As my old pal, Yosemite Sam, would say, “Great Horny Toads!”
Not only did Serpents Underfoot get a great review from Literary Titan, it also earned the Gold Book Award for May 2021! How about that! I was not expecting that and I am honored by the award.
And also, a bit humbled. It sets the bar even higher for the third book in this series, titled Reciprocity. But, I am hard at work, making sure that each book I publish is just a little bit better than the previous book. I am not sure I will always achieve that goal, but I can promise my readers that I will always try.
History is often where you find it, sometimes even in old rocking chairs!
The story of this rocking chair essentially begins with the Barringer family for whom Barringer Road in Ilion, NY is named. The Barringers were one of Ilion’s wealthier families and lived in a mansion in the village of Ilion. They also owned a dairy farm out on Barringer Road. I assume the road was named Barringer Road because of the farm. However, the Barringers were not farmers, so they hired a family to live on the farm and work it. My great grandparents, Irving and Kathryn Klippel, worked that farm for years.
In fact, during the depression, my great-grandfather, Irving Klippel, would save the butter milk left over from the process of making butter, and try to deliver it for free to poorer families in Ilion with young children. While some would thankfully accept it, others would not. Since it was essentially a by-product and was often fed to pigs, many were scared to give it to their children, which was too bad.
My grandfather, Erwin Klippel and his brother, Wagner, helped work the farm for many years. After my grandfather married Eileen Gardinier, they moved into a tiny house farther down Barringer Rd, and he eventually went to work for Remington Arms because he wanted a more steady paycheck to support his family than working the farm provided.
My great grandmother, Kathryn Klippel, received several pieces of furniture from the Barringers including a very nice hand-carved oak bed and dresser which my brother, Dan, has in a guest bedroom to this day (The few times I have slept in it over the years, I had to sleep diagonally across it, because, back in the day, people were a lot shorter. Another piece of furniture given to Kathryn Klippel by the Barringers was this old Queen Anne rocking chair.
A historic home
The house my Grandparents moved into on Barringer Rd was built in the 1700s, and survived the Revolutionary War. It was tiny but we still had many great family gatherings there for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We all got quite adept at maneuvering through tight, crowded areas. I remember fighting for a spot on the couch to watch football games with my grandfather. This was when I became a Vikings fan … it was the Fran Tarkington era!
This is a relatively current picture of the house, but it hasn’t changed much. My Grandfather and his brother, Great Uncle Wagner, rebuilt the stone fireplace with stones they hauled back from the Ilion Gorge. And back then, most of the houses currently found on Barringer Rd were not there. When my mother was a little girl and growing up there, it was surrounded by woods, fields, and a pond they would skate on on the winter when it froze over. When I came along and got old enough, we used to ride snowmobiles in the fields behind the house.
You can’t tell because of the tree, but the only real difference in the house today, is that there was once an old wooden “fan” pattern decoration over the front door that also dated back to the American Revolution. It was taken down by the family who purchased this house from my grandparents. I am sure by then it was pretty-well rotted and needed to come down. It is still a bit sad.
The Old Rocker
My mother always told me that my Aunt Carol once rocked me to sleep in this rocker when I was a baby. I guess Aunt Carol would have been in her teens at the time.
Years later, I held my very first baby in my arms, sitting in that very same rocking chair. I was maybe 10-or-12-years old at the time, and the baby was Aunt Carol’s daughter; my cousin Kristine.
This picture was taken in my grandparents house on Barringer Rd. I still remember the old rocking chair with this fabric. Over the years, it has been reupholstered a few times. I seem to remember a blue and gold pattern, maybe a red velvet, and the floral print it currently has.
The foot stool doesn’t match the rocking chair. I vaguely remember a foot stool that did go with the rocking chair, but I have no idea what became of it. The foot stool that is currently used with the rocking chair was made by my great Grandfather Gilbert, my father’s grandfather. But, that is a story for another day.
So, here you go, Joy. Just for you. One more picture of the rocking chair. And this time, I am smiling!
