Martial Video: Reverse, Smear, Hammer, Exit

It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means — martial arts video time.  Since this month’s martial focus is counters, triggers and flow drills, I present for your enjoyment and edification a delightful little flow drill to help you habituate a simple escape from Top Saddle position.

Training techniques in isolation will only get you so far.  Flow drills are where it’s at. You have to train the way people move and act in the world.  A fight is a dialogue, a call and response, a question and answer, and there is a flow.  Also included at the end of the video are a few quick words about this month’s symbol — the Cross — which just so happens to embody the concept of flow.

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.  


What are “Righteousness” and “Truth”?

It is essential for Christians to understand the meaning of the words “righteousness” and “truth.”  If we don’t, we are in danger of using these words, and our wrong-headed assumptions, to blame, restrict, enforce, and divide rather than to encourage, reveal, liberate and bring together.

Volition Magician: Martial Arts Training Involution #210


The Magician from my Hoi Polloi Tarot Deck — the one I’ve been working with since the 1970s

Today’s the fifth and final T.I. of the month centering around the Cabal Fang symbol the Chalice and the martial focus Striking.  May’s a long month which allows us five weeks to get into the weeds of this unique internal and external work combination.

The Chalice symbol has many associations, but the one most central is inherence.  The Chalice is about what you let into yourself, what you choose to allow to indwell in you.  Although the most obvious symbol on the Magician card is the infinity symbol, the largest one is The Chalice.

The Magician understands the concept of inherence like no other, and so should the martial artist.  Why?  Because 99% of magic is brute force.   My late friend Woody Landersone of the greatest close-up magicians in the world — once shared with me a wondrous secret.

Most magic tricks are based on the fact that the magician can do things that you assume cannot be done. 

Woody Landers

Woody could cut a deck of cards to the precise number desired.  I never saw him miss.  He would a few cards off the top of the deck and hand them to me.  “There’s seventeen. Count ’em.”  And there were seventeen.  And let me tell you, if you called Woody at 10 PM on a weeknight or at 2 PM on weekend, you were going to hear cards shuffling at some point during that call, guaranteed.  And he could memorize lists of numbers, names, etc. like nobody’s business.  He practiced that constantly.  Do you see the implication?

Woody could fan out a stack of cards, quickly memorize them, and then cut to any card he pleased after they were flipped.

And that is the level of mastery you need to have as a martial artist if you’re going to able to work your brand of magic — overcoming opponents larger, stronger, and faster than you, avoiding unseen dangers, and so forth.

Hocus-pocus isn’t real.  Real magic happens when you allow something to fully become a part of you.

What are you putting into yourself in terms of nourishment — intellectual nourishment (what we read, watch, and concentrate upon), literal nourishment (things we eat and drink), physical nourishment (the things we do and participate in), and spiritual nourishment (things we believe in and worship, Holy Communion, the Eucharist, etc.).

What are you focusing on?  What is your Holy Grail?  What are you allowing to colonize you? 

Volition Magician: Martial arts Training Involution #210

  • 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.
  • 15 minutes of punching half-pyramids for speed.  My old friend Woody understood the magic of repetition and so should you.  Get in front of your heavy bag and throw a half-pyramid of Left Jabs to  4 — that’s 1, then 2, then 3, and 4.  Do that five time — each set in the most rapid succession as possible without sacrificing form.  Switch stance and do it again with Right Jab.  That’s 100 Jabs total.  Now do Left Cross and Right Cross for a total of 100 Crosses.  Go back to the beginning and repeat until the timer beeps.
  • Contemplation.  Before you can fill yourself up with something great you must first dump yourself out and become empty.  Cool down for about 3 minutes, then 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.  


SHIFT Issue #3

Subscribers just received Issue #3 of my new SHIFT newsletter. IN THIS ISSUE…Video: The Internal Union of the Warrior-Poet, Eating Isn’t Just About Food, a recipe, and the always-useful Super-Stumper question! Click here to read and subscribe.

Solving the Problem of Evil Before Breakfast

Get the newspaper off the front sidewalk and spread it out next to your coffee and toast. Or, if you prefer, fire up your iPad and prop it up beside your kale smoothie and gluten-free whatever-that-is. Now, while you savor your morning meal, scan down the page or screen at the events of the day.

