Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Goals Update: FINAL

At the beginning of the year 2015, I made a few goals for myself and this blog.  I edited them and updated them here and here.

Here's how it all turned out.


1) Increase Seminar Attendance

My original goal was 6 for the year. Here's all the seminars I attended in 2015:
  • MAPA 4
  • MAPA 5
  • MAPA 6
  • MAPA 7
  • IMAF Houtson Camp
  • IMAF Dallas Camp
  • PAC (one session)
  • A-KATO Seminar
  • Datu Dieter Kn├╝ttel
  • Dan Anderson
  • Datu Tim Hartman 
This year, I've gotten to learn from all sorts of people, from local players like me up to leaders of major organizations in my art and others.  It was a huge year for making connections, meeting lots of new people, and personal growth.  I noted that I wanted to get to a small circle jujitsu seminar, but that was not to be this year (the best opportunity conflicted with a different seminar I was already committed to attending!)

This goal was achieved, and then some.

Me acting as +Datu Hartman's victim.. um, I mean, uke, at his seminar in November.

2) Back to Basics

Starting a martial arts school, with all new students, means you spend a LOT of time in the basics.  I didn't know that we'd have Mid-Cities Arnis when I made this goal, but it's kind of interesting that I did.  So I spent a lot of time thinking about range, about targets, about footwork, about proper blocking, about proper striking and strike mechanics... it was a very fundamental year, really.

I wanted to have more flow, and smoother motion.  I think I do - between the seminars and the teaching new students... hard not to improve there.

Note - I discovered (for myself) something in the basics I never thought of before very recently, so it goes to show that spending time in fundamentals pays off.

3) Meet my weight loss goal

My goal was to lose four pants sizes.  I've lost 3, and I'm not too far from reaching goal (I am a loose size 12 and a tight 10). I did buy a new gi - my white one for my first test in Kobudo back in October - which is one size smaller than the black/red combo you usually see me wear in pictures.  I didn't actually meet the specific goal, but I'm very pleased with the results.  Check it out:




There's a whole lot less of the Stick Chick!

I'm very happy with how I made progress on this goal in 2015 - of all my goals, this was the big one, and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment.  I have a bit to go - the last 10-15 lbs are always the hardest -  but I'm sure I'll get there in 2016.  I also fundamentally changed the way I eat, permanently, and I think I eat a lot healthier than I used to, which is always good.  So I plan to maintain the progress forever.

Get thee behind me, Nacho Cheese Doritos.

4) Continue at the Gym

Nope. Failed in a big way.  I just didn't have the time.

Pretty much.


5) Start Kobudo

I did, and I'm loving it!  Goal achieved.

6) Enrollment of 10 students in Mid-Cities Arnis

I set this mid-year.  We're still at 8 students, and I'm glad we have those eight.  We are planning a big marketing push in the new year.  Goal not achieved.

I set a goal for 65,000 blog views in 2015.  I passed this goal on Thanksgiving weekend, a month early!   As of this writing (it could and probably will change in the last day or two of the year), I'm averaging 199 posts/day this year - to make 65K (and a little change) I had to have 179 views/day. Goal blown away, mainly thank to Master Ken sharing my fan post of Todd back in July - that gave me as many views in a few days as I get in a month.  Without that, I think I still would have made goal, but just barely. Either way, it was a great year for growth of the Stick Chick blog.  Many thanks.

Overall, 2015 was a banner year for me:  I got to learn from some of the top guys in my art, I met a lot of new friends at seminars, I got better at what I do mentally and physically, I expanded my martial arts horizons in kobudo, we started our martial arts program, and my younger daughter started martial arts.  Plus this blog chugged along really well, and I wrote some things I'm pretty proud of.  It was an outstanding year and it'll be hard to top it.

I'll be publishing my 2016 goals in a few days, for my martial arts life and for this blog.

How did your year go?  Did you make any goals for 2015, and how was your progress?  Let us know in the comments!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Stick Chick Blog 2015 - Top Posts of 2015



When you write a blog, it's always interesting to see what content resonates with your audience, and what falls flat.

You can work for months on a post, writing and rewriting, coming up with the perfect images or video, post it, and you hear crickets.  Or, you can bang out a quick post at the last minute, having suffered from a completely blank mind up until deadline, and it practically goes viral.

This. Sometimes this.

That's life in the blogging game.

Last year, I ranked my top 10 posts. This year, I felt like I got so much great reaction on content I reshared more than once and were written the year before that the idea of "top 10 posts" became kind of irrelevant.  So here's a look at the posts that did really well for some reason, or the ones I'm the most proud of, that I wrote and published in 2015.

The #1 post in 2015 by a landslide (in fact #1 ever in the two year history of this blog)...


Admittedly, if you're going to coat-tail on anybody in the martial arts world that just about everybody loves to pieces, it'd be Master Ken, right?  I wrote this in June as one of those last-minute "What the hell am I gonna blog about?" kinds of posts.  I woke up that morning drawing a blank, went through some martial arts discussion groups, looked at YouTube and watched another "Enter the Dojo" episode and then it hit me.  Nobody ever praises Todd Woodland, but he's the one who makes all that stuff work (and I mean this seriously - Joe Conway, who plays Todd, does a great job in making the stuff work). I pulled it together in a half hour or so, and put it out there, and people seemed to like it.  It was an okay post, good for a Saturday at the last minute.

Then about a month later, Master Ken posted it on his Facebook page, and Matt Page (the real guy behind Master Ken) shared it on his personal Facebook page.

And the Stick Chick blog exploded.

It was on a Sunday night, and I could see the views jump by dozens at a time by constantly refreshing my browser.  Within 36 hours of that post, I got as many views as I do in the best month I've ever had up to that point.  It was nuts.  It was huge.  It was my best month ever.

It was awesome.

So lesson learned here? 

Coming to the attention what we marketers call an "influencer" - somebody who is in your "space" and is highly influential to your audience - can be a huge lift to your work.  Matt shared my post and for a while I rode a huge wave of new audience views.  While it's calmed back down to normal, I'm pretty sure I picked up a few new regular readers out of it.

