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.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Express Yourself

In Kali, a lot of emphasis is placed on developing tuloy tuloy, or FLOW.
Differing from many other traditional martial arts, Filipino martial arts are about constant motion.  We want the sticks, knives, hands, feet to be alive and moving all the time.

So, which flow is the best?  Whose flow is the best?  Whose flow should you watch?

The answer is simple -  YOURS.

One of the most amazing aspects of Kali Majapahit is that it is a self-expressive system.
That means that once your building blocks and foundation are in place, you must grow to make the art your own, encompassing the specific needs of your body, your background, and your personality.  Your flow must be your own.

The curriculum is designed to give you concepts, tools, and examples of flow in the beginner stages, so you develop the ways of expressing yourself correctly as a kalista.
The concepts must be learned and observed, since these are what make the style effective.  However, these concepts are universal, and apply with any weapon or empty hand.  So, too, they apply regardless of the specific techniques you use to express them.  Ultimately, your kali becomes a synthesis and expression of who you are, and you begin to flow freely.

This freedom does not exist at all in many traditional schools, where if the technique is not done exactly as shown, it is considered wrong.  In Kali, something is only wrong if the concepts are not followed or if it doesn't work.  We continue to polish and improve our mastery of the concepts, but we are free to apply the concepts through whatever frame of expression we choose.

The "art" in Martial Art is that element which allows us to express ourselves creatively.
To lose this is to relegate oil painting to color by numbers, where we must blindly follow what we are given, and stay within the lines of childish simplicity, never given the chance to think for ourselves or be creative.  NO.  The goal of training must be self-expression and the freedom to show who and how we are. 

Even Kung Fu 功夫, in its' English translation, means "skill achieve through hard work/practice" and has a strong inference that this is a personal achievement.

In my case, my background is heavy on Japanese traditional martial arts.
Thus, my flow has a lot more committed power moves than someone else's might, and I use plenty of locking and throwing (called "trankada" in FMA), and I usually refer to those techniques by their Japanese names when I explain them.  One Guro has a long background in MMA/kickboxing, and his flow is heavy in panantukan (Filipino kickboxing).  Another Guro has a long experience in silat, so much of his flow has that Indonesian flavor to it.  Yet another was a semi-pro Western boxer, and thus his flow is heavy on boxing hand combinations. 

Other instructors' flow looks different from mine, but we all observe the same concepts of fighting that FMA and especially Kali Majapahit so practical.

The most important thing for your training is to watch and learn from every source (classes, videos, internet, seminars, books, magazines) and identify flow you like.  Make it your own.   Watch yourself in the mirror until you like what you see.  Keep training.

Even Guro Fred, who was amazing when I first met him, IS ACTUALLY GETTING BETTER.  I watch his most recent video and I can see the difference in his flow over time.  He was already among the best in the world when I first saw him in 2007.  Now he is truly in a league of his own.  He is faster, stronger, and more creative.  This is as it should be.  We are all learning, growing, evolving, changing, and our Kali has to grow with us.  It gives me comfort to know that even at his high level, he can still progress.

Express Yourself!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Diet Sodas Don't Help with Dieting

file this under "if it looks too good to be is."

Diet Sodas Don't Help with Dieting
Jun 28, 2011 10:43 AM ET
By MyHealthNewsDaily Staff

Is diet soda really a healthy choice?

Two new studies have linked drinking diet soda to poorer health compared with those who don't drink the beverage.

People who said they drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced waist size increases that were six times greater than those of people who didn't drink diet soda, according to researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

A second study that found the sweetener aspartame raised blood sugar levels in diabetes-prone mice.

"Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised," said study researcher Helen P. Hazuda, professor and at the university's school of medicine. "They may be free of calories, but not of consequences."

The human study was based on data from 474 participants in a larger, ongoing study called the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. In that study, the participants were followed for nearly 10 years.

Diet soft drink drinkers, as a group, experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with those who don't drink diet soda. [Related: 5 Experts Answer: Is Diet Soda Bad for You?]

Abdominal fat is a major risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic conditions, the researchers said.

In the mouse study, researchers fed aspartame, a calorie-free sweetener used in some diet sodas, to diabetes-prone mice. One group of mice ate chow to which both aspartame and corn oil were added; another other group ate chow with only corn oil added.

After three months, the mice that ate aspartame showed elevated blood sugar levels.
"These results suggest that heavy aspartame exposure might potentially directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus contribute to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans," said study researcher Gabriel Fernandes, professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology at the university.

The studies were presented Saturday (June 25) at the meeting of the American Diabetes Association.  Pass it on: A new study links the consumption of diet soda to poorer health.

NB:  The best beverages for you are pure mineral water and unsweetened tea.  Be sure to drink at least 2-3 liters of mineral water daily to maintain proper hydration and health.
Of course, flavored waters such as sports drinks are bad for you, too.  We cannot ignore the truth.