Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Chronic Pain In the...

... heel.

What did you think I was going to say?

Over the past few weeks, like so many other lucky people, I've developed plantar fasciitis in my right foot.  Upon reflection, I've had symptoms (tightness in my heel/calf) for a few months, but now it's painful as all get-out.

For those of you unfamiliar with the condition, and would like to experience it, here's how you can do it:

Step one: Obtain a 2 x 4 lego brick.

It waits.  For you. (image by jaffar)
Step 2: Duct tape it to your heel.

Step 3: Go about your normal business.

As you can imagine, I'm thrilled at this latest development, and while I am doing all the stuff at home you're supposed to do - special brace at night (restful night's sleep, as you can imagine), stretches, anti-inflammatory medications, and ice - it's unknown how long I will have to deal with this stuff.

Yes please!

It's making my martial arts classes and gym time a real problem, as it just hurts.

But I feel like a jerk, because I'm complaining about something like this, when there's lots of martial artists out there who suffer with much more serious and debilitating illnesses, and they keep at it.

I'm talking about people with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or muscular distrophy, or fibromyalgia.  People with chronic pain from injury from vehicle crashes and war injuries.  People with heart and lung conditions. People missing limbs.

So, while I do feel a little sorry for myself right now, I've been looking to these folks as inspiration to not let this stupid plantar fasciitis thing slow me down.

So, do you have to manage around chronic pain or other conditions?  How do you cope with it?  I'd love to know!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THAT GUY: Ranky McGee

This actually happened.

Once a long time ago, when we were moving around and figuring out where (and what) we would train, we attended a pretty decent tae kwon do school for a few months.

Now, at the time, Mr. Chick was a brown belt and I was a blue belt in a different version of TKD, and both of us had been studying arnis for a couple of years.  So, it wasn't like we were fresh newbies to the mat by any means.  However, we were both wearing white belts in class as we were being assessed as to what our proper rank would be in in this new school (in my opinion, the right thing to do in cases like ours, and we had zero problem wearing white belts in that school).

So one day in class, Mr. Chick and I were discussing a self defense technique that we weren't quite sure we were understanding very well.  It involved someone who places a hand on your shoulder from behind, and, without looking, you turn, remove the hand via a block, and punch the person.

Mr. Chick and I were discussing the ramifications of this among ourselves off to one side of the mat - why we were not sure if we understood the "DON'T LOOK" instruction. What if the person behind you is, say, grandma offering you a cookie? Or a police officer telling you to move your car?  Maybe we should take a look before we start punching?

A brown belt overheard our conversation and came over, patted me on the shoulder (thank god, from the front - if it were from behind me, I should have knocked his block off), and gave me the following sage advice.

"You'll understand when you're an Orange Belt."

Yes, O Wise Brown Belt, I'm sure earning an orange belt will help me get over the impulse to look at who I am punching before I start with the punching.  I'm sure the color of my belt will help me, somehow, when I have to take grandma to the hospital or when I'm being put in the back of a squad car for assaulting a police officer.

That brown belt is a great example of THAT GUY: Ranky McGee.

How do you spot Ranky McGee in your school?
  • Ranky McGee always defers to the higher level belts and is smug and condescending to the lower level belts.
  • Ranky McGee gets really angry when he is made to wait for his next ranking and tends to think that the time he's worn the belt is the exact equivalent of skill on the mat.
  • Ranky McGee hates working on techniques with the lower rank belts and will avoid it at every opportunity.
  • Ranky McGee, when forced to work with lower level belts, will never allow the lower level belt to gain any sort of advantage and will morph into THAT GUY: The Exceptionally Bad Uke.
  • Ranky McGee will always insist on every single right of his rank and become indignant when those protocols are not followed and respected to the letter.  He may even make up a few and convince the lower level belts that they are real.
  • Speaking of respect, Ranky will expect you to respect him simply because of the color belt he wears, not for his skill.
Most schools of any size seem to have a variant of Ranky McGee hanging around.  Sometimes Ranky is actually a parent of a student, and is not seeking the rank for him or herself (but still exhibits all of the characteristics), so you might find him on the sidelines versus the mat.  If Ranky is a lower rank than you, you might not actually spot him unless you're looking for him, as he's very good at making sure that you, as a higher level belt, get a good impression of him.

They made a movie with Ranky McGee as a major character. 
The Karate Kid, Copyright ©1984 Columbia Pictures.  Via

If you're above Ranky, your job is to get him off the status thing and let him know that he's not there to lord it over the lower belts.  If you're below Ranky, it's a much more difficult proposition to deal with him, as it's not always visible to the higher level belts and teachers (as I noted above, he's a great suck-up).

At the same school (again, a good one - but it was huge, and when you're big, you get more than your fair share of THAT GUY), a different higher level belt thought he'd go hard on Mr. Chick and I during a self defense drill.  Now, if we were real white belts, it would have been painful and incredibly demoralizing.

But we weren't real white belts, as I've already noted.

After tolerating this a couple of times, I decided I'd had enough of his shenanigans.  The next time he was paired with me (we were quickly rotating with each other doing self defense drills), I pulled a technique out of my toolbox that 1) I was pretty sure he hadn't seen,  2) I knew I could execute very well and 3) When done properly, hurts.  A LOT.

THAT GUY went easier on the lower level belts (as far as I could tell) for a while after that.

So, have you encountered Ranky McGee?  Were you ever Ranky McGee yourself, and how did you change?    Tell us!

To see all of the THAT GUY posts, click HERE.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Gift of the Difficult Student

When you teach the martial arts (and I suppose, any subject), you end up with all sorts of students.

