Thursday, February 28, 2013

What is Martial Arts?

So..  What is it?  Let us explore the topic in more detail so our readers [thanks guys :D ] might get a deeper understanding of what we are discussing here.

Martial Art is not something that can be defined with any absolute certainty, but here we will attempt such an impossible feat.  Martial Art.  It is an art form that is never stagnant, always moving and as long as one lives one is always a participant within it.  A musician, for example, plays a piece from beginning to end.  A painter applies pigment to canvas to create a painting to a conclusion.  A writer thoughtfully scribes a story from beginning, to middle, from middle, to end.  Martial Art, in contrast, is in constant practice.  Even if one is not training traditionally or even "training" at all, one is constantly in the act of producing their Martial Masterpiece simply by their propagation of life.  Every act we engage ourselves in is a stroke of the brush, a crescendo, a poem.  Understand, this is not said to downplay artists of other mediums, but to point out that musicians, painters, writers, artists of all kinds, and all people in general are intrinsically practitioners of Martial Art.  In a sentence, Martial Art is Life.

Now, something interesting happens when we open the topic to the three aspects.  We speak of the Mental, Spiritual, and Physical (Mind, Spirit and Body respectively).  Let us discuss each individually.

The Physical aspect of Martial Arts demands much respect as it is the realm in which bodies interact and the realm in which bodily injury occurs.  We look now at fighters.  Fighters are people without fear of physical harm or even those who harbor a love of it.  Fighters are dedicated to the mastery of the physical domain and set out to build their bodies to compete.  They train to take punishment and to unleash it upon their opponents.  It is the most visible and easily altered realm.  Also, realize now that the physical realm is controlled through the mental and spiritual aspects of the user as each of these three aspects are interconnected and act on one another through symbiotic relationships.  (A topic that deserves much further discussion, but is best reserved for a composition where it is the center of focus).  

The Mental aspect is the side of analyzing a movement or a technique.  It is the quiet pondering and conscious deliberation over the physical movements.  The samurai, for example, before they would practice would go through a fight sequence or exercise, sitting quietly, executing it purely mentally first before even picking up the sword.  This is as important as physical practice as it allows the user to critically and creatively experiment with the technique or exercise prior to its execution, the fudging of which may end up being physically harmful if not performed well.  Don't be fooled though, physical practice and mental analysis can occur simultaneously and in fact should be exercised both in tandem and independently.  This sort of 'cross-training' is critical to becoming well-rounded.

The Spiritual aspect is the understanding of purpose.  Mindless training without understanding will no doubt produce a physical result, but in the end is properly brutish and nonsensicle as it is not conducive to wholesome constructive development, but instead actuates ignorant stasis.  This understanding is not easily attained however.  The user will naturally have some sense of purpose to begin with and his understanding will deepen ever deeper through continued physical practice, mental analysis and meditation, unending.

Martial Arts is the dedication to these three aspects and most importantly the wisdom to balance them harmoniously. 


Inspired by Calasanz
Written by Alan Wedell

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Don't Go to the Ground

A lot of systems like to take advantage of fighting on the ground these days, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA for example.  While it is important for competitors to have a significant ground game, on the street it is the last thing you want to do for several reasons.

First, you will only be able to engage a single opponent with most of these techniques.  If it is a one on one fight in a cage, this is incredibly useful and effective, however, when the possibility of any number of people in a crowd joining the scuffle looms, it suddenly loses much of its value.  As your legs and body are tied up pinning and controlling the first perpetrator there are fewer and fewer resources to deal with a possible second or third aggressor.

Second, should the fight go to the ground mobility is reduced almost to nil.  While standing you still have two legs to run on if the situation calls for flight.  If you are occupied on the ground, on the other hand, it exponentially increases the difficulty of escaping a low percentage survival situation.

Here at Calasanz Physical Art we find that learning to fight well standing, one transitions to fighting on the ground easily.  Even without the fancy techniques a good standing fighter can be very effective on the ground.  If you can throw a good punch standing you can throw it better on the ground and the reasoning is simple, there are fewer variables to go into your punch on the ground.  Your balance is taken care of automatically, you do not have to worry about footwork, and your opponent is going to be within striking distance with little to no evasion options.

"Don't go to the ground, if you go to the ground you are going to fight."  - Calasanz

As a trained standing fighter you know how to fight, if you are on the ground you still know how to fight, its simply a different venue.  Naturally, you will perform better in a particular a venue with specialized training but even without specialized ground training you can still perform on the ground.  Your natural instincts and training will coagulate symbiotically and spontaneously when the venue changes.  Learn to fight standing first.  The rest will come naturally.


Friday, February 15, 2013

From the Inside, Out

A good strike is generated from the core, and radiates outward to and through the extremities.  While the limbs are the delivery mechanisms and structures making physical contact, it is within the core and torso that the energy going into a strike originates.  We emphasize the core in all of our exercises because we know this to be true. 

 One of Bruce Lee's training techniques, especially for beginners, is to train the body to throw an elbow to the bag by shifting the feet and rotating the hips and torso.  (The arm should remain relaxed through the twist and the elbow should land at approximately shoulder height.)  By learning to do this well you will better understand the power mechanics of the body and how to produce a powerful strike from the torso rather than a flailing one from the elbow or shoulder.  After mastering this the student will further their sphere of influence outward training the farther reaching strike, the punch.  All-the-while in keeping with the power body mechanic learned through practicing the elbow strike technique.

