Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Anthony DeLongis article and award

A quick note that Anthony DeLongis, Black Belt Magazine's 2008 Weapons Instructor of the Year, has the first of a two-part article on combative application of the whip appearing in the December 2008 issue.

Peter Freedman on Self-Esteem

This is a newsletter I received from Guro Peter Freedman, a colleague on the East Coast. As one who has studied NLP and hypnotherapy, I recognize and strongly agree with what he has to say. Too often I've seen students acquire skills but then fail to actualize their knowledge based on lack of self-esteem. With Peter's permission, I've posted his writing below.

Jeff "Stickman" Finder


Hello to All,

I want to take a moment to address some thing that has an effect on all of us, not just children but also adults. I want to take a moment and address that inner child that is in every adult. I want to address the issue of insecurity. This feeling of not being good enough or afraid to fail or even to look like a clown in front of others or afraid to make mistakes.

The fear of failing. Even the fear of not knowing some thing well enough. The fear of looking or sounding stupid. The fear of dancing etc.; the fear of being yourself. This inner fear started some where during our childhood and has remained with us into adulthood.

This inner fear we call insecurity keeps us from accomplishing our goals. It keeps us from getting ahead in a struggling world. It pulls us down from becoming happy. It stops us in our tracks from trying new adventures or even reaching our goals or setting new goals. This inner fear cripples us to a point where we feel and think we are not good enough to accomplish things on our own or to learn new skills. It stops us from just trying something, anything, new.

People who are insecure feel as though they must please others so they (the insecure) can get the approval from others to try something new with out worry of ridicule. This insecurity or inner fear prevents us from making new friends or getting into new relationships. It can also push us into bad relationships we will regret later. This insecurity (inner fear) can cause us to make bad business decisions that can effect our welfare for not just us but our families as well.

A Child's Confession - Wisdom of a Guro

I have been teaching martial arts since the 1970s and it has been quite a journey for me. Through the martial arts I have learned much about myself. Through the martial arts I have learned much about other people as well. What I call natural and common sense of reading people others might call psychic abilities. I say this is just wisdom gathered over the years of trying to understand myself and my interaction of others who share this planet with me. What I have come to take notice during my life time on this planet so far and up to this point in time I will share with you here and now openly.

I have been really listening to all my students for the past ten years now more clearly than I ever could have listened before. Not sure why this new ability has awakened in me - (my ability to hear more deeper and clearer) but it just did and I am thankful for it.

I have been listening to my kids in my kids martial art classes talk, both kids and teenagers alike. What I hear is saddening. I hear them say to me all the time that they are not worthy. I hear them say to me that they are not good enough. Now I have not only noticed this in the kids and teenagers class but also in the adults class. I have seen a common thread that links all of us together, children - teenagers - adults, a common mind that has brought us to live our lives for the belief or care of what others might think, or do think, of us. We become crippled so badly that we wave our own rights of happiness in favor of what others may think of us.


When teaching all ages I have come to notice what people say to me. I notice how they use their hands while they are explaining themselves. I watch their body language and facial expressions while they talk and I listen to the level of vibrations in their voice. Also I hear the volume of when their voice rises or falls when using certain key words. These key words coupled with their body language is what sets off my mind to start taking notice there is a problem that needs my attention.

This I call the wisdom of the Guro. Here is an example of what I mean.

One child confessed to me that he is not too bright and is in fact stupid. This hurt me deeply to hear such a young child say such a thing about himself. I asked him “where did you hear such a thing.”

He said “my mother, my father, my brother, my sister, my cousins, my friends,” even his school teacher. He mentioned that the only place he did not hear this was in my school and in my presence. So everywhere else he travels he has been made to believe he is stupid and not worthy of anything.

I was taken back by this and went against the grain and told him he is a very bright individual. Also I mentioned that he should not accept words like that because he will start believing in these words over a period of time and it will have ill effects on him when he grows up into an adult.

I have recently had talks with his parents and they did not recognize or know they were causing this kind of effect on their child. I told them they need to speak with the school teacher as well and other family members to curb how and what they say to this child.

They are destroying this young mind before it even can get a chance to grow into something positive. I explained to the parents that what they have been doing they have actually learned from their parents and without knowing it, they are actually keeping the chain going strong in their family now.

I have heard adults tell me the reason they can’t train with me now is because they don't have what it takes to be able to do what I am teaching them or sharing with them. They lack coordination to do the drills at hand. My question to these adults is, what else are you stopping yourself from experiencing in life in the belief lack of coordination or know how. Is that really the reason, or are you afraid of what others may think of you if you make a mistake or look foolish in front of these people?

You see it all starts in childhood. You wear some thing that your parents don't like and they tell you so and so will see you. Do you want so and so to think this of you? I say tell so and so to go get lost and start living your own life and let out your spirit.

Start enjoying your life now. Stop caring what others may think of you and be happy. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and try some thing new. After all our reason for being here on this planet is to experience life. Why not go and get the best experience you can before it is too late and life comes to an end for you.
Martial art is a great way to learn to express your self and grow your confidence, as long as your martial art teacher fosters this approach of allowing you to be yourself (and some do not).

Start checking in with your self and taking inventory. Start questioning all the reasons why you have not enjoyed yourself or taken on new adventures in life. Why are you afraid? Question everything.

I can go deeper on this subject but your eyeballs will fall out with all the reading you would be doing. Come to class & I will be happy to talk with you and explain more.

Bring a troubled friend. Give them the gift of freedom of soul through martial training.

NOW -- Don't Worry - Be Happy! And Experience life!

Please write to me with any questions you may have. I want to wish you all a very healthy and happy thanks giving.

Respectfully yours
Guro Peter Freedman

Weare - Manchester NH Dojo (603)529-3564

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fall odds and ends

It’s been a month since I last blogged as a lot has been happening.

First I want to start with a brief memory of master Luther Secrease. It’s been a long time since I last visited Luther’s school, 1989 to be exact, and that was for an escrima seminar by Serrada master Sultan Uddin. Though he’d assisted grandmaster Angel Cabales many times over a number of years, this was Sultan’s first time on his own. Since I was local, Angel called and asked me to drop by in case Sultan needed any assistance, but when I got there, I could see he had things well in hand.

As for Luther’s funeral, it was memorable for a number of reasons. What everyone says about black churches is true; they do have the best music! The church band was a well-seasoned group of three keyboard players (acoustic and electric piano and organ), guitar, bass and drums, plus several professional singers showed up to perform gospel and soul, and a 15 year old kid who did a long jazz saxophone solo that would have made Roland Kirk proud.

In attendance was an all-star gathering of top martial artists from Northern California, including luminaries like grandmaster Byong Yu, Al Reyes, Al Colavito, Sam Montgomery (a champion fighter and former teammate of Luther’s) … the list could go on and on, as the overwhelming majority there shared Luther’s deep passion for the martial arts. Even the minister was a black belt student of Byong Yu!

Later at the graveside service, the minister made a special request for all the black belts to gather to one side. Reflecting how the military gives a 21 gun salute to fallen veterans, he said he’d like to start a new tradition amongst us martial artists, and so he had the black belts (at least 30 went to the cemetery) get into horse stances to give a 21 kiai salute, with a strong punch for each kiai. It was a moving send-off to one of the finest teachers and fighters the Bay Area has known, and I hope this does catch on as a tradition in the martial community, sending off our own in a style that can be appreciated.

Meanwhile, in the last blog I mentioned taking stock of my life and making some changes. With the weeklong hypnotherapy training session a time to be deeply reflective, and framed on either end by the deaths of two influential martial artists, I decided the time had come to act on idea that had been floating around for the past year, so I proposed to the woman to whom I’m now married! Things indeed happened rapidly once we agreed to seal the deal, and within a couple of weeks we held a small ceremony along the Bay Area shoreline at the spot where we first met. Everything fell into place, from old Kenpo compadre Bob Ernst doing the ceremony, to the unexpected appearance of Tom Meadows, my good friend from the U.S. team at the inaugural 1989 WEKAF championships, who just happened to be working nearby in Richmond for three days!

The only snafu was the engraved wedding rings we ordered from Ireland didn’t arrive. Apparently U.S. Customs decided they were a security risk and confiscated them, or so we think. The U.S. Post Office has been typically unhelpful. While the tracking number on the registered package tells us the rings arrived in the U.S. at 2:25pm on October 2, 2008, the post office says that the package can no longer be tracked with the number that provided that information. I was given a Customs number to call, which got a recording saying if I was calling because the Post Office had provided the number, that was a mistake because Customs doesn’t track individual packages it seizes, and a notice would be mailed to the sender in about 30 days (hasn’t happened yet). I contacted my congressman; I even emailed the White House. No rings arrived for our wedding, so we had to use others. Today I got a call from a postal customer service person who gave me a number to call to start a trace on international shipping. I called, and they said they couldn’t do a trace; it had to come from Ireland, where authorities there have already stated that since the package had arrived in the U.S., it was out of their jurisdiction. Aside from this bureaucratic comedy of national security proportions, things have been great.

