Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 10/31/15

Here's how my week of training, writing, teaching, and miscellaneous Filipino Martial Arts-y artsy goodness went.

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday:  Attended Arnis class and then kobudo class.  My teacher taught me some basics for tonfa that I can now practice at home - sweet!
Sunday:  Taught a stick sparring class at Cutting Edge Fencing center.  Fencers make AWESOME stick fighters, folks.  Had a blast.  I will be writing about it on the MCA blog and I'll share that post when it's ready.
Monday:  Took older daughter to help out on a Black Belt test given by a local TKD school run by a friend.  It was interesting to see the differences between the school my teacher runs (and others we've attended) and this one.
Tuesday: We ran review for our first rank testing at Mid-Cities Arnis. We also taught our non-testing students "Dos Manos" drills, which is one of my favorites, as it's especially useful for closing in when stick sparring.
Wednesday:  Kevin was sick, my inlaws were on their way in, so I stayed home to clean my house.  As you can imagine, busy as I am, it's a mess usually!  Practiced tonfa just a little bit.
Thursday: Our first rank test at Mid-Cities Arnis!  Write up and pictures here.
Friday: Halloween party at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We played zombie tag, ninjas, and of course we stick sparred!  Write up and pictures here.

If you strike a fencer in the face, OPEN PALM!


I posted these posts of original content this week:

MondayA Difficult Decision (but not really)
Wednesday: My (Married) Martial Arts Life
Friday: The Filipino Martial Arts - Why We Don't Make The List

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday: You're Never Too Old To Start the Martial Arts
Thursday: I'm Really a Black Belt!

I also write for our school's blog.  This week I don't have a new value (review week for our test on Thursday) so I wrote and posted images from our stick sparring classes here.  I included links to the two other posts I made (about our rank testing and our Halloween party) above.


Today - Halloween - is my 25th wedding anniversary. My awesome inlaws are in town, so hubby and I are going to go spend a couple of days in Dallas starting tonight.  Tomorrow we're going to try to conquer this together: Trinity Forest Aerial Adventures. Can't wait!

I didn't see much out that really blew my gaskets (good or bad) this week - it was kind of "quiet".

If I missed a neat video or article or other martial arts related thing of note, let me know in the comments!


There won't be a fresh post on Monday - I'll still be off doing anniversary festivities.  I'll have a fresh post on Wednesday.  I'm also suspending "Face-Off Friday" as I've just run out of topics. I'll post them when I think of something good (unless you want to help me think of some more... let me know in the comments below!)

So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Filipino Martial Arts - Why We Don't Make the List

My good friend +Brian Johns  at +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts wrote an excellent post "The 10 Best Martial Arts".

He pointed out that the FMA's rarely make it to the top 10 best martial arts list you find on the web, and gave numerous examples (although I think he missed this list, where Filipino Martial Arts are #2 Six Great Martial Arts for Killing a Man with your Bare Hands).

He asked why that was:
Why? Is it because of:
(1) Lack of branding?
(2) Ineffective marketing?
(3) The splintered nature of Filipino Martial Arts?
(4) or a combination of one or more or all of the above?

I started to write a response on his blog, but it was too long (it's long for a blog post, too, really, but please, bear with me). I decided to write it here instead.

I agree with Brian 100%, and I wanted to expand on the topic a little bit.

First off, to Brian's point, nobody knows the Filipino Martial Arts exists.  Really. We are out-marketed by the karate, TKD, BJJ, and Krav Maga crowds to the outside world - and even within the martial arts world, too.

Filipino Martial... huh?

I related this story from my kobudo class here, but it bears repeating.

A student in an organization where my teacher has been promoting the Filipino Martial Arts for years and years had no idea the FMA's even existed, and she's a very dedicated martial artist.  She gave me a blank look when I said what I did, and said, "I didn't know that was a thing."

We are very poor marketers, as a community. We don't do a good job cultivating content online, with a few notable exceptions - Brian is one, but also Kali Center and Funker Tactical (Doug Marcaida) do a good job also.  But the vast majority of us do a poor-to-adequate job, especially compared to other martial arts communities.

This is a basic marketing problem. It's a simple solve, but just like Arnis is often simple, it doesn't mean it's easy.   Here's some things we can do that will help the overall FMA community:

First, every single of of us should use free social media tools like Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, free web sites, blogging, and every other online thing we can think of to promote what we do.

FREE is the operative word.  FREEEEE.

It is our responsibility to keep our arts alive, and pass it on to others.  In the 21st Century, that means doing this work online as much as it means finding a place to teach and recruiting students (and this online work will help you with that, also).  It doesn't mean you have to do ALL of those, but you have to do SOME - Facebook and a web site with a blog, for example, is not that difficult to do.

There is literally zero excuse for not doing this other than pure laziness or unwillingness to learn what you need to learn. I don't want to hear "I can't figure out Facebook" or "I don't understand Twitter"- little old ladies do Facebook and Twitter, you can too, that's an excuse. There are hundreds of article out there - search "Best Practices" and the social media channel of your choice, and you'll hit tons of free help.  If you are smart enough to forge yourself into the deadly martial artists you are, you can use free social media tools.  If you are reading this, you know how to use the internet. It's not that hard.

So get busy. I wrote a blog post here to help you with all of this.  Read it, do it.

You just have to remember this: bad marketing is better than no marketing at all.

Even yelling through a megaphone is better than nothing.

Other martial arts are running circles around us, especially on YouTube.  There is no reason this should be.

For example, I used to run a "Motion Monday" feature on this blog and stopped because it was too difficult to find quality videos featuring the Filipino Martial Arts that didn't come from the same basic sources over and over again.  And I was looking to promote you guys - for free, right here on my blog.  It was too much work sorting through all the really bad videos out there, even if the core content was quality.

Quality videos are defined as:
  • Can I see what is happening?
  • Can I hear if someone is talking?
  • Is the video grainy and of very poor quality?
  • Is the video longer than a minute or two?  Nobody watches video longer than that!
Your cell phone, assuming it's within two-three years old, is probably takes a good enough video to put on YouTube.

