Open to Learning

Good points by Jesse Enkamp aka Karate Nerd. I like what he said about the blinding flash of the obvious at 20:34.

How many times have you had this aha! moment in your learning? If you have not, then you need to get out more.

Sometimes when you stare at something for too long you can’t see it. Its when you take a look from another perspective that you might see it.

For example, how soon can you develop power in your strike? After months of training? Or years of training? In this regard I am referring to developing a heavy strength in your strike that can hurt.

If we were to examine this question from the perspective of most CMA I would hazard a guess of at least a year.

But now I would say that it is not impossible, make that it is highly possible to develop power after a training session in Kali, power that we can use in an empty hand strike.

Now why didn’t I think of this before? Cause I have not learned or practiced Kali this way. By this way, I mean the iKali PTK way.

Now that I have I would say that if we put aside the style label for a second this is achievable. One practice session in which the first strike is learned and practiced. Big difference between before and after right there, right now.

But most people won’t see it this way. First there is the “not my style” obstacle. Second, its the “not my teacher’s…” obstacle. Third, there’s the disbelief obstacle that stops us from openly trying something, basically sabotaging our learning before it we even do it.

The internet has opened up the world but not always our mind. If you want to benefit from this opening up then discard your prejudices, biases and at least for the moment let yourself be opened to learning. You never know what you can gain from it.

New Zealand Knife Attack

I had just posted an update to the iKali class that will begin on 14 May 2021 on Facebook when I saw this news article on a knife attack in a New Zealand supermarket where three people were critically injured. Video coverage here.

I recently read on a website that we should not delegate our safety to others and this sad situation is another example of this.

In today’s crazy world an attack of any sorts can happen anytime, anywhere. When it does the timing can be so sudden that there may not be time to call the police nor time for them to get there to rescue you. The video coverage above mentioned that the attack was over in minutes.

If you are lucky you have the time to run, seek cover or shelter and hide. If not, then your safety is in your hands or whoever will attempt to help you at that critical moment.

In Singapore a gun attack is less likely than a knife attack because guns are illegal. A criminal can still get his (or her) hands on one but it will not be easy. A knife is so much more easier to get and an attacker do not even need to get a Rambo type of survival knife. A kitchen chopper or a sushi knife are two ordinary kitchen tools that can become deadly weapons in the hands of an attacker.

If I live in the USA I would want to learn how to shoot and how to defend against a gun attack as a last resort. Over here it is more useful to learn how to defend against a knife which is why I took up Kali in the first place. Not wishing it to happen does not mean it will not happen. I just want to be prepared in case it ever happens. Touch wood.

iKali Class Commencement

The free iKali training will commence on 14 Apr 2021 (Friday) from 7 to 8.30 pm.

If you are registering here you can request for a map on how to get there by typing in iKali Training + map in the comment box.

Prepare a towel, water and change of t-shirt as you can expect to sweat a lot from the drills. You will need to get your own tools after the first lesson. A list will be provided later.

In the first lesson we will introduce the essential basics of :-

a) Salutation

b) Tools and training safety

c) Basic stepping and first body position

d) Stick handling basics

e) Striking basics – BFR

f) Attack and defence strategies

g) First learning series OS – introduction to three strikes E4, E6, Tap

h) “Learn to teach, teach to learn” for optimal learning success

i) Blade handling basics

j) Basic blade movements TS – solo drill and partner drill

Knife Attacks

Another day, another knife attack reported in the media.

What’s happening in Singapore that we have so many knife attacks?

To an ordinary citizen it seems like there are two prevalent crimes in Singapore – sex crimes and knife attacks – from reading the news. Just try typing in tnp.sg + sex or tnp.sg + knife and you’ll get a listing of the latest news reports for Singapore.

Its not like there are no laws on such crimes. There are. But they are still on the increase for whatever the root cause.

What can an ordinary citizen do if confronted by a scenario like an unprovoked knife attack such as this case where a refusal to buy cigarettes for a troubled teenager resulted in the person refusing to do it got attacked?

The normal advice is to run away such as this video advice from the police in China or seek help such as calling the police.

