Thursday, December 30, 2010

Don't Make Resolutions!

There's a lot of posts flying around the internet, about resolutions, which resolutions people are going to stick too, which ones people are not going to stick to, what people resolve, blah blah blah.

I say, don't make any resolutions for the new year. Most people don't stick to them, so what then would be the point? One could say, "Well, this year will be different." Yeah, like this time you really, REALLY mean it. No. Be honest. You mean it for about a week, maybe a month.

Instead, make a resolution for tomorrow. If you're going to start something new, make a resolution JUST FOR TOMORROW. Then go from there. Too many people I see get caught up in next week, next month, next year. Forget about that. The road to self-improvement of any sort (or self-destruction, whichever you prefer) is a daily journey.

I'm not suggesting you shouldn't have a plan for whatever undertaking it is you are about to embark on. If you want to throw a faster punch, or kick higher, or whatever it is, to be successful you need a plan.

However, a plan is not the same thing as a resolution. A resolution for the New Year is an easy out, and is all too soon forgotten. "I resolve blah blah blah." Three months later, "Well I tried to blah blah blah, but it didn't work out." Wrong answer.

Let's switch the dialogue. "Next year I want to be able to fight for five minutes straight in the ring, similar to a UFC fighter." This is a lofty goal, but absolutely do-able.

The first step is to assess the current situation. In our hypothetical, let's say the subject can currently fight for one minute straight, which is still pretty good. He notices that his legs get somewhat weak at the end of a minute, and he has trouble keeping his hands up, both of which are normal occurrences.

Then the immediate mission is to work on cardiovascular endurance, as well as muscular endurance in both the legs and the upper body. We are currently assuming that our subject already has a conditioning routine, but needs to focus on these weaknesses. One of my favorite routines for increasing upper body endurance goes like this
3x25@135 pounds incline bench
3x25@100 shoulder press/military press
3x15 medicine ball pushups
3x15 medicine ball drops
3xmax reps dips
3xmax reps pullups
3x1 minute all out bag work

That's one workout, done roughly three times a week. Obviously, not everyone can do 135 on the incline bench, but that's not the point. The point is to develop a plan. Say, "I'm going to stick to this plan for one month, and then reassess."

Now the hard part...executing the plan. It's actually deceptively simple. One has to say, "Tomorrow, I'm going to execute my plan, for the first time." Don't plan today, plan for tomorrow. Today is already too late, because a person is not focused on their goal. Plan for tomorrow, schedule the required work so that when tomorrow arrives, you know exactly what you have to do.
Some say the first time is the hardest, but I would actually venture to say the second time is the hardest. The first time one comes up with a plan, it may seem deceptively easy. The second time a person executes their plan, they know better. When you start your plan, don't think about anything else. Don't think about how hard it is going to be next time, or having enough gas in the tank to do the next task in the workout. Think only about completing the task before you. Concentrate on what you are doing now, the rest will fall into place.

In a month, reassess, with a test. For this example, we'll just use the heavy bag. Be harsh on yourself, and don't cut yourself any slack. Tests are supposed to be hard for a reason, to show true growth or lack thereof. Our subject sets up a timer, presses go, and goes all out on the heavy bag for as long as possible. He makes it to 1:30 before his hands start to drop. Thirty seconds is significant improvement. He finishes up, and decides to cut back on the upper body work, and focus on improving cardiovascular, through sprints and similar short, intense exercises.

This is the methodical way of reaching a goal, and bettering yourself. Simply stating the phrase, "My new year's resolution is: blah blah blah" doesn't get the job done. It's not a magic phrase, like abracadabra. Planning, hard work, accurate self-assessment, test and retest are how personal goals are met.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Crossfit Competition and My Observations

So, this weekend I participated in a CrossFit competition at HyperFitUsa. The event was a blast, I had a great time, and I was able to witness some awe inspiring performances. For example, I saw a woman clean and jerk her body weight. Now that's impressive.

I could go into detail about the events, but I don't really feel like it. The description of the day's events can be found on HyperFitUsa's homepage. They were challenging, and tough, and I did my best on each event, which is what matters most.

Now, I'm not just talking about a grunt of effort and saying, "Oh...I did my best." I'm talking about digging deep, fighting through mental fatigue, shortness of breath, back pain, the "I don't know how to go on" type of thoughts. Everyone has them. I know I do. When I got ready for the first workout, I was thinking to myself, "What am I doing here? I could be at home relaxing right now."

