Year Ten: Martial Arts Training Involution #179

I can't believe that today we're celebrating the 10th anniversary of Cabal Fang martial arts.

It seems like just yesterday that I started this crazy project.  What's amazing is that thousands of people have read the Cabal Fang books, watched our videos, and visited this blog to find out about what we're up to.

What's even more amazing to me is that so many people have invested their physical, material effort, their sweat and attention, by training with us.  All of these folks are now my friends, and all of them -- everyone who has ever attended a Cabal Fang training session here in Richmond, VA -- has been invited to a celebration and homecoming event at my house this afternoon.

So I kind of need to wrap up this week's T.I. and start getting ready for guests!

Anyway, in honor of our anniversary, this week's. T.I. is a flashback to our very first official constitutional.  If you're new to my blog and/or to Cabal Fang, a constitutional is a calisthenics training routine made up of seven different calisthenics exercises done back-to-back as quickly as possible and while taking as few breaks as possible.  A new constitutional is created each month, and everyone in the club is expected to get through it twice a week.  To see a complete list of all our monthly constitutionals back to 2009, click here.

At Cabal Fang we believe that calisthenics are an essential component of functional fitness.  So, without further preamble I present our first official monthly constitutional.

Year Ten: Martial Arts Training Involution #179

* Warm-up.  Set a timer for 8 mins and warm up thoroughly until the timer beeps.
* Martial mobility.  Perform 4-rep sets of Shots, Leg Triangles, Inside leg kick with décollage, and Sit-Out Push-ups for another 8 mins.
* Constitutional.

Lunges (100)
Log Presses (50) (Sub a sandbag or heavy bag if you don't have a log)
Ab Punches (1.5 mins) (If you don’t have a partner do 100 Sit-ups)
Neck Crunches (100)
Bodybuilders (25)
Jack-knifes (25)
Wall Touches (100)

Heart: Martial Arts Training Involution #178

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The heart is the center, the core, where everything begins and ends.  In martial arts, the heart sits at the the intersection of form, intent, action, and reaction.  In Cabal Fang martial arts, these four things equate to the Hermetic Quaternary -- "To Know, to Will, to Dare, to Keep Silent." 

These associations are prehistoric and are equated to the four directions.  Thus we see them cropping up everywhere -- the Four Living Creatures from Ezekiel, the four heavenly creatures (Ox, Lion, Man and Eagle), the Four Holy Beasts from Vietnamese folklore, the Four Symbols from Chinese folklore, etc.

Heart: Martial Arts Training Involution #178

  • Form. Spend 15 minutes working on your form. How do you do that? Here are some ideas: break down a technique by practicing it slowly, get in front of a mirror and analyze your movement, practice your kata, poomse, hyung, etc. with extreme exactness, etc.

  • Action and Reaction. Spend 15 minutes working on your action and reaction. If you have a partner, work flow drills. If you're going solo, run flow drills with your heavy bag, grappling dummy, floor bag, etc. (if you need some flow drills, read Chapter 26 of the CFSG).

  • Intent. Spend 15 minutes honing your intent with meditation. Intent is the secret sauce that makes everything you do open up like a flower (last week I explored a related idea in this video). Think of a suitable phrase, about a dozen words, that embodies your intent. Pick a famous quote from your choice of wisdom literature -- a Bible passage like the one I used ("Be ye therefore perfect as your father, which is in heaven, is perfect" ~Matthew 5:48) or a quote from the Tao Te Ching (“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know"). Set a timer for 15 minutes and assume your meditative posture of choice. Mentally recite the first half of the phrase as you breathe in. Hesitate with lungs full and airway open as you mentally recite the second half of the phrase. Recite the first half as you breathe out. Hesitate with lungs empty and airway open as you mentally recite the second half of the phrase. This phrase, when split and used in this manner, will focus your mind and urge you into box breathing. Repeat until the timer beeps.

  • Record. And, as always, record your results and thoughts in your training journal.

Excuses Excuses: Martial Arts Training Involution #177

What's the difference between a reason and an excuse?  An excuse is a failure.  A reason is a delay.

You are either going to reach your ultimate  goal or not.  If you don't reach the goal, your "reason" is an excuse.  But if you reach the goal, your excuses are valid reasons for being delayed.

This week's T.I. is an excerpt from The Hourglass Way: Transform in 12 Weeks with Cabal Fang.  Get it on Kindle, as a paperback, Nook book, or in any ebook format via Smashwords.

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WHAT TO DO IF YOU KEEP MESSING UP

Things happen. People and situations are not perfect or ideal. You are going to have bad days, bad weeks, maybe even a bad month or year. So what do you do if you wake up one day and realize you haven’t touched this workbook for a while – a few days, weeks or even months? Well, did you read the section above or not?

If you mess up on the program, all you have to do is get up, dust yourself off, and get back to work. Cabal Fang will change your life – but only if you stay with it. If you only missed a few days, you can pick up right where you left off. If you fall out of the program for a couple weeks, back up a week and resume. If you drop out for a month or more, it’s probably best if you start over.

Have you ever heard the expression, “I don’t know where you’re going but you can’t stay here.”? You picked up this workbook because you know you need to work on yourself. Obviously you don’t want to stay where you are. Well, the only way to get to a better place is to move and keep moving.

Listen to the lies you are thinking:

* “I don’t have time to do this program properly right now.”  Nonsense. People make time for the things that are important to them. Take a little time away from TV, social media, web surfing, napping, snacking, partying, video games, etc. etc.

* “This is a great program but I can’t do it justice.” You know how you do justice to a great program? By not quitting it.