I've written what I call "fan posts" like this post before (like the one talking about an awesome fight scene in Daredevil, or the one where I share my love of Kung Fury).  It's a nice backup plan when you can't think of other stuff to write.   I didn't expect Matt to share it like he did - I didn't even know if he saw it.

But man, that was so fun when he did.  I'll always be grateful for that.  Now I have to figure out a new take on Chuck Norris or the UFC and see if they will post it in their channels... hmmmmmm....

Other posts that you guys seem to like this year, or I was particularly proud of, in no particular order:

Let's Talk Sticks - my arnis stick buying guide

Enough with Sensei Scumbag's Shenanigans! - my frustration with sexual predators in the martial arts community, and my suggestions for how we can tackle the problem

Knives Suck - a breakdown of a guy murdered by another guy with a knife, and what I learned from it

More on Strike Mechanics - nerding out on how striking works in Arnis

Style Wars - declaring a cease-fire on style-vs-style arguments

Filipino Martial Arts - Why We Don't Make the List - riffing off of a post by +Brian Johns about why the FMA's are so relatively obscure inside and outside the martial arts world

Ranks, Belts and Shenanigans - why the ranking system we typically use has a serious downside

The Myth of Realism - how "alive" is "alive training", really?

Just Call Me the Mayor of Newbietown - how much I love working with n00bs (seriously)

A Question of Trust - why it's  hard to develop the trust we need to train together

THAT GUY: The Full Cup - the person who come to learn but already knows everything

THAT GUY: Overly Macho Guy - he will never, ever tap.

6 Annoying Things About Being a Female Martial Artist - 1 (and part 2) - I love being a female in the martial arts, but man, there are some annoying parts about it


The Monster Post of Martial Arts Marketing Tips and Tools - my attempt to help all all y'all do better with marketing your stuff

A Secret of the 12 Angles of Attack Revealed (to me) - I got less dumb about something that's right in front of me in the basics of Modern Arnis

If you're a regular reader, did any of the posts I listed here make your "best of" this blog?  Did I miss a favorite post? I want to know what you think (as always)!



Saturday, December 26, 2015

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 12/26/15

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  Hidden Sword is on break, so I practiced tonfa and bo.
Sunday:   Saw "Star Wars: The Force Awakens".  Awesome movie.
Monday:  Hidden Sword is on break, so I did a little bo practice (didn't get to tonfa).
Tuesday:  Special topics class at Mid-Cities Arnis. We showed a few things from what we show our women's self defense course, and what we call "policing" techniques. Very fun class!
Wednesday:  I spent my evening making Christmas cookies.
Thursday: Christmas Eve.  Final decor, plus Santa brings the tree in my family tradition, so... it was a busy night.
Friday: Merry Christmas!

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:  The Important Bits of Star Wars: The Force Awakens - the Fights!

I re-shared these posts:
TuesdayThe Monster Post of Martial Arts Marketing Tips and Tools
Wednesday: Pondering Green Belt
Thursday:  If Dis Den Dat, or DAT!

My martial arts school is on holiday hiatus - our bad luck that the holidays fall on Thursday/Friday this year - so no value post this week.

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

Dan Djurdevic is on fire lately.  Read his post about blocking the jab here and about physical requirements for grades here.

Marc MacYoung shared this blog post about women in the firearms community - and in my experience, it applies to the wider martial arts community, too.  Excellent read.

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

FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Half way through the disruption that are the holidays.  I'll be glad when we get past New Years.

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!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Important Bits of Star Wars:The Force Awakens - THE FIGHTS! (A Review)

I saw the new Star Wars movie over the weekend, and I want to talk about the important bits.

Which are, of course, the fight scenes.

Image found here.
Hold up.

There's gonna be a few spoilers here, people.  I'll avoid the big ones and the huge plot points - can you believe that... um... never mind... but I'll have to discuss a few details.  So if you haven't seen the movie and want to be 100% spoiler free, you should skip this post.



Okay, you're warned.

So lots of other people will review the plot (and the plot holes - there are some big ones), the characters, and all of the action.   I won't go into those details here.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  For me, it comes in a close second to "The Empire Strikes Back".

Yeah.  It's that good.

My primary need for films like this is to be entertained.  Did I have a good time, was I ever pulled out of the magic of the movie by weird plot holes, or bad acting/dialog, or nonsensical things happening?  Were the fight scenes wildly unrealistic or silly or would totally get someone killed?

Given that so many of our fanboys and girls think movie fighting is real fighting, it's always something that's on my mind - the realism of the fight scenes.

I only have one major quibble with this movie - the political world doesn't make any sense if you give it any thought at all.  But it fulfilled those primary considerations - I never had to work hard to suspend my disbelief, and the fast pace and really great acting and dialog was fantastic.

Overall, the movie was much more natural and "lived in" than we've come to expect in the Star Wars universe (even more so than most of the "original" movies, with the exception of the "Empire Strikes Back", which is very natural).  There's tons of humor but it isn't forced or heavy handed.  There's plenty of stuff kids will like - my 6 year old was very happy - but it doesn't pander to them.  It moves quickly, there's tons of tension... it's everything you want in a good Star Wars film.

I love the "new generation" protagonists - Rey and Finn.  I especially like Finn's arc, and can't wait to learn more about him.  Rey's origins are mysterious, and I have my own theory on who she is, but hubby disagrees.

But let's get to the fights.  Not the gun battles - the fights.

I really liked the fights.

Oh, it was so nice not to have tons of gymnastics and flipping about and spinning and junk!  These were still theatrical fights - if your eye is trained you'll spot the holes - but they were basic, practical, and realistic (well, as realistic as a film with a lightsaber can be, I guess).

Take Rey's fight against two thugs on Jakku.  She has what is essentially a jo, although she wields it more like a bo in sections (necessarily, I think, as the space she's in isn't that large).  No spinning, no jumping around, just hitting the bad guys with her big stick, and she struggled vs. two opponents, as a person would.

