Monday, November 28, 2016

What's in Your Gear Bag?

I had to empty out my gear bag in order to sew on some new patches.  My gear bag is a repurposed softball/baseball bag, and it's perfect for Arnis gear.

I collect patches (sort of), and they end up on my gear bag instead of my uniform (I'm one of those people who thinks covering your gi in patches makes you look like a NASCAR driver... yeah, no thanks).  Each patch usually represents something or some place that's I've trained, or a group I have not trained with but admire, and in two cases, is not actually for martial arts at all. Here's one side of my bag:


The patches are, from left to right:
The other side, again, from left to right (skipping patches I've already mentioned):


  • Hidden Sword Martial Arts patch - you can't see it well here, but you'll see it in other photos.  It's the "old" logo of my teacher's school.
  • American Karate Tae Kwon Do (AKATO) organization patch - the logo of AKATO, an organization I am a member of, and where I study kobudo and other non-Arnis subjects
  • Kansas City Chiefs patch - best team on earth, win or lose
  • Arnis International patch - lead by Bruce Chiu, my original Modern Arnis organization and always in my heart
  • DAV patch - the patch representing the German Arnis Federation
  • Tipperary Ju Jitsu - I hope to visit them someday and train there!  Another "sister" school of my original teachers
The end of my bag has the logo of my teacher David Jones (Jones Protective Arts).  You can see it in the shot below (the long rectangular white patch).

I am always looking for cool patches of people, organizations, or places I admire for my bag.  I'm kind of a patch junkie, in fact, but hey, at least it's just on the gear bag, right?  My ambition is to cover up the bag maker logo with plenty o'patches.

Being a softball bag, my gear bag has a pocket where I can keep my sticks (and our kamagong bolo, when I'm carrying it around).  It can actually hold 5 pairs pretty easily, but I usually only carry two or three pairs of sticks at any given time.  Here you can see the Hidden Sword patch really clearly.



Like all gear bags, mine accumulates junk in it, and I have to clean it out on occasion. I did that recently, and here's what I consider my "essentials" for my gear bag:


Again, from left to right, sorta-clockwise-ish:
  • Rattan sticks.  Sometimes I'll have my bahi with me, or on rare occasion, my white waxwoods.
  • Two pairs of gloves  - the blue/white are light bag gloves.  The red pair I wear when I'm stick or weapon sparring, or if I'm feeding a LOT of disarms and I don't want my hands torn up.
  • Electrical tape - for impromptu stick repair.  This roll is red, of course.
  • Mat shoes and socks - in Arnis, I like to wear shoes, because I've seen a toe broken once when a disarm hit someone's foot.  No thanks to broken toes.  My shoes are actually just regular athletic shoes I got on sale at a discount store (no reason to spend tons of money on this stuff).
  • Palmstick (dulo-dulo).  Made by my friend Jeff Hornung, it's made of cocobolo wood and it feels so heavenly in the hand!
  • Training knives - one single sided, one double sided
  • Nunchaku - I usually have the kobudo weapon I'm currently studying in my bag with me.  If I took this picture six months ago, those would have been a pair of tonfa instead.
  • First Aid baggie - band-aids, antacids, paper tape, and odds and ends for the bumps and bruises and cuts we get when we're doing what we do.
  • Rolled up magazine - used to demonstrate the principle of improvised weapons.
  • My belt, the Modern Arnis style black belt with the red edge.  My belt is plain with no embroidery, and I like it that way.
I have a little pocket in the bag with a little cash in it and some business cards for MCA and for MAPA.

My bag will also, sometimes, have an extra pair of pants and a t-shirt, to change into after training if we're going out to eat.  Or I'll have my gi jacket folded up in there, or I'll shove my tonfa in there if I'm going to kobudo or I'm practicing away from home.  I'll have an extra pair of socks if I know I'm going to be working hard and sweating hard and I want to have fresh, dry feet.

So that's what I carry with me day in, day out, as I go to or teach classes or seminars or whatever.  I'll tote my bo with me as needed (even my stick bag isn't big enough for that bad boy).

So what do YOU keep in your gear bag?  Do you have a patch addiction like I do?  What's essential to keep with you as you train?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 11/26/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  Attended the AKATO Black Belt class.  Before it, I met with our nunchaku instructor to catch up on the new form, Nunchaku Ni.  I also got a new pair of nunchaku (sized to me) but I left without the pile o'weapons, as they didn't arrive in time (I have to wait TWO WEEKS - forever!  How will I survive?).  The class was introduction to chi sau, and I had a blast!
Sunday:  Worked on Nunchaku Ni, a quick run-through of both the bo and tonfa material too.
Monday:   My night off, so I made dinner.  Wooo.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis. We worked on kicks, mainly the proper mechanics of kicking as we do it.
Wednesday:  Twas the night before Thanksgiving, so we were cooking up stuff....
Thursday:  Thanksgiving Day.  Worked hard on the meal, ate too much, and played video games.
Friday: I had to work!  Arrggh!

This is from a couple of weeks ago - I don't actually have any pictures of me training this week!

BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted this post of original content this week:
Monday:  THAT GUY: The Exceptionally Bad Uke
Wednesday:  What I'm Grateful For in 2016

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  Productive Playtime
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: What is a McDojo?


OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

I posted this on my Facebook page (which you can like and share with your friends who enjoy martial arts stuff HERE).  Given we worked chi sau this week, it really applies (not saying I necessarily have skill, but that's sort of one of the things you learn in that drill):



AWESOME blog post and video from Ikazuchi Dojo with Aikido players cross-training with an FMA player.  What is especially interesting, for me, is that it illustrates why cross-training is so important.  A martial arts style becomes a way to look at the world, and these Aikidoka are working on broadening their worldview (see how the FMA guy gets them with angles they don't expect).   Read and see the video here - you won't be disappointed, very illuminating and good stuff!  Death by Disarm

Our friend +Andrea Harkins  was signing copies of her book for shipment this week.  Did I mention I contributed to it?  You can go here and get it on Amazon, especially if you're a Kindle-type person like me.




FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Holy moly, a rare weekend where I have zero appointments.  I think this is the first time this year.

No martial arts classes, no seminars, nothing.

I plan to spend the weekend writing, making a video for my friend +Joelle White on a point in Arnis, getting a lot of practice in, doing necessary chores, and honestly, taking a break.  I run hard most of the time, so it'll be nice to just relax a bit.

AAANNNNDD we might have recently gotten the special edition of this game, soooooo...

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, November 23, 2016

What I'm Grateful For in 2016

It's Thanksgiving time here in the United States.  It's a time where many of us reflect on our lives and the things, people, and events we appreciate having around us.  We try to spend time with the people who are important to us if we possibly can and make a feast that we can enjoy with them before the winter arrives.  It's a reflective period that is one of my favorite times of the year - in fact, Thanksgiving, and the ritual surrounding it, is my very most favorite holiday of all.



2016 is generally considered a rough year overall, due to the celebrities we've lost (David Bowie!  Prince!  Alan Rickman!), the acrimonious election we've just gone through  in the US (and it's not over by a long shot), and there just seems to be a general sense that 2016 has been bad.

It seems to me that stepping back and reflecting on the good things around us is a fine way to salvage a tough year.

So here's what I'm grateful for:

2016 saw my family in good health, generally happy, and overall financially stable.  While there were some temporary problems and non-fatal-but-incredibly-annoying medical issues to cope with, we are ending the year in pretty great shape (and with a new family member even -  Daphne, the shelter cat we adopted over the summer). Given I've had years in the not too distant past where this was not the case, especially financially, I'm especially thankful for this.

2016 was a very good year for my personal martial arts growth.  I felt like I made a lot of progress in my understanding of my core art, Arnis, as well as really starting to really "get" kobudo weapons.  Given that I've attended a ton of seminars this year (and I've expanded my horizons with some training in Okinawan Karate and exposure to other miscellaneous things) I would hope that would be the case!

Me working Bo at my kobudo brown belt test, July

I made a lot of new friends (and connected with old ones) in the martial arts in 2016.  I got some new regular training partners, including getting to know some friends down in Houston that we will be training with on a more regular basis in 2017.  I'm especially grateful for everyone who taught me, trained with me, or learned from me in 2016.

2016 was a great year for the Stick Chick Blog.  Views and readership slowly continue to grow, there were a lot of great comments from lots of neat and interesting people, and I connected with lots of awesome people in our community.  I'm planning big changes for this blog in the very near future, and I hope you all will stick with me when that happens.  I'm trying my best to make this place a fun, interesting, and worthwhile place for you to visit, and I would appreciate any feedback you have to offer to make it better!

2016, as it turns out, is really a year of transition for me, as I expect many changes in 2017.  There will be changes in this blog, in my pursuit of more growth and development professionally, in my martial arts life, and who knows what else?

So tell us what YOU'RE grateful for in 2016.  If you're not in the US (or Canada, where they had their version of this holiday last month), and you don't have this tradition, well, heck, join in on the fun!  Have some friends and family over soon, have a meal, and celebrate all that is good in your life!

Monday, November 21, 2016

THAT GUY: The Exceptionally Bad Uke

So you're pairing up, and it's your partner's turn to try the technique you're learning.

You do your best to make sure you are not actively resisting your partner, but at the same time, you're not being so passive that you're helping him make it work.

It's your turn, and you go to do the technique, and your partner immediately counters what you're trying to learn.  You try again, and your partner changes her  stance around so that the direction you're supposed to go won't work.  You try again, and she  has a death grip or is using all of her strength to oppose what you're trying to learn.  Since you're just learning this technique, you don't have any clue how to cope with this behavior.

Frustrated, you're glad when the instructor yells "switch partners!".

The next partner is the opposite of the first.  He noodle arms and goes limp, he doesn't resist whatsoever, and he falls down the minute you touch him with any kind of energy.  It's like trying to train with the wacky inflatable tube man.

Grab my wrist!

You got paired up with the two most common examples of THAT GUY: The Exceptionally Bad Uke.

The Exceptionally Bad Uke is the person who makes certain that no matter what, you are not going to learn what is being taught correctly.  You'll either believe it can't possibly work for you - because of the first type (the "Hard" Exceptionally Bad Uke) actively resisting you before you understand what you're going to do, or the second type (the "Soft" Exceptionally Bad Uke) giving in so quickly you know you aren't understanding the technique, either.

You run into Exceptionally Bad Uke at seminars a lot.  Often, the "Hard" version is trying to uphold the honor and reputation of himself or his school, or, he thinks he's supposed to do that, so that the training is "realistic". The "Soft" version is trying to be polite and helpful (not realizing that what she is doing is as bad as 100% resistance) or you might have THAT GUY: The Scaredy Cat on your hands.

Personally, I find the "Hard" version more annoying.  I'm always worried that I'll hurt the guy, because this kind of hard resistance can lead to that sort of thing by accident.  Or, in frustration (especially when learning disarms) I'll use a softening up technique to get the disarm, and that often means an unexpected strike in places that are uncomfortable.

