Monday, February 29, 2016


My teacher recently taught an Arnis seminar to a group of karate and tae kwon do stylists.

I love helping out at these seminars.   I love sharing my art, for one.  My art is somewhat obscure in the scheme of things and introducing it to new people is so fun.  I love helping people become proficient and confident in what we're teaching them, too.  It's a blast.

The bonus at the seminar is that I was his highest ranking Arnis student there, plus I was the only adult student of my teacher's present, so I got to be uke for most of it. I don't get to be uke much, especially at seminars, because honestly, showing bad-ass techniques on a short middle aged woman isn't usually that impressive.

Pretty much.
We started off with single sinawali standard (and then taught a lot of material from there, using single sinawali as the "base" drill).  If you read this blog regularly, you know that I am a big-time believer in sinawali and what it teaches us.   It's a simple drill, though, with lots of great opportunity for repetition with both hands.  Here's a video of +Brian Johns explaining the drill and how he teaches it to kids:

Click here if you can't see the video.

As I was working the room helping out, I noticed some people doing the drill with their shoulders scrunched up, their arms and legs stiff and planted, and with intense looks of concentration on their faces.  These are not kids or kyu-ranked folks, mind you - these are black belts, and several were higher degree black belts to boot.

I reminded them to do as they advise their low-to-mid level kyu ranked students to do (right, +Joelle White?).  After all, as Professor Remy Presas said all the time, "It is all the same" (you learn how incredibly totally true this is when you teach other martial artists Arnis).  The black belts smiled and nodded knowingly when I gave them this reminder to...


I worked them through a quick exercise I often do with new students who are stiff and tense.  I had them take a deep breath and tense up every muscle in their body - toes to face and everything in between - and hold it for a few seconds.  Then I had them let it all go.  I then told them that the relaxed feeling they had after all that tension is how they should feel doing Arnis.

Sure enough, they relaxed, and their shoulders went down, and they started moving more naturally - and lo and behold, they got better at sinawali really quickly.

Relaxed muscles are fast muscles, and our art is all about speed (power comes through speed and the mass of what is coming at you, be it a stick, a pen, or a fist).  I also notice that people who are tensed up tend to have a harder time targeting properly (never mind getting the footwork down).

There is more to it, though, that just relaxing.

They needed to chill.

Think about the times when we've been learning something new - in the martial arts, or in other parts of our lives.

We need to let our worries go a little bit.

We need to not fret about screwing things up and making mistakes - because we will.  It's part of the learning process.

We need to not allow the worst case scenarios dominate our thinking early.  In learning sinawali, generally speaking, that'd be the fear of either hitting your partner or getting hit yourself.  It's not that bad, promise (and everybody gets to join the Purple Knuckles Club eventually).

When we're new to things, it seems like there are an overwhelming number of things to learn and skills to master.  Over time, though, we discover pretty quickly it's typically simpler than we think it is, right?

To master skills in the martial arts, just like other things in life, we have to relax and chill.

As my oldest daughter would say...


That's what I said.  No, really, I did.
How do you help new students "chillax"?  What are some of the ways you help yourself "chillax" when you're working on something new?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

My Week in Stick Chickivity 02/27/16

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?


Saturday:  Morning Arnis class at Hidden Sword.  We had the students working the bags for half of the class, then we sparred with Actionflex (padded) weapons.  It was the first time for two of our new kid students and they did great!  Later in the day we weapons sparred with the tae kwon do kids and I got my left ring and pinkie fingers jammed with nunchaku (bad timing on my part).  Spent the afternoon in urgent care and ended up with the fingers in a splint and on serious painkillers.  Had to skip kobudo class which just put icing on the cake of my day.
Sunday:  Practiced tonfa and bo forms empty handed.  Hubby spent the day at +Hock Hochheim's knife course.
Monday:  Attended class at Hidden Sword.  My sprained fingers were doing really well - I was able to hold a stick firmly (but I didn't use it much).  It only hurt a bunch when I used my left hand to check.  Ouch.
Tuesday:   Review night for testing at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We quickly went over the core of the material that was possible to be covered on the test.
Wednesday:  Went out of town for work.
Thursday: Returned home late that night.  Had to miss our rank test as a result of this trip.  We promoted two students to Orange Band, four students to Yellow Band, and we've had a new student join our school at White Band.
Friday:  We held a "Bring a Friend" night - three students brought friends to try out our art.  Everyone had a really fun time!  My hand is a lot better and while I still have to be careful with it, I am able to use it for the most part.

Me using my injured hand in stick sparring with our newest adult student.


I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday: Yes, I'm Injured (Again)
Wednesday:  About the Competitive Spirit

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday: Four Awesome Things About Being a Filipino Martial Artist
Thursday:  Four Downsides to Being a Filipino Martial Artist
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: How Long to Black Belt?


This video has been making the rounds and it's awesome:

This video is also making the rounds and it's... well... check it out.

