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Championship Fighting

10 Self-Defense Tips From Boxer Jack Dempsey, Circa 1950

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Championship Fighting

Even though boxing has been around for hundreds of years, few athletes have commanded as much respect and reverence as Jack Dempsey (1895-1983), the modestly-sized pugilist who toppled heavyweights far exceeding his 187 lb. fighting weight during his heyday in the 1920s.

In 1950, the same year the Associated Press named him Fighter of the Century, Dempsey published an instructional book titled Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense [PDF]. In it, Dempsey holds court on his philosophies regarding self-defense for the layman and professional alike and stresses technique above all. While you’re probably better off getting one-on-one lessons in managing attacks, many of Dempsey’s tips remain valid today—so long as you can forgive some of his more curious metaphors. Here are 10 things Dempsey wanted you to know about the Sweet Science.

1. EVEN A BABY CAN KNOCK SOMEONE OUT—AND YOU ARE STRONGER THAN A BABY.

Championship Fighting insists that the reader understand the importance of putting one’s weight behind punches: Dempsey helpfully illustrates his point by having you consider how even a child can seriously injure an adult given the proper circumstances. “What would happen if a year-old baby fell from a fourth-floor window onto the head of a burly truck driver standing on the sidewalk?” he writes. “It's practically certain that the truckman would be knocked unconscious. He might die of brain concussion or a broken neck. Even an innocent little baby can become a dangerous missile when its body weight is set into fast motion.”

2. BEWARE OF BIG CROWDS; THEY LEAD TO CONFLICT.

A big portion of self-defense is situational awareness, and Dempsey cautions that large gatherings should be treated with a guarded attitude. According to Dempsey:

Populations increased so rapidly during the past quarter-century, while improved methods in transportation shrank the globe, that there is much crowding now. Also, the pace of living has been so stepped-up that there is much more tension in nearly every activity than there was in the old days. Crowding, pace, and tension cause friction, flare-ups, angry words and blows. That unprecedented friction can be noted particularly in cities, where tempers are shortened by traffic jams, sidewalk bumpings, crowdings in subways and on buses,and jostlings in theaters, saloons and nightclubs.

3. KNOW YOUR ENVIRONMENT.

Has a hooligan drawn you into a physical confrontation? Before you even think about raining blows upon him, consider your arena: “Let me suggest that any time you are about to be drawn into a fight, keep your head and make a split-second  survey of your surroundings," Dempsey cautions. "Decide immediately whether you have fighting-room and whether you have good footing. If you haven't, try to force your opponent to shift to another battleground, where your knowledge of fighting will leave the percentage in your favor. Yell at him, for example: ‘Okay, wise guy! You want to fight! Let's see if you've got the guts to come out into the street and fight me like a man!’”

This, Dempsey says, will allow you to avoid obstacles and crowds, “so that you'll be able to knock his head off when you get him where you can fight without footing handicaps.”

4. YOU NEED TO STUMBLE BEFORE YOU CAN FIGHT.

Dempsey had a very specific method for generating some of the forward momentum needed to land a devastating strike on the jaw, mouth, or nose of your instigator: Imagine yourself stumbling forward. “It is a quick, convulsive and extremely awkward step,” he writes. “Yet, it's one of the most important steps of your fistic life; for that falling-forward lurch is the rough diamond out of which will be ground the beautiful, straight knockout jolt. It's the gem-movement of straight punching. Try that falling step many times.”

5. YOUR PINKY IS THE KEY TO YOUR POWER.

Those new to inflicting violence might not stop to consider where power comes from and how it’s transferred. Dempsey discusses this by having amateurs refer to their shoulder and then “draw” a straight line all the way down to the pinky finger. “The power line runs from either shoulder straight down the length of the arm to the fist knuckle of the little finger, when the fist is doubled. Remember: The power line ends in the fist knuckle of the little finger on either hand," Dempsey writes. "Gaze upon your ‘pinky’ with new respect. You might call that pinky knuckle the exit of your power line- the muzzle of your cannon."

6. USE THE ”SNEAKER” PUNCH.

The former champ is exhaustive in his study of the numerous weapons available to boxers, from the left hook to the snot-box-crushing uppercut. But he reserves the most affection for what he calls the “sneaker punch,” a blow dealt over your opponent’s arms after a break in the clinch.

“In boxing, it is illegal for you to use this blow, or any other, after the referee has told you to break. But you can use it before he orders a break—when you make your own break. In fist-fighting you can use it whenever you get the chance.”

Dempsey’s description:

(1) Keep your head in close to the left side of your opponent's head, with your chin slightly over his shoulder.

(2) Maneuver with your left hand until you can grab the inside crook of his right elbow, and thus hold his right arm so firmly that he can't punch with it.

(3) Get his left arm under your right arm, and clamp your right hand under his arm—just above the elbow—just below the biceps. When you hold him in that fashion, he can't hit you; but you are in perfect position to break away sharply and deliver a stunning overhanded "sneaker" hook.

7. NEVER SWING, UNLESS YOU WANT A RIDE IN A HEARSE.

Any pro will tell you that straight punches are the key to victory: Wild, looping punches dilute your guard and lack precision. Dempsey is no different. “Some current fighters attempt a long-range right upper-cut called the ‘bolo’ punch. They even attempt to lead with it. Let me warn you that the bolo is more showy than explosive. It's more dangerous to the user than to his opponent. The bolo, or any long-range uppercut, is merely an underhanded swing. And you know that any type of swing, against a good straight puncher, signals to the mortician.”

8. WATCH YOUR OPPONENT’S WRISTS.

To help anticipate your opponent’s moves, Dempsey advocates keeping watch on the position of his or her wrists. On a related note, he advises not to close your eyes while being punched. “Never close your eyes; no matter what kind of a punch is coming at you, and no matter what kind of a punch you are throwing. Keep your eyes riveted on his left fist. After you develop the habit of watching punches, you'll discover that even though your eyes are focused on one threatening fist, you'll be noting from the corners of your eyes every other move your opponent is making.”

9. DON'T COUNT YOURSELF OUT BECAUSE OF YOUR SIZE.

Although he advocates routine fitness programs, Dempsey doesn’t subscribe to the theory that you need to be a chiseled beefcake in order to protect yourself. “Though you resemble a circus fat man or a human skeleton, you'll be able to fight surprisingly well if you practice the fundamentals of explosive fighting I've explained in this book. You'll be able to stiffen many a fellow with one punch, or with a couple of punches.”

10. FINISH IT QUICK.

The number one obstacle to victory in any altercation, Dempsey writes, is fatigue. “True, your opponent also may be getting fatigued; but you can't be certain about his exact condition unless he's blowing and staggering. You know for sure only that you're nearly ‘all in,’ and that he's still out there swinging at you. Accordingly, the longer he keeps fighting, the less chance you have of winning; but the greater chance you have of being battered, cut up, knocked down, knocked out, or injured.”

The “Manassa Mauler” has practical advice to combat this issue. “Because of the danger in a fist-fight, it is imperative that you end the brawl as quickly as possible; and the best way to do that is by a knockout. The knockout is far more important in fist-fighting than in boxing, YOU'VE GOT TO KNOCK 'EM OUT IN FIST-FIGHTS.”

If a baby can do it, so can you.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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