Wednesday, February 22, 2017

3 Ways to Get Hurt - or Hurt Others - in Modern Arnis

The perception of weapons-based martial arts styles like Modern Arnis is that it's more dangerous than the empty hand styles.

Potentially, this is true.  If something goes wrong, it can go catastrophically wrong.  But the truth is, in practice, we probably have the same number of injuries other styles do, and when injuries happen, they're almost always minor injuries that don't require much medical attention (such as contusions or strains/sprains).

In fact, I think if we were to survey our community, we'd be on the "fewer injuries" side of the bell curve of martial arts and getting hurt.

We are, of course, hyper-aware of that potential for injury.  We work very hard to keep our folks as safe as we possibly can.  But if we do get hurt, here's the most common ways it happens.


"Feeding" is what we call the process where I "attack" my partner, and she responds with whatever technique we are working on.  This means I have to deliver the correct strike (the right angle at the right target) with the correct amount of force.

If I deliver the incorrect strike - if my targeting is poor (too high is the most common) or if the angle is incorrect, it may hit my partner in a place he doesn't expect, or cause a condition where his block won't work. It'll fail or his stick will rebound and he'll hit himself with his own stick.

Playing sinawali. Note how my partner's strike is WAY above my head.

Feeding with the incorrect amount of force can manifest itself two ways - too weak, and too strong.

Too strong - too hard of a strike - is inappropriate when a person is brand new to a technique.  We have to slow it down and come with less force while the defender is learning how to cope with the attack.  When she is competent in the technique, then you come with more energy and force.

Too weak - a "lazy" feed with no energy or intent to hit - is a deceptive problem.  It gives your partner a false sense of security and can "hide" poor execution of her technique.  When the feed gets stronger and faster, her technique can fail and she can injure herself

One other "too weak" method other than a "lazy" feed is "pulling your strike".  That's when you, as the feeder, actually stop the strike well before it would hit your partner.  That means that your partner isn't actually blocking the strike, because you are not delivering the strike.  Not only are giving your partner bad feedback and he tries to cope with the attack, but you're also training yourself not to hit things, which is kind of defeating the point of training, isn't it?


It is very common for folks to "drop" their hands while training.  This could mean the weapon hand - you see this a lot in sinawali where the hands are held in front of them or low at the sides vs. chambered up near the head - or it could mean the live (or empty) hand.

Either way, your hands aren't in the proper place and it's harder to defend against incoming attacks or deliver proper feeds.

We have a drill in our school where we work from a sinawali, then interrupt it and attack your partner randomly with a strike (there's a lot of variants of this drill, and I'm simplifying it big-time, but I hope you get the idea).  When the hands are dropped, the partner almost always is too late to defend the incoming attack - that is, he gets popped in the head if the feeder doesn't pull the attack at the last second.

We use the empty hand for a variety of purposes when we have a single weapon, and if you drop that empty hand, it's a lot harder to put it in play.  It can get you hurt when you aren't in a position to use that hand to check or pass incoming attacks.  Or, your hand isn't in position to help support your block against a powerful strike.

Note the position of his hands.  JUST SAYING.

Dropped hands can affect your feeding by delivering an improper angle to an incoming attack.  While of course we can and do and should train against any given angle, in practice, we are usually isolating on specific techniques versus specific attacks.  If your hands are dropped, the arc of strikes will be different than if your hands are chambered properly.  If it's a poking strike, it may not be targeted properly or the timing will be slightly off.

Either way, dropped hands means you're increasing your risk of hurting yourself or your partner.


We do a lot of traps, locks, and takedowns in Modern Arnis.  The easiest way to get hurt in these sorts of things is when a partner doesn't follow through on what she's supposed to be doing.

That is, if you are supposed to be taking me down, and you hesitate while delivering the technique, you might not have the momentum or the proper control of me and as a result, I fall poorly or something gets twisted the wrong way.

I'm sure you grapplers and Judo players know exactly what I'm talking about.

I have never been hurt on a takedown in Modern Arnis when a person is following through and committing to the technique, not even when it wasn't done 100% correctly. I have only been hurt when a person hesitated.

I mentioned "pulling the strike" above.  That is also a failure to commit, in this case, to delivering the strike where it's supposed to go.

Commitment to a technique isn't the same thing as being fast, mind you. You can do it slow, just don't stop in the middle!

