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Saw this link over at Ross Enamait's blog.  A 1950's book on Indian Physical Culture.  What's old is new and all that.  There are only so many ways to move and train the human body, whether it's fitness or combatives.  It always comes down to 2 things:  First ya gotta learn it, then ya gotta do it (a lot). 

 
The difference between a good kata and a bad kata is not only the quality of the techniques (although sloppy stances and weak kicks/punches are never good) it’s often the presence or absence of intensity, attitude and focus.  Watch the video of this young man’s kata. 
Even when he’s in a stationary position, the subtle hand movements, slight elevation of the head, a shift of the eyes – all make his form come alive.  Combined with his speed and
precision of movement and solid stance/footwork, this is a great representation of what kata can look like.   


 
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There is often controversy in how best to develop a skill.  Which is better, quality movements or quantity of movements? Perfect practice or just practice? It can
very much depend on who you talk to and what skill you’re developing.  

In the martial arts especially, technique is critical.  There are correct ways to throw a punch or kick (just as there are “different” ways to throw the same punch or kick).  Sensei Dorow once told me
“There will come a day that you will be called upon to defend yourself.  If you are not technically proficient, you will be destroyed.”   Hmmm.  Coming from a guy that was physically tested during 2 tours on the ground in Vietnam, as well as dojo “confrontations” in the 60’s & 70’s, that’s something I take to heart.  
 
But on the way to perfection in technique, you have to practice a lot of reps.  A lot. Of. Reps.   And those first dozen, hundred, thousand reps are far from perfect, but they count towards the larger goal.  I like the examples used in this Fast Company article (be sure to watch the “Girl Learns to Dance in a Year” video).   And the axiom “Try fast, fail fast,
learn fast” has a lot of merit.  
 
So, if you’re waiting for that perfect time to start or for inspiration, don’t wait.  Get some
reasonable instruction, then get out there and try it.   Then try it again, get some feedback from a credible, reliable source, and try it some more.  Sooner or later, just about anyone can do anything.  It’s a marvelous testament to the human organism and spirit.  



 
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Are you a resident of La-La Land?  As in living in some fantasy world where everything is good, nothing can go wrong, or "that can never happen to me"?

Unfortunately many people live in this world.  And therefore grossly unprepared to cope when things go horribly wrong.  Case in point - Acapulco.  Let's say you happen to decide on a well-deserved vacation to this tourist hot spot with your spouse, SO, and/or family.  Then this storm comes, the SHTF and things go from bad to worse.  Looking past the obvious needs for food, water and shelter, can you protect yourself and loved ones?  
 
Chances are you haven't been able to travel with a firearm.  Do you have basic empty hand skills?  How about if you need to kick it up a notch?  Can you
wield a stick?  What about a knife?  Or machete? There are some that question the need to spend time on these  "traditional" martial arts in the time of modern firearms.  But I'd sure like to have some basic understanding on how to keep a crowd at bay or protect my family with anything I could get my hands on.

But where would I even get those weapons?  Where's the housekeeping closet in your hotel?  Do they have brooms or mops?  Many have handles that are metal, but even wooden ones are better than nothing. Have you eaten in the resorts fancy restaurant?   I'll bet they have wooden handled steak knives.  Wouldn't be a bad idea to "acquire" one of those in advance, just in case.  If not, do you know how to get to the kitchen?  Chef knives, cleavers, carving knives - anything sharp and pointy.  Is there a local hardware or supply store?  Maybe not at a resort/tourist town, but if you're out in town, keep your eyes open.  In many other countries a machete or brush knife is a common household tool.  Also might be worth acquiring one in advance. Think that's unrealistic?  Think about Rwanda in 1994 (not that long ago).  500,000 - 1,000,000 killed, many with
machetes.
 
So, not to be paranoid, but use your head and be prepared.  As demonstrated in
Acapulco and elsewhere around the world, most places are only 72 hours from
chaos when the "normal" social systems break down from any reason. Get some training.  Firearms are good if you're so inclined and have legal access.  Stick skills like those offered by the Dog Brothers or machete/sword skills as proposed by James Keating.  Hopefully you'll never have to use the skills you develop, but it's better to be prepared.  Besides, it's fun and adds another dimension to your current skill set.
 
In closing, stay out of La-La Land, face some cold, hard facts and be prepared.  

Now get out there and train.


 
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Lessons learned from this recent incident in NASCAR truck racing.  Key event is approx. 50 seconds into this video:

1) The open hand slap is an effective technique.  There are
many that prefer the slap vs. the punch as an offensive technique.   Much less risk to hurting your hand on someone’s cranium.   Anyone can apply it without specialized training or hand conditioning. 
 
2)The preferred angle of attack on the jaw is from back to front.  This makes it most susceptible to break or dislocate.

3) Don’t piss off the girlfriend.  If you do piss off the girlfriend, don’t block with your
head.


