Friday, November 28, 2008

3 X 3 X 3

No, I am not hitting you with high school math stuff...(math and martial arts already discussed in previous post anyway)

Guro Fred started digging into what this current cycle is all about. As intermediate students, we are supposed to know the basics reasonably well, and start developing our flow and application of them. He mentioned the 3 X 3 X 3.

In Filipino Martial Arts, there are three distances. Largo, medio, and corto - long, medium, close. These distances determine the wide range of available responses, and controlling the distance, which to Filipinos means going toward corto in almost every case, destroying anything that comes to you as you get in. A broad definition of these distances by available weapon is:
  • largo - sikaran kicks, kampilan, tip of baston
  • medio - full baston, punches, panantukan kicks, daga/kris at extension, long arm throws
  • corto - punyo, elbows/knees/headbutts, daga/kris, sweeps, dumog
Silat, Wing Chun, and many other styles talk about a different three. Three height lines: high line, medium line, and low line. These lines can be defined as follows:
  • high line: above opponent's arms and targeting head or throat
  • mid-line: tip of the breastbone down to the knees
  • low-line: below opponent's arms and targeting ankles and feet
The final 3 refers to the fact that there are inside, outside and split entry solutions.

Like a chessboard, there are nearly an infinite set of solutions using the above definitions.
As we train and find our flow, we should spend time explore and expressing each of the permutations to become comfortable, especially moving between inside/outside/split, the 3 lines, and the 3 distances. Mixing it up, your training will never be boring, and you will be giving yourself the benefit of being able to flow in every situation.



"There is no such thing as a half-drawn sword" - Samurai Maxim

We have talked before about training - and we know the results are based on the input. This means GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT.

However, it is much more than that. When we bear in mind that the dojo is our laboratory for the real world, we discover that it is a training ground for practicing the skills that will bring us success outside the dojo as well as inside the dojo. In the real world too, GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT. This includes our diet, our relationships at home and at work, and our other hobbies. Excellence begets excellence. An unwavering commitment to excellence is the most important habit any of us can learn. Learning that habit starts in the dojo.

I come to the lesson ready to work hard. I am there on time. Most importantly, I am not "half" into my training. I give 100%, with all the passion and energy I have. I want to leave the dojo physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually exhausted. Then I recharge for next time. This not only gives my training partners the benefit of my full concentration and focus, it give ME the benefit of training those "intangible muscles" like concentration, focus, awareness, commitment, and that killer instict for fighting that can make all the difference between surviving and dying.

Once I train myself to give 100% inside the dojo, I can learn to give 100% outside the dojo. That means being able to apply the same skills of concentration, focus, awareness, commitment and yes, in a business sense, that killer instinct, in my professional and personal life. You can, too. In this sense, I don't mean "dying" as in "you will be killed if you don't give 100% in your personal and professional life". In fact, what I mean is far, far worse. Without passion and energy for life, we simply sleepwalk through it, half-awake, and our minds, our hearts, and our souls slowly wither away. Look around you and you will know what I mean. Armies of zombies on the subway; in the shopping mall; at the office. Lifeless faces reflecting lifeless existences.

"I see dead people...everywhere...they don't know they're dead..."

But living an "awakened life" is not a reward given to fence-sitters. The half-drawn sword is the one that gets you killed. Only by letting go of your fear and going all in can you break through to the other side. As for me, I am "ALL IN, ALL THE TIME" because I know this is the only real way to get the results I want.

Think about what you want.
Think about how you are going to get it.
Are you IN or OUT? There is no halfway.

See you at the table...oh, the big stack of chips in the middle? Those are MINE.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Integration Week

Whew! Test passed for both George (Phase 1) and I (Phase 3 - intermediate).
Very tired after that but satisfied with the result.

After each cycle, we have a week off of training at Ni Tien for "integration week". What is that all about?

Integration week is a one-week break during which we can:

  • rest and recover any micro-injuries we have had during the cycle
  • have time to think about the cycle and review what happened/what we learned
  • goalset for the upcoming cycle and clarify objectives/improvements
  • do a bit of background reading/research on martial arts
  • watch videos of martial arts on Youtube! or get DVDs
Physically, I think it is good to get the break and let the body heal.
However, "idle hands are the devil's playthings"...
Here are some things I suggest to keep busy during integration week:

Cardio - while I am against any weights during integration week, the heart is a muscle you can always work out...try to keep it low intensity, though
Yoga/stretching - always worthwhile, and a good way to remove lactic acid from the cycle and not get stiff
Fasting - a fast can help clean out your body and focus you for the next cycle. Do with care.
Tai chi Style - step through the movements (kabka, sinawali, angles 1-5, shadowboxing). All movements should be done AS SLOWLY AS POSSIBLE. Just for cementing muscle memory. This one is great done blindfolded or with eyes closed. GO SLOW.
Asymmetric exercizes - always worth doing. do them slow and workout your brain, not your body
Swim - great low-impact workout. Keep it slow and steady
DRINK WATER - that never stops. Make sure you are getting your 3 liters a day in.

