Friday, December 30, 2005



This is from a newsletter sent today by an old associate, Janette Fennell of Kids and Cars, an advocacy organization she founded after she and her husband were imprisoned in the trunk of their car in a widely publicized incident years ago. She has lobbied tirelessly and successfully about vehicle safety issues that seem to fall through the cracks. For the past couple of years she has tracked deaths of children in non-collision vehicle incidents, particularly drive-over incidents in driveways. Here, then, is her basic list of safety tips to help protect kids around cars. These are worth knowing and sharing with friends and family members.

1. Walk around and behind a vehicle prior to moving it.

2. Know where your kids are. Make children move away from your vehicle to a place where they are in full view before moving the car and know that another adult is properly supervising children before moving your vehicle.

3. Teach your children to never stand behind vehicles, even if the car is parked. And teach children that “parked” vehicles might move. Let them know that they can see the vehicle; but the driver might not be able to see them.

4. Teach your children to never play in, around or behind a vehicle; enforce this rule by keeping toys and sport equipment out of the garage and driveway.

5. Consider installing cross view mirrors, audible collision detectors, rear view video camera and/or some type of back up detection device.

6. Measure the size of your blind zone (area) behind the vehicle(s) you drive. A 5-foot-1-inch driver in a pickup truck can have a rear blind zone of approximately 8 feet wide by 50 feet long. A driver’s blind zone in a large SUV is up to 40 feet long and 7 feet wide - the approximate size of a kindergarten class.

7. Be aware that steep inclines and large SUVs, vans and trucks add to the difficulty of seeing behind a vehicle.

8. Hold children’s hands when leaving the vehicle.

9. Homeowners should trim landscaping around the driveway to ensure they can see the sidewalk, street and pedestrians clearly when backing out of their driveway. Pedestrians also need to be able to see a vehicle pulling out of the driveway.

10. Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.

11. Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway and always set your parking brake.

12. Keys and/or remote openers should never be left within reach of children.

13. Make sure all child passengers have left the car after it is parked.

14. Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays.

15. Teach children that riding in a car is no safer than a carnival ride - sticking their hands, heads or any body part outside of the window is dangerous.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Every Touch Counts

Many people go for joint locks or disarms with a preconception of what move they want to make. It’s good to have a clear goal, but sometimes that mindset means they overlook many possibilities along the way.

Another problem I see is people giving up on a technique when it is 99% complete, thinking it is a failure and looking for another option without seeing the opportunity to secure what they already have. The trick is to follow your opponent’s move until there is no more slack to take up.

A goal I have for my students (and myself) is to be able to respond naturally and intuitively using all our senses, so that we lose the notion of trying to “do a technique” but rather allow our opponent to lead us to whatever technique organically presents itself through his own direction. Bruce Lee talked of having “no technique as technique” and this was his point. If you preconceive what you want to do, it means trying to force that onto whatever is really happening, whether or not it is appropriate to the circumstance. It might fit, but could require more force than absolutely necessary. Work smarter, not harder.

An exercise I’ve been practicing lately is making every touch the opening for something to happen. For example, against a right-handed strike (such as angle #1) people often do a double block (left inward/right outward combination) while moving outside to their left, using their right hand to establish control for a lock or disarm. That’s fine, but how many realize what could have been done from the first contact of the left hand as well? It could grab and reverse with a high outward twist or parry inward to snake down and around into a lock.

Each hand has different moves available, so it’s good to develop aptitude with as many of those options as possible. To this end, take a single attack and practice all the ways each hand can set up joint locks. Some locks are single-handed; some bring both into play. However you set up your opening, you should recognize familiar positions along the way. Eventually all attacks begin to look similar, because once you touch, you are going to go left or right with it using either hand, and that becomes completely intuitive.

One way we practice this is continuous flowing disarms with our eyes closed. You feel a movement, you control with whatever touch is available, you finish. Your counterstrike is the entry for your partner to reverse the disarm on you. We never just hand a weapon back to our partner; we offer him opportunity to do a move.

I call Escrima “the art of making adjustments,” so if something doesn’t work, just move on to the next opportunity. This might sound like a contradiction, but really it is about being unattached to the particular outcome of any specific action. Wristlocks can transition into arm locks or finger controls; arm locks can flow into wristlocks or body locks. Wherever you are, you should know how to flow through whatever changes occur naturally until you are able to lead your opponent into a position from which he cannot easily escape.

At the rodeo, cowboys on bucking horses or bulls don’t direct the powerful animal beneath them; they just try to ride whichever way it moves. Practice with this in mind and see what you might learn.

Longitudinal Joint Lock Exercise

I just came up with an exercise to demonstrate a subtlety in applying certain joint locks, in particular a wing lock. The wing lock is a variation on a figure-4 (particularly evident when both arms are used to secure the hold) except whereas the figure-4 bends the opponent's arm back over his shoulder, in the wing lock the opponent's arm is bent up behind his back. It's called a wing lock because it resembles folding a chicken wing so it stays in place during cooking.

First, the setup for the lock:

The way to execute this lock is using the opposing arm to control the opponent. In other words, use your left arm to control his right, or your right arm to control his left; a mirror approach. Most people do this wrong, reaching across the centerline to grab right with right or left with left. This is both ineffective and leaves the lead side of the body exposed to counters. Thus if you enter from a forward position (face to face), simply slide your closest hand between the opponent's arm and body.

Once you enter, the focus of the wing lock is on the elbow. A common mistake is to slide the hand up the arm, putting pressure on the shoulder. This loses leverage and makes it easier for the opponent to resist and counter. As your hand slides under the opponent's arm, you should concentrate on feeling the crease of the inner elbow with your thumb. You can practice this right now by bending your right arm slightly and then sliding the back of your left hand up the inside of your right forearm.

If you lift slightly as you snake your thumb around the elbow towards the tricep tendon nerve (the slight hollow spot an inch or two above the elbow) you will feel the control. Keep focused in this area rather than reaching with your fingers towards the shoulder. You should also notice as you do this that your left elbow will be lifting the right hand. This is good, because it secures the hold. On an opponent, that allows your upper arm to press his hand towards his spine; this is where the pressure is applied to his shoulder while securing his centerline.

One can simply snake the elbow with the thumb, lifting the opponent's arm to get it to bend, and then press the hand to the spine with your upper arm. That works in an expedient manner. However, Angel Cabales sometimes demonstrated a subtle yet powerful twist of his forearm during this maneuver, using the length of his forearm as a worm gear to force the rotation of the opponent's arm. This is what my new exercise is designed to demonstrate.

Grasp the back of your right wrist with your left hand. Next hook your right hand over the back of the left wrist, a typical joint maneuver to counter the grab. Now if you just press down with the blade of your right hand, there is little effect. If you press while extending your fingers downward, there is a slight increase in pressure, but still not a lot. However, if you point your fingers forward and reach to touch your left bicep while turning the palm downward (pronate) you should notice how the rotation of your right forearm powerfully (and painfully) applies pressure to your left wrist while requiring relatively little force.

This longitudinal torque is probably familiar to many jujitsu-ists, particularly small circle adepts. A Wing Chun person might recognize this as tan sao/bong sau, using a bit of forward grinding or extension as though blocking low rather than an elbow lift for a higher defense.

There are other applications for this forearm torque, most notably for a snaking lock against an opponent's kick. Again the left vs. right (and vice versa) applies, snaking from inside the leg, going under and around. The twist/extension rotates the opponent's leg, which turns his body. As with the wing lock above, this allows you to get to his backside, a position affording you the advantage.

Developing a feel for this technique has several benefits. First, in the wing lock it can allow you to gain control using only one arm, keeping your other hand free. Second, it develops your sticky-hand energy, which increases your awareness and ability to respond to an opponent by touch.

Just remember when working with training partners that joint locks can cause injury. Go slowly enough that your partner can tap out in time, and when the locks are practiced on your, do not resist with force, as that will encourage your partner to begin wrenching harder on you in response. The key to learning locks is communication and observation. When applying locks to the arms, you'll see your control when your partner's shoulder moves. It can be subtle, but once you've taken up the slack you have all the control you'll need.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Scientists Say Everyone Can Read Minds

Angel Cabales used to say that getting good at Escrima was like learning to read minds. I always attributed this in part to reading subtle signals through experience. In Tai Chi Chuan, there is a saying that "when the opponent moves fast, you move fast; when he moves slow, you move slow." That also relates to another which says "Wait until your opponent moves, then move first!" My interpretation was that one learns to match and mirror the movement and position of the opponent, which then allows one to either push ahead of the timing or drop in behind it. Either way, you first have to have the tempo and rhythm before you can work off of it.

Now, however, there may be more, which is that the body actually receives signals that synchronize with another. Entrainment is a $50 word for the process of synchronizing through matching energetic frequencies. The article I've reprinted below from identifies a biological process within the brain that seems to quantify this phenomenon within the realm of hard science. Great times we're living in!

- Jeff

Scientists Say Everyone Can Read Minds
By Ker Than
Special to LiveScience
posted: 27 April 2005
07:01 am ET

Empathy allows us to feel the emotions of others, to identify and understand their feelings and motives and see things from their perspective. How we generate empathy remains a subject of intense debate in cognitive science.

Some scientists now believe they may have finally discovered its root. We're all essentially mind readers, they say.

The idea has been slow to gain acceptance, but evidence is mounting.

Mirror neurons

In 1996, three neuroscientists were probing the brain of a macaque monkey when they stumbled across a curious cluster of cells in the premotor cortex, an area of the brain responsible for planning movements. The cluster of cells fired not only when the monkey performed an action, but likewise when the monkey saw the same action performed by someone else. The cells responded the same way whether the monkey reached out to grasp a peanut, or merely watched in envy as another monkey or a human did.

