Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoon: The Ballad of Magellan

Knowing what Magellan's fate was, historically, I really wasn't sure how it'd be reconciled at the end of this video, as I was watching. I "lol'ed" at the gentle, cute interpretation of a violent end to Magellan's life, in cartoon-humor, palatable for kids.

A bit of personal and unconventional history....

Before the mainstream discovered mixed martial arts (popularized with the rise of NBA and MMA-type of competitions) and the value of cross-training by not limiting yourself to a single art, I was already practicing the concepts and principles espoused by Bruce Lee (I was also a longtime student of Dan Inosanto):
  • Research your own experience
  • Absorb what is useful
  • Discard what isn't
  • Add what is specifically your own
For a number of years, training 6 and 7 days a week, I was an apprentice instructor in Filipino Kali. Really, it was an umbrella term- like saying "martial arts", because what we practiced wasn't limited to just the warrior arts of the Philippines; but an eclectic mix of combat arts from around the world- many exotic and non-traditional. No stone was left unturned. And in essence, this was kali. Using whatever worked. Didn't matter where the technique originated from. The boundaries that distinguished one style from another dissolved. Efficiency was anything that scored.

Why do I bring this up? Two reasons.

There was a time in my life when as much as I hated talking about martial arts, I also loved talking about martial arts! I loved serious training and hated the "pretense" and "mystique" that surrounded it.

The charlatans and samurai-wannabes.

In a fight between a lousy boxer and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I'd bet my money 9 out of 10 times, that the boxer would come out on top (generally speaking). There is just so much bs in martial arts, that it used to drive me crazy. My idea of martial arts was an F15. A sig-sauer. A finger jab through the eye-socket; sinking your teeth into your attacker's throat and ripping out his jugular. That was martial art. A zero-tolerance for violence by the use of violence as last resort.

That attitude of "overkill", went against the philosophy of aikido, one of the many arts I also studied (" stone unturned"). But I felt it was the more realistic one. The one that could keep you alive.

So many martial artists I knew would avoid serious delving into the nature of "the beast" and in serious study of violence; they circumvented it, by remaining in the civilized world with Mr. Miyagi-style esoteric philosophy of non-violence preaching.

In my opinion, most martial artists live in a fantasy world of fancy dance routines and memorized technique. Real training, to me, was dipping your carry-folder in baby oil, to simulate the viscosity of blood while slashing through a side of beef. It was bringing in psychological and emotional realism into the sparring. And we had all kinds of ways to spar. It was smart training and survivable training.

Other martial arts I had studied before (such as aikido) gave me a false sense of security. The kind that can get you killed. But kali as taught by my primary teacher, gave me a weird kind of confidence- because it made me realize just how vulnerable we all are. And it doesn't matter if you are purported to be the "best fighter on the planet"- anyone on any given day can be sucker punched and have his ass kicked in. Nor can you be the "best fighter" in every conceivable environment and under all types of circumstances.

I remember one story relayed to me by Dan Inosanto, about how, a bunch of martial artists had gathered together at, I think it was a pool-side party, boasting about what they could do. Finally, one guy contemptuously scoffed at all this talk, and announced that he could take them all on. He went into the swimming pool and challenged all comers. The karate guy went in there, and got his head dunked down, giving up when he ran out of air. The boxer tried his luck, but was also held under water, flapping his arms. The wrestler faired no better and was held under as well. No one could beat the guy. They all finally asked him what style he practiced. His response? He didn't do martial arts. He was a water polo player. In that particular environment, the water polo guy was king.

To my knowledge, it's a true story (even though I know the details have my own embellishment to them from faulty memory), based upon Inosanto's personal experience. But he told it, to illustrate the point.

My second reason for talking about the warfare, tribal art of kali is that Lapu-Lapu- the chieftain who is said to have slain Magellan- is celebrated in Filipino martial tradition.

My primary teacher wrote this up for one of the old school brochures:
In elementary school we learned about a Portuguese navigator named Ferdinand Magellan who was, supposedly, the first man to circumnavigate the earth in 1522. That's interesting, because in the Philippines, they tell of a courageous Moro chieftain named Lapu Lapu who killed a pirate named Magellan in 1521 when he raided their island (Mactan) in search of plunder. The truth, of course, is somewhere in between. We do know that Magellan never finished his famous voyage; his crew went on to carry his name into the history books.

Perhaps of further interest, from the brochure, is the following:
Kali's brutal effectiveness was felt in the Americas as far back as the Revolutionary War, when Filipino merchant marines utilized it in service to the army of George Washington, under the command of Lafayette.

