Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

I’ve been enjoying Scott Sonnon’s TACFIT Kettlebell course, a course that fits into his TACFIT training spectrum. Aside from all the macho hype that his page descriptions run, I like the thinking that goes into what he’s doing.

He says there is no such thing as “General Physical Preparedness;” the body can only be prepared in specific ways.

In his own words (from the about page of http://www.tacfit.tv):

In short, he attempts to go beyond “functional fitness,” into what he calls, “tactical fitness.” Hence, “TACFIT.” Several of his ideas I rather like. He uses a wave periodization format, similar to the Big Beyond Belief system I found out about in the 1990s, where you start off with a “no” intensity day, then go to a “low” intensity day, followed by the “moderate” intensity day, finishing with the “high” intensity day. I like that kind of cycling.

He also incorporates specific routines, pulled from yoga asanas, as recovery, or “compensation” for the heavy work. This is somewhat unique, though I believe the P90X program does something similar.

So Day One, the “no intensity day,” incorporates Yoga Routine 1. On Day Two, the “low intensity day,” you will go through Yoga Routine 2. Day Three, “moderate intensity day,” will have you sandwich the “meat” of the workout program between Yoga Routine 1 and Yoga Routine 2 at a moderate pace or intensity, and on Day Four, you bracket the workout the same way, but specifically trying to up your pace or intensity from the last time, so that you have continual advance. Next day, you drop back down to just Yoga Routine 1 and “no” intensity.

So far, so good. However, kettlebells are pretty much my favorite training tool right now. I tried doing the bodyweight one (TACFIT Commando), but lost interest almost immediately. Fortunately he recently came out with a course to integrate the TACFIT protocols into kettlebell training.

And I actually really like it. I like using that wave structure with the peak and recover days, having the yoga compensation (even though I hate some of the moves–shoulder stretch, ouch!), and having the meat of the workout being kettlebells. Pretty simple but challenging stuff.

He also uses the burst energy type of training for the kettlebell portion of training, where you circuit through six kbell exercises that last 30 seconds each, take a minute off, the cycle through them again for several rounds.

Unfortunately, I picked up a sore throat somewhere, and not feeling as well as I should. Yesterday was the low intensity day, so I went ahead and did the yoga routine for that day. It is actually quite a short and simple program, when you get down to it, and I felt great afterward. But today is moderate intensity, and I don’t want to compromise my immune system and slow down my getting well (there is the MD Ren Faire tomorrow, and I’d like to go; several friends are going as well).

I’d hate to interrupt my program. I usually feel better later in the day when I have this (seems like it hits me once every year or so). So, if nothing else, I’ll probably do the yoga programs, and see how I feel about the kettlebell portion.

So–I guess we’ll see…


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Summary report for our “Ringen,” or wrestling seminar at the University of Mary Washington. The Phoenix Arms Historical Training Group held a UMW student-only seminar based mostly on Medieval German “Ringen,” or wrestling, on Saturday. It was a great success, and a lot of fun. Writes Chris Wheeler on our website:

Seminar Training Summary

Photos and videos to come soon!

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Friday night was a good longsword session–my first after the LASIK and having no glasses. So naturally, Chris had us do exercises where in particular, we were not *supposed to use a mask*… 🙂

I agreed with his reasoning; don’t go full speed, but you can’t use the mask as an excuse. You *must* feel some threat, which really does change the dynamic of the play. When there is explicit protection, it’s too easy to get wrapped up in just single-cheeking (“half-assing”) the movement, and getting hit. Without the artificial pro, you get a real sense of “you’d better do it right.” And I think it worked for the most part.

I’m okay with this line of thinking, and pretty used to acting as if it were real with or without the protection on. But I think it was, well… eye-opening for the younger students. In fact, right now, other than Chris and me, the other students are in High School and even Junior High. So, they often fall into a bit of a sort of laziness. Chris has been doing different drills to drive home the real martial nature of the experience, and hopefully, it’s helping.

