An interesting document found HERE, that outlines the
requirements and certifications of a fencing master from the Philippines tested in Mexico City in 1730. Some things to think about, in no particular order:
a) Interesting that the practical exam included single sword, sword and dagger, sword and shield, halberd, and pike. The halberd and pike were largely used for ceremonial purposes even at that time, but the first three contain movement patterns that are still valuable with modern weapon systems.
b) The movement and universality of weapons training systems. Here’s a system that was based in Spain, travelled to the Philippines, then to Mexico City, and from there, who knows? We know that there were fencing schools in 19th Century New Orleans, with both French and Spanish influence (no surprise given the history). Not unlikely that some practitioners came up from Mexico as well. So now you have systems that came to the Gulf Coast from both the East and the West. How much did this influence the development and use of the Bowie platform?
c) Interesting that the master is classified as “trigueno” or of mixed race. The document mentions the possibilities of transmission of Spanish martial concepts to the Filipinos, but I also wonder about transmission of indigenous concepts the other direction as well?
Disclaimer - Of course this document was found on the Internet, and since the Internet is often populated with complete crap, it’s possible that it’s not historically accurate.
But the base site (www.hroarr.com) seems pretty credible.
And these are the same folks that won the Battle of Britain? Must have instilled some fighting spirit. Video HERE.
Some recent things that caught my fancy, you might like
24 Free Downloads from Gun Digest
Ammo, ballistics, concealed carry – probably something here you can download and read during football games over the holidays. Found HERE
A Roadmap for BJJ by Stephan Kesting
Being a non-grappler (at this time), I found the concept of “positional hierarchy” very interesting. Can’t say that I’ve seen it laid out like that before, maybe I just
haven’t been actively studying it enough. Found HERE
Jason C. Brown, Top 5 KB for BJJ
Love Jason’s materials and approach to KBs, movement, and BJJ. My favorite on this list is the “Gorilla Cleans” or alternating DB KB cleans. These are a go-to exercise when you want to put the hurtin’ on. YouTube video HERE
Infographic – Why grains are really the bane of a healthy existence
With the increase in gluten-free interest in our household, and a general feeling that people have been brainwashed into a high carb diet for no good reason, I thought this infographic was cool.
Because it can never hurt to have another Sprint workout to try. Found HERE
Whether you think it’s an increasing or decreasing trend is not important, the fact is that the “Knockout” game exists and LE has been aware of it prior to the recent rash of publicity. And as Dan Djurdjevic points out in this article, the worst effects may not necessarily be caused by the punch, but by the victim striking his/her head on the ground/curb. As I’ve mentioned previously, the most common cause of death in a street fight is hitting your head on the ground.
I recommend you read the entire Djurdjevic article and also watch the video (because they provide insight to the environmental/social conditions that led to the outcomes). He has some interesting comments on how these scenarios are different from a“relatively safe” MMA bout.
In general, two important concepts to keep in mind:
1) Awareness - As we say in karate, “the eye must see all sides; the ear must listen in all directions.” Don’t walk, jog, or drive with your hoodie up, your ear buds screaming, texting your BFFs about how great the hot yoga class was and how you’re looking forward to
that guava and quinoa smoothie. Pay Attention! Get your eyes up and use them. Look around (yes, even behind you) and far ahead. If something doesn’t look/feel right, trust your instinct and get out of Dodge as fast as you can.
Now I have to confess that I also need to continually practice this. As recently as a week ago, while attending a local high school event, my good friend TB ghosted up on me in
the lobby full of people as I was waiting for the show to begin and rightly chastised me for my lack of situational awareness (never even saw him coming). Of course this was in a
school where it’s always safe, so not to worry, right? Good thing I had several “accessories” on my person that could have aided in my protection if necessary, but point being, I let someone get close enough to sucker punch me without even noticing him. Bad, bad, bad.
2) Preparedness - Being prepared doesn’t just mean having the skills necessary to
protect yourself as well as supplemental training with weapons if desired. It means being prepared to run if necessary. Are you physically fit enough to run more than a dozen feet? How about 100 yds? Could you climb over a wall if necessary? General physical preparedness goes a long way. You don’t have to be a studly CrossFit games kind of guy/gal, but at least be able to move and manipulate your body thru space enough to save your life if necessary. And if you have a family, do you have enough skills and are you in enough shape to defend them? If not you, then who will?
Being prepared also means being prepared not to go to stupid places with stupid people who do stupid things. Crowded bars with drunken people, “bad” sections of town, walking down alleys alone late at night? Prepare yourself with some common sense. If you watched the video you could see how that crowd kind of morphed thru the parking lot, people taking videos with their cell phones, following the chaos. Nothing beneficial was going to happen, and although everyone wants to rubberneck and watch the train wreck, all those cues should be the first sign to beat feet and boogie home.