Lots of entertainment news but little of substance. Gridlock in our nations’ capitals because politicians can’t work together. Arguments about the reliability of the news it itself. Petty scandals erupt like flashes in a pan. If we look a little deeper, past the front page of the newspaper and deeper than the surface of Google News, we might discover that medicine is prolonging life and alleviating suffering and disease like never before. Economics and globalization are lifting people out of poverty at a rate never before seen in human history. In the last 25 years the number people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half – that’s over a billion people raised up from wretchedness and privation. Science and technology are joining us together, educating and entertaining us in miraculous ways. Social media is joining hands across the globe, promoting interaction across vast distances. Virtual libraries and education programs are putting millions of books and classes at the fingertips of inquiring minds. The quality of our entertainment, exploded by virtual reality and blockbuster computer-generated special effects, is mindboggling. Life expectancies are greater, and standards of living higher, than they’ve ever been in human history.

And what is God up to? Apparently not much. All he seems to be doing these days is hiding in musty, outdated books. From this detached and lazy vantage point, he inspires certain gullible, backward people to become terrorists and hatemongers, conspiracy theorists and anti-evolutionists, Luddites and end-timers. To modern people, God is unnecessary at best and dangerous at worst. When a reasoned Christian makes an argument for the existence of God, the modern reaction is either a yawn or a pro-atheist polemic.

There is so little evil in the world these days that we magnify and announce it with hyperbole. Less than two hundred years ago we had a president named Andrew Jackson who was elected to office despite having participated in at least ten duels and having shot one man dead in cold blood. He was the architect and signer of the Indian Removal Act, marching sixty thousand men, women and children from their ancestral homes to reservations halfway across the country, allowing four thousand to perish from disease and privation in the process. Even more recently we had a president named Nixon who hired scoundrels and thugs to spy on his opponents and rig an election. Another performed lewd, extramarital sex acts in the oval office and lied about it on the witness stand. And yet the current president is now reviled for being coarse, misogynous, petty, narcissistic and ill-informed – and for using his office for personal gain just like the vast majority of politicians do. Before you scream and stomp, a statistical average of twenty-one prominent polls of presidential scholars and historians puts Andrew Jackson at #3 on the list of best presidents, right after Washington and Jefferson and right before Abraham Lincoln.

My granddad in basic training for WWI

A hundred and fifty years ago, our government and its people were so divided that we split into separate nations. Brother killed brother over the question of slavery. Today we have bitter, intractable political battles over public restroom laws, cake-baking rights, and imaginary border walls we’ll never afford to build. For seventy five years the menaces of socialism and communism killed hundreds of millions – the Bolshevik Revolution, Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party in World War II, Viet Nam, the Cambodian Civil War, and the purges of Stalin stacked the bodies like cord wood. Back then, out of fear that these deadly ideas would infiltrate our country, we argued about whether careers should be ruined because certain people were communist sympathizers.

Nowadays we ruin people for politically incorrect jokes they made ten years ago, for allegations as yet unproven in courts of law, and for statements taken out of context. Technological memory is forever. Human memory is much shorter, and its perspective shorter still.

Me headed out shopping in the Age of COVID-19

As I write this we’re in the middle of a pandemic which has killed 300,000 people worldwide. A tragedy for sure, but only 6% of the 50 million killed by the Spanish flu of 1918, and only 1.5% of the 200 million souls claimed by the Black Death in the 14th century – over half of the entire population of Eurasia. So when the death rate began to go down in his home state of New York, Gov. Cuomo recently said, “The number is down because we brought the number down…God did not do that. Faith did not do that…Our behavior has stopped the spread of the virus.”

Have the world’s great evils been beaten back to such a degree that God has been rendered unnecessary, and Satan put out of business? Or is God still at work, and the old serpent still tempting?


“In a universe created by a good God, why is there evil?”

