Friday, October 31, 2014

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Alive Training


Today, let's talk about alive training, which I'll define as training where another person (or people) are trying to resist your technique.  Examples are, of course, the sport martial arts, but they're not the only alive training methodology.

Some folks believe that if your martial arts training isn't primarily "alive", then you aren't really training at all.  Other folks believe that, due to what they teach, "alive" training isn't necessary or even possible (think about the weapon arts, for example...)

So let me know what you think:

Is alive training required to learn a martial art?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

You Have to Do to Know

In an online conversation recently, several of us who are weapons-oriented martial artist were trying to explain to an empty-hand player why he couldn't simply just grab a weapon and start doing his empty hand techniques with it.

Our explanation boiled down to, "Well, reasons."

Yes, really.  What part of "empty hand" is unclear to you?
Because our real explanations - differences in range, targeting, and how your movement and angles and such change (not only with empty hand to weapon but also weapon to weapon) - are hard to get across to someone who does not know what we're talking about.  It sounds sorta like bullshit to someone who is not a weapons-oriented martial artist.

You see, our reasons are inexplicable in words.  It's even hard to show in video or to demonstrate to someone else.  It's a thing you have to do, to know.

That is how we end up with so much nonsense and shenanigans in weapons, because the empty hand players don't believe us when we tell them this - they just pick up a sword and start doing karate.

They don't know, so they can't do.

Many concepts are like this in the martial arts. Let's take another one, one dear to my heart - the concept of flow.

While we Arnis players are certainly not the only ones with the idea, it's central to our way of thinking and it's the primary way we can tell if a person gets what we do, or doesn't.

But what is flow?

It's like a masterpiece work of sculpture or a painting or hard core pornography. It's hard to describe in any consistent way, but  I know it when I see it.

The player moves smoothly, where power is generated by proper technique, not by tightening the muscles.  Indeed, the player is relaxed and just...moves...

I know, it doesn't seem like anything when I write it, but when you see it, you just know.


This is flow.

If you can't see the video, click here.

This is smooth action, not jerking around, range is fluid, strikes and parries are not hard, just... flow.

And this is not flow.

If you can't see the video, click here.

In the second video, the range is strictly kept at the same distance, motion is hard and they move hard and in order.  It's karate.  With sticks.

Karate - old school karate like this - doesn't flow.  It isn't their way.  And that's fine, it doesn't have to be.  But in my art, in Arnis, to do it well,  you must flow.  This is why so many players from hard arts like karate and tae kwon do take a long time to adjust, to get very good at what we do, because they have to learn to flow, and that takes a lot of time to learn.

I can't explain to you all of the nuances of difference in the videos above.  All I can tell you is that the second video has no flow at all.  If you were training with me, and you were like these guys, I'd have to coach you into flow over time (number one - RELAX!), and you'd learn it over time, but I can't say, "Do this, that, and this, and that's flow."  There's no words, no way to copy it, because it's a concept bigger than words and images.

The funny thing with flow is that you don't know you're doing it until someone tells you that you are.  After that - you finally see it, and can do it, without even thinking about it.

You know, because you do.

What concepts in your martial art is like flow or training with weapons?  What has to be done, and can't be adequately explained with words?  I'd love to know!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Sometimes learning proper technique is hard – it requires practice, time and a lot of failure to get it right. The desire to just muscle-through technique is always with us, no matter what we are doing.

If you’re doing curls in the gym but don’t want to look like a weakling – throw your back into the lift and let momentum do the lifting for you! That way you get minimal bicep gains, but look awesome with that extra 20 lbs on the bar! Don’t wanna learn a proper hip throw? Just pick the dude up and heave him over; forget about your wrecking your back, that throw was solid! Who needs to learn proper blocking if we are so freakin' beast mode that our iron jaw can deflect incoming attacks without fail?

Meet THAT GUY: Power Man.

You know the type. Usually one of the larger ones in the dojo, Power Man can easily brush off technique with his Herculean physique. He is man with no time to waste and if he can’t learn something properly, he’ll just smash his way through! He is Hulk incarnate – or at least tries to be. Because you know… looking like you can do something is much more important than actually being able to do something.

Power Man has some flaws. Though he looks naturally awesome using his size advantage to the fullest, his “natural ability” is used at the cost of doing things the right way. Pit him against an opponent of equal strength and the lack of technical training will be his downfall.

