Martial, Tactical and Philosophical Muse : Fundamentals and basics, starting over again

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“The more advanced you are, the more fundamental you get”

Those words are written on the wall of the gym where one of my friends train, Paul Ingram (I have to give you credit Paul, those words are divine).

There’re no words more truer than that.

The thing is that I should be sleeping right now, being that it’s so late in the AM when I have work to do in a few hours.
But like Tyrese Gibson says, sometimes something compelling comes to mind and you have to act upon it.
You sometimes have sleepless hours because you are so driven to get these visions or thoughts out and manifest them.

I had these thoughts come to me suddenly and these images that open my inner eye.
And compelled me to put these words down and share it with those who wish to read and get some insights.

Fundamental, foundation, the base, the root of it all.

In the martial path, everything has to begin at the basics. The foundation is the very building block, the very platform that all skillsets and knowledge are built upon. You can progress as far as the eye can see, and reach to the stars and grab them, but if your foundation is weak, it will crumble under your feet and you will come falling down again.

Everything has a beginning. The starting point where all journeys and paths spread out from.

In the context of the fighter; when one is in a state of immense stress and chaos, a flurry of threats assaulting one’s senses, more often than not one resorts to the basics and fundamentals because it is the simplest of forms that one can easily revert to. It is the most straightforward and efficient. No flare, no flash, straight to the point.

Ugly to look, but effective to use.
From it stems the flow, where one basic concept chains to another, and another, and another, and so on.

As it was once said:

“There is no advance. Advance is just a combination of basics put together.”

I shall not mention who this quote was from as I am not sure of the true source, I just heard it from my instructor. So my apologies to the original person who said this. I mean no disrespect.

The one thing that always astounds me about the martial path is how it is the physical manifestation of the human condition, a reflection of the human action and thought processes. What you learn when walking this path transfers itself to one’s everyday life.

As of late, I realised that I have been in a state of turmoil. Things have gone rather topsy turvy. A victim of circumstances, just like so many others around me, I fall and tumble into a spiral of confusion.

But as sudden as it was lost, it came back again. A revelation and an awakening. It was an eye opening experience. I guess I awoke from a stupor and slumber, arising from a dream long running.

It is time to regain the flow again, the flow that has once kept me centered before. It is time to go back to basics.

Because at many points in our lives, when we embark on a new journey, we choose a new path. Some paths allow us to reach our destinations while some lead us to dead ends. It’s not all doom and gloom, although the emotions and thoughts tend to portray so. We fall, we get hurt but once the pain subsides we slowly pick ourselves up again.

So what do you do when you reach the dead end?
Once you’ve stopped your nose from bleeding caused by hitting the wall, you turn around and go back to the start.
Go back to the beginning, go back to the source, go back to where it all started, go back to basics.

It is no easy feat though.
Frustration sets in, fatigue screams at us to give up and compel us to just sit there and mope.

But if there’s one thing I learnt is that once you’ve gone so deep, you’ve hit rock bottom, you’ve reached an end, and you get tired of lying there in pain. Once you’ve had enough, had enough time to breath and recover. Once you make that decision, to try again, and get back up again. You turn around. You walk away.
And you go back to the start. Start all over again.

This time though, you choose a different approach, a different path.
If fate and destiny allows it, you can still head towards the same destination with a new route instead.
Or perhaps, if it was not meant to be, you find another route. You might be surprised to see that the new destination has greener pastures than the previous one.

It seems frustrating to go back to where one started.
The thought of making the journey again when one has travelled so far seems daunting.
But if one looks past all the frustration and anger, one realises something.

The starting point where you began your journey now looks different.
It’s a different feeling, a surreal feeling. It’s no longer exactly the same as before. Something has changed.
The irony and paradox is that it’s not the starting point that has changed.

It’s you.
You now look at where you started with a new perspective. Your experiences and knowledge has now given you a new bearing in your compass. You embark again with new confidence and vigour.

As T.S. Elliot once said:

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

So why the suffering? Why do we have to go through pain?
Because it teaches us humility and gratitude. It forces you to fall to your knees and build the strength and courage to get back up again. It also opens your eyes.

I just had a good session talking and sharing philosophy with a friend. She quoted me, said to me a sentence that I had said before to her.