Once upon a time this was the hungry question gnawing at people day and night. But that was back when unwanted babies were so routinely abandoned that the dogs of Rome never wanted for a meal, when capricious rulers could have you flogged or beheaded, when tetanus could take your life after a tiny nick with a rusty razor as it did John Thoreau, brother of Walden author Henry David Thoreau, in the winter of 1841. Nowadays the Theodicy Problem – also known as “the problem of evil” — has been answered finally, fully and definitively by philosophers great and small, from Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig to Raymond Smullyan and Benjamin Hoff. The answers are on Wikipedia and the books they wrote can be delivered to your door within the hour by Amazon.

The Problem of Evil?  What a yawn.

The real questions, the burning questions we struggle with today, are much more important and complex than the tired old questions of yesteryear.

“How do we cut human population and reverse global warming?”
“How do we stop violence and war?”
“Who are the 1% — and how do we redistribute their capital it to the 99%?”
“What is the best way to enforce pay, gender, and racial equity in the workplace?”

Let’s pretend, just for a moment, that if we understood the problem of evil we’d be able to answer some of the really pressing and serious problems we modern people face today. I know, it’s a stretch. But if we really care about fighting evil, we should be willing to waste a little time on this boring old problem. So let’s try this again.

“In a universe created by a good God, why is there evil?”

First we should define our terms. For the sake of expediency, let’s leave the definition of “God” simple and open so as to make it as applicable and comprehensible as possible to the largest number of persons. Let’s say God is the creator of existence. No need to argue about whether God is conscious or unconscious, singular or plural, none of that. Doesn’t matter. For the moment, God is just the reason why there is something rather than nothing.

Now let’s define “evil.” Evil falls into two primary camps. The first is voluntary evil. This is the stuff that happens as a consequence of choices. Killing, abuse, beatings, war, all of the horrible stuff people do to one another on purpose, plus all of the things that cause harm because people failed to take action, like lives lost due to equipment faults left unfixed by sloppy engineers, child suffering due to inattentive parents, crime sprees that could’ve been stopped if a witness had chosen to testify in court, and so on.

The second type of evil is fundamental. This is the stuff that just happens, like accidents, fires, floods, lightning strikes, tsunamis and other events associated with physics and chemistry.

Disease is a grey area. Microscopic organisms are possessed of a rudimentary form of free will. They can’t come up with complex strategies or anything, but they can decide where to wander, and may have a choice between attacking this cell or that cell. Prion diseases, like Mad Cow, are caused by mutated proteins that we don’t fully understand. Don’t worry about it – once somebody figures out whether or not prions have free will we’ll know if what they cause is voluntary evil or fundamental evil. Because that’s the dividing line, by the way, between involuntary evil and fundamental evil: free will.

View from the top of the Land of Oz in NC

Fundamental evils aren’t really evil at all. They are tragedies, and they are not God’s fault. They are just things that happen – they are a part of the natural order of things that are embedded in the physics of existence. You can’t sit on the beach and experience a delightful breeze without accepting the possibility of a hurricane. You can’t nap under the shade of beautiful oak tree without accepting the possibility of being slain in your sleep by a falling limb. Fun fact: the leading cause of death in America’s immense and beautiful park system is falling limbs and trees. You have to take the bad with the good.

Voluntary evils are also not God’s fault. They are our fault. They are commensurate with free will. If you want to enjoy camping you have to accept that a bear might decide to eat you. You can’t enjoy the beauty of having your daughter treat you to a handmade birthday card and breakfast in bed without accepting the one-in-a-billion possibility that she might put rat poison in your corn flakes. You can’t create an economy that allows for the altruistic power of Danny Thomas’ St. Jude Hospital without leaving an opening for schemers like Charles Ponzi.

The astute reader will notice that God commits no acts of evil nor facilitates any tragedies. Your insurance company is dead wrong. The things they call “acts of God” are not acts of God at all.

You may be one of those people who asks, “But God could have made any set-up he wanted. Why didn’t he just make a world without the possibility of evil?” That presupposes something for which we have no proof whatsoever, which is some other form of existence. Alternate realities? Parallel universes? There’s no reason to believe there are any other ways in which the universe could be structured. But fine, just as a thought experiment, let’s ask ourselves what a universe would look like if there were no variables and no free will.

