Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Slap

(thanks for the inspiration KJ)

Q: What did the five fingers say to the face?

Lately, as we explore the various expressions of Sinawali 6 using our empty hands - specifically outside, inside and split entries, the topic of different strikes comes up in class.  Is it better to hit using a closed fist or open hand?

Open hand hitting has a lot of advantages versus striking with a closed fist.
As I have suggested in my blog before, I think that using the open hand can be a very viable and effective self-defense option.  In fact, I think many martial artists do not fully appreciate the devastating power of this striking tool.

The "Iron Palm" Tradition
Various internal martial arts focus on the palm as a striking tool and involve specific training in breathing and conditioning together with chi kung to increase the striking power and effectiveness.  Notable practitioners of this "Iron Palm" training include Brian Gray. Body hardening is found in many martial arts dating back to Indian yoga traditions even older than Shao Lin Kung Fu, as well as Okinawan Karate's Sanchin, Silat's Tarikan Tenaga, Muay Thai conditioning and others.  Some employ lotions or creams to strengthen the body (dit da jow, etc.) and some FMA even use holy talismans or other animist/spiritual magics to toughen the body or avoid injury.  That said, good, strong slapping can be done by amost anyone without additional conditioning.

The Striking Surface
For me, open hand slapping is best done across the palm surface (NOT the fingers).  I do not advocate striking with the fingers themselves, since the knuckles can flex/bend and cause hyper extension injury to the striking hand.  Instead, I advocate hitting with the pad of the palm all the way down to the palm heel, where the hand joins the wrist.  This surface is padded and yields strong impact force on contact.  In karate, palm heel strikes are well-known as among the most devastating hits.  The slap presents a broad surface area which often hits with palm heel and palm pad at the same time to two different areas (mastoid process and ear canal, for example).  It is likewise easy to transition strikes from palm heel to tegatana (knife edge) which are also delivered with an open hand and are devastating in their own right.

Key Targets
Palm heel hits in karate are often done as an option to the straight punch, aimed vertically under the nose/chin or horizontally at the ear.  Contrary to urban myth, it does not seem possible to palm heel nose cartilage into the brain via the nasal canal, although Hollywood seems to love this one.

I suggest that the open hand slap works very well against the side of the head including the ear, the temple, the mastoid process/jawline or even the orbital cavity.  Palm strikes to other soft tissues like the neck or groin are also effective, especially when using the palm heel.  I also like the slap or palm on the low line, particularly to turn the knee or change the direction of the hip line as a setup for other hits.

Opinions are divided on the use of the slap or palm against the rest of the torso including liver/spleen, sternum, plexus and the like.  I have heard some masters describe dim mak strikes delivered with the palm strike to the chest and designed to stop the heart, much like using a defibrillator on someone NOT having a heart attack.

The closest realistic variant of this is usually delivered with the knife edge strike and known as the brachial stun, applied to the brachial nerve line/auricular nerve line between the neck and the shoulder.

Training and Practice
Like all techniques, good training is done in several different ways.  I like to explore options during class, looking for places where the technique can fit into my flow.  Separately it's good to practice striking with power and intent on the heavy bag or with the focus mitts.  Make sure to keep your arm in from of your body when hitting, in order to avoid possible damage to shoulder and chest.  Slaps can usually fit in anywhere a hook punch would be used.  Be creative.

See you at class.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Area 51

Well, that's it.  I'm 51 today.

It's been an amazing year, over far too fast.  As always, I've met a great bunch of people and tried my best to make a difference while I am here. 
This year was truly a year of changes.

It was great to see messages from people all over the world wishing me well today.  It is both humbling and gratifying to think our lives are so connected.  Thank you for thinking of me, even for a moment.

Personally, my health is good and I find it hard to believe that a year or two ago I could hardly walk due to osteoarthritis in both knees.  Now I feel better than ever.  Ultimately I tried a series of injections into my knees, which at the time didn't seem to be working.  However, over a few months things improved and now they both feel good as new - without surgery.