I read once that a karate kata could be called a dance of death
Now, I am not talking about some of the highly sensational “stuff” that has come out over the years. There are many books out there by such prolific “martial arts” writers as Ashida Kim talking about Count Dante and others, claiming that The Dance of Death is the most deadly collection of “poison hand” techniques known to man. There are also several “martial arts” genre movies that have been released using versions of the phrase “Dance of Death” in their titles. All I am going to say about that martial arts “pulp fiction” is, buyer beware.
But in general, I think you could consider a kata to be a form of dance. It is a series of movements combining concepts such footwork and stances, proper posture, presence, balance, flow, relaxation, dynamic tension, etc. They have a certain rhythm which can vary as skill grows or even depending on what the practitioner is thinking technique-wise. And, you could easily receive a description such as this from a karate instructor – or a ballroom dance instructor.
Ballroom Dancing and Karate-do
Ballroom dance and karate both require years of practice to achieve real skill. Both require the study of and understanding of body mechanics, timing, breathing, distance, technique, and posture.
Both require a great deal of time spent practicing basic techniques, simple patterns, and advanced choreographed movements, the mastery of which later allows the skilled practitioner to forget the patterns and to allow his own expression of technique or dance to flow.
The similarities do not end there!
For both karate and ballroom dancing, a good instructor can make all the difference in the world. I first started out learning basic steps from instructors that were essentially a few lessons ahead of me. Having studied karate with a few excellent instructors, I soon became bored with this level of teaching. I wanted more.
Then I met Mark and Rhonda Becker at Champion Ballroom in Knoxville. This husband and wife team are both great instructors. They did not teach steps – they taught you the art of ballroom dancing.
That was when the similarities between karate-do and ballroom dancing began to really show.
So, are karate kata really a dance of death?
Well, if you consider that a traditional karate kata has so much in common with a dance, and then take into consideration what a kata contains, I would say the answer is – yes.
What is a kata? It essentially is a collection of effective and proven combat techniques distilled down to their purest form. Like a dance, they require balance, breath control, timing, focus, proper body mechanics, and flow.
They also require understanding. Many of the techniques, while they certainly can be modified, if executed to their fullest potential, have disastrous effects on the human body. Many can, indeed, be fatal.
So, from that perspective, I guess they could be called, “The Dance of Death.” But they are so much more than that.
Preforming kata is a great form of exercise. And depending on how you work them, you can achieve a great variety of results. You can blast through them as a good cardio workout, or you can perform them slowly to work on balance and strength. You can work on timing your breathing to techniques or utilize dynamic tension. Then kata can become moving meditation and help you improve your focus, or relax and reduce stress.
Working on kata will improve your ballroom dancing – and working on ballroom dancing will improve your kata.
It’s almost like a Yin Yang relationship, isn’t it?
Check out my books on my Amazon Author’s Page …
There are several to choose from, all with great reviews.
Below are the three new covers under consideration for my novel, Serpents Underfoot. I am always interested in what readers, supporters, and fans have to say about my work. It helps me improve as an author and keeps me motivated to work hard and keep my readers happy!
The question I am asking is not so much … which one do you like. It is more … which one piques your interest more or which one are you more inclined to buy?
Cover Design 1: This layout features a Navy SEAL at the top, balanced by the Vietnamese woman and Ajax below. The cover is filled with a subtle snakeskin texture.
Cover Design 2: This layout is a more traditional novel approach, with a large condensed title. The background is a subtle American flag.
Cover Design 3: This layout features JD Cordell and Ajax standing in front of the White House. There is a subtle snakeskin texture over the whole cover.
Okay, you’ve seen the covers! So, what do you think?
I am hard at work on the third installment in the JD Cordell Action series, called Reciprocity, which will take on human trafficking. And in this story, some of the action occurs in the Philippine Islands. While still in the development stages, JD Cordell will travel to the Philippines, where he and a few associates will mete out some well-deserved justice to a gangland cartel trafficking girls between Asia, Mexico, and the US. But enough of that, I don’t want to give too much away.
