Category Archives: Martial arts

Happy 4th — it’s Sling Shot: Martial Arts T.I. #215

Happy Independence Day!

This month’s martial focus is Sparring and the spiritual symbol is the Pentangle. In the age of COVID, what do you do to in place of sparring and/or to stay fit for sparring?  Well read on…

Oops, I almost forgot to give you this month’s constitutional.  Breathe deep, you’re going to need it:

Get-ups (25)
Prison Push-ups (25)
Sprints (25)
Neck Crunches (25)
Russian Squats (50)
Down-ups (25)
Sit-out Push-ups (25)

And now for…

Sling Shot: Martial Arts Training Involution #215

  • Warm-up thoroughly for at at least 8 minutes. Do 2-3 minutes each of (a) jumping rope (b) light calisthenics and (c) shadowboxing, forms, or light heavy bag work, or 8 minutes of MBF.
  • Wrestling Conditioner — impaired.  To simulate having to fight injured, put your dominant arm in a sling, tuck it into your belt, cram it in your pocket, etc. and go it with one hand.  Throw your floor bag in the center of your training area and set timer for 4 x 2:00.  Round 1, circle the bag with good form.  Round 2, take Top Saddle and strike the bag with your good arm. Round 3, Roll to Bottom Scissors and squeeze as hard as you can.  When you gas out, swap feet. Round 4, let the bag rest on your your face and chest and strike as hard as you can with hooks, palms, etc.
  • Take your best shot.  7 rounds of “COVID Sparring.”  See video below.
  • Contemplation. After you’ve cooled down for 3 minutes, set a timer for 10 minutes. Assume posture of choice and regulate breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle or scratch. Allow your thoughts to dissipate like ripples on a pond and your mind to approach a state of calm and relaxed awareness. When the timer beeps, record what you did and what you experienced in your training journal. If you don’t take bearings and spot landmarks, you might get lost.



TWO MARTIAL ARTS DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE. 100% free and operated through my non-profit, Cabal Fang is a martial arts for personal development, self-defense and fitness. If Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble — the fighting arts, survival skills, lifeways and ethos of the colonial and indigenous peoples of North American during the frontier period (1607 – 1912) — is more to your liking, check out Bobcat Frontier Martial Arts, my for-profit martial art project. Click either photo to get started today!

Black Belts, Ranks and Achievements

Last week Mark Hatmaker tackled another one of my goofy questions and then wrote a blog post around his answer.  In it he called me “Affiliate Coach Mitch Mitchell.”  After a week I’ve finally untangled how that makes me feel.

My black and yellow belts, both sacred for different reasons. Ask me in person some time and I’ll explain.

I got my TKD black belt in 1989.  Three years earlier I’d been 80 lbs overweight and unable to do a single Push-up.  When I tied the belt on I was 155 and I could do fifty Push-ups.  But more importantly, instead of blaming the world for my failures I was looking in the mirror.  That was a turning point.

In 2011, after years teaching at the YMCA and Recs and Parks, I earned the rank of master from CMAPA.   That was a milestone too.

But I set out to earn those those belts and certificates.  The tangible reward wasn’t the goal, but it was certainly an expected part of the process.  Money changed hands.  Boxes were checked.  Expectations were met on both sides.

But with Hatmaker it was different.  Sure,  he’s been calling me “coach” for some time.  Last year he gave me the thumbs up to start my Bobcat Martial Arts project built around his Rough ‘n’ Tumble program.  But something clicked when he typed out “Affiliate Coach” in that blog post last week.

I dawned on me that I had earned the respect of someone I admire, and it had happened organically.  No written requirements, no expectations.  It just happened.  A seventeen year process that started with his godforsaken Gladiator Conditioning Program back in ’03 passed like weeks.  And despite the sweat, pain and difficulty, everything involving Hatmaker has been at once extremely hard and somehow effortless. 

And that makes being called “Affiliate Coach” more special than any belt or certificate.  Thanks Mark, for things that can’t be put into words. 

Me (R) and Hatmaker (L) at Karate College 2004

 

 

 

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New Metrics: Friends, Adventures, Flow and More

After reading about circling in Mark Hatmaker’s¹ Weekly Newsletter — it’s the the natural tendency of human beings to walk in circles — it occurred to me that I’ve been “circling” in terms of my personal goals and creative projects.  So I added some new metrics to my productivity tracker.