The problem is – powering through technique can work (often). That is why we have weight classes in competition, size and strength do matter. In the heat of training, it is much easier to muscle-through to success than it is to swallow your pride and look like a newbie for a few reps.

We should always be mindful of when we are doing something right, or just powering through it. Strength can be overcome by skill pretty easily. Natural size advantages can be mitigated by proper technique. Jackie’s favorite - Bruce Lee - was a small fella, but we all know of his legendary power. This power came from years of doing it right.

Unlike Power Man, we must resist the temptation to look cool at first and learn to do things the right way. If Power Man were to use his hugeness with some proper technique, he would be devastating. But fortunately for us, the positive reinforcement Power Man gets from using strength rather than technique will likely keep him from ever being that good.

Another thing Power Man needs to look out for is injury. Almost every injury I have ever seen is from someone trying to overpower a situation. This can be dangerous to you and your partner.

Because a lot of these injuries sneak up on you over time, it is hard to know when that next power-through is going to put you out for a while. Sometimes they are instantaneous.

We were practicing self-defense a week before our black belt test a few years ago. One of our candidates threw his partner to the ground at the end of some drill. He lost his balance in the momentum of the throw and landed on the ground on top of his partner – broke three of his ribs. They were practicing escapes, it was not necessary to look cool with a throw like that (we are not a Judo school).

So before you add power, learn the technique behind it first.

Do you have any tales of Power Man? Are YOU Power Man? Tell us in the comments!

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. Every time you invoke Bruce Lee, an angel loses its wings.  -The Stick Chick

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

MOTION MONDAY: Bamboo Spirit Basic Flow Drill #4

Happy Motion Monday!

Today let's watch the fourth video in a series produced by Master +Brian Johns of +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts Centre Ltd .

This drill features counters to clearing.  As Master Brian notes, this is not combative in nature - it's a flow drill to develop attributes.


If you can't see the video, click here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Longest Death Scene Ever

Okay, it's martial arts-y and I love it, so I'm going to share it with you here.

The lady involved does do a classic "kick the knife out of the bad guy's hand" move.

And no, I have no idea where his gun came from, either.

If you can't see the video, use this link right HERE.

So, know any more movie scenes as bad as this one?  I'd love to see them!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

We Are The Tribe

We martial artists are a minority in the world.  Really, we have to be a very small percentage of the population.

I'm not counting all the kids taking martial arts because their parents make them.  I mean the people who do it because they want to do it.

Some of us start earlier than others.

Of everyone who starts as a child for whatever reason, very few make it to black belt, much less continue as adults.  Even fewer are like me - starting later in life for the first time and sticking with it past black belt.

So yes, there are very, very few of us.

To discover you are a "martial arts lifer" is a revelation - to have found, finally, your place in the world, to have found your "tribe", it's an amazing feeling.

There are other people in the world who are good with spending time performing the same moves over and over and over.  There are other people in the world who are fascinated with the idea of using violence in controlled applications.

There are other people in the world who acquire bruises and cuts for fun.

So if you're a bo spinner, if you're a boxer, if you love to roll, if you swing a stick, if you wear armor, if you kick and punch, if you spar... if you're a martial artist, you're in the tribe.

Get to work on learning the secret handshake.

Hail, brother and sisters!

Let's train!

Friday, October 24, 2014

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Weapons vs. Empty Hands


Today, let's hash out the pros and cons of weapons-heavy training versus primarily empty hand training. Both have pros and cons, and reasons to choose one over the other.

So what do you think?  Is one much better than the other?  I'd love to know!

Is training empty hands better than weapons-heavy training?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The World's Best Fight Scene


I love this so very, very, very much.

Click here if you can't see the video.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

TROY-KWON-DO: Another Perspective on Martial Arts Fandom

Following up on Jackie’s post about “Fanboys” of the Martial Arts (The Curse of the Martial Arts Fandom), I thought it would be interesting to take a look internally about how Martial Artists can be fanboys themselves. In the end, every martial artist who has ever stepped into a dojo is guilty of this, so I thought it would be good to add that “fanboy-ism” can happen anywhere.


While we practice Tae Kwon Do at our school, we have introduced many different pieces from other arts when it is deemed to be more effective. For example, traditional Tae Kwon Do has almost no trace of ground game – Jiu Jitsu and Judo can be found at our school where Tae Kwon Do may have left holes. We are not claiming to be a Jiu Jitsu or Judo school, but realize the importance of these techniques as they add pieces to the “self-defense” puzzle that Tae Kwon Do may have left out. In the end, our goal is to train students to be able to defend themselves and this includes a variety a scenarios.

