Black Widow

Dr. Craig's Martial Arts Movie Lounge

Trapped between a rock and a hard place of the Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War events, the Cate Shorland directed Black Widow is a boulder film that doesn't emphasize Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) being a relatable hero that lacks superpowers, in sleek leather, defeating men with repetitive similar fights. Instead, the film opens with a typical 1995 American family living in small town Ohio when out of the red, white and blue, wee Natasha and her 6-year-old sister Yelena, witness their parents' American dream crumble into an Osterman Weekend (1983) landslide of chaos.

Avoiding U.S. government ballistic mayhem and barely escaping to Cuba, we realize they are Russian intelligence agents posing as an American family that are now being cruelly separated from each other by their boss handler General Dreykov, who hijacks the children for his furtive Widow project at a high-tech gulag secret facility known as the Red Room. Black Widow is ultimately about a pseudo-family striving to become a real family, show that blood is thicker than water even in a deep river of deceit and Natasha's vendetta to paint Dreykov and his Red Room blood red dead.

As I'm watching Black Widow I recalled my undergrad days at Cornell's entomology department in 1978. During a pest management lecture the professor told us about a Cornell PhD graduate student who back in the 1950s studied the toxicological effects of a female black widow spider bite. Allowing himself to be bitten and with anti-venom nearby, he wrote and tape-recorded what was happening for eight hours…then nothing.

The female black widow has a red hourglass-shaped marking on the underside of her abdomen. In nature, the combo of red and black is conceptually known as warning coloration; keep away or doom is what you pay. The female is the most poisonous spider in the world, it's silk by weight is stronger than steel and the male partner to her is just a meal. Thus, if female black widows ran a dating site, it would really be a menu.

Beyond the coincidental Scarlett named actress playing a deadly character named after a real creature that has a scarlet red marking only on the female, there's a cute running gag in the film between Natasha and Yelena that pokes fun at Natasha's classic dropping down into a 3-point stance and slowly glaring up or frisking her hair at the enemy.

Since artist Adi Granov introduced the 3-point stance on the cover of The Invincible Iron Man #76 (1998), it has become a prominent heroic stance in the Marvel Comic Universe. Though the 3-point stance has it's origins in Japanese mecha, amanga genre created in Japan after World War II when artist Mitsuteru Yokoyama established a link between man and machine, the stance first appeared in an anime episode of Go Nagai's Mazinger Z (1972) when he unified that link by having a boy sit inside a robot and drive it. Soon thereafter, the stance showed up in Chinese kung fu and Japanese chanbara films.

When it comes to fighting characters named after living creatures, my fight choreography mind goes into biomode. In 2002, during a Sam Raimi pre-shoot press junket for Spider-man, when I asked him if he would be using any true-life spider fighting skills in the film, the audience giggled as Sam blurted, "What would that be?" I noted three specific spider behaviors used by certain spiders during prey capture and escape skills from being preyed upon. He smirked, "Now I will." Willem Dafoe was jovially amused.

Today, I'm asking myself the same question, were there any true-life black widow fighting skills in this film? When a black widow attacks its prey, in a quick swoop it accurately attacks over the whole body and depending on the prey size and power, she subdues it instantly. Additionally, females don't attack other females and when there's trouble like if her nest is destroyed and nowhere to hide, she'll escape by rapidly repelling down a single silk thread. These behaviors are all in the film during the action sequences.

Most of Natasha's fights are short and concise, where she often ends up all over her opponent's body, from head to toe and its instant defeat. No fancy kicks or jackknife moves, its land, wrap around, knock out or kill and move on.

Her web-fu combines dangling from a single piece of rope (silk) while abseiling down the face of a wall (Aussie rappelling) and swooping down into action on a rope attached to a helicopter and a bridge.

The fights are shot with tight camera angles using one technique per shot. Now and then, a wider angle string of two, one-and-a half-moves per shot emphasize a fight's emotional beat. Meaning, she'll block a strike and then start a punch followed by a second lower angle shot showing a smooth transition to the end of the punch and an ensuing take down. It's an effective combo that clearly impacts the intensity of the action.

Additionally, in Black Widow, when facing female opponents Natasha tries to defend herself against them rather than kill them. If it's a standard male opponent, it takes less than eight seconds to slay them. Yet there are two duals that will challenge her ethos and a single vendetta bout where she purposely breaks the 8-second death-inducing decree to the nth degree.

Speaking of eight, how did that grad student fair? At eight hours, the spider's neurotoxin paralyzed him and he was unable to speak, write or inject the anti-venom. Fortunately, an undergrad visiting the lab saw what was happening and injected the anti-venom in time. Point is, don't underestimate or mess with the power of the black widow and the Black Widow.

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Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

A very dear friend and sensei of mine the late Allen Johnson, may he rest in peace made a home at Emerald City Judo. In Redmond, Washington.

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Destinee Tartuffe

My friend Destinee Tartuffe a 4th dan and Head Sensei at Good Time Judo in Santa Rosa, CA has always been a pioneer and developer in all her life endeavors. She first took over the judo program at Santa Rosa Junior Collegestarted by my old friend Terry Kelly upon his retirement then went on to complete getting her law degree, JD.

