Monday, June 19, 2017

Family Ties

All of us have two sides of a family - a Mom's side, and a Dad's side.

For me, I spent most of my childhood interacting with my Mom's side of my family.  I spent my teen years in the same city my Mom grew up in (St. Louis) and I was around my grandmother, my aunt and uncle, my cousins, my cousins-once-removed, and a large extended family that I have in that city.  I was pretty close to them and knew them very well.

My Dad's family is centered about two and a half hour's drive south of there (around Sikeston, MO).  I spent a few weeks each summer there in my childhood, but I didn't get to see them daily like I did my Mom's family.  While I knew them, I didn't know them as well as my relatives in St. Louis.

So what does that have to do with the martial arts?

Just like I have two sides of my family, so I have two "sides" to the style of martial arts I practice. 

While I use the term "Modern Arnis" a lot, and it is definitely a huge part of what I do, it's not what I actually do.  What I actually do is Presas Arnis - a blend of Modern Arnis (Remy Presas) and Kombatan (Ernesto Presas).

Me helping teach one of the "combative responses" my teacher got from Kombatan 

Just as I did with my family in St. Louis, I spend a lot of my time outside of my home school in Arnis around the Modern Arnis "side" of my art, the "Remy" side of the family.  I've been to more camps and seminars in Modern Arnis than I can possibly recall at the moment.  They're like my "Mom's side" of my martial arts family.  I know many Modern Arnis players, and I know them (and the art) pretty well.

Now I'm getting a chance to see the "other" side of my family, the Kombatan side - my "Dad's side" of my martial arts family.

This weekend I'm traveling to Denver, Colorado to attend the GGM Ernesto Presas Legacy Gathering.  This is the first time I've gotten to meet and train with Kombatan players who were not also Presas Arnis people like myself.  My teacher, +Datu Hartman and Datu +Dieter Kn├╝ttel all trained and ranked with GGM Ernesto Presas, but I've never gotten to train with people who were "pure" Kombatan players.

I know bits and pieces, this and that, of things that Kombatan players do, things my teacher has blended into his curriculum.  I also have a few - a very few - "Grand Master Ernesto" stories.  Going to this camp lets me get learn more, go deeper, and connect with Kombatan in its original context, versus the blend I have been learning for years.

For me, going to this camp is like going to a family reunion where you get to hang out with all the great aunts and uncles and cousins you didn't know you have, getting family stories you hadn't heard before.

My teacher is also attending the camp, and +Datu Hartman is one of the instructors, but other than that, most of the other names associated to this camp I know mainly by reputation or by interacting with them online.  It's going to be a new experience for me.

I'm pretty excited.  I'm planning how to pack my gear and I'm worrying about what happens should my checked bag NOT make it to Colorado with me.  I hate checking bags but they won't let me put my training weapons in my carry-on.

Can't imagine why.

Have you ever gotten to train with "sides" to of your martial arts "family" you don't get to see often?  What what it like?  Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

My week in Stick Chicktivity - 06/17/17

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:  Kobudo and Arnis day.  It's that time of the month where I go over to Dallas for my two-hour kobudo class.  I kinda stunk up on the joint but we're getting close to the end of the sai material and to the point where we'll be practicing all we've learned over the past few years.
Sunday:  Taught ADE Women's Self Defense and spent some time with my youngest and my inlaws - they left town on Monday for a long trip and I won't see any of them for a long time.
Monday:   Caught up on chores.
Tuesday:   Class at Mid-Cities Arnis. We're working on new curriculum stuff with our recently promoted students in our family class, and we played sinawali in our adult class.
Wednesday:   Migraine started, so I stayed home and slept.  Day 1 of three days of "fun", ugh.
Thursday:   Class as Mid-Cities Arnis. Worked on anyos in family class, and worked on basics with a new student in Adult class.  Migraine continues at a low-level of annoyance.
Friday:  Migraine finally requires more nap time.  Stayed home and took it!

No new pictures of me this week, so here's one from about a month ago in our women's self defense.


Here's the new posts or reshared older posts I sent out this week:

MondaySensei Scumbag Strikes Again?
TuesdayThey Are Not "Chucks", Got It?
WednesdayKobudo Update: On the Home Stretch
Thursday: Let's Talk About Chambering
FridayFACE-OFF FRIDAY: Religion and the Martial Arts


The answer, Hannah Hillam, is ALL THE THINGS.

