Sunday, December 13, 2015

Follow the Leader

Last Friday in class we tried a few minutes of "leading energy" practice.
This is a fundamental concept in aikido, as you can see from the video.

The principal of leading energy is to first blend with the attacker's motion, rather than fight against it.  This avoids strength on strength confrontation, which will inevitably favor the physically stronger opponent.  Leading energy allows us, after blending, to redirect the force to another direction.  In aikido this is most often done by leading into a circle/spiral or a straight line.  In either case, we can lead the partner's energy into a harmless direction, which in aikido culminates with a pin or a projection, followed by zanshin (attentive, focused mind).  The sequence of three elements described in the video are: blending, extending and leading.  All three exist in Kali as well.

For Kali practitioners, the concept of leading energy is contained in the Passa or "passing" principle.  Rather than direct contact "contrada", passa techniques involve moving the attack offline, usually away from the centerline.  Passa techniques are often used to move the attacker using their momentum, or to gain their side or back by putting them out of position.

When performing these techniques the initial movement, blending, is extremely important.  Any attempt to strongly push or pull the attacker usually results in them changing their motion and the technique failing.  The goal is to allow the attacker to continue on their intended line while we blend, and only then do we redirect the energy elsewhere.  Very importantly, we do not sit idly and wait for the attack to develop.  We must enter early and blend in order to safely redirect the motion as it develops. Waiting too long makes it impossible to blend, so timing is critical.

Once we blend, we can extend, and allow the attacking energy to commit.  In this portion, it is important to maintain our structure, posture and balance, thus allowing the partner to extend their energy (blended with ours) with a minimum of distraction, preserving their line.

Lastly, having matching the motion and extended it fully, we can then lead it elsewhere with minimal effort.  Trying to lead too early, without blending, results in disconnection from our partner.  Trying to lead before extending confuses our partner and causes them to want to pull away.  The three steps of blending, extending and leading must be done in order to be effective.

In daily life, as in the dojo, blending/extending/leading energy is an important concept.  Rather than direct confrontation, blending/extending/leading can be used to help others arrive at an optimal result without feeling bullied or attacked.  This method is especially helpful when dealing with peers or superiors, since it implies teamwork and a willingness to cooperate.  Just as in the dojo, blending/extending/leading takes less of our own energy to achieve, and so makes us less tired, which is also helpful in corporate and family life.

Rather than openly disagreeing with co-workers' opinions, "blending" requires that we consider their point of view thoroughly.  "Extending" requires that we let their full argument be made and their logic allowed to reach its conclusion before any further action is taken.  If needed, we can then lead to an optimal outcome, but not before blending and extending have been done.  Many times, people just want us to listen and accept their point of view (blending) without necessarily agreeing.  Blending validates them.  Extending allows their ideas to be fully explored before any further decisions are made.  Leading as a last action insures the best outcome because it minimizes confrontation and maximizes participation in the outcome.  This is especially useful when you are managing others.

Aikido's principles are universal, and have an important role to play in our Kali study.  It also has very broad applicability in other areas of our lives.
I encourage you to consider this.

See you at class.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Other Side

(thanks for the inspiration JLH)

Inspiration is all around us if we look - people who have overcome nearly insurmountable odds to achieve their goals.  Of course there are famous people too, but it could be the person sitting next to you at work or a fellow parent at school.

The quiet, unassuming guy I worked with, who had been in a horrible car accident in college which shattered his body - arms, legs, wrists, pelvis.  He broke nearly everything, except his will to recover.  Two painful years in the hospital with multiple surgeries.  If you didn't know him like I do, you'd never even guess.  Mentally, he is one of the strongest people I have ever met.  I can't even imagine that much courage; that much goddamned PATIENCE to endure such a thing.

I like the quote "everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about".  Life can really feel like a struggle sometimes, but why do some people rise to the occasion while others seem to give in to despair, stumble, and fall - never to get up again?

These people who don't just survive, but THRIVE despite adversity, have one big thing in common: They Can See The Other Side.  They can visualize a time and a place where they are past their current hardship -  free and clear and happy.  I cannot overemphasize how important this is.  Studies done on holocaust survivors identified that those who survived the death camps often did so by staying focused on what their lives would be like when it was all over - never accepting the possibility that they would not make it.  No matter what horrors happened, they never lost sight of that specific personal future beyond the barbed wire and death that surrounded them.

My greatest victories have often been born out of sheer desperation, the feeling that I had no way out, no way but FORWARD, head on into my challenges - breaking through them no matter the cost.  This has not been the best way to achieve my goals but it has gotten the job done, and there is something to be said for having enough determination and confidence to see a task through, no matter how much it hurts.  Too often, I am just too stubborn to give up.  Sometimes I reach my goals too exhausted and battered to savor the moment.

A far better way is to focus on the positive outcome; use my mind to see the result of my successful efforts.  As JLH told me, visualization is a key to high-level sports training/coaching.  I agree, but at the same time there is something fundamentally different about harnessing the will to run faster in a race, lift a heavier weight or throw a ball.  Overcoming life's hardships often requires seeing a bigger picture on a much longer time horizon than a simple sporting match.

In my case, the biggest goal I achieved (getting to Japan) took me 10 years and 3 failed attempts to finally complete.  Through this I learned that if I just don't give up I will ultimately find a way, no matter the obstacle.  Proving this to myself has been the greatest asset to my success as an adult. This confidence has stayed with me ever since and enabled me to take on challenge after challenge, odds stacked against me almost every time, and still attain the goals I set my mind to.

Our training is designed to repeat the cycle of goal setting and achievement again and agin, instilling in our KM students the same unshakable quiet confidence they will use for every aspect of their lives - career, personal relationships, academics.  We don't just want to create the best fighters, we want to create the best people.  We want our students to be the best they can be, able to go out and make the lives they want without fear of anything that might stand in their way.  Kali Majapahit is our secret weapon, not to hurt others, but to enable our own success.

I encourage you to take a moment --- see the life you want.  GO GET IT.  You can do it.

Great Heart Will Not Be Denied.

Friday, November 06, 2015


Image result for 49\
Well, today I am 49 years old, a stone's throw away from 50. What am I thinking about? How do I feel?
Every year that goes by I feel acutely aware of how little time we have in this life, on this Earth. Our lives truly go by in the blink of an eye, and the years teach much that the days will never know. All too soon we go back to the stardust we came from and the glow of our presence here will fade away. All we really have is what time remains, and how we choose to spend it.  Make every day count.
 Last November 6, we were moving to our new place, and entering into a year that has had some of the most difficult challenges we have ever faced as a family.  Looking back on it now, it seems a million miles away - we got through the worst of it one painful inch at a time, but we got through it. Life has stabilized and we can choose to remember the good times and let go of the bad, right? What a  roller coaster the past 12 months have been.  I get tired just thinking about it.
That said, I am so, so grateful for this wonderful life I have and I feel lucky beyond words, especially to be part of the lives of so many other people around the world.

