Sunday, December 11, 2011


Let's talk about ratios - rational ratios.

This is that holiday time of year.  A time when most people forego any kind of sensible habits in favor of enjoying the holidays to their fullest.  December into January (in fact 4Q overall is pretty dangerous health-wise) is filled with year-end and New Year's eve parties.  On top of that it is a bit chilly for getting outside and exercizing.  Many people start the New Year with a few extra pounds to shed, and a fair amount of detox required to get back to the already poor health they were in after Thanksgiving's gorge-fest.

I strongly recommend people try to follow a ration of 95:5 for their diet where 95% of the time they eat meals which are whole-foods plant based.  The other 5% of the time eating anything they like.  Of course, 100:0 is the best ratio and a great target to have, but unrealistic for most of us.  This would mean that for 21 meals a week, only 1 of them would (should) contain processed foods or animal products in it.  This is an optimal balance that will yield the best possible health benefits.

There is a famous study done by a nutritionist who lost a lot of weight eating only twinkies.  Yes, twinkies.  Before I get a lot of fools sending me mails on this, read the article.  He is a professor who did the test on himself to research calorie counting (which works).  HE DOES NOT recommend it to anyone, and neither do I.  People lose weight through meth addiction as well, and I don't suggest that as a successful strategy either.

Even without being mathematical about it, simply trying your best to make every meal healthy whenever possible makes a big difference.  I often see people show a lot of restraint when out to dinner with family, friends, co-workers/clients.  They make a big deal out of saying "Oh, I am trying to lose weight/eat healthy".  In fact, rather than cause discomfort at the table, it would be far better for that person to be very healthy every meal they eat alone or at home.  Then, when they go out, they need not stress about eating what they want or what others are having.

Since most of us eat breakfast at home (or should, anyway) , this is a great place to start.  Give up bacon/sausage/eggs/milk/coffee.  Instead try for 3 months to eat only whole, plant-based foods --- fruits and naturally sweetened fruit juices.  If you like yogurt, go Greek/plain unsweetened and top with fruit or fruit puree if desired.  For hot breakfasts, try oatmeal with fruit on top.  Drink unsweetened Chinese tea/Japanese green tea or water instead of coffee or sweetened drinks.  In three months I promise you a huge difference right there.

The next meal to go after is lunch.  I typically prepare a nice big salad and take it into work.  If it seems not enough, bring a bigger one.  For undressed salads, you can eat as much as you want.  Choose low calorie dressings and be minimal so you can enjoy the lovely taste of your veggies.  I am also a big fan of veggi dips such as hummus, and often pack those with whole grain flatbreads for dipping.  The classic Japanese combo of rice, miso soup, pickles/kimchi, tofu always does me right and offers a lot of variety especially if I have a small salad with it.

Try to eat such kinds of healthy lunches whenever you are not obliged to go out with co-workers or clients.  After you have conquered breakfast (give yourself 3 months to get the habits set) start working on lunch by picking one day a week (such as Monday) and making that "salad day".  After a week or two to adjust, add another day.  The another.
In 3 months you should have your routine set to healthy whole foods, plant-based breakfasts and lunches every day.  This is already 2/3 or your meal intake and a fantastic adjustment to better health.  The last step is preparing quick, healthy dinners at home anytime you are not obliged to eat out.

By following the above, you can get to the proper guideline ratio and greatly improve your health.  Not doing so increases your exposure you to the modern killers of our time:  heart disease, cancer, diabetes.  All of these are directly linked; scientifically linked, to consumption of animal products and processed foods.

One of the most important goals is to get to a ratio that lets you avoid feeling guilt over anything you eat or drink.  If 95% of the time you are eating whole foods, plant based meals, the other 5% will not do you any noticeable harm.  The counter argument is also true.  If 95% of the time you eat highly processed animal products, the 5% of the time you decide to have a Caesar salad will not save you from modern society's lethal diseases or give you greater longevity.

Choose Life.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Low Down

Today our training group starts the new cycle.  In cycle 2, we will be working on Sikaran, kicking, specifically the low kick.

This is one of my favorite techniques.  Done correctly, it combines devastating power with fast deployment and is very difficult to block when thrown full power.  On the street, this can be all it takes to end the fight, and can succeed even when thrown into the thigh rather than destroying the knee joint (which can cause permanent damage).
The low kick can be done with either leg.

Tactically, the low kick is very useful for helping to drop the opponent's guard and opening up the higher lines by drawing the attention to these painful kicks.  Not much hip flexibility is required, and the large muscles of the legs can do a lot more damage than punching.

The keys to executing the low kicks well are:

correct distance --- achieved by use of the set-up step to adjust range
correct power --- achieved by proper base leg placement and hip rotation
correct counterbalance --- achieved by using the hands to keep balance during rotation
correct focus --- following the kick through the target past the opponent's leg
correct angle --- striking perpendicular to the target rather than angled

This kick can be delivered to the inside or outside of the opponent's legs, and when usinbg the full step can even be used to attack the opponent's rear or base leg, which is particularly effective (called "cut kicking").  The principal targets for this attack are the knee, the thigh, and the sciatic nerve found on the outside seam of the pant leg.

I especially like attacks to the sciatic nerve since a strong direct hit can result in knockout, which is high effectiveness for a leg attack.  Even a proximity hit to the sciatic line can cause numbness and loss of sensation in the limb, which can be enough to finish the fight.  a quick look on youtube will reveal examples of how effective these can be.

Rather than being a headhunter, which looks cool in movies but is risky on the street, low line kicks offer a great weapon for men or women, can be learned relatively quickly, and have devastating effect when used correctly.  Their usefulness should not be ignored.

See you in class.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pugs and the Art of Visualization

This is a pug.
We have one, too, named Butch.

The other night Butch was laying on top of my chest sleeping and dreaming about a big, delicious bone, or whatever pugs dream about.  He felt heavy.

An adult pug weighs between 8 and 10 kg.  Butch weighs about 8.7kg as of his last visit to the vet.  That's when it struck me --- the amount of weight I lost after losing my job is only slightly more than this adult pug on my lap.
I used to walk around with an extra 8.7 kg (more, actually) of meat on me!  Suddenly I felt shocked.  It was a concrete way of visualizing what I had lost through diet, exercize, and stress management.  An adult pug.  MY pug.  I felt very good about my results so far, and motivated to keep going until I hit my desired weight (about another half-pug to go!)

Numbers on their own mean very little - it is when we give them context that they start to become important information.  How much weight would you like to lose to be at your ideal body size and shape?  Can you find a proxy in the physical world to refer to? (hopefully not an adult Indian elephant or polar bear!)  This kind of exercize can really help you set your goals and realize what those numbers actually mean.  It is important not to use this exercize to become discouraged or depressed.  Rather, it puts a realism to how hard it is to go through our daily routine when we are overweight, even by 5kg or so.