Because the cells reflected the actions that the monkey observed in others, the neuroscientists named them "mirror neurons."

Later experiments confirmed the existence of mirror neurons in humans and revealed another surprise. In addition to mirroring actions, the cells reflected sensations and emotions.

"Mirror neurons suggest that we pretend to be in another person's mental shoes," says Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. "In fact, with mirror neurons we do not have to pretend, we practically are in another person's mind."

Since their discovery, mirror neurons have been implicated in a broad range of phenomena, including certain mental disorders. Mirror neurons may help cognitive scientists explain how children develop a theory of mind (ToM), which is a child's understanding that others have minds similar to their own. Doing so may help shed light on autism, in which this type of understanding is often missing.

Theory theory

Over the years, cognitive scientists have come up with a number of theories to explain how ToM develops. The "theory theory" and "simulation theory" are currently two of the most popular.

Theory theory describes children as budding social scientists. The idea is that children collect evidence -- in the form of gestures and expressions -- and use their everyday understanding of people to develop theories that explain and predict the mental state of people they come in contact with.

Vittorio Gallese, a neuroscientist at the University of Parma in Italy and one of original discovers of mirror neurons, has another name for this theory: he calls it the "Vulcan Approach," in honor of the Star Trek protagonist Spock, who belonged to an alien race called the Vulcans who suppressed their emotions in favor of logic. Spock was often unable to understand the emotions that underlie human behavior.

Gallese himself prefers simulation theory over this Vulcan approach.

Natural mind readers

Simulation theory states that we are natural mind readers. We place ourselves in another person’s "mental shoes," and use our own mind as a model for theirs.

Gallese contends that when we interact with someone, we do more than just observe the other person’s behavior. He believes we create internal representations of their actions, sensations and emotions within ourselves, as if we are the ones that are moving, sensing and feeling.

Many scientists believe that mirror neurons embody the predictions of simulation theory. "We share with others not only the way they normally act or subjectively experience emotions and sensations, but also the neural circuits enabling those same actions, emotions and sensations: the mirror neuron systems," Gallese told LiveScience.

Gallese points out, however, that the two theories are not mutually exclusive. If the mirror neuron system is defective or damaged, and our ability to empathize is lost, the observe-and-guess method of theory theory may be the only option left. Some scientists suspect this is what happens in autistic people, whose mental disorder prevents them from understanding the intentions and motives of others.

Tests underway

The idea is that the mirror neuron systems of autistic individuals are somehow impaired or deficient, and that the resulting "mind-blindness" prevents them from simulating the experiences of others. For autistic individuals, experience is more observed than lived, and the emotional undercurrents that govern so much of our human behavior are inaccessible. They guess the mental states of others through explicit theorizing, but the end result is a list -- mechanical and impersonal -- of actions, gestures and expressions void of motive, intent, or emotion.

Several labs are now testing the hypothesis that autistic individuals have a mirror neuron deficit and cannot simulate the mental states of others.

One recent experiment by Hugo Theoret and colleagues at the University of Montreal showed that mirror neurons normally active during the observation of hand movements in non-autistic individuals are silent in those who have autism.

"You either simulate with mirror neurons, or the mental states of others are completely precluded to you," said Iacoboni.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Yoga vs. Martial Arts

In the 1970's and 80's martial arts were riding high, largely on the coattails of Bruce Lee's popularity. Since then there has been a lot of change within the M.A. community, but little growth in general popularity. On the other hand, yoga has built steadily on foundations laid in the 80's and 90's and now has an unprecedented reputation. Part of this is its appeal to women, as opposed to the heavy testosterone atmosphere of the dojo.

Another reason is the organizational skills behind yoga, which resemble in some ways the early growth of Japanese and particularly Korean arts. Bikram, Ashtanga and Iyengar are known for their individual styles, though each is basically a form of Hatha. Just yesterday I heard a good example of yoga's explosive growth from a student of Deepak Chopra. Apparently only two years ago he began certifying teachers in his personal method at his academy in southern California, and today there are over 700 teachers worldwide. Classes can be found not only in major metropolitan areas but in resorts as well, so people can keep up with their practice while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, or become exposed to the art there and then continue when they get home.

Contrast this with the FMA, which have been called "the next big thing" in martial arts since the mid-1980's. While FMA has undoubtedly spread, it has never achieved any sort of widespread recognition on its own merits. Furthermore, the historic secrecy of these arts, combined with the desire to closely control the information, has kept most schools small and local. Serrada is a good example. While Deepak Chopra has developed 700 teachers in 2 years, how many teachers have several generations of Serrada practitioners produced in the last 20?

Don't think Chopra has made it easy. Students train 10-12 hours a day in his program, split between several hours of yoga practice, studying anatomy and Ayurvedic medicine, and beginning with 2 one-hour sessions of meditation daily, build up to four hours per day. This is a highly focused and disciplined approach, yet people clamor to get in.

Certainly it helps that he's a best selling author, and as a doctor has strong credentials. As an ethnic Indian he has the feel of authenticity to draw in those seeking wisdom from the East. On the other hand, he also made a commitment to building an organization to spread his message that is generally lacking in martial arts, or where there is the will to do so, other factors such as lack of business acumen or excessive ego hinder such development.

Martial arts are not lacking in similar potential. The popularity of Tai Chi for health shows it crosses that bridge, and many Aikidoists are drawn to their art for the spiritual orientation associated there. What is lacking is the broader commitment to creating a holistic lifestyle, one that calms the mind and heals the body, along with the singular benefit of providing potential life-saving skills. There are few martial arts program that demand - and receive - the widespread dedication of these yoga organizations. Their secular yoga classes are full, as are the more spiritual ashrams. In contrast, how many martial art teachers are struggling to pay rent, running classes with only a handful of students? Sure, there are martial arts camps and seminars, but are there waiting lists to get in? Where is the buzz?!!

Taekwondo is a notable exception, and that style is famous for the support of a national government for its international organizations. Similar to yoga, there is both an infrastructure for steady growth, and a focus on building inner discipline and character in students. If there is draw for Westerners in Eastern wisdom, it is perhaps found there, in developing those qualities no longer demanded by the institutions of our culture. Our schools don't teach it, families don't demand it. The void many people feel within themselves is filled with pop culture and junk food, until they have enough and seek alternative paths to nourish mind and body.

The challenge for martial arts is to become relevant to people's needs, not just a fad or a bandage for insecurities. Perhaps if there has been a failure of leadership in this community, it reflects the deeper martial culture's distrust of others. While yoga focuses on unity, martial arts is more often about overcoming adversity. Certainly the knowledge and skills to bring forth a similar message are an integral part of the art, but it is elusive and hidden at higher levels of understanding and skill. Beginners rely on strength to oppose others; it takes time and experience to learn to blend one's energy with that of others to achieve results, and then introspection to see how this applies to other areas besides physical combat.

Perhaps if the arts were able to show the soft hidden within the hard sooner, more people would be drawn in, perceiving the balance they desire. Instructors need to know not just the mechanics of their style, but how to talk about the inner game. It has often been said that a master knows not just how to destroy, but how to heal. Many people have wounds which cannot be seen on the outside. When martial arts can show a path for healing within, there is less need to rely on the brute strength of destruction towards the world. This is the meaning of the traditional kung-fu salute, the fist within the palm of the open other hand; sword within the sheath, power tempered by knowledge. The most important knowledge is not how to conquer others, but how to conquer oneself. The world is a mirror, and when we find inner peace, we also see less conflict on the outside. The less fear with have within, the more options we find available for dealing with the stress of living.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Updated contact info

I recently switched from Comcast to SBC so I could get DSL. To get the best rate, I had to also change my phone number from a business line to residential. Comcast only forwards the new number for 30 days unless a fee is paid, in which case they will do it for an additional 30 days.

I paid the fee. It took them nearly a week to get the message up and running, and at the end of 30 days they promptly discontinued it. Forget trying to get them to respond to a repair ticket; it's useless.

Hey Comcast, if any of you reads this, maybe you can think about your customer service!

Anyway, during this past week I've had several people email me (or in the case of local businesses, just tell me when I walked in) that they couldn't reach me and there was no new number given, so here it is: (510) 222-0332

The Tao of Kinetic Energy and Cabales Serrada

This piece was written by Sifu Michael Trimble,
"Kali-San Soo Ranch" Ashland, Oregon,
and posted here with his permission.


Kinetic energy is the energy of motion, like Cabales Serrada. Think
about it. Every dynamic body possesses Kinetic energy. Power, by definition,is the rate of doing work per unit time. For practical and applicable purposes of Cabales Serrada, we can interchange power and kinetic energy as far as the end results of our actions. Both involve work (Force) against another physical body, with or without a weapon, in the form of collision or impact.

Mathematically, Kinetic energy is expressed as KE=1/2 mv2. Varying mass or velocity increases KE in different proportions:

KE=1/2(16) (2) 2 = (8) (4) = 32 (Increasing mass)
KE=1/2(2) (16) 2 = (1) (256) = 256 (Increasing velocity)

As illustrated, when mass is doubled, KE (power)doubles
proportionately. This KE is delivered in the form of heat dissipated
and absorbed by the receiving body.

When velocity doubles, power delivered quadruples. Every time
velocity doubles, kinetic energy increases by one power of ten,
making velocity and power a logarithmic proportion. In short,
doubled mass doubles power. Doubled velocity quardruples power. Energy absorbed at impact is four (4) times greater with doubled velocity, even with constant mass. Speed, over mass,is power.


