Friday, May 29, 2009

Cold Steel polypropylene kali / escrima / arnis stick review

Summary: Good, solid, very similar characteristics to rattan. Probably will out-last your rattan sticks.

CIMG0293Got some new polypropylene sticks from (also available on
). I had a friend, Jeremy Michael Jones, who also practices Kali recommend I get them. They're 32" in length and 1" in diameter, manufactured by Cold Steel. I've taken some photos of them next to other weapons so you can compare visually. From the description:

Unlike rattan, it resists mildew, and won’t dry out, warp, crack splinter or shrink, and with the use of a saw, it can easily be modified to any length... is easy to clean and is so resistant to impact stresses and the elements, that it is virtually unbreakable and practically indestructible.

First impressions:
  • Heavy. Heavier than my rattan ones. Not surprising given that many natural woody materials have a very high strength-to-weight ratio. Even my 1 1/2" diameter rattan sticks are lighter than these and these new ones that are only 1" diameter. To me this is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
  • Good quality. They feel solid, sturdy, etc. In the photo you may notice that they look like they're put together in sections, but they are one solid piece. I think the sections are for grip and visual purposes.
  • Slightly flexible. They slightly more bendy than rattan. I've never used white wax wood, but from what I've seen of it in videos this seems pretty similar. If you're used to rattan they feel fine.
  • Look great. Visually, out of the box, they look fantastic. Would probably be excellent for demos.
  • Vibration normal. Feedback from stick-to-your-hand is about the same as rattan. I was worried about this when I bought them because I've used some materials that are very poor in this regard. I give these a thumbs up so far.
  • CIMG0290
    If you view the large sized photo of this you can see the 'sections' as well as the grain.
    Comfortable, good grip. They're textured and have a close-to wood grain look and feel. They have a bamboo-like shape to them - not rattan. Bamboo tapers in and out at each 'seam', while rattan doesn't. it's not as significant as the bamboo taper though. Makes me think maybe the designer didn't know what rattan was, but I like the grip better. Bob Ross would call it a happy little mistake.
  • Durable, but to what end? I'm very skeptical about this claim. I gave them a few hard whacks on each other as well as with another rattan stick. Obviously they won't splinter, but after a good hard hit there is (of course) noticeable wear. I would imagine you could wear these down to a much smaller diameter eventually, but it would probably take awhile, but certainly less than a lifetime. Whoever deemed these "practically indestructible" probably has not met a serious Kali practitioner. We'll see though, maybe I'm way off and they'll out-live me.

Other thoughts:
  • Probably can't carve a handle into them.. although you probably wouldn't want to with 1" diameter.
  • If you use larger sticks (over 1" diameter) for conditioning reasons you'll probably be fine with these. While they're easier to hold, they're certainly heavier.
  • I hit my hands and limbs a bunch with them. They hurt more than rattan, but not by much.
  • Cost-wise these need to last 50-300% (.5-3x) longer than a rattan stick to be worth it for training. While I question their "indestructibleness" I do think they'll probably last longer. They're about $16-20 each wherever you buy them online. I looked a lot of places and basically anywhere you buy them they come out to about $45/pair including shipping.

Editor's opinion: Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to dull a knife or sword blade

My first instructional video. You can watch it in HD too!
Pretty self-explanatory. Apologies for the background noise.

First of all: Don't do this if you don't need to. You're better off using training weapons that have little or no metal in them. This is for stunt purposes and for people who like to train on a level bordering crazy. I never use these if I'm just doing normal training with someone else. Don't go full speed, don't deliberately make contact with them, etc.

Remember you can also tape the edges of your blade to make it dull. I recommend both dulling and taping if you're not on camera.

Basically it's just about flattening the initial edge that the blade comes with and then rounding it all off. I developed this method during the filming of the Casey Jones movie. It perplexed my that even though I flattened out the blades, they were still sharp. That's where the rounding comes in.

Dull your tips if you can too.. most of the time they won't show up on camera anyway.

Machete and file from Harbor Freight. Great store, lots of cheap stuff.