Realize now, by training from the inside out you and your body will better understand where the long strikes come from, how they develop through the entire technique motion, and how to produce a more anatomically correct and structurally sound long-strike. 

Take another look at our Physical Arts exercises.  It is clear that the motions involved are going from close proximity to full extension.  This makes sense so as to 'grease the groove' and implant into a student's muscle memory the full range of motion of a strike.  Within each movement is a strike at all ranges along the spectrum from immediately close to completely extended.  This not only trains the anatomy to be aware of its own presence naturally, but with added weight resistance it strengthens the muscle along the entire trajectory of the strike while increasing flexibility and most importantly activating the core.

Written by: Alan Wedell

Sunday, February 10, 2013


The concept behind the training program at Calasanz Physical Art is to build from the bottom up.

Our system is unique.  It is designed to first train the body to protect with a solid defense and then to perform the 4 most basic striking techniques within any martial system with better coordination and with more power than any other martial system, (right and left punch, right and left kick).  We train these techniques to the highest degree through Physical Art exercises.

Learning the basics well will open everything else up more readily and will create a solid foundation from which a student can develop any other technique.  A new student learning boxing, for example, is taught a good jab, then right combo (while being told to keep his hands up 1000 times).  By learning to execute this combination well the student will have spent time practicing and will physically and experientially learn much about his body mechanics and punch mechanics through his practice to deliver a more powerful, stronger and more precise punch.  As the student develops these skills through practice it becomes easier and easier for them to learn new punches, such as an uppercut or a hook to the body.

If we took the same student, for example, and taught him 30 different punches on the first day there would be no growth, no development, and no technique.  Everything would look like a mess.  The student would not be able to perform any one of the punches with any competence, but might get a big head.

So we stress the basics.  We make sure the student is ready for more before he is taught the next technique, movement or exercise.  As the body becomes more in-tune and self aware through martial practice one's techniques begin to look more beautiful, land with more power, and place with greater precision.  The brain too will begin to understand the essence of what the body is doing and they will become harmonious, working together with rhythm in perfect time.  It's like that great philosopher always said, you must first learn the notes before you can play a symphony.

Build the foundation before the obelisk.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Martial Artist's Revenge : A True Story

Revenge is an emotional reaction that is hard for the offended to resist feeling.  At times leading to extreme and unnatural action.  We have all felt wronged and wished for righteous retribution and know that something burns within until it is quelled with appropriate recompense.  Calasanz recounts one of his experiences with revenge and how it changed him as a person and as a martial artist.

This story taken from an audio recording with Calasanz talking about his experience:

By the time I decided to return to learning Hapkido and Taekwondo I was a very powerful guy, very strong.  But even with all my power I was still not the fastest guy.  After a few lessons with Master Lee in Darien I ended up sparring with fellow student Gary.  As we moved around no one in the building could have predicted the sort of kick that he was going to put on me.  He delivered a hook kick with everything he had, to this day, still one of the strongest kicks I've encountered, and he got me.

I mean he really got me.

After that kick had been delivered I was ready to fight.  Especially as a younger man with little patience.  When I was an adolescent in the Dominican Republic I was known for two things.  They would say, "Don't hit him if you want to win.  Don't sweep him if you want to win."  I was ready to fight, but immediately after it landed Master Lee came from the office and stopped us.  He must have heard the kick land on me all the way in the back.  I was furious.

After my encounter, with Gary, class ended and I left.  It was a Saturday on a holiday weekend, with plenty of time on my hands I would spend the next 3 days training intensely.  I started kicking and I didn't stop.  Saturday and Sunday, all day kicking.  Sunday night, all night kicking.  Monday, all day kicking, I didn't stop until Tuesday morning at 5 o'clock in the morning when I had to go to work.  In those three days I had trained my kick to be as fast as anyone's.  I kicked over 10,000 times with 2 1/2 pound ankle weights on both of my legs.  My kick after those three days became lightning fast and brutally strong.  I wanted to be ready for Gary.  Months later chiropractors would tell me my joints had all been destroyed and I'm certain that this was a contributing factor to that, accordingly I wouldn't recommend this intense training to any of my students now, but I was crazy and I was angry.
The next 4 weekends I spent going to the Taekwondo school just to go, just to have a chance to get even.  Saturday at 1 o'clock I would go.  Later in class the students would be sparring but as soon as it came to be my turn the instructor would end it saying, "Okay, class is over, everybody bow."  Next week I would go, Saturday at 1 o'clock and the same thing.  For 4 weeks in a row I would go for a chance to face Gary once more to get my revenge.  Never would I get the chance.

But I had proven a point.  I was so out of control and so focused that Gary did not want to fight with me, and even the instructors were reluctant to pit us against one another.  Gary and I never squared off again, and never did that fight happen.  Every time I went to my Taekwondo school after taking that kick I went to make sure that I could get even, but instead a respect between us grew.  I was like a monster, a behemoth.  My body and my ability were so beyond that we couldn't fight.  We had to become good friends.  Gary would actually be the one to give me the name "super power" while I would end up being the one to inspire him to take ballet.  We remain on good terms to this day.

Inspired by Calasanz
Written by Alan Wedell