My new Filipino fan base …
The interesting thing is that I just received a 5-Star review for Montagnard from a writer, blogger, and editor, based, you guessed it … in the Philippines. I think that is pretty cool!
Herzie Santos, a.k.a. SheySaints, has a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and has worked for Coca Cola Bottlers, Goldprint Publishing House, AXA Financial, and Sutherland Global Services. Her professional experiences in several different work industries have provided her with a great deal of expertise, including professional writing skills. She has written and published poems, short stories, book and movie reviews, essays, and several articles. She’s also a content writer, book reviewer, proofreader, and fiction writer.
Here are a few comments from her review …
I miss stories like this. It gives me this unexplainable nostalgic feeling. I rarely read anything like this anymore and I’m glad I stumbled upon this great book.
It was a well-written action-packed thriller … I highly recommend this book to readers who love heroic military and dog stories.
It makes me smile! I may not yet be a renowned author, but I am definitely international. Montagnard has been read and/or reviewed in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, India, and now … the Philippines!
Click the button below to order your copy of this award-wing action-thriller.
According to Ret. U.S.M.C. MSgt. Arcenio J Advincula, the Flesheater is the ultimate combat fighting knife, a masterful blend of design and craftsmanship that is a cut above, straight, and to the point. Jim Hammond, a world-class custom knifemaker, worked with AJ Advincula to develop this unique bladed weapon.
I first encountered the Flesheater after attending an Isshin-ryu Karate Seminar given by Sensei Advincula in Raleigh, NC, a few years ago. I have attended several seminars given by Sensei Advincula over the years, and like Sensei Sherman Harrill, he is the real deal.
At the seminar, I met Richard Rosenthal. an Isshin-ryu Karate practitioner like myself, who also trained in Sensei Advincula’s Mano Y Lago Escrima. I began attending Sensei Rosenthal’s escrima classes and thoroughly enjoyed its practicality and compatibility with Isshin-ryu Karate.
The origins of the Flesheater
The Flesheater originated when Master Chief Petty Officer Don Griffiths, who spearheaded the design development research for the SEALTAC™ Series with USN Special Warfare (SEAL) personnel in 1981, asked his martial arts instructor, “What would you look for in a fighting knife, not a combat knife, but a pure fighting knife?”
During a later visit to the shop where the first two prototypes were being developed, Don accidentally experiencing the edge of the first prototype. Griffiths proclaimed, “That knife’s a real flesh-eater!” The name stuck.
The Flesheater design is based primarily upon Largo-Mano Escrima and Isshin-Ryu Karate. Advincula is a first-generation student of the founder of Isshin-Ryu Karate, Tatsuo Shimabuku. He began studying escrima and knife fighting in 1946 at age 8 with two Filipino Scouts and close combat instructors, Pete Rado and Tony Navarro.
The Flesheater’s role in Montagnard.
In Montagnard, Carlos Vivas, a US Navy SEAL and teammate of the main character, JD Cordell, is a skilled practitioner of escrima. In the fictional story, Vivas’ father served with AJ Advincula in the US Marines as a drill instructor and trained in Mano Y Lago Escrima. Carlos, who left Puerto Rico to enlist in the US Navy, carries on the tradition.
As the friendship between Carlos and JD grows, Carlos presents JD with a Jim Hammond-made Flesheater at JD’s retirement party. The knife appears throughout the story and plays a key role in the climatic ending.
For more information about the Flesheater’s design, characteristics, and versatility, click the link or image above to visit Jim Hammond’s website.
My Flesheater – a reliable and valuable companion!
I have to admit, I did have a new custom leather sheath made. I ordered my Flesheater from Columbia River Knife and Tool and found the thermoplastic sheath they included quite impractical for my purposes.
Also, CRKT no longer carries these knives. You have to order them directly from Jim Hammond now. I suspect it is because there are designed specifically for combat and are probably not something the typical outdoor person might carry. It is also not very practical for cleaning your fingernails.
Be sure to check out my books by clicking here! They do get great reviews!
A gripping alternative history by Lee and Vista Boyland
Alternative history is fiction based on the assumption one or more historical events happened differently. For example, what if President Lincoln had not been assassinated, how would Lincoln’s survival have affected America?
