Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Conversion Therapy

I've been spending my personal martial arts time in a project.

On the spur of the moment in my 2nd Degree test about a month ago, I converted our first form, Baston Anyo Isa, into the jo.  This was part of my demonstration that Arnis prepares a person to work with just about any weapon (using the Okinawan/Japanese kobudo weapons), if you are flexible and creative.  Here is a video of that conversion, which I came up with literally about an hour before this video was recorded.

I decided to continue with the theme of converting our forms into the jo when I had students who wanted to compete at a local (Arnis friendly) charity tournament.  If they were going to work hard to compete, I would, too.

It's our first competition as a school, and I didn't want my kids to go alone, y'know?

Thus, I've been working on making Baston Anyo Lima into jo for the last few weeks. 

This is Baston Anyo Lima, performed by myself in 2013.

Baston Anyo Lima is designed to be performed with a one-handed sword or stick, usually no more than 71-81 cm (28-32 inches).  The jo is a 1.5 meter (5 foot long) blunt two-handed weapon.

These things are not super similar to one another, as weapons go.  Short one-handed blade to longer two-handed blunt.  It is important to try to keep to the spirit of the form in its original weapon - the stances, moving back and forth, the angles of attack and defense - while also making sure what you're doing with the different weapon actually makes sense.

It's important, in my opinion, to make sure what I was doing isn't moving from the realm of things you could or would actually do with the weapon, to becoming "dances with sticks".

You long-time readers of this blog know what I think about "dances with sticks".

This meant I had to really think through and apply what I learned a long time ago with the jo (in 2014).  I did the conversion, getting help from my teacher when I got stuck, and now I have a workable jo version of Baston Anyo Lima.

I have no idea if it'll do well at competition or not.  Honestly, it's not the point of the project anyway.  It'd be nice to win something at competition, sure.  I am totally down for winning things.

But it's more important for me to understand how to convert one form template to another, using a weapon that is really different than the one the form was originally designed for.  This makes me think really hard about both weapons involved.

After this competition, I plan to work on Baston Anyo Lima again, this time converting it into nunchaku.  The intent is that I will use it for competition in November, but also, it's just another brain-candy, nerdy little project.

Y'all know how I love that stuff.

I'll let you know how the competition turns out - and I will (probably) have video of it, so you can see the form.

Tell me about personal projects you've worked on in the martial arts that weren't strictly required for your studies.  Have you worked on editing or converting forms from one thing to another?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Rest or Work - It's All Training

For about a month, I did something martial arts related almost every single day.

I practiced, or I was in my teacher's class, or I was teaching a class, or I was in a seminar.  The only "breaks" I got were a couple of evenings where I had to do all of the chores that piled up because I was training or teaching martial arts.  In the middle of this, I strained my thumbs, so I was training injured the entire time, which is also very exhausting.

I'm beat.

Beat?  MARTIAL ARTS? HA!!!1!!
The thing is, we understand the value of working hard, of training, of practicing, of keeping moving in the martial arts.  I harp on it in classes (and I bet you do, too).  We also have a culture where we keep training even through injury if we possibly can (we might make a few concessions to modifying what we do - and I've written that I support this idea here: Injury: Just Train).

So running hard for a month gets nobody's sympathy in the martial arts world.


At the end of that month, I took two days off.  I practiced my footwork for about 15 minutes each day, and that's it.  I barely left my house and I spent the time sleeping and playing games and watching television and reading and doing a few minor chores.

On day 2 of my "rest days", I noticed that the brain fog I've been sort of living with is lifting a bit.  It's easier to write.  It's easier to think.  And some things I've been working on and with in the last month of so are now "clicking" in my mind as I sit here and think about them.  And my hands feel a lot better, better than they have since I first injured them.

I made progress by barely lifting a finger!

It turns out that resting - and maybe this is really super-true for an older martial artist like yours truly - is training, too!

In my opinion, if you're doing anything that helps you improve in the martial arts, it's training.  So if my brain fog is gone, my body is healing well, and I'm understanding a few things a little better just by thinking about them... yep, that qualifies as training!

The thing is, sitting around and doing (essentially) nothing feels wrong.  I should be practicing my form for tournament.  I should be reviewing the forms I learned in a seminar recently.  I should be doing bigger chores.  I should be writing more for the blog, programming social media stuff, etc.

I have things to do.  But I'm not going to do them today.

Today, I'm going to rest.  Today, I'm training!