New Productivity Metrics

  1. Number of books read.  This one’s pretty simple.  I read a fair amount for seminary, but I don’t read near enough and I haven’t been working on my reading speed which is lackadaisical.
  2. Number of Holy Communions attended or performed.  Once a month or so I celebrate the Eucharist with the seminary and I perform Holy Communion at home most Sundays.  That’s not enough.
  3. Number of new friends.  I love meeting new people but somehow this always gets put behind work, study, etc.  This includes both online and IRL.
  4. Number of adventures.  I spend far too much time pounding the beaten track.  I need to get out there and explore!
  5. Number of days spent living in the Kingdom of God (Luke 1720-21).  I too often let myself get tangled up, stressed out, and turned around.  I need to breathe more, relax, and walk with God.  Some folks would call this being “in the flow,” being “mindful” or “in the zone,” or perhaps sati or a Zen state.  Call it what you want, but that’s where I need to be more often.

Further to #4, Number of Adventures I went shooting for the first time in 20 years.  Took my son with me, and boy was it fun!  I’ll be doing more of this — I’m way better with hands, feet, knife and tomahawk than with gun, and that’s unacceptable for a rough ‘n’ tumbler!


¹ I’m an Affiliate Coach of Mark Hatmaker’s Rough ‘n’ Tumble martial arts program.  Rough ‘n’ Tumble is a martial art incorporating the fighting arts, survival skills, lifeways and ethos of the colonial and indigenous peoples of North American during the frontier period (1607 – 1912).  Click the photo to get started learning Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble today!

Tetragram: Martial Arts Training Involution #214

chariot tarot

Last week we saw that the Chariot Tarot card encapsulates our June focuses (counters, triggers and flow drills on the martial side and the spiritual symbol the Cross) because it depicts what’s possible if you are maximally engaged (in the flow) and maximally integral (living out the Cross). In other words, you are unified in thoughts, desires, actions and beliefs.

But the Chariot also symbolizes the quadrigathe four ways of interpreting scripture which are named after the Roman quadrida, a chariot drawn by four horses. Those four ways are literally, allegorically, morally and mystically. Four perspectives are necessary in order to see the big picture (that’s why there are four Gospels).

It’s all about the fours. The Egyptian Hieratic number four is jifdáw, which literally means “rectangle.” The canopy of the chariot is a rectangle with four posts, the charioteer’s chest is adorned with a square, and the entire artistic layout is in squares and rectangles that mirror the four-letter name of God (the Tetragrammaton, YHWH). The charioteer is oriented by a 4-pointed internal compass (the Cross) and he’s in “the zone.”

All of this is embedded in the Hermetic Quaternary — to Know, to Will, to Dare, to Keep Silent — the Hermetic “compass” that is equated with the Christian cross.

The Hermetic Quaternary is encoded in esoteric Christianity and right there in the scripture — in both the Old Testament and in the Gospels as spoken by Christ. Read more about this in the next issue of SHIFT which comes out tomorrow (subscribe here).
Tetragram: Martial Arts Training Involution #214

  • Warm-up thoroughly for at at least 8 minutes. Do 2-3 minutes each of (a) jumping rope (b) light calisthenics and (c) shadowboxing, forms, or light heavy bag work, or 8 minutes of MBF.
  • How many hours have you spent “in the flow” this week? When you’re in the flow, walking with Christ, or whatever you prefer to call it, you are relaxed, happy, productive and engaged — without effort, tension, or self-consciousness. If the answer is less than an hour per day on average I suggest journaling daily. Analyze your entries. Figure out what gets you into that space and what pushes you out. Set some benchmarks. The more time you spend there the better.
  • Complete “Staying Alive.” In self-defense you can’t internalize a action/reaction flow chart — you have to prepare to fight tired and from any position and learn to fight in the flow. Set timer for 5 x 4:00/1:00. First round, run away from your training area. Second round, run back. Third round, shadowbox. Fourth round, grapple your floor bag. Round five, wrestle your floor bag. Beginners, take as many 12-count breaks as you need to finish. Advanced players, work through the rest breaks. See video below.
  • Contemplation. After you’ve cooled down for 3 minutes, set a timer for 10 minutes. Assume posture of choice and regulate breathing to a slow and steady rhythm. Keep your eyes open and do not fidget, wiggle or scratch. Allow your thoughts to dissipate like ripples on a pond and your mind to approach a state of calm and relaxed awareness. When the timer beeps, record what you did and what you experienced in your training journal. If you don’t take bearings and spot landmarks, you might get lost.