With that being said, there are instances where more of other styles make their way into their program than originally intended. For example, after our TKD sparring class some of the guys who practice BJJ (including myself) will continue to spar in either BJJ, or in an MMA format. When more than one person has training and an interest in multiple arts, I think it is wonderful to cross train as long as it does not interfere with our regular class requirements, or force a student to perform tasks that they may not have learned in our program. You can’t expect a TKD- only student to do well in a BJJ sparring match (rolling) if they do not spend out of class time at a BJJ school like some of our students do.

Wait, what part of Jayoo is this again?

The fanboy situation comes up when a person introduces their cross trained skills to another student in the attempt to gain advantage or undermine instruction. Sure that elbow you learned at your Muay Thai school can do some damage, just don’t go clinching and elbowing our TKD-only students that haven’t been taught to deal with it. Or even worse, refuse to do a technique because your other instructor does something you think is better.

I see it all the time, sometimes during our belt tests. If someone is testing for their next belt and you are scheduled to spar them, don’t take advantage of their tired state to pull off that sweet hip throw you learned in your Judo class. That’s like refusing to dribble in street basketball – sure you can run faster and evade better, but it’s not in the agreed set of rules that have been established prior to the match and otherwise “cheap”. Or even better, a boxer using a head butt or low blow when the ref isn't looking. Now if both parties have agreed and trained to do that, then we have a level playing field.

This isn't in the standard sparring rule set?  My bad.

Another example, in BJJ we were doing position drills in which one person attempts to go from guard, to mount or side-control. We were not supposed to attempt submissions; the purpose of the drill was to pass guard. If the top person passed guard, they won. If the bottom person defended for a minute or two, they won. The winner would stay in, while the next guy rotated in “king of the hill” style. Well, an X-choke seemed to flatten me out pretty quick. I was new and hadn't seen it before, plus I wasn't expecting to get strangled, so I lost that positioning drill match pretty quick. Did it really matter? No. Was it cheap? Yes.

Fanboys inside the martial arts can be categorized as using unexpected methods to attempt to gain advantage when the other person is adhering to guidelines established in the match. They may also “full-cup” a situation when they think their exclusive “side-art” is superior. Boxers don’t throw kicks. Jiu Jitsu artists don’t use strikes, Arnis doesn't use guns, so don’t bring that crap up if you are training at one of those schools.

In reality the gun is more effective than the stick… but why are you at the Arnis school if all you have to say is, “Well if somebody came at me with a stick like that then I’ll just pull out my gun”?  (That argument is also 100% nonsense and will get somebody killed- The Stick Chick)

Don’t fanboy other arts at your school. There is a difference between keeping an open mind and taking advantage of a situation to make you feel superior. It is disrespectful and in most cases the other party would have dealt with it just fine if it was understood that it was in play. Don’t use someone else’s ignorance of your “other style” as an opportunity to gain advantage. It’s cheap. Find someone who agrees to use those same guidelines and train with them. You and your partners will be better for it.

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. In regard to Arnis and guns - 21 foot rule, 'nuff said)  -The Stick Chick

Monday, October 20, 2014

MOTION MONDAY: Bamboo Spirit Basic Flow Drill #3

Happy Motion Monday!

Here's another awesome instructional video featuring flow drills from Master +Brian Johns of +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts Centre Ltd.

This is when it gets fun, as in this drill, counters to the backhand are introduced.  When you relax and get flowing, this is a really fun skill drill.


If you can't see the video, click here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Let's Talk About Chambering

Aw yeah, it's time (yet again) to get all nerdy up in here!

Chambering in the martial arts is where you place your hands (or feet) in a position ready to "fire" a strike or a kick.  The term is, of course, derived from firearms, where a bullet is placed in the chamber, ready to fire.

Thank you, Dean. Really.  Thank you.
Most martial arts understand and use the concept of chambering, and how you do it is based upon your strategy.

I'm known in our school as being a stickler for proper chambering (as we do it), so I wanted to discuss different methods, and pros and cons of each in Arnis.

For this discussion, I'm going to focus on high strikes using "open" chambers only, which is hand placement in preparation for high strikes. I'm also assuming, if you're armed, that you are using  one-handed weapon(s) (versus two-handers, like a long sword or jo/bo).

Generally speaking, there are three basic ways to chamber high strikes.