Do you schedule "rest" as part of your training regimen?  Or do you just run hard all the time?  Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 05/27/17

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:  I got up early and drove down to Waco to learn a White Crane form (Paiho) and an Eku Form (Tsuken Sunakake Eku).  Fun day, good folks to train with, and it was worth the drive!
Sunday:  Taught our four-hour women's self defense course.
Monday:   Mr. Chick's injury continues, so I stayed home and did chores/went to the store.
Tuesday:   Class at Mid-Cities Arnis.  We are working on review for our next rank text next week.  In adult classes, we worked on our Dos
Manos drills, and talked about practical self defense applications.
Wednesday:   An hour of Baston Anyo Lima for the Jo.  Thumbs are healing, so it wasn't too bad this time!
Thursday:   More review in Family class at Mid-Cities Arnis, and using Dos Manos striking techniques in our Adult class.
Friday:  Stick sparring and our tournament form classes.  Someone pulled a fire alarm about 45 minutes into stick sparring, so we ended that class working on forms on the lawn of the rec center.  We were back inside by 7, so we worked on our tournament forms.

That's the Eku form.  If you look closely, you can see me in the background, talking to the Seminar teacher, Shihan Dean Chapman.


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  Stretch

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   The Dilemma of the Modern Martial Artist
Wednesday: Living the (Martial Arts) Life
Thursday:   Scumbag Brain Strikes Again
Friday:  FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Best Martial Arts Communities Online?


Another "Enter the Dojo" video you say?  YES PLEASE.

And MORE new video from Datu +Dieter Knüttel? This is a great week!

Are you reading FMA Informative?  If you want to keep up on the doings in the Filipino Martial Arts world, you HAVE to!  It's free and you can check it out at the link: FMA Informative


This morning I help Mr. Chick with a private class, then I cover Taekwondo classes for my teacher, then I drive out to Bridgeport to help out at my teacher's Arnis Instructor's course.

And then tomorrow and Monday, I have... NOTHING PLANNED. I think I am going to spend two days in my jammies taking naps, given how crazy busy I've been for the past month or so, right?  Okay, okay, I'll practice my jo form, as well as sai, of course, but... you get the idea.

It's Memorial Day on Monday in the United States.  Let's remember those who served and gave their all for our nation.

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, May 22, 2017


I recently attended a seminar where I learned two forms.  The main reason I attended was to learn a form (Tsuken Sunakake Eku) using the Okinawan weapon that looks like a boat oar - the Eku.

Before we learned that form, though, we were taught a White Crane empty-hand Kung Fu form he called Paiho.

Now, I didn't have to learn this form.  This was the first form taught in this seminar, and I could have come for the second half to learn the Eku form.  This seminar was about an hour and a half's drive from my house on a Saturday morning, mind you, and I would not have minded being able to sleep in a little bit.  I run hard most of the time, and a couple of extra hours of sleep time would have been nice.

Nope, I drug my carcass outta bed, drove down there for the early part of the seminar, and learned the form.

Well, I tried, anyway.  I can't say I've LEARNED-learned it, but I know the basic moves and can do them solo, if it's still pretty clumsy and ugly.  A real White Crane stylist would probably cringe if they saw me do this form.  I cringe at myself when I do this form. 

I have zero background in any of the Chinese martial arts, mind you (unless you want to count some tai chi in the park when I lived in Las Vegas, but that wasn't much and I don't really count it).  I also don't see myself being able to take up study of any of them in the near future (although it is on my bucket list).

Additionally, I'm not a huge fan of forms in general. I know some of us love doing them, but I'm ambivalent about them. I see the usefulness and the need, but man, I'd much rather be working on drills, if I get a vote.  It's just not my "thing" in the martial arts.

So why did I bother?

I am a big believer in trying new things in the martial arts when I get the chance.  Not because I want to do what everybody else does, or incorporate what other styles do into what I do, necessarily. 

I know some of us out there will do this.  They collect a bit of this, and a bit of that (via seminars and short-term attendance at various schools) and mush it all together into a hybrid style they call their own.

Yeah, no, that's not what I'm after. I have no interest in crating my own "style" and I'm not necessarily going to incorporate everything that I've I learned that isn't in my core style into what I do (and thinking I could, or should, based on a two hour form class is kind of silly anyway).

I worked hard on learning a form from a style I may never actually study or incorporate because I like to stretch my mind, and I like trying to understand a different point of view so I can look at what I do with a critical and more educated eye.  I believe in getting out of your comfort zone, too, as I think that's necessary in order to learn and grow.

It was hard work, trying to move as the form demands, and doing things the way they wanted me to do it, even in a single, relatively short form.  My brain was buzzing and I immediately started connecting what I was being taught to what I already know and do - what's different, what's similar, and why that might be.

I've added another little tool to my toolbox, and that's always a good thing!

