Monday, May 22, 2017


I recently attended a seminar where I learned two forms.  The main reason I attended was to learn a form (Tsuken Sunakake Eku) using the Okinawan weapon that looks like a boat oar - the Eku.

Before we learned that form, though, we were taught a White Crane empty-hand Kung Fu form he called Paiho.

Now, I didn't have to learn this form.  This was the first form taught in this seminar, and I could have come for the second half to learn the Eku form.  This seminar was about an hour and a half's drive from my house on a Saturday morning, mind you, and I would not have minded being able to sleep in a little bit.  I run hard most of the time, and a couple of extra hours of sleep time would have been nice.

Nope, I drug my carcass outta bed, drove down there for the early part of the seminar, and learned the form.

Well, I tried, anyway.  I can't say I've LEARNED-learned it, but I know the basic moves and can do them solo, if it's still pretty clumsy and ugly.  A real White Crane stylist would probably cringe if they saw me do this form.  I cringe at myself when I do this form. 

I have zero background in any of the Chinese martial arts, mind you (unless you want to count some tai chi in the park when I lived in Las Vegas, but that wasn't much and I don't really count it).  I also don't see myself being able to take up study of any of them in the near future (although it is on my bucket list).

Additionally, I'm not a huge fan of forms in general. I know some of us love doing them, but I'm ambivalent about them. I see the usefulness and the need, but man, I'd much rather be working on drills, if I get a vote.  It's just not my "thing" in the martial arts.

So why did I bother?

I am a big believer in trying new things in the martial arts when I get the chance.  Not because I want to do what everybody else does, or incorporate what other styles do into what I do, necessarily. 

I know some of us out there will do this.  They collect a bit of this, and a bit of that (via seminars and short-term attendance at various schools) and mush it all together into a hybrid style they call their own.

Yeah, no, that's not what I'm after. I have no interest in crating my own "style" and I'm not necessarily going to incorporate everything that I've I learned that isn't in my core style into what I do (and thinking I could, or should, based on a two hour form class is kind of silly anyway).

I worked hard on learning a form from a style I may never actually study or incorporate because I like to stretch my mind, and I like trying to understand a different point of view so I can look at what I do with a critical and more educated eye.  I believe in getting out of your comfort zone, too, as I think that's necessary in order to learn and grow.

It was hard work, trying to move as the form demands, and doing things the way they wanted me to do it, even in a single, relatively short form.  My brain was buzzing and I immediately started connecting what I was being taught to what I already know and do - what's different, what's similar, and why that might be.

I've added another little tool to my toolbox, and that's always a good thing!

If you get a chance to spend some time learning something that's way, way out of your style's system, I think you should do it from time to time.  Again, not to necessarily do what they do, but to examine what YOU do, and see it from a fresh angle.  It's really fun and totally worth your time.

When did you step outside of your comfort zone and study something that's way outside of your normal style?  In your system or style, is this sort of thing encouraged, or discouraged?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 05/20/17

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:  I covered classes at Hidden Sword, so I managed the taekwondo class (with the help of senior brown belts). They have a second class that's usually a sparring class, so it was a WEAPONS sparring class!  Then during Arnis, Mr. Chick worked with some student while I worked with others on kobudo.  Busy day.
Sunday:  Mother's Day - and I got to spend it at a seminar! Thanks to GM Art Miraflor and +Prof. Dan Anderson for a fantastic day!
Monday:   With Mr. Chick out with an injury and as busy as we were over the weekend, did necessary chores as I knew I'd be super-busy all week!
Tuesday:   Class at Mid-Cities Arnis. We worked on our kicks and elbows in family class, and in adult class, we worked some bag drills with sticks.
Wednesday:   Finalized Baston Anyo Lima with the Jo. I think it's pretty good, if I don't say so myself!
Thursday:   Reviewed Anyos and worked on Defensive Response #1 in family class.  Adult class was lightly attended so we ended early.
Friday:  Stick sparring and our tournament form classes.  Went well, and my kids are nearly ready!

Prof Dan Anderson, left, and me, right, working as his uke for the session. Very fun and an honor!


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  Of Blunt and Blade
Wednesday: Who Has Two Thumbs and is Injured Again?
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Does Lineage Matter?

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   The Purple Knuckles Club
Thursday:   Injury: The Nature of the Beast


Datu +Dieter Kn├╝ttel posted this video, and it's awesome.

Friend of this blog, Renato Fonseca, reposted a blog of mine (with his own well-taken thoughts) on his blog, in Portuguese!  Check it out here: 5 Dicas (+1) para Novatos em Artes Marciais com mais de 40 anos

Fantastic video about the physics of fencing:


Today I'm driving to Waco (about an hour and a half or so) to a seminar on White Crane Kung Fu and the Okinawan Eku (that's the boat paddle looking weapon).  It's gonna be VERY FUN.  Tomorrow we teach Women's Self Defense.

So yep, it's another weekend with yours truly moving a mile a minute in ten different directions!

Hope your week was awesome!

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 19, 2017

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Does Lineage Matter?


One thing we in the martial arts talk a lot about is lineage.

That is, who our teachers were, who their teachers were, and the connections we have to influential or important martial artists and martial arts teachers.

This is a lot like how people will look into their own genealogy and try to trace their families back to someone famous or important, isn't it?

On the one hand, having a documented unbroken line of teachers to a "big name" in the martial arts implies that a person's studies are legitimate, trustworthy, and true.  It definitely has more cachet in our world that just studying from Joe Blow, who's a good fighter but doesn't have a lineage to speak of.  For example, your teacher being a direct student of Bruce Lee's is pretty impressive, isn't it?

