Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity 07/30/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  Morning Arnis class at Hidden Sword.  Then Mr. Chick and I played with our Brown Belt in tapi-tapi, then it was kobudo in the afternoon.
Sunday:   Taught our four-hour Women's Self Defense course.  Great group and we had a great time!
Monday:  I attended Arnis class at Hidden Sword.
Tuesday:  Flew to Detroit, Michigan to visit my sister and to attend (later in the week) Modern Arnis Unity Camp.
Wednesday:   I took a nap. VACATION, baby!
Thursday:  Spent the morning at the Adventure Park at West Bloomfield.  We did two "easy" courses and an intermediate course.  Y'all know how much I LOVE this stuff, right?  It was AWESOME.  I'd do it every day if I could - so fun!  Yes, my legs and shoulders paid the price, but it wasn't as bad as I was fearing. Plus, my sister gave Older Kidlet her belated 16th birthday present - a car!  You can imagine how shocked the kid was!
Friday:  First day of Modern Arnis Unity Camp.  It was an incredibly long and busy day.  I will be writing up stuff in more detail in future posts, but by the end of the day, my brain was toast, my body was tired, my feet hurt, and I was a happy camper.

 Photo Credit: Paul Della Mora

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

Writing was incredibly difficult this week, and I didn't even get my planned guest posts finished before I had to leave for Michigan.  So not a great week blogging-wise.

I posted this post of original content this week:
Monday:  The Safety Dance

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  My Wish List: Body Armor
Thursday:  In Search of the Professor

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

We published another meme at Mid-Cities Arnis this week.




OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

I was gone most of the week and I've hardly been online.  I'm sure there's all sorts of cool stuff in the martial arts world this week, but I didn't see it.  SHARE NEAT STUFF YOU'VE RUN ACROSS IN THE COMMENTS, please!

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 have two more days of Modern Arnis Unity Camp and then we drive back to Texas. I will arrive back home on Tuesday night.  It will be a while before I have a fresh post - due to the trip and everything, it's been very hard to write!

I hope all of you are having a productive martial arts 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!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Safety Dance

Recently we taught a short women's self-defense course at our school.

There's not a lot you can do in four hours - we focus on situational awareness and a few basic, core techniques mainly intended for escape.  Our hope is that the course inspires women to think more about their safety in general, and to consider taking a more in-depth self defense course some time in the future, either with us, or somewhere else.

Well, kinda.

We've had all kinds of women in our classes - elderly, young, mother and daughter teams, and women with disabilities.  Most of them are engaged in what we are teaching and eager to learn ways to help themselves become more safe.

It's a real pleasure to teach this class.  It's a joy to get our students to think about ways that each of them - within the context of living their daily lives - can be more actively aware and in control of their environments.

Some of us out there sneer at these short self defense courses as useless.

No, these courses will not teach you how to fight bad guys "in the street".  Those of us who teach these courses don't pretend that they will.

Short women's self defense courses are there to start the conversation about taking control and responsibility for one's self-defense.  They're mainly for the mind, not the body. Because if you're thinking about your self defense, your general awareness gets better, and it makes you a harder target for people who wish you harm.

Of course, it's far from perfect and definitely not all a woman ever needs to do or learn to defend herself.  We make this clear to our students, and we follow up with participants on topics about self-defense with the hope that they'll take up more in-depth training.

The fact is, a four-hour introductory women's self defense course won't cut it for many situations. I would argue, though, that a full-time self defense course that you take for years won't help you either, in many scenarios we discuss or may encounter in our daily living.

Training as a bad-ass martial artist for most of your life has many flaws for self defense and protection, too. Each of our games has gaps and holes and situations where what we do won't help.  Many of us never actually train for real-life self defense situations (heck, we don't even understand what those look like or what the real risk may be for each of us).

For example, I would not want to face an active shooter armed only with very well developed skills in Shotokan Karate.  This doesn't make Shotokan bad or useless - it's just not good for that specific situation.

It is nearly impossible to perfectly train for every conceivable self defense scenario.  At least, it is for those of us with jobs and other responsibilities in our lives.

We don't even pretend to try to do so in our women's self defense course.   We believe, though, that such a course is better than nothing.

It gets them started in the Safety Dance.

Do you teach short self-defense courses?  What kinds of things do you focus on?  What would be your ideal self defense course for people who aren't looking to study martial arts full-time?  Let me know in the comments!


PS:  As I was writing, this is the song that was going through my head.  Enjoy.


If you can't see the video click here.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 07/23/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  Morning Arnis class at Hidden Sword, then the high level belts worked out on our own (while youngest daughter was in tae kwon do class), then kobudo class, where we worked on some of the FMA concepts - specifically sumbrada - with the bo.  Fun and intellectual day.
Sunday:  A rare Sunday where I didn't have to be somewhere.  I caught up on chores and rested, mostly, as I've been running really hard lately.
Monday:  My "night off".  I made dinner!
Tuesday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Our new students were promoted to white band and we worked on Dos Manos concepts and single sinawali.
Wednesday:   Attended Arnis class at Hidden Sword.  I got to work with our senior brown belts on tapi-tapi. Some new things occurred to me I hadn't thought of before, and that's always fun.
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis. More sinawali, plus we worked on hubud-lubud.
Friday:  Review night and stick sparring.  This time we free sparred, with the hand as the primary target (for our new students).  It's our version of light point sparring, but it's more difficult than you'd think!

