Akira Kurosawa

O-hayo true believers

Hopefully it’s morning when your reading this otherwise my greeting was invalid. Today; a slight change of pace from the norm, I felt it my duty, as your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor to keep you informed. Thus I present to you:

Akira Kurosawa

Regarded by many, and rightly so, as one of the most influential filmmakers in cinematic history. His career, spanning from 1936 – 1993, working as director, screenwriter, producer and editor, Kurosawa has inspired the likes of George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Takeshi Kitano.

He made his directorial debut in 1943 with the movie Sanshiro Sugata, (a.k.a Judo Saga), but his fame would not be cemented until five years later.

Movie poster for Sanshiro Sugata.

Movie poster for Sanshiro Sugata.

In 1948 he collaborated with a then unknown actor, Toshiro Mifune, when he directed Drunken Angel. Mifune’s performance as a rebellious but critically ill gangster made Drunken Angel Kurosawa’s breakthrough film. The two men would go on to create 15 more movies together including: Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Hidden Fortress.

Rashomon, also starring Mifune, premiered in Tokyo in August 1950 and became, on September 10th 1951, the surprise winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, spurring it’s release in Europe and North America. Kurosawa’s commercial success with Rashomon opened up western film markets for the first time to the Japanese film industry.

In all Kurosawa directed 30 films in a career spanning 57 years, and in 1990 he accepted the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Following his death on September 6th 1998, (age 88), he was posthumously dubbed ‘Asian of the Century’ in the ‘Arts, Literature and Culture category’ by Asian Week magazine and cited by CNN as “One of the, (five), greatest contributors to the betterment of Asia in the past 100 years.”

Born 23rd March 1910 in Ōmachi in the Ōmori district of Tokyo, Akira was the eighth and youngest child of Isamu and Shima Kurosawa.

His family was moderately wealthy, his mother, Shima came form a merchant’s family in Osaka and his father, Isamu was a member of a former Samurai clan of the Akita prefecture.

Kurosawa’s father played a pivotal role in his career choice. Isamu was very open to western traditions, a rare trait in Japanese citizens at that time, and encouraged a six-year-old Kurosawa to watch movies, as he considered both theatre and motion pictures to have educational merit.

Unbeknownst to many, Kurosawa originally trained as a painter, his storyboards for all his films were full-scale paintings.

He would storyboard the whole movie like this. This painting is from Ran.

He would storyboard the whole movie like this. This painting is from Ran.

At age 25 he finally entered the film industry in February 1936, when Photo Chemical Laboratories, (P.C.L. which later became Toho company), advertised for assistant directors. P.C.L required applicants to submit an essay discussing the fundamental deficiencies of Japanese films and ways to overcome them. Kurosawa’s essay mocked the question by suggesting that if the deficiencies were fundamental, they could not be corrected. The essay earned him follow-up exams; one of the examiners was respected director Kajirō Yamamoto, who insisted on hiring Kurosawa.

In his five years as assistant director, 17 of his 24 films were made working with Yamamoto, earning him swift promotion straight from 3rd assistant director to chief assistant director within one year. The last movie they worked on together was Uma, (Horse), 1941. Kurosawa took over most of the production as Yamamoto’s attention was focused on another project.

In 1942 Kurosawa found the inspiration for his directorial debut in Tsuneo Tomita’s novel Sanshiro Sugata. After devouring the book in one sitting on its publication day, he asked Toho to secure the film rights, a solid prediction on his part as soon after many other film companies were vying for them.

He encountered great difficulty releasing the movie as the censors considered it too ‘British – American’, which at that time was as severe an accusation as treason. The censorship office eventually allowed it to be screened but not before cutting around 18 minutes of footage, most of which is now forever lost. Despite these obstacles and setbacks the movie became a critical and commercial success.

It was during the filming of the next movie, The Most Beautiful, a semi-documentary propaganda film about female factory workers, that he met Yōko Yaguchi. Yōko was the lead actress and constantly at odds with Kurosawa’s filming methods. In order to get the best performance, he had all the cast live in a real factory, eat real factory food and only address each other by their character names. He used this method throughout his career to great effect. It was these arguments that built a lasting relationship, and on May 21st 1945 they married.

Toho in the meantime, had become increasingly concerned with the growing scope and budget requirements of Kurosawa’s movies. Toho suggested he help finance his own works, thereby limiting any of the studio’s potential losses and allowing him more artistic freedom. He agreed and in April 1959 the Kurosawa Production Company was born, Toho being a majority shareholder.

April 1961 saw the release of Kurosawa Productions second film Yojimbo. The movie played on many genre conventions, particularly the Western and was an immense box office success. Yojimbo ushered in a new era of violent Samurai films known as Zankoku Eiga or ‘cruel films’. Its influence spread worldwide and was virtually remade scene-by-scene as Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars.

A true classic and one of Mifune's finest performances.

A true classic and one of Mifune’s finest performances.

After such success, Toho pressured Kurosawa into releasing a sequel, thus he reworked Yojimbo’s hero into Sanjuro. Sanjuro would be the first of three movies adapted by Kurosawa from the writings of Shūgorō Yamamoto, the other two being Red Beard and Dodeskaden. Sanjuro surpassed even Yojimbo’s success in the box office in January 1962.

Kurosawa’s greatness continues to inspire writers and directors of this era and will undoubtedly continue to influence the movie industry for many years to come.

Without Hidden Fortress there would probably be no Star Wars.

Kurosawa counted Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Maxim Gordy, William Shakespeare and Kenji Mizoguchi among his influences. He also wanted to make a Godzilla movie. Imagine how awesome that would’ve been.

The main man himself, sizing-up Gojira.

The main man himself, sizing-up Gojira.

Until next time. Stay informed.

