What is a Langkah?

Langkah (Indonesian) - noun: literally step, move, pace, action, measure, stride, leap, foot, footstep, gesture, tread, footpace

In Indonesian martial arts, Pencak Silat, it commonly refers to geometric patterns on the floor used to train footwork and develop an understanding of the role of the lower body in maintaining balance and a base from which to generate power.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

On Time

I don't have an exact count for how many times I have been late to class during nearly forty years of martial arts training, but I know the number can be counted on one hand.

First, let me define "late to class."

If I knew beforehand, I am going to be late or have to miss a class, then I called my instructor, or the people I was teaching, and let them know my situation. This scenario does not constitute "being late" or "missing" a class, because when I call and inform them, I am setting a new expectation.

"Being late" or "missing" means not holding up my end of an arrangement.

In general, as an instructor, if a student shows up before I do, I'm late. Period. Doesn't matter if the class time has started yet or not. A student who, for some reason, arrives more than thirty minutes before class and waits might be an exception to this.

As a student, I disrespect my instructor if I show up late.

As an instructor, plan to arrive at least fifteen minutes before class starts, preferably give yourself half an hour. If you plan to arrive at the beginning of class, you leave no room for "Murphy factor." Murphy, of the famous Murphy's Law, lurks constantly with a bag full of monkey wrenches, and waits to throw a wrench into your plans when it will be most inconvenient for you, or when you get overconfident and negligent. Planning to arrive early gives you leeway if Murphy throws you a curve ball. Arriving early gives you time to handle whatever setup you might require for class, whether it's doing some paperwork, setting your round timer, hanging a heavy bag, dragging BOB away from the wall, setting up a camera because you want to record, whatever.

As a student, plan to arrive at least 10 minutes before class starts, ideally plan to have fifteen minutes before class. Again, this gives you margins for dealing with Murphy factors, and if you arrive early, you have time to change into your uniform, warm up, ask the instructor a question, etc.

When class time arrives, everyone should be ready to go.

I knew one instructor who locked the door at the beginning of class. If you arrived late, you didn't knock or interrupt class in any way. You stood so the instructor could see you in the door's window and, when she had a moment, on a water break or whatever, she would open the door and let you in. She never scolded people for being late or punished them beyond the inconvenience and (self-imposed) embarrassment of standing outside the door. She also never asked why you were late, because it didn't matter. Everyone in class knew the rules, the instructor had explained them when students signed up.

While I used teacher/student in this post, it also applies to coach/client, therapist/client, doctor/patient, whatever.

Being on time (early) is a sign of professionalism on the part of the teacher and a sign of respect and commitment on the part of the student.


The Wandering Guru

"Early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable." — Unknown



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Road House Lessons

Road House, starring Patrick Swayze and a host of well-known names and recognizable faces, is lauded as the best bad movie in history. It's considered the epitome of "So bad it's good."

Such statements make sense, and hold a lot of truth. Amidst the over-the-top dialog and acting, though, the movie contains some gems of wisdom, even if they are delivered in glib, unrealistic ways. Here are some of the ones I find most notable.
  • Lesson 1: It's nothing personal.
Dalton: "If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker, I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won't walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can't walk him, one of the others will help you, and you'll both be nice. I want you to remember that it's a job. It's nothing personal."

Steve: "Being called a cocksucker isn't personal?"

Dalton: "No. It's two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response."

Steve: "What if somebody calls my mama a whore?"

Dalton: "Is she?"

Two aspects to this lesson. First, words are words. If someone insults you, they intend to "elicit a prescribed response."

Don't give it to them. If you give it to them, you let them drive. You give control to them. I once had a man tell me, "When someone slaps me in the face, I see red, and I attack." In that statement, he told me how to beat him, should it ever be necessary. I know if I slap him in the face, he'll lose control. He'll attack immediately, and since I expect it, I will dominate him. Don't give people that control.

The second aspect, related to the "Is she?" question, ties to the first part. By insulting my mother, the person seeks control in the same way a direct insult would. This digs right to the root of this lesson. An insult only hurts because (1) it's true, or (2) it's not true, but you think it might be true, or you think other people will believe it's true.