Our Kali Family continues to strengthen, with several students preparing for their Kadua Guro tests next year.  They continue to impress me with their knowledge and dedication, each of them bringing new perspectives to what we do.  We have had some new joiners as well who are diving in with passion and energy.  Most importantly, we are using what we learn to make our daily lives better - to become who we want to be, conquering our fears and uncertainty and freeing ourselves to face new challenges.  Since last year I got chances to train with a lot of incredible martial artists, including a great training week at Peaceful Warrior Camp 2017.  See you in Phuket in March 2018!!  I can't wait!!

Professionally, the year ends with hope.  I resigned from my job and now have some time to carefully consider next steps.  Faced with being marginalized, I chose a higher path and sought better opportunity elsewhere.  This is what I advise my students to do, and I am glad that I could overcome my inertia and worries and do the right thing - look for a place where my background and experience could be more fully utilized to help our customers.  A new chapter will start for me in 2018 and I am very excited.  Salesforce was a strong beginning, and I will always be grateful to my Ohana for their encouragement and support.

Overall, despite the obstacles, this has been the best year EVER! Onward and Upward!!

There will be family time and travels before the New Year, both of which are treasures for me.  I'm looking forward to what 2018 can be. 
I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

Thank you for your constant support and encouragement.


Inayan System of Eskrima

On Halloween weekend we were given a very special treat.

Together with our friends at Shin Kali, we hosted the first Japan visit by Suro Jason Inay, Grandmaster of the Inayan System of Eskrima.  It was an amazing two days jam-packed with training drills, history, application and more.  I can't wait for the next one.

Kali-Majapahit stickwork is strongly influenced by Inayan Eskrima, including drilling of Cabca, Sinawali and Serrada, and it was a great opportunity to learn directly from the source.

About Suro Jason
Suro Jason is the son of legendary Eskrima master Mike Inay who, together with GM Angel Cabales, is widely recognized as one of the founding fathers of FMA in America having jointly established the West Coast Eskrima Society (WES) in the 1970s together with Max Sarmiento.  During the Pinoy Diaspora, many Filipino immigrants settled in places like Hawaii, but California was also an extremely popular destination, particularly the Bay area and around Stockton.  Suro Jason grew up training in Eskrima with his father and other famous masters, affectionately called "Uncles" - a veritable who's-who of FMA royalty in America.  The Stockton Tradition is characterized by low, powerful stances explosive striking and blinding speed, now hardly found even in the Philippines. Students of this tradition are easily recognizable when they move.

Having become familiar with many prominent styles, his grounding is firmly in the Inayan family system, to which he has added additional structure and pedagogy.  Suro Jason spent many years as a professional bouncer and currently works as a fugitive retrieval investigator/agent.  Despite this pedigree, he is humble and genuine and brings a direct, no-frills practical approach to the family tradition.  ISE includes a variety of sub-systems, each designed to cope with a different set of fighting circumstances.  These include Dequerdas, Sinawali, Kadena De Mano, Espada Y Daga, Largo Mano and Serrada among others.  While we touched a bit on all of them, we spent a majority of the seminar training specifically in Inayan Serrada.

Serrada Sticks
Although Serrada can be done with almost any length of stick (some masters use sticks over 35"), it is typically shown using a shorter, heavier stick between 22-24" in length.  The stick is unique to the individual and should reach from the armpit against the torso along the arm to the base of the wrist.  This stick allows for superior mobility at the extreme close range where Serrada is considered most effective.  Longer sticks can be used if hip rotation, footwork and shoulder positioning is good.

Stance and Footwork
Serrada stances are low and grounded, weight onto the balls of the feet.  Older pictures of GM Cabales show his knees almost touching the ground. This improves the geometry of the blocking by lowering the center of gravity and "coils" the legs for explosive counters.  Serrada is a forward-moving style, ideally suited to dueling in close quarters and does not rely on backward or sideways steps to evade.  Rapid replacement footwork delivers the full body weight on impact and positions the hips and bodyline for optimal striking and defense.  Done properly, Serrada can receive full power strikes in rapid succession while keeping very close to the opponent.

