Friday, November 28, 2014

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: GI/Uniforms vs. No Gi

IT'S FACE-OFF FRIDAY!

Today let's talk what we wear when we train.

I'd like to exempt arts like Judo and HEMA from this discussion, as their uniforms are quite necessary to avoid tearing up normal clothes and in HEMA's case, for protection.

However, for the rest of us - are uniforms (typically Asian-derived - gi/dobok/kimono) necessary?

Some would say it is, to enforce group identity and respect for the history of the art.   Some of us prefer this "traditional" aspect of traditional martial arts, and would also argue that it saves your regular clothes from wear and tear (as martial arts uniforms are made for punishment).

Others would say that one should train in what one is most likely to be wearing in self defense situations - and nobody walks around in a gi in real life (not even in Japan).  Also, some folks think that the trappings of a gi are an anachronism and really isn't applicable in the modern world.

What do you think?

IS A GI/DOBOK OR UNIFORM NECESSARY, OR NOT?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Five Things I'm Thankful For (in the Martial Arts) - 2014

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  It's a major holiday, and honestly, it's my favorite.  I love the idea of spending a day making an amazing dinner and being with family and friends in celebration of everything you have to be grateful for in your lives.

Ready to carve the turkey!

So, in the spirit of this, here's Five Things I'm Thankful For (in the Martial Arts).

My Teachers

I have been incredibly lucky in that I have had a succession of great teachers.  I have moved a lot (see my martial arts biography here)  and in each move since we left our original teachers in Mississippi, we've found teachers who contributed something irreplaceable to my development and growth as a martial artist.

Modern Arnis

I can't get enough of what we do, truly.  Hardly a week goes by that I don't learn a new thing - a nuance, a principle, a new way to think about a technique.  That is the beauty of my art - there's always a challenge to overcome, a problem to solve, and a way to make it work.  I love it to pieces.

My Training Partners

Besides my husband and primary training partner, I've been very lucky to have trained with some awesome people as peers, and continue to do so to this day.  Male and female, young, and not so young, each person you train with bring something new and interesting to the table.  My peers are awesome people that I really love playing with.

My Students

I'm an Assistant Instructor, and I get to help my teacher with kids and adults, sharing and passing along our art.  Each student has taught me a valuable lesson, and I am a better martial artist as a result of working with our students.

The Openness of the Martial Arts Community

In general, if a new person wants to learn a martial art, he or she would be hard-pressed to find a community near them that wouldn't welcome them with open arms.   We have a place for everyone, no matter the age, skill, background... if you are serious and want to learn, we'll be glad to see you and help you along your way.

So this year, those are my five things I'm grateful for in the martial arts.

I'm also grateful for you - those of you who read and comment and share the posts on this blog.  Thank you so much!

Now if you'll excuse me - there's a turkey that needs some eatin'.

NO MERCY, BIRD.


What are YOU thankful for in the Martial Arts?  I'd love to know!  Share it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MARTIAL ARTS BOOK CLUB: Road Edition

This is going to be a pretty short post today.

As you read this, I am on my way to my mom's house for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States. Yes, you will see fresh and awesome posts from me throughout the holiday, but I'll be intermittent in responding to stuff, because my mom lives in a very rural area with not-so-great internet.


So I have about 10 hours on the road ahead of me.

This.  Over and Over and Over and Over and Over...

Road trips like this are a great way to catch on your reading.  While I do have some fiction, I plan on reading:


I read it a long time ago but I need a refresher.  I've been thinking about what we teach as self defense, what we teach as "combatives", and what is actually legal to do.

The other book (I'm a fast reader) is:


It's a similar theme, and it comes recommended to me by +Brian Johns at +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts Centre.

You reading anything new lately?  Got any recommendations?  I'd love to know!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TROY-KWON-DO: Why?

Over the years our reasons for doing martial arts changes.  I think it is extremely important to make sure you always know why you are doing them, or else you may burn out.

This may sound simple at first -  “because I want to” - but as you begin to spend significant amount of time in your martial art you will find that you have moments when you feel like you are going to class simply through the motions. Having been in Tae Kwon Do since I was 6 years old or so, my reasons have definitely changed for being on the mat. Sometimes I failed to adjust and dropped out for a while.

My awesome Uncle (sans gi) using me as a support
 beam for stretching before a run along the Trinity River.
When I was first starting as a child my reasons were simple. I thought it would be awesome to be like my Uncle, who I saw wearing his gi from time to time. Add in some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the iconic belt system and you've got all the motivation I would ever need. The “why” was the fantasy of martial arts. It was cool and I wanted to be a part of it. I eventually dropped out for baseball. I wanted to be with my friends and they were all in baseball, so go figure. I was about 10 or 11 at that time.

My mother stuck with Tae Kwon Do (we started around the same time) and eventually opened our school in 2003 (10 years after we started together). I found my way back to martial arts when I was about 14. After I aged out of youth baseball I sat around and did nothing but TV and video games all Summer for a couple years. I had put on a lot of weight. My best friend was the starting QB of the school football team, so when I went to swimming parties with him I felt horribly self-conscious. All the girls there were cheerleaders and all the guys were football ripped. I may be exaggerating, but it was enough pressure to draw me back into martial arts for fitness. Getting in shape was now my motivator.



I dropped out again after my red/black belt test when I was about 19 or 20. I had started college and played in a band, having then developed an addiction to cigarettes – as well as a crappy lifestyle in general. I stuck around the school and attended our fitness classes, but was out of Tae Kwon Do again.

During college, there was a lot of on-and-off at this point and I started to develop an interest in boxing. My motivator this time was testosterone. I felt the need to prove to myself that I am “game” and eventually kicked the cigarette habit when I started training with a 3-time WBC world champion (Boxing).

