Wednesday, June 29, 2016

We Are Poor Judges (Of Ourselves)

There's a old saying that is so very true in the martial arts (as well as other endeavors where it takes time to acquire skill or knowledge about something):

Image found here.

The longer I study martial arts, the "more true" this saying becomes.

Of course, this is because after studying for some time, you come to realize how little you really know compared to all that there is to know.  That is, you become aware of the vast amount left to learn and it seems that what you do know and understand is a tiny island in a vast sea of things to learn.

This makes understanding our own progress difficult.  We have to trust our teachers when they tell us we are good or bad at something.  We are very poor judges of ourselves.

This is why ranking systems are a good thing to keep students motivated - because it's a measure we can see and understand.

Either we overestimate what we know - usually in the beginning of our journey - or we underestimate what we know or how good we might be at something.  This is the famous Dunning-Kruger Effect in action. 

Image found here.
Now, remember, this effect has nothing to do with smarts or intelligence.  It has everything to do with how competent a person is, versus how competent a person believes they are.

Then you combine this with something I know I struggle with - good old Imposter Syndrome - and we often have a hard time in becoming confident in ourselves and what we can do well as we progress down our training path.

It's tricky because you need the confidence in your own skills to grow past a certain point.  I believe this becomes an issue right around the point where a person is near or just past the first Black Belt rank (or the equivalent in other martial art styles that use a different ranking system).

I do know this is true: If you do not believe you can do something - it usually means you can't.

I know it was true for me - that "I'm not so sure I know diddly squat" stage of my training.  When I was promoted to Dayang Isa, part of me did not believe I deserved it - maybe the largest part of me.  It took about a year for me to feel comfortable in the rank. Heck, I'm still not comfortable with it sometimes.  And I would not presume to claim that I have a ton of competence in lots of areas of what we do.  I know how much work I have to do - work that is going to take me the rest of my life.

Then again, I know I am a poor judge of myself.   So maybe I'm better than I believe I am sometimes. My teacher posted a video the other day on Facebook of his students doing disarms, and I'm in there, doing a disarm off of a backhand strike.  My "part" of the video is actually about a year old.

This was one of the first times I've seen myself on video and said, "Hey, that wasn't too bad."

So I gif'd it!  From the video by my teacher +Mark Lynn 
This was an isolated disarming drill - not how disarms actually work mind you, because I was working on a specific attribute - but hey, I pulled that one off pretty smoothly, if I don't say so myself.

I am better than I think I am, sometimes.  And so are you.

So tell me about your over or underestimation of your skill, or stories about how others have misjudged themselves.  How do we gain that confidence we need to grow?  How do we get past the "over estimation" stage of our progress?  Let me know in the comments!




Monday, June 27, 2016

Rank Hath No Privilege

It's testing time lately.

Not only for myself - I'm preparing to test for my next rank in Kobudo in a few weeks - but also in my teacher's Arnis school as well as our own.


I've been thinking about rank progression and testing as a result.

I wrote about different ways that students can be promoted a while ago (here).  As my teacher says, though, rank is earned in class, not at rank tests.  The only way to "fail" to be promoted is to give up and quit.

I agree with this whole-heartedly, but I know other arts, systems and schools see things differently.

At our school, general rank testing is done in a relatively informal way, during a normal class session.  For people below black belt rank level, it's just the normal instructors on the "board".  We don't cover every single bit of material that the student is expected to know for his or her next rank (although the student doesn't know which topics we'll go over on the test).

The big exception is generally for the first black belt rank.  In my case, Mr. Chick and I were secretly tested and surprise promoted.  For our Brown Belts moving up to Black under my teacher some time next year, they know when their test is, and we are working to have a pretty formal test with some very high-ranking Arnis players sitting on the board.

So the Black Belt test is a little more special,  As far as I can tell, that's pretty normal in most martial arts that have any kind of testing process.

I believe, though, that many of us in the martial arts world put way, way more emphasis on rank testing than we do in my branch of my art.

Part of this is because I think rank is more of a BIG IMPORTANT THING in other arts and styles than ours.  While of course we have rank (and arguments over it, and who's more legit than whom, and so on), given that our art is propagated mostly by seminars and camps versus formal progression in martial arts schools, we aren't as conscious of rank.


Keep telling yourself that, buddy.

Rank - or lack thereof - doesn't prevent you from being invited to learn some pretty advanced material when a teacher comes through town.   Nobody will insist that you're too low a rank to try to learn it - in fact, you'll be encouraged to try to learn it the best you can.

Additionally, it is not uncommon at many seminars I've attended for the only people to be wearing any indicator of rank at all are the people teaching the seminar.  The rest of us were all "equal" in the room, regardless of what rank we hold.

It's really cool when a very experienced, highly ranked person pairs up with you in a seminar.  You end up learning extra, just by having this person work with you.  I love it when that happens to me!

We also don't have any tradition - again, just in my branch of the art and what I've been exposed to - that confers any special ritual of deference to higher ranked people.  There is no special spot to enter the mat.  No special dressing room.  No exclusive rights that other students don't generally have.  Our lower level students defer to our experience in practice, but that's about it.  They are encouraged to ask questions and even challenge something that doesn't seem to make sense to them on occasion.

