Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Episode XIX-Do the Right Podcast Shownotes

Episode XIX-Do the Right Podcast Shownotes

Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: Thursday October 9th, 2014


Intro:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifri

Return of Mariano
Our Groupie: Chris
Moses Powell Memorial Seminar
Aikido vs. Aikijujutsu
kote gaeshi
Shorin ryu karate
Kenpo karate
Irimi nage
Kokyu nage/Kokyu ho
"Clothesline otoshi"

Discussion Topic: The martial arts test
Why do martial arts have tests?
  Dan/Kyu system
  Jigoro Kano
  Black Dragon Jujutsu

Formal vs. Informal Testing

Getting rid of kata in testing
Black Belt class
The Black Belt club
"The secret ingredient is You."
First Aid
Meiji Restoration
Chen style Taiji
Subjectivity of Grading tests
Plinio's Rant on kata
Ukemi kata
Iain Abbernathy Podcast

Should Etiquette be tested?

Interlude Music: Perfect Strangers by Deep Purple

Vietnamese Hairdresser

This Week in Martial Arts: November 23rd, 1899
Maneuel dos Reis Machado "Mastre Bimba"
  Bimbe Angola

Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Sunday, November 23, 2014

4 Ninja Stars for Shang Yun-Xiang Style Xingyiquan by Li Wen-Bin

Shang Yun-Xiang Style Xingyiquan by Li Wen-Bin

    Okay before I review this book two things to get off my chest.  First.  Although my interest in the internal Chinese martial arts is new, and I have been reading up on some of them, my experience with Xingyi consists of one class with Allen Carroll in Atlanta.  Second, for full disclosure purposes, I was given this book by the publisher, Blue Snake Books, for the purposes of reviewing it.  Phew, not that that's over, on to the review.

    Let me start off with this first impression of the book.  It is dense.  Even though there is 290 pages, each page seems to be filled to the brim with information.  After finishing it, I felt that I needed to read it again, just to get the second layer of information from it.  One of the things I particularly liked about this book was when it gave you the names it did so in the Chinese characters, the English lettering translation(what I would call romanji if this were Japanese), and then the English language translation. This was cool to me, as I can read a character or two (from studying Japanese) here and there, and it added to the depth that I was able to assimilate some of the information.


    The title of this book says a lot about what the content is.  This book covers one style Shang Yun-Xian, of the Chinese martial art Xingyiquan.  This does in no way distract from its value.  If fact the first part of the book is dedicated to telling you the differences between Shang style, and other styles of Xingyi.  The author, Mr. Li Wen-Bin, then went on to explain why these differences were in place, even siting the original art that Xingyi was derived from Xinyi.  Even though I'm not familiar enough with Xingyi, I appreciated the open discussion on his part.  Included in the first third of the book is a discussion on how and why Xingyi works, and why it is an internal art, as well as how it is linked to the ideas of traditional Chinese medicine.
  The second part of the book goes through the ideas of the key stance and what are called the five fists.  Again, the author explains, in terms of internal arts and traditional Chinese medicine, why Shang style teaches them in a different sequence than most Xingyi.  For those that don't know, there are five elements in Chinese ideology: Earth, Fire, Water, Metal, and Wood.  The reason for the difference has to do with the cycle of elements, how each if encouraged by a different element in the cycle, and how each element is linked to one of the five fists.  The book then, in very detailed description, goes through some of the Xingyi forms, in a way that can be easily interpreted from the combination of description and illustration.  Each form also includes a description of what the purpose of the form is, or rather, what should be learned/studied through that particular form.
    The third and last part of the book follows the pattern set in the second, but describes some of the weapons forms, including broadsword, jian sword, staff, and spear.  Again, with diligence, the forms could be done from just the description and illustration alone.


    There are many good points about this book.  Like I said earlier, this book is DENSE.  There is a lot of information and effort put into this book, and you can tell.  The tone doesn't convey the typical "why my style is better" mood, but rather, it reads more like an argumentative essay where the author says "here's what's different about my style, and here are my reasons why the differences are there."  There isn't any sense of condemnation or superiority, just a explanation of why, and I liked that .
    In the forms section, as I said, the pictures and description are very will done, which is hard to do.  Trying to show a system of movements in still photography is a skill all in itself, and this book does it well.  If you wanted to learn the form, you of course still need an instructor to critique you, but this book does a good job giving you the basic framework to build those critiques on.


