Monday, January 16, 2017

What's My Motivation?

A friend over on Tumblr (her blog is here) mentioned the other day that she was having trouble getting motivated to go to karate class.

She's been in "competition mode" for a while now, and she's no longer in that mode - she's not going to compete and she isn't focused on that goal any more.  So now, she's having trouble finding her reason to go to class.

I've had those days.

I started to give her the standard, "Here's the reasons you should be training" spiel a lot of us give - that we should be focused on personal growth, etc. but it just sounded... wrong.

Because it is wrong.

Who am I to say why anybody other than myself should be motivated to train in the martial arts? We all have different agendas for training and we all have different goals.  We aren't all motivated by the same things.  Some of us need having a concrete goal in front of us to strive for while others don't need it.

Me, I train for my health, mostly - my mental and physical well being.  I like how the martial arts keeps my mind sharp and my body moving. It's an endless puzzle of new information that's always waiting for me to figure out.  I sleep better and I'm less stressed when I'm training than when I'm not training.

But other people want and need the pressure that competition puts us under in order to keep focused, and that's okay, even if it isn't my thing.  Others need that constant goal of the next rank to keep training. And that's okay, too. Over time, as we do this long enough, our goals will change naturally.

I think it becomes a problem only when our goals change and we don't change our expectations... and we lose interest in doing this crazy little hobby of ours.

Take achieving the rank of black belt.  For many of us, it's THE goal when we train - and honestly, we martial arts instructors sometimes make that rank so mystical, so magical, so important sometimes that we give the impression that it IS the only real goal in training.

Yes, yes, black belt is only the beginning... we say that, but do we live that?  I don't think we do, sometimes.

Depending on the style, it can take anywhere from three to five, or even ten or more years to achieve this rank.  We work so hard for it, and we achieve it...

Many martial arts schools do a poor job in a training plan and helping students stay focused and motivated beyond black belt.  This is one reason why so many of us quit at this rank and move on to other stuff to do - the next rank isn't as, well, sexy as black belt, is it?

Or take schools that are very focused on competition.  Fantastic, but what happens when you can't compete any more, or if the circumstances of your life don't allow you to train to the level required to be successful in competition?  How do you stay motivated to come to class if you can't do what everyone else is going to do?

It's like beating the final boss in a video game you love to play, and now the game's over.  Some gamers will restart the game and try to play it a different way (and some games are smart and build in or sell other stuff to do after you beat that final boss), and others will move on to another game.

We achieve a goal, we move on to the next one.

My friend said she needs to fall back on "discipline" to keep going until her motivation returns.  I agree to some extent, but to me it sounded like going to class was more of a negative thing, than a positive thing.

I think my friend needs to find new goal or a new motivation very quickly, or karate class will be a chore and an obligation and a negative, not the fun and positive thing it's supposed to be.

I can't say what that goal will be for her - I can't choose for her, after all - but I hope she finds it soon, so she can continue to train and keep her love for what she does.  I would hate to see her associate her classes with negative feelings.

So what motivates you to keep coming to class year after year?  Have your goals changed over time?  Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 1/14/17

Here's how my week of training, writing, teaching, and miscellaneous Filipino Martial Arts-y goodness went.

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday:  We have a new schedule at Hidden Sword.  Younger Daughter in Tae Kwon Do early in the morning, then I do kobudo there, then I do Arnis.  Plus, we practiced Okinawan Karate a little bit after Arnis class.  Long day with lots of good work done!
Sunday:  Got caught up on chores.
Monday:   My night off.
Tuesday:   Taught classes at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We worked on stances and our "circle" self defense escapes in the kids class, and we worked on the angles of attack and combos on the bags in the adult class.
Wednesday:  Class at Hidden Sword.  We played with inserts - punyo entries for the most part - from various angles to see what works, and what doesn't.  Also got my final crowns for my two new front teeth - yay!
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  More stance work and front kicks in the kids class.  In the adult class, we worked on supported blocking, for the most part.
Friday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.
No pictures of me this week, so here's one from last week where we are talking about the value of the week in kids class.