As Dayang Isa (Female 1st Black), I may have a lot more responsibility but definitely not any special privileges!

Except the privilege to be a complete dork sometimes.  Which is good for me.

That why, I think, that tests are a relatively laid-back affair for us.  Rank literally does't mean anything more than a measure of progress for a student, so it's really not something that dominates our thinking the way that it seems to dominate other martial arts schools, styles and systems.

As a relatively egalitarian person, that suits me very well.

So tell me about how rank has privileges, if any, in your style, if any.  What extra responsibilities do higher ranking people have? Let us know in the comments!

Edit:  My friend John Borter on Facebook shared this, and it totally sums up what I think about rank and privilege:








Saturday, June 25, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 06/25/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  Arnis in the morning at Hidden Sword.  I helped cover the beginning TKD class, then I attended kobudo class in the afternoon.  Nice "normal" day.
Sunday:  We drove about an hour and a half out to TNT Self Defense in Stephenville for the first of our monthly gatherings to work on Modern Arnis.  The idea is that we are working on prepping our Brown belts to test for Black some time next spring.  We worked on the differences between our Anyos (forms) and bunkai for the forms, our Defensive Responses 1-5, and the guys at TNT reminded us of the classical disarms of Modern Arnis.  It was a very productive day that went longer than we'd planned, so our next gathering in July will probably be planned for four hours.
Monday:  My day off.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on  Anyo Isa.
Wednesday:   My car broke down on the way to work - engine just DIED.  Since we only had one car, by the time we got everything arranged in the late afternoon, we decided to stay home - long, tiring, and extremely frustrating day, and a VERY EXPENSIVE WEEK.
Thursday:  Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on sinawali and Hubad-Lubad,
Friday: Got a TON of practice on kobudo then worked on disarms in a special topics class at Mid-Cities Arnis.

The Hidden Sword/TNT Self Defense Modern Arnis crew.

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:
Monday:   Risk Management
Wednesday:  Seeing New Sights on Well Traveled Roads

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:   True to Form
Thursday:  Why I'm Against Online Dojos
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Martial Arts Videos on the Internet - Good or Bad Idea?

(If you have a good idea for a Face-Off Friday topic, let me know!)

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

"Traditional Martial Arts won't work on the street".  Well, they do on the Metrolink in St. Louis: http://www.ksdk.com/news/local/man-stops-metrolink-attack-with-stick/252802065  (Note: if you're not in the US, you might not be able to see this - long story short, dude stopped a criminal on the local commuter train with what they are calling a "stick", but is actually a bokken)

This is a an insurance commercial - but it speaks to the power of martial arts.


Now THAT is a disarm, y'all.  Wow!




If I missed a neat video or article or other martial arts related thing of note, let me know in the comments!  I'm still looking for guest bloggers - if you want to try your hand at writing an article for the Stick Chick Blog, hit me up, thanks!


FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Today we're testing our students at Hidden Sword - some MCA students may attend to watch, as we have a different testing schedule and process and we would like them to see how our "mother" school does things.

With our car problems, I won't be able to stay for kobudo practice, and that kinda sucks, because my test is only a couple of weeks away.  So not only do I get to spend thousands of dollars on repair, it's interrupting my training time (as it did on Wednesday) and THAT is the problem, y'all!

Is it just me, or is this year FLYING by?  I can't believe we are already half way through the year!

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, June 22, 2016

Seeing New Sights on Well Traveled Roads

More Modern Arnis nerdity ahead, y'all.

I'm working with new students in class the other night.  We're working on a fundamental technique in Modern Arnis -  Brush, Grab Strike.

The motion of brush grab strike. Even 6 year olds can learn it.  Well, she's *my* 6 year old, but still.
There are little "cues" to the proper execution of this technique - especially for new students - that I've either been taught explicitly, or that I have stumbled on over time.  These include such concepts as the "alternating hand" principle and the foot that's forward is the hand that brushes and strikes.

Well, working with this new student gave me two more that I didn't know before.

The first one was based on a question she asked me:  "What is the purpose of the 'brush' in Brush, Grab, Strike?"

Well, brush grab strike fundamentally is a blending technique, so the brushing hand helps with that blending.  That's what I've been taught, and it has proven true to me.

BUT... it occurred to me in that moment, for the first time, that the brushing hand's real job is to "tell" the grabbing hand where the arm is that you're grabbing with that second hand.

This works based on the idea that your hand always "knows" where the other one is.  You don't have to think about clapping your hands together, you just do it.  You can do it in the dark, you can do it behind your back... it just happens.

So, by "brushing", my "grabbing" hand "knows" exactly where the target to grab is without my having to think about it at all.  Once I master the core technique, it just happens - the grab is easy.  If I blocked it hard out of the way, I'd have to work to get the "grab".

Before this student asked this question, I had no idea that this was... a thing. And it's been sitting in front of me all this time.

Yeah, I'm not always the sharpest knife in the gear bag.

But there's another cue I stumbled upon in the same session.

How do students know which "way" to brush grab strike?