Here is the full math, for those inclined to crunch the numbers, as forwarded and updated by Sifu Trimble:

Mathematically, Kinetic energy is expressed as KE=1/2 mv2

Increasing Mass:

KE=1/2 mv2
=1/2(2) (2)2
=(1) (4)=4

KE=1/2(4) (2)2
= (2) (4)

KE=1/2(8) (2)2
=(4) (4)

KE=1/2(16) (2)2
=(8) (4)

Increasing Velocity:

KE=1/2(m) (v)2
=1/2 (2) (2)2
=(1) (4)=4

KE=1/2(2) (4)2
=(1) (16)=16

KE=1/2(2) (8)2
=(1) (64)

KE=1/2(2) (16)2
=(1) (256)

As illustrated, when mass is doubled, KE (power) doubles proportionately. This KE is delivered in the form of heat dissipated and absorbed by the receiving body.

Sifu Michael Trimble

Friday, October 14, 2005

Body alignment

A colleague of mine, Khalid Khan, recently wrote how many people run with poor postural alignment, and how they should pay more attention to this. On the surface, he is correct, and to the extent that people notice bad habits they should do what they can to correct them.

On the other hand, most people have no idea if, or how much, their body is out of alignment. We tend to compensate unconsciously for imbalances that occur for any of a variety of reasons, including accidents, internal disorders, congenital conditions, poor postural habits and adaptation to incorrect ergonomics at work, etc. As someone who has undergone chiropractic care after minor auto accidents, it's amazing to me how hard the body fights to regain that sense of equilibrium adapted to misalignment, rather than simply re-establishing conformity to proper realignment.

I agree it is often obvious when watching runners that they have alignment problems, but this is not simply a matter of willful disregard of proper form. For instance, someone with a bad back may feel less pain working around the area of injury, resulting in a lower shoulder, rotated hip, etc. Attempting to straighten up will feel unnatural. Eventually this person may wind up with a sore knee, but that is a symptom, not a cause.

Another consideration is shoes. Poorly designed or mis-fitting shoes can cause problems all on their own. Smart runners will take the time and spend the money for the shoe that best fits their foot, but that can be both time consuming and expensive, especially nowadays.

Even the best runners have idiosyncrasies in their movement, and trying to correct that does not necessarily improve their running. I ran competitively for 5 years (best personal times: 2:00 half mile, 4:24 mile, 9:45 two mile) and I got to see the postures of a lot of faster runners. Some things can be corrected, such as learning more efficient arm swing and focusing the gaze to minimize head movement. None of these, however, have much effect on basic underlying postural alignment.

Furthermore, attempts to completely balance the body have been known to have negative impacts on competitive athletes. One example was the unexpected impact of rolfing on professional ballet dancers in the 1960's, which ended some promising careers. Even a top athlete like Bruce Lee had one leg that was shorter than the other. We learn to use the body we have, and changing its structure can erase muscle memory and cause proprioceptive conflicts that inhibit best performance.

One problem distance runners have is their leg muscles get tight which shortens them. Stretching helps, but most people don't do more than basic loosening up, and over time they adaptively lose range of motion. This in turn moves stress up the line to affect other body parts, such tight legs impinging on the back. Many people don't know how to stretch correctly anyway. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury, and how many runners understand the value of warming down properly, or are able to even take time to do so if they are running on lunch break or elsewhere in a busy schedule?

So, with all these considerations, how does one simply stop running poorly? A professional athlete may have a support team of a chiropractor, trainer, massage therapist, nutritionist. They may use video of their movement to identify correctable problems. None of these are readily available to most individuals, for whom activities such as running, martial arts or dance are an adjunct to a lifestyle, not a goal unto itself.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Larry Wright: Street Drumming to the Max!

Larry Wright online video

Larry Wright is an incredibly electrifying drummer, a force of nature. He is a bucket drummer who makes a good living playing in the subways in NYC. At age 2 he was already hitting things; at 5 he discovered his instrument, learning to get more sound out of a bucket than most drummers with a full kit. He was discovered in 1990 at age 15 by two filmmakers, and their 30 minute documentary about him aired on PBS. I was blown away when I saw it back then. He would compare and demonstrate variations from Santeria to Yoruba sacred drumming, as if channeled through jazz legend Lenny White. Since then he's appeared in commercials (Ford, etc) and movies (the opening of The Believers, for example) and in Alicia Key's "Karma" video. This kid is so hot, legendary drummer Gene Krupa went to meet him.

Watch his sticks; identify the fulcrum point, then think of the short strokes of Serrada.
Notice they don't come back too far, moving from vertical to horizontal with great precision.
See how relaxed his wrists are.
Same for his shoulders. Notice his upper arms hang naturally.
His concentration is complete. He has full control of speed, power, tempo and rythm.

How would you move to these rhythms?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ranks and Titles, part 2

How does one become a grandmaster or a master? This has been debated in depth on forums, so this is essentially a synopsis. There is no single consensus or single answer.

First, one can evolve into the role. This was described to me as “family style” by Sijo John Wong, my late Tai Chi teacher, head and founder of the Wu Shing Tai Chi Academy. He called it family style because it is based on the organic model of family growth. One teaches, which is like being a parent. When one’s student becomes a teacher, that is like being a grandparent, and would be recognized as “master” or “master teacher.” When one’s student becomes a master in turn, one then achieves grandmaster status.

One can also be recognized by one’s peers, either those already of grandmaster status acknowledging one as an equal, or by other masters recognizing one has elevated oneself to another level. While one can be recognized as a master based on singular skill as a fighter, it seems to me that grandmastership in martial arts is generally tied to lineage, though the second criteria in the previous sentence might allow skill alone. In chess, for example, grandmasters are recognized solely by ability to win.

Someone like Angel Cabales gained recognition through both of these channels, devoting a lifetime to both teaching and perfecting his own skills.

Another route might be “family style” in which one inherits the title based on blood relation to the previous head of the system. Some well known examples of this type of succession in recent times include: Yip Chun in Wing Chun, Kissimaru Ueshiba in Aikido, Lily and Gini Lau in Eagle Claw (parallel, competitive successorships) and Vincent Cabales in Serrada Escrima. Historically this has had mixed results. Some lineages have remained strong through successive generations while others have seen the title inherited by name rather than accomplishment.

Next, there are grandmasters based on self-perception. This might occur when, in the previous example, there is a superior student who is passed over as head of a style for a blood descendant of lesser abilities. In such a case, the student may opt to go out on his own and found his own lineage. Whether or not such this is justified may vary according to the needs of one versus that of the larger organization; battles have been fought over such things. Sometimes it is necessary for the prodigal son to move on, whereas other times it might have been better to work from within. It depends on how various personalities get along at such junctures.

Finally, there are those who proclaim themselves grandmasters based completely on egoic self-aggrandizement. In other words, someone who is qualified neither by skill nor by being groomed for successorship, but is merely fueled by excessive desire for recognition. It is unfortunate that martial arts attracts a certain element who need to feel fulfilled in this way, particularly as the public might be conned by words and flashy uniforms. Reality often has a way of catching up to such individuals, in the form of a better fighter who decides to test the skills of this unknown grandmaster.

However one arrives at such an elevated status, it would seem there are a couple of basic, incontrovertible requirements. First, one should have deep understanding and mastery of the fundamentals of the style one practices, whether or not one is the premier fighter in the system. Secondly, one should have a broader perspective of what this rank entails. Essentially, the title lays claim to a fiefdom, which means having responsibility not just to oneself but also to those who look up to the position. Like parenthood, it means raising up of those who follow along the path. If a grandmaster does not do this, he will sit atop a tree that dies and the title he has worn will pass into oblivion.

Rank and Titles

Personally I am of the belief that titles are for politics, something GM Angel Cabales frequently said, and that while ranks and titles can be disputed or taken away, one owns one's own knowledge and that is a gift which remains throughout life (to paraphrase folks like John Wong, Wally Jay, Richard Bustillo and other elders I've met in the arts).

Anthony Davis has always said that he was the first to publicly call Angel by the title of "grandmaster" and I've never heard anyone dispute that. However, here is a little story that I heard Angel tell on a few occasions to myself and others:

Back when Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo were setting up shop on their own in the late 1960's, they approached Angel and asked if he would be grandmaster of their organization. Angel told them (and was quite fierce in his retelling of this every time) that he was already a grandmaster, and if he let them, his own students, "make" him a grandmaster, then what would prevent them in the future from thinking they could "unmake" him as grandmaster. In other words, he declined from a position of authority. This is allegedly why Angel appears first in Guro Dan's original book, being his original FMA teacher, but Villabrille is named as a grandmaster, having accepted their offer of the title.

Not everyone may accept this history, but it is one Angel stuck with through the years I knew him. This is not necessarily inconsistent with GM Davis' telling, because this was something done in private, whereas Anthony Davis promoted Angel to the public in ways Angel would or could not do for himself.

As for anyone else's titles, that is an endless source of discussion and debate in the MA community at large. I know people who dispute Vincent Cabales' claim, and I know people who dispute Anthony Davis' claim. There are others within the Serrada family who have also created their own organizations, and within them they are the grandmaster as it is they who teach the teachers and dispense ranks. If we are to show respect within the Serrada community, it means we should acknowledge that the art has grown and spread, and not just under one umbrella. We don't have unity, we have community, and that is a way we can come together in peace.