If you get a chance to spend some time learning something that's way, way out of your style's system, I think you should do it from time to time.  Again, not to necessarily do what they do, but to examine what YOU do, and see it from a fresh angle.  It's really fun and totally worth your time.

When did you step outside of your comfort zone and study something that's way outside of your normal style?  In your system or style, is this sort of thing encouraged, or discouraged?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 05/20/17

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:  I covered classes at Hidden Sword, so I managed the taekwondo class (with the help of senior brown belts). They have a second class that's usually a sparring class, so it was a WEAPONS sparring class!  Then during Arnis, Mr. Chick worked with some student while I worked with others on kobudo.  Busy day.
Sunday:  Mother's Day - and I got to spend it at a seminar! Thanks to GM Art Miraflor and +Prof. Dan Anderson for a fantastic day!
Monday:   With Mr. Chick out with an injury and as busy as we were over the weekend, did necessary chores as I knew I'd be super-busy all week!
Tuesday:   Class at Mid-Cities Arnis. We worked on our kicks and elbows in family class, and in adult class, we worked some bag drills with sticks.
Wednesday:   Finalized Baston Anyo Lima with the Jo. I think it's pretty good, if I don't say so myself!
Thursday:   Reviewed Anyos and worked on Defensive Response #1 in family class.  Adult class was lightly attended so we ended early.
Friday:  Stick sparring and our tournament form classes.  Went well, and my kids are nearly ready!

Prof Dan Anderson, left, and me, right, working as his uke for the session. Very fun and an honor!


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  Of Blunt and Blade
Wednesday: Who Has Two Thumbs and is Injured Again?
Friday: FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Does Lineage Matter?

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   The Purple Knuckles Club
Thursday:   Injury: The Nature of the Beast


Datu +Dieter Knüttel posted this video, and it's awesome.

Friend of this blog, Renato Fonseca, reposted a blog of mine (with his own well-taken thoughts) on his blog, in Portuguese!  Check it out here: 5 Dicas (+1) para Novatos em Artes Marciais com mais de 40 anos

Fantastic video about the physics of fencing:


Today I'm driving to Waco (about an hour and a half or so) to a seminar on White Crane Kung Fu and the Okinawan Eku (that's the boat paddle looking weapon).  It's gonna be VERY FUN.  Tomorrow we teach Women's Self Defense.

So yep, it's another weekend with yours truly moving a mile a minute in ten different directions!

Hope your week was awesome!

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, May 19, 2017

FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Does Lineage Matter?


One thing we in the martial arts talk a lot about is lineage.

That is, who our teachers were, who their teachers were, and the connections we have to influential or important martial artists and martial arts teachers.

This is a lot like how people will look into their own genealogy and try to trace their families back to someone famous or important, isn't it?

On the one hand, having a documented unbroken line of teachers to a "big name" in the martial arts implies that a person's studies are legitimate, trustworthy, and true.  It definitely has more cachet in our world that just studying from Joe Blow, who's a good fighter but doesn't have a lineage to speak of.  For example, your teacher being a direct student of Bruce Lee's is pretty impressive, isn't it?

On the other hand, though, it doesn't mean they can use what they've learned in any effective way.  It's sort of like claiming that a person's grandfather being a famous warrior makes the grandchild a famous warrior too, without having gone to war.  There are plenty of good teachers out there, teaching useful things in the martial arts, without having any kind of lineage to speak of.

I want to know what you think about this:


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who Has Two Thumbs and Is Injured Again?

Well, I'm injured again.

I know, dude. I feel the same way.

Fortunately, it's not the "have to go to a doctor, get a lot of drugs and physical therapy, or gawd forbid surgery" kind of injury.  It's not as problematic as when I got my fingers jammed last year, or when I tore a calf muscle.

It's the "very minor, take an anti-inflammatory, and keep training because it's not like you're INJURED-injured" kind of injury.  You feel a little stupid if you complain about it because it's so minor.

You see, I've strained both thumbs. 

I had a minor strain in the right one a few weeks ago.  It was annoying but not too bad, until I went to kobudo class and hit a BOB with the bo.  After a few strikes, my grip in my right hand gave, and to not lose the weapon, I strained my LEFT thumb maintaining control of it.

I finished class (heck, even worked on sai, which is a little hard on the wrist and thumbs) and it didn't feel great that day, but the next morning, both thumbs were throbbing with pain.  I took it easy a few days, but I had to teach class, and I'm working on a jo form for a tournament coming up, and it's not like I can NOT stick spar in those classes, can I?

Of course not.