Method 1: The Shallow Chamber

Shallow chamber is where your hands are placed in the front of the body, at or just below shoulder height.  Some boxers chamber this way.

Method 2: The Medium Chamber

Medium chamber is similar to shallow, but the hands are held higher, near the jawline or head.  This is another common way empty hand fighters place their hands when sparring.

Method 3: The Deep Chamber

Deep chamber is where your hands high above the shoulders, still in front but not as far as in the other two chambers, fists most often in line with the ears.

So what are the pros and cons for each?

A major advantage of the shallow chamber is that it places the hands to be in the best position to strike very quickly.  It also does a very good job, when squared up with an opponent, of hiding the "tell" of when a linear strike (a jab) is coming.  The hands are also in place to help protect against inside strikes to the torso.

A disadvantage of the shallow chamber is that it places the hands so that it's easy to parry, trap or check for your opponent, and it leaves the head wide open (that is, you better be fast to protect the head!).  It also means that you cannot engage the large muscle groups of the shoulder to deliver maximum power (it would take to long to re-chamber to do that) and that's especially important for people with less upper body strength.

Medium chamber has some of the same advantages of the shallow chamber, but allows the hands to be in an optimum place to protect against head strikes.  However, it has similar disadvantages.

The deep chamber is great for delivering power strikes, because you can engage the large muscle groups of the back and shoulder (much like a baseball player swinging a bat to hit a home run). Much like the medium chamber, the hands are well placed to protect the head. However, a deep chamber will telegraph the strike very clearly and if a trained opponent sees that you prefer a deep chamber, it's not very difficult to jam the chamber (at the elbow) and prevent the delivery of the strike.

Both shallow and medium chambers have a striking speed advantage over the deep chamber, mainly due to the fact that the distance you have to cover is shorter.  However, the medium and deep chambers have an advantage when it comes to protecting the head (again, due to shorter distance covered).

So, each chambering method has very good pros and cons. So which to use, when?

Are you unarmed?  It might be best to sacrifice power in order to hide the tell and use a shallow or medium chamber.  Here's a great video about how that works:

If you can't see the video, click here.

Are you armed?

If you are working with a blunt weapon, the need is to engage large muscle groups in order to deliver maximum power, for crushing.  So you might want to use the deep chamber.

If you are working with a blade, speed and contact with critical or large surface area is more important than power, as the edge does the work, so a shallow or medium chamber is perfectly fine to use (although you can use a deep chamber just as effectively).

So, what do I recommend?

For me, personally, I generally train with the deep chamber.

I do not assume I am always working with a blade (I live in Texas, after all), and I need to compensate for the lack of upper body strength by engaging every muscle I can get into my strikes when needed.  I've also noticed that as you speed up in drills, the chambers naturally become more shallow, and if I start shallow, I'll end up leaving my hands out in front of me in space as big fat targets for an opponent.  I think it's easier to transition from deep to middle and shallow versus the other direction.

I also think it's critical business to protect the head.  When I play empty hand, I use the middle chamber for the most part.  I rarely, if ever, use the shallow.

And finally, as far as jamming the deep chamber goes - that's one of those things that if you are aware of it, can be developed into a bait (as I do know what to do if jammed) versus just being a plain disadvantage.  People who chamber shallow will say the same thing about leaving the head open (using it as a baiting strategy) and I have seen that work many times.

So, that's my thoughts on the matter of chambering in Arnis.  How do you chamber in your art?  What are the pros and cons?  What do you prefer to do strategically?  I'd love to know!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Five Things I Absolutely Hate About Being A Martial Artist

My friend +Andrea Harkins wrote an awesome blog post, 5 Things I Absolutely Hate About The Martial Arts, and it got me to thinking.  Thanks, Andrea!

So here are Five Things I Absolutely Hate About Being a Martial Artist.

1) Fight scenes are ruined for me

I just cannot suspend my disbelief to just sit back and enjoy awesome movie and television fight scenes the way I could before I set foot on the mat.  I spot the openings, I can see where it's all choreographed, I get especially annoyed with sword fights (they aim for the weapon, not the person - ARGH!), and I end up sputtering and muttering during the whole thing.

At the Cobra Kai dojo, they teach you to lead with the face.

2) Having to explain the bruises

I bruise pretty easy, so it's a very common occurrence for me to have a lot of black and blue marks up and down my arms the next day after class.  When people at work or other places while I'm out and about spot it, they...  look at me funny.

You shoulda seen the other guy.  (He looks perfectly fine.)