The martial arts have plenty of charlatans (I'm not referring to anyone I've mentioned herein) who claim rank and skill beyond their due. Rank is like clothing, and not all wear it equally. There are folks I know who are quite humble but as worthy as anyone gracing the covers of magazines. I prefer to acknowledge each person for who they are, and what they have done in terms of personal growth and contributions to the art and society in general. The measure of a man is not found in the color of his belt or in a piece of paper, but what is in his heart and soul.

Just my own opinions ....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Matrix of Sixteen

My “matrix of sixteen” is a template for learning lock-and-block (numerado in some styles), which is a constant movement drill. The defender does continuous techniques against attacks, which are being practiced by his partner.

I teach four basic techniques for each of the first two angles. Angle #1 has, in specific order: outside, inside, cross and umbrella blocks. Angle #2 has: outside, shoulder, cross and umbrella blocks. I recommend sticking to a consistent sequencing of techniques when learning each angle so as to create a mnemonic device for remembering the material. Otherwise as one learns more material, there is a greater chance to forget to practice something.

In lock-and-block, the attacker will throw a #1 angle strike, then after the defender completes his full technique (as slowly as necessary, as cleanly as possible) the attacker will throw an angle #2 strike, which the defender will again counter. The initial developmental stage starts with just these two strikes.

Here is the map of the matrix in its most basic and straightforward progression, from the defender’s perspective. At this level, the speed is controlled by defense; the attacker merely feeds the strikes so the defender can work out the timing and movement.

Outside block for angle #1; outside block for angle #2.
Inside block for angle #1; outside block for angle #2.
Cross block for angle #1; outside block for angle #2.
Umbrella block for angle #1; outside block for angle #2.

This same sequence will be repeated, except substituting the shoulder block for angle #2.
Then same sequence will be repeated, except substituting the cross block for angle #2.
The sequence will be repeated once more, substituting the umbrella block for angle #2.

The defender will now have done a combination of every angle #1 defense with every angle #2 defense.

The next step past this basic is to have the attacker begin to lengthen the chain by throwing another angle #1 strike, then when that is accomplished, another angle #2. At this point, it can become a continuous sequence, with the attacker alternating angles #1 and #2. Next step would be to randomize these.

Competency at this level moves the student from seeing techniques as separate and discrete to becoming components in a larger holistic pattern of movement. When the student moves on into further angles of attack, there is now a framework into which the new defenses can be plugged, allowing quick progress integrating the system.

For those familiar with these exercises, what I am describing is not something new, except for formalizing a beginning drill to ensure everything gets practiced and students learn to flow from wherever they are to wherever they need to be. That flowing quality is one of the key principles of this art, and this drill creates enough sense of urgency to bypass the conscious mind’s ability to stop and analyze everything. In other words, it forces the subconscious to keep up with the attacker in real time.

Discipline and Growth

We all attract to ourselves the reality that we choose. Maybe the circumstances are on a larger scale, but how we respond is always choice. Your own view of reality is neither more nor less subjective than anyone else’s; "objectivity" always has content.

There are always limits to human perception, and so we can only know that which we have eyes to see. We create the potential for growth when we can see the limits of what we know.

Learning a skill creates discipline through perseverance. One endures periods of awkwardness, frustration and boredom, all steps towards completion of competency. Martial arts, sewing, learning to walk, all require that focus remain on achieving the goal.

“Courage is the greatest of all the virtues. Because if you haven't courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others.” (Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English Author).

People come to martial arts for many reasons: self-protection, self-esteem and health are three of the main ones. The first thing the art must do is fulfill these expectations, or else a person will move on. Once that is achieved, however, the art must move to another level or it will stagnate. It must become somehow larger than ones initial attraction, for having met those needs, one has outgrown who they were when those needs were unmet. Right?

The purpose of a discipline isn’t immediate gratification, therefore, but is found in the long-term potential for self-growth and awareness. If the vehicle satisfies one’s needs, it becomes a road, continually leading one through a landscape that opens to new vistas. The need for self-defense may give way to self-gratification, which can become a pursuit of perfection, which can lead to self-awareness and acceptance.

It is when we recognize our own process that we can overcome the limitations of our perception, and at this level any art, any discipline, becomes something more than what it first appeared, reflecting a deeper metaphor of whom we wish to be.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Moving Past Basic Learning

More advanced students should start focusing on lock-and-block and sparring more. The chance to work out with different people at different skill levels is an invaluable learning experience, how to read opponents and remain in control.

Control doesn't necessarily mean hurting someone; superior control is not
hurting someone because you don't have to, though the capacity is there.
That's the challenge when working with classmates, to find the edge and not
step over it. Sometimes that's a judgement call, opinions differ. I think
the Dog Brothers motto at their Gatherings pretty much sums it up: Friends at the end of the day.

Lock-and-block starts with my "matrix". Using the "matrix of sixteen"
builds smoothness, accuracy, and lastly power, which cannot really develop
without the others. From there work in new angles progressively. This is
even good exercise when you are advanced. Use progressive feeds (1-2,
1-2-3 etc; both timing count and angles). Even if you are advanced,this is a good warm-up to "picking" ("picking your target" using feints, etc).

Sparring starts with counter-for-counter timing, allowing each person to defend and attack. The basic is "the box" because it teaches efficiency and directness of movement. It's a good place to drill in strong compact movement. With progress this opens up to incorporate everything you know.

Do not rush this process; improvise only when you have the basics in place. It is not "free" until it is understood, by both mind and body. Then the techniques simply become tools and you can create what you need. But always (always!) sticking to the underlying principles of the movement: compact efficiency and effective
leverage through good angles, footwork and grounding.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fender Bender

I was getting ready to write a blog about training today when this little gem came along this morning to remind me about paying attention to the intuitive side of life.

I was driving my kid to school, which is about a mile away. I pulled into the center lane of the main street (one lane each way with a turn lane in the middle) behind a line of cars at the red light, then saw a car pulling out of a driveway on my right. There was a gap in the line of cars for him to make his left turn, so I stopped short of the car in front of me to let him through. However, the driver was looking to his right at traffic coming from that direction and drove straight into the front of my car.

No one was hurt (though I'm starting to feel soreness in my upper back), and replacing my bumper and turn signals and realigning the front end will run close to $1000, which is my insurance deductible, even before labor is included. Plus, I'll need a rental vehicle for several days. Of course, it turns out the other driver was a sixteen year old undocumented Mexican kid with no license, in an unregistered car belonging to a friend, so I'm stuck with the total costs. He offered me $100 for repairs if I didn't call the cops, saying a friend of his could fix my bumper (the mounts are busted off, has to be replaced, and the turn signals alone cost what he offered).

As soon as he (and all the people who came out of his house) started telling me not to call the cops, I knew I was screwed. Anyway, I waited on 911 hold for 10 minutes, then called the local police department through the operator, which told me to call Highway Patrol and switched me back to 911, where I sat on hold another 10 minutes. Finally, while hearing the recorded message not to hang up for the umpteenth time, a CHP officer just happened to drive by. When he said the other car would be impounded because the driver was not licensed, the kid's big sister started arguing that he shouldn't do that because "it isn't done this way in Mexico." I think they need to understand that this isn't Mexico, and the laws that apply there are not valid here. Sheesh!

I even had strong premonitions of trouble which caught my attention beforehand; I wanted to leave extra-early today, and those kinds of feelings often make me wonder what is out there. Before leaving home I put on some lightweight sandals instead of regular shoes, then wondered if they'd be sufficient if I had to walk home, and as I was pulling up behind the other cars in the turn lane, I was watching for the other car before I even saw him, sensing trouble through the gap in the line of cars to my right. This just goes to show you can't drive too defensively, as I saw him and was at a complete stop before he even pulled out.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My brother Richard

My brother Richard died July 21.

He was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder on January 12, his 65th birthday.

They operated within two weeks, finding a bigger tumor than expected. They thought they got it all. They were wrong.

The best that can be said is that it was his time; he was at peace with himself and the world and ready to go.

Richard was a big influence in my life. He introduced me to so many things: science fiction; chess; jazz; Mexican food; coffee; beer; motorcycles and girls.

He also was my first mentor in martial arts, though he wasn’t a practicing martial artist. As a teenager he attended a military high school where he was exposed to jujitsu and savate. He was the first person I ever saw throw a kick; this was back in 1959, when I was 5 and he was already 20. He also had a way with knives. He accepted challenges from fencers at his school, successfully closing the gap to win those exchanges. He enjoyed throwing knives and introduced me to a skill I’ve never taken to his level. The self-defense techniques he taught me as a kid are as valid today as they were then, simple and brutally effective.

His greatest passion was music. Richard could play anything. He studied cello as a youth under a protégé of Pablo Casals and at age 12 won an Illinois state competition. He played bass in jazz quartets and a symphony orchestra, guitar and piano as a soloist in clubs. On occasion he would play saxophone or trumpet. He had a BFA degree in music and wrote compositions, from short pieces up to a complete symphony based on Winnie the Pooh. At the end of his life he was passing his love of music to his two youngest daughters, the older of whom is following him on the cello.

Richard eventually became an attorney in Los Angeles, but his love of the arts led him to a side career as a theater reviewer for one of the local newspapers down there. He also took a weekend during law school to write a movie script, which was soon produced into a B movie (we won’t discuss the director’s “additions” to the script at this point …)

He was a very intense person, driven by a formidable intellect, and psychologically self-aware, a student under Abraham Maslow in the 60’s. It was not a comfortable combination, for him or those who were close to him, but it cannot be said that he was boring or mundane. He suffered ill health much of his life; arthritis cut short his performing career in music, and he had heart problems as he got older. Pain-ridden, he became dependent on medications and they robbed him of a lot of vitality these last few years. Nevertheless, he and I always got along; there was a lot of love between us.

