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Thread: Thoughts on Koryu and Stagnancy

  1. #16
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    Julian:

    Thank you for the compliment, but I must hasten to point out that if the koryu (big K or little k, it doesn't matter) are in my hands, then they are in deep trouble. Fortunately, that is not the case, so we can all breath a little easier. I am just a neophyte in koryu, having spent most of my time in gendai arts like kendo and kyudo.

    The issue that Cady brings up regarding "martial personalities" (are people who train in budo in the modern world real martial personalities or are they just hobbyists?) is a legitimate one; I was just reacting to the fairly explicit assumption that this is more of a problem with koryu than gendai arts ("Koryu and Stagnancy" is the name of the thread, after all).

    I don't believe this. Koryu may use kata as its primary training method, and there is a danger that kata can degenerate if it is not done correctly. However, the assumption that free sparring will correct this is just as flawed, since few, if any, arts permit free sparring that could approximate real "combat" conditions (whatever these might be). Personally, I think that free sparring, properly done, can perhaps introduce SOME of the gut-wrenching panic associated with a real fight. I practiced kendo with Japanese riot squad police, and I was scared to death most of the time. Still, deep down, although I knew that practice was going to be painful and difficult, I think I knew that my life wasn't in danger.

    It seems to me that if one is looking for "martial personalities" (however one might define this term) these days, the best place to look would be in the army or the boxing ring. Soldiers are trained to kill people, so I think that it will certainly be easier to find a "martial personality" there than anywhere else. Boxing may have rules, but I can't imagine any other "sport" that requires more raw physical courage that boxing. People do occasionally get killed in the ring.

    Anyway, this is an endless discussion. I think it all depends on the teacher you happen to find.
    Earl Hartman

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    Originally posted by Earl Hartman
    Julian:
    The issue that Cady brings up regarding "martial personalities" (are people who train in budo in the modern world real martial personalities or are they just hobbyists?) is a legitimate one.
    (!!!Warning...This is my opinion, sensitive readers please avert your eyes!!!)

    Hell...when it comes to re-inventing the medevil samurai (or the western knight), we are all just hobbyists here. Lets not kid ourselves. (Yes even you guys in the black PJ's )

    It seems to me that if one is looking for "martial personalities" (however one might define this term) these days, the best place to look would be in the army or the boxing ring.
    I too, would love to hear a good definition of what a "martial personality" is..?

    As to finding a person that exhibited the classical "martial personality", I would think that the modern military is probably the last place you would want to look. (depending of course on how you define "martial")

    Possible definition:

    1) Martial personality: character attributes developed from experences in combat.?

    Well, contrast the experences of soldiers on the modern battlefield with those of a medevil battlefield. I'm no expert, but I percieve some fundimental differences here. (I.E. How many modern soldiers get to see the face of the guy they kill?).

    I am however, willing to be convinced otherwise...

    Nulli Secundus

    Ed Chart

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    Dear Mr. Chart,

    I think that the subject may have shifted slightly, albeit not to a completely unrelated subject.

    Trying to define a "martial personality" is certainly an ambiguous one, and most definitely problematic. You'd probably get as many answers as you would for asking

    "What is the best martial art?"
    (BTW Everyone, note for the record that I didn't actually ask that question , so let's not start on that!)

    Quite frankly, I don't believe that the modern military is comparable to the "martial-nature" that we see in budo. In military matters, there is far too much emphasis placed on "the military machine", being a composite of thousands (or more) individual people. I believe that the emphasis for personality development in budo (at least these days) is on somewhat more intangible issues such as self-improvement, internal discipline, etc ...

    I like the boxing analogy, Ed, but I think that (here we go) boxing as a competitive sport is not budo. This doesn't mean that boxing has nothing to offer, because I think it is a fantastic and simple way to effectively use your hands. It's far too controlled an environment (on its own) to be considered a war art.

    Since we do not live in medieval Japan, most martial artists do not specifically train in aspects of war (heiho), and even if they did, that training would amount to nothing more than the odd indulgence into Sun Tzu or Musashi Miyamoto. To that effect, as one of those guys in black PJs, I don't make a specific effort to study meterology, or horseback archery, or poison-making, etc ...