I am grateful for my wonderful wife and my two boys, who continue to be my strength through every hardship.  Together, as a family, we will make it no matter what.  I am grateful for my beloved pugs, who show me what unconditional love is, and how important it is for me to live each moment fully.
I am grateful for Kali Majapahit, my guiding force and my passion.  I am grateful to my teachers, Guro Fred and Guro Lila, to all my fellow instructors, and especially to my students, who make me so incredibly proud.  Your journey inspires mine.
I am grateful for my friends, and getting greetings from so many of you across all the many ways that we know each other makes me very glad indeed - thanks to you all I feel part of a precious fabric --- something very special and important. We have changed each other in more ways (usually positive) than I can count.  Thank you, really, THANK YOU for being a part of my life and for sharing so much with me.  All of you make my life worth living.
Tonight we have Kali class, and I can't think of an anything else I'd rather do - see you at training. 

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Song of the Soul

(thanks for the inspiration Sanae)

"Are our lives predetermined?" she asked.

That's a tough question...  As a Buddhist the answer (for me, anyway) is both YES and NO.  Guro Fred often explains it as a train running down the tracks.  The destination is fixed, but we are free to decide how we ride the train (which seat, which car, aisle or window, facing front or back, etcetera).  I struggled to find a suitable metaphor to use.

One possibility is to use music.  Songs are a set of predetermined notes or sounds, but of course the same song can be played many different ways, using different arrangements, different instruments, different keys and so on.  Each of our lives is a song, but it is up to us to uncover the music and decide how we want to play it.  Some of us are rock and roll, some are jazz, some are classical.  All of us are beautiful.

Some of us will find the melody, the harmony, the tempo and play our song with energy and passion.  Others may struggle to find any pattern at all, and instead their life will seem to be a random collection of notes or sounds.  It can also be said that we are able to hear the songs of others, some of which have a rhythm and tempo which match our song especially well and which we find particularly appealing.  Maybe this is just another way of explaining what love is.  The more we hear the music of others, the clearer our song becomes, and the more we realize that all music is universal - we are all connected.  New songs bring us fresh new perspectives, and may even change how we think or feel once we hear them.

Our favorite songs can instantly bring us back to a time and a place - they link us to our memories and to many important events of our lives.  So, too, the song of our soul is the essence of who we are, and the songs of others who are important to us will play in our heads over and over again.

Listening carefully in meditation, we will find the harmony of our own song, and even know what notes are coming next.  We can add embellishments to our song and make it a song everyone will remember, a song they will sing forever.  We can play our song in a sad and melancholy way, or we can choose to let our song be an anthem of hope and joy.  Even though the notes are set when we are born, we have the freedom to express them as we wish.

What do you think?
As the Doobie Brothers said, "Listen to the Music"...  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Expect The Unexpected

Wow...what a weekend.
The Kali Majapahit Singapore ITA Masterclass 2015 is now over.

I came down here to attend with my students, and expected to observe/help with the testing of one of my senior students going for his Kasama rank (assistant instructor).

I didn't expect to get tested for my Madunong Guro (2nd dan) rank.
There were many lessons from this experience.  Here are my initial impressions.

I Wasn't Ready.
Honestly, if I had to wait until I was ready, maybe I never would be.  The thing is, LIFE doesn't happen when you are ready for it.  Waiting until you are ready is probably the biggest reason we miss out on so much.  Life happens when it does.  All you can do is GO WITH IT.  Fights, too, never happen when you are ready for them.  They happen when they do, and you need to be ready to do whatever it takes to be the one who walks away.  Any fight you walk away from is a victory to be celebrated.

Let It Go
It is the details which matter.  The details that you hold on to that become anchors around your neck.
We skipped lunch, we didn't have enough rest breaks or enough water, fresh partners keep rotating in but you never get to stop, the rounds are too long, etc. etc. etc.  Unconsciously, you start holding onto these things, and each one that gets lost or taken away sinks you deeper into despair --- IF YOU LET IT.  Instead, you can choose to BE HERE NOW and let go of everything except the fight you're in. Let your focus sharpen, take a deep breath, and deliver.  Right here, right now.  Once you let go, nothing can be taken from you.  You accept that you will pass out, get knocked out or walk away.  In the end  it doesn't really matter which one.  Just keep going until you can't.

Go Down Swinging
I got SO SICK of the boxing.  Round after round. Round after round.  I decided to go down swinging. If you stop, you drop, so I just kept swinging.  Life is often like this.  You need to make a decision to be fully engaged in your life, and not just let it go by.  GO DOWN SWINGING.  Even if you lose anyway, it just feels better.

Flipping The Switch
As Guro Rose says "Kali Mode ON!"  When the chips are down, you need to be able to flip the switch and go into your instinctive zone.  You let the body do what it knows, and you just keep going until the job is done.  Not everyone is the killer instinct it takes to survive a serious fight, but our training is designed to help us learn to manage stress and control ourselves to channel our fighting spirit.  Learning how to flip the switch (and flip it off again) is a very important part of the training.

Livin On The Edge
My adrenaline was high, I was in the zone, delivering with 100% intensity. Adrenalin, well channelled, can make all the difference between success and failure.  It did for me, since my energy was gone in the afternoon, I was in pain, and facing my 16th hour of training this weekend.  Later, the crash came.  It's a BITCH.  Shakes, pains, rapid breathing, dizziness.  Some people throw up. I didn't, but the recovery is always slow after an extended use of adrenalin.  Guro Fred knows just how to keep you on the edge between going on and crashing out, and how to make that moment last a long, long time.  Thank you for pushing me so hard, and for making this test so special.

You are not YOU
No, you're not.  You are a product of everyone that has invested in your success.  All your teachers, all your training partners, all your students, everyone around you.  They have invested in you because they believe in you - sometimes even when you don't believe in yourself.  It is important to be always grateful for the people who make you YOU.  You could not be YOU without them.

Thank you so much to everyone who walks with me on this journey.
A belt is just a belt but you are truly part of me.  I owe you so much.
Thank you for believing in me.

A very special thanks to my incredible wife Sanae, and to my exceptional sons  George and Ray, for whom I always try to be a superhero.  No matter what I do, YOU are the true superheroes to me. Thank you for your love, patience and support.  Thank you for understanding how important my Kali Majapahit is to me.

Lastly, Deep Congratulations to my brothers and sisters who tested with me today.  You honor and inspire me.  Let's keep going together!!

See you at class.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lessons from the Pros - tactical baton

Have a look.  This video is from Lahnert Tactical and shows applications of the Bonowi EKA Camlock baton - a great piece of kit from a great maker.  All rights to the video are theirs. Check any and all related laws in your jurisdiction before choosing to carry a tactical baton or other weapon.

The principal in the video is a trainer for law enforcement and elite military in the use of the tactical baton.  There is obvious strong FMA flavor in his movements, and KM students should easily recognize some of the flow.  He applies concepts from Hubud, Sumbrada (5 count), and Doce Pares in his responses, and does so excellently.

Beyond this, some other things to note:

Look how he uses his footwork to create and keep distance, or to angle off the center line as needed.  Footwork is the cornerstone of effective technique and is just as important with baton/stick/cane as it is with any other weapon.  In the video, the principal either 1) closes to CQC range using the punyo or 2) opens to largo using the tip for striking.  Medium distance is only ever a transition point to 1) or 2).  Note how he uses the tip to push the attacker out into distance as needed.  This is a useful technique.

Note the use of the left hand for checking, parrying and control.  This "live hand" is a hallmark of good FMA.