Take these two examples:

Student A is a natural - the physically gifted person who learns everything you have to offer easily, masters skills and concepts with little to no trouble.  This student requires no additional effort on your part - in fact, he may end up learning stuff you don't normally teach in order to keep them engaged in class.

Bobby had no trouble in the Little Ninjas class.
Student B is the exact opposite of Student A - a person who just isn't very coordinated, who struggles with the basic stuff, takes forever to master basic concepts and skills, and requires a lot of time and energy to teach.

I think we'd usually consider Student A as a star student and a joy to teach, and Student B as a burden that takes up far too much of your time.

It's fun to do something that comes easy to you.  Student A knows this, and that's why Student A needs no incentive to study.  Student A gets ego strokes, and rewarded not only with the pleasure of doing fun stuff, but is typically lauded for his ability.

Student B, on the other hand, gets delayed satisfaction, and has to work very hard to achieve.  Student B practices outside of class, Student B challenges the way things are taught by the very nature of the difficulty of learning the information.  Student B needs a lot of support and incentives to keep at it.  It's just not as fun for Student B as it is Student A.

The kicker is, poor Student B may never be "as good" at what you teach as Student A.  Yet he comes class after class, keeping at it until he can finally acquire the skills, even if he gets discouraged at times.

Student B is your star student.

I think, on some levels, all wise teachers know this, but we all have days of frustration when Student B just doesn't get it.

Student B, however, offers us a gift Student A will never give us - the gift of becoming better students of our arts ourselves.

You see, Student B is probably someone who learns differently than you know how to teach your art.  If you are a good teacher who cares about what you do, you end up figuring out new ways to present the material.  After all, you are teaching a skill, so there are many different ways to learn it, even if you don't initially know what they are.  You must think hard, research, and try out new approaches.

In that process, you end up learning more about your art than you did before!

We have a Student B, and I have learned more from this person in the month or so Student B has been in class about strike mechanics (I'm working on a geeky post about that as a result) and new ways to think about how my art works than I did in the year prior.  It's awesome.

Me when I discover something completely new about my art.

I am grateful we have a Student B, because it's helping me grow.

So don't look the gift of a Student B in mouth.  Student A is fun, but Student B is where the heart of your art really lies.

Got stories about how you worked with a Student B?  Were you one yourself?  I'd love to know!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pain and Joy

I was at a martial arts seminar, recently, and I was practicing a take down with a lock with a new friend.

I didn't think anything of it when he said, "grab my wrist."

I was in the uke position.  As my friend performed the technique (which he had been doing adequately up to that point), an instructor came over to correct him, and to show him how to make the technique better.

Better, meaning, "much more painful".

As he put me in the lock, which hurt (A LOT), I yelped and laughed.

I laughed.

This is actually not uncommon in my experience.  When something painful happens, we might scream or yell, but really, we laugh and grin.

Mr. Chick, having a lot of  fun

I can't explain why this is.  It does hurt.  It really does.  There doesn't seem to be any reason for laughing, but we do.

And then the next reaction is, "That was cool!  Do it again!", usually said with a big smile.

Now, I do not mean the same thing as injury.  Injury takes you out of being able to play, which is not our goal.  Nobody laughs or smiles or experiences joy at injury (your own, or when you injure somebody else).

We laugh, when we experience pain, or when we see someone else reacting to pain, in the context of learning martial arts techniques.

I don't know what is wrong with us martial artists, I really don't.  It's not sane.

This is, perhaps, the main reason why people who do the martial arts consist of such a small percentage of the overall population.  All martial arts training involves risk, and we all experience pain in our training, due to a lock, or a throw, or a kick or strike taken while sparring, or due to somebody learning how to use a weapon and accidentally hits us in the wrong place...

Most normal people avoid pain.  We martial artists seek it out, not for the pain itself, but for the technique associated to it.  Feeling pain is part of the way we measure the effectiveness of what we do.

The other factor is pride - we are proud of ourselves for being able to take pain, aren't we?

It may not seem like it, but Mr. Chick is laughing here.
I bruise easily, but I don't think I've really had a good training session if something isn't sore. It's a mark of effort, I guess, but also, I think the joy we find in this pain is something that binds martial artists together, regardless of art.

It's hard to explain to non-martial artists - the joy we feel when we experience pain in the martial arts. But I know I feel it, and I bet you do, too.

So what do you think?  Why do you think we have this (admittedly weird) joyful reaction when we experience pain while training?  What stories do you do have about the joy of pain?  Share with us!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go ice some bruises.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TROY-KWON-DO: Teaching Young Martial Artists

Martial Arts have been a part of my life since I was about 6 years old. I am 26 years old now. A lot has changed since when I started back in 1993, from the passing of my original instructor Trey Hanrahan, to my Mother opening our family’s Dojo in 2003. I often look back on growing up in the martial arts for knowledge when teaching young students. Any of you who have had the privilege of teaching children martial arts know how hard it can be to get through to them sometimes.

Practicing the TKD Fist Bump with the 'Yo, Broham!" kiai.
It is my belief that no child should test for Black Belt, except for the rare individuals that display adult-like aptitude and can actually handle the requirements like an adult can and have started early enough to complete the years required to even get that far. I have seen many schools “passing out” Black Belts to children; this is wrong and dangerous. To put it simply, children brag. Passing “I’m a Black Belt” around their elementary or even middle school is like asking for trouble. If they are immature enough to brag about that, then they are not even close to being qualified for that belt and are just as likely to lack the skills necessary to defend themselves or de-escalate a bad situation. Sorry, if you have or know a young child that is the “exception to this rule” – they are not.