3) "I bet you could kick my ass" and other commentary from non-martial artists

This must be universal, as I have heard other people complain about this.  When non-martial artists find out what you do for fun, the comment is inevitably something like, "I better not piss you off!" or "I bet you could kick my ass" or even "Do you think you could kick MY ass?" or whatnot.

I am completely disinterested in your ass, much less, kicking it.

I have PLENTY of bubble gum, thank you.
4) Never having enough sports bras or socks.

I  have more sports bras than the day of the week and enough pairs of socks to outfit a football team. I always have to hunt for a clean bra and a pair of socks (I wear mat shoes, because ever had a fast-moving stick hit your toe?) when getting ready for class, no matter what.  Underpants gnomes?  Children taking my stuff?  I have no idea.  Just wish I could open the drawer and get what I need instead of running around in a panic every time I put on a gi.

I've contemplated it. Image found here.
5)  Not enough people to geek out about it with

Given that the martial arts population is relatively small, the likelihood of finding friends or coworkers outside of your own school that like the martial arts and are willing to geek out about it is pretty darn slim.  I got lucky at my job (my guest blogger Troy works with me) but honestly, that's one of the reasons I write this blog - to geek out with all of you!

Let's discuss all the ways we can use this in a fight.

So, what are some things that drive you nuts about being a martial artist?  I want to know!

Friday, October 17, 2014

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Earning Rank Online


There are many instructors, both well-regarded and... let's say, questionable, to put it kindly, who offer not only supplemental training but offer training for rank in the martial arts via online or video instruction only.

Is this a legitimate way to study the martial arts and earn rank?  I'd love to know what you think.

Are ranks earned via online/video instruction only legitimate?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Curse of the Martial Arts Fandom

I've touched on this subject before (here), but I've started thinking about it in a new way, and frankly, I'm starting to get a little irritated.

In a discussion the other day online, it occurred to me that there are an awful lot of people out there who sincerely believe they are doing the martial arts or are martial artists, when in fact, they're merely playing at the idea of the martial arts.

YAY!  It's just that easy! (not)

These folks are really in a FANDOM of the martial arts.  They dress up, read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies and video, buy replica (or even  real) weapons and pose with them for pictures, participate in martial arts discussion groups and forums, make home videos of themselves copying moves they've watched online, and spend time with their friends waving weapons around and hitting at bags and call it "training".

They don't actually have a real life teacher, they are not studying it with anyone in person who has trained, and they have no training partners (or if they do, it's other people just as "informed" as they are - that is, not at all).  They may or may not subscribe to home-study video courses, but the probably don't (they usually watch the free videos lots of competent people put online).

They aren't actually training with martial artists and learning a martial art - they're playing a game of pretending to do so.  They aren't putting in the time, money, and effort it takes to train seriously in martial arts - they are spending that on looking like a martial artist.

These young men think they're martial artists. They may be able to name lineages in real martial arts styles, describe and identify actual techniques, and use foreign words associated with whichever martial art they are a fan of.  They may sound like martial artists if you don't know the subject.  They may even believe they are deadly fighters.

But then you watch them move in their videos and you engage them in conversation, and it becomes very obvious, very quickly, that these guys are just obviously playing ninja (or kung fu, or urban commando, or pick-a-popular-martial-art-from-the-movies-or-anime).  They don't know much more about how to do martial arts than, say, some guy dressed up as Gandalf at a convention.

The current infection partly stems from Naruto, which I have not seen or read, 
but I hate with the passion of a million burning suns
 because of these people.  Image found here.
They think they are doing the martial arts - they think this is what the martial arts are.  They don't know what they don't know, so when confronted with a real martial artist, they use bravado, stories of glory, and aggressive online behavior to try to scare off criticism or sincere offers of real martial artists to help them along. They have bought into this fantasy of their fandom so deeply, they reject any attempt to help them into the reality of what we do.

They may embellish their stories with tales starting to train at a very young age by a master (the name of which will be hard to pin down or they "didn't know because it was kept a secret"), being taken as a child to fight in foreign lands (where are these folks' parents?), of winning fights against multiple attackers in bars, even participating in death matches. For example, one such fan made this claim on Facebook (I promise this is absolutely real):

Don't facepalm yourself too hard.

YEAH.  This same person also insists he was recruited to train gov't spies at age 19 (sounds a lot like Jamie Smith, no?).  If you think the guy I quoted above is unique, you haven't spent a lot of time in martial arts discussion groups.  He's garden variety.