The stick is a centrifugal force impact weapon, with the centerpoint at the user's shoulder.  Thus, maximum power is derived from impact using the absolute outside of the circle's radius - in this case the tip of the weapon.  This is where acceleration is maximized in the swing and where the most impact force can be generated.

For locking, he is careful to use the leverage of the weapon against joints (wrist, elbow and neck). After disrupting the structure, he moves immediately into a finishing technique.  The lock is not the end - it is a transition to the finish, used to disrupt the attacker's structure.  Locking is not attempted until at least one hit has been made to weaken the attacker.

In the baton vs baton flow, note how the Principal clears the weapon away.  He zones the opponent's baton offline which opens the center for his own response, while keeping the attacker from recovering.  The initial block is DEFINITIVE, stopping the attacker in place for the follow up.

When responding, he rarely targets the head or neck of his opponent.  Instead, he focuses attacks on the weapon arm and leg.  Except for a few knee hits, most of his responses are at the upper arm or thigh, where the attacker can be neutralized with only minimal possibility of lethal or permanent injury.  Even when the attacker has a knife, he does not resort to lethal force, which is commendable.  I highly recommend this muscle memory for everyone, law enforcement or not, for both ethical and legal reasons.

The idea of "one hit, one stop" sounds great on paper, but the best muscle memory is one that keeps us in motion and overwhelming the attacker until the situation is completely under control. Smoothly chaining together a flurry of strikes is a key component of what makes Kali the effective art it is, and drilling for this is very important.

The Principal uses his voice to ensure the situation is resolved.  Voice is a key part of the psychology of control, and the best timing for this is when the initial adrenaline rush has been disrupted.  Proper use of the "command voice" can minimize having to use additional force to neutralize an attacker and prevent an attacker from continuing after the initial attempt.

What else can you learn from this?
Let me know if you saw something I didn't.

See you at class,


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Here Am I

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
-Isaiah 6:8

Those of you who know me know I am not Christian.
However, I have read the Christian Bible more than once cover to cover, and it has a few passages I really like.  The above is one of them.

The last time I heard this verse was in the movie "Fury", where one of the characters reads it from his Bible before they engage in the final battle - a battle from which none of them expect to survive.  It is said in the context of soldiers who have a sacred duty.

I like this verse because it speaks to me about our mission in the martial arts - who and how we aspire to be.  It is not enough to be strong.  It is not enough to have fighting prowess and mastery of weapons and techniques.  As WARRIORS we are called to something more --- we are called to a sacred duty.

The burden falls on us to volunteer in times of need.  Our training develops our warrior spirit and courage so that we will not hesitate when the moment of Truth is upon us.  We will stand tall and face whatever may come; we will defend ourselves and those we love.  We will stand up for the weak and the victims of aggression.  We will face the Bullies.  We will be the ones to be sent.  This is our duty.  Serving others is the essence of compassion.  We must transcend the self in order to truly feel CONNECTED.

Very often, success in life is dependent on raising our hands and volunteering.
It is not enough to be passive and wait for success to happen to you.  It won't.
Love will not find you unless you volunteer to take a chance.  Tell that person how you feel about them.  Only by risking rejection can you aspire to acceptance.

The hardest jobs often deliver the greatest reward, and our leaders appreciate those employees who do not back away from the challenges, but instead seek them out.  Doing this is not about shameless self-promotion.  Instead, it is about the quiet confidence that comes from ability and ambition.  We all want to win, and it is the most fun to win a game that is a real challenge against a worthy adversary.  Sometimes this is a sporting contest.  Sometimes this is a negotiation.  At the end, we want to give 100% and feel respect for our counterpart.  It is because of them that we have had to raise our skills higher and step up to give our best effort.

Our Kali Majapahit training is not just about our body.
Use the training to forge your willpower and determination.
Learn to focus your intensity on achieving your goals.
Build your confidence so you can be the one to step forward.
Believe in yourself and what you can do.

Put up your hand and be picked.  Stand up and let yourself be chosen.  Open your heart and free yourself to be loved.  Become who you are meant to be.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


(thanks for the inspiration Jeremy)
Kali is a very special and unique art.  What we aim to achieve is quite different from that of other arts.

We often talk about "FLOW" and this was one of the first concepts Punong Guro Fred Evrard shared with me that intrigued me and helped me get hooked on Kali Majapahit in 2008 - and I am still hooked.

From the beginning, a KM class is unlike a "typical" martial arts class.  We cover at least three different sub-systems in every session, including single or double stick, empty hands and/or knife, boxing or kickboxing.  Adding in warm-ups and stretches, cardio and cool-down makes every class very busy.  Even our two-hour sessions in KM Tokyo just seem to fly by.  Students who come from different backgrounds are challenged by the different skills we train in every class and how fast we change from one to another.
It's not just fun but very exciting.

We drill concepts and example techniques, but there are no Kata (forms) in kali (at least not in Kali Majapahit).  I see a lot of value in form-based styles like karate and kung fu for building discipline and muscle memory, as well as deeping the spiritual connection to the movement - "active meditation".  For some people, the stability and consistency of Kata is especially helpful and precious.  Kata-based arts have been shown to help learning disabled and behaviorally challenged children and adults such as those with autism, Asperger's and ADD/ADHD to help focus and control their bodies.

That being said, FMA in general (and KM in particular) usually avoid static kata training in favor of drills and technical application.  This can be a difficult adjustment initially, but in the long run offers the opportunity to find a new way of expression - JAMMING.

I use the example of jazz music since it seems to best fit the idea of FLOW as we think about it in Kali Majapahit.  Rather than rely on a strict set of technical responses, we train to be fully in the moment and to respond smoothly and effortlessly to whatever intention or action our opponent gives.  Until the situation is resolved, we transition from one distance to another, from one line to another, from one style to another without stopping to think - WE FLOW.

In jazz music, jamming is the same concept.  There is a basic story or beat, above which the musician expresses his or her sound.  The jazz player FLOWS in, around, under and through the baseline, exploring and finding each unique musical moment until the end.  It sounds amazing, but how do you learn o do that??

Drills, drills, drills.  For musicians it is long hours playing the scales in different keys and other variations on this simple theme.  To play well, we need to have the muscle memory of the basic notes of the instrument, just as we must do with our arms and legs, our elbows, our sticks and blades in FMA.  We drill the basic angles and basic blocks again and again until they become second nature.  We drill our footwork until it is intuitive.  We drill to improve our dexterity and agility.  A good guitarist will have fingered the basic chords tens of thousands of times and need not look that his or her fingers or hands to find the right strings and frets. This is a painful and tedious process, but there is nothing more necessary to jamming than this.  Be patient. Love your callouses.

Combinations and Phrasing
Later, we begin to chain some techniques together.  We add more hits to the drills, or change hand positions. We start to develop some simple multi-hit combinations, but these are generally given to us by our instructor. We start to learn how the body moves and how to "lead" or put techniques where the opponent will be (rather than where they currently are), setting up a series of events that take away the balance and structure and end the encounter.  Our teachers use these combinations to help illustrate the correct concepts and principles of how to move.  We learn about the distances, lines, angles, and how to use our body efficiently in sequence.  We gain experience in the different sub-systems and begin to understand their uniqueness.
This is an intermediate step.

