Monday, February 27, 2017

Making it Happen

So y'all may remember that my goal for this year is to become stronger.

While I'm very active - I teach or do martial arts four-six days a week, sometimes every single day - it's not enough to materially affect how strong I am.

As an aside - ever wonder how martial arts teachers can get fat while teaching every night?  Well, guess what - teaching a class is a very different animal than being in one, and you don't get nearly a physical challenge that you'd like to get.  When you spend much of your waking life teaching, working a full-time job, and you have family commitments, it's very hard to carve out time to work out yourself.

It's like this, but without all of the exercise involved.

But... there's that goal I have, of getting stronger. If it is important to me, I have to take action.

I basically have two options: body weight (and light weights) workouts at home, or go to a gym nearby.

I know myself well enough to know that I am not self-motivated to work out, and I need an "appointment" to keep at it.  That is, I dislike working out (it is so boring) so I need an extrinsic reason to keep to it, and it needs to be a part of my routine.  I have to make it a habit, like showering for work and writing for this blog are habits.

So, after a lot of exploration of options, I settled in on a new workout regime.  I get up 1/2 hour early, and I have 20 minutes at the gym each morning, Monday-Friday.  Then I get home and my regular morning routine - one I've followed for several years - proceeds as usual.  Saturdays/Sundays are "rest" days, and are usually filled up with martial arts stuff about half the time.

Something had to give to make this happen, and that 1/2 hour of sleep in weekdays is the thing that gave.

Sure, I might be more successful and reach my goal faster if I do an hour at the gym three times a week (or more).  I don't have an hour-long block consistently in my schedule to work out that way, though.  It isn't feasible to try to commit to a schedule I know will be interrupted constantly by other things that I'm committed to.

The early morning workout won't get interfered with by other important matters that I'm not willing to give up.  I won't ever have it conflict with a training opportunity or the need to stay after class to work with a student.  Working out in the morning when my brain is sleepy makes it less problematic that I find it incredibly boring, and I only have to endure it 20 minutes at a stretch.

My schedule won't allow it.  But I have been tempted...

It took me a couple of months to figure it out, but I'm in the process of making this as much of a habit and a part of my routine as showering and working on this blog has become.

I noted above about how I have to sacrifice something to make this work.  I gave up the sleep.  It's not a huge sacrifice, mind you, but it's enough that I notice it (and I'll be going to bed earlier in the evenings too).

That's the way it is, though, when you want to achieve things. Sometimes, you have to give up something important, if the goal matters to you.

Take learning the martial arts.

How often have you been in online martial arts forums or discussion groups and you see some variant of this question asked:

I don't have the time or the money to train in the martial arts with a teacher.  How do I become a martial artist?
You and I know the real answer to this question.

You don't become a martial artist without spending the time and money to train.  Just like you won't become strong without working out somehow with weights, just like you won't lose weight without paying attention to your diet, just like you can't acquire any skill without a lot of practice.

There is no way to achieve anything without making it a priority and finding out how to work it into your life, sometimes sacrificing something you care about to make it happen.

Take the person above who wants to become a martial artist without the, y'know, work and effort.  He is not willing to sacrifice his time and money - and other things, such as his safety and his comfort - in order to achieve his goal.

So, he doesn't want to be a martial artist, not really.  He likes the idea of being one without doing anything it takes to become one.  You and I know that becoming a martial artist is a lot of work, a lot of time, some money, and it becomes something that's a priority in your life. If you're not willing to do any of that, you can't be a martial artist.

You can cosplay and LARP and pose with weapons, but you can't be a martial artist without putting in the work and sacrificing time and money to do so.

Just like I can't become stronger without getting up way before dawn is even a thing and going to they gym, Monday-Friday.  If I am to work on getting stronger, and have it be more than wishful thinking, this is how it had to happen.

As tired and as sleepy as I am, I'm happy that I'm finally back in the gym and making this goal happen.

What goals are you working on, and what did you have to sacrifice to make it happen?  Tell us about it in the comments!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

My Week in Stick Chickivity - 02/25/17

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

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday:  With my teacher out and me covering, we only had Arnis.  Since I was in charge - oh yeah, we hit some bags.
Sunday:  Hubby was training so I stayed home and did some chores.
Monday:   My day off.  Made dinner.  Low carb fried chicken, yum.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  This was our last class before the belt tests. The kids are ready!
Wednesday:  Attended class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts. We're working on a demo for our art at an AKATO in March.
Thursday:  Started the new regime of getting up extra early to go to the gym Monday-Friday. Yellow belt test at Mid-Cities Arnis.  They did great!
Friday:  Early morning gym session. Then, we had Friday night stick sparring as usual, then we tested two students for their next rank who couldn't make it Thursday night.  They also did great.  We have a nice crop of Yellow belts now.  Hooray!

