Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Three is a Magic Number

In the version of the Filipino Martial Arts I've been taught, the number three comes up a lot.

Yep, Schoolhouse Rock.  See the whole video here.

It comes up so often that the most common symbol used in the FMA's is the triangle. We used it in our own logo for Mid-Cities Arnis.  We also considered various words for the number "three" when we named our school, but didn't come up with a combination we liked.

The reason the triangle is used varies, but mostly it represents the standard footwork we use - the male and female triangle.  +Eric Primm has an excellent series about footwork over at his blog (the tag is "Footwork Friday"), and sure enough, you see the triangle over and over again. [ED NOTE: The blog is down as of July 2018, don't click through].

In our classes at MCA, we've been working on various sets of threes, all coming from the same basic source concept of alternating hands in three strikes (then alternating sides - so it comes out to six strikes in a single "pass").

The foundation is brush-grab-strike.

This is where you take the lead hand and brush the incoming punch, the rear hand follows it and grabs/traps/holds the strike, and the lead hand then strikes the opponent.

Brush-grab-strike is not just a way to strike - it's also interpreted as a throw, which is how we've been talking about it as we've been teaching the empty hand Anyo Isa.

It is a key drill and technique in Modern Arnis, and something we do all the time.

Put two sticks in your hands, and brush-grab-strike becomes Redondo (or redonda - I was taught the word "redondo" but I think both terms are used depending on which FMA system you are in).

See it?  Lead hand, rear hand, lead hand.

Change the plane (from horizontal to vertical), and it becomes double sinawali - play with the targets, and you get Heaven 6, Standard Double Sinawali Standard (or Middle), and Earth 6.

The reverse of this becomes one of our combative responses - rear hand blocks, lead hand blocks or traps, rear hand strikes.  We sometimes call this "double tap".

Adjust "double tap" just a tad, making the second strike more of a pass, and you get basic hubad-lubad.

Put a stick in each of our hands in this basic hubad-lubad pattern, and it becomes what we call our Combative Response #5 (which used to be #4 - from Kombatan).  Same side block, pass with the other hand, and then strike with the original blocking hand.

Use a single stick, and our drill becomes block-check-counter.

Guess what?  You can do block-check-counter empty handed, too!

This is ALL off of the same basic concept of three strikes with both hands alternating - one, two, three.

There are tons of other "three" concepts in Arnis, but as you can see, just this single idea of three strikes alternating hands contains tons of material to work from.  From this foundation, then you start adding in other things, additional strikes, etc.

In the Filipino Martial Arts, three is truly a magic number!

How does the number "three" come up in your training?  Let us know in the comments!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Conquering Doubts (with Weapons)

Best practice, if you will, in the martial arts suggests that for any martial art to find out its usefulness, it must be pressure tested.

That means working against resisting opponents.

Yeah, when Borg are involved, all bets are off.
Often, we do so in a sporting context.  This would include everything from light contact point sparring all the way up to hard contact fighting we see in promotions like the UFC.

Even with resisting opponents, we aren't 100% recreating the experience that fighting for real would entail.  We have rule sets and equipment that helps keep the injury factor down.  There's also the matter of intent - most of us are not fighting with the intent to do deadly harm.

So while sport martial arts are pressure tested, they're still not 100% recreations of real-life violence - it can't be.

It gets a lot more difficult to pressure test when we're talking about weapons.

Most martial artists these days learn weapons arts as an add-on to their empty hand art.  The vast majority only learn a weapon in a form (or kata or poomsae or anyo or whatever you want to call it - a prearranged set of motions, often done solo in the air).  The exceptions are people learning Filipino Martial Arts, Silat, and other arts that don't rely on forms to teach use of weapons. Instead, they tend to learn with various drills.  But even then, drills don't quite recreate the pressure testing necessary to answer the following question: "Will this work in a fight?"

Groups such as the Dog Brothers have worked hard to try to answer this question using lots of different weapons in an FMA-based context.

I surely wish, though, that we had similar groups for other weapons most of us martial artists are working with - such as the Okinawan weapons, the Japanese weapons, and the Chinese weapons.  Maybe we do, and I don't know about it (always possible, certainly, so if you know of someone doing this, please, let me know in the comments).

Sure, there are Actionflex versions of many of the Okinawan/Japanese weapons being sold by Century here in the USA, and we have used them in weapons sparring, and those are pretty useful to figure out what can and can't be done when the opponent is moving and trying to hit you.