As a result, both thumbs keep getting re-strained and I spend periods of time with my hands wrapped in ice packs.

That's always a dilemma for us, isn't it?  How to deal with minor injuries like strains and bruises and whatnot.  The "smart" thing to do would be to stop doing anything that taxes my thumbs and let it heal.  I wouldn't swing a stick and I wouldn't practice with my kobudo weapons.

Heh, yeah.  That's gonna happen.

Sure, I've reduced my activity as much as I can.  I've worked drills and techniques that don't require me to manipulate weapons when it's feasible to do so.

But it's not like I'm not going to skip that four-hour Arnis seminar we hosted over the weekend.  Or that I won't practice - and I must with the weapon sometimes - for that tournament coming up in a few weeks.  Or that I'll skip that Eku seminar this coming weekend that only comes up once in a blue moon.  And I can't not practice sai - I'm not good at it, I don't like it much, but I must master it for my class.

It doesn't help that I'm middle aged, and it takes me longer to heal than it might have if I were younger.

That's the way it goes, when you do what we do.

So tell me how you cope with those little annoying injuries you pick up when you train. Do you train right through it, accepting it will take longer to heal?  Or do you take a break like smart people might?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Of Blunt and Blade

I study Presas Arnis, which is a blend of Modern Arnis and Kombatan.  Like a lot of FMA players, I spend a lot of time with a stick in my hand.

Often, I am thinking of the stick as a blunt weapon - as a stick - versus a blade.  This is a modern thing in the FMA's, and far from traditional (hence "Modern" Arnis).  Traditionally, and in many FMA styles today, the stick is always a blade, and never a blunt weapon.

Where I live, blunt weapons of this length (or longer) - think the baseball bat - are more commonly found. When we do an edged weapon, we tend to focus on the knife, versus longer blades, as that's more likely to be something I'd have on me, or I might face, versus, say, a machete.

You cannot do this with a blade.  Oh, you could, I suppose, but not very long!

On one level, we need to train for the culture we live in, and that's my personal situation. However, if I don't spend time studying the blade as well, I won't get the deeper meaning of what we do in the Filipino Martial Arts.

It's a blade culture in the Philippines. It is not unusual for people to have short and/or long blades on them for a variety of reasons, depending on where you are. This is not unique to the Philippines, mind you - lots of other blade cultures out there around the world (and even in some places in the United States).

Filipino martial arts are a living, breathing set of martial traditions.  Our teachers, and their teachers one generation back, used these techniques for real, either in World War 2 or other more recent conflicts, either in the streets or in battle.  This is not theoretical stuff we're talking about, it's not sparring, it's not from manuals, it's not something being taught by people who are many generations removed from using blades in life-or-death situations.

I attended a seminar recently that focused on the stick as a blade (from +Prof. Dan Anderson and Grand Master Art Miraflor) that really brought home the huge HUGE differences between blunt and blade.

When the stick is a blunt weapon, you aim to smash things. You can trap and lock and grapple. You can grab and use any part of the stick (and have both hands on the stick, anywhere).  Speed and power are important.  A conflict might last longer than a second or two, and the risk of fatality, while there, is a little less of a problem.

Not so the blade.

Your targets vary, the effects are different, the risks are very different.  How you block, how you must move... very different.  You have edge awareness, not only due to needing to cut or avoiding being cut, but also to avoid blocking with your edge so you won't nick - or break- your blade.  Fatality is a huge risk (and you're always aware of it).

I can totally do with with a stick.  Just sayin'.

This is why you really need to seek out teachers who understand these differences if you want to study weapons seriously.  These little differences are not always obvious.  I've studied Arnis for nine years, and in that seminar I attended I learned stuff I didn't realize and I wouldn't have realized on my own without having it pointed out to me.

That's why you'll see serious weapons-based martial artists cringe when we see empty hand folks pick up a katana and start using it like a bo, or they pick up a knife and just start punching with it and defending against it as if it were an empty hand or a blunt weapon.

I am grateful that I can train with people who are so very skilled and knowledgeable in the blade and in blunt weapons. I may never use or face a blade... but I'm better prepared if I do.