 

“Then I Took an Arrow to the knee”

The meme is well past its shelf life, but hits may have breathed new life into it.

Superpower: Arrow To The Knee

The ability to cause an arrow to appear in someone’s knee

Works on any person who you have seen; they receive an arrow, 2 feet long one inch wide, going through one of their knees. It enters through the kneecap and leaves through the back of the knee. It appears there without ever actually being fired and it is made of a solid piece of pure iron. Can be activated at will towards any applicable target and can be done as many times as desired.

The good:

Disable enemies so they can no longer be adventurers
Free arrows made of iron
May be used many times in succession

The bad:

Must have seen the target in some form, before TV in person etc.
They may not have any “knees”
Don’t control which leg gets the arrow

Until next time. Stay Informed.

OCDB: Street Fighter – The Force

On May 14th  your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor set the task to create an original Street Fighter Character to win a rather humble prize.

Using the awesome Hero Machine 2.5 you, beloved reader, had the challenge to create a unique awesome character. I present the 2nd runner-up.

The Force

By Cyntac Wong. UK

By Cyntac Wong. UK

Special Moves

Kamehameha – LP/MP/HP: Fan Service for the DBZ Fans: Unleashes a ball of pure energy of differing power and speed (seeks at Max Power level and causes double chipping damage).

Iron Skin – HP + HK + MP + MK: Hardens the skin of The Force into Iron reducing Damage by 1/3rd for the duration of the effect and allows him to shrug off attacks (50% at Max Power Level).

Quad Slash – LK/MK/HK: Strikes out four times with his double Katana blades with each slash hitting harder and further. (each Kick hits at a different angle making it useful as an anti air attack).

Mind Flay – LP/MP/HP: Reaches out with his mind and grabs his opponent. (each punch activates a different type of throw. LP – Crush and Head Bash MP – Off Screen Throw HP – Ragdoll and Mind Snap).

Can Fly – by pressing LP + MK

Max Power Level – LK+MK+HK: The Force activates a reservoir of power being saved for troubled times. This gives him increased speed, damage resistance and damage. No chipping damage is taken and there is a small regenerative effect. Lasts 30 secs.

Hyper Combos: (consumes 1 energy bar),

Gaia Strike LP+MP+HP: Summons a Giant Fist rippling with energy and lava from the ground that smashes his opponent causing multiple hits and high damage. (if done whilst flying this comes from space with flames from re-entry thrown in).

Lightning Strike LK+MK+HK: The Force summons great bolts of lightning that arc out and strike the opponent at range while they swirl around him in a great column. This gathers rocks, street furniture, bits of buildings as well as his swords. The lightning bounces around these and The Force fires the whole death dealing bundle at his opponent.

Mega Combo: (consumes 3 energy bars),

Street Justice – LP+MP+HP: The Force reaches out a short distance with his mind and grabs his opponent. He closes and strikes them multiple times with his blades, and then launches them skyward with a kick after a flurry of elbows and knees. As the opponent stunned flies upwards he teleports above them nailing them with a Gaia Strike of pure energy he has created around himself ending at his fist. The opponent flies down with The Force driving them faster into the ground with the Gaia Strike and causing a huge impact.

If carried out with LK+MK+HK after launch he summons every last ounce of energy and detonates an H-Bomb an inch from their face. (causes more damage but renders him unable to use Hyper Combos or Max Power Level).

Bio: Able to manipulate Forces like any other Telekinetic except he has taken this down to a fine art by learning how to manipulate Small Nuclear Forces.

Able to create energy at will by simply fusing two hydrogen atoms together harnessing the energy that creates along with other vigorous chemical reactions.

A deep knowledge of science and chemistry has led to a number of other skills that are limited only by his imagination. This imagination has been tempered by study of the modern arts of comics and anime.

Fusing his own flesh into harder metals and conjuring items shaped of pure energy. Taking these materials and increasing their density 1000 fold to create impenetrable armour and devastating weapons.

This however calls up a huge effort to achieve and the huge amounts of energy yielded by one fusion are held in reserve and unlocked as he fights. Conservation of energy applies and he will eventually run out of this power leaving him with simple TK powers.

It takes hours of meditation to achieve a single fusion which must be done light years away from earth. To rush this would be too dangerous. When gearing up for a huge fight 3 or 4 fusions may be needed but in a pinch he can draw energy from any other matter.

He is untrained in serious fighting styles but actually uses gravity and other forces to unbalance his opponent, slow their movements and help predict what they will do next.

Until next time. Keep creating.

OCDB: Street Fighter – Old Man Tang

On May 14th  your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor set the task to create an original Street Fighter Character to win a rather humble prize.

Using the awesome Hero Machine 2.5 you, beloved reader, had the challenge to create a unique awesome character. I present the 5th runner-up.

Old Man Tang

Old Man Tang by Orest Chekansky, Minsc, Russia.

Old Man Tang by Orest Chekansky, Minsc, Russia.

Special Moves

Drunken dodge: press down twice; the old drunken master falls flat on his back, ducking under most attacks, he takes a second to recover, leaving him vulnerable.

Staggering charge: Down, forward down, forward; the charge causes minor damage but puts Master Tang on the other side of his opponent.

I’m not that old; Hold back one second then release forward – Tang spins his staff through the air at his opponent, but it has limited range and may just drop on the arena floor.

Have a drink on me: Press down, forward down, then forward – he proceeds to sup from his wine flask and then proceeds to spit it in his adversary’s face, stunning them, this gives him a chance to get close for his next move.

The drunken coup de grace; If he can get close enough, he can grab with light and middle punches, after which he somersaults over his opponent, and then proceeds to strangle them with the cord on his wine flask, whilst drinking out of it.

Until next time. Keep creating.

OCBD: Street Fighter – Ax L Lee

On May 14th  your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor set the task to create an original Street Fighter Character to win a rather humble prize.