Right out of college my training picked up immensely. I was talked into preparing for my Black Belt test and in that year I had taken a complete hold on my Tae Kwon Do training again. This eventually combined training for the black belt test, boxing, running, and Jiu Jitsu. I was probably spending 3-4 hours a day on martial arts. My motivator this time was the Black Belt test and being an active part of our school. I had always helped out at the school, but never to that level. I felt a need to be a part of things, my family was my motivator.

My fiance’ and I at the latest Half Marathon

After the Black Belt test (2012) I stuck around full-time and helped teach. As much as I love teaching, it started to wear me down when other things started to come up. I bought a house earlier this year and am getting married in less than a month. These important life events obviously cut into training time. With less free time, teaching was the first thing to go. As selfish as it may sound, I have to have some mat time to myself in order to stay motivated. I really miss having the time to train 3-4 hours a day, but I don’t predict that will happen again until the dust settles.

I plan to get back into it full-swing after the wedding. My “why” is my family. My Mother, Brother and Father are becoming greater martial artists every single day and it hurts me that I am not a part of it completely right now.

I guess the point of this article is to remind you that sometimes the “why” gets lost when we step on the mat. If you are unable to answer the question of “why” then it is a good sign that burn-out is setting in. If you happen to find yourself in this situation, I suggest looking for something new to keep you on the mat. Compete in tournaments / competitions, attend seminars, take part in demos, try to test for your next rank… really anything that gives you a clear-cut goal to focus towards.



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 troyseeling@aol.com.




Ed note: Opinions in "Troy-Kwon-Do" posts are those of Troy Seeling, and I don't always agree. My motivator for training right now is to be a short, fat version of "Xena, Warrior Princess."  -The Stick Chick

Monday, November 24, 2014

MOTION MONDAY: Dulo Dulo

Happy Motion Monday!

Today's featured video is short, but oh-so-sweet, indeed.

It's a drill featuring the use of the dulo dulo (or pasak), aka the palm stick.

I believe that the palm stick is one of the more practical weapons that person in the modern world can carry.  It's not usually seen as something too threatening, but in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, can be a very effective tool for self defense.

Enjoy!


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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Bigger Stick - thoughts on the Jo

I've mentioned that I study jo, but I haven't really written about it much.

I am going to switch over to participating in a Kobudo class that starts with bo, so my jo study time will be greatly reduced.  In that program, they do include the jo (yes, many people think that Kobudo weapons only refer to Okinawan weapons) but that's about two years or so away in their program.

So before I pick up a even bigger stick, I'd like to discuss briefly what I've learned and what I like about with the jo.

The beginning of Jo Form 3.
First, I think that the jo is a good compromise between the weight and speed of a short weapon and the advantage of reach with a long weapon.  As a short person, longer weapons can be difficult to manipulate, but the jo is pretty easy.  Even using it one-handed (which is not the way it's typically done but there are times where it might be useful) isn't not that hard to manipulate.

If you've never handled one, the jo we have been working with are about an inch (24mm) in diameter and made of Japanese White Oak, which has a very dense grain.  In our class, we do hit stuff, such as other jo and bo and bokken (all of which are also very hard woods), and this material and diameter holds up really well.

The length - about 50 inches (1.27 m) - not only make it practical, I think it is a better analogue of weapons of convenience - such as broom/mop handles - that you'd find in real life.

Second, the way my instructor teaches jo, the interpretation is that you are facing a katana (versus another jo, or some other weapon), at least, initially.  So, the advantage here is that I'm learning jo but I'm also learning a few things about the katana.  Not enough to wield one effectively, but enough to understand some of the basics about how the katana works, as weapon.

The Jo's length is designed to be long enough to beat the reach of a katana's blade (which is about 23-1/2 inches or 60 cm at a minimum).  The story of this can be found here, and is similar to the story my teacher tells in class, as he was told by his teacher.  I can't verify the accuracy of that story, but I can't deny in practical application vs. a bokken, which we have done in practice, it does work, even at a good speed.

Stepping off the line after a thrust with a rising strike.

Thus, the way we hold the jo is that we hold it at one end to maximize the length of the weapon, and use a grip much like you'd use on a katana.

Not once in any form or any application have I spun it around holding the middle of the jo or tossed it and caught it, mainly because we are actually practicing it versus a weapon, not to look cool.  If you make a mistake with jo vs. katana, you're probably dead.

One thing I like about the way I am learning jo is the simplicity of the footwork.  We don't have fancy stances - it's pretty much front stance, bladed (aka "fencing" stance), and back stance.  We step off the line when it makes sense to do so.  We use our hips, especially with thrusting strikes, to generate power.

The very beginning of the thrust.  My back hand
will stop at my hip and I will "telescope' the jo
forward, using my right hip to add power.
I'm not practiced enough to be able to spot the downsides to the jo, other than the obvious (wooden weapon vs. sharp steel leave little room for error, I think).  As I learn Okinawan weapons, I'm sure I'll spot some, and I'll write about that at a future date.

I'll keep practicing what I've learned in jo, because I really do enjoy this weapon very much.  I simply can't deny the huge advantage in reach vs. the shorter weapons I usually play with.

Here is a short snippet of video of me doing the last part of Jo  Form 3 and all of Jo Form 4 (the two are frequently combined because they are so short) so you can point and laugh at how much I suck at it.  In my defense, I prefer hitting stuff over forms, but my ambition is to teach this some day, so I have a lot of work to do before I get good enough to teach it.

video


When I start in January, I will have to wear a white gi - HORRORS! - but I will still wear my Arnis belt the way it's supposed to be worn, dagnabbit!

Have you studied jo or another weapon of similar size?  What did you think, both good and bad?  I'd love to know!



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Attack of the Brain Fart

My hubby and I have been working on a long-term project at home, where we categorize and record every technique and drill we can remember that we've ever learned.

We've been focusing on disarms - yes, there's a bunch of 'em - but for some reason, we just completely forgot the original disarm we learned, empty hand versus stick, vs. a #1 (high forehand to the head) strike.

