Friday, June 30, 2017

Putting the Right Foot Forward

Great seminar last weekend with Guro Daniel Sullivan of Warrior Arts Alliance and head of OC Kickboxing and MMA in Orange County California.

He taught a 12 hour weekend course of Filipino "dirty boxing" involving the various techniques and skills he has developed after 32 years of study and fellowship with Guro Dan Inosanto.

His lessons were filled with hard-hitting (literally) practical tips for improving the stand up game including very practical self-defense applications based on combinations of high-percentages strikes, elbows, knees, claws, stomps and other effective "dirty tricks".  In addition to being a walking encyclopedia of the history of JKD/Jun-Fan and several styles of FMA and silat, he has a very effective teaching method to build muscle memory and fitness/cardio in the way that he drills.  Overall, a fantastic learning experience and I highly recommend anyone to attend his seminars or camps if possible, or to go directly to his facility in Irvine, California.

One of the points he brought up was about how all arts basically start with two things: stance and footwork.  From this we are able to understand what is important to a style and already get a firm grasp of its fighting principles.

We spent the weekend fighting in an orthodox stance, that is, left foot forward.
This can be a challenge for those of us who traditionally fight Southpaw (right foot forward).
Guro Daniel explained the theory of matched/unmatched stances, meaning when we are "matched" with both same side feet forward or "unmatched" when we have opposite feet forward.  He further explained that at least 85% of the opponents we would be likely to face (trained or untrained) will stand left foot forward in order to put their power hand (right hand) back.

In weapon-based arts we are generally taught that we want the dominant hand forward since it is most likely to be holding the weapon and we want the weapon in between the opponent and ourselves.  For us, it is sensible to not have to remember to switch stance from right forward to left forward depending on if we have an active weapon or not.  Thus, we maintain a right foot forward stance at all times.  I like many things about this style.  I like having my power punch in front and being able to load my jab with enough stopping power to pin the opponent for my cross.  I like how the southpaw stance confuses fighters who are used to an orthodox opponent.  I like being able to hitch and load my right leg for kicking.

At the same time I must confess that it gets confusing to translate lengthy, complex combinations into southpaw when I watch videos or attend seminars.  I also hate having to adjust to orthodox fighters, finding that it sometimes confuses me, too.  It also makes it hard to go and train at other gyms or in other styles since I am not as comfortable orthodox as I am southpaw.

Guro Daniel clearly advised that if we choose a Southpaw stance, we should invest plenty of time and energy dealing with orthodox opponents.  To do otherwise is an illusion, and we would be kidding ourselves to imagine we can safely defend ourselves when a majority of the population fight orthodox.  His words rang true.

Ultimately, we must become comfortable to fight at any range or distance, with any weapon, standing or on the ground, since we never know how an encounter will evolve and our survival may depend on adaptability.  For the stand up game this means spending time in both orthodox and southpaw, and working hard on the unmatched position if we choose to keep the integrity of our southpaw art.

The joy of seminars with such masters as Guro Daniel is not just the techniques and the fellowship.  It is the thought-provoking insights that keep me examining the art over and over again.  Heartfelt gratitude to Guro Daniel Sullivan, Guro Tony Davis and Sensei Eian and Shin Kali for arranging the excellent event.


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Art of Being Lazy

This is me.

OK, I'm kidding.  It's a pug.
However, it is a very important pug (VIP).

This pug represents one of the most important elements of martial arts - laziness.

Let me explain.  Most people have got it all wrong.
People work very hard.  Too hard.

Even in the dojo, I see students trying so hard.  They push and pull and grunt and sweat.  It's such HARD WORK and they really struggle with it.  Not only is this wrong, it's dangerous.

Martial arts is about EFFICIENCY.  We study the human body to discover how it works.  We learn how all the muscles push and pull.  We study balance and weight shifting.  We explore the ranges of motion of the joints.  We learn about nerve systems and acupuncture points.  We exercise our minds.  WE THINK.  We do this so that we can pick the easiest (laziest?) and most efficient way to end any confrontation with the maximum chance of success and minimum chance of injury. Some simple principles we follow include:

  • apply hard weapons versus weak targets
  • use large muscles rather than small muscles
  • take opponent's balance; keep our own
  • attack the structure first
  • use the simplest possible technique

Martial arts is an ethical practice (at least it should be).  We should not injure others if it can be avoided.  The best way to do this is to take away their balance and structure.  Once this is done, the opponent can usually be controlled and subdued without (or with only minimal) injury.  If we cannot do this, we have no choice but to injure the opponent in order to avoid injury to ourselves or others.

