Tunes for Tuesday: Amazing Young Musicians

Rock and Roll! I loved it as a kid. Still do. The other day a young female guitarist showed up on my YouTube feed. Not sure why, except that I sometime listen to “guitar centric” classic rock on YouTube.

I like to take what I call that … “guitar ride.”

Anyway, I was blown away.

Wow!

A lot of the music kids listen to today is lost on me. I guess it is the absence of a rocking guitar lead! And here was this young Japanese girl rockin’ out to the kind of music I grew up on and still love to listen to!

I started looking around and came up with some pretty amazing videos of kids keeping rock and roll alive. I just had to share some of them here! As a teenager, Led Zeppelin was by far my favorite.

Check out this cover by three young rockers Sina, Alyona Yarushina, and Andrei Cerbu!

John Henry Bonham would be proud!

I thought the drummer was really great (actually, all three of them really are) and then I discovered this drummer, Sina, has her own YouTube channel and has become quite a sensation.

If she’d just add a little Cow Bell here and there! LOL!

Anyway, check out this Boston cover!

Okay, I just had to do one more Zeppelin tune by this trio. Check out this same trio doing Whole Lotta Love!

I looked around a little more and found this young lady, Tina. This girl can shred and has quite a library displaying her talent on her own YouTube channel. Metal, Classic Rock, Classical, you name it!

I chose this one because this was always one of my guitar favorite solos ever!

I noticed girls seem to be leading the pack in keeping rack and roll alive! Where are the guys? I am assuming they are out there to. Maybe just not as prevalent on YouTube or I am not using the right search terms?

I did find one kid who is really amazing. This one is for my good friends in East Tennessee!

And how about WJM, a power-trio of three amazing kids performing at halftime at a Stanford game! I understand this group performed at some kind of UN function and repeated that performance at this Stanford game.

It does my heart good to know that the rock of my generation still has an audience and a group of talented young musicians to carry it into the future! It adds credence to that old line, Rock and Roll will never die!

Hope you enjoyed some of these videos!

AND KEEP ON ROCKIN IN THE FREE WORLD!

WTF! — Zita’s Legacy

I found this great post on a blog called Zita’s Legacy.

It is about a call she got from the school principal because she allowed her daughter to walk home from school … which, by the way, is right across the street.

Anyway, her post got me thinking …

I don’t know how earlier generations ever survived. I personally walked to school for many years … all through elementary and middle school … winter, summer, rain, snow, or sunshine (No, it was not uphill both ways, and I did have shoes). But yes, I did drink water from a hose, ride my bike without a helmet, come home when the street lights came on, played Cops and Robbers, and Cowboys and Indians. I fought my battles with neighborhood bullies, and somehow, someway, I managed to survive.

If in today’s America, a child is not even allowed to walk home from school by themselves, even when that school is right across the street … then we are doomed to extinction! If we are raising a generation that cannot cross the street by themselves, how, as adults, will they be able to make intelligent decisions, survive any kind of challenge, protect their families, or fight off terrorists who wish to destroy our country?

It is a far cry from ideas such as …

Fall down seven times, get up eight.

Japanese Proverb

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.

Michael J Fox

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.

Earnest Hemingway

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Psalm 28:7

Nothing is more beautiful than the smile that has struggled through the tears.

Demi Lovato

Anyway, that’s enough philosophical waxing! If you’d like to read Zita’s post, click below.

I get a phone call from my daughters school on Monday, it was the principle, he had left a message for me. “I know that we talked about this last year, your daughter Skylar walking home by herself. We just think that she is to young to be walking home alone by herself. We want […]

WTF! — Zita’s Legacy

I think we have already raised far too many snowflakes! I am interested in knowing what you think …

A Highly Emotional Page-turner!

PROMISES TO THE FALLEN

A Vietnam War Novel by Glyn Haynie

Promises to the Fallen

In the jungles of Vietnam, innocence is the first casualty of war…

Nineteen-year-old Eddie Henderson is a private in the U.S. Army. His parents are deceased, and he has no one in his life except his platoon brothers—Porter, Rocky, and Professor. His fellow soldiers are his family now. But none share a bond as close as he and his best friend, team leader Mitch Drexler.

In the heat and jungles of Vietnam, each man does the best he can to survive. Battles are fought, friends lost, and promises made to the fallen. But when the enemy fatally wounds a platoon brother in a deadly attack, the dying soldier makes Eddie promise to fulfill a final vow… A debt of blood that could change the course of his life forever.