* “I don’t have the __________ (focus, strength, willpower, determination, etc.)”  Of course you don’t.  You know you don’t.  I know you don’t. That’s why you’re in the program you chucklehead. Just do the best you can.

Bottom line? Doing the program half-assed is better than not doing it all. Nothing’s stopping you from doing it over again later! In Cabal Fang, we don’t judge. But neither do we whine, complain, or make excuses – and especially we don’t quit. We modify, adapt and overcome.

Enough talk. Let’s get started.

Excuses Excuses: Martial Arts Training Involution #177

Last week we took it easy.   But not this week.

  • 20 minutes on the heavy bag. Warm up for 8 minutes while you decide if you want to work on speed, accuracy, form, endurance, mobility, or power ("SAFE MP"). Don't just wail away on the bag without any purpose. Adjust round length to suit your goals (shorter when working on S or P, longer for E), add tape targets to the bag for A, etc. For more ideas read this.

  • 20 minute Half Pyramid. Then set a timer for 20 mins and climb as high as you can before it beeps -- 1 of each, 2 of each, 3, 4, 5, etc. of the following: Sit-Out Push-ups, Shrimps, Drop Duck-Unders, Bear Walks (5 yards), Jump Squats, Bodybuilders, Jackknifes. Don't know an exercise? Read this.

  • Complete a nice long sit. Animals and humans, both predators and prey, have been doing it since the dawn of life on Earth. Contemplation (a.k.a "passive meditation") is baked into your DNA. If you want to explore how your mind works, learn patience and self-control, slash your body's production of cortisol and other stress hormones, relax more deeply than you thought possible, and strengthen your relationship with the divine, this is the thing for you. Set a timer. Beginners 10 mins., intermediates 30 mins., advanced folks 1 hour. Assume your meditative posture of choice. Narrow your eyes somewhat to minimize blinking. Do not fidget, wiggle, or scratch. Breathe in a slow, steady rhythm. Don't get up until the timer beeps.

  • Record everything you did and learned in your training journal. If it' ain't in the journal, it didn't happen.

Creature Teacher: Martial Arts Training Involution #176

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When you find yourself extremely stressed:

  1. Be like Dog. Pretend to be perfectly calm and relaxed even when your thoughts are in disarray. In the same way that water assumes the shape of the vessel in which it is placed, your mind will begin to conform to the attitude of your body if you buy it some time.

  2. Be like Hawk. Breathe, soar, and gain some distance. Take slow, deep breaths making sure that your airways remain open at all times. Make a conscious effort to hesitate for a few beats between inhaling and exhaling phases, but never hold or clamp down on your breath.

  3. Be like your ancestors and go to the cave -- the cave of your mind. Regain your comfort zone by calling up a mental picture of either of a familiar and related training simulation or of an actual previous success during similar circumstances. You've been here before and you're going to be fine.

  4. Be like Frog. Go on auto-pilot. Just be in the present moment.

Creature Teacher: Martial Arts Training Involution #176

These weekly T.I.s can be very physically demanding. This week we're going to take it a little break and do some head work.  Practice the above drill.  Run through all the steps one by one.  Then make a note in your planner, or set a reminder on your phone, to run through them every day for the next week or so until you have them memorized.  Then take a nice long sit, at least ten minutes.  Try to practice your contemplation for double your usual daily length (but not more than an hour).  Daily internal work -- contemplation, meditation and prayer -- are essential to the health of the human body, mind and spirit.  If you're not doing daily internal work there's no way you're maximizing your health and potential.  So get started!

Throwing Hands: Martial Arts Training Involution #175

This month’s internal focus is the Hand of Mysteries — check out his very “handy” training involuion…



Of Hounds and Hands

The words hound and hand likely have the same origin in the Proto-Germanic word handuz.  What does handuz mean?  Well, as with most of these proto-lingual words, which are mostly interpolations and guesses, linguists aren't exactly sure.  The best guess is “to reach for" or possibly "to obtain.”  I'd add "to grasp" to that list. 

Think about it.  That's what hands and dogs do, right?  Grab and hold?  I don't believe it's a coincidence that both seem awfully close to the word "hunt" which means to grab a-hold of something to eat.  Makes sense, doesn't it, when you consider that hunting dogs are very important whenever and wherever you have to hunt in order to get fed?

Now let's look at it another way.  One of the oldest symbols known to mankind is the hand outline.  It is very common, found across the globe in cave art created by prehistoric hunters.

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Look at the example on the right from the Cave of Hands in Argentina.  These hands were made using a form of prehistoric air-brushing.  The painters placed their hands on the cave walls and used hollow bones to blow colored liquids onto the surface so that a negative would be left when the hand was removed.   

The Latin aspiro means "a puff of air."  An aspiration is an expulsion of air following a choke.  But an aspiration is also a hope, dream or goal which one seeks to obtain, grasp or take hold of -- something you hope a favorable wind will blow upon.  Is there a connection here?

So you see, the cave painting above literally screams aspiration.   There is even a target on the far left toward which everything in the entire painting is headed, as if toward some grand intersection.

The artists could have held an animal carcass or bone against the wall and created a negative in the same way the hands were created.  Or the hands could have been sketched to match the style of the animals.  But neither is the case.  The animals and geometric shapes are sketched and the hands are traced with realism.  So why is one sketched and the other rendered using the prehistoric equivalent of a photocopy?

Because the animals are symbolic.  They are the dream, the aspiration, the hope.  But the hands are real.

