Friday, January 20, 2017

Find your Passion - Succeeding in Fitness

Yesterday I was meeting with a professional from a different part of the health, wellness, fitness industry who mentioned her gym membership(s) going to waste. Her story may be familiar to some of you, so I thought I would share it, and offer some of my personal tips to stave off similar circumstance.

She is currently a member at 2 different gyms, and goes to neither. She continues to claim she will go, and laments the fact that she has to. This is an all too common occurrence, but one that can be fixed.

Find a passion. Sounds simple but elusive, I know. In order to exercise, most of us need to be motivated to go. In order to be motivated, we have to 'want' to be doing that activity. If we already have an activity we are passionate about and enjoy, and we just aren't attending, that is different. That comes down to breaking the rut; re-establishing a routine.

Setting a consistent week to week schedule that is what I like to call - 'sacred time', (time that is uninterruptible by other nonsense or static) is crucial. For example: doctor appointments, legal, car registration, etc. We don't let other things get in the way of those, but we'll let someone's phone call interrupt our health and wellness time.

Sacred time is your time to take care of you. We do our best to establish this, and then leave it be; unhindered by the comings and goings of the rest of life. It takes a little time, and the right mindset to get into this, but once you do, you will quickly understand the importance of it.

Some people can let their schedules stay in flux and maintain discipline, but most of us need a solid day/time that we go do something, and we don't miss it unless it is an emergency. If someone asks us to do something during that time, we can simply respond with - "I have an appointment." They don't need to know that you are going to roller derby, laying waste to leather bags in kickboxing, choking people in Jiu-Jitsu, or running half-pipes with your skateboard friends. They simply hear "appointment" and know that you are busy.

Let's return to the 'passion' part of this article. This is so important, that I want to TYPE IT IN CAPS SO IT GETS YOUR ATTENTION. You can't turn over a new leaf by saying that you are going to start running a couple days/week when you despise running, and expect that you will miraculously have the willpower to go out and run. Especially when you leave work at 4:30p, and it is already dark, raining; snowing, freezing cold, and the nice warm house with a couch and TV are beckoning.

There's no rational reason any of us would choose that unless we were super excited about running. If running is your passion, then that should be your go to method of fitness during 'sacred time'. If rock climbing is more your calling, then strap in and tackle those rock walls.

There are so many things to do that involve movement - hiking, biking, swimming, roller-blading, street hockey, racket ball, tennis, orienteering, skiing, snow-shoeing, kite boarding, diving, etc., etc., etc. The most significant part of this - MOVE!

The human body is designed to move. The more studies come out on stagnation, the more we learn that sitting at a desk all day, or lounging around too much, equals bad news for our bodies, and our waistlines.

"The increased risk of death linked with sitting for eight hours a day was eliminated for people who were physically active for at least one hour a day."

You can see in this Norwegian study cited in this article on CBS News (and many other news sites) showing that prolonged sitting increases our propensity for all sorts of ailments, disease, and early deaths.

Find a Tai Chi class, Yoga, Pilates, stretching. Anything. But...and I can't stress this enough, enjoy what you are doing so you want to go back and keep doing it. If you hate it, resent it, or are even luke warm about it, then you won't want to go.

This leads to a final point - when we have our 'gym membership' and we don't go, or keep telling ourselves "next week", then we feel anxious, depressed, discouraged, or a failure. What good is that doing to our lives? Exercise helps combat these feelings, but if it is the cause of them, then we need to reassess.

I am partial to contact sports and high intensity training in short intervals. Some people prefer 90 to 120 minutes of running, or 30 minutes of Yoga. What you do is up to you, but find what you enjoy, and find a place to do it with good people around you that are on the same path. We become who we surround ourselves with.

Find your passion!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

No Discounts! How to Increase Your Martial Arts Learning Potential.

"I don't like this move."
photo by Max Kotchouro

"This technique isn't for me."

These are examples of things I hear from students from time to time. Usually they are unaware I am listening, and I like to keep it that way so they feel free to express themselves in the process of learning. I myself have said similar things in the past while going through the process.

One such time, I was on a trip to San Diego to train with Mantis Boxing expert - Sifu Tony Puyot for a few days back in 2008. On this particular trip, Sifu Puyot was passing on to me, his entire 8 Step Mantis Boxing throwing curriculum as taught to him by Sifu James Shyun.

I was excited to go through this material, and we spent the entire afternoon at Sifu Mike Dasargo's school going through all 20 of the throws and their variations. During the session, I remember getting to one throw, what we call Thigh Lift Throw (see photo) and absolutely hating it.

I felt so disconnected from the movement, and I was laying out reasons why this throw wasn't for me, and why I would never use it. I convinced myself to learn it, practice it, but I put it in a category for something that will work for someone else's body type, but not mine.

I returned from San Diego and set out practicing all the material from that weekend. I spent months going over everything, and working on integrating some of it into my fighting. Obviously some takedowns worked better than others, but I practiced them all.

Fast forward a couple of years and I was hit in the head by an 'epiphany stick'. Also known as that voice in your head saying - "Look at you dumbass." I noticed the throw I was successfully using the most, was none other than...the Thigh Lift Throw. The one throw out of all of them that I despised, turned into something I relied upon heavily in my fighting repertoire.

I realized how silly I had been, and I picked up the pieces to move on, vowing never to make that mistake again. I can't say for sure that I have been completely successful in that undertaking, but I can be certain that I stop myself whenever I hear those words enter my mind.

This single experience helped me beyond measure when approaching the learning of a different art - Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There were many times I was attending a camp, workshop, or class, and felt that what we were learning was way beyond my level. Instead of getting angry and throwing my "sucker in the dirt" (Sifu Puyot), I categorized what I was learning as 'something for later', and committed myself to participating in the workshop with full focus, and effort so my partners could get the most out of the workshop too.

The things we struggle with the most, will occasionally turn into some of our best work. As we go through the process of learning and meet these moments of difficulty, if we step back and observe ourselves in the moment, as well as what we are learning, we can approach things with an open mind and empty cup.

If we try our best, ask questions, assist our partners, and prepare ourselves to see that material again in the future, we will be better prepared at that time to receive the knowledge and we will not become bogged down with bitterness and despair.