In music, we begin to start playing simple songs, simple melodies, and learning some simple riffs we can use.
We still need to stick to the written pages and focus on drills, but hopefully our fingers begin to move more smoothly, chaining notes together a few at a time with less frequent pauses in between.

Improvising techniques is where we start to really leverage the hard work of beginner and intermediate.
Here we can begin to really problem-solve and explore specific situations and puzzles through more advanced drills.  Rather than being given a technical answer, we can focus on asking the right questions "where can I move?", "what if I did this?", "How can I put the opponent here/there?", "what if I lost my weapon now?", and so on.  Solving these problems is where we branch off from more traditional kata-based arts into the discovery zone that makes Kali so magical.  We are seeking and finding SOLUTIONS.

Secondly, we begin the process of mixing-and-matching between sub-systems that adds uniqueness and color to our developing flow.  We may start using Kali, and then transition to Hakka Kuntao or boxing or Muay Thai, and finish using Dumog (Filipino grappling) or takedowns and throws based on Judo/Jujitsu or Aikido.  Weapon movements begin to feel more similar to each other and we can start to relate one weapon (umbrella) to another (single stick).  The knowledge is finally coming together.

In music, we further embellish songs we have learned, adding in our own riffs and notes, changing the chords and blending the songs together to create a sound we like.  We freely explore the instrument and what it can do without limitation, and start to really revel in the freedom that comes from being able to play without stopping to read each note - making music sound the way we want it to.  We start to write some of our own songs or arrangements of other songs we like.  We are comfortable with our instrument in any style or situation.

Flow and Style
Once we can improvise a bit, the next phase is exploring all the possible combinations and fusion we can find.  This can easily last us the rest of our lives.  Although our kali chessboard is finite, the possible combinations of what we have learned are endless.  Our training has given us sets of techniques, as well as a deep perspective on the human body, different ways of motion, psychology, nutrition and health, spirituality and awareness.  We can begin to respond without stopping to consider beforehand which techniques or sub-systems to use.  Responses start to just HAPPEN and to do so in a way that is consistent with our own individual natures.

The most beautiful jazz improvisation is an unstructured, free-flowing conversation between the musicians.
It's MAGIC.  You really see masters of the craft EXPRESSING themselves through their instruments - 100% here and now in each musical moment.  To me, it is the highest level of musicianship and the most worthy goal of any aspiring player.  It is truly FREE.

The End Result
I encourage all of our students to train with as many different Guros and Kasamas as possible.  Every one of us has gone through the above progression, and learned to leverage all that we know to develop our own flow.  Each instructor knows the same basics and the same techniques, but we all add our unique flavor to our FLOW and seeing us will help you find your own voice one day.  You may never have our flow, but you will definitely have your own, and it will be beautiful and unique to you.

Trust the Training.
Be patient.
Love your callouses.
Never give up.
JAM like a champion.

See you at class.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Flowing the Tree

(thanks for the inspiration Paul M)

It's not my fault.  Really.  My dear friend Paul asked me about Kali Majapahit.  Usually, the first few hours are my most animated explanations, but I could literally go on FOREVER talking about Kali Majapahit, how much I love it, and how unique it is.

To keep other people from falling asleep, I try to explain in a way that will resonate with each person, especially if they are not martial artists.

Paul is a physicist by background, so science/maths is a great medium to try to explain what we do.  Here goes...

When I walked into Kali Majapahit (at that time Ni Tien Martial Arts) in Singapore, I was AMAZED.
Guro Fred moved like no one I had ever seen (and still does).  He was (is) like a predatory jungle cat - graceful, powerful, lethal: 100% martial and 100% art.  However, it wasn't just how he moved, it was also how he spoke.

I remember it like yesterday...  Katulong Guro Vince (at that time not even a Kasama yet, now one of our best and most experienced instructors) punched.  Hard.  Guro Fred slipped outside effortlessly.  Guro Fred was looking at ME the whole time.  He wasn't even looking at the punch. He said "this time I will choose an outside solution."  He spoke not of "techniques" or "katas" but of "solutions".  I was intrigued.

Later, I would discover that we classify solutions by several categorizations.  One is by our position in space relative to our opponent: inside/outside/split.  Also, defining a solution as high line, medium line or low line.  Finally, through our distance: close (corto), medium (medio) or long (largo) distance.  We can also classify solutions by the subsystem we express (or the weapon type we use).  This includes Kali (panantukan/sikaran, dumog), Silat, JKD, Muay Thai, Hakka/kun tao and more.  Regarding weapon types we have single/double stick (impact weapons), edged weapons (long/short/karambit), axe/tomahawk, staff or spear (bankaw), flexible weapons such as sarongs and scarves, and many, many more.

Classifying our solutions creates a framework for learning, much like a chessboard, and so too the combination of solutions are infinite.  All of the above variations give us an endless array of options from which we can express ourselves.

So...what to do??

I added the binomial tree above as one idea to consider.  Each moment in time or action point represents a step in the binomial tree: action/reaction.  Each action opens the door to the next step in the sequence of events from left to right.  At the end, the opponent is incapacitated (hopefully without injury) and the fight is over.  Skill in fighting, using this example, can be defined as:

  • Flowing from left to right seamlessly without stopping, adjusting for each action/reaction by moving to the next stage of the binomial tree without hesitation
  • Choosing the highest percentage movements at each stage of the tree, so that our chance of success gets increasingly larger and our opponent's gets increasingly smaller at each step of the tree until the opponent can no longer continue
  • Limiting the opponent's response at each stage by "feeding" or "drawing" a conditioned and expected response from them which yields the result we want and can exploit

Of course, every fight is unpredictable and there are always unforeseeable elements.  The goal of the training is to develop and enhance the ability to KEEP MOVING, to FLOW with the changes as they happen and be neither constrained nor restricted in our responses.  When we express Kali Majapahit, it should be the truth of our own spirit which shines through --- relaxed; without fear, without panic, without anger - calm, confident. Completely in the moment until the encounter is over and we are safe.

I remain just as fascinated and intrigued by Kali Majapahit today as I was when I started 7 years ago.  I love the art and introducing people to it, because I know they will find a lifetime of exploration and adventure, just as I have.

See you at class.  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dragons versus Unicorns

Dragons versus unicorns.

No, this is not some episode of Final Fantasy XVIII, Pokemon, Game of Thrones or other TV show/video game.

In this case, I am referring to a situation which often occurs when people begin to discuss religion/spirituality: namely, that each side begins to argue about hypotheses or pedantic minutiae which cannot actually be proved or disproved or which is in fact utterly irrelevant to deriving value from the basic ideas.  Thus, it is the equivalent of two people arguing over which would win a fight: dragon or unicorn, neither of which can actually be proven to even exist outside of the fantasy of imagination (nb: Komodo dragons are only called "dragons" because they are large lizards.  They do not breathe fire and cannot fly, which everybody knows all real dragons can do).

A common one is the Christian "one God versus 3 Gods" question.  In Christianity, God is usually thought of as a singular deity, but also as the Holy Trinity of God the Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit).  Heated arguments happen between various Christian groups about the nature of God in each of these three forms, and whole branches of Christian religions differ based on what specific ideas they espouse.  Sadly, none of these ideas can actually be proved or disproved (at least not by any living human beings that could credibly resolve the argument).

