soldier ... YMMV, of course.

There is no one-size-fits-all self defense strategy, but not being stupid, drunk, high or ignorant are good starters.

Training for Self Defense

Almost any martial training will help you in terms of confidence and bearing. Some will even be useful in terms of self defense. Most martial arts training is fun.

But for real world, practical, common-sense self defense, you probably ought to look for someone teaching such, rather than a particular style.

Failing that, get a solid base in striking (KISS, nothing fancy, no Mighty Mulching Power Mower stuff -- boxing is a good basic striking system), grappling (old-school judo, the better of the modern MMA gyms, even solid collegiate wrestling will help you on the ground).

You need to learn and practice escapes from various sorts of grabs. Again, simplicity and directness is critical. If you have to spin three times and change grips twice, it won't work IRL.

You need to train and practice what you learn regularly. If you don't practice, you will lose the 'muscle memory' and capabilities.

You need to learn how to take a hit and keep moving, how to hit the ground without getting badly hurt, how to protect yourself from getting struck while standing or on the ground.

You need to practice what you learn in the kinds of clothes, situations and locations you may face on the street.

You need to train with a variety of partners, various sizes, abilities and skill levels.

Practice cooperatively at first, gradually ramping up the resistance. In order to practice with any practical result, you'll need to practice at least some of the time with good, solid resistance.

Nothing done in the dojo, however, will really replicate what you would face in the real world, situationally, emotionally or physiologically.

Kata, drills, competition and practice are not combat. They might teach you things that can be ported over into combat, but none of those things taken in isolation are preparation for getting whacked upside the head by someone seriously seeking to mess you up.

Whatever you do, remember that training for self defense has one goal in mind: escape. Not toe-to-toe fighting, not superhero BS, just get free and get away.

It's a great fantasy to think about taking on evil and winning, but it's far more realistic (and satisfying to those who care about you) to get away in one piece.

There's no ultimate art or system.

Primarily, I study and teach an old Japanese system of jujutsu and weapons, and I make it clear to students that this is a system of archaic combatives instruction, it's not movie-fu and it's not CQC. It is what it is but it's not modern combatives.

I've also studied and taught straight-up practical combatives to folks who might actually need it, but generally do not teach such things to the general public. Most folks who exercise reasonable care will never need it, and those who do are generally unable to put in the time it takes to internalize and maintain the skillsets.

When I _do_ teach self defense, the curriculum is much more about personal security than about physical struggle -- lock windows and doors, don't use the ATM alone, don't walk down dark alleys, how to secure your home, etc. The physical portion is primarily escape drills ...

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Devil Made Texas

(to the tune of 'Irish Washerwoman')

Oh, the devil in hell they say he was chained,
And there for a thousand years he remained;
He neither complained nor did he groan,
But decided he'd start up a hell of his own,
Where he could torment the souls of men
Without being shut in a prison pen;
So he asked the Lord if he had any sand
Left over from making this great land.

The Lord He said, "Yes, I have plenty on hand,
But it's away down south on the Rio Grande,
And to tell you the truth, the stuff is so poor
I doubt it will do for a hell anymore.
"The Devil went down and looked over the truck,
And he said if it came as a gift he was stuck,
For when he'd examined it carefully and well
He decided the place was too dry for a hell.

But the Lord to just get the stuff off His hands
He promised the Devil He'd water the lands,
For He had some old water that was of no use,
A regular bog hole that stunk like the deuce.
So the contract was signed and the deed was given,
And the Lord went up to his spread up in heaven.
The Devil soon saw he had everything needed
To make a good hell and I'll say he succeeded.

He scattered tarantulas over the road,
Put thorns on the cactus and horns on the toads,
He sprinkled the sand with millions of ants
So the man that sits down must wear soles on his pants.
He lengthened the horns of the Texas steer,
And added an inch to the jack rabbit's ear;
He put water puppies in all of the lakes,
And under the rocks he put rattlesnakes.

He hung thorns and brambles on all of the trees.
He mixed up the dust with chiggers and fleas.
The rattlesnakes bites you, the scorpion stings,
The mosquito delights you by buzzing his wings.
The heat in the summer's a hundred and ten--
Too cool for the devil and too hot for men,
And all who remained in that climate soon bore
Stings, cuts, bites, scratches, and blisters galore.

He quickened the buck of the bronco steed
And poisoned the feet of the centipede.
The wild boar roams in the black chaparral.
It's a hell of a place that we've got for a hell.
He planted red pepper beside of the brooks;
The Mexicans use them in all that they cook.
Just dine with a Mexican and you will shout,
"I've got hell on the inside as well as the out!"