Chapter 10; Pluto-Special Section for Women related to “Self Defense”
The Amazon Way—to put Strength and Beauty together.Special physical training to give courage to young women, in the context of physical education…
I have put this section under “Pluto” as the planet and theme of Pluto pertains to themes of the underworld our subconscious weaknesses and unconscious programming. Pluto is archetypally related to the driads or female elementals who tore the body of Orpheus asunder in the mythical tale of Orpheus. The Rape of Persephone by Pluto is the female parallel…
Both point to the need for strength in either sex. Themes relating the Underworld and the female particularly have been in myth since ancient times and many of these show the female as a figure like Cybell or Kali; full of wrath, blood and death.
In light of the power of this figure both psychologically and spiritually I see the development of the feminine power has to be done with care as it can easily develop into rage. In fact in the infant Rage is the first response to lack of attention from the mother. It is a first response to neglect on a very deep neurolgical level.
The following introduction was originally handed out to a group of women and men who helped me choreograph an Amazon dance which was also and remains – a dangerous martial art. At the time I had been asked by several mothers to teach their daughters how to fight. I realized conventional karate and judo and many other kinds of Combat Sports were not addressing the essential need of women, particularly young girls. Combat Sports were not designed for women. The tactics best suited for women to perfect mainly orient to the legs first and the head as the final target. Not visa versa as we find in Combat Sports such M.M.A. Yes women can do these things, but they are not designed specifically for women. I designed the Amazon Training specifically for Women and that includes the ideas below and it also includes the Amazon Dance – which occupies the third section my system of physical education called “Wisdom of the Body” which is here on this website.
Some years back there was a hit TV show called “Xena; Warrior Princess”—remember that? The main character was “Xena; the Amazon Princess”. Pretty obscure stuff and certainly a twist on the traditional hero or heroine as Xena was a rather strong woman but not the traditional model of the feminine nor the conventional model of the feminist. In fact she was a rather juxtapositioned archetype of sexy female and strong heroine.
I recall also she was quite admired by the lesbian community as a model. And a lot of heterosexual men, women and children liked her too. There was something attractive about the brazenly strong, forthright but beautiful woman. I liked her too. But I was not sure why. The usual first reaction of many, as a reason for this was “She is sexy-got that “S and M” thing! that’s why.” That did not satisfy me as an answer. There were and are plenty of sexy actresses around beside Xena. I also thought, “You are a martial arts teacher that’s why.” But that did not seem to ring true as the reason either. Why the popularity? What need was it answering in me? What about the need it was answering in the population at the time? I also remembered the cartoon character of Wonder Woman who was from “The Isle of the Amazons”. (“Wonder Woman” -since the writing of this – over ten years ago -is now a new movie).
During this same period of time Tattoos experienced a new popularity. So did “piercings” The popularity of martial arts escalated in the 1970’s as did the feminist wave. The “Strong Woman”- always present in history but not always appreciated, seemed to begin to again, fight her way out. Xena did not appear til the 90’s but there were other strong-beautiful woman types before her like the comic figure “Wonder Woman” and others of that type.
Women’s athletics too, saw an escalation of interest and women’s bodybuilding too began to gain in popularity.
During this period of developing Feminism in the history of America I grew up and studied martial arts and yoga training with various teachers for many years. This included going to several countries and living for various periods of time. Because of the time I have lived and having had one particularly intense Chinese woman teacher and a strong mother I have made some attempt to understand the role of the woman in physical culture. This chapter is about that.
Chapter 1-Amazons; Myths and Ancient History
My study of the history of martial arts and its key elements led me to the study of horsemanship and that, along with studies of the Ancient Greeks, led me to the legends of the Amazons. So now, thirty years into my study – I find myself looking at the ancient horse cultures that made up the great migrations of world history. Our closest horse-people in the history of the U.S. are, of course the Native American. Particularly the plains Indian tribes, Apsaroke, Salish, Flatfoot and others. But they are relatively recent users of the horse and actually got their horses from the Spanish Explorers who brought horses with them when they came to America.
As we go further back in time- before the visits of the Spanish Explorers like Columbus and DaGama – we find the horses not in America at all, but in Spain. Here they seem to have been brought during the Celtic and Pre-Celtic migrations. That places our Celtic horse-people around 200a.d.-300 b.c.e. (check this) moving from the East (Caucasoid Mountain Range and further East) into Western Europe, going as far as Ireland. Stretching back further in history we find the so-called “Proto-Celts” or simply the “First-Celts”. Some historians say these people are actually the Scythians. The Scythians were an ancient race of horse-people who lived before the Mongols and before the Huns.