On the escrima front, I was invited by master Darren Tibon to join a demo for halftime at a Golden State Warrior’s basketball game, but that has now apparently been pushed back to Filipino Culture Week in March. The occasion is the NBA is going to retire the jersey of the first Filipino who played in the NBA to their Hall of Fame. I believe this is Raymond Townsend, a UCLA point guard who was drafted in the second round in 1978 by the Warriors and who played for four years in the league.

I don’t mind this getting pushed back, as I have some young kids (9-14) whom I’d like to bring to the demo, and they can use the extra time to improve. I know Darren has invited some other groups to participate, to put on a strong performance, and I know how hard Darren’s guys train. Tonight I got a call from him that they actually broke one of my sticks! They’ve had it over a year; when Darren said he thought my sticks were unbreakable, I laughed and used my standard line, that the Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable. Still, I continued, how many rattan sticks do you think you would have destroyed instead of using this one? About 50 he replied. That sounds about right to me!

Closing notes: Here is an upcoming event on the blog calendar. In less than two weeks, on November 15, grandmaster Bobby Tabimina will be doing his last Balintawak seminar before returning home to the Philippines. I have tremendous respect for his abilities and style of escrima. If you can train with him, it’s a memorable experience, and a skill set that is a valuable contribution to anyone’s repertoire. This will again be in Hayward, California, and it must be pre-paid by November 11.

Finally, for those who can find it, the January 2009 edition of Inside Kung-Fu has an article by Chris Suboreau and Steve Magness on Sonny Umpad’s escrima system! It’s great to see how Sonny’s students are working to continue his legacy of Visayan Style Corto Kadena.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Autumn reflections

First, a shout-out to Bob Sapp. I met Bob a couple of weeks ago in SoCal where we were both attending a weeklong training seminar (not martial art related)with Igor Ledochowski. I didn't know who he was, but just looking at him, I figured him for a pro football player, and he introduced himself as a former Minnesota Viking. There were some other martial artists attending this event, and the next day I floored one of them when I mentioned Bob's name. I had no idea Bob was the top K-1/MMA fighter in Japan. Bob's an interesting guy, very smart, very intense, who's into some deep concentrative meditation. Anyway, a belated happy birthday, big guy, and good luck on your journeys!

Since getting back home, things have been keeping me busy, mostly personal and family business. There was a Derobio Escrima seminar in Vallejo, hosted by Tasi Alo for his old friend Chris Siangco and his son Chaz, who came up from San Diego for the first seminar they've ever presented of this art, as they prefer to focus on developing committed students. It was a physically active and challenging event, compressing into a few hours what they consider months, if not years, of developmental training.

Meanwhile, there have been changes happening in martial arts world. Sifu Mark Gerry held a memorial party for grandmaster Sid Campbell, which was quite the all-star gathering, going late into the night. It was inspiring hearing people give testimonials for Sid, who did so much to help so many for so long.

There's a bittersweet post-script, though. Master Luther Secrease was there and I didn't get a chance to say hello. Sometime this past Sunday night or Monday morning he apparently passed away in his sleep at only age 58. Luther was a prominent TKD teacher, a former state champion tournament fighter and an outstanding member of the Bay Area martial arts community who officiated at many a tournament. I mostly knew him through my Kenpo teacher; both earned black belts in the 70's under Byong Yu, whose students had well-deserved reputations as fierce fighters.

These past few weeks I've heard so many people, and not just those connected the through martial arts community, talk of being present in the moment because we don't know what tomorrow brings. Change is in the air, as reflected in our economic turmoil and the upcoming election. It happens all the time, but time is an illusion, a construct of perception (a favorite topic of Bob Sapp) and there are times it seems to move faster. At such moments we become more aware of the impact of compressed events, such as these two losses coming so close together, which have left a huge void in the East Bay martial arts world.

As we move into the fall season I'm using this time to take stock and make some changes, mostly stopping to appreciate the good things happening in my corner of this world, and sharing some joy just being with those who are important to me. I hope you'll all do the same.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

September Seminar Calendar

There are two excellent seminars scheduled here in the San Francisco Bay Area for the third weekend in September. On Saturday the 20th Bobby Tabimina will be having another seminar in Hayward. If you remember my post from the earlier event, this is something that should be of value to anyone interested in extreme close-quarter combat.

The next day, Sunday the 21st, there will be a Pedoy/Derobio seminar in Vallejo. To my knowledge, this is a first for this style to be presented here in this area. My own experience with Derobio was a few years ago in Albuquerque with Dan Medina, one of Pedoy's top students, and it left me very impressed with the system. Many techniques in Derobio look like Serrada but are very different in application, flowing with the attack rather than blocking them. This is a very reasonably priced seminar (as is the Balintawak) so here's a chance to check out something special!

For anyone up in New England, Guro Peter Freedman has several events in New Hampshire, including a demo on Sept. 6, a cookout/multi-style teach-in on the 13th, and a law enforcement "surviving edged weapons" seminar on the 24th.

Check the calendar (right hand column) for details on these events!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sid Campbell, RIP

The martial arts community lost another giant tonight when Hanshi Sid Campbell, 10th Dan in Shorin-Ryu, passed away just before 8pm. Coincidentally and symbolically, this was both sunset and low tide here in the San Francisco Bay Area where he taught for over 40 years.

In 1966 Sid became the first person to open a Shorin-Ryu school on the mainland of the United States, under the auspices of his teacher, grandmaster Shugoro Nakazato. During his career he taught over 15,000 students, of which 850 attained black belt, but Sid’s influence extended far beyond his immediate students.

A prolific writer, he published over 50 books on martial arts, unveiling the techniques and history of many now well-known Asian weapons. The book he co-authored with Sonny Umpad, Balisong: The Lethal Art Of Filipino Knife Fighting, for instance, was one of the first and most comprehensive on that subject, and helped propel Sonny’s career. Most recently Sid co-authored three volumes (The Dragon and The Tiger, vols. 1&2, and Remembering The Master) about the relationship of Bruce and James Lee, whom he both knew, providing insights into the development of Jeet Kune Do and James’ lesser known but essential contributions to that art. Unfortunately there were two more volumes yet unfinished in Sid’s computer when he passed away.

Sid was not only a writer but an accomplished artist as well. He was one of only a handful of painters worldwide doing authentic depictions of warrior arts. A couple of years ago he produced a large art book, Warrior Arts and Weapons of Ancient Hawai'i, depicting scenes of Hawaiian village life and tribal warfare, based on his close connections with legacy holders of Hawaiian society. This book is now a text in cultural studies at the University of Hawaii. He also was working on a companion volume on the samurai, for which most of the artwork was done, again historically true to the heraldry and fighting tactics based on extensive knowledge and research.

Sid lived large. He loved going out for dinner and sharing a beer, yet somehow managed to pack more into a day than most people could dream. In addition to teaching, writing and painting, he was a promoter and producer, and was both a member and organizer of numerous organizations and martial arts halls of fame. With such a rich involvement in the arts, he was a great storyteller with a deep sense of humor.

I was privileged to briefly be in business with Sid, along with Bill Rodriguez and Jack Long, at "Pathways to the Orient", a multidisciplinary school in Oakland back in the early 90’s. Though the partnership didn’t last long, that was my introduction to him. It took a few years to reconnect but Sid was never one to hold a grudge. He had a huge heart and loved the arts, and that extended to anyone else who shared his passion. About two years ago there was a big roast for him in Alameda, a star-studded event with hundreds of martial art celebrities from around the globe. It was a night filled with humor and spiced with the love for this man felt throughout the community. It was an honor and privilege to be there as a fly on the wall, and of course Sid had the last laugh when we all left at the end of the evening to find fake tickets on all of our cars!

Three weeks ago I felt a strong urge to visit Sid. I knew he’d been fighting cancer for a couple of years, and I thought he’d get a lift from seeing the weapons I’ve been making. I barely recognized him when I saw him because he’d lost so much weight, but once he was settled in his chair at his desk, he lit up handling various swords and knives I’d brought for him to see. It was one of the few times he and I just sat and talked alone, and his warm encouragement and support will always be remembered.

Two nights ago I had a dream about being in a huge airport ticket lounge. I was in a line of people buying tickets to go to New Zealand. Everyone who got a ticket had a polaroid photo affixed to the wall, showing their place on the flight. One image there stood out, a large, full face. I didn’t understand who the dream was about when I awoke, but I knew it was a death dream as I’ve had these before. It wasn’t until I heard this afternoon that Sid had gone back into the hospital that I realized it was his face I’d seen in my dream, and I knew his time had come even before getting the call a couple of hours later.