Children see the world in a much clearer “black and white”, but at the same time, exaggerate things much more than an adult. I’ll explain:

You know those scenes in Martial Arts movies where the newbie opens the door and sees the entire dojo doing extravagant things (in slow-motion of course) and is blown away by it? That’s how I felt when I first stepped into the dojo at age 6.

The older kids with the brown belts, the adult black belts… I don’t remember many of their faces, but I do remember having an instant respect/fear of those belt colors. I treated the belt system with the utmost seriousness. I wanted those belts so badly. My first point is that children take the belt system VERY seriously and achieving their next rank can be used as a huge motivator.

On the other side of that coin, failing a child or holding them back as punishment can be severe enough to make them want to quit. Adults can handle failure as a motivator, children – not so much. Make sure they are ready to test before putting them in the “spotlight”. If your Martial Art does not use a belt system, then some form of goal setting and recognition will work just as well.  Act your rank – children have high expectations of you from the second they meet you.

I remember the smell. That smell to this day almost strikes fear into me. In fact, I’ll admit that many times my parents had to force me to go to class. Once I opened the door and caught that dojo scent, there was no turning back. Two words that are tied to that scent – “Gear up!”

My instructor used to shout that out any time we were sparring that day. I would go the entire class hoping he wouldn’t say those two words. Sparring is very hard for young children. Not necessarily from fear of being hurt (though I’ve seen that plenty of times), but from the uncertainty of the situation. Up to this point, most children have been told what to do by their parents/teachers. They are not used to adapting to unpredictable situations and make their own choices in a high pressure environment. They want to perform well, but don’t know what “well” is yet.'

These girls are down with it, though.
This is my second point – young students need to be introduced to new situations slowly. Instead of having them “just spar”, you need to tell them what to do. Specifically. Have them practice a front leg kick followed by a jab / cross combination to the stomach - something simple enough that it keeps them from ever feeling like they have no idea what to do. Have the other move around and block the techniques, then switch attackers. As they gain confidence have them choose their own moves. Eventually they will handle themselves just fine.

My third point is the effectiveness of positive reinforcement. Children hate being singled out, except when it makes them feel good. If you have the opportunity to tell them they are doing something good – make sure they know. You will now get double effort out of them instantly. Negative reinforcement can be very effective too, provided you don’t just beat all of their confidence out of them. I once had to do push-ups for an entire class for goofing off with a friend on the mat. I didn’t goof off again after that, imagine that…

For my last point I am going to make a list of events that I remember. There is a reason these memories have stuck with me for almost 20 years, so hopefully you can draw some insightful conclusions from them.
  • I once sparred with a girl close to my age (8 or 9 at the time) and she started crying. My instructor told me to hit her harder. I didn't – I thought it was wrong. He was pretty angry with me and did some pretty colorful yelling.
  • I ran up to receive my blue belt before my name was called. I was excited. I ended up having to wait until the end of everyone else to get it – even the “under belts” – whoops.
  • My reason for starting Tae Kwon Do was because of how cool I thought my uncle looked when I saw him in his Gi and yellow belt.
  • My instructor told me to watch out when sparring our brown belt Cole because he was a “head hunter”. Apparently I took that very seriously and thought he would actually try to take my head off!
Inside Troy's head.
  • After 5 or so years of being with our instructor, he gave me a pair of kama for my birthday that he had hand made.
  • After my green belt test one of the black belts gave me a “perfect score” and about 8 years later told me that I was the only person he has ever given that score to. Every time I saw him after that, I tried as hard as I could to keep his opinion of me high. Positive reinforcement at its finest.
  • The instructors would write messages on your broken boards after a successful test. I still have them.
  • My head instructor once placed a bet on me at a tournament with another school’s instructor.
  • My first real “street fight” was handled without seriously hurting the attacker, or me getting seriously hurt for that matter.
  • Discipline and respect for others comes natural to me, as my instructor was very diligent in making sure each of his students learned them. 
I would like to point out that everyone’s journey is different, I am merely recalling mine and how it has helped me understand how differently children view the martial arts than adults. There are many instructors who can get through to children much better than I can and I am not implying that I am always right when it comes to these things.

We must realize how important our roles are to children in the martial arts. We have the advantage of appearing like a “superhero” in their eyes and have a tremendous opportunity to instill confidence, respect, discipline and a healthy lifestyle in each in every one of them. The fact that you could positively change someone’s life is a pretty awe-inspiring yet sobering at the same time. This goes for adult students as well. The next time you are instructing a student I would like for you to remember your role in their life – as I can promise you that they will.

If you have any questions or would like more info on any of these points, please leave me a comment below. Even more importantly – these are my conclusions based on my experiences, please share yours!

Troy Seeling is a 1st degree black belt and instructor in Tae Kwon Do, with 5 years experience in Boxing and a two-year white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Troy also instructs a strength and fitness class, and helps to manage his families' dojo, North Texas Karate Academy  In his spare time, he enjoys trying different forms of physical fitness, including Olympic weight lifting and distance running. He also enjoys film photography with antique cameras.  You can contact Troy at

Ed note: Opinions in "Troy-Kwon-Do" posts are those of Troy Seeling, and I don't always agree. I got a perfect score on my green belt too.  Of course, I was 40 years old...  -The Stick Chick

Friday, August 15, 2014

KIAAA-HA! Seminar Time Again!

I'm off to train at yet another seminar..  This is an event we attend annually that usually results in lots of big thoughts, so I'll share that with you when I return.  In the mean time, I wanted to preview a KIAAA-HA! post I'm working on, featuring Turkish action star Cüneyt Arkın and his amazing films.


