Fudebakudo’s gingerbread shuriken

shuriken cutter

The Fudebakudo shuriken cutter.
Now with a page of its own.

Way back in 2005, we took three hundred gingerbread shuriken (with chocolate tips) to Seni, the big martial arts expo in the UK. There’s now a page on the Fudebakudo website documenting how these remarkable weapons came about (OK, the ones we made were just replica weapons).

As we are responsible vendors, at Seni we refused to sell these to unaccompanied children (in fact, we put a notice up to such effect). How prescient this was. One can only imagine the chaos that would ensue were they to get into the wrong hands, as shown by this BBC news story about the school ban on triangular flapjacks.

Elephants at war


Elephant: if you do beat an elephant in a fight, it will never forget. But then the chances are neither will you.

There’s a new illustration in the gallery: this one considers the benefits of bringing an elephant to a fight. It’s not a new tactic — in fact the first documented use of elephantry suggests it’s been going on for over 2,400 years.

Elephants bring a number of unique advantages to combat, including, but not limited to, breaking through lines of infantry; discomforting enemy cavalry (if the horses are unfamiliar with the animals, especially their scent); providing an elevated platform for missile weapons such as archers or even artillery (see: jingal); and spitting especially hardened armour-piercing peanuts from their trunks with lethal accuracy.

From a tactical point of view, elephants (like chariots) are vulnerable to being outflanked — because they can’t turn very quickly and can only effectively engage an enemy directly to the front. More importantly, if they can be made to rout, elephants become a dangerous hazard to all the friendly troops lined up behind them. For this reason, tactics that could panic or scare elephants, rather than simply kill them, were developed by armies that anticipated facing enemy elephants. The illustration mentions “tent-pegging” as one, which exploited elephants’ particular dislike of having their feet stabbed with lances. As the Fudebakudo book reports, another anti-elephantry measure was the use of incendiary pigs, daubed with tar, pointed at the offending elephant, and set alight.

These days, the cost of keeping an elephant, and the sad fact that the ivory from its tusks is worth considerably more than the cost of training it to fight, mean that the days of elephants on the battlefield are over. The last time elephants fought in battle was in Vietnam in 1885, during the Sino-French war, although some also operated in non-combative roles in World War II.

The elephant illustration was drawn for the current issue of Martial Arts Illustrated magazine, which rarely if ever features articles about elephants.

No holds bard: Shakespeare


Thunderglobe: two gentlemen of Verona enter; one man leaves

There’s a new Fudebakudo image in the gallery: this one is about London’s famous Elizabethan fight venue, Shakespeare’s Thunderglobe.

The history of the Globe is fascinating and there was much that I just couldn’t fit into the limited space the Fudebakudo format allows. The performance space was known at the time as “the wooden O” (if you’re keeping up with the MMA theme, that could be O for octagon, perhaps?). The Globe itself was built using timber beams outrageously acquired by dismantling a competing theatre on the other side of the river while its owner was away on his Christmas holidays.

Today, there is a famous reconstruction in London on the South Bank, close to the site of the original. Even if you don’t go in, do spend some time inspecting and admiring the fabulous wrought iron Bankside Gates featuring plants, animals and birds from Shakespearean works, created by over one hundred different blacksmiths.

This was drawn for the current issue of Martial Arts Illustrated magazine. Looking through the magazine’s editorial over the years, the MAI readership doesn’t, in general, seem to be demanding much Shakespeare in its pages. Sadly this probably means they don’t know about the barbaric Elizabethan sport of bull-pizzling either, but I put it in anyway. Fudebakudo, in its own noble way, is always seeking to enlighten the martial masses.

Forgotten fashion

Furry claw boot

An illustration of a furry claw boot. And the number 7.

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a furry claw boot.

I found this in some papers recently — it seems that at some stage this was going to be footwear number 7 in Fudebakudo’s Martial Fashion (part 2) image. When that got to final draft, the furry claw boot had been replaced with the altogether more authentic “ninja tabi with wall-running sucker cups.”

The existence of such a rejected illustration reminded me of at least three things going on here: the sophisticated editorial process that goes on behind the scenes, the artistic and scholarly rigour that accompanies every such decision, and an exceptionally finely-tuned train of thought that can arrive at furry claw boots as a viable candidate for a martial arts shoe* in the first place. Each of these remarkable aspects of the creation of Fudebakudo will continue to remain — for everyone’s benefit — unseen. This illustration of a furry claw boot is a rare glimpse behind the curtain.

* Having said that, don’t be surprised if furry claw boots start turning up in MMA cage fights soon. After all, they are arguably more martial than Lycra**

** Spandex for American readers

Three sages

The Three Sages

Adam Smith, father of capitalism and by implication a lot of dubious grading fees

Time for another new image in the gallery: this time, The Three Sages of the Age of Enlightenment, finally acknowledging the influence of Western thought on the development of the martial arts. Specifically: knocking people down, laying mats, and charging for the paperwork. Given that this is fundamentally the whole of judo and aikido in a nutshell, it’s surprising that portraits of these three do not adorn more dojo walls.

This cartoon was drawn for the current issue of MAI magazine.

Martial fashion (part 2)

Fashion 1

Accessory: kit bag

Following on from the previous fashion post, there’s a new image in the gallery: Martial Fashion (part 2).

This one addresses the problem of accessories. You can’t go to all the trouble of dressing up and then stomp out onto the mat or into the arena wearing shoes that don’t match. That would be wrong. So hopefully Fudebakudo can help the fashion-clueless amongst the martial arts community (you are out there: we see you) with this simple guidance, which this time makes some sensible suggestions for your shoes, bag, and gloves.

You might think that trying to merge the disparate worlds of hand-to-hand combat and a sensitivity to stitching would be impossible. But you’d be wrong. It turns out that having a feel for what goes with what and how a garment should hang without clinging can perfectly complement the sweaty business of twisting an opponent’s shoulder out of its socket or just kicking someone very, very hard. This point was made clear at this month’s Martial Arts Show at the NEC in Birmingham. The guest of honour was none other than fashion/nudity consultant Gok Wan. Doing a fashion show. No, really.*

Still to come in the series (obviously, I think): hats and bling.

This helpful illustration was drawn for the current issue of MAI magazine.

* Yes Gok has martial arts connections: his brother is a Jeet Kune Do instructor. And even little songstress Katie Owen, who sang at the Martial Arts Show, has a black belt in taekwondo. Everything fits so neatly together.

But if it’s martial arts + singers that you want, it’s hard to beat this splendid film clip showing Anita Harris doing judo so well she actually appears to turn her opponent into a dog. They should have had that at the Martial Arts Show. Maybe next year, eh?

Martial fashion (part 1)

Fashion 1


There’s a new image in the gallery — this one is Martial Fashion (part 1).

The fact of the matter is that dressing up is a huge part of the martial arts and it’s by no means as necessary or normal as most of its practitioners would have you believe. Even the baggy white jimjams, or keikogi, popularised and standardised in judo and copied in karate and subsequent Japanese-influenced arts, are a relatively modern invention and nowhere near as traditional as they need to be in order to have any historical credibility. In fact, people wearing them might actually be dressing up as Japanese firemen.*

Judo: dressing up as firefighters and tripping each other up.

This cartoon was drawn for the current issue of MAI magazine.

* I’m hazarding a guess that there were no Japanese firewomen at the time.