That's how I learned out how useful a jo is, for example, even with the limitations Actionflex has (and there are many).

I've been thinking about this as I've been working hard on my kobudo forms and "one step" sparring drills.

What am I doing here, and why?

What or who am I supposed to be fighting against?

Would it work?

Often, I'm not sure I can answer that last question with any kind of confidence.  It's hard to recreate, sometimes, the situation where a specific move or set of moves would work without having a lot of doubt.   The recreation must happen, though, because without that mindset, all I'm really learning to do is to move around with a weapon as a prop, and nothing more (and y'all know how I feel about that).

I always have doubts, though, and I'm always thinking about it.

One thing that helps, always, is hitting stuff, even if it's a stationary target.  If you haven't done this, you learn really, really quickly about things like grip and stances making a huge difference.

My teacher has come up with sumbrada patterns that helps, a bit.  

As you can see, there are all sorts of holes in this pattern to exploit in later training, and when you perform this sumbrada, you definitely feel each and every one when you have this weapon coming at you.

Of course, this is not pressure testing with resistance.  But it's better than dancing with a long stick in the air in any case.

So, those of you are there training in any weapon tradition - how are you thinking about, and solving the problem?  What doubts do you have about things you're doing, and how are you resolving them?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 03/26/16

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:  LOOONNG DAY! Drove an hour over to Richardson to work with my teacher Sensei Don Oliver on learning Naihanchi Shodan. Worked on that for several hours (and yeah, all sorts of "Hey, this is just like this in Arnis!" discussions happened - that's what happens when you get two nerds together), drove an hour home, changed clothes, drove 1/2 hour to teach a Women's Self Defense class (four hours long), changed quickly there into a dress - YES, I OWN A DRESS - and drove 40 minutes to go to AKATO's 40th Anniversary Banquet, then drove a little over an hour home.
Sunday:   Worked on Naihanchi Shodan, tonfa, and bo.  Hubby spent the day studying knife with +Hock Hochheim  - I think Hock saw him on this day more than I did in the previous few days combined.  Sorta jealous, Hock.
Monday:  My day off, but I worked on Naihanchi Shodan.
Tuesday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Reviewed Combative Responses 1, 2 and 3.  We have a student who hasn't learned this material yet, so I worked with her and she caught on the fastest I've ever seen a newbie catch on.  It was awesome.  Then we finally got through the end of Anyo Isa!
Wednesday:  Attended class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts. Worked w/our adult brown belt on some interesting progressions adding in kicks, disruptions and throws off of basic block+check.
Thursday: Worked kicks and kick/strike combos Mid-Cities Arnis.  Nice workout.
Friday:  Wrapped up the week at Mid-Cities Arnis.  It's Good Friday, so only one student attended class.  This student is getting ready to leave us for deployment overseas, so we worked on his form so he can know it well enough to practice while he's away.  I also got to put in some good work on Naihanchi Shodan.

Demonstrating a technique at our Women's Self Defense seminar


Mid-Cities Arnis, with the support of Hidden Sword Martial Arts, is hosting +Datu Hartman on Friday, April 1, 2016!  This came up very quickly, and we're getting lots of great responses - so if you or someone you know is in Dallas-Fort Worth, share the news and come on by!


I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:    Finding My Place
Wednesday:  Daredevil Season 2: Awesome Fight Scenes and a Problem

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  A Parent's Guide to the Martial Arts
Thursday: Scaling the Martial Arts Cliff
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Gi/Uniforms or No Gi?


Yep, those would be my monkeys. No comment on whose circus this is, though...

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


So excited to be able to host Datu Tim Hartman this coming Friday at our place.  Plus, I get to go to ANOTHER seminar the next day (see below - come joins us) and help out at a Modern Arnis Black Belt Test.  The person testing is someone I've really gotten to know well via our MAPA Seminars, so I'm so happy I'll be able to help out on her big day.  Big weekend coming up next 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, March 23, 2016

Daredevil Season 2: Awesome Fight Scenes and a Problem

Two of my nerd worlds collide today  - martial arts and comic book shows.

"Daredevil" Season 2 is on Netflix right now.  You may recall I wrote about one particular awesome fight scene - one that reminded me of "Oldboy" - here.

Image found here
There are two big fight scenes people are talking about this season.  The first one is where Daredevil is fighting a large group of vicious bikers in a hallway and in a stairwell.  This fight directly hearkens back to the hallway fight in Season 1.  I admit, I think they went a little too far out of the realism that made that scene from Season 1 so memorable, but it's still a hell of a fight (and well shot, too):

Click here if you can't see the video.