So, if you want to get hurt or hurt a friend in Modern Arnis, be a poor feeder, drop your hands, and fail to commit.  Injury will quickly follow.

What are the most common ways people get hurt in your school?  Did I miss an important one in Modern Arnis?  Let me know what you think!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

I've always liked action movies, even before I became a martial artist.  So I'd be interested in "John Wick: Chapter 2" no matter what. 

Indeed he is.
Now that I'm a martial artist, though, I have an extra appreciation for action films and the work (and the storylines) created within fight choreography.  Not so great fight choreography can ruin something for me (*cough* Arrow *cough*) and excellent choreography can make a film much better than it would otherwise be.

I enjoyed "John Wick" (the first movie). I found it to be simplistic and stylish (which is what you want in an action flick), and the fight choreography was intense and seamless.  As action movies go, it was beautiful.

So I had to see the sequel in the theater.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is more of what I liked in the first film, kicked up a notch (as a good sequel will do).

I'm not going to go into the believability of the world this movie builds.  I mean, there are huge fight sequences in public or public-ish places that I really want to know how they covered up that it happened at all, especially given one is an art museum in New York.  The logistics of the body count alone, not to mention the damage to public places and (probably) famous works of art... 

It'd be headline news immediately, and given the scale, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for parts of the city of New York to be on lockdown (like Boston was in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings).

I won't even get into the bulletproof suit thing... what, only a couple of people know this exists?

BUT we don't go to action movies to obsess over the plot holes, do we? 

Nossir, you and I, we go to see the fighting. And boy howdy, they did a great job in "John  Wick: Chapter 2".

The fight choreography in this film is heavily based on judo and jiu-jitsu, which is a refreshing change from most fight choreography we usually see.  These things come in waves, after all, where all action movies start looking like one another in the fight scenes until a film comes along to shake it up.  I have a feeling in the wake of this movie, we'll have a new wave of judo-influenced fight scenes.

Here's some behind-the-scenes training he did for this movie:

And I think everybody saw THIS video of Reeves at the gun range. I defy you to find an actor who works harder at making fight scenes look great.  He's up there with Robert Downey, Jr.  

And now I'm sitting here hoping for an old-school buddy action comedy starring Reeves and Downey.  WHO'S WITH ME?

Ahem, back to "John Wick: Chapter 2".

I think most people will think about the Catacombs fight and the fight at the museum (the mirror fight is COOL and here's an article about it you should read HERE).   The knife fight between Reeves and Common on a subway is very well done and might be the best of the bunch.  It had a few moves in it that I know Mr. Chick has been studying about in the knife course he took last year so there's an element of realism that I really appreciated.

You are going to see a TON of judo and jiu-jitsu in this movie, which is a refreshing take on action choreography.  You know how it goes, a movie will draw from a certain style, and that style becomes dominant in movies and TV until another movie comes along with a new style.

I think we're going to see a lot more judo in fight scenes going forward in other movies.

So, all in all, "John Wick: Chapter 2" is a really entertaining action movie with some GREAT action choreography.  I'm looking forward to the third film and hopefully the wrap-up of this saga on a high note.

Have you seen "John Wick: Chapter 2"?  What did you think?  Loved it?  Hated it?  Meh?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 2/18/17

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:  My monthly kobudo class over in Dallas.  We worked bo and learned our nunchaku one-steps, and worked on riffing off of what we learned.  This was our last full nunchaku class; we are starting sai next month!
Sunday:  Taught ADE Women's Self Defense. Always a good day when I do that. Ocular migraine in the middle of class was fun.
Monday:   My day off.  Made dinner.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We are prepping our white belts for their yellow belt test, so we worked on their stick work. Fought off another ocular migraine during the day.
Wednesday:  Attended class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts. I got thrown around a bit with take-downs, which is always fun.
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on front stances, kicks, and jabs, for the most part.  Earlier in the day I had yet another ocular migraine so I went to the doc for consultation and advice.  Changed my meds a bit.
Friday:  Friday night stick sparring as usual.  Migraine came full-on with painful symptoms (first time that's happened since they started up last week) at the end of class; luckily I had emergency meds and was able to go to bed and sleep it off.  It sucked but it could have been worse.

Before the PAAAIINNN.


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  The Martial Science
Wednesday:   How do YOU Teach Discipline and Respect?

