Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

To generate progression in any field you need to change - in a dueling context, you might need an adversary that is either your match, or higher in skill that can beat you, though someone unpredictable will often do. Or perhaps an injury, or just plain getting older. In other words there needs to be a reason to change.
Just the IDEA that there is a better adversary out there, or people that are unpredictable, or perhaps the knowledge that you WILL age can also motivate you to improve your skills.
Whatever the reason, there needs to be a problem to solve and one of the greatest skills to have is to find problems worth solving.
Unfortunately the ego is an impediment to this ... it does not like putting itself in uncomfortable and novel situations, and will convince you that it has found some great problems when in fact it has set itself up with familiarity and easily solvable crap to confirm what it already knows .....

Easy way?
Play with people higher skilled than you and learn how to beat them. 
Another way?
Play with people outside your system, outside your range of experience, and see what comes up. Basically find out what you haven't even thought about, because if you look within your comfort zone, you aren't even going to SEE the problems ....
You just don't know what you don't know ..... so best find out.

Here is a rather dense piece by John Boyd, yes the same one that came up with the OODA loop, about reality, concepts, problem solving, and thinking outside the box (pdf format).
Thanks yet again to Steve Morris for sharing:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Got Defense?

 Steve Morris shared some video clips on his facebook page:!/morris.method

Here is what he commented on Floyd Mayweather:
"Here is a master of defence . It's not that Mayweather never gets hit, its just the way he defends reduces the effects of the shots as well as the percentage that reach him. thats what gives him the confidence to go on the offence. He knows he can deal with whats coming at him."

Give 2 people swords and get them to spar, and the most common pattern will be some dancing around from the outside with some hand tagging ... and then generally either this continues ... or both people get 'bored' and decide to enter and both 'die'.
Sonny asked me once after spent rather long dancing around him - 
"Why don't you enter?" 
"Because when I enter I get hit" ....
"So you need to work on your defense, no?"
Ahhh .......

Steve Morris:
"If the person you're fighting can't effectively strike you, clinch, tie you up, take you down, positionally control, submit or ground and pound you .. Then your chances of winning the encounter on the feet or the ground rise considerably ..... Provided that is you have a good offensive game by which to finish your opponent off and you are prepared to invest in loss as part of learning your defensive skills .. And there's the rub in that not many people out there are prepared to invest in loss because they are too much invested with winning the encounter ..."
"Invest in loss" - Wise words, and exactly what Sonny tried to teach me, except he called it 'give something to get', You need to put yourself in danger to learn, to actually LOOK at (and feel) what is going on, to understand it and to deal with it.

This may seem totally logical on paper, but the doing of it goes counter to our ego. As an example, I did a mental experiment one day to try to pick the slowest line to stand in at the Post Office and grocery store, tried to stay in the slowest lane of traffic, tried to make everything I did take the longest time possible .... it was much, much harder than I thought. I guess we are programmed to 'win' on some very deep level.
But ... in training - it's absolutely invaluable to reaching the next level of skill.

Here is another great clip Steve Morris shared on the defensive skills of Rocky Marciano:
Rocky Marciano:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Make it Big

I was watching a VHS training tape from Sonny's - one picked at random ... I did try to label them with good descriptions but you know, one forgets ... so despite the label, it was a mystery as to what was on it.
It was a series of flows starting with sword, moving to short blade, then to a double cane partner exercise, on to empty hand joint locking.
Sonny always taught long weapons first, just in general, but then specifically to show how the principle we were working shifted from one weapon to the next.
Longer weapons give you bigger angles, bigger visual and tactile clues as to what is going on, they also take more time to throw, so there is also more time to 'see'.
It was interesting that the same morning, in Yizong class (which is ostensibly a Bagua class but ...) we were working with some Hsing-I - Two of the five elements, Metal and Water.
To get a couple aspects of the movement across I demonstrated with a long pole, to show the angle of the attack, the connection between the right and left hands, and the small curves in the form. It always seems to make more sense when you can see the big manifest from the small ... and thus can recreate the small motions with the big in mind.
Same with the forms in Bagua, in the Yizong system the body training is often done with long stances and big circles, theory being that it is easy to make big movements smaller, but easier to miss subtleties when working with small movements only.
I really like using weapons to understand movement, but I do not think I would have come up with the double cane drill that Sonny showed on the tape. A very interesting take on how to understand angles, and how to lock and unlock the joints of the body. Basically it starts with one person holding a cane in each hand, the opponent takes hold of the other ends and you start to pendulum .... perhaps one day I'll post a video.
Really innovative stuff.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