  Here's a sample of some of his work.

I'll be posting my observations post-seminar once I get some rest and the bruises heal up a tad!

UPDATE 9/17/14: POST HAS BEEN FINISHED!  Experience the wonder that is the work of Cüneyt Arkın here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stopping The Good Man

With a few exceptions, martial artists are the least aggressive people you're going to meet - at least, they are unlikely to initiate conflict and they are not the type of people who want to actually hurt another person with malicious intent.

Free hugs!
Accordingly, most of our self defense scenarios depend on some bad guy initiating force against us, and we respond.  Now, there are always exceptions to this, especially in our more combative martial arts, but generally speaking, training scenarios typically go, "Attacker attacks, you defend."

Part of our martial arts training is to assume the attacker has the intent to harm you, and is doing so for malicious reasons, to the point of being willing and able to kill you or loved ones.

These guys, basically.

Thus, the default training attitude is generally to damage the attacker as much as you can get away with (that being defined by a bunch of different factors, including strategy, legality, ethics, and ability).  I think this is prudent, and wise, and absolutely the correct approach.


One thing we don't train enough is what to do when the attacker is not exactly a bad guy.

It could be...
  • Uncle Joe, who drank too much at the family barbecue and got violent
  • Aunt Rachelle, who has mental issues and is off her medication
  • Cousin Steve, who is fifteen and completely lost is his temper in a hormone range
Because my art is more weapons-y, and we have a higher risk of lethal results, it's something we actually do discuss from time to time in class. I would like to see more of us in the martial arts world consider this possibility.

Let's take Uncle Joe, the drunk guy, above.  Uncle Joe's judgement is impaired by alcohol.  It is absolutely possible that Joe will hurt you or other around you, maybe even to the point of permanent injury or death.  He's a big guy, and may even train in boxing down at the local gym to keep in shape.

I didn't specify which shape.

Now, we love old Uncle Joe - he's mom's brother and he's always been good to his family and neighbors, he volunteers at the food bank, and donates blood as often as they'll let him.

He is a good man.  He's behaving badly, but he's a good man.

So what are the goals here?  Sure, we want to prevent Uncle Joe from hurting or killing people around him. But a secondary concern - one many of us would have and is pretty important - is that we don't want to seriously injure or kill Uncle Joe, either.  He doesn't necessarily deserve that, even if in the moment he's dangerous.

Some things to consider:
  • If we knock Joe down, it's very possible he'll hit his head and could end up being brain damaged or killed (he probably won't know or think to tuck his chin)
  • Ditto punches/kicks to the head or other vital points - additionally, it may have no effect for someone impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • Use of a weapon, unless you're very skilled, has a lot of risk

This is where learning strategies and techniques to pin down and hold someone immobilized while help is called is probably very wise - in this case, the additional attackers problem becomes less likely to be a problem. Additionally, understanding improvised weapons (what if Uncle Joe starts swinging around a golf club?) and how to neutralize or disarm them is also a good idea.  Learning how to use words to deescalate situations might be helpful - sure, he's not rational, but he might be talked out of violence.

So, in the situation with Uncle Joe, I think study of some grappling arts, weapons arts that do disarms, and verbal techniques are three things I can think of that might be useful off the top of my head.

Think about Aunt Rachelle and Cousin Steve, and some of those similar skill sets come to mind again.

So, in your martial arts training, do you know how to stop the good man?  I'd love to know what you do, and what  your strategies are in the comments!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

TROY-KWON-DO: When a Fighter Is No Longer a Martial Artist

In the martial arts world, we have many ongoing debates.  What is a Black Belt and what does it mean?  Traditional or Modern Martial Arts?  Today, I'd like to address another one of those debates - "martial arts" versus "fighting".  For the purposes of this post, I'll focus on the MMA being the modern representative of "fighting", although of course I could have chosen boxing, or pure Muay Thai, or a number of other examples of fighting.

To better define what exactly Martial Arts are I did a comparison of two pieces of literature. I used Musashi’s Book of Five Rings as my representative of Martial Arts and Sam Sheridan’s A Fighter’s Heart as my “MMA” representative.

The reason for these 2 books in particular is that I believe both are good representatives to two sides of the coin. Musashi’s book follows a philosophy similar to my own Martial Arts and many other styles that follow an “honor code” of some form or another. Sheridan is a renowned journalist who immersed himself into different fighting circles and wrote about his experience. It boils down to this... when is fighting considered martial arts? Or when are martial arts just fighting?

Martial Arts are nothing without purpose and restraint. If being in Martial Arts for as long as I have has taught me anything – it is when NOT to fight. So how can “fighting” teach you not to fight? It comes down to this order and restraint. Knowing when it is okay to fight and having the strength to make the right decision.

I love MMA and hate it at the same time. It is fun to watch, the fighters are phenomenal, but the “fan-base” it has generated makes me sick. I figured having a natural distaste for something was like an open door to learn… so here ya have it:

Analysis of “The Book of Five Rings” in contrast to “A Fighter’s Heart”

NOTE: First off I would like to state that I am not comparing the literary skills or laurels of either writer. Musashi was a legendary warrior (and what I read is one of several different translations), Sam Sheridan is a modern day Journalist/MMA enthusiast. There is no comparison between the achievements of the two. I am simply comparing the mindset of a “martial artist” and the mindset of a “fighter”, using these two acclaimed pieces of literature as my vantage point.

I began this literary journey with two large biases.