There you go. Don't get bored, there is plenty to do even during integration week.
See you at Ni Tien from 17 Nov.

Friday, November 07, 2008

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

This picture needs very little explanation. It's my 7 year old son George and I doing Kali together. When I look at this I think of my responsibility as a father to help provide experiences for my children that will bring us closer together, and that will help prepare them for the challenges that life brings.

George, I am so proud of you.

Train hard and have fun, son.

(thanks for the picture Guro Fred and Guro Lila)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Making the Grade

On Saturday, 14 November, I test for Phase 3 in Kali Majapahit.
If successful, I will move up to intermediate classes from late November.

At this level, what are my expectations? (Guro Fred may have very different views)

Be comfortable in the boxing stance/guard.
Have hip square to target at all times.
Be able to deliver solid, balanced basic punches (jab, cross, hook) while moving.

Be able to affect basic inside/outside/split entry solutions for jab/cross combos.
Deliver follow ups all the way to finish with at least 3 final shots to the opponent on the ground.
Know a few of the most common takedowns.
Be familiar with guntings and how to apply them to jab/cross/hook.
Begin to develop "flow" by having smooth, constant motion.

Double Baston/Single Baston
Be comfortable in Kabka 1-4.
Be comfortable in Sinawali 2-6.
Block basic angles 1-6 with solo baston using both hands.
Know snake disarm.
Have some concept of fighting distance (far, medium, close).

Be comfortable in the basic knife guard with protection for organs/arteries.
Be able to evade or block/parry all basic angles 1-6.
Be able to deliver clockwise disarm to angles 1 and 2.
Know normal and icepick grips.

Health and Body
Have some knowledge of human anatomy (major target areas).
Understand how joints work (elbows, knees, shoulders).
Understand the basics of breathing and posture.
Be aware of the importance of drinking water every day.
Understand the importance of walking properly and being aware of your feet.
Know the difference between acid and alkaline foods.
Begin asymmetric exercises to develop brain hemisphere independence.

Not bad for 6 months of is a lot to know and remember, but I think getting these right is the key to building a strong Kali foundation. I suspect that the intermediate level will have a lot to do with the application of the above skills.

I can hardly wait!


Well, here it is. I am 42 years old today. How do I feel?

Actually, pretty good. A lot has happened since the last time I had a birthday.

Moved to Singapore

That was a big one. I first arrived in Japan in December 1990 and, except for 8 months in 1992, lived in Japan until December 2007 - nearly 17 years. In Japan, all of my dreams came true, and until 2007 I fully expected to work my entire professional career there. I got married there, started a family there, made lifelong friends there; Everything I could have wished for and beyond. Japan truly exceeded my wildest expectations for how my life could become. I am truly grateful.

Am I sad about the move? No way. We all have to continue to challenge ourselves, and this was a great time to come here. It has been good for my family, and it has been good for me. I hope I can stay in Singapore at least 5 more years.

A part of me will always be in Japan, and a part of Japan will always be in me.

Started Kali Majapahit
I believe good luck (or just the unintended good benefits of good choices) happens when we do the right things. Finding Ni Tien soon after I arrived in Singapore was a great stroke of luck. I have always been fascinated by Filipino Martial Arts, and now I have a chance to train with some of the best in the world. Guro Fred is simply amazing; and his approach to delivering FMA is comprehensive and well-planned. I want to train here as much as possible for as long as I can.
Kali Majapahit is going to become the cornerstone of my life as a martial arts instructor. I test for Phase 3 (and move to Intermediate Level) on Saturday 8 November.

Achieved Shodan (first degree black belt) in Yoshinkan Aikido
After nearly 4 years of waking up at 4 AM to go to Yoshinkan aikido 5:45 AM class at RYA Dojo, I ended up testing for my shodan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August - at 41 years old. Loving Kali does not mean I love Yoshinkan any less - they are very different aspects of my personality. Being graded by Shihan Joe Thambu, the first non-Japanese to be recognized as shihan (master teacher) in Yoshinkan, was a rare honor. Having Sensei Ramlan Ahmed, my current master, grade me was a blessing. Having Sensei Farid Ambiah, my kindred spirit and inspiration, as my uke was an extra bonus. That was a great weekend. It has been about 20 years since I took a black belt test, and I am proud to have had the focus to pass. I hope I did not disappoint Sensei Michael Steumpel and Sensei Roland Thompson from RYA, and in my heart I will be "5:45 Forever".

