Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Roll for Attributes

It's not uncommon for martial artists online to spot a video of a drill and say, "That's so impractical, nobody fights that way."

The most common response is, "It's a drill to build attributes." or "It's a skill-building drill."  Because most of the time, that's exactly what's going on.  It's not a "this is how we fight" video.

But what do we mean by "attributes"?

I like to think of it as our very own version of the old Dungeons & Dragons attributes.  In case you aren't a raging nerd like me - Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

Image found here.  And if you haven't seen this episode of "Community"... GET ON IT.

The attributes we want to build may vary from art to art, but generally speaking, some of the attributes we train include:

  • Spatial Awareness
  • Targeting 
  • Speed
  • Pressure Sensitivity
  • Body Structure
  • Balance
  • Strength and/or power generation
Let's consider spatial awareness for a moment.   This can mean range - that is, placing yourself in the appropriate place in relation to your opponent for offense or defense.  It can also mean positioning one's self in an advantageous position (which can vary from art to art, strategy to strategy).  It can also mean training enough to learn what your opponent can and can't reasonably do based on where he or she is positioned.

Lots to learn there, and there are many drills that can train this kind of spatial awareness in my art (and I'm sure you have them in yours, too).

What "proper" range or positioning is one of those strategic choices that makes one art different from another, and that's why someone might not understand what they're seeing if they are in a different art making a different strategic choice.

So before you start criticizing a drill you find online as "unrealistic" or "impractical", consider that it may be an attribute builder, not a fight demonstration.

What are some of the attributes that you build in your art? How do you build them?  Got any nice drills or tips you'd like to share?  Let us know in the comments!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Muscle Memory (Override)

I attended the MAPA 9 gathering recently, and I had a frustrating moment while I was working on one of the techniques being taught there.

Guro +David Beck was showing a variety of disarms off of a forehand and backhand strike, where you place the punyo (butt end) of the stick against the wrist and lever the opponent's stick out.

One of the disarms I'm talking about versus a backhand
I have done these disarms, and many like them, many times, so it wasn't exactly new material to me.

But for some reason, on the forehand, I ended up having to force myself to use the punyo rather than the tip on the disarm.   I'd practiced this so many times using the tip that I had the tip there on the back of the hand before I realized it was there.  That reaction of mine I've trained so much that it was now in muscle memory.

I had to slow it down big-time, and make the punyo lead, versus the tip, to do the disarm as we were being coached.  

I felt all clumsy and newbie-ish again, and it was annoying.

Training something so well that you don't have to think about it is a huge advantage in stressful or fluid situations.  That's what the concept of "muscle memory" is all about - knowing it so well that you don't have to give it conscious attention.

Most martial arts and martial artists have this concept.  We train certain techniques or concepts so much that we just don't think about it any more.

It almost always includes some type of footwork and range principle, and a core set of "things" to do that vary widely based on what kind of art it is (strikers, grapplers, kickers, and weapons based stuff like I do).

It turns out, blocking vs. a forehand and getting the tip of my weapon against the back of the hand (for a variety of different purposes) is now muscle memory for me, and I didn't even realize it.

Another name, of course, for muscle memory is habit.  It's my habit to block and place the tip against the back of the wrist for a disarm.  In order to override that habit, I had to slow things down so that my brain could catch up with my body.

Ain't that the truth.

In this case, while what I was doing is in no way wrong, it just prevented me from adding another good tool to my martial arts toolbox that's as easy to get as the one I've already trained into muscle memory.  There are good reasons to use a punyo on the disarm versus the tip.

So I have to decide if I want to override that muscle memory to use the tip vs. the punyo version of that disarm. If I do, I have to train it a lot, to overcome the habit I've already built.  I can make a case either way (and I'm still thinking on it, to be honest).

This process and consideration has to be made when people start cross training in different arts.  You may have something trained to the point of muscle memory from one art, but then you add on a different art and you discover that you'd like to do something from the new art instead.  So you have to train that new technique so much that it overrides the old one in muscle memory.

This is why I believe it's important to have a core, base art - any art you like - before you train a lot in other martial art styles.  In a stressful situation, you want to do something, anything, even if it isn't "optimal".  If you don't have enough practice, it won't be in muscle memory, and you'll have nothing in your toolbox ready to go when push comes to shove.

Knowing something so well you don't have to think about it is something that takes time, patience, and a ton of practice.  It can take years before you get enough practice in for something to become so well known you can do it without giving it too much conscious attention.

That's why you spend so much time doing things over and over and over, and there is no shortcut to this. Repetition makes habit.  You have to put in the time to make it so.

Tell me about a time where you realized you wanted to override something in your muscle memory.  What tips or tricks do you have to help something become a habit?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 05/21/16

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:  Attended morning Arnis at Hidden Sword and then in the afternoon I went to my monthly Kobudo class.  I received my next weapon - nunchaku - and they informed us our next test is the class in July.  So I'm knuckling down and practicing bo and tonfa double-time now - I especially have to practice the bo one-steps with partners because I can't practice them solo very well and I honestly blank out on them half the time.
Sunday:  Practiced kobudo a bit.  On Sundays I also curate the week's photos for Mid-Cities Arnis, post them to Facebook, and then send out our weekly school email to our students.  Takes me a few hours every Sunday.  If you're on Facebook, I'd appreciate it if you'd "like" our Mid-Cities Arnis page HERE.
Monday:  My day off. Had a wicked tension headache, so I didn't get to enjoy it much.  Texas is very bad for allergies and it's yet another reason I plan to retire up north someday (the major ones being I want mountains - small ones will do - and a REAL winter!)
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We have a new adult student - yay!  I really loved being able to play hubad-lubad and riff off of all sorts of things that crop up in that drill.  Very fun night.  Also reviewed material for Mr. Chick's portion of MAPA 9 - it's his first time instructing.
Wednesday:   Attended  Arnis class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  My teacher is also instructing at MAPA 9, so he worked on that material in preparation.  I got to play a bit with our senior adult student and we got to riffing on topics similar to what we were playing with the night before at Mid-Cities Arnis!  I love it when that happens!
Thursday:  Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We covered applications of the elbow and worked on low kicks, and combinations of the two.
Friday:  Practiced Dos Manos techniques in preparation for Mr.  Chick's MAPA 9 material.