The animals in the painting are virtually identical.   Because you see, it doesn't matter what the specific animal is.   Each animal in the picture is at once any animal and every animal.

The painting proclaims that if the human mind can conceive it and believe it, the human hand can achieve it.


Throwing Hands: Martial Arts Training Involution #175

  • No talking, groaning, grunting or complaining for the duration of the training session. Let your hands do the talking.

  • Put your hands on the enemy. Complete 100 Duck-Unders with the best form you can manage. If you don't have a partner, just do them shadow-style. This is not a lunge. Keep your spine perpendicular to the ground, head up, and pull hard on the rear hand. Check your form here.

  • Throw some hands. Heavy bag form drill. Set a round timer for 3 rounds of 3:00/1:00. Get after that bag with perfect form -- practice your falling step, make sure your hips are fully involved, strike using the "right" part of your hands (based on your personal thoughts and/or martial style) and so on. Count the strikes that you think are are not up to your usual snuff. When all three rounds are over, do that number of Push-ups and write it down in your training journal. Come back in a few days and beat your number.

  • Speak to the hand. Not literally, figuratively. Are you at least as evolved as a cave painter was 15,000 years ago? Set a timer for 15 minutes and think about it. What are your goals and aspirations? What do you feel about so strongly that would brave a dark cave with only a torch just to paint it on a wall? Have you put in place an organizational method that insures you are setting goals and aiming at them? Do you keep a journal?

  • Journal. And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training journal when you're done.

Canis Familiaris: Martial Arts Training Involution #174

The following essay is from the founder’s blog.

The Delightful Demeanor of the Domestic Dog

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If your dog is suffering enough to show it, take him straight to the vet.  If he’s in so much pain that he snips at you, he’s probably at death’s door.  Anyone who has ever had a dog knows this to be true.  Gizmo, my little Lhasa Apso, sixteen years old and falling apart at the seams, licked our hands and showed his love for us all the way to the euthanasia room.  I wish I could be half as loving, and half as tough, as that little guy was.

Underneath that happy face, lolling tongue and sleek coat lie millions of years of ingrained, evolutionary knowledge.  Sick wolves are unfit to be selected as mates.  Weak animals get singled out by predators and picked on by any bullies in the pack.  Snippy, grumpy dogs get less food from their human partners.  If you’re a dog, it has always paid to keep your whining to yourself.  It is, in fact, a matter of life and death.

Your dog’s happy demeanor is the result of practical stoicism.

Similar forces had to be working upon humans too.  Who knows why happy stoicism didn’t get baked into our DNA too?  My theory is that our self-awareness prevented it by allowing us an escape hatch — being two-faced.  If I’m right, that means that being a happy and loving stoic is directly linked to integrity.

You see, the stereotype of the stern and frowning stoic is just that.  Your dog knows that behavior is not a bilateral spectrum or a zero sum game.  Dogs — and people for that matter — don’t have to be either happy-go-lucky or  stoic.  Possessing self-control doesn’t mean you have to be inscrutable or have the deadpan aspect of a corpse.

Nor does it mean being fake.  To be clear, we are not talking about simply gritting our teeth and hiding the pain.  That’s grade school stuff compared to what any dog down at the dog-pound can do.  We are talking about actually being happy and full of love despite being in pain.  And this goes for physical pain as well as spiritual and intellectual pain, like stress, money problems, family strife, work pressures, and so on.

It boils down to being the same person all the time, no matter what comes our way.  Isn’t that what integrity is?  Being a dutiful person even when it’s inconvenient or dangerous?  Being kind and polite even when others aren’t?  Staying on course despite the winds of pain, anger, frustration and anguish?

Sometimes reality is literally a pain.   Deal with it.  Start with daily contemplation and awareness training.  Then make a resolution to be like a dog — to be happy and loving even when you’re suffering.  Be on the lookout for signs that you might be allowing your pains to change who you are.  Make a note in your training journal when you catch yourself being whiny, cranky or selfish.  Be introspective enough to untangle your behavior and figure out what’s eating you — just knowing what it is can release its hold on you.    

Toughen up buttercup, or your pains will become everybody else’s pains too.

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CANIS FAMILIARIS: MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING INVOLUTION #174

  • No talking, groaning, grunting or complaining for the duration of the training session.

  • Half Pyramid of Clean & Press. Don’t have a barbell? No excuses — get creative. Use two dumbbells. Gradually fill a ruck sack with barbells, chains, or tools from your garage (a bag full of wrenches and hammers weighs a ton!). Start with a naked weight bar and do 10 reps. Take a 1 min. break while you add approx 1/10th of your max safe weight to the bar. Do 10 reps, take a 1 min break, and repeat. When you can’t 10 reps, that’s okay. Just do as many as you can and keep adding weight until you fail. My sets were #20 x 10, #30 x 10, #40 x 10, #50 x 10, #60 x 9, #70 x 8, #80 x 5 #90 x 3, #100 x 2, #110 fail.

  • Heavy bag speed drill. Set a round timer for 10 rounds of :30/:30. Get after that bag as fast as you can for :30 and then rest for :30. Count your strikes for the final round and write it down. Come back in a few days and beat your number.

  • Dig a hole. Not literally, figuratively. Instead of digging in the yard like your dog, dig into yourself. Sit down in your meditative posture of choice, regulate your breathing, and think back to the last time you were cranky and/or not your ideal self. What was the “pinch that made you flinch” so-to-speak? Physical pain? Fear? Worry? Stress? What could you do to prevent that from happening again?

  • Journal. And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training log when you’re done.