Much of Serrada is practiced with the single stick, however double stick, double dagger, espada y daga are all based on the same responses, as well as empty hands, flexible weapons and even the bankaw.  The cornerstone movements (3 responses to each of the 5 basic attacking angles) have universal application regardless of weapon type.

Apart from the many and varied training drills that ISE uses, they are renowned for the "lock and block" method.  In this drill, the receiver stands his/her ground while the feeder attacks with a set of random attacks that the receiver must block or evade.  No counter attacks are allowed, and the drill increases intensity in accordance with the receiver's ability, pushing just past the comfort zone into a high stress, high intensity session.  At higher levels, the attacks are full speed, full power and completely unscripted.  The feeder also trains to find openings in the guard and touch points on the body or head.  All of us had a chance to experience this drill one-on-one with Suro Jason and it is a humbling experience.  Some may liken this to the flow sparring of Balintawak, however in my experience the speed and power of the attacks are very different.  Lock and Block develops not only timing and reflex, but also the unique ability of Serrada to get ahead of the attacking chain and reposition proactively for the next strike.  Even at the basic level this drill is done with both stick and empty hands variations.

It would be easy to label Suro Jason as simply "GM Mike Inay's son".  This would do a disservice to the more than 40 years of training and research he has done to take ISE even further than it was.  He brings unique, practical insights to his family art and delivers extremely dense information in every moment of the seminar.

Friends in the Los Gatos area, I am insanely jealous of your chance to train regularly with Suro Jason.  He is the real deal and a warm and considerate teacher fully dedicated to making his students better.

Find him. Meet him. Train with him.  Be grateful.

Further Info

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Two Little Words

Another long day...another long week...
A long, crowded commute to the office for another day filled with meetings - meetings with co-workers; meetings with customers; meetings with visitors from out of town; lunches; dinners; drinks.
A long commute home thinking about all the things I have to do the next day, the next week, the next quarter...

Many of us spend our time thinking about what we "have" to do and who we "have" to meet.  We fill our calendars and day planners with to-do lists of tasks and meetings that never seem to end.  We feel a loss of control and get lost in the ebb and flow of our lives, caught in a never-ending rat race. But are we??

What if I proposed that we change two little words?
We change "have" to into "get" to?  What happens??

"Have to" takes away our control.  It leaves us victimized by our circumstances, burdened by responsibilities we never chose to bear.  It makes other factors our oppressors.  "Get to" expresses our rights and privileges.  It allows us to feel empowered by choice.

Now, instead of all the people I HAVE to meet, I think about all the people I GET to meet.  People I am able to spend time with.  People who can benefit me in many different ways.  Co-workers I can build a relationship with, where we can trust each other to do the right thing for our customers and help each other when needed.  Relationships I can build which I may carry forward for many, many years.  I get to meet customers who can help me understand the right combination of products and services they need to succeed.  Customers who can help me hone my service mentality to razor sharpness.  Customers who push me to be better and deliver more value.  I get to meet managers and leaders of other departments who can help me learn more about our company and what we do, and how we can work together better.  I get to meet people who inspire me for new ideas and vision about the Art of the Possible.

Instead of all the tasks I HAVE to do, what about considering them as tasks I GET to do?  Tasks that will help me develop my knowledge and skills, tasks that will help me find opportunities to collaborate with others.  Tasks that will help me develop patience and perseverance (yes, sometimes that's the best outcome we can hope for).  Tasks that can help me uncover my weaknesses or explore and develop new strengths.  Tasks that show me I am needed by others in order for our common mission to succeed.  Tasks that remind me how good it feels to be a part of something worth doing.

Every meeting I join can teach me something.
Every person I meet can teach me something.

I need to avoid the traps of negativity, and stay focused on positive outcomes rather than complaining about how busy I am or how many people demand my time.

Maybe by just changing a word or two I can change my outlook and connect to my Gratitude Attitude.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


You are HERE, right where you belong.

It's easy to fall into the twin traps of victimization or unworthiness.  On one hand, many of us (myself included) have times where we think "why me?".  It's like the Universe itself is conspiring against us to destroy our carefully laid plans, rain on our parade, or keep us from getting what we think we deserve.