Behold, an Ashen Horse is the second novel of a five book (so far) series based upon three alternate historical events: (1) the Soviet Union attempted to copy both of the Atomic Bombs developed by the Manhattan Project; (2) al-Qaeda obtained several atomic devices; and (3) President Bush was not reelected in 2004.
Islamists believe they have to convert the world to Islam ruled by Shariah Law and they will use any weapon available to kill infidels. Now they have used nuclear devices to destroy five U.S. cities. George Alexander, the secretary of Homeland Security is the only surviving senior government official and it is up to him to save the nation. Once again America is blessed by having right man for the job. Alexander forms a working government, pulls the nation together, deals with hostile nations, domestic jihads, unhappy progressive-liberals, and the new Caliphate before seeking retribution from those responsible.
Alexander is statesman president who puts America’s need first. Much of this story is found in today’s news.
After this novel was released in 2007, the authors received several emails in 2008 asking if Donald Trump was President Alexander? We answered maybe. Now readers can answer the question for themselves.
Behold, an Ashen Horse is a frighteningly realistic story of events after a nuclear 9/11.
My thoughts …
This is the second book in a series by this author. I have actually not read the first book, titled Rings of Allah, but I still enjoyed this one immensely. I did read Revolution 2016 by this author and really liked it as well.
In this story, President George Alexander, the Secretary of Homeland Security in the previous installment, must decide how to defend the United States and get the government operational again after a nuclear attack takes out 5 major U.S. cities, the President, his cabinet, and the Congress.
The new president stops apologizing for America and throws political correctness right out the window as he fights to hold the nation together and identify those responsible for the horrific attack. And when he lets loose the dogs of war, the new president puts the entire world on notice.
I was struck by how well the authors blend this narrative into current events and the internal strife currently dividing our nation, making the possibilities this alternative history present hit just a little to close for comfort.
Lee Boyland is a veteran and an accomplished writer with extensive knowledge of military weapons, the armed forces, the structure of the American government. He is quite knowledgeable about Islam. I have read several books on Islam as well as the Koran. While this is clearly an alternative history, you only need to read an honest English language version of the Koran to confirm the plausible reality of Boyland’s narrative.
I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy this kind of fiction.
Last night was another Veteran Referring Veterans Happy Hour hosted by Justin, our peerless leader! I really have been getting a lot from these happy hour discussions. But to be honest, last night, I nearly skipped the session because of the topic. The presentation would be from a veteran-owned CBD company, and I simply was not a fan of what I considered the whole CBD fad.
But finally deciding not to skip the happy hour, I grabbed a cold one and joined the Zoom session. And now, I have to man-up and admit I was wrong in my initial judgment. This became a prime example of why “keeping an open mind” can be such a great concept.
About CBD Path
CBD Path is a company founded by Mike and Claudia Donnelly. Mike served his country as a Navy SEAL for nearly a decade. As you can imagine, Mike understands full well what it means to put a lot of extremely rigorous mileage on your body, as well as the benefit of maintaining your health, strength, and wellbeing.
Both Mike and Claudia are amazing people, and I was immediately struck by the sincerity and honesty of their presentation. Mike joked that Claudia was the brains of the outfit, and he was the brawn. Mike had already started several businesses, being a self-described serial entrepreneur. He is also very active, giving back to the veteran community by serving as a board member for the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum and the Trident House. Mike also volunteers throughout the year in fundraising events across the country to raise money for the families of fallen SEALs. When he isn’t working or volunteering, Mike works out, extremely committed to a lifestyle of health, fitness, and training.
Mike and Claudia had seen first-hand the effects of prolonged combat duty on their friends, fellow SEALs, and other veterans. These effects included PTSD, anxiety, depression, amputated limbs, burns, insomnia, among others. Over time they began to also hear about some of their friends and other veterans having some success alleviating their symptoms with CBD products.
Claudia began to do some serious research.
Mike described a fellow SEAL who’d lost limbs and suffered from PTSD and chronic pain, and who experienced real relief from using CBD oil.