    Getting back to the issue of what a "martial personality" is, given certain criteria, I think that there is a great deal of room within Budo (the community) for a multitude of personalities. Ironically enough, this is an area of study that I am interested in delving into.

    I also think that it is important to distinguish the difference between a budoka that trains in Japan (and is perhaps Japanese) and a budoka that trains elsewhere (esp. North America). Chances are, those two types of people have radically different ways of viewing their master, and their teachings (more ambiguity). Hell, the fact that you are actually paying your teacher for instruction means that there is a certain client/vendor dynamic going on (the degree of which being quite dependent on the instructor).

    So, I would be eager to pursue this topic further, since it is of cardinal importance to many people (myself obviously included) to determine who we really are as students, and who we really want to be as teachers.

    Yours Truly,

    Julian Straub




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    Originally posted by Hiding Crow
    Dear Mr. Chart,
    Please please...Ed's fine, don't want, Cady thinking I'm a 'way serious dude' here..

    I also think that it is important to distinguish the difference between a budoka that trains in Japan (and is perhaps Japanese) and a budoka that trains elsewhere (esp. North America). Chances are, those two types of people have radically different ways of viewing their master, and their teachings (more ambiguity).
    Good point..and this has also been discussed before, I believe, within the context of the Koryu arts.

    Quite frankly, I don't believe that the modern military is comparable to the "martial-nature" that we see in budo. In military matters, there is far too much emphasis placed on "the military machine", being a composite of thousands (or more) individual people. I believe that the emphasis for personality development in budo (at least these days) is on somewhat more intangible issues such as self-improvement, internal discipline, etc ...
    I think another interesting difference here is the concept of "self"...this focus on individual self-improvement in budo. Modern military indoctrination is all about team-work, getting rid of that "self" centered perspective (so quite the opposite).

    On a side note....
    Say..Julian..I'm curious..where do you practice Iai and Niten in Toronto? I'm pretty close by, maybe we've run into each other before..?
    Nulli Secundus

    Ed Chart

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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Cady Goldfield
    [B]Of course one wouldn't expect fire from a 90-year-old who can barely hobble. But Colin, wouldn't one expect to see the principles and martial application re-seeded in these venerables' advanced (but younger) students? After all, they too are vessels for the continuation of the art. As they practice, so will their students adopt the method. If their teachers lack martial intent, then won't the art become lackluster and for aesthetics only for the descendents?

    cg

    ............

    Yes your quite right. Unfortunately a lot of people dont appreciate this. It is indeed important to pass down our teachers teachings and try to stick to any written basics we have that have been handed down.

    What is good for one is not perhaps good for some one else if they of a different stature. Then again we should add our character to the basics. If we are going to change things that much then why bother?

    I think you get the usuall run of the mill practitioners and occasionaly get someone who stands out. Its a big problem. Who do you hand down the style to. Your nearest relative or your best student?

    Branches of the tree are not so bad, but there are a lot a Kara-ha (borrowed leaves) that eventually just fall. That way we can get back to basics.

    Even here in Japan there are a lot of cowboys looking for instant success or some recognition through promotion. When they cant find it they move on.

    I am myself well pleased. Some years of just doing Ipponnme. Now it has been suggested that press on with the other forms and that I should start my own dojo. There are no shortcuts. We do Ipponme for at least two thirds of a practice session. As Victor Harris told me some years ago, even reading Musashi is like Kendo Kirikaeshi. A 100.000 times is not enough.

    Hyakutake Colin

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    Default Martial mindset

    The martial mindset or "personality" I spoke of means, to me, the ability to turn on that part of your brain that is capable of killing and can harness pure aggression constructively for that purpose.

    There is a difference between "sport/competitive" mindset and "martial" mindset. While competitive mindset directs the mind to win, the martial mindset directs the mind to kill. While on the surface this may appear the same to a casual observer -- after all, hardcore kendoka are aggression incarnate! -- there are some very subtle-but-crucial differences. The martial mindset means letting go of all thoughts of life and self, and focusing only on the task at hand: killing. That's a pretty tall order for peaceable people in peacetime societies.