We can literally think of at least a dozen ways to disarm vs. that strike.  We know force to force, lever disarms, wraps, snaking, palis-palis (go with the force), with empty hand and stick.

But... not the first one we learned, back in the early days of our training.

It's just... gone.

Yeah.
Part of this, I think, is because as we've gained in experience and skill, we've come to favor certain techniques over others. Another part is just the sheer quantity of what we've experienced has "blotted out" others (until I get reminded by somebody else that I actually already learned that).

And part of it is just a plain old brain fart.

Surely, when you've been training a while, you've had this happen to you, right?

I knew that disarm, I knew it well, at one point in my life.

But now, crickets.
'Sup?

Frustrating.

I'd like to hear true tales or your epic brain farts and critical points where you mind went completely blank!


Friday, November 21, 2014

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Should Belt Ranks Exist?

IT'S FACE -OFF FRIDAY!

Most martial arts in the world today have belt ranks of some sort.  Some would say, as a result, that this has cheapened the value of what we teach - that we teach "to the rank" versus teaching the art.  Others would say that ranks are a necessary innovation in the modern world to measure progress.

What do you think?



ARE BELT RANKS NECESSARY AT ALL?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 Ridiculous Claims About Home Study Courses - Part 2

Part 1 of this two-part post can be found here.

Continuing on with debunking Michael Hodge's "10 Ridiculous Myths About Home Study Courses"...


6) HOME STUDY COURSES ARE TOO EXPENSIVE!

THE CLAIM:
A 3 year martial arts training experience at a local martial arts academy costs on average $4,500. That takes into account: $100 a month for tuition, $50 per rank exam, and $300 for equipment. With a home study course, you simply pay a small upfront cost for the program enrollment + training DVDs/manual (only $99 for one of my individual programs); and then a small rank exam fee. This still comes out to less than 1/6 of the total cost of a local training experience. The home study course is actually one of the ‘cheapest’ ways per dollar to earn real rank.
MY TAKE:

He's right - this is pretty cheap.

You get what you pay for.

A martial arts instructor's time is worth as much as any other highly skilled professional of similar education in their areas of specialty.

LET ME REPEAT THAT:  If a person works his or her butt off for five years to be an assistant instructor (which is common) or ten or more years to reach higher than 1st Degree Black (also common) he's worth as much to you as an accountant, a certified mechanic, or any other skilled professional with a similar amount of education!

$100/month is cheap in many areas, but let's go with that. If you train 50 weeks a year (two weeks off for holiday), three hours a week, that highly skilled professional is getting about $8.00/hour for his services from you, personally.

Eight bucks an hour.

You are paying this highly skilled professional for his/her time and advice, usually tailored to your individual strengths and weaknesses, in every session with him/her.  Heck, assistant instructors might not even get paid, but are teaching as part of their own certification to teach at a later time, and they're giving you all they have too, tailored to YOU.

You are also paying for the room to train (ever train in the park, in the rain or snow or cold or in Texas in July in the early evening?), the mats, the bags and other tools of training (hand targets and what not), plus the marketing the school did to find other students for you to train with.  Some schools even throw in your first uniform, which for a cheap version from Century would cost maybe $25-30 with tax.  Combined, these expenses can run into the thousands (especially for quality bags and mats).

As for the other fees, it's highly dependent upon the art.  BJJ schools don't have a lot of overhead due to the nature of what they do (they don't even use mirrors more often than not), whereas a school with lots of weapons training might.

Heck, our school does not have "testing fees"  - we have a belt fee to cover the cost of the belt, but that's it.  Many schools don't even charge that!  Our weapons cost $20 or so a pair and we use them until they break (my current pair has lasted me two years - we keep them going with electrical tape we keep in our school for everyone to use).  My new Bo cost $80 and it's a true 6 foot Okinawan-style Japanese White Oak, not a fiberglass or aluminium toothpick Bo. My Jo was a similar cost and quality.  Both were ordered via our association so as to keep the costs down.

Finally, one thing that comes with your expenses in a live school is the connections you make there that make you part of a community, where you belong.  With home study you can't have any of that.

So, Mr. Hodge's online courses cost a minimum of $79 per course, and at most, for the whole shebang, $199.

For that cost, you get a DVD made for the masses that they created years ago.  You get criticism at testing time.

That's it, as he himself notes in point #9 below.

He skims over the fact here that you would also need to buy the weapons his courses (Ultimate Bo and Ultimate Chucks) require plus shipping - and I bet you can't get them through him at the instructor's discount Century offers, either, nor are you going to get the discount organizations typically get for ordering in bulk.

(I will address the "three years to Black Belt" thing below.)

This is cheap, and will keep your butt off the floor, right?  Image found here

VERDICT:

Yep, his courses are cheap.  Too cheap.  You aren't getting the value for your time and money that you do in a real life martial arts training environment - you are learning things that could hurt you or others. Why are you cheaping out on that instruction?

7) YOU CAN’T EARN A BLACK BELT IN NUNCHAKUS OR BO!!

THE CLAIM:
Okay, so this one is specific to two of my home study programs (Ultimate Bo and Ultimate Chuks). Ultimate Bo is a full curriculum program, in which I combined several types of bo training (such as Okinawan Bo) with more eclectic, modern freestyle bo. This created a full white to black curriculum, and a way to feel real progress for your leveling. Rather than belts, you are awarded ‘chevrons’, which are special patches to signify your rank. Therefore, since these are weapons styles, you earn a ‘black chevron’ (which is the equivalent of a black belt), to display your mastery. Ultimate Chuks is similar, but is based on the recognize style of American Style Nunchaku.
MY TAKE:

Yep, he can do that.  Anybody can offer a black belt in anything they want.

I think I'll start offering online training through black belt level for "Sinawali".  Any takers?

