Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 01/30/16

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 in the morning and kobudo in the afternoon at Hidden Sword.  I got in a lot of tonfa practice, which was good.  I'm starting to give myself little bruises on my arms where I hit myself, which is great.
Sunday:  Ran through bo and tonfa for a while, then hung out and played a little with +Mike Reis.  Always good to hang out with him.
Monday:  Switched days with Mr. Chick, so Monday is my day off.  I practiced bo.
Tuesday:   Taught Arnis at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Covered our Combative Responses #1, #2, and #3.  That'd be same-side block and strike, cross-body block and strike, and double block and strike.  We typically teach this double-stick, and then run through it empty handed.
Wednesday: Arnis class at Hidden Sword.  Worked on disarms in preparation for this weekend's MAPA seminar (my teacher is one of the instructors).
Thursday: Taught Arnis at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked mostly with our newest kid student on Combative Response #1, focusing in on getting his fundamentals down.  Combined working on the two-bone and four-bone block with the combative responses. Also demonstrated the "face hugger" technique and I think they enjoyed that too much (see photo below).
Friday: Review and stick sparring at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We did the combative responses with the soft sticks, so the students wouldn't have to pull strikes (and would get proper feedback to block properly without having to eat rattan).  We also worked with students on capturing the stick with the empty hand.



BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:  Planning for Failure
Wednesday: Context is Everything

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  Little Details: Strike Mechanics
Thursday:  More on Strike Mechanics
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Do All Fights Go To The Ground?


OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

My friend Melvin Williams shared this GOOD Japanese sword video over on Facebook.  It is a pleasure to watch an expert vs. all of the really bad sword videos out there.



Funny video from +Master Ken:




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 is MAPA 8, out in Richardson, TX.  MAPA Gatherings are always fun, and I'll be writing it up for the blog later on in the week.

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, January 27, 2016

Context is Everything

I reposted an old blog post of mine, one that focuses on a specific aspect of strike mechanics:  Little Details About Strike Mechanics

In the comments, a reader took exception with an image he saw there, saying that it would be a huge problem vs. a two handed long sword, and why that would be.

The thing is, he isn't wrong - yes, in the context he was discussing and in his training and experience, he was absolutely right.  But in the context of the image and the post, his commentary didn't make a lot of sense.



This was an awesome discussion, by the way, and I'm glad it happened.  Always feel free to have those discussions here, even if we disagree, ok?

So, anyway, it got me thinking about the age we live in, where we get snippets of video from here and there across the martial arts world.  Sometimes we see amazing forms and drills and fights and skills.

Sometimes we see things that make us... confused, to put it kindly.

This video is making the rounds on Facebook.

video

At first blush, it looks a little silly - people on Facebook certainly thought so.

I've watched it several times now, it seems to me like it actually could be a drill where a guy was working on a technique where he changes direction in order to gain positional advantage.  This isn't how he fights - he's just developing a specific attribute of his game.

I could be wrong, of course, but that's what it looks like to me.  A skill building drill.

Lots of what we do, in a different context, is silly or dangerous or wrong.

Let's take a typical block from the empty hand arts.  Here's one:

Image found here.
In the context of tae kwon do or karate, this is perfectly acceptable.

In Arnis, this gets you hurt (or worse).

Why?

Because we assume the bad guy is armed, even if we can't see it (the knife, after all, is to be felt, not seen).  In the image here, he isn't controlling that incoming strike to a point where a weapon would be accounted for.  The guy attacking above hasn't actually been stopped, and it's not hard for him to continue the attack with a weapon to a vital point.  We don't like letting weapon hands go free to re-attack if we can avoid it.

Does this make them wrong?

Of course not!

My context is different than theirs.  A guy recovering his strike from being blocked and reattacking isn't as fatal a proposition.  So they don't have to think about that for what they do.

If you watched a lot of our Arnis drills and didn't understand the context, it would look strange or weird or pointless (heck, y'all know how much I love sinawali - I've heard it called "Pattycake with Sticks" more than once by people who don't understand what it's for).

Some blade arts will never touch the edge of the weapon - because the context is that the hand is bare.  But my HEMA friends do it all the time - because they wear gear that's built for it.

I do things a Japanese swordsman would never do (and vice-versa) because his art developed on a battlefield with people who were armored, and mine was developed in smaller one-on-one duels and fights with a shorter weapon and no armor.

Heck, this is another great reason NOT to try to learn a martial art via YouTube videos, because most of what you see are missing a lot of the context, and you won't understand how or why you're doing what you do.

So when you see something that looks weird - a video or an image - are you sure you understand the context of what you are seeing? Because sometimes something that is "wrong" in your art's strategy or context is perfectly fine in theirs, or what you are seeing may be something that is attribute building and not intended in a combative situation.

What do you do in your art that, taken out of context, might seem odd or weird?  Let us know!



Monday, January 25, 2016

Planning for Failure

Some martial arts have a strategy of overwhelming force and power in order to "win" a fight or survive a conflict.  That is, they do everything they can to set up an optimal strike to an optimal place in order to achieve optimal results.

For some, this is their entire plan.

