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Tools of the Trade

What is the difference between a weapon and a tool?  Take a knife as an example it can be a tool to cut up food or a weapon to defend yourself.  The definition can be found in the purpose of use and, I would wager, your familiarity with the item.   How comfortable are you with handling it? Are you accurate, can you hit what you are aiming at? Do you know how to hold it just so to prevent developing blisters after heavy use?  There is any number of little details that can only be gained with experience from using your weapon of choice.  Many martial artists gain that experience through hundreds of hours of training.  There is another form of training that is often overlooked, and that is how you can be selective in the type of tools you use for your everyday chores.  During the quarantine, many of us have gone outside to get a head start on our yard projects.  Here is a perfect opportunity to gain some experience and knowledge in using a sword.

I have had the privilege of taking a few knife training classes with Ed Calderon (or better known as EdManifesto on social media).  Ed has over 10 years of experience working in the fields of counter-narcotics, organized crime, and public safety in the northern areas of Mexico.  His study into the criminal culture, from occult practices to modern fighting techniques has lead him to be recognized as one of the world’s preeminent researchers and training in the field of personal security.  He has had the privilege of sharing his expertise with federal law enforcement agencies, Navy SEALS, Indonesian Kapaska, Mexican and United States intelligence service agents, and members of special forces groups from all over the world (Calderon 2018).  I mention Ed’s extensive background to add weight to the advice he gave me.  He once told me that if you want to learn how to use a knife talk to people who use it as part of their profession such as butchers.  Butchers know exactly how to handle a knife to process an animal to get the best cuts of meat with the least amount of wasted effort.  To give you a perspective on this when was the last time you tried carving a turkey for your family’s holiday dinner?  Was it hard?  Do you have one of those nifty electronic knives to make it easier?  The electronic knife makes the special occasion easier, but it’s also cheating.

That sounds well and good, but how would you get that same experience with a sword?  That is where your yard work comes in handy.  Go out and get yourself a machete from your local hardware store.  Machetes are incredibly close to the size and weight of a single-edged, single hand fighting sword.  In fact, they make wonderful practice swords.  Now that you are armed with a machete find a pile of branches you need to process, maybe trees that need their branches trimmed, or bushes that are overgrown.  Can you hit the spot on the branch you are aiming for? Can you hit that same spot repeatedly?

Machete Example 1

In this picture, I am working on processing a giant pile of felled trees, branches, and various debris.  I’m also using a machete, which is very tip heavy.  Machetes are the modern version of a medieval weapon type known as falchions.  Falchions are very popular for close-in fighters in the sport of full steel fighting.  The tip heavy weight makes them ideal for chopping at your opponent’s defenses, or in this case tree branches.   There is a trick to making sure the front end of the sword hits first instead of the middle or back of your blade.  If you swing wrong not only will you miss your target your sword will get stuck in your splitting stump.

Machete Example 2

This detail might seem trivial, but it can be bad for the blade to constantly get stuck not to mention this is about developing control and accuracy.

The next thing to focus on is your grip.  Too tight and you will tire out quickly along with developing blisters on your hands.  Too loose and you won’t have enough power to drive your blade through the branches you are trying to cut.  I, like most Americans, have a cush indoor job spending most of my time on computers.  As a result, I have baby soft skin on my hands.  Outside of that, I blister incredibly easy, even wearing gloves.  Last summer I developed 4 blisters on my hands digging ONE fence post hole.  However, I spent 4 hours swinging a machete cutting up tree branches without developing a single blister. It all has to do with keeping a firm yet relaxed grip, and 100s of hours of practice.

Experience is the mother of all skills.  With experience, you gain confidence, accuracy, stamina, and control. All of that can be gained with a single afternoon of yard work.  Can you just imagine how skilled medieval woodcutters would have been after spending a lifetime swinging an ax?

Be Sure to Support us on Social Media! #ironsidemedievalcombat

With all the exciting things happening this year, we would love to share this amazing training with our community to help inspire a love for martial arts.  You can help support these programs by following and sharing our various social media pages.  There is a Facebook Page, Instagram Account, and YouTube Channel dedicated to Ironside Medieval Combat.  Check out these pages, share them, talk about them, and together we can make Martial Arts an inspiration for generations yet to come.