He was buried in a small, peaceful cemetery up in Portland, Oregon, close to Vancouver, Washington, where he moved a few years ago with his family.

He was a great brother, and I’m going to really miss him.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Tying Shoelaces, Locking Joints

Tying shoelaces is a metaphor I use for joint locks, disarms and throws, because it’s a metaphor familiar to everybody.

If you tie your shoelaces too loosely, the knot will come undone. The lace has to be pulled snug to work properly. If you’re about to do something where it’s important to keep your shoe functioning, such as compete a sporting event, you’ll probably make sure to pull it tight and maybe even double knot it. A loose lace could cost you the competition, and it’s the same in performing martial arts techniques.

Too often novice students in martial arts are reluctant to get close. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, to respect another person’s space, but fighting isn’t about showing that kind of respect. You may respect the opponent for their skills or as a person, but you fight them the best you can to show that respect. It sounds so contradictory to normal mores, because we’re talking about violating personal space to control another person by inflicting pain, but it is necessary to recondition yourself to get comfortable using someone else’s body objectively.

Another metaphor I use is a doorknob. When you take hold of one, you grasp it and turn it either clockwise or counterclockwise. You would only rattle it back and forth if it did not do what you want, which is to open the door. Wristlocks are like this. To often I see people twist a wrist 90% of the way to a lock, then reverse unnecessarily. On a fundamental level, it doesn’t matter which way you go or which hand you use. Once you touch someone, whatever direction you choose has potential for control. The important thing is to take the time to explore the potential of each movement, learning to operate by sense of touch so that you can feel the slack in a lock and know how to take it up until it is snug.

Sometimes you have to reverse direction; sometimes reversal is part of the setup. Some techniques require two hands, or switching grips, but these are all options that come from knowing what you can do from your first touch so you can judge whether or not you can achieve control immediately or need to move on to a better position.

Small Circle Jujitsu is built on the premise of finding the fastest way to snug down a technique, instead of wasting time and motion circling wide until the technique locks. Angel understood this with Serrada too. Particularly when practicing with empty hands, the ability to move quickly into a dominating control increases the chance of success, so remember the basic rule: once you touch, find the control from that first contact, and only move into a longer chain of movement if you cannot secure your position.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Filipino Fighting Whip book

Tom Meadows' long-awaited book "The Filipino Fighting Whip" is finally out in print from Paladin Press. This is the most complete treatment of whips for combat written so far, drawing on Tom's lifelong experience and those of a number of top Filipino martial arts teachers, including Dan Inosanto (who wrote the forward), Momoy Canete, Amante Marinas, Snookie Sanchez and others. It covers history and types of whips, and presents a teaching progression based on body mechanics and angles derived from the FMA.

I've been watching Tom pull this together for a couple of years and I'm very excited to see it completed. As a small aside, yours truly contributed a short section on use of the whip from the perspective of a Serrada practitioner.

What's interesting is that Tom's insights into teaching the whip continue to evolve through his Latigo y Daga Association, so here's hoping for a sequel in the future.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Judging: Part II

Part II:

Choice is freedom; freedom is choice.

Don’t forget there are always rules.
That’s karma.

Not choosing is also karma.
We have no choice but to choose.
Is choice really free?
It does not matter. We can choose or not choose, that is a choice.

Choose awareness, not just of the mind but of the being.
Feel; sense; intuit, with your body; your mind; your Being.
If you cannot let go of the story, things will not change.
Let it go. It is what it is.
You cannot make it different, except as you change yourself to something new.

Judging: Part I

Part I:

Stop judging.
Stop judging other people, and yourself. Ultimately yourself.
Judging everything makes everything else seem judgemental in return.
If we feel others are always judging us, and we them for judging us, then we are also judging ourselves, for we imagine ourselves how we appear in their eyes.

One needs to forgive others, and one needs to forgive oneself.
To forgive is not to forget, nor is it to overlook that which needs seeing.
Unconditional love does not mean uncompromising acceptance.

It is about our relationship to ourselves, because when we allow ourselves to react habitually to the outside world, we stop being truly alive.
We become a series of responses that will always attract triggers.
We cannot blame the universe without becoming a nail to be hammered.

When we react with negativity, we become dense. Our energy goes down.
Things that resonate at that level, such as anger or resentment, tend to attract things that are enmeshed at that lower frequency of energy.
They stick to us because it’s where we’ve chosen to resonate.

By letting go of attachment to our own negativity, we stop resonating on those levels. Those things no longer sense our presence, and so pass through.
We become transparent.
When we can choose how we direct our attention, we free ourselves from manipulation.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Using Intuition

Last night I did something I haven’t done in perhaps 20 years. I picked up a hitchhiker.

This is something we’re constantly told is dangerous, a big no-no on the personal security scale. Back when I was a teenager, hitchhiking was common and popular. I can recall in the late 60’s catching rides frequently to get into town from a rural area. It was something young, free-spirited people did, popularized by hippies and adopted by many others. Then things started getting uglier. Stories of psycho hitchhikers abounded, and soon nobody would stop anymore. As rides became scarce, people stopped sticking out their thumbs.

Occasionally I’d see throwbacks at freeway entrances, particularly in Berkeley, where dusty young couples or students on vacation break would sit with signs indicating where they wanted to go. Even these disappeared; nowadays the only signs are begging for spare change.

The last hitchhiker to whom I gave a ride was back around ’82, a sixteen year old runaway girl on the side of highway 17 in a remote stretch outside of San Jose, trying to get to Santa Cruz. I figured she needed to get out of there before someone with bad intentions offered her a lift. I dropped her near the beach, and that was that.

Last night, however, as I was returning home from teaching a class in Pleasant Hill, I spotted someone walking down a long lonely piece of road, carrying a potted plant. This person was simply sticking out a thumb while walking, not even bothering to turn around. This is often the sign of someone who’s lost hope of getting help. There was something so forlorn about this person I almost stopped right then, but there was no turnout and traffic behind me kept me going. I passed so quickly I couldn’t even tell if it was a man or woman.

I drove on a couple of miles to the freeway, debating if I should go back. Logic kept telling me to leave this alone, that I didn’t have to get involved or take a risk, that someone else would take care of this person’s need. The further I drove, the more my conscience pricked at me. I realized I was giving in to fear based on social conditioning, and something was telling me that this was a moment I would always doubt if I simply looked away. What I recognized was a feeling of shame at not being willing to see a fellow human being for who they were. A little voice said that sometimes we are tested on our compassion, and the deeds we choose, for good or bad, become part of our character.

By this time I was miles away on the freeway, coming to the last exit at the crest of a ridge before a long stretch with no turnarounds. I realized this was the last opportunity I would give myself to make a decision, and so on impulse I turned the car around, driving the seven or eight miles back to where I’d seen this person. I figured if the person had a ride by then, no problem. I had time to spend, so no big deal. If they were still there, I’d at least take the opportunity to check them out and assess the situation. For once I didn’t have a dog with me in the car, but I’m usually armed in some way and control of a car is itself a position of power if things go awry.

Sure enough, the person was still on the rural road, taking a rest by sitting on a guardrail in the middle of nowhere. I could see it was a man, medium sized with a beard. I turned around at the next intersection and went back. By now he was walking again, barely bothering to lift his hand. I pulled up behind him and hit the high beams several times before he realized what that signified.

It turned out this guy walked all that way from the Pleasant Hill BART station, about 8 miles or so, having missed the last bus. The plant was for his wife, who’d had a heart attack two days earlier. He was trying to get to the hospital in Martinez to visit her. Aside from the long distance I went before deciding to help, the actual detour to drop him off was relatively short, but I saved him at least another hour of walking on a dark and winding country road. This person was not only not a danger to me, but it felt like a blessing to have helped this man.

I’ve always felt that my intuition was something to be trusted, a deeper level of consciousness. John Wong, my late Tai Chi teacher, talked a lot about listening to one’s inner voice. Last night that voice was loud and clear, telling me not only that this person was not a threat to me, but also that in some way, I was being tested on my compassion and also my ability to perceive the message being sent.

If one chooses to ignore that quiet inner voice, it becomes silent or gets buried beneath the shrill self-involved noise of the ego. On the other hand, listening to and acknowledging that voice invites guidance from a higher source of consciousness into our lives.

If my intuition had said “beware” there is no way I would have given this person a lift. There certainly have been times in my life that I received warnings of danger, some of which have been validated. First one must pay attention, recognizing the feeling comes from a deeper level. Then one chooses how to proceed. In my case, it took perhaps ten minutes to get past my rationalizations to acknowledging a need to act outside of my normal parameters, but once I did, the feeling was strong that I was following the correct path.

I believe tests like these are not random, but come our way to measure our trust in our inner guides. Had I ignored my intuition last night, today I’d be wondering if I had done the right thing. Today, though, I have no such doubts. To the anonymous man to whom I gave a ride, I was a blessing. He doesn’t know it, but he was that to me as well.

Dialing It In

I’ve recently hit on a way of explaining fine-tuning movement that seems to work in class, so I’m trying to put down the analogy here in writing.

Imagine scales of measurement, such as meters, centimeters, millimeters. When we move our bodies, we have various different scales available to us to dial in the precision we desire.

Too many people only see movement as a single block, when in fact our bodies employ a sophisticated system of levers and counterbalances. Within an integrated whole there are subsets, specific aspects that can be accessed and addressed.

