Friday, April 23, 2010


If you came to the previous post too soon there were typos in it that confused some people. Sorry :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Combat Silat - Students

There will come a time in everybody's martial arts journey where they will have to reconcile what they practice with what they actually need to survive. The difficulty for most, from the start of their journey to the end, is knowing what that is...

The difficulty for a teacher is recognizing the students who you train for what they are. There are several different types of people who start martial arts journey's. My hope is not to specifically define each but to generally define a few types that I see regularly.

The First Love
The first starts their martial arts study as though they are smitten. There is nothing that is wrong with the art they study, the teacher, or anything related to their art. A few people stay this way for the rest of their life—looking at their art as though it is perfect—they seem to have blinders on. They may stay for the rest of their life in the art but never understand it—just mimic it. They will dress the part and act the part.

The Hobbiest
The second might start their study with a little more even-ness in their approach. Never getting really excited and never really falling for the art. They do it out of convenience or indifference or as a hobby. Sometimes these students are even quite capable and demonstrate good skill immediately, but they just never quite attach to the ideas, people, or art. At some point, leveling out as a martial artist, doomed by a lack of interest, discipline, and personal committment to practice and growth. They eventually leave.

The Rebound
The third might be the person who seems to question everything. Some of these students may come out of a previous system that they were smitten with (See the first student). However, because of circumstance beyond their control, they have been forced to choose something or someone else. They do so with a degree of noticeable passion for their previous art or teacher, constantly sharing what they did or how they did it. They eventually leave.

The Rambo
The fourth might be the person who is disdainfully challenging about your art. Every question is one of efficacy, efficiency, or practicality. They question the purpose of doing anything that they don't understand, cannot practice comfortably, or cannot defend themselves with immediately. Especially if they've spent five minutes working on something. They will typically modify everything that you've taught them within minutes of trying it for the first time. They will steal some gems from you and do their own thing.

The fifth person might be someone who looks like they care, looks like they understand, looks like they want to grow, looks like they are committed - but internally, they either don't trust the art or trust you. They have not taken the time to ask the necessary questions, they have not been smitten with it but have held the art at arms reach looking for flaws and when perceived flaws are found, putting it in a "cons" column. Finally, when the "cons" column gets big enough, they leave.

The Politician
The sixth person might be the person who looks like they care, looks like they understand, looks like they want to grow, looks like they are committed—and perhaps, at one time they actually were but because of perceived irreconcilable differences or a lack of honor they leave. Usually with a lot of drama. Often taking a group of your students with them, the ones they have been secretly talking with behind your back, while you've trusted them. Often repackaging what you've taught them as something new.

The Philosopher
This is the seventh type. This student wants to discuss everything. They rarely want to work hard. They'd rather discuss efficacy and combativeness as opposed to actually doing it. For them the martial arts are best kept at a mental, philosophical or spiritual level. Hard work is not for them. If it's hard, it's probably not going to be combatively effective or valuable for them. In the end, it's best to drive these students off IMO. They are a drain and a burden to the group and when push comes to shove, they will leave anyway.

The Warrior
In my experience, the eighth type of student is the most rare... it's the student who attends class regularly, is not gifted per se but works hard consistently, asks questions when confused, and cares about the art, it's efficacy, and understanding it for what it is. They do not try to change what they don't understand. They will make the art theirs when the time is right but they aren't in a rush. They study it physically, mentally, and spiritually. They work hard to push themselves and their training. They are disciplined. They are balanced in approach.

Ask yourself honestly, what person are you? Are you the eighth type of student or one of the others? Do you lean one way more than another? If you are balanced consider how rare you are. At any given time less than 3% of the population studies martial arts. If you then consider who you may be amongst the students around you, you are quite rare. Move it forward. (BTW, Call me if you are the eighth... :)


Guru Stark

PS had to cut this one a little short so if it seems abruptly ended, it's because it needed to be...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Finding Faith Through Practice

I was training recently with my two students, Miles and Cameron, and a question led to a discussion that I feel is worth posting. It was a question that frequently pops up from time to time, “What happens next or What do I do now”? Miles and Cameron have already internalized that PSP works through the tried and true “Do whatever you want but I am going to beat you as if you were a three year old child” Sean Stark method. Thanks for that Guru.