It was a hot, hot day here in The O which meant by 6pm it was absolutely perfect. Spent the afternoon watching VHS tapes of workouts at Sonny's and then found some old film footage of FMA on youtube as inspiration for what to work on.
Franz, Renato and Eric all came by and we flowed a couple hours looking at low line disengagement with the cane, and shifting left/right targeting by body angle alone. Also looked at some really difficult 'clothesline' angles and possible deflection options, worked left hand and played with sickle, checking, rolling the contact point and disengaging the elbow.

We also talked about this great article Franz had shared about training back in the day at Raymond Tobosa's school. Sonny always cited Tobosa as an influence in his style, and reading the training methods, I can see where some of his ideas came from .... very cool.

Here is the full article:

And here is a section from it .... Apologies for the formatting .......

" .....  He (Dan Inosanto) told me that the teacher I needed to seek was a guy by
the name of Raymond Tabosa. He told me Batikan Raymond Tabosa of the
Vilabrille system would be the man to start with.

MS: So when you returned to Hawaii did you seek out Raymond Tabosa &
was he difficult to find?

CC: Actually he was very difficult to find. Once I had returned, one
day I borrowed my sister’s car & traveled out Hwy 1. I saw this big
sign along side of the road that said Filipino Martial Arts training
camp. It was in a really odd place, in between the highway & the
pineapple fields.

No fancy studio, the area had planks & outdoor workout facilities.
When I pulled up a guy came out & introduced himself as Steve Solero.
After a bit of kidding about my Midwest accent, I asked him what style
he taught.

Guro Solero told me that he taught the “Moro Style”. I then of course
I told him that I was looking for Raymond Tabosa & would like to train
with him.

With a sigh & a nod Guro Solero said ‘ah, I see, well you come train
with me for awhile & then we’ll see about Raymond Tabosa.”

MS: So did you train with Guro Solero.

CC: Well basically I said to myself, “well here I am, I had no idea
that I was being put to the test at all.”

It was in the hot sun, and if you’re not aware, you’ve got these
pineapple bugs, near the pineapple fields, they just irritate the hell
out of you. You know you’re sweating & they just get all over you.

It was backyard training. They stuck me right in the back corner &
there is a pit bull chained up, barking all the time behind me while I
was training. I kept one eye on the pit bull just to make sure it
didn’t get loose enough to get to me.

From that standpoint I can see that they were testing me to see how
serious I was about learning their art.

The training was very interesting, they had golf club tubes filled
with foam, so that we could practice double stick sparring. Many a day
I’d come home with bruises all over my arms & body.

They had sort of a dome made from 6 long rattan poles that were joined
at the center at the top, then they had a few rattan poles that went
around in a horizontal position, inside of this “dome” is where we’d
practice our body mechanics. The cage was a circumference of about 9
feet. You had to climb into the cage, there would be 2 guys in the
cage & you sparred. Then you’d turn back to back & then 4 or 5 other
practitioners, they would feed different angles of attack so that
you’d have to make the proper adjustments, learn calibration & of
course learn what it felt like to get poked as if stabbed. You & your
partner, back to back would have to be able to read each other’s
sensitivity in order to stay out of harms way. They would use rattan &
the blunt end of the rattan to thrust & stab. That was around the 3rd
week of training. During the 3rd week we began “plank” training. We’d
have to do our drills while balancing ourselves on the foot wide

About this time I really became tempted to say, “Ok, I’ve only got a
couple of weeks left, I’d really like to meet this guy Raymond
Tabosa.” But I’d thought the better of it and decided not to push the
issue. It was a good thing. He called him up, he said, “yeah, I spoke
to Mr. Tabosa, I told him about you.” I made it clear that I still
wanted to continue training there, but the instructor said yeah, it’s
alright, and you’ll know when he’s here.

I continue training, about the end of the 3rd week, here came this
older man with the cane, his alohai shirt (his silkie, the shirt was
made of silk), had his sunglasses on, & his baseball cap, & he was
with another guy, short & stocky; they stayed & watched.

