Monday’s Martial Madness: The 12 Days of Martial Arts 🎄

Dear Reader, You are about to embark on a non-sensical journey of wonder.  You’re probably gonna wonder about this little ditty.  Why in the world would anyone do this on PURPOSE.  While it is possible to get injured practicing a martial art, it doesn’t happen this fast or intensely.  Rather, this is an imaginative a retelling of many injuries collected by many martial artists over the past century condensed into 12 days. Because Christmas, and madness.  

🎄On the first day of martial arts my tori gave to me, a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the second day of martial arts my tori gave to me, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the third day of martial arts my tori gave to me, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the fourth day of martial arts my tori gave to me, four stomped on toes, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the fifth day of martial arts my tori gave to me, five more injuries! Four stomped on toes, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the sixth day of martial arts my tori gave to me, six dozen bruises.  Five more injuries! Four stomped on toes, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the seventh day of martial arts my tori gave to me, seven hammer blows.  Six dozen bruises.  Five more injuries! Four stomped on toes, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the eighth day of martial arts my tori gave to me, eight side step knee strikes. Seven hammer blows.  Six dozen bruises.  Five more injuries! Four stomped on toes, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the ninth day of martial arts my tori gave to me, nine shoulder throws. Eight side step knee strikes. Seven hammer blows.  Six dozen bruises.  Five more injuries! Four stomped on toes, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the tenth day of martial arts my tori gave to me, ten more bloody noses. Nine shoulder throws. Eight side step knee strikes. Seven hammer blows.  Six dozen bruises.  Five more injuries! Four stomped on toes, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the eleventh day of martial arts my tori gave to me, eleven knife hand strikes.  Ten more bloody noses. Nine shoulder throws. Eight knee strikes. Seven hammer blows.  Six dozen bruises.  Five more injuries! Four stomped on toes, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

🎄 On the twelfth day of martial arts my tori gave to me, twelve pulsing head doinks. Eleven knife hand strikes.  Ten more bloody noses. Nine shoulder throws. Eight knee strikes. Seven hammer blows.  Six dozen bruises.  Five more injuries! Four stomped on toes, three pulled muscles, two scraped up knuckles, and a groin strike that put me on my knees.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Calm Aggression: A Paradoxical Reality of the Martial Arts

I was working with a young girl who I knew struggled with being aggressive in her sparring.  It was just her and me for that particular class so I could slow things down and explain some concepts that she had not intuited yet in her training.  I mean, she’s pretty young, so this concept wouldn’t have occurred to her anyway.  Whenever she sparred with the other students she would get overwhelmed, particularly if one young boy was her partner and freeze in response. We talked about what it means to be aggressive, she gave me a list of definitions that were most centered on being physically aggressive, I added really going after something and a couple of other ideas to the list.  Then we talked about remaining calm while sparring and what that looked like.  I told her that she could be both calm, and aggressive, at the same time.  She was skeptical of that idea. Through a series of exercises I proved that it was possible, and apparently that was a game changer for her according to her dad.

At this point in my training, certain things have become instinctual so I barely think about them until I’m faced with a higher level of danger or commitment.  Being calm, but aggressive is one of those things. It dawned on me after class that being calm AND aggressive at the same time in the face of danger is a bit of a paradox.  The terms seem mutually exclusive and opposites.  How can one remain calm, yet be also aggressive during a fight, or sparring, or during testing?  

I explained it to the student like this: Calmness happens in the mind.  It comes from what we’re thinking about, and paying attention to during sparring.  If someone is wailing on us with blow after blow, it’s easy to get distracted and worried about what’s happening.  That fear response starts to kick in and panic takes over and the human response to fear is either fight, flight, or freeze.  Learning how to shortcut that system, or work with it, is essential to developing as a fighter or martial artist.  Calmness occurs when we learn to see what’s happening and not give into the urges that comes with the fear response.  Some call this bravery or courage, we’ve heard it quoted several times as “I’ve learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” ~ Nelson Mandela.  When faced with someone who intends to mow us down, the trained faces that challenge with bravery and calm.  Calmness feels like peacefulness, relaxation, and steadiness.  A calm person seems very tranquil and at ease.  