Friends, not marketing yourself and your art means that dorks like me, with only 7 years of experience, will end up being more well known for the Filipino Martial Arts overall than guys who could clean my clock in a millisecond and should be well-known throughout not only the FMA's but in the wider world.  All because of marketing.

That's simply not right.

The fix for this is not me stopping what I do, it's for the rest of us to step up their marketing game - we ALL contribute to getting the word out.  I truly believe that if Professor Remy Presas were alive and starting out in the US today (versus the 70's), he'd be all over this stuff!  You should be too!

Another suggestion I have in marketing is that we should be sure to include the terms "Filipino Martial Arts" (or "FMA") whenever possible (not just "Arnis" or "Escrima" or whatever). This is the only term that we can all agree on, so we need to use it.

We just don't have a single "catch-all" name for our arts other than "The Filipino Martial Arts", which from a branding perspective - and I'm a marketer by trade - sucks.  It's too many words, it's hard to say quickly, and when we abbreviate it, it could mean a lot of other things (for example, I've discovered on Tumblr the hashtag #fma means "Full Metal Alchemist", an anime series).

It'd be great if we could agree on using one of the three most common names as a catch-all term - Kali, Escrima, or Arnis - but how would we do that realistically?  All three terms are legitimate terms used in a variety of our arts (don't even get me started on trying to talk about terms like panantukan or dumog, ok?).  I think nobody would accept one of the three major names becoming the single name for us all.

It would be also be awesome if the leaders of the various large FMA groups could get together and come up with a new catchy word that would cover all of us (preferably a short, easy to remember word) and would still be authentic FMA, like "karate" has come to be for all of the various JMA's even though many are in no way "karate" (hell, even TKD schools use "karate"!).

I don't hold out any hope that any of that will happen either.

So that leaves us with "Filipino Martial Arts" and "FMA" for the time being.   The splintered nature of the FMA's can't be fixed (and I'm not sure I want it to be fixed, really - diversity in our art is a strength in many ways), so this is how we overcome it in our marketing.

Another issue we have is the fact that to most regular people, weapons are scary. And that is true WITHIN the martial arts community, as well as without.

Martial arts training appeals to, what, maybe at most 5% of the overall population?  I'm not talking about the fandom of the martial arts - the LARPer and the marital arts movie buffs and the UFC fans that don't actually train, aka the "fanboys".  I'm talking about people who actually step on a mat.  5% if we're being very, very generous.

When you do martial arts training with weapons, you get an increase the perceived risk of training injury, as well as turning off people who are not very interested in becoming lethal themselves (most people are not killers, after all, nor do they wish to be).

Most folks are not training for combat or to go to war - they have jobs and lives and aren't interested in actually hurting other people unless strictly necessary.  Therefore, an even SMALLER proportion of the world is naturally interested in doing what we do, as we start with weapons training (and it is always a big emphasis in the FMA's) and we rarely talk about the other aspects of our studies.

That makes our ability to grow our arts and attract students double-tough.

It does not help that many other martial arts do not allow their students to study weapons until they have studied empty hand for many years. This is not something we can change, but it's something we need to be aware of - that the idea of weapons training being the "higher" skill set is already ingrained in the wider martial arts culture.

Heck, FMA's are often taught as a weapons add-on for upper level students in many martial arts schools teaching a base art from a different country's tradition.  This at least keeps some visibility out there, which is better than none at all.  This may be a way, if you are struggling to find a place to teach and students, to get your foot in the door of an established school with a different tradition.

We can do a few other things within our control, though. We can do more to talk up the empty hand, and to emphasize the safety precautions we take in training. Yes, I know some of us sneer at this as being nontraditional and "McDojoish".

Go ahead and sneer, and your art will disappear.

The FMA's were disappearing the Philippines, and today are still not as popular as TKD, Karate and Judo there.  The FMA's modernized, so they wouldn't be lost in their home country to foreign martial arts, and one way they modernized was to make it safer for regular people to learn and enjoy.

I teach a kids program as well as adults, and kids do just fine with rattan sticks (we use lighter 3/4" diameter sticks) and wear safety glasses (not required, but we like it as a precaution). I recommend that you use soft sticks and safety equipment (helmets at least) when you teach stick sparring, if you do (and if you don't, do, because it's super fun and EVERYBODY loves it).

I'm all in favor of the truly hard core stick fighting, mind you, but when that becomes the prevailing narrative of our art, it means that we'll get far, far fewer actually trying it.  There's room for both.

We need to show how the modern FMA's are actually quite safe and accessible to normal, average people of all ages and stages of physical fitness (in my opinion, more so than many other arts, especially arts like BJJ).  Our weapons and empty hand training together gives the student a well-rounded self defense education.  Make sure to emphasize training with improvised weapons, which is something the FMA's excel with and something we see in popular media.

One point - the FMA's are rooted in lethality.  We can't pretend this isn't true - when applied properly, with intent and with the original interpretations, ours is a killing art.   It's a reality we have to cope with, as most people aren't getting into the martial arts to kill.  I'd love your thoughts on that one, as I'm not sure how to solve it.

Another issue we have is our media "image", or rather, the distinct lack of one.

I mentioned "fanboys" above.  And y'all know how much I find them annoying.

Honestly... we need some fanboys.

We don't have a Chuck Norris or a Bruce Lee or Jet Li.  Few celebrities are known for training, on their own time, in the Filipino Martial Arts.

Our arts are not in the Olympics, with exposure to millions of non-martial artists world-wide, so we don't get the exposure that Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Wrestling, and Boxing get (not to mention sports like fencing and shooting and maybe soon Karate too).

While our arts are definitely being used in movies and television - nobody knows that it's the FMA's, and it's often blended with other arts to be "movie-fu" and is never, ever identified as what it is within that medium.