Teaching chambering in single sinawali.  Here I am "windshield wiping"  and talking about why that's useless.


BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:
Monday:  The Dilemma of the Modern Martial Artist
Wednesday:  The Tides of Change

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  Ranks, Belts and Shenanigans
Thursday:  Style, Strategy and Shenanigans
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Earning Rank Online

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

Additionally, we published this image at Mid-Cities Arnis this week. It's part of an ongoing campaign we are working on.  Keep an eye out at our Facebook page for more stuff like this, featuring BOB, from Mid-Cities Arnis.




OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

It's San Diego Comic-Con week, and lots of trailers are coming out that I'm really excited about.




Y'all all know how much I love "Daredevil" (I wrote about it HERE and HERE), and I haven't written about it, but I also love "Jessica Jones".  I will definitely be bingeing through these bad boys when they come out.

 I love it when we martial artists show our funny side.

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:

This weekend is busy - it's a "normal" Saturday, but tonight I'm going to a local small business networking gathering to promote Mid-Cities Arnis and tomorrow we teach ADE Women's Self Defense.

Then Tuesday, I fly out to Detroit, Michigan to spend some time with my sister (my older daughter is coming with us).  One thing we're planning on doing is The Adventure Park - I love ropes courses and zip lining!  Then, starting Friday, I attend the Modern Arnis Unity Camp.  It's a heck of an instructor line-up and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Here on the blog and online, I will not be around as much as I usually am. I'm planning on running a series on fighting by my friend Kirby Barker on Wednesday and Friday of next week, and on the Monday after that.  Enjoy Kirby's wisdom, as the man knows his business.

So it's a very busy week with lots to do, and while I will get writing done (and I have some projects I'm working on for Mid-Cities Arnis) it just won't get posted until I'm back in the Lone Star State.

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, July 20, 2016

The Tides of Change

We've had our martial arts school going for a full year now.

We've learned a lot and now we are starting to re-think our initial plans and how we would like to move forward with what we are teaching.  It's wise to do this every so often, to make sure that you are balancing teaching what you want to teach with the feedback you've gotten from students and others.

Maybe it's time for change.

Or not.  Maybe.

I like the basic syllabus of our current program. While it needs some tweaks, I still feel the basic structure is correct for teaching Presas Arnis.

But, we are finding that we have several different audiences where we are, and our limited time and space does not give us the ability to serve all of them well.  This is probably the biggest constraint on a Rec Center program - the inability to diversity enough to attract everyone you'd like to serve to with what you can offer.

I'm not talking about "watering down" my art.  I am talking about offering what we do and understand with a different emphasis for different groups.

This is no different than a stand-alone school teaching their art in a traditional way, but also offering classes that emphasize fitness and a good workout. Or offering a kids version of the art vs. an adult version.

For example, when you teach Filipino Martial Arts - the weapons-heavy version I study - you limit yourself only to people who aren't too afraid of weapons or will actually enjoy them.  I can tell you based on what I've been told and my own personal experience that this audience is extremely small compared to the audience interested in empty hand martial arts.

Weapons scare people.  They are afraid of getting hurt, they are afraid of hurting others, and most people don't see themselves, generally, as people who would use a weapon on another person in an up-close and personal way. 

It's not how I am or feel, but that's just the truth of it.  Most folks aren't like me.

We have lots of empty hand material though, and we could design a program that is much heavier in that aspect vs. the traditional way we've done it.  It's something to consider.

Another thing is that there are two basic adult audiences.

One group is interested in and wants the old fashioned martial arts experience, including rank belts, uniforms and tests. I am in this group for the most part myself, and I suspect many of you reading this are, too.

There is another group that wants to study violence but isn't interested in the trappings of a martial art and doesn't care about ranks or any of that stuff.  Krav Maga is one of those martial arts that appeals to this group, as well as all the "combatives" type martial arts programs out there.

We've been trying to appeal to the former, but maybe we should redesign our adults program to appeal to the latter, as they seem like the bigger group of adult students coming through our door.  I'm not talking about a new martial art, by the way - it's actually something that exists within what we already know, given our teacher's relationship - and now Mr. Chick's relationship - with +W. Hock Hochheim Combatives.

Plus we have some ideas for our women's self defense program, and I have an idea for a new program that's like a self defense course but for a very different audience and with different goals (and I'm not ready to talk about that one yet).

Probably.
Those are some of the things we're thinking about on our one-year anniversary as a program.  Nothing is set in stone yet, but I'm pretty sure we're going to change some stuff as we approach our Fall "session".

How do things change in your martial arts school?  If you have your own school, do you reconsider what you do or teach?  Do you experiment?  As a student, how do you handle changes like this?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Dilemma of the Modern Martial Artist

There's a tendency to decry modern martial arts training as soft in some quarters.