In this very same episode Punisher (another vigilante like our hero, but one that kills) and Daredevil have the perennial comic book discussion on the nature of vigilantism.  Punisher generally kills the bad guys (sometimes torturing them before he does so) and Daredevil doesn't intend to kill anybody, preferring to hand the over to the police when he can. It's the old "Kill the bad guys so they can't kill again" versus "Beat up and capture the bad guys and send them to jail because we're better than they are" argument.

It's a classic comic book argument.  I have a big problem, though, with Daredevil trying to take the moral high ground over Punisher's relatively straight forward solution to the bad guy problem.

Watch the fight scene above, and you tell me how survivable much of what happens really is.  Daredevil hits people in the head with a heavy chain and other weapons and tools. Repeatedly.  Daredevil doesn't (apparently) kill anybody, especially as we see the same bikers coming back for more punishment, but I think it's just that Daredevil has been incredibly lucky.  In real life, there'd be some serious, maybe even fatal, injuries in that scene.

The show pretends that not shooting or stabbing people is a painful but generally harmless activity.

Daredevil isn't the only show doing this sort of thing - "Arrow" also does it when they have their heroes use metal weapons (a staff and escrima sticks) and hit each other in the head in practice with the other person no worse for wear.  There are more than one example of this, but this scene is the one that first made me get a little annoyed with this concept.

Click here if you can't see the video.

Getting hit with rattan like this will make you do more than just go "OW!"  Metal pipes?  To the head?  Come on.  I'd never practice with the Arrow again because he's a jerk and it'd take four to six weeks for my injury to heal after every practice.  Not to mention all the dental repair bills...

By the way, this badass practice in the video above (from "Arrow")  is just sinawali, stuff we teach white belts.

Oliver Queen ("the Arrow" or "Green Arrow" in the comics) is a lot like Daredevil in that he decides intentionally not to kill anybody either.  Never mind that he uses weapons that can easily risk serious permanent injury or death in nearly every fight he's in.

So yeah, guys, any hero using weapons is risking killing somebody every time they use them. That's the nature of weapons, y'all.

Because I know there's LARPers out there who will watch this stuff and try it out, I want to make this perfectly clear:

When you hit people with objects you risk serious injury and death every single time you do it.

Especially in the head.  This is why it's a more serious crime than hitting someone with your fist in real life - the difference between "Assault" and "Assault with a Deadly Weapon".

Ok so, let's go back to "Daredevil" and end on a high note.  This second scene is the one that's really got people excited, especially in the FMA world, and you'll see why when you watch it.

Click here if you can't see the video.

AWWWW, YISSSS!  That's more like it - brutal, bloody, and fast, the way a fight with weapons would be.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!


Apparently I'm not the only one thinking this.  My friend Andy over on Facebook shared this with me:

Find me someone to credit and I will!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Finding My Place

My teacher, +Mark Lynn is a long-time member of an organization called AKATO.

I've had exposure to the group for years, of course - first through my daughter's participation in AKATO tournaments (the only ones she really liked), then attending seminars there (or helping my teacher teach one), and now, I'm taking their kobudo class once a month.  Heck my very first -and as of this writing, only - tournament competition was in an AKATO tournament!

I have had exposure to many martial arts organizations - especially in the Modern Arnis community - but AKATO is the one group of non-FMA folks I've had direct and consistent contact with (excepting, of course, all of the neat people I've met in the journey of writing this blog).

Up until about a year ago, most AKATO folks only saw me when I was taking Older Daughter to stuff (she is well known as the girl who smiles when she spars), or when Mark needed a victim... um, I mean, an uke.

My teacher and I teaching Arnis at an AKATO seminar in March 2015.

I helped Mark teach FMA weapons training concepts to the AKATO kobudo black belts in 2013, over a year and a half before I joined the program as a white belt last year.  Over time, at various times related to AKATO folks, I've often been able to help people get going in my art, and it's a real pleasure to be able to share my passion with these fellow martial artists.

My participation in AKATO has, over time, gained me new friends and training partners - including a teacher helping me in my resumption of studying Ryukyu Kempo, Sensei Don Oliver.  He is awesomesauce on so many levels, I'm very lucky to be able to train with him - he teaches in the kobudo program too and while he is not my direct kobudo instructor he is always helpful to this newb.