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   Doing It Together
Thursday:  Why Do I Keep Training?
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Are Rec Center Programs Legit?


Someday I will visit Arnis Village and Grand Master Rodel Dagooc.

This is coming up in just a few weeks - and I'll be there.  Hope you can join us if you're in the area:  1st Annual WMAA Texas Modern Arnis Camp March 3-5, 2017


Today I'm covering Arnis class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts while my teacher teaches an Arnis instructor program he's started up, aimed at karate/tae kwon do/kung fu instructors interested in adding our art to their programs.  When I'm in charge at Hidden Sword, the students know we're going to do one of two things - nerd out or hit the bags.

I'm thinking we're hitting the bags today!

 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, February 15, 2017

How do YOU Teach Discipline and Respect?

Like many martial arts schools here in the United States, we have a kid's program, and it's usually much bigger than our adult classes.

I wish.

Martial arts study only appeals to a tiny fraction of adults, and the reason kids - and really, their parents - want to take martial arts is very different than what adults want out of taking classes.

Adults students are concerned about health benefits, personal safety, and personal growth. If they can have fun doing it, that'd be great.

For a kid's program, though, it's different.  Sure, physical fitness is always top of mind, and learning self defense is important, and we always try to have something fun going on. But we have to take a lot of other things into account, including:

  • Morals and Values
  • Personal discipline
  • Respecting others, adults, themselves
When you run a kid's program, you can't skip any of those elements.  And you have to keep in mind that the parents are as much a part of what you are doing as the kids are.

Thus, by necessity, kids classes lend themselves to a certain level of formality and structure that isn't usually necessary in an adult class.  Our classes at Mid-Cities Arnis are a little less authoritarian and hierarchical than other programs, but we still have these elements in place.

One thing parents want from us is that reinforcement of discipline and respect, and we must deliver on those in our classes.

I'll admit, I find that difficult on a personal level.  I'm really not much of an authoritarian by nature.  It takes a lot of energy on my part to keep on top of the issues around respect and discipline necessary for our classes.

I find it exhausting.

So help me out here.

I'm interested in the tools and techniques you use, if you teach kids, to teach discipline, morals and values, and respect as a part of your martial arts classes.

What do you emphasize?

What habits and rules do you have in your school - a process of bowing, how people are directed to speak to one another, and the like - to reinforce discipline and respect?

How are students expected to "live" the values you teach in your school? 

What are the positive and negative reinforcement techniques you use in your school to teach discipline and respect?

Let me know in the comments!

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Martial Science

Some of us like to call what we do "martial science" versus martial arts.

I think this is an interesting idea, especially if the style in question is actually following the scientific method in its development and things constantly get challenged and verified by other people to test the validity of the solution to whatever martial arts problem is being discussed.

By ArchonMagnus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Of course, much of the time, people calling what they do "martial science" don't use the scientific method to develop their style.  They are using it as a marketing gimmick to make their style seem more legitimate than others.  They don't undergo the rigorous process shown above at all, and they definitely don't seek out skeptical people to verify what they do as effective.

But that doesn't negate the idea of using the scientific method as an approach to developing a martial arts style.  This would, of course, apply mostly to modern "living" styles, versus classical styles that are as much about preservation of the source material as they are fighting or self defense.

If you're aiming to develop a modern, effective fighting method, why NOT use the scientific method to do it?

Of course, some of us do use a rudimentary scientific method to try to figure out what works.  But we don't do the whole process (especially in the testing part) and thus, it can't really be called using "scientific" per se.

It would be especially interesting if we had a standard process by which other groups could verify or disprove the "test results".  That'd help weed out a lot of iffy claims, wouldn't it?

Of course, we'd need a good, formal testing methodology.  We couldn't say, as many white belts do, "Yes, that's fine against (x) but what if I did (y)?" and then invalidate whatever technique is being examined.  That'd be moving the goalposts and changes the problem you're trying to solve in the first place.

I think it'd look a lot like this.

It would be neat the know that something works because it's been rigorously (and skeptically) tested, not because charismatic Grand Master so-in-so says it does.

So what do you think?  Should martial arts be more "martial science", using the scientific method as a way to develop techniques?  Or is what we do more than just what's "effective"?  Would you consider a martial "science" more or less legitimate than a martial "art"? I'd love to know what you think!