My art is not like this.

Instead, we believe that strategically, we may not get the "optimal" strike.  Either it might not be available when we need it, or my opponent may see it coming and know how to counter it (and does), or it won't actually work because people don't always respond the same way when they get hit.

This means that as we have to be prepared for failure, to cope with it, and to keep going until we are successful in ending the conflict.

We were playing with this idea in class the other day. We were working on a drill where you capture a forehand or a back hand strike with a stick (much like block check counter, which +Brian Johns demonstrates below).


So, you actually capture the stick in this drill (versus checking the hand), then you deliver several strikes to the head and body.  Much like an empty hand person might deliver a combination of strikes after a block.

My partner was struggling a little bit with this, as he would inadvertently change his range and come in too close for the strikes (he was having to gyrate a bit to get the hit to land in the right place with the right part of the stick).  He was close enough so that he should have been using the punyo (butt end of the stick) instead.

I pointed this out, we did the drill a few times, and then because he was so close (and I knew what was coming - it's a drill, after all) I did a counter to his punyo strike to my face.  I grabbed his wrist with my free hand and locked on.

I was curious to see what he'd do. Like many of us would be, he was surprised by my counter, and he froze.

His plan had failed, and he didn't quite know what to do next.

We then worked through his options.  The first one was to take my stick - which he'd captured - and knock my hand off and continue the attack.  This is pretty much a standard response in the situation we were in.

Or, he could try to slap it off with his empty hand (obstruction removal). If that failed - if I'd locked on good - he could parry back fist to my face to soften me up (Brian Johns talks about parry back fist below) then get free by levering his captured weapon hand out,  and then keep hitting me.


There are other ways to cope with what I did, by the way.  For example, I didn't even describe using his lower body at all, did I?

Over time, as we train more, we acquire enough knowledge and skill to cope with the failure of our plans.  It is often a simple matter of knowing something - ANYTHING - to do when epic fail is epic and doing it quickly, without hesitation.

That's what training for a long time gives you - ways to cope with the failure of your plan and being able to do it quickly and with skill.   As I get more experience, and train with more people, I'll learn more ways to deal with failure of my technique.

After all, nobody is perfect, and nobody is that good, and nobody is unbeatable.

Exhibit A.


I have to plan for that fact!

So how do you cope with the failure of your plan in your art?  Let us know in the comments!





Saturday, January 23, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 01/23/16

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: Spent the morning class at Hidden Sword working on playing with variants off of the "X-Pattern" with our brown belts.  New stuff that hadn't occurred to me before (so of course I had to write about it, see Wednesday's post below).  Afternoon was kobudo class over in Dallas, where we did a bit of bo but it was mostly tonfa, getting fine tuned and being taught the 7 step drill (bo vs. tonfa).  Added "bonus" was that they were taking pictures for AKATO's 40th anniversary, and since I'm in the middle of a lovely rosacea flare and my face looks like raw hamburger, I made sure I was not included in any of them.  I'll admit, that made me pretty upset at the time.
Sunday:  Practiced bo and tonfa solo, since Mr. Chick had a day-long knife seminar with +Hock Hochheim.
Monday:  Drat! Couldn't go to class because of child issues (again)!  I am doomed to get interrupted if I try to go to Arnis class on Mondays, it seems.  Maybe I need to switch to Wednesdays.  Hmph.
Tuesday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on some material from +Hock Hochheim's system as well as worked on some neat variants we've been playing with in sinawali (see my post "Exploring the X" below to get an idea.
Wednesday: Practiced tonfa and bo.
Thursday: Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  I worked with two of our younger students on proper striking - specifically the low strikes (#8 and #9) and single sinawali standard.  They got to hit Bob 2.0, which is always fun!
Friday: Friday night stick sparring at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We had the class work single sinawali and then insert - block+check - with the soft sticks, then attempt to do the same thing sparring. Then we'd apply other restrictions on sparrers (such as only using "Dos Manos" blocking, which you see me doing below).
Me vs. "The Headhunter" Friday night.  I was limited to "Dos Manos" techniques only in this sparring drill.

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:  The Red Face Blues
Wednesday:  Exploring the "X"
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Change One Perception Of Your Art?

I re-shared these posts:
TuesdayLet's Talk About Chambering
Thursday:   Mutts and Purebreds in the Martial Arts

I forgot to post a link to this last week - I rewroked an old post from this blog for Mid-Cities Arnis - here's Four Awesome Things About Being a Filpino Martial Artist.

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

+Barron Shepherd wrote a piece about a dangerous individual, Ron Collins, who is trying to set up shop and teach martial arts in Beckley, West Virginia. Please do read it HERE and spread the word, thanks.

Interesting article from +Jesse Enkamp - "Why Modern Karate is Broken". Check it out.

Nice profile of actor, bodybuilder, and Filipino martial artist Grand Master Roland Dantes, one of Professor Remy Presas' closest students: Sticks, Knives and Courage

My friend Don Roley wrote about a scam that's been going after many industries, but has now made its way into the martial arts.  Read about it here: A New Scam

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:

Kobudo class at Hidden Sword today!  Hooray!  I'm still working on my empty hand martial art training -  I hope to have news on that soon.