(1) If it's not true, why take offense? Clearly the person doesn't know you, or your mother, so who cares what they think or say.

(2) If it is true, why take offense? It's true. Own it and move on. If it's not true, then why fear other people believing it. If they know you, they'll know it's not true and won't believe it anyway. It they believe it, they don't know you, so why does their opinion matter.

The best way to handle an insult is to ignore it. You do not have join every fight to which you're invited.


  • Lesson 2: Be nice. Until it's time to not be nice.
A variation on this is a quote from Major General James Mattis: "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."

Being an asshole, at best, accomplishes nothing. At worst, it escalates the situation. For the record, it rarely works out to your advantage, and even if it does, being nice probably would have worked better in the same situation.

But, be aware and prepared, there may come a time when nice ceases to be an option. When it becomes time to "not be nice," act without hesitation.


  • Lesson 3: Dalton: "Pain don't hurt."
It's easy to blow this statement off as flippantly macho, but there's value here. Pain does hurt, of course, but being able to find this mindset can make the difference between living and dying in some situations.

In a life threatening situation, your best chance to survive comes from keeping a level head, looking for solutions, and not giving up. If you allow the pain to take over, allow the pain to hurt, it can force you to give up.


  • Lesson 4: Remember the rules.
Dalton: "All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary. And three, be nice."

Dalton explains these as well as I can, so reread his quote.


  • Lesson 5: Knees matter.
Dalton: "Take the biggest guy in the world, shatter his knee and he'll drop like a stone."

Pretty self-explanatory, but it alludes to a broader spectrum of potential. Shattering a guy's knee isn't always your best option, especially in the case of low-level threats like "drunk Uncle Bob."

What this points toward is attacking mobility. If you can disrupt someone's mobility, you take away and minimize a lot of the tools they will fight you with. Shattering a knee is a great way to disrupt mobility, but it's also an extreme way.

If a situation doesn't require such an extreme response, then consider balance. Mobility requires balance. Disrupt the person's balance, and you disrupt their mobility. This is why I personally made balance disruption one of my specialties, and why I stress it so much in my AGPS curriculum.


  • Lesson 6: Dalton: "Nobody ever wins a fight."
I learned this particular lesson from my dad. At six or seven years old, not long after I started training in martial arts, dad noticed some minor abrasions, evidence of a scuffle, on my hands and face. He said, "It's important to remember, there's no such thing as a winner in a fight. The closest you get to winning is to have the lowest hospital bill."

That stuck with me. Took me years before I fully understood it. I had to get in a couple of serious fights to fully appreciate the significance: there's always a price. If the altercation goes physical, you've already lost in the bigger scheme of things. No matter how well you do in the physical fight, you could have done better. You're not the "winner," you just lost the least.


  • Lesson 8: Opinions ... everyone's welcome to theirs.
Morgan: "You know, I heard you had balls big enough to come in a dump truck, but you don't look like much to me."

Dalton: "Opinions vary."

This ties into the previously mentioned items about reacting to insults. People's opinions can, intentionally or unintentionally, serve as insults. I once had a fellow martial artist tell me his training was "head and shoulders" above mine.

I could have chosen to take offense, to let the monkey in the back of my head come to the front and fling some poo, to react emotionally. Instead, I remained calm and said, "That's one opinion."

I don't know if he had intended to rile me, but my unruffled response confused him and left me in control of the conversation.

In Sayoc Kali, they use the words "feeder" and "receiver" to describe the fundamental roles in an interaction. A feeder understands and exerts control over him/herself in the situation. A receiver reacts to the situation, giving control over to people around him/her, or to the situation itself.

If you react to an insult or, in this case, to someone stating their opinion, you give up control over the one thing in the universe you have any control over, which is yourself. You let the other person, or the situation, dictate your actions. They say "jump," and you jump as high as you think they expect.

Remain calm. Don't take things personally. Don't allow you emotional reactions to control you. Don't give other people, or the situation, levers with which to control you.


The Wandering Guru