“Pain is good”

I used that term before in a martial sense because as a Kali person, pain is a good teacher to tell you what not to do.
But now that I recall and ponder, that martial concept is brought to my everyday life as well.

The pain of falling serves to open the eyes.
When one is asleep, and in a deep dream, pain allows one to awaken and jolt upright.
The eyes are wide open and one is snapped back to reality again.

I guess that’s why we always hear the term “never give up”.
Because once you do, you will never give yourself and your inner potential a chance to develop to newer heights.
Giving up results in stagnation.

As my instructor said on many occassions:

“People come and go when they visit our class. They don’t realise that they cannot learn anything by just coming for a month or two. Many people give up and try to find something much more interesting. But stick around long enough and you will realise a lot more. Don’t give up and just keep training.”

As I finish typing this I recall the many images that went through my mind prior to this moment.
In retrospect and looking back, I realised this journey of wild waves and turmoil was a lesson in life for me, one of many other important ones that I have gone through before.

The pain has taught me many things.
And it has also brought me closer to those who matter to me. Made me realise with better clarity of those who are important to me.
It has been a valuable lesson above everything else.

I cannot guarantee I will not hit a rut again. But hey, Rome was not built in one day. Everyday is a progress to be better even if I have to keep going back to the start.

But the most important thing is that I’m evolving. My lenses are changing everytime and I look at life with a different hue with every new encounter.

Martial and Tactical Muse : Words Before Violence

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– In business there are always negotiations that take place before the exchange of hard currency begins –

The reason for me coming up with the little sentence at the top of this post stemmed from an incident that happened not too long ago that nearly resulted in a bloody altercation.

Many times we hear in self defence / martial arts talks that before we resort to fighting and physical contact, we must do our best to deescalate the situation verbally if not avoid it altogether.

I had come to witness such an incident and the power and understated importance of verbal deescalation.

It happened when me and a friend were out during dinner. We were having chicken rice in your typical Chinese chicken rice store. It was a packed night, a full house. We were lucky to have gotten a place to sit so quickly.

Usually at normal conditions there would be one chef at the cutting board, chopping up the chicken to prepare. But for that day, a secondary chef was aiding at a separate station to chop chickens and prep meals.

As me and my friend were eating a commotion caught my eye. Apparently there was an argument between the chef and a customer.

Now arguments happen as usual, but this customer was one rowdy fellow.

You know the type – buff guy, grizzly-bear-chest fur, moustache that put evil lords of the barbaric kingdoms to shame. That sort of look. He was arguing with the secondary chef about an order.

From the looks of things, the chef was telling the customer to sit back at his place and wait. I mean honestly, you’re in a packed full house restaurant. You’d expect your food to come slow. Just wait patiently like everyone else.

But things started to get a little heated up as suddenly this customer had a friend of his step in. The exchange escalated.

At this point the argument was getting the attention of everyone (although they were acting nonchalant, they were eavesdropping out of curiosity). Me and my friend were whispering to each other that we would step in to help the chef in case the situation got out of hand. He was an Aikido practitioner while I practiced FMA.

And suddenly out of the nowhere, the customer’s friend grabbed the chef’s cleaver that was lying on the chopping board and stared threateningly at the chef. The chef was now shaking his head, wondering how in the world did a simple argument end up like this. At this point I told my friend to stay down. The situation was tactically not sound. Tight spaces with low amounts of mobility avenues.

If there was anything bladed combat has taught me is that tight spaces with limited mobility increased your chances of getting killed exponentially. Blade fighting / combat is all about maneuverability.

At this point the owner of the shop quickly came in and started to talk things down. He told the customer nicely to have a seat and that their food would reach them shortly. With his patting and soft deescalating gesture, the situation cooled. The customer’s friend placed the cleaver back at the chopping board and both of them – Bearman and Bullboy, walked to their seats scowling.

The chef just shook his head and continued working. The food was delivered to those two and they left quickly soon after.

Later when everything was calm I asked the owner of the store what actually happened. He was complaining about how some customers were so rude and unnecessarily rowdy. It was a full house. It was to be expected that one’s order would arrive late.

It was a good thing the situation didn’t escalate. But atop the meal I ordered, it left an extra food for thought on my plate.

It was quite worrisome to know that anything can happen anywhere, in the least expected of places. The scary thing above all, was that every other customer was nonchalant to the plight of the chef. Nobody wanted to step up and get involved.

