Sunday, February 27, 2011


There is a real pleasure in flowing with someone your own level or higher, someone that can push you just past where you are comfortable yet keep the continuity going to explore more.
Obviously training with Sonny was like that, and if you ever see any video of me training, I'm often grinning .... apart from the times when he jumped a level, and then my mouth gets about as wide as my nose as I concentrate on keeping my focus and trying not to freeze or flail.
I always wondered how HE did it though - how did he keep interested playing with students all the time?
I don't think there was any of us that could give him a run for his money if he wasn't playing, and even when he was, he pretty much always chose when he let you get in.  (After his brain surgery, in the last few months of his life I remember playing, him standing in the center of the room in house slippers and armed with a Sundang, and me circling, trying to hit him. I was kinda astonished that I couldn't get past his defense. I couldn't fake him out to make a big enough opening I could take without getting my fingers cut off or being impaled on his blade. Made me realize how much more he had left to show us.)
So I started watching him teach, and after watching him for many years flow with others I realized what he did was to handicap himself, and this is how he kept himself amused when he worked with people with lesser skills.
He was always looking for how slowly he could move and still get away with stuff, how little he had to move his feet to evade, or tilt his body or weapon to gain the advantageous angle. He was also looking at how each student could be 'played' .... This was a huge part of his entertainment, but also of how he kept improving his own skills over time. He learned from everybody that stood in front of him, and I am grateful for that lesson too.

Friday, February 25, 2011


The first major target in dueling is the hand that holds the weapon. This is particularly important in bladed arts, and becomes even more important when the weapons used have no guards as is common in the PI.
Like the Machete, there is no need for a hand guard on a utility blade, so many Bolo, Visayan Pinute or Barong etc offer no protection for the hand.
This is awesome if you are target hunting - after all the opponent's hand is often the closest thing to you, and if it is extended, can negate the size advantage of someone who is taller than you.
This goes both ways though, and when you realize that every time you extend your own arm you are also in danger of having it damaged ... you have a problem that needs solving.

Yesterday in class we worked on the 2 ends of this equation - targeting and protection.
Sonny's random flow method lends itself nicely to both players being able to practice different pieces of the puzzle at the same time and works from a very basic premis that every question/problem has answers ... and that within each answer there are more questions/problems to solve.

For instance -
I want to strike my opponent. (It has to happen at some point. Pure defense does not work)
To reach them I must extend my arm to cut.
If I extend my arm, I am open and my hand is a target.
(My opponent takes advantage of being able to practice accuracy in targeting)
So ... Can I protect myself when I extend?

Alternate question -
Can I make my opponent extend their arm into target range?
(Then I can practice my accuracy in targeting)
What would tempt them?
How do I make that happen?
What happens when we both play the same game?

Alternate question -
Do I need to extend my arm to strike them?
Can I lure them close so I do not have to extend?
Why would they want to close on someone holding a sword?
How do I make that happen?

Each "How?" Of course presents a tree of questions and answers that can go in many directions, and depending on who you play with, the questions will have slightly different trees.
Cool 8-)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Imagination, Boundaries and Blind Spots

Had an awesome weekend training and shooting the shit with Rory Miller.
One of the biggest themes that came up was how often we limit ourselves by a lack of imagination, or using our imagination to set up boundaries that do not 'exist' - physical or ethical.
Of course we can't see these until they are pointed out to us from the outside, or by someone else ... through a real life experience, or by a teacher.
You can't see what you can't comprehend might be there, or has become so familiar it becomes invisible.
Sonny said that the one that you don't see is the one that'll hit you, so best 'see' as much as possible in training. Of course in a literal sense this means being blind sided by an unfamiliar strike or angle, but it can also extend out to any blind spot - real or imaginary.
The really cool thing about flow training, one step, or scenarios, is the experience of being able to interact with a variety of people, all who have a personality outside yourself.
If you can try to let go of who you think you are already, try to let go of the truly imaginary boundaries you think define your possibilities, and use the training to try to find blind spots instead, it can be very powerful.
A great teacher can help too - thanks Rory.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Good Radio

The part about 'Mirror Neurons' and how they help us learn was particularly interesting.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Training in a Small Space