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  Kobudo Update
Thursday:  Helpful Tips for Newbies (to the Filipino Martial Arts)

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   Let's Talk Sticks
Wednesday:  You're Never Too Old to Start the Martial Arts
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Is "Karate" a Generic Term for "Martial Arts"?


+Colman Fink posted this, this week, and it's awesome.  I am always fascinated by the similarities - and the differences - different cultures and peoples have with similar or identical weapons.

For someone like me, this video from +EnterTheDojoShow is as funny as any of the "ninja" videos.  I still laugh out loud when I watch it.


It's going to be a long martial arts day today!

It's the Saturday I train in Dallas, so Older Daughter and I go over there for an hour or so of Okinawan Karate and then I have my two-hour kobudo class.  Older Daughter will continue working with our Karate teacher during my class, so we'll both be whupped by the time the day is over.

Hubby is going to go train in Arnis with our TNT Martial Arts friends in Stephenville and then attend a Muay Thai seminar (neat)!  Younger Daughter will be tagging along with him after her morning of Tae Kwon Do.

So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Helpful Tips for Newbies (to the Filipino Martial Arts)

So you want to try the Filipino Martial Arts.

You've seen us on YouTube or in the movies, you've maybe had a bit of exposure at your dojo with someone who own a pair of sticks, and you want to learn a lot more.

Been here, done this. Image found here.

But where do you begin?

Fret not, friend, your pal the Stick Chick is here to help you out.  Here's some tips to help you get started with swinging the sticks.


One confusing thing for outsiders is that we use a variety of terms to mean the exact same thing.  Arnis, kali, and escrima are just different words referring to martial arts styles that start off using weapons - sticks, swords and knives - early in training.

Which word any given system or style uses depends on where it originated and what the lineage is, and here's the kicker - you can find different words in the same area (for a lot of reasons). Escrima and arnis are derived from Spanish words (esgrima-fencing and arnes-harness) and kali is a native word, possibly borrowed from Indonesia.

So there is no "mother" term or style (even though some of us will claim there is), really, and if you aren't already connected to someone to train with, use all three terms when searching online or asking around for people to train with.


Some of us have kids programs (my teacher does, and I do, and folks I know do) but generally speaking, our styles haven't been shifted in focus for kid students.

Part of this is the belief, at least in western culture, that weapons (and the honest, serious use of them) is not for children.  I don't personally agree with this, but that is our cultural bias, for the most part.  So if FMA is taught to kids outside of the Philippines, usually it's taught as some add-on material for kids who have trained a long time and are highly ranked in their base arts.

I am all for beating on children with sticks.

So, if you are looking for a style that is NOT kid-oriented in the West, the Filipino Martial Arts will fit the bill most of the time.


You have to find someone to train with in person.  Video training is fine as a supplement but you can't copy what you see in video and "learn" FMA's (or any other martial art, in my opinion).

Some of our styles - including mine - have forms (we call them anyos) but the level of emphasis really depends on the group, and honestly, most of what we do are drills, not forms.  You cannot learn FMA's solo.  It simply cannot be done.

It can be difficult to find a teacher or training partner, though, if you don't already have a connection.  Lots of folks in the FMA world - heck, the martial arts world overall - aren't very good at marketing nor are they found easily online.

So here's some places you can look:

Your local martial arts school of ANY style (karate, taekwondo, etc.).  You can visit the instructor and ask them about FMA's in your area.  Did they attend any seminars?  Where were those hosted (the hosts are probably offering FMA training of some sort, most likely).  Do they offer any FMA training?  Do they know anyone?  FMA training is often an add-on extra sort of art for exiting programs, and you could get connected to a teacher this way.  As an aside, if you have a martial arts supply store in your city, you can go by and ask them there.  They are usually well connected to the martial arts community in your area and can probably recommend a place to start.