Yes, it was a normal and perhaps a safe thing to not to get involved. But I always told myself, what would happen if I were in that situation when I needed help. And nobody lifted a finger to help me.

It is true when they say that only you are responsible for your own safety. Nobody is there to help you. Nobody will risk their life for you.

But above all else, if there was one thing this incident and experience has taught me, it was that verbal deescalation is important.

There are unnecessary risks that can be avoided with just a few words to calm and pacify the situation. There is no winner in a fight, especially one that involves a blade. In the end, the key is to go back home safe and sound.

Besides, is it worth getting killed over some chicken?

Puts a whole new meaning though to, “This chicken is so good, it is to die for!”

Stay safe everyone.

Martial and Tactical Muse : Concept vs Technique

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It’s strange how the sound of silence of the wee hours of the morning awaken the thought processes. Well, when I say silence, I mean that in my side of the world everyone is asleep. But I’m here typing while listening to a 2 hour mix of Celtic music.

To be honest I have been wanting to write this for some time but never got around to it due to me running up and down with the daily demands of life. But finally I decided to sit my butt down and write it before heading to bed.

Lately I’ve come across a Youtube channel for Izzo Tactical Martial Arts. The person in question is a man called Dominick Izzo who trains in Wing Chun in the Chicago area.

I got to know him via Paul Ingram of RFA Martial Academy. Paul spoke of Izzo and therefore I decided to check the latter out.

Now just so you know, I’ve never met these two gentlemen in-person. All I’ve done so far is watch their videos. But I have to give them the credit for putting up videos that help guide me. Anyone who is in the area who is interested in the arts they are practicing, do check them out.

Now Paul is a martial artist that I respect. As a person who’s practicing the system he is practicing (and teaching) as well, I see that he is one who adheres to the system. His forms and footwork are done and practiced properly. I therefore watch his videos for references – be it from footwork to weapon manipulation to sparring and combat applications.

Now Izzo is another remarkable individual. What drew me to his videos was the fact that he has an attention to detail. He questions his training and as he puts it, “pressure tests” them. He has the eye to see what is missing, and above all, is a humble person and is willing to share his knowledge and keep an open mind to further develop his skills as a Wing Chun practitioner.

Perhaps it was his history and experiences in law enforcement that gave him his insight of true combat. I’ve no idea. But the one thing I admire is that he has come to a point where I believe all martial artists should aspire to be.

And this is what I’m sitting up here typing about. It isn’t about learning techniques, but about learning concepts behind the techniques. That hidden nuance, those hidden truths that hides beneath the obvious. The abstract, the conceptual.

I have been practicing my craft for 3 years and still encounting (well there were periods of gaps in between here and there, but I do what I can). I have a great instructor who has taught me well.

As mentioned, it isn’t so much as techniques that I have been taught as it is about how he has taught me to have an open eye. To observe and to find the details in the drills I practice. He has taught me to question that which I practice and ask why is it that we do what we do.

These 3 years of not only physical and technical, but also mental and philosophical training have brought me to the point I am today.

As a martial artist, I am now in a state where I do not see just technique alone anymore. I have acquired a kind of sense, or heightened awareness, however you want to call it. When a drill is being practiced, regardless if it’s the same drill that I’ve done countless times, I now approach that drill from a whole new perspective.

I question my forms, my footwork. Why am I doing this? How come I can’t bridge into the opponent? Is it due to my angles? Or my footwork and ranging?

How come I do not have the power in my strike? Is it due to my form and posture? My center of gravity? Am I missing that twist of the hips that transfers that power from my core?

Do I trap on the elbow? Or the forearm? Do I tap or check at the wrist? Do I strike at the pivot point which is the shoulder to cancel out an incoming strike?

Do I bridge in to control timing? Do I step in or side step? If I tilt my weapon, is it a wrist action or elbow joint action?

It’s all down to these details that I suddenly gain an awareness and sensitivity too. And watching Izzo’s videos further solidified my resolve to go on in the direction I’m now heading to.

I start to dissect my drills and its sequences. Every single thing is scrutinised. And then it goes beyond that. I then ask why are we practicing the drill this way with an emphasis of the details? Why this manner?

