The Ox-horn Crutches have arrived


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Courtesy Canada Post, the United States Customs Service and the United States Postal Service the Ox-horn Crutches arrived this afternoon right after I had gotten my first Pfizer vaccine injection. I would be remiss in not mentioning that the Uline box, foam, air cushions, bubble wrap and tape allowed the Ox-horn Crutches to arrive in the same condition as they were sent.

As expected from anything made of karalox they have heft. I can see why there is not much Mexican Royal Ebony shipped to the Wudang Mountains for crown-height staffs. That said, I would feel far safer defending myself with the long, dense crutches. Actually, since waxwood has all of sudden gone missing locally I’ll not be bashing a temporarily irreplaceable tapered staff with a saber until inventory conditions change. Saber against a longish staff or pole is a tough fight for both sides. The pole is relatively quicker, has leverage and is being operated with two hands.

Against a single-handed sword (jian) the pole has less of a speed advantage but the swordsman’s hand and wrist will soon be ringing from the vibrations moving along the blade. In both combats the challenge is to get the edge of the blade to the correct angle.

I had thought that the crutches would be very deadly in a counterattack situation – defending against someone’s overhead slash. They are, especially if the second crutch can be brought into striking distance. But it turns out that two crutches defending against a frontal attack by a sword present all kinds of problems for the swordsman. I don’t see an obvious way to build a hand guard that still allows the crutch to rotate in the horizontal plane. But if a pair of crutches starts headed toward something – perhaps in a manner more reminiscent of Xing Yi Chuan than of Tai Chi Chuan movements like Repulse the Monkey or Wave Hands like Clouds the swordsman is in a for a vivid encounter. 

However, my impertinent cinematographer has pointed out that I’ll not be able to put off solving the bag problem: how to transport wooden implements like the Tai Chi ruler, Tai Chi bang and now the Ox-horn Crutches.

India COVID 2021-04-28


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The yellow rectangle is about March 24 to April 13. A steady increase in cases of about 100,000 per day.The green rectangle is the last two weeks: April 14 to 28. The cases are accelerating and are exceeding 300,000 per day.

As above, the yellow rectangle is about March 24 to April 13. A steady increase in deaths of about 500 per day.The green rectangle is the last two weeks: April 14 to 28. The deaths are accelerating and are exceeding 3,000 per day.

Lau Gar Pole candidates (continued)


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The camera apologizes for the distortion. Unless otherwise noted, all pieces are 8 feet (96) inches long.
From left to right we have
a pine 2″ x 2″;

a poplar 1.375″ pole;

a Douglas fir 2″ x 2″;

a 108″ waxwood lau gar pole purchased many years ago;

a waxwood two section staff (=flail) also purchased many years ago;

a 1.75 inch oak stair railing;

a javelin;

a 10 foot (120 inch) piece of 1.25 inch diameter PVC pipe;

and 10.5 foot (126 inch) piece of 1.31 inch diameter galvanized fence rail

Lau Gar Pole candidates


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In Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei’s Volume 5: Spear, Halberd, Long Pole and Push-hands pages 179 – 221 discuss the Chen Family style Tai Chi Chuan forms using a long pole. It is noted that a spearhead could be added. This is somewhat different than the Hung Gar Long Pole set as taught and recorded by the late Grandmaster Wing Lam (see, for example, where among other things, the tip deliberately strikes the ground (well, one hopes the opponent’s foot) fairly frequently.

Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei specifies a 3 meter pole of white ash without any mention of taper. I have e-written to the esteemed Jack Yan, who did the translation, to clarify if the ‘white ash’ mentioned is really Fraxinus americana which is native to the eastern US and the southeastern edge of Canada. In contrast, Grandmaster Wing Lam required waxwood that tapered from 1.5 inches at the base to 0.5 inches at the tip. There was some allowance for the height of the student. Waxwood is sometimes known as Chinese privet. Both Ligustrum lucidum and Ligustrum sinense are now classified in the US as an invasive species and, despite having some use (in small doses) in Traditional Chinese Medicine, an additional barrier to importation is both species are toxic to dogs. Which means finding long poles – waxwood or any other wood – from martial arts suppliers in the US has become challenging. The 1970s and 1980s were the days long before mylar, graphite and composite staffs. I have not located anyone making 10 or 15 foot long poles from, for example, multiple five foot long (60 inches) sections that screw together.

Even if one finds a long pole for sale that is not the end of the adventure. DHL and Fedex have length limits just under ten feet. Freight costs start at $400, which seems like a lot for a $100 piece of wood. I would like to have twenty (20) ten (10) foot (or 120 inches = 3 meters) long poles; one (1) twelve (12) foot (or 144 inches = 3.66 meters) long pole and one (1) fifteen (15) foot (or 180 inches = 4.57 meters) long pole.

La Soufrière – St. Vincent – The Eastern Caribbean


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The USGS has recorded no (zero) earthquakes in the area since a Richter 4.4 south of Barbados on 2020-02-12. This is most likely just data not being reported or not being published as opposed to a lack of sensors. For context, Nicaragua and Central America is to the west (left); Cape Verde and Africa is to the east (right); Venezuela and South America is south (down) and Florida and North America are northwest (up and to the left). In the country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines there are currently 10 inhabited islands. Saint Vincent itself (red rectangle) is the largest island: the area is 133 square miles with a maximum north-south length of 18 miles and a maximum east-west width of 11 miles.