To me, it's obvious and has been since day one. I simply copied what I saw everybody else doing it and now I do it that way too.

But everybody doesn't learn it that way.

The new "cue" is sort of based on an old one - that is, generally speaking and for beginners, we teach them that the foot that's forward is the hand that's doing the "work", typically, the hand that's striking.

Weapon Foot Forward.

There are PLENTY of times we "break" this rule in certain situations, but for newbies, it's a pretty solid and standard principle.  But how does the student know which "side" in a drill he or she is supposed to be oriented to when doing brush-grab-strike? 

Simple - the "brushing" hand is always moving across your body (versus brushing or blocking on the same side of the attack.   If it doesn't, you'll actually try to brush/grab to your side or even sort of behind you, which is a bad place to be and is very off-balance.  See the picture of me with a stick above - if I try to brush with my right and grab with my left.., I'd fall over - I am by nature clumsy as all get-out - but most people would be off balance and vulnerable, never mind the range issues of the grabbing hand.

Brush Grab Strike is a cross-body technique.

I'm sure lots of Modern Arnis players out there (and others who use similar techniques) know this already, but I didn't.  Or rather, I didn't know I knew it until this student needed me to explain it in this specific way, so she could orient herself correctly - and fix it when she was wrong (when she was trying to brush on the same side of the strike). 

I'd simply never thought of it in this specific way before.

You and me both, dude.

I may have stumbled across these ideas eventually, who knows?  But it's yet another time where working with a new student - moving along well traveled roads in the basics of my art - has taught me something new or interesting about something I thought I knew well.

This is why, no matter how experienced I get, I'll always want to work with newbies.  Because newbies teach you new things about the stuff you always thought you really knew, in ways you can't ever anticipate.

Tell me about a time where you learned new things about something you thought you understood very well.  Was it teaching a newbie?  Cross training?  Let us know in the comments!



Monday, June 20, 2016

Risk Management

One fundamental principle of Modern Arnis, at least in the later levels once you move past the very basics - is the concept of countering techniques, and learning to counter those counters.

There is no 100% guaranteed winner technique. Everything has a flaw, and everything has a counter.

What you spend most of the rest of your life studying in Modern Arnis are the counters, and the counters to the counters, and the counters to the counters to the counters...

And so on, and so on, and so on...
It means that there is unending and incredible depth to the art, one in which we are encouraged to explore.  

It also means that you spend a lot of your time in mitigating and managing risk.

Sometimes you put yourself in a position where an opponent who's paying attention and sees the weakness can exploit it.  This could be intentional, as a bait or a feint of some sort.

Thus, you put yourself in that position - risky as it may be - because you will take advantage of his exploitation of that hole with some planned counter to HIS counter.

Maybe whatever the opponent is going to do is less of a problem for you than what you're planning to do to him.  For example, leaving open a hole on the low line - hips or knees - where I get an easy shot to the head. I'll take that trade any day of the week.

For example, let's take a foundation drill that teaches the basics of this concept: block-check-counter.

Here's a short video of Bruce Chiu of Arnis International explaining a ton of variations on block check counter - how your "counter" here can change based upon how and where you check the hand.  Note he is doing this with the stick in his left hand, but the core principles don't change if you're right on right, or right on left (it just changes your options for the "counter" part).


As you can see, he always checks that hand of the opponent in some way - either on the hand itself or on the stick.  This is the "check" portion of this drill (and the 2nd beat in the "alternating hands" principle using three beats that I wrote about here).

The basic rationale behind this is that it prevents the bad buy from using the butt end of his stick against you, typically as a punyo (butt end) punch or stroke.  Indeed, in later drills, including introductory tapi-tapi, this is exactly what the "driver" does as a planned entry (a punyo stroke to the head).  We do punyo entries all the time, so for us, it's a very real risk.

But what would happen if we don't check that hand or stick?

Well, that all depends.

Let's say I'm using a classical supported block instead of the block+check above.  This means my hand is on my stick to support my block vs. on the opponent's hand as a check (which is, after all, another form of a supported block).

Basic supported block in a back stance.
Yes, this an OLD pic of me.

Easy hole for dude to punyo strike me right in the face, right?

Yes.  But I know this.

So I can mitigate that risk by, say, good positioning and range, to make that attack slow enough so I can get behind it and pass it, maybe.  Or, perhaps I am setting him up so that strike comes so I can do something else.

In any case, I might go ahead and take the risk, and be prepared to mitigate it. Let's say I want to grab the opponent's stick by its tip, on the outside of my stick. I can't do that very quickly if my empty hand is checking.  So I accept the risk of the punyo strike, hoping I can get my technique done quickly enough before the bad guy realizes that I left that hand unchecked (and if I'm unlucky and the dude is really good and comes in, I have to be prepared to move and counter his counter).  That's the basic way to do this - there are lots of others, of course, many I myself haven't considered yet!

The point is, here are lots and lots of holes like this in our techniques.  Often the solution is a simple change in footwork, but even then, the hole is still there, and you have to be prepared to cope with it somehow.

And that's what I'm spending a lot of the rest of my life in Modern Arnis doing.