Finn's fight with a lightsaber against Kylo Ren - he does it twice - I found a little less... believable, if only because Finn is an untrained storm trooper - he at one points begs to find a blaster.  Perhaps it's supposed to underscore Finn's heroic nature (even if he did try to flee the First Order).  Kylo Ren is trained.  He should have killed Finn in seconds, unless he was just playing with him.  I enjoyed the fights - they were basic and brutal - but that is the one thing I struggled with just a bit.

Rey's fight against Kylo Ren with a lightsaber was far more believable, even if you account for her mysterious connection to the force.  We'd already seen her fight with the jo/bo thing, and she did a lot of poking/stabbing motions that reminded me of what I've learned with jo.  She's (practically) trained in a long hand weapon, so it made a lot more sense that she'd be able to go toe to toe with Ren, even if she was unfamiliar with the lightsaber itself.

I also liked Ren's fighting style.  It was far more European, which went with the type of lightsaber he has.

So if you've seen the movie - what did you think of the fight scenes?  Of course, I'll be happy to geek out over the whole film with you if you like.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 12/19/15

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  Arnis class in the morning - we sparred with Action flex weapons, and we used more than just the "escrima" sticks (I loved playing with the jo, personally), so I got to use some of my kobudo skills as well.  In sparring, I really believe that the jo is the most versatile of those weapons - it's a perfect blend of the advantage of length with the advantage of a lighter weapon.  In the afternoon I went to Dallas and kobudo class.  I wasn't too far behind the rest of the class and kept up pretty well.  My arms were sore and tired the next day.
Sunday:  Suck it up, sore arms - had to run through Bo and Tonfa today anyway!  Mr. Chick attended Pacific Archipelago Combatives all weekend, and by his surprise (and mine), he was promoted to 1st Dan Black Belt in that system by +Hock Hochheim.  I'm so proud of him!  While he's studied with Hock directly for a year, he's actually been learning the material since we started with our teacher.  It was a pretty intense weekend and he's whupped - and happy!
Monday:  Younger daughter took her yellow belt test in Tae Kwon Do - and passed!  I wrote about it this week.  After her class I stayed for our Arnis class later in the evening.  It was a looonnnggg day.
Tuesday: Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on four-count sinawali and targeting.
Wednesday:  My day off (well, I run Older Daughter to fencing).  So it was just bo and tonfa practice for me.
Thursday: Last Thursday class for two weeks at Mid-Cities Arnis - worked on block+check, brush-grab-strike, and hubud-lubud drills.  Bad luck for us the holidays fall as they do!  After that, we went to Hidden Sword's Christmas party, which marks the start of a 'break' in our school until the new year.
Friday: Last stick sparring class at Mid-Cities arnis for 2015.  It's always a fun class and a great way to end our week.


Whew!  That was a big week!

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:   Why Tonfa ROCK!
Wednesday: The Dream Came True

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday: And Then There Were None
Thursday:  The Entropy Game
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Kids in Combat Sports

I also write for our school's blog.  This week's value was Integrity, and I wrote about it here.

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

Nice article shared by my friend John Borter on Facebook.  Self-Defense Realities: Justified vs. Excessive Force

Neat video using native Filipino (as opposed to English/Spanish borrow words) in the Filipino Martial Arts:



Found an AWESOME knife defense video over on Facebook.  Can't embed it here, so click HERE for the link.  DO NOT MISS THIS VERY IMPORTANT KNIFE DEFENSE VIDEO.  It will change your life.

Nice blog post about why it's good to start martial arts training in your 40's - check it out HERE.

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

FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

The year is winding down and I'm working on my goals for my martial arts life and for this blog in the new year.  2015 was banner year, and I find myself looking back on my year with fondness and a wonder on how I actually did it all.

I'm ready for the holidays, but I'm also ready for them to be over.  I am not one of those people who put a ton of emphasis - positive or negative - on this time of year, but I dislike big disruptions to my routine. The nice thing about the first few months of a new year  - no big holidays!

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, December 16, 2015

The Dream Came True

Oh yeah, it's another parentbrag post, people.  Fair warning.

It had to be, oh, over two years ago now, when Mr. Chick told me about a dream he had.

It involved Younger Daughter, in our teacher's Tae Kwon Do program, taking her first rank belt test (for yellow).  In his dream - which happened before Older Daughter earned her black belt - Younger Daughter received her yellow belt from her sister.

As you can imagine, for a martial arts family, the idea of the youngest member getting her first rank belt from her sister, the black belt is... wow, just, very emotional and powerful.  Mr. Chick's dream captured both of our imaginations.

Fast forward to this year.  Younger Daughter started tae kwon do this year, after a fitful start or two, and she was even in our Arnis class for a while (but no longer - she's now totally focused on tae kwon do).  Younger Daughter is in martial arts because she wants to be there, mind you - not because we've made her do it.  She wants to be like her sister right now, and she's definitely more of an assertive personality than her older sister was.

Well, guess what, y'all?  This happened Monday night:


That's Older Daughter, who is handing Younger Daughter her shiny new yellow belt in tae kwon do after her successful yellow belt test.

Hubby's dream came true.

As you can imagine, this is how we reacted:


Yep, we are some very, very happy and proud parents.

Yes, I know about the belt being tied wrong.

Tell us about a particular moment in your child (or a student's) training progression that stands out to you.  What time in the martial arts made you feel like your heart was going to burst because it was full of rainbows?  We want to know!




Monday, December 14, 2015

Why Tonfa ROCK!

Of all the kobudo weapons I knew I was going to learn in the AKATO program, the one I was looking forward to most was the tonfa.

These are my tonfa. There are many others like them, but these are mine.
I've been fascinated with tonfa since I first saw them early in my martial arts training.   I know that for many of us, tonfa is probably the least favorite kobudo weapon.  It's hard on the arms (wrists, hands, shoulders and oh, my forearms) and if you don't have a bunch of calluses like I do, developed from Arnis, it can really be hard on the hands, especially the thumb.  It doesn't give a huge advantage in reach compared to other weapons.