So I’m thinking to myself, hmm, guess this was a guest instructor, so
I’m working out doing stick drills, feeling good even with the dog
barking, so these 2 gentlemen sit down to watch me.

They go over to Guro Steve Somero & basically tell him they wanted to
talk to me. So I’m called over during our break, & the older man
extends him hand saying “hello, I’m Raymond Tabosa.”

He looked at me kinda strange, with my curly perm, & says “you from
the island’s here”. I explained after having a good laugh about my
choice of hairstyle, saying “Ah, you da 1st Filipino with da curly
hair,” as he was laughing aloud. I stated I come here every summer &
that my mother is from Hawaii, that even though I was born here we
moved when I was about 6 yrs old, & that I had family there. Mr.
Tabosa said, “Ah, you have family here, I know a lot of people.” I
said yes. He then asked what the family name is. I said “Juanita
Naton”. Mr. Tabosa said “Naton, I knew a Naton, Marcos Naton,” I said
yes that’s my grandfather. Then he just kinda stood there holding his
cane, he turned, talked to the guy who was with him, Wayne Casillias,
then he looked back at me & a little tear came out of his eye. He
motioned and said “you come here; I’ll meet you tomorrow at 6 am. You
know your grandfather was a strong escrimador too you know. He also
teaches the Filipino dancing & he was a great Sipat practioners. Sipat
is the game that combines volley ball & soccer.

So right from there it was Raymond Tabosa that opened up the doors as
far as meeting the unknown & unheralded martial artists.
MS: The length of the stick was that 24, 26, or 28 inches?

CC: It was pretty interesting, it was about 28 inches. Because w had
gripping exercises we had to do so that we could adjust the stick
length to work from close quarters. So that if you got rushed you
adjusted the grip with the torque of your body in order to be prepare
for all combat confrontations.

MS: How long did you work with Raymond Tabosa?

CC: About several summers. It was really amazing, you know the “old
manong” were so willing to share with you, once you passed their
screening process of course.

Of course I’d have to wake at 5am because the manong would be ready to
train by 6am of course.

I’d say to Mr. Tabosa, don’t worry I’ll meet you, & Mr. Tabosa would
say, “no, no, no, I’ll pick you up. I’d offer to pay for gas, again,
no, no, no. So he’d pick me up & he’d take me to Zippy’s restaurant,
which is like a McDonald’s or Burger King here in the states. We’d go
& there’d be several of the older men there, Snooky Sanchez, Mr.
Pedoy, & a few other gentlemen. So I’d offer to buy breakfast for
everyone & of course no, no, no, they wouldn’t hear of it.

So I’m feeling kind of uncomfortable off the bat.

We sat drank coffee & started talking together. Then I was asked why I
wanted to learn the Filipino Martial Arts, and I said because I wanted
to learn about my culture & truly had no idea that our culture even
had a martial arts system associated with it.

So as we talked I was told, ok we’ll start off with this; so one of
the gentlemen would get up one at a time & demonstrate their technique
of their system

I truly wish I had a video camera at the time because of the unique
content, character & emotion that would be displayed by the manong as
they’d demonstrate their systems for me.

Snooky Sanchez then talked about how the stick would help develop the
proper body mechanics & assist with positioning. He was developing his
own system at that point, he referred to it as the “star system.” He
would talk to me about triangulation & the geometrics of the art.
These things were way above my head at that point, coming from the
tournament style of fighting that I had been exposed to in the past.
But these guys were talking about proximity, positioning, &
calibrations. I was so amazed with the sum of knowledge that they
shared. We talked for about 3, 4 or 5 hours.

Then everyone else would go their own way. Mr. Tabosa would take me
then to a Filipino restaurant and eat. I’d offer to pay but it was
never accepted. All summer it was like that.

That as a whole was my 1st lesson from Tabosa, “You serve your student.”

MS: So this was a complete 180 degrees from what you were used to previously.

CC: Yes, in the more traditional martial arts, back in that day, you
put on a code of arms for the instructors. But with these old manong
it was quite the opposite. That’s just the way they were.

MS: You indicated that you had spent several summers training in
Hawaii. Was that primarily with Tabosa at that time?

