Monday, January 17, 2011

Martial Arts Drills: Gunting

I was going to make a post about various drills in the martial arts but it occurs to me now that one drill can make an article all by itself.  In some cases a drill could probably be a book unto itself.  Thus, I am going to simply post a single drill at a time rather than try to post a host of them. 

Source:  Filipino Martial Arts but I have seen many styles from many backgrounds use this or something much like it.  I have seen things like this drill in Chinese Wing Chun Chuan, and in Okinawan Karate just to name a couple of styles. 


Several forms of this exist but I will describe the main linear form of the choreographed routine that I was taught as an introduction to Gunting.  This form is also empty handed but as many of you know the drill can be done with knives and sticks among other weapons.  The literal translation from what I am told is "Scissoring".  Keep in mind this is the way I have been taught this drill.  I apologize if I have done something wrong or explain something poorly.

The drill works like this:
  1. Partner one(P1) uses a straight punch to the face of partner two(P2).  P2 then blocks first with the mirror hand parrying from the outside of the attack.  Think Pak Sao from Wing Chun.  The block should touch the back of P1's forearm.
  2. P2 then blocks the same arm again by moving the opposite hand under the first block to back hand the punch at the elbow.  In this case think of another block from Wing Chun called Tan Sao.  I had some trouble finding good pictures so I will try to make some of my own and post them.  
  3. Next P2 performs a trap before taking a turn at punching back.  The first hand to block traps the punching arm down against P1's torso.  At the same time as the trap P2 chambers his free hand for a return punch.  
  4. P2 punches P1 in the face and P1 performs the same three blocks followed by an punch back.  The drill continues back and forth.
How to Continue

Once this drill is comfortable from the right side then the two can switch sides and try again with the left side forward.  Once comfortable with the left side then the challenge is to transition from left to right side and back again without a break in the rhythm of the drill.


I find that especially among the systems that focus a lot more on kicks that the hand skills are under-developed.  This is a quick drill to teach students that will allow them to develop the basic timing, blocking habits, and coordination needed to rapidly improve the person's hands.  Plus, personally I really enjoy this drill.


There are several variations of this drill.  There is a circular version done with a similar pattern to start.  Once it is mastered it is possible to integrate it to the overall drill as well.  Switching from linear to circular and left to right makes the drill pretty challenging without considering the addition of un-prescribed techniques.

Another variation would be the addition of weapons like knives and sticks.  It can be done with one weapon in a hand or with weapons in both hands.  It can also be done mixing weapons such as a stick and a knife for each person.

One more variation to the root of this drill.  In the drill the defender is performing three blocks and one punch.  It has been pointed out to me that this is unrealistic in terms of the timing of a real fight.  Few fighters, if any, are going to be so much faster than an opponent as to block and strike with four techniques before the attacker gets a chance to do more.  "Solutions" for a suggested fix to this problem.  