Ocean view from the trail at Fort Raleigh NC

There would be no wind, no rain, and no sun. Sunlight, you see, cuts both ways. It makes plants grow and warms the planet but it can give you a sunburn or skin cancer, so it’s strictly off limits. And, without free will, there would be no variables, no caprice, no random acts of kindness, no love, and no heroism. What makes Superman great is that he thwarts tragedy and fights evil.  Our hypothetical universe is a cold, dark and unconscious clockwork mechanism, terrible and terrifying in its infinite sterility. But this beautiful universe, the non-hypothetical one that we really have, has something that is so valuable and so amazing that it’s worth the pain of tragedy and the sorrow of evil: possibility.

But the Devil’s in the details.


Yes, the world is better off than it has ever been. But let’s return to the facts with a new lens – our new-found knowledge of the difference between evil and tragedy – and examine the rosy picture I painted at the outset. What about that 80% reduction in the infant mortality rate that’s saving almost 5 million babies per year? Is that because people are making better choices, or is that just better hygiene, better information, improved education, and scientific advances? The abortion rate is holding steady at 1 in 5 pregnancies. Every single year between 40 and 50 million potential babies never see the sun or know their mother’s breast as a result of a choice to terminate a pregnancy. What does this statistic say about humanity’s ability to make good choices?

What about the falling rate of absolute poverty worldwide? Is that because people really care about one another more than ever? Doesn’t look like it. Globalization seems to be the hero. Most of the world’s poor have historically been in Africa, China and the Indian subcontinent. The improved standard of living there is responsible for the statistical trend. It’s in those areas that millions of poverty stricken people have benefitted – not from benefaction but from the greed of first world businesses looking for cheap labor and cheap manufacturing.

How about the increase in life expectancy to 78 years? Is that science or altruism? Science has saved hundreds of millions of lives through vaccines for smallpox, measles, mumps, and other diseases. The invention of statins and other cholesterol fighting drugs has driven down heart attack and stroke, two of the leading causes of disease. These are reductions in tragedy, not evil, and are due to science not an improvement in human character.

The Tower (courtesy of Wikipedia)

How about falling homicide rates and the reduction in war casualties? Can we attribute that to an improvement in human morality? Not according the Correlates of War Project. Despite what political leaders say to support their pro-war arguments, wars are almost always fought over territory and resources, both of which are functions of economic stability. Even civil wars and rebellions are economically driven by financial pressures like excessive taxation (the U.S. Revolutionary War) and extreme economic disparities between haves and have-nots (the French Revolution). The aforementioned scourge of socialism was essentially a series of resource struggles. And terrorism? It isn’t a different category of violence, it’s just a tactical choice made by an individual or force bent on winning a conflict by any means necessary. The reduction in deaths due to war and terrorism is just the other side of the poverty reduction coin, not a global peace movement resulting from a worldwide awakening.

And just because we’re currently shooting less people than ever domestically doesn’t mean that humans are significantly less evil than ever. Crime is lower because poverty is lower. Sure, firearms related homicide in the U.S. is down 29% in the last thirty years. But school shootings climbed 500% over the same period, and gun-related suicide went up too. We may be killing fewer strangers, but we’re killing ourselves and our classmates like it’s going out of style.

Furthermore, despite the fact that the world is better off than it’s ever been, mental health is overall slightly worse that it was thirty years ago – very much worse if you look at teens and the well-to-do. According to the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation, about 13% of the world’s population suffers from one or more mental health disorders. Richer countries are more burdened by mental illness than poorer ones. In the United States the teen suicide rate has climbed 56% in the last 10 years. Depression is also on the rise. A 2018 study by Blue Cross Blue Shield found that diagnoses of major depression have risen by 33% in the last five years alone – 63% in the 12 to 17 year-old age bracket.

Is there any evidence that evil is on the decline?

With that in mind, now let’s take a look at those modern questions, the ones we seem to think are so much more pressing than the musty old problems of yesteryear. 

“How do we cut human population and reverse global warming?” Cutting human population is great way to reduce the stress and strain on the planet. Simple enough — all we have to do is decide which folks can we do without and how to get rid of them. The only issue is that once you begin to look at conscious beings as a cancer rather than as an asset, you are relying on the angels of our better natures to make decisions about who lives, who dies, and how it’s done. Are people better at doing that now than they were in the past? Should we even dare to make decisions of that kind?