TWO MARTIAL ARTS DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE. 100% free and operated through my non-profit, Cabal Fang is a martial arts for personal development, self-defense and fitness. If Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble — the fighting arts, survival skills, lifeways and ethos of the colonial and indigenous peoples of North American during the frontier period (1607 – 1912) — is more to your liking, check out Bobcat Frontier Martial Arts, my for-profit martial art project. Click either photo to get started today!

Staying Alive: Fighting Fitness, P.A.D.E. and the Gospel of Matthew

Made a video this morning that lays out a very strenuous 25-minute fighting fitness routine and also explores the overlap between self-defense and conduct, martial arts and morality.

No Reins: Martial Arts Training Involution #213

chariot tarot

As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, the Chariot Tarot card symbolizes the successes that come to a person who is in a proper relationship with Being.  This is the individual who spends a great deal of time in what modern people call a “flow state” but what I would call “being in Christ.”

The chariot is drawn by two sphinxes, and there are no reins.  So how does the charioteer steer the chariot?  How does he direct himself to his destination?  By being aware and engaged, he gets where he wants to go because he goes were he wants to get.  It is allowed to happen.

bridger

As Hatmaker pointed out on his blog this week, the greatest frontiersmen could hear a mouse pissing on cotton, and they gave the impression they could see the invisible and predict the future.  That’s because they were paying attention — not in a forced and tension-filled way but in a relaxed, fearless and fully engaged manner.  They were in the flow.

Consider this 17th century Masonic poem by Scot Henry Adamson:

For what we presage is not in grosse,
For we brethren of the Rosie Crosse;
We have the Mason Word and second sight,
Things for to come we can foretell aright.

Some say that Adamson is implying that Masons have psychic abilities.  I don’t think so.

I think what he’s saying is that when you have integrity — when thoughts, desires, actions and beliefs are unified such that you live “in the flow” or “in Christ” — then you are oriented to such a degree that your spiritual and physical compasses are superimposed and things happen for you as if by magic.

No Reins: Martial Arts Training Involution #213

  • Warm-up thoroughly for at at least 8 minutes. Do 2-3 minutes each of (a) jumping rope (b) light calisthenics and (c) shadowboxing, forms, or light heavy bag work, or 8 minutes of MBF.
  • How many hours have you spent “in the flow” this week?  When you’re in the flow, walking with Christ, or whatever you prefer to call it, you are relaxed, happy, productive and engaged — without effort, tension, or self-consciousness.  If the answer is less than an hour per day on average I suggest journaling daily.  Analyze your entries.  Figure out what gets you into that space and what pushes you out.  Set some benchmarks.  The more time you spend there the better.
  • 20 minutes of forms.  Cabal Fangers, run through the Fool’s Journey, the Star of Ishtar and the Black Dragon three times each, then shadowbox until you get your 20.  Rough ‘n’ Tumblers, get out your tomahawk and run through some basic combinations paying special attention to foot position, following steps, off hand, etc.  If your martial art doesn’t have forms, shadowbox.
  • Have you done two constitutionals this week?  If not, complete this month’s constitutional.  Pikes (25), Push-ups, uneven (25), Jump Squats (100), Reverse Bridges (25), Curb Touches (100), Ploughs (25), Burpees (25).
  • Contemplation.  After you’ve cooled down for about 3 minutes, set a timer for 10 minutes. Full instructions in the video below.  When the timer beeps, record what you did and what you experienced in your training journal.  If you don’t take bearings and spot landmarks, you might get lost.