Using the awesome Hero Machine 2.5 you, beloved reader, had the challenge to create a unique awesome character. I present the 4th runner up.

Ax L Lee

By Daniel Ingrey, Brighton, UK.

By Daniel Ingrey, Brighton, UK.

Special Moves

Rock you like a hurricane: QCF + kick. Ax. L performs a roundhouse which he follows up with a hit by swinging his famed guitar, “Skeggöx”. Type of kick determines strength and speed of the attack.

Bat out of hell: QCB + punch. Ax. L summons a colony of bats that swarm at the enemy by hammering out a high-pitched riff on Skeggöx.

Raining Blood: Hold back for two seconds, forward + punch. Ax. L runs at his opponent and unleashes a barrage of punches. The punch chosen determines the distance.

Reign in Blood: Hold back for two seconds, forward + kick. Similar to Raining Blood, but this time Ax. L will jump in the air before landing and unleashing a combo of punches. Punch chosen determines distance again.

House of Pain: Back + middle punch. Ax. L swings Skeggöx forwards by holding the neck of the guitar. This counts as two hits.

Bio: Ex member of an 80s hair metal band, Ax. L turned to the Street Fighting circuit to make rent after his band’s declining sales in the 90s.

Until next time. Keep creating.

OCDB: Street Fighter – Kunio Maeda

On May 14th  your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor set the task to create an original Street Fighter Character to win a rather humble prize.

Using the awesome Hero Machine 2.5 you, beloved reader, had the challenge to create a unique awesome character. I present the 3rd runner-up.

Kunio Maeda

By Adrian Bennett, Kansas, USA

By Adrian Bennett, Kansas, USA

Special Moves

Brass MonkeyPress down for a second then up for Kunio to perform a backflip that avoids any special attack.

U-BootPress forward and any kick button to perform a drop kick that will floor the opponent for one second.

Flaming Dr.PepperHold back for one second then forward and any punch button whilst close to the opponent, Kunio will burst into flame, grab his opponent and suplex them.

Hangman’s BloodWithin grappling distance of the opponent, press forward, down then down forward and all three punch buttons. Kunio whips off his tie and wraps it round their neck and power slams them into the floor.

Sake BombWithin grappling distance of the opponent, go through a full 360 degree rotation of the D-pad then press punch. Kunio will pick up his opponent, shake them around like a cocktail then tombstone them into the floor.

Bio: Kunio was the greatest bartender in Kyoto, he learned all his moves watching wrestling shows constantly whilst at work. He discovered he was immune to fire when a Yakuza racketeering operation burned his bar down with him tied up to a chair inside, because he refused to pay them.

A very unique character, your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor researched each of the moves; they are all real cocktails, thus I provided links for those beloved readers who enjoy a tipple.

Until next time. Keep creating.

OCDB: Street Fighter – Yuki Shiori

On May 14th  your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor set the task to create an original Street Fighter Character to win a rather humble prize.

Using the awesome Hero Machine 2.5 you, beloved reader, had the challenge to create a unique awesome character. I present to you the winner. Yay.

雪詩織

Yuki Shiori

Natalie Raymond, Forest Gate, UK.

By Natalie Raymond, Forest Gate, UK.

Special Moves

Suriru Ni Odoru Enjeru Tachi, (Angels dancing in the thrill): By repeatedly hitting LP button she unleashes a flurry of slender throwing daggers, each causing tiny amounts of damage, (about as much as a blocked special move), and only have a range of roughly 2/3rd the screens width.

They render her immobile whilst she throws them, reducing her defences.

Itoshiki Rival, (Beloved Rival): This is a taunt move, by pressing back twice and LP or LK, she will flick her hair back in a provocative manner, blow them a kiss and giggle girlishly.

It leaves her vulnerable but if she pulls it off it will enrage the opponent, causing them to charge blindly at her. Very handy to do before the following move.

Asu E Tatchidaun, (Touchdown to tomorrow): She can jump onto the edge of the screen and jump off again, effectively double jumping like Chun-Li does, if timed properly she can somersault and land directly behind her opponent if they are close enough, (see above).

Kuraishisu-Ikari Wo Komete Hashire, (Crisis-Run with Anger): This is a charging technique, tap forward twice to close the gap, if timed correctly this works very well with the next move.

Wasurenaide, (Don’t Forget): In close proximity to an opponent  especially a grappler or wrestling type, press forward twice rapidly. Yuki will blow a powdered substance in their face, stunning them for a few seconds, the effects having made them forget where they are and what they were doing.

It does no damage, and has an extremely short range, virtually point blank. But does allow her a brief advantage.

Akuma To Tenshi No Kisu, (Devil and Angel’s Kiss): By pressing down, forward down, forward then any punch in one smooth movement, Yuki will throw one of her manrikigusari, (the ninja-tastic weapons she has in  each hand), which will momentarily stick in them

It has a range of about 2/3rds of the screen, and causes damage damage based on which punch used, but LP is faster.

She has about a millisecond before her opponent instinctively pulls it out, but if she’s fast enough and presses the same D-pad and punch button, the other will stick into them and she will then she will spin, pulling both of the weapons out of them causing additional damage. The manrikigusari then return to her hands.

Mayonaka No Etoile, (Midnight Opera): Press diagonally away, down then back followed by either all three punches or kicks.

This is a teleportation move; she’ll disappear in a puff of smoke and reappear either directly behind her opponent if all three punches were used, or as far away from the opponent as possible if all three kicks were used.

This could be anywhere on screen calculated by the greatest possible distance from the opponent.

Konya Wa Hurricane, (Tonight a hurricane): Press down, forward down then forward + any punch, this is kinda like a hadouken move but the little hurricanes she releases are quite slow, more often than not that’s the point if the move, like most of her other moves, to tactically position her opponent for the actual attack she wishes to use. She can also perform this whilst jumping, the release of the small hurricane allows her to stay in the air for a short time.