  • Timing: To reiterate, few fighters, if any, are going to be so much faster than an opponent as to block and strike with four techniques before the attacker gets a chance to do more.  In my experience (which I will be first to tell you is limited) I have never had a chance to use any sort of complex blocking techniques to avoid being hit.  Let alone the idea of hitting or blocking the person multiple times.  Plus, to block three times uses a lot of energy in a fight and does nothing to improve my station.  To make things worse if all I do is focus on blocking attacks and I throw one block for every attack I will eventually miss one.  Although more than likely I will miss most of them.  Want to test this, stand toe to toe with someone.  Close enough for both combatants to put both hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them and have them throw punches.  You can shift weight back and forth but must block the punches.  You will find that this is near impossible.  Plus if the puncher is creative it will be near impossible.  
  • Power: Another problem with the drill is that in order to maintain flow the drill loses power.  What I mean by power is the ability to deliver a great deal of kinetic energy.  The point of striking to begin with...  Both combatants would walk away from a training session with a lot of bruises on their arms and face with all blocks and punches were throw with a full sense of power.  Might make for a long class.
  • Accuracy: This one is also sacrificed many times but does not need to be.  Each combatant needs to be reminded that they are to punch with the intent to contact the face.  Often the two will begin to throw their punches offline with the target so as not to hurt their fellow student.  That is kind but not helpful.  If you as the striker get into the habit of missing the target, it is possible you will do it reflexively in a high stress situation.  Plus, the defender will develop the habits of block attacks that would never come in contact.  That too is a bad habit to be in.  Both punches and blocks need to be in line with true combative intent.  If you like keep the drill slow at first so that strikes when/if they do hit will not hurt so bad.
  • Timing: Rory Miller teaches a drill I have named "The Miller One Step".  I am certain there is probably a better name out there but this is the one I have come up with so far.  Anyway, the drill can be extensive in its variety but the one thing it does well is address the three points listed among the problems with the drill.  Miller went on to teach that in order to spar in a controlled environment we must break at least one of those rules above to keep people safe from injury.  A primary tenant of the one step is that each combatant gets one strike each in turn.  This assumes that both people are of equal relative speed in a fight.  A fair assumption in most cases.  Using the one step format we can fix one timing issue by only allowing a one for one exchange.  
  • Power: When a strike is practiced it needs to come in contact with its intended target and follow through need to be as if the power of the punch is fully engaged.  Using the concept that the strike is a block and a strike it is also necessary that when a block is normally thrown in the Gunting drill that it be a punch instead and is thrown with the same point of contact with the attack as the block was to begin with but is thrown with enough drive to push past the intervening arm to a target on the attacker.  Again, I will try to come up with pictures as soon as I can.  I am certain it will make things much easier to understand.  
  • Accuracy: As mentioned before, do not miss the intended target.  Make a practice of contacting the intended target and not punching to miss.  It is a very bad habit to get into and I know of people who have done just this on accident when under stress.
  • Fundamental change in Gunting Drill: Since the drill will look nothing like the original it will be important to note that in order for this to work one person will be an attacker and the other a defender.  The attacker gets three of four punches aimed primarily at the defenders face.  Followed each in turn with a defense that is both block and strike from the defender.  Once that string is done the roles switch.  
Even with the improvements to the drill, it still has flaws.  But remember that in order for everyone to leave class happy we have to build flaws into the drill to stay uninjured.  This drill is one of many and should not be given any sort of preference over other drills as a training tool.  As with anything, it will be necessary to keep the flaws that we introduce changing every once in a while to make sure that we do not fall into a habit that might hurt us as a result of our training.

I will try to post pictures and possibly a video soon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Favorite Techniques and the Styles They Come From...

Sanchin Dachi
I have read a great many articles from various websites about why this and how that.  I have decided that I want to do something fun for a change.  I want to list some of my favorite techniques and the systems they come from in my years of training.  Keep in mind that this is from my experience and is therefore subjective.  I am in no way telling you that these are the best and what you do is bull.  Each person studying the martial arts or self defense or whatever needs to make the system theirs and these are some of the things I enjoy practicing.  

Shuto Uchi
First the name of the technique and then the style or styles where I received most of my training in them:

  • Mawashi Geri or Roundhouse kick using the shin as a point of contact - Muay Thai and Lua
    • Muay Thai - the kick comes around from the side and in the class I was in was usually aimed at the midpoint of the thigh.
    • Lua - the kick is performed differently, this kick instead of traveling a flat plane from the side into the target it travels up and into the target at an angle.  Using gravity to hold the person into the kick this is supposed to make the person getting kicked receive more of the kinetic energy of the kick. 
  • Shuto Uchi or Knife Hand Strike - Karate
    • OC - The chambered position of this technique is a technique all by itself.  Combining the two makes this technique very effective.
    • I like open hand strikes and this one is a good one.  I have dropped people with it a few times. 
      Uchi Kaiten Nage
  • Uchi Kaiten Nage or Inner rotary throw -Aikijutsu and Goshin Ryu Aikido
    • Example, move into a clinch with the opponent, wedge in and strike the side of the neck with a forearm.  Once the person struck is off balance from the strike keep pressing so that they do not recover.  Make a circle with the head to the opponent's hip opposite the direction of the initial hit.  
  • Moroude Uchi Uke or Double Inner Forearm Block - Goju Ryu Karate, Shotokan Karate
    • This is one of the first movements in Sanchin and it can be with hands open or closed depending the the application or style since other schools teach it as well.
    • The main reason I like this move is that I can feel a great deal of strength in it. 
  • Nami Ashi Geri or Returning Wave Kick - Shotokan Karate
    • This kick is one of my favorites.  It can be used as a very close kick to take a person's legs out from under them or to damage a target without having the distance needed for most normal kicks.  
    • Nami Ashi Geri

    • This movement is the same as what you might see kicking a Hacky Sack.