It might not have been New Zealand, but that just meant somewhere far away across the waters. In my heart, I know Sid is in his beloved Hawai'i tonight.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The following is a list of Hanshi Sid Campbell's awards and achievements, courtesy of his close friend Sifu Mark Gerry:

Soke Sid Campbell has been a featured inclusion in virtually every martial arts magazine in the world. He has been chronically documented in dozens of Okinawan related text and historical books written by authors that specialize in martial arts publications. Among some of his most notable achievements include being awarded the Presidential Sports Award (by President Jimmy Carter) for instructing the armed forces, listed in Bob Wall's Who's Who in the Martial Arts, contributed to and listed in Who's Who in Karate, inducted into the Professional Black Belt Hall of Fame, registered in the Who's Who in the Martial Arts Elite, featured in The Men of Merit (International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England), seated on the Board of Advisors for Horizon Publications, dedicated inclusion in the Knights of Heaven Brotherhood of Martial Artists (volume 12), on the Board of Directors of the International Tao of The Fist Martial Arts Fraternity, profiled in Marquis Who's Who in the West, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in Entertainment, Master Instructor (1993) World Martial Arts Hall of Fame, awarded the CRYSTAL AWARD (comparable to the OSCAR for Martial Arts) in the category of LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT, featured inclusion in Contemporary Authors (volume 116), National Advisor to the United States Defense Tactics Association, retired vice-president of the United States Shorin-Ryu Karate Association, Director of the Pathways to the Orient Sports Academy, past Secretary of the Northern California Referee's Association, featured in Who's Who of American Martial Arts and Martial Arts: Traditions, History and People, Consultant to John Corcoran's "The Martial Arts Source Book", featured inclusion in the World Head of Family Sokeship Council's The World Martial Arts Elite, a book of authorized Biographies, (First edition, 1999) and bestowed with the prestigious Golden Fist Award for Outstanding Okinawan Instructor.

Sid Campbell is also on the Martial Arts Network Advisory Board for Chop TV, a distinguished member of the Board of Advisors to the International Congress of Oriental Medicine and Martial Arts, Creative Director for TRAC Productions and Co-Founder of the Kobudo Warrior Gear equipment company. He is also Co-Founder of the Islands Holding Company as well as a recipient of the Golden Halo Award bestowed by the Southern California Motion Picture Council.

As a leading authority on traditional Okinawan and Japanese martial arts, Soke Sid Campbell has written over 50 books on various topics including: Ninja Shuriken Throwing, The Weapons of Okinawa, Shadows of Darkness; Secrets of the Night Fighter, Exotic Weapon's of the Ninja, Kobudo Weapon Fighting; Techniques, Tactics and Styles, Balisong; Lethal Filipino Knife Fighting, The Mercenary's Tactical Handbook, Kata; The Essence and Inner Meaning, Martial Arts Philosophy Made Easy, The Samurai Chronicles (Trilogy), Ancient Fighting Secrets of the Yin-yang, Weapons of Okinawa; A Devastating Kobudo Arsenal, Kobudo Weapon Fighting: Tactics, Techniques & Styles,Weapons of the Samurai. Bushiso Arts of War and numerous other titles. His short stories number over 200 and have been read by millions across the world.

Cinematically, Soke Sid Campbell has been involved with the martial arts motion picture industry for over 20 years. He has written motion picture scripts which include "China Bomb", "Falcon Claw", "Wingless", Bushwhackers". He has appeared as an actor in Ninja Busters, Weapons of Death, Death Machines and as of most recent, co-starred with legendary kung-fu master Eric Lee in The Master Demon, Martial Medicine with Dr. Zee Lo and Chasing the Dragon. He has choreographed over 600 action fight scenes that have been seen in various martial arts films.In 1997 he was nominated for inclusion in the prestigious World Head of Family Sokeship Council. He also serves as an Expert Witness on Federal criminal cases ( involving weapons and other items of a martial nature involved in the commission of Federal and State crimes.

He has also been featured in numerous video instructional tape series including Super Nunchaku (beginner's course), Super Nunchaku (semi-advanced course), Super Nunchaku (advanced course), The Tonfa Police Baton, Boots, Buckles & Blades; Practical Street Fighting Secrets for the Urban Traveler, Fist Load Weaponry; Awesome Tools of Self-Defense and produced Eclectic Escrima for Self-Defense. Many of his literary works and video productions are presently being converted to CD-ROM. He also wrote, produced and is the host of "Just For Kicks", a cable formatted television program that features martial arts talent and guests. Shortly thereafter he was inducted into to MARTIAL ARTS GALLERY OF FAME. As of July 20th, 2002 Sid Campbell was inducted into the Martial Art Masters 2002 HALL of FAME in Newport Beach, California and on August 17th, 2002 he was awarded the LIVING LEGENDS AWARD for Martial Arts Historian at the Bob Wall Celebrity Roast in Burban, California. He is also of member of, an organization dedicated to the positive growth and unification of fellow martial artists worldwide. In 2002 he was elected as Vice-president of Oakland's Dimond Merchant's Association, the community of which he served and taught at his Honbu (headquarters) Shorin-Ryu Karate Studio.

He is also the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), along with Chairman of the Board Eric Lee, of LEGENDS of the MILLENNIUM Corporation. It is the first and only action-martial arts theme restaurant chain concept to be developed.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Real speed vs. effective speed

It’s important to understand the distinction between real speed and effective speed. As I’m using the terms, real speed is how fast something actually is moving, while effective speed is efficient. In fighting, it has a lot to do with perception of motion.

A lot of people put a great deal of emphasis on real speed, but it isn’t always an effective approach because the amount of effort put forth can result in excess motion or wasted energy. One can often see a similar result in drag racing, where the losing car is going faster at the end than the winner. That’s because the winner had a smooth launch, getting up to speed quickly, whereas the loser might have used too much power at the start, creating spectacular wheel spin but resulting in an ineffective run that could not make up the time lost before the finish line.

I spent ten years getting beat to the punch by my Kenpo teacher. Finally, one day in frustration I said “Someday I’ll be as fast as you.” He just looked at me and said “That’s not the problem; you’re already faster than me!” That’s when I started to realize why he was such an effective fighter, on the mat, in tournaments, on the street. He initiated his movement so smoothly, by the time you recognized what was coming, it was too late to react effectively.

Often when fighters try too hard to be fast or powerful, they telegraph their movement. If a smooth start covers a quarter of the distance before an opponent sees it coming, that is a huge advantage because speed has already built up and so perhaps half the response time is gone.

There are a few ways to minimize telegraphic movement. Being relaxed is one, though one can be relaxed and still telegraph by looping movement to generate momentum. This is still akin to the guy who pulls back his fist to throw a punch. Of course one can use this to disguise an attack using the principle of equal-and-opposite reaction to throw the other hand. Kenpo is famous for such combination attacks, but that doesn’t address the problem of telegraphing an individual strike.

Spring-loaded forward pressure is a way to initiate movement in a direct line, helping overcome this habit. This requires good grounding and a sense of internal power because there has to be a base from which to project that forward movement. Sometimes I visualize the catapaults on aircraft carriers, which use hydraulic pressure to help launch planes off the deck in extremely short distances.

Spring-loaded pressure is a good tactic for closer ranges, but at longer ranges that smooth direct start will work wonders. After winning the grand championship at a major tournament, my Kenpo teacher got a lot of phone calls from other schools, wanting him to teach their black belts how he exploded out of his low stances with either hand or foot. He turned them all down, saying there was nothing to teach except hard work and practice. What they saw as explosive was the powerful end of his technique, because he closed the gap so cleanly his opponents never saw him come off the line.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tabimina Balintawak seminar review

Yesterday I had the opportunity to experience another outstanding escrimador, grandmaster Bobby Tabimina of Tabimina Balintawak, the last direct protege of founder Anciong Bacon. “Sir Bob”, as his students call him (and he often calls others “Sir ___” as well) is an example “par excellence” of a word I coined awhile back, “intentity”, combining intentionality and intensity.

An imposing presence, he paces back and forth with the restless energy of a tiger, making eye contact with everyone as he moves up and down the line. His teaching methodology is a provocative mixture, ranging from discourse on psychology to physiology while sprinkling in humor to engage his audience, but just as quickly as a summer cloudburst he can rachet up a fierceness that is undeniably impressive.

The core of this teaching is developing the reflexes to handle extreme close range combat. Defense is paramount to surviving, and once basic counters are understood, the training rapidly advances to random non-pattern based counter-for-counter feeds. As students’ reactions improve, the pace and intensity continually increase. This is one-on-one training, because these are skills that can only be “installed” (as he likes to say) under stress, so the skill and control of the instructor are vital components. This, too, is the reason they train with tapered rattan, because the lighter tip reduces impact for the strikes that inevitably occur.

