Thursday, March 22, 2007
Home-Made Ninja Stars (Starblades)
Remember when you were a kid, and when you watched those Kung-Fu and Karate movies? Remember after the movie when you would try to imitate the super-cool Kung-Fu moves? Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. Monkey style, Eagle style, Tiger style...hiyahhh!!!!! And Dragon Style! Yeah...wasn't that cool ha?
All these Kung-Fu and Karate movies were cool, but sometime in the mid-80's a new kind of martial arts movie style became popular. The Ninjas had invaded our Betamaxes*! Ninjas...highly trained masked assassins, armed to the teeth with all sorts of fantastic weaponry! The ninja films quickly became popular around my neighborhood. Everyone was renting those ninja tapes, or inviting friends to watch ninja films in their houses. My favorite ninja weapon was the Ninja Star--or Starblade as it is known in the Cebu. So elegant, so simple, yet so lethal.
I was about 11 or 12 years old back then. I dreamed of having my own Ninja Stars! Yeah...some of you may think thats insane. What would a kid do with lethal Ninja Stars, huh? Well lots of stuff. Throw it at the door. Throw it at the Papaya tree. Throw it at the Banana tree. Throw it at the neighbor's dog...err...ok...I didn't actually do that one. Basically, I wanted to pretend to be a Ninja and throw it at imaginary opponents...which could be represented by...a wooden door (yeah, easy target...haha). I eventually saw REAL Ninja Stars FOR SALE at Robinson's (a local mall), in the 3rd Floor. REAL NINJA STARS FOR SALE! How cool! But...unfortunately the price was out of reach for a kid. 200 - 500 pesos...per piece!!! Crap!!!!!! Back in the 80's that was a load of money (well even today its a lot of money for ONE Ninja Star!) So buying them was out of the question. As weeks passed by, I slowly forgot about my dream of having Ninja Stars.
Then, a few weeks later ...a certain kind of home-made toy became "uso" (in-fashion) in our neighborhood. I forgot its exact name. But I'll describe it and I made a simple drawing of it in Photoshop below. It consists of a flattened bottle-cap ("tansan" in the Visayan language), which had two small holes punched near the center. A loop of string was passed through these holes.
To use this toy, you held the opposite ends of the loop of string with your thumbs. You would then cause the string to twist on itself by moving your hands in a circular motion. This makes the bottle cap travel in repeated small circles. The drawing above is not in a correct scale...the string should be much longer. Anyway, after the string has twisted on itself a bunch of times...the fun begins. You pull at the ends of the loop of string with your thumbs. Back and forth. The flattened bottle cap spins super fast. It's now a mini-gyroscope...with a cutting edge.
You then look for another kid who also has this kind of toy. You would then face each other and try to cut the other kid's string with your spinning bottle cap. First string to be cut loses. Yeah the bottle cap could fly off and hit you in the face...but fortunately that didn't happen...much. Anyway, after winning, then losing a few of these matches...I decided to improvise.
Using a sheet-metal cutter I found in our "bodega" (a storage area), I cut small teeth at the edge of my flattened bottle cap, hoping this would improve my chances during competition.
I was eager to try out my new improved toy. So I found some kids to challenge. Unfortunately...it didn't work out as I envisioned. Sometimes the teeth did their job and cut up the opponent's string. Sometimes it just got stuck round the opponent's string. Too bad. I needed to rethink my invention. So back to the "bodega" it was.
I decided to make a bigger spinning blade. A flattened bottle cap was too small. So I went to the kitchen and found the discarded top of a can of pork and beans. I flattened that top as much as I could with a hammer. Then I cut big-arse teeth around the edge, poked 2 holes near the center, and put a loop of string through it. I now had a giant, sharp-toothed spinning machine. I went out again looking for new kids to challenge. But, no one would take my challenge. "You are cheating!" they said. "It's too big!" or "It's dangerous! it might hit my eye!"
How unfortunate...a brand new invention and no one wanted to play with me. So I used my spinning machine on poor defenseless leaves and plants. Many innocent leaves were laid to waste. Then a few hours later...I finally get a challenger.
We face each other...readied our spinners. And the fight was on! He showed no fear at my giant, sharp-toothed spinning machine. I thought I was gonna win hands down. And then one of my spinner's teeth got caught in his string. Both strings spun around each other in one big mess. We had to cut our strings to free the spinners. My new invention has failed again. I was ready to give up.
On my way back home...I held my now useless sharp-toothed spinner in my hands, not knowing what to do next. As I entered the gate of my house, I said something equivalent to "screw it!" and threw my spinner away. Thud! It hit the door. It didn't fall! It was stuck AT THE DOOR! Then it hit me...all this time I had a bonafide, genuine, lethal Ninja Star in my hands and I didn't even know it!!!!!!!!!!!!! Awesomeness!!!!!!!!!
I immediately went to the door. The spinner...err...now the Ninja Star...had embedded itself by half an inch into the wooden door to our house's kitchen. My smile must have reached my ears. There was no need to buy super- expensive Ninja stars at the store when YOU CAN MAKE THEM YOURSELF!!!!!!!! I ran to the bodega to make more, and improve on the design. My almost-forgotten dream had come true. I was now the proud owner of a genuine, bonafide, lethal Ninja Star!
...to be continued.
* For those who are reading this from US or Canada...Betamax was the standard video player in the Philippines during the 80's. VHS came later.