In fact, it looks like the Scythians moved as the Celts did from East to West only at a much earlier time (5-800 b.c.e.) And it seems the Scythians were the genetic source for the areas now known as Eastern Europe; Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, including the Ukraine etc. The Scythians had a competing tribe called the Sarmatians or Alons. Eventually, after several hundred years of dominating the steppes of Russia, we find the Sarmatians conquering the Scythians.
Among the Sarmatians burial mounds we have historical evidence of women similar to the Amazons of legend. But these women are not giants, they are of average size, but like their male contemporaries, they are buried in armor and with their horses, with large stashes of weapons, mainly bows, arrows, spears and swords. The find of these tombs now, in the 1990’s at the ripening of the time for strong women, shows old legends have been forced back to the surface- the Amazons have come back into the light of day and the world of fact.(Above;Possible Sarmatian Costume reconstructed from remnants in Russia)
So there were such women at that time in history. And I wanted to know this to share with the girls and women I was teaching. For me this is important as I want role models and historical precedents to share with the girls and women I teach. And I want those who become teachers to the women and girls to know this history and these legends and archetypes and stories to empower the girls. In this way I hope to compensate for the mistaken notion that beauty cannot be part of strength and that female power cannot be honest and direct. Both of these notions have wreaked havoc between men and women for a long time. And I believe it needs to stop. Females need to be taught that BEAUTY AND STRENGTH can be together. And of course these must be connected WITH WISDOM which in all cultures was considered the providence of women and was depicted as a woman — SOPHIA.
The Greeks tell us even more about the Amazons. Their legends tell us in history that was ancient to the Ancient Greeks (!) there was a time when Hercules himself visited the Queen of the Amazons whose name was Hippolyta or “Horse-Person”! And we are told this woman was the leader of a fighting clan of warrior women who turned on the Greeks when their Queen was killed by the Greeks, and so the Amazons went to war in a way the Greeks never forgot.
And the Greeks recorded the names and attributes of many of the Amazons. This was a big deal to them and that is why Greek art is so full of images of this Greco-Amazon war.
The war with the Amazons is memorialized in many pieces of Greek art; both sculpture and paintings. Sometimes the Amazons are shown wearing a peculiar tight fitting armor of quilted material and usually carrying bows and swords. The quilted material is reminiscent of Persian light armor of the time and makes sense in light of the necessities of fighting on horse back.
So there seem two distinct “Amazon Periods”. One very ancient, probably around 1180 bce (Hippolyta)which was the firs Scythian migration wave— and another with the Sarmatians, around 800 bce. For convenience I call the early Amazons the Real Amazons and the Sarmatian Warrior Women I will call just that. Both were mounted archers, both were horse people. I believe the Sarmatian women were fully trained warriors and of necessity had to master armed and unarmed combat with a biologically larger foe; usually a man. This causes me to believe they were probably some of the most martially skilled human beings of all time. I believe as these groups passed over the steps they learned to adapt the weapons they captured from their enemies and so they became the “Super Adapters” of the ancient world, that is able to use any weapon that came to hand with facility and virtuosity.
In my system of The Amazon Way I have attempted to use the same movement laws as a Sarmatian Woman would have to use. In other word “smaller” and “weaker” as the model of how a person should classify themselves for a survival encounter. In other words, I assume an attacker will be larger than I am and will probably be stronger than I am too. So the idea of an “even match” in some kind of pseudo-combative encounter is eliminated. Because of this I realize I, in the same way as a Sarmatian woman warrior must use intelligence or in other words, strategy in self -defense. We must use every advantage and waste no energy. So the study of the Amazon Way deals with essentials or maybe more clearly; “What Matters Most”. (I am aware in some legends the Amazon woman was a giant and these rules would not apply).
We can assume for strategic reasons and for training the correct habits into the body that we have less endurance than the attacker and less strength. Geometry and timing then become the means of analysis for an attack. How far away is the opponent and at what angle relative to our body? Where is the closest exit or escape route? And our physical response itself must be trained until it is natural and easy. In training high repetition responses must be continually varied by angle and by timing until nothing surprises us.
By narrowing our self defense options down to the most crucial and lethal responses we save ourselves drilling and studying any extraneous movements or responses. Probably the greatest mistake we can assume in a survival encounter is that of thinking we need to “fight back” when in reality we need to evade or escape! but if we can escape and evade we can live to fight another day when the odds are on our side. That is only reasonable, rational strategy.