Locomotion: Martial Arts Training Involution #173

Last week we discussed why tanks are scarier than cannons — because tanks can move and cannons can’t — and we did some movement-related training.  This week we’re taking it a step further by doing some “next level” movement drills.

Why?  Because, whether you’re a martial artist or not, being able to move through your environment isn’t just handy for clearing obstacles so that you can escape danger.  It’s about ownership of the space you occupy.  It’s about confidence, command and mastery of one’s body, practical fitness, fighting the spectre of workout boredom, and more!

LOCOMOTION: MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING INVOLUTION #173

  • Martial warm-up. Practice your forms or flow drills for 8 minutes.

  • Spar or work your heavy bag for 20 minutes. If you have a partner, gear up and spar using whatever guidelines you prefer. At my clubs we generally spar using standard MMA rules and equipment except that we don’t allow strikes to the head (only smearing, grinding and cooking) and we don’t push the contact past about 2/3. If you don’t have a partner, work your heavy bag. I recommend using some aspect of the “S.A.F.E. M.P. ” protocol from the Cabal Fang Study Guide.

  • Practice some martial movement exercises for 15 minutes. Set up a little course of six exercises as much like the ones in the video below as you can manage (modify, adapt and overcome!) which are Suitcase Carry Sprints, Vault w/ Quad Run, Jump and Safety Roll, Log Walks, Kansas Burpees and Get-ups. Set a timer for 2:30 intervals and do as many as you can of each exercise for 2:30.

  • Walking Contemplation. Walk. Just walk. Go slowly to minimize the sounds of your footfalls. Be silent and do not fidget or scratch. Breathe silently and in a regular pattern, and narrow your eyes to minimize the need to blink. Do not think in words, prepare your grocery list, or any of that. Just put one foot in front of the other and allow your chattering monkey mind to gradually quiet itself until you’re in a quiet state of awareness.

  • Journal. And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training log or journal when you’re done.

Propel: Martial Arts Training Involution #172

Which is more intimidating: a cannon, or a tank?

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The tank right?  Why?

Because it moves. 

Your cannons are no good if they cannot move with authority.

Propel: Martial Arts Training Involution #172

  • Martial Fitness Warm-up. Set a timer for 8 mins and do low intensity 4-rep sets until the timer beeps of Sit-Outs, 5-yard Bear Walks, Crunches, and Reverse Bridges (Neck or Shoulder based on your fitness level).

  • 200 yard Bear Hug Carry. Carrying heavy objects is the most basic test of functional, moving strength and should be a part of all fitness programs. Set a goal of carrying half your weight at least 200 yards. If this is your first time, start with a light, manageable weight and walk that off 50 yards. Break 1 minute. If that was easy, add a little weight and repeat. Rest 1 minute. If that was easy, to ahead and try to walk it off 200 yards. Train this way 2 or 3 times per week using a linear training program with periodicity. I like the Ironmind sandbag. There's a video of sandbag training in front of the Cabal Fang Temple below.

  • Falls and Rolls. Never take the basics for granted. A competent martial artist should be able to safely fall and roll on real-life surfaces, not just on mats. Warm up on mats and then, if your technique is good and you're sure you're ready, take it outside on the grass. Complete 25 Shoulder Rolls and 25 Break Falls. If that feels good, and if you're sure you're ready, go to the sidewalk and repeat.

  • Move while you hit and hit while you move. Set timer for 3 x 3:00/1:00 heavy bag rounds. For the first two rounds, focus on mobility only, not power. Be in motion for every strike. All kicks should be switch-kicks or kicks with a décollage. For the final round, go for it -- full power with full mobility.

  • Contemplation. Walk it off off for 3 minutes or until your heart rate is back to normal. Do not fidget or scratch, breathe silently and in a regular pattern, and narrow your eyes to minimize the need to blink. Do not think in words, prepare your grocery list, or any of that. Be in a state of quiet awareness, motionless inside and out.

  • Journal. And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training log or journal.


Hunt: Training Involution #171

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The following essay is from from the founder’s blog.

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The Formidable Faculties of the Cricket Frog

I nearly stepped on him.  He was so still that I thought he was a part of the terrain.  I stopped and gave him a good look-see.  He didn’t seem to mind much.

He was a common cricket frog.  A storm had come bringing sheets of rain and a break in the heat of this late afternoon in August.  He had hopped onto the cement at the edge of the gazebo.  Like me, he was watching green leaves blowing from the trees and lightning cracking in the distance.  I’ve seen a million cricket frogs.  But there was something special about him, or rather, something special about the encounter.  I have grown old and wise enough to recognize this feeling.  I am about to realize something important.  Not right now, but soon.

The next day, after a very productive training session, I sat down to do some contemplation.  Let’s not play fast and loose with our words and refer to all forms of mental exercise as meditation.  Meditation is a form of medicine — both words have the same Latin root — it is focused attention with a purpose, often using at tool.  Those tools start with the letter M just like meditation: mantras(holy words), mudras (spiritual gestures), and mandalas (holy maps or visual aids).    Contemplation, on the other hand, shares its Latin root with temple, a space set aside for sacredness or divinity to enter.  To contemplate is to empty the mind.  You just just sit and breathe.  This is the zazen of Zen Buddhism.  You don’t think about anything.  You turn off your conscious mind and sit immobile.  

Like a frog.

It did not come to me in words, this grand realization, but in a rush of images in my mind’s eye.  I saw instantly that a frog contemplates in his own way.  Every creature that has ever lain in wait for a prey animal to come by — a frog waiting for a fly, a catfish biding for a minnow, a hunter in a tree stand waiting for a buck — has practiced contemplation.