My Rosacea flare is slowly healing.  It looks a lot better now than it did, but it's still there.  At least the dermatologist was hopeful!

One week later.

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, January 22, 2016

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Change One Perception Of Your Martial Art?

It's FACE-OFF FRIDAY!

Today's topic is a little different.

I've been thinking about how others perceive what I do, versus what I actually do.  That is, what people think the Filipino Martial Arts - or kobudo - are, versus what the reality is.

For example, some people think that the FMA's are only about weapons and that the empty hand isn't important, which is totally not true (empty hand is the higher skill set, as trying to defend ones' self empty handed is way, way harder than doing so armed).  I'd love to change that perception of the Filipino Martial Arts.

There's a popular "meme" out there called "What I do".  Here's one I found over at the Blade Apprentice for the Filipino Martial Arts:


So, here's what I'm asking you about today:

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE PERCEPTION OF YOUR MARTIAL ART STYLE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Exploring the "X"

Oh boy, it's another one of those posts chock full of Arnis-y geeky goodness.

Oh, we are SO going there, Dean.

The other day I got to spend an entire class playing with our Brown Belts (which is rare and awesome for me).  We were playing with different sinawali patterns, and working with an idea that Datu +Dieter Knüttel mentioned they do over in Germany with their training, which is using different ways to strike on the same basic sinawali pattern.

For example, take single sinawali - it's a high/low strike pattern (head and knees) that you can do single or double sticks.  If you've done FMA's at all and learned sinawali, you probably learned this pattern.  You can do this same pattern with one hand doing the high and low strike (and then the alternating hand) - this ends up as a #1 and a #8 strike (from the Modern Arnis 12 angles of Attack).

Click here if you can't see the video.

But you can also do the same pattern - the same targets and angles - if you alternate your hands and deliver all forehand strikes.  It becomes a right hand #1, a left hand #9, a left hand #1, and a right hand #9 strike, all from an open chamber.

Then you can have one person doing the "traditional" single sinawali, and the other person doing the alternate I just described, and they can remain in flow.

Of course, there's other variants too, including using all backhand strikes,  two sticks vs. one, switching from right to left hand with a single stick, and of course, all single-stick. But it's fun to explore and play with the idea, because then combative inserts - much like many of us do when we start tapi-tapi play off of single sinawali - change based on which variant you're doing.

As I told you up front -  geeky, geeky stuff.

So, we got to riffing off of the sinawali pattern we call "X Pattern".  This pattern is an open-chambered sinawali pattern of two high and two low strikes, where the arms go from open to closed and back to open chamber again - it's like "winding" and "unwinding" while you strike.

Here's a video where you can see what this pattern looks like (plus a bunch of variants on "basic" X pattern sinawali):

Click here if you can't see the video.

None of us had really done this sinawali pattern in any non-standard way before this session, so we started wondering... can we do this pattern all open chamber (which would make it all forehand strikes)?  As it turns out, yep, you certainly can, easy-peasy (Right #1, Left #1, Left #9. Right #9).

Then, can you do one stick vs. two sticks?  Yep, you can do that too, and it's slightly different if you're the one-stick person and you have it in your left or right hand.

So what about doing inserts - pokes, punyo entries, and the like - off of "X" pattern?  Can we get to some of the various tapi-tapi we've learned?  Where are the traps, the disarms, the combative inserts?

Oho, now we're playing.

Sinawali - oh, so much more than patty-cake with sticks!

We riffed off of a bunch of ideas on the basic "X" pattern, and the hour flew by.  We barely scratched the surface of what might be there in that time.

It leads to all sorts of interesting trains of thought, if you allow yourself to step outside the strict boundaries of the sinawali pattern itself.  
It gives you a different viewpoint to "riff" off of, to pull in other things you already know in a new way.  It's new problems to solve, or sometimes, proving to you that you already know the solution to problems you haven't been presented with yet.

If you are a Filipino Martial Arts player - try this with your favorite sinawali pattern and see what you discover.

If you're in a different martial art,  think about other drills you do, and how you might try breaking them apart and looking at them in a new way.

Break your version of sinawali, explore your "x", and discover something new!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Red Face Blues

This post is somewhat martial arts related, I promise.

So, for the past few months, I've struggled with a bit of adult acne - or what I thought was adult acne.  This is often one of the signs of pre-menopause, and given I'm my late 40's, it's not out of the question that is what it could be.  I'm pretty busy, so I've blown off seeking medical attention over it.

But then it got really bad last weekend.  It was more like a rash versus acne.  So I went to the doctor.

Lucky me, I've been diagnosed with rosacea.

Rosacea is a poorly understood skin disease affecting something like 16 million Americans to varying degrees, typically affecting people of northern European descent.  It is incurable, but can be managed somewhat with medical treatment.  It's not life threatening, it's just incredibly annoying and cosmetically a disaster.

As luck would have it, just as the "acne" was clearing up over the week, I then had what is called a "flare" - and it's bad.  My face is bright red - my forehead, cheeks, nose and chin - and there are little bumps.  I have Type 2 (Papulopustular Rosacea) - it kinda looks like I tripped and fell face-first into a vat of poison ivy.