What about the question, “How do we stop violence and war?” Globalization seems to be working on this problem for the moment. But as soon as disparity rears its head, can we have any hope that we’ll do better than we’ve done in the past?

“Who are the 1% — and how do we redistribute their capital it to the 99%?” Based on the poverty numbers we looked at, this is already happening, as a result of globalization. But if you’re impatient, you could always put people into little bins – the undeserving rich and the deserving the deserving poor — and then decide how much money gets taken from the one and given to the other. But there’s no reason to believe that people are any better at putting people into categories then they’ve been in the past, which leads to the next question.

“What is the best way to enforce pay, gender, and racial equity in the workplace?” Don’t stop now. Press on. Keep putting people into categories as quickly and efficiently as possible – the good genders and the bad genders, the oppressed races and the oppressor races, and so forth. Just keep going that way. Pretty soon you’ll graduate from putting people into categories to putting them into train cars for shipment to internment camps, concentration camps, or ovens.

You see, what soon becomes obvious is that these modern questions are all about what to do and how to do it. But you can’t know what to do or how to do it until you know why you should do anything at all. They are downstream from the essential question of why. The problem evil, it turns out, is not a musty old riddle of yesteryear. It is not one of the many philosophical problems with which our grandparents struggled, one of those silly arguments like the Scopes Trial that once bubbled into the public consciousness and were then settled. The problem of evil isn’t a problem. It is the problem.

Exactly what is going on here?  Have we ever really made any improvements at all in human morality? If so, when and how?


When we considered the problem of evil we envisioned a hypothetical universe without both choice and randomness, with the potential for neither tragedy nor evil. We have no evidence for that possibility whatsoever. But what we do know is that the universe began in a condition very close to that hypothetical cold and sterile clockwork mechanism. In the years immediately following the Big Bang, there was nothing but spinning matter and infant suns. The universe evolved into what we have now. Minerals and water on the Earth’s rocky surface evolved into proteins, and those proteins somehow became single-celled organisms. Those single-celled organism kept on developing until they became the beautiful and chaotic panoply of plants and birds and flowers and trees and lions and cows and people that we have today. Some of those animals developed self-awareness. They became human, and eventually they began to develop the ability to discern between good and evil – just as you have done by studying the problem of evil – in a manner that we cannot help comparing to the story of Adam and Eve. Once you know the difference between evil and tragedy, the truth of your inherent faults and sins never leaves you.

You’re welcome.

And yet, despite our imperfections, we have gotten better. When we look back across a short timeline, let’s say fifty years or so, we can’t see much improvement in the human moral compass. But if we look back to far enough, we can see that we have free will and we have used it. We’ve come a long way since we climbed out of the trees and began exploring the grasslands of Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago. And we’ve made quite a lot of progress in the last 10,000 or so since the invention of agriculture, and even more in the last 2,000.

Back then, during the Roman Empire, infanticide, polygamy, and human sacrifice were normalized. The master of the household was its king, and he ruled over it with total control. Everyone in it – from his wife to his servants and his servants’ children – were there to serve him both materially and sexually. Outside his tyrannical protection against starvation there was no hope of charity. That concept had not yet been invented. There were no women’s shelters, no soup kitchens, and no welfare. And there was no separation of church and state. The emperor was a god, officials were priests, legal laws were moral laws, and the governmental and religious calendars were one.

Harrowing of Hell — Fresco, by Fra Angelico, c. 1430s

But that began to change when Christianity pushed back against the status quo. A teacher named Jesus began to preach the equality of women, the sanctity of life and marriage, and the importance living in love and charity. In its first one hundred years alone, Christianity invented shelters, orphanages, soup kitchens and welfare, as well as the seed of a popular idea: a religion separate from government.

