What is a Langkah?

Langkah (Indonesian) - noun: literally step, move, pace, action, measure, stride, leap, foot, footstep, gesture, tread, footpace

In Indonesian martial arts, Pencak Silat, it commonly refers to geometric patterns on the floor used to train footwork and develop an understanding of the role of the lower body in maintaining balance and a base from which to generate power.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Movie Review: Super (2010)

Super has a handful of familiar faces:

  • Rainn Wilson 
  • Liv Tyler 
  • Kevin Bacon 
  • Ellen Page 
  • Gregg Henry 
  • Michael Rooker 
  • Nathan Fillion 
  • William Katt 
Netflix categorizes it as: Action & Adventure, Action Comedies, Comic Book and Superhero Movies and says it is Deadpan and Dark.

Yeah. I guess it's all those things to one extent or another. Definitely deadpan and dark. There's a fair bit of action, and some humor. It falls into the comic book & superhero genre in the same way Kick Ass does.

This movie is twisted, brutal, and occasionally gory. The bad guys are bad, and the good guys are insane. Certifiable, even. Freud would have had a blast with them.

I spent the first half of the movie wondering why I kept watching. The phrase "train wreck" comes to mind. I kept watching because I couldn't stop watching, even with the over-the-top religious overtones—so exaggerated, in fact, they are more satirical than sincere.

By the end, though, I found myself rooting for the good guys, even as they descended deeper and deeper into their insanity and crossed more and more moral lines. Because, in spite of their deranged attitudes and methods, they were the good guys, their hearts were in the right place, and the bad guys did deserve what they got (for the most part).

It's hokey from the get-go. Tragedy strikes early, and keeps hitting.

The final few minutes provide a surprisingly uplifting twist, which makes all the painful moments worthwhile.

During the first half of this movie, I wouldn't have guessed I would recommend it to anyone, but I do.

There are some adult themes, and it is rated R, but I would recommend it. In fact, I would highly recommend it, with the following caveat: set aside reservations and judgement until you've seen the entire movie. It's worth the ride, crazy as it is at times.

The Wandering Guru

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dirt Time & Humility

Some time back, I had a conversation with a guy, I'll call him Bud. It went something like this:

Bud said, "You do martial arts, huh?"

"Yeah. You?"

"Nah. Never needed them. Been in quite a few fights, though." He considered for a moment. "You think you could take me in a fight?"


Bud started to get upset.

I said, "Or you might take me. Not worth the hospital bills to find out."

"I don't think you could take me. Not even on your best day."

"Anything's possible, but let me ask you some questions."


"How many fights have you been in?"

"I don't know. A lot."

"More than ten?"

"Yeah. More like thirty."

I nodded, showing an impressed expression. "That's quite a record. Give me a ballpark for the average duration of your fights?"

He thought for a moment. "A couple of minutes maybe."

"Okay. For the sake of this discussion, let's call it three minutes."

"All right."

"You've been in thirty fights at three minutes each, so you've spent ninety minutes, an hour-and-a-half, of your life fighting. Does that seem accurate?"

"I guess."

"Well, you got me beat. I think I'm less than thirty minutes of total fight time in my life."

Bud smiled like he'd won a medal or something.

I continued, "But I've been in fights. Had guns and knives pulled on me, even had a guy try to stab me once. Nothing about a fight is likely to catch me off guard. On top of my time fighting, though, I've got training. A lot of training. In fact, I've got somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty thousand hours of training." I watched as his moment of imagined triumph slid from his face. "That's the equivalent of someone working a full-time job for about a decade. Do you think ninety minutes of on-the-job training, even during a high-stress period, can equal the capabilities of someone with a decade of full-time work in that job? Of course not. So while it's possible you might beat me in a fight, however you define 'beating me,' it's not likely."

I think a lot of people don't realize how much time a dedicated practitioner puts into their development. At this point in my life, I'm over 21, 000 hours of training and, compared to some people I know (people like Cacoy CaƱete [RIP] who, at the time of his death, had at least 40, 000 hours of training, and I would guess closer to 80, 000), I'm still relatively young in my training.

Cacoy once said, "I earned my master rank in my twenties, but I did not feel I had mastered a single aspect of martial arts until I had been training for forty years. Even after more than seventy years of daily training, I learn something new every day."

At that point, I had only been training ~20 years. I thought I had mastered at least something. When Cacoy said that, I realized how foolish I was. It was a humbling moment, and ~20 years of training is nothing to sneeze at.

At this point, I'm at 38 years of training. From this vantage, with 18 more years of experience than the kid who heard Cacoy say that, I wonder if I'll have truly mastered anything at 40 years of training. I'm damned good at a lot of things I train and teach. When I think about the word "mastery," though, I feel pretty far from it. Hell, a couple of months ago I had an epiphany about sapu luar, a basic Silat sweep I've been training for 21+ years and have burned many thousands of hours of reps on. And my epiphany about it wasn't advanced. It was a realization about a low-level aspect. Even more humbling, I had learned the lesson in dozens of other ways relating to dozens of other techniques, but I had never thought to apply the principle to sapu luar.