Honestly I'd love to be a ninja right now so I can wear the full mask.

The ONE Ninja advantage! You can buy it here. I'm considering it.
It's been incredibly difficult to get up the courage to go to work and go about my business during this "flare", as it looks really, really bad - people who know me have been saying, upon first seeing it,  "Oh my god, what happened to you?!?"  There was a work lunch and I decided not to go, mainly because it's so raw, physically and emotionally for me right now, it's hard to face the idea of a restaurant full of people staring at me and wondering what's wrong with me and if it's contagious (my youngest daughter was worried about that - great news, it isn't).

It's also very uncomfortable with a lovely combination of burning sensation and itching which I'm enjoying oh, so very much at the moment.  So not only does it look bad, but it feels bad too.  Hooray!  Wonderful Combo!

Thanks a bunch, universe!
The thing is, I still have to go to work, to teach martial arts class and to attend martial arts classes - life does and must go on.  Of course, what I really want to do is hide in my room with a bag on my head.  It's a huge blow to my self esteem, lemme tell you, and being an overweight middle aged dumpy short woman did me no favors on that score to begin with.

BUT.

This is where the martial arts part comes in.

See, I told you there'd be a connection.

All the values we talk about in the martial arts, the ones we teach the kids in particular, are coming to play in my regular life as I deal with this challenge.  This is a time where I need to live the values that I teach in my school.  After all, it's not just about mastering punching and kicking and footwork and edge awareness and self defense and all that stuff - it can't be.
  • I have to focus on what I have to do to cope with this disease and not allow it to derail me from what's important in my life
  • I have to have the courage to do what I need to do, knowing I will get reactions and stares when I'm in a flare, no matter where I have to be or what my commitments are
  • I have to have the perseverance to find a treatment plan for me that works and to implement it when it's found
  • I have to be honest about what my triggers are so that I can tackle them
  • I have to have the confidence that I will find a way to live with this 
  • I have to trust my doctors that they know what they are doing and will help me
As much as I want to hide my face away, I just can't.  I have responsibilities, after all - to my job, to my teacher, to my students, to my family...

If I gave in to the fear and shame and depression of it all, I'd set a very bad example for my own children and for the students I teach.  It also gives this stupid disease way more power over me than it deserves to have.  And honestly, this is mostly a cosmetic problem, versus something more serious like cancer or arthritis or the other conditions so many of my martial arts friends cope with on a daily basis. So I feel kind of shallow giving it THAT much importance in my life.

So, instead of crying by myself in a dark room, I'm going to stand up, look this right in the eye, and then punch its lights out.

So, in the spirit of this, instead of hiding, I've decided to show the world what it looks like. Here's what I look like in the middle of a flare:

Rosacea - if only I'd had the fun of alcohol to compensate looking like a rummy.
I'll eventually - hopefully - figure out what treatment plan works for me, so I can keep flares to a minimum.  But it's something I will have to cope with for the rest of my life, so I'll constantly be managing it from here on out.

I have to accept the reality of that, and deal with it.  Because hiding isn't an option for me.

I'm a martial artist.  I'm going to kick its ass.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 01/16/15

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:  Covered martial arts classes at Hidden Sword Martial Arts, including kobudo class.  It was so cold in the "big room" we use on Saturdays that I moved classes to our normal smaller room.  Our parents were grateful.
Sunday:  Played tapi-tapi with Mr. Chick and practiced tonfa and bo.   While we were re-assembling our Wavemaster in our garage, I got the fingers on my left hand smashed.  I don't recommend it.
Monday:  Decided to rest the smashed fingers - they feel bone-bruised.
Tuesday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We worked on kicks - yes, we do them - and a bit of striking, specifically the palm heel.
Wednesday: Practiced tonfa and bo.
Thursday: I had to manage kid appointments today, so I didn't get to teach class.  I did practice bo though.  Had a bad personal thing happen; I'll be writing about it on Monday.
Friday: Friday night stick fight at Mid-Cities Arnis.

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:  Brutal Self-Honesty: A Two Sided Coin
Wednesday:  Why We Stick Spar

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday: Beware the Fat Man
Thursday:  Five Awful Reasons to Try the Martial Arts
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Must We Teach Self Defense Law?

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

Ran across this neat article about the differences between Japanese and Okinawan karate shared by +Corpus Christi Downtown Karate.   Read it here: 10 Differences Between Japanese and Okinawan Karate

Here's a nice post that's sort of related to my post of Monday by +Jaro BerceHow to use Praise, Blame and Appreciation!

+Marc MacYoung "fisked" an article by The Self Defence Expert that I thought was interesting and thought provoking . Read it here: Fisking “7 Lies Bad Self-Defence Instructors TellTheir Students”(Or, why one soundbite isn’t as good as another)


NOT MARTIAL ARTS RELATED:

Finally, I am a Kansas City Chiefs fan (American Football - the NFL), and have been since 1991 (the year I moved to Kansas City).  My Chiefs actually won a playoff game last weekend for the first time in 22 years. You have no idea how much pain there's been when you're a Chiefs fan over that time, and how huge that is for us.  They play today vs. the New England Patriots (while I am in Kobudo class, so I can't watch) in the Divisional Round. Win or lose, it's been a heck of a season.

