Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Moving On

My Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts website has gone through an overhaul and, quite frankly, it's long overdue. It's still a work in progress. In addition to the overhaul, I have migrated this blog over to the new website.

You can find the blog at:


Please bookmark the new blog address as I will be blogging from this site from this point forward.

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Misdirection and Attention

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The above video is an interesting and fascinating one to watch. Obviously, I watched this from a self defense and martial arts perspective. It raises the interesting issue of how much attention people pay to their surroundings. Going beyond the pickpocket aspect of this video, what I found interesting was Mr. Robbins' description of attention as a limited resource.



I often walk in my neighborhood and, a number of times, I have walked by teenage girls who never noticed me. Why? They were engrossed in their smartphones as they walked by me. Clearly, they would not have been prepared to defend themselves if I didn't have their best interests at heart.



But going beyond the issue of pickpocket victims and potential sexual assault victims, I'm also thinking of my parents, one of whom has dementia and the other is a severe stroke survivor. I'm thinking of the senior demographic in general. While I'm not comfortable in painting this demographic with a broad brushstroke, a large number of seniors appear to be vulnerable due to being easily confused and distracted by potential scammers and criminals who surely know how to play the seniors.



A good way not to become a victim is to pay attention to your surroundings and to the people in your environment.


What are your thoughts on this video?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Meeting GM Bobby Taboada

On Sunday April 26, 2009, after I arrived at Ike Sepulveda’s house, along with Terence, I was introduced by Ike to GM Bobby Taboada, who received my handshake warmly and with a friendly smile. I said “it’s an honor to meet you.” We all sat down for a delicious brunch served by Ike and his wife, Ina, and lots of conversation with GM Bobby.  How this meeting occurred is an interesting story unto itself.

I moved to the Toronto area from Columbus, Ohio in June of 2007 after marrying my Canadian wife and started teaching classes at the local community centre in Oshawa in February of 2008.  One of my students apparently told Ike Sepulveda, a resident of Ajax, about me.  Sometime in March of 2008,  Ike paid a visit to one of my classes and introduced himself. He brought along his rattan canes in a stick bag.

Ike indicated to me that he trained in Balintawak escrima but did not elaborate further. To the best of my recollection, he watched the first half of class. During a ten minute break in class, he asked if we could “play” and I replied “sure.”  Due to the fact that much of the tapi tapi of Modern Arnis is rooted in Balintawak, I delighted in this opportunity and found a lot of similarities. After we played, I thanked Ike for the opportunity. I said to myself “I really like this man.”  I obtained his e-mail address and we exchanged a few e-mails over the course of the next few months.

In May of 2008, I received an e-mail from Terence who inquired into the Modern Arnis classes I was teaching. I invited him to try it out. Terence became an instant Modern Arnis addict, so much so that we jokingly say that we need to form an “Arnis Anonymous” organization! Terence has introduced me to many aspects of Filipino culture, cuisine, and language.

In February of 2009, Ike paid a surprise visit to my Modern Arnis class where we conversed during a break. During this break, I introduced Ike to Terence. During our conversation, I asked Ike about the Balintawak Convention he attended in Las Vegas in November of 2008. He said that he had a very good time and that the training was quite good. At this time, I had no idea of the Balintawak connections that Ike had.  Indeed, he did not reveal much to myself or Terence. At this meeting, Terence and Ike exchanged e-mail addresses and began corresponding.

I would occasionally ask Terence if he had heard from Ike. It appeared that the correspondence increased over time to the point where Ike admitted to Terence that he was taking a month’s vacation to visit the Philippines and hinted that he was going to “train.” We thought to ourselves, “wow, we’d love to train for a whole month like that.”

One day I dropped by Ike’s Copy Zone shop in Whitby to have business cards and flyers printed. When I entered the shop, Ike saw me and greeted me like a long time friend and welcomed me to the back of the shop where he introduced me to his wife, Ina, and a couple of his employees.  While attending to my needs, he showed me YouTube video clips of Balintawak. I recall that he showed some by GM Nick Elizar and some by GM Nene Gaabucayan. I told Ike that I understood that he was going to the Philippines on a long vacation and he replied in the affirmative. I asked him if he was going to train while over there. With a shy smile, he said “yes.”  I was happy for Ike that he had this opportunity, still not knowing his connections.

After coming back from the Philippines, he revealed to Terence that he had trained with GM Nick Elizar. I was amazed that he had the opportunity to train with an esteemed Balintawak Grandmaster like Nick Elizar. But Ike was to reveal more. In an e-mail to Terence in mid-April, Ike revealed that GM Bobby Taboada was coming to stay at his house on the weekend of April 26th and that Bobby was a personal family friend. Ike further revealed that he was inviting us to meet Bobby on the Sunday of that weekend. Terence informed me of these developments. I said “Whoa, back up, GM Bobby Taboada is a personal family friend of Ike’s?” I then began to learn more about Ike’s interesting background.