I didn't want to hit you in the face, I swear.

The "Soft" version is less annoying but might be the more dangerous, as you believe you've learned the technique properly when you haven't because the Exceptionally Bad Uke is so determined to go with it, you get a false sense of confidence in what you know.

Either way, trying to learn while paired with the Exceptionally Bad Uke is a miserable experience when you're trying to figure things out in martial arts classes or at seminars.

Tell me your stories of the Exceptionally  Bad Uke.  Have you, yourself, been THAT GUY?  Let us  know in the comments!


Saturday, November 19, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 11/19/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  A "normal" day of martial arts goodness. Arnis in the morning, kobudo in the afternoon.  I started learning the form that I missed when I had to skip my main kobudo class the week before - Nunchaku Ni.
Sunday:  Our (almost) monthly four-hour Arnis gathering here in DFW, where we are working on prepping our brown belts for black belt next year.
Monday:   My night off.  I cooked!
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis. We worked basic blocking and our self defense drills.
Wednesday:  Went to Arnis class at Hidden Sword.
Thursday:  I've been struggling off and on with a toothache that comes and goes (it seems to be related to changes in my bite, but it's kind of a mystery as my dentist is stumped).  It was on tonight, with a vengeance.
Friday: Tooth much better.  I got a little nunchaku practice in (can't practice nunchaku in my living room - or rather, NOBODY SHOULD PRACTICE NUNCHAKU IN THE LIVING ROOM!).  Worked with our adult Filipino Karate student on Anyo Isa while the rest of the class stick sparred, then we stick sparred with a visitor.  Fun night.



BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted this post of original content this week:
Monday:  Forging Ties
Wednesday: Putting the Safe in Safety Pin

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  Letters, Words and Phrases
Thursday:  What's In Your Toolbox?
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Are Martial Arts Tournaments Important?


OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

My friend +Andrea Harkins has finally published her book, "The Martial Arts Woman", with TONS of contributors from all sorts of big female names in the martial arts world.  Even yours truly contributed, and I'm probably the least known and lowest ranked person of the bunch.  You can buy a copy directly from Andrea here, or you can click here and get it on Amazon, especially if you're a Kindle-type person like me.



+Brian Johns at +Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts has started a new video series on Fridays ("Fun Fridays") that has some really helpful and interesting tips on our art.  This week's is one I particularly liked.  Check it out:



MORE new episodes of "Enter the Dojo".  It's making 2016 suck slightly less.




I posted this on my Facebook page (which you can like and share with your friends who enjoy artial arts stuff HERE):




FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Today I go work on my make-up class for kobudo over in Richardson. as well as attend the AKATO Black Belt class they hold monthly.

I do hold a mighty blue belt in more than one form of tae kwon do - PaSaRyu and American Karate. I can tell, you're SO JEALOUS!  I am, however technically, an AKATO Black Belt (I am Dayan Isa in Presas Arnis, I'm an AKATO member, ergo... AKATO black belt) so I can go to the class.

These classes are aimed at the TKD/Karate folks in the organization more than a stick slinger like little ol' me.  So it'll be an interesting day spent not only doing nunchaku but also stretching a little bit with material that is not my usual fare - and I have no idea what the topic is going to be, so it'll be a fun day.

Additionally, I will be coming back with new nunchaku (mine are too long), a new bo (they were placing an order and mine will eventually break, so get it while the getting's good, I say), a pair of sai I am borrowing for our kobudo class (muh hands, they are tiny), and a naginata.

Why a naginata?  I ask you, WHY NOT A NAGINATA?!?  Well, actually, my friend Judy in AKATO is looking for a teacher for herself some time in the near future, and I hope to benefit from that. It's another case of get while the getting is good, and being prepared for the day I can actually train in it.

ALL. OF.  THEM.

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, November 16, 2016

Putting the Safe in Safety Pin

In case you haven't noticed, there's a movement out there to wear safety pins to signal "solidarity" with minorities and other oppressed people. Snopes has a pretty good synopsis of this campaign HERE.



It's become very popular, much like AIDS ribbons were a generation ago.  Heck, even NFL quarterbacks are wearing them at press conferences.

The virtue or wisdom of such campaigns are beyond the scope of what I write about here, so ask me privately if you want my opinion on the matter as a whole.  That's not the point of today's post.

I wanted to address what some people are saying that wearing the safety pin means.

Some folks - both pro-safety pin and against safety pin - are saying that wearing one signals that not only are you empathetic to the situation minorities may be living in or experiencing, but you are willing to do something about it.  It means that when there is a person being harassed in public, you're willing to intervene.

The safety pin, in some quarters, means that you are willing to "stand up" for someone that is vulnerable, so yeah, that definitely does imply that you're willing to do more than wear a symbol.

I do not see everyone pushing for this campaign saying this, but enough so that I feel like I need to put in my two cents here, because this is talking about public safety and self defense.

On principle, I like the idea of more of us committing to making our society one where such behaviors are not tolerated socially, and the consequences are immediate. I also like the idea of each of us taking responsibility for making all of us safer in public, and not waiting for some authority figure to come along and make it happen.

If you wear a safety pin, some people are going to believe that you are ready, willing, and able to help them if bad stuff goes down.  Be prepared for this, and understand that if you do not immediately help - aren't ready and able, even if you're willing - you may undermine the message you are trying to send.