All for now
Very interesting post by Eric Wong (here) that discusses tight hips. I don’t notice it so much in the squatting or deadlift motions that he describes, but I definitely notice a change in flexibility and tightness during Round House kicks with my left leg. 20 years ago this used to be my lead side and I could easily kick opponents taller than myself in the head with either round house or hook kicks. No more. If I’m very warmed up and have stretched specifically to kick high, then I can kick at head height. But it’s work.
I’d say there are two primary reasons: a) connective tissues have gone thru a natural aging process and tightened up (yup, it happens) and b) I don’t stretch and kick like that anywhere near as much as I used to (it also happens – it’s called family, work, volunteer activities etc.).
So I’m definitely going to add these first two techniques, Static Active Hip Rotation and Lateral Leg Drop, to some regular mobility work and see what kind of effect it has.
Will keep you posted, but let me know what you think. (The video is linked Below, or can be accessed thru the original article).
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.
I don’t have a “BOB” training dummy. And this is the first place I’ve lived that I haven’t installed a makiwara in the backyard. So the other night when I was resting between sets of pull-ups, I just started pounding the 4 x 6’s and it gave me an idea. Why not use the support posts as a surrogate BOB or Makiwara?
So I created some target areas. One at knee height, groin height, solar plexus, and face height as a reference point. So now in between sets of pull-ups, I’ll do 10-20 kicks – front kicks, step to the side kicks, crossover kicks (see photos). With or without a finger jab or palm heel as an “entry” or just to judge
I find a lot of benefit in kicking a target that is firmly mounted and doesn’t have “give” or flex. It requires you to have a strong foundation. It requires good balance. It helps with your judgment of distances. And it makes you get used to hitting something firm and unforgiving. There’s instant feedback when you hit the post - if you’re off balance or the distance isn’t right, then you get thrown off upon impact or you can’t effectively absorb the counter force. A valuable learning experience no matter how you slice it.
This is a training method that goes back hundreds/thousands of years. From
the “Pell” used by ancient Romans for practicing sword strikes (a DIY Pell found here), to the traditional Okinawan makiwara (interesting article and plan here). I remember reading about Mas Oyama in “The Kyokushin Way”, punching and kicking trees and boulders while training alone in the mountains. Always seemed pretty cool to me in a crazy kind of way.
Bottom line, find something hard to hit and practice hitting or kicking it. You may be surprised what you learn.
I read an interesting article in the latest “Dramatics” magazine (Don’t judge. It was the only reading material available where I happened to be “sitting”). The title of the article is “Getting the best from your acting teacher” by Jon Jory. He says that “whoever the acting teacher might be, you want to drain them of knowledge like a glass of water in Death Valley” and goes on to list five rules to help you accomplish that goal.
As I read, I realized how many of the same concepts apply to Martial Arts teachers (or really any other teacher). For example:
Rule #1 – “you’re serious about acting (karate) so let the teacher see that”. As it states, teachers want everyone to learn, but can’t help but being interested in the student who really wants to learn. The reality is that the students that show the most interest and enthusiasm will get more time and attention. The students that show up and only go through the motions or put in half-hearted effort won’t. If you can’t muster more energy than the average turnip, you may be helping to pay the studio rent, but you’re probably not going to get a lot of extra time and attention from the Sensei.
Rule #2 – “get up and do it”. Acting and the martial arts are experiential. When someone has to demonstrate or volunteer, be one of those that jumps up and gives it a try. You get
direct and immediate feedback, the opportunity to make mistakes, get corrected, and therefore get better. Don’t be afraid.
Rule #3 – “ask for individual attention”. Especially in large group sessions, you don’t get a lot of personal attention. Instructors are willing to help you, so ask. Most people don’t. If there’s an open gym time, take advantage of it. If you need to pay for a private lesson, save for it. And come prepared with specific things to work on. As in, “I’m having trouble with this punch/kick/throw/hold”, or “the transition between the first and second parts of the kata is throwing me off”or “how do I improve my conditioning/strength/flexibility so that I can get better at X?” Ask something specific.
Rule #4 – “work outside the class so your in-class work is good enough to engage the teacher”. Teachers want to see their students make progress. This is very affirming for them and makes it all worthwhile. So if I show you something, work on it. If I make a suggestion, fix it. If I see you continuing to make mistakes or not correct things we’ve gone over, guess how much that makes me want to work with you in the future, or spend time with you vs. other students that are actively working on what I told them? Right, not very much. The reality is that we all have limited time, energy and attention span. And we’re not going to invest it in someone that isn’t valuing it in return. Those are just the cold, hard facts, ma’am.
