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Sunday, August 5, 2018

My version of Filipino Mechado Beef Stew

Okay, by request, my version of the recipe for Filipino "Mechado beef stew".

Many countries have a version of this comfort food, each with each culture's twist. The Filipino style combines rich beef broth with a tomato base and the addition of umami with "patis" (filipino fish sauce). My version adds 5 spice powder and a bit of paprika. The tomato base adds a depth of color and flavor pop to the usual brown broth.

Rusty's Mechado beef stew

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 5 spice powder (not required, but its tasty)
  • Paprika 
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • (Optional root veggie: rutabaga, parsnip....I prefer these to potatoes)
  • Two large tomatoes, largely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes, or baby carrots
  • Chinese long beans
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup A-1 steak sauce or Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste  
  • 2 cups beef broth. I use "Better than bullion" beef concentrate and mix with water according to directions on the jar.
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Filipino fish sauce (Patis)
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • Optional: two large jalapeno peppers, whole

  1.  Dredge beef pieces in a mixture of flour, black pepper,  paprika, and a bit of 5 spice powder.
  2. Heat oil. Cook garlic and onions till fragrant, to flavor the oil. Remove from pot and set aside.
  3. Cook beef until browned, turning frequently.) Add lemon juice, patis, a few shakes of paprika, A-1/worcestershire, and broth. Stir up any browned bits and continue to cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.
  4.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste and enough water to cover meat. Bring to a boil, skimming scum as necessary. Add bay leaves. Lower heat, cover and cook for about 1 to 2 hours or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally. If water starts to dry out before beef is tender, add additional water in ½ cup increments as needed. Keep beef just covered with fluid.
  5.  Add root vegetables and continue to cook until tender (you can add the whole jalapeno here). Add celery, long beans and green/red peppers and continue to cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until tender-crisp.
  6.  To thicken the gravy, remove a cup of the cooking fluid. In separate bowl whisk 1/2 cup water with corn starch. Whisk into the hot fluid then add back to pot, stirring well.
  7. Season with 5 spice powder, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with rice.

Keep in mind can adjust water/bullion/tomato paste and thickening to your personal preference. As with many Filipino recipes, we don't usually measure anything. So tweak the recipe to your taste, and I hope the beefy-tomatoey flavor is to your liking!
I dont care if the "Angry Drunk" Facebook page meant for it to be a joke. The meme was something like "what's want the women's  equivalent of a man cave? The kitchen." After what some guy said to me at the 7-11 tonight, I see the meme from the Angry Drunk fb page. Want to see an angry sober woman? Stand back, here comes the rant....

That "kitchen" better have beer, motorcycle and martial arts magazines, a throwing knife target, pool table and a GUY to laugh at as he's getting flustered because he can't even boil water. The dude would be slightly useful if he can make a good BLT or a good vodka Martini (and not with cheap ass vodka)....or if he stands IN FRONT of my throwing knife target without pissing himself as I throw knives around him, and making excuses for why I should wash his pants and Huggies underwear.

Oh, what? He doesn't even know how to use a washer? Probably because he can't get his Neanderthal misogynistic brain to listen to instructions from a woman for more than 10 seconds.  Figures, maybe it's because his mommy and his girlfriends did all his crap for him and now he thinks all women are good for are making sandwiches and doing his laundry.....all 2 pairs of jeans and 4 shirts with holes in them because he doesn't even know his jeans size....he just tries on jeans at Target till he finds junk that fits. And even then he'd have a hard time trying stuff on until he puts down his beer and porno magazine.

How's that for turning the tables? "Relax, guys, its just a joke."

"Just....a.....joke" some guys might say about the Angry Drunk meme...... trouble is, some men find "women-in-kitchen" memes funny. That, and they might think a woman who is "blammin' hot" shouldn't be able to kick their ass.

I saw this meme the same evening after some guy at 7-11 tonight tried to tell me what I should be wearing. I was getting a couple of bottles of water and this guy said to me "what's a pretty little gal like you doing wearing jeans with holes? That's not flattering...."

"Because I'm not trying to dress to meet your standard or anyone else's...this is what I wanted to wear, not what anyone else wants me to wear....that's why."

The dude laughs and says "Easy, baby, it was a compliment. No need to be rude."