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:

Glad to be back in Kobudo class in Dallas today!

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, January 13, 2016

Why We Stick Spar

At our school - Mid-Cities Arnis - Friday night are when we review what we learned in the week, and then we stick spar.


We use Actionflex sticks - we have "escrima" sticks as well as a couple of short ones that are stand-ins for knives - and we require that the kids wear helmets.  Our adults students are offered eye protection if they wish to use it (most of us don't).

Our rule set, for new students, is to aim for the hands.  We then ease them into giving and receiving head shots a little later, but our thinking is that the hands are the harder target - smaller and moving - and if they can get good at hitting those, the rest is a little easier.  Eventually they must move on to delivering head shots, because hand shots only lead them to a dangerous strategy of keeping their hands back and leaving their heads wide open, and we certainly don't want them to develop that habit.

We start off with "free sparring", reminding our students to use techniques they've learned in class.  If they get hit on the weapon hand, they have to switch hands - if they get hit on the other hand, the match is over. We'll sometimes put constraints on them - such as using a specific grip or a specific angle of attack only.  We'll have them use two sticks.  We'll have several students vs. one student.  We have adults vs. kids (one of our best sparrers is actually one of our kid students - we call her "the Headhunter").

The "Headhunter" comes for me.

Sometimes we'll apply additional constraints to make it harder or to spur creative thinking.  We'll start in the middle of the room, and we have to run to get a weapon along the wall.  Or we can only use a specific technique.  Or we have to go down to the floor and back up again.  Or we can only use our weak hand.

In our school, a stick is a stick, not an edged weapon.  We will have some drills later on where it's an edged weapon, but for now, it's a stick (because we live in suburbia in Texas - unlikely to face a machete or sword here).  My only big complaint with Actionflex is that it makes some forms of stick exchange impossible (because they have a "handle").  Not sure how to solve that one, but the other kind of padded stick that would work for that is inferior in every way to the Actionflex (and I own a pair of those - the black foam padded ones that get bent with a few good hits).

Working a "Dos Manos" block vs. a #3 strike strike -forehand to the ribs

Our school is not a stick sparring or tournament school - our primary focus is on self defense, just like our teacher's school is.  I wrote about that a while ago here.  But stick sparring is a staple of our Friday nights.

If we're not a tournament school, and if we don't expect our students to get in stick fights, why do we bother to stick spar?

First, working against a resisting opponent helps our students get a more realistic idea of what an attack might look like.  While we have put some constraints on them in how they attack and what the targets are (for now), having an opponent actively trying to hit you (and moving around in space) is a very different experience than a static drill in class.

Me working with a new student, coaching her in ways to hit me.

Second, we are helping them develop good habits in an (artificially) stressful situation.  These include things like not turning your back, keeping your weapon between you and the bad guy, and keep moving.  Attacks also get a lot simpler in stick sparring than we can get in static drills.

Third, there is no better way to illustrate that a purely defensive strategy is a losing one in a stick sparring match.  This is why we teach block+check+counter vs. just a block, because just blocking and not countering allows the bad guy to attack repeatedly until he or she wins (and they will eventually unless you counter attack).
Me in two vs. one.  I'm the one.  You can't survive this if you don't counter attack.

Fourth, over time, our stick sparring nights will give our students a chance to apply what they've learned in flow vs. a resisting opponent.  This is exactly why empty hand schools spar, even if sparring is not actually what self-defense really looks like.  So over time, they'll find the opportunities to grab the stick, to apply a disarm, to set up a trap, to apply a throw, and so on.

Fifth, we use stick sparring as a way to illustrate the use of improvised weapons for self defense.  For example, we'll sometimes tell a student to defend themselves with something else - here, we used my empty stick bag.  Our short sticks are great stand-ins for things like pocket umbrellas. Using Actionflex and a resisting opponent helps our students take what they know and apply it to the new item.

Using "Dos Manos" techniques with my empty stick bag - which is really a softball bag.
Sixth, it's just plain fun.  Sometimes I think we discount the value of fun in the martial arts, but to me, it's essential business.  If you aren't having fun, you won't do whatever you're doing very long, will you?  Nobody misses stick sparring night if they can help it!

I'm smiling because it's fun.  And because I'm gonna get him!

Do you spar in your school, even if it's more self-defense oriented?  What do you learn there?  Do you have any drills that aren't tournament-oriented?  I'd like to hear about it!







Monday, January 11, 2016

Brutal Self Honesty - a Two-Sided Coin

This post was inspired by +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts post "Self Honesty", which you can read right here.

I think it's a fantastic post.  +Brian Johns diagnoses a common problem in our martial arts culture, one that often leads to a lot of fraudulent "grand masters" and bad martial arts out there.