When Eddie and his friends’ tours are over, they return home to a world they barely remember. But Eddie is still trapped in the past. He has no family, no home to go back to. Just a nightmare he lives over and over again. A dark vow he made to a dying friend. And one question, burning in his mind…

Will he keep his promise to his friend? No matter the cost?

My thoughts …

While I served in the U.S. Army several years after the war in Vietnam ended (from 79 to 83), I have always been fascinated by the Vietnam War. I certainly saw enough on the news to be curious about what it must have been like, and this has led me to read a great deal on the subject. Add to this the fact that, later in life, I had a few good friends who were Vietnam veterans, and who would occasionally share snippets of their experiences during the war, which only served to increase my desire to try and understand the background and circumstances.

I have read all four of Glyn Haynie’s books. Each one has been excellent and a real pleasure to read. While the first three were memoirs, Promises to the Fallen was Haynie’s first foray into the world of fiction. It did not disappoint.

This novel is an incredible read! Haynie puts you right in the middle of the Vietnamese jungles, the smells, the mud, the villages, the people, and their rice paddies. It is almost like you are there, and with those young men who find themselves in another world, an insane world full of danger, death, fear, courage, loyalty, and sacrifice. It is also a world of hope and hopelessness, where you can’t tell your enemies from your friends, and you anxiously count the days, hoping you survive until you get to go home.

The author draws on his own experiences in Vietnam and in close infantry combat to make this book one heck of a page-turner. And, for those of us who have served in the U.S. military, whether it was during the Vietnam War, other conflicts, or even during peacetime, Haynie’s narrative will bring to mind memories and experiences of your time in the service of your country.

To those who haven’t served, this novel may help you to understand why those who serve in the military are the way they are … their pride in their service, this country, and its flag. And yes, even its problems and shortcomings.

The bond of brotherhood that exists between those who have served together is a real bond that stands the test of time. When you cut through all the hyperbole, it is really about the man (or woman) in the foxhole next to you. While politicians, the media, and Hollywood love to talk about defending our country, baseball, apple pie, etc., it is really about defending your buddy while he or she defends you.

I found Promises to the Fallen extremely difficult to put down. It took me through a broad range of emotional responses as it laid bare the authentic, unadulterated experience of the American soldier in Vietnam; the good, the bad, and even the ugly. I highly recommend this book to all.

Now, on to Leora’s Letters by Joy Neal Kidney, another book I have been anxious to read! What great books have you read this winter?

Hooked on Phonics? You should be …

Why aren’t kids being taught to read?

According to a fascinating article published on September 10, 2018, by Emily Hanford with APMReports, scientific research has shown us how kids learn to read and the best way to teach them to do so. Unfortunately, many educators either don’t know the science or, in some cases, actively resist it. As a result, millions of children are being set up to fail. You should realize that these are our children and grandchildren.

Trouble for the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Public School System

In 2015, Jack Silva, the chief academic officer for the public schools in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, identified a real problem in his school system: Only 56 percent of third-graders in his district received proficient scores on the state reading test.

However, this “problem” is not exclusively found in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In fact, it is quite widespread!

phonics

Educators have long blamed America’s poor reading performance on poverty. And truthfully, there is plenty of poverty in Bethlehem. Once a booming steel town, Bethlehem now struggles to survive.

But there are wealthy homes in Bethlehem as well. And Silva discovered that many kids at the more affluent schools weren’t reading very well either. The problem cannot be attributed to poverty. By many estimates, one-third of America’s struggling readers are from college-educated families.

Scientists know the cause …

Educators assume that learning to read is a natural process, much like learning to talk. We are born wired to talk. Children learn to talk be being talked to and being surrounded by spoken language. But scientific research has revealed that reading doesn’t come naturally. The human brain isn’t wired to read.

The human brain must be explicitly taught how to connect sounds with letters. According to scientists, reading is not wired into our minds like talking is. This is because human beings didn’t develop written language until about a few thousand years ago. That is relatively recent in evolutionary terms.

To read, structures in our brain that were designed for things such as object recognition must be rewired just a bit. That process is known as phonics.

We never looked at brain research. We had never, ever looked at it. Never.

Jodi Frankelli, Supervisor of Early Learning

In this case, this science is solid and accepted.