In summary, if I can't control you, I have to injure you.

I don't want to injure ANYONE. Ever.
This inevitably leads to guilt and regret, neither of which are outcomes I want.

In the dojo, it is important to study every technique carefully to understand how the balance and structure of the opponent are affected.  Look for how to use the hips/backs/legs/footwork to achieve this.  Look for the most direct way to engage the opponent's center of gravity and disrupt it.  BE LAZY.  A typical sequence looks something like this:

  1. entering --- get in
  2. contacting --- distract with atemi
  3. connecting --- get a grip
  4. controlling --- move the balance/structure
  5. subduing --- incapacitate/submit
The best techniques have the shortest time through this cycle and often achieve it by combining several steps into one movement.

If you are working too hard, it is usually a sign that you are doing something wrong.  Brute force is almost always the tool of last resort --- both inside and outside the dojo.

Consider this carefully.

Clean Dojo, Clean Heart

(thanks for the inspiration GR)

I LOVE Filipino Martial Arts. A LOT.

Those that know me know that my martial arts journey changed that day I stepped into the rickety old shophouse on Yan Kit road in 2008 for a trial lesson with my teacher, Guro Fred Evrard and met my Kali family --- a journey that is still ongoing for me.

That said, most of my life I have been a traditional Japanese martial artist.  Apart from Kali Majapahit, which is the only art I teach now, my other teaching licenses comprise 25 years of study and are all in very traditional disciplines including Yoshinkan Aikido, Kiyama-Ryu Iaijutsu and Ninjutsu.  I started when I was 14 and have been involved in martial arts all of my adult life.  Without my training, I would not have achieved the success I achieved in my family and career.
This training was how I became who I am.  It is the most precious gift I have.

In a Japanese dojo, we clean.  A LOT.  We clean the dojo mats after every single class (see above) and we do monthly/quarterly big cleaning sessions on weekends where we systematically clean the whole dojo top to bottom.  All of these tasks are done together, teachers and students, regardless of rank.  None of us see this as a chore.  WHY??

At the core of the Japanese martial arts is RESPECT.  The hierarchy looks like this:

  • Respect for life
  • Respect for the art
  • Respect for the teacher
  • Respect for our training partners
  • Respect for self

Respect is the cornerstone of the training.  Without this, we cannot build our character.  Even if my house were messy, my dojo would be spotlessly clean.  My dojo is my HEART, my sacred place where I develop myself.  My temple where I celebrate my life journey with my Kali family.  I keep it clean like I keep myself clean.  I organize the dojo like I organize my Life.  Little things (like cleaning) lead to big things (like success).  I become someone who DOES rather than someone who merely talks about doing.

Yes, punctuality is also a sign of respect (all of the 5 "respects" above).  Life is made up of time - the art is developed over time, our teacher has invested his/her time, our training partners are on time ---> we develop discipline when we learn to be on time.

Every student must keep asking the question "Why am I training?".  Answers may vary, but "becoming a better person" should always be part of the response. Otherwise, if all we learn is how to move our bodies we could do this at a sports gym.  If it is only about punching and kicking we are missing the point.


It makes us BETTER PEOPLE.

This is such a powerful skill that it can change our lives forever.  It gives us the tools to help others change their lives too.  If you disagree with me, I suggest you sit down with any one of the Guros and discuss it.  Please do.

My brothers and sisters earned their black belts by understanding this.  Their rank recognizes their commitment not just to their own training and development, but to YOURS.  They have so much, which is why they can give so much (and they do).  This can be you, too.

The starting place is to learn how to suppress the Ego.  This establishes that we are all the same.  Thus, what one can do, anyone can do.  Regardless of social status, race, color or creed when we put on the uniform we are all THE SAME. What someone else can do, I can do (if I train).  This is absolute freedom.

A famous Japanese proverb writes, "The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step"...well, here it is.  Pick up your broom and start your journey.

Let's go TOGETHER.