Proper visualization is an essential part of success.  What do YOU use?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blank Canvas

Blank canvas can be awfully hard to fill.

Friday I tested our group on what they have learned in this cycle.  We filmed their work on sinawali 2-6 with double sticks, sinawali 2-6 entry and application in kadena de mano, and sinawali 2-6 applications in panantukan.

Overall the test was good, and I can see strong foundations in their basics for all three areas.

For kadena de mano, I had them begin with each entry 2-6 and then find their own solutions and follow ups to create several examples of flow.  This proved a bit more challenging than just repeating the techniques they learned from rote memory. 
Now, given a blank canvas, you must CREATE.

This is at once the most difficult yet most important aspect of FMA in general, and of Kali Majapahit in particular.  I have referenced this point in numerous other posts, but I feel I have to again go back again to how central this is to the process of learning Filipino Martial Arts the way we teach it.

This is the reason Kali Majapahit has empassioned me since the first day I saw it.
This is the reason I will do FMA for the rest of my life.

To really do FMA, we must express ourselves fully in the moment through our techniques.  It has to do with everything from which specific blocks/hits/locks/takedowns we use, to where we position our bodies, to even our mental attitude and focus.  We express it all, unified in each moment.  It is and must be the feeling of being truly alive and alert with every sense of our being.

Not only is this hardly taught at all in any other systems, and when it is taught it is usually for 5th dan black belts and above, it is the essence of everything we want to achieve as FMA practitioners.  It is so important that students start learning it even in the basic curriculum. Without it, we are just going through the motions and following the katas.  Without expression and flow, FMA becomes hollow, shallow, empty.

We grow, we learn, we change.  Our flow must grow, learn, change over time.  We become different people as we evolve and our expression must also change, grow, adapt, mature --- evolve.  This process is so beautiful that to ignore it is to lose all sense of the spiritual nature of our practice.  Sadly, without this we are just doing glorified aerobics.  Without this, we fail to reire our brains and to use the arts as a way of evolving ourselves as people.  This is the self-actualization, the peak of A.H. Maslow's heirarchical pyramid of human needs. 

At the same time, this is the most difficult part of the training.  We need to learn to let go of the intellectual understanding of our techniques, since we cannot intellectualize fast enough to respond fully in the moment.  We have to become empty ("mushin" in Japanese) and let our bodies FLOW and express our spirit through our motion.  We have to allow ourselves to be limitless --- beyond inside, outside, high line, low line, center line, palusot, punch, kick.  All of this must become automatic and instinctive.  This is why FMA training is harder than anything else.  There can be no compromise in developing your own unique flow and expression.  In a nutshell, FMA can be nothing more, but cannot be anything less.  Flow and expression.

In training, we are forced to find solutions despite any limitation placed on us.  This helps to get the expression to go beyond standard thinking and rote memory.  The more we explore, the more we find, the more we grow.  This cycle is a centerpiece of the training.

As a teacher, it is the greatest challenge not only to get students to understand how vital the ideas of Flow and Expression are in FMA, but to find the best way of guiding the students to developing their own flows and expressions.  I struggle with this and am always searching for new drills to help them break through their own barriers and limitations.

To My Students:  This is ALL ABOUT YOU.
My goal for you all is to find your own flow and your own beautiful expression in Kali Majapahit.  I want each of you to be the best martial artist you can be, fully "martial" and fully "artist", and to make the canvas of your lives your own personal masterpiece.  The dojo is where we practice it, and daily life is where we live it and reap its reward.

Let's never stop training together.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Solar Powered

We are all solar powered.  I mean it.  Our human relationship with the sun is one of the most important, and most abused, relationships in our lives.  At times we are afraid of it, and at others we overdose on it.  At the end of it all, we need the sun to be happy and healthy, and if we use it correctly it is one of the most important resources in our lives.
Unfortunately, humans do not produce energy through photosynthesis the way plants do.  However, we are designed to use sunlight in other important ways.
Proper exposure of our skin surface to sunshine (UVB) is the principal way we get Vitamin D. Vitamin D, or more specifically a lack of vitamin D, is a major contributor to several forms of cancer, as well as heart disease, osteoporosis, and a host of other ailments including depression.  Sunshine is free and thus big food companies cannot sell it to you at a profit.  It is for this reason that most people have been misled into thinking that any exposure to sunlight is harmful. Not true.

Fashion magazines promote a sallow, pale, deathly unhealthy skin tone rather than a healthy natural glow from sunshine.  The cosmetics industry wants us to spend a fortune to protect ourselves from something we actually need very badly.  Dairy Board tries to convince you that disgusting cow's milk is better than natural, free sunlight for getting vitamin D. Big Pharma tries to sell us supplements for something we can easily get faster and more efficiently FOR FREE.  Don't even get me started on tanning beds.  Yeesh.

A mere 10-15 minutes per day of sunlight exposure on our skin is enough for most of us to produce the vitamin D we need to be healthy (darker skinned people will need two or three times as much).  This also helps us develop a positive mental attitude and avoid depression.

Too much of any good thing becomes a bad thing, so if you plan on being in direct sunlight longer than an hour or so (such as going to the beach), it is worth staying in the shade or using sunscreen to avoid sunburn or sunstroke.  Sunburn is a leading factor in skin cancer, which is more common than it should be.

My personal favorite was to get out of the office whenever possible at lunchtime for a 10-15 minutes walk out to buy a bento or, when that wasn't possible, to sneak out for an afternoon stroll once the markets were closed.  This was always enough for me to refresh myself and come back energized.

Vitamin D is important, and drinking cow's milk is a foolish way to try to get it.

"here comes the sun
here comes the sun and I say
It's all right."
 - The Beatles "Abbey Road" (1969)      

Sunday, November 06, 2011


well, here I am.  45 years old today (hence the picture of a Colt .45).  It has been a helluva year, hasn't it?

This morning I had breakfast surrounded by my wife and children, and couldn't be happier.

I am much healthier than last year, and in addition to managing my diet (mostly vegetarian/vegan), swimming and running, training harder in Kali, and becoming less angry all the time I think I am finally reaching a lasting happiness in my life.

There were many down points this year, too.  My father died at 90 years old, which makes me sad, but I am also glad for him to leave this world behind and take the next step in his soul's journey.  He taught me a lot through his life, and more still through his death.
He lived pretty stress-free, even until the end.  He did what he wanted, when he wanted and was beholden to no one except at the very end. He made no apologies for who and how he was, and always kept it simple.  In dying, he chose when to let go, and kept as much dignity as any of us could hope for in such a time.  He passed knowing we loved him.  If I do as well when my time comes someday, it will be more than enough.