This summer has opened fresh vistas for me, from Ron Lew’s stick lock-flow to Bobby Tabimina’s reflex training (interestingly, both Ron Lew and Bob Tabimina have trained with Cacoy Canete). Humbling though it’s been, there is a refreshing sense of renewal in encountering new puzzles to unlock. Bruce Lee described a punch as a question that asks if you know the answer. Well, the masters at the top of the FMA food chain, especially from the tried-and-true Visayan systems, aren’t just asking questions, they’re presenting curriculums for a PhD in combative science. I may have a long way to go to get there, but I know that the journey will never be boring!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Product endorsement from Modern Arnis!

I recently had the opportunity to show some of my new training swords to a handful of grandmasters teaching a seminar at Ernesto Presas' facility here in the Bay Area, resulting in an endorsement of my products from Remy Presas Jr., who now has a pair of barongs for his class to use. He generously asked me to do a write up for his website, which you can read here. Salamat!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Controversy in the whip world

Sparks are flying in the world of whips. Some guy is arguing that "the bullwhip is a miserably useless weapon", despite the historical research, cultural usage and contemporary martial practice. The whip blog has come back to life after a nearly two-year hiatus. Jump over to the Filipino Fighting Whip blog to read and follow the links to see for yourself what this is about.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Some online articles

I just found three short articles from two instructors in Cebu that are worth taking a few minutes to read. The first two discuss the relationship between stick training and empty hands and how this is misunderstood by most martial artists, including many in the FMA.

The last article is about how Tagalog terms have become intertwined with systems from regions of the Philippines other than Luzon. The authors rightly (in my opinion) point out that this is a form of cultural cleansing not so different than under Spanish occupation, imposed by the cultural elite of Manila, and that slowly there is a return to recognizing the diversity of expression that exists in the Philippines.

This is not unlike the underlying premises in the book "Cebuano Eskrima", which attempts to correct cultural myths not just about the FMA but also how those pertain in certain ways to the broader political culture of the country.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reflections on the ESKCOA Tournament

Yesterday I attended the Eskrima Coalition tournament out in Stockton. I was there as a vendor, setting up a table for the first time at such an event.

For me there was a sense of amazement at being there, such as I haven’t felt in some time, because the culture of the Filipino martial arts is so strong in that place. I wonder if the younger generation has any awareness of the tradition that is being passed on to them? Probably not; as the saying goes, youth is wasted on the young. Whether they realize it or not, however, they are being mentored in ways beyond just the physical aspects of the art.

Here in this room were people whom I’ve known mostly through the media, in books and videos, guys who didn’t just train with the old manongs but who grew up in their shadows and were raised by them. What really brought the depth of this home to me, though, wasn’t just the presence of the big names, but discovering that the guy sitting next to me was someone who had trained in the art a decade or more before I ever found the door! In most places here in the West, FMA’s imprint is only as deep as the experience of one’s teacher, but at a gathering such as this in Stockton, the “home of FMA in America”, one feels the weight and presence of generations and the ghosts of many escrimadors who have created such a legacy.

There were three people there, however, whom I had never met, who put their stamp on the day for me. The first was Dentoy Revillar, creator of SLD, a system named in honor of his three teachers by using initial for their method of the art: Angel Cabales (Serrada); Leo Giron (Largo Mano); and Gilbert Tenio (De Cuerdas). Dentoy is one of Angel’s earliest students, captured on film with him in the famous footage from demo at the Long Beach Internationals over 30 years ago.

Though somehow I didn’t introduce myself to him, perhaps a bit in awe, he made an impression because of the speech he gave to the assembled contestants and spectators before the competition began, a talk combining practicality and wisdom of experience, exhorting the players to discover their boundaries in the competition so as to further their training beyond, and to the spectators, urging them to respect the experience of the officiating, and to imagine themselves from that perspective to understand the imperfections and limitations inherent in judging a sport. I could only nod in agreement as he hit these points, recognizing how well his words encapsulated both the highs and lows of competition, but presented with a positive and inspiring authority.

The second person on my list was Art Miraflor, whose association goes by the name “Knights of Eskrima”. Like many of the older practitioners in Stockton, he garnered experience through several of the old manongs who brought forth the art. He and I talked for perhaps half an hour or so, a conversation that ranged from his blend of Serrada and De Fondo to the evolution of point fighting eskrima rules to common experiences we’ve both had as pioneers in the evolution of modern gear for the sport and training. At its roots, the FMA is grounded in people who have worked with their hands, and Art was the first of several whom I met yesterday who have made a living in industrial environments. Though I’ve covered similar ground relative to the products I make, it was a lot of fun hearing how his experimentations in materials mirror mine. I especially got a kick out of his description of FMA competition as one of the most modern sports, because it has improvised by borrowing gear from so many other sources. I look forward to seeing how his next generation of padded sticks works out, as there is always room to improve on these.

The third person on my list is Brady Brazil, whose name is closely associated with Rene Latosa. Though Brady has a fierce reputation, I found him an entertaining and thoughtful conversationalist, willing to both listen and share his unique history as a Filipino growing up in the Bay Area, exposed not only to FMA but to the elders of Chinatown as well. Brady is an historian, particularly regarding martial history, and he had a vendor table that drew me with its antique swords. He generously allowed me to take pictures of a couple that particularly drew me, such as the old-style Chinese butterfly sword, which is much leaner and more agile than the broad ones typical now, and I ended up purchasing a talibong from him (which I've now copied for training), a wicked-looking S-curved short sword. This is the first acquisition I’ve made in a few years, reflecting how picky I am and how few truly interesting pieces I come across, or at least that I can afford!

Interestingly, this piece is 23 inches long, shorter than the newer ones I’ve seen in pictures. This reinforces my impression of many older weapons, that they were designed primarily for close-quarter combat. Though it isn’t a light piece, it has a nice balance to it. Evidently whoever brought it back from the Philippines dulled the edge and had it chromed and polished, making it more of a showpiece for practice and an artifact for display. Nevertheless, it has the feel of a real tool, unlike many fantasy knock-offs that flood the pages of so-called weapon catalogs. This is one I intend to copy for my growing collection of training swords, and I look forward to discovering the qualities of this design.

As for the tournament itself, it was well-attended by participants and spectators, and the presence of over half a dozen vendor tables attested, as Art Miraflor pointed out, to the growing viability of FMA as a cultural sport. Besides Brady Brazil’s antiques, there were at least three tables selling T-shirts, and one other vendor who makes sticks and knives.

I don’t know how well anyone else did, but my assistants and I didn’t notice a lot of money changing hands most of the day. This wasn’t unanticipated, especially in this current economy, and as a friend pointed out many years ago on a visit there, Stockton has the air of a place where money is hard earned. Still, I was pleased with the attention my own products received. Though for most of the day I joked that I’d sold one stick, things got brisk as I was packing up (especially my rebar keychains) so the trip certainly paid for gas, dinner for the crew and such.

More importantly, from the perspective of what I’m doing these days, I was gratified with the attention and feedback I got for my swords, validating my feeling that these are a unique and valuable addition to the training weapons available for the art, as well as being aesthetically pleasing. The barongs in particular seem to strike a chord with many senior instructors. Vincent Cabales left with one, and I’ve just completed a slightly larger pair for Remy Presas Jr. Carlito Bonjoc’s suggestion many months ago was an inspiration to design these, and he seemed quite pleased with the results.

The other pieces that caught a lot of eyes were the knives I modified from one designed by Sonny Umpad. These had the unexpected result of a warm conversation with an old student of his who now lives in Sacramento.

As much as I enjoy the results of my labor, the greater pleasure is seeing them put to good use and knowing they help further the legacy of the arts.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Little Manila: Filipinos in California's Heartland

I just caught Little Manila: Filipinos in California's Heartland tonight, a half hour program on public television. Focusing on Stockton, it covers the immigrant Filipino experience from the early 20th century through the farm labor movement of the 1960's (the United Farm Workers Union would not have existed without Filipino activism).

"In its heyday in the 30s, the lively area of Little Manila in Stockton had the largest population of Filipinos outside of the Philippines. Narrated by famed Filipino-American producer Dean Devlin this documentary tells the immigrant story as Filipinos experienced it."

This webpage includes photos, preview and a transcript of the show. If you want a DVD, you can order it here for $14.95. It's history worth watching!

Sonny Umpad's Birthday

Today is the birthday of the late maestro Sonny Umpad, creator of Visayan Style Corto Kadena Eskrima. Students are invited to drop by the old place to share memories. There will be a gathering for dinner in Alameda around 5:30 this afternoon.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Indiana Jones' whipmaster

I received an email from Anthony de Longis this evening. He's a Hollywood weapons master who's worked behind the scenes training actors to use the whip on films such as "Batman Returns", "The Rundown" and "The Legend of Zorro". He also appeared in his own right as the swordsman facing Jet Li in the opening of Fearless, so you probably have seen him in action.

Anthony studied FMA with Dan Inosanto, and he is a friend of Tom Meadows, connecting us through the Latigo y Daga Association. In the past he sent write-ups to post on the Filipino Fighting Whip blog, which has long been linked on the sidebar of this one. Unfortunately that blog became inactive, and at the moment I cannot access it to submit a new post, so by default I'm forwarding his information here.