Oh no he didnt....he didn't just call me baby did he? With his cheap ass gigolo stinky cologne, did he?  WTF. Mr. dress shoes and jeans and Levi's Jean jacket. Let's talk about "unflattering fashion", shall we?

"Wait, what....did you just call me 'baby'? Really?".

"Just sayin'....a guy can't even give compliments to a girl?"

"Okay listen, how old are you?"


"(laughing) I'm old enough to be your  mother! Would you want some slime ball to talk to your mother or sister that way? Wow, man."

The dude tries blah-blah'ing as I tried to pay for my things. My annoyed laughter begins. The cashier is just standing there listening to stinky-man. It's late, I'm "hangry", I just want my water and snacks and to get in my car and go home to sleep. But no, I'm now here venting on a blog.

Many might say that it's only words and to not let it bother me, but I've heard enough of "compliments" tonight. Did he think I was going to all flattered, bat my eyelashes and be nice to him?

What makes it okay to joke about women's interests being ONLY in the kitchen? Only in a Leave-It-To-Beaver world would that even be close to humorous. Jokes that hint at a "woman's place" need to be kicked to the curb, as does the men that think that is an acceptable stereotype. These types of jokes and memes only proliferate sexism and misogynistic attitudes.

That said, there will probably be a few men that will respond to this blog post with "Shut up, bitch" or "get a life and make me a sandwich", or "shut up, you feminist" (which, points to the possibility of those men having no clue what feminism is.

Okay, Rant over. Keep in mind, I am in no way a man hater or ultra feminist. Just don't tell me what I SHOULD be wearing, that's all. :)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Balancing rocks: Patience with a purpose

This past week, I took 5 days away from the everyday grind. Not that I don't enjoy the everyday grind,....I love my work and I never consider it "work". However I was invited to spend some time at the Oregon coast at a beautiful beach house, and I couldn't refuse.

It felt odd to travel and not have a "reason"  to do so. Usually, when I travel, its for my radio show, organizing martial arts events, teaching, etc. While I have fun traveling for those events, this trip to the coast was a bit weird at first. I almost felt....guilty....for not having a reason to travel.

After going down to the beach and hearing the sound of the ocean for the first time in years, that guilt faded. I stared into tide pools at low tide, did Tai Chi on the beach each morning, looked in awe at the incoming waves, we walked the dogs and let them lead us to interesting nooks and crannies in the rock formations, felt the breath of the sea as it blew strongly past my ears, slept to the sound of the ocean just outside my window..... Motivating.

As martial artists or athletes, we are dedicated to our training and self improvement. Some of us run martial arts studios or exercise facilities and we run a business. Our training and our business is what we go to sleep thinking about and eagerly wake up to. However, one part of our training regimen or business plan should never be ignored.....time for US.

Some of us seem to believe that the busier we are, the more productive we are. Everything "must" have a reason to do...for our business, for our marketing, for our training, for our next tournament, for whatever else.....

The sand and the sea reminded me that not everything needs a reason. There's no "result" to stacking rocks, there's no "marketing" when staring into tide pools, there's no gold medal in marveling at the ocean waves and no money to be made when feeling the wind press against your jacket. And you know what? It feels GREAT to not have reasons to do these things. VERY therapeutic!

However the real therapeutic experience.........

As someone who holds intuition as an integral part of my training and everyday life, I realized that using intuition for specific real world reasons (business, training, etc) was not enough.....To tap into intuition for inner world reasons, was exactly what I needed. As I walked the beach alone one day, I was drawn to certain rocks and set aside those and something told me to stack I stacked/balanced them along the beach. This type "active meditation" allows you to just be, just experience your activity and let things just happen.

At one point after my last stack (that took quite a while, because I was determined to get the arrangement to balance in a way that it seemingly wouldn't), I sat back, exhaled, felt a sense of accomplishment, and then.....felt a wave of emotions all at once.....sadness, grief, doubt, heartache of the past, loss, unvented anger from times gone by, frustration etc.  I was surprised at what what going on, even a bit embarrassed, which added to the mix. I stood up wondering "what the hell is wrong with me?". I walked closer to the edge of shore, faced the waves and just let the emotions run themselves out. I wasn't sobbing, but I did feel the sting in my eyes as tears ran down my cheek....I was just experiencing emotions. Sometimes all at once, at moments individually. I don't exactly remember.....but I do think I actually let out a roar against the sound of the waves.......