The thing is, when we do something, no matter what it is, we don't have to wonder about that anymore. If you go out and take Filipino Martial Arts for a year, you don't have to wonder anymore if you can do some of the cool moves you see in the movies, like "The Book of Eli". Because now you know you can. And so it goes with me. I don't wonder about things I can do. I did my heaviest squat snatch at the competition, after doing 50 deadlifts, 40 burpees, and 30 toes to bar. Meaning I set a personal record in a lift that I am weak and have little training in. That's success. I failed to finish the workout in the specified time, but it's still a success. Prior to Saturday, I had never snatched over 65 pounds. During the final event on Saturday, I struggled and struggled to get the snatch up at 95 pounds. I just kept going for it and going for it. If I didn't get it before time ran it, so be it. But I kept trying, and I did get it. Two snatches at 95 pounds.

I'm not ashamed to admit I was a little scared heading into the fourth workout. I was tired, and more than a little fatigued. 50 deadlifts at 225 was a little daunting, especially followed by 40 burpees. I could have backed out at any point, obviously. If I had, I would never know the things that I know now.

There are plenty of things in our everyday lives that are challenging, and plenty of people who choose to shrink from that challenge. It's okay to feel afraid. Fear is a natural human emotion. Once a person moves beyond that fear, however, and goes on to accomplish the things they were afraid of doing, true growth occurs. When we, as human beings, stretch ourselves and push ourselves beyond what we'd though possible, physically or mentally, in the gym, the karate school, or at work, that is when we begin to truly grow and live.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Importance of Starting Small

I've had a number of discussions with various friends of mine recently about exercise and getting into an exercise regimen. My advice for many of the people who ask what gym I go to, where it is, what I do for exercise is the same: Start small.

One of the young ladies in my history class at college talked about how she started doing P90X with her boyfriend. She said she could only do it for two days before she had to quit. Now, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable, but I am not by any means an exercise expert. Nevertheless, to me, this approach to fitness seems less than useful, and even a little counterproductive. What is the point of starting a regimen that one is unable to continue?

One of my good friends was lamenting that he can't seem to find the motivation to get into the gym as much as he'd like, which is effectively never. My advice to him was to start small, with pushups, situps, and squats, one day a week. My friend asked me if one day a week would accomplish anything. My answer to him, the same as it would be to anyone, is yes. Exercising one day a week will set him up for exercising two days a week.

This brings me to my point for this little post. When I started CrossFit, I didn't just dive in and start doing the workouts everyday, full go. I did what any intelligent and committed person would do; I did what I could handle, until I could handle more. What I tell people over and over is to simply start small. Pushups, situps, and squats is a great way to ease into a workout regimen. Twenty-five of each a day, no matter how long it takes, or how many sets the person has to break them into. It could even be hours in between sets. Of course, twenty-five is a completely arbitrary number. It could be as little as one of each, every so often throughout the day. One of my friends started his exercise regimen with walking, and has progressed to walking further as he lost weight. He has now lost twenty-six pounds as a result of his exercise.

That is one example of a success story. Small steps which lead to big gains. The hardest part of any new habit is taking the first step, especially one which may involve a certain amount of self-sacrifice. I have a gazillion things I would prefer to do on some days besides hit the gym or some other form of training. I do it because I enjoy it, and because it's continuing the commitment I made to myself when I began my exercise regimen. Small victories lead to larger ones, and this is true just as much in the realm of physical fitness and personal well being as it is in other areas of life.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review of Rogue Fitness' CrossFit Package Alpha

Okay, so, I like Rogue Fitness. I like the fact that they are trying to have as much of their equipment made in this country as possible. I like that they are building their own factory in Ohio, at a time when other companies are building factories in China. The newsletters they put out seem to embody the entrepreneurial spirit that our country has lost in recent decades. If you want/need fitness gear, I urge you to buy from

I purchased one of the Rogue Fitness CrossFit equipment packages, Package Alpha. Shipping was pretty quick, everything was packaged very well. All the bumper plates, kettlebells, medicine balls, and other odds and ends came in cardboard boxes stacked neatly on a pallet. The entire pallet was shrinkwrapped as well, which was nice since the gear came during the rainy beginning of spring. The pallet made it easier to unload from the UPS truck, since we have a tractor we can use at our house to lift extremely heavy objects.