CC: When Tabosa and I would get together it was primarily research
into the Vilabrille System. It would be more like a conceptual thing.
As far as training we would talk principals. With Mr. Tabosa it was
more informative.

MS: In regards to the blade training, did Mr. Tabosa introduce you to
the methods of cutting, slicing & blade movement?

CC: This too is very interesting, because again his instruction was
more about micro adjustments, & how to position the blade.

During my time at Western Illinois University, I was a proponent &
student of European fencing. A lot of opinion is that fencing is one
dimensional, but that is only the sport aspect. In further research &
study one can see the adaptations made due to length & type of blade,
the type of positioning & adjustments made within the FMA as well as
European fencing with street applications.

MS: So after your training each summer & particularly after several
summers with Mr. Tabosa & the other instructors, after returning to
the Midwest, were you able to or did you incorporate the skills
learned with your Shuri te/Shorin ryu training?

CC: I kept the arts totally separate, as a matter of fact, after
training in the FMA, I never went back to training in the Asian arts.

Now that’s not to downplay the training in the Asian arts, it was just
a stepping stone for me. I took the philosophy which I was taught
learning the Asian arts was never wasted, it was the foundation for me
to move on & forward. Later I came back to some of the kata that I’d
studied before, while examining the translations within the FMA & saw
the valid similarities in some technique of the FMA & Asian martial
arts. There is valid training technique within the Asian martial arts."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Eye Sight

Here is a thread from The Dog Brothers forum on bilateralism:
No-one can deny that the left and the right side must work together, and if you can use your left and right hands/feet interchangeably, all the better.
Any usage of double weapons will require this ability.
There is some debate however, about whether you should train your dominant side to stay dominant - it's stronger and better already and should be as good as it possibly can be, or whether you should train the non dominant side more - until it gains the same facility (or as close as possible) as the dominant side.

Sonny used double weapon training, and also 2 handed weapon training with the Bogsai to improve the non dominant side, in my case the left side, but was of the mind that there was no need to force both sides to be equal, as long as they both worked, and both worked together, one side could be dominant. He referred to them as the husband and the wife, implying that if they were by nature different, but if they worked together, that was good, if they were at odds with one another it was bad.
So the question is - it is it desirable, or possible to be completely bilateral?

A couple insights I had when training my left (non dominant) side. These come from house painting.
I trained myself to paint with my left hand by moving both hands together, my right hand would do the motion at the same time as my left. After a while I noticed that as long as my right arm muscles were engaged even if they were not moving, my left could paint - this actually took a long time to get rid of and now I try to consciously relax my right side when I use my left.
(I transferred this to learning how to use the sword in each hand - Both at the same time and also, switching from right for a move and then to left to copy the move.)
After a while it felt as though my left was pretty much as good as my right at painting accurately and quickly ... until I got a bad bout of tendonitis in the back of my right hand that made it very hard to use at all.
I was forced to paint entirely with my left for a while and what I noticed was how hard it was, and how bad my alignments seemed to be, my whole body seemed twisted and awkward.
Took me a while to realize what was going on - Even when I had been painting with my left, I had been changing my brush over to my right as I dipped it in the can or moved around, so only one part of the action was being done with my left. I had been avoiding the rest of the motions for a reason ....
I realized that the whole body actually has to re-orient around the hand, AND THE EYE, to paint constantly with the other side - or dip, or move, pick up and carry.
I am left eye dominant, so painting with my right hand involves my body aligning in a certain way to get the left eye/right hand coordination needed to paint a straight line. Switch to my left, and the alignments change to left hand, left eye. If I could sight out of my right eye I could keep the mirror image of the alignments .... but that would involve changing how I look out of my head ......
Hmmmm, so the question is, do you have to sight out of each eye in turn depending on which hand is in play to achieve true bilateralism? Or is it just one thing that you are doing ... sighting out of a single eye and aligning your whole body around it - left or right?
And then the obvious next question comes from how using peripheral vision plays into left side/right side hand eye alignment to the target ..... (I am wondering whether using peripheral, and then not using sight at all, at contact range, the whole ball game changes, and bilateralism becomes much easier and more natural)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Perhaps Mac's latest blog post inspired this thought, or perhaps it was Steve Morris's latest blog post about multitasking:

In any case I started thinking about what things really are separate, and what things really are just one thing, perhaps complex and dynamic, but a single whole none the less ...
For instance, is walking multitasking? After all many, many things are going on to propel you forward ... What about driving - lots of different things going on there? How about dueling?