They certainly aren't very flashy or impressive looking compared to other weapons.

I think I like the basic nature of the tonfa.  It's a solid, no-nonsense kind of weapon, and I like solid, no-nonsense weapons.  I'm a solid, no-nonsense kind of martial artist.

Exhibit A.
Tonfa are not flashy.  Tonfa don't lend themselves well to spinning and dancing about.  You rarely see tonfa wrapped in reflective tape or sold as "Speed 'Fa" or people doing tonfa forms and tricking set to music.

Oh, crap, somebody's going to do this now, aren't they?

My bad.

There are some amazing strikes in tonfa that may look complex but really, when you look closely, it's not that difficult (well, not that difficult to do in principle - good execution is another matter, something I'm learning myself right now, because I do suck hard at this right now).

I also like the idea of the force multiplier and support in blocking tonfa gives you. Tonfa are solid chunks of wood (round, square or flat - they're all solid). They are wide enough to provide a bit more protection against incoming attacks vs. other weapons.  Getting punched with tonfa in natural grip (held by the handle) is gonna hurt no matter where you take the strike.  Get good with swinging it around, and you get a nice extension to your reach, as well as a pull-through striking motion.  I'm primarily a weapons-oriented martial artist, but it seems to me like tonfa would be the easiest weapon for your empty-handers to catch onto and use properly in a pinch.

Tonfa are also versatile.  Hold it by the handle, hold it by the end, hold it in the middle, hold it in various grips... there's all sorts of ways to use it to your advantage, offensively and defensively (do that with a sai or a kama and see where the tonfa is far more versatile).  As someone who is very committed to the idea of improvised weapons, I think tonfa training is good for that attitude.

Watch this - just watch this, and see how awesome fighting with tonfa can be.  It's a form, but you can see how devastating this man would be with the tonfa.



DUDE!  Wow!

So right now I'm camping very happily in my kobudo class, as it's tonfa time.  I missed our first session (I was at a seminar with +Datu Hartman), which I understand was all basics, so MY first class went straight into our 16 count blocking set, our one-hand strike set, our double strike set, and the beginning of our form Tonfa Ichi, which is basically the same as our Bo Ichi but adapted to tonfa.

I'm already seeing the commonality between things we do in Arnis, and things I'm doing with the tonfa, especially when it comes to the position and angle of certain blocks.

Oh, I have to keep practicing bo, the weapon I hate less than I used to, but I get to add in tonfa, the awesomest weapon EVAH to the mix.  So I do bo first (the vegetables) and then I do tonfa (dessert).

So what's your favorite kobudo (or other weapon)?  Why is that your favorite?  If you haven't studied weapons, what's the one you wish you could study if you had the opportunity?  Tell us in the comments!



Saturday, December 12, 2015

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 12/12/15

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  Arnis class in the morning.  Worked with some mid-to-high level belts at Hidden Sword to perfect the sinawali patterns they know, focusing in on proper targeting and chambering. Nice discussion and practice of the fundamentals.  Taught ADE Self Defense in the afternoon.  Good day!
Sunday:  It was the 2 year anniversary of the blog!  I wrote about it below.  Spent the day thus: writing, writing, bathe, writing, Chiefs game, writing, laundry, writing, grocery shopping, Christmas Decorations, writing, bo and tonfa, sleep.
Monday:  Attended class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  Played a bit of sumbrada, which I'm always up for - I love it.
Tuesday: Taught Combative Responses #1 and #2 empty handed at Mid-Cities Arnis.  These are from the Kombatan side of our training, and always very practical and fun.
Wednesday:  My day off.  Ran quickly through bo; couldn't get the room to practice tonfa.
Thursday: Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Continued on Combative Response #1 and #2 with sticks.
Friday: Review and stick sparring night at Mid-Cities Arnis.  I love stick sparring night.  It's a great way to end our week.

I was playing two sticks vs. his one.  BOOM BOOM!

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:

Sunday: It's the 2 Year Anniversary of the Stick Chick Blog!
Monday:  Filipino Martial Artists: The MacGuvyers of the Martial Arts World
Wednesday: A Secret of the 12 Angles of Attack Revealed (to me)
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Martial Arts Videos on the Internet - Good or Bad Idea?

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday: Four Hand
Thursday: The Purple Knuckles Club

I also write for our school's blog.  This week's value was Self Control (my kids this week were antsy as all get-out, so this was great timing for this value) and I wrote about it here.

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

My friend +Abel Mann Martinez shared this on Facebook and I have watched it several times.  It's the tekpi (Malaysian version of the weapons known to most of us as the Sai from the Okinawan arts) and it is so... smooooth.



The next +Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance  gathering, MAPA 8 Winter Gathering, is scheduled for January 30, 2016 in Mesquite, TX.  Like the Facebook page and come train with us!

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

FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Hooray!  Today I get to go to kobudo with AKATO over in Dallas!  I didn't get to go to the November session due to +Datu Hartman's seminar.  Glad to be back on track!

Mr. Chick is spending the weekend at +W. Hock Hochheim Combatives' PAC Black Belt weekend (we're hosting it at our rec center - he's not testing).  He's been going to PAC all year long, so it's the wrap-up seminar.  Next year he starts knife with Hock every month.

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, December 11, 2015

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Martial Arts Videos on the Internet - Good or Bad Idea?

IT'S FACE-OFF FRIDAY!

Lots of martial artists and martial arts schools put out video as a way to advertise what they do and to attract students.

Sometimes it's merely demo, or short commercial-type videos.  Sales pitches, if you will.

Other times it's from a seminar, or a class, and may be more instructional in nature, such as showing how to do a specific technique,

Putting out video for your martial arts school or as a martial arts teacher has its pros and cons.

The pros are visibility for your school, letting potential students see what you do, and if you put out instructional videos, sharing a best practice of what you do with the world.  You control what the video is, so you can put your best foot forward.  It promotes your school, yourself, and your art, so more people can learn about you, and maybe train in what you do.