The kettlebells have a nice, thick handle, which I prefer to some of the skinnier versions. They also have flat bottoms which make them fantastic for doing Renegade Rows.

Rogue Fitness's standard bar is very solid, and does not have a knurled grip in the center, which makes it somewhat easier on my shins during cleans and deadlifts. It also doesn't bounce like some of the bars I've used before. The bumper plates themselves are solid rubber, and did no damage whatsoever to the concrete pad that I dropped them on. It's nice being able to just drop heavy weights instead of having to lower them to the ground in a controlled manner. Makes for much more efficient workouts.

The jump rope is kind of scary, since it's pretty much a thin, plastic coated cable. Make no mistake, if a person hits themselves anywhere there is bare skin with this thing, it's going to hurt.

The collars for the Rogue Bar are very different from the average collar. They don't slip very much, although I think a little slip is inevitable. They clamp down tight, and when not clamped slip off very easily.

I haven't had a chance to use the resistance bands much, however I have put the weight vest to good use. I really like the straps on the weight vest, they're simple, effective, and don't restrict breathing or movement too much. When running or even walking this vest definitely bounces a lot less than other vests I've used. I think the only thing that would bounce less than this would be body armor. This vest can be purchased in increments up to forty-five pounds, which is what I chose. I decided to go for the full weight, and downsize as needed, rather than having to buy more weights in the future as I grow stronger. I use this vest for pullups, dips, box jumps, running, or as just a little extra resistance when I'm walking my dog. The weights themselves are two and a half pounds of cast iron, with nine in front and nine in the back. My only complaint about this vest is the addition of the U.S. Army's universal camo pattern, but that is more of an aesthetic complaint than a functional one. I would prefer multicam.

There was a little bit of confusion on my part as to the Ader kettlebells. I had thought they were made in the USA, but it turns out they were made in China. However, Rogue now offers Rogue "Kilo" Bells, which are 100% American made. The bumper plates were also made in the U.S., as the Rogue bar and the Rogue rings.

All in all, the equipment that I purchased from Rogue Fitness was a good investment, I feel. It has allowed me to continue my weight training at home, as well as throw some weights in the back of my truck and haul them down to the track for days that involve running mixed with weights. The kettlebells and the bumper plates have added a whole new dimension to my training at home. I would like to see more people support companies like Rogue Fitness, and I will continue to purchase equipment from them as I need it.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Frustration and Aggravation In the Gym

I was training a client today in the gym on campus as part of my lab time for my ACE Personal Trainer course. The client was having trouble with her knees, but had come back from a visit with her physician bearing a clean bill of health, and a few recommendations. Overall the physician told the client that some knee pain was to be expected as the muscle groups around the knee are untrained and inflexible.

One of the exercises I had the client do was lunges, using interval training, twenty seconds work, ten seconds of rest. She at first complained that she couldn't go down all the way past parallel, which I reassured her was fine. Then she stated that she had a hard time keeping her balance, so I modified the lunges, making her stance and base wider. Still, she did have a hard time, and became intensely frustrated with her inability to both do lunges, and do them pain free. I managed to calm her down, and keep her on track, but it brings to mind some important ideas for training that I feel some people, including myself forget on a regular basis.

Aggravation happens. I still aggravate and irritate my joints on a regular basis through CrossFit, running, and Activities of Daily Living, such as chopping and cutting wood. This is just a part of being an active human being, and there's no getting away from it. The best thing to do is acknowledge that a body part or old injury has been aggravated, take steps to soothe and treat it after the work is done. Ice, and anti-inflammation drugs are the two things the Army P.A. always recommended. I also take fish oil for inflammation, stretch, and do self-myo-fascial release. After treatment, the best thing to do is acknowledge that the part is bothering us, and move on. There's no reason that I can see to ruin a good workout because a body part is being achy and otherwise obstinate.

As a result of aggravation, or something else, we may get irritated with an exercise routine, or our inability to do a certain movement or exercise. This too is natural, but if we fail to recognize it we risk severing the mind-body connection that is so vital to getting the most from exercise and life. Get irritated, it's fine. Then take a deep breath, acknowledge it, and move on.