So until our Bruce Lee comes along, or we get our own version of "Bloodsport", we need to connect what we do to what average people see in movies, TV, and other popular media, like comic books and video games.

Nightwing should be our poster boy.  Every time there is a figure in popular media obviously using FMA's - Daredevil! - we should be crowing about it as much as we can.

For you non-nerds, this is Nightwing.  He used to be Robin.  Yes, Batman's Robin.

We have to get enough traction so that creators of popular culture adapt what we do into what they do.  That learning an FMA is not only something that's effective, but COOL.

So look for those opportunities to make that connection for people who don't know.

That's what I think - how the Filipino Martial Arts can become more visible, and take its rightful place on any list of "Best" martial arts.

I'd like to know what you think - what else can the Filipino Martial Arts do to increase visibility (and thus, popularity)?   Let me know!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My (Married) Martial Arts Life

October 31, 2017 marks my 27th wedding anniversary.  I wrote a post about our training together, here.  I'd like to share why I think our married martial arts life works so very well.

My husband and I are unusual in that not only are we both just as active and passionate about the martial arts, but that we were married 16 years before we stepped on a mat.

October 31, 1990.   If you get married on Halloween, you wear black, duh.

He started in the martial arts about 6 months before I did, but we’re the same rank in our primary art (Presas Arnis) and we both pursue our own martial arts interests outside of our primary art.  I study Kobudo and Okinawan Karate, hubby has studied Goju-Shorei weapons and he trains with Hock Hochheim’s organization.

I know a few couples who do martial arts together, but typically, they met in the martial arts and married later, or, only one was doing it (typically the husband) and the wife joined in later.

I don’t know any couples in the martial arts who were married and then started training together later (in our case, much later).  I know they are out there, but we seem to be very, very rare.  Our journey in the martial arts, like it is in our adult life, is together.

I can tell you, that training together is the best.

I get to spend a lot of time with him in something we both love, which is about as ideal as it gets.  He has different talents and strengths than I do, and we complement each other well.

So how does my married martial arts life work?  Here’s some ways we keep it together:

We are careful to keep our personal relationship off the mats.  That is, everybody knows we are spouses, and even though we have been married 25 years, you would probably have a hard time telling  if you didn’t already know.

This does not mean there aren’t times where he does something and I think he’s awesome because of it (for reasons more than just admiring his technique).  I just keep that feedback for when we’re not with the other students.

We keep it professional, like a workplace.

We know how to coach each other.  This is something we had to learn, though.

When we first started, my husband was a couple of ranks ahead of me.  This was a big problem because he often was in a position to coach me as a lower ranked belt, and that just plain rubbed me the wrong way.

He was talking down to me.  Or so it seemed to me.

Since day one, our marriage has been one of equals and partnership.  Having one of us “above” the other just doesn’t fly, and having him talk to me like I was a lower ranked stranger was irritating and made me resentful.

However, he did outrank me.  So we had to learn how to coach each other without being condescending about it.

This is especially important now that we are the same rank in our primary art but different ranks in the other arts we pursue.  If I teach Kevin what I’ve learned in Kobudo, I have to make sure I speak to him respectfully.

 I think this actually helps us be better partners and coaches to other people, too.

We are each other's’ biggest fan.

I make a point of complimenting him when he does something awesome (which he does frequently, because he is awesome).

I make sure to talk up what a good martial artist he is, and where his (considerable) talents lie - in front of him and when he’s not around.

I make sure to support him in his ideas and what he does in the martial arts.

I share his successes, and support him through his failures.

And he does the same thing for me.

My hubby being a badass.

Sounds just like a healthy marriage, right?  Those same principles must hold in a martial arts couple just as they do in every other aspect of life.

What are some of the advantages of training together?  Here’s a few:

We never, ever run out of stuff to talk about.  This is probably true of any couple that shares a hobby.  We can nerd out on martial arts stuff with each other, go out into the garage dojo, and try stuff out.

We always have a training partner.  We are never stuck training solo at home.  We can always talk the other into “playing” something we want to work on.

Suddenly, disarm!

When we need a martial arts thing, we rarely have to justify it to the other.  It’s obvious that I need a new gi, or a weapon (or another weapon, or another weapon...) to him (and vice-versa).  Yes, I totally understand why he had to spend $50 on a banner of his martial art to hang in our garage dojo.

All of you in relationships where  you are the lone martial artist is now thinking to him or herself, “Whoa, how can I get him/her in the dojo?”

Now here are some downsides that we’ve had to struggle with:

Scheduling is a bitch.  Especially now that we study together AND separately, trying to manage our family schedule is really difficult at times. Childcare in particular is hard to figure out sometimes and our solutions are sometimes less than ideal.

Having our youngest become old enough to sit on the sidelines and read or color has become a HUGE help (as well as our older daughter being old enough to watch her for now and then), but it doesn’t always work out (especially for longer events, like seminars, boot camps, and those trips out of town we love to take now and then).

Sometimes it means one of us gets to go to that neat martial arts event, and the other stays home.

Sometimes we end up speaking to each other in a non-martial-arts context for only a few minutes in a day.

You may have relatives and friends to help out - and if you do, appreciate that big-time.  Our closest family member lives 8 hours drive away from us, and we have to pay for babysitting if we want to do that.

It sucks when one of us is wrong on something. Such as mis-remembering a technique, or misunderstanding something our teacher said.  We can get into debates over this, and one of us ends up “right” and the other “wrong”.  I don’t like it when either of us has to be wrong.

So that’s my married martial arts life - yours might work differently, but that’s how we keep it together, through over 7 years of training together, and 25 years of marriage (as of this writing).

If you're married and you both do martial arts, how does it work for you?  Got any martial arts couples you admire?  I'd love to hear your stories!

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Difficult Decision (but not really)

My younger daughter has been in our Arnis class for the past month and a half.