    There is only one real complaint I have with this book, and it has more to do with me than the book.  This book is written for people who already have at least a decent background in Xingyi.  For example, several times it referred to "the classics of Xingyi" or the "songs of Xingyi," which I was not familiar with.  The author did explain somewhat what the information contained in them was, but i just didn't have that reference point in common with the author.


    Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5  Ninja Stars.  The book is well written, the illustrations and techniques are easy to follow, and I enjoyed the tone of the book.  I just think I wasn't part of the intended audience.  If I was a practitioner of Xingyi, or if I was starting out in Xingyi, this would be a great book.  I have a feeling that if I were to start studying Xingyi, then this would be a book I would read every couple of years, and gain new insights every time I read it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My martial inspiration for this week

Your Martial Thoughts Hosts: Mariano, Rick, Plinio, Jaredd and Tony
    I just got back from our system's annual seminar, a memorial to Dr. Moses Powell, my instructor's instructor.  Normally, I train in South Florida with my instructor, but because I've moved to Nashville, I haven't had the opportunity for a while now.  For about 2 months now, I haven't been able to train, and I didn't realize how much I really missed it.
    It started on the drive down there.  I picked up Mariano (see Episode XV of Martial Thoughts Podcast) on the way, and we started talking martial arts.  This started to get my martial mind back in order.  By the time Friday night came about, I was reved for the seminar.  Because of the time off, I was rusty.  I had expected this to happen.  My mind could remember what I was supposed to do, but my body wasn't quite up to it.  The mind-body coordination was off.  However, what surprised me was how quickly, the flow came back.  I really did think I was going to have to re-learn a lot.  I guess I've been doing it long enough that some of that information stuck.  Our theme for this year was something along the lines of taking aikido, and making it a practical self-defense art.  I don't know how successful we were at doing this, but there was a lot of tough practice, and hard falls.
  The next morning, the seminar started at 10:00.  Which means I had to get up relatively early to make it to the dojo by 9:00 (I needed A LOT of warm up time, even before the warm-ups).  I woke up excited to go again.  Excited, but sore.  I realized as I was entering the dojo, and putting on my backup gi (the first one was soaked through), that I was smiling.  I couldn't wait to get back on the mat.  We trained hard for about 4 hours, and then went out with friends, to do what? martial arts.  I then had to drive the 14 hour trip back home on Sunday, so that I could work on Monday.  This may have been the best answer for the seminar is a long time to think over everything I just was taught.  Digestion time.  It gave me time to unfold the origami of information I had just given.  I vowed to start going to martial arts again.  I realized how incomplete I was feeling without it.  And not just the physical part, though that is important, but the social/tribal part of martial arts as well.  I missed everything that is martial.
    I guess my take away for this week is that everyone should go to a seminar occasionally, even if it's not in your system.  Try them out, and see how inspiring they are to you.

    In the comments section, please tell me about your seminar experience, both good and bad.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Episode XVIII-The Nightmare Before Podcast Shownotes

Episode XVIII-The Nightmare Before Podcast

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Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: Wednesday October 22nd, 2014


Intro:  This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson

  Dr. Moses Powell Memorial Seminar

Interlude Music: Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden

Interview with: Noel Plaugher

  Qi Gong
  Shou Shu
  Moore's Family Shou Shu
  Standing Qi Gong
  Xing Yi Chuan
  Standing QiGong for Health and Martial Arts

Interlude Music: The Ripper by Judas Priest

This Week in Martial Arts: October 28th, 1860 = Birthday of Jigoro Kano
  Tenjin Shin'yo ryu
  Kito ryu
  Kodokan dojo

Contact Information
Twitter Account@martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Vincent Price by Deep Purple

Friday, October 10, 2014

Are you a "Warrior"?

The Advertising of Martial Arts

The Ultimate Warrior?  Really?
    Martial arts have to be marketed.  I understand some extent.  My income and livelihood doesn't rely on martial arts, so I can afford to have a more superior attitude about trying to get new students.  However, I don't begrudge those that do.  At some point, it is my goal to open my own dojo.  At which point I'll have to join in on all the buzz word fun.  But for now, I want to poke fun at many of them.  Here's a list of buzz words that bug me (hah! buzz...bug), what I think they are trying to mean, and how they are often abused.  Open up any martial arts magazine, or the Yellow Pages (do we even have those any more?) and you'll see adds splattered with these words.


