Category Archives: Martial arts

Hunt: Martial Arts Training Involution #171

The following essay is from from the forthcoming stalking, tracking, and observation module of my Frontier Rough & Tumble martial arts program.  If you like this you’d probably like my workbook available here.

The Formidable Faculties of the Cricket Frog

I nearly stepped on him.  He was so still that I thought he was a part of the terrain.  I stopped and gave him a good look-see.  He didn’t seem to mind much.

He was a common cricket frog.  A storm had come bringing sheets of rain and a break in the heat of this late afternoon in August.  He had hopped onto the cement at the edge of the gazebo.  Like me, he was watching green leaves blowing from the trees and lightning cracking in the distance.  I’ve seen a million cricket frogs.  But there was something special about him, or rather, something special about the encounter.  I have grown old and wise enough to recognize this feeling.  I am about to realize something important.  Not right now, but soon.

The next day, after a very productive training session, I sat down to do some contemplation.  Let’s not play fast and loose with our words and refer to all forms of mental exercise as meditationMeditation is a form of medicine — both words have the same Latin root — it is focused attention with a purpose, often using at tool.  Those tools start with the letter M just like meditation: mantras (holy words), mudras (spiritual gestures), and mandalas (holy maps or visual aids).    Contemplation, on the other hand, shares its Latin root with temple, a space set aside for sacredness or divinity to enter.  To contemplate is to empty the mind.  You just just sit and breathe.  This is the zazen of Zen Buddhism.  You don’t think about anything.  You turn off your conscious mind and sit immobile.  

Like a frog.

It did not come to me in words, this grand realization, but in a rush of images in my mind’s eye.  I saw instantly that a frog contemplates in his own way.  Every creature that has ever lain in wait for a prey animal to come by — a frog waiting for a fly, a catfish biding for a minnow, a hunter in a tree stand waiting for a buck — has practiced contemplation.

The first three things you are taught when learning zazen are (a) do not fidget or scratch, (b) breathe silently and in a regular pattern, and (c) keep your eyes open to narrow slits to minimize the need to blink.  You are instructed to make no judgments or conscious evaluations about about what is before your eyes.  You do not ignore the world, you just choose not to react to it for a time.  You are completely relaxed, open, and empty — motionless inside and out — in a state of quiet awareness.

This is the behavior of a creature that is lying in wait for prey.

Contemplation is not a human invention.  We just differentiated various methods, gave them names, and basically did what humans always do: we codified, boxed, labeled and pontificated.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that all human systems of contemplation and meditation (and maybe even prayer as well) have their origins in hunting behaviors.

From fish, to frogs, to mammals, to apes to humans, at every stage of our evolution, we contemplated in order to survive.  Contemplation is in our DNA.  It is not a skill that we cultivate.  It is something that we allow to happen.

Contemplation is going home.

Hunt: Martial Arts Training Involution #171

* Martial Fitness Warm-up.  Set a timer for 10 mins and complete as many 4-rep sets as you can of Sit-Out Push-ups, 5-yard Bear Walks, Leg Triangles, and Shots.
* Weapon practice.  Every martial artist should be able to pick up a weapon and use it to defend himself if necessary.  Select a dull practice weapon of realistic size and weight and a heavy bag for a target.  Advanced folks may use a live weapon and a pell or war post if desired, but only if capable of doing so safely.  Set timer for 5 x 2:00 and complete 1 round of each (1) Passing blows (strike as you sprint back-and-forth past target) (2) Stationary strikes, (3) Sprawl and strike, (4) Up and down kneeling strikes (strike as you go down to one knee, both knees, one knee, standing, repeat), and (5) Sit-up strikes.  Strike constantly, taking as few 12-count breaks as you need to finish.  If the business end of the weapon touches your body at any time, complete 50 Push-ups for each touch.
* Half mile run.  Cover a half mile as fast as you can.
* Contemplation.  Walk off your run for about 3 minutes or until your heart rate is back to normal, then sit still for fifteen minutes.  Do not fidget or scratch, breathe silently and in a regular pattern, and narrow your eyes to minimize the need to blink.  Do not think in words, prepare your grocery list, or any of that.  Be in a state of quiet awareness, motionless inside and out.
* 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!

Hatmaker’s Readiness Test — Part 3

Click here to see Mark’s entire post

If you missed Part 1 & 2 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.

In the video below I’m facing question #6 — drag a 100 lb. sandbag 50 yards in under 30 seconds.  Was I cheating a little by using a trashcan lid as a sled?  Not sure, test doesn’t specify.  But to compensate I set a course that was slightly uphill for the first two-thirds — and I still made it 19 secs.  Video below.

Off camera I also tried question #11: Walk 50 yards out and back on one breath (without hurrying).  Totally failed that one.  Barely got the 50 yards!

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.
#6: Drag a 100 lb. sandbag 50 years in under 30 seconds.  19 seconds.  1 point
#9: One minute unprepared breath hold. Check.  1 point.
#10/11: Swim 25 years underwater or walk 50 yards out and back on one breath. Picked the later and failed.  1/2 point.
#13: One minute shower on full cold. Check.  1 point.
Total Score so far: 5 ½ points out of max score of 7

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!

DIY Auto Tire Barbell

The finished product!

Full disclosure — I’m not a young buck trying to win Crossfit competitions.  I’m just a martial arts instructor in my late fifties augmenting my martial arts with strength training a few times a week.

Space is limited in my home gym so I lift only dumbbells.† Many people say dumbbells will only take you so far.  So I decided to put some barbells under a lean-to behind the shed along with my Ironmind sandbag.

I’m crazy frugal so I did this DIY and on the cheap.  Below find the price breakdown and the photo set showing the how-to.

Now all I have to do is learn how to lift the doggone thing without hurting myself!


DIY Auto Tire Barbell Breakdown Weight  Cost 
2 each 205/65R15 Tires with wheels (Craigslist) 2 x 44 lbs = 88 lbs (39.91 kg)  $10.00
1 used Weider 6′ barbell (Play it Again Sports) 18 lbs (8.16 kg)  $24.99
2 scraps of 2 x 10 lumber from another project approx 2 lbs (.9 kg)  $        –
10 1/2 x 1 1/2″ lag screws approx 1 lb (.45 kg)  $ 6.00
Totals: 109 lbs (49.5 kg)  $40.99

†If this is your first visit to this blog, my “home gym” is the Cabal Fang Temple — ground zero for Cabal Fang Temple, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) federally-recognized non-profit educational corporation (I’m founder, president and head instructor) providing free martial arts, fitness and personal development services to those who cannot afford it.   I’m also the sole proprietor of Bobcat Martial Arts, a for-profit martial arts venture teaching Frontier Rough & Tumble and Vigny-Lang Walking Stick Self-Defense.

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.

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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.