We should never discount what we are being taught as something - "not for us", or - "that will never work for me", etc. In doing so we limit our potential for growth.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Brothers in Arms: Mantis Boxing vs Ultimate Boxing

Brothers in Arms

Mantis Boxing vs Ultimate Boxing

Although these arts have very different purposes in today's world, they share so much in common and are intertwined in history and location. For the past few years I have been working intermittently on this project. I noticed similarities back in 2012 while researching texts.

At the time, I was doing an article on the Kao (Lean) principle in Mantis Boxing (Tang Lang Quan), and I decided to look up the Supreme Ultimate Boxing (Tai Ji Quan) character for 'Lean', found in their 13 characters/principles, and see if it was the same 'Lean' found in Mantis Boxing's '12 Keyword' formula.

Sure enough, they were the same. This lead to further research and comparisons, and soon I had a series of principles and sub-principles that drew a solid line between the two styles. The English translations people used can vary, but the character is found to be the same for each style. Below is a work in progress but it is far enough along that I can share it.

Use the color coding to match up commonalities in the defining principles of each system as handed down from generation to generation:

Praying Mantis Boxing - Tang Lang QuanSupreme Ultimate Boxing - Tai Ji Quan
12 Keywords13 Keywords
勾 - Hook (Gou)掤 - Ward-Off (Peng)
摟 - Grapple (Lou)扌履 - Roll Back (Lu)
採 - Pluck (Cai)採 - Press (Ji)
粘 - Contact (Zhan)按 - Push (An)
黏 - Cling (Nian) 挒 - Split (Lie)
掛 - Upward Block (Gua)採 - Pluck (Cai)
刁 - Intercept (Diao)肘 - Elbow (Zhou)
進 - Advance (Jin)靠 - Lean (Kao)
崩 - Crush (Beng)進 - Advance (Jin)
打- Strike (Da)退 - Retreat (Tui)
貼- Adhere (Tie)左 - Left (Zuo)
靠- Lean (Kao)右 - Right (You)

中定 - Central Equilibrium (Zhong Ding)

Sub-Principles of Ultimate Boxing that correlate with Mantis Boxing:

黏 - Stick (Nian) - same character as Cling
貼 - Adhere (Tie)
粘 - Join (Zhan) - same character as Contact

肘 - Elbow (Zhou) - one of the core forms of Mantis Boxing is known as 8 Elbows, or Ba Zhou. The use of elbows is highly prevalent in Mantis Boxing. This correlates to the emphasis placed on the Elbow Strike in Tai Ji Quan and is listed as one of it’s primary principles.

勾 - Hook - (Gou) - used in Taijiquan, but listed as a primary principle in Mantis Boxing. Similar usage in application of Single Whip versus Slant Chop.

Kicks - The two styles share kicks in common, along with striking/blocking combinations. Some of the kicks found in both styles are the Heel Kick, Toe Kick, and Cross Kick.

Striking - the two styles share striking attacks and counters.

  • Deflect, Parry, Punch from Ultimate Boxing, is found in Mantis forms as well. 
  • Both styles depend on an upper block combined with a counter strike down the middle; known as Bend Bow Shoot Tiger in Tai Ji Quan, this move shows up in forms such as Tou Tao in Tang Lang Quan.
  • The use of the chopping fist shows up in both styles.
  • The Beng Quan (Crushing Fist) is used predominantly in both.
  • White Snake Spits Tongue is also a shared attack in both systems. 

Two Roads - the two styles took very different paths as time passed, yet emerged with a similar outcome. Tai Ji Quan was very condensed; using one form to house the entire system of 30+ applications. Mantis had 2 or 3 original forms, and later became bloated as more and more forms were piled on, and the system was split into other styles of Mantis Boxing.

Tai Ji Quan was transformed into a health practice in the early 1900’s for those who could not perform high impact exercise, and split off into different family systems before and after. The original Chen family style, and Yang family styles were combative and extremely condensed.

Mantis was also absorbed into the national movement for better health and fitness (Jin Woo, Nanqing Guo Shu Institute), but with a different methodology - by adding more forms, performed at faster pace, and generally more athletic in purpose.

In the end, it saved neither from becoming obsolete and losing their teeth. Lucky for us the forms, and principles survived so reassembling the arts has still been possible.

Below are a couple of maps included to show the provinces in China where these styles originate. Eastern Henan Province, Western Shandong, and Hebei province. As Douglas Wile points out in his book - Lost Tai-Chi Classics of the Late Ch'ing Dynasty, the Yellow River basin was a hotbed for martial arts training and fighting. Many famous boxers emerged from this region and went on to be accredited with founding of their own fighting systems.

Crossover of techniques and principles that work, or the use of a technique that defeated another opponent, would surely be picked up and used among anyone in the know. The common use of Beng Quan in Xing Yi Quan, Tang Lang Quan, and Tai Ji Quan being a clear example.

Mantis Boxing Region - Shandong

Ultimate Boxing Region - Henan

Research Bibliography and Character Sources:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Learning to Walk (again) in Martial Arts

The original title for this article was "Why is BJJ easier than my [insert Stand-Up Art]?" This was a question proposed to me last year when we were taking submissions for the
 Swamp Talks videos. Truth be told, it was a question that made me uncomfortable at first, as I assumed it would be misconstrued. This question, out of all of them, really stood out to me and made me think.

It made me think about something I hadn't previously considered. Something that was clearly on the mind of more than one of my students. I opted not to address this question, even though I left it on the list. I needed more time to think about it, to ponder the implications. It wasn't until a few months later that I had formulated a decent answer.

So why is it so difficult to get the stand-up game? Let's break it down by each element and it will begin to make sense.

In the interest of saving some of you some time - this article is meant to help people that have a 6 months, to a few years into your training. If you are a brand new student to the martial arts - Welcome aboard. See you in a few months when this will be more important to you. 

Crawl. Walk. Run.

I have an analogy I like to use when I hear people (usually those training less than a year or two) getting frustrated when learning something new in class. It goes something like this - 

Student: "I can't get this!!!"
Me: "Did you walk out of the womb?"
Student:  Followed by: "No."
Me: "Right. First you laid there kicking your legs on your back. Then you laid on your belly for a while doing push-ups. Next you started to crawl. Then you started to use your arms to climb, and stand. Once your legs gained strength, you began to take your first steps. After you got the walking thing down, you started to run."
"That was how many years ago?"
Student: insert answer
Me: "Ok, so now you are learning to walk all over again, but run right away."

Monkey Staff 2006

You Monkey!