Being female, aggression isn’t something that comes naturally.  When I first stepped onto the mats, I was not the teensiest aggressive, or calm for that matter, for quite some time.  A couple of years into it, I learned about aggression during a grappling lesson.  I liked the person I was grappling with so I didn’t really want to hurt him.  I wasn’t angry, or afraid, but was tasked with prevailing, or least not tapping out.  I learned how to think “What a minute!! You can’t do that to ME!!” while I was twisted in a pretzel to find enough verve to fight back.  Mostly that energy resided in my gut, or hara.  As a side note, I’m currently studying kiai and kototama to understand what I missed in my last test (I got dinged a few points for my kiai being messy with the feedback that I need to own my kiai).  According to what I’ve read so far one’s kiai comes from the hara.  Aggression feels like pulsating energy that comes from my center out to my limbs.  My body feels wound up, my limbs tight and ready to explode with power at whatever I’m hitting. Just like kiai is an explosion of sound, aggression is an explosion of power and coming from the same place, they work in tandem.

Given the competing nature of calmness and aggression, how does one take both concepts and apply them simultaneously? I believe, mostly by experience, that calm aggression happens when the mind is clear and free of distraction and fear, but the hara is energized and ready to explode.  In the mind of the trained, the aggression stays where it is until called upon through the transfer of energy from hara to the rest of the body. In other words, the aggression is channeled and targeted.  It is a kind of finesse that one can find in training of this nature.  I find it difficult to kiai properly, and use aggression if my mind is all over the place.  I must trust myself, my training, and my instinct if I am going to be calmly aggressive.

Have you found yourself battling with either concept in training? How have you found a way to remain calm but use aggression?

Let me know in the comments below!

Monday’s Martial Madness: How to Make a Martial Art Out of ANYTHING

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, Gurg learned that he could stop his neighbor, Brob, from taking his portion of mammoth by hitting him with a stick just below the eyes.  Somewhere else, some other prehistoric dude found poking Zur in the eyeball helped him impress the local prehistoric babes.  Since then, humans have found numerous ways to hit, kick, maim and otherwise kill each other.  Some have organized their techniques into whole systems.  Some of these you may know: kung fu, karate, tae kwan do, and that barbaric sport pigeon-do.  Never heard of pigeon-do? It’s by far the deadliest martial art known to man, even worse than krav maga.

Pigeon-do is proof that anything you can imagine can become a deadly martial art style. As shown in the video below following your opponent around and mimicking their movements will render yourself invisible before you deploy your deadly beak strike.

The bird in the front has NO CLUE he’s about to die.

To make a martial out of anything all one needs is inspiration from life, a ranking system, and a bank account.  The master that developed pigeon-do had the sagacity to realize that the movements and behaviors of the common pigeon can be used to disable and disarm any opponent.  In this system students are ranked according to how much time they spent among the pigeons.  The more time spent under the auspices of their exalted martial models, the more pigeon poop they’d get on their gis.  Obviously, only the one’s with strongest stomach, or no sense of smell become masters.  Unsurprisingly, the creator of Pigeon-do lives in a closet somewhere in New York City.

Local hoodlums flexing their flight feathers.

Let’s say, as a child, you dreamed of joining the Bolshoi Ballet.  You studied and studied for the entry tests only to be rejected because you lacked that certain je ne sais quoi.  I mean your pirouettes and step-ball-chain just didn’t have moxie.  You’re disappointed, perhaps enraged, that you wasted so much time in positions one AND two only have your dreams dashed by some hoity toity God-like smarty pants.  Who do they think THEY ARE??