I still don't have a job, and it has been one year now that I am out of work.  Initially, my pride made this very painful.  Over time, it has helped me understand that I AM NOT MY JOB.  I am not my business cards, my college degrees or my career choices.  I am my family, and the returns that really matter come not from my investment in the markets, but from my investment in my marriage and in my children.  These are the dividends and value which will sustain me through every downswing in my life.  This is real wealth, and by this measure I am rich and always will be.  This year has taught me to really appreciate the balance between work and life and to pay full attention to them both.

At 45 I am still learning, and proud of the fact that my desk has a big stack of books on it, 9 of them, actually.  I have a lot to do, but this is not the stress of urgency - it is the motivation of purposefulness.  I hope I can keep learning and growing for the rest of my life.  My quest to become a better person continues, unrelenting.

What are my goals?  What do I expect to write about next year at 46?

1) LOVE MORE --- make sure those around me know how important they are to me
2) SHARE MORE --- people love each other through participation. Don't be afraid to share both good and bad.  The good makes us happy, the bad makes us stronger.
3) GIVE MORE --- give of my time, my knowledge, my experience, my spirit, my resources to those who need it.
4) NO STRESS --- we cannot change the outside, so we must change the inside.  Change the way you view the world and you change the world itself.
5) LET GO --- so much of life is about understanding what to keep and what to let go.  Keep the positive, let go the negative. Think about this in every circumstance.
6) BE HERE NOW --- enjoy every moment for what it is.  Never wish to be anywhere else except where you are at each moment.  Experience life fully.  Squeeze out every last drop.
7) BE MORE YOU --- use this journey to explore yourself.  Never want to be anyone else, but rather to become more "you" than you have ever been.  Find your good qualities and amplify them.  Take your bad qualities and change them.  Change yourself, change the world.
8) NO COMPROMISE --- never settle for anything less than the best for important things.  Let go of trivial details for everything else.  Focus 100% on what matters and waste no time on that which does not.
9) LISTEN --- open your ears, mind, heart, and soul to those around you.  Listen with your whole being and you will be successful.
10) TREASURE IT --- we each have one life, one precious life. Use it wisely. Revel in this chance to grow.  Have no regrets.

In 45 years I have made several lifetimes of mistakes already.  I regret none of them, for they brought me here; to this place, this time, this understanding.  I am very hopeful as I look forward to the upcoming year.  Please share it with me.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Something to look forward to

Isn't it nice to have something to look forward to?
Most of us look forward to the weekend, we look forward to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, seeing old friends, visiting interesting places and so on.  As much as we think we can't wait for those things to happen, we know they always seem to over too soon.

Martial Arts is the same way.  We look forward to the next technique, concept, drill, lesson.  We look forward to seeing our brothers and sisters at class.  We look forward to showing what we can do in the graduation cycles and affirming our progress at each stage.

This is a lifetime journey.  For most martial arts, especially Kali Majapahit, the depth of study cannot be understood well in under 20 years or so.  Kali Majapahit's unique curriculum allows one to learn the system fully in a lifetime, but with no time to waste.

Suppose one were in a hurry, and wanted to complete this lifetime of study in as little time as possible.  What then?  What do you do once your lifetime of study, your "life work" is over and completed?  Die? None of us wants to be in a hurry for that.

Relish in the fact that this training goes very deep, and will take your whole life to master.  There is so much that you will continue to find new paths, new horizons, new discoveries about martial arts and about yourself.  You will never run out of things to train, so no need to look elsewhere for it.  All you need is right here.

That's something good to look forward to.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Satori...or not.

One day a zen sword master was approached by a wealthy young samurai who asked to be his disciple. 
"How long will it take me to master your teachings?" he asked.  "At least 20 years" the master replied. 
"But master", the samurai continued, "I am already very learned in other styles, and my parents have had me tutored in zen beliefs since I was a small boy." "How long would it take me?".  "At least 30 years" the master replied. 
Frustrated, the samurai continued, "But I will train harder than any other student you have had, foregoing sleep and food to learn.  How long will it take me?"  "At least 40 years" the master replied.

The more we seek it, the less we find it.  In the modern world, we are conditioned to expect every one of life's problems to be neatly solved in 22 minutes (plus commercial breaks), just like it is on television.  We have fast food, fast music, fast lifestyles.  It seems children are pushed to grow up earlier, and we are all in a race to hurry up...and die.  There is less time for living; for learning; FOR BEING. 
It is truly a crisis of the soul.

It is a fatal flaw to concern onesself with the results of anything.  Just as a master archer focuses on the technique (drawing, placing the arrow, breathing, releasing) rather than the target, we should know that focusing on the results or goals blinds us to everything else along the way.  We fail to appreciate the value of the journey, which is sad since the journey is most of the trip.

In martial arts, we hope to have an enlightening moment - satori - when the proverbial light bulb goes on in our heads.  The technique we couldn't get; the footwork we didn't understand; the application we never imagined.  It becomes clear to us and we experience a spiritual high from our training.  These are magic moments, and everyone who experiences it will agree they can be life-changing.

This can be its own addiction, though.  We begin to want these enlightenments from EVERY training.  We become depressed if they don't happen.  We even count the time since the last "awakening" and despair long hours of training without that boost. 
This is a trap.

The training is the truth.  Focus on the training and enlightenment will happen naturally when it does.

The most important thing is just to KEEP TRAINING.

There is so much value in the routines of the training.  The daily stretching, the daily drills, the diet, the meditation, re-working the basics, burning in the muscle memory of every small movement.  These are the building blocks of enlightenment, and without them the awakening will not occur.  The years teach much the days never know.

Worried that you don't see the light bulb any more?  Keep training. Train harder.
Feel like you have gone as far as you can go?  Keep training. Train harder.
Hit your plateau?  Keep training. Train harder.

Trust your training.  Be patient.  It goes far deeper than you imagine.
There is ALWAYS more to learn.  There always will be.  Speed is of no consequence on THE WAY.  If you give up to early, you don't get to see what lies just ahead, just outside your current understanding.  If you give up too early, you miss it.  You don't get to know what happens to you.  Don't try to read the end of the book first.  You miss the story that way.

I have heard it explained like this:

Some days I love to train
Some days I hate to train
Everyday I have to train

Stay the course and you will be rewarded with grace.  Enlightenment will come in time. 
No rush. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stuck In the Middle


In Kali Majapahit we discuss three possible ranges for fighting:

1) Largo --- far distance.  Touching is not possible without closing distance
2) Medio --- medium distance. Touching with both weapon and alive hand is possible
3) Corto --- close distance. Punio, dumog, knees/elbows/headbutts happen here

The actual distance varies according to the weapons being used.  For us, the most important understanding here is avoiding the middle distance.