Works Cited

Calderon, Ed. “Ed’s Manifesto.” Facebook, 25 Feb. 2018, www.facebook.com/edsmanifesto/.

Farang Fitness

There just isn’t enough time in the day to squeeze in all the fitness and martial arts training that I want. It always feels like I am sacrificing one or the other. It’s one of the reasons why training smarter is so important.

Take tonight’s training schedule as an example. I worked all day, then taught an hour long belly dancing class, drove home, ate dinner, trained for another hour in martial arts, and worked on my business webpage. I got a ton done but always feel like it isn’t enough. I do meal prep on the weekends to save time during the week, but I still feel like I run out of day light and energy. That is why I have started combining my fitness training with martial arts practice.

Not all forms of martial arts practice is good for fitness. For example, if I am studying new material and going slow, then I still need to squeeze in a fitness workout. However, if I am drilling material I already know, then I can turn it into a great cardio workout.

Tonight I was practicing material from the Farang Mu Sul system. It is a Korean style of martial arts brought to the United States by Grand Master De Alba. I needed to drill these combinations, because in a street fight if I am defending myself I will not have time to check my notes. I will need to be able to respond quickly without thinking about the ”right move.” By increasing my speed and intensity with these drills I was able to get a great cardio burn in and lock down some much-needed practice time. A double win!

Disclaimer

This website contains material derived in whole or in part from the teachings of Grand Master Michael De Alba, the International De Alba System Confederation™, Modern Farang Mu Sul ® and their students, instructors, and associates. International copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws protect these materials. Users, guests and visitors may not modify, copy, reproduce, republish, upload, post, transmit or distribute in any way or in any form, any material from the Service including code and software. Users, visitors and guests may download material from the Service for personal, non-commercial use only, provided all copyright and other proprietary notices are clearly visible and intact. Commercial use, reference or linkage to the Service site, without the express written permission, of Michael De Alba or his assigns, by registered letter, is prohibited.Copyright 2001® DeAlba Productions

Open Mind vs Ego

I am a school teacher by day and a martial artist by night. The other day I was working at my desk as another teacher had a small group of students in my classroom. She had pulled them aside because they were struggling with math and needed extra help. The students were all working on the same problems from their math books. The teacher asked them to share out the answer. She got 8 different answers from her 8 different students. None of them gave her the right answer, so she proceeds to break down the problem and teach them the steps to solving the math problem. Halfway through her explanation one of the students asks if he can work ahead because all of the current problems are too easy…..Think about it, none of them were able to give the teacher the right answer. The teacher tells him no because he got all of his problems wrong, which means they are not too easy for him. The student proceeds to argue about how amazing his math skills are, dispute the obvious evidence, he could benefit from learning a few things. This is a great example of an ego getting in the way and preventing him from learning. Instead as a student, no matter what you are trying to learn, open-mindedness will get you a significantly higher rate of success.

That technique doesn’t work….on the street

There are many times I am working on a technique, and I like to share my training videos, just to get a comment that what I am working on would never work in a “real” street fight. There is any number of responses to that comment, but before going into the responses that comment is a classic indicator the person has a closed mind and their ego is speaking. When you are first learning a technique most people will make decisions about the technique within the first 30 seconds. That decision is heavily influenced by how fast a person can grasp the concept of the technique. If after being shown the technique a person is immediately claiming it will “never” work they are speaking from ego and ignorance. If instead, they tried setting that ego aside and learn the technique first, the applications of the technique will become much more clear.  Keep in mind martial arts techniques are like pieces to a much more complex puzzle.  One-piece by itself will never give you a clear image of the overall picture.  Here are a few reasons to consider keeping an open mind.

Teaching Perspective

Why learn a technique that doesn’t work for you? If you plan on being, or currently are, a martial arts instructor learning techniques could be beneficial for your future students. Different body types and personality types can influence how appealing a technique can be. For example, Master Pinto is shorter than me. Master Pinto loves using head butts. He gets lower than his opponent and rises up to execute a very effective head butt. I, on the other hand, am 6 feet tall. It’s rare for me to find someone taller than me. Due to my height, it is awkward to get lower than an opponent to execute a rising head butt. I still learned the technique, and strive to understand the application of this technique. One day I may have a shorter student whom this technique will be a perfect match.

