Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Aid Training

Courtesy of Kali Majapahit, today I spent 4 hours doing a First Aid/CPR certification conducted for free by the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

The training was done by their paramedic specialists and covered basic first aid, CPR, and emergency procedures. We studied different types of injuries including cuts, bruises, fractures, burns, and abrasions. We practiced dressings and learned how to prepare a first aid kit.

This may seem like very simple stuff, but as the trainers correctly pointed out, a big difference can be made in the few precious minutes before an ambulance arrives. Many times it can be the difference between life and death. In the case of a stroke or heart attack, permanent disability can occur after 6 minutes without oxygen. It is important to have basic skills and confidence to act in the event of an emergency.

I am a big believer that our modern school curriculum emphasizes rote memory at the expense of actual learning, repetition over application, and often misses some of the key bodies of knowledge people need to be effective and successful members of society. One of these is a basic understanding of wealth and how money works. The other is basic first aid.

I think every student from primary through high school should have a half day seminar each year in basic first aid. The curriculum should be adjusted for each year and cover basics for how to deal with common situations including diet and nutrition, first aid, CPR, and stress management. This would greatly add to the quality of life for students and increase the likelihood that someone in an emergency would be able to get important first aid while professional medical care is called to the scene.

If you have not done so, please seek out free training at a community center near you.
The life you save could be the life of someone you love.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


When you are a scant 5'7" like me, fighting bigger guys sucks. They have longer reach which can be really frustrating. Here are some tips to cut them down to size:

Control the Center Line - The shortest distance between two points is a line, and this helps when you are facing an opponent with a longer reach.

Get Inside - everything you do should be about trying to get inside, where the length of arms and legs becomes a disadvantage. If you stay outside, you are dead.

Slip - Slipping punches and kicks is a great way to close distance.

Take Out the Knees- Take out knees and legs with low kicks.

Go to the Ground - Bigger guys usually have a disadvantage on the floor.

Guntings - When you are at distance, it is important to use guntings to attack the attacker's attack.

As the old saying goes, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall"


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leaving On A Jet Plane

That's it. They are gone.
It's been a long week, gradually building up to the fatc that my family would be flying back to Japan today.

Now I am on my own until my master's degree is over - nearly two months. I leave on 11 October. I haven't been alone for this long for nearly 10 years...completely at a loss now for how to feel. All of us crying at the airport this morning was the most heartbreaking moment I can remember.

Ray cried, but at 3 years old he does not fully understand what it means to be apart so long.
He mainly cried because George, his older brother, cried. He wasn't sure exactly what was going on or what to do, but since George cried, he cried.

George cried a lot, and has been crying off and on all week.
He is worried about missing his best friend, worried about missing me, worried about starting his new school next week. It will be hard on him, but he will be fine, and we all need to go through these things in order to learn and grow - to be a bit more independent. The time will come when he will be glad to be away from me, but that is not now; not at 7 years old.

Sanae knows very well what it means to be away for so long.
Lately things have been going pretty well for us, and she has been happy. That has meant I get to be happy too. I wish I was going, too.

All that time alone should be good, right?
Plenty of time to think about things and all that.
No distractions.

I am sure I will have time to do things like read and watch DVDs I haven't been able to.
I am sure I will (eventually) be able to sleep more.

My plans are to train as hard as possible. Every spare moment on the mats.
Change my eating habits. Change my sleeping habits. Change my life.

I expect to go back to Japan in October looking very different.
Fitter, stronger, happier, more focused. Ready to hit the ground running.

I want to have a better life back in Japan.

See you there. Yoroshiku.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Princess Syndrome

She's back. However, nothing really seems to have changed.
Same vaguely desperate, puzzled expression... I suppose she wonders why things "just don't go her way" or why she is "so unlucky". Years will go by while she waits for something to happen...maybe she will end up getting married and giving up her independence just to be sure someone provides for sad.

She is very pretty, and she knows it.
She is well educated, and she knows it.
The world should be laid at her feet...and...sadly, she knows it.
She's a barbie girl in a barbie world, as the song says.

In psychology circles it is referred to as "learned helplessness", a condition where a person becomes conditioned to do nothing since they expect everything to be done FOR THEM. Maybe it is because they are beautiful. Maybe it is because they know it.

Nothing is more infuriating to me than the belief some people have that the world somehow owes them something. This goes hand in hand with the learned helplessness that society impresses upon women to make them believe they cannot do and be at least the equal of their male counterparts, if not far beyond them. This extends to many of the middle eastern countries that still treat women as "possessions" to be bought and sold, and African societies that still believe they need to mutilate women to deny them the pleasure of a healthy and active sexual identity.
This is the crime of cowardly, weak men who are intimidated by the idea of a strong, capable woman.

I am not a feminist per se - I want everyone, man or woman, to be free to achieve their potential, and I reject any prejudice that would prevent that.

