I can remember when I first started learning iKali I could not make sense of the flow.

Whenever I see our instructors or Tuhon demonstrate stick flow or blade flow my mind would go blank.

However, by following Tuhon’s excellent teaching program I find that I could begin to flow after the first two modules.

By the third module I actually did something I didn’t expect I could do which is to kneel while doing free flow. I had learned how to do the kneeling in the first module but that was by following a movement script.

In our progress assessment which was held after midnight (its actually early afternoon then in USA) I found myself doing the kneeling not once but twice. Normally I won’t do something I had never tried before and doing it in the midst of a free flow is risky in that it could interrupt my flow.

Here’s the first time I did it using double sticks :-

And here’s the second time using single blade :-

An excellent teacher inspires and Tuhon Apolo’s teaching definitely triggered something in me to be able to go beyond what I would normally do.

A Healthy Brain

Interesting talk from Wendy Suzuki, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the New York University Center for Neural Science!

I used to learn long Tai Chi forms which indirectly trained my mind to observe and remember. Then I learned Wing Chun.

When I went back to Tai Chi I had a problem learning long sequences and complicated movements again cause Wing Chun movements are so simple they basically made my mind lazy.

So one way out is by writing down, recording audio or video. This sounded like a good idea except it is but another exercise for the mind to be lazy.

One year my Tai Chi teacher said its time to stop writing notes and do recording. Instead, I should just rely on observing and remembering what I saw there and then, imprinting the lesson into my mind.

It was tough in the beginning but after a while it became easier. And you know what, learning this way is better than trying to remember everything. When you have notes you then to copy what you see, you become lazy to think.

As a result, you just become another monkey seeing, copying and doing. You shouldn’t do that. You are an intelligent person, you should exercise your brain, your creativity and grow from there. Think of it as exercise for the mind.

Sometimes we exercise the body and forget the mind, and sometimes we remember the mind but forget the body.

The remedy that Dr Suzuki mentioned at 10:05 could very well fit the one thing I am working on this week for my test. Let’s see something to do 3-4 times a week, 30 minutes per session, get the heart rate up – that’s basically what I did. One round of the sequence to be tested took about 11-15 minutes. So do it 3 times and it will fulfil the criterias mentioned.

And yes, you have to train yourself to remember the sequence to be tested. You have to understand how the transitions go, the why, examine them to make sure they flow smooth.

You also have to be mindful of what you are doing even as you step on the accelerator, cause sometimes when my mind wanders the stick may come too close to me and graze me. This is more so when going fast like the speed below :-

In this sequence we have to do the entire sequence under 60 seconds. With some training it is highly possible but the first time I did it I took more than 60 seconds.

With practice I got the time down to 53 seconds and this week I did it faster at 49 seconds. But guess what, I am still slower than one of our instructors, a lady, who did it at 37 seconds.

One round of this at a fast and furious speed would get the heart pumping, not to mention the sweat literally pouring out of every pore.

The older I get the more I should exercise. The objective to be healthy till the day I lie down, sleep and never wake up.

Complementing SKD with Kali

The body movement learned in iKali’s jab / cross combination is a good complement to SKD training.

If you have a problem getting the body to move when doing Sao Chui try working on the iKali jab / cross and see if it helps you to improve your Sao Chui.

The video below explains how we can just use the same body movement with either iKali or SKD techniques :-

This body movement is versatile. Put a blade in the hand and it works just as well.

Nice, huh?

Seeing Things Internal

Maybe its just me who is seeing it.

Maybe its my background.

But after practicing stick drills and how to throw a jab / cross the Kali way I feel that they offer a good alternative method to train the body mechanics we typically use in the internal Chinese arts.

When I first learned Kali I tried to bring my background into it. Its not a good idea as it prevents me from seeing things clearly. So I tried to train Kali as taught by Tuhon.

After learning and training for some time I am starting to feel that a rose by any other name is indeed a rose. So yes, I have not heard Tuhon use the term internal in Kali. I guess its a good thing cause everyone who does Tai Chi seems to go crazy when they hear the term and this prevents people from seeing things clearly.

In Kali body mechanics are used too; in fact just like any other good arts regardless of culture. Its inevitable when you see more similarities than differences at a certain stage.