So, if you really are interested in either defending yourself or others... you have to do more than wear a safety pin.  You have to train yourself in:
  • Conflict resolution
  • De-escalation techniques
  • The law of self defense (what you, as a bystander, can and can't do legally)
  • Unarmed self defense techniques
  • Armed self defense (even if you choose not to use a weapon of any kind - you may face them)
Be aware that if you insert yourself into situations like this YOU could become the target of violence, and you have to be prepared for that.

It also means you have to continually practice those techniques I mentioned above. You can't take a single conflict resolution class, or a self defense course, or a concealed carry certification, or read a book on the subject, and call it a day.  These skills must be practiced in order to be effective.

So seek out and read all the books on this topic you can, written by people who are from a variety of backgrounds and points of view.  Regularly attend physical training in the subject.  Learn as much as you can about the consequences of intervening in situations like this, so you are prepared to take action if it happens around you.  Take a concealed carry firearms course if they have such in your area, even if you don't intend to carry or own a firearm at all.

One more thing - be honest about your ability to help vs. your willingness to help.  If you are not able to do more about this than the equivalent using of a hashtag on Twitter, well... I'd rather you not make promises you can't or won't keep.  This is serious business, something that can have far-reaching and permanent consequences.

If you do all these things, you can make this safety pin meme actually mean something.  I think that'd be pretty cool.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Forging Ties

Over the past couple of years, we've been running Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance gatherings.

The purpose of these gatherings is to collect together Filipino Martial Artists of all styles in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in a four-hour training session at very low cost.  We have rotating instructors and we do not play any sort of "my style is better than your style" games - we go in open minded and ready to learn what we can, regardless of what tradition the teacher is coming from.

It's really fun, in and in 2017, we're going to a twice a year format.  So do like the MAPA Facebook page, and if you're in the area when we have a gathering going on, please, do come by, no matter your style or experience level in the Filipino Martial Arts in general.

MAPA sort of provided the template for something else we started here in Dallas-Fort Worth earlier this year.  Our three schools - Mid-Cities Arnis, Hidden Sword Martial Arts, and TNT Self Defense - started getting together on a monthly basis to train in the Modern Arnis (but to be honest, being that we and Hidden Sword are involved, we're covering a lot of material from Remy AND Ernesto Presas).

The original reason for this was to prepare the brown belts at Hidden Sword and TNT for testing for black belt next year some time (Mid-Citis Arnis is too new to have any potential brown belt candidates).  Our gatherings tend to be laid back affairs, with lots of discussion about concepts and ideas, and are generally held for no cost to any of the participants.

Me demonstrating our school's version of a form, or anyo, at one of these gatherings.

We talk about things traditionally understood in Modern Arnis and the innovations lots of people have made since Professor Remy Presas died, and experiencing the different "flavors" each of our schools.  We all have different lineages back to Professor we all have and what we bring to the art from cross training in other arts, and we all respect and honor that experience.

We are not even attempting to make the schools identical to one another, or to claim one way or the other is the "better" way to do Modern Arnis.  We recognize different ways to think about the art, and we support that diversity.  When we test our brown belts, the ones from TNT will be expected to perform the way Abel wants, and the students from Hidden Sword will be expected to perform the way Mark wants.

The great thing is that the board will know what each school is looking for, which makes it a better - and tougher - test for our brown belts.

MUAH-HA-HA!

We believe there is ample room for this diversity in our art, and we're all good with differing points of view.  After all, it's all in the spirit of "the art within your art" idea, and making the art our own.

In this spirit, our group has connected with another school down in Houston - Clear Lake Modern Arnis - and our original group is expanding to being a statewide... um... thing.    I hesitate to call it an "organization" because there is no real leadership or membership or anything like that.  We're calling it, for now, the Texas Modern Arnis Coalition.

Clear Lake is hosting our first statewide gathering down in Houston in January or early February.  There may be a small cost for the facility, but again, the idea is that it's a loose, friendly gathering to just geek out on Modern Arnis for four hours at low cost (compared to your typical seminar or camp - what we do is not exactly like that, but it's the closest comparison I have).  We've planned another statewide gathering for Dallas-Fort Worth later in the year (the idea is to rotate it around the state as much as we can).

I'm hoping that the Houston area grows enough with other people and group and schools in their area that they, too, do this monthly gathering thing just to share and learn, like we do in DFW.  I think such a thing can only be healthy for the development and spread of the style in Texas.

So why am I bothering to write about this here?

Because we are looking for more people who want to study Modern Arnis (or really, the Presas family arts) in this format throughout the state of Texas.

Belong to one of the various Modern Arnis organizations - and we mean ANY of them?  You're welcome in our Coalition.

Independent with no affiliation?  Come on in.

Played for years and just want to reconnect with the wider Modern Arnis community? You are in!

Kombatan person?  Please do come by!

Moved to Texas from anywhere in the world, with ties to other Modern Arnis lineages?  We definitely want to see you!

Want to just see what it's about with little to no risk?  We're the folks for you.

If you, or someone you know, is in any way interested in the Presas family Arnis systems and is in Texas - this group is for you.

The only thing we ask is that you recognize is no boss in this group, and that there is no one best way to doing Modern Arnis, so you have to have an open mind when people do things that aren't the way you or your teacher(s) do them.  It is not unusual to have disagreement on how (x) is done, and to discuss the pros and cons of each point of view, but leave it at "you do it your way, and I'll do mine" and we'll all be happy.