Through my training in Modern Arnis, I had heard many stories of GM Presas’ training in Balintawak under Timoteo Maranga, Rondolfo Mongcal, and the revered Grandmaster of Balintawak, Venancio “Anciong” Bacon. I had also heard that Professor Presas and GM  Bobby Taboada were very close friends. So, when Ike revealed that GM Bobby was a family friend and asked if I’d like to come over and meet him,  I said yes as Ike’s house is only a 15 to 20 minute drive from my house.

What I learned was that Ike, his older brother, Butch, Nick Elizar, and Bobby Taboada all had trained under GM Teofilo Velez at the same time. In addition, Ike’s brother, Greg, trains with GM Nene Gaabucayan and GM Ising Atillo in Los Angeles. His brother, Butch Sepulveda, was the founder of the Gold Chapter in Cebu and is also the Treasurer for the World Eskrima Balintawak Arnis Federation (WEBAF, Inc). Ike continues to train under GM Nick Elizar and GM Ising Atillo in Los Angeles. Needless to say, there has been a family history of involvement in the art of Balintawak Arnis for quite some time. It was through this involvement that Ike’s family became friends with GM Nick Elizar, GM Bobby Taboada, GM Nene Gaabucayan as well as the Velez brothers.

At our first meeting, GM Bobby, Terence and I ate a delicious meal and conversed about Filipino Martial Arts, Professor Remy Presas, Balintawak, and a few other topics. Of course, we went out to the garage to train with GM Bobby and had a ball with the session. GM Bobby was not in the area to teach a seminar; I got the impression that it was more of a weekend getaway for him. The training and the conversations made for a grand time. After this meeting, Terence and I said to ourselves “We’ve got to get GM Bobby and Master Chuck Gauss together.”




Both photographs courtesy of Jody Melanson. The second photograph is the post garage workout.

A year later, GM Bobby came back to Toronto to teach a seminar at Sean Tyler’s Raging Tiger dojo. The day before the seminar, Terence and I had the opportunity to meet with GM Bobby once again during a Lechon at Ike’s house. When I approached him, he remembered my name as well as Terence’s right away. I had a hell of a time at his seminar and kept noting the similarities between Balintawak and Modern Arnis. Again, we resolved to set something up between GM Bobby and Master Chuck Gauss. That day (April 26, 2014) is now going to become a reality and it's going to be a great seminar!

I’m looking forward to seeing GM Bobby again in April. The atmosphere at this seminar is going to be pure awesomeness.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

GM Bobby Taboada and Master of Tapi Tapi Chuck Gauss Seminar!

An exciting Balintawak/Modern Arnis seminar will be taking place in Pickering (Toronto), Ontario on April 26, 2014 at the Harmony Martial Arts Center. I am quite excited about this pairing of these two phenomenal martial artists, who excel at Filipino Martial Arts.

GM Bobby hails from Cebu City, Cebu where he learned the deadly art of Balintawak escrima under GM Teofilo Velez, GM Villasin and GM Bacon. After mastering this art, he moved to New Zealand and lived there for 12 years, teaching Balintawak. In the mid 1990s, GM Bobby moved to North Carolina where he has resided since, teaching classes and seminars worldwide, being one of the most visible ambassadors of Balintawak.

Master Chuck Gauss was a long time student of Professor Remy Presas. Prior to training with Professor, he was a life long martial artist, beginning at the age of six. He has studied the following arts: Judo, Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Small Circle Ju Jitsu, and Modern Arnis. Along with six others, Master Gauss was promoted to the level of Master of Tapi Tapi in December 2000, soon after Professor Presas was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Professor himself declared that the level of Master of Tapi Tapi was the highest level of proficiency in the art of Modern Arnis, having demonstrated the ability to utilize the lightning quick counter for counter fighting strategy integral to Professor’s art.

While these two gentlemen have not met each other, they are connected to each other through Professor Presas. GM Bobby was close friends with Professor Presas and, in fact, Professor was his best man when GM Bobby got married.

This is going to be an exciting joint seminar. Below is a flyer and two video clips of each of them.





Monday, January 27, 2014

A Champion For What?

"This is life! This is what made you! Hundreds of millions of sperms, all equals, all swimming to see which will reach the egg first, and only one will see the sun, the light of the moon, only one can make you! To be born is the biggest victory against the biggest odds in the biggest competition anywhere, ever—ohhhhh, what a champion! But a champion for what? To watch television, drink Coca-Cola and eat McDonald's? No! We must continue with the same effort we achieved by outswimming millions! We must keep proving we are worthy of that victory!"

- Radomir Kovacevic (1954-2006), champion Judoka and coach.

This comes from one of the best pieces of sports journalism that I've ever read. See: American Dream

If you have the time, read the article. Grab a cup of coffee.

For more on Mr. Kovacevic's life, see this Wikipedia article: Radomir Kovacevic

Even more fascinating there is a six part documentary on him on YouTube.


