Tag Archives: involution

Throwing Hands: Martial Arts Training Involution #175

Giant hand sculpture outside Squash-a-Penny

Since I’m camping this weekend, this week’s T.I. comes out a day early.  It flows out of last week’s theme about dogs and ties into the monthly internal focus at Cabal Fang which is the Hand of Mysteries.  The details following are an excerpt from a forthcoming module of my Frontier Rough & Tumble martial arts program. on animal teachers.

Throwing Hands: Martial Arts Training Involution #175

  • No talking, groaning,  grunting or complaining for the duration of the training session.  Let your hands do the talking.
  • Put your hands on the enemy.  Complete 100 Duck-Unders with the best form you can manage.  If you don’t have a partner, just do them shadow-style.  This is not a lunge.  Keep your spine perpendicular to the ground, head up, and pull hard on the rear hand.  Check your form here.
  • Throw some hands.  Heavy bag form drill.  Set a round timer for 3 rounds of 3:00/1:00.  Get after that bag with perfect form — practice your falling step, make sure your hips are fully involved, strike using the “right” part of your hands (based on your personal thoughts and/or martial style) and so on.  Count the strikes that you think are are not up to your usual snuff.  When all three rounds are over, do that number of Push-ups and write it down in your training journal.  Come back in a few days and beat your number.
  • Speak to the hand.  Not literally, figuratively.  Are you at least as evolved as a cave painter was 15,000 years ago?  Set a timer for  15 minutes and think about it.  What are your goals and aspirations?  What do you feel about  so strongly that would brave a dark cave with only a torch just to paint it on a wall?  Have you put in place an organizational method that insures you are setting goals and aiming at them?  Do you keep a journal?
  • Journal.  And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training journal when you’re done.

Of Hounds and Hands

The words hound and hand likely have the same origin in the Proto-Germanic word handuz.  What does handuz mean?  Well, as with most of these proto-lingual words, which are mostly interpolations and guesses, linguists aren’t exactly sure.  The best guess is to reach for” or possibly “to obtain.”  I’d add “to grasp” to that list. 

Think about it.  That’s what hands and dogs do, right?  Grab and hold?  I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that both seem awfully close to the word “hunt” which means to grab a-hold of something to eat.  Makes sense, doesn’t it, when you consider that hunting dogs are very important whenever and wherever you have to hunt in order to get fed?

Now let’s look at it another way.  One of the oldest symbols known to mankind is the hand outline.  It is very common, found across the globe in cave art created by prehistoric hunters.

Look at the example on the right from the Cave of Hands in Argentina.  These hands were made using a form of prehistoric air-brushing.  The painters placed their hands on the cave walls and used hollow bones to blow colored liquids onto the surface so that a negative would be left when the hand was removed.   

The Latin aspiro means “a puff of air.”  An aspiration is an expulsion of air following a choke.  But an aspiration is also a hope, dream or goal which one seeks to obtain, grasp or take hold of — something you hope a favorable wind will blow upon.  Is there a connection here?

So you see, the cave painting above literally screams aspiration.   There is even a target on the far left toward which everything in the entire painting is headed, as if toward some grand intersection.

The artists could have held an animal carcass or bone against the wall and created a negative in the same way the hands were created.  Or the hands could have been sketched to match the style of the animals.  But neither is the case.  The animals and geometric shapes are sketched and the hands are traced with realism.  So why is one sketched and the other rendered using the prehistoric equivalent of a photocopy?

Because the animals are symbolic.  They are the dream, the aspiration, the hope.  But the hands are real.

The animals in the painting are virtually identical.   Because you see, it doesn’t matter what the specific animal is.   Each animal in the picture is at once any animal and every animal.

The painting proclaims that if the human mind can conceive it and believe it, the human hand can achieve it.


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Canis Familiaris: Martial Arts Training Involution #174

Phoebe (L) and Gobi (R). Phoebe is my wife’s dog, Gobi is my daughter’s.

In T.I. #171 I talked about the formidable faculties of the cricket frog and what we could learn from him about contemplation and the origins of meditation.