I don't know how long I stood at the shore, but as I felt the wake of that emotional tide disappear, I felt hungover yet lighter and rejuvenated. I felt the stress of the past year or so, fall off my shoulders. I realized that this was a week that I had gone for days without a headache or a migraine and I smiled at the thought. I wiped away tears, pulled myself together and continued walking, finding more stones, and balancing them along the beach.

The photo the stack of rocks that somehow allowed me to productively vent. It would have been easier to switch the top two stones, but something told me to keep at it to find the balance point on this particular arrangement. The "pain" of patience must have released something.

I once read somewhere that balancing rocks tests the patience and forces one to not 'make' something balance, have to let go and let patience, intuition and tactile sensitivity guide you in finding that "one spot" where everything aligns.  I believe, that this test of patience is what allowed me to just let go.

Many times we really don't know that we actually actively hold space for negativity.....we actually need some of these emotions for balance.....however, when you hold onto some of these things from days or years long gone past (namely anger, frustration, grief), we run out of space for the positive things. We hold on to the stress of dealing with that irate boss, we hold onto the hurtful words that someone said years ago, we hold onto anger, we hold onto the betrayals you convinced yourself to forgive. Slowly, these stresses get tucked away somewhere deep, and one day even the most ordinary thing brings these emotions to the surface....where you have to experience them, to face them, to close those chapters and move forward.

That "pain" of patience that became close to frustration (you know the feeling!) opened a floodgate that I myself put up over the past few years. Sometimes, you have to face some of the very things that you put on the backburner to consider for later. This was my "later".  With that said, I'll have to remember to make time for meditate, to vent, to talk with a friend.....and NOT try to be tough and put things on the backburner.  This was a lesson learned, and one that I'll remember.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bullying: Are we raising "pansies" if we don't teach them to fight? It takes more than fighting to instill confidence.

(photo courtesy of

I recently read a news article about a 9 year old boy who took his own life due to constant bullying at school:

So Sad. I'm very supportive of teaching kids to defend themselves and find their personal power. But you know what burns me?....when people say "You're raising pansies if you don't teach your kids to fight".

What, so if you teach a kid conflict avoidance he/she is a pansy? A boy has to man up and throw a punch against some bully kid who is most likely all bark and no bite, in order to prove he's not a pussy or a pansy? Pardon my French, but WTF. We see you, the old school men who say "I was was bullied and I just socked that boy in the mouth. We're raising a generation of soft pansies". You're not raising a "pansy"....the kid simply doesn't have the emotional/verbal/physical skills to deal with it.So I ask you HAVE YOU REALLY TAUGHT YOUR KIDS ABOUT ALL ASPECTS OF SELF DEFENSE outside of punching someone's lights out? If you haven't then your're actually raising a kid that only knows how to punch someone and has no other skills outside of that.

No skills outside of that......who's a pansy?? Hmmm.

You can teach any kid to box, but unless they know what is going on in a bullying situation, those skills have no context to attach to. Its like learning to spar as a beginner martial artist, getting confident in those skills then getting thrown into a tournament where the other people spar differently enough to beat you. You're not ready for it and you get scored on because you don't know how to adjust, nor do you know how to deal with the pressure to having to score points so you don't look like you don't know what you're doing.

As someone who was bullied in school, let me tell you something:
Don't look at me and say "well you you were sheltered in your little Filipino family home and don't know the streets, that's why you were bullied". Well that's right i haven't, but that didn't make you any better than me nor does it make you any less likely to have been bullied. Sure you can act all tough so no one chooses to mess around with you, but honestly can you put up that facade 24-7?

My parents didn't raise a pansy yet I was bullied. My parents taught me (yes, in my "sheltered family home") that my personal space was mine and mine to keep and mine to determine how big or small to make it at any given time. They taught me how to use a pointy umbrella to make someone's day a very bad day. They taught me how to stand big and speak big even though I was very small. The "speak big" part involved no shouting , it involved ATTITUDE and what I call "The Look". My Dad (who DID know the streets, by the way), especially, taught me that if anything happened to me or my sister or anyone else in the family, that there would always be other family who will "take care of things" in the old Filipino way. I learned Karate and became very good at it.