I admit I do not understand how sport karate has turned kiai breathing into this.  I really want to have someone explain the bunkai to me. And no, I won't get into the other things that bother me about this performance.  You karate folks watching this... I'd love to know your thoughts.

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


This was a... difficult... week.  Getting injured - really injured - and having to do a last minute work trip screwed everything up. 

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, February 24, 2016

About the Competitive Spirit

Let's talk about the competitive spirit.

I think of it as a process by which we find a place in our "tribe".

Competitive spirit is something we all generally have to one degree or another - even if it's to lament its existence.  Human beings are social animals, and one of the ways we learn to live together is through competitiveness.  We compete to have "rank" in our social circles or tribes.  What that means - how we compete - varies from group to group, culture to culture, age to age.

At its most basic level, one can consider the competitive spirit as the method we use to train to survive, as individuals and as a species. After all, escaping a violent situation alive is a "win", is it not?

Thus, we can easily spot this spirit in the martial arts world.

We hold tournaments where we compete to win awards in sparring and in forms. The combative sport arts have matches.  Competition - the need to strive to win things - is deeply ingrained in much of what we do.

Maybe we need a few exemptions.

Even in relatively non-competitive arts, we still have that spirit. For example, consider the psychological effect of ranking in the martial arts. Most of us who start with other people would resent it if he or she got promoted into a "higher" rank before we are, so we work as hard as our peers so we can progress together at the same rank.  We also compare ourselves to the higher ranks - we are competing with them, to match them... to be "better" than they are.

Some of the "my art is better than your art" braggadocio endemic to our community is also related to being competitive.

I'm all for fostering the competitive spirit - I'm pretty competitive myself!  I know, though, that the competitive spirit is a double-edged weapon.

Yes, him again.

On the one hand, competitiveness helps us achieve greater things in life.  It's a motivator for many of us to keep practicing, stay focused, and to acquire skill.  The energy of competitivenes, and the emotional thrill you get when you are successful - when you win - is hard to match in any other way.  Winning and losing helps us measure our skill or progess in something we care about.

On the other hand, without a lot of structure and rules and wisdom around it, competitiveness can be a destructive, hateful thing.  I'm not only talking about the jeers and taunts some "winners" give to "losers", as distasteful and harmful as that is (especially when parents do it in youth sports - there should be a special hell for those people).  In some circles talking "smack" and taunting people is what winners do.

Click here if you can't see the video.

It's also how we allow our competitive spirit to dominate our way of thinking.  So much so that we become so deeply connected and identified with how well we compete, that we allow winning and losing to define our self worth in general.

For example, Ronda Rousey says that after her loss to Holly Holm, she felt so bad she contemplated suicide.

Rousey's competitive spirit took her to the top of her profession, first American woman to medal in Judo (Bronze) and then the top of the UFC.  This is something we all admire and, for many of us, something that we would love to emulate.

Everyone knows that Rousey is an incredible martial artist and is one of the top people in her sport, male or female.  For some time, people speculated that she'd never lose and retire undefeated. Rousey apparently believed it, too.  Being Undefeated "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey, Best Female Fighter In The World, dominated her sense of who she is and her place in the world.

Rousey had so deeply identified with her unbeatable persona that when she inevitably lost a fight - and it was inevitable that she would - she believed her life no longer held any meaning.

I've seen some folks talking about how weak she is by admitting this, and how she should "butch up" as a result.  If you're talking or thinking that way, you need to have some damn empathy and understand that winning and losing had become, to Rousey, her ENTIRE WORLDVIEW.

Destroy YOUR worldview, your sense of personal self worth and who and what you are, and see how well YOU handle it before you criticize Rousey.

This is the negative, destructive side of the competitive spirit.  When you make it your primary motivation and to define yourself by how well you compete, you set yourself up to be emotionally and spiritually crushed when you eventually fail.

This is where that need for rules and structure and wisdom comes in, to harness the competitive spirit for growth and to balance this destructive downside.

Winning is not everything.  Indeed, the process of competing and losing usually teaches us more than actually winning anything ever can, as good as winning feels.  Valuable lessons - things that may save your life, much less win in a sporting match - are learned in losing.

Not just jiu jitsu, y'all.

Winning and losing does not, and should not, define who and what you are. Rousey is loved and cared for by her tribe - you and I at a distance and everyone who knows her personally - regardless of how she performs in the ring.  Even if she never competes again, she still has value and worth as a daughter, a sister, a business partner, a friend, a coach, a girlfriend, maybe as a wife or as a mother some day... whatever roles she wishes to take on and whatever tribes she joins.

Our competitive spirit is there to serve us, not to destroy us. Our martial arts rank and our records in matches or at tournaments doesn't define us.  It doesn't define us as a martial artists or as a people of value. It shouldn't.