At our roots we are primates. Our instinctive method of striking is large, powerful swings that maximize our anatomical structure. This creates power, but leaves little in the way of protection.

In martial arts (boxing, kickboxing, karate, etc.), you learn a new way of striking. Ways completely counter to your instincts, and some that will build off of them. This new method can provide power, while offering a guard for helping to protect your own head in a fight.

Striking seems simple from the outside, and I believe that is why I see so many people baffled by the amount of time it takes to get good at it.

I read a blog post from +Dan Djurdjevic yesterday speaking about 'what it means to be a beginner' (see his post here). In his article he brought up boxing, and the amount of time before a boxing coach thinks you are moderately skilled at striking. This was new to me as I am not in the western boxing circuit. He claimed 4 years for proficiency, but coaches do not consider you close to stepping into a ring with a pro-fighter until much later. This is a martial art built around 'STRIKING AND FOOTWORK ONLY'.

 It is healthy to have realistic expectations. A heavy bag routine a few days/week can help increase your striking game and cut down on the mistakes. Remember, it's about building motor function. The more you punch, the easier it becomes to tweak and fix.

Building Blocks

You may have come with a natural affinity for striking, even if a coach tells you it's the wrong way to fight, but you have even more limitations when it comes to blocking. Your natural instincts tell you to shield up, turn into a ball, or flail wildly.

When you enter martial arts, these motions are new, and you have to refine and work on them. Which includes technical elements, structure, timing, position. The training time for this can be fairly quick with proper partner training, but it is not a stand alone. Unfortunately you can't stand there and block all day long. Eventually they will find a hole.

You can practice blocks without a partner as well. Getting the repetition is important with or without a partner. Here is a short video showing basic blocks, and practicing them in the air, and then with a partner.

Your other LEFT foot!!!

Oh, you thought you knew how to walk...? Since we spend a large part of our life moving around on our feet, you'd think Footwork would be a given. Nope. On the contrary. Building a proper stance, then learning how to move in that stance takes a lot of repetition for it to become second nature. Until then, you will have holes in your game that are easy to capitalize on for a moderately skilled opponent.

Shuffling, stepping, circling, angling, cross circle steps, spin outs, change steps, are a lot of meat on the table. In order to polish these, you'll need to spend the time working it. The nice thing is, you don't NEED a partner to practice footwork.

Just for Kicks

As if that wasn't enough, now we're telling you that you should be able to stand on one leg, breath, relax, and kick someone hard enough to make them think twice about attacking you again. Yup, this one is definitely outside the normal realm of human motion and fighting instincts.

Kicking is going to be a skill that takes a focus on it's own. As with striking, if you have a bag you can beat on it will do leaps and bounds to help you get your kicking to a decent skill level. Once you have the repetition, and you aren't falling on your ass every time you lift one leg off the ground, then you can grab a partner and focus on targeting, plus timing.

Kicks expend more energy, and create bigger liabilities (depending on the type of kick). Wasting them on targets that are not open can bleed out your endurance and leave you sucking wind. Knowing when and where to throw the kick is the key to the leg game.


Next on our list is another completely foreign skill. Beyond the basic charge and tackle, throwing is an art form. One that has been separated out from other martial arts for specialization. Styles such as Shuai Jiao, and Judo are primary examples, both comprised of techniques not inherent in human instinct.

Learning the technique is one thing; building the timing for the perfect execution is a highly advanced skill.

Chin Na class circa 1999

Lock Up

Joint locks (Chin Na) are another highly technical aspect of martial arts. They require a certain finesse to be effective and become proficient in. There are tons of locks out there, but knowing how, when, and on who you can use them is sometimes confusing. Combine this with timing them off a punch, or grab, and the difficulty increases exponentially.

"Repetition is the mother of all skill." This is the truth with joint locks, and the more you train them, the better you will get, and the more sensitivity you will have to make adjustments when things change on the fly.

Check out Size Matters for more on the intricacies of joint locks.

Hooked Up

Once the range changes, you now have to deal with the clinch and getting tied up with hooks. Learning to escape and dominate the clinch, as well as throwing Elbow Strikes, and Knee Strikes, is yet another skill we throw in the mix. Like kicking and punching, practicing these on a heavy bag can help knock off some of the repetition and get your skills kick started, but you'll need to apply it with a partner to get the full benefit.

So, "Why is BJJ easy?"

Part of my discomfort with this question was that I knew it would be misconstrued. I understood what they really meant to say, but I was afraid others might take it as "BJJ is EASY!?!?! Say, What?!?!?" That wasn't the implication in the question. BJJ is not easy, and they know that, but elements of the question had merit. Why does it seem easier to pick things up than with stand-up arts?

BJJ, at least most sport BJJ, is heavily focused on the ground game. That means you are working on a single plane, with your body weight supported; allowing for ease of movement with your arms and legs available to focus on attack, defense.

Additionally, unlike all the items we listed in stand-up that have nothing to do with your instincts - BJJ is much akin to your natural movements and innate self-defense skills. Like tiger cubs that practice sparring before leaving the safety of their mother, so to do we practice fighting when we are young, pliable, and less likely to hurt one another, and ourselves. Watch untrained kids go at it. They have a natural inclination towards wrestling and that type of movement, and if they had fur you'd think they were monkeys.

You Don't Need Another Hero

We all have hero's we see in films, or in the ring/cage. We see people we admire for their skills. But that's it, we see the results. What we do not see, is what they had to go through to get there. The blood, sweat, tears; the pain, the setbacks, the injuries.

Many people find Bruce Lee to be an inspiration. There exists an invisible effort behind he, and every other icon such as Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Holly Holm, etc. when you see them, you see them in their prime, or entering their prime. You see them after years/decades of training, practicing, sweating, sacrificing. 

There is no 'short cut' to gaining "mad skillz". You have to do the work. In order to do the work, you have to enjoy the art, the people you train with, and stay focused on your goals. 

The Sum of All Parts

So in summary, if you look at the base elements I listed above, you can quickly see how things can seem overwhelming and hard to accomplish. It's normal. Any skill takes time to master.

On top of each individual component being an art in and of itself, trying to tie all the pieces together while your brain is in the early stages of learning, is thrilling, and yet seemingly insurmountable at times. Push through this and you will be rewarded.