What differences have you noticed between an edged weapon and a blunt weapon, if you study them?  If you study blunt weapons, do you have an interest in edged weapons?  Or if you study edges, how about blunt weapons?  Let me know in the comments! 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 05/13/17

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:  Morning practice and Arnis class, and then in the afternoon I went to my monthly kobudo class.  We worked all of the weapons we've learned - we hit BOB with the bo, worked our forms, and then spent half the class on Sai.  Strained the heck out of my thumbs.
Sunday:  Quiet day for a change. Cleaned out my now-dead car to get ready for donation, as that's all it's worth now.  Other chores, too.
Monday:   Happened to stumble across a used car that we fell in love with at a great price, so we skipped class Monday night and bought it (a 2000 Hyundai Tiberon). It's actually a model Mr. Chick has always wanted and instead of shopping for weeks, we went without a replacement car for just a few days.
Tuesday:  Worked on striking and kicking mechanic basics with the family class, then we worked on Sinawali in the adult class.
Wednesday:   Worked very hard on the final version of my converted Baston Anyo Lima (competition form) into Jo.  Remember how I strained my thumbs rover the weekend?  Yeah, this didn't help.  Both hands are toast.
Thursday:  Worked on our self defense techniques in family class, and worked on hubad-lubad with our new student in our Adult class.
Friday:  Worked with our Orange belts on reviewing their self-defense techniques, then I spent the rest of the night perfecting Baston Anyo Isa with our students prepping for a tournament in June.  They are coming along really well!


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  They Ain't Lyin' - 1st Degree Black Belt REALLY IS the First Step
Wednesday: The World's Worst (and Best) Martial Artist - is YOU

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   The Alternating Hand
Thursday:   In Defense of Sport Martial Arts
Friday:   FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Change One Perception Of Your Martial Art?


Fantastic read from Marc MacYoung.  Long and worth your time.  Also has some very useful links in the post. Go read it:  Child Safety

And here's a great read about the reality of "gun fights" police officers have with suspects who ended up killing them: 25 GUNFIGHTING STATS LEARNED FROM CONVICTED COP KILLERS

Two reminders about the effectiveness of empty-hand techniques against bears.

So yeah, kids, your fancy-pants unarmed art might be great in the streets, but you got problems in the woods!

I posted a lot of non-bloggy stuff over on my Facebook blog page.  You should like it, and tell your friends to like it, too.  It's what all the cool kids are doing. The Stick Chick Blog.  If you're like all the cool kids, you can head on over to Tumblr and follow me there (and there's stuff I post there you won't see anywhere else - it's worth a follow for the weapons images alone) The Stick Chick on Tumblr

TOMORROW I'm going to have me one heck of a Mother's Day!  W00t!  If you or someone you know are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we'd love to see you!  STICK and STEEL Seminar with GM Art Miraflor and Professor Dan Anderson


Today I'm covering classes at Hidden Sword because my teacher is going to a sparring seminar and other events around +Prof. Dan Anderson (he's testing for 10th Dan today).  Because of my thumbs, I am taking it SUPER EASY as much as possible so I can fully participate in tomorrow's seminar (and a new seminar I just signed up for, next week down in Waco learning Eku).

You don't realize how much you really use your thumbs for, well, everything, until they are really, really hurty.

Hope your martial arts week was awesome, and have a great weekend.

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, May 10, 2017

The World's Worst (and Best) Martial Artist - is YOU

Ever have a session when you're training in the martial arts and everything clicks?  You're able to do what you want to do relatively easily, you're engaged and your mind is moving a mile a minute, and no matter what you're asked to do, you just get it?  You end the session energized and happy and feeling like you're really making a lot of progress?  You just might be the best one in the room!  You feel like the World's Best Martial Artist.

How about a session where it's the exact opposite?  Where no matter how hard you try, you can't get your head in the game, everything is sloppy and uncoordinated, and you can't quite "get" what's going on?  Nothing you do goes right! By the end of the session you're wiped out and discouraged and want to quit this and do something you can be successful at.  You're the World's Worst Martial Artist.

Heck, I've had periods where I oscillated between one extreme to the other over the period of 48 hours (at martial arts camps, usually).  If every single one of you reading this isn't nodding your head to both extremes, you've not been training very long, or you've got memory problems.

Most of the time, though, our training experience falls somewhere in the middle.  You're not awesomesauce, but you don't totally stink up the joint either.  This means our training really is just a bell curve:

It's not unusual to have a string of training sessions on one side of the bell curve or the other over a period of time.  When you're closer to the World's Best Martial Artist side, you're motivated to do extra practice and it's a lot of fun.  You feel creative and strong and you can take on anything.  You start to think you've finally got this stuff mastered.

But man, slogging through a period where you're the World's Worst Martial Artist sucks.

That's when the going gets really hard.  It's no fun at all.  It becomes work.

But here's the thing:  All things we do for any period of time is like this.  Marriages are like this.  Jobs are like this.  Other skills we develop - learning to play a musical instrument, playing games or sports, blogging... everything worthwhile has periods where it's really fun and easy, and periods when it's really awful and hard to keep going.  It's not unique to martial arts training.