Receiving her white band

We allowed her to try out Arnis as well as go to Tae Kwon Do with our teacher once a week.  She begged to be allowed in class, so we agreed.  We did not push her into Arnis, mind you - our plan was always to have her in Tae Kwon Do under our teacher to start.

This week we decided that she will no longer be allowed in Arnis class, at least for the foreseeable future.

It sucks.

She is the youngest student in the class, and she's having trouble paying attention.  She's a bit disruptive sometimes, and she has trouble treating her parents like "Miss Jackie" and "Mister Kevin" as we've asked her to do.  She's young and paying attention isn't very easy sometimes. We have another student like that, thought so that's not the reason she's out, although she's received enough warnings now that she was already on some thin ice.

But she loves class, and especially loves stick sparring on Friday nights.

We were stick sparring the other night, and one of our other students was playing against our daughter.  The other student made a really nice sparring move (with some excellent timing) and tagged our daughter on the hand (our rule set right now is hand shots only).

I actually got this moment on camera - younger daughter on right.

Everybody was impressed and cheered for the other student (he's one of our two that is going to test this week and is progressing very nicely).

Our younger daughter promptly threw a temper tantrum

An epic, screaming, red-faced, foot-stomping temper tantrum.

I had to remove her from the room and spent the last 10 minutes of class trying (and failing) to calm her down in the hall.  Her screams echoed throughout the entire recreation center and several people from other parts of the center came up to see what was wrong.

That.  Was.  Fun.

It embarrassed everybody - herself, me, her dad, the other students...

We just can't and won't allow that behavior in class.

So, younger daughter is going to just be in Tae Kwon Do for a while, as she respects her teacher there a lot more, and maybe she can, over time, earn her way back into Arnis, if she wishes to do so.

I'm still pretty sad about how this turned out, but I'm not terribly surprised.  She's just too emotionally immature to be in my class, especially with sticks.

Have you had an experience like this - a student that you just had to "fire" from your class?  Did you have to ban your own kid from class?  I'd like to hear your stories.

UPDATE JUNE 2016:  Younger daughter has matured a bunch, and has been asking to come back to class.  We're going to try it again over the summer and see how it goes.  I'll let y'all know.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Here's how my week of training, writing, teaching, and miscellaneous martial artsy goodness went.

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday:  Arnis class in the morning (we worked with Hidden Sword's purple belts on their anyos for competition coming up on the 31st), working on MCA stuff (setting up the template for our lesson plans post-test) and then kobudo.  We did not start tonfa; instead we discussed the results of our rank test and what we learned there.
Sunday:  Taught ADE Women's Self Defense
Monday:   Attended Arnis class at Hidden Sword.  Worked on some positioning on block+check vs. a forehand (#1) and backhand (#2) strikes, to get to different disarms and locks.
Tuesday: Taught Arnis class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  It was a nice warm October day, so we played outside (see picture below).  Introduced block+check to our newer students and reviewed brush-grab-strike.
Wednesday:  My day to run older daughter around.  I did run through bo a couple of times.
Thursday: Taught Arnis class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Reviewed Combative Response #1 and related it to Block+Check.
Friday: If it's Friday, we're stick sparring at Mid-Cities Arnis!  Had an incident with my youngest daughter that I will write about on Monday - and it ended my week on a down note.

Working Block+Check basics at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Outdoors. In shorts and short sleeved shirts.  In October.


I posted these posts of original content this week:

MondayThanks to the Martial Arts Widow(er)
Wednesday:  2015 Goals Update - Down to the Wire

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  You're Never Too Old for the Martial Arts
Thursday: Knives Suck
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Only Fighting Ability Matters?

I also write for our school's blog. Each week is a post about a different martial arts value (and thanks for all your help on the topic, folks).  This week's post was on Tolerance, and you can read it here.


I missed mentioning it last week, but +Brian Johns of +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts posted a great video that I ended up sharing with my students, as we'd been talking about the same subject in class.

Click here if you can't see the video.

Here's a video from 2013 showing an assailant attacking a police officer with a knife.  If you think it's easy to defend against a knife, think again.  CNN - Miami Officer Stabbed at Gas Station

Nice video from Prof. Dan Anderson on leverage disarms.  He makes disarming easy!

Click here if you can't see the video.

I finished up a lot of content for +Andrea Harkins' new book, some of which you haven't (and won't) see on this blog.

If I missed a neat video or article or other martial arts related thing of note, let me know in the comments!


We're teaching an intro to stick sparring class at Cutting Edge Fencing on Sunday - it's going to be a blast!

So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

2015 Goals Update - Down to the Wire

So I made some goals at the beginning of the year (here and updated here), and here's how those are going.

1) Increase Seminar Attendance

As of this writing, I've attended:
  • MAPA 4
  • MAPA 5
  • MAPA 6
  • IMAF Houtson Camp
  • IMAF Dallas Camp
  • PAC
  • A-KATO Seminar
  • Datu Dieter Knüttel
  • Dan Anderson
I have two more planned for this year:
  • MAPA 7 (which we're hosting at Mid-Cities Arnis)
  • Datu Tim Hartman (which we're co-hosting with my teacher's school, Hidden Sword Martial Arts).
That makes a grand total of 11 seminars in 2015.  My original goal was 6.  So yeah... I 'd say this goal was achieved (and then some).

MAPA 4 and 5,  and IMAF Camp Pics

Hubby (Left) and I (right) with Datu Dieter (in the middle)


2) Back to Basics

Since we started our own martial arts school, I spend more of my time in the basics - teaching them, thinking about them, doing them.  My brain is basics-heavy.  So yeah, this is going to be achieved and then some.

Teaching targeting at Mid-Cities Arnis

3) Meet my weight loss goal

My goal as to lose four dress sizes.  I am nearly there - I've lost three and my current size is sometimes loose on me.   I don't know if that will be perfectly achieved by the end of the year, but I've been able to stay on track with this goal all of this year.  I think of all my goals, this was the one I really wanted to achieve, and I'm really proud of my progress.