That is, modern martial artists wouldn't be able to cut it in the old school blood-n-guts training that our teachers and their teachers endured back thirty or forty or fifty years ago.  That modern martial artists are too weak to train without air conditioning or heat. That they aren't willing to work hard, and that they can't or won't take a hit, and are afraid of injury.  Modern martial artists are, to some, weaklings.

You know who you are.

In some ways, I think this is true.  I think there is a tendency in some martial arts schools not to ask a lot of their students physically. The focus on kids in martial arts schools has sanitized much of what we do.

But there are a certain number of assumptions behind that desire to train the way I just described that I don't think really apply.

Take myself.

No, I really don't want to train in an garage or park.  I live in Texas. Summer begins in late March and ends some time around the end of November (yes, I've worn shorts to our Thanksgiving table).  I can and do train that way once in a while, sure.  But every time I train?  Well, I'd rather be coated in sweat because I'm working hard, not because my body is fighting off heat stroke.

No, I don't want to be constantly recovering from injury.  I'm in my late 40's and it takes me a lot longer to heal than it does younger people.  So no, I am not willing to go all-out and get beat up on a regular basis just to prove that I can or that I'm tough.  I'd train maybe twice a month if that happened, and I don't want to be off the mat that long.

No, I don't want to train injured and risk temporary problems becoming permanent.  Part of that culture was to do so, and the people who did that ended up paying for that for the rest of their lives in surgeries or pain or lack of mobility as they aged.

No, I don't want to have to spend a lot of my time explaining my injuries.  As a woman, I always have to do so.  Injuries on women - bruises in particular - are often assumed to be the result of domestic violence.  Add that to having a professional job... and it looks weird. It's probably okay if you're a cop, or a firefighter or something, but people in, say, financial planning, or banking, or accounting, or sales, or even computer jobs  aren't expected to walk around limping, with cuts and a black eye on a weekly basis.


"Let's review your investment portfolio."

No, I'm not training to be a fighter.  I train for a lot of reasons, but fighting isn't one of them.  So nope, maybe I can't take being in fights.  Great, because I do not plan to get into any.  My plan is to avoid fighting whenever possible, and if I have to engage in violence, do so and get out as fast as I can.

This is the dilemma of the modern martial artist.  On the one hand, we want to be as tough as those who came before us and a part of each of us would like to believe we could cut it in those kinds of schools.  On the other hand, modern martial arts training means training in relative comfort so we can focus on what we're learning vs. fighting our environment (we're not in boot camp, y'all).  We benefit from modern sports science and medicine.  And I bet we'll be able to train actively into an older age than many who came before us.

I don't live in the world as it existed fifty or a hundred (or a thousand) years ago. I can't predict the future, either, so I train for my own environment, one that I will probably remain in (modern American suburban life). I'm not a soldier and I'm unlikely to be one.  I do not have a profession where I will need my martial arts skills on a regular basis, such as being a police officer, military, or other such professions.

I'm a modern martial artist living in modern times in an advanced country.  I train in air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter, although I don't know why Texans bother with heat, personally, as I wear a hoodie as my "winter coat" most of that season.  I train with clean bathrooms available, and mats that aren't likely to give me an infection, and equipment that isn't dirty or improvised.  I have the option to train where I don't have to be a "fighter".  I am not required to get beaten in order to learn.  I have the benefit of modern medicine and sports science to assist me in my training, and therefore, I am stronger and in better shape than someone exactly like me fifty years ago, all things being equal.

I bet, though, that they wouldn't turn down sports drinks and air conditioning.
Doing all of this doesn't make me soft or weak or lesser than those who came before me, it just makes me lucky enough to live in a time and place where those things are common and we have all the options available to us to train how we wish.

Those old-school dojos do exist - garage dojos are common and if you look hard (they don't tend to be well represented online, go figure) you can find them.  My teacher came up in one (and it still exists) and he started out teaching in his garage before he got the opportunity to teach in a Rec Center.  Heck, if you want to train like that, you can start your own group, if you like.  It doesn't cost much to find a park or to empty your garage and create a training group on Meetup.

I do believe that not asking much of your students is cheating them, and that there is a middle ground between dancing on a mat with no contact and getting beatings until you learn how to block. 

Physical fitness and risk is part of what we do, and we can't and shouldn't try to make what we do perfectly safe.  Perfect safety means no negative feedback and no pressure testing, and that's bad. We should get a good workout - whatever that means for your art, as it can vary - in our classes.  That's a given.

But you don't have to prove how tough you are by training in primitive conditions and getting beat up every other day, either.

Do you think modern martial artists are too soft compared to the folks training forty years ago or so?  Or are you okay with living in modern times and training like it?  Let us know in the comments!