Nice video by +Ando Mierzwa (and +Jesse Enkamp) - entertaining and informative!

I ran across a rumor over on Tumblr that YouTube is shadowbanning martial arts content.  I'd like to hear from you martial arts YouTubers if you think this is true, or not.

If you run across cool martial arts stuff you think I should see, please do post them in the comments!


Thank goodness I have a relatively sedate weekend planned.  Arnis, then kobudo practice.  I am going to a camp next week in Colorado, so it's best to rest up and hopefully beat back this dumb migraine that has been plaguing me all week.

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, June 16, 2017

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Religion and the Martial Arts


Today's topic is pretty controversial in some quarters.

Let's talk about mixing religious faith and martial arts training.

For some of us, we openly mix religion and the martial arts. Either it's a faith system that is "native" to the martial art being practiced (usually from the East, so we're talking about a number of religious traditions depending on the source - could be Buddhism, Shintoism, or a host of others), or another faith, such as Christianity or Islam, has "replaced" those points of view but is still pretty openly a part of the training.  To train in the group, you usually also "train" in the religious practice.  We also have organizations around faith and martial arts training, such as Karate for Christ International and the Muslim Martial Arts Society, to name two.

Then you have the other side of the equation, where most, if not all, expressions of religious faith in training is discouraged or simply not allowed.  Heck, we even have some folks arguing that martial arts training is incompatible with practicing the faith at all.  Here's an article discussing this:  Should a Christian Practice Martial Arts?

So I want to know what you think about mixing religion and the martial arts.  It is important to you?  What are the pros and cons?


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kobudo Update: On the Home Stretch

It's been a while since I wrote a kobudo update.

The last update was "Oh Hai, Sai!" back in March.  We'd started learning the sai, and now I'm three months into it.

Honestly, thus far, I think sai might be my least favorite of the four weapons in this program.

Nah. Not even.

They require a lot of finicky manipulation and there's too much room for error when you use them to block in reverse grip along your arm.  I will say that the manipulation thing (from what I'd call "saber" grip to "reverse" grip and back) has got me thinking about how to do that with other weapons, so that's good, I guess.  Working with sai is also very good exercise for the wrist and forearms, so that's a plus, I guess.

At this point, I think it'd take a very long time of study before I'd choose to use them in a fight or study more than I really need to.

We're wrapping up the material we have to learn with sai, and then we'll spend some months in review, before we test for black belt in this program towards the end of the year.  So I'll be spending most of my free time practicing, practicing, practicing with bo, tonfa, nunchaku, and sai.

As of right now, here's how I'd rank the weapons I've studied in this program.  Jo doesn't count, as I studied jo under my teacher before I started this program, and I'll probably be studying it again in the black belt class next year.

  1. Nunchaku
  2. Bo
  3. Tonfa
  4. Sai
Me playing with my favorite!

Yes, I ended up liking nunchaku best of the four weapons.  Oh, not because they're practical, or I'd pick them in a fight to save my life, but because they're just so darn fun and easy to use (for an Arnis person).  I definitely get the attraction so many people have for the weapon.  I will be playing with them a lot, for fun, going forward.

I was always rather ambivalent about the bo.  Remember, the bo I study with is a 6 foot Japanese White Oak Bo, not one of those flippy-flippy, toss-and-catchy, spin-a-roonie so-called "bo" that are basically four foot dancing props.  Mine is one that you do not want to get hit with.

Given it was our first weapon, and the one I've studied longest in this program, I now kind of like the bo.  The reach and power of this weapon is substantial, and I see how it would translate pretty quickly from a dueling weapon to a battlefield weapon (put a metal tip on it, and you have yourself a pike or halberd, my friend).

I thought I'd like tonfa the most, but it was most disappointing.  I do not understand why empty hand people don't start with tonfa, as basically, all you have to do is punch or block with tonfa (with a minor adjustment here or there) as you do in empty hand and they work relatively well.  Tonfa can also be manipulated much like double sticks are in Arnis. But they're short and they're bulky.  I'll use tonfa in the future, but it's not because I'm having tons of fun with them.

And then there's sai.  I stated above why I don't like them much.  I get why other people do, but I don't know if I'll be converted to a fan, or not.  We'll see with further study.  It's possible I'll discover that they're the most awesome weapons ever.

