Pop In: Martial Arts Training Involution #170

This is a chalice. The Chalice is the spiritual symbol of the month at Cabal Fang.

To summarize good self-defense I’ve started using this new catchphrase:

If you see it, flee it — but if you can’t get out, you gotta get in.

To learn more about how to implement this strategy, see Cabal Fang: Complete Study Guide from Querent to Elder or the forthcoming Bobcat Martial Arts
Dime Novel #6: Scuffling – Frontier Rough & Tumble Scrapping

I started off years go advocating this strategy.  Then a couple of years ago I started worrying that maybe it wasn’t good advice all the time, like with knives for instance.  Not any more.  I have zero doubts.  The more I trained, investigated and tested, the more clear it became that you should always run if you can — but if you cannot run you must take the fight to to the assailant.

Two respected instructors I trained with recently both corroborated this basic approach —  John Phipps (Krav Maga) and Jim Marx (LEO and WWII combatives).

You need all the weapons you can get when you’re in close.  In addition to uppercuts, hooks, elbows, and shoulder checks, you should also have good poppers.

Toward that end I humbly present…

Pop In: Martial Arts Training Involution #170

  • Martial Fitness.  Set a timer for 10 mins and complete as many sets as you can of 4 Chin-ups, 4 Kansas Burpees, 4 Back Bridges, and 4 Bear Walks (10′ diam circles).  Beginners use a light bag for the KBs and no bag for the BBs.  Intermediate, use a 65+ lb heavy bag for both KBs and BBs.  Advanced, same as Intermediate except add weight to the CUs.
  • Popper pyramids.  3 sets of each side of Shoulder pops and Elbow pops, each set in pyramid format: 1,2,3,4,3,2,1.  See video below.  To build up speed, do this pyramid a couple of times a week for a few weeks, then be sure to add them into your heavy bag work and to your sparring repertoire.
  • Meditation.  Meditation tools generally fall into one of three primary categories: visual aids (mandalas), words (mantras), and body movements (mudras).   The spiritual symbol of the month at Cabal Fang is the Chalice — try imagining it as a kind of visual aid.  Set a timer for 10 mins and assume your meditation posture of choice.  Visualize a chalice in your mind’s eye.  Don’t think in words — just visualize the chalice and breathe in a regular rhythm.  Quiet your monkey brain — allow the Chalice to chase away negative thoughts, obsessions, and so on.
  • Journal.  And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training log or journal.


DID YOU KNOW…that I have an awesome shop where you can buy all kinds of cool stuff, like martial arts training materials, bespoke books, artwork, and so on?  Check it out!

Benchmark Effect: Martial Arts Training Involution #169

I’m still feeling a little puny after my kidney stone event on Monday.  So this week I’m going repost the T.I. from exactly one year ago today and remind you that…

“The way to get things done is to stimulate competition.  I do not mean in a sordid, money-getting way, but in the desire to excel.”¹

What’s measured improves.

The way to get more out of yourself is to self-compete.  I call this “benchmark effect.”

  1. Train.
  2. Record performance.
  3. Evaluate progress.
  4. Adjust training regimen.
  5. Repeat.

I’m not going write 500 more words on this because there’s no point.  You’re either going to do it or you aren’t.  Which is it?


  1. Work your body.  Set timer for 8:00.  Complete as many strikes as you can vs. your heavy bag before the timer beeps.  If you don’t have a heavy bag,  make one; if you don’t have anywhere to hang it indoors, throw a rope over a tree limb or lash it to a tree or post.  When done, shoulder your bag and see how far you can carry it, switching shoulders as needed.
  2. Work your mind. Write down your strike count and the distance carried.  Are you writing down measurable metrics for all training sessions — such as rep counts, time elapsed, distance, etc. — and trying to improve?  If not, you aren’t training, you’re mucking around.  “That which is measured improves.”
  3. Work your spirit.  Set a timer for 10 mins and assume your posture of choice.  Regulate breathing to a slow, steady rhythm and allow your mind to approach stillness.  Don’t think, and don’t think about not thinking.  Just sit.  Most people call this meditation, but technically it’s contemplation.  Doesn’t matter what you call it.  Just do it and thank me later.

¹ Charles M. Schwab, as quoted in How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  If you haven’t Carnegie’s world-famous book you don’t know what you’re missing.  I re-read it every few years to reinforce my connection to its very simple concepts.  There’s a reason why the book has sold 16 million copies.

DID YOU KNOW…that I have an awesome shop where you can buy all kinds of cool stuff, like martial arts training materials, bespoke books, artwork, and so on?  Check it out!