So tell me - how do you manage the risk of failures or counters to what you do in your art?  Tell us all about it!





Saturday, June 18, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 06/18/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  Arnis at Hidden Sword in the morning, then my Dallas Kobudo class in the afternoon. This was our last formal class before our next test in July.  I think it as a pretty productive class and I left feeling pretty good.  Well, I left feeling good mentally - some time during the class I strained my ankle, but I didn't realize it until I left and I was walking to my car!
Sunday:  Decided to keep off the ankle.
Monday:  My "night off" due to the ankle.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis. Worked on hubad-lubad and brush-grab-strike.  I love these drills, especially when students get good at hubad-lubad and they start seeing the places to insert strikes or other combative responses.  Ankle was still sort but a lot better.
Wednesday:   Attended Arnis class at Hidden Sword.  We were working drills and patterns off of Baston Anyo Isa, our stick form one.  It was fun!
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on hubad-lubad and brush grab strike more,
Friday:  Light attendance at MCA (lots of people are out of town again) - so I got in a lot of kobudo practice. Yay!

Demonstrating an application of single sinawali


BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:
Monday:   3 Annoying Realities of Being a Martial Artist
Wednesday:  A Plea to the Martial Arts Community About Active Shooter Training
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Are Martial Arts Tournaments Important?


I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:   Style Wars
Thursday:  The Myth of Realism

(If you have a good idea for a Face-Off Friday topic, let me know!)

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

Nice interview our friend +Way Of Ninja did with +Joelle White.  Worth your time to read HERE.

This right here is badassery.


This sums it up for me - it's one of the reasons we train.



If I missed a neat video or article or other martial arts related thing of note, let me know in the comments!  I'm still looking for guest bloggers - if you want to try your hand at writing an article for the Stick Chick Blog, hit me up, thanks!


FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Today is a "normal" day for me - Arnis in the morning, our local kobudo class in the afternoon. Hubby will be training with +Hock Hochheim today on the knife course.

Tomorrow we will do our first "gathering" of the Mid-Cities Arnis, Hidden Sword, and TNT Self Defense to work on getting our Brown Belts ready to test for black belt next year.  We'll be going out to Stephenville, and I think we will have other folks that are not testing come and play, too (which is what we want - we are encouraging all of our students of all ranks to come out and attend).  We'll be doing this once a month until the test date.  Gonna be FUN!


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, June 17, 2016

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Are Martial Arts Tournaments Important?

IT'S FACE-OFF FRIDAY!

I'm curious as to how important participation in tournaments is to your school, style or art.

Some of us are very tournament oriented, and are involved in many tournaments throughout the year, and participation is expected and/or explicitly required to advance in status or rank.

Others don't participate in tournaments at all, or, if they do, it's completely voluntary and relatively unimportant to a student's progress in the style.

I want to hear YOUR experience - and I want your opinion.

IS PARTICIPATION IN TOURNAMENTS IMPORTANT TO A STUDENT'S GROWTH AND PROGRESSION IN THE MARTIAL ARTS?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Plea to the Martial Arts Community about Active Shooter Training

I'm not going to debate the larger issues involved in active shooter situations (such as the tragedy in Las Vegas, Orlando or other places), so please, let's not even go there here.  I find that such arguments convince nobody on any side and frankly, that's not what this blog is all about.

Instead, I want to talk about the few instances I have seen of martial arts schools, in the wake of tragedies like mass shootings or active shooter situations, advertising that studying at their martial arts school can prevent becoming a victim of a mass or active shooter.

99% of us do not have the experience or training in this subject matter.  I certainly don't, and will never claim that I do (unless and until I get that very specialized training).  I do know, personally, people who do, and I can count them on the fingers of a single hand.

So for the rest of us...

Please stop.

Please stop riding on the coattails of tragedy with the claims that your tae kwon do or BJJ or whatever-martial-art we teach will prepare anybody for these situations.

Active shooter situations are basically a very special kind of self defense situation.

Martial arts training in general is not the same as self defense training.  And if our self defense training isn't working very hard to train awareness of your surroundings and escaping from bad situations... we're not really training in self defense.  There is nothing wrong with that, but we shouldn't claim to be teaching what we aren't teaching.

I have seen "self defense" seminars in which the majority of the training was basically kick boxing OR techniques requiring a lot more skill than one can learn in a single-day self defense seminar OR students are being taught to stay engaged with a bad guy, versus getting out as fast as they possibly can.



Staying engaged in order to try to "win" a fight is fighting.  Not self defense.  Staying engaged with an active shooter, especially if you aren't armed (and trained to use that firearm in this situation) strikes me as very, very risky.  It's definitely something I'd be wary of teaching the general public to do in a "self defense seminar" setting.

This doesn't change no matter what rank we hold in our martial art.  Speaking of which...

Our Asian martial arts training has diddly squat to do with active shooter situations.  We've learned punching and kicking and grappling and so forth.  Dealing with, and surviving, an active shooter situation is specialized training.  We don't get that from kata or kumite or by sparring or by rolling every day.

My martial art, which is a little more modern than most Asian arts and is (non-firearms) weapons based, doesn't deal with this either, and I'm not going to pretend it does.