I'm finding that, through my participation in the kobudo class, and via my attendance at other AKATO events, I'm starting to become more than just Older Daughter's Mom or Mark's student.

I'm getting known for my own interests, my own strengths and weaknesses.

It's pretty exciting, because for the first time, I'm creating real-life connections in a larger organization that isn't only defined by my relationship to someone else.  I've always studied (for the most part) in small schools, far away from parent organizations in Modern Arnis or Ryukyu Kempo (or Presas Arnis or any of the close relative arts).  AKATO has given me a connection to larger, more diverse martial arts world.

A larger, more diverse martial arts family.

I often feel like a peacock among swans - the exotic, loud, strange thing in the middle of quiet, strong, graceful people.  But they seem to not mind squawky ol' me too much. I kid, I kid... actually, these swans have been very, very welcoming to this peacock.

Me in a few years, probably - a mutant swan-peacock thing! Image found here.

I'm finding my place in AKATO, and in the larger martial arts world.  There is so much good in it, so many smart and talented and amazing people.  AKATO exemplifies the ideal of what the martial arts community could and should be. These connections are helping me grow into a better martial artist, and I'm grateful for the connection.

Tell me about how you find your place in the larger martial arts world - is it in your school, an organization, or even online?  We'd love to know!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 03/19/16

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?


It's Spring Break week here in Texas.  All of our classes - both at Hidden Sword and at Mid-Cities Arnis - are ghost towns.

Saturday:  Friends are visiting from out of town, so the only martial arts-y thing I was able to do was attend Kobudo class (we spent the morning at the Fort Worth Stockyards).  The good news is that I didn't actually lose my grip on my bo or my tonfa in this class after jamming my right pinkie when I was stick sparring the night before. The bad news is that you really learn how much you use your pinkies, especially when controlling the bo.  Oh, and we hit a BOB with our weapons hard and fast and that was extremely painful BUT our teachers were very pleased with how good the women's group did in striking (using our hips, keeping guards up, getting creative).  But hey, I got the job done, so I'll put the day in the "win" column.
Sunday:  Friends still in town and staying with us, so hey, we went to Medieval Times.  Second time in two months.  It was AWESOME.
Monday:  My night off.  I did practice tonfa a bit (mainly the footwork - there's a bit in our new form that has my stymied).
Tuesday:   Worked on a bit of sinawali (X-Pattern), hubad-lubad drills, and teaching another portion of Anyo Isa to our students.  We're not quite through the entire form yet, but we're getting there.
Wednesday:   Covered classes at Hidden Sword Martial Arts and practiced a bit of tonfa.  It was just me and our senior kid student, so we just played tapi-tapi for the hour, riffing on whatever occurred to us.  Fun!
Thursday:  Only had one student at Mid-Cities Arnis, so we covered with him some material from a special topics class we did earlier in the month that he couldn't attend.  It was introduction to pressure points and some basic locks (wrist, finger).
Friday: Had two students, so not only did we practice Anyo Isa, but we got to stick spar. Great way to end the week!

Working on Anyo Isa using only the footwork. 


I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:   Peace and the Martial Arts
Wednesday:  I'm Going Home Again
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Online Instruction or McDojo?

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday: Five Things I Absolutely Hate About Being a Martial Artist
Thursday:  How to Get the Most out of Sinawali


Forget training in Memphis.  I've found my new REAL MASTER.

Really nice post by +Way Of Ninja's blog: 6 Reasons Why You Should Never Dismiss Beginners

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


Today I am doing something martial arts related every waking moment (practically). Working on learning forms in the morning, teaching a women's self defense class in the afternoon, and attending the AKATO 40th Anniversary Banquet in the evening.  I will be on the run from about 7:30 am or so until probably around 10 pm.  The hardest part of my day is that I have to drive from Fort Worth to north Dallas, back to Fort Worth, back to west Dallas, which is about 3-1/2 hours on the road.  I also have to change clothes three times!

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, March 18, 2016

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Online Learning vs. McDojo - Which Would You Choose?


This week's question is a little different.  I am interested in when (if ever) online learning is preferable to training with a teacher.

Here's the scenario I'd like for you to consider:

Joe WannaLearn lives in a small, remote town in the middle of nowhere.  He really, really wants to learn a martial art.

Near Joe is a bad martial arts school - no contact at all, all forms, spinny-dancey McDojo of the highest order.

