Agility and Footwork


TacArnis streamlines training by using ‘Instructional Alignment’ built on a concept training approach… which is fancy teacher talk that simply means:  We use the same basic ideas/theories (Concepts) to teach different skills and abilities.  The major advantage is the speed for the learner.

  1. New material can be learned more quickly because the format of instruction is familiar from prior lessons.
  2. Movements/patterns are built ‘into the bones’ of students quickly for application under stress.
  3. Concepts/tactics grow beyond ‘techniques’ because students apply the same movements under a different stressors/situations.
  4. Students will be ‘faster’ because they can adapt the same patterns of movement to fit situations instead of the ‘if the attacker is doing this, you respond with that…’ approach (which slows down the OODA loop process considerably).
As a student and a teacher I stress ambidexterity in training as well, so notice that I move the patterns with both left and right leads as well as using both my left and right hand w/ the stick.
This vid was shot after about 70 burpee combos with stick strikes, focus mitt drills, and pistol draws, so ‘when’ you include this type of training into a class can add a challenge factor as well.  This was like trying to rub my stomach and pat my head while tap dancing – but it still beats a day on the treadmill as far as I’m concerned.
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4 Friends Seminar, October 8th.


On the heels of working with Dan Donzella, I have the chance to share the floor with three excellent martial artists.

I jumped at the chance to do this seminar for a lot of reasons – like the chance to work with Frank Heinan and John Kovacs, but, the big reason is the chance to see Keith Roosa in action.

Keith has been digging into Ising Atillo’s “Attilo Balintawak” and I can’t wait to compare/contrast what he is learning to the “Cuentada Balintawak” version I learned from Bobby Taboada.

As students of Dr. C. Jerome Barber, PhD, we were both required to explore other arts and systems while we were training with Jerome.  This goes for all his students.  When we find another system that seems like a good fit, Jerome encourages us to explore it as deeply as possible.  Thanks to this “Liberal Martial Arts” approach to training I’ve been introduced to many great systems and artists, but Bobby Taboada and Balintawak (Cuentada Balintawak) were such a powerful influence on my growth and understanding that they still remain a major component both technically and conceptually in TacArnis training.

I can’t wait to share some of the fundamentals Cuentada Balintawak and share the floor during the last hour with Keith, Frank, and John. But, like I said, I’m going to be picking Keith’s brain (and ‘stealing’ a few drills and skills if I can) while I’m there too.

Dan Donzella Rocks….


I don’t do the math often, so I’m stunned every time.  I’ve been involved in martial arts for over 28 years….

After all that time, the most important lesson as far as I am concerned was from Dr. C. Jerome Barber, my main instructor.  He always encouraged us to explore other systems, styles, and schools.  As a TacArnis minded guy, this makes a lot of sense since it exposes a student to different movement styles ‘because you won’t be attacked by someone who moves like you’ as Jerome would say.  Jerome trains in defensive firearms as well as martial arts so his mentality has always been a practical one.

As a life lesson, though, training with other styles is a way to stay in that ‘newbie’ or white belt mentality.  After 28 years of training, I still get nervous about stepping onto someone else’s training floor, but that’s the point!  It’s humbling, frustrating, and exciting.  In the end, it makes you a better teacher, student, and person if you are willing to ‘put on your white belt’ every once in a while.  Submitting to someone else’s system – especially when you have your own way of doings – is not an easy thing to do, but shows respect to another view point.  And, as far as leadership goes, sometimes the best way to ‘lead by example’ is to be willing to follow.

On, August 25th I attended a seminar with Dan Donzella at Ken Swan’s school .

I’ve known Dan since the early 90’s and I want a blood transfusion or the secret to his diet – he has not change one iota!  Fit, fast, lean, and skilled as ever.

Dan’s no-nonsense approach to training has always impressed me.  His style of movement is intricate at times, but he has a knack for breaking it into bite size elements that make it easy to learn quickly.

Dan intended the seminar to cover his Beginner and Level One curriculum, but he took the time to give me some one-on-one work on higher level material.  The material blew me away, but also Dan’s generosity because he had so many other students to teach as well.  Ken and his students were gracious hosts and training partners.  From the time I registered/paid to the end of the session, I think just about all Ken’s student’s took a moment to say hello.  As training partners they committed to mastering Dan’s curriculum and worked hard.