Yes, that includes those schools where instructor did time in the Army, or has been a police officer. It is a VERY specialized kind of training that every person who wears a badge or his country's uniform doesn't get.  Additionally, what an average citizen needs to do is different than what law enforcement officers and soldiers are trained to do and are asked to do.

In any case...

We cannot punch, kick, or grapple our way out of a madman deciding to shoot up our local shopping mall.  

Oh, and while I'm on this subject...

If you aren't certified in firearms instruction, and/or trained in more than just plinking for accuracy at the range, stop offering that training in your dojo.  There are videos out there floating around the martial arts community of dojos engaging in "tactical" training with Airsoft pistols that are, quite frankly, awful and dangerous.

And finally, if we want to offer such training - we have to seek out and get qualified and train it.  This training is out there to be had, but just like our martial art, we have to pay for it, practice it, and work hard to get expertise in it.

It won't just come because we wear a gi.





Monday, June 13, 2016

3 Annoying Realities of Being a Martial Artist

Being a martial artists is awesome.  Learning how to fight or cope with violence (both receiving it, and giving it), and all of the attendant benefits to our health and our minds ROCKS HARD.

Plus, on the whole, the average martial artist is the nicest person you'll ever meet and I would hang out with most of these people even if I didn't acquire bruises for fun.

But there are a few annoying little realities to cope with.

THE REACTIONS OF NON-MARTIAL ARTISTS

When non-martial artists find out what we do, inevitably, you get one or more of the following:

"Oh, he/she will beat you up!"  Yes, that's what I'll do if you keep saying that.

Any bruise or injury you may receive must come from martial arts.  I once walked into a car door - don't ask - and I had a huge bruise/cut on my upper lip everybody at work assumed I got from martial arts.  To be honest, though, maybe that's not a downside, as everybody assumed I'd gotten it from being a badass, and not from being incredibly clumsy.

Chop Socky Hands.  It does not matter what art you do.  Non-martial artists will make this gesture when talking about you in the martial arts.

Yes, this.

MYSTERY INJURIES

The other day, I was leaving a productive kobudo class when I realized I'd strained my right ankle.  I mean, I strained it enough that I was limping when I got to my car.  It was a mild strain, and very little swelling, but it was enough to have me stay off it for a day to let it heal.

I do not know how or when I hurt my ankle.  Probably some time in kobudo, but I have zero idea how.  You'd think I'd remember a thing like that.

I am often covered in bruises - I bruise easily, mind you - but I'll get a really painful one where I've been hitting myself with my weapon or I took a nice shot and I honestly have to think hard to when it happened.

Not only is annoying to not quite know when it happened, it's sounds kinda dumb to other people.

"So, how'd you get that really huge bruise?"

"I have no idea."

True story, bro.

UNIFORM MANAGEMENT

Nearly every martial art has some sort of uniform.  Be it a full formal Japanese-style gi or hakama or just a sturdy pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

If you study martial arts with any regularity - several times a week - you quickly realize several things.

You need more than one uniform.  Unless you really are good about washing that bad boy after every class (and that gets impractical really quickly for many of us), you will find yourself trying to get ready to go to class and realize that you don't have anything to wear.

Especially if you roll or grapple - wearing a dirty uniform SUCKS, for you and for your training partners.

This is a daily occurrence.

When you have more than one uniform, you will have your favorite.  I have a pair of gi pants that are super comfy but they are losing their color and are wearing out.  But I just gotta wear 'em if they're clean, even though I have two other new pairs I am rotating in.  Being comfortable while you do martial arts is really super important, after all.  You end up wearing out your favorites and the nice new ones that are perfectly serviceable will hang there looking pretty, and you'll wear those only when you really have to.

Some kinds of uniforms require very special handling.  This varies based on the art.  For example, heavy weight gis in arts that get super-sweaty have issues fighting sweat staining or getting a musty smell embedded in the fabric.  I don't know about, and I'm not sure I want to know about, how much work has to go into caring for a hakama or those silk uniforms Wushu folks wear.

If you wear mat shoes, make sure to buy another pair when you find some you like.  Because when they wear out, they wear out all of a sudden.  You won't be able to find the style you like when this happens, because that's what fate does to us whenever we like ANY given pair of shoes!

Cleaning and maintaining sparring gear.  Wiping everything down - and what cleans well does not always smell great - and repairing damage when you find it is a necessary chore.

Martial Artists, what are some other annoying realities about being a martial artist?  I want to hear fromYOU!


Saturday, June 11, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 06/11/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  I covered classes - including Tae Kwon Do - at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  In Arnis class we had two of our more experienced students returning after a long break (for school) so we worked on just seeing what they remembered.  In TKD classes, I just supported the TKD Senior Belts in covering their material.  We ended the day with some pretty productive Kobudo practice.
Sunday: Got in some tonfa and bo work.
Monday:  Arnis at Hidden Sword.  We worked on concepts of Abanico Corto, for the most part.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Younger daughter is back in classes and she did really well! Our new adult students are catching on nicely, and we got in a lot of good work with our more experienced students on Anyo Isa (empty hand form one).
Wednesday:   My night off.  We adopted a shelter cat that we have named "Daphne".  So happy to have a cat in our house again - we've been cat-less for nearly two years since our cat Random passed away.
Thursday:  Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.   Thursdays are our nights when we work more on hitting bags  - we worked on kicks and elbows.
Friday:  Review and stick sparring.  Fun night!  We used double sticks in sparring tonight, to play with the pros and cons of having a weapon in both hands.



BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted this post of original content this week:
Monday:   In Defense of Combat Sports
Wednesday:  5 Tips for the Martial Arts Newbie (Over 40)

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  A Difficult Decision (But Not Really)
Thursday:  Why Study Double Sticks
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Point Sparring

(If you have a good idea for a Face-Off Friday topic, let me know!)

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

It's not just us FMA folks playing with improvised weapons.  Neat demo from a Kung Fu School:



Found this on Tumblr... feel free to add your own in the comments!



If I missed a neat video or article or other martial arts related thing of note, let me know in the comments!  I'm still looking for guest bloggers - if you want to try your hand at writing an article for the Stick Chick Blog, hit me up, thanks!


FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

It's finally stopped raining.  Now it's hot and humid.  I forgot about the humid - and I did not miss it.  It's times like these I really, really miss the dry heat of Las Vegas.  And the utter lack of mosquitoes there.

Today is my monthly two-hour kobudo class over in Dallas.  It's our last class before our next text in July.  With all the practice I've been getting in I'm feeling pretty good about my progress now.  I can even do the bugaboo form without having to stop and think about it two tries out of three.  Progress!


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, June 8, 2016

5 Tips for the Martial Arts Newbie (Over 40)

I believe a person interested in studying martial arts can start at any age, but because I am one myself, I have a special spot in my heart for we brave souls who first step on a mat at mid-life.

But there are a few things that we older late-starting martial artists need to keep in mind.

1) WORK YOUR WAY UP TO PHYSICAL CHALLENGES

It is not unusual for martial arts classes to be optimized for people in their teens or early twenties.  That especially includes the physical fitness part of class.

You may feel like you either can't or won't cut yourself some slack - do fewer reps of an exercise, for example - because you don't want anybody to think that you aren't capable of doing what's asked of you or that you aren't willing to work as hard as the young'uns.

The thing is, you aren't in your teens and twenties. Pushing yourself to behave as one physically opens you up to risk of injury (more on that below). 

As an aside: you might not know how to do the exercises being asked of you, so go ahead and ask for instruction on how to do it properly so you don't get hurt.



I learned that the hard way myself, when we were challenged to do a ridiculous amount of jumping jacks about two weeks into my martial arts career.  I ended up straining my Achilles tendons in both legs and paid for it with not hardly being able to walk the next day.

So take your time and work your way up to the number of reps you've been asked to do, especially if you haven't been doing other physical fitness before joining the martial arts class.   Talk to your instructor about the process of starting with fewer reps or slower and what's expected.  If the instructor makes you feel bad or wrong that you're doing that - find another school, as that instructor is going to get you hurt and that's not worth it.

2) IT TAKES A LOT LONGER TO HEAL

All physical activity can invite a bit of strain or minor injuries.  But when you are older, these small things you might shrug off in a day or two as a teenager might take longer than you expected, so be aware that you may have a longer period of recovery than your younger peers in class.

In the case of that strained Achilles tendon I mentioned above, it hobbled me for a couple of days and I was hurting for about two weeks.   I have had nagging injuries to various tendons and whatnot that took weeks and weeks to heal, where I know that younger peers were better in a day or two.

3) ACCEPT YOUNG PEOPLE BEING IN CHARGE OF YOU AT TIMES

The one thing that I found a bit irritating, personally, was people in their teens and early twenties being put into a position of authority over me.  It felt... condescending.

"Now drop and give me 20!".  Image found here.

You have to let go of the impulse to be irritated by "snot-nosed kids" bossing you around.  That person may have been training since they were a small child and may have a decade of training under their belt.

In this situation, they're the grown up here, and you're the kid.

I got over this by thinking of it this way - I am helping them learn how to teach.   Once I did that, having some 17 year old kid correct my stances over and over was far less bothersome.

4) YOU ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM THE NEED TO PRACTICE

I have known many older newbie martial artists who just aren't practicing at home like they should.

It may seem impossible - work, family obligations, and other considerations and commitments make your schedule tightly packed.  I get that.  I have the same problem.

You must carve out time - 15 minutes a day, 30 minutes every other day - to practice something from your martial arts classes.  It could be basics like stances or striking or whatnot.  It could be working through your forms, if you have them. Whatever it is, you have to practice it often in order to improve over time.  

You and I already know this - we'd make our kids do it.  But we have to make ourselves do it too.

5) DON'T WORRY ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK

When I first started, I was really worried about what other people thought about me.  How good I am at what I was learning, if I was a "real" person of whatever rank I was, etc.  I also worried what non-martial artists might think about my pursuit of my new hobby - is it weird?  Do they think I'm crazy to acquire bruises for fun at such a late age? It was a considerable worry for me.