Just like we have to do in other aspects of our lives, we have to keep in mind that neither extreme period will last.  We won't be a martial arts rock star forever, so we can't get cocky or lazy about it. We won't stink up the joint forever, either, so we have to keep working until we get through this bad period.

Everything - the very good times, and the very bad times - will eventually pass. Don't get too wrapped up in either.

So tell me about a time where you spent some time on either end of our bell curve.  Any great stories of what you accomplished when you were the World's Best Martial Artist?  How did you stay focused and motivated when you were the World's Worst Martial Artist?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 8, 2017

They Ain't Lyin' - 1st Degree Black Belt REALLY IS the First Step

They tell you, as you are working your way to rank, that black belt is just the first step.  That black belt - 1st Degree - represents that you have mastered the basics and are now ready to learn.

When you aren't one, this sounds a little wrong.  I mean, given how much emphasis styles with a black belt put on it, and how long it can take (in legit programs anyway)... well, it seems like they're pulling your leg a bit.  There can't be many more techniques that you'd have to learn - how many can there be?  And once you've learned it, you've learned it - why spend any more time on it?

After all you've learned to get to Black Belt, there really isn't any more to learn, right?


There are plenty of people who become 1st black and quit and think they're finished with martial arts (like beating a boss in a video game and then playing a different game). Or, they become 1st black, think they know all there really is to know in the style, and quit and do their own thing.  A special few of those "create their own style" and promote themselves to 10th dan or call themselves "Soke".

Here's a lesson I learned the other day that proves them wrong - that 1st black really is the first step, and you really have just mastered the basics of your style.

We bought a video on Amazon that is a recording of a 1991 seminar featuring Professor Remy Presas, Professor Wally Jay, and George Dillman.  You can see it for yourself here.

Mr. Chick was watching it, but I was sitting next to him working on something, and I was half-listening.  The video starts with Remy Presas teaching a session. He's working on a core technique of ours, brush-grab-strike.  See an example below (image of Bob Quinn taken from this video HERE)

He put a stick in his hand and did what I call a "cut block" (I can't recall where I picked up the term, but I use that to differentiate from other kinds of blocks, like a supported block or a Dos Manos - two hands - block).  This block is more of a deflection block than a force-on-force block.  That is, you can't use it when the opponent is swinging for the hills, but it works well - and sets up a lot of things - when things are slowed down.  We use it a lot to set up locks, traps, disarms, and the like.

He then said that it was brush grab strike, with a stick.

And I sat straight up in my seat.

I learned this cut block and the brush grab strike techniques years ago, in the first few months of my training.  It wasn't until just then, watching a short snippet of video from several decades ago, that I'd heard that explicitly.

The cut block is brush grab strike with a stick in your hand!

I don't claim to be the brightest bulb on the tree, y'all.

Nearly a decade of study, and I didn't make that connection.  I had in other places, but not specifically there.

And later, thinking on this and playing with it in class, I had the real epiphany.  When I cut block versus a forehand strike (our #1 or #3 strike), the way I end up - the way it's most comfortable to me - is to end up with my stick low (think knee or rib strike, below the arm).  But this is far from the best thing to do all the time. Sure, it'll work and we have things we can do there.  There's lots more if I can end up with my stick high, chambered on my shoulder (think head strike), but I have to work hard to make that happen, as it just doesn't "feel right" and isn't "what I want to do".

What if it's comfortable and natural and "feels right" to me because of how I practice brush grab strike?

What if I makes sure I practice my empty hand brush grab strike where my brush hand - the second beat - goes "over" the lead hand and then practice it where it goes "under" the lead hand?  Will the "stick on top" end point of cut blocking (and block check counter) come more "naturally"?  Will it be easier for me to do what I want, not just what is habit?

I know, I just lost most of you who aren't in my style but you Arnis guys who do this probably get what I'm saying. The second beat can go "above" the first hand (high line) or "below" the first hand (low line).  Then the third strike will be either naturally chambered to go low or high, depending on that second strike.

Is the empty hand version - brush grab strike - the key to making where my third beat with a stick in this specific cut blocking sequence go where I want it to go, versus where it just "ends up naturally"?

Can I make myself equally "comfortable" by practicing both ways? I'm guessing that I can, and now I'm going to see if it's true.  I have a new understanding of a core technique that I learned way back when I first picked up a stick.

Now, I could have been told this by any of my teachers.  I just wasn't.  And I don't think I could have made the connection between all of this without the years of practice and the understanding of all of the techniques involved.  It's one thing to be told a thing, it's another to know a thing because you've discovered it yourself.

