Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
I have a list of rules that has come down through a few people and I heard of it first in 1999 from Marc MacYoung and Mushtaq Ali Shah. At the time it was referred to as the Rules of Gerakan Suci Pencak Silat. It is great, and I refer to it often in class. For this post, I want to look at Rule #16. It reads as follows and has commentary (in italics) by Mushtaq.
I am so dangerous I can afford to be polite, reasonable, and mellow.
Only the weak, insecure, and those who live in fear need to woof. Always treat others with respect, strive to understand all points of view, and never let yourself be controlled by negative emotions.
I thought of this rule outside of class during a conversation about teaching and training the martial arts. The subject came up that the public persona of a martial artist can be that of a thug (their word) or a person looking to prove themselves. The person who brought this up had studied an art in college and was saying how the majority of his classmates became more gentile over time and sought resolution over aggression. They did, however, have the ability and willingness to use what they knew should they need to. That being said, this doesn’t mean there aren’t people with Cobra Kai attitudes out there, they just don’t come from my school.
Because of the nature of what we do, I took away a lesson long ago from Marc “Animal” MacYoung about injecting humor into the lesson to keep things from getting to that point where aggression is the overruling emotion. One other lesson about humor I learned along the way is that humor helps the brain retain more information because you relax and things happen more easily without the tensions of various stresses. Ultimately, we want to enjoy and have fun with what we do, so we have a good time while training with the understanding that we are doing something Rory Miller refers to as the practice of “creating cripples and corpses.” Dire, I know.
The further down the road of studying the martial arts you go, the more you come to understand Rule #16 and see that it is not a statement of contempt but of compassion.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
In my experience, both personal and what I have seen develop in others, nothing helps to ignite an indomitable spirit more than training in the martial arts. The cool thing is this resolute spirit expands way beyond the dojo.
Here are some things you can expect to pick up over time.
Balance is being able to do what you need to do regardless of the precariousness of the situation. Initially, this could be staying on your feet or establishing a connection between your upper and lower body so you can move efficiently. Certainly this will improve those who think they are blessed with two left feet. Often, this idea of physical balance can be called coordination.
As you progress in training, the idea of balance will transcend the physical and reach a psychological state. Here you will develop an understanding of who you are, how you interact with others and what you can do to maintain your integrity. This mindset can help you excel at any endeavor as well as accept setbacks as a lesson. This will lead to a state of balance in every aspect of your life so that you are present in every moment.
One of the coolest things that came out of my martial arts training is meeting and becoming friends with a great number of people. We are all there for various reasons, but we have the underlying theme of the arts connecting us. I look forward to seeing and training with all of them.
The art of being humble
Braggarts are not a product of a good school. Confidence radiates out of a person of humility without the need to be contemptuous.
This is definitely a “lead by example” trait that some schools drop the ball on. When you are looking for a school, trust your gut on how the instructor and students make you feel. If you feel intimidated by the people, it’s not the arts that are at fault.
Self-confidence and self-esteem both get a boost through accomplishments, and the humility of training keeps us in check from getting an inflated ego (there’s that balance thing again...).
(I need your) Discipline
For years, I used to not push this aspect, but then it hit me that I was approaching it from the wrong angle. I used to think it was some mode of teaching self-control and limiting the student in some way and my semi-rebellious nature, well, rebelled. I came to understand it not as a method of conditioning, but as a method of dedication to the task.
By being able to focus on learning a technique in class, I am able to take that same methodology and apply it to many things in my life and that makes everything a lot more fun. This opens the mind to be able to better focus on every day tasks or challenging ones at the office.
The very nature of learning a martial art inspires people to not stop - you get up, brush yourself off and go again. Martial arts are a way to stay vibrant and active by learning something new, reach an understanding of the material and excel at doing it. An aspect of the training in martial arts is the process of learning circles back on itself repeatedly and keeps challenging you to be better.
(You’re just too) Physical
It is no secret that, as a society, we are becoming less healthy. The main thing is lack of movement. The thing is, it doesn’t take a lot to stay mobile and active. Training in a martial art hits all the good points to be a healthy person.