Misuteriasu Naito, (Mysterious Night): Press LP-LP back LK+HP, the screen will go dark for a moment, the only thing to be seen are a flurry of blows from Yuki in rapid succession, leaving her opponent on the floor. Similar to Akuma an evil Ryu’s special move.

Bio: Her birth name was Yuiko Tanaka and she was raised by fairly wealthy parents in one of the more pleasant districts of Osaka, she never had to want for much and this led to her becoming undisciplined and lazy.

She was an only child, so without any siblings she was spoiled rotten by them. Even allowing her to set up a music recording studio in her home and starting an all girl band with her equally lazy and rich friends, she was the vocalist and sometimes rhythm guitarist. They were called ‘The Blade Runners’, and actually had quite a following.

At one of their gigs in a fairly high profile venue called ‘Boomers’, they played one of their best gigs ever, they seemed totally professional. Fortunately for them a talent hunter from Toshiba EMI was at the gig, and they were about to get a contract for at least three albums.

That night they celebrated, a little too hard. Full of booze and recreational drugs Yuiko grabbed a bottle of water from the bar and decided to walk the six miles home to sober up enough that her parents hopefully wouldn’t realise that she’d been up to stuff her parents would have her grounded for.

After the first mile and a half she decided it was a bad idea and started trying to hitch a ride home. A limousine pulled over and offered her a ride. In the back of the limo she engaged in polite conversation with a portly man named Kobayashi San, who had two silent large ‘friends’ with him. They said not a word, she reckoned they were his carers at first, as Kobayashi San was so old.

It all seemed pretty hospitable at first, as far as she was concerned, anyone with a limo was rich and therefore respectable. They weren’t, they were kidnapping her. The two silent ‘carers’, she now realised were in fact hired thugs. They quickly bound and gagged her, she struggled as best she could, but with all the alcohol and drugs in her she didn’t put up much of a fight.

For days, maybe weeks she was like this, not knowing where she was, only knowing something was happening when she was manhandled from the car.

Once off the car her bonds and blindfold were removed, when she looked around she saw why they were no longer necessary. She was far North, she knew that because she was surrounded by snow capped mountains. Whilst lazy in her studies, she knew well enough the geography of her own country. She was in Hokkaido. Hundreds of miles from home.

Her kidnappers locked her in a cabin and left her there with the bare minimum of living utilities. This was far removed from the luxurious lifestyle she was used to.

As soon as she was locked up, she overheard the kidnappers making some phone calls, luck was beginning to find her, the hangover was gone now she could think clearly and the cabin walls were thin and she could hear almost every word. They were holding her for ransom, but what they did not realise is that they had taken the wrong person.

Yuiko knew this meant she wasn’t valuable to them anymore. She had to escape. And fast, she scanned the ramshackle hut for anything to get her out.

There weren’t any windows and the door whilst weak was reinforced with iron bindings and plenty of chains and other locks. Desperately searching she found only a broomstick  At least she could give one of them a whack before they killed her.

As she sat there, resigned to her fate, a ray of sunlight made her squint. It originated from a very weak looking ceiling. She could hear her kidnappers arguing outside, luck was with her again, she had some cover noise.

She made haste piling up the crappy and sparse furniture in the cabin to climb up to the ceiling and began bashing it with the broomstick. The ceiling gave way easily but the arguing outside had stopped and she could hear the bolts and locks being opened on the other side of the door. This brought her more precious time.

She climbed through the ceiling to the roof and had feeling of horror, all around was vast fields leading only to mountains, and she still had to make an eight foot drop without breaking her legs and somehow outrun large thugs to getaway. After sizing up the jump, she slowly positioned herself at arms length dangling from the edge of the roof, but she couldn’t find the courage to let herself drop, that was until she heared the door open and the thugs, not realising she was on the roof start ransacking the cabin looking for her.

This gave her all the motivation she needed, she let go of the roof and fell awkwardly, dislocating a shoulder. That wouldn’t stop her from running as fast as her legs could carry her. She ran faster than she thought she could ever run, partly due to fear for her life and partly from all the cardiovascular exercise she’d had dancing on stage and in nightclubs.

By the time the thugs realised where she had gotten too, she had a good head start. the thugs were on the roof, guns at the ready, but they made the mistake of simply jumping straight down the eight foot drop, the first one landed running, gun pointed in her direction, the second landed badly, twisting his ankle and misfiring his gun, shooting his colleague in the butt, slowing him considerably, but not quite enough, he was still closing the distance.

As he closed the distance he began to fire, most bullets missing except for one, hitting her in the calf, flooring her. She got back up and tried to hobble away. As the thug was reloading his gun a flash of thrown steel came out of nowhere, neatly impaling his trachea and slowly choking the thug to death on his own blood. She heard a blood curdling scream from the cabin and then another.

Then an old man suddenly appeared next to her as she lay on the floor, blood gushing from her calf and looking exhausted. He threw her upon his shoulder and with speed she never thought possible ran towards the mountains.

For weeks the kindly, yet mysterious and a little scary old man nursed her back to health in a secret training compound high in the mountains. They had many conversations during this recovery period. Turns out his name was Kage and he was the last of the Yuki clan of ninja. With no one left to pass his ninjutsu secrets to he offered to train her. She happily accepted, never wanting to feel that weak or afraid again.

For five years, she trained rigorously under the kind old ninja’s tutelage and learned all the Yuki clan secrets. Ninja training she found was unique from clan to clan.

The Yuki clan’s teaching method involved singing to complete each technique, something that came naturally to her. When her training was complete, Kage renamed her, she was now Yuki Shiori, roughly translated into English; Snow poem.