This, my friend, is black belt stuff.  This is why you keep training.

If you've kept studying after you became a black belt, did you have AHA! moments like this?  Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

My Week in Stick Chicktivity - 05/06/17

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:    In the morning, Youngest Daughter tested for and was promoted to orange belt in taekwondo.  Later, we tested our kids in the lower ranks in Arnis.
Sunday:  Caught up on all the chores we didn't do when I was sick and when Mr. Chick was very hobbled due to a knee injury.
Monday:   Morning gym.  That night, we went to Arnis at Hidden Sword.
Tuesday:   Morning gym.  Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis, reviewing where our students stand, as we plan to hold tests at the end of this month.
Wednesday:  Slept in! Went to class at Hidden Sword, but I spent my class time working on converting our "competition" form, Baston Anyo Lima, into Jo.  Made a lot of progress but it's not done yet.
Thursday:  Morning gym. Taught at Mid-Cities Arnis. Worked with one student on his stances, as I finally figured out how it was not quite right and how we might correct it.
Friday:  Morning gym. Car broke down - again - on my way out of work so I had to get a tow home. I made it for our new "tournament" class at 7, and I taught our two students going to tournament Baston Anyo Isa.


Here's the original content I posted this week:
Monday:  To the Nth Degree
Wednesday: Tournament Time

And here's what I re-shared this week:
Tuesday:   To Learn, Teach
Thursday:   Enough with Sensei Scumbag's Shenanigans!
Friday:   FACE-OFF FRIDAY: Should We Ban Head Shots in Sparring?


Nice post over at Championsway - give it a read: More than Belt Ranks: Goal Setting for Martial Arts

Another new video with Master Ken:

Great piece of advice.

I posted a lot of non-bloggy stuff over on my Facebook blog page.  You should like it, and tell your friends to like it, too.  It's what all the cool kids are doing. The Stick Chick Blog

YO MAMMA WANT'S TO LEAN BADASSERY.  Well, my kids' momma does. So, if you're in the DFW area, come on by!  STICK and STEEL Seminar with GM Art Miraflor and Professor Dan Anderson


Today Older Daughter takes the SAT, and Mr. Chick spends the day with +Hock Hochheim.  Me, I'm taking younger daughter to Taekwondo and I'll practice my jo form and kobudo, attend Arnis class, and then in the afternoon, head over to Dallas for my monthly Kobudo class.

Hope you have a great weekend!

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, May 3, 2017

Tournament Time

Generally speaking, tournaments are not really a "thing" in my style's lineage.

Not that I mind much, personally.  I grew up doing competitive sports and competitions, back when participation trophies were not a thing (cheering, and track and field, and other things).  I'm also an outgoing type and one of the lucky few that doesn't get anxious when asked to get up in front of crowds of people.  I spent a lot of time in my youth in preparing for and participating in competition where I could (and did) lose.

Me, circa 1983.

I've grown out of it, so I'm sorta "meh" on the whole "gotta compete to win" thing.

Plus, there's no Arnis tournaments.  We're too small of a group that's too spread out across the continent to have them.  There are rare "stick fighting" tournaments, but those don't happen often enough to really prepare for on a regular basis.

I don't mind too much that there are no Arnis tournaments, myself.  But some people enjoy it, and it's something to consider when you run a school, especially if you have a kid's program.

If we are to compete, we have to go where the majority of participants in tournaments are in other styles, like karate and taekwondo.

This puts us at a bit of a disadvantage.

We don't point spar, so we have to enter in forms competitions.  Our anyos are like nothing they've ever seen, and they aren't sure how to appropriately grade them. We don't move like a karate or taekwondo person might - we're smoother and we "flow".

They simply don't know what they're looking at.

At my teacher's school, we do encourage our Arnis students to compete in tournaments along with the schools' taekwondo program. There's one our parent organization, AKATO, puts on each year, and there's a new series of  yearly charity tournaments now on its fourth year that we'll also participate in.

I still laugh a bit when one of our kids was told by a judge at a tournament to be "harder" in his weapon form.  It was Baston Anyo Isa, with a blade, and sharp bladed weapons don't require power, they require smooth motion, and that's how our kid did it - smooth motion.  Dude wanted him to do his form like he was chopping wood.

Yeah, that's not how blades work, sir.

Eh, that was the tournament where winning weapons forms included sword tossing and catching and spinning junky reflection-tape coated kama on their palms to music, sooooo.... yeah.  Not a tournament we returned to.

The two tournaments that we do attend aren't like that, though.  Weapons are "traditional" and there is no music, no sword catching, no tricking or gymnastics.