It's our job, as leaders and teachers and members of this tribe, to help keep the competitive spirit harnessed. in context and working as a tool to improve all of us.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Yes, I'm Injured (Again)

Getting injured in the martial arts is not an uncommon topic for this blog.  If you write about the martial arts, it's just part of the game, right?

I wrote about it previously here and here and here.

Well, I got injured again recently.

The hot new accessory ALL THE COOL KIDS are wearing these days.

This time, we were sparring with padded weapons (Actionflex).  I was using a padded arnis stick and my opponent was using padded nunchaku.  Now, just because they're padded doesn't mean there isn't risk of injury.  I've had welts from these weapons, had an eyeball scraped, got hit in the ear and lost hearing for about a half and hour (due to the air compression on my ear drum), and gotten many a bruise.  All the padding does is reduce the risk of injury, not eliminate it completely.

My teacher teaches nunchaku.  That is, how to use them for real, not tricking. I haven't studied using the weapon yet - that's in my kobudo weapons future still - but I respect the weapon in the hands of people who know how to use them and I do enjoy using various weapons I do know against them.

The thing when sparring against nunchaku with a weapon like the arnis stick is that you have to close very quickly in order to negate the speed and power it has in its ideal range.  You will probably get hit - and if they're the real deal that is gonna hurt - but the idea is to get hit in someplace not very vital (like the meat of the arm or leg).  I have been successful blocking as I close, then using my alive hand to trap or disarm the nunchaku guy.

The thing is, timing vs. nunchaku is very important, and I've been pretty good in that regard (nunchaku aren't a very... subtle... weapon).

The other day, well, not so much.  My timing was off, and I missed my block, and the nunchaku came down and hit me on the tip of my pinkie and ring finger of my left hand at full speed as I reached out to check.  I got what we typically would call "jammed fingers", but the doc calls a sprain and contusion.  My fingers are stiff, swollen, and painful.

Making a fist.  Yes, that's as good as it gets right now.

At first, I though it was minor, and I just stepped back to take a breath.  But then I realized it was more serious than a welt or a light jam (I got one of those a few weeks ago on my right hand and it didn't slow me down, even though it hurt).  I couldn't make a fist and it hurt A LOT - as in "I started hyperventilating and tears were welling in my eyes" level of pain.  I did my very best to not freak out about how much it hurt.  You do that, y'know, in the martial arts, especially in front of kids as you don't want to scare them.  You do it in front of adults because that's just our culture, isn't it?

Went to the doc, confirmed it's just a sprain and a contusion ("just" a sprain - it still hurts a lot, but grateful it wasn't more damage than it is).  I keep it in the splint when I need to protect it, but I also need to exercise it daily so it doesn't stiffen up and become a problem.

Either way, I'm not going to be holding a stick, bo or tonfa in my left hand for a week or two.

So, while I recover, I can still practice and teach Arnis and kobudo.

I can use my right hand - I am right handed, so that's a good thing.  I can practice my bo and tonfa forms empty handed (just working on the motions and footwork - the footwork of the new tonfa form is very difficult for me, actually, so I should spend time there).  And of course, my brain still works!

Oh, surely it's better than that, right?

It doesn't have to stop my training.  It won't stop my training.

I won't deny it's a real pain in the... um...


Tell me about a time you got an injury, and how you worked through it.  What did you do differently?  What did you learn?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 02/20/16

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?


Saturday:  My teacher's father is under the weather, so we covered Arnis class and TKD beginner's class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  That afternoon was kobudo with AKATO over in Dallas.  We worked our bo material, our tonfa patterns and full kata, and learned a new kata, Nomi Nani Kata (No Name Kata).
Sunday:  Came down with the stomach bug that's going around.
Monday:  I was still sick and miserable.
Tuesday:   Improved enough to go to work and to teach class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We are gearing up for rank testing next week, so we worked on all of the "four count" sinawali patterns we've covered in this level.
Wednesday:  Attended class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  An old student and friend of my teacher's dropped by - we haven't seen him in a very long time - so I covered class so my teacher and he could catch up.  It'd be great if he comes back to training - he was a favorite training partner of mine and we'd love to have him back if we can get him.
Thursday: Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  While the rest of the class worked on our Combative Responses and Block+Check, I worked with a potential new student trying out our class.
Friday: Fridays are always fun at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Yay stick sparring!  We also worked hard on block+check - right hand attack, left hand attack, right hand defense, left hand defense.  In stick sparring, we've been emphasizing capturing the stick hand, using various techniques, and using the alive hand a lot more.