The “Survival View” orients us to train the spectrum of physical attacking movement which work within the scale of genuine effectiveness. The human body and its potential in a survival-battlefield situation — then becomes the defining aspect. No cultural idea or artistic premise takes precedent over survival in The Amazon Way.
Chapter 2- Ideas on training the body for combat; The Eye and the Staff
(Excerpts from a talk are given here for the rest of the chapter).
We begin the Amazon Way with a study of the target. The target determines the line or angle of attack, the intensity and the timing. And the principal target of control in the human kingdom is the eye. Now among the other mammals it tends to be the throat. If one mammal wants to kill another normally the fastest way is to break or crush the neck. Ask any tiger or mongoose. In the Human Kingdom we also try to smash the skull or strangle the throat, most often also disfiguring the face as it is the façade of personality and challenge. Now the human head itself can take some bumps but not in the eye. The eyes cannot “take” anything. So a stick, sword or one knuckle jab or finger thrust to the eye as a most essential attack. To concuss or blind someone is the first natural step toward killing them. So how can we understand this kind of attack and then how can we understand how to defend against it?
Notice the spitting cobra. Ever got red pepper in your eye? And the human being has reflexes to defend the eye. Have you ever walked into a spider web that went across your face? You closed your eyes didn’t you? So when we look at the old medieval fencing texts of Cornelius Agrippa from many centuries ago- and see all those geometric studies of the long rapier and how it can go through the eye socket we know Agrippa was on to something. Look at all the ways the eyes can be attacked by a long or short weapon or even a dart.
Notice the angles and try tossing tennis balls at each others eyes. Not too fast. Just fast enough to notice angles and responses…catch and drop them if you can.
At half- speed we will use color coded sticks or staffs to learn attacking angles.
This in itself is a whole art but it is also the fastest way to make you all more aware of the space around your body and lines of attack coming toward the body-targets. Swing and poke a colored stick, preferably red- since that is the color your eye most easily sees-at your partner’s eyes. Do not step straight back as you are “attacked” as your partner will run you down if they have a longer stride. Notice which angles feel safest; they usually are the ones that are30-45 degrees. And if you crouch down you make your targets more difficult to reach by increasing distance and the attacking angle as well.
Point your stick at your partner’s eyes like a gun barrel. Can your partner tell if it’s accurately pointed or not? You bet they can. And you can also tell with a little training – and even from twenty feet if they can really hit you with a rifle shot or not. So the first thing here is taking care of and training your eyes.
Now we will go to something less aggressive. Let’s look at how to read someone’s intent through their eyes. The eyes are the so called “windows of the soul” right? Let’s look at each other and widen and narrow our eyes. What impressions do you get from them? Now with your partner try just thinking of different things while you look at them. How do your eyes look to your partner when you do that? Try “putting on” lust, love, hate, and then try kindness or understanding. The whole eye game is used at the pick- up bars as a fertility right. In fact it is used all the time by all of us for many reasons- it’s just that it’s unconscious.
The whole point of the Amazon Way is to bring up normally unconscious body mechanisms to the surface so we can optimize them with self-awareness.
What do you think of that? How does that make you feel? Are you encouraged? You should be. Keep that feeling. Watch those eyes.
Now we will go deeper. We have worked with the eyes in relation to survival; that is conditions connected to aggression, suggestion and expression. Let’s talk about the eyes and consciousness. The effect of sunlight and full spectrum light coming through the eyes- to the pineal gland in the center of the brain is to cause an increase in certain chemicals-called peptides- which from current scientific evidence are directly connected to altered states of consciousness.
There are some safe eye exercises we can do with eyes open, closed and even blinking. There are some ancient hand formations used to filter light into the eyes and times of day to use them. This is to help trigger more secretions from the pineal gland to ward off depression and build the immune system. Let’s spend some time with these. Look at the sun on the horizon in the morning and watch it come up. How does it make you feel? You can memorize that feeling and keep that tremendous optimism and mysticism and gratefulness. In fact you can do it ever morning for forty days and hard -wire it into your physical system. I was taught this as a cure for chronic depression. I recommend it to all of you.
Now when the sun’s up over the horizon it can be to hard on the eyes to look at it- then you can cover it with your thumb- like Sitting Bull did when he did his sun watch for a day.
That way your can still take advantage of the rays without danger of direct contact, burning of the cornea etc. Now the ancient Yoga of the Caucasoid Mountains teaches a hand movement to strobe the light in. Let’s look at that arm movement…This same movement of the arm also teaches you how to defend your self with the primary movement of Tai Chi Chuan called “Roll Back”which is an arm parry to the inside.