Come get me, kid! My head's wide open!


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  Movie Review: John Wick 2
Wednesday:   3 Ways to Get Hurt - or Hurt Others - in Modern Arnis
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Martial Arts Halls of Fame

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   Little Details: Strike Mechanics
Thursday:  The Art Within My Art (Is Not Arnis)


My friend +Dr. Tye W. Botting is blogging on his own blog again - check out this new post: Fights Part 1: Types and Implications

Mr. Chick has been archiving video that we have in various formats so we can take it with us when we're traveling.  Here's a short clip from GGM Ernesto Presas you might enjoy.


"Normal" day of kobudo and Arnis.  It's my week to take Younger Daughter to TKD class, so I'll be getting up there early. I am going to use the time to get in some extra kobudo practice, methinks...

I am on the cusp of another run of "HOLY CRAP I'M SO BUSY" again, so I'll enjoy Sunday's downtime while I can get it.

So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!

Friday, February 24, 2017

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Martial Arts Halls of Fame


I'm interested in your thoughts about a "Hall of Fame" in the martial arts.

There are many of these - from style-specific ones to generic "martial arts" halls of fame that include martial artists of all sorts of styles.

Some induct people entirely free of charge, and others ask inductees to purchase a membership in the hall to receive an award.

I'm interested in what you think about these Halls of Fame.  Are they good for the martial arts community?  Are they legitimate?  Let me know what you think.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

3 Ways to Get Hurt - or Hurt Others - in Modern Arnis

The perception of weapons-based martial arts styles like Modern Arnis is that it's more dangerous than the empty hand styles.

Potentially, this is true.  If something goes wrong, it can go catastrophically wrong.  But the truth is, in practice, we probably have the same number of injuries other styles do, and when injuries happen, they're almost always minor injuries that don't require much medical attention (such as contusions or strains/sprains).

In fact, I think if we were to survey our community, we'd be on the "fewer injuries" side of the bell curve of martial arts and getting hurt.

We are, of course, hyper-aware of that potential for injury.  We work very hard to keep our folks as safe as we possibly can.  But if we do get hurt, here's the most common ways it happens.


"Feeding" is what we call the process where I "attack" my partner, and she responds with whatever technique we are working on.  This means I have to deliver the correct strike (the right angle at the right target) with the correct amount of force.

If I deliver the incorrect strike - if my targeting is poor (too high is the most common) or if the angle is incorrect, it may hit my partner in a place he doesn't expect, or cause a condition where his block won't work. It'll fail or his stick will rebound and he'll hit himself with his own stick.

Playing sinawali. Note how my partner's strike is WAY above my head.

Feeding with the incorrect amount of force can manifest itself two ways - too weak, and too strong.

Too strong - too hard of a strike - is inappropriate when a person is brand new to a technique.  We have to slow it down and come with less force while the defender is learning how to cope with the attack.  When she is competent in the technique, then you come with more energy and force.

Too weak - a "lazy" feed with no energy or intent to hit - is a deceptive problem.  It gives your partner a false sense of security and can "hide" poor execution of her technique.  When the feed gets stronger and faster, her technique can fail and she can injure herself

One other "too weak" method other than a "lazy" feed is "pulling your strike".  That's when you, as the feeder, actually stop the strike well before it would hit your partner.  That means that your partner isn't actually blocking the strike, because you are not delivering the strike.  Not only are giving your partner bad feedback and he tries to cope with the attack, but you're also training yourself not to hit things, which is kind of defeating the point of training, isn't it?


It is very common for folks to "drop" their hands while training.  This could mean the weapon hand - you see this a lot in sinawali where the hands are held in front of them or low at the sides vs. chambered up near the head - or it could mean the live (or empty) hand.

Either way, your hands aren't in the proper place and it's harder to defend against incoming attacks or deliver proper feeds.

We have a drill in our school where we work from a sinawali, then interrupt it and attack your partner randomly with a strike (there's a lot of variants of this drill, and I'm simplifying it big-time, but I hope you get the idea).  When the hands are dropped, the partner almost always is too late to defend the incoming attack - that is, he gets popped in the head if the feeder doesn't pull the attack at the last second.