Yet, when I was bullied, I chose to not fight back. That makes me a pansy you say?

t wasn't that I couldn't fight.....I chose not to fight back because I was was taught to be aware of what I could do. I was taught to know my anger triggers and to be aware that if I allowed my temper to flare it would not be pretty. Even back then as a child, I knew my anger was awakened at personal insults or jabs at my intelligence or slights against my ethnicity or way of life. I was aware that each time I cried as a bully taunted me, *it was not because i was scared, it was because I was SO angry that it actually hurt to stop myself from lashing out and making someone's day a really crappy one that would land them in a hospital.* These things I had to deal with....the fantasies of wreaking vengeance upon my tormentors....When you actually wish to see blood, you have to take pause and ask yourself "What's up with that?" Back then, there was no instructions on "proper use of force" or "legal ramifications of self defense". Plus....I really did not want to hurt anyone. Did I want the bullying to stop? Of course! But did I want to injure someone badly to do it? That was the dilemma. I wanted it.....I actually wanted to see my bullies suffer....but I didn't want to make my fantasy THEIR reality. Such stuff for a child to think about, eh?

Back then all I knew was point sparring for the Dojo and outside of that, "blow their knee out and break their face so they can't breath, walk nor talk". There was no in-between....I had to learn the "in between" myself through trial and error. As I grew older and more confident in my verbal skills I realized that defending oneself from bullies involved MUCH more than just learning basic boxing or even martial arts. Conflict resolution, the "talking down" the violence, its a skill that many don't have. I've heard some people say that Police negotiators are just those that "couldn't handle walking the beat or being out on the field", but I tell you what....I admire the skills of negotiators. It involves a sense of empathy aligned with justice.

ts okay to teach kids how NOT to be Mr. or Miss Milquetoast. Its okay to teach kids to defend themselves in all methods....verbal AND physical. Let your kids know its okay to feel scared of a bully....that its okay to complain and tell and adult and even call police (yeah yeah, some will say "what good will that do, just punch the bully in the face")... yet let the child know its not okay to be hurt by a bully and they have the right to defend themselves. However those who say kids are pussies for being scared of bullies....get a clue. Remember the adage..."courage is not the absence of fear, courage is the proper use of it". Confidence cannot be "taught" must be developed by the child...period. You can't force confidence on a kid, nor can chastising another kid's parents for not raising their kids correctly, instill confidence in that child.

That must learn this confidence by learning to lose and win. Let your kids learn how to lose a game. Teach your kids to learn from a loss, not get in their business and tell them what they did wrong. Teach your kids to win with tact and respect....don't teach them arrogance. I see too many kids get bent out of shape if they lose a soccer game...and I see too many kids get big headed when they win a game. Guess who their parents are most of the time....yup, the "No pansy" parents. Teach your kids to pick themselves up if they fall off their bike for the 3rd time in their life.....first time pick them up, dust them off and get back on the bike. 2nd time just dust them off and tell them they're okay....3rd time have them get up on their own and carry on. Kids learn through experience!!

I've learned this through experience. Sure its not "on the streets" confidence, but its confidence nonetheless. My parents wanted to raise confident, self reliant kids..... and "pansy" wasn't even a vocabulary word for us back then. Fear, uncertainty and doubt were part of the education.

In short.... if you raise your kids to think they are pansies for not doing this or're actually raising a generation of opinionated adults that see merely the black and white in everyday situations. And if they're opinionated, we have to look at our own generation of adults. So rather than just assuming any bullied kid is a pansy or casting judgmental eyes on the about we just take the time to instill confidence in our kids as well as teaching them self defense skills? It takes time....much more time that just saying "if they bother you just punch them".

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Preparing for a martial arts rank exam

If you are studying a martial art with a ranking system,  you'll be taking exams to earn rank, most likely in the form of colored belts or sashes. 

Rankings usually differ a bit between adults/teens and young children,  but regardless of age, a good school will require that rank candidates meet the minimum standards of a rank rather than put people up for promotion regardless of readiness solely for profit. Keep in mind however, that good schools will also keep the student in mind.....good schools will not withhold rank exams if a student has a physical issue (wheelchair, blindness, mobility issue,  learning disability,  etc) fact good teachers will take the time to introduce the art to these students in such a way as to still meet the requirement *based on the students ability*. 

Not all martial arts use the belt rank system, but for students of those that do, here's some things to work on and consider,  to prepare for your exams.