Likewise, when good things happen we find it hard to believe that something special could happen to "someone like us" as though we do not deserve to have positive outcomes or to achieve our goals since somehow, deep in our hearts, we do not consider ourselves "worthy" or "lucky".

The truth, neither good nor bad, is that we are always right where we are meant to be.  When good things happen, it is important not to attribute them to simple blind luck, but to consider (and more importantly, to acknowledge) the positive impact our efforts and the efforts our supporters have had on our achievements.  Failing to do so robs us of our recognition that effort matters, effort is directly linked to outcome, and that cooperation is of paramount importance in accomplishing the things we set out to do.  We are products of our hard work, and also of other peoples' work on our behalf.

The victimization/persecution side is far more difficult.  It is easy to start believing everything and everyone is "out to get us".  The truth is that as much as I am a product of my hard work and the support of others, I am also a result of overcoming the many challenges I have faced - some of which have not resulted the intended outcomes.  Without those experiences, I could not have developed confidence in my ability to achieve.  Neither could I have learned some of the most important lessons I have been taught, much of which came from careful study of what happened when I thought I failed.

I think we are consistently faced with challenges that offer us opportunity to excel.  In doing so, we can develop a platform of successful habits and skills that over time give us the flexibility to conquer the unknown and to do so confidently, secure that come what may, we can find a way (with help, of course).  In the tough times, instead of thinking "why me?" I try to ask myself "what am I meant to learn from this?" and focus myself on taking away something of value from every situation - especially the ones which ended badly for me.

I am grateful for my experiences, good and bad, which have brought me to this point almost 51 years later.  I'm still here - exactly where I am supposed to be.  I hope I still have a lot more life left in me, and with your guidance and support, I want to keep challenging myself to be better than before.

Come along.  A journey worth taking is worth taking TOGETHER.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Motivational Speaking

(thanks for the inspiration Grinder)

Today a good friend suggested I become a motivational speaker or a life coach.  My response?

"I am. We all are".

Not trying to be glib here (well, maybe just a little bit).  My point is a simple one.  Everyone, that's right EVERYONE, is in their own way a motivational speaker or life coach whether they realize it or not.  We are all made up of a set of experiences and insights that have made us who we are.  Sharing this has the power to help others.  It is truly one of the greatest gifts we have.  Awareness begins with understanding our innate ability to influence others. Awakening is our acceptance of this responsibility we have and using this knowledge to improve the lives of others.

Everyone has a perspective or experience of value, and we all have the capacity to improve one another's lives.  Of course, going to see Tony Robbins (pictured above) is a life changing experience.  He has used this same power to build a brand and achieve his definition of success - notably from having been a janitor and not even graduating college.  Those academic things don't matter as much as many people think they do.  What's important is knowing we have something we can share, clarifying that positive message, and then actually breaking through our fear in order to use our message to help other people.

We all need not be on stage inspiring millions like Tony does.  We have the power to help through a kind word or action at a bus stop or in line at the supermarket - anywhere, anytime.  As well, we have the power to grow from the experiences of others if we listen, truly listen, to what they are saying.  I have been motivated and coached by literally thousands of people over the course of my 50 year journey.  Many of them didn't even know they were doing so.  Some were on TV or via YouTube or other media.  Hearing about their journeys inspired my own.  Sharing my stories is one way I can give back for all I've received.  My journey is far from over and I remain fully committed to helping other people until my time here is done.

Certainly some people inspire us about what we don't want to do or become - this is no less valuable than the positive examples.  In fact, sometimes it is our commitment to not repeat the mistakes of others or learn from our own mistakes that drives us to the greatest changes and improvements.  Sometimes it is sharing our experiences that empowers us to rise above our circumstances with a much deeper perspective we can pass on.

Knowing that we all have this power within us - the power to motivate and coach others - is a great equalizer.  It causes me to try to treat everyone with dignity and respect, since I recognize that each person can be of benefit to my understanding.  In the end, all most of us really want is to be respected.  Giving respect, especially to those who may have lost it for themselves, is a key to connecting.  We discount the poor, the old, the sick, the homeless at our peril - their stories often have the most value and their lives often have the greatest examples of courage and strength.