When the the old man had nothing left to teach her he suddenly became very ill, as if passing his knowledge to her was the last thing he was fated to do before he expired. When the old man passed away, she equipped herself with a vast array of ninjutsu gear and buried her Sensei. Then made her way back to the cabin,

Two thugs corpses were there, so she looted them for money, and the limo was also still there, the corpse of Kobayashi San slumped by the driver’s seat door, throat slit from ear to ear and a wide eyed look of incredulity on his pale lifeless face. Looting his body was a true windfall, rolls of cash in golden money clips and expensive jewellery that she could pawn on her journey back to Osaka in the limo she had no qualms about stealing.

After weeks of driving south for weeks  she finally made it back to Osaka. She dumped the stolen limo, and headed straight for her parents house. At first they were overjoyed to see her, but they sensed the dramatic change in her and from then on were apprehensive around her, almost fearful.

Being 26 years old now, and having a shed load of looted gangster cash, she decided to get her own place, in the apartment above the bar where she had played her last gig. She got the old band together, her voice was even better than ever, almost preternatural, she barely even required a microphone to be heard.

But with paying rent on the apartment and funding the band without a proper day job she was rapidly running low on funds. Then she heard about the Street Fighter contest . . . . .

Until next time. Keep creating.

My Common Sense is Tingling.

It’s already tricky enough to schedule even a general fitness routine into our daily lives, but it is worth making time to add flexibility training? It will increase your range of movement, which will allow you to do groovy things, like our friendly neighbourhood Spiderman.

That’s right beloved reader; the unspoken promise suggested by the geeky title of this blog will be fulfilled. We will be covering the nerdy and the cool, in very constructive ways.

Flexibility

Spidey's first appearance.

Spidey’s first appearance.

So why would we ever want to bother stretching?

For our aforementioned geeky purposes, flexibility training is justified thus: increased range of movement via stretching = agility, or in hardcore adventurer terminology; DEX. Having a high dexterity score gives us a better armour class, improves our balance and even helps with nefarious talents such as lock picking.

However, in that place with awesome graphics and crappy gameplay; the real world:

It decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion, which will also slow the degeneration of joints.

A flexible muscle is less likely to become injured from an extensive movement. So you won’t pull anything whilst busting web slinging maneuvers, or awesome kung-fu kicks.

It helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains. After a hard workout, stretching the muscles will keep them loose and lessen a shortening and tightening effect that can lead to DOMS. reducing muscular tension and enhancing muscular relaxation. Habitually tense muscles tend to cut off their own circulation resulting in a lack of oxygen and essential nutrients. So for the bodybuilders reading, stretching will actually assist in increasing muscle mass.

It’s just common sense that a flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wider range of motion, a flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy-efficient movements. Therefore improving speed. Yay.

Now that everyone’s common sense is tingling, let’s cover the different ways to produce this hyperbolic effect

I rest my well-informed case.

Deadpool puts to rest my well-informed case.

Static stretching

Static stretching is the most commonly practiced. The muscle groups are stretched without moving the limb itself and the end position is held for 20 to 30 seconds. It’s this kind of stretching that I would recommend for the reader who wants the fitness benefits with the least hassle getting them. Keep it simple. Incorporating these into your fitness routine is easy, just perform one stretching exercise per muscle after the muscle’s been worked, it’ll fit nicely into the rest period between exercises / sets.

stretch-lunge-side1

Spidey stretches his adductor, (inside thigh), muscles.

This category also includes static active stretching which is an effective way to increase active flexibility. It requires the strength of the opposing muscle groups to hold the limb in position for the stretch. Yoga is a good example of static active stretching. However, static active stretching is not recommended before a sporting event, it’s most effectively applied after training.

A fine example of static active stretching. Spidey's wrist extensors are flexing so that his forearm flexors stretch. Either that or he's doing a double 'hail satan'.

A fine example of static active stretching. Spidey’s wrist extensors are flexing so that his forearm flexors stretch. Also a double Hail Satan.

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort. Unlike static stretching the end position is not held. It is similar to ballistic stretching except that it avoids bouncing motions and tends to incorporate more activity-specific movements. Arms circles, exaggerating a kicking action and walking lunges, are examples of dynamic stretches. A walking lunge dynamically stretches the hip flexors by emphasizing hip extension and can reduce muscle tightness around the hip-joint necessary for competition, a good warm-up for martial arts competitors.
Dynamic stretching is useful before competition and has been shown to reduce muscle tightness which is one factor associated with an increase occurrence of musculotendinous tears and strains. If you don’t mind looking ridiculous, you may want to try this out.

Ballistic stretching

Ballistic stretching involves active muscular effort similar to dynamic stretching. However, ballistic stretching uses a bouncing or jerking movement to increase the stretch.

Ballistic Stretching isn’t recommended, it is a prescription for injury – muscle  pulls, muscle strains, and muscle tears can all result from ballistic  stretching. You can also end up with tendon, ligament, and joint trauma from  such aggressive stretching.

Isometric stretching

An advanced form of flexibility training that must be prescribed with caution, it is useful for developing extreme range of motion associated with martial arts, ballet and gymnastics.

Spidey demonstrates an Isometric calf stretch. Thanks Spidey. Thidey.

Spidey demonstrates an Isometric calf stretch. Thanks Spidey.

An isometric, or static contraction occurs when tension is created in the muscle group without a change in its length. A chair, wall, the floor or a partner can act as the resistance to bring about a static contraction and isometric stretch.
Aside from increasing range of motion, a second purpose of isometric stretching is to develop strength in stretched positions.