And when the empire fell, it was Christian monks who preserved books and maintained literacy as barbarians ravaged Europe. There were no universities or colleges back then either. Those were developed by Catholic Church starting in the Middle Ages. And who do we have to thank for the idea of human rights? Church Doctors like St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas were the originators of the concept of natural law. Without them there would be concept of “inalienable rights” or any “self-evident” truths as outlined in the Declaration of Independence or the U.N. Declaration of Human rights – which was steered by members of the Christian Democratic movement René Cassin of France and Charles Malik of Lebanon. And who was is the most powerful and transformative figure in the history of human rights? A black preacher named after a famous theologian – the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

And what about the science that’s doing so much to fight the tragedies of existence? A humble Friar named Roger Bacon pioneered the scientific method, a Belgian priest named Father George Lemaître was the originator of the Big Bang Theory, and Father Gregor Mendel was the world’s first geneticist. If not for the teachings of Jesus, whom we have to thank for the universal acceptance of the sanctity of human life, there would be no basis for the desire to relieve human suffering at all.

And what about us, today, right now? What if we took philosophical questions like the problem of evil with the utmost seriousness instead of thinking of them as silly, outdated, academic puzzles? What if we allowed ourselves to see that the world only gets better when we embrace our free will and acknowledge the possibility that God built into the universe he made? Isn’t it conceivable that accepting our agency as a divine gift from God, and taking our place as his partners in creation, would fight the scourge of depression, suicide and nihilism, and reverse the worldwide epidemic of pointlessness?

Draw, I beg you, a line of possibility on a graph that runs from the cold dead universe of the past, through the present, and out into the future. Try to conceive of infinite potential, of what could happen if we keep evolution and improvement going. What might the universe look like if every inanimate object evolved into a living thing? Now picture all those living things – a universe fully alive down to the smallest atom — being fully conscious and choosing to be good. Imagine every electron and every quark, every rock and tree, every creature and every person singing together in a cosmic chorus.

Wouldn’t that look a lot like heaven?

Have Mercy: Martial Arts Training Involution #209

Today’s the fourth T.I. of the month centering around the Cabal Fang symbol the Chalice and the martial focus Striking.  May’s a long month which allows us five weeks to get into the weeds of this unique internal and external work combination.

You know, I spend a ton of time making sure that everything I create — products, posts, newsletters, books — all harmonizes and co-inheres with what I’m working on at home and at the martial arts club.



A mix’n’match of FRT dice and Scufflin’ Dice

How do you make sure that everything you do — home, work, school, play, church,  etc. — harmonizes and co-inheres?  Journaling, in the form of an integrated diary and training log, is sufficient for most people, and will probably work for you too unless you’re a creator.  If you are a creator like me and you’d like little a peak behind the curtain — a look at how I create, organize and harmonize all of this material — dodge over to Patreon and for just $1/month you can get behind-the-scenes access.

The martial portion of this week’s T.I. is a grappling-striking mix’n’match created using FRT Dice and Scufflin’ Dice.  I just grabbed a couple of each and gave them a toss to create a session that would force me to practice integrating my striking and grappling skills.

Have Mercy: Martial arts Training Involution #209

  • 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.
  • Mix’n’match pyramid of 5 exercises to 5 reps for power.  A pyramid to 5 reps is 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1 (25 reps total of each exercise).  The five exercises are Bearhug Carry (1 orbit of your training area = 1 rep),  Shots (classic wrestling style), Shovels (sledgehammer, 1/side), Bodybuilders (10-count Navy Seal style) and Heavy Bag Combos (5 combos = 1 rep).  Power is a work/time/distance equation (lots of detail on this inMartial Grit, see below) so everything in this pyramid should be done with full forcemax-power-squeezing of heaviest manageable sand or heavy bag based on size/fitness level, explosive sledge digs, max-power heavy bag striking etc.  Only have one heavy bag and using it for the carries?  Just put on the floor and practice your down strikes from Top Saddle.
  • Mercy meditation.  Cool down for 3 minutes, then set a timer for about 10 minutes and assume your meditative posture of choice.  Regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm.  The Chalice symbol embodies the concept of reception.  It is about receiving, accepting, and allowing.  Keep your eyes open as you think about something you’ve been unable to forgive, allow or accept — something you know you should let go in yourself or in someone else.  See if you can envision a way to be merciful.  It’s very important not to think in words during meditations like this.  Think in images and feelings only.  Let them appear like gauzy dream superimpositions on your visual field.  If the word-monkey starts chattering just ignore him and he’ll quiet down soon enough.  When the timer beeps, record your thoughts and experiences in your training journal.

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.  