My adult student succeeded in capturing the hand here


I posted this post of original content this week (hey, I was sick!):

Wednesday:  Trust Issues

I re-shared these posts:
Monday:  Best Laid Plans
TuesdayCriminals Gonna Crime
Thursday: Why do I Keep Training?
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Cross training vs. single-system training


Back in January, my teacher, Mark Lynn, was promoted to 8th Dan in Renbudo.  Being the kind of guy he is, he didn't even mention it - I happened to run across it at the AKATO web site (here).  My husband posted this on Facebook, and he said it better than I could.
I wanted to congratulate my Arnis teacher Mark Lynn on his promotion to Renbudo Karate 8th dan. Jackie and I didn't find out because he told us, Jackie just happened to see it on AKATO's website.
Mark has something like 25 dans in 5 or 6 arts (including Karate, Modern Arnis, Kombatan, PAC, Kobudo), not because he cares about rank, but because he's a searcher. He's the eternal student. He's always open to learning more and generous in his willingness to share what he's learned. Jackie and I are very grateful we've had the chance to benefit from his experience and his support of our growth as martial artists.
He's far too humble to brag about his accomplishments so I'll do it for him. I didn't want it to go unrecognized.

Neat blog shared at Wim Demeere's page on Facebook: What I Learned by Punching My Annoying Neighbor in the Face

This meme cracked me up;

As did this one:

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


Nice to have a "normal" Saturday this week to work on and perfect the new tonfa form we learned last 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, February 17, 2016

Trust Issues

In Kobudo class the other day, our senior instructor was illustrating a point and using me as uke.  He told me to react naturally as he attacked me with a tanto.  He wanted to show how we are safer, versus a superior opponent or weapon, when we close the distance (versus staying out in the optimum distance of our opponent).

I blocked and stepped forward to put my tonfa in his teeth, much like we are trained to do in our patterns and forms (and exactly like our combative response #1 in our Presas Arnis program).

A lot like this, but with tonfa in my hands.

Of course, I didn't touch him.

He trusted me to have the knowledge of range and the control of my weapon not to hurt him.

He trusted my teacher, his student for decades, to have trained me well enough to have that knowledge.

And of course, since he's been a martial artist for as long as I've been alive, he trusted himself to be able to protect himself if his trust in me and my teacher was misplaced.

It was a cool moment, one that I've been thinking about ever since.

Trust is so very important in the martial arts.

I've written about this before here.  But it occurred to me that this trust factor is so fundamental, so very important to what we do... everything depends on having trust in our teachers and fellow students, and being trustworthy in return.

What we do is dangerous.  We risk injury every time we train.  Sometimes it's a minor risk. Sometimes the risk of major injury (even death) is there.  When weapons are involved, the risk increases exponentially.  We also engage in locks and throws that can be incredibly painful and are dangerous - look at this below - there has to be a lot of trust to allow someone to do this to you.

In Russia, President Overthrows You!

Anything that erodes that trust we have in one another is a bad thing.

This is why it's so important that people who set themselves up as teachers of the martial arts are honest about their training and abilities.

Buying ranks from belt mills, pretending to have been taught by prestigious teachers, exaggerating your experience, making up a fake Asian teacher and faking rank certificates, paying to be in martial arts halls of fame, teaching martial arts subjects you aren't qualified to teach (such as teaching Japanese swordsmanship when you haven't actually, y'know, studied it and been qualified by a teacher to teach it)...

That behavior means you can't be trusted, no matter how skilled you might be physically. 

Trust can't be faked, and once violated, can't be quite earned back at the same level it once was.

This is why it is so very important that we who set ourselves up as teachers of the martial arts be worthy of that trust.  We can't lie about our backgrounds, we can't claim skill in something we haven't studied, and we can't pretend ranks we haven't earned.

Our students and training partners need to trust us. We have to be worthy of it.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 02/13/16

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?


Saturday:  In the morning, I attended Arnis class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  After getting them warmed up, I worked a bit with our two new kid students - who did great - and taught the first half of Anyo Isa (empty hand form one) to our yellow belt kid.  I helped my teacher in his beginner TKD class - I coached kicks (side and roundhouse - yes, I know how to do them, even if I do them low myself) - as his usual assistants both had other obligations for the day. Then in the afternoon, I attended kobudo class, and got in a lot of practice with the bo and with the tonfa.  Very satisfying day - my arms were tired and sore so I know I put in some good work.
Sunday:  Since my next formal kobudo class is coming up, decided to spend about an hour or so working tonfa and bo, fine tuning things.  I'm not kidding when I say my arms were tired!
Monday:  Day off.  Spent it catching up on cooking some lunches for myself (because of my pretty strict diet, I have to plan what I'm going to eat, y'know...)
Tuesday:    Family issue meant I got to stay home and deal with it while hubby taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis. Thank goodness our school has two of us to teach classes!
Wednesday:  Got to go to class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  I led the warm-ups, so the class hit the bags (I love to have 'em hit bags), then I mostly played tapi-tapi with our kid brown belt, trading off driving and being the passenger, stealing the drive, and countering counters.  Fun stuff.
Thursday: Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We played a lot of Hubad-Lubud drills - both stationary and walking, working on moving forward and backward with the "attack" hand forward (think of how fencers move - that's sort of similar to the stance we were working on). We also did a little brush-grab strike.
Friday: Friday nights at Mid-Cities Arnis are always fun.  We worked block+check (#1 - high forehand and #2 - high backhand) strikes only, using "alternating" stepping as well as "attack" hand forward, up and down the room.  Then we broke out the soft sticks and played a few drills of block+check where you are surrounded by a group and you have to turn and defend against attacks.  We ended class with good ol' stick sparring, working on block+check and attempting to capture the stick or stick hand.  I also went to a late showing of "Deadpool".  It was AWESOME.