In middle distance, you can touch with full power, and also use the alive hand to check, redirect, and gunting.  Sounds great, right?  Unfortunately, at this distance we are also in the optimal distance for our opponent to do the same to us.  Staying here yields the maximum chaos and opportunity for something unexpected (read: BAD) to happen to us.  Many fighters train to keep medium distance, basically guaranteeing that they will get a barrage opf hits from their opponent.  They step backward, their opponent steps forward and they remain in medium range.  Their opponent steps backward, they chase and stay in medium range.  Better ides are to step in when opponents' step in and fight from corto, or to step back when opponent's step back and go to largo, preparing to gunting whatever approaches from largo.

One of the main objectives in a fight is to have control of the situation.  To do this, we need to minimize the chance of something unexpected happening.  That means no matter where the fight starts, we should seek to change to largo or corto distance as fast as possible.  Largo is a good first choice (assuming you can outrun your opponent) since it is not possible to be touched at this range.  An example of this is to kick the opponent's knee when he closes distance and step back into largo.  As well, using just the tip of the weapon to hit his/her hand as we step back into largo is another way to use this.

However, in many cases this is not possible.  We cannot outrun our opponent, or the environment prohibits opening such distance, such as being in a hallway, elevator, bathroom, etc.  In such cases, it is important to close distance as fast as possible to corto.  This enables us to get inside the guard and intercept at the torso (elbow/shoulder/knee/hip) rather than at the full extension of the attack.  It also allows us to control the head and spine, as well as going to work on destroying the opponent's structure by attacking the footwork through foot traps and the like.  Moreover, close range negates a taller opponent's reach, which can be useful if you are a smaller guy like me.

In Kali Majapahit, we specifically train in Inayan Serrada and other systems which are designed for close quarter combat at corto distance.  Whatever you do, the middle ground is bad.  You have to choose.  Be prepared.

Dimensions of Expression

In Kali Majapahit, we are always training to achieve self-expression.  This is the "ART" in martial arts.  We want to synthesize who we are as martial artists and human beings and express it through our movement in relationship with others.  This is of course both philosophical and practical.

Practically speaking, we explore many dimensions of movement as we discover solutions to the problems we face in combat. Not only do we express by choice of technique (Kali, Silat, Hakka, Boxing, Dumog, Trankada, etc.), we also explore, discover and express ourselves dimensionally.  Here are some examples:
  • Inside/Outside of the attacking line
  • Split Entries (simple and reverse)
  • Same Side/Opposite Side Interception
  • Above/Below the attacking line
  • On/Off Centerline
  • Largo/Medio/Corto distance
  • Gunting and Atemi Variations
  • Clockwise/Counterclockwise Palusot Variations
Chess is a great example.  There are a limited number of spaces and pieces in chess.
However, the number of possibilities is limitless.  In 1950, Claude Shannon estimated that there can be as many as 10^123 possible combinations, more than the number of observable atoms in our universe.  You get the point.

In Kali Majapahit, one of the principle goals is to change our opponent's vision of the fight.  In other words, we want to use the element of surprise to disrupt our opponent's tactics.  We do not want to be or move in any way which which an opponent can predict.  This means becoming free to express in all dimensions.

In Singapore, it was common for Guro to give us bounds/limits on our training, to force us to flow through uncomfortable dimensions until we could solve problems in them and feel confident.  He told us again and again that we should not limit our flow to just techniques we liked or felt confident in, since we could never grow or improve that way.  For example we had to stay on the low line, or switch from inside to outside every 3 moves.  This made us work our brains to find ways to flow while satisfying the conditions he set.  It was frustrating but very rewarding training.

The lifetime study of Kali Majapahit techniques and tactics is largely spent in exploring, discovering, and expressing this dimensionality.  There is no end to what we can find here.

Be Greedy


Be Greedy.  Go ahead.  You know you want to.

This is not something I would often say.  In fact, it is as far from core Buddhist teachings as you can get.  We know the Chain of Negativity: Greed leads to Attachment.  Attachment leads to fear of loss. Fear of loss leads to anger.  Anger leads to Hate.  Hate leads to suffering.

In this case, it's OK.  Really.  Let me explain.

For those of you who were at the seminar this past weekend, there were many things to see and hear.  There were also some challenges.
  • We saw a lot of concepts and applications.
  • We saw blends of traditional and modern martial arts techniques.
  • We heard about our diet and lifestyles and how to improve them.
  • We also heard a lot about our ethical responsibility to change ourselves and our world.
  • We were challenged to go a single night without alcohol, coffee, meat, sugar, dairy products, eggs, cigarettes.  No one made it except me (I had help since Guro Fred and Guro Lila were staying with me).

What will you take away from the seminar?  Techniques?  Fighting skills?  Boxing drills??

YOU CAN TAKE IT ALL.  Be greedy.  Go ahead.  It's all for you for the same low, low price.  Act now.

I am encouraging you to do more than just accept that Guro Fred is an amazing martial artist.  You saw it.  You know. 

I want you to do more than just accept that Kali Majapahit is a way of presenting Southeast Asian martial arts that is well thought-out, practical, responsible, and technically efficient.  You tried it.  You know.

Take It All.  Take Guro Fred's message that this planet needs our help.  It's dying.  We are the ones killing it.  On a spiritual level, our insistence that animals suffer to support our selfishness is causing a karmic debt that will ultimately lead to endless suffering for us before it is paid.  The more in debt we become, the more we must suffer to regain the balance.  On a practical level, eating animals causes global warming and perpetuates systematized torture and cruelty on an enormous global scale.  It supports a healthcare machine that thrives on medication and surgery rather than good health and prevention.  It promotes and rewards irresponsibility at the same time it is killing us.  It takes away our dignity and our ability to have a high quality of life (and death).

This habit is the major reason human beings cannot progress to the next state of our higher evolution.  If we do not, we are doomed to extinction.  The planet will recover from us, but we will disappear.  Our only hope is that we can learn and change.

A true master never teaches anything new.  He merely points the way to what we already know inside.  I strongly suggest thinking deeply about this.  You know the truth.  I know you do.  Do not be afraid to ask the question when you already know the answer.

Take control of your life and use Kali Majapahit for its real purpose:
--- change your life, change the world.

The answers are here.  It's a buffet.  Take as much as you want.  Feed your soul until it is satisfied. Go ahead. Bon appetit.

First Ever KM Japan Seminar


October 15 and 16 was the first time for Guro Fred and Guro Lila to do a Kali Majapahit Seminar in Japan.

Here are my take-aways from it.

The Most Important Message
Guro Fred started the seminar with the most important message.  Many would choose to ignore it or discount it, but for me, the heart of Kali Majapahit was explained in the first 10 minutes of the seminar:  Kali Majapahit is a movement for changing the world.