There is literally no other quality school for Joe within 400 miles (650 km) . Joe has a job, but it's a relatively low paying one, so taking a trip to a quality school, paying the cost of transport, training, hotel, and maybe even taking unpaid days off his job is not reasonable.  The McDojo, however is well within Joe's meager budget.

Joe has found, however, a set of instructional videos (either online streaming or via DVD) that are in a quality martial art system.  At least, they're better than the McDojo. However, he has nobody to train with, and he will learn and test via video with his instructor.

So, which is Joe better off doing?

Online Instruction, or going to the McDojo?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Going Home Again

I have a number of goals for 2016.

One of them is "Growing the Empty Hand".

I started in an empty hand art, but fell in love with Arnis - and weapons - pretty quickly.  I probably will always remain a weapons-oriented martial artist, because I am fascinated by weapons of all sorts, of all cultures, even.  All y'all know how I feel about meat and weapons, right?

A man after my own heart.

However, for the long term - for my personal growth, and for our martial arts school's long-term growth, I really want to develop more in the empty hand side of things.

While what I do in Arnis absolutely translates to the empty hand, I'd like to expand my repertoire a bit.  My inclination is to explore the Japanese arts, mainly because between that and the Korean arts, it appeals to me a bit more.  It also goes along well with my Kobudo study.

I've noticed, though, that I have to work a lot harder in Kobudo class because so much of what they do concept-wise is directly related to what the Karate and Tae Kwon Do stylists in the room already know and do.  Studying an art like that will probably make Kobudo a little easier for me.

To be honest, just as the martial arts in general appeals to only a very small percentage of the population, it is an even smaller population that is interested in studying weapons, especially for children, in the United States.  I don't know why this is, but it definitely seems to be true.

If I want to teach martial arts in the long term to more than a very small group of people, I need to add in an empty hand art into what I do.

Punching fog optional?

So, I have reconnected with my original Ryukyu Kempo teacher in Memphis, and I will be traveling there on occasion to study under him.  My first trip is at the end of April, 2016.  This will involve a couple of days of intense training, then going home and practicing my butt off until I get to visit him again.  I'll probably go once a quarter.

My teacher teaches a nice basic form of karate, with his tuite heavily influenced by Small Circle Jujitsu. As I researched and thought about it, I decided that this is perfect for me - the way I think about things, what I would enjoy teaching, and how it relates to my weapons work.

Nice, fundamental karate suits me well.

I have a friend in my AKATO group here in Dallas-Fort Worth that is going to work with me on the forms I am required to learn (he knows them all and is very, very good at them).  I start working with him in a few days (in March 2016).

So now my empty-hand path is in place, and I'm making progress.

I left Ryukyu Kempo as a Blue Belt, but he says we'll reconsider what rank I am when I visit.  White belt or some other color, I'm all good with whatever he says I am.

I get to go home again - to the city in which I was born, both literally, and in a martial arts sense, back with my original martial arts family, learning stuff I really want to learn.

I'm pretty stoked about it!

Have you studied more than one art?  Reconnected with old teachers?  How did you make those decisions?  Tell us about it!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Peace and the Martial Arts

"The Martial Arts aren't about violence, they're about peace."

This is the weirdest version of hubad-lubad I've ever seen.

I've seen this put out there by various martial arts schools now and then, and it always gives me a little pause.

I mean, I think I understand what they are trying to say.  That our study of the martial arts is not necessarily primarily about learning how to commit violence, but to defend against it, and in some cases, avoid it altogether.

I get why they're saying this, too.  It's to point out to potential students - or the parents of potential students really - that the martial arts school they're running is not a bully training program.  That they teach - or attempt to teach - conflict resolution, and avoiding violence.

So there's a marketing purpose behind this claim, too.

Here's the thing.  I think this is a lofty concept, one that is worthy and interesting to consider, but ultimately, I think it's misleading.

Violence is what we are all about in the martial arts.  Let's not kid ourselves, because it's true.

We primarily study how to commit and use violence, and harness it to good purpose.  That good purpose is defense of self, and others, against people who are willing and able to initiate force against us.

We generally learn not to initiate violence without very, very good reason in the service of something that is justifiable to protect life and limb against what we consider a bad guy doing bad things.

I am not a person who believes that violence, in itself, is always a bad thing.  Peace for the sake of peace is often a quick road to tyranny and abuse.  I believe that violence applied correctly by good women and men is the only thing protecting us, the good people, from that minority (call them sick, or call them evil - take your pick) who wants to control us, hurt us, or abuse us because they can.