We use the empty hand for a variety of purposes when we have a single weapon, and if you drop that empty hand, it's a lot harder to put it in play.  It can get you hurt when you aren't in a position to use that hand to check or pass incoming attacks.  Or, your hand isn't in position to help support your block against a powerful strike.

Note the position of his hands.  JUST SAYING.

Dropped hands can affect your feeding by delivering an improper angle to an incoming attack.  While of course we can and do and should train against any given angle, in practice, we are usually isolating on specific techniques versus specific attacks.  If your hands are dropped, the arc of strikes will be different than if your hands are chambered properly.  If it's a poking strike, it may not be targeted properly or the timing will be slightly off.

Either way, dropped hands means you're increasing your risk of hurting yourself or your partner.


We do a lot of traps, locks, and takedowns in Modern Arnis.  The easiest way to get hurt in these sorts of things is when a partner doesn't follow through on what she's supposed to be doing.

That is, if you are supposed to be taking me down, and you hesitate while delivering the technique, you might not have the momentum or the proper control of me and as a result, I fall poorly or something gets twisted the wrong way.

I'm sure you grapplers and Judo players know exactly what I'm talking about.

I have never been hurt on a takedown in Modern Arnis when a person is following through and committing to the technique, not even when it wasn't done 100% correctly. I have only been hurt when a person hesitated.

I mentioned "pulling the strike" above.  That is also a failure to commit, in this case, to delivering the strike where it's supposed to go.

Commitment to a technique isn't the same thing as being fast, mind you. You can do it slow, just don't stop in the middle!

So, if you want to get hurt or hurt a friend in Modern Arnis, be a poor feeder, drop your hands, and fail to commit.  Injury will quickly follow.

What are the most common ways people get hurt in your school?  Did I miss an important one in Modern Arnis?  Let me know what you think!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

I've always liked action movies, even before I became a martial artist.  So I'd be interested in "John Wick: Chapter 2" no matter what. 

Indeed he is.
Now that I'm a martial artist, though, I have an extra appreciation for action films and the work (and the storylines) created within fight choreography.  Not so great fight choreography can ruin something for me (*cough* Arrow *cough*) and excellent choreography can make a film much better than it would otherwise be.

I enjoyed "John Wick" (the first movie). I found it to be simplistic and stylish (which is what you want in an action flick), and the fight choreography was intense and seamless.  As action movies go, it was beautiful.

So I had to see the sequel in the theater.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is more of what I liked in the first film, kicked up a notch (as a good sequel will do).

I'm not going to go into the believability of the world this movie builds.  I mean, there are huge fight sequences in public or public-ish places that I really want to know how they covered up that it happened at all, especially given one is an art museum in New York.  The logistics of the body count alone, not to mention the damage to public places and (probably) famous works of art... 

It'd be headline news immediately, and given the scale, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for parts of the city of New York to be on lockdown (like Boston was in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings).

I won't even get into the bulletproof suit thing... what, only a couple of people know this exists?

BUT we don't go to action movies to obsess over the plot holes, do we? 

Nossir, you and I, we go to see the fighting. And boy howdy, they did a great job in "John  Wick: Chapter 2".

The fight choreography in this film is heavily based on judo and jiu-jitsu, which is a refreshing change from most fight choreography we usually see.  These things come in waves, after all, where all action movies start looking like one another in the fight scenes until a film comes along to shake it up.  I have a feeling in the wake of this movie, we'll have a new wave of judo-influenced fight scenes.

Here's some behind-the-scenes training he did for this movie:

And I think everybody saw THIS video of Reeves at the gun range. I defy you to find an actor who works harder at making fight scenes look great.  He's up there with Robert Downey, Jr.  

And now I'm sitting here hoping for an old-school buddy action comedy starring Reeves and Downey.  WHO'S WITH ME?

Ahem, back to "John Wick: Chapter 2".

I think most people will think about the Catacombs fight and the fight at the museum (the mirror fight is COOL and here's an article about it you should read HERE).   The knife fight between Reeves and Common on a subway is very well done and might be the best of the bunch.  It had a few moves in it that I know Mr. Chick has been studying about in the knife course he took last year so there's an element of realism that I really appreciated.

You are going to see a TON of judo and jiu-jitsu in this movie, which is a refreshing take on action choreography.  You know how it goes, a movie will draw from a certain style, and that style becomes dominant in movies and TV until another movie comes along with a new style.