All religions have some symbolism inherent in them as part of their Gnostic traditions.  This includes the Christian cross, the Jewish Star, The Muslim Scimitar, The Buddhist lotus flower and so on.
These symbols are core to those belief systems and an integral part of their worship in sacred ceremonies.  At the same time, to the extent that these distract the believer from gaining the benefit of the belief, I think they are at best misguided and at worst deliberately false and incendiary.  Using the Christian cross as an example, in Catholicism, the cross is always shown as a crucifix with Jesus on it (I assume to emphasize that Jesus suffered and died for our sins). By contrast, in the Lutheran (reform) Christian tradition, the cross is NEVER shown with Jesus on it, presumably to emphasize his arising from the tomb and triumph over death.  Which is correct?  How can we ever know?  While I can accept that there is a certain philosophical merit in discussing these interpretations, is there any practical value to be gained in arguing over them?  Fighting over them?  Killing and dying over them??  I suppose it would be just as nonsensical for two people to come to blows over whether dragons or unicorns are more powerful than the other.

I have yet to find an organized religion that does not include social harmony as one of its core tenets - the responsibility of believers to get along with each other.  For nearly all of them, harming others is allowed only under very specific circumstances, and killing is generally frowned up except in cases where the tribe is under direct attack.  Not signalling out Christians here specifically, but "thou shalt not kill" is a simple 4 word command, pretty clearly spelled out, and not really open to much interpretation. There is no "except..." clause.  Nearly every other religion is the same.

Still, however, man manages to engineer seemingly endless reasons for killing each other, religion being history's greatest excuse to murder people.

Using my example above, it is my sincere hope that Dragon lovers and Unicorn lovers (and all other fantasy fans) can come together and appreciate each others' beliefs, each cheering for their own favorite mythical creature - but not at the expense of another's.  We are all equally entitled to believe in what we want to, so long as it does not harm others.  Respect is key.

Then again, maybe everyone has got more important things to do than argue about imaginary stuff, right?

Martial arts is rife with the same problem.  Many so-called "masters" talk about "Ki" or "Chi" as if it were some mystical magical genie power that makes otherwise superhuman feats possible. Their goal is to appear special and persuade students that they can achieve some voodoo magic through choosing them as a teacher, focusing on esoteric topics at the expense of good, practical training.  The reality is that martial arts training is the most natural training there is, explainable through science (mostly physics, math and some chemistry, with a sprinkle of psychology).  Listening to two masters talk about how many different aura colors there are (which neither one could see) was about as boring as watching paint dry.  Listening to two "grand masters" argue over whose 11th degree black better was more "legitimate" than the others was even worse.

It is time to focus on what brings us together rather than what keeps us apart.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reflections on My KM Journey

I can still remember giving my very first class (and that student is still training with me - you know who you are!)  I was very scared.  I wondered if I would be good enough, or if I could answer all the questions they would have.  I felt very nervous and I hoped it wouldn't show too much.  It was hard to accept that I would stand out in front of the class and lead them.  I didn't feel ready yet.

At the same time, I was excited for the chance to keep on training.  I LOVED Kali Majapahit (still do!) and wanted nothing more than to just share it with everyone (yup, still do!).  It went OK, not great just OK, but luckily students can be a pretty forgiving lot, and people stuck with me.  I have tried hard to improve since then.  Thanks for staying with me.

5 years (and a few ITA sessions in Singapore) later and we have a GREAT group in Japan.  Not a good group, a GREAT GROUP.  At the core are some students (now Kasamas, mostly) who have trained with me for a few years, as well as a bunch of younger students making their way through the ranks one step at a time.  I love who they are as growing kalista.  I love each new discovery they reach - that moment when things start coming together and it starts to make sense, the puzzle pieces falling into place.

At the same time, I love watching my kasamas teach.  I love when they explain something so perfectly, with energy and passion, hitting all the right key points that make it work.  I can remember when they were first learning it - now they are ready to pass it on.  When my brothers and sisters from overseas come to visit I am proud to show them our Kali Family.  I am proud when we attend seminars together and people comment how good our kalista are, not just as fighters, but as PEOPLE.  We are a family that truly support each other and are there to help each other grow and learn.  I feel so incredibly lucky to have a group like this to call home.

There have been many times when our class was the main thing that kept me going.  Through a lot of tough personal times, Fridays were always "Our Time" to be together and something I looked forward to each week, sometimes the only thing I looked forward to.  As much as I gave to everyone, they gave to me.  They stayed committed to their training, and I knew I couldn't let them down.  I had to give 100% every class because they always deserve my absolute best.  Now we have even grown enough to have classes on Tuesday too, so twice I week I can do what I love most.

Every year brings new developments in Kali Majapahit.  We are doing so much more than we were when I joined.  I love the tradition, and the fellowship of my other instructors around the world, as well as our many brothers and sisters in so many countries.  I wish I could see them all more.  Many of our family have chosen to go beyond just a metaphorical warrior journey and embark on a real "warrior quest" around the world, just like Guro Fred and Guro Lila did so long ago.  I am jealous.  Respect to you for going all-in on your dreams.

When I reflect on my KM Journey, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction. It has been such a tremendous benefit to me and the others in my life.  I am always grateful to my KM Family, especially Guro Fred and Guro Lila, for giving me the keys to make such a happy life for myself, and for creating something so good I have to share it with everyone I can.  Thank you for getting me involved and for keeping me involved.  Thank you for putting together something we can use to make the world a better place.  I truly believe our curriculum is the very best, and has so many fantastic keys to personal development.  I hope everyone can get a chance to try it and see.

To all my brothers and sisters in KM, thank you for being part of this global family.  I hope you will keep spreading the message and keep on going to achieve all the goals you set - every time. Recognize that you are part of something very, very special - something precious.  Treasure it and pass it on to the people you love most.  Make it your own.  Make every class matter.  Keep growing and never stop.  Become an instructor and pass it on.

To my fellow instructors, thanks for inspiring me and for giving 100% inside of class and out just like I do.  We are bound together by our common experience, and you are my heroes.  I can't wait to see you again.  You are always welcome with us in Japan.

Warm regards,


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What will I grow up to be Mummy ??????

(thanks for the inspiration Asif Rahman)

"What will I grow up to be Mummy?"

This is a very important question - in fact, it is almost the most important question we can ask.  We live in an age where each generation is being forced to ask (and answer) this question earlier than their parents.  The generally accepted answer to this question (directly or indirectly) is "SUCCESSFUL".

We carefully select the most highly-trained babysitters and give our babies DHA and other supplements to boost brain development, we send our children Montessori and later to elite nursery schools, after school "enrichment" including math, science, art, music (especially piano), and hire expensive tutors to boost their academic performance.  We become smart but we fail to become wise.  We can develop skills, but can we truly be "successful"?  Do we even know what that means?

Television programs, commercials, movies and magazines subconsciously push us to seek unrealistic standards of wealth, power and beauty, and to despair when we don't achieve them. This leads to depression, apathy, and a loss of direction or sense of purpose for many young people.  The emphasis on material, tangible, conspicuous consumption, often at the expense of real defining experiences, encourages us to think that success can be bought and need not necessarily be earned.  Our "successful" parents spent a disproportionate amount of time working, and still less than we do, and less than our children might do (if we are not careful).