Another friend (also a SEAL) has a son who had lost a limb in a bad motorcycle accident, had undergone several surgeries, and suffered a great deal of pain from the damage, and who experienced real relief from CBD.
Friends called in tears, when their son, who hadn’t slept a wink in many weeks, got several hours of real sleep after trying a CBD product.
While CBD is certainly not a miracle drug and is not for everyone and everything, it does have a real history of success if you know where to look.
And even aspirin does not work for everyone.
Here are some things I did not know.
Most of the research available on CBD products and health is found in Israel and Australia. Both of these countries have done a great deal of research on this topic … including using CBD products to treat children with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, or PTSD associated with abuse. The US is woefully behind in this area.
CBD was a commonly used treatment for ailments until about 100 years ago, just about the time “big pharma” began to emerge. I guess it could be coincidental, but if you can grow it in your back yard, they can’t control it or make a profit from it.
There are several types of CBD products available.
Full Spectrum vs Isolate
Not all CBD is the same. Mike and Claudia offer both full-spectrum CBD products and CBD isolate products. Full-spectrum CBD is CBD also containing trace amounts of other naturally occurring cannabinoids (CBG, CBC, CBN, THC < 0.3%), terpenes, and flavonoids found in the hemp plant. These individual components are believed to work together in a phenomenon called the entourage effect, potentially boosting CBD’s natural therapeutic effects.
Some people find that full-spectrum works best for them, while others prefer isolate. If one isn’t quite getting the job done, you may have better results with the other.
CBD is referred to as a “promiscuous” molecule because it acts upon several different non-psychoactive pathways in the body: the TRPV channels, GABA receptors, 5HT1A (serotonin) receptors. It is also called “biphasic” because in different dosages it can have different effects.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production, sale, and consumption of hemp and hemp-derived compounds like CBD. In order to be classified as hemp and not as cannabis (they are genetically the same species), a plant has to be tested by a third-party lab and proven to contain les than 0.3% THC content.
So, in other words, CBD is not pot!
More about CBD Path
CBD Path is a company that manufactures and distributes only the best quality CBD (this is not 7-eleven CBD) to its customers. Their products are all produced in certified hemp manufacturing facilities. They offer advice, support, and education. Each product they sell has a QR code on the label you can scan to verify the source of the hemp and the certificates of analysis.
They did not just jump on the bandwagon, they are doing it for the right reason and in the right way.
Visit their great website to learn more and check out all the information available.
After this presentation, I had a very different view of CBD and its uses as a health and wellness supplement. But it is very much a “buyer beware” market with many unscrupulous distributors jumping on the CBD wagon with inferior products. If you find CBD is something you are considering trying, these are definitely the folks you will want to talk to right here!
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Uriah Heep is an English rock band formed in London in 1969. The group’s origins go back to 1967 when 19-year-old guitarist Mick Box formed a band in Brentwood called Hogwash and began playing in local clubs and pubs. A few lineup changes and the band changed its name to Spice. From the very beginning, Mick Box avoided playing covers, preferring to do something original.
A second name change came shortly after that. The group chose the name, Uriah Heep, after the well-known Charles Dickens character from David Copperfield. At this time, Dickens was everywhere because people were observing the 100th anniversary of his death, and to the members of the band, it seemed a fitting tribute.
Easy Livin’ (1972)
Uriah Heep’s 1970 debut album, …Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble, was released in the United States as Uriah Heep.
The band suffered through some difficult times and more line-up changes, but by 1973 had fleshed out a fairly stable and productive line-up producing a fairly unique sound. This line-up consisted of Mick Box, Ken Hensley, Gary Thain, David Byron, and Lee Kerslake.
Uriah Heep now show-cased Hensley’s driving organ background overlaid with a heavy guitar sound, complemented by David Byron’s theatrical, dynamic vocals that soared above the band’s thunderous backdrop.
July Morning (1972)
The last four minutes or so of July Morning feature of a virtuosic organ solo. And as a historical note, the odd sounding calliope riffs are played by Manfred Mann who, according to the album credits, is appearing for the first time with his Moog synthesizer.