When you walk into a stand-up martial art like Mantis Boxing, at it's essence - you are being told that you do not know how to walk, talk (lingo/jargon), punch, kick, grapple, or throw, and all the stuff in between. You are starting fresh. This is a great time and feeling, but after a few months, when the newness wears off, you start to feel the deck is stacked against you. Things you took for granted in everyday life, are now being retrained. And it takes work. This can be overwhelming, humbling, and at times seem unattainable. Nonsense.

Take a deep breath, relax, and focus on enjoying the process, the people you train with, and have fun with learning. If you think in terms of belts/time, or years to mastery, you will forget why you started doing this in the first place, and talk yourself out of the arts altogether. Live in the moment. Enjoy the journey.

Thank you +Max Kotchouro for some of the photos and video. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Do You Hate BJJ?

photos by Max Kotchouro
 Are you a Traditional Martial Artist that is turned off by the idea of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? I used to be the same way. I am not someone that enjoys physical contact, so the idea of having to work that closely with someone else, especially on the ground, used to 'skeeve me out' (a little 80's slang).

It's completely different to go from striking, kicking, and takedowns, to rolling around on the ground with someone else.

My Mantis Boxing teacher suggested I take up BJJ at least to a Blue Belt level, so that I would know what to do on the ground if the fight ended up there. Mantis Boxing has been around for a long time, but it was missing a ground component and that was a huge liability.

I was hesitant at first, but eventually I tried out BJJ. Unfortunately, at first I had a couple of bad experiences with who, and where I tried to train. On the third try, I found a great instructor, and the right atmosphere to train and learn.

At the time of this article (revised version from when I was a BJJ Blue Belt), I have been doing BJJ for a little over 4 years.  I have 16 years experience in Chinese Martial Arts, and a smidge of Tae Kwon Do background. After adding BJJ to my other skillsets, here is my take on the ways it can benefit you as a Traditional Martial Artist.

Fills the Void 

This one is simple. A vast majority of Traditional Martial Arts styles cover stand-up fighting - striking, kicking, throws, maybe joint locks, but what is the answer for fighting a guy that wants you on the ground, e.g., a wrestler, a BJJ fighter, ex-football player, some big drunk dude? If you are like me, you want answers, and you definitely want to succeed once you end up in the shark tank.

I have to be frank here, I've seen a variety of answers to this - "I will use my eye strikes, groin strikes, and secret pressure point attacks." No you won't. You will usually be too busy trying to figure out what the hell to do, and why you are on the ground being crushed.

Another is - "I won't let them get me on the ground." Yes, you will. If their style(s) is designed to get you on the ground in order for it to function, they will have been training constantly to take people down. Do you train consistently to prevent takedowns? I live in the Northeast where snow and ice are prevalent for a large portion of the year. Ending up on the ground is a common mishap up here, without someone trying to help you land there.

Bottom line - as a traditional martial artist, we benefit by recognizing the holes in our systems, and learning to close them up.

Primary to PRIME 

Studying BJJ improves your primary art. Some of the techniques in traditional arts have been lost through the annals of time. Putting the pieces back together can be difficult to downright impossible. Finding crossover principles and techniques in other arts, can help link things together in your primary style of choice.

I can't tell you how much studying BJJ has helped me learn more about my own style of Mantis Boxing. From takedowns, to defenses, to even just kinesthetically putting pieces together to flow. It has taken my knowledge and game to a new level. Especially an art such as Mantis that is rooted in stand-up grappling. It helps you flow better, and add depth to your style that may not have been there before.

Perhaps you have all the applications of your style already. Now it is your time to add to your art and expand upon it for the future that follows. What better way to do this than to close off the liability of not having a ground game.

Donut, or Do Not?

Traditional Martial Arts teachers across America are known for being out of shape. I have seen it at countless tournaments since the beginning of my training, and for a few early years of owning and running a school, I ballooned out as well. 

How can we stand with our heads high and sell 'fitness', 'discipline', along with our self-defense, when we are out of shape ourselves? Are we nothing but an army of hypocrites?

How can BJJ change this? BJJ is an incredible workout. It takes some serious conditioning; and what's better than having fun learning while getting in, or staying in, shape. It will help you shred fat, build cardio, strength, and keep or return that weaponized body you once aspired to. Of course, the nutrition aspect has to go along with it, but the mat time you put in, will incentivize you to eat better. 

At an IBJJF tournament, there are more 6 packs than you'll find at a redneck BBQ.

Cutting the BS

The saying is - "The mats don't lie." This means - you can't say you are something you are not and get away with it for long. When you roll with another BJJ practitioner, the truth becomes clear very quickly who is the higher hand.

Being a part of the Traditional Martial Arts World through the rise of the internet, from BBS's,

to forums, to facebook, etc., I have seen more petty arguments and nonsense about - "My style is the greatest". "I'm better than you." "I know more forms than you." "My lineage is pure." "My teacher is the best. My teacher is better than your teacher, My teacher's Grandmother was better than your teacher"...and on, and on it goes.

It is downright embarrassing and pathetic to see this behavior from Martial Artists. Warriors. People who train their lives to be more.

I have met some of the nicest people in BJJ since I have been a part of it. Sure, there are jerks, and I'm sure asshats abound, but the majority of people are grounded and pretty cool.

Why? Because when you run your mouth in BJJ, someone will say, "Ok, let's roll." When Traditional Martial Artists run their mouth; they stand behind lineage, belts, seniority, number of kata known, sources of kata, performance of kata, or ability to translate Asian languages. They rarely stand up and touch hands to find out who is the higher hand.

"In my experience, the more dangerous two people are, the more respectful they are to one another."

BJJ will keep you humble and aware that we are all students of the martial arts for life, and we all have progress to make in bettering ourselves inside and out. We may be king of our sandbox, but getting tapped out by a smaller opponent or a BJJ white belt, gives you firsthand knowledge and experience, in one of the most important martial arts principles to aspire to - humility.


And finally, it's just downright fun. Many of the techniques (sweeps, submissions,

escapes, takedowns) are extremely awesome and cool to learn. I know first hand that we have to keep it fun in order to stay energized about teaching. Training BJJ gives you that excitement you had when you were a new student in your original martial art style; when everything was new and enchanting.