This is when one as a martial artist starts to bridge that gap to cross over to the land and state of concept.

We step in with our body while striking because we want to put our body weight into our strike, making it act as a force multiplier. We bridge in because we want to govern timing and range. We step in such an angle because it is the safest possible direction to go in the split moment of attack and transition from the opponent. We hold our weapon this way because it forces us to use a different muscle group because it is much more sustainable in a real combat situation in terms of stamina conservation when you have to go against multiple opponents while being very worn out by combat stress and after effects of adrenaline rushes.

Everything is connected to one another. If there is one thing I learnt as a martial artist now, is that technique isn’t the way to learn the martial art. It isn’t about following a string of drill movements or kata or forms and taking that as the way to defeat the opponent.

They serve as a bridge for us to cross to the concept and idea behind their execution. To be able to grasp that abstract knowledge. Techniques serve as a tool for us to reach out to concept because they materialise and make tangible the hidden knowledge. And the best way to make it all work is to observe the technique, internalise it.

Why is this done this way?
And in a real combat situation, does it work?
What happens if it doesn’t work? (This is a key and very important question to be mindful of).

Of course, above all else, a student must make sure that his / her teacher is teaching the art / craft / system correctly. That in itself is another story and bag of snakes best left for another post.

Now, when a teacher is teaching his / her student, said student might realise that some drills or forms don’t work in a real combat situation. That is a good sign. He or she is picking up something with their questioning of what is being taught.

Why are we learning something that doesn’t work?

Now here comes another thing a student must also do that is important. Stick around the class and learn more.

Because sure, an ‘advance’ technique might prove to be better than an earlier technique taught that doesn’t seem to work. But that earlier technique might actually be something that is needed to be learnt and practiced because it serves as a foundation and stepping stone as well as the start of a path to develop the advance technique.

Or, it is something you have to practice so that when the advance comes, you can fully appreciate its efficacy and use. Or, one may realise that what lies beneath the so called ‘advance’ are actually elements of the basic technique that you learnt before it.

If you look at the whole thing conceptually, you realise that the earlier technique serves a purpose. But to catch the hidden concepts, one has to have eyes open and observe and question. Curiosity is key and an element never to be left out.

This applies not only to martial arts but to other arts and practices as well.

You learn to paint with a brush on canvas before using a Wacom tablet because you need to know about traditional media and how it reacts to various materials. You need to see interactions of paint on paper before you can replicate it digitally to make it look authentic.

You need to study and grasp the concept of image processing before going into film processes.

You need to learn how to walk before you can learn to run. You learn the concept of movement before mixing it up to further bring it to another level.

That’s why there’s a saying that everything that is done well is all down to good foundations and basics. Basics basics basics. Because everything else that comes after is built upon it.

As my instructor said :

“There is no advance. Advance is just a combination of basics. So basics are very important.”

The level of awareness is key. The more aware a student is to the tiny details and the concepts behind the techniques or drill, the better the student can go deeper. And when such knowledge is uncovered, it leaves a very profound and lasting impression. That is the power and joy of discovery. Retention of knowledge is best done via self discovery.

I am currently at a state where I’m still practicing my basics, making sure my forms and especially footwork is correct. With every movement made, I observe as much as I can and take notice / heed of all the tiny things. I feel every muscle pull, every tension point, observe body mechanics and how they work and why. Trying to gel and connect all the physical aspects of my actions to its conceptual counterpart.

It is actually a beauty of design. Design is art with a function and reason.

Everything has a reason for it to be done the way it is supposed to be done.

Why do TKD and Chinese MA students do horse stance. Why boxers keep their hands up the way they do instead of others positions. Why practice footwork, moving in specific ways. I can go on and on.

Another thing that Izzo did that opened my eyes was him putting up videos of Wing Chun vs *insert MA style*.
Now, these segments aren’t just your typical “do this to defeat this person”. What is important is to see the idea and concept.

Being a Wing Chun person that he is, he has stated many times not to do this or that for reasons that I found was an eye opener. Because all those reason’s lead to a singular concept that is all-encompassing to the art itself.

“You do not play the game of your opponent”

That blew my mind and made me realise that everything that I was taught in my system was done the way it was supposed to be because it adhered to the concept behind it.

