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Early in the 20th century doctors discarded leeches as having no place in modern medicine. But today leeches are back, helping to heal skin grafts.

Few images conjure up the horrors of primitive medical practice more powerfully than that of the leech. This parasitic worm was used to suck blood from the veins of sick people in the belief that it could draw out the “evil vapors” responsible for their disease.

Large numbers of leeches were employed. In 1837 alone, 96,000 leeches were applied to 50,557 patients at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Their use was so common in England that British-bred leeches became scarce, and foreign leeches had to be imported from India and Mexico.

In the 19th century more than 50 leeches were sometimes applied simultaneously to a patient. In modern-day plastic surgery usually only one or two leeches are used at one time. But if the arteries to the grafted area take a long time to develop, leeches may be applied at six-hour intervals over a week-some 28 leeches in all.

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Fires in London were common, even inevitable, given the capital's largely timber construction.

Yet for years there had been warnings of London's total destruction by fire: in 1559 Daniel Baker had predicted London's destruction by 'a consuming fire'. In April 1665, Charles had warned the Lord Mayor of London of the danger caused by the narrow streets and overhanging timber houses.

Furthermore, a long, hot summer had left London dry and drought had depleted water reserves. Thus by September 1666, all that was required was a spark. This was provided at the house of Thomas Farynor, the king's baker in Pudding Lane, near London Bridge.

At 2.00am on Sunday 2nd September his workman smelled smoke and woke the household. The family fled across the nearby roofs, leaving only a maid, too scared to run, who soon became the first of the four listed casualties of the fire.

With only narrow streets dividing wooden buildings, the fire took hold rapidly, and within an hour the Mayor, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, had been woken with the news. He was unimpressed, declaring that 'A woman might piss it out'.

Yet by dawn London Bridge was burning: an open space on the bridge, separating two groups of buildings, had acted as a firebreak in 1632. It did so again: only a third of the bridge was burned, saving Southwark from destruction and confining the fire to the City of London, on the north bank.

Samuel Pepys lived nearby and on Sunday morning walked to the Tower of London. There he saw the fire heading west, fanned by the wind, and described 'pigeons... hovering about the windows and balconies till they burned their wings and fell down'. With Bloodworth dithering, Pepys went to Whitehall, informing the King and his brother James, Duke of York, of the situation.

Although Charles II immediately ordered Bloodworth to destroy as many houses as necessary to contain the fire, early efforts to create firebreaks were overcome by the strength of the wind, which enabled the fire to jump gaps of even twenty houses. By the end of Sunday the fire had begun to travel against the wind, towards the Tower, and Pepys had begun to pack.

By the following dawn, the fire was raging north and west, and panic reigned. The Duke of York took control of efforts to stop the fire, with militias summoned from neighbouring counties to help the fight, and stop looting. But the flames continued relentlessly, devouring Gracechurch Street, Lombard Street, the Royal Exchange, and heading towards the wealthy area of Cheapside.

By mid afternoon the smoke could be seen from Oxford, and Londoners had begun to flee to the open spaces of Moorfields and Finsbury Hill. By nightfall the streets were jammed with the carts of fleeing Londoners, and the fire was heading down Watling Lane, towards St Paul's Cathedral.

The next day saw the greatest destruction. Both the King and the Duke of York were immersed in the battle against the fire, which was contained until late afternoon, when it jumped over the break at Mercers' Hall and began to consume Cheapside, London's widest and wealthiest street.

Although demolition began to take effect in the east, in the west the fire had destroyed Newgate and Ludgate prisons, and was travelling along Fleet Street towards Chancery Lane. It was visible as far away as Enfield, embers were falling on Kensington, and flames surrounded St Paul's Cathedral, covered in scaffolding. This caught fire, soon followed by the timber roof beams. The lead roof melted and flowed down Ludgate Hill, and stones exploded from the building. Within a few hours the Cathedral was a ruin.

This marked the height of the inferno. On Wednesday morning the fire reached a brick wall - literally - at Middle Temple and at Fetter Lane. Workers took the opportunity to pull down more buildings and widen the break.