On the other hand, though, it doesn't mean they can use what they've learned in any effective way.  It's sort of like claiming that a person's grandfather being a famous warrior makes the grandchild a famous warrior too, without having gone to war.  There are plenty of good teachers out there, teaching useful things in the martial arts, without having any kind of lineage to speak of.

I want to know what you think about this:


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who Has Two Thumbs and Is Injured Again?

Well, I'm injured again.

I know, dude. I feel the same way.

Fortunately, it's not the "have to go to a doctor, get a lot of drugs and physical therapy, or gawd forbid surgery" kind of injury.  It's not as problematic as when I got my fingers jammed last year, or when I tore a calf muscle.

It's the "very minor, take an anti-inflammatory, and keep training because it's not like you're INJURED-injured" kind of injury.  You feel a little stupid if you complain about it because it's so minor.

You see, I've strained both thumbs. 

I had a minor strain in the right one a few weeks ago.  It was annoying but not too bad, until I went to kobudo class and hit a BOB with the bo.  After a few strikes, my grip in my right hand gave, and to not lose the weapon, I strained my LEFT thumb maintaining control of it.

I finished class (heck, even worked on sai, which is a little hard on the wrist and thumbs) and it didn't feel great that day, but the next morning, both thumbs were throbbing with pain.  I took it easy a few days, but I had to teach class, and I'm working on a jo form for a tournament coming up, and it's not like I can NOT stick spar in those classes, can I?

Of course not.

As a result, both thumbs keep getting re-strained and I spend periods of time with my hands wrapped in ice packs.

That's always a dilemma for us, isn't it?  How to deal with minor injuries like strains and bruises and whatnot.  The "smart" thing to do would be to stop doing anything that taxes my thumbs and let it heal.  I wouldn't swing a stick and I wouldn't practice with my kobudo weapons.

Heh, yeah.  That's gonna happen.

Sure, I've reduced my activity as much as I can.  I've worked drills and techniques that don't require me to manipulate weapons when it's feasible to do so.

But it's not like I'm not going to skip that four-hour Arnis seminar we hosted over the weekend.  Or that I won't practice - and I must with the weapon sometimes - for that tournament coming up in a few weeks.  Or that I'll skip that Eku seminar this coming weekend that only comes up once in a blue moon.  And I can't not practice sai - I'm not good at it, I don't like it much, but I must master it for my class.

It doesn't help that I'm middle aged, and it takes me longer to heal than it might have if I were younger.

That's the way it goes, when you do what we do.

So tell me how you cope with those little annoying injuries you pick up when you train. Do you train right through it, accepting it will take longer to heal?  Or do you take a break like smart people might?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Of Blunt and Blade

I study Presas Arnis, which is a blend of Modern Arnis and Kombatan.  Like a lot of FMA players, I spend a lot of time with a stick in my hand.

Often, I am thinking of the stick as a blunt weapon - as a stick - versus a blade.  This is a modern thing in the FMA's, and far from traditional (hence "Modern" Arnis).  Traditionally, and in many FMA styles today, the stick is always a blade, and never a blunt weapon.

Where I live, blunt weapons of this length (or longer) - think the baseball bat - are more commonly found. When we do an edged weapon, we tend to focus on the knife, versus longer blades, as that's more likely to be something I'd have on me, or I might face, versus, say, a machete.

You cannot do this with a blade.  Oh, you could, I suppose, but not very long!

On one level, we need to train for the culture we live in, and that's my personal situation. However, if I don't spend time studying the blade as well, I won't get the deeper meaning of what we do in the Filipino Martial Arts.

It's a blade culture in the Philippines. It is not unusual for people to have short and/or long blades on them for a variety of reasons, depending on where you are. This is not unique to the Philippines, mind you - lots of other blade cultures out there around the world (and even in some places in the United States).

Filipino martial arts are a living, breathing set of martial traditions.  Our teachers, and their teachers one generation back, used these techniques for real, either in World War 2 or other more recent conflicts, either in the streets or in battle.  This is not theoretical stuff we're talking about, it's not sparring, it's not from manuals, it's not something being taught by people who are many generations removed from using blades in life-or-death situations.

I attended a seminar recently that focused on the stick as a blade (from +Prof. Dan Anderson and Grand Master Art Miraflor) that really brought home the huge HUGE differences between blunt and blade.

When the stick is a blunt weapon, you aim to smash things. You can trap and lock and grapple. You can grab and use any part of the stick (and have both hands on the stick, anywhere).  Speed and power are important.  A conflict might last longer than a second or two, and the risk of fatality, while there, is a little less of a problem.

Not so the blade.

Your targets vary, the effects are different, the risks are very different.  How you block, how you must move... very different.  You have edge awareness, not only due to needing to cut or avoiding being cut, but also to avoid blocking with your edge so you won't nick - or break- your blade.  Fatality is a huge risk (and you're always aware of it).

I can totally do with with a stick.  Just sayin'.

This is why you really need to seek out teachers who understand these differences if you want to study weapons seriously.  These little differences are not always obvious.  I've studied Arnis for nine years, and in that seminar I attended I learned stuff I didn't realize and I wouldn't have realized on my own without having it pointed out to me.

That's why you'll see serious weapons-based martial artists cringe when we see empty hand folks pick up a katana and start using it like a bo, or they pick up a knife and just start punching with it and defending against it as if it were an empty hand or a blunt weapon.

I am grateful that I can train with people who are so very skilled and knowledgeable in the blade and in blunt weapons. I may never use or face a blade... but I'm better prepared if I do.

What differences have you noticed between an edged weapon and a blunt weapon, if you study them?  If you study blunt weapons, do you have an interest in edged weapons?  Or if you study edges, how about blunt weapons?  Let me know in the comments!