TWO MARTIAL ARTS DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE.  Cabal Fang is a martial arts for personal development and is 100% free and operated through my non-profit.  Bobcat Frontier Martial Arts, my for-profit martial art project, is Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble — an American martial art that encompasses the fighting arts, survival skills, lifeways and ethos of the colonial and indigenous peoples of North American during the frontier period (1607 – 1912).  Click either photo to get started today!

Practical Contemplation

Contemplation, meditation and prayer are the three cornerstones of religious experience and they are practical, evolutionary adaptations utilized by conscious, self-aware, social creatures such as humans.


If you liked this post you’d love my Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble program!  Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble is an American martial art that encompasses the fighting arts, survival skills, lifeways and ethos of the colonial and indigenous peoples of North American during the frontier period (from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 through 1912 — the year the U.S. admitted Arizona as the 48th state).  Click the photo to get started.  Free hat and t-shirt with sign-up!

Antlers: Martial Arts Training Involution #212

stag deer antlers

In Cabal Fang martial arts, the stag is the symbol of athanor, the fourth of our five ranks (roughly equivalent to the red or brown belt in eastern martial arts).  In my Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble program, which incorporates indigenous skills and folkways, the stag is a subject of study and inspiration also.

Cabal Fang’s June symbol is the Cross, and there is a very deep connection between the stag and the cross which I discuss in the next issue of the SHIFT newsletter which came out today — and there will be an even deeper dive available to Patreon supporters.

Anyway, unlike horns which are akin to fingernails, antlers are actually bones.  They are an outgrowth of the skull which are shed and regrown every year.   You don’t have bony antlers.  But you do have a bony skull with a sizable brain inside it, which means you can learn two lessons from the stag’s inspiration — one about fighting and the other about spirit.

Antlers: Martial Arts Training Involution #212

  1. Fighting lesson from the stag: When stags fight, the contest is almost always won by the stag who stays the lowest and locks in his antlers.
  2. Spiritual lesson from the stag: You cannot run down a stag in the forest.  The only way to get him is to lie in wait, and the way to do that is to sit perfectly still — to be relaxed but aware, focused but not tense, without fidgeting, wiggling or scratching.  Sounds a lot like meditation, doesn’t it?

And now for the T.I.

  • Warm-up thoroughly for at at least 8 minutes. Do 2-3 minutes each of (a) jumping rope (b) light calisthenics and (c) shadowboxing, forms, or light heavy bag work, or 8 minutes of MBF.
  • 3 rounds of level mirroring drills. Set timer for 3 x 3:00/1:00.  Round 1: Square off with your partner, both of you in fighting stance, 6′ apart.  At any moment either partner fakes a takedown, ankle pick, or other level change.  Other partner follows suit, trying to keep head lower. Round 2: If social distancing due to COVID-19,  do another round like the last except this time add in sprawls — go all the way down to the floor.  If you have a training partner in your household, get into clinch position and practice level mirroring there.  Round 3: If social distancing, do another round like the last except add in lateral movement.  If you have a safe training partner, practice getting your head in the pocket.  See video below.
  • Have you done two constitutionals this week?  If not, complete this month’s constitutional.  Pikes (25), Push-ups, uneven (25), Jump Squats (100), Reverse Bridges (25), Curb Touches (100), Ploughs (25), Burpees (25).
  • Meditation.  After you’ve cooled down for about 3 minutes, set a timer for 10 minutes. Assume your posture of choice and regulate your breathing to insure a slow and consistent rhythm that completely fills and empties your lungs without bearing down on your breath. Eyes open, think about the stag and his antlers, but not in words.  Picture the stag in your mind’s eye.  Allow yourself to think in emotions and pictures only.  This pushes your thinking beyond the intellectual, past words and out into experience.  Do not fidget, wiggle or scratch.
  • When the timer beeps, record what you did and what you experienced in your training journal.  If you don’t measure performance, how do you know if you’re improving or not? Only that which is measured improves.


If you liked this post you’d love my Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble program!  What is Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble or “FRT?”  FRT is an American martial art that encompasses the fighting arts, survival skills, lifeways and ethos of the colonial and indigenous peoples of North American during the frontier period (from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 through 1912 — the year the U.S. admitted Arizona as the 48th state).  Click the photo to get started.  Free hat and t-shirt with sign-up!