Me showing our student how to get to the hand after a "Dos Manos" (two hand) block


I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:   Sticks for Kids: Observations on Teaching Kids Arnis
Wednesday:  Four Profound Life Lessons (Learned in the Martial Arts)

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  An Unexpected Benefit of the Martial Arts
Thursday: Five Things You Can Do to Help Your Favorite Martial Arts School
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY:  How Young is Too Young to Earn a Black Belt?


This is a few weeks old now, but I don't recall sharing it here, and I watched it again and I love it.

Why do you have to train with (and against) weapons?  Even wildlife - the aquatic kind - can and will arm itself with a knife.

The counter to this, of course, is melted butter.  Improvised weapons, indeed.

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


Today is Kobudo class over in Dallas.  I'm always happy when I get to go over there.  I've been practicing pretty hard, so I'm feeling good about this month's class.

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, February 10, 2016

4 Profound Life Lessons (Learned in the Martial Arts)

In the martial arts, you are basically learning how to apply violence to other people. 

Oh, sure, it 's more than that - you learn how to control your physical and mental state, for one - but at its core, that's what we're doing.

Learning how to be good at violence.

But there are lots of other things we learn via the hobby of acquiring bruises for fun.  Here's some of what I've learned:

There Will Always Be Someone Better Than I Am

No matter how hard I train, no matter how talented I am, no matter how good I can become, there will always, ALWAYS be someone better than me, stronger than me, more talented than me, works as hard or harder than I do... and will best me.

Don't believe me?  Ask Ronda Rousey.

We often define the ultimate measure of success in the martial arts as the ability to "win" a physical conflict.  While I'd define "winning" as "surviving to walk away"... it's impossible to win every single conflict that might come along.  Eventually, you can and will lose, for whatever reason.

Training is the process by which we (hopefully) postpone that day from coming.

I Will Never Be a Master

That is, I will never know all I need to know.  Indeed, the longer I train, the more I learn, the more I realize how very much there is to learn, and that I won't ever get to all of it.

Can't put this in something and call it "done",

This is actually a good thing, as it shows that there's no end to what is to be learned - you'll never get bored.  Heck, I keep discovering new stuff for myself in our basics that I've been learning and teaching to others for a long time now.

But yeah, I'll never actually be a "master".  Most of us won't, I think, if we're honest with ourselves.  Using the term "Master" in the academic sense is fine, but we can't ever confuse that meaning of the word vs. having learned all there is to learn.

It Gets Harder As I Get Older (Physically)

As I started the martial arts later in life, this is even more clear to me.  Having been an athlete in my youth, I remember getting injuries all the time, and healing relatively quickly.

As I age, it takes longer to recover from injury.  Bruises take longer to heal, minor strains and muscle pulls are more debilitating.  I've had few serious injuries thus far, but when that day comes, I can see it will take a longer time to get back to "normal" again.

Me someday.  (Who am I kidding - me now)

This is why, as an older martial artist, I need to take care to prevent true injury, as it can interrupt my training a lot longer than it might a younger person.  If you train with older people, keep this in mind also - training is supposed to help us learn and grow, and safety needs to be taken into consideration.

Most People Aren't Impressed With What I Do

You'd think, given the popularity of action movies and TV shows, people would be impressed with the fact that I do the martial arts.

To most people it's one of two things.

It's just another hobby, like CrossFit or Model Railroading or what have you, and thus, aren't interested in the details that you and I can talk to death.

Or, they think I'm nuts for voluntarily exposing myself to pain and potential injury.  That's because most people don't like to actually risk themselves to injury or pain.

Oh, she's talking about "ahrNEESE" again. 

Sounds crazy, fellow martial artist, but it's true.

But that's true of most hobbies, friends.  Unless you're into it, it's not very interesting to those not in that hobby.  For most of us - it IS just a really risky version of crafting or yoga.

Here's the thing:  All of these life lessons apply to most aspects of my life.

It's true in my profession and in other hobbies and interests I have.

I'll never be a true "master" in anything, there will always be somebody better than me at everything I do, everything gets more difficult as I age, and most people don't give two flips about what I do.

All of that is okay.  Because it's true for all of us, in one way or another.  It doesn't make what we do not worth the time and effort we put into it.  On the contrary, putting in time and effort into what you love is always worthwhile!

But it helps to keep it all in perspective.