To change the world we must first change ourselves.  We must accept that fighting cannot bring us what we need and what the world needs.  In true Martial Arts the battle is always against the Self, and our victory is what frees us to do what is right for ourselves, our loved ones and our world.  Punching and kicking is very interesting indeed, but alone cannot bring any meaningful change without our understanding that it is merely a tool of self-discovery.  A powerful tool, but a tool no less.  It is a means to an end.

Technically Speaking
We were able to see all the various influences of KM at work throughout the seminar --- Filipino, JKD, Indonesian Silat, Hakka Kung Fu, Chinese medicine theory and even Parkour.  Within the Filipino arts we saw stickfighting, knife, panantukan and dumog.  Beyond this, though, we saw the common threads between them all.  In our concepts, every distance, level, and direction can be explored and expressed.  Many arts talk about being holistic and complete --- effective in every range and level, but few can actually show it.  This is proof positive of Kali Majapahit's efficiency and applicability.

Guro Fred also spent a lot of time expressing the difference between traditional blade arts as they are taught in Southeast Asia, and modern "ethical" arts as we need them in the structure of modern society.  Too often these effective combat arts are shown without regard to the consequences we face as martial artists when we use them.  It is important to only use appropriate force.  "Ethical" knife defense seeks to disable the attacker without causing death or permanent disability.  This is at the core of Kali Majapahit's work with law enforcement and executive protection specialists worldwide and greatly appreciated since it shares their vision and allows them to be efficient within their legal and procedural guidelines.

Expression and Flowing
In Kali Majapahit we teach through concepts and examples.  These are not rote kata for memorization, but rather principles of combat which are shown through practical technical examples.  The ultimate goal is to FLOW, expressing ourselves and our background in our solutions.  Every KM Guro uses the same concepts, but expresses them in an individual way.  This is the "ART" of martial arts. 

Problem Solving
We all want to believe that every block is perfect, every hit finds its mark, and our opponent goes down and falls exactly the way we planned it in the dojo.  At the same time we also know that real fights are chaotic and emotional - totally unpredictable.  Kali Majapahit spends a lot of time exploring the problems that can happen when things don't go as planned, and our best responses to continue to erode our opponents' structure and finish the fight.  This is rarely taught in other martial arts and open the door to real FLOW.

Wrap Up
There are lots of Filipino martial arts nowadays, but I believe that Kali Majapahit encompasses not only technical excellence, but also practicality, ethics, personal development and health.  This is truly a complete warrior way which offers a lifetime of challenge and achievement for dedicated practitioners.  This path is deep and long, and can take you as far as you want to go.

What did you think of the seminar?  What were your take aways?

Please let me know.

Guro Fred and Guro Lila and I are already planning the next one... see you there!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


BFT --- blunt force trauma.

Frank sent this link over to me yesterday...
I watched it a few times and then had a serious think about it.  I suggest you do, too.

Here's what I came away with:

  • As we have seen in class, the lower torso BFT is a serious show stopper
  • It doesn't take much to put someone down, potentially permanently
  • Condition has relatively little bearing on the damage you take from a serious shot here
  • With great power comes great responsibility (thanks David)

We go after this area in class a lot, not just with hooks to the body but also with elbows/knees/kicking/weapons and I constantly tell you about the potential implication of liver/spleen/kidney hits for ending fights or even ending lives.

These targets are NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY.  All are potentially lethal hits.
In the video clip, the author advocates breaking the ribs/disconnecting cartilage and trying to cause blunt trauma leading to Hypovolemic shock and potentially contusions/laceration to the underlying organs.

In a life or death situation, choose life.
In anything less, choose life.
This is not a game and you do not want to carry the guilt, let alone the legal/civil responsibility for permanently injuring or killing someone unless lethal force is really the only option left.

These are not rational responses to being pushed by a drunk Mongolian in a bar in Roppongi, even if he rips a belt loop off of your best suit.  Severity of force must always be appropriate to the severity of the situation.  Not more. Not less.

As martial artists we MUST hold ourselves to a higher ethical standard; a higher moral standard.  We know from our training how frail the body can be; how strong the body can be.  We know how weak the spirit can be; how strong the spirit can be.
We know better.

Especially in Kali Majapahit, we are obliged to always be on the right side of the law, and to uphold our oath to preserve and treasure all life as precious.  This is not arbitrary.

Given no choice, you should end fights as quickly, efficiently and directly as necessary.  This should be done with no more hostility than we would direct at an appliance we unplug.  However, and this is important, we should strive to never find ourselves in a situation that leaves us no other options but to cause grievous bodily harm.

The dead get off very easy compared to living years (possibly forever) spent in prison or a suffering through a crippling lawsuit from survivors or at the very least a lifetime of guilt over taking a life that did not necessarily need to be taken.

I feel revulsion toward someone who can portray doing such damage to another human being as being "the objective", when we know in our hearts our objective should never be to cause pain or injury to any other living thing.  LIFE IS NOT A VIDEO GAME.

Many things, once done, cannot be undone.

Choose Life Always.

Peace Out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hooray for Hollywood

Hooray for Hollwood.  Movie history reflects social history just as art imitates life.
As a boy, Bruce Lee brought Kung Fu/JKD/Nunchakus to all of us in the 70s.  As a teenager, Steven hayes brought Ninjitsu to the masses.  The 90s were about Steven Seagal and aikido.  2000 started off with MMA.  Jacky and Jet have been with us through all of it, while JCVD and Chuck have come and gone like so many others.  Where are we now?

Kali, that's where.

LOVE IT!  The emphasis for the past few years has been less on showy, flashy martial arts and more on stark, brutal realism.  Fight scenes so real you can hear the bones break.

Here is a list of some great Hollywood movies where you can enjoy Kali as it is meant to be enjoyed: right in your face.
  • The Hunted (great Sayoc Kali work here)
  • The Bourne Series (Matt Damon specifically says it's Kali)
  • Mission Impossible Series (very nice job Tom!)
  • James Bond (all of Daniel Craig's fights are using Kali)
  • Taken (nice one Liam Neeson --- very realistic fighting)
  • Batman Series (that's not ninjitsu, it's actually Kali)
  • Kick Ass (yes, it does!)
  • Book of Eli (nice blade work by Denzel)
  • Iron Man 2 (go black widow go!)
  • Transporter Series (a bit theatrical, but good improvised weapons)
  • Lethal Weapon Series (BJJ/FMA mixed)
  • Hanna
  • Repo Men (2010)
  • Mr and Mrs. Smith (nice one Brangelina!)
  • Daredevil (Jennifer Garner)
  • Collateral (nice baton work by Tom in nightclub fight)
  • Blade Series (nicely done Wesley)
Of course it is cinema and real life is not quite like that.  Still, it is more real than what we saw before on the big screen.  Have a look.  Like what you see? More importantly, can you recognize the techniques?