The first three things you are taught when learning zazen are (a) do not fidget or scratch, (b) breathe silently and in a regular pattern, and (c) keep your eyes open to narrow slits to minimize the need to blink.  You are instructed to make no judgments or conscious evaluations about about what is before your eyes.  You do not ignore the world, you just choose not to react to it for a time.  You are completely relaxed, open, and empty — motionless inside and out — in a state of quiet awareness.

This is the behavior of a creature that is lying in wait for prey.

Contemplation is not a human invention.  We just differentiated various methods, gave them names, and basically did what humans always do: we codified, boxed, labeled and pontificated.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that all human systems of contemplation and meditation (and maybe even prayer as well) have their origins in hunting behaviors.

From fish, to frogs, to mammals, to apes to humans, at every stage of our evolution, we contemplated in order to survive.  Contemplation is in our DNA.  It is not a skill that we cultivate.  It is something that we allow to happen.

Contemplation is going home.

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HUNT: MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING INVOLUTION #171

Martial Fitness Warm-up.  Set a timer for 10 mins and complete as many 4-rep sets as you can of Sit-Out Push-ups, 5-yard Bear Walks, Leg Triangles, and Shots.
Weapon practice.  Every martial artist should be able to pick up a weapon and use it to defend himself if necessary.  Select a dull practice weapon of realistic size and weight and ) and a heavy bag.  Advanced folks may use a live weapon and a pell or war post if desired, but only if capable of doing so safely.  Set timer for 5 x 2:00 and complete 1 round of each (1) Passing blows (strike as you sprint back-and-forth past target) (2) Stationary strikes, (3) Sprawl and strike, (4) Up and down kneeling strikes (strike as you go down to one knee, both knees, one knee, standing, repeat), and (5) Sit-up strikes.  Strike constantly, taking as few 12-count breaks as you need to finish.  If the business end of the weapon touches your body at any time, complete 50 Push-ups for each touch.
Half mile run.  Cover a half mile as fast as you can.
Contemplation.  Walk off your run for about 3 minutes or until your heart rate is back to normal, then sit still for fifteen minutes.  Do not fidget or scratch, breathe silently and in a regular pattern, and keep your eyes open to narrow slits to minimize the need to blink.  Do not think in words, prepare your grocery list, or any of that.  Be in a state of quiet awareness, motionless inside and out.
Journal.  And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training log or journal.

POP IN: CABAL FANG MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING INVOLUTION #170

IF YOU SEE IT, FLEE IT — BUT IF YOU CAN’T GET OUT, YOU GOTTA GET IN.

This is Ace of Cups from the Hoi Polloi Tarot.  A the moment, the Chalice is the spiritual symbol of the month at Cabal Fang HQ here in Richmond.

This is Ace of Cups from the Hoi Polloi Tarot. A the moment, the Chalice is the spiritual symbol of the month at Cabal Fang HQ here in Richmond.

To learn the specifics of implementing this strategy, see Cabal Fang: Complete Study Guide from Querent to Elder. But, in general terms, you need to have as many powerful techniques as you can master that are effective at very close range. Toward that end we humbly present…

POP IN: MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING INVOLUTION #170

  • Martial Fitness. Set a timer for 10 mins and complete as many sets as you can of 4 Chin-ups, 4 Kansas Burpees, 4 Back Bridges, and 4 Bear Walks (10′ diam circles). Beginners use a light bag for the KBs and no bag for the BBs. Intermediate, use a 65+ lb heavy bag for both KBs and BBs. Advanced, same as Intermediate except add weight to the CUs.

  • Popper pyramids. 3 sets of each side of Shoulder pops and Elbow pops, each set in pyramid format: 1,2,3,4,3,2,1. See video below. To build up speed, do this pyramid a couple of times a week for a few weeks, then be sure to add them into your heavy bag work and to your sparring repertoire.

  • Meditation. Meditation tools generally fall into one of three primary categories: visual aids (mandalas), words (mantras), and body movements (mudras). The spiritual symbol of the month at Cabal Fang is the Chalice — try imagining it as a kind of visual aid. Set a timer for 10 mins and assume your meditation posture of choice. Visualize a chalice in your mind’s eye. Don’t think in words — just visualize the chalice and breathe in a regular rhythm. Quiet your monkey brain — allow the Chalice to chase away negative thoughts, obsessions, and so on.

  • Journal. And, as always, record your performance, thoughts and realizations in your training log or journal.

BENCHMARK EFFECT: CABAL FANG TRAINING INVOLUTION #169

“THE WAY TO GET THINGS DONE IS TO STIMULATE COMPETITION.  I DO NOT MEAN IN A SORDID, MONEY-GETTING WAY, BUT IN THE DESIRE TO EXCEL.” ¹

What’s measured improves.

The way to get more out of yourself is to self-compete.  This is “benchmark effect.”

  1. Train.

  2. Record performance.

  3. Evaluate progress.

  4. Adjust training regimen.

  5. Repeat.

No need to write 500 more words on this because there’s no point.  You’re either going to do it or you aren’t.  Which is it?

BENCHMARK EFFECT: CABAL FANG TRAINING INVOLUTION #169

  1. Work your body. Set timer for 8:00. Complete as many strikes as you can vs. your heavy bag before the timer beeps. If you don’t have a heavy bag, make one; if you don’t have anywhere to hang it indoors, throw a rope over a tree limb or lash it to a tree or post. When done, shoulder your bag and see how far you can carry it, switching shoulders as needed.

