China

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An often overlooked home self defense option is the sword. They work as well today as they did centuries ago, as we can read about in this recent news article. A Baltimore student killed an intruder with a Samurai sword. At short to medium range, a good sword is deadlier than any gun. It never jams, and never runs out of ammo. Modern reproductions of Japanese katanas made in China have come a long way and are now available for a couple hundred dollars. So, is a sword the self defense weapon of choice?

Well, it depends.. As with any weapon, are you willing to spend the time to learn to handle it safely and practice on a regular basis? “It’s just a sword” you might say, but a 28-inch razor sharp blade can ruin your day very fast; just look at this:

Sword injury.

Sword injury.

Picture from the excellent site:
Swords Buyers Guide

And this is what happens when you mess with a cheap stainless steel wall-hanger:

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Avoid stainless steel like the plague. Be very suspicious of movie related products or cheap “Ninja” katanas. A sword, even a bad one, is very dangerous. The difference about a bad one is that is is as dangerous to you or people around you as it would be to an intruder. It only has to touch you to cause gruesome injuries. Sword makers offer non-sharpened models called iaitos, used in the discipline of Iaido, which is the art of drawing. They are a good investment and insurance policy for your early training..

As far as Japanese sword arts, you might want to look into Iaido, Kenjutsu, Kendo or Shinkendo. My opinion is that your best bet is an art that actually teaches to cut targets (Tameshigiri). I would personally look into Shinkendo or Toyama-Ryu, which are modern swordsmanship systems. You don’t have to become an expert, but learning a few basic techniques, cuts and safety are a minimum.

Are you willing to spend $200 or $300 for a decent blade made of carbon steel, forged and mounted properly? These figures are actually cheap compared to real Japanese swords starting at around $6,000. CAS Hanwei and Cheness Inc. are the major manufacturers of decent quality reproductions. Hanwei also offers medieval swords worth a look, if you prefer the Highlander type of hardware! Cold Steel also has a good collection of practical swords (I like their Chinese War Sword). See below how Cheness forges a blade:

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Though not made in Japan (Nihonto or modern Shinken), the Chinese reproductions are real swords made by hand using somewhat similar techniques. For most people, they are the only accessible models, with a price range of about $150 to $3,000. For home defense, a $300 spring steel model would do just fine. I like the cheness Ko-Katanas, which are a shortened version for tight spaces, like a house. You’ll never (hopefully) carry your sword outside your house, so you don’t need a long one. A wakisashi would do fine as well (one-handed). Watch below as Paul Southren from Swords Buyers Guide tests a Cheness katana. Very impressive.

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Carbon steel rusts.. You will have to clean and oil your sword at least every other month. It isn’t a high price to pay to keep your weapon ready and in good shape. Aside from that, a good sword will never let you down. If you practice swordsmanship, you also have an excuse for owning one and grabbing “the closest thing that could be used as a weapon” when it comes to explain to a judge why you cut a robber in half instead of calling 911 and waiting for the cops while getting beaten-up or killed.. And yes, the above mentioned swords will cut someone in half if you practice long enough to get a perfect cut. More often than not however, just showing the sword tends to convince intruders to turn around and start running.

I may have a preference for Japanese swords just because of their light weight, but any good quality medieval or antiquity reproductions would do fine, from European blades to sabers, scimitars, Chinese swords, there is something out there for everyone. With anti-gun laws looming on our horizon, a sword might be a good choice. It sure beats a jammed gun any day. You never have to buy ammo, so practicing might involve just a bit of your time and sweat, maybe a membership fee and a few tatami mats.. If you do decide to get one, be responsible, get professional advise, and learn about self-defense laws. Be safe 🙂

I just stumbled on an excellent article in the New York Times, “Time to Reboot America.” The author couldn’t have said it better: “Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones.” I didn’t have that impression landing in Philadephia sixteen years ago from Charles De Gaulle for my first time in the United States. However, I should have known America was in trouble when I saw my first American household appliances! Twenty years ago, my mother’s washing machine had a microprocessor in it. My credit card had an embedded chip; technology which took ten years to cross the Atlantic. I still need to tell my washing machine how much laundry is in it, and turn and old style knob to turn it on. Then, when the washing is finished, I must take the laundry, stuff it in a no less obsolescent dryer, and turn another 1960s style mechanical knob. Energy efficient? I doubt it.

My first American car was a Ford 1978 LTD. It was great, confortable, the AC worked, and I paid only $750 for it. It had a few little quirks, but all in all, it worked. The fuel consumption was appaling, but why care? Gas was less than a dollar a gallon, almost four times less than in France. We thought gas reserves would last forever, we still do.

Today, I still can’t take a high speed train (look 3:25 to 3:55) from Sarasota to Tampa or Orlando. I must drive on I4 to get to the East coast. I you have driven on I4, you understand.. No amount of money could get me to commute daily from Tampa to Orlando via I4.