Ultimate Baton Black Belt, anybody?

VERDICT:

True.

8) YOU CAN EARN A BLACK BELT IN LESS THAN A YEAR??!!

THE CLAIM:
Well, I can’t speak for other organizations, but our home study courses require the same amount of time as most local training courses. To earn a black belt rank in our Shotokan Karate program takes 3 years (or could take 2.5-4 depending some certain speed and intensity of training). To earn a black chevron in our weapons program take around 2 years. There is no ‘skipping over levels’, content, or training. In order to earn real rank, real work and training must happen.
MY TAKE:

This is a huge debate in the martial arts world - length of time to train to black belt.

Three years or less is not uncommon for 1) High intensity training programs (where you train more than a few hours a week), 2) Narrow subject studies (like Kobudo weapons) or 3) McDojos.

A cursory search of Google suggests that anywhere from 3-5 years is typical for Shotokan (and seems the same for a lot of other martial arts, like American Karate TKD, which my daughter holds a black belt rank in).   Many arts take a lot longer - mine tends to be on the longer side as people don't always study it full-time.

But... I see no reason why studying full-time (40+ hours/week) wouldn't get you a black in a year or less in many, if not most, martial arts.

VERDICT:

True enough for many martial arts similar to what he is offering.

9)  YOU HAVE TO JOIN AN ASSOCIATION, WEAR A CERTAIN UNIFORM, OR BUY EQUIPMENT.

THE CLAIM:
With our home study courses, there are no association fees, or forced membership of any sort. Also, you are not required to wear a uniform while training or testing (although it can be helpful at times). I do recommend wearing comfortable, exercise oriented clothes; feeling relaxed and ready to move is important. You do not have to buy specific equipment directly from us – although I will recommend equipment from time to time if I believe it will help your home training. For the Shotokan Karate and Total Krav Maga programs, a wavemaster/or hanging bag, gloves, and a mat would be nice. For Ultimate Bo and Chuks, you just need the weapon at hand and really nothing more to train.
MY TAKE:

Not all martial arts schools require the association fees or membership in an organization.  For example, our school's headmaster is affiliated to A-KATO but we don't, as students, have to join or pay any fees unless we choose to do so. So a live study environment may or may not have this issue.

I am completely unaware that the uniform thing is a big hurdle to training, but whatever.

He is claiming you can gain proficiency in the empty hand martial arts courses (Shotokan and Krav Maga) they offer without having any equipment to actually, you know, hit anything He's presenting these as "optional".  Much like training partners are "optional".

ESPECIALLY in Krav Maga, you cannot learn the art without HITTING THINGS. Preferably with people involved.

I dealt with the expense of his weapons already.  Of course, you can buy the cheapest, flimsiest weapons available. Just don't scrape the floor with those - I saw a toothpick bo's tip snap right off and become unusable by grazing a mat once.  Just like that, it was useless even for twirling and tricking.



VERDICT:

True-ish. Yes, you can avoid all those things with home study, but you also avoid a lot of the things that makes training in the martial arts effective and worth studying in the first place!

10) TRAINING LOCALLY AT A MARTIAL ARTS SCHOOL SHOULD ALWAYS BE YOUR FIRST CHOICE.

THE CLAIM:
Ah, this is not actually a myth. If you have the ability to train locally in the art that you wish to learn; I highly recommend doing so. You just can’t beat quality instruction, heart-pumping classes, and the social motivation of a martial arts studio. Many of my home study students are actually students at local academies; but chose to train with me to learn something new. (a large majority of these students are learning Ultimate Bo or Ultimate Chuks because it is not available at their academy). But, for some students, there are no academies nearby (or their schedules don’t mesh), and home study is the right option.
MY TAKE:

With this claim, Mr. Hodges is now contradicting what he said in his points #1, #2, #4, #5 and #6.  He's now trying to frame it as additional study for people already training live.

For people ALREADY TRAINED, home study can absolutely work in many applications. But he spent an awful lot of time arguing differently in his earlier points.  He's covering all his bases.

VERDICT:

True.  I hope an untrained potential student makes it this far, reads this, and decides not to waste his time and money and goes to train with a real life martial arts school instead.



SO WHAT'S MY POINT?

If Mr. Hodges were framing these courses as something aimed at already trained martial artists for additional training, I probably wouldn't give this a second thought.  But he's framed much of this to be attractive to the untrained martial arts novice.

Like all home study course advocates, he glosses over the very real issue of how martial arts newbies can train solo without equipment, without partners, and without correction during training, which I believe are insurmountable.

I believe that this will produce shoddy martial artists who are wasting their time and money.  While Mr. Hodge's courses are not expensive, any potential student would spent their money much more wisely in the long run training live, as Mr. Hodge himself says in his last point.

I know that lots of people out there will disagree with what I've said here.  What do you think?  I'd love to know!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

10 Ridiculous Claims About Home Study Courses - Part 1

This was so long, I broke it up into two posts!  Part two tomorrow.

This is in response to this piece of marketing, here, on a site that sells - you guessed it - home study courses in a variety of martial arts.  So it's obviously going to be biased in favor of home study.  This "Black Belt at Home" online dojo is run by Michael Hodge and his dad, Jon Hodge.

Before we begin, I'll state my bias right up front - I do not believe that an untrained person can learn a martial art of any kind from scratch via video or online.  Well, with the exception of performance martial arts that do not require any sort of resistance from anyone else, which is what their "Ultimate Bo" and "Ultimate Chuks" systems seem to be based on online video snippets I've seen.
You knew I'd have to post something like this at the
mention of nunchucks.  It's a law.

Do I think you can learn some techniques to try with training partners?  Yes.  Can you enhance your existing understanding?  Sure.  But you can't learn by video ONLY, starting with no experience at all, and you certainly can't learn much that would be useful against active, moving opponents.