Road Trip, Boot Camp, Kidney Stones and More


My son Robert and I went to Tennessee for Western Warrior Boot Camp 2019.  It was a non-stop event — 10 am to 3 pm Saturday and Sunday.  There was so much action that I didn’t stop to take any pictures.  Here’s a shot of the group.  The instructors were Mark Hatmaker (back row, fourth from left), John Miller (back row, fifth from left) and Jim Marx (second row, kneeling far left with epic beard).

Robert and I are the two goons in matching black Cabal Fang t-shirts on the far right

Hatmaker is the author of several dozen martial arts videos and books, and is a walking encyclopedia of wrestling holds.  Coach Marx is a combatives and LEO/police/military instructor with a Pentagon pedigree.  And John Miller trained under Carlos Cummings and  Vladislav Koulikov (a fight coordinator and actor in John Wick).  These instructors are some of the baddest dudes on the planet.  It was a privilege to train with them.

Road Trip

The trip down to TN was fun.  Slideshow of the pics below.  The two nicest places we went to eat were Little Dutch Restaurant and 60 Beans Coffee & Crepes.  I’m not the guy who takes pictures of food, but that peanut butter, banana and Nutella crepe from 60 Beans was too pretty and too tasty not to photograph.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kidney Stone

On Saturday afternoon my back started killing me.  I figured it was just all of the martial arts action catching up with me.  Got up Sunday morning and it was a little better.  I was able to train and wasn’t too bad, but I still wasn’t quite myself.  Drove home okay, although it was still mighty sore.

Woke up Monday morning and I felt great.  But as I was pouring my morning coffee it felt like a baseball bat hit me in my side.  Then the pain radiated downward, and it was like getting kicked straight up the middle, over and over, without letting up.  Hands down, it was the worst pain ever.

My beautiful wife Karen took me to the ER and it was a kidney stone.  Luckily there was a cancellation and I was able to get lithotripsy done by noon — that’s where they blast up the stones with sound waves — specifically extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) which is just a fancy way of saying they do it from the outside of the body.  No incisions, no scopes, just punching you in the kidney with this fancy machine.

I spent yesterday urinating sand.  Yay.  This morning I’m headed back to work.

I have to take a week off of strenuous activity.  In a couple of weeks I go back for a followup to make sure all the fragments passed.  And they’ll test the fragments to determine what kind of stones I had and how to prevent them.



Live from TN: Martial Arts Training Involution #168

This weekend my son and I are in TN at Western Warrior Boot Camp 2019 – here are some road trip pictures.

Full recap coming later. In the meantime, in keeping with the theme of pragmatic, Western martial arts, this week we’re flashing back 3 years to a T.I. that drives home a very important aspect of proper training methodology.

There are five primary training goals in martial arts: Speed, Power, Endurance, Accuracy and Form.

Never walk up to a heavy bag and just start walloping it, or just start randomly throwing punches at the air, slinging dumbbells, or aimlessly jogging. Why waste valuable training time when you can train with a purpose?
Before you start your workout, decide what you’re going to try and improve — then tailor the workout to drive improvement in the desired direction.

LIVE From TN: Martial Arts Training Involution #168

Let’s try kicking in all five ways. Before you begin, warm up for a full 8 minutes.

  • SPEED: Set timer for 30 secs. Roundhouse kick heavy bag as many times as you can in 30 secs. Rest 30 secs and repeat. If you don’t beat your kick count the second round, do 25 Push-ups. Remember that count and carry that number through the rest of this involution.
  • POWER: Turn off timer. Whatever your kick count was last round, do that many kicks as hard as you can, with maximum malice. Take your time but don’t lollygag. Rest 30 secs and do it again. If you or any training partners think your power was less the second round, do 25 Push-ups.
  • ENDURANCE: Are you kidding? This whole thing, taken in total, is endurance practice. But if you were training solely for endurance you could do something like 10+ minutes (or more depending on your fitness level) of kicks with no rest breaks.
  • ACCURACY: Mark a spot on the bag no bigger than 2″. Kick to your count. Do 5 Push-ups per miss. Rest 1 minute and repeat. You guessed it — beat your score the second round or do an additional 25 Push-ups.
  • FORM: With one hand on a sturdy object if necessary, complete your kick count very slowly and with perfect form. Rest 1 minute and repeat. If your or any of your training partners think your form was lower on the second set, do 25 Push-ups.

Hatmaker’s Readiness Test — Part 2

Click here to see Mark’s entire post

If you missed Part 1 in this series, click here.  In a nutshell, author and martial arts coach Mark Hatmaker recently posted The Self-Resilient Readiness Test  and I’m working my way through them to assess my ability to self-rescue.

Mark’s motivational scoring method is: You get zero points for not facing the challenge, 1/2 a point for failing and 1 full point for successful completion.   