Bias 1: I believe strongly in our student creed and what it represents. “To build true confidence through knowledge in the mind, honesty in the heart and strength in the body. To keep friendships with one another and to build a strong and happy community. Never fight to achieve selfish ends, but to develop might for right”. I try my best to follow it in and out of the dojo. I imagine every reader has their own form of this creed, even if it was never officially written down. Musashi’s “Book of Five Rings” spoke to me on a very personal level. It was like reading gold. His message, his methods, his teachings, all spoken perfectly. Too easy to accept. Cover to cover, each lesson between- memorized. His writings on honor, how to live, how to think, how to not think; I was hypnotized almost by the book simply because of how much it related to my views, enhancing them.

Bias 2: Over the years I have enjoyed watching MMA fights with my family. As it grew into a mainstream sport with graphical shirts, beer advertisements, and star athletes, I began to realize a divide in “mixed martial arts” and “martial arts”. When people think martial arts they think of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid. When people think of MMA, they think of the same fighting you do outside the bar. I can’t stand a lot of what has happened to the honor of the sport. There is a limited number of people who truly understand what it is to be a martial artist, I try daily to be worthy of that title. My bias was disgust in mainstream cage fighting and its poisoning of the sport. Not MMA itself, but its following. The guys that think their graphic tee-shirts make them a fighter. Yes the actual athletes are talented, yes the actual athletes can fight, yes they have heart, but many of them are not martial artists.

You know who you are.

Might For Right > Might For Money

Off the bat, both books had me hooked. They agree that martial arts, no matter what style, has the same brutal yet passionate allure to it. Something inside the human mind is drawn to struggle. Cages, sports fields, boxing rings, the Circus Maximus (an arena in Rome), all display the same thing- human struggle.

The struggle is the human desire to become the predator from prey. Humans are not equipped with claws, or fangs, or other natural weapons. We survived by sticking together, and using our greater intelligence as a weapon. People identify with this. When fans of a sports team talk about the season, they say “WE should have done this”, or “WE won the big game”, even though they are not actually physically part of the team. This identity, this struggle, is what brings us together and is our reason for fighting. It all boils down to one detail, being the predator.

This is where fighting and martial arts split. Musashi states that to fight well, you must achieve an emptiness of mind, a sort of spiritual and mental superiority over your physical being. There is a lifetime of practice in order to let go, and it is done through inner peace. The martial arts is as much as a mental exercise, as is a physical one.

At least three of the people here are mentally visualizing kicking your butt.

Sheridan talks about the brutality of his training. He felt fear and fatigue and many other negative emotions. It was not a peaceful place, even out of training. His apartments were poor, and the people he was around were not the best of sorts.

Interestingly enough it seems that they both met a similar “ending”. (The journey is never really over, I am using this figuratively.) Their “ending” is that they both learned an inner calm about themselves.

Musashi did so through patience and mental training, Sheridan did so by ignoring those feelings and grinding it out. Though the methods of both martial arts and fighting were very different, they ultimately come to the same revelation.

In essence, Martial Arts and fighting can be the same thing. It is how and when we use it that separates us. Martial Artists offer restraint, something Beer-Chugging-Baddass-Billy doesn’t have time for and it certainly wouldn’t make him look Alpha at the bar. So he sides with the performance fighters, the gladiators, the ones that look tough on the outside. The scariest dude on the planet is the calm quiet martial artist who doesn’t buy into that crap. But it’s hard to know who that is – so let’s put those TapOut shirts on!

Then why is it that the onlookers of both are so different? It is simple: they are on-lookers. This is put best in a poem by Domingo Ortega.

Bullfight critics ranked in rows
Crowd the enormous Plaza full
But only one is there who knows
And he's the man who fights the bull.

Both of these books are amazing reads. Sheridan’s book really helped me put some strong negative feelings about MMA to rest. He has helped me see it for what it is. There will always be on-lookers, but few who “know”.

Not pictured here: fighters.

The only time I was ever part of an amateur MMA bout really showed the dirty truth of cage fighting. Going up in the ranks is brutal and fighters are often miss-matched for various reasons. It was a very tense place with a lot of negative emotions. Then you mix in some “Martial Arts” and some rowdy drunk folks needing to flex their egos. It’s definitely a dangerous place. Lots of people with lots to prove, in and out of the cage. Like I said, the concept of MMA is beautiful – it’s the people who dirty it up. And it’s not the fighters…

No matter what you practice Martial Arts for, always remember to carry yourself with respect and be humble. Forget those things and you become the TapOut shirt wearing, beer chugging badass at the bar looking to prove he’s tougher than everyone else (the funny thing is, he usually isn't).

 Martial Arts are a terrible thing to waste.

Troy Seeling is a 1st degree black belt and instructor in Tae Kwon Do, with 5 years experience in Boxing and a two-year white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Troy also instructs a strength and fitness class, and helps to manage his families' dojo, North Texas Karate Academy  In his spare time, he enjoys trying different forms of physical fitness, including Olympic weight lifting and distance running. He also enjoys film photography with antique cameras.  You can contact Troy at

Ed note: Opinions in "Troy-Kwon-Do" posts are those of Troy Seeling, and I don't always agree. I'm off to burn all of my TapOut gear now...  -The Stick Chick

Saturday, August 9, 2014

An Unexpected Benefit of the Martial Arts

I think there are three basic orientations in living daily life.

One is being past-oriented, where you constantly think about things gone by, how you could have done things differently, or reliving experiences that you've enjoyed.
I'm nostalgic for the days when I "Yahoo'd" what I needed to know...
Another is being now-oriented, where you don't dwell on yesterday, and you don't really think about tomorrow, but deal only what is in front of you today.