I like watching people who have a sense of purpose in their lives and I have to admit that it drives me crazy to see people be unmotivated, waste their time or go through the motions. You only have limited time on this planet. What are you going to do with your life? To be the best that you can be or waste your time watching tv?  Or be someone who wants something for nothing? Do you want to face challenges or avoid them?

Mr. Kovacevic had a good point. The fact that you were born means that you have been given an opportunity to do with your life as you please. Either you waste it or make something of it. I'd prefer that you live a life of facing challenges. You are going to fail sometimes. But it's all in the effort, isn't it? Why not prove that you are worthy of having been born?  Why not put forth your best effort every single day? I would not want to be on the death bed and say "I wish that I had tried harder or had done this....."


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

1% Improvement




Recently, I came across a blog entry about a British gentleman by the name of David Brailsford, the General Manager and Performance Director for a British Tour de France team.

This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing By 1% And Here's What Happened

As the blog entry indicates,  Brailsford is an advocate of the concept of "aggregation of marginal gains." Simply put, it's the 1% improvement of everything you do. As the entry indicates, he implemented this philosophy with great results, resulting in a Tour de France win in 2012.

Brailsford may call this "aggregation of marginal gains." Some others call it the "process." I alluded to this philosophy in a previous post:

Focus on Process, Not Outcome

Attention to detail is often the key to either philosophy and while it's grinding work, it's often the key to success. Too many people want instant success. The truth of the matter is that success comes only after years of painstaking work and attention to detail. Very rarely does success occur overnight.

While a beginner student can initially expect to large improvements in the first couple of years of training, once you get past that stage, are you willing to work for the 1% improvement? Often this means making good daily decisions as the aforementioned blog indicates.  I like the following observation:

"In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices (“I’ll take a burger and fries”) don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term."

From the martial arts perspective, it can encompass everything from diet, exercise, performance of kata, partner work, attending classes, seminars and camps on a consistent basis. Daily attention to detail is key. I like the quote by Bruce Lee. A martial artist who is willing to practice a single kick 10,000 times and with attention to detail is going to be a more fearsome opponent. The more you practice that kick, the law of diminishing returns may kick in. But I believe that the 1% improvement here and there will lead to great results in that one kick. It's worth it.

Unfortunately, too many people do not have the self discipline to strive for the 1% improvement. There is much value in striving for this.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Focus on Process, not the Outcome

Recently I read this article in the New York Times about Mikaela Shiffrin, an 18 year old skiing prodigy. See Article.

Mikaela Shiffrin is the youngest American skier to be a World Cup Champion. The article details her unusual background and her mother's coaching methodology. I was pleased to see that Mikaela and her mother chose to focus on the process, instead of the outcome. In relevant part, the article states:

"Not surprisingly, any predetermined strategy was remarkably elemental and always focused on process, not results. Jeff and Eileen, former college-level racers, believed in basic tenets, like keeping a light race schedule for their children as they loaded up on practice days filled with deliberate, skills-based drills and exercises."

Further: "The message, the Shiffrins insist, is that their approach, which stressed skill development and shunned goal setting, and always involved the family, has been the secret. If there was a secret." My emphasis.

Let's go back to that: "deliberate, skills-based drills and exercises" and "stressed skill development and shunned goal setting."

Too often, I see people too focused on achieving rank and wanting to know how long it would take to become a black belt. While it's admirable to have a goal (I'm going to get a black belt), many just over look the process involved. In other words, they are "outcome oriented" rather than "process oriented." Focus on the skill and rank will take care of itself.

There are two great examples. Steve Jobs was well known for being obsessive over every detail of Apple's products and stating that he wanted to produce "insanely great products." This was reflected in the iPods, iPhones, and iPads that Apple sold under his leadership. With such obsessive attention to detail to making great products (process), the bottom line (outcome/profit margin) took care of itself.

Ted Williams aka The Splendid Splinter, is regarded as one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. He was well known for obsessively practicing his swing. He tweaked his swing here and there. He weighed baseball bats to ensure that they were of the correct weight. He practiced and practiced more. He invested himself in the process of perfecting his swing. The result is that he is the last player to hit .400 in a season and has the highest batting average in the live ball era (beginning with the 1920 season). He was more invested in the process (his swing) than the outcome (batting average).

The same holds true for martial arts. One of the wonderful things about Modern Arnis are the numbers of drills designed to develop skills. A good example is the slap off/pull off drill, which I have my students perform nearly every class.


This is one of the staples of Modern Arnis. There are so many facets to this drill ranging from timing, use of the check hand, footwork, defensive positioning, developing reaction time, control,  and much more. I have found it to be a good barometer of skill. This is a great developmental drill. It is not combat. It is a drill designed to develop skill. This is more a process oriented drill than an outcome based drill. If you cannot perform this drill, then how can you reasonably be assured of success in a self defense situation?

Process, not outcome.