Training with Dan, Ken and his students was a great time.  Ken’s school is minutes from me and I could have just dropped in to say hi and hang out with him instead of getting on the floor, but it’s about the training.  That’s what bonds us.  Taking Dan’s class was more than training, it was a sign of respect, cooperation, and camaraderie.  I could have walked in with the mentality that I had already ‘been there done that’ since I’d trained with Dan before, trained in Arnis for over 23 years . . . but I walked away with a head full of new discoveries from “old” material, and reconnected with a long time associate.  Besides, if I expect students to follow my instruction, I should be willing to follow someone else’s on occasion too.

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Congratulations to Dan for his partnership with the Syracuse PD.  During our conversations, I was glad to hear that the Syracuse PD is taking advantage of his knowledge too.  He teaches a defensive tactics program specifically designed for Law Enforcement Officers (LEO).  As a martial artist, Dan is great but as a TacArnis minded kind of guy, the topper for me, is that he’s a shooter too – just like my instructor.  His mentality about training has always been a practical one as well.

T.A.W.G. Workout Rewind 8/19/11 – Driving Nails


“To increase speed and power, one must hit the bag hard. Regular practice is required to develop efficiency of movement when punching.” Ross Emamalt
Just like boxers, kick boxers, or MMA’ers, TacArnis students train to hit and/or be hit.  We have to condition our joints, our muscles, and our nervous systems in order to give and take a hit. Unlike boxers, kick boxers, or MMA’ers though, TacArnis students practice with weapons as well as empty hand.

Whether it’s hitting an opponents weapon as a block or striking vital areas in order to stop a ‘bad guy’ (or guys or guys and gals…) swinging sticks in patterns in the air is totally different from the impact, drag, and reverberation of really hitting something.  Even the ‘middle ground’ of using light contact striking with a live partner won’t condition the body for throwing a committed strike with a stick anymore than slap boxing prepares boxers for contact.

We make a point to do some kind of striking in every work out we can,

but today was all about “Driving Nails.”

I like the tire for this because:

  • It creates interaction between training partners
  • Trains the holder to watch/read the ‘telegraphs’ of the striker from the correct perspective
  • Lets the holder feel the force of a stick trick through the impact on  the tire
  • Allows the striker to see the ‘silhouette’ of a human target while striking the tire
  • Gives the striker the feel of hitting a firm ‘resistant’ surface
  • Forces the striker to apply adjustments between swinging air strikes and really hitting something.
There’s also a bit of ‘nostalgia’ in training with a tire for this.  It’s a cheap, readily available and improvised training aid… just like most of the early training tools are.  If it ain’t broke why spend way too much money on something that will only be ‘as good’ (or possibly not as good since it wears out faster).

It’s never been glorious…


HeroCraft

Image via Wikipedia

Life, let alone combat, from earlier times tends to be romanticized when people begin talking about ‘the good old days.’

I cringe when I hear comments from martial artists like “I wish life was like it was back in xyz…”

Here are some reality check videos from a few of my favorite “geek channel” shows to remind us that we have it pretty good on a daily basis – let alone when it comes to fighting/combat/self defense.

The trade off seems to be that modern society is obsessed with ‘working out’ and ‘conditioning’ because we have it so good that we are our own worst health risks…

The Blacksmith/boxer probably didn’t have to do too much ‘conditioning’ in order to be ‘fit to fight’ by the old standards.

The Farmer/Foot Soldier probably didn’t need to take PT tests too often and probably was very familiar with death/killing/slaughter given the daily life of herding/selling/butchering livestock.

The Herder/Fighter was VERY familiar with long stretches of boredom and having to be vigilant in all weather conditions – as well as fighting off the occasional rustler, coyote, wolf or other predatory threat to his herd.

And the idea of ‘women’s self defense…’ in a time when women lifted, carried, pulled, cleaned, killed, washed, built (and yes fought when they had to) probably would make them chuckle – women were tough as nails (maybe even tougher than some of the men) because of the work they did.

Sensory Awareness… Beyond Self Defense, I love TED Talks!


TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design and is the acronym for an amazing event that brings the best of the best in each of these fields together. By the ‘best of the best’ I don’t mean just technical skill or artistic ability.  TED conferences are about positive change, making a real impact on the world around you.  For example this talk about Listening and Hearing… spend 7 minutes and change (pun intended) watching this TED Talk.