Saturday, July 16, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 07/16/16

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 class at Hidden Sword in the morning.  In the afternoon, I went to Kobudo class and took my Brown Belt test.
Sunday:  Drove out to Stephenville for our monthly 3-ish hour Modern Arnis training session (we're prepping our Brown Belts to test next year).  This time we covered the classical "ground work" from Modern Arnis, and then we worked on Anyo Tatlo.  Great training session with some great people!
Monday:  In the morning, had an MRI. It was basically like being in a long tube that was being attacked by robots for about 20 minutes.  That night, I attended class at Hidden Sword.  We have a large group of new students, so I spent my time there working with them, hitting the bags with what are essentially classical strikes.
Tuesday:   Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  I got to work with our "experienced" students on Dos Manos techniques, which are some of my favorites in this level of material.  Yay!
Wednesday:    My day off.  I cooked food, enough for a few lunches going forward (hey, important when you are a low-carber!).
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis. More "Dos Manos" material, plus hitting the bags.
Friday:  Mid-Cities Arnis class again - we reviewed the week's material, then we stick sparred.  We worked our "Dos Manos" material in the sparring drills, including using these techniques using a standard back pack.

Working "Dos Manos" using the backpack

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:
Monday:  Kobudo: Testing the Big Stick and Two Smaller Ones
Wednesday: The Most Important Martial Arts Value of All
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Fighting, or Self Defense?

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:   Filipino Martial Artists: The MacGuyvers of the Martial Arts World
Thursday: Why We Stick Spar

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

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

Marc MacYoung hits it out of the park again.  A Plea Before the Bullets Start Flying and About Your Personal Safety.

This video is making the rounds.  I know next to nothing about hanbojutsu, and I found it really interesing.


As you can tell, this was a crazy busy week - I am sure I missed a lot of cool or interesting stuff in the martial arts world.  So I'm asking YOU to share the cool stuff I missed in the comments, ok?

Here's a pic of me this week that did not make it into my post about my Kobudo test that really should have.



And here's a pic of the crew of Modern Arnis players who are getting together here in DFW monthly to work on Modern Arnis. The purpose is for all of us to understand the different ways our schools do things, and to prepare our Brown belts for their Black test some time next year.

This place has no air conditioning  In Texas.  In July... but it actually wasn't too bad with fans.

It's been a rough week in the world, maybe not rougher than most, but pretty rough.  Between events in Dallas last week, and then this week in Nice, France, and in Ankara... well, I dunno about you guys, but I am grateful for the hobby I have. It won't save me in any of these situations - except for the training in trying to be aware of your surroundings - but I feel stronger and less... helpless... in the face of it all (even if the reality is that I'm as helpless as anybody else).

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:

Back to "normal" today.  We get to play a bit in our Hidden Sword kobudo class as our new weapon doesn't start until next month.  I'm looking forward to it!

Hubby attends +Hock Hochheim's Knife Course tomorrow - it's at our place, so if you're in the DFW Area, COME ON BY. Older Daughter is going to go... and  I might actually stop by for a short visit myself!

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, July 15, 2016

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Fighting, or Self Defense?

IT'S FACE-OFF FRIDAY!

Let's consider the difference between self defense, and fighting.

Fighting, generally, involves one or more person engaged in mutual combat.  The classical fight is where two people square up, with their dukes up, and start hitting or grappling with each other.  The key difference in a fight is that none of the parties involved attempt to disengage.

Self defense, however, is where a person has to fend off violence that's been offered to them, generally in an immediate way, without it being mutually agreed upon.  There is, generally, an attacker and a defender.  The key to telling if it's self defense is if the violence that happens is not a situation where both parties agree to fight.

So I'm curious which scenario - fight or self defense - you typically train in your school.  Is it usually mutual combat (like sparring)?  Or is it more like self defense (attack, defend, and then control the attacker or escape the situation?)

Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Most Important Martial Arts Value of All

In the martial arts, we talk about "values" a lot.

This is especially true if we teach kids, as we tend to include value education as part of the martial arts experience for kids.

Which values we emphasize varies from art to art, school to school. It might be the tenets you find in Taekwondo.  Or it might be the principles found in Japanese Bushido or Budo.  Or it may just be things you think are important to what you teach.

Wherever they come from, these values typically include things like humility, or self-discipline, or perseverance, or honor, or loyalty.  All of these are good and important for a variety of reasons.

I believe that there is one value that underscores all the rest of them.  It's the single most important value in the martial arts.

That value is courage.

The martial arts, summed up.

Courage is what makes every other martial arts value work.  Without courage, you don't have the other values - or even the opportunity to live the other values.

There are lots of people interested in what we do.  There are whole communities of fans of the martial arts and martial arts film and entertainment.

A very, very small percentage of those people actually step on a mat.

Every single one of us who acquire bruises for fun had to gather the courage to show up to a martial arts class in the first place.  Then we had to keep displaying that courage in every training session we ever attended.  This is especially true if you started up as an adult - you didn't have a mom or dad making sure you came to class!

Fear underlies the value of courage - the very definition of the word means doing something even if you are afraid to do it.  In the martial arts, these fears include the fear of failure, of looking silly or being embarrassed, of getting hurt or hurting others.

These are the fears we face every time we train.

That's why courage is the most important martial arts value.  Without courage, we can't display any of the other values, because we wouldn't be around to do it in the first place!

Think about the song the Cowardly Lion sings in the "Wizard of Oz" (1939).   He could do anything if he only had the nerve.  That is especially true for we martial artists, isn't it?



