Tournament Grand Champion Weapons

Went to a local tournament to support a martial arts neighbor, Master Schoolnick of Pai Lum Fire Dragon.

For information on Kali Silat training in Central Florida use the form below:


Visualization and performance excellence.

A  painter I met long ago told me he didn’t visualize his works beforehand.  That he couldn’t visualize.  That was helpful to me as an artist because I also felt I couldn’t conceive a visual image solidly in my head before creating it.    I could dimly construct some elements of the image, but not a totally preconceived finished work. Yet, I could produce an image that was my intention.

On the other hand I’ve know people who tell me they had the facility to absolutely visualize an image in their head and hold the image as necessary.  To me that is an incredible gift.

A woman’s eye. Esperanto: Virina okulo. França...

Can you visualize a red apple on green grass, with a bluejay standing next to it, for 10 seconds? If you can, excellent!  You may be able to apply that in many personal and professional situations in life.

A visualization exercise I know involves gazing at a candle flame for a little while, then closing your eyes, and see how long you can sustain the image of the flame clearly.  It is an  easy way to begin that sort of training, because of something called “retinal memory” that will sustain the image in your head for at least a few seconds.  Try it with a flower, a crystal, any memorable or attractive object. That is one type of visualization.

The visualization I’ll refer to is more about feelings than images.  Can you visualize happiness, danger, triumph?

English: closed-eye visualizations simulation

Closed-eye visualizations simulation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those images may not be as fixed as a two dimensional picture. And the visual part of the exercise is not as important as the feeling or emotion it generates.

Visualizing is a personal and private activity.  It is our secret tool on the way to achievement.  As athletes, when we visualize for the sake of our performance, we may start with images of ourselves performing our feats, at their best, in top form, winning, and victorious. What we want out of it is confidence and a high baseline of success.  We are trying to support our activities with feeling and drive.  We want to create a sense of success, prophecy it, re-create it, and draw it by our creation of it in our minds.

I must mention that it doesn’t work, if you are not in the process of practice and development of the performance you seek.  I’ve heard otherwise but don’t believe it.  It’s highly improbably to be great at anything you don’t invest hands on time in.  If you train competitive sports or martial arts and add regular short sessions of visualization you’ll increase the probability of performing at the level you want. 

Visualization in this manner invigorates your intention to succeed, which is already given firm root by your activity in the field.  Involving the law  of attraction, you are familiarizing yourself with excellence and success to the point of intimacy, that they not be strangers to you.  When you visualize, your breathing may undergo changes from calm and steady to deep, strong and excited. Your body may twitch in accordance with the activity you are performing. Your facial expressions may change from focused, to angry, to smiling or laughing, to peaceful, and peaceful is usually where we want to end up.  Even after the triumph, peace is the true prize.

But, if you’re a couch potato or armchair quarterback, then go out “cold” and expect to succeed because you “visualized,” you’ll probably fail.

There are many books, videos, classes, and seminars on visualization.  Honestly I don’t think it’s that complicated, we’ve probably been doing it all our lives, just that doing it consciously, on purpose, with intention, makes it a tool as opposed to an accident.  It’s free, and you can have as much of it as you want.  Add it to your life.

Be Well.


Run Hide Fight – self defense video

During the 911 attacks I was working in Washington, DC in a federal agency building.  We always had news on and it was terrible to see the planes crashing into the towers.  When we heard The Pentagon just a couple of miles away had been hit also, I said out loud “time to evacuate”.  My supervisor there responded to us something like” I haven’t been told  anything, you’ll have to fill out a leave request” On my way out the door “I said sure thing, tomorrow..”. and as I drove away I could see The Pentagon in flames.

I hear from others that left soon after me that the supervisor’s supervisor called him from from outside to ask what he was still doing there.  There were no other attacks in DC, but a lot of chaos in and around DC, and a lot of panic and nerve wracked people were stuck on the roads for hours.  Leaving when I did I had a smooth drive home.

This video is about taking initiative, even when others do not, and not being held back by them. Large and small scale attacks are ever more frequent and it’s worth having and sharing a plan for safety.

Watch it, and may you never have the need to act it out.

NLP & Martial Arts



In the literature and studies of self improvement you’ll find the concept of Neuro Linguistic Programming, that’s a mouthful, so it’s commonly referred to as NLP.  NLP is a recent branch of applied psychology, and has high profile proponents in the field of self help.

Originally used in psycho therapy, its concepts and tools found their way into business,and personal development.  Car salesmen were using NLP principals to increase their sales, people in sports and various fields were using it’s concepts to improve their performance.

So what is it?  The words themselves bear extended definitions as well as simplification; Neuro refers to the brain and its relation with mind and body.  Linguistic refers to language and communication systems, how we communicate with ourselves and others. Programming refers to patterns and change.  It’s a process for establishing patterns and making changes that improve our condition.