In doing jab / cross we don’t just parry the opponent’s punch, we also have to move out of the way. Moving out of the way requires me to move side to side.

Coupled this with learning how to put the body behind the stick when we execute a slashing movement and we end up with body mechanics that are really reminiscent of what is practiced in the Chinese internal arts.

So when I put two and two together I get this internal-ish flavor. The clip aboves below is me seeing things that maybe are there, or maybe not.

When I do the parry followed by a jab or a cross sometimes I feel like a monkey waving its arms. See for yourself. Is it any wonder Kali kinda feels internal too. This doesn’t mean its the same for everyone else, just me.

In the end I think its not important whether its internal or not. The real question is whether it works for you or not.

Kali Empty Hand Sequence

I am not the biggest fan of kickboxing like sequences.

However, I kinda like this empty hand sequence from iKali. I can do it fast or slow. Here I do it at a slower pace.

This sequence also flows nicely at a faster speed. Its a good sequence to learn for basic body coordination, timing and alignment to prepare for learning how to apply the techniques for self-defence purposes.

Lunch Practice

This week I have to put in practice every day to prepare for my iKali test.

The hot weather is not helping. I take my tests seriously so weather be damned.

So we have a long sequence to go through to test how well we have learned how to handle the sticks, blade and move in empty hand techniques.

It wouldn’t have been that bad if we are going slow and easy. But no, to raise the bar we have to do it fast and furious. After all, how we train is likely to be how we actually move.

In a warm room at mid-day trying to go fast, trying not to stop too long, but keep the pace moving along is tough. I am breathing hard but I don’t want to stop. My doctor once told me to exercise the heart through brisk walking to pump it harder. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone.

This blade exercise is what beginners learn. Well, maybe a total beginner won’t move as fast initially. But with a little practice anyone can move fast.

This is another knife counter exercise. Its the last exercise in the sequence.

Doing this and the rest made me sweat so much I felt like I just went to the sauna.

These blade counters are kinda cool. Yeah, I’ll say they are cool but they are really practical and deadly. Wish I could post our training videos to show you the applications then you will see what I see in them.

If you live in SG and have the interest to learn drop a line in the comment below.

Moving Blade

Learning to use the blade is always fun.

As with the sticks learning and practicing the basics until we can do it in our sleep is important if we are to be able to use it when we really have to though hopefully never.

Being familiar means to chalk up the repetitions. To keep working on the same movements, expanding the same old, same old, until the unfamiliar comes alive.

Kali Moments

It is a funny moment but then maybe not.

Paul jumped the gun and tried out one of the movements in the iKali sinawali training sequence before he had observed the steps carefully.

I remember the first time I saw this sinawali sequence and I went, oh no, kneeling on not one but two knees. I prefer not to kneel on the ground cause its hard and worse than that is that the ground can be slippery from the sweat.

That’s why I use a mat. Still old man, old knees. But what the heck, its a challenge to do it, not just do it slowly but to do it fast. That’s why knowing the how helps a lot.

Then comes the next part, getting back up. This does not come naturally to me. Again, knowing how to do it makes it so much more easier.

At the end ot it I look at it as good exercise for the legs and the core. As both our age, Paul’s over 60 and I am going to 60 God knows we need our exercise.

Learning Kali

Would you buy life insurance that only takes effect 5 years from the date you signed up?

No, right?

If anything, you would expect the life insurance coverage to take effect once it has been accepted by the insurance company and you have paid the first premium.

Similarly, would you learn a combative art that takes a few years to get you to a decent level?

You would probably say no. However, the reality is that most learners would quietly accept this outlook.

In learning a combative art we don’t just want to know the lineage, the tradition, the techniques, the forms, the application, the color of the belt we can wrap around our waist.

I know, I know, they can be good to know, fun to learn. But face it, the end objective of being able to be combative requires the sharpening and elevation of our physical movements from the ordinary to that of a human weapon. Don’t you think so?

I don’t know about you but to me, being able to defend myself is a life skill. Sure, you might be rich, have the money to employ bodyguards. But what if you can’t employ a bodyguard or if your bodyguard is not with you when you need him? What do you do then?

I view the capability to defend myself my responsibility. I can call the police. That’s what most people would tell you. But try telling that attacker whose fists is seconds away from your face. Hold on, dude, I just called the po, they gonna come and take you away, yo. No? Bang, bang, bang, down you go.

