Nice moves, baby

Baby and dummy

Baby and dummy

The "Fight for Kisses" game trailer * features some nicely observed martial art details — no, not skipping with a bra, I mean the brightly coloured wooden beads on the mook yan yong — oh never mind. Just enjoy the animation.


* Warning — trailer contains gratuitous advertising.

Fudebakudo at the BAFTA

Last weekend I went to the BAFTA (that's the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) on Piccadilly to see the UK premier of Hula Girls, a Japanese Full Monty (except it's girls instead of boys, and it's hula-dancing rather than stripping). Beyond the intriguing premise of building a Hawaian Centre in a bleak mining town (which happens to be the true part of the story), the film is fairly straightforward and at times labours the clichés a bit — it but it was an enjoyable evening, with an entertaining question-and-answer session with the director at the end.

Afterwards, I was standing by the entrance to the bar, waiting for my friends (girls, as ever, going to the toilet en masse), when the director and his party came through from the theatre. To set the scene, I should mention that I am over six foot even when I'm not wearing my black ex-British Army Boots. With shaved head, black combat adventure trousers, and black hoodie, standing by the entrance on my own (alert, no slouching), I unwittingly looked like the security hired for the evening. The party stopped at the door, and one of them leaned towards me (actually, my chest) and peered intently at the logo on my black hoodie — it's an embroidered Fudebakudo logo, in scarlet thread. She then asked me if the bar was open. Well, it clearly was open, but she asked me as if I knew.

BAFTA logo vs. FBD logo

BAFTA logo vs. FBD logo

Only after I had said that it was did I realise that she had thought I was "working the door." And then I understood what had happened — the Fudebakudo logo, with its samurai helmet face-mask, looks a bit like, well, a mask, which is also the logo of the BAFTA.

Perhaps I will be able to blag entry to the next BAFTA awards ceremony based on this useful deception.

Of course I now regret not having stopped the director from getting to the bar — if your name's not on the list, mate, you're not coming in. But I didn't realise I could pass off the Fudebakudo logo as a BAFTA badge until it was too late.

Incidentally, if you watch the eyeball-strainingly tiny trailer on that Hula Girls website, see if you don't read the line "The Girls Dance for the Sake" the way I did. It's, um, sake not sake. Whoops . . . changes the tone of the whole film a bit, heh.

Samurai crabs

On page 43 of the book, there's the curious tale of a ninja who escaped from the battle of Dannoura in 1185 by strapping his feet to a pair of crabs with kelp twine, and scuttling away. Consequently, the crabs of Shimonseki to this day bear an invisible ninja footprint on their shells.

Um . . . 

Well it's a quirky story and the footprint bit is hard to disprove. But, as ever with Fudebakudo and the martial arts, there's another version of the story. This one is slightly better known than the ninja one, but it, too, is not quite as straightforward as it seems.

The fact is that there was a sea-battle at Dannoura in 1185. It was a bloody affair resulting in the defeat of the Taira clan. The grandmother of the six-year old boy Emperor Antoku jumped to her death, taking the boy with her to her watery grave, when it was clear that the battle was lost. To this day, the crabs of the area have on their shells the faces of samurai warriors, the drowned souls that were lost beneath the waves reincarnated as crustaceans.

heike crab

Ooh! Spooky! And yet . . . almost true — because the thing about this story is that the crabs do indeed display a ghostly samurai face (note that "ghostly" here affords some artistic license, and you have to scrunch your eyes up a bit, but hey). They are called Heike crabs (Heike is another reading of the Taira kanji) and there's an intriguing explanation for how this has come to be. The samurai crabs are, the theory goes, an exquisite example of artificial natural selection.

The key fact is that the crabs have patterned shells, some of which look a bit like a samurai face and some of which do not. Fishermen catching the crabs in the sea where the legendary battle took place would be inclined to throw back the ones that seemed to be reincarnated warriors (it's never wise to antagonise departed souls, especially those of warriors), whilst keeping the ones that had no such pattern. In this way, over the centuries, the stock of crabs with a samurai pattern on their backs is reinforced by breeding, while those that fail to carry the mark are removed from the gene pool.

Neat, eh? 

It's a wonderful idea, and it was popularised by the late, great Carl Sagan. But, sadly, it doesn't quite cut the mustard (or Thousand Island Dressing). The explanation of artificial selection works best if you imagine crabs the size of dinner plates, or, at least, big enough for half a crab sandwich. Unfortunately the Heike crabs are on the small end of the crabby scale (an inch across, or thereabouts) and it's not such a convincing theory if you consider that nobody bothers eating crabs that small; they probably all get thrown back. Unless, of course, the seagulls of Shimonoseki are more selective than people realise.