Sunrise (1973, Live at the Budokan in Tokyo)
The line-up with David Bryon on vocals in perhaps the most memorable and loved by loyal Uriah Heep’s fans.
And yes, some acoustic and jazz elements also found their way into the Uriah Heep mix.
The Wizard (remastered 2017)
One of my favorites, Lady in Black, is a song from their 1971 album, Salisbury, and is credited to Ken Hensley. It tells the tale of a man wandering through war-torn darkness and encountering a goddess-like entity who consoles him. It is often praised, by fans and critics alike, as Hensley’s most poetic work.
Lady in Black (1971)
I could not find a live video of Sweet Lorraine with good audio quality, but it is another in my “Heep” of favorites by this 1970s band.
Sweet Lorraine (remastered 2017)
Uriah Heep, a unique band with a unique sound that paved the way for many musical talents of the future. Definitely still one of my favorites.
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I have had a long-held interest in the martial arts. One Christmas, I received a book called Best Karate, written by Mas Oyama, when I was 13 or 14 years old. I spent hours in my bedroom trying to learn from the book.
When I began attending the Charles H McCann Technical School in North Adams, Massachusetts, I was invited by a friend to a Uechi-ryu Karate (a very traditional Okinawan system) class in nearby Adams and started attending. But once I discovered cars and girls, that pretty much ended that … as well as my interest in scouting.
When I was stationed in Korea (12/81 to 12/82), I studied Tae Kwon Do with the battalion instructor. He was excellent. I earned a red belt, which, in that system, was the equivalent of a brown belt in the ranking system used by many styles. When I got back to the U.S., I started competing in tournaments and did okay. However, I discovered these Isshin-ryu guys who had a wicked reverse punch. They would slide up your extended kicking leg and nail you with it. I decided I needed to see what they were doing and so sought out an Isshin-ryu dojo.
Years later, I was running my own dojo and hosting tournaments. But I was very disappointed in the way things were evolving. I was never that wild about sport karate. I just did that to keep students. I saw limited techniques being used in sport karate; it was more like a game of tag. The rules seemed to violate the karate “maxims” I was trying to adhere to.
For example, in Okinawan Karate, all kicks are targeted below the waist. Step into the ring, and now all kicks must be above the waist. That seemed odd!
And kata, especially with the advent of musical kata, quickly devolved into breakdancing with some kicks thrown in.
Note: Let me just say that full-contact karate and MMA fighters of today are great athletes and some damn tough individuals. They are very good at what they do and deserve respect. It is just not “karate” as I had come to understand it.
The problem was that I do read a great deal, and I had read a lot of history about Okinawa, the birthplace of Karate, and the early pioneers of Tang Hand, which later become known as Empty Hand … or Karate. I was simply not seeing the Karate I’d read so much about. Either the stories were all lies, or there was nobody around who could do that stuff anymore. I was actually ready to throw in the towel. Then I met Sensei Sherman Harrill.
Sensei Harrill was from a cross-roads in the cornfields called Carson, Iowa (near Council Bluffs). He was an ex-Marine who trained with the Isshin-ryu system’s founder, Tatsuo Shimabuku, while stationed in Okinawa in the late 50s. And he was the real deal.
Everything I had ever seen paled when stacked up against what he did. No matter who you were, how big, how strong, or what you knew … he would effortlessly show you the error of your ways. Organizations, rank, who you knew did not matter. It was what you could demonstrate on the mat that counted.
So, I started over. I traveled all around the country to seminars for years to train with this guy. It was a humbling and memorable moment when I asked him how I could become his student. He laughed and replied. “well, most folks just ask.” So, I asked. And he replied, “Darren, I have seen the changes you are making in your Karate and how you train … so welcome aboard.”
That was the beginning of the journey of a lifetime.