Be very careful. Even dulled you can be seriously injured. Blades also get nicks in them when you hit them blade to blade. Tape can disguise nicks. Make sure to re-file/round them down when this happens.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Training with a stuntman: Louis Moncivias Gutierrez

Louis Moncivias Gutierrez and Danny Trejo
Louis with Danny Trejo
I'm currently training with stuntman Louis Moncivias Gutierrez. Louis is not only a stuntman, but also a stunt coordinator and choreographer. He's been in movies such as The Alamo (2004) and the upcoming Snuff (2010). He doubled for Danny Trejo in Machete (2010). He also did the fight stunts in the University of Texas Film Institute (UTFI)'s first feature-length film Dance with the one. Louis does a ton of different types of stunts - horse, explosive, high falls, etc. We're of course concentrating on fight scene style stunts and choreography.

I've been using my method developed in my post on fight choreography notation to document our movements. This was the precise application I was looking for to use the notation system. Here's a sample of part of one of our scenes that uses weapons:

Louis Jesse
a12 a12
spin 300 kick
a4 lowline block
a4 lowline block
spin a3 lowline block
spin a3 lowline block
roof block a0
hollow out a3
left front kick to belly double over
a12 a2

It's proved to be incredibly easy to use. I can take notes swiftly with it with pen and paper as we do the movements. Used in conjunction with video recording it will be invaluable to our own choreography and, as I hope and believe, the future of fight choreography in general.

Fighting in a manner that is not designed to really kill the other person is tripping me up quite a bit. Things such as following through with motions and using full-power strikes is not as easily done. Telegraphing motion (mildly) is useful rather than bad technique, at least during initial training.

Regardless of all this, coming in near-full-contact is a great training mechanism for myself as a martial artist.

We're going to be doing some rather cool stuff. Louis will be doing most (if not all) the more dangerous aspects of this (not that fighting with metal blades at full speed isn't dangerous). I'll take some photos/videos as we go along and keep you updated.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If martial arts were dance styles

Found a post about "Salsa is the Kung Fu of Dance". The post is rather interesting as a whole. I know my movement in general - dance, walking, running, lifting things, opening cabinets, vacuuming, etc - has been greatly affected by my studying martial arts.

I made a comment on their post asking for other parallels of styles of martial arts to dancing styles. In my impatience for a reply I've started thinking up a few of my own. This is similar to my post on if martial arts were programming languages:

  • Wing Chun would be Salsa - fast, jerky, high-energy and intensity
  • Tae Kwon Do would be Tango - a ridiculous amount of leg usage with barely any upper-body.
  • Aikido would be Belly Dancing - focus on the center of the body.
  • Capoeira would be Capoeira - hah.
  • Krav Maga would be the Electric Slide - anyone can learn it relatively fast, simple but effective, doesn't really look like most other styles and no quarter will be given if you use it.

Unfortunately my knowledge of the dance world is rather limited. Here's a list of styles of dance. Take a look and if you know a style and some martial arts comment and add to the list. Of particular interest/fun:
  • xxxxx would be Lap dancing - what will be crowned the sexiest martial art?
  • xxxxx would be Tap dancing - the loudest art that is also rythmic and involves metal plates on shoes?
  • xxxxx would be Line dancing - lots of group form (kata?) and cowboy hats?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Geekstravaganza recap

CIMG0145Got back from Geekstravaganza here in Austin. It was a lot of fun: martial arts, music (check out Marian, she rocks), talent show, geek trivia, costumes, prizes and tons of geeky stuff. Met all the guys from Cry Havoc. They're martial arts performers and have some pretty neat stuff. Interestingly one of the guys that performed with them was a guy I met during the filming of Casey Jones.

I took 3rd place in the air combat competition. This is the first-ever air combat contest.. we'll need to put things together a little better next time. Pulled out a lot more capoeira than I anticipated I would.

I took some pictures while there as well. My girlfriend, Lauren, won first place in the geek costume contest. She went as Link from the Zelda video game series.

The Beast

The Beast cannot destroy you if not given the opportunity.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fighting in air combat contest tomorrow at Geekstravaganza!