For instance, my system does not have as detailed empty hand moves and techniques as many other arts / systems out there. But why? That’s because at the bottom line of it all, our concept is about “mobility and blade fighting”.

Our emphasis is in footwork and ranging in and out. If I am out of range, the enemy can’t hit me. And no, I do not want to be hit as I train in a blade mentality because blades and flesh do not complement each other well. It’s a marriage disaster that will leave one hurt badly.

Do I want to learn 20 empty hand techniques and use them against a blade? No. Because the blade suddenly changes the playing field and you realise there are a lot of things that cannot be done.

And as mentioned why are the techniques simple and not as detailed? Because it is a combative. It is kept as simple as possible because it has to be functional in a real combat situation. We have to remember that in the midst of chaos during combat, adrenaline pumping through our system riddles the brain unable to remember a lot of techniques. More often than not we fall back to basics which are the most simplest and straight forward of movements. There is of course mental training and conditioning that can make you focus, but you realise that strings of techniques don’t work very often because every attacker attacks differently.

The idea isn’t to take the whole string of techniques as the actual way to beat the fight, but rather, to break down its individual elements and realise that each piece of the puzzle becomes a viable option instead to be used when the opening presents itself. The idea of breaking down the long complex string of techniques or drill into its basic elements is a concept in itself that a student should grasp.

The drill and technique taught teaches the student that, “hey, you can move your body in such a way”. Then it is further supplemented with the understanding that “at a point in time, you can take this punch from this drill to be used in this situation”. Or “this sidestep when you see such an attack coming”.

Izzo too has that eye for concept. He mentioned in a couple of his videos about a simple concept that went like this :

Wing Chun is a striking art. So we have to go in and strike. If we try to trap a person where trapping is their game (like say a wrestler or grappler), we are going to be in trouble. We don’t want to play the opponent’s game but force the opponent to play our game.

And his emphasis on questioning what was taught to him further garners respect from me for he sees the art not from a technique point of view but instead the idea and concept behind what is supposed to be taught. You then realise that all the techniques learnt has their purposes.

It’s like learning the alphabet. The alphabet series in itself is meaningless but each individual alphabet or element in that series must be put together in the right arrangement and time to form the right sentences and words. But you can’t use words and sentences without learning the alphabet first. See the picture?

It brings me to this state of wonderment as I connect the seeking of knowledge to how our living world works. You realise how much knowledge there is and how complex we as human beings are, what we are capable of doing.

It suddenly becomes a yin and yang thing. Where in complexity lies simplicity. Simplicity begets complexity as many simple elements combine together. The best way to solve complexity is to use simplicity as much as possible which in reality, simplicity is actually complexity turned ‘lite’ due to the ‘trimming’ of the unnecessary and taking what is needed which is basically simplifying that which is complex.

Cheeky wordplay I know, but it is amazing to see this dance that is a part of the human condition and its interactions with the living world around it.

Martial and Tactical Muse : Reality vs Perception, Combat Realities Talk

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Occasionally, I give in to the little voice in my head telling me to pick up the kitchen knives and start practicing.

Now for those who don’t know me, panic not. I’m an FMA (Philipino Martial Arts) practitioner and anybody who practices FMAs in their many styles, forms and systems know that blades are as much in our veins as the blood that courses through them. It becomes second nature to us and we look at blades almost like toys / tools for us to manipulate.

So please put the phone down. No need for the cops… ^_^”

I have had thoughts in regards to live combat situations these few days (actually, make that most of the time). But it was not until I practiced my angles, slashes and thrusts with the kitchen knives today that it got the ball running for me to type it out.

Having a live blade in hand (well two actually, I was practicing dual blades) I realised how slow I went. I realised how careful I became, how nervous I was. My hairs were on end. I kind of realised that kitchen knives are ginormous.

Care has to be observed while attempting blade manipulations, executing your perfect angels so as not to cut yourself while creating a hard-to-penetrate shield of cutty-cutty, slashy-slashy and thrusty-thrusty.


 

 

“When we train, we are not training with sticks. We are training with real blades in mind. The sticks represent machetes. That’s why your form and angles must be perfect.”

“We are training for blade fighting, not stick fighting. But we train with sticks because if we used live blades now when you are just starting you’ll be missing limbs and fingers by the end of the day.”

– my instructor –


 

 

As I went on practicing with live blades it got me thinking about the realities of combat in general.