Violence also underlies every law we have on the books.  If you do not comply peacefully, they will make you comply using violence.  Any time you have supported a necessary law, you have supported the use of violence to enforce that law.

There are laws most of us would agree that it is fine to use violence to enforce - such as laws against murder, rape, and assault. And most of us would also agree that using violence in self defense is also a perfectly acceptable use.

We are in the business (or the hobby, really, for most of us) of learning how to be as good at violence as we can possibly be.  We teach others to do the same.

Most of us don't want to engage in violence for real - a real fight in anger, or self defense against someone wishing us serious harm.  This is what being "peaceful" really means, of course.

We desire to never to have to use what we work so hard to become good at - at least, most of us don't.

So perhaps that's what we have to say when we say we aren't about violence, but about peace.  We prepare to learn a skill that we hope to never have to actually use.   We get really good at something that'll always stay in the realm of something we prepare for, versus reality.

We can't, and we shouldn't, shy away from the core truth that violence is what we do, and what we are about.

So how do you think about what "being peaceful" in the martial arts, and what does that mean for you?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 03/12/16

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 Martial Arts. Worked with our senior kid student on Anyo Tatlo (empty hand form three), with an eye to him being able to use it in competitions coming up later in the year.  I got in a lot of tonfa practice on our new form as well.
Sunday:  Worked the new tonfa form footwork only.
Monday:  My night off.
Tuesday:   Worked on Anyo Isa (empty hand) at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We don't have many forms, but this one is a foundation form that has a lot of cool applications.
Wednesday:   Hidden Sword had to cancel classes at the last minute, but that's okay, because we have friends coming into town this weekend, so I was able to get a LOT of prep done.
Thursday:  Hubby taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis while I attended my daughter's kindergarten open house.  Of course, they always schedule those things on Tuesdays or Thursdays, the days we have class.
Friday:  Mid-Cities Arnis class.  Reviewed Anyo Isa, working on a particular part most of the students were struggling with.  Then we stick sparred.  Just my luck, I jammed my right pinkie (I jammed - sprained really - my left pinkie and ring finger a few weeks ago).  Luckily I have the meds and equipment necessary for treatment, so I didn't bother to go to a doc.  My grip is quite compromised.

Before I jammed my pinkie.  Bring it, kid!


I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:  Of Meat and Tools
Wednesday:  We are the Nerds of Violence

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  Martial Arts Ruins Everything
Thursday:  The Gift of Fear
Friday:  Who Would Win This Fight: Master Ken vs. John Kreese (Cobra Kai)


Marc MacYoung made an excellent post this week, very thought provoking.  A State Monopoly on Violence? (and how that influences self-defense)

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


No matter what, I'll be in tonfa class today.  I just hope I can get the swelling down so my grip isn't TOO compromised.  It's once a month, and it's a class I do not miss if I can possibly help it.

I have friends in for the weekend, so I won't be around much.

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, March 9, 2016

We are the Nerds of Violence

As I've said before, I believe that the martial arts world is just another nerd culture.

Tell me something I don't know, right?

Wait, what's that you say?  You don't think you're a nerd?

You are under some impression that we are cool in some way?  Or that because you do physical fitness stuff you can't be a nerd?

You are as nerdy as that guy who obsesses over computers, or collects action figures, or dresses up as a sci-fi character at a convention.  Most people don't think we are as cool as we think we are, folks.  Standing around in costumes (isn't that what a martial arts uniform is?), learning esoteric weapons, and acquiring bruises for funsies is an inexplicable thing to do for most folks.  Why we spend the hundreds and thousands of dollars on it is a complete mystery to most people.

What you're nerding ON is the only difference between you and Poindexter playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Or Vin Diesel playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Click here if you can't see the video.

One of the biggest bloggers in the martial arts blogosphere, +Jesse Enkamp, calls himself the Karate Nerd, for a very good reason.  Think about what we talk about when we get together and how quickly we start talking about our hobby in every day conversation.

Oh, we're nerds, all right.

What we nerd on is violence, and things surrounding the subject of violence.

We think about the "rules" of violence - what is acceptable, and what is not.  When does violence happen, how can it be avoided, when is it acceptable to use violence?  What is the best way to apply violence in various situations?  How can we be violent and repel violence with tools?  How do we use violence to our advantage in a conflict?  How does the study of violence improve us in other ways (discipline is a big one, but there are others)?