It happened to someone I know. Six uninterupted punches that caused his cheekbone to drop down and had to be pulled up by wire and fixed back into place. He went on to buy a gun and learned to shoot as soon as he healed.

I know its best to avoid first, run second, call the cops third. But if these three options are not available then the stark reality is that you are still on your own.

In today’s crazy world you get people being attacked for no reason other than the color of their skin. And many of these attackers are targeting the elderly, people the least likely to fight back. Except when they do they put the attacker in a hospital instead.

I am sure all of us want to be left alone to live a peaceful life the rest of our life. Its when we can’t, when we have to then we better be ready.

In Chinese martial arts we say that we fear the fists of the young and the pole of the old. When you are old your reflexes are slow and your bone not as hard, nor your blows as heavy. Except when you have a weapon in hand. It can be a pole, a stick, a sword, a knife, or whatever is your choice of poison. You can probably take a few hits by a fist. But a hit from a stick or a pole or any weapon is a different matter.

This is why at the age when most people morph into silver haired, bearded masters sprouting Eastern sayings of wisdom I take up Kali instead. I can handle a long pole, straight sword, broadsword and butterfly knives. But I want to know how to use a knife, not just the kitchen variety which I learned how to use when I worked in a kitchen for a few years, but combat knives.

Since the Filipino Martial Arts is famous for the use of combat knives that’s how I came to take up Kali, in particular the iKali branch (headed by Tuhon Apolo Ladra) of Pekiti-Tirsia System of Kali of Grand-Tuhon Leo T. Gaje.

Below is a clip of Tuhon Apolo Ladra explaining a basic movement from our Double Sticks technique :-

The “i” iKali does not stand for internet, individual, instruct, inform, or inspire. Instead the “i” stands for indigenous. So iKali is short for Indigenous Kali and this name was chosen by Tuhon Apolo as he wants to bring back the old ways of using the blade, body mechanics and all.

The principles and concepts of iKali are taught through the double sticks, single stick, blade and empty hand. They are taught in a systematic manner that allows a learner to pick up the skills in a reasonable amount of time (weeks, months instead of many long years) with consistent and constant practice of the drills, solo or with a partner.

I’d say that iKali techniques are simplexity. They look simple, they are simple to do, yet they are not that simple beneath the simplicity. There’s a layer of complexity that you will discover as you keep on learning and practicing. There’s no mystery to it, just tons of practice to get the skill.

I come from the Tai Chi world where people are nuts about fajing this, fajing that. When I tell potential students not to be hung up about fajing they don’t believe me. They rather stare at the finger than at the moon. They fail to understand that if staring at the finger will get them the magical fajing skill they would have gotten it a long time ago. They fail to understand the irony of their stubborn viewpoint in hindering their search for the elusive fajing treasure. I’ve been there, done that so I have an idea of what fajing is about.

The skills of iKali is waiting for anyone willing to practice. No magical breathing skills required, no standing still for hours, no meditation needed. You just need to stand there and rep it out is what Tuhon Apolo would say.

I hate to do repetition drills. I prefer to learn forms cause that’s what I am used to. However, I did a 10,000 repetition challenge once just to see what its like. I did 10,000 reps each for left side and right side. There is positive outcome to doing it. I embedded the most basic blade flow into my movement. Months later I can do it better and faster – take a look :-

I wanted to master Kali. I am not young. I don’t have the luxury of taking my time. I practiced as much as I can, as often as I can. I followed the learning plan. From not knowing how to flow with the stick I found myself being able to do a decent flow one fine day. I just felt it, I wanted to try it and here’s what it looked like, this flow that is made up of the various drills I learned in iKali :-

Yeah, if an old dog like me can pick up new tricks anyone else can do it too. Tuhon Apolo said that we should learn to teach and teach to learn.

So if you have the interest to pick up Kali drop me a line here. iKali is especially suitable for ladies. Here’s Guro Katie, one of the deadly ladies of iKali :-

What you see in this video are the basics. Yes, the basics, not some esoteric technique you need to prove your worthiness or need to climb the ranks before you can learn them.

OK, this is turning out to be a long post. I better stop here. Time to go practice iKali.