Most of the time, these FANS of the martial arts are sincere in their love of what we do, but 1) have no idea what it really takes and 2) are unwilling to spend the money and time and effort to study an actual martial art.  Because real martial arts consist of a lot of sweat, hard work, and repetition, and far less leaping around looking cool and posing, they decide they are following the true path by sword twirling in their back yards with their friends.

So when real martial artists, generally being of a good nature and wanting to have people enjoy our hobby as much as we do reach out, they resist all offers and insist they are as real and authentic as we are.

On the internet it's sort of hard to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, isn't it?

Ninja Cosplay image, found here
Soke Masaaki Hatsumi, head of the Bujinkan, image found here.

To a fan, they look identical.

Fans are definitely easy pickings for fakes and frauds!  You see, the fakes will give them what they want, which is an easy path to being a really cool ninja/kung fu master/what have you, where real martial artists with skill know that it takes a lot of work, that it is in no way as romantic as it is in popular media, and that it takes a long time practicing with real human beings to develop skill.  The frauds get money, a following, and minions to fight their online battles.

This is where the CURSE part of the title of this blog post comes in.

Martial arts FANS are not members of our community.  They want to be - they try to be - but they are not.  Thus, they clog up our boards, our discussions, and our social media channels with their fandom. They assist fakes and frauds in their deception. In some quarters, they drive out the serious martial arts in favor of their cosplay and LARPing and posing. They're all sizzle, and no steak. All smoke, and no fire...


They redefine what we do from the reality (hard work, pain, sweat, and years of practice) to the exotic (posing, sword twirling, costumes), and elevate the romantic vision of the martial arts as being superior and more worthy than the truth of the martial arts.

The image becomes the reality, if we let it.  The play becomes the truth.

I don't want posing with wall-hangers and tall tales to be the truth of it.  I don't want the reality of the martial arts to disappear into the romantic mythology and fancy dress-up.  I want to keep what we do relevant in the modern world more than just in popular culture and memes and games.

The martial arts fandom needs to stay in its own community, and stay away from the serious discussion and practice of the martial arts.

You have fun with that, but stay in your own yard.

These fans are making frauds more than they should be, they derail discussion of serious topics into nonsense and shenanigans, and they degrade the people who put years into the study of the martial arts in a serious way by claiming to be equals.

They need to cut it out.  Have fun playing and being a fan, but stop inserting yourself into the real martial arts community.

You are not equals, not even to the whitest white belt in any martial art.  And until you step on a mat and train for real, you will never be equal.  I will not respect your play as something anywhere near the level of someone who really trains.  Stop demanding that respect from real deal martial artists.  You don't deserve it.

What do you think, martial artists?  Are fans a curse on the community, or are they something to be tolerated (or encouraged)?  What has been your experience with fans of the martial arts?  I'd love to know!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

TROY-KWON-DO: Perception

My fiancĂ© and I just bought our first house together. She was also with me during my latest half marathon, the Tyler Rose, last Sunday. This was my first out-of-town race that required a hotel. Let’s just say I have been staying in a variety of new locations lately.

Best image I could come up with for what Troy's been doing - The Stick Chick

Sure, I had been out of town on vacations and TKD tournaments, but those things are different - my entire family and group of friends are martial artists, so there is almost always a large group of trained people with me when I am in unfamiliar territory. It is safe and comfortable.

My fiancĂ© does not train in martial arts, nor do I think she could ever want to hurt somebody, so let’s just say these new locations have been taking some time to get used to. I’m on my own in these unfamiliar locations when it comes to defense. It’s honestly a vulnerable kind of feeling… and I like it.

When we are training martial arts of any kind, we start to look for anything that can help us defeat our opponent. This may come in the form of a telegraphed technique, a shifting of weight or foot position, a dropping of the rear hand during a jab. As we grow as martial artists we begin to have perception. Our understanding of techniques evolves in such a way that allows us see through them subconsciously and identify openings that we may have not ever been “officially” taught.

I found myself thinking about this when we were taking a break from remodeling the new house the other day. We were taking a nap on a temporary couch and I laid there listening to the noises of the house. The A/C was unfamiliar, creaks of the house were unfamiliar, even the noises outside were unfamiliar. The reason I was doing this was to become aware. I was attempting to establish familiarity with the sounds of the house, in hopes that if an intruder were to come in, I could sort their noises from the normal ones.

Honey, is dinner ready yet?