If I have missed a few, I'm sorry.  Comment and let me know.

See you at the movies,



Monday, August 29, 2011

Going Swimmingly Well

As you know from other recent posts, I am spending more time swimming these days.  I have a regular Monday morning class in which we have been working on freestyle, breaststroke, and butterfly. 

This has more to do with martial arts training than you might think.

It is easy to imagine that low-impact cardio improves martial arts performance.  However, there are many other similarities.  I list some that come to mind below:
  • both should be learned from the best teacher you can find
  • both are great ways to spend time with your family, and great gifts of knowledge to give your children
  • both might just save your life one day  (you hope you never need to use them in an emergency)
  • both depend on proper breathing, and you cannot assume you know how to do this correctly unless you have been taught
  • both are less about strength and more about technique, especially for endurance
  • both are ultimately battles to submit the body to the mind
  • both may be done against others, but ultimately are determined by ourselves
  • both need regular practice practice practice --- of course  :-)
I started swimming in April in an attempt to avoid a negative spiral in my life.
It goes like this:

I did not enjoy swimming because I was bad at it. 
I was bad at swimming so I never did it. 
I never did it so I never got any better at it. 
I never got any better so I never learned to enjoy it. 

This was an endless cycle for more than 35 years, until this year.

Now I love to swim.  I feel my progress every week, and I genuinely enjoy getting better and better at it.  Every new milestone I reach makes me feel proud.  Martial arts has always been like this for me, and I learned it applies to a lot of other things as well. 

What about you?  What are the negative spirals in your life?  Can you make a plan and conquer them?  Can you use your martial arts training as a way of understanding how to go beyond your limitations? 

I want to hear your stories as much as I want to share my own. 


Thursday, August 25, 2011


I have bad eyesight.  I mean, REALLY BAD.  Most people who know me would have seen me in glasses before, or know that I wear contacts in class.  What they wouldn't know is that I am functionally blind in one eye, and have only marginal vision (-5.75) in my other.  When wearing contact lenses, I wear only one, since my bad eye would probably need a contact lens three inches thick to do any good.

My left eye has amblyopia, or "lazy eye", which means that while there is nothing physically wrong with my eye, the optic nerve failed to develop visual acuity and it cannot transmit visual signals effectively.  I see light and very vague shapes and that's it.  This is a result of having been laid face down in my crib as an infant for extended periods without movement, when my neck was too weak to lift my head.  As such, my left eye failed to develop.  I have worn glasses since I was 6 years old (corrective lens only for my right eye), and got my first contact lens for my right eye at 14.

I can do almost anything anyone else can do, except of course seeing with both eyes.  Over time I have learned to live with my disability and can drive, shoot firearms, and even do martial arts and other sports.  I would never be a professional athlete, but this has less to do with my eyesight than with having other priorities in my life all along. 

People with disabilities go through a process I would describe as "Four A's"

We deny that we have a disability, or that such a thing could happen to us, or that there really can be no cure or improvement in our condition.  We think the world is unfair, that we have been wronged, and that we are somehow owed the inalienable right to function that we think everyone else has.

We learn that this is not a life-ender, and that it is nobody's "fault", not even our own.  We begin to consider strategies for improving our quality of life and possibility.  We cannot change the circumstance, so we must change our reaction to it.  Here is where we must choose to not give up.

We embark on specific tasks and actions that allow us to do the things in life we want to do.  This often requires planning, focus and discipline.  We find that we can compensate for nearly any situation we face.  In my case, when driving, for example, I need to turn my head very far when changing lanes so my right eye can check for cars.  It looks odd, but it works.

Through hard work and task-oriented training, we discover that perceived limitations are not as we expected.  We can have a "normal life" and in fact go well beyond not only other people's expectations of us, but our own expectations as well.  We prove that our only true limitations are those we place upon ourselves.  We plan our work and we work our plan.

My very wise friend Marco told me "God does not give everything to anyone".  I have found this to be true.  We look at supposed handicapped people and see countless television programs of those people who reach the Achievement Stage of their disability.  We are inspired and think "I could never be like that" without even realizing that each of us has his/her own handicaps, and the potential to overcome them.  WE ARE ALL ALREADY LIKE THAT.  It is the essential human quality to achieve our potential and to overcome obstacles through our willpower and effort.

The only true handicap any one of us can have is a lack of willpower.

I have never claimed to be handicapped, nor tried to receive any social benefits for it, even though I am very sure I qualify.  Maybe I have been wrong about this.  Pride kept me from ever considering myself as disabled.  Rather, my pride should be in the fact that I AM disabled, but like many others have tried to rise above.  I hope to be able to help spread the important message that many other achievers share:

"it matters if you just don't give up"

What are your handicaps?  Are you aware of them?  Have you gone through the Four As?  Your willpower will give you the strength to overcome any limitations.

In short, "YOUR WILLPOWER WILL POWER YOU".  Let's go there together. I'm IN.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Passing

My foster father, Charles Franklin Leonard, passed away peacefully in his sleep at home yesterday, aged 90.  He will be greatly missed.

Who was he?

Charlie, or "Bud" as he was called in his youth, was born and raised on a farm in central Illinois, Vermillion county, near Indiana in what is commonly known as the "Corn Belt".  His family farm was in Hoopeston, Illinois, a very small town near Danville.  Charlie was born to a family of older sisters and as the only son worked hard on his father's farm growing up.  He did what most farm boys did, fishing and camping and enjoying the simple outdoor life.  Charlie loved westerns and identified with John Wayne, as did most of the boys in those days.  Charlie was born on April 26, 1921.  To understand his life and times, the chcocolate chip cookie was not even invented until 1930, when he was already 9 years old!  Imagine growing up without chocolate chip cookies...

They didn't have television, of course, but Dad loved listening tothe radio shows such as Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, Untouchables, and so on.  ironically, he would go on to work on some of the earliest vaccuum tube model TVs in the 1950s, as well as working on prototype PCBs, computers and even large-scale electromagnet coils during his time at Argonne National Labs, where he worked as an electrical technician for more than 30 years.  None of these things were even figments of his imagination when he was a boy.

Dad played football quarterback in high school and was nicknamed "peaches" because he loved the canned ones.  He was likeable but mostly solitary.  He joined the Army and was sent to Saxmundham airfield in Suffolk, England where he served in the emerging USAAF attached to 357th fighter group 363d fighter squadron as a P51D Mustang crew chief.  Charlie had the luck of being the crew chief for Chuck Yeager, who would later become one of the most famous test pilots in Air Force history, flying such prototypes as the X-1 and being the first man to break the sound barrier.  Dad said that during the war, Chuck Yeager was fearless and pushed his Mustang past the limits on many occassions.  Charlie had great stories to tell of Chuck Yeager's adventures.