All of these things are stuff we think about all the time, in our free time and without financial compensation (or very little).  Very few of us do martial arts or have jobs that require this kind of understanding of violence full-time, so it's a hobby.

The neat thing about our hobby is that it does have real-world impact and implications - it's used to help people cope with dangerous situations.  Our training helps many of us improve in other ways, such as gaining self-confidence.  And our training helps us find a tribe of like-minded people to belong to, a benefit that is sometime over looked but I think is really important, given how many of us come from difficult backgrounds or had trouble "fitting in" elsewhere.

Our nerdiness has a higher purpose in the real world.

Celebrate your nerdiness.  Be proud of being a nerd of violence, and keep doing what you do.

The world is better off for it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Of Meat and Tools

Being a more weapons-oriented martial artist, I sometimes say the following:

The truth is, part of the reason I do prefer weapons over empty hand is that I am painfully aware that I'm not the optimal person to participate in any kind of physical conflict.

The ideal person to initiate or survive a physical conflict is a male in his late teens to early twenties, with enough free time or a job to keep him in phenomenal physical condition.  Add martial arts training to this, and you get a warrior.

This is why these are the people who become soldiers in our culture.

I am literally none of the things an ideal person for physical conflict should be - short, female, middle aged, average physical condition for my age, with a full time desk job.

If someone offers me violence, it's very likely that the attacker will be bigger, stronger, and younger than I am.  He - and it will probably be a he, going by statistics - may be armed with a firearm or other weapon.

I can do one of two things.

I can accept the inevitable and hope that I'm not chosen as a victim, or, if I am, that the attacker is generous enough not to hurt and/or kill me if he feels like it.

Or, I can train in the martial arts and try to give myself a better chance to survive.

We all know which choice I made.

No.  Well, not yet, anyway.  Only so many hours in the day, y'all.

It seems to me that having made that choice, I need to work hard to help make the odds less... awful.

Understanding how to use weapons - both intentional and improvised - is one way I can do that. I need to know how to use them to my advantage, and how to defend against them as best as I am able.  I should know what a weapon can and can't do, either in my hands or in someone else's.  I need to have a realistic understanding of the risks involved.

Weapons are far more common in modern society than we want to believe.  Many of my empty hand friends will say, "Nobody walks around with a weapon", usually meaning anything other than a firearm.

Guys, come on, you know this isn't true.  For one, a person in the United States is far, far more likely to be murdered with a weapon than by someone using hands and feet alone.  It's not even close.  I can't find good consistent statistics on assault and robbery (with weapons) but I bet we'd find a similar trend (more WITH weapons vs. without weapons).

Think about it - you, or many (or most) of the people you know have a pocket knife. Those aren't allowed on airplanes for a reason. We won't even go into the other objects many people keep for self defense (often in their vehicles) that are relatively innocuous in other contexts (like baseball bats and tire irons).

Then there's the fact that improvised weapons are literally all around us.  The only time they aren't is if we're naked in an empty room.  Given that's more of a sci-fi movie situation versus real life... there's ample opportunity to acquire a weapon most of the time.

It's either aliens or a dystopian future society jail cell.  My money is on aliens.

So if weapons are a part of our daily lives - and they are -  you'd be remiss not to study weapons as a martial artist if you are serious about self defense. If you're not, you're not - lots of martial artists aren't, and anything I say here won't change your point of view.  Have fun with that.

Even if it weren't true - the impact of aging, injuries, and illnesses over time will, over time, make those of us who are young, male and in top physical condition far less ideal to engage in physical conflict.  It seems to me that the study of weapons helps compensate for that decline in ability over time.

Either way, if you have tools available, it seems to me to be wise to know how to use them and defend against them.  Meat is fine and dandy, but when push comes to shove, a tool can make a huge difference in the outcome.

How do you train with (or against) weapons?  I'd love to know what you think!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 03/05/16