4) Continue at the Gym

Epic fail is epic.  I just don't have time.  Something had to give, and this is what gave. 

5) Start Kobudo

I really wrote this goal wrong, I think.  It's really start kobudo, and stick with it.  I did this - I passed my Green Belt exam recently and we'll be starting Tonfa shortly.

6) Enrollment of 10 students in Mid-Cities Arnis

I added this goal in June.  We have 8 students now - and two students trying classes at the end of this week.  This goal is very achievable.

Enjoying training outside in the warm Texas October weather at Mid-Cities Arnis

And finally, for this blog, I set a goal of 65,000 views for the year 2015 (the idea was that I'd pass 100,000 views by the end of the year).  Don't let the counter fool you - I had two huge spikes in traffic over the summer that weren't "real" and I do not count those in my view counts (but I got a huge boost that was totally real when a post of mine was featured on Master Ken's Facebook page).

So as of right now, I have thus far in 2015 58,000 views.  I'm averaging 197 views/day (way over my goal of 179/day), and I think I'll pass this total views goal in November, a month ahead of schedule.

It's not easy to post as much as I do - and I write for Mid-Cities Arnis as well - and I'll have to re-think my posting schedule in 2016.  

Again, if you're interested in writing a guest post for this blog, please do reach out to me!  Let's chat about it!

How are your goals for the year going?  I'd love to know what you're doing - let me know in the comments!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thanks to the Martial Arts Widow(er)

Like many women in the martial arts, my husband and I do the martial arts together.

It was YOUR TURN to do the laundry!

However, I train with lots of people who do martial arts as much as we do (I am usually doing something related to the martial arts on a daily basis) but their spouses or significant others just aren’t into acquiring bruises for entertainment.

I can’t imagine why, personally, but hey, it takes all kinds to make a world, right?

I gotta say, I don’t know how you “Dojo Widows” (or “Widowers”) do it.

My lightest training week is about 13 hours of total training time.  It’s not unusual for me to spend 18-20 hours of training time.  Let’s call it at 20 hours a week for martial arts time, including commute time (I drive about 45 min-1 hour one way for Kobudo, for example).

So, there are 168 hours in a week.

I get about 56 hours/week to sleep, 50 hours working (including commute time), 12 hours a week doing chores (including grocery shopping and meal prep time), 10 hours “child time” (including homework, fencing class, etc.).  Add that up with the martial arts time, and that leaves 20 hours “free time” in a week, to do other hobbies, watch TV, speak to children, call grandma, write a pretty awesome blog... oh, and hang out with my spouse.

20 hours.

Football widows have got nothing on the martial arts widow, my friend.

Heck, football has seasons.  Martial arts is a 52 week endeavor, every year.


Your mileage may vary - you might have more or less kid time, you might train more or less than I do, you might have family to help out with shuttling kids... but that’s my week, and I can’t imagine that serious martial artists have a week so totally different than mine (maybe worse).  Also, that does not take into account hobbies and interests the non-martial artist in the relationship might have, and those 20 hours “free time” might not always line up.

We do the martial arts together, but we also have martial arts activities not in common.  I do kobudo and he does not, and he studies Goju-Shorei weapons and with Hock Hochheim and I don’t do either of those on a regular basis.  So, we actually spend about 2/3 of our martial arts training time together

So I get lots couples time in my martial arts time, even if it’s just standing in the same room while we each work with different partners or teach different groups of students.

I’m lucky that way, and I know the vast majority of my peers don’t have it so good.

If you love a martial artist, but just don’t think that putting on a weird outfit and hitting people and things is fun... well, it’s a hard life.

You end up doing chores that your partner doesn’t cover because he or she is off training.

You spend a lot of time alone when your partner is at that seminar on the other side of town (and oh, we’re going out after for dinner, honey, so you won’t see me until late...)

You don’t get to watch the same entertainment together, so your interests might always coincide... and you might not want to watch “Enter the Dragon” yet another time (but you do).

You’re getting tired of all the gis in the closet (why did they need another one, again? How many gis do they really need?) much less having to wash those suckers!

 You’re sick of the certificates decorating all your walls, you’re really tired of the investment in yet another martial arts weapon or book or video or training equipment, and you’re worried every time they come home with a bruise or a cut or a small injury (much less a really big one).

I don't think they'll have one of these in a Better Homes & Gardens spread, do you?

But you support that martial artist and his or her weird hobby, and you cover all the things that he or she can’t do at home or with family or friends, and you make it possible for us to pursue our passionate hobby.

You are as important to the continuation and the community of the martial arts as the people who step on a mat.

I don’t live with a martial arts widow, but I thank you, because you give me the training partners and teachers and mentors I need to pursue my hobby.  If nobody else has done it, I want you to know there is at least one person who appreciates it.

PS: Martial artists, please, take sure you make time to appreciate what they do for us.  For Pete’s sake, show some interest in their hobbies, too, and take your turn to cover things so they pursue their passions!

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Here's how my week of training, writing, teaching, and miscellaneous martial artsy goodness went.

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday:  Arnis in the morning, Kobudo test in the afternoon.  I wrote about below.
Sunday:  Took a day off!  Hubby returned from a martial arts camp in which he got knocked out a couple of times.
Monday:  Saturday's test came home to roost with extremely sore muscles.  I went to bed early.
Tuesday: Arnis class.  Taught Anyo Isa to our White Band and promoted our zero level students to White (we have in our curriculum a "zero level" where they learn the 12 angles, empty hand sinawali, and our 6 count blocking drill to "earn" white band).
Wednesday:  Day off. Actually ran through the bo just to keep it fresh.
Thursday: Taught Arnis class.  Our new White bands played Sinawali, while a student getting ready to test at the end of the month practiced Anyo Isa.
Friday: Quick review of the week's material and then stick sparring.  Everybody had a great time!