How Isometric Stretching Works

When a muscle is stretched, some muscle fibres are elongated while others will remain at rest. This is similar to the “all or none” principle of muscle contraction. The greater the stretch, the more individual fibres are stretched fully (rather than all fibres being stretched to a greater extent). When a muscle, that is already in a stretched position, is subjected to an isometric contraction, additional fibres are stretched that would have otherwise remained at rest. Those resting fibres are pulled on from both ends by the muscle groups that are contracting. Fibres already in a stretched position (before the onset of the isometric contraction) are prevented from contracting by the inverse myotatic reflex and stretch to greater extent.

Isometric Stretching Guidelines

Here are the general guidelines that must be followed if isometric stretching is to be beneficial…

1. Leave 48 hours between isometric stretching routines.

2. Perform only one exercise per muscle group in a session.

3. For each muscle group complete 2-5 sets of the chosen exercise.

4. Each set should consist of one stretch held for 10-15 seconds.

Last but not least we have PNF stretching

PNF stretching, (or proprioceptive muscular facilitation) is one of the most effective forms of flexibility training for increasing range of motion. PNF techniques can be both passive (no associated muscular contraction) or active (voluntary muscle contraction). While there are several variations of PNF stretching, they all have one thing in common – they facilitate muscular inhibition. It is believed that this is why PNF is superior to other forms of flexibility training. Both isometric and concentric muscle actions completed immediately before the passive stretch help to achieve autogenic inhibition – a reflex relaxation that occurs in the same muscle where the golgi tendon organ is stimulated. Often the isometric contraction is referred to as ‘hold’ and the concentric muscle contraction is referred to as ‘contract’.

Amazing Spider-Man 003_21

Now I will science your face off

When a muscle is suddenly stretched, the nervous system sends out a flag called the stretch reflex, also known as myotatic reflex. This reflex causes the muscle to contract, thus, putting a block on any further increase in amplitude to protect itself from harm. However, through training, the critical point at which this reflex is fired can be reset to a higher level. Also, with increased stretching over time, the number of muscle sarcomeres is thought to increase in series. These new sarcomeres are added onto the end of the existing myofibrils.

With increased stretching over time the fascial sheaths encasing your muscles – the epimysium, endomysium, and perimysium may undergo semi-permanent change in length. Other tissues adapting to the stretch include tendons, ligaments, fascia, and scar tissue.

muscle_anatomy

Another theory suggests that muscle cells may control and modulate stiffness and elastic limit co-ordinately by selective expression of specific titan isoforms.  Meaning, some muscular tissue in the body is better suited for flexibility increase than others.

Stretching is thought to stimulate the production and retention of gel-like substances called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). These GAGs, along with water and hyaluronic acid, lubricate connective tissue fibers, maintaining a critical distance between them. This prevents the fibres from touching one another and sticking together. As a result, excessive cross-linkages are not formed.

Now that you are all suitably scienced up, proceed on your way to agility

As we like to keep our training efficient at Level Up, perform static stretches, with a few isometric stretches for good measure at the end of a resistance workout. Not only does it save on time, but also yields the greatest flexibility results, various studies and my own personal knowledge and experience support this. When performing this routine, work up gradually. Move into the stretch slowly until you only just feel the stretch then hold it for 20 to 30 seconds. If you force the stretch too far or over train to get results faster, you may end up damaging ligaments and tendons. EEK.

Each new stretching session push the stretch a little further, build gradually and avoid injury. Train hard but train conscientiously. This is the very same regime the your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor followed to achieve box-splits. It works.

Adductor stretch: These aren’t like dynamic lunges for hypertrophy, lower your body slowly, being sure to keep your back straight as possible throughout. Keep the leg to be stretched bolt straight and locked in position. As with all stretches hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

Hamstring stretch: This will be the toughest, hamstrings are tightened on a daily basis; when we are seated and walking are enough to reduce their flexibility. Persevere beloved reader.

Calf Stretch: only hold the wall for balance and keep both feet completely flat on the floor. The leg of the rear calf being stretched must be kept bolt straight and locked in position.

Quadriceps stretch: Unlike with the other stretching exercises, you can make an exception with the tough and durable quadriceps, and really pull the stretch with all your might.

Abdominal stretch, Lying oblique stretch, Lumbar stretch,  Gonna need a flexible waist for all those web-slinging maneuvers. Nuff said

The splits: That’s right, beloved reader, the ultimate flexibility attainment. Your friendly neighbourhood Rogue advisor searched high and low to find a decent and safely instructed video to demonstrate how to achieve this. Diagrams will not suffice. But worry not! yours truly discovered this exceptional Australian Martial artist, Mr Rick Spain.


spiderman reading

For more on stretching and flexibility, check out: Stretching Scientifically by Tom Kurz, The Anatomy of Stretching by Brad Walker and for the Martial artists among you, Ultimate Flexibility: A Complete Guide to Stretching for Martial Arts by Sang H. Kim

Until next time. Stay informed.

 

Lock Picking 101.

Get your scoundrel glands pumping, your Rogue Advisor is here to put you back on the crooked and dodgy.

Lock Picking

What do we learn from Skyrim? Practice does make perfect. Yay.

What do we learn from Skyrim? Practice does make perfect. Yay.

You’ve done it a million times in RPGs: The adventuring party’s rogue has hidden in shadows and moved silently past the guards, somehow managed to evade and / or disarm any traps on route, approaches a door and gives a cursory look around before deftly picking the lock. A skill that only works in pure fantasy.

Or is it?

That’s correct, beloved reader, today your Rogue Advisor will teach you the basics of the fine art of lock picking. Yay. Before we go any further, I must mention the legalities: It’s naughty. Look out for the law. This article is for knowledge only, or if you find yourself locked out of your own house.

How do locks work?

First we focus on our target. As 5 – 6 pin tumbler locks are the most common, we’ll cover them, giving you free entry to all but the most stubborn places. The big secret of lock picking is that it’s easy, you’re simply exploiting the mechanical defects inherent in any manufactured product.