There is no one else to blame for failing to achieve your dreams. No one can make you happy but YOU. Waiting for someone to make you happy will only bring false hope and a lifetime of loneliness.

Each one of us controls his/her own destiny, and writes the book of our lives word by word, line by line - moment by moment. It is the worst of lies to believe otherwise. It is the worst of sins to attempt to persuade someone otherwise.

Martial arts is a great way for women to become empowered. I have seen the training transform women who were timid and shy, lacking self confidence or willpower to go and make their dreams come true. They emerge radiant. Aagain and again I have seen this magic, and it never fails to amaze me.

To me, nothing is more attractive than the idea of a warrior princess - proud and strong.
Maybe she needs to take this opportunity to get into the dojo and train. Soon she will see that she can be the one to get what she wants - there is no need to wait and hope someone will simply give it to her.

Very few "princesses" truly deserve rescuing. Far better for them to rescue themselves.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Red Card!

I was reading a friend's blog and found out about a training injury. Damn.

As you know, my primary consideration for training is SAFETY.
Over my life in the martial arts, I have suffered my share of training injuries, but I am happy to say that I have not caused serious harm to any training partner. Yes, we sometimes inadvertently get a bruise or a scrape - I have gotten and given those. However, I have not injured a partner such that they could not train or were otherwise debilitated.

For me this is a point of pride. As a teacher, it is an ABSOLUTE.
There is no excuse for injuring students. EVER. PERIOD.

At the best, this is a result of a lack of control or poor technique on the teacher's part.
At the worst, this is a manifestation of ego, and displays a flawed character.

I know the counter argument very well.
We are not doing new age ballet tai chi warm fuzzy encounter group hug pyschotherapy.
This is martial arts.
To get the full benefit, we need to train hard. To feel healthy and happy, we need to sweat hard. To discover ourselves, we need to push our limits. To be confident in a real fight, we have to come as close to it in training as we can. This is how we control and master stress and fear. This is how we break through to the other side.

However, this must be done with safety as a primary consideration.
There can be no other way. Fear and guilt have no place in our dojo, except as enemies to be challenged and defeated.

I have made references to martial arts training as a spiritual journey, and likened it even to a religion of its own, with vestments, ceremonies, and heirarchies sometimes very similar to what most of us know from organized mainstream religions. Sadly, this can also include the very same pitfalls that organized religions suffer from: namely, control using fear/guilt, exploitation of the sprititually weak/codependent and blatant commercialism.

In my analogy, teachers injuring students is akin to priests fondling children.
It may happen with alarming frequency. It is most likely under-reported or never reported.
It can have permanent negative consequences for everyone.
It is also completely unjustifiable and unacceptable.

The net result of these kinds of incidents is that students feel fear and apprehension, which instead they should be learning to overcome. Their confidence is weakened. Their trust is broken. They lose faith in the objective of the training. Some of them will stop training or leave martial arts altogether. Some will never come back. Even more horrible is the thought that they will STAY. Like a victim of domestic violence too afraid or weak to leave their abusive partner, the students start to believe that martial arts is about negativity, oppression, and violence, and end up teaching it the same way themselves one day - perpetuating a neverending cycle of misery and ignorance. Nothing could be worse than this.

Many times I meet people who, despite being raised Christian, are now self-professed athiests.
In nearly every case, it was some negative experience they had that turned them away from the church. Their trust was broken. Their faith was shaken. They never came back.

I hope this does not happen. We need good teachers to help build good students. We need teachers who can help us have faith and trust in martial arts as a way of transforming ourselves and growing to become the people we want to be. We need to have some spiritual foundation that we can believe in so that we can explore The Way freely and overcome our limitations.

Absolute Power Absolutely Corrupts.

How Disappointing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tight is Right

I wanted to write a bit more as a follow up to the previous post on precision.
It should almost go without saying that being precise in Kali is about keeping tight.
Lately we have been working Ubud, a flowing drill done with hands and sticks.
It is a drill done to develop responsiveness and perpheral-vision response in very short distance (Corto). Sometimes I see students waving their arms like a windmill, or swinging their sticks like they were trying to help an aircraft land on deck. It goes without saying that this is not the desired result.

Not just in corto, but at all times, it is important to keep hands and sticks tight, rather than swing them all around in big, wide circles. Less is more. At any time, we need to be able to recover the center line, recover balance, and remain in contact with the opponent. This is not efficiently done if the arms swing wide.

Try not only to be precise but to keep the motions short and sharp, tight to the body.
This will help you look better and fight better.

Tight is Right.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

precision, precision, precision

Guro was on us again yesterday about precision.
As usual, he is absolutely right.

All too often we become preoccupied with going fast or hard during the drills, and we miss one of the most important points of all - precision. Without precision, we look bad and we fight bad. A degree of angle off and we get hit. A degree of angle off, and we miss the target.