  • You are not entitled to rank, you have to earn it:  Although some schools require a minimum set of hours of training for each rank, just because you met the minimum hours doesn't mean the teacher will automatically jump to promote you. (Explained in the next point...)
  • Understand that you should meet the standards of the rank you are applying for:  Just because you meet the minimum hours of training for a rank, maybe even carry a high opinion of your efforts in class, it does not meet you are *ready* for the rank.   I hate to sound like a spoil sport, but if you don't meet the minimum standards of a rank, you'll need to practice and correct your technique until you do.  Many people do not understand this because of thinking in a "I'm entitled to this" attitude. But if you carry that attitude in a traditional Asian Dojo, you won't be staying long in that dojo.
  • Do an honest inventory of your skills:  Are you meeting the standards AND working hard? If there is no intention behind a perfect strike, or if there's plenty of effort in forms but techniques are sloppy, then more practice is required. Don't compare yourself to other people....because honestly, no one really cares that you think you are better than upper ranks. Your attitude and humility must speak volumes as much as your skills do.
  • Ask the teacher what you need to work on, or ask if you can schedule a private session for assistance in preparing for an exam:  Believe me, good teachers WANT you to succeed and will likely be willing to assist you. And honest eye can teach you so much more than your own opinion of yourself.
  • Don't demand to be tested. The teachers will determine when you are ready.  One of my own teachers once said "Everybody thinks they're ready and deserve the next rank....that's confidence. But to not take and honest look at your readiness and ability to meet the requirements and to demand rank....that's arrogance. Arrogance has no place in rank promotion"

Now it is exam what?

You've been selected for rank testing....if you've tested before, you'll know what happens at exams, but if it is your first exam, your teacher will tell you what to expect. But here's some things to remember (good advice for the experienced students too):

     ◇ Arrive early to warmup and get extra last minute practice in. Dont show up right at the appointed won't have time to warm up and the test adminstrators most likely will not hold up the exam to wait for you to warmup. It is not fair to those who showed up early to prepare.

     ◇ If there is an exam fee, take care of that before the exam day. The administrators want to concentrate fully on your exam, not accounting.

     ◇ Be in uniform (if your school has a uniform). Be sure your uniform is clean and pressed (if needed). A wrinkled uniform does not make a good impression.

     ◇ Show your best, but don't get cocky. I've seen this type of behavior,  and I've come close to telling the cocky/aargumentative students to sit down and tell them their exam is over. Sometimes stress over a "pass or fail" will bring out the worst in people. Don't let nervousness or stress get the best of you. Just do the best you can.

     ◇ If you don't know something, be honest about it and don't make excuses.  I once had a young man tell me he was busy playing World of Warcraft all night and didn't have time to prepare his written report for the the written portion of the test, yet he showed up for testing. I didn't allow him to test.e

Dealing with disappointment
Maybe you weren't selected to test when you thought you should have been, maybe you didn't pass the test. Many people get angry and point fingers at everyone else (including the teachers) *but* themselves. Rather than jumping on a pity-party bandwagon, you have to remember some things.....

  • Remember that the art you study has standards of skill to uphold. Each rank means an improvement of standards. Maybe you try really hard in class, but let's face it, if  you're testing for an intermediate or advanced rank and that front stance still has a bent rear leg or your elbows flare out when you punch, the testing board will take notice that it doesn't meet intermediate or advanced standards. 
  • Remember that self perceived skill and actual skill might be two different things. This is why teachers provide an outside eye for the students, and many time bring in other black belts from the style (but not from their own school) to help judge the candidates. 
  • If you didn't get selected to take a test, don't complain or demand to be tested. You are NOT entitled to rank, you have to meet the standards of that rank to earn it. Complaining about not being selected isn't going to make the teachers jump to test you. Complaining also shows that you question the teacher's judgement and that of the upper ranking teachers above him/her. And honestly, I only let my own masters question my judgement.  Get your Ego out of the equation and just work to improve what you need to work on.
  • Kids normally get disappointed at not passing a test. But you know what I've noticed? They are the first to ask me what they can do to improve for the next test. They cry a bit, but then they get right back on the dojo floor and don't wallow in self pity. They are the ones who comfort other kids who don't pass a test. Adults.....sometimes we need to learn from those kids.