Do you agree with me that courage is the most important martial arts value?  If so, let me know about it.  If not - which single value do YOU think is the most important?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Kobudo: Testing the Big Stick and Two Smaller Ones

Well, it's testing time again in Kobudo.

This time for my second rank, Brown "Belt" (again, we don't get belts, just certificates).  And here's some pictures in my dreaded white gi as a bonus!

Me lined up and ready to test (far right - the short pudgy old lady on the end)

We covered all of the material on my Green Belt test on the Bo (read about that stuff here), plus the new tonfa material:
  • 4 direction blocking drill
  • Single strike drill
  • Double Strike drill
  • Our basic tonfa kata, Tonfa Ichi
  • Our second tonfa kata, Namae No Ni (read my complaints about it here).
  • One-steps (kumite) - we have two
They divided us into groups of three.  Lucky me, I was in group one.

We did the Bo material first (except for the kumite).  Given I've been practicing the Bo pretty hard for a year and a half, I felt pretty confident with the material.  I didn't make any major mistakes or hesitate at all. I think I did really well on my stances and targeting, using my hips to strike as we've been instructed to do.

Me at the end of Shihon No Bo.
Each group of three got up and did the Bo material. Then we did the Tonfa material. 

I must say that I think I did the best on Tonfa than I ever have, in class or in practice.  For some reason it just clicked in my brain during this test.  Was I perfect?  No, but I didn't make any major mistakes and I was able to get past the evil parts of my least favorite kata ever without the usual hitches and fits.  It went about as well as it possibly could go!

KABOOM, Namae no ni.  KA-BOOM.

THEN, they threw the first curve ball.

We have a 7-step drill for each weapon. For Bo, we practiced it right handed and left handed.

When we learned the 7-step drill for tonfa, I asked my teacher if we needed to do it left handed too. He said he didn't think so.  Not once did we practice this 7-step drill from the left side in classes.  It was never mentioned.  Not once.

So of course it was on the test.  And once I got the first beat right, it was actually pretty simple to do the next six correctly on the "left" side of the drill.  I did not screw it up - even though it was the first time I'd ever even attempted it.

Well, THAT was fun.  Can I pass out now? No? Okay then.

Being in the first group, I got to rest and watch the other students in the class (except, of course, the other two people in my own group).  Almost all of us were really well prepared, for the most part, and there was only one dropped weapon.  I know the person who did it and how it happened; it's just one of those things that can happen when a person gets nervous and starts death-gripping the weapon.  Loosen it up to flip it around and... you get a flying tonfa!

After the drills and forms, we divided into three groups and we did our partnered 7-step drills and one-steps (kumite).

We did our Bo 7-step drills, right and left handed - those I've been doing for about a year and a half so there was only one minor issue (I badly timed my initial strike on a one-step - it wouldn't have injured me as I was off the line, but still).

Then we had to do the Tonfa vs. Bo 7 step drill - right and left side!

Tonfa vs Bo 7 Step Drill

I was okay doing it in the air, but in timing against an incoming Bo strike?  YIKES! BRAIN FART!  I had a single false start but then we started over and I got it!

IT WAS A MIRACLE.

Next was Bo one-steps, and I did fine.  They threw another curve ball - do it from the left side - and I actually made it through!  Then we did our Tonfa one-steps (again, me first!),  Right AND left handed.  Never did that before today, either, but I figured it out.

So yeah, there was a lot of improvising today on the kumite portion of the test, and for the most part, I survived.

While the board deliberated, my teacher took control of the group and we practiced one-steps with Bo and Tonfa again.  My partner was someone from my school (not only that, another Arnis student like me)... so we know each other well.  It was relatively easy to practice as we "cooled down" from the test.

Bo One-Step No. 2.  He's GOING DOWN.

So yep, I passed again.  I now hold a Brown Belt rank in the AKATO Kobudo program.

I think it was a stronger test for me than my Green Belt test was.  I practice a lot, of course, and that always helps.  But I also think that the notion of getting enough practice and experience making learning accelerate a bit was also at play.

Here's what I noticed this time around:
  • My teacher emphasizes hitting with power when we do kumite. I actually knocked the bo out of one partner's hand a couple of times on today's test.  On my post-test feedback form, that was noted as a strength of mine - using my hips properly and striking with power.  But you can see that some of our at-home teachers do not emphasize this when you watch others do kumite.  They might do it powerfully in the air, but as soon as they have to strike... not so much.  I believe this is partially due to being afraid of the weapon and not wanting to hurt a partner accidentally.
  • Most of us have to work a lot harder on blading up our stances.  Since everybody in the class but myself and one other person are full-time Karate or Tae Kwon Do people, they always revert to a classic hips-forward, squared front stance, which is a bad idea in weapons.  In Arnis,we actually blade up quite a bit, so it's easier for me than it is for my empty hand friends.
  • I felt overall the entire class was stronger on this test than on our Green Belt test.  A lot of people have dropped out since our first test, of course, but for the most part, I think the group has settled in to what we're being taught and are doing well.
  • However, you can definitely still tell who practices a lot, and who practices, well, not so much. It's really obvious. I don't practice as much as I want to, but I get around this by practicing empty hand whenever I get a few moments, or I even will practice visualizing in my mind, without moving at all.  That sort of practice isn't as good as actually swinging a Bo or a pair of Tonfa, but it's better than not practicing at all.
  • There is still variation between men and women, but this is partially because each group is being taught by different teachers.  There's bound to be a little variance and differences in what is emphasized, and it shows.  Good thing for us they make allowances for those variances.
It was nice to have my primary Kobudo instructor, Sensei McNeil, at the test this time.  I hope we made her proud!