More recently, after the United States received the Philippines as reparations for the Spanish-American War (1898), the U.S. Marines learned, first-hand, why the southern islands, the realm of the fierce Moros, were never conquered by the Spanish. Charged with halting the insurrections of the Jurimentados (fanatical Moslem Moros who had taken an oath to die in battle killing Christians), the marines faced literally unstoppable warriors who so frequently beheaded their enemies that the American government issued thick leather collars to be worn as protection, hence the nickname "leathernecks".

It was around this time that Kali's most profound, yet least recognized impact on the western world took place. Boxing was already an established tradition in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. This was the era of John L. Sullivan and western boxing was firmly rooted in the English style, which was characterized by the upright stance and palm-up position of the fists. During the American occupation of the Philippines, sailors and marines witnessed a centuries-old unarmed sub-art of Kali called Panantukan, a sophisticated, rapid-fire striking art utilizing the open hand, forearm and elbow. Most intriguing to the Americans, though, was its use of the closed fist. Derived from Daga y daga- a double knife-fighting method- Panantukan training was done with teh fists bound in Manila rope, turning them into equally formidable wapons, to say the least. Immediately recognizing this ancient method as being far superior to traditional western boxing, the Americans offered the Filipinos boxing gloves in trade for instruction. This exchange changed the history of boxing forever, and nearly destroyed the art of Panantukan in the process. Today, Kali is practiced (in a highly-diluted form of Panantukan) in every boxing ring in the world.
The claims on the history of the term, "leatherneck", I've never been able to substantiate, as it's told in this account. The boxing influence, although also not found in any western books that I'm aware of, I am sure is rooted in factual history. Much of the knowledge and evolutionary history, in terms of specifics, have been lost, through the passage of time, unwritten and unrecorded. Dan Inosanto is a walking national treasure of information on the seldom-known history, having personally met and known some of the history-makers, who passed their knowledge onto Dan (including the jigsaw history).

The problem of scholarly accuracy is compounded by the many Filipino martial arts that have added their own spin to legend and lore, over time.

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Blogger Gayle said...

That's a very interesting read, Wordmsith. I'm very sleepy and was on my way to take a nap when I decided to visit you first. I managed to read this entire post without falling alseep, proving that it's interesting! :)

I watched a program yesterday on the History channel showing the different defenses and attacks the Marines use, which was quite fascinating. I can't remember what they called it, "Mac" something, or something "Mac", but it seemed to be quite effective. It made me very glad I will never have Marines attacking me.

Have a great weekend.

Saturday, September 22, 2007 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

There are differing opinions from different quarters about the term "Leatherneck" Word, Some believe it started with the uniform the pilots wore in WWI and WWII. I tend to believe the story about fighting the Morro warriors though. Another famous US Military icon was developed from the lessons learned from fighting Morro warriors. It was the venerable Pistol 45 calibre model of 1911. The US military found that the 38 calibre revolvers they were using did not stop the forward momentum of the charge by the Morro warriors. That's why I believe the leatherneck story because it is consistent with being an improvisation as Marines are taught to "improvise and overcome".

The US military asked John Moses Browning and others design a pistol that could do the job of stopping a such a powerful forward charge. John Browning came up with the design and along with another famous American, Colonel John T Thompson (Thompson sub machine gun fame) they together tested and developed the 45 ACP (automatic colt pistol). They tested the effectiveness of the cartridge in the Chicago stockyards.

The whole idea of martial arts I believe; is to defeat your opponent using your brain and not just your brute strength. There have been many warrior societies in the history of the world but the successful ones teach discipline and understanding your own physical limitations and using your brainpower to anticipate and counter the next move of your opponent before they are able execute that move. This is a microcosm of the principles of successful warfare in general.

A fit mind, fit body and a disciplined regimen for applying effective techniques is also quite handy.

Saturday, September 22, 2007 1:00:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


Your knowledge of history never ceases to astound me!

Yes, I'm aware of the upgrade from the 38 to the 45 calibre, as related to the moros. But not in the amount of details you provided regarding the designers.

I believe that any use of force is indeed a failure of diplomacy; and like Sun Tzu, war and the use of violence should remain a last resort- but definitely an option that is never taken off the table.

Kali, traditionally, is taught weapons first since it is a warfare art. The weapons educates the empty-hand techniques, and you only resorted to unarmed combat if you happened to be disarmed of your weapons.

The whole idea of martial arts I believe; is to defeat your opponent using your brain and not just your brute strength.