Let all that go.

Your journey is yours.  Do not worry about or compare yourself to others, especially folks who have been in the martial arts since they were very young.  You can't and won't look like them - and that's okay.  

And for Pete's sake, who cares what anybody else thinks if you like the martial arts?  It's FUN.  Don't let other people not understanding it ruin it for you. It doesn't matter.

Suck it, haters, as the kids say.

Lots of people start martial arts later in life, even if we are a minority in our individual classes.  Hundreds, maybe thousands, every year.  You're not alone.

So if you started late, or are thinking about starting late, I want to encourage you to keep training.  It certainly changed - and I believe prolonged - my life, definitely for the better.

Do you have any tips for the martial artist starting out later in life?  Let us know in the comments!




Monday, June 6, 2016

In Defense of Combat Sports

In the wake of the passing of Muhammad Ali, I've seen a few comments condemning the very existence of boxing and combat sports such as MMA.

While I can certainly understand if it's not your cup of tea - it really isn't mine except on a complete intellectual level - statements such as "it should be banned" bother me.

Of course, that's partially because of my personal beliefs.  I'm a pretty tolerant and laid-back kinda chick.  I'm not a huge fan of using the power of legislation to enforce my personal tastes, even if what other folks are doing could be dangerous.  If there's no coercion or fraud involved, I'm pretty good with consenting adults doing what they want to do, even if I think it's stupid.

I do not view combat sports as stupid, obviously.  I can appreciate what they do as athletes and the skill. It's just not something I have ever enjoyed watching on a regular basis. myself.

Going by some of the comments I've seen, though, lots of folks outside our community view combat sports as barbaric.  References to the gladiators giving their lives in the arena - never mind that our modern notion of what that was is probably very different than the reality - are quickly given, and the leap is then made that such things will lead to the fall of civilization.

The nerd in me wants to point out that the Romans couldn't, by definition, be "barbaric".
Image found here.

I think this is an outgrowth of the attitude that all violence is bad in all situations (which I've written about before, here).   Some of these folks who think all violence is wrong will reluctantly grant that violence in certain situations, such as in self defense or by the police enforcing laws, is sorta okay.

But god forbid we engage in violence for entertainment.

These are the same people who probably think what we martial artists do is insane.  They might notwatch American football, or rugby, or hockey, either.  Nor should they enjoy martial arts films or action films or TV series like "Daredevil".

Heck, professional MMA fighting just became legal in New York.  MMA got a reputation for a while there as being somehow more dangerous and brutal than boxing thanks to one of those periodic media panics they love to engage in from time to time ("MMA is more brutal than anything ever!!" "Bath Salt Cannibals!" "Crack Baby Epidemic!!" ).

Sometimes the implication in the impulse to ban combat sports is the claim that it encourages violence - especially criminal violence -  in society in general.

Incidents of violent crime have been on the decline for well over 20 years now - coincidentally, that correlates with the rise of MMA as a big thing in the combat sports world.

So I'm not buying that argument, even with the (sketchy) studies in the social sciences that suggest that maybe there could possibly be some link if you manipulate the data just the right way. Ditto violence in other sports, tv and movies, video games, comic books...



So, you may not enjoy combat sports - and that's cool, you don't have to enjoy it.

But for those of us who enjoy combat sports - either as a participant or as a spectator - should have the right to engage in it.  It won't lead to the doom of modern civilization.

Do you think combat sports have a positive, negative, or neutral impact on society?  I want to know what you think - let me know in the comments!



Saturday, June 4, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 06/04/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  Arnis in the morning, then lots of kobudo practice during TKD classes, until we got to our school's kobudo practice in the afternoon.  As I test next in July, I'm trying to get in as much kobudo practice as I can.
Sunday:  I was not feeling very well.
Monday: Memorial Day here in the US.  I felt a lot better, so I got in some Kobudo practice before we went to Arnis at Hidden Sword.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis. Our kids class is very light right (everybody is on holiday) so I was able to get in some intense kobudo practice as well as play some Arnis with hubby.
Wednesday:   My night off this week.
Thursday:  Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We had two new adult students in their late 50's - a married husband and wife!  It was fun working with them, teaching them our "zero" level material.  What is it about BOB that makes people want to hit him?  They couldn't wait to hit our BOB with the 12 Angles of attack.
Friday:  With everybody out of town, I was able to get in a TON of kobudo practice.

Why must you hurt me?  WHY?!?

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted this post of original content this week:
Monday:  Thoughts from MAPA 9 - A Two-Year Journey
Wednesday:  Letters, Words and Phrases

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  A Stick is a Stick is a Stick
Thursday: Fight Like a Girl
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Disabilities and Promotions


OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

Rest in Peace, Muhammad Ali.

Samuel Bambit Dulay posted this awesome video on Facebook this week that I keep watching over and over.



New post at the Budo Bum resonated with me.  Check it out: The Joy of Being a Student

DO.  WANT.  King Tut Blade Made of Meteorite


If I missed a neat video or article or other martial arts related thing of note, let me know in the comments!  I'm still looking for guest bloggers - if you want to try your hand at writing an article for the Stick Chick Blog, hit me up, thanks!


FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

I am covering my teacher's classes today as he's headed up to do an Arnis seminar up in Oklahoma.  I plan to get in a LOT of kobudo practice today as I am gearing up for our test in July.

Non-martial arts related note:  We've had a LOT of rain here in Texas in May.  I've had friends pinging me on social media and calling me asking if we're ok.  We are - the flooding is mostly south of where I am (I am on the north side of Fort Worth).  I do have friends affected by it - our friends at TNT Self Defense in Stephenville were trapped by rising flood waters preventing people from coming into and leaving town for a while.  I didn't realize that our rains/floods had made the national news until people started contacting me!



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, June 1, 2016

Letters, Words, and Phrases

I've been listening to the History of English Podcast on my commute.

One thing he talks about is how important the adoption of an alphabet was in the development and spread of the languages that led to English.  The advantage of an alphabet - as opposed to pictographs, syllabary, and logographics - is that it makes it a lot easier to teach to people because you only have to memorize relatively small amount of letters to make up any word (or really, sound combination) in the language, versus needing to learn a huge number of symbols.  It makes literacy easier to communicate and teach to larger populations.

Not to mention type.

To write any word in the English language, I only need 26 letters and a bit of punctuation at times.  Heck, if we simplified our spelling (and I'm learning in listening to this podcast why we have all of these funky spellings), we'd need even fewer.  For example, we don't really need the letter "C" in Modern English, as the function it serves in English today is covered by the letters "S" and "K".

So, the entire English language - with its estimated vocabulary of over 1 million words - is built using only 26 symbols.  Heck, Greek, with its incredibly large vocabulary, does the exact same thing with only 24 symbols!

It makes the language so easy, very small children learn this stuff early on and master it relatively quickly.

Additionally, new words can be added to the language without the need for new symbols.  Heck, we have new words - either borrowed from other languages, new compound words or completely made up words - coming into English all the time.

This got me thinking about the martial arts.

Surprise, surprise.
Of course, in the Filipino Martial Arts, we have the "Abecedario" ("alphabet" in Spanish) concept.  The exact definition changes from art to art, but in general, the term refers to the basics of the art - the building blocks for the higher concepts.  It can include everything from the way we hold a weapon or our fundamental angles of attack, to a set of specific skill building drills, to basic blocking concepts.

But I have been thinking in a broader, and maybe more basic, way about the "alphabet" of my art.

We have been thinking about breaking down stuff we do into its very most basic levels and concepts.  Then, you build them back up in various ways to form new techniques.  Much like you use an alphabet to write words and phrases.

The cool thing about the idea, if it works, is that you can use the very basic building blocks - the alphabet - to form new ideas and concepts that may not currently exist in what you do.

Let's take blocking against an incoming high angled forehand strike to the head.  What Modern Arnis, and many other systems, would call a #1 strike.

BAM!

There are many ways I can deal with this incoming strike, including:
  • Supported block (my hand on my stick)
  • Block+Check (my hand on his hand)
  • Deflection or cutting block to the inside (step in as I counter-attack the stick)
  • Post block (unsupported block)
  • Crossada or gunting block
  • Palis-Palis, or passing it and going with the force
Each of these blocking types can also be done against a backhand strike (what we would call a #2 strike) on the same angle - and on the other angles too.  And you can use similar motions with an empty hand (versus the arm, of course) as well as with a stick.

Each of these blocking types may have different ways to do them depending on the context - much like we pronounce different letters different ways in context with other letters around them.

These ideas are part of the alphabet of what I do. 

We've been playing with the Block+Check/Supported Block concept and the fundamental ways you can place the "checking" hand versus a #1 and a #2 strike.  Versus a #1 strike, I can...
  • Supported block (my hand on my stick) - hand can immediately capture the stick on either "side" of my stick (near his hand or at the end of his stick)
  • Block+Check (my hand on his hand)
  • Block+Check stick capture (my hand on his hand capturing his hand AND his stick)
  • Block+Check on the wrist
  • Block+Check stick capture where I invert my checking hand palm up so I can "flip over" his stick ("Open the Door").
These are not the only ways I can deal with this strike, but they do cover about 95% of the techniques I've been taught over the years that use Block+Check and Supported Block as the initial response.  

To take this whole idea of "martial arts as language" further... all Filipino Martial Arts have a similar alphabet but may put them together in different ways.  Like in language, the same alphabet may be pronounced with different accents, or used across different dialects.  The same "base" alphabet may be the same across many languages - such as the similarity between English and Spanish, where Spanish has an extra letter English doesn't have.  Just as the same techniques or concepts may be the same in different martial arts but each has its own unique way of thinking about it or putting it together.

Some may be as different from one another as the Cyrllic alphabet (with its 33 characters) and the English alphabet.  Or, we end up with such a huge difference in how things are done - take the English alphabet and written Japanese, with its three character types - that there's very little commonality at all.

So I'm curious - what's YOUR alphabet in your art?  Do you think about what you do in this way?  Or is your art more like using syllabary and logograhics - like writing Chinese or Japanese?  Let us know in the comments!