Awhile ago I got involved with something called The Convocation of Combat Arts. This was a forum for martial arts blogs and their readers. The thing I liked about it was the mature approach that all the participants took to discussion. There was no childish name calling, trolling, newbie bashing, or any of that nonsense that you experience on many forums.
Recently, creator Nathan Teodoro of TDA Training moved the forum to a new site, located here. The new “COCA” utilizes ning, which is very functional, flexible, and easy to use. Now COCA has the ability to add friends, create groups, chat, and a bunch of other cool social media stuff.
If you’re a martial arts writer, it might be worth checking out. If you’re a reader, you might want to stop on by and see if there are any discussions going on that interest you.
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Most people have some sort of cat stance in their style. In karate, it is often referred to as neko ashi dachi (or neko dachi, niko dachi). It tends to look like this –
Now that’s a neko dachi you can set your watch to! Back foot at a perfect 45 degree angle, front foot with the heel raised in a high pointed fashion. Both knees unlocked. Most of the body’s weight being supported by the back foot, allowing the front foot to kick quickly.
This is a great stance…but a little obvious, don’t you think?
One of the most important parts of traditional martial arts is hiding intent and technique. An opponent who is given no clues as to your next action has little chance to defend against it. This is true in both sparring and street self-defense.
If you drop into a perfect neko dachi, what does this tell your opponent?
Why telegraph both aggression and intention like that? Instead, it’s much wiser to drop the heel back down to earth and make a more subtle shift of body weight onto the rear foot.
This guy is just hanging out…or is he? Now granted hands-in-pocket is a bad idea, but our focus is more on the stance. This gentleman is just as prepared to kick as his karate counterpart, but could easily fit into any public scene without sending signals.
Q: So why train in the photographic, heel pointed fashion?
A: Good habit development!
If white belts were trained to be casual right off the bat, they might not grasp the proper weight distribution and heel alignment. The instinct to balance themselves evenly or improperly would be very strong. By keeping the heel up and the knees flexed, instructors can analyze from across the room how good a stance is.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get stuck in that mindset and never play around with adapting neko dachi into your day-to-day life.
Here’s something fun – in normal conversations with people throughout your day, try setting prime kicking distance, and settling into the natural neko dachi that I’ve shown above. Hypothetically, if the person you’re talking to suddenly made a move (secret ninja attack!), you should be able to stick them right in the floating ribs or knees with a solid front kick. If you’re getting weird looks from the people you’re talking to, you know you aren’t casual enough yet. Keep tweaking it.
final thought – what we’ve got here is karate training everyday, outside the dojo, that improves technique, distancing, timing, and mindset. What a beautiful thing!
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*I’d like to send a quick thanks to Nathan over at TDA Training for featuring me in his TDA Blitz. He even posted up my logo, which was great. If you haven’t checked out TDA Training yet (Although you probably have), I recommend it. Top notch stuff. *
Last time you heard from me I was reporting on some Elite XC shinanigans. Since then, I have been wheeling and dealing down in Miami Beach. I’d like to tell you a little bit about that trip, and about how my martial arts training affected the whole experience. Plus I’m going to include some sweet pictures. Like this one –
That was the view out of my hotel window, and I definitely enjoyed it. But let’s start at the beginning…
The Call and the Flight
A few weeks ago I was at work when we got a call. It was an invite to present our company (ClassicWines.com) at the Miami International Wine Fair down in Miami Beach. This event is usually relegated to wineries and retailers, but we’ve been in touch with other businesses in Miami so it seemed like a natural extension to have us there as well. It was agreed upon and plans were put into motion.
Time went by quickly between the call and the event, and before I knew it I was double checking my carry-on and setting out for Philadelphia airport.
You may be surprised to hear this, but this was my first flight! Somehow or another, there’s never been a time when I couldn’t drive or take the train to my desired destination. Naturally, I was very precautious and made sure to check everything twice.
As I was going through security, the metal detector alarm went off. Three armed gaurds came running at me very quickly, trying to subdue me. I was able to roundhouse kick one in the face while tossing pens at the other two like shurikens. (Sorry, I thought this part needed a little extra spice).
No, I actually used martial arts to improve my mindset. In a situation that could be very stressful (crowded airport for the first time), I was able to calm my mind and absorb the commotion around me. This helped me navigate around wayward travelers and traverse security with speedy precision. In fact, when in a calm, focused state of mind, I also find that I am more pleasant and cheerful. The folks working at the airport no doubt appreciate a smile now and then amongst the grouchy passengers in a hurry.
Miami, and the Weather is Fine
My first flight went very smoothly and we arrived safely in Fort Lauderdale. With winter weather quickly bearing down on my native PA, sights such as these were very welcome –
On the Scene – Miami Wine Fair
When we got to the wine fair itself, it was easy to let myself slip into a little bit of intimidation. After all, there were a lot of wine-knowledgeable people in attendance. I wanted to blend into the crowd for awhile and not draw attention to myself. Unfortunately, I knew blending wasn’t an option (Sorry Aikido folks, not this time).
In a self-pep-talk fashion, I reminded myself about the other stressful experiences I’ve overcome. After all, if I can pass my sandan testing in front of the watchful eyes of Hanshi Heilman and the Renshi Kai board, I can do this right?
So I went to it, and after my first few successful interactions, the ice wore off and I was ready to go. It reminded me a lot of sparring: as you are padding up before the first fight, doubts and fears are still running through your mind. Your body is still drumming up complaints, instinctively trying to keep you out of harm’s way. Yet, after the clock starts and the match begins, anxiety melts away inside of mushin and kokoro.
Miami After Hours
Outside of the conference itself, I had a really great chance to sample Miami life. For example, the condo we all hung out at after the conference had this for a view –
The island you’re looking at is where stars tend to buy their pads. I was not invited to that island.
The night life was equally as interesting. I’m sure you’ve heard from TV and word-of-mouth about South Beach being a very trendy, very club oriented scene. These rumors are true. We checked out some fantastic restaurants and they really do spare no expense. Very attentive, very courteous. Very loud 80s music (I guess it’s ironically hip?)
One thing I learned about myself while doin-it-Miami-Vice-style is that I’m a very basic individual. I’ve spent many years through training trying to strip down the layers of myself that I didn’t care for or that I thought needed improvement. Experiencing even a modicum of lavishness put me right out of my element.
After All Was Said and Done
This was a great, eye opening experience; but it was my initial intent to make it so. I wanted to walk into the airport, the city, the convention center, the restaurants, and the beaches with fresh eyes. I wanted it to feel new because it was new, and I didn’t want to let myself get buried in all of the contingencies and worries that could have eaten away at me.
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