Now that I've stated my bias, and you know theirs, let's begin.  Each section under "The Claim" is quoted directly from their web site without alteration.

1) YOU CAN'T ACTUALLY LEARN WITHOUT AN INSTRUCTOR IN FRONT OF YOU!!

THE CLAIM:
This is the number one argument to home study training. Without an instructor, how will you catch your mistakes, how will you mitigate bad habits? First of all, you do have an instructor in the video in front of you. I put a lot of time in filming videos which actually teach you the details of every technique, and then demonstrate from multiple angles. You can pause, rewind, slo-mo, whatever you want to do with the video. Secondly, you will receive detailed feedback on all techniques, movements, stances, breathing through your video exam.
MY TAKE:

This is the biggest falsehood that home study dojos tell.  Even experienced martial artists misinterpret and misunderstand what is happening in video, even after slowing it down, rewinding it, and watching it repeatedly.

You cannot ask a video questions or for clarification on a point.   You cannot ask a video to show how it would work on you or someone else.

You can only do this with an instructor.

Even if you are using it to enhance your existing training, you have to work with other people - preferably other people with martial arts skills -  to be sure you are doing it right and to work out hitches in understanding.

It's even better to do it with an instructor, to work out the nuances.  Lord knows Mr. Chick and I have screwed it up a lot, and we're relatively experienced - we still do, but we have an instructor to work it out with and show us, unlike Mr. Hodges' online students.

Second, live training allows an instructor to see the little details and correct bad habits before they begin, versus a video instructor who might catch it or they might not, and if they do, eventually, you have to re-train to fix the problem when it could have been prevented from becoming habit by a live instructor.  Every person who has learned something from video - I certainly have - can attest to this problem.

It is harder to fix a bad habit early than to solve one that has become second nature.

As I stated above, the caveat is if you are learning a "martial art" that is not intended to be used against resisting opponent, ever. In that case, this claim holds up.  But you could also learn dance steps for free on YouTube versus buying a relatively worthless black belt from this guy.

Does not count as an "instructor".
VERDICT:

This claim only applies if you are never planning to use the "martial arts" to do anything other than compete in the specialty division of martial arts tournaments, preferably to music or with lots of loud yelling and flashing lights and glitter.

2) YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE A PARTNER IN ORDER TO TRAIN CORRECTLY

THE CLAIM:
Let me X this one out as well. Although having a partner is beneficial (both physically and for the motivational support) it is not a complete necessity. How do some people manage to learn a new language on their own? How to some people manage to “teach them self?” These individuals are referred to as “autodidacts.” If you have the right motivation + tools necessary, it is possible. Of course, our Bo and Nunchakus programs do not require a partner as you are doing mainly techniques and forms. In our Karate program, an extra level of practice will be required to learn the one step sparring segments alone. So, if you can find a partner, this will be very helpful! (but not a necessity)
MY TAKE:

Here's where the unsaid is more important than what is being said.

If you are going to punch and kick the air, spin around fake weapons, and move around in kata-like motions, he's right.   You'll miss the deeper understanding of weapons in particular, as working with partners will quickly show you how weapons are actually used, versus danced with, but hey, you might win first place at the Uber Super Duper National Karate Championships in the "Specialties" division, beating out the other sword catchers and aluminum holographic tape-handled kama spinners.

But if you plan to use what you learn to defend yourself or against any other breathing human being who will not allow you to do what you want, this claim is hogwash.

Yes, being a fighter is not the same as being a martial artist.  But a martial artist should have a minimal ability to protect him or herself against a violent attack to some degree.  There is no way to train that by yourself for 99.9% of the population (I'm going to grant that there might be a prodigy or two out there - but are they buying cheap online training course?  Really?)

Home Study Sparring!
Human beings move and react in ways you cannot possibly guess until you try it against them in a variety of different ways.  I don't care how good you are at self-teaching, this is one thing you can't anticipate.

Speaking of self teaching (the "autodidacts" statement), the martial arts are not like other disciplines, where it is absolutely possible to self-teach.  One might ask, "Who invented [x] martial art in the first place?"  I assure you it wasn't by someone training by themselves in a cave, isolated from training partners and resisting enemies.

People who are "autodidacts" are estimated to be somewhere between 2%-6% of the population. So the vast majority of people who might buy this program can't possibly "self teach" anyway.

So basically, if you fail (such as using your home study skills against an unresisting opponent and get your butt handed to you on a plate), Mr. Hodge is implying that it's your fault because you aren't motivated enough and didn't work hard enough.  It's your fault for not being a very good autodidact!

VERDICT:

The MOST ridiculous claim being made of all 10.  It's not just "helpful" to have training partners, it's required.  Please do not pull out "what if I'm in the Alaskan Bush or in an Antarctic research station and want to train" argument - it still stands.  In no way is solo home study via video as good as in-person, live training, and I'm willing to bet, if you're reading this, you have options available to you within a reasonable distance, in a  martial art you'd probably enjoy if you tried it.

3) BELTS ARE JUST “HANDED TO YOU” AND THIS IS AN “ONLINE BELT FACTORY”

THE CLAIM:
This misconception makes me sick. I have been teaching local students at my martial arts academy for over 8 years; and have worked with home study students for 5 years. I will tell you with full confidence, that I push my home study students HARDER, expect MORE from them, and hold them to HIGHER standards. Why? Well, I obviously don’t get to train with them day to day like with my local students, so I expect them to bust their behind every day on their own. If they are not doing so, it shows on their rank exam, in which I may have to fail them (albeit with constructive criticism). This is real training for those who really want to earn rank. Don’t join our program if you are looking for a handout.
MY TAKE:

This is marketing, plain and simple.

This paragraph boils down to "Trust me!" and "I'm awesome!"