Celebrating your promotion
You worked your tail off at your rank exam, sometimes for many hours, and you were successful at attaining your new rank! You have every right to celebrate and be proud of your accomplishment. However don't let it go to your have more work to do the very next day you set foot in the Dojo. New requirements and new techniques will need your attention now. You'll need to work harder now, to gain higher skills.

You know what I've found to be a good way to constantly celebrate your new rank? By being a consistent good example for other lower ranked students. Remember that you're not leaving the lower ranks behind. Instead, you're paving the way for them. Be that older brother or older sister to the younger ranks. You'll find that your understanding of your art will grow though this.

I always say to my students "Pass or not, you're still learning".....but I'm pretty sure anyone that had failed a test don't find those words very uplifting. Disappointment is such a funny that only comes about if one knows what "grabbing for the goal" feels like. However keep in mind that Martial Arts teaches us to toughen up and move ahead.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School: Benefits of Martial Arts afterschool programs for kids during the school year

Summer is almost over, and kids all over the United States are gearing up for school. Whether they're attending the same school as last year, or a different one this year, kids will be transitioning from summer activities to classroom activities.

You've got all the gear for your child....but do they have that one thing that ties all the things necessary for optimal progress, such as work ethics, time management, and discipline?

Enter: Excercise.  Studies have shown that regular vigorous exercise helps children's brains keep fit, as well as keeping physically fit.

Kids naturally love to play and romp, and as adults we should encourage healthy play. While traditional games such as "hide and seek" are fun and helps develop cognitive skills, understanding rules of play, etc, scientific studies have shown that Martial Arts training helps in these aspects and MANY more. One of things that makes martial arts training different than, let's say, games of tag, is that good Martial Arts training will help a child develop a sense of self discipline that can apply to anything else in their lives. Studies have also shown that regular martial arts class attendance can help foster focus, goal setting & achievement, compassion, altruism....all aspects that can help children be well adjusted in school.

Afterschool Martial Arts programs are becoming more and more popular. These programs are usually open to K-8 grade kids, and run a few hours after school, on school days. Since parents can arrange for school their child's school bus to directly drop off their child at a martial arts studio with an afterschool program, it is a great way for parents to know that their child is safe, supervised, and getting plenty of exercise....and learning great life skills as well.

Many afterschool martial arts program provide supervised homework time (often a mandatory activity before any martial arts activity starts, martial arts training just like the regular classes, opportunities to test for belt rank, game days, and other great activities to keep the children engaged until pickup time.

Here at Body Movement Arts ("BMA"), Our mission is to provide a safe and fun venue for children after school, where kids can get their homework done alongside their classmates, make new friends,  get a rousing healthy workout, and learn leadership skills.

Our 2014 "Afterschool Warriors" program begins September 15th. Sessions are Monday through Thursday, open from 3:00 to 5:00 pm (allowed to stay for extra class till 6 pm for only $5 more). 

Here are the benefits of the program:

  •  "Homework Hubs" precede each day's martial arts class. Black belts and senior student kids available for questions. 
  • Students may test for belt ranks and receive the same benefits as regular club members (10% off special seminars and one free 30 minute private lesson per month).  
  • Kids will learn aspects of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino martial arts.
  • Only $139 per month. 10% discount for family members. (Filipino martial arts stick set is extra: $20 for a set of two Eskrima sticks)
  • On school breaks, members of the Afterschool Warriors may attend the regular classes of their age group.
  • Afterschool Warriors Signature red uniforms included with registration.
  • Current members can upgrade their membership to the AW membership by simply transitioning to the AW program fee for the school year.
For only $139 per month, parents can rest assured that their child is receiving the best afterschool activities, and getting their homework done before they come home!

Contact our Director of Children's programs to register your child at Body Movement Arts: Restita DeJesus, (206) 596-7880 9629      17th Ave SW Seattle, WA 98146

Experience the BMA Benefits: BODY * MIND * ACTION!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

All these "30 day challenges". Well how about the "30 day Zhan Zhuang meditation challenge"??

Over the past few years, we've seen "30 day challenges" such as the "30 day plank challenge", "30 day squats challenge", etc. Most of these activities challenge the participant in some type of physical fitness activity to strengthen the body.
Well, what about strengthening the Body, Will, AND Mind?

I propose the
30 day Zhan Zhuang Challenge!

What is Zhan Zhuang?

For those not familiar with Tai Chi or other types of martial disciplines or meditation methods, Zhan Zhuang loosely translates to "standing like a post" or "standing on a stake" (pardon if my Chinese loose translation is incorrect, as English is my main language).