One benefit of exercise is it keeps your mind focused and awake. Exercise releases endorphins which help us not only feel better but think better. By their nature, the martial arts work a variety of muscle groups. Add to that different body types and this really pushes your body. This means the workout is never exactly the same, and we use more of our bodies and get a better workout.
Friday, September 9, 2011
The variety of martial arts today is pretty astounding. It took a little time to discover what I wanted, where to seek out instructors and what style to train in. I traveled to seminars or brought instructors to me to learn. I really enjoyed the aspects of the arts that differ from what we normally see. The fluid nature and movements of Filipino and Indonesian martial arts compared to the linear approach of tae kwon do which I learned as a kid had me hooked. Please note that I’m not saying one art is better than another art. In you are interested in martial arts, you will have the one that calls to you and will reflect your character. The evasive and efficient movements of kali and pencak silat really appealed to me and reflected who I am. Okay, that’s one answer to how KSMA is different: we focus on being evasive and fluid over linear.
While there are instructors who are above reproach, I have been fortunate to train with those who wanted me to understand the material and not just regurgitate it back to them. These instructors looked forward to my questions. That is an aspect, especially of the Filipino arts, that I respect. The name of the art isn’t as important as the principles and essence of the art. They encouraged me to find my own expression within the art. Yes, there are basics that are the foundation of the arts that should be learned within the structure of the arts. Once those basics are integrated into your movements, they become part of how you move. Each situation, while different, will have a base similarity that you will recognize. That’s two: We want you to integrate the art into your life and express yourself, make it your art.
I asked one of my long time training partners how he felt we were different. His response was that tae kwon do and karate are more sport oriented (for the most part, there are some schools out there that really bang) and kali and pencak silat are more about getting out of a bad place. In that context, we take a step back from the physical, non-verbal conversation that is a fight and start with attempting to de-escalate the situation. This isn’t always possible, so that is why we train what we do. It’s an insurance policy.
Ultimately, the differences are superficial. Bruce Lee pointed out that we are all human and have similar body types with equivalent movements. Therefore, any martial art has similarities with attack and defense. What I believe it comes down to is intention in the expression. If your ultimate expression is to break boards and have a form that you can do flawlessly, and that’s your thing – do it and do it well. If you want the knowledge of what happens, why and what to do, great. I offer the latter. The choice is yours.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
An important aspect of training in martial arts is the ability to move. This fundamental needs to be practiced and developed; that takes doing. In class, we routinely go over several footwork patterns. One training tool used a lot in many martial arts is a geometric pattern. From the simple to the ornate, these can help students reach a level of understanding of the movements that is integrated into their everyday activities.
Aside from straight line movement, the first pattern taught is on a triangle. This is an easy one for newer students to understand. We work it on what are referred to as male and female triangles. The male pattern - /\ - has the lead foot on point toward the opponent with the rear foot off on an angle away from the opponent. This can be used as an evasive retreat to set you up to move in or away. The second is referred to as the female triangle - \/ - which has the lead foot moving at an angle alongside the opponent or across their centerline. Over time, the pattern is closed and students learn the sweeps that are present in the movements in combination with handiwork.
As a solo drill, you can create an hourglass with the pattern. By using pendulum, step-n-slide and push shuffles along with the basic male and female angles, you can create a dynamic and randomized exercise.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
In Iowa, your first legal obligation is to remove yourself from the situation. Most often referred to as a “duty to retreat.” A quick internet search for my state found the following:
A couple highlights from Chapter 704 Force - Reasonable or Deadly - Defenses are below and I encourage you to read them all and keep them in your brain!
704.1 as an example reads as follows: “‘Reasonable force’ is that force and no more which a reasonable person, in like circumstances, would judge to be necessary to prevent an injury or loss and can include deadly force if it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one's life or safety or the life or safety of another, or it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to resist a like force or threat. Reasonable force, including deadly force, may be used even if an alternative course of action is available if the alternative entails a risk to life or safety, or the life or safety of a third party, or requires one to abandon or retreat from one's dwelling or place of business or employment.”