Online.  I actually originally identified my current teacher this way!  I found him on Martial Talk.  Other forums you might check are FMA Talk and   There are pages and groups on social media dedicated to the FMA's (check out FMA Informative for FMA news world-wide). And of course, you can search with keywords on Facebook, Google Plus, or Twitter (your local area and "escrima" "kali" "arnis").  Also don't forget to search Meetup.

Create your own group.  This is tricky, but... you could get together with a friend or two, and you guys can decide to travel to seminars and training sessions with teachers in your chosen system, learn what you can, and then come home and train.  Over time, you can use video to supplement that seminar training, but you need to do the in-person seminar work as your foundation, then go home and you guys can work with each other.  You can organize your group among your friends, or you can use Meetup or Craigslist to find people to train with.

One note - it is NOT unusual for us to train in small groups in parks.  Do not let that be a reason not to check out a group - plenty of great teachers do this.


The number of styles and systems in the FMA's probably can't be counted and the differences between us are sometimes are as many as the similarities.

If he's counting FMA styles, we are going to be here a LONG TIME.

Some of us emphasize the blade, some of us don't.  Some of us train only right handed, some of us are ambidextrous.  Some of us work a lot of empty hand and some of us don't.  Some of us use belts and uniforms, and some of us don't.  Some of us grapple, some of us don't.  Some of us use weapons other than the stick and knife, and some of us don't.  Some of us spar, some don't.

Some of us are in small family systems that are kept as "pure" as possible, and others of us train in modern hybrid systems that are constantly changing and adding and subtracting new stuff over time.

Don't fret to much about which style or system you are going to learn - that you must be in such-and-such style or Famous Filipino Martial Arts Teacher's lineage or that what you learn must match what you've seen on YouTube.  There is so much variety, and so much variance, and it can be so hard to find a teacher in general, so it's better to train in what's available then to avoid training because it's not a famous system or the one you believe is "best" based upon an outsider's point of view.


Early in your training, you're going to get excited about what you're learning.

You will want to go online and try to pick up more via video, or you'll want to go to every seminar you hear about (especially if it's someone well-known, such as Dan Inosanto or Doug Marcaida).   It will be sorely tempting to try to absorb every bit of information in the wider FMA world that you can possibly try to absorb.

Avoid this temptation.

That cupcake is the Inosanto seminar next weekend.

The thing is, there are so many variants of striking patterns, what kind of footwork is emphasized, which drills are seen as most important, and other things, that a new person who is not well grounded in her own style's fundamentals can get very, very confused.

Your teacher could say that (x) is important, where another teacher would disagree and say that (y) is more important than (x).  You will see skilled and respected people online do things your teacher would cringe to see being done and it will make you wonder who's right (the answer is - both are, see below).

Or you just might have trouble remembering that a #3 strike in your style is not the same #3 strike in another system.

These differences are usually just matters of strategy and preference (versus being "right" and "wrong") but you can't discern this until you have a solid understanding of your own style.

So when you're new, only go to seminars that your teacher recommends. If you watch FMA video online, don't try to adopt what you see in those videos with what you are doing with your teacher (unless, of course, your teacher says you should).

So get moving, and get training in the Filipino Martial Arts today!

If you're looking and just can't find someone in your area, you can reach out to me privately on Twitter, Google Plus (see sidebar) or on my Facebook page, and I'll see if I can help you find someone or offer advice.  I do not ever recommend newbies train solo via video, so if you're determined to do so, good luck to you with that, because I won't endorse that strategy.

I hope these tips help you get started in training in the Filipino Martial Arts - let me know how it's going!  Experienced FMA players, did I miss any important tips?  Put those in the comments.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Kobudo Update

Here I am in my last year of kyu-rank kobudo study, and overall, I've learned a lot of stuff I didn't expect (and fell in love with nunchaku, even, as silly as the weapon is from a practical point of view). 

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've been in a program studying kobudo weapons with AKATO.   I am working towards earning my black belt under them.  As of this month, I'll have been in the program for a full two years.

New students generally aren't allowed to join the class mid-session. They must wait until the next one. So, the people who started in January 2015 are a "class" and those of us who stick through to the end and pass our black belt test will have all studied together for about three years when we're done.  Then a new class of kyu-rank students will start, and we will join the Black Belt Class.