I think for many who are uninitiated in the martial ways, one’s only base of reference for combat are online videos, video games and movies. It’s easy to see how people get amazed by the moves shown.

Mind you, online videos performed by martial artists may serve as references, but remember that there are nuances within the videos that those who don’t have training can’t see. And those small details of body mechanics, positioning, angles, techniques, footwork and such are the important things that a student must be able to catch. And that requires a dedicated teacher and mentor to guide them with and point out. So please attend your classes so that an instructor / master can teach you what you need to know most. 😀

In regards to movies, the characters with his / her flashy moves tells the untrained that when a real fight happens their moves work.

Well, there’s a basis for those moves. Yes, they were choreographed by martial artists. But one must know that these moves are made more flashy so that in camera language terms, they look more attractive on the cinema screen. More often than not, flashy moves serve very poorly in real-life combat. But people (those who aren’t trained) tend to actually take such moves as properly executed moves. And above all, the most dangerous of all, most of said people go into the mindset that they become invincible if they did those moves.

Reality is very different and it bites…really hard.

Human beings are the one of the most vulnerable designs in nature. We are such fragile bags of meat and bone. Many don’t know the magnitude of damage that can be inflicted upon the body.

I was approached by a friend who was curious about the system I practiced. And it shocked me at the level of ignorance she had to just how much damage can be inflicted to the human body, at how much danger is truly present in a real altercation.

I worry for women who aren’t trained, especially my sister. There’s a very real danger to the possibility of freezing when they are first struck or assaulted. The panic overwhelming renders them unable to think or react – an open window for the barrage of follow-up strikes.

The ability to not freeze is something that must be trained. Training in the martial way isn’t only about the physical but also the mental. Believe me, even I froze when I first started training and had my first sparring session.

The thing is, you’re only as good as your training is. The more realistic your training, the more you grasp the huge magnitude of the realities of combat.

I train in conditions where I wear no protective gear. Sticks and training knives flying around, all that keeps me from getting hit is footwork. I’ve got hit in many places when I first started. But the hurt is good. No I’m no sadist, but it’s a reminder of where my mistakes are in terms of displacing myself from harm, and of how much damage can be done. Take note that I get bruises from strikes going at 20-30% power from a rattan stick. That is damage right there.


 

 

“Before you learn to hurt others, you must learn to get hurt first. That way you will know restraint as you are aware just how much damage you can do.”

– famous martial arts saying –


 

 

I have been fortunate to not have sustained serious injuries during my training. Mainly because the mantra of the FMA system I practice is to employ footwork and avoid getting hit. The whole idea is that you want to be mobile, not a standing meat shield available to be struck, especially by a weapon. You may take hits from fists and kicks, but you sure as hell can’t take hits from blades.

I’ve also come across moments when someone talks about executing locks and chokes and the like. As in, just going into doing the locks alone. But really though, the reality on the other hand is different. Attempting to lock an arm or disarming an opponent who is actually resisting is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Let’s not even go to the territory where the opponent is skilled and trained.


 

 

“Imagine yourself at the ATM and suddenly someone attacks you. This lock is something you do when the situation is right. Or if by some chance, the stars are all aligned, and the hand is there for you to grab and execute. This is something that is good for you to know, but can only be done when the opening is there. More often than not you have to create that opening first.”

– a senior in my class, referring to a lock technique he showed me –


 

 

Locks are something that you add on to your arsenal. But you don’t train locks and execute them the way you do in drills and the step-by-step.

Oh no, it’s not to say that it’s impossible. But you have to add in several more tactical steps before that. The concept is called ‘resetting’.

There are many ‘reset’ tactics, which I won’t go into detail. Basically resetting involves moves that take the mind and focus of the opponent off their point of focus and redirect it somewhere else.

So to execute an arm lock to a arm that is resisting, ask why is there resistance?

It’s because the person resisting has focus on the arm to stop you from having your way with it. So redirect that focus elsewhere via a reset. A simple example is striking the head. The pain or state of being stun from the strike resets the focus. If it doesn’t work, do it a couple more times.

Or…you could execute locks to a resistant target using other tactics as well like riding the energy instead of resisting it. There are also feints and baiting / feeding.