Myself and one of our new Adult students stick sparring Friday night


I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:  Kobudo: Testing the Big Stick
Wednesday: Promotion Time
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Disabilities and Promotions

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  THAT GUY: Overly Macho Guy
ThursdayGuest Post: Cliff Tutor with the Jab

I also write for our school's blog. Each week is a post about a different martial arts value (and thanks for all your help on the topic, folks).  This week's post was on Perseverence, and you can read it here.  I also reworked an old post from this blog, here: A Parent's Guide to the Martial Arts.


Nice article from Wim Demeere on common sense and self defense.  Read it here.

Ran across a very interesting article on self defense, awareness, and pattern recognition.  Read it here.

Did you know that celebrity chef, author and TV host Anthony Bourdain is a BJJ Blue Belt?  I didn't either - here's a cool story about how BJJ is Bourdain's new passion.

If I missed a neat video or article or other martial arts related thing of note, let me know in the comments!


Today I start studying tonfa with my teacher, and tomorrow we teach Women's Self Defense at NRH Centre.

So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!

Friday, October 16, 2015

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Disability and Promotions


Today's topic is based on a story I've heard recently, and  upon some comments I read when Willie Nelson was promoted in his martial art a year or so ago.

Here's the situation:

A person with a physical disability has tested twice for his next rank and failed both times.

It was unclear why exactly he'd failed after each test, but word came back to him that he hadn't met the requirements of the next rank in his art because of his disability, and thus, would never be able to reach the next rank because of this issue.

So obviously, some folks believe that rank requirements in martial arts are standard and objective - either you can meet it or not.  But I know there are plenty martial arts out there that will take into account physical impairments - such as not being able to kick a certain height because of knee or hip issues - when issuing rank, and will not allow those things to prevent a student from moving up in rank.

So I'm curious what you think.

Should allowances be made in rank progression in a martial art for disability?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Promotion Time

We will be holding our first test for rank promotion at Mid-Cities Arnis at the end of the month.

We have two testing for their Yellow Bands.  At MCA, we use wrist bands vs. belts in our program, just as we wear a school shirt and shorts/pants vs. a gi.  It's part of the way we emphasize that we are a "modern" martial art.
Getting ready for the death-match portion of the test.

We have designed our curriculum to be a rotating curriculum, with three "Tracks" made up of three "Sets" each.  White, Yellow and Orange bands are in "Track 1".  Some core material - such as brush, grab, strike and supported blocking and block/check - are repeated more than once in each set in Track 1.

The idea is that students in the same Track will work on the same material in class, regardless of the rank they hold.  This makes it a little easier to teach class.

It's an interesting time, as we are working to make sure our students we are testing are reviewed on the material and ready to test.  But we are also having to explain to our longer-term white bands who are not testing why they are not cleared to test.

These two are our youngest students - one of which is my younger daughter - and both of them have trouble paying attention and doing what is asked of them in class.  They have not come close to mastering the material we ask for the next rank, so they won't be allowed to test.

Demonstrating the 12 Angles of Attack

It's a disappointment for them, but it's just the way it has to be.  They have to spend a lot more time in class working on fundamentals they should have down by now - such as the proper grip - before we'll promote them.  They are young, though, and this is not unexpected.

I understand the impulse of many teachers to go ahead and promote students who are not ready for their next rank, especially if those students are young.  It sucks when they see students progressing ahead of them, and they don't understand (quite) why they can't get that next rank.

I am not one of those instructors.  People will not be promoted until they demonstrate a basic understanding of what is being asked of them to master for promotion, end of story.  Even the youngest kids (our program starts at age 7 for the most part) and even if it disappoints them.

Promotion from "Zero" level to White Band

Tell me about a time when you've worked with people getting ready to test for rank.  Have you had an experience where you or someone you were close to weren't allowed to test for rank because they weren't ready?  How did that go?  I want to know!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Kobudo: Testing the Big Stick

I recently took my first test in my kobudo class, for "Green Belt".

We don't actually get belts, mind you, but it's the first rank after my lowly not-actually-wearing-a-white-belt-but-in-this-class-I-am-a-White-Belt rank.

Me in my white gi.

I've talked about my bo studies here and here and here and here and here before, and it was time to have the rubber meet the road, so to speak.  Spoiler alert - I passed.

Material covered included:
  • Our "Seven Step Drill" in the air and with partners, both left handed and right
  • Our organization's Bo Ichi
  • Our version of Shuji No Kon Sho (the "Japanese" version, not the Okinawan version)
  • Our form Shihon No Bo
  • Four one-step drills (both as the attacker and as the defender)
Sadly, my primary instructor, Sensei McNeil, missed the test, as she's on a martial arts study trip in Okinawa.  I'd have liked to have her there to get her feedback.  Ah, well, I understand she's having fun acquiring many bruises on her trip.

Everyone was pretty keyed up and nervous for the test.  I was pretty sanguine about it, until the time actually came for the test to start.  Its possible I was just responding to the general nerves of the room, because I did practice pretty hard and I was about as good as I was going to get at that moment.  But when it came time to get up and test, I admit I was a bundle of nerves.

There were eight women and twelve men testing, so we were divided into three main groups.  The women were one group, the men were in two groups.

The Women's Group with two of the female kobudo black belts (the ones without certifications)
We were brought up and tested in the following order: women first, men's group 1, then men's group 2.  So yay, lucky us, the women went first.

We did the seven step drill first, in the air and without partners.  We did it right handed, left handed, and right handed again.  I did fine on this, until the last one.  I got switched around in the the middle and started on the right and ended on the left!  I never do that versus an opponent, but I did here (and I did in in pretest too, darn it).  I just went with it as if I meant to do that, even though it was obviously wrong!

Next, we did Bo Ichi.  I made no mistakes on Bo Ichi. I used my hips to generate power, I kiai'd in the right places (and loudly), my targeting was good.  However, my feedback is that I was a little stiff and my grip was too tight, and I sometimes had my arms too far from my body (luckily, as the test progressed and I was able to relax a bit and these issues got better, so I'm going to chalk that up to nerves after that little screw up on the seven step drill).