    This adjective is often used to describe martial arts in advertising.  I'm guessing, in order to distinguish them from "unrealistic" martial arts?  If its a realistic martial art, then I'm guessing they train you how to run away from 3 on 1 situations, or when both the guys attacking you have weapons.  Because from what research I've done, that's how realistic attacks happen.  It isn't going to be a civil one-on-one at the bar that we see in movies.  Its going to be a person, or often people, taking whatever advantage they think they can get.  They're not looking for competition, they're looking for a resource, or social standing.  (See anything by Wilder and Kane for the difference between social and asocial violence).  They should teach awareness, avoidance, Rory Miller's Monkey Dance, and the effects of adrenaline.  They should teach eye gouges in close combat, they should teach about the medical effects of having your intestines go septic from a knife wound after getting stabbed.  They should have a lawyer talk to you about the realities and costs of self-defense, and how to defend yourself legally.  That's realistic self-defense.
        What I think their point in calling an art realistic is that it is not a sport martial art.  If they are saying that they train you to not think in terms of rules, then maybe realistic has a place.  One of my favorite quotes is by, of all people, Mike Tyson "Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth."  Most people that I've talked to who have had "real" encounters have said there isn't time to apply many techniques, and that quick and simple works the best.  Realistic could mean that: They have a limited number, highest chance of success, list of techniques that they train and practice with.  Then I guess realistic would apply.


    If you look at a martial art from a hoplogical position, every martial art is effective in a certain context.  They example I read was from knife techniques.  Filipino knife martial arts are great, and very different from Japanese tanto (knife) techniques.  As a generalization, the Filipino focus more of fast movements and quick attacks, where as the Japanese practice precision and reinforced power.  In the barrios of Manila, the Japanese tanto attacks would probably get you killed in a conflict situation.  However, if you took the Filipino art and put it against an armored samurai, they would suffer the same fate.  Would Filipino techniques and methodology work if you were in a Wisconsin winter where everyone has 3-5 layers of clothing on?  Just know what your context is for your martial arts effectiveness, and practice within the knowledge of those parameters, and they are all effective.
    When an advertisement says effective, I believe they are again comparing it to sport martial arts, or they are preying on our need to distinguish truth from lies.  Most of us traditional martial artists take it on faith that our techniques will work in realistic circumstances because we don't train them in realistic circumstances.  We can see how they would work, but never IF they would work.  That's a pretty big flaw in most training sessions.


    I put these two together, because they seem to argue directly against each other, and can be dealt with using the same logic.  From what I can understand, Traditional is supposed to mean that there is a lineage, and that the art is taught as it was for the last several hundred years.  It is usually steeped in the cultural aspect of the martial arts as well.  Modern means, they have gotten rid of all the cultural trappings of the martial art, and have cut away all that "useless" stuff.  They are most likely a hodgepodge martial arts system which takes "the best techniques of judo, karate, and kali, and blends them together" or something of that sort.  Sound familiar?  Both advertising motivations are great if that's what you're looking for.  Some people want a cultural aspect.  They want to use the martial arts as a doorway into the mysterious orient.  Some people don't care about the cultural part, and just want the highlights.  The modern tends to have the same motivational factor as "Effective."  Just because it blends different styles together doesn't mean it is in any way superior to the original system.  On the same note, just because it has been passed down for over 5 generations doesn't mean it is any more realistic or authentic.  Everyone who does a martial art changes the art for themselves.  Aikido is less than a century old, with many of the original students of O-Sensei still alive, and yet there are so many fractions that it is impossible to keep track of them.  Why?  Did the students break from tradition to form a modern version of aikido?  No, they just taught what they saw aikido is/was.


    Perhaps no word has been co-opted more than the term warrior.  There are two ways to look at this term.  One is in the strictest definition of someone who has gone to war for the purpose of eliminating another institution's soldiers and possibly civilians.  It is a a very grey area of the human psyche.  My father was in Vietnam, and I know people who have been in our modern middle eastern conflicts (Iraq and Afghanistan).  They are warriors in that definition.  Someone who trains hard in martial arts back here in the states is not.
    I think the reason warrior is used in martial arts marketing so much is because of the romantic view of warriors.  Soldiers returning from the war, the conquering heroes, and such.  We even, as a society, respect the side effect traits of being a warrior, the discipline, the assertiveness, et. al.  Its just the actual traits of warriorship we don't like.
    In a broader sense, just as Japanese arts have a -jutsu and a -do version of martial arts for the purposes of developing warrior characteristics, we want the side effect traits of being a warrior, or the benefits of going through warrior training.  We want to have a "warrior mindset."  I understand what that is supposed to mean, but everyone I've talked to who's been in war situation doesn't want to be in a war mindset.  We hear the stories of people who are able to overcome unimaginable obstacles in times of war, and we want some of that.  And I do think we should encourage that ideal today, but there should be a different term than warrior, and I don't know what that should be.