Our next weapon is nunchaku, which we'll start in August.  In the mean time, my teacher has promised to show us some off-curriculum fun stuff to do with Bo and Tonfa until we start our new weapon, which I am definitely looking forward to - as well as work on some of the Bo and Tonfa sumbrada we've been playing with for a while.

Here's the entire new AKATO Brown Belt class, our instructors, and the Kobudo black belts (front row).  I'm proud of my classmates, and relieved I made it through relatively well.


Below is the Hidden Sword crew (from left to right):  My teacher +Mark Lynn, Kimberly, Tomas, and myself.  Tomas and I are Arnis students, and Kimberly is a Tae Kwon Do Black Belt. 

Tomas started in this program later than everybody else - in JANUARY! - and he's worked his butt off to catch up in Bo as well as learn Tonfa at the same pace we are - he practices like a mad-man!  He did great and I'm extra-special proud of him.  Kimberly is young but I doubt you'll find anybody who hits harder than she does with a Bo in that room.

TEAM HIDDEN SWORD GO!
I'm not looking forward to nunchaku, but it's my first flexible weapon.  If I claim to be a weapons-oriented martial artist (oh, let's call it what it is - I'm a weapons NERD), I can't very well ignore flexible weapons, even if they never become my favorite to use.

So I'll be forging ahead and doing my best to master those bad boys, avoiding hitting myself in the head and other sensitive areas while doing so.  I make no promises as to how successful I'll be in that regard, but rest assured, it will not be on video and put out there for inclusion into yet another "martial arts fail" video.

So tell me about a test when you did pretty well, better than you may have expected you'd do. Or when you did worse.  Or when they sprung a surprise on you and you had to figure it out on the fly.  I love to hear martial arts rank test stories, so put 'em in the comments!


Saturday, July 9, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 07/09/16

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 class at Hidden Sword, then we spent an hour doing tapi-tapi (me, Mr. Chick and our senior Brown Belt) and then our senior brown and I did an hour of kobudo practice before our kobudo class with our teacher.  My arms were TIRED.
Sunday:  Practiced Kobudo and worked on MCA admin stuff.
Monday:  It was a holiday here in the US.  I worked on more Admin stuff for MCA (hey, it piles up) and then we went and watched fireworks!
Tuesday:   Beginning of what appears to be a "cluster headache" - had vision issues and a really bad headache.  Went to doc, got some meds - I have an MRI scheduled for Monday to eliminate other causes but the cluster headache theory is the prevailing theory.  That night I went and taught class at MCA - thank you painkillers!  It's a new month, so we had six new students total sign up.  We worked our "zero level" material and started the "Dos Manos" blocking drill with our experienced students. Had a great class, but I was glad to get home and go to sleep!
Wednesday:   Went straight to bed when I got home from work - I was literally asleep by 5:30 pm.  Yay, cluster headaches are FUN!
Thursday: .Day 3 of the headache but it was starting to subside. Taught classes at Mid-Cities Arnis. More "Zero Level" material for our newbies. It is really amazing how much people improve their striking technique when they get to hit stuff - in this case, our Wavemaster and our big BOB.   But everybody loves to hit BOB.
Friday:  Headache finally GONE. Friday night is for stick fighting!  Our new students got to try it for the first time and had a lot of fun!

They ganged up on me! 

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:
Monday:   Freedom Fighting or Treason: How Shifting Perspectives Matter (especially in the Martial Arts).
Wednesday: Weapons in Real Life: Confronted with a Long Blunt Weapon

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:   If Dis, Den Dat, or DAT!
Thursday: Knives Suck
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Visitors Making Corrections

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

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

It's been a hard week in Dallas-Fort Worth.  Between the news and the cluster headache that plagued me all week long, I didn't spend a lot of time online looking at martial arts content.  So here's a gif from our classes where my Younger Child - back in classes after her banishment last fall and doing great- is beating the daylights out of BOB.




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 kobudo testing day!  I'll test for my Brown rank on tonfa and bo.  I've been practicing my head off, and I'm ready.   I admit I'm a little nervous - just normal "pre-test" nerves is all.  My family is coming out to watch the test and then we're going out to eat afterward.

After this test, we add in a new weapon - nunchaku.  Of all the weapons I'm learning in this program, this is the one I like the least.  Maybe my mind will change, as it did with the Bo.  We'll see.  It is very possible my opinion is clouded by the fact that this weapon has been unfairly demonized and that there's so much nonsense and shenanigans out there about it.

Tomorrow we have our monthly gathering of schools - we're going out to Stephenville again for four hours of training.  It's July.  In Texas.  And there is very little air conditioning out there.