As he says at the very beginning of his post:

Among the hallmarks of great martial artists such as Bruce Lee, Professor Remy A. Presas, Mas Oyama, Yip Man, Jigoro Kano and many others is the willingness to be brutally honest with themselves about their strengths and weaknesses. 

Me, I try to be brutally honest with myself and my skills.  I am under no illusions of greatness here - I know I have very much to learn and improve upon, and there are so very many martial artists out there that are far, far better than I am.   I'm not as smooth as I need to be, my stances need work, I don't have as much material under my belt as I really should have, I don't practice enough so I'm not as good at what I need to be...

Actually, just a small portion of the group picture - it's too big to be uploaded to the internet.

I have a lot of work to do.

Many of us spend most of our time focused on our weaknesses, and our failures.  Perhaps it's part of the culture we cultivate - or attempt to cultivate - in the martial arts.  It's one of humility, of not putting one's self forward, and not being overly proud of our achievements.

We often interpret this to mean we must dismiss our strengths, and only focus on our weaknesses.  That is what humility is all about, right?  Denial of the ego, don't toot your own horn, think about your failures, not your successes.

The upside to this culture - when we actually live it - is that it keeps our minds open and on the path to continued growth.  After all, you can't learn if you believe you already know everything you need to know, right?

The other value of humility is there to help keep our egos in check.  It doesn't always work - there are numerous examples of this - but at least there's the attempt, right?  Keeping our egos in check keeps us in the right frame of mind to continue to learn new things and to grow.

That is the hallmark of the greats Brian mentioned above - they kept training, kept learning, kept growing.

The downside to this culture is that we don't, won't, or can't celebrate or recognize our strengths.  We don't want to be seen as one of those egomaniacs, so we deliberately downplay what we actually are good at doing. Over time, this may end up making us talk ourselves out of things like competitions (if we are in an art that does that), or teaching our art to others, or we may end up quitting altogether, because we believe we can't ever be really good at what we do.

We end up believing that we are imposters, playing at what we do, waiting for somebody else to come by, tap us on the shoulder, and call us on it.

But, if I am going to be brutally honest, I can't ignore what I actually am good at, can I?

Denial of my skill is as big of a lie as claiming a secret ninja master trained me in the American midwest.  Pretending I'm good at nothing is just as delusional as claiming Grand Mastery in many arts at the age of 30 despite not training with actual human beings since age 16.

Joe Biden holds a 10th Dan in malarkey.

I started martial arts late in life - at age 39 in 2008.  Except for a period where I couldn't practice a hard art (due to pregnancy), I've played Arnis pretty much non-stop over that time.  When you do something - anything - for that long with training partners and teachers with skill, you do acquire some skills here and there.

So let me recognize my strengths:

  • I'm very good at patterns - picking them up, spotting them, and then interrupting them.  This means I pick up and play sinawali patterns, sumbrada patterns, and the set versions of tapi-tapi pretty quickly.  Forms aren't generally terribly difficult for me to pick up - perfecting them is another matter, but it's just another pattern to me.
  • I'm a stickler for the details, so my fundamentals tend to be pretty sound.  My footwork, my targeting, my chambering (the way we do it) is pretty good most of the time.
  • I think I'm a decent teacher.  I work hard to try to find the ways that my students need me to communicate the material to them.

If you're going to be self honest - brutally self honest - then you can't ignore the good in favor of the bad, just as you can't play up your strengths and pretend that your weaknesses don't exist.

Brutal self honesty, after all, is a two sided coin.

So, what are your weaknesses AND your strengths?  Are you honest with yourself about it?  Is there someone you admire who is, or conversely, someone you've trained with who isn't?  Let us know about it!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 01/09/15

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:  Re-combobulated my house and my martial arts training area in my garage - we moved here in May and it took me this long to get it into shape.  Practiced a bit of bo and tonfa.  Worked with my teacher on curriculum updates he wants to do with Hidden Sword (and thus will affect curriculum at Mid-Cities Arnis).
Sunday:   Private ADE Self Defense session with a mom and daughter - fun doing it off-site for a change! Today I also restarted the strictest portion of my way of eating as a "reboot", if you will.
Monday:  Hidden Sword is back in business!  So glad to be back in class and normal again!
Tuesday:  Took my older daughter to "Sherlock: The Abominable Bride" at the theater at a treat.  Hubby taught MCA classes - we have two new students!
Wednesday:  Started getting sick.
Thursday: Got really sick, but I got well enough to teach at Mid-Cities Arnis.  I planned on attending a kobudo review class but after MCA, I was wiped out.
Friday:  Stick sparring night at Mid-Cities Arnis!  Promoted our two "zero" level bands to white band.

Outtake of anyo videos we're recording for our schools for reference.  I.E., me screwing up with happy feet.

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday: Big Plans for 2016
Wednesday: The Flake Factor
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Should Head Shots be Banned in Sparring?

I re-shared these posts:
TuesdayA Form is a Form is a Form
Thursday:  GifSet: 1975 Modern Arnis Demo

Fun fact: "The Flake Factor" took me over a year to write.  It was one of those posts that just didn't get no matter how much I worked on it - until this week, that is...