Expect the Unexpected

No matter how hard we train and try, age catches up with us all.  You won’t always be young and strong.  As you age you will lose speed, strength, and reaction time.  Your body will change in ways you could never hope to imagine.  A technique that doesn’t suit you now may be better for you in the future.  Softness can replace strength.  Learning how to flow, use your opponent’s momentum against them, the efficiency of your movements will be super handy as you age.  Even the “soft” skills of meditation, concentration, and having a peaceful mind will one day be the most important lessons of your life.  We don’t always appreciate the lessons we learn at the moment.  Sometimes it takes years before the light turns on and we understand what our teachers were trying to tell us.

Of course, time doesn’t always need to thump us on the head.  You might find yourself in a situation you never expected even while you are young and fearless.  Take the head butt example from earlier.  I am tall, so I don’t run across opponents who are bigger than me very often.  That doesn’t mean it never happens.  There is a good chance I will one day face an opponent who towers over me, then a head butt might be a perfect solution.

Be sure to Support us on Social Media! #ironsidemedievalcombat

With all the exciting things happening this year, we would love to share this amazing training with our community to help inspire a love for martial arts.  You can help support these programs by following and sharing our various social media pages.  There is a Facebook Page, Instagram Account, and YouTube Channel dedicated to Ironside Medieval Combat.  Check out these pages, share them, talk about them, and together we can make Martial Arts an inspiration for generations yet to come.

Dancing and Martial Arts Footwork made Fun

Footwork is the foundation of both martial arts and dancing.  Combine footwork with core body movements and you can generate huge amounts of power your individual muscles would never be able to create on their own.

Footwork made Fun Video

https://youtu.be/HkVg3L9bPjE

Never underestimate the power of balance and posture.  There is no guarantee that your opponent will fight like an upstanding English Boxer with proper regard for rules and forms.  In fact, you will never fight someone like that.  It is more likely you will come face to face with someone who will want to close and go in for a grapple.  Your balance and quick reflexes might be the only thing that keeps you from getting thrown to the ground.  The power and flow you generate to move your feet translates to speed and power with your kicks and punches.  Play around with the angle of your feet.  Test to see if they give you a better balance or not.  Learning your body and changing these angles are all factors into turning a martial arts technique into one of your own.

Patreon – share the love

img_0126I love sharing all of my tips and training philosophies with the world.  If you love watching them and learning from them consider sharing that love.  I have created a Patreon Tier dedicated to this mini-series.  The biggest benefit you get for subscribing is having organized and easy access to this entire series without having to search through layers of blog posts.  It also helps support Ironside Medieval Combat so we can continue to get more training equipment, further our curriculum, and get a better location. Click on the link below and become a subscriber!

https://www.patreon.com/ironsidemc

Dancing: Martial Arts Secret Weapon Part 4 Kicking

Time to shift gears with this project.  I have set down my lovely toys and shifted my attention to kicking.  Kicking is often dismissed as ineffective because most people can’t do it right.  You can have beautiful looking kicks with no power.  You can have very strange looking kicks that send people flying.  The combination of the two is very difficult and takes time to learn.  My solution?  Dancing of course.  The free-flowing movement of dance can help develop the muscle control needed for beautiful and powerful kicks.

Part 4: Kicking

Hip rotation and agility are essential when it comes to developing powerful kicks.  You might be noticing a common theme with this mini-series…it’s all about those hips.  The rotation starts by engaging your core, moving your hips, then it travels down your leg.  One of the biggest mistakes beginners have with kicking is always focusing on their foot.  If you get your hip and knee aligned correctly your foot will be correct.  If your hip and knee are not working together your foot will always be pointing in the wrong direction.  Developing a strong core with your kicks will also help you maintain balance.  Never underestimate the importance of developing strong core muscles.  They are quite literally the core of your strength.

Patreon – share the love

img_0126I love sharing all of my tips and training philosophies with the world.  If you love watching them and learning from them consider sharing that love.  I have created a Patreon Tier dedicated to this mini-series.  The biggest benefit you get for subscribing is having organized and easy access to this entire series without having to search through layers of blog posts.  It also helps support Ironside Medieval Combat so we can continue to get more training equipment, further our curriculum, and get a better location. Click on the link below and become a subscriber!

https://www.patreon.com/ironsidemc