I've signed up to "fight" in the Geekstravaganza air combat contest tomorrow in Austin. Here's a video for what they may be expecting:

I'll be throwing in every art I've got, so they better be ready. I'd imagine my performance will be somewhat over-the-top and un-practical as I'm winning judges and a crowd and not an actual fight. Maybe throw some video-game and movie fighting moves and physics into the mix if I can. Wish me luck!

Geekstravaganza is a charity geekfest the Austin Browncoats host to raise money for a worthy cause while uniting Geeks, Nerds and Browncoats alike. This year, we're supporting SafePlace, in their goal to end sexual and domestic violence through safety, healing, prevention and social change.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Street fight is not the same as self defense

Summary: While both being on "the street", a street fight and a self defense situation are two incredibly different things. Included is a chart listing the differences.

Street fights greatly differ from self defense situations. Even on the 'rule-less' street there are rules, mores and unique environmental factors that exist during fights that do not in self defense scenarios. I talk a lot about the two and it should be understood that they are very different from each other.

Street fightSelf defense situation
Sometimes planned. Generally, all participants can see signs of a fight coming.Victim has no plan. Often planned by attacker.
Often has many observers. Many are close to those fighting.Attackers work to make sure their victims are as isolated as possible.
Is often understood to be one-on-one and not multiple attackersAttacker wants odds on his side as much as possible. Multiple attackers common. Will rarely attack groups of people.
Doesn't usually involve weaponsOften involves weapons, sometimes victim has a weapon as well.
Often a feud between people. Goal is to 'win' the fight and usually does not involve death. Sometimes seen as a fair way to settle a dispute, but can also just be a way of signaling dominance.Goal is some sort of property theft - money, life, etc. Not about winning or losing.
Often has understood rules that vary greatly depending on the fight. Cultural values reflect highly here and 'dirty fighting' techniques are sometimes frowned upon. Examples: no eye gouging, no groin shots, no kicking, no biting, etc.Absolutely no rules.

These are general differences. The chart is purely for reference and to understand that there usually are differences between the two. These specifications vary greatly between situations.

Always remember that competitive fighting is not equivalent to street fighting or self defense.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who I follow on Twitter

This is a pretty non-martial arts, personal thing, but I have a lot of followers on Twitter who follow me because of this blog. I like finding real people on Twitter and I don't follow people just because they follow me.

Who I follow:
  • People who have similar interests. Usually more than one is good. Programmer+martial artist, anarchist/libertarian+web designer, ENFP+armchair environmentalist, austinite+dome lover, etc.
  • People who have a reasonable number of followers. There are a lot of scams and scammers out there and everyday people on Twitter are some of them. If you're following all you can just to get people to follow you I think that's pretty lame. Your 'network' is generally pretty artificial and I'd rather follow hashtags than you.
  • People that engage me in conversation. Sometimes people follow me and I won't follow them right away because I'm unsure if we really have much of a connection. A lot of times people just follow you so you'll follow them and they can inflate their follower-base. Silly. Conversation and legitimate interest sparks my interest too.
  • People who have interesting updates. If all you twitter about is your everyday life I probably don't care. If you have interesting hobbies or contribute interesting things I probably do care.
  • People who reply to others. If all you do is pump out data I'm uninterested.
  • People who have a reasonable number of updates per day. I've unfollowed quite a few people because I don't like my feed getting clogged by a bunch of almost spam-level random crap that I don't care about.

I haven't built up a ridiculous following of people I don't care about because I started on Twitter with this philosophy. I'm just providing it as a guide.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Defend against a front choke - Crappy technique of the week

So your attacker just stands there choking you with his hands.. not pushing you up against a wall, not down to the ground.. just stands there. You took a bite of his cheeseburger so he's only mildly upset.

Solution? Horse stance!, twist to the side, put your arm up and do the choo choo motion.

What you should do

Hit him first. Always incapacitate first if you have the option.

Your attacker is likely bigger and has more reach than you so a kick to the groin is probably most appropriate here. If he/she isn't then just hit whatever you can, you've got all your limbs free. If you can reach the face, poke the eyes as this will assist you in escaping.
If you're on the ground and can't hit or kick - pinch, scream and bite. This is generally a more complex situation to be in, but if you can get your attacker to flinch away and release you have a better chance of following up with other attacks such as bucking and kicking and then you can escape.