704.6 reads: The defense of justification is not available to the following:
1. One who is participating in a forcible felony, or riot, or a duel.
2. One who initially provokes the use of force against oneself, with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict injury on the assailant.
3. One who initially provokes the use of force against oneself by one's unlawful acts, unless:
a. Such force is grossly disproportionate to the provocation, and is so great that the person reasonably believes that the person is in imminent danger of death or serious injury or
The person withdraws from physical contact with the other and indicates clearly to the other that the person desires to terminate the conflict but the other continues or resumes the use of force.
Other important divisions to become familiar with are 724.4 Carrying weapons, 702.7 Dangerous Weapons, and 724.1 Offensive Weapons.
These laws are on the books and freely available for you to learn and you should, even if you do not train in a martial art.
What most fail to understand is that Self-Defense is a legal term. This means you are admitting to being guilty of an illegal act. It is also up to you to prove and justify your actions, one slip in your story and you are done. As an example, if you are out at your local pub and some rowdy hooligans start harassing you and you do not remove yourself from the scene via a de-escalating verbal communication (“Sorry man, I am leaving.”). Then you proceed to get physical. That is not self-defense, but mutual combative assault and you could become bunkmates behind bars.
Self-defense is, in the words of Rory Miller in Meditations on Violence, “...recovery from stupidity or bad luck, from finding yourself in a position you would have given almost anything to prevent.” Self-defense is an option in the chain of events and your best course is to verbally de-escalate and walk away. If it does comes to blows, you will have a long journey ahead of you. It may not be in your favor in both legal and civil realms. Rory encapsulates this well in the same book and gives a guide for avoiding a civil lawsuit with this sentence, “The legal essence of self-defense is that you are required to use ‘the minimum level of force’ which you ‘reasonably believe’ is necessary to safely resolve the situation.” If you go to court you will need to clearly state
- What you did
- Why you did it
- What you could have done to make it worse
And remember, once the guy is down, you’re done. No adding a “AND THAT’S FOR MESSING UP MY DAY” kick when he’s down. Get away to a safe location, make sure you are not severely injured and call the police and/or ambulance, say you have been assaulted and wait for them to arrive. Say only what you have to and do not start talking about what happened without a lawyer if it is very bad. Your adrenaline will be flowing and this can make you say something like, “this guy got in my face and I decked him,” instead of articulating the whole story as it happened.
These are situations we discuss at Kapatiran Suntukan Martial Arts. They are nearly priceless to understand. Having a good understanding of the actions and consequences is an insurance policy for if (and some may say when) you find yourself having a bad day.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Over the years, I have read a number of books relating to martial arts and Eastern philosophy along with books that could fall under the category of “self help.” For the most part, I took something new away from them all, but a few stand out as reference books that I return to time and time again. The following list are the books that I continually go back to to refresh and get new insights from.
Martial Arts and Survival Related
Meditations on Violence - Rory Miller
Taking it to the Street - Marc MacYoung
Combatives for Street Survival - Kelly McCann
Pencak Silat Pertempuran - Sean Stark
The Tao of Gung Fu - Bruce Lee, Edited by John Little
Jeet Kune Do - Bruce Lee, Edited by John Little
Jeet Kune Do, The Art and Philosophy of Bruce Lee - Dan Inosanto
The Gift of Fear - Gavin de Becker
Pentjak-Silat, The Indonesian Fighting Art - Donn Draeger, Howard Alexander, Quintin Chambers
Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts - Donn Draeger, Robert Smith
Eastern Philosophy Related
Tao, The Watercourse Way - Alan Watts
What is Tao? - Alan Watts
Zen & the Beat Way - Alan Watts
Tao Te Ching - Lao-Tzu
Zen and the Martial Arts - Joe Hyams
Illusions - Richard Bach
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior - Dan Millman
The Warrior Within - John Little
Beyond the Known - Tri Thong Dang
Why the Chicken Crossed the Road - Dean Sluyter
This is by no means a comprehensive list and there are other titles by Marc MacYoung, some Jeet Kune Do books I go back to from time to time and more anthropological readings on Filipino and Indonesian culture. However, for my students, these are some that will help you understand what you are studying and help you figure out where you may be headed with life.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Way back, when I started studying martial arts, I enrolled in a local Tae Kwon Do school. I don’t recall exactly what got me interested in martial arts. Most likely it was Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee flicks as I recall thinking class would get bigger after Karate Kid was released. Maybe it was Dungeons & Dragons...