The origins of JD’s Nguyen-ryu
Nguyen-ryu is an indigenous martial art found in Vietnam. Mai’s father, Ang, was a village elder, and in the book Serpents Underfoot, a well-respected practitioner of this art. Ang taught this art to both his daughter, Mai, and the son of his old Montagnard friend, Dish. Dish and Mai both taught the art to Curtis Cordell, Mai’s American husband, and JD’s father.
Curtis tried to teach Nguyen-ryu to his son, but that old father-son thing interfered. Eventually, Curtis took his son to a dojo run by a friend of his. That Sensei taught a very traditional version of Isshin-ryu. JD did learn a great deal of Nguyen-ryu from his mother, which blended well with the Isshin-ryu.
It has been my experience that most “real” martial arts have more in common than differences. That is because when you get past all the marketing hype, it is body mechanics that determine what works … and the human body only moves powerfully so many ways.
My exposure to Nguyen-ryu
Enter Charlie Taylor, a good friend, a Vietnam veteran, and a damn good martial artist. He just showed up at my dojo one day and started helping out.
Charlie had served several tours in Vietnam as a medic on Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols in the region of Vietnam my books focus on. He was a quiet guy, but when the mood struck, he had some fantastic stories to tell about his experiences in Vietnam. I am sure he embellished them a bit to make them more fun to listen too, but there was something in the stories and his eyes when he told them that led you to understand that there was an element of truth to each one.
Charlie was also a highly-skilled martial artist, and there was nothing “superfluous” in what he did. I remember spending time training what was essentially a “silent sentry removal” technique with him and being shocked and a bit disturbed at the ease with which it worked. I still remember asking him, rhetorically,
“And, you’ve used this before.”
He just looked at me kind of funny and replied, “On a few occasions.”
While he knew a few of the kata, Charlie didn’t practice Isshin -ryu. In fact, many of our workouts consisted of me teaching him more Isshin-ryu kata. He practiced what he called Nguyen-ryu. Charlie claimed he’d learned it from his grandfather, who’d married a Vietnamese girl while stationed in Japan after WWII. This girl’s father was a skilled practitioner of the style, and after a suitable period of denials, consented to teach it to his daughter’s round-eyed husband.
I know it sounds like a movie plot. And maybe it is. I can neither prove nor disprove Charlie’s claims. However, I can definitely vouch for his abilities. Charlie could be damn scary when he was “in the zone,” much like my former instructor, Sensei Harrill. Those who have trained with Sensei Harrill will understand what I am referring to. We called it “shark eyes.”
Charlie did have an honorary 5th-degree black belt in Isshin-ryu Karate signed by Harold Long. However, he always claimed it was not worth the paper it was written on. It seems Charlie had impressed Harold Long with his abilities while training for a period at Long’s school in Knoxville, Tennessee, but, as mentioned earlier, had only learned a few of the kata. He held no official rank in Nguyen-ryu, so he always wore a white belt.
I will say that the kid’s classes loved it when Charlie regaled them with stories of his early training days. He always referred to them as “Papaw Days.”
Unfortunately, Charlie passed away a few years ago from a combination of medical conditions, several of which I am sure originated with his tours of duty in Vietnam. Some of the threads in Serpents Underfoot and Montagnard are based on past discussions with Charlie. And I think Charlie may be resurrected from the dead for a character in the next book in the series titled Reciprocity. I think he would like that.
Martial Arts scenes in the two books …
I have seen a large man knocked unconscious with a punch to the shoulder. I do not know too many people who could do that. Sensei Harrill certainly could. And, his “fence post punch” was something to behold. You did not want to get hit with it.
On more than one occasion, MMA fighters or cage fighters from the casinos in Council Bluff would make their way to his dojo after hearing about this karate guy who had a reputation for being a badass. Every one of them left with a new appreciation for karate … well, at least Sherman Harrill’s version.
The technique JD uses to take out the drug smuggler on the trail from Laos into Vietnam is simply one of my variations on Charlie Taylor’s sentry removal technique.
Putting it all together
I like to think my stories are written to entertain, but there is so much more to them, at least for me. They are ways to remember, record, and share the people I have known, places I have been, things I have seen, and the stories I have heard, as well as the possibilities those things can combine to create.
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