How can martial artists and use of NLP work together?  Without going into a comprehensive study of NLP, it’s still important to cover a couple of things, one is the Four Pillars of NLP.   They are:


  • Outcomes
  • Sensory Acuity
  • Behavioral Flexibility
  • Rapport  


Another important element I’ll mention is called “Modeling.”

For Instructors.

Instructors can benefit from understanding what a student’s goals are (outcomes), how students learn (sensory acuity), adaptability to help the students achieve their goals (behavioral flexibility) and, in order to communicate effectively, rapport.

Can instructors do their work without these pillars?  Sure, and they have for a long time using traditional methods.  NLP is a relatively new science, and it offers the potential not only for significant change, but of accelerating the process of change over the older methods.

Traditional instruction methods often rely on a one way street of pitching and catching; I throw material at you and it’s up to you to catch it or not.  NLP invites a partnership between instructor and student, an effective giving AND receiving. There are a myriad of constantly evolving tools that can be used for this, all driven by individual outcomes. This method is more properly called coaching.

A friend and instructor, Neil Ehrlich, a few years ago set up a martial arts school with a few unique concepts going on, and one of them was that we, the instructors, were now “coaches,” not Sensei, Shihan, Sifu, or Grand Master.  “Coach Neil, Coach Jimi, Coach Rick…” We coached to help each student succeed in achieving their goals.  For some it was competitive, others combative, others defense, others just recreational and fitness.

This coaching method of instruction is different from traditional instruction where there is only one way to teach, only one type of student, and only one outcome; the glory of my martial art, or myself.

Using NLP for martial arts instruction doesn’t lend itself well to an en masse approach with an easily followed instructor’s manual.  It’s been said before and bears repeating, not every skilled practitioner is a skilled instructor, they may know the material, but not the effective teaching of the material.

For Students.

On the student side, the individual can facilitate and accelerate the process of learning using NLP.

The Four Pillars apply:

  • Outcomes. Having a goal, knowing the Outcome you expect, and having a driving vision of it.
  • Sensory Acuity.  Receiving, storing, and applying of information important to your goals/outcomes.
  • Behavioral Flexibility. The ability to re-route, to take detours if necessary, on the way to your goals.  If something isn’t working in an appropriate time frame, change might be in order.
  • Rapport.  This is important. An easy definition is “friendliness” or “getting along.”  A deeper definition is: understanding, understanding others, and understanding yourself. It is also about trust and connection.  In a teacher student relationship, it is hard for a student to learn from a teacher they don’t like, or thinks aren’t liked by.  Why?  There isn’t sufficient trust.  If the instructor or coach cannot elicit trust from you, or you can’t give it to that person, move on.  The point here is to learn, to improve, efficiently and speedily, and lack of trust is an obstacle to that.  That’s right, you don’t have to automatically trust every karate/kung fu/martial arts school owner in the world.  Trust is earned, given, and shared.


Another helpful NLP technique is called “modeling.” It’s not quite imitation, it’s more applying from observation the successful behaviors, strategies, and practices, of someone’s exceptional performance.

This modeling is used as a higher starting point to achieving your own excellence.  Modeling acknowledges that we recognize a level of performance excellence or success we want, and we start our own process as close to that as possible, not from zero.  Modeling is a powerful tool in accelerating skill development and performance on the way to your outcome/goals.

As instructors or students, I hope you’ll consider exploring NLP and how it can bring you greater and speedier success in your personal and martial arts development.

Coach Rick

Coach Rick




Belief and Self Defense


Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

“When I’m away in college, I’ll know how to defend myself from bullies, cause I’ll have learned stuff from Rick.”  “Son, it’s the Lord you have to trust as your shield and protection.”

Some devout fundamentalist friends and I were having dinner together, and the young man was speaking about going to college, and how he’d handle the challenges he expected to face, including jocks and BMOC’s (Big Man On Campus).  His father, a serious believer for whom “Lean not on your own understanding and trust in the Lord” & “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” are widely pervading principals, jumped to make sure that the young man was not believing in anything less or secondary to that.

Is wanting to learn and practice self defense incompatible with religion, or belief in a supernatural entity (Jehova, Christ, Vishnu, etc), and how explicit in the various religions scriptures are the injunctions against it?

As to explicit and singular injunctions, none.  The Bible, just to use the most common denominator; is loaded with contradictory statements.  So much so that I hear there are 30,000 “christian” denominations worldwide, most basing their doctrines on scriptures that other denominations contradict.

In this context “no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper” is offset by “He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze,” “Turn the other cheek” is contradicted by “buy a sword,” which is offset by “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword,” and on and on.    A quick search will often place promises of protection scriptures alongside instructions to protect yourself.

The weight then becomes about which scriptures you have more faith in, the protection promises, or the active in your defense ones.  Put another way, of believing god will defend you, or he doesn’t mind you protecting yourself.

Sadly, we often see that belief is not enough.  Historically, there are numerous examples of death and harm by violence, in spite of belief.

Rachel's Tears: The Spiritual Journey of Colum...