I posted this post of original content this week:
Monday: They Are Not "Chucks", Got It?
Wednesday:  What's in Your Toolbox?
Friday:  Happy Birthday GMM Ernesto Presas!

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  Enough with Sensei Scumbag's Shenanigans!
Thursday:  Stick Exchange: One Advantage of the Blunt Weapon


Really nice discussion of how a culture might use violence that isn't intended to inflict damage or long-term harm:  The Educational Beatdown 
Heartwarming story of using martial arts to help kids with cancer: Rabbi uses martial arts to teach kids 'inner power' in fight against cancer

Interesting review of the usefulness of wearing a fit bit while doing martial arts (specifically Tae Kwon Do):  Can a Fitbit Work for Martial Arts?

Now THIS is stick fighting.  I love seeing the stick fighting traditions of cultures world-wide.

+Larry McDonnell  scored an AWESOME interview with Master Ken and Todd!  Check it out!;

Want to write about the martial arts but don't want to go to the trouble of maintaining a blog or using social media to share what you write? Guest posting for this blog might be for you!  Ping me privately on G+ or make a comment below and I'll reach out to you (you can also reach me via Twitter, here).

If I missed a neat video or article or other martial arts related thing of note, let me know in the comments!


Today is MAPA 9 - if you are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, come on out to Haslet and PLAY!  It's not too late - details are RIGHT HERE!

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!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Celebrating the birthdate of GMM Ernesto Presas Sr, founder of Kombatan

Along with his brother's art (Remy Presas, Modern Arnis), my teacher(s) were also heavily influenced by the teachings of Ernesto Presas, Sr.

His birthday would have been today.  He was born May 20, 1945.   Instead of marking the anniversary of when we lost him (November 1, 2010), I'd like to mark the anniversary of his birth - as what he did lives on in all of us who have learned from him and from his students that continue to teach us today.  He died about a year into my training under my current teacher, so I never got the opportunity or the pleasure of meeting or training directly under him.

Please take a moment to watch this - it's a demo and it's amazing thing to watch.

Additionally, I have watched this presentation many times.  So much of what my teacher does to me I see in here!

I cherish and honor the "side" of my martial arts heritage that comes from GMM Ernesto Presas.   Much of what I do - heck some of my most important go-to tools - come from Kombatan.

So join with me in thinking of him, and wishing him a Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What's in Your Toolbox?

In class the other day, we were working our basic Combative Responses, inserting them into the hubad-lubad drill.

Me teaching Combative Response #1, or same-side block and strike/counter attack

As quickly happens, students start wondering what else they can do with these inserts.  Can I do a kick? What if I move off the line?  Could I get a lock here?  What happens if I step the other way? What changes if the attack is linear?

It's a fun drill, one I love to play with, because it's sure to spark the imagination.

That's one huge advantage of drills like hubad-lubad (and others, including sinawali and empty hand tapi-tapi).  You get a lot of reps with a variety of options to learn timing and experiment with different things you may have learned.  You get to ask, "Might this work here?" and then try to figure out how to make it happen.

So, as a part of this conversation, we got to talking about our Combative Responses, and why we work them so hard at this level in their training.  We typically train this in our double-stick material and empty handed.  Not so much single-stick (it can be done, but it's not optimal for a variety of reasons) but it also translates really well to shorter weapons like dulo-dulo and knife.

The reason we work them so hard at this level is because, all things considered, these are the basic tools in their self defense toolbox.

I compared these responses to the most common tools most people use in their homes.  Think about the tools you keep in your junk drawer for easy access.  In my house, that's a hammer, an adjustable wrench, a Phillips screwdriver, and a flat-head screwdriver.

Oh, we have lots of other useful tools, and we need those tools once in a while.  Socket wrenches.  Saws.  Drills.  Those weird hex wrenches.

Whatever size I need you can be sure it's NOT included here.
Generally, though, we tend to use just four or five basic tools for most things we do, even if it isn't the most optimal tool for the job at hand.  Everybody who's ever nailed a small nail or tack into something using the handle of a screwdriver because they didn't want to go fetch the hammer is nodding at me right now.

That's what the Combative Responses are in my martial arts toolbox (with a couple of other items, including brush grab strike, always a favorite).  My hammer, my adjustable wrench, my screwdrivers.  Simple tools you can use for a lot of jobs.

I like simple.  Simple is good.

What if it fails?  Well, I know other stuff to do next, and practice those, too.  There is no perfect, undefeatable technique after all.  But it is built upon a foundation of the Combative Responses.

We drill these very early in our program, knowing that most people don't study for years and years, so when they leave us, they at least leave with a few tools in their toolbox that are sturdy and simple and easy to use - like a hammer or a screwdriver.

At a very basic level, they can deal with an incoming attack, and escape the situation - which is the whole idea behind self defense, after all.

So tell me about the basic tools in your toolbox.  Do you have a set of simple-go to moves?  Tell us in the comments!