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

+Brian Johns at +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts shared this article this week that I was all, "HELLS TO THE YEAH!"  Thanks, Brian!  Read it here: Teach Your Girls to Fight

A very old but really intriguing article by Mark Tripp on the origins of Judo and Jujutsu (thanks to Michael Massie for sharing it): The Great Underground Ryu-ha-ha

+Martin Bowes discovered and shared this little gem of a video.  Note there is no yelling and nary a twirl to be seen.




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're covering classes at Hidden Sword while my teacher sits on HIS teacher's Black Belt board.  Part of me wishes I could go and watch the test, but I'm good with making sure things run smoothly while my teacher goes over to Dallas.

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, January 8, 2016

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Should We Ban Head Shots in Sparring?

IT'S FACE-OFF FRIDAY!

Let's talk about head shots in sparring.

More and more, the effect of repeated head shots in other sports - such as American football, cheer leading, and hockey - has become a larger issue of concern in the medical community (and the communities surrounding those sports).

The condition is known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE.

 Read more here but also check out the major film out now about the problem in the NFL: Concussion

It has been long understood that boxing, for example, poses a huge risk - probably a near certainty - for the development of some form of CTE.  I think we also understand this in the combat sports - any of the boxing/kick boxing arts.

In fact, as of October 2016, we've seen our first diagnosis in an MMA fighter: First case of CTE diagnosed in MMA fighter

But we do not seem to really think about or discuss these risks in our point sparring at tournaments and in class, which are generally less intense than those in the combat sports (and even, say, American Football or hockey) but can still be pretty intense.

On the one hand, head shots are pretty traditional in the martial arts and in point sparring, and understanding how to deliver one (and how to defend against it) is not only important from a sporting point of view, but also from a practical self defense point of view. Nobody is perfect in defense, so it will mean that some participants will get hit in the head, sometimes repeatedly, often violently enough to lose consciousness.  Some of us will think the risk is worth it.

On the other hand, it appears that the risk is pretty high of incurring brain damage over time, damage we can't even know is there until a person has passed away and been autopsied.  We don't follow martial artists very well over time, and we don't have any idea how widespread a problem this in our community.  So some efforts to mitigate the known risks of development of CTE seems to be warranted.

Given the current understanding of the risk...


SHOULD HEAD SHOTS BE BANNED IN POINT/SPORT SPARRING?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Flake Factor

We have studied the martial arts (my husband, my daughter, and myself) under ten different direct martial arts teachers (not counting seminars) since 2008.

Hey, I've moved a lot, okay?

We have been blessed to have some amazing martial arts teachers.

In that time, and as I get to know more and more people in the martial arts, I noticed something about us, as an industry (and we are an industry - non profit or not).

I think that on the whole, the martial arts community is generally full of nice people with good intentions.  I think we run to the smarter end of the spectrum, with a huge nerdy streak that I find endearing.  Most of us put in an effort to do "good" by our students.

But man, as a community in the 21st Century, we tolerate a whole lot of flakiness from so very many of us.  Of the ten teachers, I'd say we had four that were that way.  That is a HIGH proportion.

I feel this way about two of them.  The other two we didn't stay with long enough to get this upset about it.
The martial arts community tolerates things that it's well understood in every other small business to be completely wrong.  I'm not going to discuss the times when our egos run rampant and we treat our students like they are our servants.  That's not flakiness.

Flakiness are the little gaps in basic courtesy typically due to a customer - and our students are our customers.  We get flaky because our needs, our desires, and our vision is more important than serving our students.

Flakiness includes:
  • Not returning phone calls
  • Not using email
  • Habitually showing up late for classes
  • Not having a lesson plan, so your classes are usually "on the fly"
  • Asking students/parents to "cover" for you while you take care of non-urgent or non-important business during classes frequently
  • Not doing what you promise to do - being where you've said you'll be, bringing what you've said you'll bring... any gap between what you say you will do versus what you actually do
Hi Senior Student - can you open the dojo for me and get the students warmed up?  Again?
Flakiness generally means being absent-minded, being inconsistent, being a poor communicator, being a poor planner, and generally giving off the impression that one can't live his or her daily life without having someone else do all the mundane work for them.

True story:  older daughter spent time in a martial arts school where the instructor was incredibly talented and knowledgeable.  But he quickly expected my husband to open the school doors for him and to "cover" when he was late, which was frequent (not unusual to be at least a few times a month).  He rarely gave the impression that he had a lesson plan and knew what he'd teach from class to class.  Our last straw in that school was when he showed up late and then showed a movie in class for his "lesson" for the day.  That was the last day my daughter attended that school.

I also think that refusal to use the tools of the early 21st century - and that includes a cell phone (not necessarily a smart phone, just a cell phone) and a computer - in today's society is incredibly flaky.  That is like not having a phone in 1990.  It's just unacceptable in the modern world.

Going days without returning a phone call, text, or email is unacceptable, period.  End of story.

I'm not saying that we have to be perfect (although that should be a goal of ours even if it's not actually attainable).  We do sometimes have things occur outside our control that make us late, or we fail to return a call.  It happens.

I'm talking about the habitual, regular behavior I've described above. 