This is what allows a smaller army to defeat a larger army. A smaller person to defeat a larger opponent. Superior tactics, strategy, training, planning.


Hope you got your rest. I think I might go in for a nap right now, myself.

Have you guys heard of Robert Kaplan's new book? Jennifer, I think it's right up your alley. Hugh Hewitt did an interview with him the other day. Excellent, excellent! I'd be happy to link you up.

Saturday, September 22, 2007 5:35:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Um...but what about the animaniacs cartoon? No comment on that?

Saturday, September 22, 2007 5:54:00 PM  
Blogger MonicaR said...

I LOVED the Animaniacs cartoon!! lol. Troll is watching Dr. Who in the other room and heard me playing the cartoon - he knew exactly what it was. He and the girls loved Animaniacs but we haven't seen them recently - maybe because we're late sleepers?

Fascinating post, Wordsmith. Thank you and thanks to JG, too. Absolutely fascinating.

Saturday, September 22, 2007 8:21:00 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

I spent about a half hour watching some episodes of the animaniacs on You Tube. It is quite a clever cartoon series that I never heard of before you posted them Word. They kind of remind of the adult like humor of the original bugs bunny wrapped up in a children's cartoon character.

I'll check out your suggestion of Robert Kaplan's book shortly.

Saturday, September 22, 2007 8:55:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


I can't remember how I discovered Animaniacs; I just know that I ended up with a cd of their songs; might have still been in college. Never really caught them on tv, though.


Here is a link to Hugh Hewitt and his interview with Robert Kaplan. It's a great read/listen, in and of itself.

Sunday, September 23, 2007 4:52:00 AM  
Blogger Mike's America said...

Off Topic:

Wordsmith: Did you ever cover "Strippers for Ron Paul?"

Now that I'm seaside again, I want to spear some more Paulbots!

Sunday, September 23, 2007 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


Robert Kaplan's book skewers the Ron Paul notion that America's foreign policy of "interventionism" is bad for the world and bad for America.

I just bought the book today.

Sunday, September 23, 2007 1:19:00 PM  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Wordsmith: a fascinating read, me being completely ignorant of the origin of the Marine term. Today was a bit of an overall history lesson for me, and very interesting!


Sunday, September 23, 2007 2:15:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


Please take it with a grain of salt. Like I said, I've never really been able to substantiate it, and have heard and read other "official" explanations put forth and reasons given.

Sunday, September 23, 2007 3:11:00 PM  
Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...

Well this was an interesting read.

My boys took Tang-Su-Do (I think I'm spelling that correctly) and my oldest got in trouble by his teacher for using martial arts in school to whoop some other kid behind, that ended that for him but he has never forgotten most of the moves.

My second boy (The one that was in the Army) found it quite handy in combat training and when we first entered Iraq when he had to take down a couple of Iraqi's that werent where they were suppose to be (Behind the Iraq/Kuwati perimiter, way back behind the first sand birms, which there are 10 entering Kuwait) he took them down, called the Kuwaiti Police and they just escorted them back across the border lol, which he could have done but wasnt allowed to.

And my daughter took some Karati in her church a CHURCH lol, she remembers NOTHING about all the moves but my boys still find them handy.

My boy that was in the Army can still grab you and he will have a hold on your neck bending you backward and your neck forward to where you cant breathe within seconds of grabbing you. He says he could snap it if he had to but just playing with mom I guess he decided he better not or mom woudnt be there anymore lol.

Martial Arts are fascinating to me. And they come in quite handy for Military Personel.

You would be a deadly weapon Word!

Sunday, September 23, 2007 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...

Oh I forgot,

I was going to write you about this but what the heck,

My son that was in the Army says he thinks he knows why the Iraqi's are taking so long to get thier government established, all the Muslims get down and pray 5 times a day no matter what the heck is going on, he says there could be bombs, gunfire, who knows what, but they will get down there and pray 5 times a day regaurdless lol.

I never thought about that as a hold up, but it makes alot of sense to me now lol.

Sunday, September 23, 2007 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


That reminds me of all the Jewish families around here. They have so many damned religious holidays...

The kids at my gym are always disappearing...

And then there are the ones who can't come due to Hebrew studies and practice for their bat mitzvah.

I have a Christian friend who can never make it to an adult gymnastics class I teach sunday mornings, because of church. I keep telling her that she'd best serve God if she stayed in shape and that God would probably rather her work out.

She doesn't believe me.

One of my teachers also received training in the basement of a church, like your daughter. One of his early kali teachers was some old Filipino guy who held informal classes there.

Monday, September 24, 2007 12:01:00 AM  

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