Anthony recently worked with Harrison Ford on "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and he did an extensive write-up for Indy Gear, so click this link and get an inside look at the whip training for this new movie.

Harrison Ford on Good Morning America (with a cameo by Anthony)
Anthony and Mary on Good Morning America
Anthony at the ranch for French tv (long: whips, swords, lances, horses, tomahawks)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Zero Tolerance = Zero Intelligence

If you are an FMA practitioner, the current climate of political correctness about weapons and self-defense should concern you. We've seen attempts to legislate martial arts, bans on knives are gaining in many locales (Britain is leading the crackdown) and this article about a 10 year old elementary school boy suspended for having an empty brass shell casing (from a blank, no less) used in a Memorial Day celebration and given to him by a uniformed veteran, shows the hysteric phobia about even harmless artifacts that are associated with weapons.

Tony Jaa is back in Ong Bak 2!

Tony Jaa is back in Ong Bak 2, his directorial debut, combining Kung-fu and Samurai arts with Muay Thai! Read about it here and watch the trailer!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stories about Tatang

I came across a blog that has some stories about Tatang Illustrisimo, and some related comments from people who've experienced Tondo. There's some other stuff at the beginning about space exploration and John McCain, but ignore that. For FMA practitioners, the descriptions of Tondo are graphically descriptive insights into the kind of lives led by many of the old manongs.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hacking away at the truth

One would like to think of martial artists as noble warriors, upholders of honesty and truthfulness. Unfortunately there are as many scoundrels as white knights in the arts, people who are attracted to power to feed their egos. Now it may be a matter of perspective, that a person can do something unethical because they think it’s justified, but the credo of “the end justifies the means” has long been discredited as merely giving oneself permission to do evil.

Now what I’m writing about is pretty petty stuff, but still, annoying at best, and disturbing on a deeper level when suspicion falls on those whom one knows personally and would hope to respect. So what is it that happened?

For starters, one of my favorite personally made training knives came up missing this week. It’s something that was in my bag and now it’s not. I’ve been showing my sticks and blades at classes and seminars lately. To the person who took it, may it give you no pleasure, remaining a hidden symbol of your greed.

While I might have just written it off as an “accident” (and funny how most such “accidents” always seem to happen amongst "friends"), it just happens to coincide with the calendar attached to this blog being hacked sometime this same past week. A July 12 posting for a USFMAF clinic in Hayward for tournament officials and competitors “disappeared”. When I logged in to the administration area, I found an unknown user ID and password. Either the person who hacked in didn’t care to erase their tracks, or left these behind so they could do more mischief in the future.

There are folks I’ve seen lately who have their issues with USFMAF president Darren Tibon. Could one of them be behind this? The missing post seems too specific, too targetted, to be some random transient glitch. I’ve always tried to be neutral by having open lines of communication. That doesn’t mean always being in agreement with anyone, but being respectful when disagreements do arise, giving respect for what is respectful, and moving on when it isn’t reciprocated. Life is too precious to waste tilting at windmills. Sometimes this makes me a messenger, and messages are not always well-received. If that makes one partisan, it only reflects bias elsewhere.

So to you, “Sinbad”, whomever you are (and I do recall someone who has used that ID), yes, you know what you did was indeed a sin, and bad in that it merely demonstrates the cowardice of hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. And since you opted to use a “magical” password, whether consciously or not, that tells me you believe in things that cannot be seen, in which case you know the door has been left open for the law of karma to pay you back accordingly. Arbadacarba to you too!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Recent Grandmaster Seminars

June really kicked off in the San Francisco Bay Area with successive weekends featuring FMA grandmasters doing seminars. The weekend of June 7 saw a gathering of talent at Eddie Solis’ school in Richmond, hosted by Modern Arnis GM Remy Presas Jr. Also on the bill were Max Pallen, Alfredo Bandalan and Vincent Cabales. I dropped by on Saturday morning to pay my respects and say hello to old acquaintances, but due to a scheduling conflict had to leave around noon, during which time I only was able to observe Max Pallen on the floor. This was billed as a two-day seminar, so I went back the next day only to find the place was closed and empty. I’d suspected this might happen, as that was a lot of high-powered talent to assemble in one place for a small event and several had to travel quite a distance to attend. Still, it was unfortunate, and there was no sign or notice posted to explain why. I doubt I was the only one caught off-guard as I’ve heard from one or two others that they’d planned to make it to the second day.

Yesterday was a seminar with GM Cacoy Canete at GM Ron Lew’s Tiger Eye Claw School in San Jose, which was well attended by Doce Pares students from several locations. It was amazing to see Cacoy in action again; here’s a guy who will be 89 on August 8 (birthday bash down south in Van Nuys) who is still traveling and teaching actively! The morning session consisted of double stick drills. Cacoy, seated, would show the drill to Ron Lew, who would then repeat the drill with his assistant for the class to follow. This was a fun format, based on adding the number of strikes with each drill. When I got there the class was doing a six-count, then seven, eight, up to 12. The patterns were similar but not exact repeats because they each had to end in the same position.

After the lunch break Cacoy delved more into tactical aspects of his art, explaining the differences between linear and curved strikes and why his style evolved to use more of the latter, as they are harder to block. He demonstrated a simple pattern combining both curved and linear strikes to the opponent’s left and right sides, showing both high and medium height applications. The latter part of his seminar was disarming, and he showed multiple variations using both Ron Lew and GM Anthony Kleeman, who arrived during the lunch break from L.A., as demonstration partners. The crowd got a kick out of seeing the old grandmaster effortlessly applying his techniques to Anthony, who is twice his size!

One of the highlights of this seminar took place in the overflow room, as the more experienced attendees filtered in to watch Ron Lew demonstrate joint-lock flow with sticks with some of his senior students and associates. Ron is amazingly adept at this form of hubad-lubod, defined in “Cebuano Eskrima: Beyond the Myth” (pg. 53) as “a manual interactive drill in eskrima where two training partners practice trapping and freeing from traps or any routine manual drill.” The speed at which Ron and his partners work is phenomenal, looking more like empty hand Wing Chun chi sao than typical impact-based stick fighting. Their skill is based on the ability to sense and reverse out of traps, often changing grips to exert maximum leverage resulting in throws.

Ron slowed down the action so everyone could see how this was performed, explaining his principle of finding nodes of contact. Every lock is based on the pressure that can be applied at such points, and the more nodes in a lock, the more potential to exploit leverage. For instance, a simple arm-bar might have three points: a wristlock, the stick across the opponent’s arm, and the tip locked against the chest. A more complex figure-4 armlock with a stick might have five or six points, such as: the hand holding the opponent’s wrist; the arm under the opponent’s tricep and the forearm against opponent’s forearm; the punyo (butt) of the stick locking in the opponent’s wrist; the end of the stick across the neck or under the jaw; and perhaps (though not necessary) a foot trap or leg immobilization.

Ron explained that this is learned by going slowly to be able to analyze what is happening at each point of the interaction, allowing both practitioners to see not only the advantage of each position but also the ways these can be reversed and countered. This is similar to how my old Tai Chi teacher, John Wong, would teach interactive technique. It is a common error for people to want to go too fast too quickly, which may allow them to overpower their training partner, but the key to developing skill is in deeper understanding, and that means taking time to see and feel things that are missed at higher speeds.

Cacoy Canete demonstrating disarms on Anthony Kleeman

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Tao of Peace - now published!

Today I received a copy of a new book, The Tao of Peace, by my old friend and training partner of many years, Marc Sabin, a gifted Taijiquan teacher now living in New York. This is a book born out of the ashes of 9/11, which Marc experienced as a resident of lower Manhattan. He began writing a series of insightful and poignant letters from NYC to friends around the country, which I eventually posted for him on my website. These were soon followed by the original manuscript for this book. After it got shelved by a publisher Marc went on to other projects, but I never forgot about it, and finally through the power of the internet it came to fruition and can be purchased at It is a beautiful and meditative book, based in years of practical martial art experience. It's the second book to which I've been godfather this year, and one I'm especially proud to have been a part of along the way.

... and while we're on the subject of books, I'd also like to recommend "ASIAN MIND-BODY TECHNIQUES REVEALED:Secrets For Reducing Stress And Improving Health" by Harve Kurland, also from Harve is a long-time Tai Chi Chuan teacher, exercise physiologist and college teacher and has also produced "Symmetrical Yang Style T'ai-Chi Ch'üan Volume One and Volume Two" DVDs, available through

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Serrada demo video

This is a video of a demo by Frank Lile and Chez Tibon of the Angels Disciples club, posted recently on YouTube. I've always thought these guys do a great job highlighting the art of Serrada Escrima; note the ranging to get inside with the daga against the long stick. This was a hot day (over 100º) and an even hotter performance by maestro Darren Tibon's team!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More NorCal FMA events coming

Wow, lots of events suddenly pouring into my mailbox, so check the calendar for details.

