Personal keeping’ on!

High’s and low’s, we all have them.  Getting up from a down is necessary for a long and full life.

I’m looking to accelerate my fitness and conditioning and trying a new thing: a weighted fitness vest!  It’s a total of 20 lbs.  It feels heavier in the hands than on the body.  But I do martial arts with much, much younger people so, not that I’m trying to match individuals 30 and 40 years my juniors, I’m trying to be above average of my own age group.

Shees! Eight rounds is my standard workout:  shadow boxing, heavy bag, stationary bag.   I’m tired and hungry!

Solo Martial Art Training

You can’t always train at the gym. 

Training in a state of the art gym or dojo is a great thing.  There you’ll likely have space, time, equipment, partners at different levels, and coaching.  But not being able to get to one for whatever reason (money, responsibilities, time, distance) should not stop you from training and even making progress on your own, at home.

If you don’t have a lot of stuff you can do calisthenics and bodyweight exercises (pushups situps, pull-ups, etc.) anywhere.  There’s your cardio and strength straining.

You can shadow box in front of your shadow or a mirror.  When you do, do several rounds, start slow and easy, and progressively add realism and intensity.  I consider this a really important part of martial training; rehearsing your moves with intent and energy will bring them up with intent and energy.  Practice at three speeds:  1. slow and mechanical, 2. Half speed and smoothly flowing, 3. Twitchy, super fast or “red line” speed.

Hit something regularly, a punching bag, a makiwara, a makeshift Item you can hang or post to practice both intentional hitting, and casual hitting, I mean hitting without preparation, no stance, no telegraph. Why?  Because you may not always be in a position to do a perfect hit, but should do a hit anyway.

Visualize the techniques and try them with your eyes closed (in a safe space of course).  Practice from different positions, standing, sitting, lying down.  Try to train both under duress, when tired from cardio and strength, and when very relaxed.

 Rest.Training under too much continual stress may burn you out, and actually make the practice less beneficial.

Train and practice under less than optimal conditions.  I wear glasses.   I train with and without glasses.  A shooting instructor brought this home when he asked; if in the middle of the night I hear a break in at home and a rush to the bedroom door, can I just grab my gun, point, and shoot to 15 feet in the dark  without bothering to look for my glasses?  I can now, thanks to dry fire practice and taking off the prescriptions at the range.  Sometimes, I may be sluggish from a cold/flu and medication.  Yes, I’ve looked to see how effective I am in those conditions, what I can and can’t do, and how fast.

Research other methods beyond what you are taught at the local school.  Some places just teach one thing, say Mesopotamian Kung Fu, that doesn’t mean you can’t train Jiu Jitsu for yourself on your own time, or a spin kick, or a particular kata.  Who are you doing this for, the school/instructor, or yourself and your family?

Speaking of family, is there someone that might help you out A LITTLE BIT at home,  If they’re not training for themselves they probably won’t want to be your training partner, but “help me work out this  move for 5 minutes” might be feasible.  Don’t hurt or aggravate them, and they might help you again.

I tell my students over and over, that they are taught in the gym but learn at home, and that everything is homework.  This is what makes a martial art yours, and part of your lifestyle not just a “class” you take.

What’s with the personal development stuff??

It’s a part of me, my life and practice as a martial artist, where I come from, and where I want to lead others to. 

Almost everyone with a belt , certificate, or a little experience, can teach a martial art.  Traditions provide a template for what to teach, in what order, and a baseline for achievement, mostly having to do with memorization. Get a snazzy logo, set up a shingle.

Personally, I am not interested in being a regular martial arts instructor.  For me, martial arts from the beginning, were not about the awesome power, skills, and physicality obviously visible.  It was about the self control, self perfectionism, and expanding consciousness that I saw, that some of those things represent.