So what are some life lessons martial arts have taught YOU?  Let us know in the comments!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sticks for Kids: Observations on Teaching Kids Arnis

Some folks out there have the perception that Arnis, especially Arnis taught with rattan sticks, is an inappropriate style to teach to children.

My teacher's school, Hidden Sword Martial Arts has kids classes in Modern Arnis.  When we had our rec center program, we taught kids, too.  And I know of kids programs at Datu Tim Hartman's school, Horizon Martial Arts, Brian Johns' school Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts Centre, and many others who are teaching children.

Kids working on sinawali at Mid-Cities Arnis

My personal experience as well as the experience of people I trust says that the belief that kids can't or shouldn't learn Arnis is just plain wrong.

I mean, Arnis is the national martial sport of the Philippines and is taught in elementary schools there, y'all.

Here are some of the things we've observed teaching young kids Arnis:

Use Smaller Sticks

Our kid students use "kid sticks", which are only 3/8" diameter.  Most kids don't have the upper body strength to manage normal sized sticks.  Cutting them down to 24" or so that they are easier for them to handle is a good idea.  Some people teach kids arnis with padded sticks; I really don't think this is necessary, as Arnis is way safer than outsiders believe it to be.

Don't Expect Powerful Blocking Early

This is not because of technique, but because of the upper body strength problem.  With kids, you have to go a little lighter with strikes as they build up the strength.  I've noticed that they also have good judgement in NOT striking hard with partners, so don't worry too much on that score.  Work on the technique; the power of blocking will come with time.

An unsupported block is very difficult for kids.

Maintain "Stick Discipline"

When we are not actively working with our sticks, our kids are taught to hold the sticks at "rest" - tucked under their arms.  This is something you really have to stay on top of with the kids.  Their minds sometimes wander when you're teaching a concept, and it's very easy for them to start fooling around with the sticks and get someone hit. 

Good Technique Takes Longer

Getting the kids to do good technique - proper blocking, stepping, range, targeting, etc. - takes a lot of work, more than I typically see in adults (unless, of course, you get one of those naturals which is really rare).  This means you really need to get a lot of reps in, even if they aren't perfect reps.  Focus on one thing at a time - have them work on proper targeting for a series of sessions, then when they have that down, then work on another aspect.  They can't handle too much at one time, so don't overload them with too much information too quickly.

Kids Love Hitting the Bags

Nothing perks up a kids class more than getting to hit the bags.  I think this is because they get to not work so hard on their control, and just build up other aspects of their game without worrying about not hitting their partner.  So make sure you include a class of bag work relatively often, where they can work on their power.

Working on striking technique versus VERSYS VS.  Bob (aka Bob 2.0)

Kids Struggle With the Grip

Getting kids to grip a stick properly - a closed grip - is hard. Why?  Because the sticks are longer, proportionally (even when you cut them down) than they are for adults.  They feel like they have to have an open grip in order to control the stick.  Keep an close eye on this, as an open grip is a very bad habit and incredibly difficult to break.

Kids Need Games

The most popular thing in our classes for our kids are the games we play.  As right now we have a mixed-ages class, so it's pretty much relegated to two games - "Guro Says" (like "Simon Says") and a game we call "ninjas", where we have kids avoid getting hit by stuffed "ninjas" or pool-noodle "swords" (adults act as the "attackers").  We are splitting our adults class in May, so we plan to incorporate more skill building games in our classes for the kids.

Kids Tend to Strike "Light"

Most kids - not all, but most - are very weapon-aware and thus, they don't put as much power and energy into striking that they could (or should, even).  This comes from a student being afraid of hurting their partner, but it teaches bad habits early, so you really have to coach them to deliver solid strikes. This problem is not only associated with kid students - adults do it too.  That's why the blocking I mentioned above becomes a key issue. Getting good blocks helps students gain the confidence to deliver stronger strikes in drills.

So if you're considering adding on a weapons program for kids in your martial arts school, Arnis (kali/escrima/eskrima) are actually a pretty good choice. Kids seem to have lots of fun with it!

Did I miss any good tips for teaching kids Arnis?  Are you worried about letting kids learn Filipino Martial Arts?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 02/06/16

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?


Saturday:  Attended MAPA 8.  Worked on lots of disarming (single stick, double stick and empty hand, and with tonfa too), espada y daga, and learned a neat tapi-tapi like drill from Arnis de Leon.  My writeup is below.  I got my right hand jammed hard and my right ring finger was stiff and swollen for most of the week.  The weird thing is that I don't quite remember how/when that happened during the seminar, just when it started to really hurt toward the end!
Sunday:  Went to Medieval Times with my family.  It was pricey but really fun. I highly recommend it.
Monday:  My "day off". Let my hand heal.
Tuesday:    Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked with the kids on their striking by having them hit pads.  Elbows in and straight wrists, kids!
Wednesday:  Attended class at Hidden Sword.  Worked on various aspects of sinawali boxing, leading to throws.  It's been a while since I was thrown to the mat that often - it was fun!
Thursday: Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis. We worked on Combative Response #1 - both with sticks and empty hand - all class.  Got in a lot of reps, correcting little issues here and there with each student.  We're prepping for our next rank testing at the end of the month.
Friday: Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Did the 12 Angles of Attack as an attacking/blocking drill with supported blocking and walking up and down the floor.  Corrected a lot of blocking issues, and that was very satisfying.  Then we stick sparred, focusing on attempting to capture the stick.  Very quickly, you end up "stick grappling" when you play that way!  Very fun!