After this we shall be totally ignoring keys. They are superflous.

After this we shall be totally ignoring keys. They are superfluous.

The pin tumbler lock consists of a cylinder that can rotate within its housing. When locked, the cylinder is kept in place by several pairs of pins. The top pin of each pair protrudes into both the cylinder and the housing, thus preventing the cylinder from turning. When a key with the correct shaped ‘teeth’ is inserted, it pushes the pairs of pins up so that the top pins no longer enter the cylinder. When this happens, the cylinder can be turned and the lock will open. Simple.

Tools of the nefarious trade

prolockpicks

That is what a professional basic set of lock picks look like. They are surprisingly easy to purchase. But your ever considerate Rogue Advisor would never expect you to go and spend your hard-earned money in such a manner.

So here’s how to pick locks Hollywood spy thriller style

You’ll need 3 large paperclips and pliers.

Get to work on 2 of the paperclips with the pliers and bend them thus:

The one on the left is the 'rake'. The one on the right is the turning 'wrench'.

The one on the left is the ‘rake’. The one on the right is the turning ‘wrench’.

Getting down to business

1. Place the turning ‘wrench’ in the bottom of the key way, and apply pressure in  a clockwise direction.

Meanwhile, inside the lock.

Meanwhile, inside the lock.

2.  On most locks you’ll be able to cheat a bit here: Stick the ‘rake’ in the lock up the top of the key way and thrust it rapidly back and forth against the pins. This will make the pins ‘jump’, most if not all of them will eventually go up into their housings and out of the cylinder’s way allowing it to turn. Remember to keep the pressure going clockwise on that turning ‘wrench’. Unfortunately, cheating like this is noisy. If you want to be true to the ways of espionage then you’ll want to skip to step 3.

It actually does look like this inside.

It actually does look like this inside.

3. Moving the pins one by one: If locks were perfect, we wouldn’t be able to pick them. We would apply pressure with our turning ‘wrench’ and every pin would bind at once. When we lift up on one of them, all of the other pins would hold the cylinder in place, and the pin we lifted would fall right back down again. In reality, locks are riddled with tiny manufacturing defects, usually minor enough that we wouldn’t notice them with the naked eye, but each difference injects vulnerability into the lock. Perhaps the pin chambers aren’t drilled in a perfectly straight line, or some of them are slightly larger or smaller than the others. Maybe the pins aren’t perfectly de-burred or have simply worn unevenly from regular use.

This is where the third paper clip comes in handy. Just bend it like the 'rake' except with just one bump at the end.

This is where the third paper clip comes in handy. Just bend it like the ‘rake’ except with just one bump at the end.

This isn’t like what you see in the movies. You can’t just jiggle the lock pick around for a couple of seconds and it pops open. This step requires a little patience and a bit of DEX.

When we take those aberrations into account, and apply our turning pressure again, we’ll find that one pin binds before all of the others.

Your job is to find that first, most defective pin.

With tension applied, insert your pick into the lock and lift up a pin. If you feel it springing right back down at you, that is not your binding pin. Move on to the next pin. When you feel a pin resist you, carefully lever it up until you feel it stop. Once that pin has reached the shear line — and I cannot overstate this — the cylinder will rotate, just a little bit, nearly imperceptibly. When the cylinder turns, the next defective pin will bind, and the driver pin you’ve just set above the shear line will sit on the shoulder of the cylinder that has turned beneath it. Simply repeat for each pin until you feel the cylinder give up all resistance and turn. Remember to keep pressure on the turning ‘wrench’ the whole time.

lockpickinginside

Until next time. Stay informed.

 

OCDB: Larcen Yart

This awesome creation was the winner of the ‘No Disintegrations’ competition. Posting costs to Canada was more than the prizes value! Such is the current impoverished status of Level Up.

By: Hunter Tremblay, from Manitoba, Canada.

By: Hunter Tremblay, from Manitoba, Canada.

Powers and abilities: Larcen was born with ability to absorb and integrate any DNA, picking and choosing what he would like to add, sometimes using DNA coding to remove flaws in himself. This has allowed him to acquire a varied range of strange and unique powers.

This is accomplished by simply touching the living creature with the DNA he desires, but there is a drawback; sometimes he will take on physical characteristics of the creature from the new DNA, changing his appearance on a regular basis. Very useful in his trade as an intergalactic smuggler.

All his attributes have been improved through DNA remodelling, he has heightened senses of smell, vision, (he can now see in all spectrums of vision), and hearing, he changed his sense of touch to make his pain receptors less sensitive and his pleasure receptors more powerful. He increased his bone density to that of steel, and increased the range of his ligaments and tendons to be able to contort into very small spaces. He has boosted his metabolism to an astonishing rate, because of this he heals and recovers from diseases and viruses, (from which he can also utilise the DNA of), but must compensate by taking in a vast amount of calories. He has camouflage abilities, but they’re imperfect, he shimmers as he does. His DNA remodelling is not perfect. He does however have a perfect ‘Spidey sense’, that warns him of imminent danger. DNA remodelling has allowed him to breath in various environments, including underwater. He cannot absorb any knowledge with this power though.

Skills: He is a tech genius, but not with weaponry. He wears on his left hand a force field generator, it has 2 projection point to be able to project 2 different kinds of field at the same time if required. The force fields produced can take the form of shields that protect from physical, energy, nuclear, gaseous and explosive attacks.

Attached to his right wrist is a scanning device, that can detect any life form and analyse it from a distance of up to 12 kilometers. The collar he wears acts as a translating device and also allows him to survive in environments he hasn’t absorbed the DNA for.