I remember one of my karate instructors, Sensei, now Shihan, Charles “La Pantera” Bonet.

photo by Rick Vargas

Charles “La Pantera” Bonet.  photo by Rick Vargas

He  would occasionally shout at us when we were under performing “You think that punching and kicking is what makes you a black belt?  I can teach a monkey to punch and kick, but that won’t make him a black belt!”   I understood that to mean that he was looking beyond the surface, to the consciousness which animates the body, and to see there developing intelligence, sensitivity, the progress of evolution in relation to knowing ourselves and others, and values, not just how solid our front stance was.  Many instructors can only look at your front stance. That reduces the potential richness of martial arts training to an activity like gymnastics or boxing…

Well, it’s true.  Some instructors can only teach the physical aspects of a martial art. The other aspects require having been instructed in such things to begin with.  For example, not many instructors have much if any instruction or experience in the arts and practices of meditation, and may consider it trivial in spite of scientific evidence of it’s benefits to the brain, consciousness, and body.

Few have spent significant time in profound thought or study about the human condition, therefore, in discussion can only offer uninformed or unthoughtful opinions on matters of life in general.  Ego, elsewhere considered an obstacle, is paramount in many aspects of martial arts life and instruction.  Humility is often replaced by ritualistic, cultural acts of respect (nice bow!)

About my group under Sensei Bonet, we did learn to punch and kick, and quite well 🙂 and my classmates from 30+ years ago are renowned masters with great skills. But even the least among us, skill and credential wise, were being taught to become potential “masters” of ourselves. That’s where I’m headed, and the journey I invite others to join me on.

In my training group, your self awareness is important, and the physical actions, a tool for developing that self awareness.  I have two pet peeves: your breath, and your gaze, vital to the functioning of your body and mind, and coach you accordingly.  Helping you to manage your tensions, fears, and emotions is an ongoing goal.  The expansion of your consciousness, intellectually, academically, socially, etc. are important to me.

In the process, you might learn to punch and kick real good too!

That said, I am not a suitable instructor for everyone.  I don’t give belts or certificates.  I’m not really training anyone for a fight sport.  I don’t even follow the structured progression of a particular style.  I scrutinize character.  I prefer adults with full lives over youths with nothing better to do.  I like the freedom of greeting the group, and starting with something that feels like the right vibe at the time.

I have a degree of skills that qualify me, and though certified, I feel the terms “Master” and “Guro” are overused. I understand that in the Filipino Martial Arts it refers to a teacher, but, I have studied under people with whom the term Guru meant a “dispeller of darkness”  a rather serious metaphysical matter.  I’ll use the term with teachers I have trained under, but am not too quick too call anyone that off the cuff.  My friends call me Rick and if they want to use another appellation I suggest “Coach.”


Im giving a talk Saturday, February 23, 6:30pm at:

Half Off Books
2641 Enterprise rd.
Orange City FL 32763  Phone: 386-917-0100

Personal Protection For Everyone
The New Self Defense Paradigm

A fun and illuminating short lecture and demonstration on the matter of self defense for everyone, not just young athletes, professional responders, or martial arts experts.
Coach Rick specializes in short term self defense training for regular people, with average physical attributes, and little to no interest in “martial arts.”  If that
sounds like you at all, come enjoy this one of a kind seminar.


Kali in the park!

Good Kali In The Park session today. Not that there’s ever going to be a bad one. Good work Gav, Tony, Red, M.A.

Boys in the Park

Kali, Arnis, Escrima (Photo credit: Boso)

We covered some progressive material, of which there are lifetimes worth of things that can be touched upon, and we stepped back to explore what the real bottom line of what we’re training to do is.  It’s not just about self defense and “Do this, this way,” or about defending the integrity of the style, but about contributing to the individuals personal growth, through some aspects of a particular training.

In a way, it’s easy to teach a martial art.  Get a belt or make one up, use a memorized chart of steps and forms, repeat. But to use martial arts training to bring joy, grace, to expand  consciousness, to create well being, to really develop holistic self confidence is another story.

That’s the story I want to take part in with my students and friends.
I’ll remind you all again, make notes, practice at home, once given to you by me it’s yours, develop it, make it your own.Sticks are in, I have 3 sets left. We’ll be presenting and training in other venues soon, make sure I have your emails for notices, or check back to the blog often.  See you  all next week (or sooner)!