Taking that step into something new was a lesson that stuck with me. The extent of understanding that lesson didn’t come until later. I remained with that school until I was almost a purple belt. Then my instructor closed down and left the country to pursue other things.
I stopped training, but the seed was planted.
When I was in college I took up Tae Kwon Do again as an elective course for P.E. I enjoyed the instructor and the class. Once again, it didn’t last. Primarily, as it was only a semester and being the rash youth I was, I wasn’t looking for something more at the time.
The seed still needed germination.
A few years later, I made the decision that I needed to become active again. Somehow, as luck would have it, a new martial arts school opened up down the street. I signed up and started down that path again.
The seed took root.
Some things in life that have moment when the time is right. This was that moment for me. Everything started to click and deep down, I knew this was the path for me. The arts of Kali and Pencak Silat reflect who I am, and Gung Fu was a fun technical art to learn. That balance helped me grow.
I haven’t stopped learning or exploring and still am on that path. I look forward to the crossroads where new things can be introduced or my view becomes more clear-focused. It all goes back to when the seed was planted. When I took that first step. When I started studying martial arts. When I got my white belt. That started it all. That’s the belt that matters.
Monday, April 11, 2011
One of the major themes in martial arts is balance. This is more than just the physical capacity to stay on one’s feet; it is achieving it in life as well. For our purpose here, I will focus on the balance of martial art and self-defense.
We all want to have that level of ability to defend others and ourselves. My goal is for you to achieve an appreciation of the art but also have the tools to defend if necessary.
With art, knowing yourself is the key. Expressing yourself is the door to open. This expression comes out when the skills are integrated into who you are and there is no delineation between you and the martial art. I share my expression of these arts and it is up to you to make it yours and own it.
In our school we have the art incorporated into the self-defense to achieve that balance. Within the art are skills applicable to self-defense. These step outside the physical nature of the art and into awareness. Knowing what is happening around you and being able to interpret those signals guide your actions.
Whatever martial discipline you practice, using your brain is first and foremost. Any self-defense situation can be chaotic and things will happen outside your training and beyond what you may have imagined. In order to do what must be done, you need to have an almost instinctual application at your ready.
There are universal ways a body moves and you can put those to your advantage and keep your balance to get out of the situation and to safety.
My expression of these arts is mine and I share what I know in the hope that you will discover something outside my knowledge and contribute that to this thing we do and enjoy.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
The benefits of training a martial art are plentiful. This is my experience; your mileage may vary.
When I started my dedicated training in the martial arts, I was overweight, sluggish and, for lack of a better word, unfocused. I hadn’t always been that way. I had settled into a routine that lacked everyday activities of moving which I used to do.
After I started training regularly, a change started. It was more than just body changes. Pushing myself physically had a side effect I hadn’t considered. I wanted to understand more and started reading. A lot.
The subject matter was somewhat varied and ranged from archeology to Eastern thought. I was eating it up. I was making weekly treks to bookstores, looking for something to jump out at me and feed the grey matter.
The combination of learning new ways to move and educating myself helped me to overcome that unfocused stasis. When I was younger, I could really focus on things without distraction. As I settled into an office job that became more and more mind numbing, I found that tedium eating away at my focus. When I started working out and moving more, I found that focus and drive again and became more efficient and found myself wanting more challenges.
I have always had the ability to dive deep into a subject and learn as much as I can about it. It’s about passion. When we enjoy something, we want it to become a part of who we are.
This is establishing a balance. When we work our bodies, more blood flows through our brain. More blood equals more energy. The brain wants something more to do, so it is best to feed it with good material. Your choice of material is up to you. I do suggest you make it something you are interested in at least, or perhaps it will be something entirely new to you. To me, that would be better as your brain will get a better workout!