These are just some of my favorites, there are plenty more but these are some of the things that stand out to me.  What are some of your favorite things about the martial arts?  Particular techniques you like, stances, punches, drills, anything?  Put a few of your favorites in comments if you have a moment.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nicholas Yang Seminar, April 1st and 2nd, 2011

We have a seminar coming up that should prove to be a great learning experience.  Nicholas Yang of Yang Martial Arts will be coming to Eric Parson's School in Independence Missouri on April 1st and 2nd.  It should be a great opportunity to train.  Here is the information I just recieved from Barbara Langley, a publicist for

You won’t want to miss this seminar.  YMAA has supported several seminars along with the Blue River Martial Arts Club (Kris Wilder, Rory Miller) and now Nicholas C. Yang at MCC: Blue River Campus, 20301 E. Highway 78 (23rd St.), Independence, Mo.

Here are some of the details:

Friday, April 1 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Shuai Jiao (Chinese Wrestling) For those comfortable with break falls
Saturday, April 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Chin Na and White Crane.  Open to all.
Cost: $40 and $10 for the first session on April 1.

Nicholas is the president of Yang’s Martial Arts in Boston.  In February 2008, he earned the qualifications  for YMAA Shaolin Instructor.  He teaches Shaolin and Taijiquan at YMAA in Boston.

In addition to the seminar, there will be an opportunity to learn more about the historic aspects of Independence (home of President Harry Truman, two major Civil War battles, and the jumping off point to the trails that settled the Westward expansion.)  AND have dinner with Nicholas Yang and some of the participants.  Rooms have been reserved at a local hotel--reasonably priced.

CONTACT:  Eric Parsons (816) 604-6764 or
If you can make this event it will be worth the cost of admission.  I had an opportunity to work with Nicholas Yang in Seattle at the Crossing the Pond - Martial Arts Expo in August 2010 and he is obviously very knowledgeable about his art.

Hope you can make it.  For people in the Tulsa area, if you want to carpool or caravan to the event please contact me and I will help work out the details.

Fear and Pain

This is a topic I said I would discuss some time ago and it occurs to me that I have not yet followed up.  Pain tolerance and your pain threshold are important things to understand.  I think we must also be aware of the fact that our reactions to pain are in large part an emotional response.  Very few people respond to pain in an analytical way.  

Why does that make a difference?

For most people emotions are difficult to control.  Fear being one of the really big ones where control can be lost quickly.  In some psychology, fear is said to be one of the most primal emotions and greatest if not our single motivator.  Not sure I agree with all that but I can tell you that for me fear is a big motivator.  If we look inside I think we can all find fear as one of the root feelings associated with many of our actions.  That fear might come in the form of fear of loss of life, fear of loss of a job, fear of embarrassment, fear of rejection, and for guys a big one is fear of failure. 

When I say fear I am not talking about a paralyzing sense of panic.  Just the spectrum of small fears that nag at you day to day perhaps all the way up to but just before the panic stages.  Fear is just very common.  In fact, I have heard that stage fright is the number one fear for most people.

Analyzing your Fears

So why are these things so scary?  What is it we are afraid of specifically?  I think if we start to really examine our fears we can make them unravel.  Pull them apart till we get to the core of the issue and then logically weight the value of those fears.

I am going to focus on the fear of pain because I think it is a far less realized fear than is addressed in all of the "My Biggest Fears" lists I have found online.  Example, I work with an instructor that lives about 45 minutes from my home.  It is difficult for me to drive there every week but I try to go as often as possible.  This gentleman has been studying the martial arts for over 40 years.  He has worked with instructors like Ajarn Chai Sirisute (Muay Thai), Dr. Maung Gyi (Bando), Morihei Ueshiba (Aikido), and many many more.  I consider myself very fortunate to have worked with this man.