Our green belt test. About half of the people here are still studying with us.

In the black belt class, we'll not only study the four weapons we've covered, but we'll also get to study kama and my favorite weapon, jo.

We started as a huge class (seriously, it had to be about fifty people).  Now we have about 20-25 depending on the month.  Attrition took far more men than women in the program - there were FAR more men than women when we started - and now we're about evenly divided by gender, which is pretty cool.  I bet only a fraction of that group will continue on in the black belt class, but hey, you never know.

We've studied bo, we've studied tonfa, and now, we're working on nunchaku.  Shortly we will be taking on sai, and then we'll be testing for black belt.

Honestly, it's hard to describe this class to people who aren't in the martial arts.   Heck, even people in martial arts - but not ones that do weapons - have a hard time understanding what I'm studying. Usually I describe it as just "Okinawan" or "Japanese" weapons, but if pressed, well... this is how I tell folks to picture it, except we don't study sword in this class.

Leonardo is NOT in our Kobudo class.

Being a weapons-oriented kind of person, I am finding that this study (along with my normal Arnis training which covers stick, knife, and short sword) has helped me really appreciate the commonalities and the differences between various weapons.

You learn why you can't and shouldn't hold a bo in a grip like you would a baseball bat (but you should hold an arnis stick that way).  You understand why dual-wielding is not always the advantage video games might portray them to be.  You get to work ambidextrously.  You get to understand the differences in range, the advantages and disadvantages of long weapons vs. short weapons. With the study of nunchaku, you add in flexible weapons, and that's a whole different ball game.

Best of all, you learn not to fear weapons.  Respect them, yes, but don't fear them.

I would not choose to fight empty hand vs. a weapon if I get my druthers.  I actually would prefer not to fight empty hand vs. empty hand, as I am a short, dumpy middle aged woman who is at a severe disadvantage vs. most of the likely people who would offer me violence.  If I can have something to help me survive, I'm a LOT happier.

Give me a tool, please.  Any is better than nothing at all.

I don't always get to choose what's available to me, though. Working with the various weapons in kobudo helps me develop the skill to use similar objects in self defense situations if necessary.  So that's another nice thing that kobudo has done for me.

Have you studied weapons?  What did you like about it?  Dislikes?  Do you think it's practical, or do you think that time is better spent studying empty hand?  Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 01/07/17

Here's how my week of training, writing, teaching, and miscellaneous Filipino Martial Arts-y goodness went.

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday:  New Year's Eve - the last day of 2016.  I'm sure everybody was happy when the year finally turned over!
Sunday:  Went to Richardson TX to watch the last Chiefs game of the year with friends and a hundred other fans with Chiefs Fans of Dallas.  The Chiefs won (and the Raiders lost) so it was a great way to start the year off right!
Monday:   After putting away everything holiday oriented, went and trained in Kobudo and Arnis.  My friend Robert Harland was passing through town and joined us.  It was a fun day.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  New year, and lots of new students, both in our kids classes and our adult classes.  Glad things are picking up.
Wednesday:  Our Pomeranian, 11-year-old Chewbacca, passed away in her sleep after a short respiratory illness.  It was completely unexpected and a devastating loss.
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis with our new students. Happy for the distraction of having them, let me tell you, because things are not good.
Friday: Class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Introduced sticks and stick sparring.


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  Plans and Goals for 2017
Thursday:  The Cult of Black Belt

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   A Stick is a Stick is a Stick
Wednesday:  Five Awful Reasons to Try the Martial Arts
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Are Values Necessary?


Chewbacca. She was the most badass Pom ever.

Other stuff happened this week but I was kind of preoccupied.  There was a new "Enter the Dojo" video on Tiger Tuesday (below) but if I missed any other cool stuff, please, let me know.


Everything is getting back to "normal" training-wise.  I have Arnis and Kobudo today.

I'll tell you what, having martial arts to distract me is a very, very good thing.

So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!