I want you to experience this too. I want you to excel at whatever drives you. I believe that learning a martial art will only enhance who you are. Drop by the school to experience the rush.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Why study a martial art when the odds are in everyday living you won’t need to use it? It is very much like insurance - you put in time and effort in case you need it.
There are plenty of “plans” available to you out there, and they all have their pros and cons. The “policy” you choose is one based on your needs.
My preference on life insurance is to go with a whole life policy versus a term life policy. Term policies are limited. You put resources in to something that will run out, and you have no option to use any of that investment as needed. When you invest in a whole policy, you are required to invest a little more up front, but you are able to use that policy in more ways over time.
How does this compare to martial arts training? Imagine martial arts training is like whole life insurance. It involves putting in effort and time upfront and the return on this investment is more than just the ability to have skills to deal with physical confrontation. The somatic movements can be applied metaphorically in dealing with familiar relationships.
Say you are in a meeting, and there is some disagreement on some issue. You have your thoughts and others have theirs. How they present their argument will dictate your response to make your point known and understood. To present your point, you may have to evade theirs or strike at it head on, or perhaps a bit of both. In this situation, there will most likely be a compromise needed so tact will be key. Avoid looking like a bully. The point being you will relate to the person and they to you and understanding that dynamic will help you maintain your balance.
It is that balance that a “whole” policy brings versus the limitations of a “term” policy. To put it another way, a term policy will limit its scope of the way things are presented. You will be expected to mimic what is presented. Whole policies expect you to take what is shown to you, understand it so you can use the principles to create your own way of doing it, and apply it outside the system in daily life situations.
What’s your policy?
*Props to Steve Perry for the idea.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Do not believe a thing because many repeat it.
Do not accept a thing on the authority of one
or another of the sages of old,
nor on the ground that a statement is found in the books.
Believe nothing merely on the authority of
your teachers or of the priests.
After examination, believe that which
you have tested for yourselves
and found reasonable, which is in conformity
with your well-being
and that of others.
We all have our personal reasons to pursue these arts we practice. I will not bore you with conjecture over your reasons; suffice to say, mine is not the same as it used to be. Regardless of the original intent, a change comes over a majority of us. In light of the variety of individuals, that change is justifiably diverse.
While it is perfectly acceptable to not want to look further and only focus on the outer aspects of a given Way, there is undeniably more for the seeker. Occasionally things just fall in your lap! Our views are inherently subjective, however if we leave ourselves open to the possibility of new thoughts or principles, we enrich our lives.
It is the same with these arts. Each offers a dictate, which, if applied in general, can guide us through this ride of life. On the surface it can appear as all we do is combat orientated: a means to an end. It is instead more akin to finding ourselves by any means.
Often, because of the eccentricities of what we do, we are asked, “What do you train in,” or “What is your style?” The best answer I have ever heard to this was, “Whatcha got?” In other words, it is an experience to be had and shared, not a description to be heard.
In our society, we categorize or name things to better understand the conceptual. By applying “this” or “that” to something we seek comprehension, and sometimes the endless divisions of criteria can bog us down. Names can be a guide or a guise. They can open a door just as easily as clearing the path to leave you wondering which is the way.
The key is application of a principle espoused by several cultures and styles of martial arts the world over: water. Yes, it has become cliché in some circles, but its truth is not diminished. The clearest water flows, and to be like water you seek out new experiences, as well as continue to practice your interpretation of your art.
Taoists describe this idea beautifully. With the phrase mo chih ch’ü, which means going right along without hesitation. Here, the idea of water is expressed to its fullest. In more recent times, this is usually stated as, “going with the flow.”
Things should be made as simple as possible,
but not any simpler.
While on our journey to the next step, a lot of breath is used on a word: simplicity. It is a lofty goal we move toward. Approaching this ideal is similar to my telling a new student, “I want you to forget what I show you.” That initially receives a quizzical look. In essence, move or evolve toward simplicity. When you learn something that seems complex at first, does it not, with practice, become easier? Integrating the art into everyday living is what happens and thus our own evolution reflects this change. Even as we learn seemingly more and more from different schools of thought, when we see the underlying principles used, what was once foreign becomes familiar. It’s that simple!