Regardless of the method used, the basic concept lies that in reality, a person will be resisting your advances. It’s not so easy and straight forward as movies or video games tend to depict it.

Reality is very different from an untrained / inexperienced perception.

I’m not saying that I’m highly skilled. Far from it. I’m still a grasshopper in this path of metamorphosis to a skilled master. But training conditions and sparring that is as realistic a simulation as possible helps me realise just how reality is.

And that is good. It helps my skill as a practitioner and warrior improve but more than anything, above everything else…

It’s a humbling experience…

It proves just how real is one’s mortality. And how easy it is to lose your life in the fray of chaos that happens during combat. A weapon’s presence is no joke. Even empty hands employed correctly is lethal.

There’s another example of false perception – that a weapon is something not to be taken seriously. Movies portray a weapon not being something serious. That the hero / heroine can take a hit or so from a bullet or strike from an edged / impact weapon with very little damage. Or that it is easy to actually take the weapon from the wielder.

I was hearing a story the other day from a fellow martial artist who has an uncle in law enforcement. Thus the uncle has a firearm with him. During the time of this story told, this martial artist was a wee young kid, about 8 years of age.

The uncle had placed the firearm on the table for a short while to go to the kitchen. At that time, martial art kid came in and saw the firearm, and out of ignorance held it and was pointing it around. When the uncle came back, he saw the kid with firearm and within a split second had the kid’s arm pinned on his back, held down and disarmed. The kid was so shocked. It happened so fast he didn’t even know what had happened.

That’s just how serious the situation was, the risk involved could mean life or death. So trained are these enforcers that upon sight of any weapon they go into auto mode and instinctively go into control and disarming techniques without even stopping to think.

One can’t fathom enough just how much thought goes into the training for law enforcers especially in urban areas. Not only do they have to disarm the weapon and disable it with techniques that ensure their safety, but they also have to do so as effectively to reduce collateral damage. A stray bullet does not discriminate between age or gender. Anybody can get hit by a stray bullet. Imagine then, being a cop, having to protect your own life and others. You got to hand it to the men and women out there in the field who put their lives to protect us.

A weapon is like a calling card that has “I want your life” printed on it. After all, the human body can only inflict so much damage. The weapon acts as a force multiplier. The increase in damage potential and reach is nothing to be taken lightly or for granted.

With the realities of combat being so gritty, I could never really understand the bravado and egos flying around people who learn the martial ways and think they are invincible and great. That having said knowledge allows them to step over others who aren’t educated as them.

I think more than anything, and paradoxically enough, learning these techniques taught me to value life even more. I know how much power I have in my hands with such knowledge and with it, the responsibility to use it appropriately and only when needed. I learn the ways to improve my health, protect my life and those around me whom I care and love.

Although frankly speaking, and this is reality being a bitch again, if I were walking with someone untrained and we were suddenly accosted by a group of people, I would be at a disadvantage. Because now not only do I have to worry about my safety, but I have to employ my knowledge to protect another who has no knowledge or training. I suddenly have extra baggage to worry about.

How do I solve this problem then? There are two ways to go about it. One easy and one hard.

The hard way is to execute preemptive strikes and tactics. Quick first strikes. Jabs. Make-shift body shields using the opponent created by positioning. Some very crafty footwork definitely. Any weapon at hand to even out the playing field will be used.

It isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Try sparring in 3-on-1 situations and you’ll just see how hard it gets. It’s hard enough if you’re unarmed against multiple unarmed opponents. It gets worse if they are armed and you’re not. A weapon makes a very big difference. Basically, you’re in for a rough time.

And what about the easy way?

Oh simple.

RUN! Run like there’s no tomorrow! (well there won’t be a tomorrow if the worst case scenario happens right? >_<)


 

 

“Sifu. I would like to ask you, how do you fight against 10 people?”

“Fight against 10 people? Simple! You run!”

– Ip Man answering a student’s question in one of the movies depicting him –


 

 

 

“What happens if you’re sitting in the park on a bench, and suddenly you see a person approaching you with a machete. How do you protect yourself against him when you have no weapons?”

“If you’re sitting on a bench and you see a person coming towards you with a machete, then you deserve to die.”

– an FMA instructor –

P.S. :
For those who don’t get this one, the basic message is that if you can see the threat approaching, you shouldn’t be there at all.