Last, no matter what happens in the gym, everyone should recognize what they accomplished that day, and that week. Sometimes a person cannot get as much done in the gym as they would like. This is okay. Work has been done, health has been maintained, strength has been improved. These are all positive outcomes, and should be viewed as such. Focusing on what did happen instead of what did not happen will set the stage for another positive exercise session.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A fine line between hard and stupid

Some recent experiences and not so recent experiences have convinced me to write about a topic that I don't think really gets discussed much, especially by military types. We've all felt the need to crank out the last set, that last pullup, finish up that last mile. And if you're like me, a little bit of hurt makes you push a little harder, and gut it out. However, as adults, it's time to own up to the fact that there's a fine line between hard and stupid.
"Driving on" is something that men, and especially military men are famous for. The drill sergeants were always saying "Drive on, men, drive the f*ck on!". We even had a cadence, called, "Drive On". There have been numerous sayings, one of the most famous from Vietnam. FIDO, or "Fuck It, Drive On."
"Drive on" applies to more than just military folk as well. Tired and not feeling like going to college? Drive on, or skipping class will become a habit. Hate your job, but don't have any alternatives? Drive on, because a steady job is in short supply these days. When you're just having a bad day, or a bad week, you just need to drive one. Things won't stay bad forever.
What this essay seeks to discuss, however, is not the general, benefical side of the drive on mentality. Instead, I'm going to focus on something I've written about in the past, and probably will again. This is the harmful, less discussed side of "driving on." I've seen it plenty of times, in high school sports, in the Army, in various gyms, and in martial arts. All sorts of people are saying "I'll just drive on, this will go away." Whether they say it out loud, or in their heads, a lot of people tend to ignore things and drive on.
When I was a brand new private in the 82d Airborne Division, there was a fellow soldier who was brand new, who had hurt his knee fairly seriously. He did the normal, go to sick call, get some Motrin. When the knee failed to get better, he did not continue to receive treatment for it. Instead, he drove on. His knee got progressively worse, and eventually he just couldn't run anymore. At this point in time, our daily PT regimen was somewhere in the neighborhood of five miles a day. What finally did him in was the day we ran five miles in our body armor. Imagine five miles, then imagine it with a forty pound vest...then imagine with a hurt knee.
After this soldier was MADE to go back to sick-call, he was put on crutches for weeks. Even after he was off the crutches, he was not allowed to do PT. Then light PT, then regular PT. End result? Approximately three months without doing any sort of meaningful PT. Being nineteen at the time, it didn't effect his physical readiness as much as it would if he had been well into his twenties. It did however slow him up quite a bit, AND he missed a lot of training.
I have been guilty of this as well, where my back is concerned. A friend of mine tried to bully me into going to see the docs for my back, to no avail. I've also ignored my knee until it got so bad I could hardly walk. I tried to ignore a seperated shoulder once, but that wasn't happening. Once it got so that I couldn't move it anymore, I had no choice but to go to sick call. Did I stop when I hurt it though? Being as I was only twenty one at the time, and a young paratrooper playing football...what do you think the answer is?
I see it a lot, too, in high school sports. All high school athletes, especially the seniors, want to get out and play, not knowing when they'll have another chance, if ever. This is commendable, for sure. However, not when it reaches the point of serious injury. Especially as a teen, the injuries one sustains might be injuries they will never fully come back from.
It is important that a balance not only be reached, but is taught to up and coming athletes as well. Student athletes need to be exposed to lessons, even if they cannot actually be taught. I only say this because I know how hard it was for me, at the age of 16-18 to actually take some of the things my coaches say to heart, and I know that some of the current crop of high school athletes have the same problem. When a person is young, they are more or less invincible, until they hit about twenty-three or so. In this invincible state of mind it becomes harder to think of the "what ifs" that may occur while playing sports, contact or otherwise.
There is almost no practical way to force something on the high school student-athlete, because if they do not see the value in it, they will simply go through the motions. For example, stretching. I harp on the athletes at the high school track team about stretching, every year, at the beginning of every practice. Yet, I know almost instantly who is going to ignore me, and who is going to pull a muscle in the middle of a race. They are the ones who are just going through the motions, not really making any effort to properly stretch and warm up.
Is there a solution to all of this, both for adults and teenagers? Certainly not a perfect solution. As always, all we as coaches and instructors can do is to make the tools and resources available to the athletes, including ourselves. Every now and then an athlete will come around and realize that he or she doesn't have to push to the wall every time, and will start to allow themselves time to recover from injuries, no matter how slight. These are the small victories that we need to look for, that can hopefully change the way all of us look at exercise and competition.