Me getting stabby with it at MAPA 8


I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:  Thoughts from MAPA 8: It's All The Same Thing
Wednesday:  How Cheering Made Me a Better Martial Artist
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Change One Reality of Your Martial Art?

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  My Wish List: Body Armor
Thursday:  Let's Talk About Sticks

January was my 3rd best month for average views in the history of this blog.  Thanks, y'all!


The big news in the FMA world was news of GM Cacoy Canete of Doce Pares passing away on February 5.  Jack Lee at the Stickgrappler blog posted a nice memorial here and Russ Haas wrote a wonderful memorial here.

Neat video from Ballet Manilla, which shows one of the ways the Filipino Martial Arts was kept alive through dance (and there are other native arts kept alive the same way)...

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


I can't believe we are nearing the 2nd anniversary of MAPA - it looks like MAPA 9 will be sometime in May this year.  Really, if you are anywhere in or near the DFW area, you really should come to a MAPA.  If you're on Facebook, follow the MAPA page here.

Today I get to get in some intense kobudo practice, which I need.  It was hard to work on it this week with the jammed finger.  It's still problematic but I think I can practice without losing my grip on a tonfa and having it fly across the room.

I hope.

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, February 5, 2016

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


We had the topic of "What one perception of your martial art would you change" on FACE-OFF FRIDAY.

So today's question is on the same vein.

No martial art is perfect.  We all have things we do in our arts that we dislike for whatever reason.  It could be a core drill, or a form, or what have you...

So here's my question to you today:


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How Cheering Made Me a Better Martial Artist

I did not grow up in the martial arts.

Instead, from a young age, I was a cheerleader.

I was the competitive, two-practices-a-day, national-championships, stunningly high rate of injury kind of cheerleading for much of my youth.  In high school, I was a cheerleader for three years, then I was in Flag Corps with the marching band my Senior Year.

Yep, that's me, from 2nd Grade all the way through High School.
If circumstances had been different, I might have remained with cheering much of my life.  At one point, as a child, that was certainly my plan.  I was going to cheer through college, join one of the national cheering companies, and then become a cheering coach.

Life got in the way, and I ended up on a different path.

Fast forward twenty years, and I ended up in a gi.

And I'm telling you, those formative years in competitive cheering makes me a better martial artist.   Here's how:

Competitive cheering develops all of the same basic skill sets that are needed to be a successful martial artist.  These include superior hand/eye coordination, physical fitness (cardiovascular as well as strength and flexibility), an awareness of where one is in space, memory, and good timing.

If you watch cheering - you can often catch competitions on ESPN - you are watching highly choreographed routines that require memorizing dozens of moves in a particular sequence. 

Some routines are as long as 5 to 10 minutes.  Your forms - even the super long ones - don't last that long.

All the things you want when you're doing a form.  Compare what you see above to this group kata video, and tell me that the skill sets aren't related.

Additionally, in the competitive cheering world, you may have several routines you know (not to mention the actual cheers you do at games, assuming you aren't a pure performance team and are actually going to games). You know many, many cheers with various hand/foot movements, lots of different pyramids, etc. 

Just like we do in the martial arts.

I believe that cheering in my youth gave me the skill sets to learn and perform kata/anyos/forms pretty quickly.

Cheering is dangerous.  Look at the video above.  If something goes wrong - someone is in the wrong place, someone isn't 100% focused, or just an accident happens like stepping the wrong way - somebody gets hurt.  Cheering has a ton of injuries.  In fact, it's the #2 catastrophic sport and the #1 female dominated sport in injuries in the US.

When you cheer competitively, you do not want to let your teammates down, let me tell you.  The pressure is immense to keep going through injury that can and does happen while performing.  Many a cheerleader has competed on a sprained ankle or wrist.  At the highest levels, you won't even know they are injured until they get off the stage.

This is the same attitude we develop in the martial arts.

Finally, much of what you learn in cheering is literally nearly identical to what you learn in martial arts, physically.  Here's a picture of a flying side kick from TKD:

Image found here.
This jump is called a hurdler in cheering:

Image found here.
Not that different, people.  If you can learn one and do it well, you can learn the other.

Finally, let's talk about the values of cheering.  You learn not to let down your team mates.  You learn to have an upbeat and positive attitude.  You learn commitment, you learn tenacity... heck, cheering is all about "indomitable spirit".