Personally I found it to help keep the fires burning in myself. Teaching others is rewarding and fun, but if we are not continuing to learn and grow, we can become stagnant, bored, disenchanted, and even bitter.
So there are a few reasons I recommend trying it out and adding it to your game. Training in something else keeps the spark alive, and allows you to continue to feel like you are advancing yourself, while sharing your knowledge with your dedicated students.
So, put on that White Belt, box up the ego, and take the plunge into a fascinating world of new friends, sweet techniques, and years of humble learning. You won't regret it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why Do I Suck At This???

Does this represent your training face?
"Arrrrgghh!!! Why Can't I Get This!?!?!", or, "Why is that person getting this so much faster than I am?" These are common things I see, or hear as a teacher. I want to take a few minutes today and try to shed some light on this obscure 'suck zone', and perhaps offer you some perspective to help you through it.

In order to understand why martial arts, or any new activity requiring physical prowess [other sports apply but we are going to focus on martial arts here], is giving you a hard time, we have to look at the human brain. No, I am not about to say you are a dumbass. On the contrary. I have taught highly, highly intelligent people over the past decade and a half that can't tell you where their arm is located if they don't stop and look down at it.

What many people fail to recognize in themselves, or cut themselves slack for, is their level of physical activity going into the arts. Maybe you played sports in high school. Then you went to college, got a job, and realized at 35 you haven't been active in 17 years. Maybe you are 16 year old and have lived in front of a video game console your whole life; never really using your body. Maybe you are 65 and deciding to take up Tai Chi to stay active, but you sat at a desk job since you were 35. See the common thread?

Here's what is happening from the brain's perspective. The human brain is incredibly conservative. If something is not being used, then the brain ignores it. We have pathways connecting neurons in our brain, and each pathway connects from one piece of information to another, to another, creating connections (more below). This happens with physical activity as well. Compare it to your high school Algebra, that thing you said you would never use in life. Say you were right. Now try to go do Algebra. Doesn't work so well does it? The same thing happens with your body and physical movement.

When you have a group of common connections, it is due to your brain building relationships. Connecting one neuron to another neuron to build a network. Think of it as a power grid; transmitting information from node to node. Except this power grid shuts down lines that are not being used in order to save energy.

Unfortunately, if you stop using it, the brain starts overwriting these connections. Pathways grow dormant, and new information, information that is relevant to whatever you are doing in your life NOW, is what is going to take precedence. If physical activity is not at the forefront in your life, then atrophy sets in; physical AND mental. The brain does not waste time and energy trying to keep things 'alive' that are not useful to it's purpose. If you were a star athlete in college, you will still have pathways for those actions in your prior sport, but they have faded. If you return to the sport in your 30's, you will probably stumble a bit in the beginning, but may pick things back up relatively quickly after the initial climb.

The Neural Network

Your brain is full of billions of neurons. When you start training in martial arts, you may develop a neuron for a block you learned. You know the block, you practiced the block, and it is part of you. You also developed a neuron for a punch. Now when someone punches you, you block, but you don't punch. Why? No connection. So after practicing for a while, and seeing similar circumstances, one day you are comfortable enough with your blocking and someone taking a swing at you, that you see an opening and throw a counter punch. Your brain then creates a connection from the punch neuron, to the block neuron and you will know to respond that way the next time.

Let's add a piece. Now the person punches. You block. You counter punch, but suddenly your punch misses. The person slips. Now you stand there for a second unsure what to do next. Why? You don't have the connection laid yet. Like trying to cross from Boston to San Diego in your car, but there are no roads to connect you there.

Grappling example: You learn how to do an armbar. Neuron is mapped. You learn how to Triangle choke from guard. Neuron mapped. Now you are fighting with an opponent in your guard and you go for an armbar. An armbar that you are quite successful at and have trained thoroughly. Your opponent pulls the arm before you can secure it. You lose the submission and have to start over with something else. Or instead, you learn how to snap on a triangle when they pull the arm. You have mapped a connection between the two submissions, and your next response is to immediately counter their counter with another submission. Something that is impossible to do when you have not mapped out either neuron, or built the connection between them. 

The more you train, and the more experiences happen to you in the arts (failures most importantly), the more neurons you build connections to as you find solutions. Eventually you get a web of connections, and when faced with unfamiliar stimuli, you have a response. The better you get, the more likely you are to have a 'proper' response to this new threat or action.

It would be impossible to train every single scenario/outcome that can happen. That supercomputer residing inside your skull would take 100's of years to try and calculate all those responses. And, training students that way would result in absolute disaster. Instead, we train principles, and we train with randomness and variability, and the results we get are far superior.

Your left foot. NOOOO!!! YOUR OTHER LEFT FOOT!!!

From a teacher's perspective, it can be extremely frustrating to tell someone to move their left, or right foot, and have them not know where their leg is. I have been in schools where teachers have thrown out students and told them - "This is not for you." I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement, even though at times I confess to have watched students and wondered if they were ever going to get it. [meditate]

Someone could be the next one to pass on the art, but you turned them off of martial arts for good because they didn't get it right away.

Patience and understanding are easier said than done, but they are necessary when teaching your art to ALL those who wish to receive it. Someone with long periods lacking physical activity is going to take longer to get up to speed with basic movement than a seasoned athlete. It's like trying to teach a child at 5 or 6 to do Fine Motor Function, when at that age they should be learning Gross Motor Function. You can't put the cart before the horse.


When teaching adults and teaching people who are not REQUIRED to stand there and take your
bullshit, you have to have some flexibilty, and draw out the timeline for success. You can't just scream at them until they get it (flashbacks of boot camp). Unless you are training people for combat in a condensed period of time. But then, you shouldn't be teaching in-depth martial arts, you should be teaching self-defense systems like Krav Maga. Simplified, and meant for short training, not mastering high levels of skill.

To be honest, the drill instructors in boot camp have a hell of a job to do. 8 weeks to turn goofy, uncoordinated, head up their ass teenagers, into lean, mean, fighting machines. This is not an easy task, and our lives depend on getting it right. Quickly. However, we are a captive audience; by choice, or not.

If you are teaching out of your garage and do not need to sustain yourself, or you are trying to train people as quickly as possible, then you can cherry pick your students and kick out (directly, or indirectly) the one's that won't get up to speed fast enough. But...if you are interested in creating a strong community of martial artists that help one another grow and learn, and accept people of all skill and talent levels amongst their ranks, then keep in mind not everyone has been training for our arts their entire life. Some will need more time and patience in the process.