Mr. Hodge is, as of this writing, 23 years old, going by his LinkedIn profile and the date he says he founded his company at age 16, in 2007. Going by his own public profiles, Mr. Hodge does not currently have an academy - he sold his Premier Martial Arts franchise in 2012, looks like, and nowhere does he state he teaches students in person today at a local school (his father might, however - it's not entirely clear to me using my relatively simple Google-Fu).

Mr. Hodge might be a savant, and he may have been a great live teacher. I honestly don't know and I'm not willing to guess - he is really good at twirling, I'll give him that.

So what?

The greatest martial artist of all time would have the same exact problem trying to teach people via distance learning.  How many years you have training, and how many different arts you've trained in won't make solo home study work any better.

Especially you.

VERDICT:

Unknown to be true or not. To prove this statement as true or false, you'd need to be able to compare Mr. Hodge's live students (from back in the day) vs. his home study students and see if there is a difference in performance. I would also love to see how his home study student stack up to live students in sparring from any school that does contact sparring, and I would like to know how many of his home study students have entered, much less placed or won, in any tournament, even in the "Specialties" division.

4) A BLACK BELT EARNED FROM A HOME STUDY COURSE IS NOT THE SAME AS A "REGULAR" BLACK BELT

THE CLAIM:
Have you heard the news that prestigious universities all over the world offer online classes and degree programs? Standford, Harvard, MIT, UCLA, and thousands of other institutions have fully-accredited online classes. Many of these institutions offer their COMPLETE degree program online. I am not talking about University of Phoenix or ITT Tech; but state and private universities certifying students with the same degree as physically-attended students. So I think if Harvard see valor in accrediting online classes the same as physical classes; then the martial arts community should too. Again, my program in particular is not easy, but is just a different way of learning. (more time convenient, location convenient)
MY TAKE:

All of his examples come from NON-PHYSICAL courses of study.  There is no such thing as, say, a Bachelor's degree in Football or Soccer or Fencing or Wrestling or Boxing or Gymnastics, all of which have more in common with the martial arts than, say, business administration or English or any other degree accredited universities offer in online study (and I will note that online courses generally require online "class time" with an instructor and other students).

All of those activities and sports I mentioned above require live coaching and physical practice with other people to excel.  Even weightlifting - as solitary as it can get - still requires it.  You can't get that online.

You can also learn to drive via classroom and video instruction, without ever actually driving a car until you take the driving test.  How likely is it that you'd pass that test? 


Yeah, well, he passed the written test - that's good enough, right?

VERDICT:

This argument doesn't fly.  Physical course work - like we do in the martial arts - and intellectual course work are not the same thing in any way whatsoever.


5) HOME STUDY STUDENTS ARE NOT AS SKILLED/PROFICIENT AS LOCALLY TRAINED STUDENTS

THE CLAIM:
All students are different. I have my all-star students (which I call ‘A’ students) anywhere I teach. I have ‘A’ students in my local classes as well as in my home study course. Just like I also have ‘B’ and ‘C’ students: locally and online. Some students are just more dedicated, motivated, and willing to do whatever it takes to be the best. There are deep-seated, personal attributes, which will rise to the surface in any type of training arena. So, this is simply up to YOU – it is your choice how proficient you will become.
MY TAKE:

Yes, there are great students, mediocre students, and terrible students in every martial arts school and class across the land, and some of their success has to do with the attributes he mentions.  But that doesn't prove his claim.

When you train live and visit other schools, especially in organizations or you go to tournaments, you can see that there are some schools who turn out high quality students consistently, and some who don't.  It's not a matter of blaming each student or the dedication of individual students, it's the quality and consistency of the instruction of the school.

In my opinion, this claim is his "out" to when you take your shiny new black belt from his home study course and enter the local tournament and get your clock cleaned.  He can say, "Well, obviously, it's your own fault, because you aren't as dedicated, motivated, and willing to work."

It can't possibly be because training by yourself and only hitting bag and the air doesn't teach you much at all, could it?  It couldn't possibly be because of sub-standard teaching via his course, could it?

No, surely not, couldn't possibly ever be the reason.

Should come free with every order!
(Image found here)

VERDICT:

Shenanigans, shenanigans, shenanigans.  If we want to prove it, take the BEST students of live training in a similar art of black belt rank (1st Dan is fine), and the BEST students of his home study course of the same rank, and see how they stack up.  It's that simple to prove or disprove.



I tackle points #6-10, and offer my conclusions, in "10 Ridiculous Claims About Home Study Courses - Part 2".

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TROY-KWON-DO: Pride & Battle Scars

Jackie was showing me her usual collection of arm bruises from the previous Arnis week this morning and it got me thinking… Martial Artists are weird.

How you can tell we had fun training.

I have some neat scars myself and have told their stories a few times. Without sounding too much like “Fight Club” I wanted to explore this “pride” we have with something generally thought of as barbaric; the pride of our injuries/scars/aches/etc.

They serve as a reminder of some event that we were able to overcome. No matter how silly that sounds, it’s true. I have a scar from wrist surgery and a scar inside my lip from getting jumped. My nose is slightly crooked from being broken during my Black Belt test. (Which was awesome by the way; my Gi was soaked in blood for the rest of the test – the funny part was that I didn't even feel it at the time, so free toughness points).



Each has a story.

The flip side is that “normal” people find this kind of stuff abhorrent. “Why would you subject yourself to that?!?!?! Why do it if you’re going to be hurt? Why are you smiling?” These questions get asked from time to time – and I think the answer is because… “We like it”.

I have been knocked out twice in my martial arts journey. Once while sparring my first boxing coach, and the other, from our aerobics program...

Yep, that one’s gonna take some explaining...

The reason I bring this up is to paint a picture of how differently this violence is viewed from inside and outside the martial arts.

While boxing my coach, he threw a cross that landed perfectly on my jaw and it was lights out. After I woke up from the best nap ever, I walked it off a bit and continued the round. Though I returned the favor with a hook, it wasn't quite the KO I had received. He thought nothing of it, and afterward we celebrated a good match with handshakes and fight analysis. We had grown closer by this match.
Violence was expected and celebrated.

