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!

It costs some money!

Ken Shamrock, four-time mixed martial arts wor...

Ken Shamrock, four-time mixed martial arts world champion and Marine Corps Martial Arts Program subject matter expert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A researcher found that most people choose a martial arts school primarily because they know someone else who goes there, a friend or neighbor, next in order of selection priorities was distance, after that was cost.  A long time martial arts school owner tells me the first question a caller ask is “how much is it?”

Ask school owners what they think most peoples criteria for selecting a martial arts school is, and their answers won’t match the research.  Most instructors think it’s their individual greatness, their championship wins and such.  Others think it’s the superiority of their style.  Some will credit marketing genius.

Proximity is a biggie, especially for beginners.

Even though they get sold on how important commitment is going to be to growth, and how often they can come, they know they’re really on the “let me TRY this out and see” phase and travel is also an investment: “So, only $100 a month, great! (thought bubble) “and that’s 3 gallons of gas at $4.00 each, times 3 times a week, times 4 weeks to a month, it’s really gonna cost me $250 to take this class, plus an extra ninety minutes travel time each time…” Oh yeah, this is a great school and all, but the YMCA is walking distance to my house, and even at the same price per class, it suits me better.”

It costs some money!

I, and many others like me have gone against the grain on this as students.  I have traveled 400 miles to train for a weekend with an instructor at their school, and paid the cost of a luxury hotel stay on top of the hotel stay.  I know others that regularly go cross country to do the same.  Having the disposable income to do it is a factor, I wouldn’t do it if it meant no groceries for my family for a week.  There’s also a little bit of a vanity factor ” I’m going to train with Master so and so, it’ll look like we’re buddies, and since he is recognized, that means I deserve recognition too!”  This is stuff that more advanced students do.  Yes, getting a higher degree of skills instruction is part of it and so may be the fact that there is no worthwhile instruction nearby.  I’ll say this, it’s gotten beyond my financial means to train with “Master” anymore, I can’t afford them.

Does that mean there’s never any quality affordable instruction nearby?  Or, that if an instructor is not famous or in a photo with a famous one, his stuff is no good?  No.  For beginners, anyone who knows a little more than you and can teach is a great start.  I have known some amazing martial artists, who by default and sometimes by choice are largely unknown practically anonymous.

Does that mean that if it’s good it should cost an arm and a leg, and you should pay it?  No.  There’s an old Zen story about a monk, cutting his arm off and giving it to the master in order to try to get instruction.  As they say in NLP, the map is not the territory.  Don’t let that be your guide, either in cash or blind and exclusive devotion.

Interested in martial arts and there’s a small place nearby?  Go check it out. take the free classes, then tell the instructor what you liked, AND WHAT YOU DIDN’T LIKE if anything.  Discuss the cost.  If it’s beyond your reasonable means and you are still interested, ask for an affordable fee.

A real teacher loves to teach and will not pass up a potentially good vessel for the knowledge they have to impart. If you are a a good vessel, they should want you. A teacher is not a teacher without students. Otherwise that knowledge will go to a schmuck who will waste it and not represent him well as a teacher.

I know about area demographics, overhead, and costs of living.  Still, instructors; you might do better by making instruction more affordable to your neighbors, and not set fees on what you think you’re worth, as opposed to what good students can pay, and I did say “good” students, as opposed to merely “prosperous” students.  Back to that Zen story, the monk sacrificed something essential to get the training, but the point is that he was WILLING to give a lot of himself for the training.

As an instructor I need a little cash, but what I really ask for is an open mind, humility, determination, trust (not blind or unintelligent obedience) and consistency.  When I find the right mix of these qualities in a student, money becomes secondary.  I have also had the blessing of receiving from instructors – when I had no money to give.  To which I am forever grateful, and seek to pay it forward just the same.

On the other hand, if I don’t like you or trust you, all the money in the world may not get me to teach you.

Check the Myself & Martial Arts Instruction tab above or click here for more information about the Rick Vargas Kali Silat & Self Defense training group that meets at Black Lightning Martial Arts in Debary, FL

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.


Ladies!  You can see the entire series on youtube in 5 parts , called “Last Woman Standing -Kali, Filipino Martial Arts”  this is part 4 where the tournament starts, enjoy…

I think our female training partners already strike and defend a little tighter, and have a little more footwork, but I am biased, I think they’re great.  NONETHELESS, we will continue to train –  for personal development.

Did you miss what happened Sunday?

Some of what we worked on this past Sunday, March 18th.

Rick Vargas Kali Silat and Self Defense, at Black Lightning Martial Arts.

We watched some clips of various types of Kali fighting.  Thanks to Youtube for being a vast archive of material.  We will do similar show and tells regularly, as I’d like you to have to have the fullest picture of this martial arts practice possible, I encourage you to research for yourselves as well.

  • Footwork!  Going to be lots of that, with and without weapons, and on levels 2-3-4.
  • 5 ct Sumbrada.
  • Level 1 smakstick sparring.
  • Rolling.  Or was that last week 🙂
  • Heaven six and variations.
  • Street fighting self defense skills.
  • The Russian Martial Art SYSTEMA was introduced.  I introduced movement drills and “zombie walk” which used to be a favorite of my younger students in Virginia.  We will be adding to that as we go on this journey.
  • Oh, we also began projectiles.

My guys and Black Lightning students, you are on a fixed drop in fee, that wont change for any of you.  New rates or structures may be applicable to new students in the near future. It will still be an incredible value.

Encourage  friends and family you like and trust to try our training group out, consider that its at a convenient time, small drop in fee ($10.00, cash, visa, mastercard accepted, no checks), no uniforms, and we work within your physical capabilities and limitations, plus it’s kinda fun! Adults preferred, exceptional children and under 18 only as recommended by Chris or Joe from Black Lightning.


Black Lightning Martial Arts
961 Diplomat Dr. Ste. 103
Debary, Fl 32713
(386) 337-5056

We are located in the Live Oak Center off of Enterprise Rd. in
Debary/Orange City.
Serving Debary, Orange City, Deltona, Sanford, Deland, Lake Helen, and Osteen.
Offering Karate, Taekwondo, Jujitsu, Kickboxing and several other martial arts to Children and Adults

KALI SILAT INSTRUCTOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO DECLINE AN INDIVIDUALS PARTICIPATION AT ANY TIME. The training is intended for law abiding, well mannered individuals of good character and sound mind, as determined by the instructor.