According to Emily’s article, there are literally thousands of studies that prove this. And in fact, this is the most studied areas in human learning. Unfortunately, too many teachers nationwide are not being taught reading science in their teacher preparation programs because the faculty in colleges of education either don’t know the science or dismiss it. As a result of their intransigence, millions of kids have been set up to fail.

According to a 2016 article in the Journal of Childhood and Developmental Disorders, contributing to this problem is the fact that, at the university level, faculty in many schools of education have ignored the scientific knowledge that informs reading acquisition.” As a result, new teachers educated at these institutions often fail to receive the necessary training.

There is hope!

The Bethlehem school system instituted a curriculum in early elementary grades that mix teacher-directed whole-class phonics lessons with small-group activities. The program is designed to meet the needs of children at different points in the process of learning to read. The results have been phenomenal.

phonics

But parents must step up …

There has long been a trend in our public school system to dumb down the education our children get. It started in the sixties when I was in school. Fortunately for me, it was just getting started. I learned phonics and diagramming sentences, multiplication tables, etc.

Another failure is the Common Core standard. We have just graduated the first class to come up within the Common Core curriculum, and, according to studies, this class is the least prepared to enter college than any in our history. But … that is another topic altogether.

Parents must take a stand and demand that real, proven education practices be used in our school system. Jumping on every half-baked new teaching scheme that comes down the educational pike is essentially an experiment that will affect your child’s future. And, so far, their record is pretty abysmal.

I worked in college admissions for many years. I remember a time when I was talking to a mother who was writing her daughter’s personal essay.

If this woman’s daughter could not write a 500-word essay on why she wanted to attend the University of Tennessee, how could she ever hope to complete her studies?

Emil Hanford’s article goes into a lot more detail, citing other studies and materials. If you have children in school or if you care about the state of public education in this country, you should read this article. You can read the complete article here. There is also an audio file if you prefer to listen to it.

What a Rush! Tunes for Tuesday … except on Friday!

We’ve taken care of everything
The words you read
The songs you sing
The pictures that give pleasure to your eyes

Rush Overture

I have always been a fan of power trios. There have been several great ones over the years: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, ZZ Top, Grand Funk Railroad (later became a quartet), The Police, Mountain (what about that Mississippi Queen), Stray Cats, Thin Lizzy (until 1974), and others.

And then there is RUSH! How the hell do three musicians put out so much awesome sound! And by the way … what the hell is Art Rock?

Rush

First Encounter

I still remember the first time I heard 2112. I out cruising with a high school friend in his Camaro. It had a Craig PowerPlay hooked up to Jensen Triaxle Speakers and would rattle the windows. The cassette in the player started to play, and I’d never heard anything like that before.

“Who the hell is this?”
“Some Canadian rock band called Rush.”
“Damn, that’s good.”
“The singer has a weird voice.
“Yes. But listen to the drummer.”

The singer, Geddy Lee, did have a strange voice, but it grows on you. Alex Lifeson is certainly no slouch on guitar. In fact, he is pretty freaking awesome.

And Neil Peart … well, he was probably the best rock drummer to ever tread the planet. I ended up seeing Rush in concert three times. Each experience was excellent. But there was nothing like that initial art-rock extravagance … 2112!

So what the hell is art rock?

According to Wikipedia, Art rock is a sub-genre of rock music that generally reflects a challenging or avant-garde approach to rock, or which makes use of modernist, experimental, or unconventional elements. Influences may be drawn from genres such as experimental rock, avant-garde music, classical music, and jazz.

Art rock artists include such bands as Pink Floyd, Yes, The Moody Blues, Electric Light Orchestra, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I enjoyed the music many of these artists put out, notably Pink Floyd and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. But Rush was unique … different! Maybe it was Geddy Lee’s voice!

Or just maybe it was Neil Peart on those drums …

Here is the professor performing in Frankfort, Germany in 2013. By the way it is also important to mention that Neil Peart also wrote many of the lyrics for Rush’s songs.

Unfortunately, even legends can’t live forever.

On January 7, 2020, Neil Peart died at the age of 67 after a battle with brain cancer. The world was stunned. Canada lost a national treasure, and Rock and Roll lost its premier drummer.

All I can say is, thank you for your gift to the world of rock music. Great musicians, wonderful music, and a very cool part of my younger years. And, yes, I still sometimes listen to Rush on my iPhone!

Karate-do: Body Mechanics

The body moves powerfully in a finite number of ways

Muscles can only contract or relax back to their non-contracted state. For example, the biceps and triceps work in conjunction to bend and straighten your elbow. That is all they do.