You can be ANYWHERE in Texas and be in this group -  calling people from Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Waco, Tyler, Wichita Falls, Amarillo, Abilene, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, Midland, Odessa, Laredo, Beaumont... even if you live waaaayyy over in El Paso, heck, maybe you can make it to a free/cheap gathering once a year, right?  Maybe just interacting with us is the inspiration you need to get your own training group going wherever you are.

We are all well aware that Texas is BIG. Image found here.

I'm sort of the admin of the Facebook private group that helps organize things (and that's all, other than that, I'm just another person on the mat).  Contact me via this blog, or via any of the social media channels over on the sidebar, and I'll connect you up with the private group (sorry, we are using Facebook for organizing, it's easiest).

As an aside - if you're in Oklahoma, specifically along the I-35 corridor from Oklahoma City south, I also want to hear from you. As far as I know, I'm the only one in TMAC interested in this as a project - it would be so cool to develop a band of Modern Arnis palyers all the way up and down the I-35 corridor... Oklahoma City to Wichita to Kansas City to Des Moines to Minneapolis... and all points in between.  A WOMAN CAN DREAM!

I mean, why not OMAC?

I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of forging ties across Texas in the Modern Arnis community. I hope, if you're anywhere in (or near) Texas, you'll reach out and be a part of it.

How do you forge ties with other practitioners of YOUR style?  Let me know in the comments?





Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 11/12/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:  I had to work.  Argh!
Sunday:  Got in a tad of kobudo practice (just some footwork and stances mostly).
Monday:   Went to class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  Our original teacher, Darrell Kellner, was in town, and he came to class with us.  He banged some pressure points and locks, and then we banged some sticks.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.   I worked with our new White Belt on the  mechanics of the jab and her basic front stance.  She did great!  Oh, and it was Election Day in the United States.
Wednesday:  Like many of my countrymen, I was just sorta not having it today.
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We focused on sticks this class (we have been emphasizing the empty-hand side of our art in our kids class).
Friday: Stick sparring.  W00t!


I'm coming to get ya!


BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted this post of original content this week:
Monday:  The Vagaries of Self Promotion

Only one original post this week.  Election Day had me in a "I just so can't even" mode regarding martial arts writing this week.  My head just wasn't there. Luckily, I should be back in that mind set as I'm doing a writing project about the martial arts (and I'm training my butt off this weekend).

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  Chillax
Wednesday:  Corrosion of Conformity
Thursday:  11 Quick Tips About Modern Arnis (for Newbies)
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Too Young to Start the Martial Arts?


OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

New full EPISODE of Enter the Dojo?  YES PLEASE!




What a fun gifset of a cool demo (suddenly, judo!). Find more here: BudoJunkie's Post on Tumblr



I posted this on my Facebook page (which you can like and share, iff'n ya wants to, HERE):





FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Normal day of training - gasp!  Arnis in the morning, kobudo in the afternoon.  AWWW YEAHHH.

Tomorrow is our almost-monthly four hour Arnis gathering of goodness, which is intended to prep our brown belts for black belt, but we have attendees from highly ranked guys with 30 years experience to utter and complete newbies - even kids - attending.

This time it's hosted by our friends out at TNT Self Defense in Stephenville, about a 90 minute drive for me.  Training out there usually results in tacos afterwards, so it's totally worth the drive.



This training is regular (again, usually monthly), and is often at no cost, so if you're interested in Arnis and want to train with us, hit me up and I can keep you in the loop on Facebook.

The cool thing is that next year this group will be expanding statewide - we're going to have our very first statewide Gathering in Houston in January or early February 2017.  Again, it's cheap or free (we usually only charge if we have to pay for the training space, and it ends up being very little when split among all of us), and just for people to get together to train and build our Arnis community.

So if you are ANYWHERE in Texas and are interested, contact me through this very blog, via my Facebook page, or you can email me at TheStickChickBlog@mail.com.

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, November 7, 2016

The Vagaries of Self Promotion

Recently, this video made the rounds in the martial arts community.


I don't want to debate whether or not the man is in the right, but it did start a lot of conversation about rank - what it means, what is legit, and whether it matters or not.  If you are interested in more details about why this man did what he did, there's an interview with him here.

Rank (and titles and belts) and what it means, is always a source of debate in our community.

We endlessly talk about who deserves whatever ranks and who doesn't, what the requirements should be, who has the right to give out rank and who doesn't, how rank progression works, what represents fraudulent rank and what does't...  it's a huge topic, one that seems integral to the core of our community and what we do.

I've written about rank and the issues around ranks before, here and here.  I believe, due to the nature of what we do, some sort of ranking system is in place by pure necessity.  We cannot fight/measure ourselves against every person we run across, nor can many of us tell the difference.

Ranking (and belts and whatnot) serves an important purpose in the martial arts world. It works like a marketing loyalty program in our "business", for one.  Human beings are often motivated by these "loyalty program" type incentives and ranks are our version of that in our hobby.

Our culture is somewhat hierarchical in nature, by necessity and by tradition.  We have the lead administrator or teacher - the highest ranking person - generally making decisions for the group and the individuals within the group.  Then you have the rest of the group arrayed in varying levels of authority and skill below that person in most of our organizations and groups.  No matter what martial arts style we're talking about, this is generally true.

Authority, in a martial arts style, generally means you set and maintain the standards of the martial art (we punch this way, we kick that way, we use those weapons, and we don't do that other thing over there) and you manage and monitor the progress of students in that style.

That means that ranks are the main way of communicating the appropriate levels of authority within the group without having to prove it on every person you run across via combat.

Every.  Single. Class.

So ranks are necessary, even if it comes at a cost.  Rank chasing and fraud and being overly prideful about rank are the big downsides of ranking systems.