    But, killing arts such as kenjutsu and its accompanying iaijutsu must have the intent-to-kill mindset, or else they are only shadows and dances with pointed sticks. To keep an ancient art authentic, I believe that we need to practice it as close to the original intent as we can without going over that edge. That's what keeps it whole and respectful of the tradition.

    I believe that many people practice kenjutsu and iaijutsu without that killer intent. It's like baking a yeast bread without the yeast! The other component parts are ineffective because the key ingredient is missing.

    Some may believe that cultivating mushin ("no mind") alone, without killing intent, is adequate to effectively practice these arts, but I don't believe that's enough. Mushin is vital, of course, because it removes the obstacles of thought and indecision that will create delays in taking action. However, it must be informed and driven by harnessed aggression and intent, as well as with actual correct technique, and intuitive knowledge of angles, ma-ai and timing.

    As to the "healthiness" of being able to have killer intent, IMO it has to do with the overall person and psyche. Some people are born with the natural ability to "click on" the aggression, while others are not, or have been conditioned by a lifetime of social influence ("nice girls and boys do NOT kill people"). For those who have it, though (and I believe that many of us do, whether or not we ever call upon it), it does not preclude the ability to enjoy social and family life, and it does not make the person a killer or a danger to others. It is only a tool. In the hands of a sociopath, it is a deadly tool, but in the hands of a well-balanced individual, it is the source of amazing inner strength.

    In our dojo, we practice waza with martial intent -- aggression with the intent to kill. Yet, we do not kill; in fact, it would be devastating to each and every one of us if a death accidentally occurred. I can tell you for sure that one would never occur intentionally. And, I can tell you how awful everyone feels -- collectively -- when someone is inadvertantly injured. I love the guys I train with as though they were my own brothers. The culture of our dojo is one of love, affection and deep mutual trust. We are entrusting each other with our lives while practicing martial techniques, the sole intent of which was, long ago, to kill, maim and torture an enemy. These techniques could easily maim and kill us now, in the dojo, but for the humanity and conscience that inform our actions and force us to develop that fine edge of control over the power of our actions.

    We practice these arts, then go home and lead "normal" lives in public service or the professions and in family settings. We have spouses, children, relatives and pets. We are gentle and law-abiding.

    And yet, that "click" is there, and we call on it whenever we train. Some in our school are less versed in it and are undergoing conditioning, in their training, to "think martially." Others of our members have, in the past, been "way over the top" with their aggression, and have gradually been toned down by the humility and the reality of working with others to a productive end.

    While sport and philosophically-inclined "do" arts can get away with practicing without martial intent -- as long as the practitioners do not expect their skills to be at all effective in actual "real" application -- I believe that their proponents should forever be mindful of the fact that they are not training authentically, and that over time, for lack of a realistic setting and set of physical and psychological challenges, their art may be transforming into something rife with pretty-but-ineffective movements, and positionings that have no basis in sound combat strategies.


    Cady

    [Edited by Cady Goldfield on 12-23-2000 at 02:40 PM]
    Cady Goldfield

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    Default Re: Martial mindset

    Originally posted by Cady Goldfield

    There is a difference between "sport/competitive" mindset and "martial" mindset. While competitive mindset directs the mind to win, the martial mindset directs the mind to kill. While on the surface this may appear the same to a casual observer -- after all, hardcore kendoka are aggression incarnate! -- there are some very subtle-but-crucial differences. The martial mindset means letting go of all thoughts of life and self, and focusing only on the task at hand: killing. That's a pretty tall order for peaceable people in peacetime societies.
    There 'can be' a difference (yes I agree), but it depends on the individual.

    (my big beef)
    Yet again though..you get into trouble when you paint with a broad brush..tell me Cady..if you walked into a Kendo dojo...are you telling me that you would dismiss everyone in there as having a sport/competitive mindset???? without actually having had the pleasure of asking them what their 'mindset' really is..? Are you telling ME that I can't possibly be practicing kendo with a martial mindset when I feel otherwise?