I think we're going to see a lot more judo in fight scenes going forward in other movies.

So, all in all, "John Wick: Chapter 2" is a really entertaining action movie with some GREAT action choreography.  I'm looking forward to the third film and hopefully the wrap-up of this saga on a high note.

Have you seen "John Wick: Chapter 2"?  What did you think?  Loved it?  Hated it?  Meh?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 2/18/17

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

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday:  My monthly kobudo class over in Dallas.  We worked bo and learned our nunchaku one-steps, and worked on riffing off of what we learned.  This was our last full nunchaku class; we are starting sai next month!
Sunday:  Taught ADE Women's Self Defense. Always a good day when I do that. Ocular migraine in the middle of class was fun.
Monday:   My day off.  Made dinner.
Tuesday:   Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We are prepping our white belts for their yellow belt test, so we worked on their stick work. Fought off another ocular migraine during the day.
Wednesday:  Attended class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts. I got thrown around a bit with take-downs, which is always fun.
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on front stances, kicks, and jabs, for the most part.  Earlier in the day I had yet another ocular migraine so I went to the doc for consultation and advice.  Changed my meds a bit.
Friday:  Friday night stick sparring as usual.  Migraine came full-on with painful symptoms (first time that's happened since they started up last week) at the end of class; luckily I had emergency meds and was able to go to bed and sleep it off.  It sucked but it could have been worse.

Before the PAAAIINNN.


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  The Martial Science
Wednesday:   How do YOU Teach Discipline and Respect?

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   Doing It Together
Thursday:  Why Do I Keep Training?
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Are Rec Center Programs Legit?


Someday I will visit Arnis Village and Grand Master Rodel Dagooc.

This is coming up in just a few weeks - and I'll be there.  Hope you can join us if you're in the area:  1st Annual WMAA Texas Modern Arnis Camp March 3-5, 2017


Today I'm covering Arnis class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts while my teacher teaches an Arnis instructor program he's started up, aimed at karate/tae kwon do/kung fu instructors interested in adding our art to their programs.  When I'm in charge at Hidden Sword, the students know we're going to do one of two things - nerd out or hit the bags.

I'm thinking we're hitting the bags today!

 So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How do YOU Teach Discipline and Respect?

Like many martial arts schools here in the United States, we have a kid's program, and it's usually much bigger than our adult classes.

I wish.

Martial arts study only appeals to a tiny fraction of adults, and the reason kids - and really, their parents - want to take martial arts is very different than what adults want out of taking classes.

Adult students are concerned about health benefits, personal safety, and personal growth. If they can have fun doing it, that'd be great.

For a kid's program, though, it's different.  Sure, physical fitness is always top of mind, and learning self defense is important, and we always try to have something fun going on. But we have to take a lot of other things into account, including:

  • Morals and Values
  • Personal discipline
  • Respecting others, adults, themselves
When you run a kid's program, you can't skip any of those elements.  And you have to keep in mind that the parents are as much a part of what you are doing as the kids are.

Thus, by necessity, kids classes lend themselves to a certain level of formality and structure that isn't usually necessary in an adult class.  Our classes at Mid-Cities Arnis are a little less authoritarian and hierarchical than other programs, but we still have these elements in place.

One thing parents want from us is that reinforcement of discipline and respect, and we must deliver on those in our classes.

I'll admit, I find that difficult on a personal level.  I'm really not much of an authoritarian by nature.  It takes a lot of energy on my part to keep on top of the issues around respect and discipline necessary for our classes.

I find it exhausting.

So help me out here.

I'm interested in the tools and techniques you use, if you teach kids, to teach discipline, morals and values, and respect as a part of your martial arts classes.

What do you emphasize?

What habits and rules do you have in your school - a process of bowing, how people are directed to speak to one another, and the like - to reinforce discipline and respect?

How are students expected to "live" the values you teach in your school? 

What are the positive and negative reinforcement techniques you use in your school to teach discipline and respect?

Let me know in the comments!

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Martial Science

Some of us like to call what we do "martial science" versus martial arts.

I think this is an interesting idea, especially if the style in question is actually following the scientific method in its development and things constantly get challenged and verified by other people to test the validity of the solution to whatever martial arts problem is being discussed.

By ArchonMagnus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Of course, much of the time, people calling what they do "martial science" don't use the scientific method to develop their style.  They are using it as a marketing gimmick to make their style seem more legitimate than others.  They don't undergo the rigorous process shown above at all, and they definitely don't seek out skeptical people to verify what they do as effective.

