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.