Rachel’s Tears: The Spiritual Journey of Columbine Martyr Rachel Scott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently and explicitly, there is the episode of the Columbine shooting. There is some argument about the truth of this rumor, but that it arose immediately after the incident among those involved makes it worth noting anyway.  It’s the rumor related to the murder of Rachel Scott that claimed that the shooters had first asked Scott if she believed in God, and killed her after she said yes.

It’s a saddening thought to even reference.  It continues to ask the question, is belief or faith in the supernatural enough to protect you from violence, or should you act on your own behalf.  Further realize some will call it you attempting to use your own strength and knowledge an act of faithlessness.

Some religions forbid blood transfusions, and people have died, who might have otherwise survived, recovered, and lived full lives. Children have died because parents believed only prayer and fasting should be used to bring god’s healing.

On the other hand, I too, have heard the stories, “testimonies” of people who called on god when faced with immediate danger, and were spared.  They are way too few and far between to earn my “faith.”

I believe in some things, and not others. I have no conflict with the potential for supernatural occurrences, like divine protection, and welcome it, as would anyone else, believer or non believer.  But if it doesn’t deliver 99 percent of the time for say at least 80 percent of the people, to “believe” in it at a time of duress is recklessness, not faith.

I hope that the young man at the beginning of this story never gets bullied or unjustly beat up.  I hope he goes through life without any conflict ever, and that his upbringing of faith in god mocks my perception of supernatural protection for believers or anyone else.

I teach martial arts and self defense.  I believe that everyone should have basic knowledge of personal protection methodologies, whether you are a believer in any religion/god, or not.

PS.  All scripture references are off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure they are there, in about the same wording, feel free to use a conrcordance to verify if you like.

Violence & Self Defense

Self Defense

Self Defense (Photo credit: Pioneer Library System)


Reasons for human violence include the same ones in the animal kingdom such as necessary sustenance and mating, and are further complicated by various degrees of mental illness, avarice, baseless anger, randomness, and conceit.  The foundation for a particular act of violence is often hard to pin down, but we can all agree we don’t want to be the victim of violence regardless of the case.

What to do to avoid being a victim? I’m not sure it can be totally avoided, but we can and should try to minimize the odds against us.

First Line of Defense is: Know Thyself!  Are you a five foot one inch tall, 95 pound woman, with a baby always in tow, or a six foot four, 280 pound gun toting MMA fighter.  Are you handicapped in some way?  Are you experienced in dealing with particular types of people, are you an off duty cop, Nay Seal, or ad agency receptionist?  Knowing your capabilities and especially your liabilities can guide the level of risk you should take in particular situations.  An heavyweight MMA fighting Navy Seal who is unarmed, wearing a leg cast, on groggy pain medication, should know that at the moment he has the same capabilities as that five one woman.

Second line of defense is avoidance.  Don’t enter high risk areas unnecessarily.  You approach an elevator, the door opens, there’s a homeless looking guy inside holding broken beer bottle in his hand, and he says “what floor.”  Don’t go in!  An obvious example, but if you’re a 5’1” woman with a baby in tow, don’t go in, avoid it.  Even there; ego may make that woman think “I don’t want to seem scared!” and therefore not avoid a potentially dangerous situation.  Men are not exempt.  Men are even more likely to puff their chest, look him in the eye, get in the elevator and say “Was up?”  Then turn their back on him.  “Ill take the next one, I’m waiting for someone” is a good response short of backing away, which is a better response anyway.

Entering where there’s a crowd of drunks, a bunch of hyped teenagers who are into showing off to each other,  a dark hallway, rounding unknown corners, are all situations where if violence occurred, we wouldn’t be surprised after the fact.  Use that knowledge before the fact

Third line of defense is anticipation/preparation.  Anticipate that encountering violence in our increasingly populated environment is a possibility, and as a matter of caution, do some anticipation and preparation.  Close your doors, set the alarm at night, use familiar, lit streets and passageways, be aware of the behavior of the people around you.

Learn some self defense and fighting skills, get some knowledge along those lines.  It may be a little or it may be a lot, that’s a call for you to make.  You can do a 5 day a week, 4 year course, or a one day seminar, or anything in between.  Something is better than nothing.  Think!  Consider scenarios, what the natural response would be, what a successful response would be.  This you can do on your own and establish a loose game plan for an event like that.

I teach Kali Silat martial art, and self defense.  Learning a few punches and kicks without the context of understanding violence is only minimally helpful.  I know of a seasoned, experienced fighter, who got mugged and beat up by a couple of thugs.  Normally, he was capable of beating the crap out of them.  But in his head he had ignored the possibilities of violence in the world.  That’s why I put the physical training last in order of knowledge of dealing with violence.  The intangibles of self knowledge, awareness, avoidance, forethought, and reasonable expectations, can preclude the need for a violent physical encounter.

Be Safe.  For more information on the Rick Vargas Kali Silat & Self Defense Training Group use the contact form below.