But we don't expect to win, because we understand that we're sort of exotic and strange to the judges.  They expect a lot of hard motions, a lot of posing and sometimes screaming, and kiyaaas, and that sort of stuff.  That's not what we do.  But we've had some luck at these tournaments in the past, and they're getting used to us, and how to judge us.

So why do we go, if we don't expect to win?

We go for the experience, we go to make connections and friendships, and we go to advertise our style to a wider martial arts audience.

At Mid-Cities Arnis, the sister school my husband and I run, we've never really encouraged tournament participation in the past.  But this year, one of our students expressed an interest in competition.

After some thought, I decided, heck with it, let's give our kids a chance to compete if they want to.  So we're going to enter Mid-Cities Arnis students in same tournaments this year that my teacher's school goes to.

Thus, we're starting to offer an extra hour of practice after Friday stick sparring nights to prepare for the first tournament, the Monica Lopez Open Karate Tournament.  This tournament is a little less cut-throat than others I've attended, so it's a good first start for our kids.

We made the announcement this week, and thus far, three in our family class have expressed an interest.

We're going to do extra practice class up to the tournament, then take a break for summer, and resume extra practice class in September in preparation for the AKATO tournament in November.

It's exciting because it's the first time Mid-Cities Arnis will enter tournaments as its own entity.

1983 me is pretty excited.

And since my own students are going to compete, so will I.  I am working on a translation of Baston Anyo Lima, our competition form, into different weapons (jo and nunchaku) that I'll use at both tournaments, and we'll see how that goes.  I may even enter in empty hand!

I've only competed once, in 2013, right after I was promoted to Dayang Isa (1st Degree Black Belt).  Yes, I'm the genius that waited until I had to compete in the black belt division to enter a tournament.

Hey, I got second place!

I'm hoping you readers out there who ARE competition heavy can help me out. 

What are some of your best tips for tournament preparation?  How do you prepare your self or your students mentally and emotionally?  Do you have any funny tournament stories?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 1, 2017

To the Nth Degree

So this happened:

That makes me a 2nd Degree Black Belt under my teacher.  I'm pretty happy about the promotion, as it's been a long time coming and it's nice to be recognized for the work I've put in in the past few years.

I've been thinking about "degrees" and ranks at the black belt level, as a result.

The truth is, being a Dayang Dalawa today doesn't mean I suck any less than I did, say, a few months ago.  My progression from "My god, who gave that woman a stick?!?!?" to "Hey, she's not too terrible on occasion" is long and slow and something that isn't always clear to me.

I don't even know what makes me 2nd degree now, versus, say, last fall or even last year.  I do know I'm "better" than I was when I was promoted to Dayang Isa, but I just can't explain specifically how that's true, other than my vision is better and I understand more than I did.

I'm a terrible judge of my own progress.  I have a hard time recognizing what I'm really good at, and honestly assessing where I need improvement. I suspect this is a problem for all of us.

This is why we need teachers, people.  And peers who can judge us appropriately.   Good feedback - both positive and negative - is important if we're going to grow.

In any case, like my teacher, I'm not going to have my belt embroidered with any rank designation. It's plain and it's going to stay that way.  I know many other styles and organizations have the tradition of belt embroidery, and if that's your thing, go for it.  All I know is, every picture I've seen of the founder of Modern Arnis where he's wearing his black belt... it's plain and looks just like mine (even though I study Presas Arnis, Modern Arnis is the base of the style and comprises about 70% of what we do).

Exhibit A.

I like that.

Of course, the natural thing would be to ask, "How do I get to Dayang Tatlo (3rd Degree Black Belt)?"  My teacher hasn't written any guidelines, and right now, your guess is as good as mine.

Is achieving the next rank important?  Does it change anything? 

I don't know.

I'm going to keep training regardless of what comes next and whether I'm recognized for it or not.  I have a lot of work to do and progress to make and that's what really matters.  Some day I may, or may not, be Dayang Tatlo in my base style.  Ranks after that?  Dude, I started late - dunno if I'll live long enough for that!

I also have my kobudo black belt test coming, probably at the end of the year, and just like I did in Arnis, my plan is to keep studying over there beyond that rank.

But... is Weapons Master a thing?  Just... um, asking for a friend.

Maybe this rank, and those that follow after, aren't to tell ME anything at all.   Maybe they're just for other people.  It's a shortcut that says, "This person's teacher thinks they're such-and-such level of skill in this martial arts style" and nothing more than that.

Either way, it means I keep working at what I do, to get better, to understand it more, and to help others along the way.

So have you achieved ranks after first black?  What did it mean to you?  What changed?  Let me know in the comments!