My Top 10 Most Influential Albums

My daughter’s fiance Jack is a cool kid, as well as a very talented musician and singer.  So when he challenged me to blog my Top 10 most influential albums, I had to answer the call.   

Some records have influenced the world, and some of influenced me as an individual.  The latter is what this post is about — the ten most personally influential albums.  So, without further ado, not ranked by rating but rather in the order in which I heard them, are My Top 10 Most Influential Albums…

  1. Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin IV (1971).  It was summertime, probably 1974, and the next-door neighbor was working on his ’65 Galaxie 500 with the radio on.  I was taking out the trash when Black Dog came on.  It was the first hard rock song I ever heard and the cat was out of the bag forever.  Eventually I got the album and listened to it about a million times.
  2. The Beatles — Abbey Road (1969).  I was sitting on the floor with my two uncles, Jim and Tom, listening to the Beatles for the first time, and I knew my head would never be the same.  By the end of the day I had heard several hours of their stuff.  It was too much for one brain to hold.
  3. Jerry Lee LewisThe Session (1973).  Dad liked country and Mom liked a little bit of everything — but her favorite artist was Jerry Lee.  This record changed me.  Jerry Lee infuses tunes of every genre with his unique redneck flair.  Guests include include Albert LeeAlvin Lee, Mick Jones, and Peter Frampton.
  4. Blue Öyster Cult — Some Enchanted Evening (1978).  The Öyster Boys are my favorite band, and this was the record that opened Pandora’s box.  Listen with caution lest you get pulled into the orbit of this Saturnian ensemble — sucked into a swirling kaleidoscope of biker rock, occult musings, and stun guitar.  On the other hand, maybe you shouldn’t fear the reaper after all…
  5. Cashmere Jungle Lords — Oodjie-Boodjie Night-Night (1987).  How do describe the Lords?  Southern Fried Surfabilly?  Western Surf Jungle Rock?  Neo-primitive Twang-a-Dang?  I don’t know, but it’s great fun.  This record didn’t come out until ’87 but I was hearing the songs in the early 80s because the lead singer, Dominic Carpin, was a college roommate of mine, and he taught me a lot about music — about how hard and painful it is to make, and what’s good, and what’s bad.  They’re still going strong.  Go see e’m.  Tell Dominic, Mitch sent you.  And yes, like the Beatles, their name is misspelled on purpose.
  6. The PoliceSynchronicity (1983).  I was basically still a kid, but I was married with a kid when this record hit the radio and sliced it in half like a batarang.   I was trying to figure out what what being an adult meant and how to do it.  This record is forever tangled up in my tangled-up 80’s head and it’ll never come out.
  7. Ratt — Out of the Cellar (1984).  Go ahead, be a hater.  I don’t care what you say, Ratt is the best of the 80s hair metal bands, and this record bangs from cut to cut.  There’s a reason why they got a Geico commercial.  Kiss, eat your heart out.
  8. KyussBlues for the Red Sun (1992).  This was part of the rotation when I got my 5 hour chest tattoo done by a wall-eyed Pall Mall smoking maniac with an IQ of 160 named Maxx.  These songs are slow even when fast, are brutal even when soft.  I know that makes no sense.  You just have to listen to it.  And by the way, Josh Homme should’ve kept doing this instead of moving on to Queens of the Stone Age (there, I said it).
  9. The SwordAge of Winters (2006).  Another record from the Maxx rotation.  Long before GOT became an HBO phenomenon, these heavy metal rock geeks gave GRRM a nod with this album title.  In an alternate reality time warp, Age of Winters was a groundbreaking 1974 album that went platinum.  Somehow it manages to sound old and new at the same time.  Best played on 11 while driving to work like I did for about a year after I bought it.
  10. Steve EarleI’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (2011).  I was really disappointed when I heard that Steve was going to put out a book and record combo.  I thought he was selling out, that it was some kind of creepy media deal.  But I bought them both anyway, and soon realized that Steve Earle is one of the most talented people in the history of the planet.  The book I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive is one of the best novels I have ever read — pure hayseed Dostoevsky — and the record is devastating.  Yes, Steve Earle is that good.