New entries:

June 14 - GM Cacoy Canete seminar
June 28 - Eskrima Coalition Tournament
July 12 - Mata Sa Bagyo Potluck Picnic

Update 5/24:
I just learned that Kelly Worden will not be at the Presas seminar on June 7-8. The current lineup will be Remy Presas Jr. with Alfredo Bandolan, Vincent Cabales and Max Pallen. Check for further information.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Conflict or Competition?

2008 has started off with a number of interesting events for FMA practitioners here in northern California. That’s the good news. The bad news is how little support these seem to be getting.

Sometimes such events are scheduled in direct conflict with each other. For example, April 20th saw both the Golden Gate Internationals tournament in Santa Clara and the Disney qualifier tournament in Stockton, California. Both were worthy of consideration, either as a competitor or spectator. While the two events were perhaps 80 miles apart, the number of regional FMA competitors is not so great as to fill divisions in both at the same time.

Smaller turnouts dilute competition. This robs fighters of the opportunity to gain experience through more rounds of competition. Spectators have fewer chances to watch and evaluate performers, while less skilled players can advance when a greater benefit would be the opportunity to test against and learn from those more skilled, thus elevating their own experience in the art.

This is even more apparent to me when watching forms. At mixed tournaments, where there are rings side-by-side for various arts, I see few FMA participants who match the speed and precision of many karate performers. Weapons are our specialty, so why do karate or TKD students regularly turn in more spectacular performances? Experience is a big key, and many of these schools are geared towards competition. They go to more events throughout the year and often have more participants in their events, creating more potential for quality performers to emerge.

Currently there are several other upcoming events, some of which also conflicts with each other. Remy Presas Jr. and Kelly Worden have a seminar in San Pablo, while an FMA tournament is being held in conjunction with the Pista Sa Nayon Festival in Vallejo, about 10 miles away. Frankly, if I were promoting the seminar, I’d try to reschedule for the following weekend, and hand out fliers at the Festival, which anticipates a turnout of about 25,000!

I know from experience it can be hard to line everything up perfectly. Sometimes the date is hard to set, other times venues aren’t available. Still, in any field those at the top are a pretty small circle, and the FMA is not a large community. It would be great if local leaders could work together more progressively to avoid these conflicts, as well as encouraging their students to participate and support outside events.

Perhaps part of the problem is the nature of martial arts. We train for conflict, not cooperation, and this fosters divisions between groups when the larger picture is that we’re all on similar paths. Imagine if classes regularly had 20+ students, or how it would feel to walk into a tournament and see 50 fighters in a division? The energy would be tremendous!

By the way, I just received a notice this morning for another event, a Saturday seminar and Sunday tournament, to be held this coming weekend in San Francisco, which I’ve placed on the calendar. It isn’t a cheap event, and five days is pretty short notice for people to put on their schedules. Coming on the heels of these other recent events, I wish a lot of luck to the promoters!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Events coming up very soon!

Apologies for the lateness of these notices, but I’ve been preoccupied with family matters these past few months. Here are some events that are coming up rapidly.

Max Pallen is hosting the Golden Gate Internationals on April 18-20th in Santa Clara. On Saturday the 19th this will include an FMA stick fighting division.

Those who are really dedicated can use this to tune up for the big Stockton tournament the next day, Sunday, April 20th. This is a USFMAF Disney qualifier at Delta College in Stockton. For the FMA community in California and the West, the Stockton tournament should be an A-list event.

Stockton and the surrounding central California region is still the per-capita hotbed of Filipino martial arts in the U.S., so the number and skill level of participants will be among the best anywhere. The same should be evident in the corps of certified officials that has been developed through clinics held throughout the past year.

There will be a wide variety of events to choose from, including: knife division sparring; padded point single stick sparring; point live single stick sparring; continuous live stick sparring; and padded continuous single stick sparring. These are formats designed to highlight the unique qualities of the FMA, developed by practitioners with many years of experience competing and running FMA tournaments.

This is a qualifier for the elite international Disney Martial Arts Festival, so participants will have a chance to compete for a spot in one of the top FMA competitions anywhere in the world!

Finally, there will be a number of grandmasters in attendance to receive lifetime achievement awards, including Dionisio Canete, Ramiro Estalilla, Alfredo Bandolan, Steven Dowd and others.

Whether you come to compete or just watch and mingle, Stockton tournaments always have a lot of energy. This is an event that should not be missed!

Dan Donzella Silat Seminar Review

This past Saturday Sifu Dan Donzella gave an excellent presentation of Silat, covering basic principles for both standing and ground fighting. Dan was quick to emphasize the importance of understanding principles rather than just learning techniques, pointing out that in a real confrontation, we’ll never think “do technique #17”, but if we understand principles we will flow according to the situation as it evolves. This is an approach I wholeheartedly endorse, and it was a treat to be on the receiving end of his approach.

Having been in the martial arts a long time, I’ve seen a lot of stuff, which kind of flattens the learning curve. I consider it a good day if I come away from an event with one good bit of information. That being the case, Sifu Donzella’s seminar was a banquet. The three hours passed too quickly but was long enough, as everyone seemed saturated by the end. Whether novice or experienced Silat practitioner (there were a couple), Dan presented information in the most simple and effective manner, with impressive results.

Here are a few things I took away from this seminar, some of which I’m only starting to fully recognize as they soak in:

Triangles. FMA is famous for geometrical imagery, but Silat is similarly scientific in its analysis. The FMA typically use triangles to denote footwork and angles of defense with weaponry, while Silat seems to place a greater emphasis on empty hands and body control. One of the first things Dan showed was how Silat looks for natural triangles of the body as points of entry to attack and control. Basically this means bisecting joints. While many technical elements were familiar, seeing a new way to frame entries simplified and connected attacks to different body parts in a highly effective manner. Right then and there I knew the day had been worth it, even if I learned nothing else, though of course I would.

During the latter part of the seminar, when he was covering Harimau, Dan used triangles to define his space going to the ground, his opponent’s space going to the ground, and the importance of controlling both triangles. This then transitioned again to those body triangles to overwhelm, control and destroy the opponent.

Dan expressed repeatedly this principle of self-defense, which is maximum damage with minimum risk or effort. Self-defense isn’t fighting, as in squaring off to duel, but a means to an end, which is to go home intact. Thus his art is efficiently structured so even a small fighter can quickly destroy a larger, stronger opponent before those attributes of size and strength become factors in the outcome.

One of the key principles is taking the opponent’s balance. As Dan put it, a punch may miss but the ground never does. (An old Aikido teacher described throwing to me as “hitting the guy with an 8,000 mile thick punch!) Through the concept of triangles, the opponent is already assumed to have compromised balance. The Silat practitioner simply moves through the opponent to utilize that imbalance. Leg or foot traps, simple pressure points and redirection of momentum all conspire with gravity to put the opponent at severe disadvantage, whether one puts him down or chooses to leave him a standing target.

Another key covered was the Silat principle of dividing the body into zones. FMA generally goes by variations of high/medium/low and left/right. Dan’s style of Silat breaks the body alignment by centerline, plus 1/4 lines and 1/3 lines, defining both points of attack and attacking weaponry, particularly useful for finding pressure points that control balance such as in the shoulder and hip.

Hand positions contain important details, and Dan gave perhaps the best functional breakdown of a common Chinese martial art hand position I’ve ever encountered, the classic index finger extended palm (what my Kenpo teacher called kue-soh). With the thumb open, it has the elements of the Serrada C-hand, and the index finger, supported by the bent middle, allows for pressure point jabs. Many martial arts recognize the extended index finger as pointing or directing energy of the technique. The middle, ring and little fingers are bent together, allowing powerful claws, grabs and twists.

Lest it seem like this is too much a finesse system, one of the most impressive aspects was the generation of whipping force in all Sifu Donzella’s strikes. I’m a proponent of relaxed power too, but I’ve rarely encountered anyone who generates whipping energy with such abandon. Even with controlled power at demonstration levels, Dan’s strikes crackled with explosive power not unlike a bullwhip. Whipping blows to the spleen, liver, bladder, carotid and femoral arteries, for example, are designed to create shock in conjunction with entries that unbalance the opponent,

Whereas FMA often attack sequentially, such as the famous parry/check/strike patterns, Silat seems to favor more simultaneous defense/offense. This is not to say one is necessarily more effective than the other, and each can be explosive. There certainly are many similarities between versions of these related arts. A difference in timing might be in milliseconds, but it just feels to me that the Silat approach is to overwhelm right from the entry on multiple levels (hand, foot, balance), making it extremely difficult to counter. There is no retreat, just attack. All this (timing, tactics, power) confirmed my initial impression of Dan when we met in the parking lot, that he looked like someone I would not want to fight!