Weird right?

Then, during our aerobics program (no fighting whatsoever, purely aerobics) we were exercising to music. Keep in mind our aerobics demographic is much different than our TKD base, it is mostly non-martial artists wanting to lose some poundage.

So here we are doing a squat-sidestep-hook kick drill and while facing the left, I feel a crack and hear a high pitched ring. Then I wake up on the mat to a movie-like scene where the record stops playing and everything.

BONG BONG, TROY!
My buddy Michael, who is 6’ and huge, wasn't watching where he was kicking and landed his heel on my jaw from my right side. Didn't even see it coming. After I got back up to continue, it felt as though the entire room was spinning, and I was suddenly the deer-in-headlights and Michael was the car.

Most of the students were completely freaked out that this had just happened – like our cover was blown or something. “OH MY GAWD, how could this EVER HAPPEN in my SAFE WORLD where nothing BAD HAPPENS ever to anyone??” was the general consensus judging by the looks on people’s faces. Of course Michael apologized and we shook hands and all that (he was truly sorry), but we didn't think much of it.

I learned a valuable lesson that day – hook kicks are murderous.

I think it comes down to expectation. If you live in world where safety is key and no physical risks are taken, then violence is unthinkable. The smallest injury seems life threatening and every precaution needs to be taken to prevent it.

On the other hand, in an environment where violence is experienced constantly, you grow to like it. As long as it doesn't keep you from training, it actually makes you feel a little good. That’s why Jackie shows me her collection of arm bruises from Arnis and why I talked up my broken nose earlier.

It shows that we did something.

It makes you feel alive (there’s your Fight Club reference). It shows that you are game. It shows you have heart. And in reality, it’s never as bad as people make it out to be. To us, it’s something to be celebrated. To everyone else, we’re just weird.

Do you have a favorite battle scar or injury? I’d love to hear its story – please comment 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 troyseeling@aol.com.




Ed note: Opinions in "Troy-Kwon-Do" posts are those of Troy Seeling, and I don't always agree. This one time I hit myself right over my left eye trying to figure out abaniko double-action.  Left a good bruise and I saw stars.  Good times.  -The Stick Chick

Monday, November 17, 2014

MOTION MONDAY: Sticks vs. Other Weapons (Staff)

Happy Motion Monday!

Today I'd like to share with you an awesome video showing staff (bangkaw) versus double baston.

It demonstrates not only the fact that we do have other weapons besides stick, knife, and sword in the FMA's, but also, how one weapon can fare against a very different one.

Enjoy!


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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Intro to Stick Sparring

The focus at our school is self defense. As a result, stick sparring has not been something that we've done much.

I mean, how likely is it we're going to get into a stick fighting match?  In the 21st Century?  In Texas?

New York City... all bets are off.

However, we know that it can teach some valuable skills, so we've been working toward introducing a bit of stick sparring into our school.

We finally broke out the Action Flex gear and tried it for the first time in class.

Man, it was fun.

We decided to keep to hand targets only to begin with, because we're getting into this slowly, and we didn't let people do much other than just go for the hands (no disarms, no locks, etc.).  This is not the way we'll do it over time, but being the first rounds, we wanted to keep it simple.  This means we were typically in long to medium range (versus the medium to short range we tend to play in for self defense applications).

We also kept it free-sparring, versus points. We didn't want to break up the flow the first time.

Here's a few pictures of me sparring with one of the kids - our highest ranked Junior (our kids program is about a year old).

We found that with this rule set, we ended up using a lot of what we call "classical strikes" - ocho y ocho (figure 8), banda y banda (horizontal back and forth strikes), rompida (up and down vertical strikes), and abiniko (fan strikes).  You can really understand the utility of these strikes when you spar, especially playing the long range game as we were.

The advantage of reach is really apparent when you stick spar with this rule set.  I am glad our Junior Green Belt was wearing a helmet because he got hit in the head when I really was aiming for his hand (he moved it to counter-attack and WHAM!  Abaniko to the head).

I'm looking forward to doing more of this, and expanding our rule set for other targets and allowed techniques over time.

I like this picture because it shows both myself and my student moving forward, versus backward. This shows that my student trusts me and the equipment and that he is not afraid of the weapon.  Fear of the weapon is a huge hurdle to overcome - if you're afraid, you put  yourself into a bad position to counter-attack (note - respecting the weapon is a different thing - respect, always) and as a result, fear makes one lean backwards, easy to knock over.


The most valuable thing I think I learned for myself and in observing our students is that we had a hard time going after the hand - we are so used to going for the stick.  This, I think, by itself, is a big reason to stick spar.



If I recall correctly, in this sequence I was using a lot of ocho y ocho and it was very successful.  Of course, the student adjusted once he figured out what I was doing and gave as good as he got.


Tag!  He's it!  


I cannot over-emphasize the fact that this was really, really fun.  REALLY.  FUN.  I can't wait to do it again.



If you're curious, yes, I got to spar with both my husband (he was taking pictures here) and one of our adult students, too, but the pictures of me and the adult student didn't quite turn out well enough to use here.  

But I cleaned both of their clocks.

You believe me, right?

Right.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Transmission of Memory

This week, the Masters of Tapi Tapi/International Modern Arnis Federation Facebook page has been running video snippets of the founder of my art, Remy Presas,

I've only been studying for about six years, and some of the clips were from recordings I haven't seen before, so it was pretty exciting to watch the Professor do what we do at different stages in his life.

Here's one from the 1970's that I hadn't seen before that I particularly enjoyed:

video
Posted here.

Redonda is one of my favorite things to do (my "Motion Monday" posts have me doing the technique in a circle of people) but I've never done it quite that way.