Monday, September 20, 2010

More than just boxing lessons

I came across this article on I felt it was interesting enough to share with a variety of people, so I shared it on my Facebook page as well.

I don't know how many people are actually reading this blog at this stage in the game. I'm trying to come up with articles and ideas so that I can post more often. This may be something I do, simply post other articles that I feel are relevant to martial arts and self-protection.

As noted in the comments section, many people are completely unwilling to change their views on what constitutes violence, and have all sort of justifications for this view.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Practicing again

Finally started working out again, and with working out, I've been brushing off my teaching skills, along with remembering how to actually do the basics in Kali. I'm so rusty, I've forgotten a lot of the basic skill building drills and I'm having to refer to the DVD material and written material in order to remember a lot of what I already know.

And thus, we see, that teaching actually reinforces what we already have learned. Currently, my training partner is my Dad, and occasionally my brother. Starting with the basic, level one material, I've been able to see how much sharper and crisper my blocks have become, and how much more fluid my stick work and empty hand movement has become. Incorporating the various redondo, doblete, and other circular patterns has become a lot easier, and as I run through drills with my dad, I can actually see how to combine the patterns for strikes and blocks.

I've also started trying to learn the POSE running method. I purchased a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes a few months back. I've run in them a few times, but not as much as I'd planned. I finally set myself a clear, concise, and definable goal for the near future. I am going to run in the Sprinterlochen 15k. For this, I will be following only the Crossfit Endurance workouts, on 3-4 days a week I will train for the race twice a day, in addition to doing POSE running drills regularly. I'm pretty excited about all this.

Last night, I ran into one of the guys I went to school with, and we talked about the possibility of training together, which would be great. Training partners for martial arts, and even workout partners are in short supply it seems. So, if you get a good training partner, hang on to them! Don't hurt 'em!

Until next time, train hard, and train safe.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Back in the States

Just a quick post. I realize that if I don't update this blog, it's pretty much pointless. So, to my readers, here is what has been going on.

I'm back in the United States after my tour in Iraq. I'm out at Fort Lewis, Washington at the moment, doing some outprocessing. Should be home by this time next week, but who can say with the Army.

I've been getting in the gym regularly still, as there's not much else to do to keep myself occupied. CrossFit remains my torture/exercise of choice. I'm probably going to venture outside onto the running track today or tomorrow and check out the fitness circuit.

These fitness circuits are a great way to get outside, exercise, and have some fun while doing it. There was one in Columbus, Georgia when I lived there, and one on Fort Benning. Basically, it's a mile or mile and a half track, with exercise stations at intervals along the way. You can run, walk, do whatever in between the stations. Stations consist of stretches, situps, dips, pullups, and similar exercises. In generally, I find them pretty fun and good for when I want a lighter workout. Doing them with a partner, or in a group can create a sense of community, and support some of the less physically fit individuals.

This is my plan with the outdoor fitness group when I get it started, which won't be until probably around July or so.

That's all for now, I will post again when I get home.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Palm Stick For Defense

