Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Weapons and the Newbie

Recently I was asked to give feedback on a video a nice young man posted on the internet.  It was him working out with a bokken.

I'm not trained in Japanese swordsmanship.  The closest I've come is studying jo. But I do know people who do train in it, and I've picked up a few fundamentals of Japanese sword, enough to know when I'm looking at someone trained in traditional Japanese swordsmanship and when I'm not.

It was quickly obvious that the young man has trained in Japanese swordsmanship even less than I have.

Y'know what?  Nothing wrong with trying to get started on your own, as long as you realize that what you're doing is not in any way authentic, and as long as you stick to a bokken where it's highly unlikely you're going to seriously hurt yourself or others.  Also, as long as you aren't representing yourself as anything other than you are... a newbie just starting out and trying to figure out the weapon without a teacher showing them the ropes.

But I strongly urge anyone who wants to learn how to use a Japanese sword to train with a qualified teacher of this weapon.  

Actually, that's my advice to anyone wanting to learn any weapon.  Seek a qualified teacher and train with them, in person.

All weapons are dangerous to varying degrees, but all of them have the potential to actually kill people.  Sure, sure, some of use weapon-like props for tricking and dancing, but even these can seriously injure someone under the right conditions.

Three training kama.  Two of them are flimsy toys; one is not.  All can be hurty.
The problem is that you see actors using weapons in television and movies and think to yourself, "Hey, that's not so hard."  What a lot of people don't realize is that these actors undergo intense training to handle their weapon-like PROPS and that all of their fights are highly choreographed to look cool on film and to look "not so hard".

Or you have relatively untrained people in fiction picking up a weapon and using it like an expert and think you can do it too.  Friends... that's fiction.  While any person certainly can be very deadly with any kind of weapon, the moment you go against someone trained... you're going to have a bad time.

You cannot learn how to use a weapon from fiction on television and in movies.  You just can't.

Movies and tv also give a very, very false impression of how bad it is to get hit or cut with weapons.  You cannot take as many hits as you see the hero or villain take and then run around with maybe a cut or bruise on the face.  I laugh when superheros that supposedly "don't kill" repeatedly hit bad guys with things like heavy chains, nightsticks, and other blunt weapons, as if a blunt weapon is incapable of serious injury or death.

With the advent of the internet, the problem is much bigger.  You have untrained people putting out their own videos on YouTube. You have untrained folks wielding all sorts of weapons - and not even training versions, but live blades - and hurting themselves. Take this winner right here:

I don't want anybody to end up like that guy.  So please, if you're untrained and are interested in weapons, seek a teacher.  I want to encourage you to train in weapons - I'm WITH you, dude, I LOVE weapons of all kinds!  Just do so safely and with someone who knows what they are doing.

And no, watching YouTube videos isn't "training with a teacher", okay?  Find someone in real life.

By the way, if you're curious how I knew the young man hasn't trained with a teacher, the key was in the grip, excessive twirling (especially with a single hand), and the balance was all off (elbows, sir, elbows).  Watch a lot of traditional Japanese swordsmen - not tricking or tournament sword, but the real deal - and you won't see any of that.

Did you play around with weapons before you found a good teacher?  Any horror stories? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 07/22/17

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:  Day 1 of a fantastic Balintawak seminar by Master Rich Parsons.  Long and really great day, and I learned a lot!
Sunday:  Day 2 of Balintawak.  The seminar got me thinking hard and I think I'm going to adopt a few ideas from what I learned.  Very useful and fun, and if you get a chance to train with Rich Parsons, you better do it!
Monday:   Fought off a migraine and went to bed early.  Grateful the emergency meds worked, but man, they make me dopey and sleepy!
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Younger daughter has returned from almost two months in Virginia with her grandparents, so it was great to have her back in class. We worked on sinawali, for the most part, in the family class.  In adult class, shared some of what I learned at the Balintawak seminar.
Wednesday:   With younger daughter home, and older daughter attending Arnis class, we've returned to a schedule where we alternate attendance.  I will be going on Mondays, so I stayed home with younger daughter.
Thursday:   Classes at Mid-Cities Arnis.  With adults on vacation, we only had family class.  Worked with our newest white belt on sinawali and the entire class on stances.
Friday:  Stick sparring night at Mid-Cities Arnis.  I escaped without injury this time!


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

MondayHow Do We Teach What We Do?
TuesdayThe Vagaries of Self Promotion
Wednesday: Habits and Choices
Thursday: When Mat Time is Family Time
FridayFACE-OFF FRIDAY: When to Cross Train?