Watching Sonny work was a thing of true elegance and beauty, though I have to say that finding it 'beautiful' was a strange thing to get my head around for a long time. After all, (to quote Rory Miller) he was in the business of making 'cripples and corpses' ...... perhaps not such a beautiful thing ....
Really, how could that be beautiful?

Took me a while, but what I realized was that the beauty came from his total 'connectedness'.
- His body was totally connected - all the parts worked as a whole - left, right, hand, body, hips, legs, toes, head, eyes ....
- His weapon was connected to this, the angle of the blade, the angle of the strike, the recycling and containment of the power all worked in concert with his body - no gaps or glitches.
- His alignments to hold his body in gravity with the most efficiency were precise and accurate. He knew his footing and was aware of his surroundings, using them to his advantage to trap and corner his opponents.
And ... He coordinated perfectly with his opponent ... by which I mean he played them as though were part of the scenery, a part of the moment like him, and just another element to connect with.

Like I said, a thing of beauty.

Just one thing going on - him, his weapon, his opponent, and his environment.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Weight Shift

For some reason 100% weight shift is one of the hardest things to teach. It seems a large proportion of people, when asked to shift ALL their weight onto one leg, cannot lift the other leg off the ground without re adjusting or pushing off it .... which means they are not actually fully shifted over.
Think about it, if you cannot lift your leg off the ground without re aligning, you cannot be 100% on the other side. To test, you should be able to pick your leg up, put it down, pick it up again without the rest of your body moving - no shifting left or right, or front or back, or wobbling. Look in a mirror to check.
An observer looking at the upper half of your body only, should not be able to tell when you pick your leg off the ground - the upper body should look the same, as though nothing is happening. If you can do that, then you have found your 100% and the body alignment needed to make it work.
Now do it moving, as you walk, as you pendulum, as you flow.
Now, add to this the ability to balance and catch your weight so the whole shifting is controlled and you now have better options for stealing range and escaping without telegraphing, and the ability to hold neutral longer. You can also control the timing better and spend less time in range of your opponent. Oh, and as you can contain your power better, you lessen your chance of 'running out of angle' and increase your options for suddenly switching directions, changing tempo or dropping your weight for power when you need to.
And did I mention this means you can kick too ..... ?
Here is Jay Pugao, another of Sonny's students and a great exponent of the 100% weight shift.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

DBMA "Snake Range"

Here is Crafty Dog, aka Marc Denny's take on the moments before contact - Dog Brothers style:
It's always interesting to compare perspectives, the different ways of seeing the opponent and how to size them up, and of course the language used to describe it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Evasive Reply

Recently we've been working on 'the box' and 'the wall' - basically blocks and parries.
It's never a great idea to clash swords force to force, even the highest quality Katana is susceptible to damage let alone Filipino swords that were generally made from much poorer quality metal.
If you are in range with no chance at evasion, and it's either your sword or you that will take the hit ... obviously you choose the sword, force on force or whatever, but more preferable is parrying, what we call having a 'wall'.
Note: There are ways of 'catching' a cut force on force turning a block into a parry, and ways of choosing which part of the blade to use to save the edge from damage.

One definition of 'parry' in the dictionary is an 'evasive reply', and though this definition was meant in the context of speaking, it also applies here as there has to be movement associated with going with the force of an opponents cut, as opposed to clashing against it.
Parries can be done near the edge of the range where there is still space for movement (shearing or 'cutting the angle'), or sometimes close in where you have to physically move your opponent's weapon off line and create space to move into (using an arc to meet a straight line), and are very useful as added security when closing.
Blocks are generally 'oh shit' maneuvers and generally occur well inside the range or to protect an exit.

On the way in, stay behind the wall, on the way out, stay inside the box ... and seeing as the majority of the time you should be either on your way in or your way out, not hanging out on the edge,  best understand the defensive line as it needs to move with you.

(Note: The live hand can sometimes deflect a strike angle, changing force on force blocks to 'catches' or going with the force, but checks are a gift, take them if they are there to use, but chase them and you greatly up the risk of losing your hand.)