The Wandering Guru

"The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is." -- Phillips Brooks

Sunday, March 27, 2016

BvS: Spoiler-free Review

I loved the trailers for Batman vs. Superman. I had high expectations for the movie, until the first reviews came out. I didn't let them discourage me, though. Plenty of times, I have disagreed with reviews, especially critics.

Here is my personal review of BvS.

First, I would rather have waited to rent it on Redbox or iTunes, or waited until I could stream it on Netflix. It was not worth theater prices, even matinee.

Second, I didn't completely hate the movie. I've seen worse.

I'll start with what I loved. I loved Wonder Woman. I loved Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

I thought Cavill did a better acting job in this than in Man of Steel, where I thought he tried too hard to impersonate Christopher Reeves. In MoS, Cavill wasn't playing Superman, in my opinion. He was playing Christopher Reeves playing Superman.

I know Affleck caught a lot of flack—LOL ... Affleck and "of flack"—but I thought he handled the roles (Bruce Wayne and Batman) well.

In fact, I think all the actors performed with excellence.

I disliked the fact that Wonder Woman had little more than a cameo, albeit a very active one.

All of my problems with the movie revolve around the story. I don't know whether the writers or director are more at fault. When I look at the other bodies of work by Goyer (writer) and Snyder (director), I see far more things I dislike in Goyer's resume than in Snyder's, so maybe I should blame Goyer more than Snyder. In the end, though, I go back to the reality that Hollywood movies are developed through "creation by committee" and, as a friend of mine once said, "committees are dark alleys where good ideas go to get mugged." 
Whoever screwed up, made a fine mess of it. The parts of the plot that didn't seem outright contrived still felt forced. It reminded me of watching kids play with action figures, "Yeah! Then ... then ... Superman does this! Take that! Yeah! Batman does that, but Doomsday evades. Batman is in deep doo doo, but Wonder Woman jumps in to save him. And ..."

My recommendation:
If you're a fan, the movie is worth watching, but unless you have a fetish for large screens (and I know some people do), or if you really want to know what's going on before you see/read spoilers, don't pay theater prices for it, not even matinee. Wait to see it in a cheaper format.

The Wandering Guru

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Punisher & PTSD

Watching Daredevil, Season 2, Episode 7, "Semper Fidelis."

In this episode, Nelson and Murdock work on Frank Castle's defense. They want to build a case on PTSD, claim the killings he perpetrated stem from the trauma of losing his family triggering PTSD he developed in battle during his military service.

Karen Page talks to Castle.

Castle: PTSD, huh?
Karen: We think it would greatly help with your defense.
Castle: Don't do that. It's an insult.
Karen: Lots of veterans experience it.
Castle: I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about them. It's an insult to them, people who are actually going through it. I know what you want to do. You wanna sit here and label me just another case of some crazy-ass combat vet who lost his mind, huh? Maybe that'll appeal to some shitbag jury in some shitbag court. It wasn't on a battlefield. That's not where my life went to shit.

It goes on from there, but this is the comment I want to discuss.

I think it's noble for Frank not to want to dump his choices on the PTSD label, not to throw more fuel on the fire already used by the media to blur the perception of PTSD and the people it affects in the eyes of the public.

I also think he's wrong.

I think his denial of PTSD grows from the same misrepresentation of PTSD he's trying not to encourage. He thinks, since "it wasn't on a battlefield," it's not PTSD. While I think the dialog is completely in character for Castle, and I love the show, I think this bit of dialog underlines one of the major problems in our society related to PTSD and, for that matter, mental illness in general, but I'm going to stick to PTSD here.

While combat vets are the best known sufferers of PTSD, PTSD can affect anyone. The fact that Castle didn't get his PTSD on a battlefield doesn't mean his problems aren't PTSD related. He watched his family cut to ribbons in the crossfire of a battle between rival gangs, and he got shot in the head during the same crossfire. That situation is traumatic. That situation caused his PTSD. Since he was a combat vet with a set of special skills, his reaction to the PTSD was one of violent revenge against those he held responsible. Still PTSD, though.

I have a good friend who has dealt with PTSD for two years, since a criminal drugged and raped her.

While undiagnosed, I suffered all the symptoms of PTSD after my uncle's suicide when I was 14. Took me 7+ years to work through that. I never had therapy or counseling. In the mid-80s, such things carried even more stigma than they do now, so therapy and counseling were, to my knowledge, never even considered. I struggled through hell alone, developed my own coping methods, and managed to survive. I wish like hell I had seen a therapist or counselor about it. The closest I got was a pastor at our church who said exactly the wrong thing and turned me against religion, especially Christianity, for ~15 years. And I still have no use for organized religion of any stripe.

Contrary to what Castle believes, and the media propagates, PTSD is not restricted to combat vets. Yes, their demographic is at high risk for it, but because of its presentation in media, non-vets who suffer PTSD are often dismissed and/or treated with contempt.

The Wandering Guru

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” -- Susan Pease Banitt

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pale Rider

I just rewatched Pale Rider, starring Clint Eastwood. I read the novel when it came out at the beginning of June, 1985. I watched the movie in late June, 1985 in the theater with my Uncle Dave. I loved both the novel and the movie.