But that doesn't negate the idea of using the scientific method as an approach to developing a martial arts style.  This would, of course, apply mostly to modern "living" styles, versus classical styles that are as much about preservation of the source material as they are fighting or self defense.

If you're aiming to develop a modern, effective fighting method, why NOT use the scientific method to do it?

Of course, some of us do use a rudimentary scientific method to try to figure out what works.  But we don't do the whole process (especially in the testing part) and thus, it can't really be called using "scientific" per se.

It would be especially interesting if we had a standard process by which other groups could verify or disprove the "test results".  That'd help weed out a lot of iffy claims, wouldn't it?

Of course, we'd need a good, formal testing methodology.  We couldn't say, as many white belts do, "Yes, that's fine against (x) but what if I did (y)?" and then invalidate whatever technique is being examined.  That'd be moving the goalposts and changes the problem you're trying to solve in the first place.

I think it'd look a lot like this.

It would be neat the know that something works because it's been rigorously (and skeptically) tested, not because charismatic Grand Master so-in-so says it does.

So what do you think?  Should martial arts be more "martial science", using the scientific method as a way to develop techniques?  Or is what we do more than just what's "effective"?  Would you consider a martial "science" more or less legitimate than a martial "art"? I'd love to know what you think!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity 2/11/17

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

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday:  Kobudo and Arnis at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.  Kind of a low-key day, even if I was having a bit of back spasms.
Sunday:  A day where I wasn't booked up to my gills with stuff!  Caught up on chores and shopping.
Monday:   My day off.  Made dinner.
Tuesday:   Migraine threatened to come on but I beat that bad boy back and was able to teach class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We covered the jab in our family class and worked the Abanico strike in the adult class. BOOSH.
Wednesday:  Attended class at Hidden Sword Martial Arts.
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  Worked on our self defenses in the kids class, and a variety of things - including the dos manos drill - in the adult class.
Friday:  Migraine tried to sneak up on me again, but I was all, "NOPE!  YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" Friday night review and stick-sparring!  Great way to end our week!

Ok, kids, FIGHT TO THE DEATH!  Juuuuuusssst kidding.


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  The Question of Authority
Wednesday:  GUEST POST: On Forms by Dr. Tye Botting

I absolutely love it when I get a guest poster, and this week's was a good 'un, so make sure you read it.  I hope to be able to bring you more guest posts from Tye Botting in the near future!

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   Pumching Up
Thursday:  A Team of One
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: When do you "Fire" a Student?


Friend of the blog +Joelle White answered a question I posed on my post "The Question of Authority" this week on her blog, A Beginner's Journey. Check it out:  A Little Bit of Authority

This is making the rounds for VERY GOOD REASON.  Because it is HILARIOUS.

+Logen Lanka made this nice entry on his blog, Way of Ninja, that you should check out: How Long Does it Take to Get a Black Belt (or Truly Master Martial Arts)?

This is coming up in just a few weeks - and I'll be there.  Hope you can join us if you're in the area:  1st Annual WMAA Texas Modern Arnis Camp March 3-5, 2017


Today is the day I spend in Dallas, where I get to study some Okinawan Karate and go to my two-hour formal Kobudo class.  Tomorrow I help teach ADE Women's Self Defense, which we offer every few months.  So, a busy weekend (as usual).

 So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

GUEST POST: On Forms with Dr. Tye Botting

Please welcome today's guest poster, Dr. Tye Botting (full bio at the end of the post) - the Stick Chick

Some people laugh at forms (chuan, kata, hyung, anyos, djurus, poomse, etc), call them a useless dance, and say they're no good for combat or self-defense training at all.

And they could be right!

Then again, maybe there is more to consider...

If forms are practiced only because they must be learned (i.e. going through the motions - something I discussed in my earlier article, "On Drills"), just for show at tournaments, because they look cool, or in any other manner that doesn't place things like intent, applications, power generation, visualization, timing, distance, and combat movement as top priorities, then yes, the form detractors are more right than they are wrong.

Forms practice without those things can be a waste of time at best, and at worst it can provide a false sense of ability or train in movements that the student cannot apply.  You don't just get magical fighting prowess by learning to perform a form - it just doesn't happen.  The bottom line is that doing the motions in the form by rote, even as a catalog of moves, is just the tip of the iceberg of what forms have to offer a studious practitioner.