This week’s T.I. emerges from lessons learned from the humble domestic dog.  For all the background — and for another excerpt from the forthcoming stalking, tracking, and observation module of my Frontier Rough & Tumble martial arts program. — check out the details below the break.

Canis familiaris: Martial Arts Training Involution #174

  • No talking, groaning,  grunting or complaining for the duration of the training session.
  • Half Pyramid of Clean & Press.  Don’t have a barbell?  No excuses — get creative.  Use two dumbbells.  Gradually fill a ruck sack with barbells, chains, or tools from your garage (a bag full of wrenches and hammers weighs a ton!).  Start  with a naked weight bar and do 10 reps.  Take a 1 min. break while you add approx  1/10th of your max safe weight to the bar.  Do 10 reps, take a 1 min break, and repeat.  When you can’t 10 reps, that’s okay.  Just do as many as you can and keep adding weight until you fail.  My sets were #20 x 10, #30 x 10, #40 x 10, #50 x 10,  #60 x 9, #70 x 8, #80 x 5 #90 x 3, #100 x 2, #110 fail.
  • Heavy bag speed drill.  Set a round timer for 10 rounds of :30/:30.  Get after that bag as fast as you can for :30 and then rest for :30.  Count your strikes for the final round and write it down.  Come back in a few days and beat your number.
  • Dig a hole.  Not literally, figuratively.  Instead of digging in the yard like your dog, dig into yourself.  Sit down in your meditative posture of choice, regulate your breathing, and think back to the last time you were cranky, whiny or selfish.  What was the “pinch that made you flinch” so-to-speak?  Physical pain?  Fear?  Worry?  Stress?  Aren’t you better than that?  What could you do to prevent that from happening again?
  • Journal.  And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training log when you’re done.

Our dog Gizmo, may he rest in peace. One of my wisest spiritual teachers.

The Delightful Demeanor of the Domestic Dog

If your dog is suffering enough to show it, take him straight to the vet.  If he’s in so much pain that he snips at you, he’s probably at death’s door.  Anyone who has ever had a dog knows this to be true.  Gizmo, my little Lhasa Apso, sixteen years old and falling apart at the seams, licked our hands and showed his love for us all the way to the euthanasia room.  I wish I could be half as loving, and half as tough, as that little guy was.

Underneath that happy face, lolling tongue and sleek coat lie millions of years of ingrained, evolutionary knowledge.  Sick wolves are unfit to be selected as mates.  Weak animals get singled out by predators and picked on by any bullies in the pack.  Snippy, grumpy dogs get less food from their human partners.  If you’re a dog, it has always paid to keep your whining to yourself.  It is, in fact, a matter of life and death.

Your dog’s happy demeanor is the result of practical stoicism.

Similar forces had to be working upon humans too.  Who knows why happy stoicism didn’t get baked into our DNA too?  My theory is that our self-awareness prevented it by allowing us an escape hatch — being two-faced.  If I’m right, that means that being a happy and loving stoic is directly linked to integrity.

You see, the stereotype of the stern and frowning stoic is just that.  Your dog knows that behavior is not a bilateral spectrum or a zero sum game.  Dogs — and people for that matter — don’t have to be either happy-go-lucky or  stoic.  Possessing self-control doesn’t mean you have to be inscrutable or have the deadpan aspect of a corpse.

Nor does it mean being fake.  To be clear, we are not talking about simply gritting our teeth and hiding the pain.  That’s grade school stuff compared to what any dog down at the dog-pound can do.  We are talking about actually being happy and full of love despite being in pain.  And this goes for physical pain as well as spiritual and intellectual pain, like stress, money problems, family strife, work pressures, and so on.

It boils down to being the same person all the time, no matter what comes our way.  Isn’t that what integrity is?  Being a dutiful person even when it’s inconvenient or dangerous?  Being kind and polite even when others aren’t?  Staying on course despite the winds of pain, anger, frustration and anguish?

Sometimes reality is literally a pain.   Deal with it.  Start with daily contemplation and awareness training.  Then make a resolution to be like a dog — to be happy and loving even when you’re suffering.  Be on the lookout for signs that you might be allowing your pains to change who you are.  Make a note in your training journal when you catch yourself being whiny, cranky or selfish.  Be introspective enough to untangle your behavior and figure out what’s eating you — just knowing what it is can release its hold on you.    