Then we did Shuji No Kon Sho, which is my favorite form (we've picked bunkai out of it for that bo sumbrada that we play).  I rocked it. I rocked it hard, dudes.  Best part of my test, but hell, I could do that form 100 times.

Then we did Shihon No Bo.  I did fine on this one - there's a section I struggle with towards the end but I did it was well as I ever have.  We were asked to add in kiai at every "ski", or poking motion, and I was able to do that no problem.

Finally, we paired up and did the seven step drill and the one-steps.  My partner brain farted on the seven step drill once (happens to all of us -  I'm not upset about that at all), but overall, I think we did really well.

And that was that.  Nobody failed - I doubt they'd have let us get this far if there was a chance of that but generally speaking, everybody who tested was well prepared and did well (with the caveat is that we're all testing for green belt, the second rank - none of us looked like rock stars, even me).

My observations on this test:
  • You can tell when people are hitting stuff, and when they aren't.
  • You can tell when people are practicing with people striking with power and intent, and when they aren't.
  • Half the class on our fourth one step - which is a defense against a thrust - didn't actually do the thrust properly on the attack side of the equation.  Thus, the defender had trouble doing what he or she was supposed to do.  After the test, which went pretty quickly, we practiced solo the attack side and the defense side of the one-steps.
  • There are tons of people who do a great job on forms but struggle with application - and vice-versa.  This is why it's important to study and practice both.
  • Lots of variation between men and women (we've had different instructors) and you can tell what was emphasized by each, even when taking the differences in biology and upper body strength into account.  The guys did stuff that my teacher would have corrected in an instant (and I suspect the same for the women).  The women as a group didn't use their hips as much as they should have to generate power (I did, but my "home" teacher emphasizes that, as well as striking with intent).
After the test, I was chatting with a friend about how it went (he was on the testing board).  It turns out he's the one who ended up scoring me on my test!

His comments: "YOU SUCK!"
(just kidding)

He knows my background (I am the only person who is not highly ranked in a Korean or Japanese art), and noted that he thinks I'm having a little trouble with range and a long weapon, since I'm so used to the Arnis stick's size.  I agreed with that assessment, but I think mainly my issue with bo is that I rarely, if ever, have the two hands working in concert together.  The empty-hand people do this all the time, but it's not so much in Arnis.

I hate bo a lot less than I did, and overall, I feel confident that if asked to do so, I could fight with one, and that's really what counts, right?

I'll admit, though, I'm very happy we are moving on to tonfa next.  I still have to keep up my skills and practice bo, and I will, but tonfa (and later sai) are more in my comfort zone as an Arnis player.   I've actually been very interested in tonfa since the early days of my martial arts training, when I was still primarily studying PaSaRyu Tae Kwon Do.

Okay, okay,  I don't mind the white gi THAT much...
So tell me about a time when you had to test outside of your comfort zone (which the bo definitely is for me).  Or your experiences with the bo or other kobudo weapons (or others - I have interest in just about any weapons, really).  Or how you keep that gi pristine and white... let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Here's how my week of training, writing, teaching, and miscellaneous martial artsy goodness went.

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday: Arnis and Kobudo practice.  My teacher thinks we're looking good leading into our test - I hope he's right!
Sunday: Bo practice.
Monday:  Arnis class and bo practice.  We reviewed block/check/counter and worked a bit of "pelit-pelit", a back and forth drill that is somewhat related to block/check/counter.
Tuesday: Taught arnis.  We had two new adults trying class - both older guys with not a ton of martial arts experience.
Wednesday:  Practiced bo.
Thursday: Taught Arnis.  Both of the visiting adults signed up for class!
Friday: Taught Arnis.  We have so many zero belts, we really had to work on that material for the entire class, so no stick fighting this week.


I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday: A Team of One
Wednesday: Shifting Gears (and now you know where the Stick Chicktivity image in this post comes from)

I re-shared these posts:
TuesdayKIAAA-HA! The Awesome Films of Cüneyt Arkın
Thursday: CROSS POST: That Parent: The Coach by our friend +Joelle White!
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Shoes, or no Shoes?

I also write for our school's blog. Each week is a post about a different martial arts value (and thanks for all your help on the topic, folks).  This week's post was on Confidence, and you can read it here.


Ran across a nice blog post on aging in Karate over on Facebook. I've written about aging in the martial arts myself some time back (here and here). I like the thoughtful consideration of the impact of aging on rank.  Should old martial artist be reduced in Dan rank due to failing bodies?

Active Self Protection posted a breakdown and analysis of an unprovoked attack on an elderly woman here.  This particular scenario is nearly impossible to defend against.  Gives you lots to think about when thinking about self defense.


Today's my Kobudo test on the bo.  I'll be writing about it on Monday. Will I have actual pictures of me in a white gi?  You'll have to check the blog on Monday to find out!

Hubby is attending HKI Kyusho Camp this week.  He texted me last night saying he'd already been knocked out and was having a great time!

So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shifting Gears

As many of you know, I am an instructor in our own community center martial arts program, and I'm also an assistant instructor for my teacher at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.

This means, most of the time, I spend my martial arts time in "instructor mode".

I'm not in the mind set of learning, but in teaching.  This means that I am thinking about the lesson plan, the curriculum, the progress of each student I work with, and mentally keeping "just ahead" of what the students are doing at any given moment. 

Leading warm-ups at Mid-Cities Arnis

At Hidden Sword, especially on Saturdays, I need to confer with my teacher in order to know what material he wants to cover.  This is  especially necessary with the junior Arnis students (the kids program), as I don't usually see them during the week (their class is before the one I attend; it's simply too early for me to be able to make on a regular basis).

At Mid-Cities Arnis, we have a written lesson plan for each class, so I need to make sure I'm teaching to the plan.