One of my biggest complaints of many martial arts techniques is their complexity. Martial artists often go out of their way to find the "most bodily efficient" or coolest technique instead of the most instinctive or useful. This is a shining example. Admittedly the technique in this video is effective as an escape. The problem is that it skips some very obviously more useful and more instinctive options.

Also, props for demonstrating in real-world attire (I'm actually serious about this). Even went as far as to wear the heels. Nobody attacks you on the street when you're wearing a gi.

Monday, May 11, 2009

If programming languages were martial arts

ASM (assembly language) program for PIC 16F630In being both a programmer of many languages and a martial artist of many arts, this is pretty funny to me:
  • Fortran would be Greco-Roman wrestling
  • Lisp would be Aikido.
  • C would be plain old Karate.
  • C++ is Judo.
  • VB would be Western boxing.
  • Perl would be Jujitsu.
  • Java would be Tai Chi.
  • Javascript would be Krav Maga.
  • PHP would be Tae Kwon Do.
  • Ruby would be Brazillian Jujitsu.
  • Erlang would be Wing Chun kung fu.
  • Haskell would be White Crane kung fu.

Definitely check out all the details on why which is which on Matt's blog.

The TKD:PHP comparison is hilarious. No offense to Tae Kwon Do folks, but TKD gets this reputation from all the TKD McDojos out there.

Can't say I entirely agree with the list, but it's certainly amusing. Disappointed to see no Kali on the list though. I'd change/add:

Ruby would be Krav Maga: It's trendy, one of the quickest arts to learn and be effective, and very real-world useful, but it certainly isn't everything the martial arts world has to offer.

Kali / Escrima / Arnis would be Fill in the blank for me here I'm not familiar enough with low-level languages: It doesn't stop at self defense.. oh no. It has a million ways to brutally kill you, but that only comes after it unrecognizably cuts you up first. If you make a mistake you won't just get punched in the face, you'll likely lose your entire head.

Python would be MMA: Tons of people started to like it because it's used by a few famous people. Most fans think that it is an unbeatable style of fighting and that nothing can top it. Unfortunately for them though, it has some rules that the sane world knows will always keep it from being the end-of-all styles and it isn't as effective in all situations as its proponents want you to believe.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Understanding Kali sticks

Summary: Kali sticks are not what Kali is all about. The sticks are a representation of any weapon.

Some typical Kali weapons. From left to right: cellphone and pen (for size reference), balisong, padded stick, short stick (21 inches) with handle, expandable baton, machete, 1 inch diameter stick 28 inches long, taped stick, 1 1/4 inch diameter stick, padded stick 28 inches in length
A misconception of most people while watching Kali / Escrima / Arnis being practiced is that it's all about fighting with sticks. Even many Kali practitioners believe this to be the case. It is often referred to as "stick fighting". However, the sticks represent much more.

A great training weapon

Rattan sticks are used because they are a safe, effective training tool. Rattan is cheap, durable, light-weight and does not splinter. It's softer than most hard woods (safer to be hit with), but still solid. It can readily be cut to different sizes as well as sanded (to make handles of different shapes) and fire hardened. All of these properties make it an ideal training material. These properties make it ideal for other martial arts, activities and sports as well such as heavy combat in the Society for Creative Anachronism and the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation.

A representation of any weapon

While one can use a stick or any blunt weapon as an actual fighting weapon, in Kali the stick is a representation of any weapon of similar size, shape and function. Long sticks could be representative of a bat, sword, shield, machete, mace, baton or even more 'improvised' weapons such as an umbrella, lead pipe, fireplace poker, pool cue, wrench and yes - even a stick you pick up off the ground. A shorter stick could be representative of a knife, beer bottle, candlestick, or screwdriver.

All of this goes back to the topic of transferable technique (also known as One technique, many weapons): What is learned with one weapon should be easily transferred to the next. This means all weapons, including the empty hand.

A weapon of its own and the stick historically

While today it serves as mostly a representation, the stick as a weapon on its own is useful. Blunt (non bladed) weapons are extremely common historically and, from what I have heard and read, the stick has a significant place in Filipino warrior history. Bladed weapons were not immediate parts of any culture of the world. The stick is an example of early weapons 'technology'.