Call me paranoid, but I have never lived somewhere as the only martial artist in the house. At that moment I realized I was analyzing the situation exactly as you would in a fight. You feel out your opponent so that you may identify holes in their game. Martial arts have taught me to do this even when I am not even trying to do it.

When you go downtown at night with your group of friends, you are constantly aware of your surroundings – at least you should be. Now think about how much sharper your perception is during that same walk without your group. Martial arts have taught me that this is your best line of self-defense. It is an amazing survival mechanism that can be honed through training. This is one of the reasons I am enjoying the new house so much. It is uncomfortable, unfamiliar and it is forcing me to sharpen my perception.

There's a joke about hammers, nails, and  you somewhere in here.

I understand that once we settle in that feeling will soften a bit – but for now I am embracing it to the fullest. It’s amazing what your mind will pick up in your everyday surroundings. Take a step outside of your comfort zone sometime and see what your mind will pick up, it is a very interesting experience. Then take this “meditation” into your next sparring match. Treat it the same. Look/listen/feel the natural ebbs and flows of the fight, then attack and counter the holes that reveal themselves. Attack off rhythm; use anything as a reference point to find it. Maybe they load their back foot too much before a kick, or maybe they tighten up before engaging. These are the keys to defeating your opponent, and I have found that opening your perception to beyond just your fight-or-flight instinct is the key to being successful.

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. Whenever I've moved into a new house, my thoughts were less on the martial arts and more on how much I utterly hate moving  -The Stick Chick

Monday, October 13, 2014

MOTION MONDAY: Bamboo Spirit Basic Flow Drill #2

Happy Motion Monday!

Here's another awesome instructional video from our friend Master +Brian Johns  at +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts Centre Ltd .

In Arnis, we practice a lot of "flow", that is, smooth movement of one technique to the next.  This drill is a fun one to practice to develop "flow".


If you can't see the video, click here for the YouTube link!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Demo Daze

Today's Demo by Hidden Sword Martial Arts at Celebrate Roanoke could have, theoretically, been a disaster.

You see, we've never done a demo like this before.  Sure, we had one a year or two ago but that was a very small crowd.  This was our first REAL demo, in front of our community, and honestly, it had us all on edge.

The largest collection of badassery our town has ever seen.

As fun and useful as what we do is, it's not exactly the flashiest thing to watch.  There is a reason that the toothpick bo twirlers and sword catchers and other kinds of "trickers" have an audience.  It looks really, really cool.

Cool looking? Yep.  Bullshit?  Oh yeah.

Self defense oriented martial arts don't look as cool as they really are to people who aren't martial artists.  I mean, they don't show the reality of self defense in movies or on TV for a reason - to the untrained eye, it's really boring.

The temptation is, of course, to "flash up" and make our stuff look cool but completely unrealistic.  Frankly, that's just not how we roll.

We ended up pulling together an overview of some of the flashier stuff we do (weapons) with the practical and easy to explain (basics, self defense moves).

The thing is... we never actually ran through the thirty-minute demo all the way through, from beginning to end, until demo day.

Yep - we'd never done the whole thing until it was show time!

When you're not a flashy demo school, figuring out what to do and how much to do of it is difficult. We had limited demo team practice time over a period of a little over a month.  Most of it was spent trying different things, cutting things, adding things... it took a whole lot of work to figure this out, more time than many other schools may have needed.

We didn't get a final shape of the demo until last weekend.  And we were tweaking up until yesterday morning.

And you know what?

It went really, really well.

No big mistakes, the whole thing went very smoothly, and the audience was engaged and applauded in all the right places.  Here's just a few shots from the day - I'm sure that we'll be posting a lot more (and better) pictures at Hidden Sword Martial Arts main web page, and on the Facebook page, too, here.

Anna and Em perform Baston Anyo Isa with training bolos.

Kate and Kimberly perform Nunchaku Ni.

Master Mark and Lisa demonstrate Bo combatives.
Isaiah regrets attacking Kate with a stick, while Bryce waits his turn.

If you get the impression that we're a weapons-heavy school, well, we are, but honestly, much of the coolest empty hand stuff is hard to demo, especially since we couldn't bring our mats and do takedowns.  Sure, we did kata, but those pictures are kind of boring for you, so I won't share them here.

We actually did the demo twice (morning and afternoon), and in the first one in the morning, one of our white oak bos broke during the combative kobudo weapons portion of the demo (the picture with Master Mark and Lisa above captures the moment, although it's hard to see).  It was actually pretty funny!