One approach I like to use in thinking about this, is drawing. When you want to draw a human face, you don't start by drawing every freckle, line, or hair. You start with a rough circle for the head, and rough circles for the eyes, nose, mouth, ears. Then, you begin to create finer and finer circles and lines. Adding more and more detail as you go. Martial Arts is no different. Don't feel like your ROUGH DRAFT is supposed to be a MASTERPIECE.

All black belts are not created equal. All black belts are not created in the same amount of time.


photos courtesy of Max Kotchouro


Buonomano, Dean. Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.

"The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science Paperback – December 18, 2007." The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science: Norman Doidge: 9780143113102: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Fighting 'Peng'

The Combative Nature of Tai Chi's First Principle

Peng - Ward-Off
Ward-Off is a fascinating example of human anatomy in action. Our bodies are comprised of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, that together, assist us in moving where the brain wants us to go. In addition, because of our anatomical design, there are inherent strengths, and weaknesses that can be capitalized upon.

Peng (pronounced - pung), translated as 'Ward-Off' in English, is the first 'character' listed in Tai Chi's (Tai Ji Quan) 13 principles. It is often discussed in texts/classes, and demonstrated in various ways, but how does it translate to fighting? Surprisingly it is not unique to Tai Chi, and is found in various other fighting arts, but Tai Ji Quan highlights it as an important method.

Standard Ward-Off demonstration
In Tai Chi practice, to include Tui Shou (Push Hands), the Ward-Off principle is often demonstrated as the arm being somewhat rounded; used for connecting with our opponent, or pushing arm to arm. Those concepts are more closely defined with the principle An (Push), and a sub-principle known as 'Join' (Zhan - to connect or join), in Tai Ji Quan, and 'Contact' (Zhan -- same character) in Tang Lang Quan. While this is an adequate demonstration of the proper shape and structure of the arm, the true value goes far deeper.

Ward-Off is more accurately referring to the arms proper structure, and use. Originating as a stand-up grappling art (strikes, kicks, throws, trips), Tai Ji Quan is heavily dependent upon arm position and structure for defense and control. There are subtleties that have to do with pressure, spacing, timing that many styles also share, and are crucial to proper execution of technique.

The structure of Ward-Off

Arm collapsing

  • Wrist in front of elbow - once the wrist passes below the 90 degree bend in the arm, the arm becomes weaker and will collapse. 
  • Elbow below wrist - placing the wrist at or below the height of the elbow, reduces the structural strength of the arm.
  • Hand relaxed - tension in the hand will reduce muscle strength in other parts of the arm, leading to collapse. 
  • Shoulder relaxed - raised or tightened shoulder muscles also reduce the ability for the arm muscles to maintain structural integrity of the position. 
  • Head upright - tilting the head slightly in either direction, weakens the capabilities of the arm.

What makes Ward-Off important, significant, and how can it be applied in combat? 


Note position of lead arm on right
Difficult to remove the arm
Vulnerable to the follow-up actions
In striking, a good fighting position has the fighter's arms up in a ready position to defend shots to the face/head. If the wrist passes behind the elbow, or becomes completely vertical, the arm loses the 'ward-off' component and has entered a weakened state.

An opponent pressing on the wrists can collapse our arms back, negating our ability to defend or control, and manipulating us into a bad position.

When tightening up the guard position for closer range (guard shown on the right versus the left), bring the elbows tighter to your ribs instead of bringing the wrists behind the elbow. If you maintain this angle, you'll have a much stronger guard and increase your ability to maneuver the arm(s) under pressing attacks such as pushes, grabs, controls.


Arm shown too far back.
Arm supporting pressure.
The same holds true when grappling (stand-up). If the arm is allowed to collapse back into the body due to a weak posture, the limb can be pinned against the body and become immobile and useless.

This can allow the opponent to advance to a body clinch, underhooks, or to apply a push with arms or shoulder to upset our balance and position, or facilitate a throw.

Using pressure to maintain position can allow us to manipulate our opponent by releasing the pressure at the right time, dumping them into a hole...or, "lead your opponent into emptiness" as the Tai Chi saying goes.

This handling of pressure and timing is a refined skill and requires using the opponent against themselves. Keeping the angle of the arm out, allows us time to rotate the arm and circle back to a strong position if it collapses. This is commonly seen when battling for underhook positions. The wrist stays ahead of the elbow, and the hand leads the arm like the head of a snake.


BJJ concept called 'framing'. Arm and neck here.
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu this 'Ward-Off' concept is often referred to as 'framing', as in the frame holding your house up. Placing the arms, legs, in a position to block the opponents pass, or keep them from gaining side control.

Ground fighting allows for an expansion of this principle to the use of the legs as weapons in the battle for pressure and space. Typically blocking the hip, knee, and the neck are good places to frame (Ward-Off).

 Once the knee, arm, or a foot is in place, it can be used to apply pressure at the right time to not only keep our opponent from passing, or gaining a superior position, but to create space allowing us to move to a better position, or escape.

Arm structure - wrist before elbow
Again, pressure used at the right time, can cause the opponent that is determined to advance, to over commit their position. Releasing the pressure can cause them to make a larger move than anticipated, or cause them to fall forward once that pressure is released. Using this advantage can create the opportunity needed to escape, sweep, or gain a position for the submission.


Ward-Off in Tai Chi texts is often understated, it seems innocuous or perhaps insignificant even, but it can be a powerful principle when it becomes part of our arsenal.  It was given position number one in a short list of thirteen characters defining the principles of the style; with good reason.

Photos courtesy of Max Kotchouro

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Cost of 'Living' - Self-Defense vs. Martial Arts

How to find a self-defense course that is right for you or your child.

photo by: Max Kotchouro
Basic self-defense knowledge can mean the difference between life and death, or assault and avoidance, but is it necessary in suburban America? If so, what is the best type of training for you? How do you find a good course, or even know what to look for? How involved does the training need to be for it to be effective?

Do I need it? 
There are many reasons we can find to spend our free time doing activities we enjoy, working around the house, or when it comes to teenagers - shuffling them from one activity to the next, or letting them enjoy a breather from school/work. I am asked from time to time by people who live in relatively safe areas, about the necessity of self-defense training. My response usually involves a few questions. “Do you know where you will be in the next 5 years? Do you plan to travel? Do you ever go into urban areas at night for social activities? Would you like to know some basic ways to defend yourself without a firearm, spray, or other weapon in the event of a home invasion, or mugging?”