In French Fencing with the Foil this is called “the fourth position” or simply “quarte” or “4”.
How do you like that? A single movement which contains teaching on several levels. And we are still only on the subject of the eye. The oldest written commentaries which deal with the eye and colors seen in the head are from the Muslim Sufis. It seems to have been handed off to them from the Zoroastrian and Mazdaen religions. All these religious paths deal with fire and light rituals.
The clearest writing on the spirituality of color is found in the work of two men; Sohravardi and Najm Kobra.
Both of these Persian mystics were around 12-1400 which I call “Templar Time” because the Knights Templars were active and seemed to have derived some teaching from them.
Getting back to the eye itself, The first anatomical detail of the eye was done by Avicenna, the Sufi mystic of Bokhara, Afghanistan. Around 900 AD. He had memorized the Koran by the age of ten. And he wrote books of questions to God and he provided the answers too! Most of his texts have not been translated in English. He warned about ground water pollution and extracted oil from the Rose. His medical treatises were used by modern physicians until the 1940’s when the Drug Corporations took over medicine, and his portrait is seen to this day among the portraits of the geniuses and pioneers of medicine at the Sorbonne.
Kobra and Sohravardi were after Avicennas time and they wrote of a hierarchy of spiritual experiences in each person which could be monitored by colors seen during meditation. They would watch the sunrise and then pray and meditate noticing the colors which they would observe in their head. They found these colors corresponded to states of mind or levels of exaltation.
I’ll give you full explanations on the process and meanings and we will talk about the explanations of the Sufis and others too. Many Tibetan initiations use the eye-color response technique too. I was initiated by the Dalai Lama at the Kalachakra or “Wheel of Time” teaching and it too is a color teaching. So all cultures have used this and all normal human beings are color sensitive. Some blind people can still discern color too. So we are talking about very core, essential training and understanding which can give you personal insight into yourself and better reflexes and defense ability too. The last thing I would like to mention about the eye is that the character for “eye” is the character for “Change” in the Chinese “Book of Changes”. The character- according to some scholars- was taken from the large round independently moving eye of the chameleon! So the “Book of Changes” or “I-ching” is the “Revolving Eye of the Color Changing Chameleon Classic text”! So the eyes definitely have it here. The whole “Eye” concept is big, big, big. And once this idea is digested and we do exercises to process it into ourselves we can save ourselves a myriad of misunderstandings of ourselves, others and even our “enemies” whoever we imagine them to be. Our eyes have a lot to do with how we feel on an inner as well as an outer level.
Chapter 3-The throat and the javelin
Now we go to the throat which, like the eye, is deeply connected to techniques of “suggestion” and hypnosis. If we cannot hypnotize someone by staring into their eye or making them fix their eye on a point, we can use another technique. This comes from pressure on the carotid artery to induce trance. In fact “carotid” is a Greek word which means “sleep”. Obviously this relates to going into borderline unconsciousness as well as sleep. The borderline consciousness experienced when wrestlers use a “sleeper hold” is the perfect time to put some one in a trance. I know this because my wrestling teacher who was a hypno-therapist studied this as a specialty and he showed me. In fact the so-called “sleeper” has been used with a stick by Tibetan policeman and in Jujitsu by the Japanese. It is a core technique in unarmed fighting certainly and I am sure the Amazons would have understood it. Besides this—there is an erotic aspect to the carotids, as there is with the eyes-as is true of all vital targets. Pressure on the carotids can help a man maintain an erection. So you get the auto-eroticism of people who hang themselves. Grosse and tragic it is, but there you are.
So pressure on the blood system, the blood vessels- of the neck, effects psychology and can induce hypnosis when accompanied by verbal commands . This really makes me wonder about wearing a tie!
From the blood system we go to the air system. The “Respiratory System”. The movement of air in the throat, the so-called “wind pipe” is- like the eyes and carotids- another key to survival. The throat has deep psychological aspects- the control of breath is not only related to life and death but also relates to dreams. Dreams of not being able to speak and dreams of choking,drowning or strangling -these all relate to repression of various types.
In myth, that is- in archetype- we find Hercules had to kill the Nemean Lion in his First Labor via strangulation. Theres lots of Greek art showing this.