We honor this fallen soldier.
But what was most important, is that the kids had a lot of fun, we got to show off what we do (and we did it very well), we got some interest in our school from the crowd... it was just everything you'd want a demo to be. especially when it's your first real one.

We had a good time...

... watching our closer, which is Kate hurting Isaiah with the "Date Defense".

I'm inordinately proud of our school today.  It was stressful and difficult to get here, but we did it, and it went off about as well as anybody could have hoped for!  Our kids and parents are awesome.

Does your school do demos? Got any great stories? Any tips on how to put them together? I'd love to know!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Demo Day and MAPA 3!

Today our school is doing our first big demo at Celebrate Roanoke.  We'll be showing stuff from all three of the arts taught at Hidden Sword Martial Arts (American Karate Tae Kwon Do, Arnis, and Kobudo).

Yours truly's main job is as emcee and I will be doing one set where one of our students and I do a chain of various sinawali with both sticks, then we run through the same batch again where I have a single stick.

It's not easy to do Heaven 6 one-handed, let me tell you, much less the entire pyramid.  And boy does my arm get tired QUICK!

I will have an update about the demo and our booth at the festival tomorrow.

Now, another quick note - MAPA 3 is coming up!  If you are in  the DFW area, or know someone who is, please, join us!

Look for +Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance on Google Plus, and please like the Facebook page, here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: What is a McDojo?


The term "McDojo" is used a lot in the martial arts world, usually in a negative way.  While I'm sure nobody would ever call themselves a McDojo, the term seems to include a very broad set of behaviors for some people, but narrow ones for others.

A McDojo is usually defined as a school that waters down what they have learned, deliberately, in order to appeal to the masses.

How do you know that any given school is a "McDojo". How can you tell?  What are the signs? How do you spot one?  What does "water down" really mean?

I want to know how YOU define it.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014


We martial artists use many different ways to supplement our training.  One tried and true method, of course, is with books.

Not only do I have hard copies (that's my book shelf you see over to the left) but I also have Kindle editions as well.

The one thing about print editions is that we have ended up losing them due to loan-outs (never, ever loan out a book unless you are willing to lose it).

At the same time, there are out-of-print editions that you can't get any way else, as they have not been converted to a digital format.

I like to scour places like Half Price Books, thrift stores, and used book stores, as well as checking out the shelves at our local martial arts supply store, Lang Son Traders - they have a huge selection!

The beauty of Kindle is that you can loan them out without losing them, and well, I'm the kind of girl who likes instant gratification when it comes to reading.  The downside is that they're hard to read in the tub or shower (yes, I've been known to do that).

I've read several books that influenced me greatly, but three of them in particular come to mind that I'd like to share with you today.

First, there's two books by Remy Presas.

The first is "The Pink Book" (as we refer to it) - Modern Arnis: Philippine Martial Art.

I could have kept this relatively rare book in
pristine condition, but I USE it.  Books are for reading!
The cover is the Professor and Roland Dantes doing a demo at Madison Square Garden in 1976. Not only does this contain critical information about the art of Modern Arnis, it's also a bit of a historical snap-shot as the art developed (it was first published in 1974), and puts it into the context of its era, including how it was views in the Philippines.

As you can see, my copy has lots of notations about the material, as I've read over and studied this bad boy more times than I can count.  It also contains a complete rule set for competition.

I refer to this book a lot.

The next book is Modern Arnis: The Filipino Art of Stick Fighting.

Say hello to my little friend.
Mine is the "Yellow Book" version, as you can see, but the modern edition can be found here.  This is the book that was my training partner when I tore my calf muscle and couldn't train for over a month. I learned a lot of stuff from this book while I was sitting on my butt all by myself at the edge of the mat.  It's a basic primer, and a great addition to anybody's library with even a passing interest in Modern Arnis.

Finally, there's Rory Miller's Meditation on Violence.

I would have shown you my physical edition, but we've loaned them out twice and have no idea where they are.  We now own this, and the follow-up book, Facing Violence, on Kindle.

It took the second reading of this book to really "settle in" for me.  This book forced me to think hard about why I was studying martial arts, what I am willing to do should I encounter violence, and the reality of what it might mean.  Whether or not you agree with his conclusions, this book is one that will get you thinking about the reality of what we do.  It's a pretty important book, I think.

So, there's three of mine (for today - I have many more I'll share in the future).  Got a book recommendation?  Let us know in the comments!