 
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Although you can’t always be prepared for an altercation
(surprise does happen), there are some things that you can do to facilitate a better outcome if your situation suddenly goes bad in a hurry.   

One habit to ingrain is the position of your hands.  As
Guro Crafty says “hands are more useful when they’re up” (actually his is a more colorful variation, but we’ll leave that for another time).   By assuming a classic “interview stance” with the body bladed, dominant
leg (& weapon) usually in the rear, and one or both hands up and open in a  non-threatening manner, this does several things.   

a)  Provides a barrier if necessary between the opponent and your head/torso/duty
weapon.
b) Puts one/both of your empty hand weapons closer to your opponent, reducing your time
to contact if necessary. 
c) Gets your hands up in a non-threatening manner and puts them in a closer position to
block/parry/intercept an attack.

As Matt Powell from Pramek discusses in this video, practice your responses – blocks, strikes, counters - from a variety of starting points with one or both hands up. Make sure
they are open hands, since posturing with fists in a classic “boxing”pose is perceived as aggressive by an opponent (and/or bystanders) and can escalate things that may otherwise be talked down.  I’m not a huge proponent in having the hands together or crossed, but as
Matt discusses, there are ways to do it successfully.  



 
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It always amazes me to watch an altercation unfold or to see one after the fact.  I usually wonder “What were they thinking?”   There are many valuable lessons to be learned from the following video:

Group of men attack MMA fighter after fighter slaps
woman

 Thoughts/Comments:
1)  Not sure what evidence there is that the one participant is an “MMA fighter”.   His clothes?  Outerwear does not make one an MMA fighter, any more than aviator sunglasses make me a pilot.

2)  If one is an MMA fighter (or any other type of combative athlete) maybe you should keep a lower profile and try to blend in.  And don't be a jerk.

3) If someone mouths off to you (male or female, but especially female), the best strategy is to walk away.  No good can come from escalating the situation, even if it makes you feel better in protecting your pride or manhood.  One of my Sensei told me that there are 2 strategies in dealing with assholes – A) walk away, because if you smacked every asshole that you encountered, you wouldn’t get anything else done, or B) smack them, but you better be able to do it right and take care of business.  I’ve always chosen option A.

4) When it comes to dealing with when/if you should escalate or respond physically, I remember an old interview with karate pioneer Thomas Lapuppet. He said in essence, you can say anything you want, call me anything you want, disrespect my Momma, and it don’t mean nothing.  But if you try to lay your hands on me (or my family), then we’re
going to dance and someone could get hurt.  
 
5) Once the situation escalates and moves outside, then the female’s friends actually become the aggressors.  There are multiple attackers and they have introduced weapon(s) into the mix.  They are not just protecting her honor; they are guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and of using deadly force.  

6) It ends badly for everyone, especially the guy on the ground.  Once he is down and defenseless, there is no need to continue pounding on him, especially not the final kick to the head.  That is potentially lethal.

7)  The most common cause of death in a street fight is hitting your head on the pavement.  Either while falling or being thrown down, or while you’re on the ground and someone attacks you further (as here or in the Zimmerman case).  So as the defender, you need to protect your head on/from the ground and you should take the situation seriously and be prepared to defend yourself with adequate force.  For commentators in the Zimmerman case to say that his scenario was equivalent to getting a broken nose in a bar fight and that Martin was shot for no good reason (i.e. it wasn't that serious) just demonstrates a lack of understanding of combative reality.  Getting your head bashed into the pavement is potentially lethal.  As the aggressor (or defender turned aggressor), you have to know when to stop.  Do you have the legal, moral, and ethical justification to continue in this struggle?  If you’ve defended yourself and then throw the guy to the ground, think more than twice about continuing with some boot stomps, because you could go to jail, even if you were originally justified in the response.

8) Moral of the story –  walk away from the mouthy chick (or guy) at the Minit-Mart.   No good can come of it and lives can change permanently based on one stupid slap.  



 
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Two of the things I like about training with ropes are a) how
easy it is to apply “bursts” of intensity and apply this to interval training, and b) the ability to combine footwork with hand patterns.  Both of these characteristics are critical when trying to find and apply sports-specific conditioning for the combative arts.  
 
A recent article in the Strength and Conditioning Journal (Vol 35, No. 1, Feb 2013, pp. 1-9) discusses “Strength and Conditioning for Fencing”.  Modern fencing is obviously done for sporting purposes (it’s one of the few sports featured at every modern Olympic games), but has combative roots.  Current competitions feature preliminary bouts that last up to 5 minutes, with elimination bouts of 3 three-minute rounds with one-minute rest in between rounds.  As the authors state “fencing involves a series of explosive attacks, spaced by low intensity movements and recovery periods……there is a great need to repeatedly defend and attack and too often engage in a seamless transition between the two.”  That sounds a lot like most martial arts activities, so training protocols for fencing might be interesting for other stylists as well.