And then there is future-oriented, where you are thinking about and anticipating what will come next.

I think people can and do change from one orientation to another, and have a bit of all three at times. I also think that most people have a "default" position in one of these three orientations for much of their lives.

For me, my "default" is future-oriented.  This means that I'm thinking about what's going to happen most of the time. I like plans, goals, and deadlines.  I like to achieve things and move to the next achievement. My mind is usually buzzing about what comes next and anticipating the future.

An unfortunate side effect of this future-orientation is that I have suffered from insomnia for most of my life.  I have a very, very difficult time "shutting down my head".  Additionally, when I awake in the middle of the night, it's not unusual for the brain to fire up to moving at a 100 miles an hour, so it's hard to go back to sleep.

Been here, done this.

Prior to training in the martial arts, I used two primary methods of coping.  One would be taking drugs to help me sleep, but the other - and more common - method I used was to basically create a mental environment (telling myself a story, basically) unrelated to anything going on in my real life, so I could "reset" my head and shut it down for the night.

Both methods have their drawbacks and limited effectiveness.  So, it's always an been an issue.

Then, when I was a few months shy of 40 years old, I stepped on a martial arts mat for the first time on a Tuesday night in April, 2008. Later that night, I needed no coping strategy to sleep.  And, over the years, on the evenings I train, more often than not I have zero trouble going to sleep at the end of the day.

It took me a while to notice, and then to figure out why I have no trouble sleeping after an evening martial arts class (it doesn't work for me when I have a class early in the day - it only works in the evenings, for the most part). It wasn't the physical activity - I'd never experienced the same thing from working out or running or playing sports as a teenager, so it has to be something else.

And here's why training works to help cure insomnia:

When you do the martial arts, you generally spend all of your mental time in the NOW.  You can't think about what happened yesterday too much, and you can't worry too much about tomorrow - either way of thinking will get you or your partner hurt.  I can't imagine that now-oriented people have any trouble sleeping at night (if you're now-oriented by nature, I'd love to know if I'm right).

My equivalent to a glass of warm milk before bedtime.

Believe me, when +Kevin Bradbury swings at my head with a #2 strike, I'm not worrying about how to organize that report I'm writing for next week, or what food I have on hand for the next three nights of dinner, or how I'm going to get the kids to that event they are attending on the weekend.

In class, my brain must be in the now, and only the now. Martial arts class is like a big record scratch on the constant internal planning narrative.

For me, that is the biggest benefit of studying the martial arts.  It was completely unexpected, this interruption in the constant process of forecasting and considering what if my plans don't come out the way I envision.  But it's certainly one of the major reasons I never want to give it up.

How about you - what was your unexpected benefit of the martial arts?  Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thoughts from MAPA 2: We Are Family

We held our second +Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance (MAPA) seminar on 8/2/14, and like the first, it was a blast (maybe even better).

This time we had four teachers - +Mark Lynn+Abel Mann Martinez +David Beck and +John Bain.  Abel and David showed some pretty standard techniques with some cool variants in Modern Arnis, Mark showed policing techniques from Kombatan, and John showed knife disarms from Pambuan Arnis.

The mix of attendees was different than MAPA 1, and that made it just as fun as the first.  I got to meet some new amazing people of all sorts of levels of experience (from newbie to way, way more experienced than I am), and make new connections in the FMA community here in Dallas-Fort Worth.

While I enjoyed the content (and picked up a few new things I hadn't considered before, especially in the use of the punyo), what struck me most was the entire group of players attending the seminar.

A fine looking and utterly deadly bunch of people.

What is missing in this photo?  Look again, I'll wait.

Did you spot it?

Nobody in this picture is wearing a belt or any other indicator of rank.

When I said the group consisted of newbies all the way to the highly experienced, looking at that photo, can you spot which are which? 

As we switched from partner to partner, outside of the people I knew personally, I had no idea what background in the Filipino Martial Arts, if any, my partner had when we first paired up.  Indeed, given the techniques we were doing, it's possible that there were some I trained with that had lots of martial arts skill but very little in the FMA's, but picked it up fairly easily.

No worries over rank or who's which level. No politics of style or teacher or lineage.  Just a bunch of players coming together to cross sticks and play.  A family, one that we have chosen, one that comes together through the love of our art.

As we drove home, it struck me how rare that can be in the martial arts, and what a really fun experience the MAPA seminars have been thus far.

You see, the point of MAPA is not to rank people, or to elevate any particular person or Filipino Martial Art. The point is to gather together all of the small knots and teachers of every FMA we can find, and bring them together to teach, to learn, to train, to support, and to network with other FMA players in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (and beyond).  To gather together the community so that we can afford to bring in the "big names" for single-teacher seminars.

Thus far, the MAPA seminars are doing exactly that.  It bodes well for the future.

One more item - this time, I acquired some awesome bruises (I bruise easily, it's true).  Here you go:

The measurement of a fun seminar.
I'll keep you posted on MAPA 3 (tentatively entitled "The Stickening").  It's supposed to be in November, in the Plano, TX area.  If you, or someone you know, wants to cross sticks and are around that time of year, let me know!

I'd love to hear your stories about YOUR martial arts family - post 'em in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

THAT GUY: King of the Dojo

Nothing in the Martial Arts is more exciting than competing and training with others to gauge your progress and learn what exactly it is that you need to work on. In fact, having competitive training partners and even rivals in competition does more for your growth than any other thing in training.

But there is a dark side to this competitive environment. There is a fine line between being competitive and being a jerk. We call him the “King of the Dojo”.