Like much of martial arts training, forms are about attribute development.  If you let them, they can be a handy solo way of practicing through a variety of movement transitions and timing combinations.  The series of moves runs you through a series of shadow-boxing style moves that can exercise your balance, stability, movement, focus, power generation, relaxation, visualization, and more.  A lot of this will depend upon how you practice using the "Attitudes" on my website.  Like most aspects of practice, you get out of it what you put into it.

Forms practice also benefits greatly from studying "applications" for bite-sized chunks of movements from the forms, with interlaced half-techniques sometimes being the most surprising.  The individual moves and combinations must be deconstructed, tested, and seriously examined - there is no magic there.  If done correctly, forms can help you realize new ways to use the movements, including basics like power generation, maneuvering, and unbalancing, or even new "tactics" altogether.

Lastly, I would point out that martial arts without recognized forms/kata/hyung/etc actually do work on material in ways that is very similar to forms work.  They will work set combinations and explore them like I recommend you do your forms.  They will work transition flows as essentially 2-man forms, whether they be standup lock flows, ground-work pins and escapes and reversals, or Filipino weapons drills.  They relax into their combinations or drills, learning to feel the flow and power, learning to limit/reduce weaknesses, and making the moves their own - just as should be done with forms work for those styles that train them.

Personally, I don't care if a style or teacher does or does not use "forms" per se.  Do they have a method to train and pass on their material in a way that allows a student to develop into them and the moves to develop into the student?  Can the material be practiced in a variety of ways to allow the student to gain their own insights?  Does the material have repeatable and demonstrable principles and concepts?  And on and on...

The study and practice of martial arts involves the deconstruction and exploration of many things that can be part of the skills necessary for survival of physical conflicts, and forms work can be one of those many things if you are willing and able.

+Dr. Tye W. Botting  began his study of the Chinese martial arts at age 16 in 1981 while living in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia. He has trained in a number of arts since then, but considers the three arts he holds instructor rank in as his core: Northern Shaolin / Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu (black sash since 1989), Modern Arnis (black belt since 1995), and Yang Style Taijiquan (instructor since 1992). He teaches kung fu and Modern Arnis at Tye's Kung Fu, and he founded the original TAMU Kung Fu and TAMU Modern Arnis clubs at the requests of GM Wang in 1989 and Professor Remy A. Presas, Sr., in 1994, respectively.  Read more about Dr. Botting's extensive resume and contributions to the martial 
arts HERE.   

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Question of Authority

Continuing to think about martial arts culture and how we organize ourselves - rank, reputation, and today, how "authority" works in our schools.

Oh look, he even has a tonfa...

Just to clarify terms - "authority" often has connotations of a rigid, top-down structure where dissent is disallowed or discouraged.  I do not mean it in that sense, although it can be that way.  I mean it as someone who's good at influencing others, or a leader in a particular area - in this case, in our school, art, style, or martial arts sub-culture as a whole.

After all, Dan Inosanto is a leading authority in the Filipino Martial Arts world (heck, in the martial arts world overall) but that doesn't mean he gets to decide anything for me, personally.  He can for people in his system or school.  But I listen to what he says, and always consider his words and his ideas seriously, even if I am not in his lineage.  He influences me and in that sense, he's an authority.

Okay, so how did he obtain that authority?

Well, authority comes about several ways in our world.  You have to have all of them in order to claim it.

The first is rank.  Authority is almost always derived from our rank structures and/or our roles in the dojo (which function like rank for systems without formal rank structures).  That is, a person with a higher rank has more authority - their word means more and their thoughts are taken more seriously - than a person with a lower rank.

Yes, yes, your group doesn't have rank.  I can tell you, if it's more than two people, it does.  It may not have a formal structure surrounding it, but it's there.

I think we can't avoid avoid it once we get more than a handful of people training. Someone takes a leadership role - someone has more experience in the style that's being trained and takes on the "teacher" role, or someone ends up being the one who organizes the training... and they end up being the person in charge, with the authority that goes with it, by consent of the group.

Often that person who ends up in charge is the person with the highest rank.  Not always, but I'd have to guess 90% of the time.

Of course, the larger the group, the more structured and hierarchical it becomes.  I don't think I've ever heard of a large martial arts group - more than, oh, 30 or so - where there isn't a more formal structure of rank and authority in the group.  There is something about a larger group that makes it necessary, from a point of view of pure logistics.