    Hell..when I was playing high school rugby, before a match in the locker room, the kind of attitudes and emotions running around there would have been the envy of any drill intsructor.


    But, killing arts such as kenjutsu and its accompanying iaijutsu must have the intent-to-kill mindset, or else they are only shadows and dances with pointed sticks. of the tradition.

    As to developing a 'killing mindset'..oh please.., its pretty simple, most military training programs can do it in less then 8 weeks, no big mystery. (Of course, what they fail to do is teach you how to deal with what you have done in the months and years to follow)


    Some may believe that cultivating mushin ("no mind") alone, without killing intent, is adequate to effectively practice these arts, but I don't believe that's enough. Mushin is vital, of course, because it removes the obstacles of thought and indecision that will create delays in taking action. However, it must be informed and driven by harnessed aggression and intent, as well as with actual correct technique, and intuitive knowledge of angles, ma-ai and timing.
    I apologize, I just don't follow the hair you are trying to split here...my fault.

    While sport and philosophically-inclined "do" arts can get away with practicing without martial intent -- as long as the practitioners do not expect their skills to be at all effective in actual "real" application -- I believe that their proponents should forever be mindful of the fact that they are not training authentically
    And again, as has been well stated before by others, any 'do' art that does not practice with real martial intent is not being practiced properly. Your preaching to the converted here.



    [Edited by FastEd on 12-23-2000 at 04:38 PM]
    Nulli Secundus

    Ed Chart

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    Default Re: Re: Martial mindset

    Originally posted by FastEd
    (my big beef)
    Yet again though..you get into trouble when you paint with a broad brush..tell me Cady..if you walked into a Kendo dojo...are you telling me that you would dismiss everyone in there as having a sport/competitive mindset???? without actually having had the pleasure of asking them what their 'mindset' really is..? Are you telling ME that I can't possibly be practicing kendo with a martial mindset when I feel otherwise?


    First of all, I don't "dismiss" anyone. That has an air of condescension to it. It's not a matter of dismissal, but simply of acknowledging a certain state of mind -- one, which in fact may be appropriate to the setting.

    I have just spent the past two days watching videos of Japense kendo bouts. It doesn't come close to watching, say, footage of Otake sensei of the TSKSR. You want to look cold death in the face, go look at Otake sensei.

    And second, without intending to sound flippant, I would know that competition mind would be the state of mind in the kendo school, because that is what is appropriate to kendo. It is *sportified* kenjutsu, and killing (I'm not talking abstractions, here, but about cold, pragmatic killing) has no place within it. That colors the whole mindset, regardless of how aggressive and "out for blood" the kendoka might feel. In fact, it not only would be out of place there, but probably would get a kendoka kicked out. If one of the senior practitioners of my kenjutsu school were to spend an afternoon at a kendo dojo, he would have to adjust his mindset to a much narrower and more rigid set of rules, and that would also affect mindset.

    Anyone who thinks he is using a "killing" mindset when playing kendo, needs to talk with people who train soldiers in combatives to understand what an actual killing and martial mindset is.

    cg
    Cady Goldfield

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    Default Re: Re: Re: Martial mindset

    Originally posted by Cady Goldfield

    -And second, without intending to sound flippant, I would know that competition mind would be the state of mind in the kendo school, because that is what is appropriate to kendo.

    -It is *sportified* kenjutsu, and killing (I'm not talking abstractions, here, but about cold, pragmatic killing) has no place within it.

    -That colors the whole mindset, regardless of how aggressive and "out for blood" the kendoka might feel. In fact, it not only would be out of place there, but probably would get a kendoka kicked out.

    Yes, most aspects of modern kendo are purely sport, but not all.

    What defeats your arguement, Cady, is the very existance of 'Kendo no kata' within sport kendo. Its not just there for show. Yes, many if not most kendoka probably don't take the kata seriously, but (and its the critical 'but') some DO. And they practice these kata with intent, and at senior ranks even with real shinken. So where does this leave us, well, it leads back to generalizations, which I think you are making and can't support.