Though human bodies come in all sizes, we are all built the same. We all have two elbows and the corresponding team of controlling muscles. While some may have stronger muscles than others, these two muscles still simply bend and straighten the elbow.

karate-do

Understanding body mechanics means understanding how the human body was naturally designed to move and moving in a way that keeps it stable and balanced, utilizing its natural strengths to generate power, while at the same time protecting its inherent vulnerabilities.

Karate techniques seek to utilize these natural strengths while taking advantage of those inherent weaknesses in our attacker.

Principles of body mechanics include

  • Center of Gravity
  • Line of Gravity
  • Strong Foundation
  • Body Alignment
  • Balance
  • Coordinated Movement

The proper adherence to each of these principles should be part of every karate technique you execute. And this is not specific to karate. Every “legitimate” martial art in the world adheres to these principles. That is why most traditional martial arts share the same powerful movements. They may just apply them differently. Often, to the casual observer, this makes them look like different techniques.

Body mechanics in karate technique

The proper execution of a karate technique should result in two things.

  • The attacker should find himself off-balance, in a weakened position, and unable to defend against the strike should its delivery become necessary.
  • The defender should be in a strong and balanced position, safe, and with several options available for proceeding to the next level if it becomes necessary.

This is much like a defensive shooting scenario!

It’s just a bit off the subject, but it illustrates the point.

We have all heard the phrase “never take your gun out of your holster unless you are going to shoot someone.” Sounds cool, I know. But it’s essentially macho-cowboy bullshit.

Any trained shooter will tell you that there are two separate decisions involved in the use of a gun for self-defense. The first is to pull your gun from its holster. The second is to actually pull the trigger.

If you pull your gun on an attacker, and the attacker ends the attack and leaves, you have protected yourself without ever pulling the trigger. If the attacker ends the attack and you shoot them anyway, you probably are going to be tried for murder.

If however, you pull your gun on an attacker and the attacker continues the assault, you might now make the second decision to pull the trigger.

Back to body mechanics

Oh crap!

Look at this picture. What do you see? That is me about to be in some serious hurt. And yes, I was the attacker for the purpose of demonstration, and threw a punch.

I am off-balance and leaning back, my entire abdominal area is extremely vulnerable, and I have no viable weapons with which to defend myself.

Sensei John Kerker is essentially in what a karate practitioner might can a mid-level block position … balanced, stable, safe, and with several options to proceed should I try to continue the fight. For example:

  • Draw his left fist back striking my liver or floating rib.
  • Punch across with his right into my liver.
  • Take my rear supporting leg and drop me to the floor.
  • Punch down with his right into my quadriceps.

Or any combination of the above, and these are just the more obvious options. There are many, many more.

Some rules for beginning to understand body mechanics …

  1. All movements in karate should be natural, meaning they should not ask your muscles to do things they were not designed to do.
  2. Maintain good posture … even in karate.
  3. Economy of motion. The tendency is to make movements too big.
  4. Keep your center of gravity between your feet. Do not overextend.
  5. Never cross your own center.
  6. Never take your elbows above your shoulders.
  7. Never completely lock a joint.
  8. Most karate techniques mimic movements you make naturally every day. If something feels off, it probably is.
karate-do

Next post! Karate Basics

Karate-do: Classical vs. Sport

There are real differences between what I call “classical karate” and sport karate. Before you sign up, just be sure you understand what you are signing up for.

karate-do
Tatsuo Shimabuku / Makiwara

The intent here is not to disparage either version. I am only saying they are different, and you want to be sure the instructor will be teaching you what you are paying to learn.

Understand too, that I am focusing on karate. It is what I know. There are other martial arts such as Aikido, Jujitsu, and Kung Fu, each which may have a different focus in doctrine and technique. And, I have dabbled in Aikido, Tai Chi, Arnis, and Escrima over the years … really just enough to get me in trouble. But, also enough to understand that all these systems or styles often offer the prospective student the same choice … the classical approach or the sport approach.

Some would argue there is a third approach, one of seeking self -improvement. To me, that is simply an integral part of the classical approach, and unfortunately, these days is too often missing on the sport side of things.

In addition, the martial arts industry is very much a “buyer beware” industry.

Why the term “classical karate?”

I use the term “classical karate” in an effort to distinguish it separately because, from what I have seen, the term “traditional karate” has been kidnapped by suspect karate schools who have finally figured out adults aren’t buying what they are selling.