When it comes to teenagers, especially young women, I don't believe anyone thinks their child will not benefit from a course in self-defense/rape prevention. Especially when statistics show that 1 in 4 girls in college will be sexually assaulted. Yes, that's 25% of all college women - that is based solely on the 'reported' cases, so actual rates are depressingly higher.  

What type of training is best for you?
Martial Arts versus Self-Defense Training - Most of us don't know the difference, but there definitely is one. A big one. A majority of Martial Arts styles do teach self-defense, but the pace to learn competency in real world scenarios can be long and arduous, and not always fitting to the body type of the individual training that particular style. 

In addition, some styles focus predominantly on competition fighting, which does not allow for hitting targets one would normally want to hit in order to disable an attacker that is trying to take your life, your virtue, or harm a loved one. I recommend martial arts training for those looking for self-defense and improving their lifestyle by learning effective skills while enjoying the process, and camaraderie, of training and improving one's self.

Self-Defense training is typically streamlined and focused. It lacks the benefits of self-improvement, personal growth, teamwork, goal achievement, and fun you get from training martial arts, but replaces it with short term orientation that produces effective results - quick, simple methods to get you out of a bad situation. 

What is a good style of Martial Arts for you?
There is no simple answer to this as it depends on your body type, goals, and how well you use the style you are taught. Some of the more effective arts for self-defense are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, San Shou/San Da, Tang Lang Quan, Judo/Shuai Jiao, Muay Thai, Boxing, and Wrestling. If you are of a smaller stature, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the better arts as it focuses heavily on the ground and using leverage, not strength, to increase effectiveness. At it’s core, it is better to find a good school/instructor teaching effective arts, rather than focus on the style.

How do I find a good self-defense course?
Look for a course that promotes principles such as - simple, easy, highly effective. Courses that rely on multi-step responses to a bad guy's attack, or the use of fine motor skills, will fail you when you need them most. Simple, clean techniques that use gross motor function, and are reinforced through repetition, will be easier to depend upon under dire stress and an adrenaline dump. Martial Arts training uses repetition to reinforce fine motor skills in combat, as weekend self-defense course should rely heavily on gross movements that your body uses under duress.

The course should address physical differences such as size, gender, strength, and not rely predominantly on punching. Punching, apart from being a refined skill in and of itself, will be harder for smaller and/or weaker opponents to produce enough power to disable or slow down an attacker (think 115 lbs woman versus 280 lbs male...).

Ideally the course offers scenario training with suits and trained attackers, but also addresses the setting of 'verbal boundaries' and how to deal with obnoxious, what I like to call 'space invaders', or the creepy family friend or relative that likes to touch you while no one is looking. These are subtler situations that, like date rape, do not always warrant a full on death dealing blow, but rather a lower key response that sends a strong message of deterrence.

The length of the course should be relatively short. 40 hours of self-defense training is not a bad thing, but if 40 hours is required in order to get you through all the material, then see my previous statement on simplicity and efficacy under stress. Usually a two hour focused course is 'ok', but should not be all encompassing. 8 to 12 hours of training is substantial, and if reinforced every few years, can be extremely beneficial.

Look for courses that cover defenses from common attacks, body/neck holds, and grabs, while promoting the use of weapons you will have on you at all times (your limbs). Reaching in your purse, or pocket for a weapon when being caught off guard, puts you in a worse position as you use your natural weapons to fumble for something you likely will not find in time. 

Note on weapons: Weapons can be great tools, but do you have it on you at all times? Is it accessible? Is the person able to take it away from you, and are you prepared for defending against that weapon now that it will be used against you?

The course should address ground self-defense. Anyone can end up on the ground in an altercation, and many attacks end up here. Does the course offer extensive knowledge and training on how to deal with a larger, stronger, heavier attacker that has you pinned on the ground? Again, with simple, and effective techniques.

As previously mentioned, verbal boundary training is a must. For some people (specifically those that have trouble telling other people “no”), this can be the toughest type of training, but the most rewarding. 

Scenario training puts you in a stressful situation against a suited attacker so you can test the material you learned. Stress has an amazing ability to reinforce learned material in the brain. Having the opportunity to use what you learned, gives you the confidence to know that it works, and you can succeed. Make sure the course offers some type of stress testing.

Lastly, weapon disarmament. Weapon disarm courses should be considered with care. Gun disarms are a viable training course and useful knowledge to have, while knife defense training is a slippery slope. Knives are very dangerous, and it is extremely difficult to teach knife defense to an untrained person, especially in a short course. Also, buyer beware, there are many knife defense techniques that will not work, and are based off unrealistic attack styles (Jim Carey’s ‘In Living Color’ skit comes to mind).

How much should it cost?

What should a self-defense course cost? This varies from free courses to expensive courses. We’ve all heard the saying “You get what you pay for.”, but let’s add a little perspective. Sometimes a person offering a free course is doing so because they believe strongly in helping others to avoid becoming a victim. Perhaps they were a victim themselves at one time, and decided to channel their horrible experience into something positive in this altruistic manner. 

We live in a monetary based society, and like it or not, we rate the value of something based on the price. This is good, and bad. Charging money for something does not automatically mean it is of higher quality. It is ultimately up to the consumer to research the courses, or try the free one first, and see if it is adequate by using some of the suggestions/criteria above. If you are satisfied and received a good service, then count yourself lucky.

When dealing with paid courses, how much is too much? This becomes tricky, ultimately we are talking about the value of your life, or your child's life, and the value of the material/skills being passed on in order to teach you to protect yourself or your family. A good course will likely cost more money, but may be unaffordable. If money is not an object, what value can be put on knowing your child is a bit safer in life? Or you walking away with the confidence to handle a bad situation? 

We’re not simply talking about life or death, the true cost of 'Living' can mean surviving a sexual assault, mugging, or domestic violence, and dealing with the emotional trauma for years or decades to come. If these situations can be avoided altogether, the savings in monetary, emotional, psychological, and physical currency will be priceless. Choosing a good course and instructor is above all else. In the end, you will walk away feeling that you can rely on the material you learned, and hopefully, you will never need it!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Xiao Da - The Truth on Effective Strike

Xiao Da - The Truth on Effective Strike

by Randy Brown
(Article published in Journal of 7 Star Mantis vol. 4, issue 4/Northern Shaolin Praying Mantis Institute and Association 2013)

Effective Strike (Xiao Da), is the Chinese principle of striking to vital targets, or targets that have more destructive impact than other areas of the body. This is a common concept in many styles of martial arts. I recall the first time I showed up for Tae Kwon Do/Hapkido class back in 1991 -  my teacher said - "Want to kill a man? Hit here, here, here, or here." I was happy, but stunned.