Sticks were not always blunt. Warriors would sharpen the tips of their sticks to a point, possibly even a bladed point. These were used just as you might expect - for stabbing and slashing. It was common for the tips to be dipped in various poisons before battle to ensure the death of the enemy.

It's not just a stick

It's not just about fighting with sticks. There is a lot more to Kali and Filipino martial arts as a whole. I highly recommend you try Kali as an art.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Knife flip trick video in slow motion

My first video! I just got my Casio EX-F1 today. This is filmed at 300 frames per second (fps).

This isn't particularly martial artsy, but it is a weapon, and it is a potentially combatively-useful trick. Mostly it's just flashy though and I wanted to show you guys something in slow motion that was worthwhile to show in slowmo.

I'll be posting more videos soon. I've got a whole bunch planned and a few already scripted - just need to film them. Stay tuned.

Music credit: promotoingcrap

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Crappy technique of the week: "choke" the man with a gun

Hands on his hips.. goin' for a gun on his side, so I smack 'im in the face, put him in a shoulder lock (because he couldn't possibly reach for the gun with his other hand), then I RELEASE the shoulder lock, let BOTH his hands free and do a "choke" on him.

So you needlessly switch takedown technique (shoulder hold to neck hold) while simultaneously leaving your attacker's arms free to grab his weapon and never even mention a disarm. Nice work.

Also, that's not a choke, it's a neck lock. Fine for pain compliance, but you're not going to put anyone out quickly (or at all) by cutting off circulation to one side of the neck when his entire body has room to wiggle.

To quote a youtube commenter (always useful input there! hah.): "You could learn more from the karate skit Jim Carey did for 'In Living Color' than this crock."

In general I hate expertvillage. I swear the entire organization is built around finding unqualified people to teach.

What you should do

Go for the hand that is reaching for the gun first. Whatever technique you end up doing, make sure you disarm the attacker.

Screaming for self defense

Summary: The scream is a very effective ultra-close-range fighting technique

One technique you will see seldom taught, even by those who teach 'dirty fighting', is the scream. Effects:

A scream can generate around 100-125 decibels of sound pressure(loudness) (the world record is supposedly 112.8dB, but some say higher (125 at 8 feet away)). This is around the same as a jackhammer or power saw at 3 feet away. Whatever the scientific case, if you've ever had someone scream near your ear you know it's not pleasant.

When to use it

You'll most likely be in a grappling situation for this to work, but other situations such as a bear hug, clinch or anything similar literally head-to-head situation will work.

Generally if you're close enough to your attacker to pull off a scream directly in the ear you should be putting your fingers in his eyes/ears/nose. Of course though, simultaneous attack is always recommended if you can do it safely. In the case of screaming it's one weapon you have that you can employ with almost zero risk for counter-attack. Biting is somewhat dangerous because of blood-borne diseases. Screaming is a good alternative. Assess your situation appropriately.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) and screaming

On an interesting sidenote:

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rules and many other MMA sporting events do not explicitly state "no screaming". This is a pretty clear indication of how ineffective even professional fighters and some martial artists (incorrectly) view screaming. However there is of course an everything-clause:
22. Engaging in an unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to an opponent.

So you probably still shouldn't do it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Book - Street Sword: Practical Use of the Long Blade for Self-Defense

This is truly a bizarre book. Summary:
The sword has been a brutally effective weapon for thousands of years, but try to find instruction on using one for self-defense today and you're liable to find nothing but books written by dojo-dwelling, gi-wearing martial artists hung up on ancient traditions and picture-perfect stances. For the modern sword aficionado looking for real-world advice, author and pragmatic martial artist Phil Elmore wipes the slate clean with Street Sword.

I thought this was a joke at first, but judging by the reviews the topic is presented at least fairly seriously. I agree with Elmore's assessment that sword martial arts, and I'll say most all martial arts, are taught with an elitist, non-tested, non-scientific mentality. I also agree that you could be extremely effective with a sword on the street.