    [Edited by FastEd on 12-24-2000 at 12:08 AM]
    Nulli Secundus

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    Hey, Ed, I'm not saying that this is something to agree with or not, and it's of little consequence. It just "is." But if you talk to men who fought in combat in a war, they will tell you that "bayonet-do" on the battlefield is driven by something you will never find in a kendo dojo, even with the kata (which I've been watching quite a bit of lately).

    What you're talking about in the 12-year-old is not what I'm talking about, I suspect. There is a difference between sociopathy and the ability to use aggression with conscience. If you read back, you'll see that I've said that this mindset is only a tool; in the hands of a sociopath it becomes deadly, but in the hands of a mentally-balanced individual, it is the source of a form of inner strength.

    You seem not have caught the gist for the whole purpose of this discussion in the first place, and that is the preservation of authenticity in the old combat arts. The mindset is part of that authenticity, and those who practice it to its fullest do so not because they care to be cold-blooded killers; in fact, they are aghast at the thought of killing. They see the mindset only as part of the authentic art they are practicing and handing down.
    When that part is lost from an art, it becomes something less than its original design.

    cg
    Cady Goldfield

  11. #26
    Kit LeBlanc Guest

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    All,

    I have another, not very politically correct considering the status of most of the posters here, take on this. I wonder if most of us are even qualified to have this discussion. While I wear body armor and weapons to work, and have been in some hairy situations where my life was at risk, I have never had to take another human life. How can we talk about someone having the "killing mind" if they are untested in real battle?

    Unless you practice koryu AND engage in a profession which requires you to be armed, and address threats to your own and other's lives by armed and unarmed individuals, you can never have the full picture of understanding the mindset and practical application of "killing technique" as found in koryu.These things were built around warrior brotherhoods. Without sounding flippant, as I do understand where Cady is coming from, the bonds of love and trust developed in a rough dojo is nothing like the bonds of love and trust formed in folks who, as a group, face life and death situations and come out victorious on the other side.

    I really do not think you have to have taken another's life, though that would be far more informative and greatly increase one's self knowledge, deep down in the soul, of the "nature of life and death," as found in "shinken shobu."

    But I do think one has to be placed, on a regular basis, in such a situation where that is a very present reality, and where one uses ones own skills to protect oneself and others while in the heat, fear and fury of a real potentially life and death encounter.

    I do not think civilian self defense qualifies, though it can be just as harrowing a combative ordeal. Surviving such an encounter can tell you a lot about how you would react in a professional armed situation.

    But it is more about doing such things as your chosen job, constantly facing these challenges, learning from them, watching your understanding of the nature of this kind of conflict, and how you operate in it, grow. THAT is what the koryu were originally about. Men trying to pass on the secrets of their own successes in handling armed confrontations as part of their daily lives.

    And I disagree that such folks are aghast at the thought of killing. This is I think a misunderstanding of the very mindset we are talking about. Do we believe the Navy Seals are aghast at the thought of killing someone? They train to OVERCOME whatever psychological barriers they may have about that very act, to make the act easier! The training is intended to override this emotion, with control, in order to do the very thing. Police are trained in the same manner, but must be much more discerning under pressure and can only act if life is in danger. Military men, such as the bushi, have and had no such restrictions.


    Kit LeBlanc

    [Edited by Kit LeBlanc on 12-24-2000 at 02:37 AM]

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    Interesting input, Kit, and much appreciated. I was hoping we would hear a viewpoint from someone in a such a profession. It would also be good to hear from professional soldiers, although I doubt we will for a variety of reasons.

    As for the comment about "such folk being aghast at killing," I was referring only to killing within the dojo -- such as an accidental death in training. Or, an inadvertant killing outside the dojo, by accident or mistake.I wasn't at all referring to killing of necessity, whether as a civilian defending oneself, or as a soldier or warrior combatant doing so professionally. Most people (not all, but most) with whom I have trained, would have no difficulty killing if need be.