The cons are that other people may not like what you do and will comment/share it in a negative way, or that people will try to copy your techniques (usually poorly).  Nobody wants to feel like they are "giving their art away", and sometimes it seems as this if this is happening, because there's plenty of people out there with "black belts" from the "YouTube Dojo".  Also, putting videos together can be a lot of work!

So what do you think?  Do the pros outweight the cons for you?  Or have the cons prevented you from putting out your own video?

Are martial arts videos on the internet a good or bad idea?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Secret of the 12 Angles of Attack Revealed (to me)

You ever have one of those moments, those blinding flashes of insight, and once it comes, you think to yourself, "How was I too dumb to see this for so long?"

That was my week.  Fair warning - this is yet another one of those chock full o'geekery very specific to Arnis posts.

It does.  It really, really does.

We have new students at Mid-Cities Arnis and at Hidden Sword, so I've been teaching a lot of basics, including teaching the 12 Angles of Attack from Modern Arnis.

Like many Filipino Martial Arts, Modern Arnis has a striking pattern for training that is usually one of the very first things new students learn.  Essentially, this pattern - the 12 Angles of Attack - becomes a "short hand" while we train.

So, if I ask +Brian Johns to attack me with a #3 and he has the stick in his right hand, I know he's going to come at me with a forehand strike to my midsection on my left side (elbow or ribs).  Brian and I have never trained together in real life, but we both understand each other because we both do the same 12 Angles of Attack.  Saying "#3" is a lot more efficient than saying, "Forehand on my left side to the midsection, around the elbow or rib area".  By the time I finish saying all of that, Brian has me in a lock and I'm crying on the floor.

It's just more efficient to use the numbers in everyday training.

We will get the same result with every person on earth that uses the Modern Arnis 12 Angles of Attack.  If I am asked to deliver a #7 strike, the person asking knows I'm *not* going to deliver a low shot to the knee.  They'll get a poke towards their right shoulder, if I have the stick in my right hand.  We all speak the same "language".

Kang makipag-usap ba ang sakit?
There's a pattern to the 12 angles when you do them in order (which is how we generally introduce it). At least, there seemed to be one when I was a newbie and I was first learning this, and it's stuck in my brain ever since.

The strikes in order are, if I have a stick in my right hand:

#1 is a strike on (my) right head-high, #2 is a strike on my left head-high, #3 strike on my right middle (ribs or elbow), #4 strike on my left middle (ribs or elbow)...

Then we insert a poke to the midsection up the middle with the #5 strike.

Then, we alternate again - a poke to the right shoulder (#6), a poke to the left shoulder (#7).

And then we go back into strikes, but the two low strikes start on the left, nor the right (#8 is a low backhand strike on my left, #9 is a low forehand strike on my right).

Then we poke again - (#10) first one on the right eye, (#11) second on the left eye, and then we have an overhand strike to the top of the head (#12).

Did you spot the pattern that I did at first?  You strike to a target on the right then left, then new target on the right, then left... alternating, always on the right FIRST.  Makes it easy to remember which is which.

Until you get to strikes #8 and #9.  Those two "break" the pattern, which resumes again with the #10 strike.

It is common for new students to get these two low strikes confused with one another because they do seem to be "out of order".  I did too.  I overcame it by doing the 12 strikes about a billion times.

Necessity may the mother of invention, but repetition is the mother of skill.
There wasn't any convenient pattern I could build in my mind to overcome this "break" other than repetition.  My mind runs to patterns - that's why I'm pretty good at picking up sinawali patterns.  So it's always bugged me a little bit.

It turns out, there is a pattern there, but I couldn't or wouldn't see it.  I only discovered this for myself in the last week or so.

No, I'm not kidding.  This is an absolutely 100% true story.

I came to this discovery in two steps.

The first step was this realization:

Odd numbered strikes on an angle are forehands delivered to the same side that I'm holding the weapon (aka, a mirror image - same side). Even numbered strikes on an angle are backhands to the opposite of my weapon side.

Even numbered pokes not up the middle are to the same side, odd numbered pokes are to the opposite side.

#5 and #12 are anomalies as they are "middle" strikes - one a poke, one an overhand strike.

So, looking at the 12 angles another way, you can "group" #1, #3, #9, #6 and #10 (all being on the same side of your body as your weapon) and #2, #4, #8, #7 and #11 (opposite side of your body as your weapon).  #5 and #12 are in a category of their own.

But THAT'S NOT THE REAL PATTERN.

It's close, but it's not the real one.

Here's the second step:

This is directly related to my post "Four Hand" and this epiphany hit me while chatting with Brian Johns about this stuff.  I've been using that exact cue in class for the last week or so, so this is how I finally connected all of this.

All of the odd numbered strikes and pokes are actually "four hands", if you use that little cue I talk about using in "Four Hand". That is, you look down at your hand on the strike or poke, and you see your four fingers.

All of the even numbered strikes and pokes are "back hands" - that is, you can see the back of the hand if you are doing the strike/poke correctly.  Going by this criteria, the #5 strike is typically a forehand, and the #12 strike is a backhand.

There are only two "groups" in the 12 Angles of attack. Forehands and backhands at various targets.

That's the real pattern.  Evens are backhands, odds are forehands.  All we are doing is aiming at a variety of common targets, but it's just backhands and forehands, over and over. The numbering just tells you where the target is, and that isn't as important because that changes all the time in flow (for example, you learn the #6 strike at the shoulder but you can use it against many different targets).

That's it. It's that simple.


Now that I've finally figured this out, all sorts of new ways to approach teaching and practicing the 12 angles are coming to me.  It's pretty exciting, and it's cool that something so basic, so fundamental, something I know so incredibly well has presented something completely new to me, a new way of communicating a key tool in my art.

Thanks to working with new students - which I actually really enjoy.

I can't believe it took me so long to figure this out.

Have you have one of those "HOLY MOLY!!" events where a completely new way of thinking of something you know well presents itself?  I'd love to hear about those times where you shouted, "EUREKA!"