In the video below I’m facing questions 2, 3, and 5 and I’m moving with the agility and grace of a ‘possum dragging a #1 Bridger trap.  But the point is to face your readiness or lack thereof, so…

My Scores So Far

#2: Run at top speed for 200 yards.  I’m slow, but I did it. 1 point.
#3: Jump over waist high obstacles.  Close but no cigar.  1/2 point.
#5: 25 dips.  They were pathetic and I had to take breaks.  1/2 point.
#9: One minute unprepared breath hold. Check.  1 point.
#13: One minute shower on full cold. Check.  1 point.
Total Score so far: 4 points out of max score of 5

Wanna play along?  Post your scores in the comments!

DID YOU KNOW…that I have an awesome shop where you can buy all kinds of cool stuff, like martial arts training materials, bespoke books, artwork, and so on?  Check it out!

Eline Powell as Olive Oatman

Olive Oatman (L) and actress Eline Powell (R)

I was doing some research for my Frontier Rough & Tumble Martial Arts program and came across the story of Olive Oatman. I was immediately struck by the fact the Olive looks a lot like actress Eline Powell of the TV show Siren. Olive Oatman’s story would make a great movie, and it would fun to see Eline Powell in the role.

Olive’s family was massacred by a native American tribe (probably the Yavapai) in 1851. She and her sister were abducted, enslaved, and subsequently traded to the Mojave. Sorting out the truth from the facts is difficult. But one thing is relatively clear. The tattoos on Olive’s chin are of a type used by native tribes to identify themselves to ancestors in the afterlife. It’s fair to assume that at some point she was assimilated. There are conflicting accounts of her liberation story. Some sources say she left behind two sons and that she was less than thrilled to be back among whites. There are a lot of unasnwered questions regarding the intrepid Ms. Oatman.

Olive Oatman, courtesy of Wikipedia

But if you look at her picture several things leap out at you straight away. She was beautiful, healthy and fit, and she looked out of her eyes with complete calm and focus. This is not a woman who betrays what she is thinking about. Nor does she look like she scares easy.

There’s so much more to her story than what you can get from the Wikipedia article, but you can start there. For additional reading, I recommend the section on her in The Old West: The Women. It has a great deal more detail.

Click here to browse products in the Frontier Rough & Tumble martial arts library!

Sack Cracker: Martial Arts Training Involution #167

If you enjoyed this week’s involution there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy The Hourglass Way: Transform in 12 Weeks with Cabal Fang.  This short, laser-focused workbook could change your life.  CLICK THE PIC to download the e-Booklet!

For unrelenting misery there’s nothing quite like the sensation of being squeezed — by problems (social, work, health, financial, etc.), by a training partner (wrestling practice anyone?) or by a real threat.  I speak from experience.  I have, at one time or another, been squished, crushed, and wrung out by everything listed above.

When life — or your training partner or assailant — puts the squeeze on you, you need to squeeze right back.

This week’s involution will (a) help you start developing your crushing power by making you crack a sack, and (b) get you motivated to solve and overcome any social, work, health or financial problems you may be facing by pushing you to get your crack out of the sack.

Sack Cracker: Martial Arts Training Involution #167

As always, warm up full before you begin.

  • Crack yourself a sack.  Get a floor bag (a heavy bag with chains taped).  Make one if necessary.  Set timer for 10 mins.  Scissor lock the bag from the bottom and squeeze as hard as you can.  Straighten your trunk while you hit the top of his “head” with hammer fists.  When your legs gas, swap top/bottom foot position and repeat three more times.  Roll to top position and straddle the bag.  Complete a Smearing Push-up and a Horizontal Bag Lift (my version of Hatmaker’s KSB).  Repeat three more times.  When you finish the last lift, lay a Scarf Hold on the bag, squeeze as hard as you can, and then switch grips and hips four times.  Drop the bag, go back to scissors, and repeat until the timer beeps.  Video below.
  • Get your crack out of the sack.  Run 1 mile as fast as you can.
  • Sack up and crack right back.  Whatever pressures are putting the squeeze on you —  social, work, health, financial, etc. — there is always something you can do.  Restriction breeds creativity, not freedom.  Get paper and pen and set a timer for three minutes.  Don’t analyze and think deeply — you’ll do that later — just throw out ideas!  Write down as many things as you can that might help your situation.  When the timer beeps, calmly review and analyze the list.  Pick the three best ideas.  Put them on your to-do list, set completion dates on your calendar, and son.  Taking action — any kind of action — is better than laying there and letting life, your opponent, or your assailant, crush the life out of you.

If you liked this blog post you’d probably dig some of my books and training products. For Frontier Rough & Tumble martial arts products visit Mitch’s General Store.   My books are available wherever e-books are sold but you can get them in any format at Smashwords.