Ultimately, someone has to be the leader and in charge.  Sometimes many someones, as the amount of responsibility is too much for a single person to carry.  There has to be a way to communicate to the entire group - especially new members - who has that authority.  Almost always it will be the higher ranks in the group with the authority, right?

As you can see, then, we've hit upon another important function of rank.  Rank is one way - a major way - we communicate those lines of authority and structure in our martial arts world.  Sometimes it's so clear and so formal and structured that you can create an organization chart to show those lines of responsibility and authority.  Other times, it's fluid and messy and not so structured... but it's still there.

The second aspect to becoming an authority is responsibility.  Often, rank and responsibility go hand in hand, but not always.  In any case, responsibility will be there in any group of people training.  Those with the responsibility often end up becoming leadership in a group.

After all, we do have decisions to be made, including:
  • Curriculum and class content (what are we training today and why?)
  • Obtaining and managing training space (even if it's just where to meet in a park)
  • Day/time when the training group will meet
  • Who will be instructing, and who won't be
  • If there are ranks or levels, what the requirements are for each
That's just off the top of my head.  I didn't even bring in such "trivialities" as uniforms or how to find new people to bring into the group!

"Aw, dammit... CHAD! ERIC! For the last time, we're teaching VING TSUN!"
 Image found here

Okay, so that's one aspect of how authority is derived in our subculture - by leadership and responsibility, which often goes hand-in-hand with rank.

Note: authority almost always comes with a measure of responsibility, too.  Dan Inosanto has responsibilities within his own organization and relationships, sure, but he also has a responsibility to all of us, too.  That main responsibility is to not embarrass us - he is maybe the most famous of all of us, after all!  If he does something embarrassing, it'll taint all of us.  Luckily I think he is well aware of this and he's a stand-up guy!

Combine rank and responsibility with the third aspect, reputation (I wrote about reputation HERE) and the generally understood hard work that goes into that... and you get "authority" in our world.

I didn't mention this part of it, and I really should: authority and what goes with it (rank, responsibility, reputation) to be legitimate must come from the proof of hard work, effort, and skill.  In our world, it is not enough to just be hanging around a long time and to be able to speak our "language". The proof is always on the mat, either in how an individual person conducts himself OR in how those he or she teaches do.

That is, it's earned.  It can be degraded, if a person decides to not put in the time or effort after he or she reaches a certain point, or a person who claims to be a great teacher does a poor job in training students, or if a person falsifies his or her history in order to claim things they haven't done.

For example, it's not enough to have earned a black belt in a style 20 years ago, stop training for that time, and then step on a mat claiming that rank and responsibility and authority as if you hadn't left the mats at all.  You haven't put in the work in almost a full generation and you have no reputation, so guess what, you're a white belt until you prove otherwise in my book.  White belts have no authority in any martial arts schools (and rightfully so).

Authority is an integral part to our martial arts culture.  From influencers to decision makers, there's always someone functioning as an authority in our world - locally and globally.

Are you an authority?  How did you get recognized as such?  What are some of the downsides of how authority works in your neck of the woods?  Upsides?  Join in the conversation and let us know what you think!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 2/4/17

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

What have you been up to this week?


Saturday: LONG day of travel and training.  We went to Houston, trained at TMAC, and then went to the range that night.  Fantastic day and I wrote about it for my blog (see below).
Sunday:  Went to the Space Center.  It was AMAZING. Tons to do there and I highly recommend it if you're in the area; it's worth the price of admission.
Monday:   Went to class at Hidden Sword.  It's a good thing I did, because...
Tuesday:   ... day 1 of car troubles.  Blew a spark plug on my way home and had to be towed.  I couldn't get to teach class because of this - I'm so lucky there are two of us teaching class!
Wednesday:  Driving my daughter's car while mine gets fixed.  It also DIES on my way home and I get stuck AGAIN. Yes, I had to call AAA twice in 24 hours for two different cars.  Mine was repaired and I was able to pick it up, thank goodness!
Thursday:  Taught class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  It's a new month, and we had a new student join our kids class, as well as having some students returning from a break. Classes are getting busy and fun.
Friday:  Friday night review and stick-sparring.  It's always fun introducing new students to stick sparring.  Our adult class doesn't typically meet on Fridays, but a friend in Force Necessary came by and we worked policing techniques.  Very fun night.

Coaching adult students on hitting the bags with classical strikes.


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  One is the Loneliest Martial Arts Number
Wednesday:  TMAC: Making Friends and Influencing People

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   The Safety Dance
Thursday:  Dancing With the Martial Arts
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Should Kids Be Taught Weapons?