  2. Work your mind. Write down your strike count and the distance carried. Are you writing down measurable metrics for all training sessions — such as rep counts, time elapsed, distance, etc. — and trying to improve? If not, you aren’t training, you’re mucking around. “That which is measured improves.”

  3. Work your spirit. Set a timer for 10 mins and assume your posture of choice. Regulate breathing to a slow, steady rhythm and allow your mind to approach stillness. Don’t think, and don’t think about not thinking. Just sit. Most people call this meditation, but technically it’s contemplation. Doesn’t matter what you call it. Just do it and thank me later.

¹ Charles M. Schwab, as quoted in How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  If you haven’t Carnegie’s world-famous book you don’t know what you’re missing.  There’s a reason why the book has sold 16 million copies.

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LIVE FROM TN: MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING INVOLUTION #168

We went to Western Warrior Boot Camp in TN to hone our skills. Read more by clicking the picture:

We are the two guys in Cabal Fang t-shirts on the right. Robert Mitchell Jr and Robert Mitchell III.

We are the two guys in Cabal Fang t-shirts on the right. Robert Mitchell Jr and Robert Mitchell III.


LIVE FROM TN: MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING INVOLUTION #168

Let’s try kicking in all five ways. Before you begin, warm up for a full 8 minutes.

  • SPEED: Set timer for 30 secs. Roundhouse kick heavy bag as many times as you can in 30 secs. Rest 30 secs and repeat. If you don’t beat your kick count the second round, do 25 Push-ups. Remember that count and carry that number through the rest of this involution.

  • POWER: Turn off timer. Whatever your kick count was last round, do that many kicks as hard as you can, with maximum malice. Take your time but don’t lollygag. Rest 30 secs and do it again. If you or any training partners think your power was less the second round, do 25 Push-ups.

  • ENDURANCE: Are you kidding? This whole thing, taken in total, is endurance practice. But if you were training solely for endurance you could do something like 10+ minutes (or more depending on your fitness level) of kicks with no rest breaks.

  • ACCURACY: Mark a spot on the bag no bigger than 2″. Kick to your count. Do 5 Push-ups per miss. Rest 1 minute and repeat. You guessed it — beat your score the second round or do an additional 25 Push-ups.

  • FORM: With one hand on a sturdy object if necessary, complete your kick count very slowly and with perfect form. Rest 1 minute and repeat. If your or any of your training partners think your form was lower on the second set, do 25 Push-ups.

Sack Cracker: Training Involution #167

For unrelenting misery there’s nothing quite like the sensation of being squeezed — by problems (social, work, health, financial, etc.), by a training partner (wrestling practice anyone?) or by a real threat.  I speak from experience.  I have, at one time or another, been squished, crushed, and wrung out by everything listed above.

When life — or your training partner or assailant — puts the squeeze on you, you need to squeeze right back.

This week’s involution will (a) help you start developing your crushing power by making you crack a sack, and (b) get you motivated to solve and overcome any social, work, health or financial problems you may be facing by pushing you to get your crack out of the sack.

SACK CRACKER: MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING INVOLUTION #167

As always, warm up full before you begin.

  • Crack yourself a sack. Get a floor bag (a heavy bag with chains taped). Make one if necessary. Set timer for 10 mins. Scissor lock the bag from the bottom and squeeze as hard as you can. Straighten your trunk while you hit the top of his “head” with hammer fists. When your legs gas, swap top/bottom foot position and repeat three more times. Roll to top position and straddle the bag. Complete a Smearing Push-up and a Horizontal Bag Lift (my version of Hatmaker’s KSB). Repeat three more times. When you finish the last lift, lay a Scarf Hold on the bag, squeeze as hard as you can,and then switch grips and hips four times. Drop the bag, go back to scissors, and repeat until the timer beeps. Video below.

  • Get your crack out of the sack. Run 1 mile as fast as you can.

  • Sack up and crack right back. Whatever pressures are putting the squeeze on you — social, work, health, financial, etc. — there is always something you can do. Restriction breeds creativity, not freedom. Get paper and pen and set a timer for three minutes. Don’t analyze and think deeply — you’ll do that later — just throw out ideas! Write down as many things as you can that might help your situation. When the timer beeps, calmly review and analyze the list. Pick the three best ideas. Put them on your to-do list, set completion dates on your calendar, and son. Taking action — any kind of action — is better than laying there and letting life, your opponent, or your assailant, crush the life out of you.

Repeat Offender: Training Involution #166

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About 75% of criminals have been incarcerated multiple times, and most experts estimate that the average criminal commits approximately 10 crimes per year for which they are not apprehended.  

If you are assaulted it will likely be at the hands of an experienced repeat offender.  And since you're a nice guy,  and you never hit first, you're likely to be punched, struck, stabbed or shot before you even start defending yourself.

Proposition A: We must practice fighting while hurt.

We are habitual, repeat offenders too.  We do all kinds of things we know we shouldn't do.  We skip training sessions, eat crap food, say stupid things, screw up at the office, drink too much, yell at the dog, etc. etc.

Proposition B: We must work on ourselves.

Repeat Offender: Martial Arts Training Involution #166

  1. Complete Wrestling Conditioner #2 while impaired.  Tuck one arm into your belt, tie a bandanna over one eye, put a pointy rock in one shoe, put on a brace that makes it impossible to bend one knee, or spread the contents of your gym bag across the training area and wrestle on that.  It's amazing how annoying it is to work on the mat with a stick under your knee or a rubber gun in the small of your back.  You can find instructions for Wrestling Conditioner #2 in Cabal Fang: Complete Study Guide from Querent to Elder or here.

