Tag Archives: frog

Creature Teacher: Martial Arts Training Involution #176

Continuing the theme this month, this week’s T.I. is an excerpt from a forthcoming module of my Frontier Rough & Tumble martial arts program on animal teachers.


We learned from Frog that there is a great lesson in sitting still, and we received the gift of contemplation which literally means to watch something — from the Latin  contemplārī meaning “to observe.”

From Dog we learned that there is great utility — and an evolutionary imperative — for not just hiding our suffering but learning to be happy and loving even when we are suffering.

From Hawk we learned that the ability to assume the thousand-foot view, and to keep our eye on the grand scheme, is essential to success.

And from the cave paintings of our ancestors we learned that what is truly unique to the human animal is our ability to visualize and to mythologize — to examine past failures, pre-test schemes and plans, and rehearse our strategies in the flesh-and-blood virtual reality environment of the brain.

From these four animal teachers we can distill four powerful tactics for fighting stress that you can use every day — not just during a self-defense situation, but at work, at home, or any time.  The problem is that when you’re stressed your tendency is going to be toward panic.  So you’ll need to practice this sequence often enough that it becomes second nature.

When you find yourself extremely stressed:

  1. Be like Dog.  Pretend to be perfectly calm and relaxed even when your thoughts are in disarray.  In the same way that water assumes the shape of the vessel in which it is placed, your mind will begin to conform to the attitude of your body if you buy it some time.
  2. Be like Hawk.  Breathe, soar, and gain some distance.  Take slow, deep breaths making sure that your airways remain open at all times.  Make a conscious effort to hesitate for a few beats between inhaling and exhaling phases, but never hold or clamp down on your breath.
  3. Be like your ancestors and go to the cave — the cave of your mind.  Regain your comfort zone by calling up a mental picture of either of a familiar and related training simulation or of an actual previous success during similar circumstances.  You’ve been here before and you’re going to be fine.
  4. Be like Frog.  Go on auto-pilot.  Just be in the present moment.

Creature Teacher: Martial Arts Training Involution #176

These weekly T.I.s can be very physically demanding —  especially if you’re doing them on the weekend in addition to another training program.  This week we’re going to take it a little break and do some head work.  Practice the above drill.  Run through all the steps one by one.  Then make a note in your planner, or set a reminder on your phone, to run through them every day for the next week or so until you have them memorized.  Then take a nice long sit, at least ten minutes.  Try to practice your contemplation for double your usual daily length (but not more than an hour).  Daily internal work — contemplation, meditation and prayer — are essential to the health of the human body, mind and spirit.  If you’re not doing daily internal work there’s no way you’re maximizing your health and potential.  So get started!


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!

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!