In your woebegone state, and after much pondering, you decide you’ll show THEM by inventing your own martial art based on those sick dance moves you learned, why let all that hard work die at the hands of evil judges?  No, you decide to cash it all in and go for broke.  After a few YouTube tutorials on how to make YouTube tutorials, you slap a webcam on the wall and Voila! You are now a master martial artist in your own style.  

Take that you fake, Russian Simon Cowell!

This system use the elastic in their dance pants to identify rank.  The more slack in the pants, the higher the rank.  Reportedly, know one knows exactly how many people pay to learn this style, but that doesn’t matter, with a half-baked ballet skills, and a dream this could go far.

In my final example I turn to that mid-1970’s quintessential pop song, “Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas.  Only, someone forgot to turn on their hearing aid while scoping out the local libraries collection of classics and heard “everybunny.” This lead to a secret underground movement of devotees that burrow into their master’s teaching every week.  Local legend has it that the children’s game Patty Cake has become so deadly among the students the town council issued an ordinance to limit the fur-driven rage of Bunny Fu.

And there you go folks! What kinds of obscure martial arts have you heard of? Let me know in the comments below!

Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast: The Learning Curve

Lately I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with a new white belt during class.  We are working through his first kyu (belt) level so he can complete his first test. Last night we were working on his punching and kicking techniques when Sensei came over to help my fellow student smooth out some parts of his punching technique.  He said to the student, “Slow is smooth.  Smooth is fast.”  Our instructor often says he would rather us take our time learning the technique and do it correctly than be fast and hard but doing the technique incorrectly.  Incorrect movement leads to injury, or being defeated.

Earlier this year, I was able to attend a seminar by Roy Goldberg Sensei, 7th Dan in Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu.  He was teaching us how to move in a way that was almost like not moving that produced an amazing finish.  It was like watching the tiniest atom bomb produce a world-ending explosion.  As I watched Goldberg Sensei demonstrate the technique and explain what he was doing with his body I was amazed at how smooth and barely perceptible his  movements were to my eyes.  I, of course, was clunky and using too much strength in my attempts to match his silkiness.  What he wanted us to accomplish seemed to be an awareness of our body movements and how to coordinate everything from the top of our head to the soles of our feet.  That felt like an impossible task at the time and I knew I would have to continue to train in this style if I wanted to achieve even the tiniest sliver of the kind of control he had.  Compared to his mastery I felt like a new born giraffe attempting to stand: all legs and no balance.  Goldberg Sensei is in his 70’s and has been practicing his art for many decades.  Smooth is fast was in play before my eyes.

I’ve been training in Ninpo Bugei for almost 3 years now.  I remember watching the black belts at the beginning of my training and feeling amazed at the effectiveness of their movement.  The end result of a throw seemed grander than the actual technique because the movements were so smooth. I am by no means a master of this art, but I have mastered some very basic things.  I find some of my movements are instinctual and habitual.  Some things are smoother than they were at my newborn giraffe stage of training.

Everything in life worth doing has a learning curve.  The above graphs show what the learning curve is like.  My experiences are probably more like the top graph, but feel like the second one. Whenever we start to learn a new thing, the initial attempts are bumbling and slow.  There’s no coordination, balance, or precision.  This is as it should be and where “slow is smooth” becomes a thing in training.  If I take the time to connect with my body via my thoughts, and really think about what I’m doing eventually the neural connections I need form between my body and brain.  I am creating coordination by practicing until the neural connections solidify and the synapses fire faster and faster. 

This is the learning curve.  Coordination, balance, and precision become second nature which results in smoothness.  I no longer have to think so hard about what I’m doing, it just happens and now “smooth is fast.”  Which leads to me to today’s encouragement:

Anyone can follow this principle no matter what they are learning.  Frustration tends to occur during the slow beginning for many people.  “This is taking too long,” “I’m so stupid,” “This is so HARD” enter our thoughts at this stage, and is where the greatest amount of mental gymnastics becomes essential.  Giving up too soon on the learning curve ensures failure.  Humans are super adaptable beings with an amazing ability to learn.  If we want to attain anything we must push into and work with slow is smooth until smooth is fast.  We must stay on and climb that learning curve until we reach mastery. 