The first time I watched the movie, I saw the book come to life. I unconsciously forgave a lot of things, or simply didn't notice them because of my youth. Also, I saw it with Uncle Dave, a man I idolized. He liked it, so I liked it. I didn't apply any critical thought to it.

The times I've watched it since, the movie transported me back to that time, to the 14 year old kid who loved the novel and loved watching the movie with his idol.

This time, I watched it as a not-quite 45 year old man, a published author, with a wealth of knowledge and experience that 14 year old kid never imagined. Hell, I'm nearly 16 years older than my uncle was when we watched this movie together. Ain't that a kick in the teeth. Of course, Uncle Dave killed himself a less than a year after this movie came out.

From my current vantage, having removed my nostalgia-tinted glasses, this movie has serious problems. I still enjoyed it, don't get me wrong. I suspect I will always enjoy it, if for no other reason than the memories it evokes.

The love triangle in the movie should have been dropped. I don't remember if it was in the novel or not. If it was, I expect Foster handled it much better. In the movie, the girl, Megan, asks Preacher (Eastwood) to teach her about love, and making love. While her emotions for the man aren't surprising, and Preacher handles it as well as any man could handle a 15 year old making an awkward pass at him.

When he rejects her, she says, "It's my momma you love, isn't it? ... The way you look at her, and the way she looks at you, it's true ..."

Now, this comes out of left field. There was a barely noticeable lingering glance shown from the mother, Sarah, toward Preacher, but he never reciprocated, and nothing else indicated any such interest going either way. The glance, when it happened, could have been related to any number of things.

I could have accepted that by itself. A young woman (hell, a young person, just happens to be a female in the movie) feels rejected and lashes out, venting private fears, which may or may not have any root in objective reality.

Later, though, the mother, Sarah, expresses her love for Preacher. She explains why she has resisted Hull, the man who loves her, out of fear of losing someone else she loves. Her explanation makes sense. Her infatuation with Preacher, though, comes out of left field. The writer in me says, "They needed to explain why she has resisted Hull so long, so they fabricated this infatuation as an excuse for some exposition, but it was an afterthought and never got fully developed." I want to believe some key moments related to this wound up on the editing room floor but, if so, then why does the acting in these scenes feel so stilted compared to the rest?

Another issue with the movie is the first fight scene. I have some cognitive dissonance when I watch it. Part of me loves the scene. It's a great introduction to Preacher's character, but the fight choreography reeks. It turns my stomach.

Last, but not least, when LaHood's men enter the general store to ambush Preacher as he drinks coffee, they spend an inordinate amount of time, 15 seconds of film, shooting the place up. They empty all their revolvers, somewhere on the neighborhood of 36 shots fired. Preacher should have been visible, about five feet in front of them, when they entered the store. Really? They emptied their revolvers shooting up an obviously empty room, which allowed Preacher to get the drop on them while they reloaded. Apparently, LaHood's men never learned the lesson my dad taught me, "Don't shoot unless you're certain of your target."

On the other side, I noticed something in this watching I had never spotted before. One character, Club, played by Richard Kiel, caught my attention. When we first meet Club, he's called out as muscle to intimidate Preacher and the Carbon Canyon miners. He does the bidding of his boss, Josh LaHood (Chris Penn). He gives an impressive show of force, then at Josh's urging, Club raises his hammer to attack Preacher. Preacher makes short work of the giant.

Every previous time I watched the movie, I wrote Club off as a half-wit thug at that point. Later, when he attacks Josh to prevent the young man from shooting Preacher in the back, I thought, "Okay. Maybe Preacher won the Club's respect, so the giant acted on some strange personal sense of justice to save Preacher's life."

This time, though, I noticed something more about Club. I'm not sure how I missed it previously except, as already noted, all my previous viewings happened with filters firmly engaged. This time, when Josh attempts to rape Megan and all the other LaHood employees gather around, Club emerges from his cabin. When he realizes what's happening, a disgusted look passes over his face. He makes his way through the other employees. I believe he was about to drag Josh off Megan and escort the young lady away to safety. Before he can do this, Preacher fires a shot and all attention turns to him. He shoots Josh in the hand and takes Megan home to her mother.

Noticing the look of disgust on Club's face gave me insight into the character, added depth to him, and made me like him a lot more. At that moment, he had enough. He realized Josh and the other men were crossing a line Club wasn't going to cross. He still worked for LaHood, but he had chosen sides when it came to fighting. So when Josh aims his rifle at Preacher's back and Club prevents the shot, it's much more than a single act of respect. After, Preacher tips his hat at Club, Club smiles and drags Josh out of the way so Preacher can throw a stick of dynamite into the shack from which Josh had emerged moments before.

And the final gunfight? Pure gold. Best part of the movie. In fact, it makes the rest of the movie worth watching in spite of its problems.

When Megan yells into the distance, telling Preacher they all love him, she loves him, and thanks, it reminded me (probably intentionally) of the ending of Shane when Little Joe yells, "Shane! Come Back!"

The Wandering Guru

"Nothing like a good piece of hickory." -- Preacher (Clint Eastwood), Pale Rider