A special thanks to Reginald Burford and his Oakland Eskrima Club for a solid turnout for this event, to Maija Soderholm for helping arrange the use of the Suigetsukan Dojo, to Bernie Langan for sharing his insights during the class, and to the guest who drove down from Oregon, a true commitment to the art.

Now, a small rant at the end! It still surprises me how many people do not take advantage of events like this, especially when they are priced low enough for most to afford. As martial artists we should always be curious because we don’t know what an opponent may know. We should want to be able recognize their skills and how to counter them. Some things we may see often, such as in movies, on TV, or even just watching a class through a dojo window. Other things are more subtle or rare. This does not mean less effective, it might just mean it’s been kept more secret, or it’s too scary for most people to try. Those are precisely the things that give practitioners an edge and are precisely what add breadth to our experience, not just more of the familiar.
There were a dozen people at this event, a nice size for the dojo and a single instructor, but considering how many folks were informed or expressed interest, it’s too bad more didn’t avail themselves of this opportunity. There’s a chance Sifu Donzella will be back later this year, so perhaps more folks can make it then.

Condolences to GM Anthony Davis

It is with sadness and regret I greet you today. After recently losing his father several months ago, GM Anthony Davis has lost his mother just days ago. The following is an obit, he wished passed on to our brothers within the FMA.

Please continue to pass this information along thru your resources.


Guro Mike Schwarz

Rebecca Watt Davis was born on July 6, 1933, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 'Becky' as she was fondly called by the many that loved, respected, and adored her, passed away into heavenly glory on April 9, 2008. Although Rebecca Watt Davis had battled with a long series of illnesses for many years, she never lost her pioneering spirit. Rebecca Watt Davis was married to her recently deceased husband retired Air Force Staff/Sergeant Harold Davis Sr. for (56) years. In a nutshell, Rebecca lived on after her husband's death primarily for her children.

Mrs. Davis was an outstanding example of a genuine soldier of the Lord. One of the very first members of St. Stephen Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, she helped to build up, establish, and recruit new members of the very first choir of the church. In 1993, Mrs. Davis survived a very severe brain tumor operation. The doctor's said after her operation she would not survive very much longer; but the great Lord on high had other plans for her, as she went on to live for another glorious sixteen years.

It is impossible to describe in words how many hearts Rebecca Watt Davis touched, as there are just too many to count. Everyone that knew 'Becky' will tell you that she always greeted you with a warm welcome, and with a warm smile. Dependable, talkative, a good dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and a loyal friend, one of her favorite spiritual songs were "Keep your eye's on the sparrow"

In the early seventies after her husbands retirement from the Air Force, 'Becky' worked for former Fairfield Mayor Campos for many years. 'Becky' took great pride in her home, and she could always be found redecorating something. As a studious student of life, she passed this special gift over to all of her children. As a former military wife, Rebecca Watt Davis travelled to various historical countries such as, Germany, England, and throughout various parts of the United States.

Mrs. Rebecca Watt was preceded in death by her mother and father; Mr. Phillip Watt, and Mrs. Ella J. Watt; husband; Harold Davis Sr., brothers; Phillip Watt, John Watt, sisters; Elizebeth Scott, Ethel Watt, Mary Lloyd,Cherry Wilkinson, and last surviving brother Charlse Watt.

Mrs. Rebecca Watt Davis leaves behind to mourn, and to celebrate her passing; Harold J. Davis, Gerald G. Davis, Anthony M. Davis, Angela Davis/Ross, Lamont M. Davis, several grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Often imitated, but never will Rebecca Watt Davis be duplicated; because when the Great God up above created 'Becky' he definitely broke the mold. A "Queen of Queens" Mrs. Rebecca Watt Davis will forever be affectionately remembered, for she will always stay deeply rooted within numerous hearts and minds.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Silat Seminar in Oakland - Sumatran Harimau

Sifu Donzella began his martial arts training in 1973 studying the Chinese/Indonesian art of Chuan-fa /Tjimande under the Liu Seong family name. The system was founded by Great Grand Master Willem Reeders. At the age of 4, GGM Reeders began his training in the Chinese arts under his great uncle Leong Liu Seong, and later under many silat teachers as well as Nes de Vries of the Serak system. With a Chinese Indonesian base, Sifu Dan Donzella expanded his knowledge in these arts over the years as well as adding Arnis , the Filipino arts.

Sifu Donzella will be teaching Sumatran Harimau, (tiger ground fighting). Use of levers is well known in Pentjak Silat to over power your opponent with little effort.

Saturday April 12, 2-5pm
(510) 452-3941 $20. advance $25. Door (cash only please)

Contact info- Jeff “Stickman” Finder

Monday, February 25, 2008

Deepening Belief

My mother's funeral was last Sunday. She had a full life, traveling around the world, meeting interesting people, and she was alert right up to the end of her 96-1/2 years. When she finally went, it was about as quickly and peacefully as possible, with a close friend at her side. I consider that a blessing, and just the flow of life.

So I'm ok, keeping busy with family affairs. I wouldn't find much time to train these days, except I tend to see everything as a chance to be aware. Whether sparring, driving a car or inhaling the smell of food before eating and taking time to savor each bite, I try to remember to check in to the moment. How am I doing emotionally? Are there physical manifestations I can adjust? I take a breath and let it go, and let my senses go out to the environment …

Last night I took my teenager out to dinner. Grandma's death has been a profound experience, and so this was a teachable moment. I got to talking about quantum physics, whether something is a particle or a wave (it's both) and the concept of the field. I was describing how at the quantum level, the presence of the observer in and of itself affects the experiment (the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle), which means that thought are things (like the old sacred dudes taught, I said) and so with focus and intent, we can affect our surroundings. No accident I was steered to martial arts by some pretty attuned people.

I'm explaining how the ability to be centered creates a calmer environment around oneself to which people intuitively respond favorably. I used to be more high-strung, so the shifts in reactions at this stage of life are really cool. Anyway, we've just got our drinks (coke for her, Negro Modelo for me) and I'm saying fish don't notice the medium they swim in - and neither do we, which I can see has caught her attention. I stare into my beer and inhale its fragrance; I rhapsodize how perfect it is in that moment and she tries to hide a smile …

Suddenly a baby starts crying nearby. My kid is annoyed, and I just toss off a comment about no, don't just let things affect you, you affect it; send a cool vibe like your thought is a thing and it impacts the field accordingly. Then I stopped talking and just settled myself with a deep breath, and in a moment or two the room was quiet and peaceful! I love synchronicity, the idea that the universe supports one’s premise.

Would the room have settled so quickly if I had not been in that space? I choose to trust the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to validate the possibility. The lesson for me these days is how belief makes energy work. Belief is not thought, though thought can be a part of it. Belief is simply certainty, as real to the body as to the mind.

It seems basic, but even on the physical level we’re directing energy to do anything. You think you can, you can. You think you can't; you get that too. We make choices. Martial arts taught me focus and concentration. Meditation is awareness. It's something I try to apply to everything, in every moment. That is a gift I take from my mother’s death, a deepening realization that each moment is precious, and taking the time to acknowledge more of life. The more I practice remembering to do this, the easier it seems to become.

Here is an interesting blog on psychic phenomena and martial arts.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Doing Simple Things

I’ve always placed a lot of emphasis on doing simple things in my martial art practice. It comes from my Kenpo teacher, Al Thomas, who taught that complicated techniques were nothing more than longer combinations of simple things. Master those elements, and the whole comes together better.

As beginners all we can see is the gross form of something, and we need to create a structure within which to work. As we develop and acquire breadth, though, there are fewer and fewer new structures to build. Rather we develop depth through developing control of smaller details, polishing what we have.

Consequently, my job as taskmaster is to insist students go back and figure out what I showed them to prove they understood the concept. Sometimes I’ll scold them by saying “You’re paying me for my knowledge, so why aren’t you paying attention?!”

It gets frustrating at times, as a teacher, to see that other people don’t grasp this. Sometimes I show a very specific move I want practiced, then I’ll turn my back for even just a few seconds, and when I look back guys are already experimenting with variations or even completely different moves.

Recently I thought of this analogy, that a technique is like a car’s engine. There can be a lot of moving parts, but if only one of them screws up, the whole thing might fail. Things like precision and accuracy in timing and motion get honed by conscious repetition, paying attention to consistent efficiency. The payoff can mean success under stress.

A personal example of that comes from my old Kenpo days. I was a brown belt, sparring against a green belt named Eric to help him prepare for a tournament. Eric was about 6’1” tall, 220 lbs, a deep chested physically fit lineman for a utility company who won trophies as a black belt in point and semi-contact competition. I was his tune-up, but facing him I felt like more like tuna.

On our first face-off, I beat him with a quick and unexpected jab. He looked like he expected to box and I caught him by surprise, a lucky shot. The next point was more of a setup, faking him and then catching him with a backfist on the reverse.