Statistics: Strength-65, Agility-92, Speed – 92, Endurance – 72, Intelligence – 88, Charisma – 79

Origin: He was raised as an only child by his father who was the man that taught him all his tech knowledge. As  a child though, when running a simple errand he was kidnapped by slavers, to be sold for sordid tasks.

Being unaware of his power, each of the 7 men who took him had manhandled him at various points, unknowingly giving him their DNA. The DNA remodelling takes days, sometimes even weeks, so he was trapped on the slavers ship for some time with other slaves, whose DNA he made sure to absorb also. After the remodelling was complete, he was the fastest, strongest and toughest on the ship.

He freed the other slaves and took the vessel as his own. However after travelling so long and far, he had no idea where he was. Some of the slaves remained with him to crew the vessel, even though none of them knew how to navigate through the stars, but some were pilots. They now spend their days smuggling, Larcen is now notorious with the intergalactic authorities, but extremely hard to identify due to all the DNA remodelling.

Until next time. Keep Creating

 

OCDB: The Chaplain

 By:Carter Wilson, New Brunswick. Canada.

By:Carter Wilson, New Brunswick. Canada.

Powers /Abilities: Incredible strength, which increases with his ‘Holy rage’. In this state of clearly not normal sanity, he feels no pain, and will attack with his knuckle duster / battle axe combo weapon anyone and everyone, friend or foe.

He is the guy you send in to clear a room full of bad-mofos. Possibly torturing the last survivor for fun. The pages of the strange ‘Holy book’ he carries give him divination powers, such as clairaudience and clairvoyance.

Even without consulting the tome, he can predict events several seconds into the future. it also increases his charisma, so that he may ‘convert’ others to his warped religion. The book is an actual living entity that is symbiotic. It has merged with his mind sending him into the depths of true irreversible madness.

Skills: Real name Javier Ramirez is an expert in Mexican wrestling, and thanks to the book he holds onto so dearly, he can communicate in every dialect of every language. The intelligence in brackets below is his natural score; the book increases his IQ.

Statistics: Strength-78 , Agility-43, Speed – 39, Endurance – 99, Intelligence – 96, (12), Charisma – 75, (9 without the book, he ain’t pretty and has a very bad attitude as is)

Origin: Ever since he was a young boy, he wanted to dominate the Mexican wrestling scene, which he accomplished, undefeated in over 123 bouts. But his family were poor and his mother dying, she needed treatment he could not afford, and the wrestling prize money just wasn’t enough. He turned to crime and began a racketeering business. until one day, whilst holding aloft a scrawny bookshop proprietor, he was offered the ‘Holy book’ as collateral for the protection money owed.

The book instantly began to take a grip on his weak mind. He snapped the neck of the shop keeper, (the shadowy figure behind The Chaplain in the picture), who had actually planned the whole thing, Thinking nothing more of it The Chaplain went on to his next illicit collection point.

The old shop keeper is the voice of the book, and the targets selected to be killed are all non-Catholics. The Chaplains mind has been warped into that of a religious genocidal maniac.

Until next time. Keep Creating

OCDB: Merpyro

Merpyro

By: Albert Slusarczyk, from: Plock, Poland.

By: Albert Slusarczyk, from: Plock, Poland.

Powers /Abilities: At 2.6 metres tall, Merpyro is hard to miss, and with his size comes strength comparable to the Fantastic Four’s Thing. He dubbed himself the King of all the Swamps, as he can teleport from swamp to swamp all over the planet.

His scaly flesh acts similar to scale mail armour, and once again is on par with the Things toughness. He is immune to fire and all related fire-based attacks. If attacked with fire, he will absorb it, store it in his bloodstream and then may later produce an equal amount to that absorbed to be used as he pleases. Also he can control the absorbed fire, as seen in the picture in his left hand, he can convert it to light rays. The absorbed fire can be directed and controlled into columns, pillars, walls, shields, balls and cone-shaped forms of attack; a great method for crowd control. Sometimes he even wears it as a hat.

Of course he is an amphibian, making him capable of breathing both air and water, his gills also function as a filter, making him immune to any airborne toxins. If, somehow he finds himself trapped in a place with the only breathable source being a finite amount of oxygen, he can slow his metabolism to crawl; slowing his breathing to use what is available as efficiently as possible.

No reptilian creature will ever attack Merpyro, and even though he is mute, he can communicate with them emphatically. Reptiles no matter how small will always come to his aid.

Being somewhat reptilian himself he has perfect camouflage abilities, but only if he hasn’t absorbed any fire, it will make him appear as a ghostly outline. He regularly cuts off his own tail, just to let a new one grow back and choose a new colour for it.

Being a lumbering giant of a creature, you’d expect him to make a lot of noise and be clumsy; this is not so when in swamp land. He moves through swampland in complete silence, leaves absolutely no trace of where he has been and can make his presence undetectable even by those with mind reading powers, and is odourless when in that environment.

However, his powers, strength and even cognitive abilities will slowly degrade if he is not in a swamp environment.

Skills: He is master of an unarmed  Martial art as yet unknown to most of the world. The movements are heavy-duty grappling techniques combined with massive strikes, somewhere between wrestling and kick boxing. He can without peer track anyone or anything on swamp territory, even the invisible and silent can be found by him. Below the statistics shown in brackets are when he is away from swamp territory.

Statistics: Strength-100, (57) , Agility-76,(23), Speed – 68, (13), Endurance – 100, (40),, Intelligence – 33, (12), Charisma – 48, (11), always counts as 100 when dealing with reptiles.

Origin: Little is known about Merpyro, because he is mute he is unable to communicate with anyone who is not reptilian. He has never attacked anyone without provocation, unless they are hunting in his swamp. There is a rumour, because of his teleportation ability that  there are more than one of  Merpyro. There have been reports of his sightings for centuries, giving speculation to how old he really is and has been publicised in some media as ‘big foot’.

Until next time. Keep Creating