I grew up learning all of the skill sets that serve me well as a martial artist today, even though I didn't make the connection at the time.

And see?  I didn't even have to mention vampires.

What activity did you do as a child that made you a better martial artist?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Thoughts from MAPA 8: It's All The Same Thing

The eighth gathering of the +Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance was over the weekend.

The big idea that came to me in this seminar was the fact that it is, really, "all the same thing".  If you watch a lot of video of Professor Remy Presas (or lucky you, got to study with him directly), he says this a lot.  MAPA 8 showed us how it was all completely true!

Our first instructor, Bruce Jenkins of Moroland Martial Arts, covered the various single stick disarms off of the standard 12 Angles of Attack from Modern Arnis.  We covered angles #1 through #6.  What was interesting here - and how it's all connected - is that I knew most of the disarms he taught, but he showed a few that I hadn't done just that way before.

Guru Bruce shows a disarm variant off the #3 (middle forehand) strike

For example, he showed a disarm off of the #1 empty handed that we usually do when we have a stick in our hand.  I hadn't considered doing that disarm that way, and now I know that I can.  That got me thinking about the other empty hand versions of disarms I know, and wondering that if I played with them with a stick, how would those work?  How would the standard stick-on-stick disarms work empty handed?  What about double stick?  Or a knife?   Both in my own hand, and in my opponents?

It's all the same thing.

Next, my teacher +Mark Lynn of Hidden Sword Martial Arts continued the theme of disarming, this time working the double sticks.  He taught the same side block, cross body strike and punyo on top disarm, then same disarm with stick on bottom, a wedge disarm, and two disarms off of an "x" block vs. an overhand strike.  He emphasized that you have to HIT the guy to make most of these disarms work (and that is true for most disarms in general, as many of them are extremely easy to counter if you don't hit first).

Preparing to disarm that right hand strike - but hit him first!

Once we learned them double stick, he then showed them with some of the Okinawan/Japanese weapons - the sai and the tonfa specifically.  He encouraged the group to try the same disarms using these weapons (the tonfa held in various grips was pretty interesting).  He encouraged us to play around with these same ideas and concepts with other weapons we might know or use.

It's all the same thing.

Next, Jason Gutierrez of Force Necessary (Hock Hockheim's organization) taught us some espada y daga drills.  These come from GM Ernesto Presas' Kombatan.  The nice thing about learning the espada y daga drills is that they build on one another - you start off the same way each time, but finish differently, inserting different strikes (many of them "classical" arnis strikes, such as banda y banda and abanico).
Guro Jason leads the group in the drill
One cool thing is that Guro Jason showed the empty hand interpretation of some of these drills.  I hadn't done those before, and it was pretty cool how easily these drills work in an empty hand interpretation.  This was one of the "big ideas" that stuck in my head (how I want to start playing with the espada y daga drills Jason taught, and others I've learned empty handed).

Empty hand version - my interpretation of the third strike in the drill, which is a low strike

See?  Yet again - it's all the same thing.

Finally, David Beck of Beck Martial Arts showed a single stick drill from Arnis de Leon that involves starting off of single stick single sinawali that is a lot like the Modern Arnis tapi-tapi play.   His session involved teaching each step in the drill - both as the attacker (or driver) and as the defender (or passenger).

Actually it reminded me of this drill that I'd seen earlier in the day.

What Guro David showed was not this drill  - but it was similar to what they do in Arnis De Leon.  Later on in the day, I posted this video to Guro David on our MAPA discussion page on Facebook, and Datu +Dieter Kn├╝ttel said that the beginning of this video is 100% freestyle of GM Ernesto!

It is all the same thing.

There were some brand-new-to-Arnis attendees this time around, but both of them were well grounded in tae kwon do.  I got to work with them on a few of the drills, and to help them, I tried to relate what they already know in tae kwon do.  Foe example, to get them to remember to keep their sticks up, I reminded them that they don't spar with their hands low and away from their heads.

They already know some arnis, they just didn't know that they do.  Because it's all the same thing!

One of our students attended MAPA with us, and most of what we learned was WAY over what he's done thus far, and he kept up with us.  I was so proud of him!

Here's some more pictures of me from the event.  I don't have a group picture yet but I'll update this post when I get one.

My turn on the espada y daga drill.

Me providing the targets for my partner to strike.

I get to demo the abanico strike for the group.  I love abanico!

Me watching Guro David teach his section.

I work with our student on Guro David's Drill
As always, if you or someone you know is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and are interested in the Filipino Martial Arts, MAPA is for you!  MAPA 9 will be scheduled soon - it will probably be in May. See you there!

Working Disarms

More disarms

Fine tuning a disarm against a middle backhand

Disarm successful!

Playing Espada y Daga

Empty hand work

We have lots of fun at MAPA!