 

 

 

Understanding reality is key. Avoid terrible situations knowing that consequences are nasty if one takes them lightly.

Train em’ legs! Learn to run! 😀
Fight only if you have to. There’s no prize for winning a fight that involves your life and the life of those you love. Stay safe everyone.

Martial and Tactical Muse : Awareness and workspace / area of operations

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My dad’s wallet just got stolen. In broad daylight, right under his nose.

He was at a counter, talking to the person working there. He then turned around, his wallet placed on the top of the counter table. He turned back and it was already gone. Several seconds was all it took.

It’s really scary how quick things happen. Worst of all, the lady at the counter didn’t even bother to care or keep a lookout, but that’s another story altogether.

Just last week I witnessed a snatch robbery happening just next to my table while eating out. It got me really thinking about surrounding awareness and how it is ever so important. It also brought to mind the concept of ‘workspace’ (to be explained below).

The thing is (and don’t take this as a marketing attempt), but there’s something I learnt practicing FMA (Philipino Martial Arts). It’s the concept of ‘checking’.

In FMA we don’t practice blocks. Because in a confrontation where blades are involved, blocking is a dangerous way to go. The blade strikes at multiple angles and a block deters the incoming threat only in one dimension. For a skilled knife fighter, a block is just a static wall that can be outmaneuvered.

What FMA practitioners do instead is tapping (although in some other FMA practices, mine included, we use tactical approaches instead). The basic concept of tapping is to redirect the threat with one hand instead of blocking it head on. And to add on to it, once the threat (the blade) has been redirected with hand and footwork, our secondary hand steps in to ‘check’ the weapon hand of the opponent. Checking is the act of placing the secondary hand on the opponent’s weapon arm in a strategic position for control and also serves as an information feed on where the threat is. That way, it’s an auto info-feed that doesn’t require additional effort for us to look for the threat, adding on to the plethora and rush of information coming into our receptors during the altercation.

Checking as a concept is something we can apply in our everyday situation, especially our belongings. It’s the idea that you know where everything is in place. We have to place our belongings in positions where we know where they are and we can be aware of their presence passively instead of actively.

A wallet for example can be kept in-hand even when transactions are going on. Some people attach security chains that connect their wallets to their pants. Even security personnel have cables attached to their firearms so if it drops they know where to find it. In the civillian world we have many tools that help us to do such a thing. Key-chains to keep track of our keys, belt clips, shirt pockets and so on. It’s all to place the item in a specific safe position. Positioning is a form of tactics that does not only apply in combatives but also in our everyday life. It lessens the burden of our attention, adding on to our response speed.

In military and police circles they have the concept of ‘workspace’. Items – be it ammo clips, or firearms, or melee impact or edge weapons are kept on chest pockets, or on belts, thigh holsters and so on – where in the event of an altercation, the hand immediately knows where to go get the items needed. Positioning of a rifle, to the sidearm, to the blade – all have been thought out or is being improved upon to improve on reaction speed so as to minimize the window for error. It’s all about tactics, from the execution of the military operation down to the attire. There’s always a practical reason why something is done, efficiency constantly in mind.

Because in the event of a disaster, every second (sometimes even milliseconds ) can make a difference. As the saying goes, “One should not worry about what can be expected but what hits you on some idle Tuesday.”

In such a situation the question then comes to how fast you react to it. Tactics offset timing to your advantage. Awareness of your surroundings gives you that preemptive edge to completely avoid trouble and disaster altogether by providing data-feed that would otherwise be overwhelming in an altercation filled with stress and adrenaline.

When you think about it, awareness and timing is actually positioning in regards to timing and location.

All in all, please do be careful out there whoever you are, wherever you are, whether day or night, rain or shine.

Some ask how is it that I can relate anything to the martial way. I would like to say that the martial way is just a part of the human condition. It was created with the human anatomy and mentality being used as the template to build upon. It’s just an extension of what humans do. It’s not about learning the techniques but of getting the concepts and the hidden message behind the techniques. It’s all connected to us and our lives.

Everything that is part of the human condition is connected to our being whether directly or indirectly. It’s interesting to be able to connect one thing to another. As I’ve mentioned in my previous post “The World Is Still Beautiful”, discovering and making that connection is what is exciting.

Stay safe everyone. =)