Given the unpredicatability and suddeness of an attack can the person being attacked really run away? Can he whip his phone out to call the police? Can he rely on bystanders to help? Take a look at what a real knife attack looks like :-

The suddeness of a knife attack such as this example here is what makes it difficult to deal with. The rational person does not want to be in a place where such an attack can take place but then no one can tell when it will happen. If you see signs of an attack coming you can quickly walk, no run, to get away and report to the police. Its when you can’t get away that’s when you have to ask what will you do.

This is something that we should think about but most people never do because statistically speaking the majority will never be attacked unless it is your unlucky day, luck of the draw, the misalignment of the stars and so on I suppose. That’s life.

Embedding the Skill

Learning any combative art is about practicing until you get it, know it and can sleep walk it.

Someone recently told me that doing CMA should be as easy as walking. He is not talking about the practice being easy. Instead, he is saying that one should practice the chosen skills until it is as natural and as easy as walking.

More than two decades ago my Wing Chun senior was talking about being formless. But what does it really mean, to be formless?

If you look to the art world particularly to the modern masters you may note that even abstract art masters have to study classical painting before they evolve into abstract art. In the context of CMA this means that to be formless you first have to master form.

In Tai Chi we normally just work on one form for years before learning another. This is not saying that you can’t learn another form after you finish learning the first form. You can.

However, you end up with cursory understanding of the form. You need to move your practice from surface scraping understanding to beneath the skin understanding, before you ultimately reach bone level understanding. So the more forms you have to practice the less time you have to focus, to specialize.

Of course, you can also learn many forms but just work on less rather than more. The more you understand the one form the more you know its nooks and corners, not just remembering the sequence but how different parts of the form can be used to form new sequences.

In the end, your form may have say 10 sequences but by understanding how it works you can easily form another 20 sequences by combining different techniques. Normally, an easy way to help understand this learning process is by doing push hands because when you learn to apply the techniques you are forced to confront what you don’t know.

Its not just in CMA that we learn to be formless. In Kali what is termed free flow is similar to what we call formlessness. Basically, free flow is the ability to take your basics and move through them freely to make whatever meaningful combinations you want to in response to an imaginary attack.

The study of free flow in Kali begins with the study of drills, of sequences of techniques. First you embed the habit through 10,000 repetitions. Then when you thought you got the habit down you are taught to break out of the habit with ironically more drills.

From Kali we can see that more forms (not kata but predetermined sequences made up of different techniques, example an Angle 1 fluid strike + Umbrella + ……….) are necessary to break up earlier learned forms of movements. Conceptually, the learning is not difficult to understand. But when you try it it feels awkward, just like when you first learn to cycle. You get on the bicycle, you wobble a bit, then you start to move, slowly then you try going faster.

The more you cycle the more familiar you are with the act of cycling. In the interim, its not unusual to lose your balance and fall. The first time I took one hand off the handlebar I fell into a drain. Another time I took a corner really fast and ended up sliding on the road which left a scar on my knee. But its these learning pains that eventually allowed me to master the act of cycling till I could take both hands off the handle as I cycled.

Awkwardness gives way to familiarity the more you practice. When we mention the word practice we think of the act of doing. However, practice can also be in the form of thinking about how to do it. This is the mental part of practice. Its a way to embed the process into your mind. Another way is to call out what you are doing. Anything that works for you is fine.

The more I practice the Tai Chi form the more I start to see the component movements clearly. At a certain stage you can easily change the sequences around, rearrange them even as you practice. Just last week someone came to see me about learning Tai Chi and said he didn’t have the room to practice. I stood between a wall and two bicycles and showed him I could practice a long sequence within that square area. I didn’t change the hand movements, just changed the stepping to adapt to the small area.

If you keep on practicing at a certain stage you can practice the form without even practicing the form any more. You can take one technique and work it in different ways. You can string two techniques as well and do the same. This is when you can say that the skill of moving has been embedded in you, when you move “it” moves you, thus fulfilling the principle of first in the mind, later in the body, enabling you to move as easily as walking.

This is one part of the learning. The second part is to work with a partner to help you learn how to apply what you know. True flow is when you can keep moving even as your training partner tries to stop your flow by putting up resistance and fighting back. This is when you discover something interesting about attachment and detachment of the mind and body in being able to flow.

Interested to learn Kali in person for free? The iKali branch of Pekiti-Tirsia System of Kali has an excellent training method for teaching the basics that eventually allows you to free flow. The best part is that it does not take years to learn. Contact me here.

Flow

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.