Henry David Thoreau writes "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."
To me, this is why we must do our very best to connect to each other - for their sake as much as our own.  By connecting, we share. By sharing, we grow. By growing, we achieve.  This cycle of virtue helps give our lives meaning and purpose, leaving us with a richer outcome at the end.

Especially now, governments are working hard to divide us - to keep us from sharing with other and acknowledging our common core.  Please join me in resisting these attempts to break society apart.  Embrace what makes us human --- Compassion.  Open your heart to listen.  Open your heart to share.
Motivate and be motivated. 
I promise you can make a difference to someone, just as they can for you.

Making a difference is why we are here, after all.   

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Big Fun Down Under

What a fantastic week.

Salesforce sent me to Melbourne, Australia for a week of training, and I was very lucky to get a chance to train with extended family at the Melbourne Budo Academy in Fitzroy, quite close to the CBD.

The Academy is run by Sensei Jon Marshall, a 6th dan in Yoshinkan Aikido and oriental medicine practitioner/teacher.  He is highly ranked in other styles as well and has been a martial artist since childhood.  The Academy teaches a variety of Japanese martial arts and there's something (many somethings) for everyone.
If you can go there, DO.  It a MUST destination in Melbourne.

In our brief 90 minutes session I chose to explore the links between Kali's empty hand movement (Kadena De Mano) and aikido, a topic I introduced at Peaceful Warrior Camp in Thailand earlier this year.  It is an area very dear to my heart since it is where I first began to connect my own Japanese martial arts lineage to Kali and build the basis for "my flow".

I was lucky to have a room full of very high-level aikidoka, and their deep commitment to what they do was immediately evident.  They move with power and conviction, and that is the hallmark of both great students and a great teacher.

We started with the basic pattern of hubud lubud, a common drill used in FMA to build hand speed and coordination. There are many, many versions of this drill. The one I showed is similar to the video in the link above (final elbow control using pak sao instead of c-grip as they do). In the FMA, this drill is done with a variety of empty hand attacks, with blades, sticks and just about anything else.  For simplicity we stayed on the right side.

From this framework, we drill to improve speed and smoothness until the flow is an endless cycle with an established timing and rhythm between the partners. Then, we can start to find openings and entries.  My use of this drill is based on the classic aikido drill 手の取り (te no tori or "taking hands") which is again closely related to Hakka/JKD's chi sao or "sticky hands".

Some of the flows we introduced included hijishime variations, Juji nage, ikkajo, ude garame, shiho nage, shomen iriminage.  While in Kali Majapahit we use hubud as a framework to explore a lot of different styles including not just Kali but also Silat and Hakka Kuntao, in this short seminar I wanted to really demonstrate the fact that this drill can include entries for many classical Yoshinkan techniques as well.

Since RYA closed over two years ago, it's been some time since I crossed hands with well-trained Yoshinkan artists. Here's what I found:

1) Big Movements, Big Power
We worked hubud lubud from Yokomen Uchi, a common aikido strike.  This kept us from having to explain FMA striking angles.  In Yoshinkan, this hit is a big one with a full step.  It comes in hard with all of shite's body weight behind it.  This is good flow practice for FMA people to experience passing that power from hand to hand in hubud.  Fighting is about finding the optimum balance between strength and speed so that we move quickly but also can contact with authority.

2) Squaring Up
In Hubud Lubud we tend to stand with our hips square to the opponent, which makes it easier to get all weapons (especially left side hand/knee/feet) quickly involved.  For us it is a corto (close range/CQB) drill.  In aikido, it is more common to turn and present the side of the body.  This certainly adds hip rotation, but sometimes at the expense of delivery speed.  Something to consider.

3) Everything is a Weapon
In FMA, we use nearly every part of the body.  Any striking surface can be leveraged to get a viable weapon onto the attacker as quickly as possible.  This includes elbows, knees, head, bicep, tricep, calf, shoulder and a host of others.  In aikido, the strikes are standardized to punches and sword hand (shuto) so there is some interesting study in how to use other body parts within the same techniques. In showing the classic FMA lever takedown, we did variations using both the hand and the leg to get the same result.  FMA "adds spices" throughout the techniques, and there is always a place for an elbow, knee, headbutt, forearm smash or other add-in to help uke remain compliant if needed.  Yoshinkan has powerful atemi as well, and I am a big advocate of their use.