Yoshinkan Aikido will be an important part of my curriculum as a martial arts instructor.

Decided to get my master's degree in Finance
I have not been a student for 16 years (graduate of North Central College in 1992). Can I do it again? A master's of science in finance is a tough and very focused degree, the only one of its kind offered in Singapore. I am hoping this will take my skills to the next level. After having worked in the high tech industry focusing on technology licensing, software project management, and system integration for the early part of my career, I became a broker in 2000 by joining CAI in Tokyo. Now, after a brief stint at Lehman Brothers, I am at JP Morgan, one of the biggest and best banks on Earth.

I decided I LOVE capital markets, and I want to be in this business for the rest of my career. A year from now I doubt I will be doing the same job I do now (let's hope not!) and may not even be in the same firm anymore (let's hope not!), but I will be somewhere - serving clients and trying to do this business the best I can. My degree officially starts on Friday, 14 November.

I am glad with the way things have gone for the past year. I have momentum and velocity in my life again - achieving things, and it feels great. I am stronger and happier than last year. I am excited about what my 42nd year on Earth will bring.

In the end, that's all that matters, right?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Math and Martial Arts

Tonight is "Math Night" at my son's first grade class.
Despite various posts I have made on the relationship of science to martial arts, few of us realize how close math and martial arts really are.

See if you agree:

The Right Teacher Makes all The Difference
I didn't have very good math teachers in school. I went to public school, and most of them just wrote things on the board and gave us homework. Then in college I met professor Andre for business calculus. He made math RELEVANT. The problems he gave us were real-world problems - you wanted to solve them. From then on I have loved math. Thanks Professor Andre. In martial arts, especially for children, the right teacher makes the difference between fun and boring - between a lifetime of learning and casual disinterest.

Developing Confidence
A good teacher, in math or martial arts, develops confidence in the students and takes them forward at a pace they can handle. There is some pressure from time to time, but the chance of failure should never really exist for students in either. Challenges are presented in order to build confidence and self-esteem. Most people, myself included, believed we were poor at math simply because we lacked confidence - not because we are stupid.

Good drills in math gradually help us develop instinctive understandings about how the numerical world works, just as good drills in martial arts help us to achieve mind/body control.
Both skills develop sound, powerful thinking power.

It is criminal to deny a student the chance to reach their potential in either by failing to help them develop their confidence.

Focus on Fundamentals
I love math becuase, like martial arts, it is built on fundamental rules.
We work the fundamentals a lot in both. They give us the tools to go forward and solve even complex problems by combining fundamentals.

In martial arts, our basic stances and movements become the foundation sones for more complicated and intricate techniques we learn later on.

Weak fundamentals - weak techniques. That applies to both.

Repetition and Drills
Repetition and drills are at the heart of practice - especially if we want to commit things to memory (physical or mental). This does not have to be boring, however. In martial arts and math, good teachers combine and invent new drills all the time to keep student interest and help make the student responses intuitive. All students love a fun challenge, and this can be done effectively by teachers of either.

Logic and Creativity
As we progress in martial arts, we develop both our logic and our creativity. We learn to attack the nearest effective "logical" target on our opponent, and to position our bodies in the most advantageous "logical" location relative to our opponent.

We develop creativity in our martial arts when we truly understand concepts, and learn to apply their logic in unique ways. Ni Tien calls this "flow" (

In math, the most elegant and beautiful solutions to problems come when we understand the rules and apply them in a unique way to find the answer. As in martial arts, there are often many ways to solve problems.

Broad Applicability
I have said before that I use my martial arts training every single day. It's true. What I learn is valuable far beyond the dojo. The points above have developed my educational concept throughout my life, and allowed me to find new perspectives that have kept me interested and passionate about life.

Math is the cornerstone of many other bodies of learning, including medicine, chemistry, physics, engineering, architecture, and business. Skill and confidence here can lead to a lot of options later on.

Martial arts training has been part of my life since I was 14, and been largely responsible for the diverse successes I have had in my life.

Lifetime Learning
I have been involved with martial arts for 27 years so far. I never cease to be amazed at new discoveries I uncover every day. math is also like that. Mathematican friends of mine continually find new ways to apply what they know, new problems to solve, and new puzzles to challenge them. Both fields of study are infinite, and worthy of lifelong dedication.

Don't be afraid to pick up a book and discover how smart you really are.
You may surprise yourself and awaken the "sleeping genius" within you.