If I get to include the jo in my list above, it actually is the real number one weapon of the Okinawan/Japanese weapons I've studied.  I think it's the best compromise of length, weight, and speed.  We have Actionflex versions of many of these weapons and I am usually most successful with the jo. As two-handed duelling weapons go, it's hard to beat.

My next few months will be hard work as I work towards earning my black belt in this kobudo program.  As I've repeatedly stated, I think that black belt is in no way mastery of anything more than the very basics, and that will definitely be true should I be promoted.  I don't think I'm an expert in any of these, by a long shot.  That's going to take a lot more practice.

But I'm getting there!

So what's your favorite weapon?  Let us know in the comments!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sensei Scumbag Strikes Again?

So this news story hit late last week:

Lopez brothers, Olympic taekwondo royalty, hit with sex abuse allegations

Of course, an accusation is not proof.  Let's all keep that in mind.


But if these allegations are true, we have yet another case of Sensei Scumbag.


The Lopez family are often called "The First Family of Taekwondo" in the United States. Their performance on the mat has brought prestige and awards to my country.  So of course, because of that celebrity, and the fact that the Rio Olympics were going on, they were left in place while the investigation was ongoing, even if that meant there were other victims at risk while this was going on.

My friend Cathy Chapaty (author of "No Pouting in the Dojo", and she blogs at Searching for Grasshopper at the moment, but also read No Pouting at the Dojang and Big Budo World) wrote this epic post on Facebook about this situation, and you really should give it a read:

I can't agree more with what Cathy has to say there. 

What particularly galls me about this situation is the fact it took so long for police to be involved (who are, after all, the correct authorities to do investigations of this kind).  Honestly, though, after thinking about it, I shouldn't be terribly surprised.

Our relatively hierarchical and authoritarian martial arts culture, and our belief that somehow, martial arts training immunizes us against bad buys taking advantage of us (and our students) in the places where we have to have the most trust, makes us particularly vulnerable to this sort of thing.

Our recruitment of children and young people, often marketing the martial arts as something that empowers shy kids, or vulnerable kids, or people needing self confidence.  Combine those two, and predators have a very happy hunting ground.

Hey, you don't have to take my word for it.  There's so many examples of martial arts teachers getting caught, arrested, and convicted of abusing their students that I literally can't keep up with it on my "Sensei Scumbag" post.  Click through my link above and take a peek at the ones I have been able to add to that post - I know I've missed bunches of others.

This is a problem.  A huge problem.  And I submit that we are not equipped to cope with it, as a subculture.  We're not willing to believe that we allow people in authority, or we have people who are superior athletes or coaches, who are also willing to prey on people we're supposed to be protecting.  We obviously don't do a good enough job in making sure that the environment where a predator can take advantage of our students doesn't develop (no alone time, better chaperoning on training/tournament trips. making sure that social media/texting is appropriate, etc.).

I'll admit, though, I don't think this is unique to us, and I don't have a great solution for it, either. The fact that these asshats are using something I love so much to abuse people makes me literally sick, and there is nothing I'd like more than to hunt them down and ruin a perfectly good stick.  But that's not a great solution either.

Like this (the stick broke early).

By the way, if you don't like that I have this gut reaction, well, too bad.  I think that scumbags in positions of trust who abuse the people depending on them are members of the lowest order of human being and this is what violence is for.

But here is something I'd like to see done, in the case of celebrities and people who are Olympic gold medalists and tournament winners and whatnot.

I think when the allegations are proved true, their names and accomplishments should be struck from our rolls.  Their awards should be removed, recognition of their ranks removed, their records expunged, and they should, in our circles, become nonpersons.  We should only acknowledge them for the criminals they are, and note how it came to happen, as lessons to the rest of us.  And they should never be allowed in our ranks again.

Yes, I do think people can be rehabilitated and "do their time" after crimes.  But that being said, these people should never, ever be placed in a position of trust in our world again.  You get one chance, you blow it, you should never be welcomed back.  The risk to potential victims is not worth whatever this individual can bring to the table.  I don't care how good of a teacher they are, how great a martial artist they are.  They're gone, forever.

So if the latest, maybe most famous Sensei Scumbag story is true... those medals they've won cease to exist as far as I'm concerned.  They have never brought honor to my country, only shame.

It's the least we can do.

So what do YOU think we can do?  What are your thoughts about this latest situation?  Let me know in the comments/