 There are many variations to this meditation practice, but the general idea is to stand firmly yet relaxed, all the while keeping aware of breathing and proper posture. It may sound easy, as many of us stand in lines for a substantial period of time.....but how many times have you STOOD MOTIONLESS without changing foot position or slouching or leaning to one side?

In Chen style Taijiquan, my classes and I practice this posture most frequently, as depicted in the accompanying drawing of Chen Zhenglei, my Grandmaster. Knees slightly bent, top of head to tailbone aligned, shoulders /hips/core relaxed, weight evening distributed on both feet and centered on both feet (no pronating or supinating), and arms raised in front of chest, as if "embracing a tree".

Most people jump right into this exercise, believing that standing is easy. But I suggest that if you try it, that you go into this with an open mind. Many people go into it then give up when their arms are tired.

"Wait....arms tired? I thought meditation was supposed to be easy!"

I suggest that people start with 2 minutes maximum to begin with. However you should always be aware of your body starting to compensate for shoulders fatigueing, etc. THIS IS NOT AN ENDURANCE EXERCISE as some people might believe. I do not suggest that you try going for as long as you can the first day just so you can have bragging rights. (yes, I've had students in the past do this...."look, I can stand in Zhan Zhuang for 15 minutes!" yet they don't see that their arms drop, they start to slump, their breathing changes due to discomfort, etc. ). Zhan Zhuang is not a contest to see who is strongest. The only competitor you have is yourself. The key here is to do Zhan Zhuang correctly and to not convince yourself that a bad posture is "correct". This is the hardest part, because if an individual is the competitive type, they will try to do too much too soon, thinking that they will gain benefits faster. Nothing could be farther from the truth when it comes to Zhang Zhuang.

Take your time and you'll see the benefits over time. For some, the word "time" detracts them from the practice.....which means the Zhan Zhuang practice will most likely not be for them, and that's okay.

However the purpose of this challenge is to get people to try it.

Okay, In a nutshell, here's how to do basic Zhan Zhuang (refer to photo below)

1. Place feet about shoulders width apart. Place weight evenly on both feet, not pronating or supinating on the feet. Bend knees slightly.
2. Stand tall but relaxed.....have a feeling of having the top of head reach for the sky, let your center of gravity drop downwards. Relax your core, including chest......don't let your chest raise up and out like military style standing. Gently tuck your tailbone slightly as if seated in a chair in a relaxed upright position (try sitting on a chair with keeping torso upright as described....that is sort of the posture I'm trying to describe).
3. Raise arms as if hugging a tree. Relax shoulders. Keep elbows lower than shoulders and wrists.
4. Keep hands "alive". Don't curl the fingers in a limp fashion, yet don't use too much tension to keep them open. However, if you have conditions that prevent you from opening your hands, allow your mind's eye to keep an intention of "openness".


Now stand, keeping aware of your breathing and proper posture.

Remember, this is not a contest to rush into in an attempt to gain faster results. You would only hinder your training with impatience.

Keep in mind, if you feel any discomfort or pain, chances are you are using too much force or strength to stand in the posture. So stop the practice for a few minutes and go back to it or start again the next day. Your body will let you know of any postural mistakes as you stand.

Let's try.....

Phase 1, Finding your center, regulate breathing.
Day 1:  2 minutes
Day 2:  2 minutes
Day 3:  3 minutes
Day 4:  3 minutes
Day 5:  4 minutes
Day 6:  4 minutes
Day 7:  5 minutes

Some of you might say "Hey wait, why arent we going for 7 minutes in 7 days?". If you've never done Zhan Zhuang before, you need to 1) get into the routine of doing the activity and 2) allow your body to get used to standing motionless instead of sitting motionless and 3) slowly let your arms get used to remaining in that "embracing the tree" posture. 

Remember, I suggested "Don't Rush!" Moving on......

Phase 2, standing "in" the legs instead of top of them, allow breathing to relax tension.
Day 8: 5 minutes
Day 9: 5 minutes
Day 10:  6 minutes
Day 11:  6 minutes
Day 12: 7 minutes
Day 13:  8 minutes
Day 14:  9 minutes

"What?? not 10 minutes at 10 days??"  This is not a pattern based thing....its a "challenge the body yet allowing the body to gradually acclimate" thing. Again, dont rush. Its only a guideline meant to try Zhuan Zhuang for a bit each day.  Moving on.....