After the war, Dad settled in Chicago and did odd jobs as a handyman and mechanic, working at places like General Electric and Royal Typewriter (where he met my foster Mom, Dorothy Schultz), before eventually joining Argonne National Labs where he worked until retirement.  After marrying Dorothy, they bought a small house in Villa Park, Illinois, the sleepy Western suburb of Chicago where I grew up.

Dad was a man of few words but of strong opinions.  Despite being raised on a farm, he had a great interest in politics, and watched the evening news religiously, as well as reading Newsweek and US News and World Report every week.  He was one of the few people I ever met who read the whole Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune (except the comics).  He was very well read on issues of domestic and foreign policy.
Every Sunday he would watch shows like "Face the Nation" and listen intently to politicians debating each other and commentary from other analysts.

He did not read books much when I was growing up, but later read the entire collections of Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey, and other western novella authors, numbering in the hundreds.  He would frequently exhaust the local public library collections of all western novels, and have to seek them out at bookstores and collector shops.

Dad was raised Irish Catholic, with 6 of 8 of his grandparents being Irish and the other 2 being English.  He went to church regularly until he married Dorothy, who being that she had been Lutheran, and married once before, meant his excommunication.  He accepted that without hesitation and never went back to Catholic church again.  Growing up we sometimes went to Lutheran church together at saint Paul Lutheran Church in Villa Park, mostly for Easter and Christmas Eve services, but I think he did so more to appease Dorothy than out of any genuine desire on his part.  After she died I am certain he never went inside a church again.

Dad was not a man of big, sweeping dreams.  He did not aspire to much other than the task which was right in front of him.  He lived simply and honstly, and did what was asked of him in every case without any complaint.  He was content to go to work and come home, watch the news, drink two beers with dinner (never more and rarely less), and that was that.  On Saturday nights he liked to go to the horse races, especially harness racing which I think reminded him of his childhood on the farm.  As a boy, I have fond memories of Arlington Park, Maywood park, and Sportman's Park in Chicagoland and of standing by the finish line watching the horses run.  Dad did not ever wager much, as it was only a hobby for him - nothing more.

After he retired from Argonne, he and Dorothy moved to Reno, Nevada.  Mom couldn't take the Chicago winters, and they both liked to pass their time at the casinos there - mom playing video poker or nickel slot machines and Dad playing blackjack, again not for any big stakes but for entertainment and to keep his mind sharp.  Mom died in Reno suddenly in early 1994 and dad couldn't bvear to stay there anymore without her, which brought him to Las Vegas where he eventually passed away 17 years later.

Dad grew up in a time where people did not openly talk about their feelings or emotions.  This was cemented even stronger by role models like John Wayne, whose actions always spoke louder than his words.  Charlie was not one to say he loved us in words, but you knew he cared about you by the little things he would do.  Charlie provided a stable home for Casey and I without which we would never have had even the slightest chance of a normal life.  Our house had no drama or crazy happenings, except what my brother and I caused by our misbehavior.

In his early twenties, on the farm, Charlie suppered a appendicitis and needed surgery. I think in such small towns as Hoopeston, Illinois, good medical care was hard to come by, and he was lucky to have survived. He bore an eighteen-inch scar across his belly from that operation, that I suspect also rendered him impotent. He and Dorothy had no children except for Casey and I (and our older brother Tim, who was Dorothy's son from her first marriage and nearly 20 years older than us).

Charlie's life was full and complete, with very little stress, and he was able to enjoy a long retirement doing what he liked to do.  Until suffering a debilitating stroke 6 months ago, he appeared little shanged in the past 40 years, still driving himself to the casino for afternoon blackjack and enjoying his books and favorite shows at home.  My Dad was careful to teach us right and wrong (although I was not such a good student) and patient with us at home.  I owe him my values of hard work and perserverence more than anything else.

I am left with many fond memories of him, and of the many things he taught me.
Despite none of us in our family being of any actual blood relation, our bonds have been stronger than many "real" families.  As sad as I am for his passing, I am glad he is at peace, and without suffering.  From the bottom of my heart I wish him a restful eternity with Dorothy by his side, and hope he will continue to watch over us.

"live life simply and honestly without regret"


Saturday, August 06, 2011

In Love


How do you know when you are in love?
  • I think about you all the time
  • I count the hours in-between being with you
  • I can't imagine my life before I met you
  • You make me feel alive
  • You teach me about myself
  • I never get tired of learning about you
  • You continue to fascinate me
  • You always make me happy
  • You make me want to try harder
  • You bring out the best in me
  • I can be myself with you
  • My eyes sparkle when I talk about you
  • Even when we're apart, I think about you
  • I miss you when I am away
  • I want to tell all my friends about you
  • Everyone tells me how different I am since we met
  • You help me get through the tough times
  • I never get tired of you
  • I can depend on you
  • You help give my life meaning
  • You are a part of everything I do
  • You let me express myself
  • I would be lost without you
I could go on and on.
The fact is, I am IN LOVE....




Being away the past week in the US made me miss my Kali (and my Kali class) so much.  I am back now, and can't wait for Friday to come.  I missed you!

See you all soon!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Through this cycle I have started introducing the concept of checking hands.  Checking is when your non-weapon hand taps or "checks" your opponent`s hands during your technique.  This is often inserted between weapon hits or strikes.

So in effect, one hand hits, the other checks, then hit/check/hit/check/hit/check until the opponent is disabled.
Checks are generally done to the opponent:`s arm while the subsequent hits can be anywhere.

Because in Kali the non-weapon hand is kept centered, it can easily be used to check or control the opponent`s weapon or non-weapon hands.  There are two main purposes of this checking principle:

1) Control the Opponent`s Arm
By using a checking hand, we continually pin the arm against the opponent`s center mass.  We keep in contact and can read any developing motion immediately.  While we are doing the checking with our secondary hand, our principal hand is delivering the strikes/hits.  This checking also disrupts the nervous system and prevents the opponent from moving the checked arm, since as we are hitting, we are also sending stimilus to that limb through the checking action.

2) Control the Centerline
Just like in chess, the key to most matches is to control the center of the board.  In fighting this means denying the opponent the ability to use the centerline and making sure we always have right of way on it.  Checking is an excellent way to do this since it places our non-weapon hand into the center, where in addition to checking one of the opponent`s arms, it can also quickly take control and misdirect the other arm if it moves, by virtue of the fact by checking we are already controlling the centerline. The opponent`s secondary arm must go either inside or outside of our checking hand, and either path yields a variety of easy solutions for controlling that arm and finishing the fight.  Checking is an important tool for monitoring and controlling the opponent`s non-weapon hand.