At the time we were refining our Masukan or Entries from Tangan (fist) through Sepak (Kick) and I don‘t know who asked but it came up, “ Bill, I see the value of the Entries but what I am going to do next?” Usually, at this point I smile and ask if they really want to know, don’t wait for a reply and launch into an entry and finish with some brutal Indo-Malay inspired pain compliance. However I felt it was a teachable moment in regards to Silat, culture and practice. Now I do not want to rehash the same ideas as Guru’s earlier post “Conversations with a Student”, I would like to add to the ideas, standing on the shoulders of a giant per se.

Now Miles and Cameron have spent about 4-5 weeks on Masukan and the fluency with the techniques was becoming evident with their continued practice. At this time I knew they were hard working and talented students but they felt the confusion of knowing , “ I can do this part, but what next?” Without their conscious knowing, I had embarked on an effort to address this question before they asked. Now this isn’t a Master Po/ Grasshopper experience. I don’t push that kind mojo and most of the really good teachers don’t push that either. What good teachers do push ( Guru included ) is good practice and practice habits.

I had begun Gerakan practice earlier than usual in conjunction with Masukan. I kept hammering that practice, practice, practice was the secret ingredient to any success in Silat or any Martial Art for that matter. I quoted Guru, as I do often in training, “ Train 15 minutes a day whenever you can, your lunch break, after the kids go to bed, your ability will take off.”

Miles and Cameron had been practicing. I now added the Gerakan to application. One rotation through all the Masukan with Gerakan applications and the light bulbs of realization above Miles and Cameron were blinding. The usual hour and a half training session went well past two and a half hours. The faith was rewarded. Their faith in their practice and my faith in the curriculum. Practice, Practice, Practice - Pencak Silat Pertempuran will take care of the rest.

Monyet - Harimau of PSP

Recently, I've been really working out regularly, losing weight, etc. In fact, right now, I weigh less than I have for about 10 years. I've also been doing a lot of weight training, etc. Well, this all came about because I wanted to get healthier and felt myself getting older, creaking, aching more, etc.

On that same note, about 3 to 4 years ago, I fell, did a forward role but in the process still managed to jack up my knee, blowing the PCL and tearing some cartilage. It took about a year to a year and a half to get it diagnosed and operated on. The operation helped, but it's still not normal, in fact, in many ways, it is worse.

In any case, I haven't been able to do the monyet or harimau ground work of PSP for about 4 years with any consistency. I've tried occasionally but it's always sucked. That's all back story...

Now, since I've been working out hard, regularly for about a year and a half doing weights, losing weight since October, and generally being conscious of my physical health, I've finally been able to get at harimau and monyet training again. It's not that it's easy but it's at least not as painful as it was. It's tolerable. Especially if I use some matts. Something I never had to do before. I'm okay with it but I don't like having to rely on matts because it can give you a false sense of safety when you are performing your material. I used to be able to drop to my knees on concrete and do it in a way that did not hurt. I probably still can except for the pain my knee feels generally. I'm not sure that practicing on anything other than concrete will give you that confidence and ability. Thoughts?

In any case, last night was our second night of doing monyet harimau PSP style and I decided to do some bela diri instead of curriculum per se. It's all connected anyway. We worked some simple defenses against kicks while you are on the ground, how to perform catches, not get your head kicked off, stand up (if appropriate) and counter. We also did some countering while on the ground - well... I did. Showed how to move from Langkah Monyet, Langkah Harimau, Langkah Kalong and Langkah Ular into any of the other ones and how to tie that all together with your other langkah - Langkah Empat, Langkah Lima, Langkah Tiga, etc. Also showed how to string together breakfalls from any of them and how to foot entry, elbow entry, hand entry, and catch.

Here is a simple bela diri against a kick to the ribs if you are down on all fours.

Here's what's happening
  1. You are on the ground, perhaps raising onto all fours trying to get up.
  2. Along comes a spider and tries to kick the crap out of your ribcage.
  3. From that position, spring upward and forward towards the kicker. It's important that you spring upward onto your toes and extend your arms fully.
  4. As you receive the kick, wrap your arm around their leg and hold it into you.
  5. As you lower your weight towards the ground again and roll slightly towards them, lever against their knee.
  6. Once they have fallen or start to fall. Get your arm out from around their legs and throw your other elbow, distracting them. You may not hit anything but it keeps them busy.
  7. Continue to roll up onto them until your other elbow and knee are in place to scissor the head. Smash the crap out of it.
  8. Repeat some more.
  9. Counter trap if necessary and smash their head into the pavement by palm striking their face.
  10. Violence is key here.
I'm not going to tell you I'm going to do more posting of monyet harimau. Every time I do that, it seems to be the death of that thing that I've said I would do. I will do it as I can, when I think of it, etc.

Guru Stark