  2. Self-evaluate.  What are you doing to get better in mind, body and spirit?  What's your plan?  Is it working?  If you don't have a plan, or if the current one isn't working, try The Hourglass Way -- available on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Smashwords, and everywhere e-books are sold.

Sacred Words: Training Involution #164

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Should anyone other than a politically correct dweeb, a prime-time-ready talking head, garden-variety prude, holier-than-thou twit, or virtue-signalling chuckle-head want to clean up their potty mouth?

Sure.  Because speech is sacred.

Our greatest myths and holy books embody this truth.  According to the Egyptians,

"Thoth is the mediator through whom the world is brought into manifestation. He is the Tongue of Rā, the Herald of the Will of Rā,  and the Lord of Sacred Speech.”¹

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In Genesis 1 of the Holy Bible, God speaks the universe into being.  He says, "Let there be light: and there was light."  Later in John 1, when speaking of Christ, we hear,

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men."

The ancients revered the ability to recite poetry and holy words.  They embodied the idea of sacred speech.   Modern people have mostly surrendered in the battle against profane, rude and crude speech.  And few are able to recite any beautiful words even if they wanted to.

There was a time when we expected our kids to memorize poems, speeches and scripture.  Why?  So that they would have command of the words and speech on a fundamental level.

Sacred Words: Training Involution #164

Restriction breeds creativity, not freedom (for more on this topic watch this video).   Let's put some restrictions on ourselves and see if it drives our creativity.

  • Warm up thoroughly, at least 8 minutes.

  • Hobble yourself. Take a scrap of rope, an old Karate belt, Yoga strap, etc. and hobble yourself such that your ankles cannot get more than a shoulder's width apart.²

  • Complete a gauntlet. Set a timer for 8 x 2:00. You may do this with hand strikes only or with a practice weapon, your choice (I used my walking stick). Complete this twice: (1) Strikes vs. Heavy Bag (2) Get-ups (3) Sit-ups with two heavy bag strikes at top of each (4) Strikes vs. air while doing Prisoner Get-ups. ³

  • Cool down for 3 minutes and then hit the showers.

  • Hold your tongue. Refrain from swearing for one week and see how you feel about it. For extra credit, memorize some pretty words, some poetry, a piece of scripture, etc. Write it down on a scrap of paper, put it in your pocket, and study it every hour or so for a couple of days until you own it. Another way to do it is to make a voice recording on your phone and play it over and over until you can recite along with it. This is good for your brain and for your soul.


¹ Mead, G. R. S, Thrice-Greatest Hermes, Vol. 1, [The Thesophical Publishing Society, London 1906]

² I do several of these sorts of training exercises every month for self-defense practice -- hobbled, one hand tucked into my belt, one eye patched, a rock in my shoe, etc.

³  Prisoner Get-up: Drop to left knee, drop right knee to get on both knees, rise up to right knee only, then stand up.  Next time drop right knee first.  Alternate sides.

SNAKE, FISH, DOG, OWL: TRAINING INVOLUTION #163

This week’s T.I. comes straight from Karate College 2019 in Radford, VA. See pics at right.

SNAKE, FISH, DOG, OWL: TRAINING INVOLUTION #163

The single most effective martial arts maneuver is running away.  Not literally running, but getting the heck out of Dodge City, evading, hitting the road, saying bye-bye.  A martial artist should be able to move.  And when the situation is over, be able to sit still.

Set timer for 7 x 4:00 mins, no breaks.

  • Rounds 1 & 2: Warm up thoroughly. Light to moderate activity, low-key calisthenics like Jumping Jacks, Push-ups on knees, Crunches, maybe some low-intensity Jumping Rope, etc.

  • Round 3: Slither free like a snake. Get your floor bag or grappling dummy and start wrestling.¹ Back Bridge it, Neck Bridge it, and Reverse it. Squeeze, throw, and flip it. Stand it up on end and practice your Shots against it, etc. No striking — just wrestling — and no breaks longer than a 12-count.

  • Round 4: Swim away like a fish. If you have access to a body of water, swim as fast as you can. If you don’t, get on the floor and do a dry swim. Alternate between Prison Push-ups, Swimmers, and Flutter Kicks. When you gas, take 12-count breaks in Elbow Plank position.

  • Round 5: Run away like a dog. Cover as much distance as you can in 4 minutes.

  • Round 6: Walk it off for 4 minutes. Get your heartbeat down to normal.

  • Round 7: Watch like an owl. Now assume your posture of choice — seiza, lotus, half-lotus, cross-legged, sit in a chair, or have a seat in the grass and lean back against a tree. Spend 4 minutes just sitting. Don’t judge, don’t fantasize, don’t evaluate, don’t plan. Just sit. This is how the owl gets wise — by paying attention.

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    ¹ There’s no excuse for a martial artist not having a floor bag.  Buy a used bag on Craigslist for $10 or make one.

FOLDEROL AND FRIPPERY: CABAL FANG TRAINING INVOLUTION #162

This week’s T.I. comes straight from the founder’s blog. You can’t be pushing the martial and/or fitness envelope. Sometimes you have to take it down a notch and do some internal work. Enjoy.


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A snail gets attacked and beaten up by two turtles. The police come.  They ask the snail what happened. The snail says, “I don’t know — it all happened so fast!”

My grandsons gave me some cool origami for my birthday.  They made what they made because I wowed them with snail jokes (I got a million of them), they love my cool watch, and I guess they always see me in collared shirts.  Great gifts from two amazing boys.