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:  Helped my teacher with an Arnis seminar for the North Texas Martial Arts Alliance.  This is a group of independent karate and tae kwon do schools that network together to help each other out with testing boards, hold seminars, and do sparring nights.  It's always fun to work with primarily empty hand martial artists as they learn Arnis.
Sunday:  Held a tonfa, decided I need to heal a little more before I try to use it in my left hand.
Monday:  Just  me and a fellow student also studying kobudo in Arnis class, so we worked on our new tonfa form.  Despite the discomfort on Sunday, I tried again. Left hand is dramatically better now - I CAN HAS TONFA!!  Hooray!
Tuesday:   Special topics class at Mid-Cities Arnis. These are classes that are related but non-curriculum material.  We talked about pressure points and basic locking concepts. I dunno what it is about this topic, but everybody was smiling and laughing and having a great time.
Wednesday:   My night off.  Ran through the new tonfa form a couple of times empty handed (working on the footwork, which is tricky).
Thursday:  Started teaching Anyo Isa, Form One.  This is the empty hand version.  We don't have many forms in our art and in our school, but it's time to start teaching this one.  We will also teach Baston Anyo Dalawa (Stick Form Two) on this part of our curriculum.  We also showed, as a warm-up, the 12 Angles of Attack using elbow attacks.
Friday: I was asked to review Anyo Isa, so we did.  Also, as always on Friday night, stick sparring!

Me teaching Anyo Isa.  Yeah, we fixed the kids using the wrong hand to strike with, promise.


I posted these posts of original content this week:

Monday:  Chillax
Wednesday:  It Is All The Same
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: How long to 2nd Degree Black Belt?

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday: Lessons from Block Check Counter
Thursday:  Searching for Professor


New post by Hock Hochheim at his blog.   You Need To Go See Ray Medina

This commercial is making the rounds on Facebook and it's so funny and cute.

WOW, Keanu Reeves is training HARD for his role in "John Wick 2".  I loved the first movie, I can't wait for the second (but if they kill another small animal I'm gonna be pissed).

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


My sprained finger joints are healing nicely.  It goes to show that indeed, you gotta WORK those joints (versus keeping them immobilized) in order to get better faster.  I am convinced that working my hands - at first just trying to make a fist and light typing, but then more rigorous stuff - prevented permanent damage to my grip.  And we can't have permanent damage to my grip.

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, March 4, 2016

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: How long to 2nd Degree Black Belt?


I've asked you how long it takes to attain the rank of black belt (here).

Now I'm interested in how long it takes to achieve 2nd Degree Black Belt (for arts that have this rank).  This question assumes, of course, that the 1st degree black belt in question is actively studying the art (as opposed to people who attain 1st degree black and then disappear).

Some arts typically use a rule of thumb of each degree rank of black takes the number of years of the rank (that is, two years for second degree, three for third degree, and so on).

Others follow no set pattern like this.

I'm interested in how your art, organization, or school handles this question.

How Long to Second Degree Black Belt?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

It Is All The Same

This concept, "it is all the same", has been on my mind lately.

I mentioned it in my post Chillax, as one of the lessons I learned while helping my teacher instruct students from tae kwon do and karate.

It is a foundation concept in my art, something that Professor used to say all the time.

"It is all the same" is how we connect the dots for people in other arts to learn Arnis quickly.  We relate what we are teaching to things that they already know.  It is not unusual to point out, "See,you already know this, you just didn't realize you did!"

I know, right?

Really, when you think about it, at a fundamental level, most martial arts systems have commonality.

There are, after all, only so many ways to move a human body.  Some of the details may be different - the angle of your fist in a punch, the striking surface you use in a kick, how "deep" some stances are - the basic mechanics are still the same.

This is also the true meaning behind "the weapon is the extension of the hand". While I do believe this saying is misunderstood (read more about my thoughts on that here), it's still a useful concept to understand how to apply things you already know to a new skill or technique.

The longer I study my art, and the more I learn about other arts, the more I find this to be true.

The debates we get into in the martial arts about style vs, style is all just nerding out over tiny details and strategic choices.  In the larger scheme of things, we have far more in common with each other across styles in every culture than we do in differences.

Sure, as you change plane or add in tools, the differences become greater (such as striking vs. grappling, empty hand vs. weapons), but I don't think it's so great that someone very skilled in one martial art can't be accelerated in learning a different one.  Lots of strikers are studying grappling (and vice-versa) and I'm sure you can tell the difference between someone with no martial arts experience vs. someone with experience, and how they will acquire concepts more quickly than a complete and utter newbie.

It's fun to explore those differences, as there are more than one way to solve a problem, and as a huge martial arts fangirl and geek, I love that stuff, I really do.

Oh, tell me something I don't know, buddy.

But in the end, it's all the same.

After all, we take our admittedly weapons-heavy system and teach it to empty hand and grappling martial artists all the time.  It's not a changing of a mindset - it's an expansion of a mindset.  You don't leave behind what you knew, you simply add on more to what you already know.

How have you noticed "it's all the same"?  Or do you think it isn't?  Either way, I want to know what you think!