Rule #5 – “ask for a reading list”. This has a specific context for actors. But I think it’s also very relevant for martial artists or students of any kind. You should always be curious and investigating additional things that will make you better. It may be a list of reading materials or sources that could broaden your horizons. The history of your style, other
styles, nutrition, strength and conditioning, DVDs, etc. We live in a golden age of martial arts, with more information available about more arts than ever before in the history of (wo)man. Granted, some of its complete crap, but that’s why you ask someone like
your teacher for recommendations. Show an interest in the Martial Arts, follow-up on what you’re told or given, and then ask for a chance to discuss/demonstrate it. You never know where it will lead and it shows that you’re a serious student of the Arts.
So take a tip from the acting community, internalize these five rules, and see how
your progress accelerates.
Last night we were working on sparring combinations. When someone starts free sparring, there’s a strong tendency to throw single techniques, stop, regroup, then throw another one. Unless you’re a skilled counter-puncher, most successful “points” are scored with a series of techniques thrown in combination. For some reason there is often a mental block in how to get started or how to string techniques together.
One of the easiest ways I know to jumpstart the process is to throw some “bones” or dice.
Each technique is given a unique number, throw the dice, and write down the result. Obviously some of the combinations may not flow perfectly or may need some tweaking in
implementation, but their purpose is not perfection. Their purpose is to get a series of movements linked together and prompt the student to throw more than one technique at a time. So what did we come up with? We used this matrix:
1 Front Leg Round House
2 Rear Leg Round House
3 Front Leg Front Kick
4 Rear Leg Front Kick
5 Front Leg Side Kick
6 Rear Leg Side Kick
1 Back Fist
2 Reverse Punch
3 Ridge Hand
4 Front “Jab”
5 Rear “ Cross”
6 Wild Card or Hook
Since we didn’t have dice in the dojo, I just had folks close their eyes and call out a # while I built the combinations. I first built a kick, punch, kick; then a punch, kick, punch; and finally a kick, kick, punch. You can easily add a 4th technique or even another category
We ended up with
a) Rear Leg Round House, Ridge Hand, Front Leg Side Kick
b) Reverse Punch, Front Leg Round House, Ridge Hand
c) Rear Leg Side Kick, Rear Leg Round House, Ridge hand
You quickly find that some combos work better than others. I like to start with a kick to bridge the gap, then adjust depending on what response I’ve created (does he move
backwards, to the side, stand his ground?). So starting with a Reverse punch wouldn’t be my first choice, and that also brings the rear hip forward which would better load a front kick than a round house (at least for my body mechanics). I’m also not a huge Ridge Hand fan in application, but for point sparring it gives some variety and it’s uncommon enough that you can easily surprise someone with it. When judging, I usually only score a Ridge Hand thrown to the face, my thought being the back of the head is too damn hard, and body shots too weak for most people to be effective unless they can wind up and bury it.
So we worked thru these up and down the floor, allowing the partner to move (or not) at their discretion. This caused us to work thru different foot positions, stances, distance
covered, and targets in order to apply these effectively. Point being that we now had folks delivering multiple techniques and having to be purposeful in their application of techniques and targets vs. delivering solo shots and then stopping.
I’ve used dice, numbered pieces of paper pulled out of a hat, playing cards, and/or coins to generate random sequences of combinations. This is an excellent way to keep things
fresh and interesting and a great way to prep for tournaments by forcing reps and combinations. Give it a try and see what happens.
Was cruising thru James Keating’s MAAJAK World
and happened to see this great video, a historical review of the training and use of the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting knife.
a) There are those that discount the merits of this style of knife due to the handle design.
The handle is round which makes indexing of the blade difficult for edge awareness and orientation. This is very true IF you feel the primary purpose of this blade is for
slashing/cutting purposes. Then edge awareness is critical. But as outlined in the video, one of the primary strategies for this blade design was the use of the point/tip. It has a
needle tip which means it’s designed for piercing/stabbing. Therefore it’s perhaps less critical to quickly index the handle so that the edge is properly oriented. The change to a
flatter, more elliptical handle was an important evolution into the Applegate-Fairbairn fighting knife.
b) Sheonage or “4-corners throw” – Trooper Scott describes a defensive training scenario which results in a broken arm for the “doubter”. This sounds like a variation of the “Sheonage”or 4-corners throw. No doubt effective (as described), but generally frowned upon as a standard knife defense vs. a downward stab/slash, since your average FMA player would retract and cut the blocking arm or redirect and attack another target.
But in historical context, you have to realize that they weren’t training to defend against the average FMA player or really anyone with much knife savvy at all. They were training against the average draftee with little or no blade awareness that was relying on this
weapon as a backup or last resort. And we have to remember that on the street (vs. competition or dojo) we’re not always facing a “trained” attacker. But in many ways that’s even more dangerous.
c) Interesting description of the sentry removal technique as “a bit of a messy job”. That may be a classic Brit understatement.