Origami is folded paper, which got me thinking about folderol, which is different but sounds similar.  Folderol is frippery, wish-wash, claptrap, and other unimportant stuff.  Origami gifts from my grandsons are treasures — they are not piffle, twaddle, or gimcrackery.  Still though, got me thinking.

So I re-evaluated my activities and made some changes.  You should do this too from time to time.

FOLDEROL AND FRIPPERY: CABAL FANG TRAINING INVOLUTION #162

Cabal Fang Vital Grace #3 is Frugality  — “to be efficient in the use of time, effort and resources.”  Take today off from training and spend an hour evaluating your use of time and resources.    What you can do to trim, slice or eliminate waste of all kinds and get more frugal?  For some examples, here’s what I got rid of and or adjusted this week.  

  • Fearless Fridays. Made a pact with a friend of mine as follows: every Friday we email each other a report of what we’ve done to advance our projects for the current week and we ruthlessly evaluate one-another — no quarter taken or given.

  • Adjusted training time. 15 minutes less time on fitness and 15 minutes more on technique. I’m training 80 minutes a day on average (including days off — 100 minutes if you don’t). Too much wear and tear on my body at this age.

  • Focused training time. Freezing my Korean Karate training. Current forms twice a week to maintain existing foundation in basics only. No new forms or techniques. 99% focus on Cabal Fang and Frontier Rough & Tumble.

  • Very little free stuff. Can’t hope to make any money teaching martial arts in my retirement if I keep making making YouTube videos that give away all my secrets. Only occasional tidbits and teasers going forward. More effort on interesting books and sale-able products.

  • Efficiency in fundraising. One more giant load to the recycling center to benefit the Cabal Fang Temple, then I’m done. Takes hours to crush cans, organize, bag, and haul, and we only get $100/load. The county can have it going forward. Writing books and increasing donations is a better use of my time.

  • Gave up shopping for a new vehicle. I not Miss America and heaven knows I’m not pretty enough to need a fancy car to wave from. My ugly truck runs fine. I can rent a car for a couple of trips a year and not take on a $500/month car payment.

Flag Day: Cabal Fang Martial Arts Training Involution #161

This week’s T.I. is out a day early so you can, if you desire, complete it on Flag Day.  Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14th, 1777.

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FLAG DAY: CABAL FANG MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING INVOLUTION #161

  • 5 x 10 of Dumbbell Squats and Bench Presses (if you don’t have access to weights, just do 4 x 10 + 1 set to failure of Air Squats and Push-ups).  Choose a weight you think will work and get started.  If a set is easy, add a little weight on the next one.  If you can’t quite get your 10 reps, take a little off the next set so that you get as close to 5 x 10 as you can.

  • Heavy bag carry.  Pick up a heavy bag and carry it as far as you can without stopping.

  • 2-mile flag run.  Okay, fine, you don’t have to run with an actual flag.  But run with something in your hand, like a water bottle or my personal favorite, a walking stick.  It’s a heckuva lot harder than it sounds.

  • Flag Meditation.  Set a timer for 10 mins.  Use the flag as an object of meditation, either visual (q.v. mandala) or verbal (q.v. mantra).  If you choose the visual method, meditate on an actual flag or a photo of one; if you choose the latter, use the Pledge of Allegiance.  Silently recite it to regulate breath.  “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America (breathing in) and to the republic for which it stands (holding breath with airway open), one nation, under God, indivisible (breathing out), with liberty and justice for all (hesitating empty with airways open).

Squiz: Cabal Fang Martial Arts Training Involution #160

SQUIZ /skwɪz/
Britain, Australia, New Zealand, colloquial. Perhaps a blend of squint +‎ quiz

  1. [noun] a look.

  2. [verb] to peer at or eye suspiciously.

But because this month's external focus is Self-Defense vs. Unarmed, we're going to add a new definition:

3. a self-defense quiz (contraction of self-defense and quiz)

And since our internal focus is The Candle (meditation) we're going to add in that element as well.

Squiz: Cabal Fang Martial Arts Training Involution #160

  1. The last time you stayed in a hotel, did you request a room between the 2nd and 4th floors? (FYI, fire ladders don't reach beyond the 4th)

  2. Do you know your spouse or significant other's license plate number?

  3. Do you know the nearest safe harbors to both home and work? (A safe harbor is a location that's open 24 hours which has some kind of security presence)

  4. Do you have your attorney's phone number memorized in case you're arrested?

  5. Do you know your state's laws regarding use of force?†

  6. Is there at least a quarter of a tank of gas in your vehicle right now?

  7. Do you have a fully stocked first aid kit in your home that contains a first aid manual?

Expand your definition of meditation beyond sitting on the floor in lotus position reciting a holy mantra.  Your mind treats visualization like actual experience with 80% efficiency.  Which means that in addition to preserving your spirit, meditation on strategy and tactics might preserve your body in a self-defense situation.

  1. Have you spent at least five minutes this week visualizing what you would do if you were the victim of a violent attack, such as a carjacking, abduction or sexual assault?

  2. Have you spent at least five minutes this week visualizing what you would do if someone tried to force their way into your home or office?

  3. Have you spent at least five minutes this week visualizing your own demise?  "Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily." ~Hagakure

That's 10 questions.  How did you score?

10 = A
9 = B
8 = C
7 = D
6 or less = F

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† Here in Virginia, USA, our laws are basically "stand your ground lite."  In other words, youI don't have to run, but you can use only sufficient force to ensure your safety.  Details here.