Here's another from a later period (with Master Chuck Gauss as his uke) that I had to slow down and rewatch a ton of times to see what the Professor was doing on the first technique.

video
Posted here.

I made that into a .gif - watch it and marvel, as this is super-cool.  I am SO going to practice the hell out of this one.



The point of all of this is that I am grateful that my art is "modern", because we have a lot of video and first-generation students of Remy Presas around. In other arts, the founders may have passed away a generation or two ago or more, prior to the invention of video, and all of the original students are long gone.

I don't have to guess at what the Professor meant when he created our Anyos (forms) - we have him telling us in video.  We also have the stories of our first-generation students when they started changing and modifying them, and the Professor blessing their efforts.

I can see the various techniques that the Professor did over the years - and how they changed -  because we have so much video of him to see.  Watching - and rewatching - this content is a continual education, as I catch stuff now I didn't, oh, say, three years ago, because I didn't understand what I was seeing, really, and couldn't replicate it (but now I can).

On one hand, I am unfortunate that I didn't start training long after he'd passed away in 2001, because I never got to see him, talk to him, or train with him.   A part of me always regrets that (but then again, starting so late in general is something I regret, but until a man in a blue box shows up, that's just the way it is).

Yes, please.

On the other hand, I am lucky that so many of the first generation students are here, teaching us, and sharing their stories.

I can tell when they are transmitting something from the Professor, because to a person, they drop into their imitation of the Professor's accent and style of talking independently from one another, usually with a big grin on their faces.

Because so many first generation students are with us, it ensures that at least a fraction of who and what the Professor really was will be transmitted into the memory of the second generation and beyond.

So I have a favor to ask.

If you trained with Remy Presas directly, please write down or record every story you can think of about the Professor.  If you have a blog or YouTube channel, please share it so all of us can see.  If you want, I'd be happy to host posts here on my blog with your stories. 

If you have it online, tell me below in the comments, so I can create a new page here on the Stick Chick Blog to collect all of this stuff.

I believe we need to do all we can to capture the memory of the Professor, and transmit it far and wide, so it will never be lost or forgotten.  He was in many ways different for each of us.

Remy Presas was an amazing individual, and we need to keep not only his memory and his art growing, but the knowledge of the man himself, living in his art as the generations go by.


Friday, November 14, 2014

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Are Values Necessary?

IT'S FACE-OFF FRIDAY!!

Many martial arts purport to have a system of values underlying their teaching. For example, there's the seven principles of Bushido (rectitude or righteousness, courage, benevolence, politeness, veracity, honor, loyalty) and there are the five I learned in Tae Kwon Do (courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit).  Some folks believe that this is a fundamental requirement for a martial arts style to BE a martial arts style.

But not all martial art styles have this.  There isn't a big emphasis on any particular set of values in my style (some teachers, yes, but it's not inherent to what we do). I'm sure we could name plenty others that don't really talk about any particular system of values or principles.

So what do you think?

IS TEACHING VALUES IN THE MARTIAL ARTS NECESSARY?



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I'm Really a Black Belt!

I was in class with a fellow student who'd taken an extended break and has recently returned to training again.  I'm very happy he's back, as he's a great guy to work with.

We were working on a specific technique - abaniko corto, with a wrap of the arm where the stick would end up against the inside of the wrist both right hand versus right hand, and right hand versus left. To see the full technique: Abaniko Corto Right Hand and Abaniko Corto Left Hand,

Like this.

Once you get the stick in position above, there are a number of things that can happen, including locks and traps, several disarms, and set ups into other techniques.

For example, here's our friend +Brian Johns showing a specific drill using the abaniko corto technique (watch his follow-up) :

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

We were working on disarms in this class, so I'd have my friend get me to the point where the stick was on the back of my wrist, and ask him to disarm me from that point.

He was just learning, so we practiced the first two easy disarms (both of which involve grabbing the stick with the empty hand) and then we started down the path of, "Okay, what now?"

And it was in this discussion that I finally, FINALLY, felt like an honest-to-goodness black belt.

Because I could see what could come next, but not just one thing.  I saw many things, depending on the way we stepped, the angles we chose, the way we used the empty hand.

My mind went, "Oh, we could do this... or this... or this... or this... or if you did that it would lead to this other thing... or that other thing..." faster than I could say it out loud.

I could see the chain, off in the distance, of technique to technique to technique, forming a shape that I knew was there, but I hadn't really seen.  Until just then.

Like this.  But not at all.
This doesn't always happen to me.  It's not usual to get to a point and think "What now?" and come up blank, and have to stop and think about it.  I usually come up with stuff, but I have to stop and think if it's outside of my normal routine.

But not this time.  It just was there, and I could do it immediately versus having to think about it.

This is when you see tapi tapi, not just play it.   You see the counter to the counter in this chain, choosing which link comes next, working to get your partner to react a certain way, so you can do what you intend to do.

The second part of this is that my friend was saying how he had to slow it down versus the way I was doing it.

I thought I was doing it slow!

Apparently not.  I was experiencing that weird sensation of time slowing down that martial artists and others, like athletes, get when they are really doing things right.

Am I... am I the One now?  When do I get a cool trench coat and sun glasses?

Since I was seeing the tapi tapi... time slowed down for me, just a little bit, compared to my training partner.  It's not that I'm that great or anything, it's just that I've experienced enough for that to happen - the connections are already there so I can make decisions relatively quickly in the middle of doing a technique.  Thus, it seems to me like I'm not moving that fast because my brain is moving fast.

This is what makes a black belt in my art -  not a collection of techniques (those we collect over a lifetime) but the ability to flow and to see the tapi tapi.

I really am a black belt in Modern Arnis!  Not only by being tested, and by others saying so, but because I really, actually am.

If you've earned a black belt in your art, when did it finally hit you that you are, indeed, worthy of that rank?  Before you were granted the rank? At the test?  Some time later? And how did you know?

I'd love to hear your story.