Additionally, we in the martial arts are also somewhat traditional and change averse - we prefer to do things as our teachers have left them to us, and we only change things when there's a pressing need or desire to do so.  So our rank requirements (and other cultural norms) tend to be whatever our "ancestors" in our school or style decided back in the day.  We maintain the ranks, the requirements, and thus, the resulting authority by sheer inertia.

Rank in most martial arts schools is a short-hand, then, for determining who has the authority, and who doesn't, with an assumption behind it that those authorities are legitimate and have the right to make the determination.  Rank generally comes from time in the martial art (training time as well as calendar time) plus an examination of your skill in that martial art by a qualified individual or individuals.  Sometimes a win/loss record is also something that is taken into consideration, if your martial art values that sort of thing.

The outrage over the self promotion above comes from a violation of the "examination of your skill by qualified individuals" part of our ranking tradition.

For many of us, it is believed it is impossible to accurate assess one's own skills, so therefore some external authority has to do it.  I admit, I tend to agree with this line of thinking, as I have found, if I am honest, I am not a very good judge of my own skill (both what I'm good at, and what I'm not so good at).

The question is, though - is self promotion always a problem?

There are people out there who claim black belt rank - VERY HIGH black belt rank, up to Grand Master (and beyond, making up nonsense titles) - in a laundry list of martial arts, collecting ranks and titles like Pokemon.  

YES!  5TH DAN IN COMBAT FU-DO-KAI CHAMELEON FIST!!

Many of them have been granted those ranks by belt mills for a fee (or for a trade - I'll rank you in my organization, and you do the same for me in yours).  Or, after earning a belt in a legit martial art, they go off and create their "own" martial art, and then claim nobody else is qualified to rank them in their made-up nonsense martial art ("How can you judge me, the creator of Chartreuse Dragon Karate-fu-do?  I'm the creator of the art, on the same level as Bruce Lee and Ed Parker!").

Frauds are often pretty easy to spot, but not always, especially when you are a newbie or you come from a very different martial arts tradition.  That's why you get people obsessing over being able to prove one's lineage to underscore one's authority and legitimacy as having come from a line of legit people before them.

Lineage says, "My teacher says I am (x) rank, and his teacher granted him (y) rank, and her teacher granted her (z) rank, who was a direct student of the founder of our style as the ultimate authority", which makes our authority greater as a result than just some guy waving around nunchucks in his mom's basement or garage having watched a lot of YouTube videos.

Of course, when challenged, we have to back all that up on the mat, but it's impossible to do so for every person we meet, due to time and distance.

No, you get on a plane, sir.

But let's grant, for a moment, that we aren't talking about Fakey McFraud and his "rare" martial art nobody practices but him or his worthless piece of paper and Hall of Fame plaque from the Martial Arts Buddy Glad-Handing Club (only $19.99 for lifetime membership!).

Let's assume we're talking legit martial artists creating a legit martial arts style.  Is self-promotion ALWAYS something that's bad?

I think that really depends, and it's hard to tell at the time it's happening.  It may be something we can only truly judge in hindsight.

Skill always tells the story, and no martial art develops in a vacuum, even if it is a new style.  So that's one way, the best and most reliable way - he or she proves it by contesting against other highly skilled martial artists, either in sparring or in friendly demonstration and geeking out.

Recognition by well respected and recognized leaders in the martial arts world is another.  Is the person in question recognized as that rank by legitimate martial arts leaders, even if they are in different styles or arts?  This is more tricky (again, because of the belt mills aping this practice) but it's still one of the ways to tell.

Is self promotion of Joe McCaffrey legit?  Honestly, time and training on the mats will tell the story.  If he wishes for the outside world to consider him legit, he has to roll with experts from outside of his school that can assess him properly.

He may or may not care if the rest of us consider him legit at all.  That could affect his ability to attract students in the long run, but hey, it's his choice, right?

So what do you think about self promotion?  Is it legit?  Or is it always something that just shouldn't be done?  Let us know in the comments!


Saturday, November 5, 2016

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 11/05/16

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

What have you been up to this week?

THE WEEK DAY-BY-DAY:

Saturday:   I flew back to Texas from Virginia after our cruise to Bermuda.
Sunday:  Compressed all of our Halloween-y activities into a single day.  Pumpkin carving galore!
Monday:   Halloween and my 26th wedding anniversary.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.   Worked on stances and strikes.
Wednesday:  Banged sticks for the first time in over a week and a half at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  FELT SO GOOD.
Thursday:  Migraine started, so I stayed home and hubby covered Mid-Cities Arnis..
Friday: Felt tons better, so went to class at Mid-Cities Arnis.   Stick sparring night!



BLOGGY GOODNESS:

I posted these posts of original content this week:
Monday:  Getting Dirty (With Disarms)
Wednesday:  11 Common Questions About the Martial Arts - Answered!
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Favorite Martial Art Meme Images?

I re-shared these posts:
Tuesday:  In Defense of Combat Sports
Thursday:  In Search of the Professor


OTHER STUFF THAT I SAW/DID:

Oh, one story from the Bermuda trip.

So, we get to Bermuda.  We wait to get off the boat, we wait for ferry tickets, we wait for the tram to the ferry, we wait for the ferry, once we get to Hamilton we walk 1/2 mile and wait for a bus, then we wait while the bus driver has his break...

Three hours and fifty dollars, and we get to this stunning attraction, Admiralty House (all that's left is the ballroom, here):



After laughing our butts off, we decide to explore the park as we had to wait another hour for the bus.  And we found ALL SORTS OF AWESOMENESS.