Recently Destinee contacted me about a new training tool she’s invented. Upon my investigation, I was so impressed with this product that I asked her to write something about it for this week’s Black Belt Blog.
Judo Equipment

Members of Good Time Judo using Judo Jaime Training Tools.

As judo practitioners we know judo is an exciting dynamic Olympic or recreational sporting activity that offers social interaction, stress relief, and tons of fun. However, we also know that judo can be a dangerous, and potentially deadly activity when used for self-defense or when not practiced safely.

For all the fun and benefit that judo provides an enthusiast it seems to be the world’s best kept secret from the general populace. My coach and mentor taught me that judo is an inclusive, not an exclusive activity. So, I look for ways to get more people interested.

One of the biggest issues relates to the very idea of inclusiveness, which for me translates to one dojo cannot be everything to everybody. The age old saying jack of all trades, and master of none comes to mind.

Recently, I watched YouTube videos of three respected Judo coaches discussing the state of Judo in the United States. One of their common observations is that students who come to train with them lack the fundamental skills which would allow them to actually help those students reach a level of Judo expertise whereby the student could compete at an elite level of competition.

While I was disappointed to hear their dire opinions, they were similar to what I was experiencing in my college classroom. Honestly, I have been concerned for many years about how to continue when so many of the students come to class with an attitude of being a “super ninja” when in actuality they are often uncoordinated and seemingly unwilling to follow even the simplest of instructions. This creates a situation or environment where “bullies” prevail, injures occur, and students are lost. This attitude seems a direct conflict to the principle of Mutual Benefit and Welfare, and it made me think about hanging up my judogi.

Then, COVID caused programs to close, but as a college Judo instructor I was tasked with creating an online curriculum for my students and doing so within one week! I knew my students did not have the proper safety equipment in their homes to continue with the rolls and falls that we were practicing in class. We spent the last eight weeks finishing out the semester via Zoom class. I found the biggest challenge to be communicating to the student how they needed to correct their postures, or their ability to visualize the skill and apply my instructions for any given lesson.

The last night of class of had a vision of how these issues could be addressed. That’s when I created the Fundamental Directional Movement Mat and a Proximity Training Device that I call Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke. These tools can be used together or separately. The benefits conferred to the user by using the tools together can greatly excel the beginning students understanding of the application of Judo.

These tools are not just for beginners, it is important for even the most experienced judoka to review the fundamental movements regularly. Think about it there are pre-arranged forms (katas) that specifically address movement!

The Fundamental Directional Movement Mat is a durable vinyl mat with an elliptical design (mapping the movement of the Judoka in the plane of applied Judo). The instructor whether in-person or in an online class can assist the student by directing them to orient either along the horizontal or vertical 180 degree lines, which are also used to demonstrate and solidify 90 degree turns/pivots that are important to the fundamental movements for application of Judo. The mat also has indicators for the student to see the 45 degree angle of technique application easier.

Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke is a proximity training device that allows beginning Judoka to develop the proper posture and understanding of the proximity for applying judo techniques without the resistance, frustration, or fear that working with a partner initially brings. My years of teaching adults have shown me that despite what the student says, they often approach contact with another with fear and the mistaken belief that over-powering or resisting their partner is the proper thing to do; however, one-half the goal of Judo is that someone falls down! With Judo Jaime the student has the opportunity to develop the confidence and skills to make an actual attack when they are ready to engage with a person.

The device weighs no more than five pounds and is approximately 53” in height (when assembled). It is easily transportable and fun to use vs. the usual training dummies which are awkward, heavy and unsafe to use without proper instruction or direct supervision. While either product can be used alone we recommend using the tools together. This allows the student to fine-tune visualization skills and apply techniques, here again, without resistance from a partner. The student will develop an understanding and integration of the techniques for proper response timing more quickly.

The Fundamental Directional Movement Mat and Instructional material is copyrighted by Destar Productions, Inc.

Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke is a proximity training device with a patent pending by Destar Productions, Inc. For questions regarding orders and other product descriptions email Destinee Tartuffe at or visit our online store directly.

Judo Jamie

Judo Jaime

Fundamental Direction Training Mat

Fundamental Training Mat

Good Time Judo Outdoor workout with Judo Jaime

Outdoor Judo Jaime2

Judo training Without a Partner/ Introduction of Training Tools for Standing

This video introduces some new training tools for practicing, maintaining and gaining skills for application of Judo technique.Be sure to check out the Demon...

Demonstration of Judo Jaime: Your Training Uke

Demonstration of Judo Jaime: Your Training UkeBe sure to check out our video Judo training while social distancing.

I’m always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to, thanks.

Gary Goltz
Xiaolin Gruv
Photo Courtesy: Carmichael Simon

Title Image: XiaolinGruv Masters 2005 : Nigel Bolton, Carmichael Simon, Kory Watkins, Anthony Gooch, and Jeriel Bey

During the 1980s as BBoys (Breakers), Poppers, and Lockers share their creative spirits within the New York City transit line, Los Angeles nightlife, and media platforms such as Soul Train, we travel a few miles from Bruce Lee’s nostalgic school where the “Arts & Soul” of Oakland, California harmonize. Orchestrating the culture of their roots, heritage of movement, and diversity of social economics, we find the Alice Arts Center.

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