Now Eric was angry. As we squared off I could see the flames in his eyes and thought “this is it; what will I do?” I swear I remember thinking of the old story of the monk who offended a samurai.

Not wanting to dishonor his sword by simply killing the man outright, the samurai told the monk he had three days to prepare for a duel. The poor monk, distraught, sought out a local fencing master who took one look at the monk’s lack of skill and said “Just hold your sword over your head like so, close your eyes, and when you feel “coolness”, strike!”

All the monk did for those three days was practice standing and meditating on feeling coolness. When the time came for the duel, the two faced off and the monk did as he had been instructed, expecting to die at any second. A few moments ticked off, then a few more, and finally he opened his eyes to see the samurai bow to him and say “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were a master!” and then stride away. By concentrating so fully, the monk (or a tea master in some versions) attained a state of grace which was impenetrable, and the samurai recognized the power of such commitment to a single moment.

Well, Eric was not about to stride away, but my commitment to the next moment was absolute. As soon as our teacher shouted “Hajime!” and Eric started forward, I through the straightest, strongest, most single-minded right punch of my life, powered by a kiai that shouted I had nothing to lose.

The punch caught Eric square in the center of his chest. His legs kept churning towards me; his upper body stopped cold, and an instant later he was flat on his back, both of us in disbelief.

Our teacher called “Point!” and every hand in the room except one pointed to me. The last student crossed hands and said “I couldn’t see it because of my angle.” The teacher burst out laughing, saying “When someone goes down like that, it’s a POINT!” Everyone started laughing, the tension was broken, and Eric, as I recall, went on to do well in that weekend’s tournament.

The point is this – back then in our training we threw thousands and thousands of punches. Every day we’d do hundreds, in horse stances, side stances, hitting the heavy bag, hitting each other. Classes would last up to a couple of hours, and we’d punch and kick until we felt our limbs would fall off and there was no choice but to be efficient, because we were too tired to put anything extra into our movement. Thus when the moment came, the body was primed to act; the mind said go, and so it was done.

Beyond that moment, though, are the many attributes one gains to get there, and these are the things that we can apply to daily life, as most of us aren’t required to punch our way out of many situations. We learn to persevere, to endure the effort to reach our goals. We develop stamina to work harder, and efficiency to succeed with less expenditure of energy. These are not just characterizations of physical movement, but qualities of the mind that foster determination and courage. We learn to stay calm through patience and to act decisively when necessary. We become observers of the human condition, both our own and of others, and so develop appropriateness of action.

Like that punch, our qualities of wisdom await the right moment to act. To the unprepared, the unknown can be overwhelming, while those who have developed their inner resources will always have that strength to sustain them. Lately I’ve been dealing with my mother’s death, the passing of the matriarch of our family. Such occurrences often upset equilibriums, changing the balance of relationships between family members. No matter how one might prepare, the reality remains a challenge, and I’ve found my ability to remain centered has been a great attribute not only to myself but others around me as well. People react to stress by feeling stressed themselves; it can be contagious. Conversely, having a place to feel secure can allow problems to simply be what they are, without necessarily becoming overwhelming.

No one becomes a black belt or escrimador overnight, and looking at the whole process taking years can be daunting. However, when we approach things one step at a time, just taking on what needs to be done next, things are more manageable. Remember to breath and relax; tension isn’t going to help. As the old saying goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water ….”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Family Matters

Apologies for this blog being slow lately. After a couple of months illness, my mother passed away last night. There are writings I've started recently that I hope to complete in a week or two. In the interim, I hope you check out some of the blogs linked here.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Something To Chew On

I recently came across a link to what someone described as "the dark side of the art", which is Kino Mutai. This is a Filipino art of biting for grappling situations. I won't go into description of it, since the link goes to a well-written description of the technique. It's certainly food for thought!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

On The Power Of Suggestion

I've been a bit overwhelmed lately dealing with family affairs. I've still been writing but haven't been able to finish pieces due to pressures of phone calls, letters and logs. When one of my students offered to write about a class experience, this is what he produced.

* * * * * * * * *

A funny thing happened while sparring with Guro Jeff recently. After some warm up, we were in the midst of flow and were chatting. I am used to Guro Jeff speeding up and slowing down, playing with the timing to look for an opening. This is nothing new, but this time, he slowed down his speech at the same time that he slowed down his attack. The effect was to hypnotically make me slow down as well. It was then that my opponent went in for his attack and disabled me. The funny thing was that it was almost as if I saw what he was doing but I was trapped under his “spell”. I think fondly back to Star Wars and the concept of the “Jedi Mind Trick” in which Obi Wan used the power of suggestion to convince a pair of Storm Troopers guarding an entrance, to let him and Luke pass It seemed that Jeff had mind-tricked me in the same simple way (his exact words as he was slowing down his speech ended with “slow … down” which is exactly what I did).

Oh well, lesson learned-or was it? When we resumed, Jeff began talking again. This time I was determined not to fall for the same trick. As if sensing this, he changed his tactic, this time asking me a question, offering me the choice between two responses. In the split second that I weighed the answers, he went in for the “kill” again and achieved a successful attack.

I remember working over a year ago with Jeff. At that time we were practicing gun disarms. I stood behind Jeff, the trainer gun pointed at his head. He started talking, asking me some question and then too, used my distraction to take his opportunity to disarm me.

As Guro Jeff explained, this is why the police use simple commands, like “freeze” and “drop your weapon” rather than talk more lengthily to the perpetrator. In my opinion, people are trained to respond to authority, and simple commands spoken with authority, create more of a sense of authority. Perhaps also, the idea is to keep things simple enough not distract yourself.

All this makes sense, of course, but if the power of suggestion can be made to others, at what time can we make suggestions to ourselves to improve our fighting skills? The following time I met to practice with Guro Jeff, we got into a lengthy conversation about the power of thought. Being essentially lazy in my practice, I often use visualization in my techniques at times when I’m not physically practicing them. Thus, I imagine my instructor, or Grandmaster Cabales doing a technique and then I imagine myself copying that technique. Apparently there is some evidence that visualization alone can improve a player’s game.

Taking this a step further, Jeff recommended that I open myself to my own suggestion at bedtime, in order to see what appears out of my subconscious, in my dreams. I took this idea home with me, and that night before going to sleep, I let myself think about my escrima practice, allowing myself to wonder what I might dream about it. That night I had a dream where I was fending off a basic attack, but before I could complete my defensive technique, my opponent switched to a different attack. In the dream, I made a completely unconventional move, rushing my opponent, and taking his center. This was not a technique I had ever tried or even thought of before. The next time I worked out with a partner, I tried this technique, and while it didn’t work as ideally as I had hoped, it was novel, and opened the door to further exploration.

We often think about physical practice, setting goals to reach a new level in training. Of course practice is essential; we train to make the body automatically respond so that we don’t waste time thinking during a conflict, We want to be able to just react instead. I am beginning to see, however, the power of suggestion on my opponent, whether it is with words, my stance, or just my attitude. What I “project” may have an influence on my opponent’s confidence, just as walking through a dark alley hunched over is more of an invitation to be attacked than standing tall, and alert. I am just beginning to realize that I can also rely on all the information that is stored somewhere in my brain, if I allow myself the opportunity to synthesize it. I plan to try techniques like the “dream suggestions” more regularly.

The ultimate in laziness? Practicing in your sleep! If nothing else, I’ll have some entertaining dreams.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The “American Express” Flute – Don’t leave home without it!

He calls it his “American Express” Flute – he won’t leave home without it!

Testimonial From London:
In the UK, they would rather you die then properly arm yourself for defense, but I was carrying the HITS when I got stopped by the police on London Bridge Train Station. I told them it was a flute in the making. The next time they saw me, I had the flute! Now they think I have a guy here in London making flutes out of cheap plastic tubes! They really have no clue... :)

For the record:
I was approached by 5 guys, 1 on my left, 4 staggered to the right. I managed to get off a punyo strike to the closest attacker on my right, which led me to a straight thrust to the attacker on my left, both of which were head shots. Afterwhich I spun to my right again to face the rest and that's when I saw one lunging with his right hand leading in a thrusting motion with a knife. I managed a redondo that was slightly faster and better timed than he was, thank God, and it caught him right where I wanted it, in the hand itself.

Although the flute does feel light, it gives great speed and ability to force someone to drop a weapon...with a cracking sound that wasn't the flute ;-) I have seen the footage of a HITS being used in a DB match and I own 2 of those. I know from first hand experience the flute WILL hold up to thrusts, punyos and redondos against bone!

Being a Rapid Arnis player and instructor, I am always on the lookout for non-lethal devices for self-defence. I do believe I have found what I am looking for in the HITS sticks and the HITS Shakuhachi Flute! I would put my endorsement to anyone of these and I would recommend anyone to purchase one! And learning to play one might not be too bad either ;-)

Mr. Finder, I thank you greatly for your creation. I literally owe my life to you.


Damien Alexander
Rapid Arnis London