Man-made secret cave, leading to neat places to swim and dive off cliffs? Check.


Beautiful beach with sparkling blue water?  Check.


The boat in the upper left was run by a water taxi service, and they took us directly back to the boat without all the waiting in lines.  Horrible day that ended on a very high note!

Okay, so let's talk about what I saw that was martial arts related:

The big news floating around the martial arts online world was this story about a man who self-promoted to BJJ Brown Belt rank.  What do you think about this?  Joe McCaffrey Promotes Himself

FINAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Busy week getting back into the normal routine.  I have to work today - boo - so I am NOT going to kobudo and karate and MUCH DISLIKE.  I will be catching up on that training later on this month.

With the holidays and a new year coming, I'm working on some big changes for this blog.  Stay tuned!

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, November 4, 2016

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Favorite Martial Art Meme Images?

IT'S FACE-OFF FRIDAY!

This time around, instead of debating a topic, I want to know what you think about martial art meme images.

Meme images (also called macros) usually are an image of some sort with a funny caption.  You've seen lots of them - the "What I do" meme, Karate Kyle, Karate Cat, "All the Things!", and so many others...

One I use often here on the Stick Chick Blog, because it will NEVER GET OLD as far as I am concerned, is Overly Manly Man.



I want you to share your favorites with us here on the Stick Chick Blog.  Which memes made you laugh out loud?  Which ones did you just HAVE to share with your martial arts friends?  Link to them in the comments because we want to see them!


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

11 Common Questions About the Martial Arts - ANSWERED!

I'm an active participant in online martial arts communities and on Quora's martial arts topics, and over time, you see a series of questions that get asked over and over and over again.

Here's my answers to the most commonly asked questions I've run across online.

1) WHAT IS THE BEST MARTIAL ART FOR STREET FIGHTS?

This is literally the most common question out there. There are more variants on this question than I can possibly list.  Note, this is not the same question as #2, below.

Here's my answer:

Ameri-do-te, obviously.

Learn more about the most effective martial art in the world HERE.

Okay, seriously, though...

There is no such thing as a "best" martial art for "the street".  The "best" martial art is the one that suits your personal temperament, strengths, weaknesses, your own ethics and morality, and the laws of where you live - and one you enjoy and can stick with over time.

Every martial art style has strengths and weaknesses.  There is no unbeatable martial art or unbeatable martial artist.  What matters most is that you are enjoying your training and are finding it useful for your own life.

2) WHAT IS THE BEST MARTIAL ART FOR SELF DEFENSE?

This is NOT the same as "street fight" as that's mutual combat, and this question is about protecting one's self against aggression.

In my opinion, any martial art school that does the following is useful for self defense:
  • Talks about the differences between self defense and fighting
  • Doesn't rely 100% on martial arts techniques for self defense - talks about de-escalation and removing one's self from dangerous situations as part of training
  • Is realistic about the potential consequences of using your martial arts training in a self defense situation
If all of those are taken care of, the rest is all about your preferred strategy, and all of the things I said in question 1 above apply.

3) HOW CAN I LEARN MARTIAL ARTS ONLINE?

Short answer: you can't.

Long answer:  actually, it's more complicated than that.

This question is not usually asked by experienced martial artists.  Experienced martial artists know that you can supplement your training with online materials, but you have to have a base of martial arts learning already to do so effectively, and few would claim that you can earn high rank or skill in a martial art with online training only even with that base.

If you have zero martial arts training and you want to try to learn a martial art online, though, it's next to impossible to learn to be a skilled martial artist.  You can dance around in imitation of doing martial arts by copying stuff you see online.  It's martial arts-ish.  You'd get as much out of taking online dance or baton twirling lessons, though.

The key element missing in online training is timing vs. an incoming attack. Timing isn't just about speed or power, it's about recognizing what is happening and reacting appropriately.  That can't be developed if you never see incoming attacks or counterattacks.

There is no substitute for putting the time, money, and effort into finding a teacher and training partners and doing the work it takes to develop martial arts skill.

An example of the HIGH QUALITY skills you can learn online.
Yes, you can learn other subjects effectively online, and become highly skilled in those subjects (history, accounting, mathematics, engineering, etc.).  But martial arts is more like surgery than it is accounting.  Would you allow a person who earned his degree 100% online perform surgery on you or your child?  No?  I wouldn't allow a person who's only trained online to teach me or my children martial arts, either.

4) WHAT'S THE BEST MARTIAL ART FOR WOMEN?

Everything I said above in question 1 and 2 above applies to women as well as men.  While sexism is a problem in some schools, generally speaking, most martial arts gyms are welcoming and friendly to women.

5)  WHICH ACTOR OR FAMOUS FIGHTER WOULD WIN AGAINST ANOTHER IN A FIGHT?

I'm not going to list all of the variants of this question out there.  About half the time, this question involves Bruce Lee fighting somebody.

The answer is, of course, is that Master Ken wins all fights, even ones he isn't involved in.

And he'll do it with the Thrust of Freedom.

Ok, again, seriously though...

This is not a martial arts question.  It's a nerd or fanboy question.  It's the same as debating which super hero would win a fight with another superhero (Captain America vs. Batman for example) or whether the Enterprise could beat Battlestar Galactica in a battle.

If I were a moderator of a martial arts board, these sorts of questions would always be moved to an entertainment area and out of the martial arts area.

(The correct answer to who wins in a fight, Captain America vs. Batman? Batman, of course.)