Kingstown near the southern end of the island is the capital and largest city. The volcano is near the northern end of the island. Normally, the prevailing winds would be expected to blow any ash eastward and out to sea.
The primary eruption’s ash column eventually reached 32,000 feet. Yes, 6 miles. There was a second, less powerful eruption. We’ll see what the volcano does next. Evacuations are underway. That is a lot easier said than done as St. Vincent is an island. The nine inhabited Grenadines to the south are very small – Beguia is the largest and it is only 7 square miles. Someone on St. Vincent has four choices: /1/ refuse evacuation /2/ move to the southern part of the island and hope to locate a shelter /3/ board a cruise shape /4/ go a nearby island like Barbados. The problem is moving anywhere exposes the mover to COVID at his or her location and allows any COVID virus infecting the mover to get a free ride. It is likely everyone will be stressed and crowded so that will help the virus to spread. Before the eruption St. Vincent and the Grenadines had had 1,774 cases of COVID and 10 deaths. 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine had arrived April 7 – I am not sure what the plan for the future is.

There are several earlier blog entries from January 1 2021 with comments on La Soufrière and St. Vincent in particular as well as in general what is to be done when evacuating an island during a pandemic.



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The city of Toronto has a population approaching three million, while the Greater Toronto Area has a population approaching seven million. That sheer density of humans create some considerable infrastructure challenges in terms of getting food, water, electricity, internet connectivity, medical care and education to people while maintaining mass transit, logistics, sewage and public safety. Unfortunately, the many variants of the COVID virus find urban areas to be target-rich because inhabitants interact with lots of other inhabitants and because there are travelers. It is not surprising that some areas of Canada are headed for a full in-person re-opening of schools while at the same time Toronto will be re-entering lockdown.

The esteemed Charles Tauber sent a photo of an almost completed ox-horn crutch – one of four being built. The last step is to glue and pin the two pieces together. The second pair, also of Katalox wood, will have smooth hand grips in contrast to the hand grips shown here.

New and Improved – and aimed at us


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Here in northern California the labs at Stanford University screen coronavirus samples for three COVID-19 mutations of concern: N501Y (Asparagine to Tyrosine), L452R (leucine to arginine) and E484K (Glutamic acid to Lysine). N501Y is found in the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), the South African variant (B.1.351) and and one of the Brazilian variants (P.1), and is thought to increase transmissibility. L452R is found in the California variant (B.1.427/B.1.429), and is believed to increase infectiousness and possibly reduce post-vaccination immunity. E484K is found in South Africa (B.1.351); Brazil (both P.1 and P.2) and New York (B.1.526), and MIGHT increase the ability to partly evade the immune system’s response leading to more reinfections. E484Q is (Glutamic acid to Glutamine) is thought to have similar effects to E484K.

Halfway around our Planet Earth on March 24 researchers in India’s second-most populous state, Maharashtra (includes Mumbai), reported that a surge of coronavirus cases contained thousands of instances of a variant that contained TWO mutations: L452R and E484Q. As far as I know, no official name for this variant yet. On March 25 Stanford University reported that seven samples contained the double mutation.

More than 15,000 cases of B.1.1.7 have been reported in the fifty US states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; 300 cases of B.1.351 and 200 cases of P.2. The California Department of Public Health has reports nearly 10,000 cases of B.1.427/B.1.429, nearly 1,000 of B.1.1.7, 50 cases of P.1, 40 cases of B.1.526, 25 cases of P.2 and 12 cases of B.1.351.

Plenty of chances for new combinations (including triple mutations). Stay tuned.



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from top to bottom: Pu Dao, Eagle Kwan Dao, Green Dragon Kwan Dao, Elephant Kwan Dao
The eagle Kwan Dao is probably the closest to the European polearm known as a billhook. The billhook was likely inspired by a long-handled scythe. I have experimented with mounting a kama on a long handle and am not very impressed. It is slower than a spear, does not pack substantially more weight and can attack in only one direction – wherever the sharp edge is. With the long handle the point of the kama doesn’t have much long-range puncture ability. Trying to keep the blade joined at a perpendicular seemed hopeless, so I had crudely bolted a kama to a staff. Another problem is if the kama is parried past say the opponent’s centerline or even your centerline there’s
not much defense left: you MAY be able to use the handle as a staff.

If anyone has an example of an authentic Chinese weapon like the kama (any length handle) I would be obliged.

For that matter, a set specifically for Elephant or Eagle Kwan dao

Katalox wood for Ox-horn crutches


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Also known as Mexican Royal Ebony. The scientific name is Swartzia cubensis. It is found in southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America – the trees are very large: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall. One scale for how hard a wood is has been named the Janka hardness scale: the number is the amount of pounds-force (lbf) or newtons (N) required to imbed a .444″ (11.28 mm) diameter steel ball into the wood to half the ball’s diameter.

Common nameScientific nameJanka hardness N
Quebracho several Schinopsis species20,340
Lignum vitae Guaiacum officinale19,510
Gidgee Acacia cambagei18,990
Snakewood Brosimum guianensis16,900
Verawood or Argentine lignum vitae Bulnesia arborea16,900
CamelthornVachellia erioloba16,370
African Blackwood Dalbergia melanoxylon16,320
Black ironwood Krugiodendron ferreum16,280
Katalox, Wamara or Mexican Royal Ebony Swartzia cubensis16,260
Cebil, Curupay or Patagonian Rosewood Anadenanthera colubrina16,150
Brown ebony or GuayacanLibidibia paraguariensis15,970
Leadwood Combretum imberbe15,880
Ipe, Brazilian walnut or Lapacho several Handroanthus species15,620