Monday, December 7, 2015

Filipino Martial Artists: The MacGuyvers of the Martial Arts World

For those of you who don't know, MacGuyver was a TV show about a genius government agent who could solve complex problems using everyday, often complete innocuous objects - things like paper clips, gum wrappers, and hand mirrors.  It wasn't a great show, in my opinion, but the creative ways MacGuyver would solve desperate situations using stuff in his pockets or found in the room was kinda cool.


A criticism often made of the Filipino Martial Arts is that we don't walk around holding a 28" stick or the bolo or short sword it's a stand-in for, even if we get some admiration for our knife training. It's also not unusual for gun owners (and concealed carry permit holders) believe they don't need to train in anything else, that a firearm is all you need for self defense.

Both of those positions display a fundamental lack of imagination.

I've already discussed why I think that firearms are not enough, and there are many, many experts in the field of self defense who would say the same thing.  I've also talked about - way back in the very early days of this blog - how I see my environment as weapons-rich in improvised weapons.

I think most of us would agree that in a conflict, we'd rather have something to help us fight the bad guy than nothing at all.  This is especially true if we are smaller than most people, or disabled, or older, or have injuries... basically, we typically want some sort of of equalizer or advantage when a bad guy is coming for us.  Having something as a weapon provides that equalizer.

The fact is, there were no empty-hand warriors going into battle anywhere in history.  Weapons are, and have always been, something you want if your life is on the line.  If you train self defense, not training in weapons is deliberately hobbling yourself and giving the bad guy a huge advantage.

Filipino Martial Artists start off training with a weapon in their hands from day one.  Early on, we are encouraged to make the connection between the stick and the empty hand (that is, we train both, even when we have the stick in our hand).  Flexibility of mind is trained early and often.

Because we usually train with rattan sticks, we are already starting off with a relatively safe substitute weapon - the rattan stick in place of a sword.  So already, mentally, we start of having to imagine something that doesn't exist on the tool we are using (that is, we have to have edge awareness if the stick is a stand-in for an edged weapon).  That also contributes being mentally flexible.

And then, it's not unusual for us to start training with other tools - dulo-dulo (palm stick) and bangkaw (long staff) and even our version of the nunchaku, tabak-toyok (or chako).  So now the connection is also made with very short, very long, and flexible tools and weapons.

Thus, we have all of these things in our training that allows us to look around a room, pick up an object, and use it as a weapon, with some skill.

This is famously displayed in the Bourne series movies (the fighting choreography is from the Filipino Martial Arts).  There's so many scenes to pick out, but here's the one that's my favorite - the one with the rolled up magazine.



This nice blog post details more instances in the Bourne series of fight scenes using improvised weapons - you really should check it out.

My teacher +Mark Lynn  made a video years ago demonstrating this exact same principle on Mr. Chick. He used a racquetball racket, a brush, and a ball point pen in an s-lock situation - things we actually found around the Rec Center we train at.  I promise that the grimaces of pain you see on Mr. Chick's face were absolutely real, and my teacher wasn't really going very hard on all this.  Watch his face specifically when my teacher uses the pen.  That one left a mark.


We also demonstrate this idea in our women's self defense course, to get them thinking about ways to help defend and escape an attacker.  We talk about the rolled up magazine - something you can carry on you no matter where you are (having something handy to read is just a bonus!).  We talk about the small compact umbrellas.  We talk about barrettes, and hair brushes, and pens, and this item right here:
I got mine at the dollar store, but you can order a pack with a large one here at Amazon.
You want the larger "D ring carabiner" - 3 inches (80mm) or more. Attach your keys to it, it's a flail.  If your hands are small enough - mine are - I can grip is so that the non-opening side is on the outside of my fist.  Yep, it's improvised "brass knuckles".

There are "tactical" pens selling for $30 or more, and some TSA staff have caught on to them and confiscated them at security.  So here's what we like instead - the steel Zebra ball point pen:

Found on Amazon here.
We found ours on sale at our local big-box office supply store.  But if this pen gets taken away at the security checkpoint at the airport - always possible - you're only out a few dollars vs. a huge investment in a "tactical pen".  Writes nice, too!  But we also think that the good ol' Bic pen will work very well - the one you can get at a dollar store 10 to a pack.  That one definitely will make it onto a plane with you.

So we talk about everyday objects you can have about your person and ready to use in a bad situation that you can carry EVERYWHERE.  I am not aware of any "pen free zones" or rules restricting the carry of a carabiner on a flight (or... anywhere).

We also learn about defensive capabilities.  My teacher is fond of showing the use of a backpack or book bag (or book) in self defense.  We practiced this with a stick bag at Mid-Cities Arnis (a softball bag I carry my equipment in) in our stick sparring class a few weeks ago (this is the use of our "Dos Manos" technique - we teach this in our white belt level):


This is why we Filipino Martial Artists are the MacGuyvers of the martial arts world.  We train with all sorts of different lengths of weapons (even flexible weapons sometimes) as well as empty hand, so we have the skill.  But because we are often working with substitute weapons (a stick for a blade is the big example) we train to have the mindset of being able to translate what we learn to other objects.  Any FMA player should be able to find a number of weapons in just about any room or situation. 

We are never actually "unarmed", unless we're naked in an empty room.

I'll leave the rest of that to your imagination.
If you're interested in self defense, training in the Filipino Martial Arts absolutely gives you mindset and the skills you need to be flexible and imaginative to cope with fluid situations.

It can make you a real-life MacGuyver!



Sunday, December 6, 2015

It's the 2 Year Anniversary of the Stick Chick Blog!

Two years ago on this date, I published the first post on this blog: Enter the Stick Chick.

The first image I posted here with a semi-clever comment.
Hey, I got funnier! Mostly! Kind of! Sometimes!  *sniffles*

Believe it or not, this blog actually is an outgrowth of my Pinterest account!

