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... :-)

Sunday, April 05, 2015


"does the hand go on the left or the right?"
"which leg do I step with?"
"punch, elbow and knee? Or elbow, punch and knee?"

The first time I saw Guro Fred move I thought "Damn, he's fast..."  Seven years later at the recent Japan seminar in Tokyo on 28/29 March, probably the 1,000th time I saw (and felt) Guro Fred move I thought "Damn, he's REALLY fast..."

That was a great weekend filled with fellowship, great training, really cool techniques and, as always, a lot to learn.  many things Guro Fred said that weekend resonated with me, just as they did in Singapore when I started. One of them is about not being a "prisoner of the technique".  What does this mean?

In many traditional martial arts, especially arts which emphasize kata (forms), we are forced to mimic the instructor and do exactly as he/she does. At the beginning this is mostly about gross movements such as which leg is forward and which movements are in which sequence.  As we progress and begin to understand the purpose of the movement more, we observe more detail about specific angles, direction, weight shift and complex combinations of movements that yield different results.  As always, any deviation from these patterns is WRONG.  The goal is to burn into your muscle memory a very precise set of motions in a very specific sequence.  Used properly, this training builds the body, posture and breathing.  It creates a strong will and mind/body harmony and also disciplines the spirit.  This is admirable, but it is NOT FMA.

In the Filipino arts, individual expression is the goal.
Our instructors' job is to give us the right basics, the correct concepts and principles and teach us how to reinforce them through drills and exercises and examples.  Then they must allow us to express them (and expand them) our own way.  Your Kali must be YOURS and can be no one else's.  It is an expression of who and how you are as much as, ultimately, what you believe.  You can learn an awful lot about somebody through physical contact - yet another reason why our Kali Family is so close.  What you show is what you are, there is no way to hide that.
Thus, it is important that you learn to break free from the boundaries of what your instructors show you and find your own Kali, or what Guro Fred called "your flavor".

Boxing is a great example.  Boxing fundamentals are largely the same.  They consist of the same basic punches and the same basic footwork - no "hidden techniques" or "secret death punches" (not legally anyway).  At the same time, no two champion boxers box exactly the same.  They always express their uniqueness and individuality through the way they move, and this is one of the things that makes the "sweet science" so fascinating.  The physical chess is about more than just the punches - it is indeed a mental game.  So is Kali.

Like little children, at the beginning we learn by mimicry.  We imitate the movements and sounds of our parents and observe everything they do.  This is necessary to build the basic motor skills and building blocks of language.  However, if there were no individual expression then children would only ever say what their parents have said (scary thought) or do what was done before.  As parents we rightfully encourage our children to "be themselves" and to "express themselves", to explore their world (safely and with supervision of course) in order that they can discover their way.  It is no different for Kali instructors. As we learn, grow and EVOLVE, we expect our students to do the same.   The drills are designed to encourage exploration and should be used as such.  The goals is ADAPTIVE FUNCTIONALITY, the ability to take the principles and concepts we know and apply them effectively to any situation - physical, mental or spiritual.

In Kali, there is no rule book.  Instead, it is best to think of the techniques, patterns and drills as a set of guidelines, behind which sound fighting principles exist.  In class, pay attention to what your instructors do, but also let your mind consider the possibilities from each step or place. Seek what is efficient, what works best for you and what matches your body and your personality.  Rejoice in every discovery since this is what helps you to become an expert of motion.  Keep your sense of wonder.

As Madonna said "EXPRESS YOURSELF."

Break Free.