At the same time, the wind slackened and changed direction, turning south and blowing the fire onto itself and into the river. In the north, it was being checked at Smithfield and Holborn Bridge, and the Mayor, finally useful, was directing demolition in Cripplegate.

Written by Bruce Robinson:
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Te means ‘hand’ or ‘hands’, but in its widest context means martial arts. Te is the newer description of ‘Ti’ that has been practised, nurtured and developed through time in the Ryukyu Islands.

Prior to the fashionable influx of Chinese based kata, Te was a personal form of self-defence and development for the Okinawan royalty and nobility. The closest thing resembling kata was free-form dance.

From the 17th century onwards and with the learning of new katas from China, the villages of Shuri, Tomari and Naha had Te put on the end of those village names, thereby perpetuating a myth that the ancient ‘Ti’ had been mysteriously swallowed up and bettered by these Chinese empty hand and weapons based arts (called Kobudo).

Although these styles have some elements of Ti in them, they certainly haven’t bettered it, as anyone who has trained in the full Ti system would surely know.

Previously the two surviving Ti schools on Okinawa were the Seidokan of Seikichi Uehara and the Bugeikan of Seitoku Higa along side a few branch dojos. Today there are other scattered sources around the world. In particular Tigwa (Te and related arts) was introduced in the early 90s by Mark Bishop upon his return to Great Britain after 15 years of living and training in Okinawa.

The Te dynamics of soft and circular based on the curved sword and naginata, and the straight directness of bow and arrow and spear, interlink so perfectly with all its aspects that from the very first health exercise to a mortal technique, there is an unlimited progressive evolution from the core principles of hand configuration and footwork that is the same in exercise, basic and advanced striking techniques, grappling, pressure points, weapons, Kiko (Chi Kung) and meditative walking (based on the old Okinawan dances) and therapeutic bodywork (Shiatsu). These aspects go hand in hand, and are one and the same.

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Accounts differ as to whether duelling existed in ancient Greece and Rome, but certainly it was a fixture in the barbarian Germanic tribes, later spreading through Europe and America.

The duel is defined as a prearranged combat between two persons, fought with deadly weapons according to an accepted code of procedure to settle a private quarrel.

Thus the duel is distinguished from a brawl (which is not prearranged or fought according to rules), a war (a prolonged affair with many combatants), and a tournament (which although it operated by the same rules, was a test of skill that decided no private dispute). The customary duelling weapon was the sword, superseded in the 19th century by the pistol.

The duel evolved from its origins as a legal method of resolving disputes into an extrajudicial avenue for settling private matters that could not be regulated by law: matters of honor and insult. Coincident with the formulation of code, which provided procedural guidance in conducting a duel, were attempts by church and state to curtail the practice.

The fascination of duelling may have its roots in the curious dichotomy of a prevalent and culturally accepted yet illegal pursuit, governed by a “code.” Its persistence as a fixture in so many cultures speaks of its universal appeal as the expression of a visceral human response that managed to survive, in assorted manifestations, for many centuries.

But the notion of duelling as an atavistic reaction alone falls short of the mark, since it looks past the reality that duels were fought chiefly by one segment of society, its aristocrats. It is this social ingredient that defines the duel as an institution and has fixed its status as a legal conundrum.

Although condemnation by governmental and ecclesiastical authorities progressively increased, duelling originally was a legal means of deciding disputes between two people. The “judicial duel” or combat was based on religious belief: that God would protect the party in the right by allowing him to win.

Although many combats were arranged to decide criminal matters, combat also could serve as a means for resolving civil disagreements such as disputes over property. Women, the infirm, very young, and very old men were not required to enter combat but could engage champions on their behalf. The judicial duel was a ceremonial affair presided over by royalty who proclaimed the victor.

The earliest known law that governed the judicial duel is found in the Burgundian Code, an early East Germanic barbarian code promulgated in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. The date of legal establishment of the trial by combat traditionally is stated as the year 501.

Eventually trial by combat was permitted only in cases of serious crimes, such as murder and treason. The right to choose trial by combat existed in England until the early 19th century, where the last claim for combat occurred in 1817. Although the court granted this claim, circumstances did not permit the encounter, and promptly in 1819 Parliament abolished the right to trial by combat.

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