How to Train and Fight Like Wonder Woman

There are some parallels between the fighting, training and symbolism used in the Wonder Woman (2017) movie and the martial art of Cabal Fang I founded back in 2009.  So I wrote a blog post where I hinted at a couple of things.  And I made a video too, but only my Patreon supporters got to see it because they get stuff first (and they also get all kinds of other groovy perks too, if you’re interested).

Anyway, now it’s your turn!

Brandon’s Three Questions: Heaven, Hell and Genesis

I have a new blog follower named Brandon.  When I followed Brandon back I noticed that Brandon had posed three questions regarding Christianity.  As a seminarian and priest-in-training, and I decided to answer them in video form.

Here you go Brandon — I hope you like my answers.  If you’d like to talk more, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments.  If you’d like to have a chat, I’m available any time.

God Bless!

Perilous: Martial Arts Training Involution #208

Here at Cabal Fang HQ the May ’20 martial focus is Striking and the spiritual symbol is the Chalice.  I’m teaching two martial arts now — Cabal Fang and Bobcat Frontier Rough ‘n’ Tumble — so I try to make the weekly T.I. applicable to both.  

This week’s T.I. features a modified version of a Bobcat drill named after Black Hawk, and the title ties into a famous lyric poem by Tennyson about the Holy Grail written during the Frontier period — see an excerpt at the bottom.

Like martial arts and fitness?  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.  

And now for your weekly T.I.

Perilous: Martial arts Training Involution #208

  • 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.
  • 16 minutes of martial fitness action.  Set timer for intervals of 4 minutes.  Shadowbox for 4 minutes.  Then run out for 4 minutes, run back — (get back before the timer beeps!), and finish up with 4 minutes of weapon shadowboxing with your training weapon of choice.  How many times did you drop your blunt training weapon or accidentally allow the business end to touch your body?  Do 50 Push-ups for each error.
  • Want more? Do this month’s constitutional — click here.
  • Grail mediation.  Cool down for 3 minutes, then assume your meditative posture of choice and regulate your breathing to a slow and steady rhythm.  Keep your eyes open as you imagine that the glowing Grail is hovering in the air before you, close enough to touch.  The Grail is the cup Christ used when he instituted the Holy Eucharist, and legend has it that one sip from it confers infinite blessings.  How does it make you that make you feel to be in its presence?  Don’t think about the Grail in words — just allow yourself to experience the image and concept of the Grail emotionally, spiritually and inspirationally. When he timer beeps, record your thoughts and experiences in your training journal.

An Excerpt from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Holy Grail

Then came a year of miracle: O brother,
In our great hall there stood a vacant chair,
Fashion’d by Merlin ere he past away,
And carven with strange figures; and in and out
The figures, like a serpent, ran a scroll
Of letters in a tongue no man could read.
And Merlin call’d it ‘The Siege perilous,’
Perilous for good and ill; ‘for there,’ he said,
‘No man could sit but he should lose himself:’
And once by misadvertence Merlin sat
In his own chair, and so was lost; but he,
Galahad, when he heard of Merlin’s doom,
Cried, ‘If I lose myself, I save myself!’


…When the hermit made an end,
In silver armour suddenly Galahad shone
Before us, and against the chapel door
Laid lance, and enter’d, and we knelt in prayer.
And there the hermit slaked my burning thirst,
And at the sacring of the mass I saw
The holy elements alone; but he:
‘Saw ye no more? I, Galahad, saw the Grail,
The Holy Grail, descend upon the shrine:
I saw the fiery face as of a child
That smote itself into the bread, and went;
And hither am I come; and never yet
Hath what thy sister taught me first to see,
This Holy Thing, fail’d from my side, nor come
Cover’d, but moving with me night and day,
Fainter by day, but always in the night
Blood-red, and sliding down the blacken’d marsh
Blood-red, and on the naked mountain top
Blood-red, and in the sleeping mere below
Blood-red. And in the strength of this I rode,
Shattering all evil customs everywhere,
And past thro’ Pagan realms, and made them mine,
And clash’d with Pagan hordes, and bore them down,
And broke thro’ all, and in the strength of this
Come victor. But my time is hard at hand,
And hence I go; and one will crown me king
Far in the spiritual city; and come thou, too,
For thou shalt see the vision when I go.’