I won't comment on Phil Elmore's ability to teach realistic, effective sword technique as I do not know him nor have I read this book. Again, from the reviews, it sounds like his information is probably better than what you would find at most martial arts schools today. But, who carries around a sword?

Not sure what to make of this. What do you think?

UPDATE: Phil sent me an email with some more information. Read here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Merantau: A Silat martial arts movie

Summary: Some kid leaves home, sees a girl getting hurt and decides he's going to save the world by taking down a human-trafficking network all by himself using his superduper martial arts skills.

Here's the official trailer:

Plot summary:
After a series of setbacks leave Yuda homeless and uncertain about his new future, a chance encounter results in him defending the orphaned Astri from becoming the latest victim of a European human trafficking ring led by the wildly psychotic, Ratger and his right-hand man Lars. With Ratger injured in the mêlée and seeking both his "merchandise" and bloody retribution, Yuda's introduction to this bustling city is a baptism of fire as he is forced to go on the run with Astri and her younger brother Adit as all the pimps and gangsters that inhabit the night hound the streets chasing their every step. With escape seemingly beyond their grasp, Yuda has no choice but to face his attackers in an adrenaline charged, jaw-dropping finale.

Well you already read my take on that. Stupid plot for sure. Star character has no movie experience listed by IMDB. Looks like video quality is going to be good. Fight quality from the trailer looks decent, but nothing special. I think they're basically just trying to play off the whole Tony Jaa craze - not a bad move. My main complaint is that a lot of this (the actual fighting, not the beginning sequence) doesn't even look like Silat and I wanted a Silat movie.

To me it looks like Yet Another Martial Arts Movie (YAMAM).

Here's a video demonstrating some Silat stuff (watch the guys in red).. it's mixed with some Kali too:

Merantau @ IMDB
Thanks to Dudy A. Soedjantoko for telling me about the movie.

2 Month Anniversary!

Summary: It's been two months; tell me how I've been doing. I've got some plans for things to come

Today is this blog's two month anniversary.

While I'm surprised it's been this long I also realize I've created a ton of content. Growth through traffic and RSS subscriptions has been great.

Lately I've been wondering if anyone really cares about much that I write. I realize my perspective on martial arts is very different from most people's and I embrace that. However, I also realize that that fact alone limits readership as most people are one-style-only, not really into martial arts or just otherwise not interested. So far, those interested in my blog have generally been extremely dedicated martial artists who are also active on the web - that's a rather limited group of people. I anticipate it growing over the next few years though, especially with the rise of Mixed Martial Arts and the trend that I see toward people becoming more interested in real self defense.

I've got things planned for the future of this site. The general outlook is to provide more good content and more martial arts fundamentals all with a hard focus on practicality, realism and researched and tested fact. Going to be adding some video content very shortly as well.

Would love to hear your comments on how I've been doing so far.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Combaton: Martial arts combined with American football

Here's a short video:

Combaton combines American football with 'martial arts'. It appears, from watching the videos and looking at their rules, that this means something similar to competitive Tae Kwon Do (TKD). Quick summary of how you can strike:
  • Kicking is allowed above the hip, but not to the spine or back of the head
  • Punching is allowed to anywhere on the torso, but not the head (no mention of if you have to use a fist or you can strike other ways as well)
  • No grappling
  • You can push as long as you followup with a kick
  • No elbow strikes, but no rules on knee strikes

You score by kicking the goal pole (looks like a hanging baton):
A 3 point score is any standing kick (the support leg touching the ground). A 4 point kick is any jumping kick up to 180 degrees. A 5 point kick is a any 360 degree spinning kick.

Looks like the players all mostly wear the traditional TKD competitive vest with the red and blue spots on them under their football jerseys. The refs wear a gi-like uniform but with white and black referee colors (that's pretty corny).

I've never been a fan of TKD or football so this really isn't for me. High-kicking is generally a bad idea in most combative situations, however it actually makes some sense for a sport. I think it's certainly an interesting twist on sports. The rules at this time seem rather loose to me and I think if you got some serious players in the game (Muay Thai or MMA guys or anyone who knows what they're doing) it could get dangerous fast.

This will probably make it somewhere though because of the amount of interest in how TKD folks compete as well as in sports in general.