Phase 3, body strengthening
Day 15: 9 minutes
Day 16:  10 minutes
Day 17:  10 minutes
Day 18:  10 minutes
Day 19: 10 minutes
Day 20: 12 minutes
Day 21: 12 minutes

Phase 4, mind/will strengthening
Day 22: 12 minutes
Day 23:  13 minutes
Day 24:  13 minutes
Day 25:  14 minutes
Day 26:  14 minutes
Day 27: 15 minutes
Day 28: 15 minutes
Day 29: 15 minutes
Day 30:  15 minutes

You'll notice that its not a 30 days to 30 minutes schedule. It takes much more practice to get to 30 minutes. Resist the urge to try for 30 minutes right away....believe me, if you've never done Zhan Zhuang before or have little or limited exposure to it, don't go for quantity too soon. You'll just miss out on the subtle improvements to your practice other than the usual academically noted "relaxed and calm" items. To truly listen to your body take TIME. If you miss a day or two, that's fine. Just pick it up a the next opportunity. This is merely a guide, not a rule book. For experienced practitioners, stand as your skill allows.

Time....time for skill to develop. Skill gained through time, persistence and effort is.....


Who's in for the 30 day Zhan Zhuang Challenge?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How to punch with impact. No, no, not with your fist...

Today at one of my satellite classes, the students actually wanted a lecture....can you believe that....they wanted one! What teenager actually asks for lectures? Hahaha! But they playfully call it "story time", because,  as a few of the teens put it, "They love learning from the stories".

So here's what I told them today.....

As a martial arts instructor,  I've taught many people how to form a good fist and how to punch. I've have seen all sorts of fist variations from beginner students...... thumbs inside the fist,  fingers sticking out, wrists bent in cockeyed fashions,  etc.

If there's one thing that students find out while they're learning to punch, it is that the fist has to be tight, especially when striking a target. I tell my little kids class "all your fingers want to ball up tightly together,  to work together to make a punch strong" .  How many of you have I reminded to keep that fist tight? Yes, I'm aware that some people dont have all 5 fingers and will have to modify their punch technique. But I'm not talking about the technique itself. Instead I'd like to discuss the intention of a punch....I'd like to use the punch as a metaphor.

What is the purpose of a punch? That's right,  Pretty hit something. But if we dont pay attention to the elements of punching (such as proper fist formation and body mechanics), I won't matter how hard we want to make impact with the target...missing an element of punch execution will result in a poor strike.

Okay, so let's compare a punch impact with life impact.....

As I mentioned,  we want all fingers to work together tightly to make good impact with the target. Imagine punching a punching bag as hard as you can with your pinky sticking out or your thumb tucked inside your fist.....sounds sort of painful, doesn't it? In those examples, a single finger prevents proper striking. Now lets apply that thought by giving each of those fingers a "quality"....let's say, that each of our fingers represent:

- Persistence: Keep plugging along no matter what.
- Upbeat attitude: "Upbeat" does not necessarily mean to act happy all the time. It also means carrying the ability to see the positive even when you're not feeling so jolly.
- Nurturing quality: Too often we associate this word with "motherly", but we want to think about the quality of the nurturing intention. It is to care for the development and well being of other people or things. Nurture your self development,  nurture your learning.
- Confidence: Pretty self explanatory....
- Honest: Not only to others, but most importantly to yourself as well. Know what your goal is, and don't lessen your expectations just to meet your lack of action.  Honesty with oneself includes being able to recognize when we're making excuses, and admitting them without fear.

These qualities should work together in concert to make a tight "fist". When one of these qualities doesn't work at the same level as the others, then it becomes like a sole finger sticking out ofnthe prevents the rest of the fist from making an impact.

P ersistent
U pbeat
N urturing
C onfident
H onest

To make a good impact, punch strong. Uncommitted punches don't hit well. Remember that making an impact doesnt always mean hitting hard, it means to also hit the right put anothwr way, making an impact doesn't necessarily mean getting rich, being famous, or reaching thousands of people.  If you reach just one person or reach even just one of your goals, you've made an impact.

Of course,  I made some points on the importance of staying in school, etc....and I hope they understood what i was trying to say.

Even if I reach just one teen.......