As far as for me doing it without glasses for the first time–it was an interesting experience, but exactly opposite of what I expected. I expected to be super cautious, flinching at every move at my face. Instead, I felt calmer, even sometimes letting the opponent’s waster directly touch my face without even a wobble or a blink. Hmm. I know that I’ve always been aware of having the glasses, and getting them hit–apparently I was more afraid of hurting the glasses than myself. I know also that for me, rain and wet meant a hassle. Not because I’m particularly afraid of water, but because I needed to keep the glasses dry, because drops of water, etc. make it really hard to see to do things, like drive, etc.

There you go.

Saturday morning was a hot, beautiful one, so I made it a point to head out to the driving range early. After that, I ended up getting some brunch, as it had been a fasting day yesterday. Because I spend so much time on the road to and from work, for the last few years I’ve made it a point to not schedule anything early on Saturdays, because I just wanted to get up, putter around, and not have any demands put on me. I could get everything going once that happened.

However, often by the time I would get going, it would push everything back later in the day and sort of create more hassle. I’m taking back my mornings on Saturday, now, and have decided to get things going early, *then* backing off. So if I can get something going early–exercise, work around the house, etc., then I can back off and be more productive. I know that sounds intuitive to a lot of people, but then, a lot of people don’t have to drive one and a half to two hours to work in the morning. And then back, getting home in time to maybe look at the TV for an hour then go to bed.

I was looking at getting a hard workout in later in the evening, but that plan was aborted, and I ended up meeting some friends for food in the evening, then walking around Old Town Fredericksburg just sauntering and smoking cigars. So–I’m glad I got the golf range going in the morning. Sun, and a little light exercise. And some desperately needed practice! 🙂

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Good striking training day on Wednesday with Chris and I.

We started off with lots of fist-pushing, where you press your fist into the other person. That gives you feedback on whether your strike would have any strength and/or penetration into the other person, due to body positioning. It lets you know if you are in a power position or not, and if you are in a position where might actually hurt yourself.

If you’re aligned you will move the other person, and if not, you won’t. Simple, but effective training.

After that, we ramped up the velocity to actually strike each other. This is very important for both the hitter and… “hit-tee.” Again, as the striker, you are given feedback on how well you’re doing, but perhaps even more importantly, you’re learning to be struck, and not phased. As I explained to Chris, there are a couple of points here that bear thinking about.

1) There is actual physiological toughening occurring when you’re being struck repeatedly. But that’s not nearly as important as preparing the nervous system to take physical shocks. As a wrestler, and more importantly, a football player (American-style), you learn to take impact to the body as just part of the game. Impact occurs in every play, and it doesn’t stop you. Watch a football game sometime and you’ll see this.

2) You have to de-personalize the hits, as in a football game. Once you stop taking impacts personally, you will fare much better, though I would almost say that it’s harder than with say, football. Your ego wants to take this personally, because it is a personal, one-on-one hit from someone. But the moment you see it as just a physical act of nature (“this thing just happens,” without emotional context) then you don’t have to have any emotional response such as anger or embarrassment or “why is this happening to me” type feeling sorry for yourself, then you don’t actually feel attacked and can easily shrug it off.

The problem comes when you mirror aggression or whatever, instead of projecting a strong confident frame. If you take it personally, you will project aggression or fear or some other destructive emotion, which will feed into the other person and create a feedback loop that ends in destruction for the both of you.

Instead, smile, laugh and literally shrug it off and not only will you do better handling the strike, you may de-escalate the whole confrontation.

Here’s a pic of a pressure-point that Chris was pressing on at one point in the practice. I call it a “badge of honor.” 🙂

Badge of Honor

Badge of Honor

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Today’s longsword seminar at the University went quite well. Very few attendees, but that allowed us to devote more personal time for each student. Whilst we’ve given the historical combat training there at the school before, unlike the last series which focused on dagger and hand-to-hand techniques, tactics, and strategies, this seminar was singularly about longsword. We focused exclusively on the interpretations of the earliest works and intentions of “the German style” of Johannes Liechtenauer.

Chris has been really delving into the cutting edge (heheh) of Liechtenauer research and interpretation. One of the trademarks of his work is the primacy of attack, vice the later Italian focus on learning and working from “guards.” Quite an interesting philosophy.

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So, for something different tonight, I downloaded a sample of Scott Sonnon’s TACFIT. He provides the sample if you register here. In this case, the sample workout was the Israeli Special Forces workout that apparently he provided them at some point.