Be patient with yourself and keep going, you’ll get there eventually. 

Monday’s Martial Madness: A No-Touch Thanksgiving Tutorial

It’s that time of year again. An overflow of food and relatives that can a person feel overstuffed physically, and emotionally.  The madness that overtakes us every year can be daunting, and perhaps make us shut down with all of the work that comes with adhering to tradition by preparing, and eating, massive amounts of food.  I’m here to help you overcome the plague of busyness by helping you develop you’re martial skills in the area of preparing the fearsome feast known as Thanksgiving.  Because training is life, and life is training.

I know what you’re thinking, all of the physical activity that comes with preparing an acceptable repast is daunting and you can’t possibly think of a way to get around this problem.  Well, my little protege, you have not heard of the power of No-touch martial arts.  Let’s say you go to a martial arts conference to see this dude who calls himself a master of whatever martial art he teaches and during this conference he brings up something called “no touch” skills that knocks an opponent down, or out cold.  He waves his hands around at his students and they magically fall down, or get knocked out.  You’ve just witnessed a no touch martial art.  I can hear you asking yourself, how will that help me with my preparations for Thanksgiving?  I’m so glad you asked because I am about to impart an ancient and little known technique for food preparation in a tutorial.  Skeptical? Read on my friends and see the power of the no touch Thanksgiving technique.

The first thing you must do in order to achieve greatness is to gather your chi, or ki, or whatever your art calls your energy and put it in your hands.  You’re going to need all you have to get that turkey prepped and roasted because that bird is heavy!  Once you’ve gathered you chi you must put the chi in your hands in the form of a ball.  We are going to roast that bird so you need all you can muster!  After you’ve used your palm techniques to move the stuffing into the bird’s cavity, use the energy ball to roast that bird.  If you have sufficient energy it should only need about 10 minutes to bring it to crispy perfection.  But don’t over do it!  You may end up with dry meat from over exposure to your awesome powers.  

The next item on your list is mashed potatoes.  Everyone loves mashed potatoes (except for some scary heathens who hate potatoes in general). Of course, you’re going to want to make sure they are well done before applying your knocking-people-over chi technique to mash those babies.  So, I suggest you take each potato and wave your fingers around them to scare the peels right off that tater.  Next, you use what’s left of the energy ball you created for the turkey to soften the potatoes.  Now, you’ll want to step back for this one, use your energy shove to squash the tater right into the bowl.  You’ll want to add butter and milk of course and you can do this by waving your hands over your fridge and levitating these items over to the bowl and carefully measuring them out for the perfect flavor.  Seems a bit crazy right? It’s not if you believe you’re master Yoda and can move spaceships out of the bog. Milk and butter seems like kid’s stuff compared to that Force move.

And finally, let’s talk about the mac and cheese.  We all know that overcooked noodles and lumpy tasteless cheese glop make that dish a gross encounter of the third kind.  This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of your technique.  If refinement is what you seek, you will need all of your energy centers tingling at this one.  The noodles need to be cooked with precision so I suggest a good, hard stare at the noodles.  You will want to emit microwave particles from your mind through your eyes.  If your eyes start to glow red, you should calm down a little, it’s best to keep a disciple near by in case of emergency.  Of course, we know that slapping a noodle against a wall is the best way to test the doneness of said noodles so a slight flick of your fingers with a small amount of energy ought to do it. Once you’ve done the tornado technique with the noodles and cheese to mix them, it’s time to get that creamy-crispy madness known as mac and cheese cooked. Levitate that mix right into a 9×13 pan, then move that pan right into your lap.  You’re going to need all of your chi for this one.  Set your energy centers on high for 5 minutes.

Now that you’ve mastered preparing these three dishes, you are ready to prepare the rest of the feast. Green bean casserole, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole will take only minutes each!

As always remember to breath and relax. We don’t need you passing out from effort!  As always thanks for joining us here at our dojo.  Enjoy your no touch feast!