Good martial arts is all about precision.
That means that a core element of the training should be attention to detail, and developing precision around footwork, body location, spatial relationship to the opponent, weight shift, breathing.

Kali Majaphit is unique in that we learn precision from so many different points of view.
We study knife, baston, dumog, panantukan, sikaran, kadena. In each of these, precision is critical for the techniques to succeed and for our guard to remain strong. There is little value (other than cardio) in going fast at the expense of precision.

Slow it down. make it exact. You will look better, fight better, and end up understanding far more benefit than you would otherwise.

Off to train. more later.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

aikido is for everyone, but not everyone is for aikido

I saw this expression a long time ago.
At the time, since I was studying aikido, it was cool.
It was elitist to think of us as a group of dedicated students that other people couldn't fully understand, and couldn't be a part of. We were different. We were the chosen few.
aikido is for everyone, but everyone is not for aikido. Some just don't have what it takes.
But we did. That's what we thought, anyway.

I was thinking about that expression again today. It made me sad.
If everyone is not for aikido, what can they be for? Do they get ignored? cast aside? forgotten?

Regardless of level, or skill, or ability, or intellect.
Especially for those whom we might think martial arts cannot help.
For the weak, the timid, the shy, the infirm. For the people who lack focus, who lack commitment. For people who just can never seem to do anything right. For people who cannot tell right from left. For the losers.
That's right. FOR THE LOSERS.

So many times in my life, my martial arts was all I had to depend on.
One more punch or kick. One more pushup or situp. One more class.
When nothing else in my life was going right, martial arts was.
When nothing else in my life made sense, martial arts did.
I focused on just what was in front of me and tried to get through the class.
Afterward, I always felt better. Inch by sometimes painful inch, my life improved.
It has been improving ever since I started.

I never was to have a martial arts world which excludes anyone from the HOPE that the training can give them. The hope that they can improve and grow and change. We all can. That little thread of hope was all I had to hang onto sometimes.

Bring the losers - they will become winners in martial arts.


Give The Gift

Someone new starting a new life.
They asked. I explained. They saw. They liked.
Soon they will embark on their voyage in the martial arts.
It is a sacred journey that can truly take you anywhere you want to go.

My own journey in the martial arts started nearly 30 years ago.
I had my first day on the mats like everybody does. Since then my life has changed so much. I cannot begin to count all the great things martial arts training has given me. Where would I even start??

For those of you, my brothers and sisters, you know just what I mean.
Martial arts has changed you. It has made you better. I don't just mean stronger, faster, more flexible. I mean it has given you courage and confidence, helped you overcome your shyness or lack of focus, helped you find out who you really are. It has empowered you to change your life.

This gift is the greatest gift we can give - the gift of life. The gift of change.
It is the gift we give when we introduce someone new into a life in martial arts.
We show them a doorway to a path that they can walk forever, and that will never stop giving them and the people around them a richer, fuller time on Earth.


It costs you nothing to tell friends, coworkers, family members, classmates, boyfriend/girlfriend.

Tell them, better still, SHOW THEM the difference martial arts training has made in your life.
They will want it, too.

Together we can change the world one new student at a time.


We hear rhythms every day. All around us. There are big rhythms (seasons, lunar cycles), small rhythms (clocks, wingbeats), internal (heartbeats) and external (raindrops, ocean waves) rhythms. Rhythms that are natural and rhythms we create. Fighting has a rhythm as well.

When you watch fighting/boxing on high speed you can see a "flow" between punches, kicks, blocks, counters. There's the rhythm.

When we train, we should learn about our rhythms. Doing kabka and sinawali, doing ubud and panantukan, we should get a feeling of the rhythm of movement between ourselves and our training "opponent". It is important to become able to quickly identify an opponent's rhythm so that it can be used to advantage. At the same time, it is important to learn to move "off rhythm" or "off timing" so that opponents cannot anticipate our actions.

In training, I suggest to start by listening to music all the time. All kinds of music. Listen specifically for bass beats and drum beats, which are the leading tracks of songs, until you can quickly and easily separate them from the rest of the music and focus your attention on them.
Tap your feet to the drum beat and bass beat to match it. Play. See if you can find the "rhythm inside the rhythm" where you can add a beat in between beats occuring in the bass and drum tracks.

Next begin to work your flow to different kinds of music. Although you may have music you like best, try to use as many different types as you can. Work double stick, single stick, espada y daga, boxing. Feel the timing for moving and hitting. Next, try to get inside the beat and add moves in between notes. Use half beats and quarters to add hits to the movements.

When you have gotten comfortable, get a partner. Take turns doing slow and medium level sparring to music (think of Muay Thai, which has music during the matches). Try to use what you have learned to match your partner's rhythm and then get inside it and control it. Have each partner take turns and be careful to avoid injury.

You will become better aware of how rhythms connect movement, and how to get in between these moments to "create time" for your techniques. This will make you a better fighter and help you explore another important aspect of yourself and your world.