If you don't teach, you may not realize how much work this really is.  I usually leave class a bit mentally tired. I usually don't get the same kind of workout that students get (and that's one reason why you may see long-time and busy martial arts instructors on the heavier side, because you run out of time to work on yourself).  I also don't get the same effect of getting an insomnia cure that I do when I'm in pure student mode (because I can't totally switch my brain to being solely "in the now").

I've always been, in one way or another, a teacher-type.  I find myself in situations where I need to teach others, and I planned on being a school teacher (teaching history) until I found out how much bureaucracy and paperwork that's involved. Teaching is something I've always gravitated towards, and it's nice to be able to do it in my favorite hobby.

Teaching Anyo Apat to a visiting Hidden Sword student

But it is a lot of responsibility, day in, day out.

Maybe that's why I enjoy the opportunity to shift gears into full "student-mode" when I'm in kobudo, or when I go to seminars.  I get to reconnect to being a student again, and all the responsibility I have for the time I'm there is generally for my own progress and education and nobody else's.  I can "let go" all of the things that are needed when you instruct others.

I can also reconnect with the reasons I enjoy the martial arts in the first place - the physical and mental benefits, the camaraderie of being with other students and peers, the pure joy of acquiring new skills.

I still need my student mode time.  I don't know if I ever won't need it - I kind of hope I always have a part of my life where I'm just another student.  Maybe this is why you hear of life-long martial artists going from art to art (reportedly, Chuck Norris studies BJJ in his seventies).  This is why the MAPA concept seems to work - most of the rotating instructors seem to enjoy being able to be in student mode at our events as well as teaching.

Why are you asking me, kid?  Oh yeah, that's right... never mind.

Some of us just can't let the trapping of rank or reputation go, and they end up needed to be seen and to act in "instructor mode" all the time.  They never spend any time as students, ever.

I feel sad for people who can't or won't spend time as a student, as there is a real pleasure in letting rank and ego go and just opening the mind and learning what someone else has to offer you.  It's mentally and physically invigorating and it helps keep us connected to why we fell in love with acquiring bruises for fun in the first place.

Student mode makes my instructor mode better.  Not only do you get new material to teach your students, but it makes you a better martial artist overall.

If you're an instructor, how do you make sure you get to go into student mode (if at all)?  I'd love to know what you think!

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Team of One

There's a saying that I just love to pieces, and use often:

Monkeys in tuxedos are ALWAYS AWESOME.
 Image from Ashley of

It's an expression of the attitude of worrying about your own business, and not worrying so much about the business of others.

You are responsible for YOU - your own circus, your own monkeys.

This is especially true in the martial arts.

Of course we depend on our teachers and training partners to work hard, study well, and be competent and trustworthy when we work with them.   That's a given.

What we do, at its most basic level, is a 100% individualistic endeavor.

Our progress, with few exceptions, depends mostly on ourselves, and ourselves alone.  Not only is it a matter of natural talent (we all know those people who are physically gifted) but it's a matter of hard work, plain and simple.

There are lots of aspects of our study we can't control.  We can't control injury or when/where a bad guy chooses to offer us violence, for example.  But so very much of what we do is totally up to us.

Studying the martial arts is one of those activities where our own effort counts more than anything else.  We don't have to worry too much about team work, about whether or not the others are working as hard (or harder) than we are, or whether someone else has done their part enough so that we can be successful in what we do.  We can't "lose" martial arts because someone else didn't do their part.

We can't depend on other people to "cover" us if we fail, either.  No matter the martial art, if we're having an off day, or we haven't practiced, or we aren't doing what we're supposed to do, it shows and it can't be blamed on anything else.

This is one of the more powerful aspects of the study of the martial arts.  People who stick tend to develop a sense of personal responsibility for their own success and the habits to make that success happen.  This is why I think we tend to see kids in the martial arts excel in academics, other sports (including team sports) and activities that require a lot of skill and practice (such as playing musical instruments).

We're our own team coach, captain, and cheerleader.

We're on a team of one.


Saturday, October 3, 2015


Here's how my week of training, writing, teaching, and miscellaneous martial artsy goodness went.

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday: One hour of Arnis, then an hour of Kobudo. Got some good corrections on my one-steps, but I strained my wrist pretty good.  Luckily, it wasn't too serious.
Sunday: Taught ADE Women's Self Defense session at NRH Centre.  Took it easy on my wrist so I didn't practice with a weapon.
Monday: Got sick, didn't train.
Tuesday: Still sick, didn't train or teach.
Wednesday:  Still sick, whined about it on the blog, didn't train.
Thursday: Taught Arnis class.  It's the first of the month and we have two new students signing up!
Friday:  Review time, teaching our new "zero belts", and a bit of stick sparring wraps up the week.  Finally got to practice bo again, too!  Yay!


I posted these new posts of original content this week:

Monday: Martial Arts Ruins Everything
Wednesday: Too Sick, Too Tired
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: How Long To Earn a Black Belt?

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday: In Defense of Violence
Thursday: Roots and Branches

I also write for our school's blog.  Each week is a post about a different martial arts value (and thanks for all your help on the topic, folks).  This week's post was on PATIENCE.


Marc MacYoung posted a great post called "The Conflict Cycle" - about how conflict happens, and detailing his theory of the human brain, the monkey brain, and the lizard brain.  Very insightful - long read but worth your time.

Hock Hochheim wrote a nice post about firearms in the USA here.  If you are NOT in the USA, you might find it interesting.

Interesting article about fitness - and how you can't always tell by just looking.  Being Fit vs. Looking Fit

Neat video of a Hung Gar staff demo over on Facebook - you really should check it out here, even if you don't have/like Facebook.  Worth your time.

And I can't share this article enough (which I found via Kelly Worden on Facebook): 10 Important Things To Know About Violence


Today's the last day I have to practice with my teacher before my Kobudo test next week.  Since I missed so much training this week, I have to spend extra practice time over the next week to make sure I'm ready to test.  I'm feeling good for the test, but it doesn't hurt to EXTRA practice, right?

So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!