The Deluded: The Most Dangerous Enemy in the Martial Arts

During a TV show, the bad guys were discussing an upcoming event.  One of the bad guys made a comment about people who are deluded.  The other responded with something to the effect that we can’t let the deluded run the show.  Delusion happens to anyone and everyone.  The only ingredient needed is resolute faith in something no matter the actual evidence.  On an episode of Dr. Phil a woman said she was 1000% percent convinced that she was pregnant with multiple babies and had been pregnant for multiple years.  She even believed she had more than one uterus.  It didn’t matter if top notch OB/GYN’s did ultrasounds, blood work, or anything else that conventionally shows pregnancy.  She didn’t care about the evidence, she only believed what she wanted to believe.

In the martial arts delusion is an insidious snake.  I see, read, and hear about people getting into things that are pretty questionable.  “No touch” martial arts is right at the top of the list making the rest of us look like snake oil salesman.  Folks fight about what is real, and what is not real in forums, on Facebook and etc.  At the end of the day everyone looks the fool. Its an unfortunate side effect of the delusion.

Delusion in the martial arts can be silly, but also downright dangerous.  One’s ego can get in the way and make that person believe they are far more capable than they actually are in their skill.  Sketchiness in the effectiveness of technique could mean that a person’s skill in actually stopping an attack is questionable.  This means danger for the martial artist because if I don’t stop the knife headed towards my torso, I’m probably going to be very injured, or dead.  I once saw a video of a guy taking the knife-wielding psycho attacking him to the ground for grappling and ended up getting stabbed in the abdomen multiple times.  Clearly he was deluded into thinking he could handle the attacker with his (BJJ?) skills.

The most unfortunate part of this is that someone taught them to think like this.  I have on occasion watched people walk into the dojo with obvious ego problems, but most of the time when people walk into a school they really don’t know much and are starting from scratch.  Whatever they believe, they probably learned from their instructors.  Obviously avoiding delusion is an important martial skill.

How DOES one avoid delusion in their training?  Because delusion is grounded in believing things that aren’t true the greatest cure for delusion is humility.  Humility, for those who are unsure, is a “modest or low view of one’s own importance.” (Oxford American Dictionary).  Below is a list of ways to make an honest and true assessment of one’s skill and the effectiveness of technique.

  1.  Be comfortable with saying “I don’t know.”  It’s okay to admit to not having all of the answers, or knowing enough.  It’s in your best interest to be honest enough and say you need help from those that are more experienced.
  2. Question the effectiveness of a technique in a real world scenario.  So many techniques are passed down from ancient war methods that worked for certain scenarios but won’t necessarily work quite the same way in current times.  To be sure, we CAN learn distance, timing, and such by practicing ancient methods, but we have to realistic about wielding a modern version of an ancient weapon.  Will it stop someone? I suggest learning the technique as is AND seeing how to adjust and make it work for a real attack.
  3. Practice, practice, and practice.  Try different things, use different modern versions of a weapon (a han bo and a baseball bat can be used similarly), work with different body types and levels of strength.  I learned a lot about grappling by requesting various guys to grapple with me and make it difficult for me to get out of whatever pretzel shape they put me in.
  4. Bug the experts.  Look for people who have experienced real violence, who have a realistic view of the martial art they teach, ask questions.  Like, tons of questions.  Not the disrespectful kinds of questions, like “How could THAT possibly work??!!”  I’m talking about realizing you know nothing and asking questions that dig deeper into the actual technique.
  5. Pressure test yourself.  Sparring is an excellent way to see how well you know your techniques and your level of skill.

Keeping it real, staying humble and maintaining the mind of a student will keep you safer than you realize.

Monday’s Martial Madness: The True Meaning of Martial Arts Memes

Farce_9

I know what you’re thinking.  Memes are pretty straightforward, right?  I mean it says right on the meme what it’s all about, duh.