Busy weekend - but most weekends are going to be that way for the next month or so.

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, July 6, 2016

Weapons in Real Life: Confronted with a Long Blunt Weapon

This video was posted by Caleb Bonham over on Facebook:



It depicts a man attacking various random people in a relatively crowded area in downtown Denver, CO.  It's been making the rounds in martial arts circles as well as other groups.

It is a great example of why training in the martial arts - both unarmed and with and against weapons - is a great idea.  Note that several people are hit and injured and nobody here knows how to deal with it.

The attacker is obviously mentally ill, and this is an incredibly dangerous situation.  It's hard to predict what violent mentally ill people will do.

Here's my observations;

CLEAR THE AREA

I was struck, at first, by how many of the people around this obviously dangerous man didn't react until he got relatively close to them.  Several people here walk directly into him, or they stand still and stare - which gives the man a bunch of targets to choose from!

This is self defense 101 - be aware of your surroundings, and get out of an area where something bad is happening.

The man at the lower right walks directly towards the man with the weapon!

So, if you see a situation like this - leave.  Turn around and leave.

Alternately, this is a busy public street with lots of open businesses. I was thinking that several of these people could have sheltered inside one of these businesses.

Either way - people either stop and stare or walk as if nothing is happening at all, and that's incredibly dangerous.  This video is only a minute long, and I'm surprised more of the people approaching the obviously dangerous man or just standing there weren't hurt.

CLOSE IN ON LONG WEAPONS

I would not advocate that untrained people do this, obviously.  But one reason to train vs. long weapons - four to six feet long - is to understand the range in which they can do the most damage, versus where you're safer.

Every person struck here moves backwards to avoid getting hit - and they fail to move fast enough or far enough, and they get hit.  Not only do they get hit, but they get hit with fastest moving part of the weapon - the absolute worst part to get hit with.



If I had been in this situation and he were coming for me (and it was too late for me to vacate the area - such as someone stepping out of one of the businesses on the street not having seen what was happening inside), I'd have moved in and attack the man directly.  My hope would be to attack his face to distract him enough to be able to get the weapon out of his hands and away from him.

I also train in weapons - short and long - and I also know how to disarm.  I would have tried something like this:



This is a "policing technique" that works against a variety of straight blunt weapons - like the one the dude has in the video.  The advantage with this technique is that it's pretty quick and doesn't rely on brute strength to make it work.

USE THE TOOLS AVAILABLE TO YOU

The man is wielding an improvised weapon.  Some observers suggest that situations like this prove the need to carry a firearm.  I wouldn't disagree with this, but... it's not really necessary here.

There are other tools in the environment to help the folks here defend themselves.

For example - see below:


I see four people - not including the attacker or the man in the white tank top getting attacked - with something to help them defend themselves or the white tank top man.

I'm talking about their backpacks.

Those backpacks could have been used as a shield against the incoming strikes.

This is something we train pretty early in our school - and we also teach in self defense classes.  We use what we call "Dos Manos" (two hands) techniques.  

Here's an example of it with a stick:



This is a pretty easy technique to do with backpacks and gear bags.  Once you block the incoming attack, closing in with the backpack to strike the attacker in a counter-attack absolutely works and may have helped get the man disarmed.

So that's my three observations - clear the area, close in versus long weapons, and use tools in the environment to defend against weapons.

So what lessons did you learn from the video?  What else could the people surrounding the attacker had done?  Let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Freedom Fighting or Treason: How Shifting Perspectives Matter (especially in the Martial Arts).

It's Independence Day here in the United States.

On the one hand, this is the day where Americans traditionally celebrate the beginning of our war of liberation by a plucky band of rag-tag nobodies fighting against a giant arrogant Empire that was oppressing us.

On the other hand... if you really think about it...

And we typically do it by drinking and blowing stuff up.
So what does this have to do with the martial arts?

This all goes back to the Style Wars we martial artists just love to engage in.

As any of you who read this blog regularly know, I hate that stuff.  I believe, with a very few notable exceptions (and most of those exceptions involve under-qualified individuals starting their own thing), that there is no superior martial arts style.  And please, don't get me started on traditional martial arts vs. mixed martial arts.  That's just a case of people trying to justify what they spend their time and money doing for fun.

It's silly and a waste of time and energy.

However, the example above - of American Independence Day celebrating plucky rebels winning a war of liberation against all odds OR  extremist minority group using terrorism to throw off lawful government - depends on your point of view.

This is the same exact thing as one style versus another.

The effectiveness - or ineffectiveness - of any given martial art depends on a lot of factors.

CONTEXT

Where is what is being learned supposed to be used?  Against whom?  In what conditions?

When you train a martial art, you're not just training your body, but you're also training the brain.  You will see the world in a specific way because your martial art is partially designed to teach you that world view.  That's why understanding the context matters when you evaluate how "effective" any given martial art is.

There are lots of examples of how shifting context opens holes in lots of martial arts styles.