Where did we go astray?

I am father to two boys, one already a teenager.

We have been frugal with them, at the same time trying to make sure they did not suffer just to develop "virtue" or "character".  What do I want from them?  What would success for them mean to me (as their father)?  What do I want them to grow up to be??  I have thought about this a lot over the years, and this helped me answer Asif's post when he put it on Facebook.

I want my boys to grow up to be HAPPY.

Not more than this, but also, very importantly, not less than this.

When I say "happy" what do I mean?  Happiness comes in many forms, and I am not simply talking about the delirious, carefree happiness we feel just being silly and laughing for no reason (although sometimes this is essential).  Happiness can also be found by achieving goals we set that we feel are important to us, or also very importantly, by helping others to be safe and happy.  Happiness can come from the satisfaction of investing in ourselves and the people around us, investing in relationships that will stand the test of time and support us when we are in need.  Happiness comes from being confident in ourselves and our abilities, but also from setting our own goals and not just achieving for the sake of other peoples' opinions of us.

happiness comes from learning to listen to the Inner Voice, the voice of our eternal soul, which helps us to discover our purpose in this incarnation, and to continue our spiritual journey - not specific to any "textbook" religion.  Our souls are above that, just as our souls are above seeing each other as flesh and blood (beautiful or ugly, or with different skin color).  The soul sees only the soul - pure and true, all of us on the same journey.  We may go so far as to say we are happiest when our soul is in balance and at peace, following the path it must follow to evolve and progress. 

I intentionally leave some aspects such as career, place of residence, wealth/social status out of my definition.  We have a need for basic comforts, safety and security, and I do not think we all need to be Zen monks (although some of us need to be because our soul tells us so).

While the above are good guidelines, happiness can only come from knowing ourselves fully. That means investing the time in experiences, good and bad, that help us define what is best for us.  We will make mistakes, many mistakes along the way - the key is to stay focused on learning and growing physically, mentally, spiritually.  The sad truth is that we can probably be happier with far less possessions than we have.  Less is truly more, and simplicity has its own reward.

As I mention above, while we should all aspire to be happy and expend our maximum effort to define for ourselves what and how that needs to be, it is equally important to make a promise to ourselves not to settle for anything less than happiness.  Being happy, in the forms I describe above, is enough and we do not need more.  At the same time, far too many people settle for less than happiness.  Less than happiness in their careers, their homes, their partners, their families, their friends.  Accepting less than happiness is a terrible compromise that contributes to our own suffering and that of those around us.  We must start by knowing, truly KNOWING, that we have worth as human beings, and that we DESERVE TO BE HAPPY as we define it.  It is our right as a living creature, no different from that of any other living creature.  It is important to expect the best from ourselves, so that we can develop a habit of excellence in what we do, and allow ourselves the happiness of satisfaction which comes from achieving our best and growing to do and be more than we were.  Please don't settle for less than happiness.  You deserve it.

It is never too late to grow up - especially if you choose to grow up to be happy.           

Friday, May 15, 2015


(thanks for the inspiration JZ)

How much is enough?  Can we ever have ENOUGH?  Or is MORE always better?
Psychological studies show that beyond a certain point, more money is not necessarily better.
Many of the happiest countries in the world are materially poor (at least relative to the United States, for example).  In the study above, the US ranks a relatively disappointing 15th (lower than Costa Rica and Mexico, by the way).  The report strongly suggests that well-being, rather than just GDP/wealth, is at the heart of being happy.  We can take this to mean that no matter how much money we have, we cannot be happy if we are not healthy.  Shockingly, Japan (where I live) ranked 46th, behind Uzbekistan and Guatemala, and only one place above South Korea.

Many people I know seem gripped with fear - fear that they will never have enough; never have enough money, but also never enough time, enough love, enough respect or fame.  We run around so busy in our lives, as if frantic action (or more action) was the key to having more of the things we think we want.
By working harder and harder, we actually have less and less.  Maybe a bit more money, but less of everything else.  Subconsciously realizing we have less of the intangibles which we know really matter (time, love, energy, health, relaxation) we panic more, and the spiral spins faster...until something bad happens...

Somehow, we are led to believe that being successful is being BUSY, when maybe it should really be the opposite.  Maybe success is about having more free time to pursue the things we really feel passionate about. Maybe success is having the time and resources to learn and grow, rather than falling into bed exhausted at midnight every night, running to and from the airport on business trips to have meeting after meeting after meeting.

For many of us, the idea of contentment, being happy with what we have, is scary.  It suggests we will NEVER HAVE MORE, and TV, movies, and marketing gives us enormous social pressure to believe more is always better.  It's just NOT.

To Buddhists, desire/wanting ("Upadana" or "clinging") is one of the two the root causes of suffering. Particularly, this is the desire for things to be "as we want them" or for things to "stay the same" which, understanding impermanence, is impossible.  To want the impossible creates an inability to accept The Truth of what IS, and leads us to fear of loss - causing us instead to cling far too tightly and become unable to experience real happiness or contentment.  In short, the pain of loss is worse than the loss itself.

At the last Japan seminar, Guro Fred mentioned that we will be the first generation of people in history to have a shorter life expectancy than our parents...this is as profound as it is sad.  The stress is killing us.
The CDC reports that heart disease and cancer (both linked to stress) are the leading causes of death for people in the US.  More disturbing is the data showing that suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-34.  This strongly suggests that the stress and pressure of trying to be "a successful adult" is more than many young people can handle.

In search of MORE, we do stupid things.  In search of more money, some people break ethical/moral rules they otherwise would not.  In search of more love, many people look outside their marriage or relationship rather than invest in the one they have.  In search of fame/respect, we become willing to give up our self-respect, pride or dignity in the hopes that others will like us.  In the search for more time, we stay up late and don't get enough sleep, indirectly causing health problems.  We eat more and more every year in the search to consume and experience more, putting additional stress on our fragile bodies. 

I am now almost 50 years old.  I have learned not to be afraid.  Martial arts taught me that.  The training taught not just to be unafraid of death, it has taught me that there will be enough:  I will have enough time to train; enough time to work and be productive; enough love; enough money; enough respect to feel good about myself; enough resources to help others; enough opportunities to learn and grow.  I don't have enough to be wasteful or foolish, but if I am careful and consistent I will have enough to have a comfortable and contented life.  Thinking about this makes me feel at peace.  It can make you feel at peace, too.

The mantra "I have enough" is one of my favorites for meditation - reminding myself again and again not to be in a panic to collect more of anything than what I need to be happy.

As I told a dear friend of mine the other day,

In life we will not be judged by how much money we have or how many bottles of champagne we drank, we will be judged on how much we loved and were loved by those who matter to us; by how much compassion we showed, and how much we were able to improve the lives of others. How much we inspired and were inspired. How much passion we had. How brightly we shone; how intensely we lived. What values we had and whether or not we stayed true to them when things got tough. 

Trust me, Enough in Enough.  More is not necessarily better.  Focus on the human things that matter most.
If you must seek more, SEEK MORE BALANCE.

See you at class.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Input - Output Model

(thanks for the inspiration GH)

There it is, the I/O model.  Many of you have heard of it, especially maths/computer science geeks, but it is perhaps a great deal more profound than most people realize.

