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.