The easy example is that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is generally considered one of the "top" martial arts styles.  However, it loses a lot of effectiveness when you throw in someone who is trained in knife fighting.  BJJ doesn't cope with that situation very well (it can, and there are people who train that, but generally speaking, that's not their forte).

That doesn't mean that BJJ therefore sucks.  It just means that there is a hole in their training based on shifting context.

It is very difficult to effectively train against all conceivable scenarios and situations.  And that's ok. It's unfair, though, to take a martial art style out of its context and then declare that it sucks.

RISK MANAGEMENT

What risks does this style teach a person to take in order to achieve a specific goal? Which risks are unacceptable?

Take my art, Arnis.  In Modern Arnis, one thing we are trained to do from a very early point is that we "check" the incoming striking hand.  One main explanation for this is that it is there to prevent an incoming punyo punch (there are actually other reasons, but this is the big one).

A version of a punyo punch, the punyo sweep.  Yes, if I didn't rock back and pass that bad boy, I would have eaten it.

But there are plenty of FMA styles that don't bother with it. Why?  They figure that the risk of a punyo punch is less problematic than something else they want to do. 

There are plenty of risks I'll take as I believe the payoff will be better for me, or I think that the size of the risk is small enough that it's worth taking.  One example we were talking about the other day involved discussing the risks involved in a particular counter-move in a version of right on right tapi-tapi.  Long story short, it ended up with my low line wide open for a strike.

And yes, those suck.  BUT.  My opponent's high line was wide open as well.

All things being equal, if I have a clear head shot open on my opponent, and the opponent has my torso or knee shot wide open, who'll win that fight?  I will! 

But I did say "all things being equal", didn't I?  What if we have blades vs. blunt weapons?  Then maybe that low line strike is far, far more problematic.  Maybe I wouldn't want to take that risk.

Your preference in martial arts style - and strategy - is all about which risks you believe are there, and what risks you're willing to take.  For some of us, the risk of being overwhelmed on the ground is too great, especially against multiple opponents, so they prefer to train to get back up versus staying on the ground.  This doesn't make ground fighters wrong - it just means that they don't find that risk as unacceptable as others might.

BAD ASSUMPTIONS

Are you sure you understand what you're talking about when you say (x) martial art won't work in real-life applications?  Or that (y) never happens in real life?

Let's take "the street". Which "street" are you talking about?  I don't hang out in bad neighborhoods, I don't typically drink in bars... my street is basically this one:

Hooligans.


Tae Kwon Do high kicks won't work in a real fight?  Except it did.

BJJ won't work in a real fight?  But it did.

Knife fights never happen with the knife in ice pick grip.  Except when they do.

I can do this all day, folks.

Comments like "that wouldn't work in real life" depend on making certain assumptions about the scenario involved. And often, those assumptions are based upon limited experience and the training - if any - a person has had.  As I stated above, I live in suburban Texas.  It's about as safe a place to live as anywhere on the face of the Earth.

I should not make the mistake of assuming everywhere is like my neighborhood.  I should not make the mistake in believing that all communities have the same values and the same rules.

So as you can see, change the scenario - the context, the risks involved, and the assumptions you make - and your martial art may NOT be the bee's knees.  Or it may be better than you think!

You're either a freedom fighter, or you're a treasonous rebel.  Both are true.

If you're in the US - I hope your Independence Day is awesome!

This one is for you, my British friends. :)

So let's hear about how shifting context made you learn something about your preferred martial art. Or how you manage risks, or which assumptions you've made that ended up to be bad ones.  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 07/02/16

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:  Due to car issues, I only got to attend Arnis in the morning.  We tested several students at Hidden Sword for their next rank, and I was impressed at how well some of our students returning from break did - and was happy to sign off on their next rank.
Sunday:  Practiced a bit of kobudo, but with all the drama of the week - I had to catch up on chores!
Monday:  Went to Hidden Sword for Arnis class.  We worked on several drills that lead the student into playing tapi-tapi. Fun night.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  In the Family class we reviewed block+check. In the adult class, we tested one of our students for his next rank - and he passed with flying colors!
Wednesday:   My night off.
Thursday:  Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on strike mechanics and stick strike/empty hand or kick combinations.
Friday:  New month, new students!  We had four new students in class, so while Mr. Chick reviewed the week with our continuing students, I worked with our new students on orienting them into our art, and the 12 Angles of Attack.

Our testing class (minus one, who had to leave before the picture was taken) at Hidden Sword


BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:
Monday:   Rank Hath No Privilege
Wednesday:  We Are Poor Judges (of Ourselves)

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:   Context is Everything
Thursday:  4 Profound Life Lessons (Learned in the Martial Arts)
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Should Kids Be Taught Weapons?

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

OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

Nice drill published by the guys at Bayani Warrior.  Got me thinking...

Nice post over at Wim Demeere's blog about using real life video to learn self defense.  How to learn self-defense from video footage



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, but it's my last formal kobudo class with my teacher before we test for rank next week over in Dallas.

It's a Holiday Weekend!  For those of you in Canada - hope Canada Day was awesome!  For those of you in the United States - take a moment and read through the Declaration of Independence on Independence Day, will you?  I like to read it this time of year, just to remind 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!