Over the years I have invited several martial artists, mostly black belts, to his class.  I always try to go with them to introduce them and also to make sure they have someone to work with since I sent them.  The instructors classes are based primarily on Lua but of course are colored by his many experiences and training over the years and in other styles.  One thing that is fairly common place in class is pain.  Not enough to make a guy cry like a baby but he teaches people about violence.  That includes things like biting, joint manipulations, striking with power, etc...  I think that with the exception of perhaps two students I have never in my near 20 years working with this man had anyone go to his class more than once.  Why is that?  Fear and Pain.  More to the point, fear perhaps of pain. 

Some of these black belts are high ranking too.  Third and forth degree, years of training, some in great shape and others in terrible shape.  The only students that I know that have stayed are either military trained or have been students of mine.  That is not to say that I have some special corner on the market for preparing people for this class but that I try to be realistic about how violence in the real world is going to happen. 

Why do we Fear Pain?

What is there to fear?  I think that in large part we associate pain with injury and injury with death.  Pain is a brief look into our mortality.  That may seem like a big jump for some of you but look inside and see where the path goes for you?  Pain is unpleasant and a great deal of pain can kill you.  Indirectly but dead is dead.  Pain can put you in shock and your body can respond to shock by shutting down.  Rare but possible.  However, Pain in small manageable bits can be enough to improve your threshold.  To make the kind of pain you can withstand more bareable and to challenge the top end of what you can push through.

I hope that no one ever has to deal with pain from violence.  If you do feel pain, many times the adrenaline dump we experience with violence will mask the pain.  However, that is just a mask, the pain will make itself felt eventually.  Pain is unpleasant but it is not a show stopper.  Or at least it should not be.  Chronic on going pain such as from serious injury or illness can wear down a person's tolerance of pain.  But think about the pain of training for a big athletic event.  You cannot tell me that people who train for the Olympics do so without pain.  If they did I think they would fail. 


Suffering is a natural part of life.  We experience it at some point or another, that I think is unavoidable.  So why do we work so hard to avoid it?  Why work so hard to avoid pain when an opportunity to train with one of the world's greatest martial artists is available.  It is unpleasant but human beings grow through adversity.  So by running the other way from pain, fear, and suffering we are actually avoiding growth.

I don't know if you believe in the Bible, frankly even if you do not there is wisdom in its pages.  Example:
Romans 5:3-4  ...glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 
Looking at human history there are many times where people find growth through suffering.  Christianity happens to be a very good example of that very growth.  In some of the most harsh conditions in the world we can find pockets of Christian faith that thrive despite the adversity of being executed publicly for their faith when discovered by the local government.

Pain is no fun but pushing through the it, pushing through the fear associated with it can lead to great improvement.  Not just in athletic ability for those of us who train in the arts but in character too.  We have all heard the expression that pain builds character.  If it is true than the converse must be true as well.  A life of ease must ruin character.  Perhaps...

Not the most organized post but it works for now.  I may go back and edit this a few times.  Sorry if it rambles.  


Monday, January 10, 2011

My Bucket List Updated...