The first level is the macro. Imagine having a yardstick. These are large-scale movements that get you where you want to be using big levers and gears such as the legs and hips. These heavy-duty structural components are responsible for the overall position of your body; your alignment in the direction you are facing and your alignment with gravity.

Once in position you switch to the micro-measurement to dial it in precisely, going from yardstick to millimeters to implement smaller gears. The main control is the foot, which with small rotations pivoting from the ball or the heel can adjust weight transfer or open or close the gross angle of the hips. These shifts from the ground transmit to the whole body.

The waist is also a small gear set in the chain, using abdominal muscles to align the spine. This can be together with or sequential to the foot micro-alignment. The foot’s direction of alignment extends upward through the waist, our center, to control the upper torso.

The process of moving involves constant shifting of weight and balance, a weighting and unweighting of the left and right sides of the body. In Serrada, for example, we frequently use a forward weighted stance, which means our energy will be grounded through the front leg. This will be the result of positioning with our primary movers. Our fine-tuning adjustment will therefore come from the rear leg.

Rotating on the ball of the foot tends to widen one’s base whereas rotating on the heel narrows it. Using the ball also adds one more link to the energetic chain from the ground up, a small but significant difference.

Take a technique and walk through it, then think about what are the large movements and how the small ones interact. An analogy sometimes used is cracking a whip. Whips taper from thick to thin and the energy increases speed as it moves down in diameter. It is not purely sequential as many people think of it, however, because even as the tip of the whip cracks, it is still linked dynamically to a live, moving and responsive hand at the other end, not separate but integral.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Supporting the troops

Regardless of your feelings about the politics of the Iraq war, you may want to do something to show support for Americans over there doing dirty, dangerous work. Here is a link to another blog which has some suggestions, things that connect directly to those people rather than well-meaning but useless gestures like stickers on your car.

Double Parrying

Double Parry With Pivot
This is Serrada's first move, "Outside Block" for angles 1,6,10,12 with empty hands.

Footwork /lower body alignment:
Facing opponent, against a right punch: pivot towards the left, shifting weight forward towards that leg. Keep both knees bent/spring-loaded; as you turn, tuck your right knee in by the left, bringing thighs together for stability. You can go a bit farther and pull in your right foot to get further offline. This will shift the weight more to the left. Either way, the left front foot is flat, the right up on the balls of the toes.
- Simultaneously with the Upper Body:
The right (inside) shoulder is inline with the hips, guarding towards opponent. Flick both hands high to parry a punch. Rear left hand crosses up to protect the face, lead right hand in front; create plane. Alternately, lead hand is low to protect ribs and belly.

*Shoulders and hips move together.
*Elbows and knees move together.
*Hands and feet move together.

Everything moves together, stops together.
Balance and integrate: top/bottom, left/right.
Feel the power of moving from your center, extend it out via the limbs.
Relax. Feel your weight settled, grounded.
Coil and release. Center and extend. Contract and expand.

*Practice in each direction, turning right instead of left; positions reverse.
*From a leading foot stance, shift backward, front hand lead.
*From a leading foot stance, shift forward. Opposite hand becomes lead.
*Learn these shifts both outside (of the opponent's hands) and inside too.
*Covering: step back from opponent while keeping guard against attack
- wipe off; lead hand retreats high, new lead moves under it (like pulling rope).
- stepping to the rear pivots and changes lead side;
- front cross-step keeps same side lead
*Double cover (two steps back); turn head to scan around, break tunnel vision.
*Practic eight directions, on lines of symbols + and x. (straight and diagonals).
*Add a thrusting kick to opponent’s knee, leg; or snap wheel kick to groin.
*Kick knee, then scrape down the shin to stomp the foot.
*Eye jab with lead fingers.
*Multiple punches - targetted; circular, (use elbows for intercepting punch)
*Elbow to ribs. Multiple reversing elbows (keep head covered).
*Elbow ribs while stepping through, spin into reverse elbow w/other arm.
*Use lead knee to strike thighs, groin, underbelly.
*Hook, sweep, throw (inner / outer reaps; arm locks with throws, etc.)
*Move to rear. Attacks to knee/achilles tendon, kidneys, spine, neck.
*Moving inside; head smash (head grab w/elbow hit); reverse follow-ups
*Low lead hand parry (cover groin against kick, protect belly/ribs more.
*Lead hand high/low/high combinations parries
*Hand reversals:
-high/low flicks, same lead;
-roll and reverse;
-touch reference points (tap front shoulder/thigh, rear shoulder/thigh).

Moving qualities #1

See shapes of movement. Round keeps moving, doesn’t want to stop. Square is the hit, putting a sharp point to the movement. Keep energy moving as much as possible. If stuck, reverse. Feel through your senses; pay attention to your body says. Understand the qualities of movement, what you are feeling in yourself and from your opponent.

Stay relaxed, go with it as much as you can. When pulled, come in (the door is opened). When pushed, go (a window of opportunity). Sometimes you reverse; that is to counter or destroy their attack. You think about what you feel. Their press becomes your roll, which could wind up into a trap/hit.

This requires staying focused in the “Now,” a very Zen-like state of awareness. Feel with your belly. Listen with your hands. The mind watches; the body does.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Ram Dass

Some of you may know of Ram Dass; many more are probably familiar with the phrase made famous by his book, "Be Here Now." Ram Dass is one of the great spiritual teachers and speakers to emerge from the 1960's to help bring the teachings of the East to our Western culture. He is someone who walked the walk, living a life of service to others. He is now old, poor and suffering the effects of a stroke he had a few years ago. A fund has been set up to help him. Read here, and help if you can. Even a little bit is appreciated.


Sunday, March 20, 2005


Hello again! Back to the blog after a break. I’ve been busy writing elsewhere, having signed onto an email list that is busy, to say the least; I think addictive is the word most commonly used by those on it. A memo to myself to carry a notepad and remember to use it for blog ideas! Sometimes I just forget it’s there, and a moment of inspiration passes and is forgotten. I’ve had half a dozen ideas for this blog this past week, but once that quick hit is gone, it’s hard to get back. The good news is I travel in small circles, so like the saying, what goes around comes around.

Some circles are bigger than others; a friend who has trained extensively with Dan Inosanto recently said that Guro D’s teaching progression was about a 2 year cycle to get back to material previously covered. This is one reason people who train at that academy might look different from each other, depending on what they got and when in their training they got it. I’ll say this – it takes real genius to keep that much material in circulation. Maybe I underestimate what I’ve learned over the years, but I just stick to simple things because there is always more to do right there. I remember how back in my Kenpo days, there was always more to learn, never enough time to really master what we already had. Come to think of it, that’s about how my flamenco guitar studies feel right now!

In looking at the paths to mastery, what are the key elements? First let me define mastery. My dictionary says it is “1) dominion; also superiority; 2) possession or display of great skill or knowledge.” Both of these are definitions that are applied in martial arts, and they should be synchronistic. Sadly, there is no guarantee the meanings are applied congruously. Dominion refers to a hierarchical structure of social control; too often in martial arts people are concerned with title and rank in order to impress people, pull in students, make more money. Sometimes the title “master” is well-earned through achievement, or bestowed by those appreciative of one’s talents. Other times, titles that are bought, inherited or self-designated may or may not represent actual mastery and are merely window dressing.

The second meaning of mastery is akin to the Chinese understanding of kung-fu, great skill acquired through hard work over time. It does not necessarily mean, as some people try to make it, a magical state of cosmic enlightenment, though that might be nice; by such a definition, the word would be almost meaningless because how many people have that? No, that brings it back into the realm of social mastery or dominion. In truth, most people who are masters of something are simply the best prepared students of the genre, in control of certain parameters of knowledge but by the same token, aware of the limitations of what they don’t know. Mastery is a path of growth, and in the process of gaining whatever else we learn, hopefully the process polishes us as well.

Earlier this morning I read an interview with Nate Defensor, an FMA teacher in the Chicago area. He has an impressive and wide-ranging set of teachers. When asked what quality set them apart, his response was “overwhelming confidence.” This is a great answer, and a big part of the mystery of mastery. To possess skill or knowledge means personal ownership of that thing and a belief in yourself as the possessor. All too often people feel inadequate, comparing themselves to others without recognizing their own innate talents. Modesty can be a good trait in honest self-evaluation, but diminishing oneself is as much a distortion of the ego as self-aggrandizement. It is through experience that we grow what we know; again, as Mushtaq Ali points out, a heuristic learning process. Confidence comes through successful repetition, great confidence through progressively nurturing those skills to higher levels of competency. Ultimately it is not so much how much we know as how well we know what we know. Getting lost in material is wandering in the desert; knowing one thing is like having a star to guide one through the wilderness. Knowing that you can locate that star and navigate allows one to go anywhere, and that is the transition from confusion to mastery. This looks inward for self-validation, not outwards to gain approval from the world. The only dominion that really matters to a master is over oneself. That is where confidence resides.

* An interesting observation on the Defensor interview. He says the older teachers like Cabales were focused on wisdom and tradition, while Dan Inosanto wrote in his first book that Angel was “a true master of the physical art.” While Angel might have had some traditional views on things, I’ll go with Guro Dan on this one. Angel was a master tactician and a detailed and thorough teacher.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Blogger Game - Q&A

As a link in a personal communication chain, Mushtaq Ali joined this blogger game (rules at the bottom) and I opted in. Hmm, I wonder if there is a way to use traceback to link all those responses? I bet there is, so I’ll ask someone more internet savvy like Mushtaq. It’d be fun to follow the progress of this thing in both directions.