I’ve looked at Coach Sonnon’s stuff over the years, and thought about trying it out–you all know how I love to learn and try new stuff. 🙂

He Russian Martial Arts style and fitness solutions were always the counterbalance to the Systema of Vasiliev and Ryabko on the American continent. They often end up in the same place, but take different paths to get there. Where Vlad uses almost completely intuitive training, letting you learn everything through experimentation and “feeling,” Coach Sonnon intellectualizes everything, providing tons and tons of explanation. He doesn’t skimp on mind-body connection, though. His stuff is all about that–he just tries to understand all of it and explain it. Each style of instruction probably fits different types of students.

I’ve noticed that some Vlad-trained instructors (such as Kwan Lee and Kevin Secours) teach a combination of both, in different proportions.

Lots of history there. Anyway. I downloaded it and gave it a try. I like it. This progression is almost criminally simple, though the exercises aren’t. Which is okay. I was looking for something simple to progress through, and exercises which are a little more gymnastic than the typical calisthenics than what I do with the SEAL workout.

Basically, there are four exercises and you do a couple of reps for each exercise (depending on your level) within the span of a minute. That’s one round. The extra time left in the minute is your rest time. Brilliant! Really. You have 20 rounds, therefore you are limited to 20 minutes.

Since he puts this out for free, I’m okay with delineating it a bit more. The beginning level is only two reps per minute of each, then four for intermediates, then six for the hardcore types. As it was my first time seeing the workout, I chose the beginning level. 🙂

The exercises are a little bit exotic, but not too much. But I’ve found they’re excellent full body movements, and fairly intense. You start off sitting in a butt-to-floor squat, hop down on all fours, then back up again. Second exercise is rolling all the way back and attempting to pop the floor with your toes. Next, you do whats called a Springing Tripod. He explains it best:

A little note here–this was the hardest one for me, and I still haven’t mastered it. Everything I’ve learned (and taught) in the combat arts says not to post like that when you fall, and my instincts went totally against it. I got a few in, but most of the time, I collapsed into some sort of break fall. I’ll work on this, and see what happens.

The fourth one is type of “plank” where you extend out straight (with you hands and feet on the deck) then, keeping hands and feet in place, you pull back into sort of a crunch with you knees and feet turned to one side. Sorta like this:

I did okay with the previously noted exception of the Springing Tripod. Those drills are neat and I can see and feel how they will develop both your strength and your stamina in the 20-minute format. I did about five rounds, took a breather set or two, then went most of the way to finish, ending up with one more rest set on the way. My hands were hurting from the Springing Tripod, as you can imagine from hitting the hard concrete floor with just a thin carpet layer on it. I’m glad to have learned these, and like having an alternate bodyweight circuit. I’m going to keep using it for a while, and may actually purchase some of his stuff.

He’s very big on both training the principle strength drills, and drills that facilitate mobility and recovery. And he can do playful, EF-type stuff, too:


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Today was what I call a Finnish Cardio day. No resistance training (so far). Just bake a while in the hot (HOT!) sauna, take an ice cold shower. Then hit the really hot jacuzzi (finally!), another ice shower, followed by doing time in the steam room. *Then* finish off with the ice shower again. Soap up and rinse in slightly warmer water.

Note that this is reverse of my usual SOP, where I hit the steam room first, and finish off in the sauna. Hey–I like to live a little dangerously…

Cook steak and veggies. Have a beer, then–nap. Tough workout. 😀

I call it Finnish Cardio because of the back-and-forth of super hot and freezing cold, as they do in Finland and other Scandinavian countries. To be fair, I use to do that in Okinawa, too. I was mentioning going back and forth from the hot bath to the freezing cold bath to a co-saunamate. I told him that when you got into the ice bath you could feel your skin tingle as from electricity. He explained, “that’s called ‘shock’.”

I found that funny. 🙂

It’s Finnish “Cardio” because it really gives the heart a good stimulus. After a while in the sauna or steam room, when it’s really hot, I can feel my pulse finally speed up. Then when I hit the ice shower, I feel it again, somewhat. Not too badly, though. And it helps to breathe out, saying, “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Shhhhhhhhhhhh!” when you first get hit by the icy spray.


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