    We do keep the reality check that none of us is a professional soldier or warrior, though, and that we are trying to instill as much authenticity as possible into an art which we never intended to take onto the streets. At least not in its overt regalia (swords, tanto, armor...). None of us actively seeks oppotunities to kill; that would be pretty pretentious and probably sociopathic, since by professions we are artisans, teachers, white-collar professionals and architects!

    cg

    [Edited by Cady Goldfield on 12-24-2000 at 08:27 AM]
    Cady Goldfield

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    Originally posted by Cady Goldfield
    But if you talk to men who fought in combat in a war, they will tell you that "bayonet-do" on the battlefield is driven by something you will never find in a kendo dojo, even with the kata (which I've been watching quite a bit of lately).
    What 'they' and all other combat vet's will likely tell you Cady, is that ONLY on the battlefield will you find what 'drives'(?) someone. Saying that what you are doing in a dojo setting is somehow special or unique (hence your need to make it distinct from other MA's) does not standup.

    What you're talking about in the 12-year-old is not what I'm talking about, I suspect. There is a difference between sociopathy and the ability to use aggression with conscience. If you read back, you'll see that I've said that this mindset is only a tool; in the hands of a sociopath it becomes deadly, but in the hands of a mentally-balanced individual, it is the source of a form of inner strength.
    Your right, the analogy was poor (hence its removel). My point is this, I think your making this 'killing mindset' into something it is not. I just don't see it as a 'tool' or as some source of 'inner strength'. Its not something you can clinicaly observe in a MA's practioner. Its a personel thing, which just 'is'..its there in all of us, and given the right motivation it will rise to surface. Its not something I want to hold up as the defining element of what is and is not real Koryu. Maybe I'm just getting hungup on semantic definitions here...but honestly..when I read your explainations...they just don't sit well with me.

    -----

    By using your 'bayonet-do' analogy we might conclude that unless you have been confronted with the 'real deal', it is useless going on and on about what you think the 'real deal' might be. This leads me to several questions regarding the way you understand your training:

    1) How can you identify in somone somthing you have never experenced?

    2) If you don't have the experence, how can you train it in other people?






    [Edited by FastEd on 12-28-2000 at 01:09 PM]
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    Default Techniques vs Mindset.

    While I agree that unless you are in a "Killing situation" (which few of us are) that cultivating the mindset for it isn't really possible. Koryu, and other M.A., do provide a very useful mental discipline for dangerous situations. The concept of Zanshin is very useful when you are working in a situation where you can easily get killed, such as an Aircraft Carrier flightdeck. One needn't be asked to kill to need the same mindset. Danger comes in many forms, living in danger is something that requires that same certain mindset.
    Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow...
    ...that's what makes my thumper go

  15. #30
    Kit LeBlanc Guest

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    Cady,

    RE: Accidental Killing in the Dojo:

    Geez, is accidental killing a problem in your dojo? I train pretty rough myself, but the only training I have engaged in where I felt a genuine risk of death was in live fire SWAT, with firearms being fired over my head and/or a foot from my face. A Clackamas Co. Oregon deputy was recently slain in just such a training exercise.

    RE: Inadvertent killing outside the dojo:

    Always a tragedy, one that very few budoka not working as an armed professional will ever realistically face.


    RE: Most people you train with having no dificulty killing:


    How on earth can you possibly know this? I don't know this about most of my fellow officers, or even myself. I trust in myself that I will be able to act, but until so tested, one cannot know. Nothing against you personally, but when dojo budo practitioners make blanket statements like this it demonstrates ignorance, not understanding.


    RE: reality checks and pretentious artisans, teachers, white-collar professionals and architects:

    Apply this same line of thought to your above comment about the people you have trained with having no difficulty killing. This statement appears to maintain some perspective.

    Fast Ed,

    Ditto.

    Tony,

    Facing danger in the form of interpersonal aggression is very different from facing danger in the form of even highly dangerous jobs/accidents without the threat of having serious bodily injury or death at the hands of another person. Read Grossman's On Killing for insight into this.

    Kit LeBlanc

    [Edited by Kit LeBlanc on 12-24-2000 at 09:14 PM]

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