Here, then, are the questions posed to me:

1.You were fortunate enough to be a longtime student of GM Angel Cabales, what is your favorite memory of him?

This is an easy one, a funny memory I can still see in my mind’s eye. I used to drive out to Stockton weekly to spend the day with Angel, usually arriving mid to late morning. Sometimes we’d work out a little, or run some errands, and frequently we’d go have lunch. One place we went often was Gertie’s Mabuhay Café, which was located in the old community center. It was the kind of place with history seeping from the picture-covered walls, and old men playing cards, talking or reading. Wednesdays were all-you-can-eat smorgasborg, and Angel would ply me with food until I was stuffed, then we’d go work out. Sneaky guy! Anyway, this one day we’re there and suddenly Angel stands up and in a loud voice announces “This is my student Jif (his pronunciation of my name) from Oakland and he says he wants to marry a Pilipina!” OH MAN! I slumped in my chair and said “Angel! NOOO! I just got engaged!” I felt like a tasty crumb at a picnic after the ants get the scent. Everybody, and I mean everybody, in the place got up and started coming towards our table. “I’ve got a niece in Manila ...” Darn, I could sure use his help now ... but anyway, he let me twist for a minute or two while he grinned, and then he said to everybody “Nevermind. He’s found somebody.” I got some congratulations and everyone went back to what they were doing.

2. Someone gives you a million dollars, what is the first thing you use it for?

A bit tougher, mostly because a million bucks doesn’t go very far these days. Of course, never having seen a million bucks, I’d be happy to find out, and I’ve certainly thought about this. I look around the world and I see so many problems, that money could be gone in a stroke of the pen. Knowing how hard people close to me are struggling, my choices would be charity close to home. There are also a few personal issues I would want to address, like paying off grad school debt. My house needs maintenance, some of which, like old carpets, might be contributing to my ongoing health problems. I haven’t taken a real vacation in over 15 years and there is someone in Kuai I think I’d like to visit; that one would probably stay on the wish list. All together, these would be perhaps 3% of the total. After that, I’d want to help my ex-wife, still a friend, who could use some seed money for a home or investment property. I have an ex-girlfriend with two kids (not mine!) and grad school debt; I’d want to help her too. My older siblings are struggling badly. My brother just had two major cancer surgeries this past month, and my sister has some degenerative physical conditions too. Rather than give them money outright, I’d want set up a trust so at least they’d have some stability. I’d also set something up for my mom, who has been the one helping them through these times. Finally, I’d put something in an education fund for my daughter and my two youngest nieces. If anything were left, maybe I’d try to get health insurance again for a year.

3. Everyone is excited to read the book you will write, what is it about?

Shoot. Everyone’s busting me on this one! I should get offline and lay off my flamenco guitar lessons … The book I want to write is, of course, about Serrada Escrima. There is so little available, and it isn’t really in-depth. Angel used to say he wanted a book that students could take to the park to use as a reference to train. What I want to do is a more detailed study, really write a technical analysis of the system. It’s in my head, I need to get it out on paper. Angel described a pocket booklet, so maybe I could include a quick guide with the complete book, like the ones that accompany the main user’s guides for electronics such as cell phones.

4. What is the best movie ever made?

Wow, this is the toughest question, because it’s so subjective and depends somewhat on genre. Best martial art movie? Best love story? Best cinematography? My choice combining all three is “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” First, I loved the story line, and it was beautifully filmed. The sword fighting was exciting and exceptionally well choreographed. The special effects were novel at the time, and though the actors seemed a bit unfamiliar with wire work in the early scenes, by the end it looked seamless. I loved the fact that the strongest characters in this film were women who could really do martial arts; to this day I cannot comprehend why Michele Yeoh didn’t receive even a nomination for best actress, because in my opinion her role carried the film, tying together all the other characters. Finally, on a purely personal level, this came along at a time in my life when I was going through some issues of loss, and the struggles and choices of the heroes and heroines resonated powerfully in me.

5. You discover you have the power to speak to animals, how do you explain humans to them?

Who says I don’t?!! I also don’t think animals need to have humans explained to them. They know us better than we know them. They have to live with the consequences of our impact on their world. Like other victims of oppression, they come to know quite well the moods and nuances of those who control them. Domestic animals shape themselves by conforming to our structure and whims, while wild animals try to avoid us. Animals live in a world dominated by instinct and emotion. It is highly experiential, grounded in past memory, expressed in present time. Perhaps the biggest difference between animals and humans is a lack of future consciousness. Except for simple things like anticipating dinner, they don’t really think ahead. Even something like knowing it’s time to migrate with the seasons is in awareness of present changes. Don’t underestimate animal consciousness, though. They might not have our powers of reasoning, but by the same token they are less likely to conflict themselves. For them, feeling and response are directly linked, and this flow is a goal humans strive to recapture through things like meditation and martial arts. I guess I’ve turned this around to explain animals to humans, but then we’re the ones reading this, and we’re the ones who need to find the compassion to understand those over whom we hold the power of living or dying. In a sense, animals exist as metaphors for our own inner selves, expressed as archetypes or totems. The more we understand their needs, the clearer we will see the effects we have on all life on this planet. Maybe then we can start to understand ourselves as well.

Here's how you can play the interview game:
1. Leave me a comment saying "interview me." The first five commenters will be the participants.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions.
3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.)

Friday, March 04, 2005

No bad dogs; bad handlers

Today there was another incident at the dog park, the second one in perhaps three weeks, involving the same professional dog walker allowing the same unleashed pit bull to attack my 4-1/2 month old puppy.

In both incidents, my dog was intimidated by a dog twice her age and size that was grabbing on and biting. The first time we encountered this dog, my puppy rolled over submissively on her back and showed her throat, at which the bigger dog grabbed her by the neck and started shaking her around. I watched for a moment to see if they were playing, but it was clearly one sided, and my dog was NOT having fun. When I asked the dog walker to please take control of her dog, she began giving me a lecture about how this was how dogs learn bite inhibition. Excuse me? My dog is not an experiment for her charge to practice upon! I replied that my dog didn’t seem to be the one having to learn bite inhibition, as she was in the other dogs grasp. She finally called her dog over, acting all exasperated. What a favor she was doing ...

For the past few weeks I’d been carefully avoiding this person, going in opposite direction when seeing her. There are no other large dog parks anywhere in the area, so my choices are limited, and frankly, I have as much right to take my dogs there as she does to walk other people’s dogs. I try to go to the park when I’m less likely to run into her, but since she has packs of up to six dogs three times a day, she’s there a lot.

Today as I entered the park, she was right there, washing off several of her other dogs. As soon as I recognized she had the gray and white pit bull, I called my dog away. Now I don’t have anything against pit bulls as a breed, and many of them are sweet. In fact, my puppy plays with other pit bulls at this same park regularly. They can be aggressive towards other dogs, but I’ve owned Malamutes in the past so I know that you have to be responsible for monitoring your dog’s behavior. Interesting concept, very unclear here.

As we were walking away, her dog came after us. Once again, he began by exhibiting over-excited behavior; my dog plays with many, many dogs wherever we go, so I watched to see if they’d be ok together. Within perhaps 30 seconds, I was once again concerned over the behaviors. The other dog was getting more and more aggressive, grabbing my puppy by the ears and scruff of the neck and pulling, hard. My dog was trying to turn away, her tail was down and her lips were pulled back, teeth bared. This is something I have never before seen her do, but I recognize fear and stress behavior in dogs.

At this point, I called to the dog walker, who was perhaps 60 feet away, to call her dog. Immediately she begins lecturing me again that this is normal behavior, without making a move to rein in the animal. If it is so normal, why don’t I see other dogs doing this to my pup, or my dog exhibiting fear only of this one? As the woman prattles on about dogs “learning bite inhibition” I started getting pretty mad. “It’s YOUR dog biting mine! Call it off NOW!” She keeps blabbering about how I don’t know what I’m seeing up close with my own eyes, but I know my dog is scared. Normally she runs, jumps, rolls over, does all kinds of puppy play behavior with other dogs, and this isn’t it, so I decide to corral her to have some control over this situation. As I step in to take hold of her harness, the pit bull grabs her by the back of the neck and literally drags her away from my grasp. At this point, I’m not going to just watch this escalate, so I step in and shove the other dog away. Surprised, he lets go and jumps back.

Now this woman is REALLY mad, starts SCREAMING at me to “NEVER TOUCH ANOTHER PERSON’S DOG!” I yell back “Well, then CONTROL YOUR DOG when asked!” Here she starts doing the predictable thing, blathering to anyone around that I don’t know a thing about dogs. Now I’m not claiming to be a big expert, but I’ve been around dogs for 50 years. My sister has been an AKC handler for 40 years, even became a judge. She’s raised Malamutes, as many as two dozen at a time, and trained and handled just about every breed you can name, so I’ve been around a LOT of big and potentially aggressive animals. At one point I lived with two Malamutes and a Doberman, each of which weighed 80+ pounds, so I know how to control a lot of muscle on leash, and I’ve broken up my share of dog fights. Yeah, I’ve even been bit a time or two.

Hmm, why is it the person whose dog is being aggressive always blames the other handler? So here I am, leading a scared puppy away on leash, her dog is still running back and forth off leash, and she’s screaming at me about how ignorant I am. Yeah. If anything happens between us again, I’ll just call the cops. I have their number in my cell phone now. What will they do? Er ...