That same savage Lion is inside each of us and we must learn to strangle that too. To do it we must get behind the thing and find its motives. It is the same whether it is a person or a lion. The neck and throat is of course, the junction of the head and heart, where intellect and emotion meet. And not often with harmony! What a time we all have when we ignore how we feel in exchange for what we think! The throat is also a survival center which effects our sense of cold and so our appetite. In Egyptian Yoga we have certain bending exercises which open the throat and we vocalize up the scale as we release pressure on the glottis. The movement of the scapulae is part of this and is deeply connected to opening the neck and throat and we see this in these exercises. In fact throwing a javelin, which was a main weapon of the Amazons, so loosens the scapulae and works the neck muscles that it can also teach more about throwing our voice or calling out. So the vocal- projection sense is assisted through throwing something with the arm!
Chapter 4-The Heart and the Sword
In classical fencing the lunge with the foil thrusting directly into the heart is the main technique. The head and face can be kept clear of a flashing blade or punch but the chest -and particularly the heart- is difficult to move in time when someone tries to pierce it.
For this reason most martial arts techniques use the arms or body angle to protect the heart. Turning sideways to the opponent helps minimize the chances of getting it pierced as does learning to keep the elbows near the body so the forearms can shield the heart. Since the heart is fairly easy to protect with the arms this has resulted in some attackers hitting or stabbing the arms until they, through wound, exhaustion or both sink down past the height of the heart. When that happens the heart is then attacked.
Boxer Rocky Marciano used this technique because his reach was usually shorter than his opponents. Those who Fence with an Epee or light blade are also in their sport, allowed to score by cutting at the arms. If you reach for a snake chances are it will strike your arm – not your heart. However, the poison will eventually go to the heart. So the heart can be reached through the arm one way or another and if you are small the strategy of striking an attacker’s arms is a good one but also remember not to let your own arms be hit or grabbed! A good wrist lock or pinching the ulnar nerve will make the heart jump as will striking the top of the forearm near the elbow.
The Ancients saw the heart as the seat of emotions. Moderns seem to see it mainly as a mechanical pump. The fact is the heart has been recognized in the last ten years by modern schools as a sensory organ. Scientists and Educators, in particular Joseph Chilton Pierce have demonstrated the field of measurable energy which emanates from the heart as a field which extends about twelve feet from the body. This field allows us to sense someone getting close, before we see them. Of course you all know about the polygraph test and how it measures stress when lying by monitoring the heart beat and blood pressure.
An easier way is to simply notice how your heart feels in your chest when someone is speaking to you. Uneasiness or inability to breathe is usually the sign of a lie. I have noticed some students are naturally gifted at knowing who is lying and who is not lying while others are clueless and really need practice! Try it with a friend and see how it works. Notice how even a half step can bring your heart into dangerous range of an attack. And don’t let anyone sit on you-there is a particular technique used by wrestlers where when they get you face down they sit on your back exactly behind the heart and slow it’s beating with pressure! It is also very difficult to breathe in this position too!
Now we go to the other targets and study the anatomy and the psychological and emotional meaning.
Chapter 5- Genitals (Kidneys) and the Dagger
Chapter 6- Shin Bones and Rapier
Chapter 7- Feet and the Spear
Chapter 8-Physical Drills
The Amazon Training Drills for a day—five hours of intense training (one day seminar) must have pads to hit, eye goggles and chest protectors and shin protectors, sticks and swords or knives…all steel must be dull.
Staff exercises with colored staffs (30 minutes)
Angles of attack and the thrust -which increases depth perception-all to vital areas
Above with short swords or knives or axes (preferred) and additionally teaching the major disarms for attacks from the eight angles and the thrust. (one to two hours)
Defense against two swords or knives-the cross arm throw. (30 minutes)
Basic Geometry learned; Go to the handshake, the minuet and the chop to the carotid or eye. (10 minutes) Variations on the pull. (10 minutes) Going over the attackers lead arm to strangle in a variety of ways. (30 minutes) Discuss the limitations of strangulation the naked strangle and the sleeper and the face lock. (10 minutes). Going underarm to break it and throw (20 minutes).
Amazon Dance; eyes, groin and spin a la single change or “pivot punch” (ten minutes to music) use circle (15 minutes)
Amazon Dance 2; patty cake to the toe hold, patty cake go to the center with the elbow turn your body opposite into an extended chin jab then turn into a groin punch to a toe hold. (30 minutes) check this one. Follow through on toe hold will increase time by another 30 minutes…it will then be 5 and ½ hrs….
The Ladder; Riding the opponent, climbing the opponent; the mongoose technique, body scissor and face attack while astride…
Advance into archery…