Okay, I posted about my bucket list not too long ago and I have decided that there are some more things I want to add.  Not sure how I will make these things happen yet but they will happen:  (not in any particular order)
  •  Visit Japan! - as mentioned in my last post I found out a friend of mine is going to be going to Japan in 2012 and it made me realize I have always wanted to go.  So I need to make this a priority for my life and I need to go.  It may not be at the top of my list but it is on the list for certain.
  • Pay off my bills - when I say my bills I don't mean the day to day stuff.  I have three big loans.  My mortgage, my car loan, and my student loans.  I MUST get rid of these debts, I am tired of paying for them.
  • Go to England - I want to go see everything and study the martial arts with Iain Abernethy and Al Peasland on their home turf. 
  • Go back to Seattle - I didn't get a chance to actually work out with Kris Wilder while I was in Seattle and I really want to go back and work with him some more.  I am currently working through the "Sanchin Kata" book and DVD so that I don't waste his time.  
  • Publish my own books - I want to publish books on my Aikijutsu system.  I want it to be a resource for my students and I would like to do a good enough job for others to look at it and say something like, "Hey!  This isn't garbage."  I would also like to get a work of fiction published too.
  • See my kids accomplish their dreams - I love this quote:  "Find something you love and you will never work a day in your life."  -Samuel Clemens.  I would like to see my kids doing something with their lives that makes them truly and totally happy and fulfilled.  I would like for it to be productive and meaningful too but I am afraid if I put too many stipulations on this it will not happen.  So I wish for the best for both of them.  I also hope that if they decide to be part of a family of their own that they are happy and healthy.
  • Go see, Ghost and Darkness - the two man eating lions from Tsavo Africa, currently on exhibit in Chicago.  Supposedly killed and ate over 130 people back in the late 1800's before being killed.
  • Visit the grave of Musashi - I would really like to do this some day.  Not a spiritual thing for me, just something to do to make it real. 
  • Attend a seminar with Patrick McCarthy - another martial artist that I would really like to work with some.  Being that he lives in Australia means I also want to go see the sights while I am there.
  • Visit New Zealand - I don't care about the movie sets but I really want to see more of what appears to be some incredible countryside.
  • Make a living out of being a Private Investigator/Process Server/Executive Security - I want to work for myself.  I want to be successful in a field that has unlimited potential.  I see these things as something I can really enjoy doing.  Something I can tie into my life very well.  
  • Skydive - yes I know.  I might not need to worry about the rest of the list if I do this but it sounds like a blast.  I want to do it!  I think Japan is first tho...
  • Get Healthy - I want to get my weight down to 210 at most.  This is probably the easiest of the goals to be honest.  However, I have really been dragging my feet working on it.  The emotional side of this is fixed now I think and I have started losing weight.  I will post my progress in time.  Perhaps after the initial weight loss is proven not to be a fluke. 
New Additions to the list:
  • Spend a year abroad in China - perhaps as a volunteer English teacher.
  • Spend a year abroad in Japan - same thing, maybe as a volunteer English teacher. 
  • Go visit my friends that live abroad - My main example would be my buddy Stan.  He is a missionary and I would really like to go see him no matter where he is located when I finally have the money to do so. 
There will be more to post in time but again, this is a good start.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cause your workout is my warm up...

I saw the title as a quote on a shirt and thought it was funny, to some degree very appropriate.  Throughout my martial arts training I have not been as disciplined as I probably should have been which is in part why I have not excelled in some areas of my training.  I consider myself to be very knowledgeable but frankly I have reversed what Dr. Yang tells us about training.  Dr. Yang is a very knowledgeable martial arts instructor who studied under a couple of different masters in Taiwan growing up and has since continued to learn.  I have had the honor of working with his son Nicholas Yang and he too is very skilled.

Dr Yang said during some article I read recently that it is his opinion that training is 90% physical and 10% academic.  For the past couple of years I think my studies have been reversed.  Much more academic and little physical.  Not that I want to imply that I think I know better but my personal preference is something like 75/25 physical/academic but this means I need to hit to Dojo floor a bit more often for myself.  As a teacher, it is difficult to work out while teaching, at least not at the same level as the rest of the students.  My clients paid to be instructed and in order to do so I need to be paying attention to them.  That being the case, my workout needs to be some other time.  At least in my opinion.

As for the quote, my personal exercise regime has not reflected this concept in some time.  I have been doing martial arts or road work and rarely both in the same session.  On the other hand, in most of the martial arts classes I have taken, especially the more physically demanding classes like BJJ, the warm up really was what most people would do for their entire workout.  Running, calisthenics, stretching, etc.. All done before we actually hit the floor for our training time.

This is the model I need to institute for both me and my classes.  20 minutes of workout stretches, running, calisthenics, shadow boxing, etc....  Then on to skill building. I have done this to some extent in the past but I think I am going to focus on re-ordering the class just a bit for the next 3 to 6 months and see if I get a better response from my students and myself.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Rank Sheets for Guinn Martial Arts - Aikijutsu

Here are the rank sheets I have so far for my Aikijutsu classes.  They have been built and rebuilt many times and I am still not happy with them. 

There is a fine line between not enough information and entirely too much.  Frankly, I am not sure where that line is located.  I find myself able to gather information much more easily than organize it.  I need someone smarter than me to organize this stuff or at least help me get a solid progression. 

I am always looking for input on my rank sheets or at least a link to other people's rank requirements so that I can see how they have done their work.  Please feel free to email me directly if you don't want the information online or if you prefer I would welcome a link in a comment on this topic.

Rank Sheets for Guinn Martial Arts - Aikijutsu

Thanks for the input.