The authors felt that metabolic conditioning from high-intensity interval training was the best approach and that sparring provides the most specificity and optimally adapts the energy systems for purposes of competition.  But unfortunately, you can’t always spar, and it’s also difficult to quantify the effort involved for programming and progressive overload purposes.  They recommended using work:rest ratios and average work duration specific to their sword.  For example, in men’s foil the work to rest is 1:3 with average work duration of 5 seconds.  They program a 2m-4m-2m shuttle to encourage multiple changes in direction across varying and fundamental lengths.   Using fencing footwork and facing forward at all times, they lunge/shuffle forward 2m, back 2m, forward 4m, back 4m, forward 2m, back 2m, rest. The number of sets and rest intervals can be varied accordingly.  It’s important to work on sets with both the Right and Left foot as the lead, even if competition is only done with a primary lead, to reduce muscular imbalance.  
 
I use similar footwork and intervals with the Martial Ropes.  A 2m burst laterally or on a diagonal and then returning is easily achieved.   4m gets a little problematic due to how the rope moves and the need to continue with a pattern, but 2 meters is enough to simulate most martial applications of covering the gap between you and your opponent.  
 
Intervals are also easy to manage.  5-15 second bursts using all the major angles of attack, interspersed with “rest” (either active rest in the form of low intensity, steady-state  swinging or complete rest) can easily be chained together to gradually build capacity and or specificity to your arts competitive structure (ex. 2 minute rounds, 3 minutes, 5 minutes).  By combining the rope patterns with the footwork, you are able to build fluidity
and coordination, two things sorely lacking in many peoples’ motor patterns, especially once you put a weapon in their hand(s).  
 
Give the ropes a try and see how your conditioning and your footwork starts to improve.


 
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Just a quick one for today - link to a great message from Ross Enamait that relates to multiple areas. Not just fitness, but martial arts, careers, family etc.  Guess what? There are no fast, easy, painless solutions. 
Things take hard work and dedication, as well as time spent.  Even then there are no guarantees.  There are times when bad luck and trouble screw up all your well
intentioned efforts.  Life isn’t fair.  Get over it.

But, the reality is that if you want results, you have to work for them.  Often for a long
time.  That may be an unpopular message for many living in today’s instant gratification society.  But it’s a message that a lot of people need to hear, pay attention to, and live by.  If you already are, good for you. Continue on that critical path.  If you aren’t, then figure out why not, what’s holding you back, and commit to make a change & embrace the journey.  It’s time well spent.


 
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Since February 23rd is “International Dog Biscuit
Appreciation Day
” it seemed like perfect timing for some “Dog Bone” Self-Defense.  Your average dog biscuit or chew toy is a perfect size and shape to be used as a kubotan, yawara, or “Palm stick” in a self-defense
situation (your average cat toy, or even the cat itself, is not worth much of anything).  
 
What made me think of this was a guy I knew that trained in his family style of karate (he was Okinawan).  His father used to carry a small wooden dowel (~ 5” x ½”) that he had let the dog play with/chew on.  He carried it in his back pocket as a palm stick and if he ever forgot about it or was asked what it was, he just said “Oh, that’s my dog’s chew toy”.  Friendly and non-threatening enough to be carried onto planes, into schools, or any other non-permissive environments.  
 
Palm sticks are used in a variety of cultures/martial systems.   Whether it’s called a yawara, kubotan, Koppo, Dulo Dulo, or Olisi Palid, they follow general principles in application.  They can be used as a “fist load” to increase the mass and/or decrease the compression of the fist which increases the amount of force that can be transferred onto/into the target. 
Depending on the length of the palm stick, either end can be used to strike sensitive targets.  The stick can also be used to grip or squeeze the opponent’s limbs and is often
useful for joint manipulations/compliance.   

A variety of objects can be used as a palm stick (see photos below).  Most can be made from objects already available around the house or in the garage.  Of course, there’s the true dog biscuit or chew toy.  Or a wooden dowel.   Or the Cold Steel Koga (although these look like weapons and in my opinion aren’t very discreet.  TSA is likely to get their boxers in a bunch if that’s found in your briefcase).   Or a “true” Kubotan.  Or an ASP canister of pepper spray.  

Tactical Pens (or any sturdy pen) work great.   Cold Steel’s Sharkie is a weapon hidden in plain sight, but why buy it from Cold Steel? Why not use a dried out (or fresh) Dry Erase marker?  The narrow tip on the cap makes a great focal point for strikes.  If you’re worried about the cap coming off, just crazy glue it on to make it permanent.   Or a Hi-Liter.  Or a flashlight (of any size, but as they get larger, for example C or D cell, they’re more of an impact weapon).

I think that with very little effort you can find ½ dozen items that can be used as true or improvised weapons.  Once you find some, take the time to hit some focus mitts with them in your hand.  Most empty hand techniques translate easily, but some quick familiarization and applied resistance would increase your comfort level.    And don’t forget to give Old Yeller a biscuit.  Woof!