The palm stick, sometimes called a yawara stick, or kubotan, is an excellent and highly effective tool for self-defense. The tactical folding knife and the concealed pistol typically dominate the self-defense culture, especially when weapons are brought into it. However, the palm stick has several advantages and applications that firearms and knives cannot match.
Typically a palm stick measure around six inches in length, and about a half inch in diameter. Six inches is a good length, in my opinion. This combines concealment with a length that is still practical for offensive moves. A half inch may be a tad skinny, but too much thicker and one starts to get into concealment issues again, as well as weight and gripping ability. On the whole, I have found that the commercial off-the-shelf palm stick to be sufficient for the average citizen.
Since most of our palm sticks are going to be key chains, it pays to be aware of everything else that is in your pocket, and not to keep your keys in a place that is not readily accessible. One of the things I do is typically grab onto the kubotan and hold onto it loosely if I think there may be any sort of confrontation. It’s important to practice pulling the stick from its place of concealment, and practice with a purpose.
By practice with a purpose, I mean simply bring the palm stick out and strike a target, real or imaginary. Do it with speed. One of the things I do, with a palm stick or folding knife, is bring it out and thrust it straight towards the chin area of an imagined opponent. This is good in either provoking a flinch, or hitting a target that can cause a great deal of pain, allowing for a successful escape.
Once you have practiced drawing the palm stick, it’s time to practice swinging it, stick part first. Obviously, its length precludes one from swinging the palm stick like a baton. However, there are a great variety of other techniques that are more effective.
For starters, grip the stick in the center, with a closed fist wrapped all the way around, making sure that there is a sufficient striking surface sticking out of both sides of the fist. One can grip off-center, and use the palm stick in a similar fashion as a knife, but that is not a technique I would recommend for beginners.
Next, practice a hammerfist technique, with the outside portion of your fist, or the part made up by the pinky finger. This is quite possibly one of the simplest strikes to learn and practice. Practice an overhead strike, a backhand hammerfist, a low hammerfist, and a palm-up hammer fist. Try striking in a variety of angles, with the hand in different positions. The length and hardness of the palm stick will turn this simple technique into one that becomes devastating when applied to nearly any part of the body. Imagine slipping this hammerfist into someone’s ribs, head, cheek, neck, hand, forearm, and you begin to see my point. It is a simple way to cause pain and damage to an attacker.
The next thing to do is practice with the inside of the fist, the part along the thumb. This strike may take a little more practice and finesse, but it also can be quicker, and just as painful. Practice strikes from top, bottom, left and right. Aim high, low, face, stomach, ribs, anywhere you can think of to strike. Later on, I will list some of my favorite targets. The forward portion of the fist also requires a little bit of coordination. If you find yourself having trouble, try to imagine a hook punch or a haymaker punch. In essence, this is what you are throwing, only not with the knuckles of the fist. Also, do not neglect a palm up strike.
Now, you already have formed a fist. Might as well take advantage of the fist and the natural inclination to punch someone, and practice a few jabs and crosses, with the palm stick. Punching with the palmstick has many advantages over having an empty hand. For starters, there is a little added weight to the hand, making a punch have more impact. Secondly, if the punch itself misses, the palm stick may graze the person, or the keys that may be attached to the stick. Last, and probably most important, the palm stick provides a measure of support and reinforcement for the knuckles and finger bones in the fist. Many people can easily break their own bones by punching someone in the head, which is an instinctive place to punch. A palm stick is one method of reinforcing these fragile bones and preventing serious injury.
Once again, a boxer’s delivery will help the most for punching. If you have no prior experience, simply try to remember a couple things. Always keep your hands up, bring your hands right back to your guard, and don’t rear back for the punch. Most likely if you have internet access, you can find a couple videos that can get you started on learning how to punch properly. At the end of this article I will provide a list of references for more information on punching and weapons for self-defense.
Now, in the case of a key-chain palm stick, the keys themselves have tremendous advantage over just a palm stick without keys. Keys are sharp, somewhat heavy, and can be swung by that palm stick with a decent amount of force. Practice swinging the keys in an X-pattern, known as ikis in Kali. Swing diagonally from upper right, then from upper left. The goal is to not only hit the person, but also convince them that you mean business so that they may run off and find easier prey. If they decide to rush in, imagine the consequence of taking a set of keys to the face. The psychological impact alone of having sharp metal objects swung at one’s face cannot be overlooked. If the attacker puts their hands up in attempt to ward off an attack, then any low-line targets such as the thigh, knee, or groin are open for some other attack.
A couple of years ago, a friend introduced the idea of holding the keys and swinging the palm stick. This is not MY favorite method, but that does not mean it should not be trained. The advantages of this are that the palm stick typically has more solid mass than the keys, and can be swing a little harder due to leverage. I think that the keys are a bit trickier to get a grip on, but that may be my personal opinion. In any event, swinging the palm stick can be used just like swinging the keys. Describe an X pattern in the air in front of you. Ideally, this X should start at about the enemy’s collar bone, and cross about the solar plexus.