Your truth is not my truth.
There are plenty of people and schools who profess some sort of truth. The problem I witness with them is that their idea is just that: “their truth.” Therefore, be wary of those who offer subjective truths (and the price they may be asking), and search out those who are still seeking.
Truth lies in experience, and can be analogous to enlightenment, satori, or shouting “Eureka!” It is as elusive as the Holy Grail, and most only hint at its destination. A word of caution, though, do not get so full of what is right that you cannot see what is good. Or to put it another way: do not cling so tightly that you blind yourself to the possibility that what is true today, may be false tomorrow. In the end, the truth you seek, and the truth you discover, is yours.
First, learn your instrument.
Then forget all about that-
and just play.
Do not concern yourself with “this” art or “that” way; be committed to who you are. In this age of instant gratification, the study of discovering who you are can take a lifetime, and odds are it will. You will invest a significant amount of time, for nothing worth so much will take anything less. Come to understand that you are now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. NOW. The moment it happens, you will understand. It is beyond you, beyond me, beyond martial ways. It is indescribable.
All steps are revealed at the correct time, and it is your choice to take them. I welcome you on our journey, one that needs no destination. Bring something of yourself along and discover something more. You will walk and cross many, many paths. Then one day you will look back, see them disappear, and be on your own.
Admit it and change everything!
Ultimately, the most advanced aspect of the martial ways is development and definition of character. As I stated, a change comes over most practitioners. These arts tend to bring out the best in the individual. By dedicating yourself to advancement in whatever art, style, system, or Way that is chosen, you can then contribute more to your community. This could be by volunteering in some way or by just being a law-abiding citizen.
By breaking down physical and mental barriers, we can reach deeper into ourselves to find an understanding. Look and you will find the link. The marriage of the physical and mental drives us toward the mystical. I am not saying that you are forced into anything against your will, here. It merely becomes an internal, or spiritual, quest to better you.
When you reach the point where your body cries out to stop, but all that you are pushes you on, then you will understand what drives us. It is the point that you do not “feel” like working out, but your body demands it. Rites of passage are few and far between in this “modern” society. However, through hard work and commitment, a sense of accomplishment is achieved.
Having this sense, you come to see all of life’s boundaries erode to reveal the true nature of those around you. Also, you begin to see what they can show you, so that you can further improve upon yourself.
In most cases, this will take the admission that the poet Rumi was inferring. In order to change, you must accept what is before you, now. Come to know you are not in the moment -- you are the moment.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Since I was a kid I have had a fascination with martial arts. I trained in Tae Kwon Do a little in high school and college. By the time I was out of college and working in a job that had me sitting around all day, I was, as one friend put it, “pushing the deuce.” I needed to get back in shape.
About the time that I decided to get off my butt, a new school opened just down the road from home. When I walked in, the class was rolling around on the ground which was a new look to me and I was instantly intrigued. I learned the school taught Jun Fan/Jeet Kune Do Concepts. This is a branch of the art and philosophy of the late Bruce Lee.
Now I had heard of Bruce Lee the movie star, I mean who hadn’t? Yet, I had never considered that people were still teaching what he trained in. I signed up to train twice a week at the Ryan Academy of Martial Arts. By the end of the first month, I had upped that to three times a week and within six months, I was training six days a week. I was hooked.
It was hard work and I initially earned the nickname, “Smelling Salt,” although I never had to use them, I definitely was pushing myself. Hard. I started gaining energy again and was moving back away from that 200-pound mark.
I discovered that there is a line in the sand we establish in our heads that seems to hold us back. We reach that point where things just stop and it seems we can’t go any further. The thing is, that first divide is only in our heads. We can jump past it and push ourselves farther; draw the line again, just a little bit more ahead of us. It is always there and that’s okay. It gives us a place to aim for and that new target is always just beyond the line.
To me that is what makes martial arts a life long endeavor: that constant striving to discover and improve.
Monday, February 28, 2011
The Des Moines Metro school for Kapatiran Suntukan Martial Arts will be opening on April 4, 2011.
We will be located at 4930 Franklin Ave in Des Moines, IA.
We look forward to training with you!