Often times, these are daycare centers masquerading is karate schools because they have learned that it pays much better. Schools like this typically have huge kids classes, but a noticeable lack of adult students.

This is because most adults are not stupid, and after a week or two, can figure out what they are being taught is nonsense. However, the unsuspecting parent who just wants a healthy activity for their children and doesn’t actually participate may never uncover the truth, and some may not even care.

Some of these instructors, in an effort to lure adults back, have gone back to white gis and greatly exaggerated displays of “traditional” behavior.

Just understand that seeing the students all running around in white gis and screaming “Ossss” all the time, does not mean it is a good karate dojo.

But, I digress …

Back to Classical vs Sport Karate

Classical karate is the original karate with a history that is over two thousand years old. It is a uniquely Okinawan art that was influenced by Chinese martial arts. Since Okinawa traded with China, Chinese officials would often teach their art to members of the Okinawan ruling and business classes.

The myth that karate was some kind of a peasant’s fight art is just that, a myth. Karate was taught to the eldest sons of upper class Okinawan families who often served as the palace guard to Okinawan kings. There were rare exceptions.

karate-do
Sensei Harrill demonstrates a technique

For example, Motobu Choki was the third son of Lord Motobu Chōshin, and as such, was not entitled to learn the family style of Te (an earlier name for karate). However, Motobu Choki was fascinated by the art and from an early age, began training on his own. He eventually was able to train with such karate legends as Matsumura Sōkon, Ankō Itosu, Sakuma Pechin and Kōsaku Matsumora. Motobu Choki was a strong advocate of proper makiwara training in karate. He was also one of the three notable karate masters Tatsuo Shimabuku, the founder of Isshin-ryu karate, studied under.

In those days, karate was a fighting art, a system of personal combat that was very much founded in scientific principles such as the laws of physics, a keen understanding of body mechanics, and the strengths and weaknesses of the human body.

Old-style Sport Karate

Sport karate primarily evolved as U.S. Marines were stationed on Okinawa and began seeking instruction from local Okinawan instructors. Due to the competitive nature of U.S. marines, they wanted a way to try out what they were learning on each other. To facilitate this, instructors like Tatsuo Shimabuku put their Marine students into what was essentially kendo armor, and let them go about bashing each other.

Voilà … you now have sport karate!

It is important to consider that the average tour for a Marine on Okinawa was a year to eighteen months. That is barely enough time to achieve a thorough understanding of the basics of karate, much less explore real application of kata techniques or advanced principles. Everything was rushed and there was little depth to the training because of time constraints and the fact that Marines spoke little Okinawan and the Okinawans spoke little English.

Modern Sport Karate

While the Marines certainly learned the kata of the system they studied, there was simply not enough time to explore what was in them. And, they probably preferred sparring with each other much more anyway.

Many of these Marines later returned to the U.S., opened karate schools, and taught what they knew and loved. Basic punching and kicking skills, with an emphasis on bashing each other in the ring.

That’s gonna hurt!

But to say that this is the sum total of karate is simply untrue. Fortunately for us, some Marines, such as AJ Advincula, went back for more, and others like Sherman Harrill followed the Kenpo Gokui (topic of a future post) and just kept working.

However for now, as a means to illustrate some of the basic differences between Classical and Sport Karate, I will list a few of the more obvious ones here.

Classical Karate

  • Emphasis on mastery of basics and exploring the application of techniques from kata.
  • All kicks are executed at or below belt level.
  • Strikes executed with many weapons including fists, forearms, elbows, specific knuckles. knees, heels, toes … etc.
  • Goal is to not lose the fight.
  • Because of the “no rules” nature of combat and the risk of injury during training, as well as the need for continued training partners, courtesy, control, humility, and respect for life become an integral part of training.
  • Most of the techniques practiced would get you disqualified in the ring.

Sport Karate

  • Emphasis on conditioning and developing good sport appropriate techniques.
  • All kicks must be above the belt. (Certain traditional tournaments allow limited groin kicks.)
  • Strikes executed with padded fists and feet.
  • Goal is to accumulate points to win the match.
  • Training is much like training for any sport such as boxing with a focus on developing techniques allowed under the rules of the game.
  • While these techniques can be effective in the street, you can’t train one way and fight another.

One of the fundamental building blocks of classical karate is an understanding of body mechanics. This understanding should begin to grow on your first day at the dojo. Therefore, it will be the topic covered in the next post.

Isshin-ryu Karate

For other posts on this topic, click here!