This is my formal gi.

Here is the usual story with these types: You get a phone call from a guy who wants to try your sparring program. He says he has “prior experience” in [insert your favorite] martial arts. Because his school either closed, or he has been out of the Martial Arts for a while, he claims that he is looking for a new school and wants to see if yours will fit. Notice how he didn’t mention anything about your program, katas, or anything else for that matter. He wants to start with your sparring program. Red flag. He doesn’t have any intention of learning anything; he wants to see how good he is against your students. So you give him a chance, considering his prior experience and interest in your school… plus he might be a great addition if he fits in right?

Sparring class - t-minus 15 minutes. He starts stretching or warming up away from most others, usually with a very serious look, almost mean-mugging any peer who looks at him. He will likely play nice with those not in his “weight-class”, but will be sizing up the ones he needs to dominate for alpha-male status.

Just a friendly sparring match, I swear.
Sparring commences. Two things will happen at this point. Either he will “win” or “lose” in his mind. This is already a very poisonous because we are here to help each other get better, not KO each other into oblivion. He doesn't care about that – his goal is to win.
  1. So he “wins”. Ego fulfilled. Students are in awe at his skill. He is the king. At this point he will stick around because it makes him feel good to be on top. He may even become “respectful” at this point and have some great skills to teach you/ your students. After all, he was good enough to “beat” them. But he also carries a dark side that could be dangerous to your students and your program.  Anyone who threatens his reign will likely spark some out of control situations, leading to injuries and even students leaving your school. He will stick around until he is bored or beaten. He will likely have no real interest in your program but will participate in sparring all day any day. Remember: he is there to prove to himself that he is alpha, not to learn or sincerely help others.
  2. So he “loses”. Most of the time decently trained students can hold their own with any “out-of-dojo” type “badass” that shows up. He will usually make up some story about how he is not familiar with your style, or he didn’t know this or that, or he has a bad knee, but the fact is that he is butt-hurt. He is trying to save face. He will likely not return at this point because he will be looking for another school to reign.
The crazy thing is that good martial artists don’t judge each other in this way. They don’t need to. They can go hard without feeling like someone won or lost. They respect the art and always welcome others to be a part of it. If they start having that itch to be “alpha”, they get that ego under control and remember why they are here… to grow and to help others grow.

If you encounter this situation, try to encourage him to stick around and join the regular program. He might just be nervous as to what people will think of him and did not want to look bad. Don’t let him turn you into THAT guy by acting that way back at him.

Or… Maybe THAT guy came from within your own student base over time. Martial Arts are competitive, but we have to keep things in perspective.

I’m not saying that it is a bad thing to introduce highly skilled/competitive people into your student-base when they come from another background - that is a great way to grow. I am saying that out-of-dojo experienced fighters need to be watched carefully as they integrate into your program. They may be a great addition to your student base… or… they may be THAT guy.

Have you ever encountered the King of the Dojo? If so, tell us how you handled it in the comments below!

Troy Seeling is a 1st degree black belt and instructor in Tae Kwon Do, with 5 years experience in Boxing and a two-year white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Troy also instructs a strength and fitness class, and helps to manage his families' dojo, North Texas Karate Academy  In his spare time, he enjoys trying different forms of physical fitness, including Olympic weight lifting and distance running. He also enjoys film photography with antique cameras.  You can contact Troy at

Ed note: Opinions in "Troy-Kwon-Do" posts are those of Troy Seeling, and I don't always agree. Also, as far as I'm concerned, Elvis will always be King of the Dojo.  -The Stick Chick

To see all of the THAT GUY posts, click HERE.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

THAT GUY - the List

I am looking for your stories about stereotypical students we run across as we train in the martial arts.  These are people that when you are telling stories about one to a friend, the friend knows what you are talking about because he, too, has seen or met a similar person.

These are not always bad martial artists, or even bad people. Their quirks make them amusing and memorable.  Some of these are YOU (and me - I note which one I am right now below).
Yep, they're talking about YOU. 

Here's some examples, many of which have been written (I've included the link to that post in the title):
  • King of the Dojo - this person usually is not in your school, but is visiting from another or you meet at a seminar.  This guy is there not to learn, but to prove or test himself.
  • UFC Fanboy - similar to Street Guy and Suburban Commando, this is the student who, when presented with a technique, will proceed to say either it won't work because he's never seen it used in a UFC fight, or it will work, because Anderson Silva did it in a fight.  He judges the worth of everything by what he sees in the UFC.
  • Streetz Guy - Similar to UFC Fanboy and Suburban Commando, however, he judges everything by how he believes it will work "in the streets", in a real fight.
  • Suburban Commando - Similar to UFC Fanboy and Street guy, but with a military bent.  She judges everything by how it will work in military combat and the potential for killing. She is not in the military.

Pictured - The Stick Chick on Fridays
  • The Full Cup - an experienced martial artist learning a new art, who can't (or won't) learn things as the new art does things, but insists on doing things the way the old art he used to practice does it. This is my tendency!
  • What If Guy - she will always immediately look for the inherent flaws in technique and ways to defeat it, instead of learning the technique being taught first.
  • The Philosopher -  this person is more focused on the philosophical (or even religious) foundations of your art, versus the techniques.  He can quote every maxim the founder of your art ever uttered, and susses out the deep philosophical meaning of each. 
  • The Bruce Lee Disciple - this person will take every opportunity to quote Bruce Lee, and to tie back whatever you are doing to him.  You are not actually doing Jeet Kune Do.
  • The Japanophile - more Japanese than the Japanese.  Learns the Japanese language, eats Japanese snacks and foods nearly exclusively, watches Japanese media, and takes every opportunity in martial arts training (in a JMA, obviously) to point out how things are done in Japan.  Lives in a place like Nebraska.
  • The Ninja - is obsessed with the romantic idea of the ninja as portrayed in popular media (versus the actual skill set and historical reality). She is not studying ninjutsu.
  • The Moocher - the person who wants to study the martial arts, but does not want to pay to do so.  He is always hoping to find someone to teach for free, or if he is in a school, looking for private training or to use the dojo outside of normal operations for free.