The list goes on and on. I do have another list, with all the good things about America; it is longer than the bad one, that’s why I’m still here, for now. We have NASA, a top of the line computer industry, the Internet, medical research as good as in Europe, Universities like MIT. Then, why do I feel like I live in 1975 sometimes? We don’t produce much here anymore, everything is service based. Most of the stuff I owed says “Made in China” or Japan, Taiwan, etc. When I think of American products, I think “rugged,” “old fashion,” “reliable” (except for cars).. Certainly not “high-tech.”

America needs to look East, not at it’s own navel. I am affraid Obama will plunge us into a socialist/protectionist era that will be the last nail in the coffin. At least we might not spend billions in unecessary wars abroad. This is not the time however to close our borders to commerce. We need to produce so that my next cell phone says “Made In USA.” We will be in competition with Europe and Asia, whether we like it or not. We should be the ones selling them goods. American high schools produce students who are two years behind Europeans. When I went to college in Florida, to perfect my English, I thought it was a joke. The college level math was the same as when I was 12. Yes, I agree, time to Reboot America.

School reforms: We need to be more demanding on both students and schools. Schools should be held accountable for their results. The “everyone wins, you’re doing great” bullshit needs to stop. If you suck, someone has to tell you, so that you can correct your attitude. When I was in school, no student would ever dare to talk back to a teacher. Today, teachers get assaulted in class! Why? Simple: No consequences. Being suspended is not a punishment, it’s a gift. Parents don’t care anymore. When you’re 15, you don’t care about your future, you care about right now, maybe tomorrow. There should be immediate consequences to lazyness. Also, why do kids still have to learn how many ounces are in a pound, and a flurry of other stupid measurements when there is a metric system? Want to know how many litres are in a 3x3x3 meter tank? Simple: 3x3x3=27 x 1000 = 27000 litres. And guess what, it weights 27000Kg, 27 metric tons. I don’t need to spend fiften minutes on the problem, I can do it in my head in 5 seconds. Australia went metric in 1970. If they can do it, why not America? NASA uses metric, otherwise we’d probably never go back to the moon in our lifetimes.. As to schools teaching stupid theories like creationism, don’t even get me started on that…

Free markets: Why Ron Paul wasn’t elected is beyond my comprehension. Here is a politician who understands exactly what this country needs, and he doesn’t even make it to the last round. We need businesses, and we need them to be successful. Here is where Europe failed and America can prevail. Europeans have this funny idea that a business has social obligations beyond not causing harm to people. That’s not the purpose of a business. In France, money is seen as somewhat dirty. The European attitude is that the government and businesses must take care of the people who have the right to be fed, clothed, and pampered, given what they need. They just shot themselves in the foot, just not the same foot we shot ourselves in. Businesses are the life blood of the country. Nobody else can produce wealth, except maybe the Federal Reserve when they print money, which compounds the problem. Wee need to compete with Europe and Asia on the same footing, not with artificial tariffs to level the field in our favor. Opening the markets might hurt us for a while, but long term, it is our only salvation.

No bailouts: If a company fails, they ought to go out of business. Taking taxpayer’s money to save a business is stealing, clear and simple. Since when does a Republican government use socialist tactics to redistribute wealth? I think they do it because they want a quick fix, a patch that will hold for a bit before cracking wide open, but that will make them look godd right now, until retirement with a bit of luck..

Better news: American news on television is a dog and pony show. How can a nation be aware of it’s lagging behind if it doesn’t look at the countries that are a decade ahead of them technologically. I once had a flat tire on my old Ford near Alachua County Florida. A pickup truck stopped and a guy offered me help (after yelling to his wife “Get back in the fucking truck!”). Anyway, I guess he was nice to me. Hearing my accent he asked “Where you from?” I said “France.” “What state is that?” he replied. “It’s overseas..” “Ah” he said, “do you have power over there?” I’m not making this up! That’s an extreme of course, and I couldn’t resist mentioning the story. We never hear most of what goes on in the world here on TV, except when it affects us directly, and immediately. Did you know that France launches satellites in orbit for cheaper than NASA, and I think more often with it’s Arianne rocket? Stop watching “Desperate Housewives” go to BBC, and even then, I’m not sure their US programs are the same the rest of the world sees.. I have access to about 300 channels, but I can’t hardly ever find an interesting show. Get your news from foreign agencies on the web.

Promote reading books: In 1982, 60% of young adults engaged in literary reading, while in 2002, only 43% do*. I don’t have recent numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went down even more. Understanding other cultures and philosophy by reading could probably save us a lot of grief with our foreign policies. Even our politicians sometimes lack basic knowledge of geography and foreign ideology. When was the last time you bought a book or went to the library?

Maybe next time we can also talk about getting rid of the Federal Reserve…

I have heard about the demise of America for decades, never paid too much attention to those predictions. The signs were there, it’s easy to see them now in retrospect. How low it will go is hard to tell, the depression is here. We just don’t want to see it. We refuse to imagine the consequences, and we don’t want to see the solutions. Americans need to get educated and take their heads out of the sand. The United States was a great nation, not so long ago. We have great minds, visionaries, we can do it again.

* US Census 2002.