As beginners, we spend a lot of time focused on being able to effectively use our weapon hand.  However, we need also to be able to use our non-weapon hand simultaneously, and checking is one of the primary activities we perform with the non-weapon hand.  In our flow, the goal should be to have both arms able to contact and control the opponent at all times.  When we practice the various entries and follow-ups with stick, empty hand and blade, we should be mindful of the effectiveness of our checking hand and practice it dilligently.

Check it out!  In this video, you can see Guro Jon Ward and Guro Steve Klement are showing with Suro Mike Inay (RIP).  Suro Mike was one of Guro Fred`s teachers in Inayan escrima and renowed for being among the very best in the world.  Watch their hands carefully for good examples of checking.

Friday, July 15, 2011

About Silat

Robert McCay of Pencak Silat Mande Muda
 Interesting question the other day in class about silat.  basically I was asked to define the differences between Kali and Silat.

Hmmm...let's see:

1. Geographical/Cultural Differences
Silat is found mainly in Indonesia/Malaysia/Brunei while Kali (including Escrima and Arnis) are from the Philippines.

That said, there is some overlap between them as there was plenty of trade between them.  Just as Indonesia/Malaysia/Brunei have Muslim roots, those same roots are also found in the Southern Philippines.

Culturally Silat is so ingrained that silat dances are performed at weddings and other special occassions.  The ceremonial dress and wearing of the kris are symbols of the warrior caste and considered formal wear, much as a Scottish kilt and dirk.

2. Sarong
The sarong is more common to Silat than it is to Kali, although one can still find Sarong in use all across Southeast Asia including the Philippines and India.  As from the photo above, in Silat the sarong tends to be worn doubled over rather than full lenth, to allow better mobility.  Use of the sarong as a fighting weapon is well-documented in Silat and the techniques easily transfer to other flexible weapons such as belts, towels, chains, ropes, and the like.

3. Weapons
The characteristic weapons of silat include the Karambit and the Kris.  Both of these are also found in the Philippines, particlarly in muslim-influenced areas, but can be slightly different in design.  The silat kris is often found to have a slender blade which is principally meant for stabbing, while in the Philippines the kris can be as long as a barong, and can even have a more rounded tip, being designed as much for slashing or cutting.  In Silat, the kris is often coated in poison, so even a minor wound is lethal.

4. Movemement
Of course with so many islands across Indonesia/Malaysia/Brunei, silat styles differ greatly, with some being close in appearance to Chinese Kenpo or Sanda, while others are far more exotic.  We expect silat to be more circular than Kali, and to attack the low line in greater intensity with sweeps, takedowns, and leg attacks.  On the ground, we expect silat to entangle the arms and legs with locks and chokes, with the intent to submit the opponent.  Silat elbows are short and quick, looking less like Thai elbows than we see in Kali.  The style is fast and fluid, preferring misdirection to hard contact.
To some, the flow of silat is reminiscient of Brazillian Capoeira.

5. Technique
Silat uses jurus, or forms, to teach beginners how to use basic techniques.  Very often these include giving the opponent an opening in order to draw in an attack that can be countered.  Thus this stances in silat may look vulnerable, but this is deceptive.  The silat artists uses these openings as traps.  Finishes often include a final position, as a way of showing that the silat practioner is ready for the next attack. Kicking techniques tend to be low line, and can be delivered in groundfighting as well.  Silat is generally a close-range style, including many elbows, knees and headbutts as well as backfists, eye gouges, and claw strikes.  This can seem very alien to those familiar mainly with western or Japanese fighting arts, and silat often has a big element of surprise.  Silat can be especially effective for smaller users, since it is often low to the ground and up close, which helps negate the reach advantages of taller opponents.

I don't purport myself to be a silat expert, and the above is based on what I have studied and observed, with the dislaimer that there is a vast diversity of silat styles, just as there are variations of Kali/Arnis/Escrima in the Philippines.

Silat is a fantastic cultural study, and the techniques can be formidable.  Silat is one of the main influences of Kali Majapahit.   

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two Ends Of The Same Stick

 The stick, or baston, is probably the item most often associated with Filipino martial arts.  So much so, in fact, that many beginners and laymen think FMA is really just "stickfighting" and fail to grasp the comprehensive depth of the what FMA systems encompass.  Still others fail to realize the dual purpose the baston occupies in FMA training.

Very often we are told that FMA are blade-based arts.  This is truly the case since when we study the daga we know that our flow is the same as our empty hands/kadena de mano.  In fact, it must be said that kadena de mano derives from the blade, and not vice versa.  Thus, good traditional flow in kadena de mano visualizes a blade in the hand of the practitioner.  As an example, the gunting we deliver in kadena de mano mirror almost exactly the gunting we deliver with the daga in daga y daga training.  The daga came first and was adapted to the empty hand application.  It is important to bear this in mind.

With the baston, we go one step further.  We must train the baston in two distinct ways:

1) Baston as Blade Proxy
Here we use the baston as a proxy for any medium-length blade such as a barong, kris, ginunting, or the like.  The movements of the baston are flowing, and energy is generated mainly by the turn of the hips.  We rely on smooth motion and flowing mechanics, since very little impact power is needed for the blade edge to cut.  Similarly, we are concerned with the location of the "imaginary edge" on the baston, since we are using it as a proxy for the blade.  For beginners this is often done by extending the thumb along the body of the stick (something you would not do in live combat) in order to remember where the edge would be if it were a blade.  In the Japanese sword arts, students often use wooden (bokken) or bamboo (shinai) swords as proxy for the live katana, with various training benefits associated with each.

2) Baston as Baston
Here we appeciate the baston's utility as an impact weapon.  We see many uses of the baston for locking and choking (which arguably can also be done to horrific effect with edged weapons such as the barong, but that is not the point here).  The power generation for these techniques includes not only the hip rotation, but also the strength of the wrists, especially for staccato movements like abanico.  In this style, we want to have a snapping feeling in the stick, and concentrate striking power on the ends of the stick, rather than along the body, as we would with a blade.  The wrist power "flicking" motion is of far less value using a blade, and is a movement exclusively associated with impact weapons.  With the blade, this "hacking" movement would be considered poor application and beginners are frequently corrected on it. 

In training, the baston (and foam sticks) allow for different levels of contact with the partner, and can greatly improve focus and timing.  These help avoid injury during the training, especially for beginners, and are an important tool for developing spatial awareness with the blade.  So, too, the steel blades are important at some point to develop the reality of the techniques, but sharp steel training should wait until the students has high comfort with all other forms (foam, wood, unsharpened metal). 

Make no mistake, in a fight the baston as an impact weapon is every bit as deadly as the edged counterpart - it is just that the application has different mechanics than the blade.
These must be trained accordingly.  When training, it is important to practice both styles - visualization of the baston as an edged weapon, and use of the baston as an impact weapon.  They are different, and you should operate them differently to make the most of your practice.

See you in class.