Since I did spend my weekend at a seminar... here's what I posted on my FB page.

How did martial artists live on the Internet before "Enter the Dojo" existed?

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


Holy moly, I don't have a seminar and I'm not traveling this weekend.  I get to take Younger Daughter to taekwondo, practice Kobudo, and go to Arnis at Hidden Sword. What used to be a "normal" day!  Wow!

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, July 19, 2017

Habits and Choices

Recently I attended a seminar of a different (but related) Filipino martial arts system, Balintawak.

It was awesome, and it really got me thinking a lot about what I do and why I do what I do.

This is actually sort of my default mode, soooooo...

One thing I really liked about how they do things is where they position their empty hand when they have a single stick.  This is called the "live hand" and its job is to monitor, to trap, to grab, to pass... it does a lot of work.

When I saw how they hold their live hand ready for deployment, I really liked it, and it got me thinking that it's something I'd like to adopt.

The problem is that it means I have to work hard on breaking a habit I've developed over the last nine years of playing Arnis.

This is a not a trivial problem. Sure, it can be done - and I plan to - but it won't be easy and it will take me some time to override my current habit.  Right now, I don't have to think much about my live hand.  To develop the new position, I have to give it more attention than usual.

This is what we do in the martial arts (and really, in any other skill we develop).  We create habits so that we don't have to think about them.  They become what we call "muscle memory" because we've done them so much.

For example, most of you reading this do some sort of a front stance in your style.  If I were to tell you to get up and drop into your front stance right now, you wouldn't have to think about all the things that go into your style's front stance. You don't have to think about foot placement or which way your hips should be pointing or where your hands go or how your knees should be positioned.

You just do it, because you've done it so often you don't have to actively, consciously think about it at all.

Habits are helpful and necessary, but sometimes, they force us into certain positions that limit our options.  Take that front stance.

We use a "front" stance (sorta) in kobudo.  But it's not the squared up version most of my taekwondo and karate friends use.  It's what I call a bladed stance (I'm sure it has a Japanese name but heck if I know what it is - tell me if you know it, thanks!).

This stance is like a front stance but with the feet nearly lined up and the hips turned at a 45 degree angle.  We use it for a lot of reasons, but primarily it makes the body a smaller target and it helps longer weapons clear the hips.

See the hips and back foot position? That's not a "front stance". Buy the video here.

It's tough for my friends in my kobudo class, because their habit is the classic empty hand front stance (hips and shoulders squared to the front), which is not helpful for them in kobudo.  They have to learn to choose which version of the front stance to use.

This is not a huge difference, in the scheme of things.  I think that's why it's so difficult to make the change.  It's similar to the struggles people have when they already have skill in one art and then study a different one - the best practice of the new art is similar, but often just different enough, that it's harder to conform to the new standard than it is for untrained newbies.

The new live hand position is only a matter of a few inches and a slight change in hand position. It's similar, but different.  And yes, it's not easy, even when I'm thinking really hard about it!

So why am I adopting this new position with my live hand?

It's not like my old position is bad or wrong or dangerous or uncommon.  I'm not even studying Balintawak or trying to learn to fight they way they do - I'm happy being a Presas Arnis player and I like what I do already.  So what's the point of this (kinda difficult) change?

I'm going to change because the new position gives me more options to choose what to do next. I won't be trapped into specific responses because my live hand can't get there to do what I want to do next.

Of course, the new habit involves some risks I didn't have before, and I have to be aware of those problems. But I think the expansion of responses is worth the risk.

Time to make my live hand... more alive.

Tell us about a time you had to override an old habit to create a new one. Any tips for helping the process move along? Were you ever unable to create a new habit?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 07/15/17

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 day.  I hurt my left hand stick sparring Friday night, so I was working with only one hand in Sai.  I actually think I made some progress!
Sunday:  Older Daughter birthday celebrations.  Saw "Spider-man: Homecoming".  Liked it.
Monday:   Arnis class at Hidden Sword. We worked on our "defensive responses" from various angles and some policing techniques.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked with our new student on her white belt material. Worked in Adult class on block check counter drills.
Wednesday:   Was sick much of the day, but dragged myself to a marathon of the new "Planet of the Apes" movies (Rise, Dawn, and War).  I dunno how Andy Serkis doesn't have an Oscar.
Thursday:   Classes at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on forms, mostly.
Friday:  Stick sparring night at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Played a bunch of different scenarios and had a lot of fun.  Our new student is going to be a heck of a stick sparrer! Worked on forms with our kids who are going to a tournament in August and I'm very pleased with their progress.