Respect is important in the martial arts world.  Most of us preach it on a daily basis.  Being flaky is being disrespectful.  So why do we tolerate it in our instructors?

Totally.
I've quit schools and teachers because of flakiness, because I don't tolerate it very well.  If you ask me, as a community, we shouldn't forgive it in favor of a person's talent or skill or lineage.

I don't care how talented or experienced the martial arts instructor is - a flaky instructor deserves no students (and yeah, the really flaky ones I've met struggled to keep students - imagine that!).

Have you had to cope with a flaky instructor?  Do you know any?  Are you one yourself? Tell me your stories!


Monday, January 4, 2016

Big Plans for 2016

A great year is now in the books, and it's time to make my goals for 2016.

These are not resolutions.  NOT.  RESOLUTIONS.

Well, maybe one resolution.

Ahem.

Okay, so, 2015 was a heck of a year, y'all.  It was a year of growth for me in my training, my goals, and in this blog. It's gonna be hard to top.

1) Arnis - become proficient at playing tapi-tapi

In 2015, I focused on trying to get better at the basics, and I accomplished that goal.  This year, I want to spend time on "higher level" material - specifically, spending time in "tapi-tapi" play.


I need to get smoother at playing it, but also I enjoy the "brain training" tapi-tapi gives you.  It helps you train yourself to think ahead a few moves, to think about counters to the counter, and to spot openings and holes you can exploit.  When you get good and smooth at it, all of those things come into play, and it's just darn fun when you figure it all out and start "stealing the drive" or when you can execute something unexpected.

We have students at this stage at Hidden Sword, so I'll hopefully be playing a lot of it there as well.

Mr. Chick and I will be adding regular sessions of tapi-tapi to our weekly training routine in 2016.

2) Growing the Empty Hand

This goal is related to our long-term prospects at being martial arts teachers and having our own school, as well as for my own personal interests.

Mr. Chick has been pursuing training and certification in what I'd call "modern" martial arts and combatives.  Most of what he does is definitely adult oriented martial arts - which is wonderful, but limits our options going forward in our school.

I have been thinking long-term that I wanted to pursue something more traditional, and something that could help sustain not only an adult program but also a kid's program too.  Studying Kobudo has also reinforced my attraction to more traditional martial arts.

By the end of 2016 I will be in a more traditional martial art training program.  I have not finalized what it is yet, but I'm probably going back to my roots with my original teachers.  I have to travel to do this, so it will be a matter of going there a few times a year, training intensely, coming home, and practicing, solo and with Mr. Chick.  I am working on a local option to supplement the plan I'm considering, but it's not finalized just yet.

Good thing I just bought a new white gi, huh?

3) Exercise Is Not Optional

I think I've established I just can't get into a gym (and no, I'm not willing to cut into sleeping time - I need that to heal!).  So I will be getting coached on body-weight exercises I can do at home that will help me get in a good workout and build strength.  I hope this will also help me knock off those last 15 pounds or so as well as making me a moar deadly martial artist.

Hey, I'd be watching martial arts training videos, so it's multitasking.  Right?  Right?

I want to have this in place starting in February, and by the end of the year, I expect to be able to grow reps in the exercise program(s) we decide for me to use.

4) Grow Mid-Cities Arnis to 20 Students

This is more of a school goal, but that's the number we've picked.  If we do that, it will be a huge school as far as FMA's in the USA goes.

5) Blog Goals

I just can't put much more work into this blog than I already do.  So my goal for the blog this year will be very modest growth.  I'd like to achieve 68,000 views for 2016, which averages about 186 views/day.

It doesn't sound like much, but 2016 is going to be (possibly) busier than 2015, especially considering the empty hand study being added into my normal routine.  I didn't mention seminars as a goal - I plan to go to at least four to six that I know of in the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone.

So what are you planning for 2016?  I want to know!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 01/02/15

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:  Planning session for Mid-Cities Arnis 2016 calendar.  Recorded video for Mid-Cities Arnis and Hidden Sword martial arts.  Practiced bo and a bit of tonfa.
Sunday:   Practiced bo and tonfa.  More videos for MCA and Hidden Sword.
Monday:  Just a bit of bo and tonfa today.
Tuesday:  Review class for Mid-Cities Arnis.  Made sure everybody was doing well on the topics we covered in December.
Wednesday:  Just a little bo today.
Thursday: New Year's Eve.  I really don't celebrate this holiday - never have.  Sat home with family.
Friday: Day off, so I wrote a bunch of stuff for this blog and for Mid-Cities Arnis.  I cleared out my garage to have a better practice space - having no storage is a real problem!

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I updated the blog template this week - brighter, cleaner and sleeker for 2016.  What do you think?

I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday: The Stick Chick Blog - Top Posts of 2015
Wednesday: 2015 Goals - Final Update

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday: In Defense of Violence
Thursday: Injury: Just Train
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Is MMA a "Martial Art"?

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:

Ran across this nice interpretation of Baston Anyo Isa by Dan O'Connell as a two-person set.



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:

So glad the holidays are over.  Life gets to go back to normal - hooray!

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!