4) On Playfulness
FMA are usually learned through two key steps - drills and playing.  In the drills we get the basics and see some examples.  In playing, we experience the technique from both sides and put it into a wide variety of situations to see how to adjust it for the many variables that exist in martial arts expression.  For us this is critical since fights can happen under a diverse set of circumstances, needing changes to distance, timing, power or footwork based on terrain, available weapons, number of opponents and so on.  The playing is where we own the technique and make it part of our natural movement.

5) Attacking the Structure
In my Kali (Guro Fred, my teacher, spends a lot of time on this as well) we are principally concerned with how to disrupt the structure of an attacker.  This means seeking control over the head/neck/spine at the earliest opportunity and using them to minimize an attacker's strength and balance.  For every aikido technique, there is a similar process of taking uke's balance.  It is important to study these points deeply and fully understand the objective of each technique in terms of learning about the human body and how to control it.  "We move from strength to strength, balance to balance and move our opponents in the opposite manner from weakness to weakness."

6) Explore and Discover
These were my magic words to the class, encouraging them to go deeper and find their own connections.  The martial arts world is rich and vast with plenty of opportunity to find fresh new ideas.  I also appreciate the consistency and dependability of Japanese martial arts training, but I like it best when balanced with a Beginner's Mind and fed plenty of new information to absorb and apply.

7) It's ALWAYS about the People
Such wonderful, friendly, people.  Although Sensei Jon and I had never actually met in person before, he was incredibly open, kind and accommodating.  His students are busy professionals, but also charming and kind.  They have built a lovely Budo community there and support each other's learning and growth.  The positive energy in the Academy permeates the space.  I felt warm and happy at all times.

Melbourne is a beautiful city with classical European architecture, great coffee, a love of outdoors/sport, and top-shelf martial arts.  It was a tremendous honor to be able to share my life's work with my family there.  We'll meet again for sure.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Change Before You Have To

As seen on a t-shirt in a random Tokyo store window.
This one really caught my attention.

Change is scary.  Change is hard.  Most of us hate to change.
We are truly creatures of habit, habits which can make or break us.

Habit is even the subject of one of my favorite poems:

Who Am I?
I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do you might just as well turn over to me, and I will be able to do them quickly, correctly.
I am easily managed - you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great people; and alas, of all failures as well. Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human being.
You may run me for a profit or turn me for ruin - it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet.
Be easy with me and I will destroy you.
Who am I?


I like the t-shirt quote because it strongly suggests that Change is inevitable, which I believe.  We cannot resist Change, at best we only delay it for a time.  Often we may be reluctant to change until the pain of change is less than the pain of not changing.Because of this I think it is far better to be proactive and initiate Change on our own terms before ending up in a situation where it is thrust upon us.

Accepting change and initiating it on our own also helps us remain comfortable with the concept that the world is in flux, and to be less surprised when even unexpected changes occur.  Complacency is truly the enemy or progress.  For relationships, too, complacency is often the beginning of the end, leading to situations where one partner or another (sometimes even both) feel taken for granted or underappreciated - often a prelude to breakup.

In business, it is the same.  In a very tearful interview post their acquisition by Microsoft, Nokia CEO stated "We didn't do anything wrong, but somehow we lost."
In retrospect, the world was changing and they chose to wait.  Kodak, among others, is a great example.  The death of 35mm film business did not catch them by surprise, but complacency and an unwillingness to embrace change led to the firm's rapid decline.

As a long-term veteran of the markets, I can also attest that whenever you are FORCED to take action, forced either to buy or sell, the price will never be as good for you as when you can choose your timing.  This applies not just to stocks and other financial instruments, but to cars, homes and any other assets as well.

In Martial Arts, not unexpectedly, it is the same.  Success can be summarized by denying choice of action to your opponent and keeping it for yourself.

Change is the only constant.