My smashed fingers. The tape is basically to keep me from trying to use them.  I kept forgetting. And paying the price.


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

MondayStyle Wars
TuesdayStopping the Good Man
Wednesday: No post - I was sick, darn it!
Thursday: THAT GUY: Seminar Edition
FridayFACE-OFF FRIDAY: Are Short-Term Self Defense Courses Useless?


Posted this on the Facebook page.  I'm easily amused, y'all.

Yeah, it's an ad, but you gotta admit, any ads the "Enter the Dojo" people make is a good ad.

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


Today is day 1 of a SUPER AWESOME Balintawak seminar we're helping throw here in DFW.  Our instructor is Master Rich Parsons and it's gonna ROCK.  If you're in the area, come on over!  Event details are 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!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 07/08/17

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:  Drove up to Lawton, OK (about 2-1/2 hours from my house) to train with friends at Shotokan Karate of Lawton.  I taught them our stick form one, Baston Anyo Isa (and showed applications out of it) and then then worked with me on empty hand sparring. Fun day!
Sunday: I slept a lot!
Monday:   I worked the day before Independence Day, and classes were canceled that night (our Rec Center was closed).
Tuesday:   Independence Day!  Happy birthday, America!
Wednesday:   Attended class at Hidden Sword.  Older Daughter has joined Arnis class, at least for the summer, and I can't be happier about it.  Yay!
Thursday:   Classes at Mid-Cities Arnis.  I worked with our new kid student in family class on basics, and in adult class, we worked on pelit-pelit drills.
Friday:  Stick sparring night at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Introduced our new student to the idea and she was smiling big by the time class was over.  Another extra Friday class practicing forms for competition and my students are coming along nicely.  In sparring earlier, though, I smashed my left pinkie and ring finger pretty good (against the butt end of an Actionflex stick, which is the big downside of using them) and I spent my evening after class in an ice pack to bring down the swelling.  My fingers are pretty badly bruised.

Older Daughter, Mr. Chick, and I at Arnis class Wednesday. 


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

MondayFour Profound Life Lessons (Learned in the Martial Arts)
TuesdayFreedom Fighting or Treason: How Shifting Perspectives Matter (especially in the Martial Arts).
WednesdayTHAT GUY: Whatever Guy
Thursday: The Entropy Game
FridayFACE-OFF FRIDAY: Are the Olympics Good for Martial Arts?


This was the comic I posted on my Facebook page this week (oh, have I mentioned it?  You can find it on Facebook at The Stick Chick Blog Facebook Page).  I post stuff there that you won't see elsewhere, and I try to make it a page that's more than just stuff from the blog.  If you're on Facebook, please like and share it.  Anyway, here's the comic, which was originally published HERE:

Yes, yes, it's not a new thing, but I've always enjoyed these riffs on martial arts life   I want to know what you'd add to the list:  You Might Be a Martial Artist If

We actually got picked this week for the now-relatively-famous "Deaf guy wants private lessons for a short period for a family of five, so please charge my credit card" scam, so I'm kinda feeling like a real-deal martial arts teacher now.  By the way, the guy said he got our contact info from Dojo.Info.  More on this scam at +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts  blog: Martial Arts Email Scam

We have Master Rich Parsons coming down to Texas next week to teach Balintawak, and I can't be more excited!  You can learn more at our Facebook event HERE.

And finally, I had to update my running "Enough with Sensei Scumbag's Shenanigans!" post, which some pretty bad news coming out of a suburb of my adopted home town (Kansas City, MO).  I really, really hate these guys, and I don't mean it any sort of , "Man, I hate Mondays!" kind of way. I mean it literally and without any qualification.  I hate these people who do this.  I hate that they can get away with it for any period of time in our community.  And I hate that we can't seem to do more about it.

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


Today I have Arnis in the morning, and hey, it's kobudo day and I'm going over to Dallas in the afternoon. I'm going to go up to Hidden Sword early and practice where I have some room, but with my smashed left hand, I think I'm going to be using just my right hand for much of the day (that'll be... fun... when I'm working bo).  I'm going to be gone all day long, again.

Today is also Older Daughter's 17th birthday.  She has to work, so we'll be celebrating tomorrow.  I can't believe she's entering her senior year in High School.  It wasn't that long ago that she was this bright eyed smiling little blonde girl saying the f-word on the playground in pure, unbridled joy, as in, "Mom, this is so f-ing fun!".

My kid, y'all.

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!