The I/O model is a great way of understanding so many of the situations that we face in our lives.
We often struggle to get a different result, somehow naively believing that we could get a different output from the same input fed into the same process.  Of course, if we are detached, we can understand that the only way to get a different output is to change the inputs or use a different process.

Working backward, we can use this principle to examine and adjust almost any aspect of our lives, from our work situation to our relationship status.  We spend far too much time worrying about the results we get - financial, physical, emotional, spiritual.  All too often, we are stressed out because we don't like the results (outputs).  I would content that we spend far too little time examining the inputs and processes which yield these results.  Time and again we repeat the same negative behaviors or use the same ineffective inputs - only to be shocked when the outputs are the same every time (or worse).  How could they be better if the inputs are not improved or the process changed??

As we look at the areas of our lives we feel need improvement, we can work backward to examine the processes and inputs which created the outputs.  In almost every case, the inputs can be changed or a different process used.  Sometimes this will yield a worse result, but more often than not mixing things up will yield an improvement - sometimes a significant one.

If nothing else, adjusting the inputs and using different processes allows us to leverage feedback loop and explore the relationships between variables, sometimes seemingly unrelated variables.  It reminds us that we are not victims of circumstance or subject to simple fate, dumb luck or bad habits.  WE HAVE CONTROL -  we always did.  We can determine how good or bad our lives will be.  We have the power to change the things we don't like, if we can have the courage to change the inputs and processes we don't like.  This is complete empowerment.

Even in our training, we are always free to change the inputs and processes of the training.
Doing so gives a fresh, new perspective that can give additional insights or develop new skills.
Our diet routine, our sleep patterns, our exercise habits, our drills --- all of these create the output of who we are as martial artists.  All are within our control to change.  Different inputs of focus, time, discipline, energy added to different/better training processes are what really take our skills to the next level and keep us moving forward.  FMA are unique (I think) in continuing this evolution at a rapid pace, while still trying to preserve the martial traditions which underpin our knowledge.

Changes take time and are often scary or uncomfortable.  Martial arts is a great way to develop the confidence we need to change, and keep changing, the things in our lives we want to make better.  Experts say it takes 21 days to form a new habit - sometimes that can feel like a very, very long time.  Martial arts training gives us the discipline and patience to see the changes through to new habits, and create an environment of continuous improvement for ourselves.

Knowing this, we must accept responsibility, total responsibility, for our circumstances.
If we don't like something - CHANGE IT.

Make your life what you want it to be.  I KNOW YOU CAN.

See you at class.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Fight Night

Well, it's over.  The "Fight of the Century" did not end with a BANG, the sound many predicted Pacman's glove would make on Money's jaw, but with a whimper as Floyd Mayweather played it safe and defended his title with very little risk, negating Manny Pacquiao's offense for the full 12 rounds to a unanimous decision from the judges and unanimous dissatisfaction from boxing fans.

There are a lot of differences between sports and martial arts, and it is important to understand them - each one can have its' place,  but they are rarely interchangeable.

In sports, we can separate the individual from his/her athletic prowess.  We can focus on the measurement, the numbers, the points or seconds and forget who they are as a human being. This could be true for legendary sporting "bad boys" like Mike Tyson, Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, even George Best, just to name a few.  Even supposed sporting "nice guys" like Pete Rose and Michael Jordan do not have spotless records of conduct - nearly every sports legend has personal character flaws that are distasteful, if not blatantly illegal or immoral.

We can allow ourselves to forgive, or at least ignore, their failings as human beings in light of the excitement they make us feel when we see their sporting feats and share in their victories.

As martial artists, this is not enough.

Our goal is to make great martial artists, and that means great fighters with a deep understanding of the context, history and background of the traditions we teach.  More than this, our goal is to make GREAT HUMAN BEINGS - human beings with compassion; human beings who can positively impact the world by going forth to achieve their personal and professional goals using the confidence and self-esteem they develop and polish in the dojo.  We want to inspire the next generation of people who will take control of their own lives, take responsibility for their own actions and make a change in the world because they know they can.

At the end of it all, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.
What really matters is the person you choose to become, and "points" are no substitute for being a bad person just as having money does not forgive transgression.

I wanted Pacquiao to win just like all of you probably did.  He seems like a better person, and I wanted him to be the better boxer, too.  In sports, it is hard to find the right combination of athletic prowess and upstanding character.  In martial arts, we must settle for nothing less.  We must expect this of our teachers and training partners, and we must demand it of ourselves.

Becoming the best fighter in the world is worth nothing if it costs us our humility, our respectfulness, or our compassion.

See you at training.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Danger! Restricted Area!!

(Thanks for the inspiration MG Ben!!)

Just reading a training tip from MG Ben at Kali Majapahit Mothership.  In addition to being a fantastic martial artist and athlete, he is one of the most creative at finding new drills and exercises to challenge the students.  He leverages his experience in ADD/Parkour and really comes up with a lot of innovative ways to get you to discover yourself and how to move your body.  Pugay!!

In this post, he shared a limitation drill, where he forced students to respond but WITHOUT hitting the head as part of their counter.  This made them look for other alternatives such as locks, sweeps, throws, takedowns, but also attacks to the low-lines/knees and other options.
This is a fantastic idea, and the concept is worth further discussion.

Kali Majapahit is all about optionality.  What do I mean?
Guro Fred talks to us about our FLOW and our FLAVOR, which is how we make our Kali Majapahit unique to ourselves, moving in line with our own physiology and psychology.
Sounds great, right?  But all too often I find we are creatures of habit, using the techniques we like and know best, and failing to truly EXPLORE and develop other options for each situation.
As such, we become mechanical and we lose the beauty of Kali Majapahit, which is in being able to react to the new and changing situation effortlessly and finding the solution to each problem as it arises.  How do you train for that??

One of the very best ways is to create scenarios and rules in the responses to force us to find other channels and explore other options.  There are many ways to do this.  Here are a few of my favorites.

1) Limit the Style/Subsystem
Explore the difference in your body's attitude, distance, timing and psychology by restricting the response to any specific subsystem.  Respond only using Kali, Silat, Panantukan, Hakka Kuntao, Western Boxing, Dumog.  Force yourself to take and keep that mental and physical attitude throughout the drill.  As an even more advanced drill, let the instructor (or your partner) choose your subsystem before they attack and switch up every time.

2) Limit the Line
Restrict yourself to a certain dimension - high line, medium line, low line.  For the high line targets are head/neck/spine.  Medium line are liver/spleen/plexus/cocyxx, low line are groin/knee/ankle/feet and toes.

3) Spaced
Restrict yourself to either Largo mano (long distance) or Corto (short distance/CQC).  Force yourself to make and keep this distance during the drill, closing in or pushing away as needed to control and maintain the space you want.  (note: I deliberately omit Medio (medium distance) since this is used for transition only and NOT as a purposeful fighting range).

4) Inside Out
Restrict yourself  to only the inside or outside line.  This is a great drill with Sinawali 6 empty hand application, but can be expanded to weapons work as well (knife defense, single/double stick, etc.)

5) Downtown
Restrict yourself to groundwork.  Every response must bring the attacker immediately to the floor for submission. Vary the attacks to include punches and kicks.  This is great for working your single/double leg takedowns.