I was finding and pinning all sorts of martial arts-y goodness - my art, related Filipino Martial Arts, other martial arts good stuff, martial arts humor and culture, neat-o weapons.  I got lots of shares and likes there (I still do, although I'm rarely very active there any more due to time constraints). I enjoyed that interaction.

I found that I wanted to say something about it all.


This blog, summed up in one gif.

I wanted to provide my own point of view, my own commentary, and share my own journey. I was excited about a new web show called "Enter the Dojo", and I wanted to talk about it.  I was laughing at very bad martial arts videos - I enjoy those like I enjoy so-bad-it's-good movies.  I wanted to talk about what it's like to do what I do, especially since so much of the martial arts blogging world was either in arts I don't pursue, or are written by people who aren't short dumpy middle-aged women who started this journey very late in their lives.  I wanted to make my martial arts world wider and more diverse.

I wanted to converse with other people about all these things.

So I did a bit of cursory research, decided to use Blogger as a platform since I'm pretty heavy Google products user and it seemed the easiest to start with, and created this blog, The Stick Chick.  Fun fact - when I started in December 2013, there was another blog - looks like it's gone - with the same name on Blogger, but it was about knitting.

We were having a huge ice/snow storm in Dallas-Fort Worth in early December 2013, so I holed up on my warm couch with my laptop - not like we could go anywhere, as we have no road equipment for regular streets here - and wrote a whole bunch of posts all at once, and scheduled them.  I read them now and cringe, but that's how this works.  Early work sucks.  A lot.

Yep, pretty much the universal reaction.
It takes time to find a voice, and a style, and a theme for a blog.  If you are wanting to start but afraid that your work sucks, I assure you that right now, it probably does.  But it gets better with practice, and time, and experience, just like we do as martial artists.  Just as you sucked when you first stepped on mat, so you will suck when you start a blog.  But keep at it, and you do get better.

The Stick Chick is now a very different beast than it was in the early days (or even a year ago).  I have less video, for example, because it didn't seem to resonate with readers and it was hard to keep up with.

I'm not really posting "Shenanigans" posts any more, because it didn't seem to help, even though there's plenty of material to draw from.  I'm less critical than I used to be - although that definitely drives views and is pretty easy to write, I think in the long run that can hurt a blog's regular readership. I try to be more upbeat and positive here, as I actually am in real life.

This was this blog for a period of time about a year ago or so, not like the real me at all. Mostly.
I used to have a pattern to the posts I made in terms of theme (general topics on Wednesday, personal topics on Saturday, and rotating humor, shenanigans, self defense, and general topics) but I abandoned that and just write what I feel like writing now.

I used to have a regular guest blogger (see his work under the tag "Troy-Kwon-Do") , but life intervened and he doesn't have the time to contribute now, and I haven't found a new one (which I really would like, if anybody's interested but doesn't want to start/manage their own blog).

I've played with Motion Mondays (didn't have much response), and Face-Off Fridays (good response when I can think of a good topic - if you have any ideas, please let me know).  I moved fresh posting days from Wednesday/Saturday to Monday/Wednesday.

I started up a weekly round up post on Saturdays, an idea I blatantly stole from several other big-time bloggers who typically do the same thing.

Heck, I even bit the bullet and bought "thestickchick.com" url this year, even if it did mean losing all the comments from before the conversion (and I do miss those comments - there were some really good ones!).

In the past year, we opened Mid-Cities Arnis and I write for that blog too (thankfully it's a much less frequent and very tightly focused blog - very different than The Stick Chick).

I've learned a lot about marketing - social media in particular - since I started this blog.  This was actually another part of my purpose of writing the Stick Chick, and I've learned tons (I'm a direct/database marketer in my day job).

The Stick Chick is doing pretty well, as martial arts blogs go (although even after a couple of  years there are bloggers out there who blow me away in every metric you want to consider for success and I love those guys). I'm grateful for those of you who read, who comment, and who share this blog.  Thanks for being generous with your kind words - and most of the feedback I get is very kind, thank you.

Please know that a view or a like or a share gives me the same thrill I got two years ago when I first saw views other than my hubby's and mine showed up in my stats.

This blog will change, as it has in the past.  I learn what you guys like to read, and what you don't.  My own interests will change as I grow as a martial artist.  The martial arts world - and the wider world - will change.

The Stick Chick will change with it.

I hope you "stick" around for all of that.

Thank you.






Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Week in Stick Chicktivity 12/05/15

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  My first "normal" martial arts Saturday in over a month.  Arnis class in the morning, kobudo in the afternoon.  I finally learned enough of tonfa to practice it at home.
Sunday:  Tonfa practice and I practiced bo a few times.
Monday:  I had a sinus headache from hell, so I switched training nights with hubby.
Tuesday: Taught Arnis class at Mid-Cities Arnis. We had a new student starting with us, hooray!  We are starting to teach variations on the "four count" sinawali (aka, different ways to do single sinawali).  I ran through tonfa and bo today too.
Wednesday:  We had a new student at Hidden Sword, so I spent most of the class working with him. I got some time to play, too, on various things off of block-check-counter.
Thursday: Taught Arnis.  We worked on elbow strikes, then I helped our new student on our 6 count blocking drill.
Friday: It's stick sparring night!  AWWW YIISSSSS!!

Me vs. Kaliyah, the "headhunter" - one of our best sparrers (really!)


BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:  THAT GUY: Bad Hygiene Guy
Wednesday: 6 Annoying Things About Being a Female Martial Artist - 1
Thursday:  6 Annoying Things About Being a Female Martial Artist - 2
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: "Going Dark" for the Holidays in Martial Arts Schools

I re-shared this post:
Tuesday: How Not to Suck with the Sticks: FMA Basics for non-FMA People

I also write for our school's blog.  This week's value was Humility, and I wrote about it here.

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

Marc MacYoung wrote a nice blog post about self defense when you're in a place where you can't carry a firearm (and as a related issue, using non-lethal force).  Very well said, and one you want to keep handy when your firearms-oriented brothers and sisters insist all they need is their firearm for self defense.  When the sign says "No Guns Allowed"

Ran across this cool story out of the UK of a woman defending herself against a sexual predator using her car keys.  We have a Self Defense newsletter; it's going to be included in the next one.  Read it here.