Toughen up buttercup, or your pains will become everybody else’s pains too.

———————————-

Note:  One of Mark Hatmaker’s readiness tests, the all-day tenderfoot drill, helped crystallize the above ideas in my mind.  What a great drill — thanks Mark!

 


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Locomotion: Martial Arts Training Involution #173

Me and my son going down the slide at Rugged Maniac

Last week we discussed why tanks are scarier than cannons — because tanks can move and cannons can’t — and we did some movement-related training.  This week we’re taking it a step further by doing some “next level” movement drills.

Why?  Because, whether you’re a martial artist or not, being able to move through your environment isn’t just handy for clearing obstacles so that you can escape danger.  It’s about ownership of the space you occupy.  It’s about confidence, command and mastery of one’s body, practical fitness, fighting the spectre of workout boredom, and more!

Locomotion: Martial Arts Training Involution #173

  • Martial warm-up.  Practice your forms or flow drills for 8 minutes.
  • Spar or work your heavy bag for 20 minutes.  If you have a partner, gear up and spar using whatever guidelines you prefer.  At my clubs we generally spar using standard MMA rules and equipment except that we don’t allow strikes to the head (only smearing, grinding and cooking) and we don’t push the contact past about 2/3.  If you don’t have a partner, work your heavy bag.  I recommend using some aspect of the “S.A.F.E.  M.P. ” protocol from the Cabal Fang Study Guide.
  • Practice some martial movement exercises for 15 minutes.  Set up a little course of six exercises as much like the ones in the video below as you can manage (modify, adapt and overcome!) which are  Suitcase Carry Sprints, Vault w/ Quad Run, Jump and Safety Roll, Log Walks, Kansas Burpees and Get-ups.  Set a timer for 2:30 intervals and do as many as you can of each exercise for 2:30.
  • Walking Contemplation.  Walk.  Just walk.  Go slowly to minimize the sounds of your footfalls.  Be silent and 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.  Just put one foot in front of the other and allow your chattering monkey mind to gradually quiet  itself until you’re in a quiet state of awareness.
  • Journal.  And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training log or journal when you’re done.


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Propel: Martial Arts Training Involution #172

Which is more intimidating: a cannon, or a tank?


The tank right?  Why?

Because it moves. 

Your cannons are no good if they cannot move with authority.

Propel: Martial Arts Training Involution #172

  • Martial Fitness Warm-up.  Set a timer for 8 mins and do low intensity 4-rep sets until the timer beeps of Sit-Outs, 5-yard Bear Walks, Crunches, and Reverse Bridges (Neck or Shoulder based on your fitness level).
  • 200 yard Bear Hug Carry.  Carrying heavy objects  is the most basic test of functional, moving strength and should be a part of all fitness programs.  Set a goal of carrying half your weight at least 200 yards.  If this is your first time, start with a light, manageable weight and walk that off 50 yards.  Break 1 minute.   If that was easy, add a little weight and repeat.  Rest 1 minute.  If that was easy, to ahead and try to walk it off 200 yards.  Train this way 2 or 3 times per week using a linear training program with periodicity.   I like the Ironmind sandbag.  There’s a video of me training with one below.
  • Falls and Rolls.  Never take the basics for granted.  A competent martial artist should be able to safely fall and roll on real-life surfaces, not just on mats.  Warm up on mats and then, if your technique is good and you’re sure you’re ready, take it outside on the grass.  Complete 25 Shoulder Rolls and 25 Break Falls.  If that feels good, and if you’re sure you’re ready, go to the sidewalk and repeat.
  • Move while you hit and hit while you move.  Set timer for 3 x 3:00/1:00 heavy bag rounds. For the first two rounds, focus on mobility only, not power.  Be in motion for every strike.  All kicks should be switch-kicks or kicks with a décollage.  For the final round, go for it — full power with full mobility.
  • Contemplation.  Walk it off off for 3 minutes or until your heart rate is back to normal.  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.


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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.


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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.

 


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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?

Benchmark Effect: CABAL FANG TRAINING INVOLUTION #169

  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.


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