6) WHY DOES IT COST MONEY TO TRAIN IN THE MARTIAL ARTS?

This is the real question behind "how can I train online or at home" questions.  The real issue is that people want to learn how to be fighting bad-asses on the cheap or for free.  A variant on this question is "I don't have the money to train" or "I don't have the time to train" but "how can I be a good martial artist" regardless...


There are teachers out there who do teach for free or very inexpensively, if you look hard enough.  Many of these are very high quality teachers.  Much of the time, they teach in public parks or in their home garages, often at very irregular schedules, and they can stop teaching at the drop of a hat.

I studied tai chi in the park in Las Vegas for free via Meetup, and last I checked, it's no longer being offered, which is too bad, because it was fun and useful.  I shouldn't expect anything from a person teaching for free though, including rank.

You get what you pay for, folks.

There seems to be an expectation out there among some people that a person who has put in thousands of dollars and hours and years of work into becoming an expert in their field give should then give away that expertise for free or for less than a cell phone bill.

Heck, they aren't even thinking that they owe as much as Daniel-san owed Mr. Miyagi, as they won't even paint the teacher's fence or wash their car in exchange for training!

We don't expect this of accountants, lawyers and doctors - although many do free work as a charity aspect of their profession.  It takes as much time and effort to become an expert in the martial arts as it does to become proficient in those professions (maybe more, in some cases).

And we won't even get into the expenses of teachers providing equipment and clean and safe place to train - all of which costs money - or the insurance many of us are required to have in order to teach to the public.

Expecting quality martial arts teachers to teach for free or very cheap is unreasonable.

And saying you don't "have the time" to train... well, my friend, this ain't the Matrix, and we can't just upload Kung Fu to your brain. Sorry.

7) IS IT TOO LATE FOR ME TO START MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING?

This question is often asked by people in their late teens or early 20's.

It doesn't matter how old you are, it's never too late to start martial arts training.  I started a few months shy of 40 years old.  Other people start even later than that.

I think what people are concerned about is the perception, especially in the west, that you have to start as a kid to get any good at the martial arts.  This is not true, of course - although it certainly helps to start early, it's not 100% required.

There are special issues with older martial artists starting out - we don't heal as quickly and a hard training regimen too soon can be very problematic for us and keep us out of training for weeks at a time as we heal.  But if the school in question adjusts training to account for this, you should be good to go.

8) HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME AN EXPERT IN THE MARTIAL ARTS?

A variant on this question is "How long to become black belt", with the underlying assumption that black belt rank means being a martial arts expert (which isn't true by a long shot).

Malcolm Gladwell's famous "10,000" hours thing has been debunked, but the basic principle - that it takes hours and hours and hours of study, over a period of years, to become really good at something, is basically true, and there aren't many shortcuts around this fact.

Sure, being physically gifted helps a lot, as does innate talent.  Physical and mental limitations need to be taken into consideration also.  But generally speaking, thousands of hours of hard work is what it takes to become a martial arts expert.  That's it, and there aren't any shortcuts here.

There is no hard-and-fast rule, though, exactly how many hours of training it takes to become a martial arts "expert".  There is a lot of debate on what an "expert" really is in the martial arts anyway - that's a highly variable and subjective term that very much depends on the style in question and what "mastery" is defined as in each style or system.

9) DO I HAVE TO BE PHYSICALLY FIT TO BE A MARTIAL ARTIST?

Yes, but no.

Wow, that's clear, huh?

Ok, so, the thing is, to be a good martial artist, physical fitness is REALLY helpful.  Being strong, having low body fat, being flexible... all the better to doing really good martial arts.

It's not 100% required, though.  There are plenty of fat and out-of-shape, aged, disabled, or injured martial artists out there who can and will clean your clock in a conflict.

Will they win an MMA match?  Probably not.  Can some of them do enough damage to you in a self defense situation that you don't want to risk tangling with them?  Almost certainly.

I think the ideal here is to try to be in the best physical shape you, personally, can be in. That makes doing martial arts ten times easier for you if you do.

So exercise, keep your weight under control, and take care of yourself in order to be the best martial artist you can be.

A corollary to this question is the idea that a person has to be in top physical condition to teach martial arts.  This is absolutely not true, of course.  We don't expect football coaches, gymnastic coaches, and boxing coaches to be able to play the game they coach at the very most top level themselves in order to coach players.  There's plenty of fantastic martial arts teachers teaching world-class martial artists who are not, themselves, world-class martial artists while they are coaching.

10) DOES POWER/SIZE/STRENGTH MATTER IN A FIGHT?

Yes, absolutely.  That's why there are weight classes in combat sports.

What's really being asked is if a person who is out of shape or small or weak can beat a bigger person using superior technique, like we see in movies all the time.

My answer is yes BUT they better be quick about it. If the conflict lasts a long time - and 10 seconds in a fight is a long time - they will eventually get destroyed by a bigger, stronger, more powerful person.  Superior technique can absolutely help level the playing field (as can weapons), but staying engaged with someone bigger than you is asking for a beating, in my opinion.

11) IS A BLACK BELT A MARTIAL ARTS EXPERT?

Not usually, no.  Think of Black Belt as the martial arts equivalent to having a high school diploma in the United States.  You know enough to learn, now it's time to go to college or professional training to get good at it.  That's what training after you earn the black belt rank usually involves.


There's my standard answers to the nine most commonly asked questions about the martial arts.  Do you disagree with my answers? Did I miss any common questions?  Let us know in the comments!