Finally, nice video on knife laws and rights in America from our friends at Funker Tactical.  If you carry or own knives, know your state laws.  Long, but worth your time.




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

FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Today we teach our final ADE Self Defense seminar for the year.  I've enjoyed these sessions immensely, but I'm very glad we're going to an every-other-month schedule next session (February and April).

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, December 4, 2015

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: "Going Dark" for the Holidays in Martial Arts Schools

IT'S FACE-OFF FRIDAY!

Today is a topic is about the holidays and what teachers should (or should not do) during the holiday period of Christmas/New Year's.

Some schools keep their schedules except for the actual day of the holiday (typically Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, presumably Boxing Day in countries that have it, and New Year's Eve, and may or may not have classes on New Year's Day).  Mid-Cities Arnis has chosen to do this, and one other school I attended did the same thing.  Basically, if our rec center is open, we're having classes on our regular days.

Other schools will pick a point some time in mid-to-late December - typically a few days before Christmas - and suspend all holidays until the first "regular" class date after New Year's Day in January.  My teacher's school does this, as well as other schools we've been in over the years.   The rationale - and it's a reasonable one - is that people are far too busy and won't attend class anyway, so it's best to just close the doors during this period.

So I want to know what YOU think...

Should martial arts schools "go dark" during the Christmas/New Year's holiday season?


Thursday, December 3, 2015

6 Annoying Things About Being a Female Martial Artist - 2

Continuing on with things that annoy me about being a female martial arts... here's a link to part 1 if you missed it.

4) Some Guys Are Threatened By Our Training And Hassle Us About It

I think this is getting less and less common, but it's still an issue.

Some men are incredibly threatened by the idea of a woman being trained in the martial arts. They see this as an attack on their manhood in some way.  They secretly wonder if a trained woman can beat him in a fight.

And this is something a few guys can't stand, mainly because they're either afraid it's true, or, that having a trained female martial artist in their lives somehow makes them a lesser male.

Oh noes, a perceived threat to my masculinity! 
So they'll disparage our hobby - and it's a hobby, folks for 99% of us - and talk down to us and treat us like we are delusional for training.  They wouldn't say a word if our hobby was tennis, or yoga, or knitting, or making model trains... but when it's the martial arts, they have to constantly jaw about it and denigrate it.

Now, plain and simple, these guys are assholes and not worthy of our time (and this is true for females as well as males)  If you have one of these around you, I recommend you drop that jerkface from your life.

BUT, for some women, these guys are unavoidable. They are siblings, fathers, boyfriends or husbands, bosses, or other people that it is impractical or difficult to cut out of our lives.  This means we have to suck it up and live with it in some way or another, and that sucks.

5) Female Martial Artists are too Sexualized

This is mostly a media image problem (versus the martial arts community itself, although we certainly contribute to the problem sometimes). There's a huge media image problem for male martial artists, too, but it's a different image, not overly sexualized -  incredibly idealized, yes, but not sexualized.

It is very, very common for female martial artists to be represented in popular culture and in the media  in revealing clothing (or no clothing at all) and in sexy poses, often with weapons held poorly (because these are models, not martial artists).  The idea is to look beautiful and sexually appealing to men.

This is the single dominant media image of women in the martial arts.  It's used everywhere.

It took me literally a fraction of a second to find this image by the search term "female martial arts". 

I'm no prude, people, and I like sexy, aesthetically pleasing people as much as anybody.  I don't have a problem, for example, with Sports Illustrated's "Body" issue where major athletes, including martial artists, are depicted completely nude, usually in action shots related to their sports.  I actually find that incredibly fascinating.

I also don't have a problem with the sexualized fantasy of it all, as long as it's kept in FANTASY.  We all know there's a lot of people that have a hard time separating the fantasy of the martial arts from the reality of it, which usually involves no makeup, a lot of sweat and dirt and sometimes other body fluids, and generally has zero relationship to anything sexy whatsoever. 

But “sexy female martial artist” tends to be the dominant image to represent us in the martial arts. Scantily clad, young, incredibly fit women = "female martial artist".

This is the message it sends:
Men should expect female martial artists to behave this way - that our participation in the martial arts is to conform to what is attractive and pleasing to you.  Your goals for women in the martial arts are more important than our goals, and really, we’re only in the martial arts to turn you on anyway.
Women (especially our young women) should conform to this image, no matter what, and if they can't or won't, they not "real" martial artists (and we all know, privately, that women can't be real martial artists anyway, but if they try, they better look hot while doing it).
Many people can't believe someone who looks like me is a serious martial artist, because I don't look like Cynthia Rothrock or AnnMaria De Mars or a UFC fighter and I certainly don’t train in a sports bra and skin-tight yoga pants or shorts (nobody wants that, trust me).

It's a constant irritation. I think it is improving in many places and in many ways, but it's still there, and it's annoying as all get-out.

6) There Aren’t Enough of Us

I really, really wish that we women made up half of martial arts classes as they tend to do the general population overall.  But the fact is, we don’t.  Adult women in the martial arts tend to be, on a generous day, 20-30% of a given class, often less (and sometimes none at all, going by class pictures I see on the internet).

I’ve written about how I think we can get more women in class, but honestly, even if you do everything perfectly, the fact is, the martial arts are a harder “sell” to women as a hobby they should pursue.

Maybe they’re afraid of injury, or the media imagery has turned them off, or they’re afraid they can’t do it and will embarrass themselves, or maybe we do a poor job marketing the benefits of training (mental and physical) to women.

Whatever the problem is, I sure wish we could solve it, because I’d like more women in the dojo.  I’d like to see more of us enjoy the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of training.  I'd like to have partners that have strengths and weaknesses that are similar to mine.

If you know a way to solve this, do let me know.

My fellow female martial artists - did I miss an annoyance?  Let me know in the comments!