What if I told you there is a hidden message that only truly great masters can understand?  Ancient wisdom passed down through the ages must be hidden in the most archaic forms of art, philosophy, and religion.  Those of lucky enough to find this wisdom can indubitably become better versions of ourselves.

Out of the kindness of my heart, I have decided to use my training in the art of faux jutsu from the great lineage of Pul Ur Leg and the Five Farces to interpret martial memes for you.

1.

horsestance

In this first meme we have the ubiquitous and obligatory martial arts master with excessive facial hair.  As we all know, the whiter and longer the hair, the more wisdom and fractious the master.  It is essential to note the length and prodigious volume of the eyebrows.  As the saying goes, “Eyes are the window to the soul” and in this case, the soul is mostly curmudgeonly from the eyelids holding up so much impressive fuzz.  Note that the tone of the meme is on the slightly petty side.  Perhaps his students forgot to “mow the grass” that morning, a martial technique only taught to the most serious prodigies.

2.

Farce_7

This next meme is surely a tricky one.  At first glance it seems obvious that the student is merely messing up because he gained the notice of his instructor.  If you look carefully can see that this student is demonstrating the reverse crane kick.  In the Karate Kid, a visual interpretation of an ancient karate scroll cleverly disguised as a cinematic masterpiece, we see the first version of this technique, the crane kick.  Of course, the masters that put forth the Karate Kid could not allow the crane kick and this technique be connected lest they give away their ancient information to any old fanboy or fangirl.  They decided to hide this gem in bowels of the interwebs so that those that are clever enough can find it.

3.

Farce_3

Everyone loves memes with animals.  After all, animals are the cutest and fuzziest of all creation, especially monkeys.  Who wouldn’t look at this and think “Awww, kung fu monkeys, isn’t that cute!”  By all appearances this monkey is especially cute in a karate gi and his well-earned black belt.  Or is he?

Deep in the jungles of Hollywood there are tablets that speak of an ancient prophesy.  A prophesy so terrifying that the glacial winds of  the heebie-jeebies will freeze your very soul.  It is said that this prophesy shows that these seemingly harmless creatures will learn martial arts and take over the world.  Humankind will be lulled into stupefied and moronic state by watching these monkeys “perform” their martial arts shenanigans.  And when they least expect it, the monkeys will karate chop them in the knees and make them rue the day they ever taught them kung fu.

4.

Farce_6

Ah, Chuck Norris.  Classic memes at their finest.  Many things have been said about Chuck on the internet.  He is credited with many extraordinary talents.  Chuck is said to have defeated death itself and mete out punishment to the unruly anytime and anywhere in the form of invisible kicks.  Many think that these memes are merely a rib-tickler about a normal man run amok (or is that aChuck?).  I submit to you that this is truly not the case.  Rather, these are pages from the Bible of Norrisium, written by the Cult of Chuck.  They believe that he is the god of the dark web, here to scare everything and get it under his will.   And it would seem that it’s working.

5.

Farce_8

Considering that the martial arts often attracts the great unwashed (aka young teenage boys) it should come as no surprise that personal hygiene, especially nail cutting, is a major issue in the dojo.  But that’s not what we are seeing here in this meme.

This meme is a clear representation of a master who decided to throw in his lot with trainers to teach martial skills to creatures regularly captured for what is reported to be glorified wrestling matches.  These creatures delight in fighting one another but regularly are defeated and need to level up in their fights to gain new skills.  Obviously each trainer wants the creatures to win on a regular basis so paying a master to teach their minions how to win fights is de rigueur. When these little creatures peek at you through their trainers legs they seem pretty harmless, then they move toward you and out come the pointy things on their brightly colored bodies.  Just like white belts in the dojo, the novices are the most dangerous creatures of all.  Obviously, teaching grappling skills to a bunch of spiked out, large toothed, and clawed noobs is hazardous.

Well! There you go my friends!  I hope you feel more enlightened and will consider the hidden meaning of memes next time you encounter one on the Facebook!

Sayonara.