June 2020 Backpacking Adventure Video

This past weekend I went on an amazing backpacking trip with my youngest daughter and her fiance, one of her friends, my son, and my brother-in-law.

We hiked the Cold Mountain and Pleasant Mountain trails in the George Washington National Forest. Highly recommended — many scenic overlooks, beautiful trails, plenty of backcountry dispersed camping sites, ample water sources (don’t forget your water purification equipment!).

One of the best hikes I’ve ever done. I just wish I was a better photographer. Because the full moon on Saturday night was out of this world.

Victory Flow: Martial Arts Training Involution #211

Victory is attained through flow not by force.

To lead a group you must be in dialogue with its members.  To win a fight you must work with your adversary’s openings.  To physically train your body for fitness, you have work with your body or you will destroy it.

Forcing people destroys teams and groups.  Forcing a given strategy onto set of conditions loses matches, fights and battles.  Forcing your body leads to injury.  And please tell me how it’s at all possible to force a relationship with your higher power?

The monthly focus and symbol are both related flow, which is the conversation and interplay between contrasting elements — you and your higher power, you and your martial opponent, the present state and the goal, etc.  Common symbols for this are pictured on the right.

Clockwise from the upper left: The Chariot Tarot card depicts a chariot drawn by two sphinxes, one light and the other dark.  The rider is being drawn along by the flow.  The stag, a crepuscular animal active only at dawn and dusk, is awash in the conversation between light and dark.  The Luminaries are the two heavenly bodies, one to light the day and the other to light the night.  Boaz and Jachin are the pillars of Solomon’s Temple, Boaz often depicted as black and Jachin as white, evoking ideas similar to the divine twins astride horses — one dark the other light — and  to the taijitu or “yin-yang” symbol — the unity of opposing forces.

The cross, this month’s symbol, is also about flow.  There are four ways of approaching biblical interpretation (allegorical, moral, anagogical and literal) and they are collectively known as the quadriga — a chariot drawn by four horses — a call-back to the symbols pictured above.  The cross, which is after all compass and the “X” that marks the spot, warns you that if you fail to acknowledge the flow you will surely lose your way.

Victory Flow: Martial arts Training Involution #211

  • Warm-up thoroughly for at at least 8 minutes. Do 2-3 minutes each of (a) jumping rope (b) light calisthenics and (c) shadowboxing, forms, or light heavy bag work, or 8 minutes of MBF.
  • At least 11 minutes of flow drills. Get our your grappling dummy or floor bag and set a timer for at least 3 x 3:00/1:00.  Put in at least 3 rounds on flow drills.  Start with a chain of two moves.  Add one or two moves per round, slowly building up your flow drill from the bottom.  Don’t force.  Let the drill modify itself as you go.  See what “flows” and what doesn’t.
  • Complete this month’s constitutional.  Pikes (25), Push-ups, uneven (25), Jump Squats (100), Reverse Bridges (25), Curb Touches (100), Ploughs(25), Burpees (25).
  • Contemplation.  Contemplation is about being in, and a part of, flow.  Dump out your intellectual mind for a few minutes, become empty of words, and marinate in the flow.  After you’ve cooled down for about 3 minutes, set a timer for 10 minutes. Assume your posture of choice and regulate your breathing to insure a slow and consistent rhythm that completely fills and empties your lungs without bearing down on your breath. Eyes open, gently allow your mind to empty and calm itself. Don’t make war with thoughts, just let them pass by, dissipating like ripples on the surface of a pond.
  • Record what you did and what you experienced in your training journal.  If you don’t measure performance, how do you know if you’re improving or not? Only that which is measured improves.


My new ebook “Martial Grit: Real Fighting Fitness (On a Budget)” releases July 1st.  Pre-order now at Barnes & Noble, iTunes or Smashwords.  Honed by 30 years teaching martial arts in inner city programs and in public parks for a non-profit, this is as real as it gets. 3 keys to proper mindset. Accelerate your training with the “S.A.F.E. M.P.” protocol. Dozens of drills and exercises using heavy bags, floor bags, dummies, slip balls, chains, weights, tires, sledges, pipes, mallets, etc. And DIY instructions for making your own gear for pennies.  

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