6) Uptown
Every attacker should seek a takedown/shoot.  Defenders' job is to stay on their feet and keep moving.  This is harder than it sounds. For a very advanced version, use multiple attackers and have one of them try to immobilize the defender's legs.

7) Wrist Wrecker
Great drill for sticks (foam sticks are better for beginners).  Have one partner put on arm guards or boxing/MMA gloves.  For any angle attack, try to contact the hand/fingers/wrist first. Learn to do this while keeping your focus on the center mass, not looking at the arms/hands. For more advanced drills, you need to hit the hands/finger/wrist 2 or 3 times for every attack.

8) Off the Wall
The defender starts the drill with their back flush against a wall.  Advanced students should use the wall to their advantage!  Another variation is the corner.

9) Immovable
The defender has one or both legs immobilized (as if the bottom of the foot is stuck to the floor).

10) Game of Thrones
The defender is sitting down in a chair and gets attacked by one or more attackers.

11) Rapid Deployment
Using any commonly carried personal defense item (EDC trainer), the defender gets attacked by one or more attackers who have foam sticks.  The goal is to deploy your EDC tool (folding karambit/knife trainer, scarf, tactical pen/flashlight, collapsible baton, etc.) while moving/evading attacks and responding.  You can't use it if it's in the bottom of your bag, right?

There are many, many more ideas.  These are a few I like.  Please feel free to share!

Restricting yourself is a great way to learn to FREE YOURSELF!  Now, GO EXPLORE!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Someone You Can Depend On

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!""
 --- Isaiah 6:8

I am not Christian, but I like this verse.  It was quoted in the movie FURY, which I have been watching since I saw it in the theater, and then bought it on Blu-Ray.

This is an important quote, and I'll tell you why.

We live in an age of convenience.  Most of the things we need and use in our daily lives are done for us by someone else.  Someone cooks our meals, takes care of our health, manages our money, teaches us, entertains us.  Some of us have someone who cleans and does our laundry for us.  We are a consumer people, and we equate "freedom" with no longer having to perform menial tasks so we can concentrate on higher pursuits (new services even promise to deliver our food in 10 minutes or less)

However, when the chips are really down, in that moment of truth, I can tell you from experience --- you will be alone.  Somehow, some way, call it Karma or I-Ching or whatever, the really tough stuff always ends with Y-O-U and you always have to face it on your own.
At least I always have.

The good news is that once you come to accept this, you can make yourself ready.  HOW??

  • You can make time to exercise regularly and think about what and how you feed your body.
  • You can invest in making yourself smarter, and keep building a catalog of skills and experiences that you can draw upon.
  • You can make sure to meditate (at least a little bit) every single day so you can be calm and aware and very focused when needed. 
  • You can invest your earnings (at least some of them) so you will have money later in the future when you might need it.
  • You can spend time in the dojo, setting and achieving training goals and proving to yourself again and again that YOU CAN DO IT.  GO TO KALI MAJAPHIT They will take good care of you.  I know.  They took good care of me, too.

Most importantly, through these tasks you can begin to see yourself as a resourceful, capable adult - someone who does not back down from life's challenges.  You can become someone who instead rises to the occasion, does not crack under the pressure, and can deliver results when it really matters --- not just for someone else, but FOR YOURSELF.  You can grow up from being that needy child to become someone who is really able to give back to those around you who are important to you.  You can become the calm, confident YOU that you know is in there.

Trust me, you are stronger, smarter, braver, more resourceful... BETTER than you ever imagined. Give yourself a chance.

It is a fantastic feeling to do things for yourself, including any of the things I listed above.
It is empowering and helps re-establish your control over every aspect of your life.  Later on, when you do decide to let others do things for you (and you should), you do so with the full knowledge and appreciation of what is involved, and the gratitude that comes from knowing how hard things can be, and knowing how much easier life is when you have help.  take nothing and no one for granted.

There is NOTHING more beautiful than a strong, capable person.  IT'S YOU.
Don't wait around for someone to do everything for you.  What if they never show up??
Instead, take control of your life and become that someone you can depend on.
You can always be there for yourself.

The time is NOW.  

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Touch Me

Yeah! Come on, come on, come on, come on
Now touch me, baby
Can't you see that I am not afraid?
What was that promise that you made?
 - The Doors

There is almost nothing more important in martial arts than the sense of TOUCH.  I would argue it is almost more important than any other sense, including sight.  Philosophically, we are all connected, touching and being touched, by the energy and lives of those around us - living beings that we interact with, even for a moment, touch us and can change us forever.  Our martial arts is symbolic of this.

However, practically speaking as well, touch is critical to martial arts training.

Very often in class I see that students are afraid to touch each other (especially on the face).
While I recognize that there can be some deep-seated cultural and social rules around this, it is a big danger to the training and skill development if we do not touch each other.  The dojo is a laboratory where cultural rules (apart from courtesy and safety) must be broken in order to learn, explore and discover.

Specifically, touch is critical to our development of sensitivity and reaction.  Many martial arts systems have it, called chi sau or "sticking hands" in Wing Chun or te no tori "taking hands" in Aikido, a fundamental skill of practical martial arts is the ability to make and keep contact in order to feel the energy and direction of someone's movement and intent.  It is simply not possible to develop much skill without learning this.

Also of great importance is the use of touch in understanding how to move and control the body of the attacker.  Kali Majapahit is about attacking the structure of the opponent, and the only way to learn this is by touching.  We operate mainly on the head/neck/spine in order to take away the structure/balance/strength and control the fighting situation from the earliest possible moment. This can only be possible through touching and keeping contact.  In fact, this is the most ethical way to engage.

If we do not make and keep our touch, we are forced to use only the most temporary contact (percussion) to submit and subdue someone.  This is most likely to result in injury for either party since percussive impact is often imprecise and can be extremely difficult to control.  It is far better to make and keep contact, where we can manipulate the body to take away strength and aggressive intent without causing injury.  This is only possible through mastery of touch.

In training, it is absolutely necessary to touch our partners.  This is the only way to get a natural reaction that we can use to study the motion and build chains of techniques.  It is the only way to learn the degrees of pressure and force needed to control another person.  It is the only way to study locking and submission without injuring our partner.  Particularly, it is necessary to touch the head/neck/face since these are key gateways to controlling the spine and taking away the structure and balance of an aggressor.  We must, therefore, become comfortable in both touching and being touched as part of the training.  There is nothing rude about it.

We are NOT doing our partner any favor by not touching them.
We are NOT doing ourselves any favor by not allowing others to touch us or being hesitant to touch our partners.

If we are nervous or uncomfortable about being touched or touching, this is going to make it very hard to defend ourselves or to remain calm if a confrontation occurs.  For such people, it is common to panic, tense up or freeze when being touched by someone - not a great fighting response.

The dojo is the perfect place to gain confidence and safely learn how to do touch others and become comfortable with physical contact.  Instructors are there to ensure safety and give the right context to the situation, so students who are afraid can learn to overcome any apprehension.  Touching and being touched builds confidence and reinforces our sense of "connectedness".

This does not give us the right to hurt each other - in training TOUCH IMPLIES TRUST.
That means that what we do we must do with CONTROL.

Please do your partner the kindness of making contact, hopefully they will return the favor.

Remember, we are all connected... :-)