I just wanna train... really!

  • The Vulture - the person who trains in your school (or hangs around) with the purpose of poaching your students for his new school or program.
  • The Bad Uke - this comes in many variants. Generally, someone who is not helping his training partner learn because of his actions as uke.
  • Overly Macho Guy - the guy who will never admit to pain or injury, will never admit to being bested in sparring, won't allow anyone to successfully demonstrate a technique against him if he can avoid it. 
  • The Dandy - the woman who comes to class with perfect hair and full makeup, and will avoid learning techniques properly in fear of messing those up (much less breaking a nail), or, when those things are do get messed up, will complain loudly about it.
  • The Scaredy-Cat - a person who is just fine with inflicting pain, but will avoid receiving it as much as they can.

Partner up!
  • Noodle Arms - the person who will offer no resistance to a technique.  Also tends to kitten punch.
  • The Drill Sergeant - the person who is 100% focused on the mat, and will make sure there is no funny business going on, ever.  She will also enforce every written and unwritten rule of etiquette in your school.
  • Ranky McGee - the person who is very concerned about rank.  Who has it, who doesn't, what privileges exist and who can learn what based on rank.  She tends to only associate and train with same lever or higher ranked persons in your school if at all possible.
  • The Muscle-Through Guy - this person uses his superior strength or size to do the martial arts, versus learning and perfecting techniques.

Grab my wrist.
  • Bad Hygiene Guy - the person who has a dirty uniform, doesn't bathe before training, and has bad breath.  He may or may not be aware of the problem (some people choose to do this as an advantage vs. opponents).
  • The Jokester - the flip-side of the Drill Sergeant, the person who doesn't take anything seriously, will make lots of jokes on the floor, will ignore etiquette rules (to be funny).
  • The Schmoozer - the person who's there to socialize more than train.
  • The Douchebag - a variant of the Schmoozer, this person is there to pick up romantic partners and uses the training to get close to their intended targets.
  • The Coach - the person trying to "help" people training by offering advice.  If a parent, it's advice based on different (or antiquated) training.  If it's a fellow student, it might be wrong.
  • The Dilettante - this person goes from school to school, picking up bits and pieces of various martial arts.  It is not unusual to find this person as a Grand Master of her own system hybrid system within a few years of attending your school.
These are just the examples we could think of, and heck, I'm sure I missed some good ones, so share your stories!

To see all of the THAT GUY posts published thus far, click HERE.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

THAT GUY: Introducing a new series (and some other stuff)

Other stuff first:

Today I'm attending a seminar with +Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance, so I'll have some "DEEP THOTS" about what I learn or observe there in a few days.

I also have finally gotten good, non-cell-phone pictures from Kidlet's Black Belt test, so I'll probably write more about that in the near future, also.  I'm sure you simply can't wait for my parentbrag post on that subject (yet again).


So today, I'd like to introduce a new series that guest poster Troy Seeling and I will be writing about here on the The Stick Chick Blog.  There is no set schedule for this series (just like you see "Shenanigans" and "Kiaaaa-Ha!" posts whenever the mood strikes me) but I think it's one all of you will particularly enjoy.

Introducing: THAT GUY.

He might be the King of the Dojo.  She might be the Bruce Lee Disciple.  He might be the Suburban Commando.  She might be The Drill Sergeant.   He might be the Incredibly Bad Uke.  She might be The Coach.  He might be The Schmoozer.

You know who I mean.

THAT GUY is that person in your martial arts school that has some quirk that makes them hard to train with or teach.  THAT GUY is that one person that you half-wish would train elsewhere because they drive you crazy.

THAT GUY is the person that you'll tell your martial arts friends about over beers, and they'll nod knowingly and say, "Oh yes, THAT GUY."  THAT GUY is often the star in some of your funniest martial arts stories.

That's what Troy and I will be writing about in the THAT GUY series.

We need your help.

I want to hear your stories about the Jokester, the Dilettante, the Moocher, the Scholar, the Overly Girly-Girl, The Full Cup, and others.  I want to know when you discovered you were THAT GUY and how you changed your ways.

Look, we all love Master Ken, because Master Ken is THAT GUY.  Eventually, spend enough time training, and you'll meet a real-life Master Ken.  In fact, the folks at "Enter the Dojo" have populated an entire school full of the kinds of people we'll write about, but since the Stick Chick Blog is (essentially) free, we can include more examples of THAT GUY here than they can feature in the Ameri-do-te dojo.

So help a Stick Chick out.  Share your stories about THAT GUY here on this post, so we can write about it in the future.  If I use one of your stories, you get full credit (if you want), and we'll make you Internet famous to tens and tens of people!

You're on your own when the paparazzi arrive.

The first THAT GUY post (King of the Dojo - these are guys who show visit other schools with the intent to beat up everybody there in sparring to impress his two buddies and for bragging rights) is planned for Troy's TROY-KWON-DO post this coming Tuesday (8/5), so keep an eye out.

Looking forward to hearing your stories about THAT GUY!