    In conclusion, I understand their use in advertisement.  If you were a newbie looking for martial arts schools, how would you respond to an honest assessment of the arts?  "Are you looking for hard work, years of frustration, and little chance of financial reward?  Come sign up for aikido!"  I understand the use of these buzz words, but I think they get overused, and as such loose their meaning.  My wife in an English teacher and she keeps preaching to me about word economy.  If you describe this sandwich as being awesome, what words do you use to describe the birth of your first child?  I think that's what's happening in our martial arts advertising world.  So maybe we, as martial artists should practice some humility and economy when describing our beloved arts.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Episode XVII-Raiders of the Lost Podcast Shownotes

Episode XVII-Raiders of the Lost Podcast

Download the Podcast HERE

Recorded: Thursday October 9th, 2014


Intro:  Theme from "Enter the Dragon" by Lalo Schifri

  Indiana Jones
  Moses Powell Memorial Seminar
  Piranha Gear T-Shirt Contest Winner: Lando Moes
  Jackie Chan
  Drunken Master
Interlude Music: Barracuda by Heart

Interview with: Andrea Harkins of
  Warrior Radio
  Tang Soo Do
  Ronda Rousey
  Woman's Self-Defense vs. Self-Defense
  Sensei Ando (

Interlude Music: Bad Reputation by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

This Week in Martial Arts: October 9th, 1932
  "Judo" Gene Lebell
    Roast of Gene LeBell by Chuck Norris and Bob Wahl
  Elvis (Presely)
  The Green Hornet
    Talks about Bruce Lee
  Rush Hour
    Jackie Chan
    Chris Tucker

Contact Information
Twitter Account: @martialthoughts
Atemicast Youtube Channel

Outro Music: Voodoo Chile-Jimi Hendrix / Gayageum ver. by Luna

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Enjoy your plateau

  1. 1.
    an area of relatively level high ground.
  2. 2.
    a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.

  1. 1.
    reach a state of little or no change after a time of activity or progress.

  Any time anyone is learning a new skill, whether its martial arts or learning to play guitar, or anything else that you can get immediate feedback on, there is always an initial burst of improvement.  They can very quickly tell that they are getting better.  They can can see, hear, feel the improvement.  That has to do with the fact that they had so little skill that ANY improvement is a big improvement.  In the dojo, this is what happens to newbies the first couple months.  They enjoy martial arts so much in that time.  Eventually they stop feeling like you are improving.  The new martial artist will practice and practice, and their skill doesn't seem to be getting any better.  They've reached their plateau.  This is usually when they leave because they feel something is wrong.  Either with them, or the instructor, or ... whatever.
The learning curve?
  This doesn't just happen with new martial artists.  It can happen with anyone.  Personally I hit a plateau after I'd been studying for about 10 years.  Sure I'd had little plateaus before, but with focus and extra practice, I got through them.  But this one was different.  It was more resistant, and it lasted for about a year.  I did what I normally did, and practiced harder, longer.  But I never say any improvements in my techniques.  And I was thinking about testing for my next belt, which made this extra worse than normal.
  I didn't know it at the time, but these plateaus are a natural part of the learning process.This is where the real detailed learning actually happens.  My body, without me knowing, was concentrating on learning the details, and building a sensation database.  The best part is it is usually followed by a huge leap in abilities.  And I actually experienced this.  One day, I was just moving better.  My timing was better, and my intuition for attacks were better.

  There are a some things you can do while plateauing.  

1. Stick with it.  

  There are going to be plateaus in any learning pattern.  How you deal with them is also part of the learning curve.  You will get through it, and you will be better for it.  Your skills are improving, but not necessarily as quickly as they were before..

2. Specify your practice

  Pick one thing you want to improve on, and no "martial arts" is not an answer.  The more specific the better.  Work on one particular technique. Or your footwork on one particular set of movements.  Or your hand position while punching.  Something like that.

3. Change your focus

  If you are having trouble with the physical aspect of martial arts at that moment, pick another aspect.  This may be a good time to learn more of the history or philosophy of your art.  I've yet to find a martial art that doesn't have a dozen or so books on it.  And libraries are great resources.  I check out the books from the library, read them, and then decide if they're worthy of being in my collection.

  So if you experience a plateau, be grateful for it.  Don't try to force your way through it.  Even though it is frustrating, it's part of the learning process.  The most important thing to remember is to not get frustrated and think that something is wrong.  Enjoy it.