March 08, 2011

Dis-arming Grendel

Aikido image by way of wikipedia.

Sometimes when reading various classics or works of literature, my mind gets sidetracked to certain obscure questions. These may be fairly random, like wondering why Victor Frankenstein took the trouble to stitch several bodies together before animating his monster instead of using just one. Or why in the Iliad King Priam of Troy didn't tell Paris and Helen to get a room in some other city and save a whole bunch of trouble.

At other times, the martial artist in me wonders about technical details. Example: just what throw did Orlando use against Charles in Shakespeare's As You Like It? Ditto with how Gilgamesh threw Enkidu in the world's oldest surviving epic (I suspect he used something like judo's uki otoshi).

A similar question arises in Beowulf's fight with Grendel. The hero vowed to use no arms against the monster. After a feast, he and his homies settle down to sleep in the cursed mead hall. Grendel kills one Geat before he turns to Beowulf, who pretends to be sleeping:

...Venturing closer,
his talon was raised to attack Beowulf
where he lay on the bed; he was bearing in
with open claw when the alert hero's
comeback and armlock forestalled him utterly.
The captain of evil discovered himself
in a handgrip harder than anything
he had ever encountered in any man
on the face of the earth. Every bone in his body
quailed and recoiled, but he could not escape.

Any grappler who has ever had their arm caught in a nasty joint lock will probably feel at least a twinge of sympathy for Grendel. It's no fun at all, even if the opponent doesn't yank off your arm like Beowulf did Grendel's. But the martial arts nerd in me asks, which armlock was it? Inquiring minds want to know!

(My guess was a bent arm lock like judo's ude garami.)

Believe it or not, I'm not the only person who thinks about things like this. While surfing the web, I found a scholar who reconstructed the fight based on a close reading of the text proposes a straight arm lock similar to aikido's ikkyo technique.

Bent or straight, take your pick. All you have to do is click on the links and then, you too, Gentle Reader, will be ready to take on a man-eating humanoid Grendel wannabe. As I've rhetorically asked before, is this a full service blog or what?

p.s. You might want to practice a time or two first.

WISCONSIN. A new poll finds that most Wisconsin residents are not amused by their governor's union busting.

WORLD HUNGER could be vastly reduced if women had more equal access to services, education and resources.

THIS IS KIND OF SAD. Here's an article about how psychiatry went from talking to people to dispensing pills with minimal human interaction.

APOCALYPSE NOW AND THEN. Here's a look at doomsday scenarios throughout history.

NOTE: This post was scheduled for publication in advance as I have to be on the road at an ungodly hour. If anything really bad happens in the meantime, let the record show that I was officially against it.


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