Two years ago, this same woman had two very big, healthy looking Rottweilers on a nearby beach, and they started bullying a sweet older Golden Retriever that I saw there regularly. It got so ugly, people were backing away. I had that sick feeling that this was going down, right here and now. I told the Retriever’s owner “this looks bad” and she looked scared to step in. She and I both began saying to the handler “could you please get your dogs?” She was in a conversation with someone else, had her back to her animals, and just glanced over and breezily said “Oh, they’re ok.” SHEESH! They're not the ones at risk! I’ve seen dogs get ripped apart. It’s fast and it’s nasty. Either of those Rotts were bigger and tougher than the Golden, and they were egging each other on. After a couple more forceful complaints, the dog walker got exasperated that we were interrupting her conversation, so she went and leashed the animals, at which point the shaking Golden ran back to his owner. The Rottweilers just looked hungry and annoyed at losing their fun.

A couple of weeks later I stopped taking my old Labrador, who was about 13 at the time, to this beach because of an incident. She was lying on her back on the sand, just rolling and scratching her back, and an unleashed pit bull ran up and grabbed the top of her skull and started shaking her like a martini. I ran up and threw a kick at the dog; didn’t even connect, but again it let go and backed off to look at the situation. The owner, far down the beach, starts yelling “Oh, you want to kick my dog? Why don’t you try again!” I said “Your dog attacked mine. She’s old, doesn’t fight.” The lady says “Oh, well then she’s going to die soon anyway, so why does it matter?” Unbelievable …. I called the Albany cops, they said I had to contact animal control from Berkeley. Berkeley animal control said, no, we don’t go out there. It’s their problem!” I called back and the dispatcher said “Oops, I gave you wrong advice. Where are you?” Three hours later, after finally going home, some beat officer calls me and says “I’m at the beach and I don’t see this dog!” Whoa, kinda hard to figure THAT one out!

So, back to today, I call the park police to get advice, gave a full description of the woman (twice - and she’s licensed with them) and they said “Call us next time, and no, you can’t touch someone else’s dog.” Once again, the bureaucratic mentality at work – Do nothing, leave it to the (absent) professionals. I simply said “It’s the other persons responsibility to control their animal when requested, and I’m not going to stand there idly and watch my dog get shredded.”

It looks like I’ve been given a simple scenario. If my dog is attacked, I can call for backup that might be hours away. The dog handler has no obligation to control their animal, and if I try to save mine, I’ll be liable for whatever happens. Every several months a small dog gets killed at this park by big dogs running loose, and the owners then round them up and disappear into the city. Nobody has ever been caught or prosecuted around here after such a clean getaway, but the system seems more interested in the rights of the negligent owner than the life of the innocent dog.

Ain’t it sweeeeeet?

No, not really ….. Few things get me madder than blatant abuse covered up by willful delusion. This really pushed my buttons, in case you can’t tell …..

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Small hour ramblings

Doing a quick late night email check, found a comment from a guy comparing flow drills from Kali Ilustrissimo and Krabi Krabong to Serrada. I watched the clips he was referencing, and yes, there is a flow that reminds me of Serrada. I was also reminded of what it was like for me when I was learning the art. There is a process of recognition, that by identifying what we see with what we already know we accelerate our learning curve. However, there are different levels of learning, from superficial mimicry to deep creative intuition. Thinking about what he wrote, I came up with a short definition of two phases of understanding relationship between arts:

Seeing similarities is important for recognizing what is going on.
Seeing differences is important for analyzing what is going on.

While the first phase is the heuristic process of experiential learning to which Mushtaq Ali refers in his blog, the second is the ability to discern subtle variations, not just between systems but between styles of individual practitioners. Thus a beginner will see the broad outline of something and get it because it reflects what he already knows and can see, a classic example of projection, a reality that reflects who we think we are. A more sophisticated person goes a step beyond, using knowledge as a reference base to discover the parts that are not known.

We can see this in a child's development and use of language. At first the child may say "car" to anything that moves on wheels, move on to "red car" and then "nice red car, finally graduating to "Ooh, cool red Ferrari!" The ability to discriminate between things leads to specificity. In martial arts, or sports like football, it is important to be able to analyze and break down an opponent's moves and tendencies, their strengths and weaknesses.

Just as Bruce Lee's punch once again became just a punch, so too can our perspective on association versus differentiation. Having learned to nuance details, one can begin to ignore the smaller points because one's heuristic field has filled in the gaps so thoroughly as to bring up few new surprises. One can scan the big picture, grasp the essence of the whole, and intuit the details on that fluid creative level. One no longer sweats the petty stuff, transcending knowledge with understanding. Thus one can go full circle in approaching a subject. It's like those black belts that get so worn out they fray and become white again. It's why so many masters are humble, because they've gotten past judgementalism to once again have a beginner's mind.

Monday, February 28, 2005

More on footwork

Once again, I'm diving into the depths of basics. As my old Kenpo teacher used to say, there are no advanced techniques, just more advanced combinations of basics done better, so with that in mind, I keep going over the same fundamentals, mining them for that vein of gold yet untapped.

Serrada footwork is based on the male triangle, and our replacement step is called the papeet. It's simplicity itself - bring the rear foot up next to the front one, then back with the other foot. Usually. Sometimes we step up and then back again with the same foot. Why? Timing, deception, change of reaction to fit circumstances, etc. The focus of this post, though, is the nature of the male triangle, because as simple as it is, it seems hard for people to get. Some people are uncomfortable standing in against an attack, while others have habits from previous training that don't account for what we are trying to do.

Triangle stepping falls into two categories, male and female. If drawn on the floor, the point of the male triange points at the centerline of the opponent and the base is opposite and away. Conversely, the female triangle steps across the centerline, so the base is towards the opponent and the point faces away. As we have only these two variations, it shouldn't be too hard to differentiate, right? Not so fast!

It seems a lot of people have a really hard time doing the male triangle. They think they are being direct in their stepping but are automatically going wide. This is usually because of a perceived need to aviod a head-on clash. To be honest, even Angel sometimes took a slightly wide step, but that was not the philosophy of this system. As I've been saying a lot lately (in my best "arrrgh," a la Pirates of the Caribbean) "Them's more like guidelines than rules!" We want to control centerline, range, balance, and the male triangle establishes our position as the fulcrum. However, knowing rules means you understand when it is necessary to break them, and so Angel sometimes took that wider step. Occasionally it is "Do what I say, not what I do." If we don't pay attention to a detail - any detail - or try to master it, it just isn't going to happen of itself. Right?

So, why do we want to use the direct male triangle if it seems counter-intuitive? Foremost, leverage, both physically and psychologically. When we step in straight, we cut the line of our opponent's movement, forcing him wider either by taking his intended place or by getting deeper into him with our counter. For example, the check hand on an inside move has more deflection if we are direct. Step wider, we have less effect deflecting the strike or unbalancing his center. Sometimes I have students test to see who has the balance of the other. Either you have your opponent's or he has yours. Only one of you can own the center of the circle that is the dynamic of the fight between you. Stepping wider often concedes the center of this two-person dynamic.

The papeet allows us to control range without clashing. Serrada assumes our opponent has the intelligence to strike effectively, so we know where he is going to be. Our ideal range from which to counterstrike is right in front of his hand, because this keeps us defensively just out of range of a sudden and unexpected strike from the other hand. Against multiple attacks we "float" there. If our opponent just misses us, he's close enough to counter effectively. Wider steps may make him miss by more, but it also takes us out of range for that opportunity to hit quickly inside the timing of his movement. By staying "on point" and controlling the center, we are able to change the direction we face more quickly and with less effort. We change sides, making the opponent run around us in circles. All else being equal, he will get tired faster because he must move further. In military tactics, similarly, one has the advantage of direct lines of supply, support and communication inside the circle; to divide the enemy weakens his ability to concentrate his forces. We see this concept graphically mapped out in the widely seen escrima logo of a triangle inside a circle. In simple language, a straight line is the most direct way to get from point A to point B.

Are there dangers to being direct? Of course. There are no perfect or invulnerable techniques; martial arts is about maximizing our odds. We can get run over against a hard charge, or get our front leg swept. Knowing what can go wrong allows us to monitor against such possibilities. Conversely, going wide opens our centerline to the opponent. While that might not be an issue in largo mano range, in medio or corto the wider movement offers our centerline targets to an opponent, such as a kick to the groin. While one can be on guard against that, it takes only a split second of inattention for a quick or savvy opponent to exploit this vulnerability.

Our proper footwork is a heel-toe alignment; the front foot points towards the opponent, the heel of our rear foot is in a straight line with the front foot. This is the natural alignment for a lunge step, and using it closes the low line against the easy groin kick. Sometimes people keep the front foot on line but step wide with the rear foot. Again, in close range this opens that low target.

What are some circumstances that support the direct approach? Aside from the intrinsic value already mentioned, what if one is in a restrictive area? Think of fighting in a hallway or stairwell or on a narrow trail or defending a doorway. What about fighting on a balance beam or similar structure? If one habitually moves from side to side, this could be environmentally unsound. Angel put it this way - we all know how to move because we get around all the time. It is staying in one place that is difficult. If we can make smaller movements, we can always make a few of them to add up to a bigger one. If we always make a big movement, we can't always make it smaller. Think of it as units of measurement. If we map the California coastline in 100 mile units, it is pretty crudely drawn. If we use 10 mile increments, the detail is better. One mile units, even finer. Go down to 10 meters, even more so. The level of precision and detail increases by fine-tuning our scale, and so learning to hold our ground means we can either stay put or move just a tiny bit as our calculations deem necessary. This is perhaps the most cogent reason to discipline our stepping to that male triangle, because it is the smallest increment we can use in facing our opponent.