Here's a few pictures from my Houston weekend. Again, I can't overstate how much fun it was, how awesome the folks are down there... really, if you want to train and need a referral, I can totally hook you guys up!

Kidlet and our friend and training partner Ashley, who is an expert in firearms. Always grateful to have experts with us!
I haven't fired my target pistol in at least a decade - but I did okay.
The range crew - SERIOUS. BUSINESS.
The 747 that used to fly the shuttles cross-country. That is Independence on top - a shuttle replica - and you can go in!
Mission Patches for the shuttles lost.  Challenger (STS-51-L) 1/28/86 and Columbia (STS-107)  2/1/03.
The Astronauts of Apollo 1 - lost on the launch pad - the first Americans
 to give their lives for the dream of humankind in space.
Orion, NASA's new exploration vehicle.  This is the floor where astronauts and engineers train for the International Space Station.


Today's a "normal" day of kobudo practice, Okinawan karate practice, and Arnis.  It's actually a light weekend for us for a change, which is nice.

 So what did YOU do this week?  What did you train? What did you teach?  Did you see any really cool martial arts stuff online?  Let me know!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

TMAC: Making Friends and Influencing People

We recently had our first statewide gathering of what we're calling the "Texas Modern Arnis Coalition" in Houston.

We've had these in Dallas-Fort Worth, between my teacher's school and another nearby, but this was the first time we attempted to fold in other schools besides those two.

To be clear - TMAC is not an "organization" per se.  There are no real "leaders", nobody's the boss of the group, it doesn't issue rank or anything like that.

It's a loose coalition of schools and teachers and individuals getting together to play in Modern Arnis.  We tend to be focused on material to help develop our brown belts and prep them for black belt testing, but there are people of all levels of experience and rank in the room.

We don't expect for all of us to do things the same exact way.  In fact, we often take the time to identify the differences and explore the (usually very good) reasons for those differences vs. trying to do stuff the same way or insist any particular "right" way.  Sometimes we go off on a nerdy little tangent on some technique or another, and it's really cool to get a lot of different perspectives on these things.

All y'all KNOW how much I love me some nerdy little tangents.

Literally the first time we'd ever worked together - myself and Sal Todaro of SMP Arnis

What made Houston so nice is that we all played so well together.  Our schools up in my neck of the woods know each other well and we've been training together on a nearly monthly basis - not counting other seminars - for almost a year.  Our group and the Houston-area folks did not have nearly that level of familiarity, but after a few minutes, you would have thought we were one big group that trained together on a weekly basis.

That, my friends, is how it's supposed to be.

Our "roll call" had five schools and six different Modern Arnis-related organizations (I think there were other non-Modern Arnis FMA folks in the room too, which is neat).  We covered material from traditional Modern Arnis, some of the "Presas Arnis" influenced stuff several of us do, and we even played a bit with stuff from Balintawak.

Nobody said, "Such and such must be done this way".  It was "This is how we do such-and-such, here's the reasons why we do that, and why don't you try it and see what you think."

Sometimes, their take reinforced the very good reasons my teacher has us do it differently. And sometimes, it made me reconsider what we are doing - the context - and think, hey, maybe I need that in my toolbox, too.

Either way, it makes me a better Arnis player.

So what can YOU learn from this, my friend?

I think we allow our differences to prevent us from making connections with one another.  We believe our style, our lineage, our organization, our teacher are so much better than some other guy's that we don't allow that hey, differences can exist and not be "wrong"... just different.

Most of us decry "politics" in the martial arts - but these things happen ("political" things) for understandable reasons, and it's hard to overcome our differences.

Having gatherings like TMAC, where we increase knowledge and respect for one another, is one way to tackle the problem.  I think, after this gathering, we have better relationships than we did before, which is always a good thing.

We can't and shouldn't ignore our differences, but instead, we can and should understand them better.  We can accept that smart and talented people do see things differently, and that's okay if they do.  Use those opportunities to make your own take on things better.

Ed Kwan of Clear Lake Modern Arnis shares with the group.

I can tell you, after the TMAC gathering in Houston, our community is closer than it was, Hopefully, with future gatherings, we'll rope in other independents and members of other Modern Arnis organizations that weren't there this time.

That door is open, for anybody who want to train!

Do you get together with other folks in your style outside of your group/dojo?  How does that go?  How do you think we can overcome the "politics" of your corner of the martial arts world?  Let us know in the comments!