Anyone who visited Sonny's home or has seen the training session videos will know that he held class in his living room. The room was of average size, possibly 15 ft by 15ft ish. There were couches along 2 walls, a big TV console with video recorders etc in one corner, a work table in another corner and a small chest along the other wall. The final wall was taken up by a set of french windows.
The walls themselves were hung with weapons sitting precariously on small nails in the sheet rock, and in the back corner sat a fan on the floor ostensibly for ventilation - Sonny chain-smoked Winston cigarettes - but whose main job it seemed was to give Sonny a big laugh when he backed people up into it and tripped them over.
Anyway, I thought back on this as I read this post on Mick Coup's forum regarding the 'Nature vs Nurture' debate.
The guy posting talks about a book called "Bounce' about a table tennis champion -
"  .... It relates to the greatest British table tennis champion, Desmond Douglas who was known for his lightening reflexes. He would stand leaning across the table while other players had to stand back to give themselves time and space to return the ball. When a group of sports scientists researched the British table tennis squad they found that he actually had the slowest reflexes on the team, even slower then the cadets and the team manager! It turned out he had developed his ability because the club he had practised in most his life was so cramped everyone who played there was forced to stand so close to the table! While his friends had dabbled in the sport he spent all his time at the club learning to play without time and space."
Also -
"How the game Futsul made brazillian football world class by forcing them to learn to play without space and time and at greater intensity ..."

This makes complete sense to me.
Back when I taught class at a Dojo. I found myself sectioning off a corner to play in, as a full room did not work as well. Now we play on a patio with about the same dimensions as the living room. The corners are the only places you are out of range - Just as it should be.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another Perspective

Jeff Finder aka Stickman sent me this. I thought it was interesting as there are certainly many similarities with Flow Training in VCKE.
The only point I am not totally convinced by is #7 - One of the more powerful aspects of learning this way, at least in my experience, was a feeling of lack of control. Events were happening at such a pace that there seemed there was no time for conscious thought. Sonny's skill was to keep the student right at the edge of their control, to work outside the intellectual mind at a deeper level, to teach the body first, and the mind later.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the former head of
psychology at the University of Chicago.

  " According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is completely
focused motivation. It's a single-minded immersion
and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing
emotions in the service of performing and learning.

   Csikszentmihalyi identified these 9 factors
that accompany the "Flow" experience:

   1- Clear goals (expectations and rules are
discernible and goals are attainable and align
appropriately with one's skill set and abilities).
Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should
both be high.

* SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) - JF

   2- Concentrating: a high degree of concentration
on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in
the activity will have the opportunity to focus and
to delve deeply into it).

   3- A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness,
the merging of action and awareness.

   4- Distorted sense of time; one's subjective
experience of time is altered.

   5- Direct and immediate feedback (successes and
failures in the course of the activity are apparent,
so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).

   6- Balance between ability level and challenge
(the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).

   7- A sense of personal control over the situation
or activity.

   8- The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there
is an effortlessness of action.

   9- People become absorbed in their activity, and
focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity
itself, action awareness merging."

Flow - El Juego del Palo Canario

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Capoeira Angola Flow

Random Flow and Martial "Art"

Here's a quote from Rory Miller's blog:

"Martial Art

There's a question that comes up frequently on MA sites- why martial art? Why not martial science or martial endeavor? Where did this art thing come into it and why?

Honestly, it's not worth the time to read crap like that. It's like the people who are arguing about whether jutsu or jitsu is right... there's no letter 'u' or letter 'i' in Japanese writing so it just doesn't matter. Does red taste like chocolate?

However, I did have a thought the other day. It ties in with things already mentioned here about the messiness of combat, the unpredictability, the fact that there really aren't right answers, just stuff that worked that one time.

Maybe that's why it's called an art and not science, because in art it's accepted that there are no absolutes, no right answers."

The whole post is here:

By the time I started training with Sonny, pretty much his whole training method revolved around Random Flow, he felt it was the most efficient way to gain meaningful skill. He believed that adding in the unpredictability from the get go, with limited parameters that slowly disappeared as skills improved, was the best way to get comfortable in a chaotic environment. A way to make our senses understand the physical information needed to move with an adversary. A 'holistic' way to "see' and not worry about individual solutions to the infinite variables that exist. A way to gain an intrinsic understanding of physics and possibility, and the patterns inherent in human behavior.

I'm going to post some flow from other arts that are I think are cool - no pre-set patterns. All random flow.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Working on a storyboard for a potential video on some of the fundamental skills of VCKE.
Much comes down to footwork - perhaps no surprise there - as this is what connects you to your ability to move, evade, and generate power.
Turns out a study of footwork can be as complex or as simple as you care to make it. On the one hand, we all know how to walk, run, tip-toe, skip, crouch, balance, jump, turn, slide, and pivot (.... at least we did as children). On the other hand, many of us do not notice the in-built alignment principles designed into our physiology that make these movements efficient, and that can also make them fluid, explosive or deceptive as needed, and able to generate power at any time.
On the one hand - the most natural thing in the world. On the other - a book full of notes and hours of practice.
It's certainly an interesting project, and a key element will be a balance between precise, conscious practice, and natural movement "unimpeded by the thought process" (as click and clack would say ...... :-))