Care must be taking to balance striking power with control. Take care not to over-swing, and over-commit. W. Hock Hocheim describes the “window of combat”, a rectangle loosely bordered by mid thigh, to about shoulder height, no wider than the shoulders. If your swings start getting outside of this window, you are over-swinging, and opening yourself up to an enemy being able to defeat your defenses.
The palm stick can also be applied to a variety of pain points. The middle of the back of the hand, the notch at the bottom of the throat, under the nose, under the mouth, and behind the ear are some of the ones that come to mind immediately. A quick strike to the carotid artery, no matter how lightly, can have literally stunning results on an opponent. A strike to the temple can be potentially fatal, as can a strike to the trachea.
Using a palm stick, it can be possibly to break an attacker’s collarbone with a hammerfist attack. If you are grabbed, in addition to a releasing technique, a quick strike to either the offending limb or the person’s solar plexus will loosen their grip, making it easier to get away.
If you double the person over, a hammerfist to the back of the neck can have potentially fatal consequences, and will at least leave the attacker stunned and lying on the ground, unable to continue the attack. The palm stick can be thrust into either the groin OR the solar plexus, with devastatingly painful results. If the groin seems protected, the inside of the leg can be struck, as this can strike or come close to striking the femoral artery, a painful and potentially stunning blow. If the hands are high, aim for the ribs with either the inside or outside edge of the hammerfist. Ribs are always a good target for causing maximum pain and damage.
If you know any throws or takedowns, the palm stick can assist. One simple judo throw, o-soto gari, calls for the fist to apply pressure to the collarbone. That same pressure can be applied with the palmstick, to the collarbone or the throat area, making this simple foot sweet even more effective.
Against edged weapons, the palm stick has somewhat less usefulness. As always, the best chance of success against and edged weapon is to catch the weapon bearing limb, preferably after hitting the attacker with a chair, brick, or a car. Once you have caught the weapon bearing limb, you can beat on the wrist, the fragile bones of the hand, the elbow, and the inside of the biceps. All areas are vulnerable to strikes, and have numerous pain receptors. In the case of the inside of the biceps, there is a nerve cluster there that tends to send a shooting pain down the arm, sometimes making it go numb. It is not a strike to count on, but a possible and worthwhile target nevertheless.
A palm stick can be homemade quite easily. One merely has to select a thickness of dowel, preferable at least a half inch thick, measure out enough so that there is a striking surface of at least a quarter inch on each side of the fist, and cut it to fit. Added options include placing a weight in the center of the stick, drilling two holes in the stick and tying a cord, or making one end slightly sharper, or at least more pointed than the other.
At least one martial art that I’ve seen, Goju-Ryu Karate, which is an Okinawan style, has a kata that uses two palm sticks, although they are considerably smaller than what I’ve described here. Many Filipino systems cover the palm stick, if not in precise detail.
Many tactical folding knives can double as a palm stick, if the user is not able to deploy the blade right away. State laws may prohibit carry of knives, however. In addition, several tactical flashlights, such as Surefire, can be used as a palm stick. Surefire and a couple other companies make a flashlight with a beveled edge, specifically for this purpose.
There is a great deal of martial arts instructional material available on sites like YouTube if one does a simple search. Much of my own instruction has come from W. Hock Hocheim (, and Guru Marc Halleck ( Both individuals have first rate instructional DVDs.
In summary, the palm stick is an overlooked and easily used piece of self-defense equipment. Useful for striking and grappling, it can cause a great deal of pain with a reduced risk to the user. It’s easily concealed, easily employed. Overlooked by the majority of law enforcement officers and civilians alike, it can be hidden in plain sight. You’ll never have to leave it in your house while you go to the bank or a school board meeting. With a little elbow grease one can be custom made for every member of the family. The principles of the palm stick can be taught to children and adults. It is not a tool that depends on right hand or left hand. It may not have the range of some other, more conventional self-defense tools, but it is much more versatile than the average citizen realizes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fun Fitness

So the question that sticks out in my mind lately is, "Who wants to have fun for a couple hours a day and become physically fit at the same time?" At some point, I will be starting a Fitness in the Park group that meets outdoors. We will run, jump, play, laugh, and have fun. We'll probably look like crazy people. We will practice our martial arts and self-defense, while we play. We will play while we improve our fitness. All will be welcome, no one is to be turned away. I'm still working on a lot of the concepts, but the bottom line is, "Let's have fun!"

Friday, April 2, 2010

Antrim Self-Protection and Martial Arts Group

This is the introductory post for the Antrim Self-Protection and Martial Arts Group. My name is Kent Newland, and I am currently deployed to Iraq, my third deployment. I have 11 years in the Army infantry, and seven years studying various combatives and Filipino Martial Arts systems. I hold instructor rankings in a couple different systems, more on all that later.

My intent, after returning home and settling in, is to start a self-defense and martial arts "study group" for the average citizen, student, and athlete alike. Something where the hobbyist, dabbler, and serious student can all come together to train, learn, and grow.

In addition, I would like to relate my own experiences and also share material that I come across, or material that anyone else might come across.

Look for more posts, and regular posts, starting soon!