I thought to myself - "WOW!  Cool!!!" Followed by - "wait...why would you tell someone that in their first class? Isn't that dangerous information to hand out to strangers? After all even US Army Basic Training Hand to Hand Combat didn't teach us that!". I chalked it up to him just being half psychopath since he spent most of his life training elite South Korean Special Forces Soldiers in Hand-to-Hand Combat.

It was some time later in my martial arts career that I realized why this information wasn't so dangerous after all. The reason is simple. If you don't train it, you won't use it. Effective Strike is a skill like any other. It needs extensive practice and proper training in order to be effective in real combat, or in other words - to manifest itself under stress. In said Tae Kwon Do class, we never used finger strikes, throat chops, or did any sort of training that incorporated strikes to these vital areas; we simply kicked, punched (less), blocked, and smashed our shins and forearms on one another till bruised an battered.

Train Like You Fight, Fight Like You Train

I like to use the terminology - train like you fight, fight like you train. In your Kung Fu training, the constant focus of hitting to Effective Strike targets is crucial to making this habitual. There is no time to think in a fight. One must react and react appropriately; which is the whole objective of proper training.

So when should you learn this skill? Ideally the sooner the better, especially for smaller fighters.  Smaller fighters lack the power that a larger or heavier opponent can produce, so this skill is crucial for us. Being able to hit someone in a targeted area means that your strikes pack more bang for the buck.

With that said, one needs to learn how to properly punch first, before focusing on Effective Strike. Trying to perform Xiao Da from Day One, gives the brain too much to focus on at one time.  A beginner should be more concerned with proper striking, blocking, guard principle, and defense first. Once Xiao Da is properly introduced, aim for these targets with every strike in your arsenal.

After you have learned it, you can then veer off to other non-effective targets that may lure or distract your opponent; creating what we call Open Doors to the effective targets we want.  This is necessary because an opponent with a good defense will 'require' you to 'open doors' in order to hit his covered targets.

Training Tips

These vary based on whether or not you have a training partner.  I did not have a partner to use when I wanted to integrate this into my fighting, so I took colored price stickers used in yard sales, and I plastered them on my heavy bag in the general target areas on the human body. I then practiced various combinations striking to these targets. To test them, I sparred with other people.

For those with a partner, I recommend a great technique called 'Walk the Body', passed down to me from Master Puyot. Walk the Body has one person standing still (in their fighting stance is fine) while the other practices slow and very low power combinations to targets on their partners body.

As you grow more comfortable with the targets, the complexity increases by having your partner put their hands up in a defensive fighting position forcing you to move their arms. Following that, you need striking combinations, that the partner blocks, so you can open doors to the Effective Strike targets you wish to hit using solid striking combinations.

Note: this is not a fast paced exercise and requires patience, cooperation, and hours of practice to become second nature. It challenges your critical thinking skills once you add the complexity of combinations versus a live defense. Done properly however these strikes will become automatic and ingrained in your skill set.

DIM MAK - The fallacy of pressure point based combat

Early in my training I met people, and still do from time to time, that have little knowledge of martial arts, but they talk about Dim Mak (pressure point striking) from books they've read, or videos they've watched, or even some Hollywood movie.

You can find videos online of teachers knocking out students at demonstrations to show Dim Mak, and all the supposed power one can have over other human beings by hitting them in these targets. People are fascinated by this and very enthusiastic. I can understand why, the idea of knocking out someone else with such ease is...alluring! Unfortunately, while some of these are legitimate strikes to real targets, some are incredibly finite and difficult to get to.

In a previous article, Size Matters - In Chin Na I discuss 'gross' versus 'fine' motor function in combat. Just like finite Chin Na skills, high precision striking is less reliable when we are under stress, AND when our opponent is trying to hit us back. That's the live, active, and moving opponent that is also trying to ‘take your head off’ component.

This complicates things and makes it much more difficult to perform a finite strike to a small target area. So unless you're Luke Skywalker firing your torpedo at the Death Star, give up on the idea, and stick with something that will work.

Natural armor - in addition, a human being under the affects of adrenaline in combat (never mind the affects of drugs), is more resilient to these strikes. It really sucks when you're in the thick of it and your silver bullet doesn't really kill the werewolf! This is why it is better to learn multiple targets, strike in combinations that you would normally throw, and cover your bases in case you miss the first target.  Meaning, you missed but it still hurts them like hell!!!

Below are the targets and the effects a person experiences when being hit in those regions.

8 Head Targets

  1. Throat - Crush the larynx making it difficult to impossible for opponent to breathe
  2. Side of Neck (Brachial Stun) - Knock out blow, or excrutiating pain at the least
  3. Back of Neck (Occipital Lobe) - Knock out blow
  4. Jaw - Break or Dislocation. Extreme pain.
  5. Nose - Pain. Bleeding. Watery Eyes causing reduced vision.
  6. Eyes - Loss of sight. Extreme pain.
  7. Ears - Tear them off for extreme pain.
  8. Temple - Knock out blow. Extreme pain. Disorientation.

12 Body Targets

  1. Shin - Extreme pain and discomfort.
  2. Knee - Break/Dislocation. Extreme pain. Loss of Mobility.
  3. Outer Thigh - A solid kick to this target can cripple a fighter and make them think twice about closing distance.
  4. Inner Thigh (Femoral Nerve) - Identical to the Outer Thigh, this target causes excruciating pain.
  5. Groin - Extreme pain and discomfort. Potentially cripple opponent.
  6. Bladder - Pain and discomfort. Possible bladder release. (you figure it out)
  7. Rib (Floater) - Break. Extreme pain and discomfort. Possible breathing effects.
  8. Kidney - Potential knock out as well as extreme pain.
  9. Liver - Knock out blow. Extreme pain/discomfort.
  10. Stomach - Knock out blow. Extreme pain/discomfort.
  11. Solar Plexus - High concentration of nerves. Also the meeting point of the heart, liver.
  12. Collar Bone - Break. Extreme pain. Loss of use of arm on that side. Harder target to hit and not effective on everyone.

Photos courtesy of Max Kotchouro
(original blog 11/2009)