The Little Things

I would like to preface this by saying that this post is just a bit of free form about what I have been thinking and focusing on lately in training and in life (which I think to many martial artists is largely the same thing). This is kind of a reflection of where I am at the moment and may or may not be something that you agree with or seem to apply to you. Take it for what you will. If I am onto something, perhaps it will help you as well. If I am completely out in left field, well then hopefully it is a phase that I will grow out of. In the end, the decision of how you process this is up to you. And if I babble, forgive me.

I recently moved from San Diego to Baton Rouge so that my daughter could grow up close to the rest of her family. While I am very happy to be back in my hometown and close to my birth family once again, I am already missing my Dojo Family. Such changes can have a tendency to make a person think and re-evaluate a great many things. As with most other people, having a child has made a great impact on my life and my perspective. It is a real eye opening experience to watch your child learn and grow and interact with the world around them. Trying to see things from my daughter’s point of view really gets me to thinking.

Being a martial artist, many of the things that she does really gets me to thinking about my training. I’ve learned quite a bit from two year old in the past couple of years. For one thing, people that young tend to act naturally. They haven’t developed too many habits or actions that counter or override natural movement or reactions. Sifu Giusseppe always mentions breathing as an example. Watch how babies use their breathing. They tend to breathe deeply way down towards their diaphragm and not just in their chest.

Another thing that I observe is that when kids are that young, they really enjoy the little things. My daughter is fond of stairs. At our dojo in Rancho Bernardo she would climb up and down the stairs laughing and giggling the whole time. One of the fathers there remarked how he never knew stairs could be such fun. She also really enjoys simple things that kids enjoy like spinning around or sliding down the kiddy slides. As we get older, we look for more and bigger things. Maybe an analogy would be bunjee jumping or sky diving. But that got me to thinking about a few things that have been a recurring theme lately.

Those who know me will know that I recently took a trip to New York’s China Town. It was an awesome trip! I highly recommend it for those of you who get the chance to go! The trip was for a Fu Jow Pai Seminar and the annual August Moon get together for Fu Jow Pai. For two of us, it was also a chance to train and earn recognition from our teacher’s Sifu, Master Tak. Not to get too far off topic, but I just can’t say enough how awesome and inspiring Master Tak is both as a martial artist and as person! You simply have to meet him for yourself.

Getting back to the topic at hand, during the Fu Jow Pai Seminar, Grand Master Wai Hong said a few things to try to help those in attendance take their skills to the next level. I say “a few things”, but he repeated them over and over again. They were things that the Grand Master feels is extremely important. One of the principles that he, and in fact a few of the sifus that are his direct students, stressed was not to force things. Don’t over do it! Let things come naturally. I heard variations of this theme many times over from many people during that trip to New York. It’s something that I have been trying (hopefully not OVERLY hard) to focus on in my training. It’s also something that comes to mind whenever I watch my daughter moving or playing or doing anything. As we get older, habit and conditioning have a tendency to separate us from what is natural in many ways.

My instructor, Sifu Giuseppe, has also stressed this idea quite a few times while teaching. Take sparring, for instance. When two people start sparring, even if told to keep things to a slow pace, things inevitably speed up and people start going harder. This same thing also happens to most people during forms practice. One way that Sifu explained it was that often people will go at it as hard and fast as they can. If they’re trying to break something, they will use full power. If they succeed, often they will continue to use full power. The issue then is that at that point, the learning process stops. There are a few key points here. First of all, if you know that full power works, using it again does not teach anything new, though at least it works. Another thing to keep in mind is that full speed and power gets tiring really quickly. By going all out, the person is overshooting the mark and losing efficiency.

In order to begin learning and growing again, it is necessary to start using less. It is importing to keep in mind that failure is a necessary part of the learning process. There is a balance point or tipping point between not enough speed or power to accomplish the goal and having just the right amount. Beyond that, more is excess. Learning to know how much is just enough can help you make better decisions on how much you want to actually apply.

Once again, this is something that I observe frequently while watching my daughter. She is still figuring things out. She is not afraid to keep trying and she is not afraid to fail. Of course I do my best to make sure that failure doesn’t mean anything drastic like serious injury (a lesson that martial artists should keep in mind for themselves). In the process of trying and failing/succeeding/exceeding people learn how things work.

I have been working on using that principle for myself. Trying to apply to what I know, how to minimize what I do to find the point where it is just enough. That is where control and understanding come into play. For me, I believe, it is the next step in growing as a martial artist. For those who can make the connection, understanding in the martial arts can reflect on understanding in most other aspects of life. Once again, for any of you who have not already but get the opportunity, you should meet Master Tak. He is, to my mind, a living example of that idea.

I believe that this is another reason why masters tend to have such a great focus on the basics. They have learned to focus more on the smaller details. To my mind, a basic technique is like a plain sheet of paper. You get it, you learn to work with it, then you mix it in with something else to make something more. But I believe that mastery of the art provides a sort of magnifying glass. Looking back at that plain sheet of paper once more, through the lens of experience, one can see the little ridges and textures in its surface. The more magnification or experience, the more texture one can perceive.

I find that this applies to forms as well. At first, to learn a form, you have to remember the shape of it. Your mind is forcing your body through the movements to form the muscle memory. Your energy and your effort are being pushed from inside to out. The tendency is, at least it was for me and many others that I have taught, that once you get the shape of the form down, or even beforehand, you keep on pushing and start pushing harder. Trying to add power and speed and making the form look stronger. The problem that I have found for me is that my energy is still going from inside to out. Recently I have come to realize an idea that has been slowly growing and forming for quite a while in my training. The idea is that once I have the shape of the form, and I have the muscle memory so that I can keep moving through the form without thinking to hard about the next step, then I can stop pushing my energy from inside to out. I can relax as I go through the form, kind of like I am floating downstream. I may still have to steer, but I no longer have to push like I’m going upstream. I can sit back and ride along the current and observe. I can let the energy come from outside to in. To me, this is the point where I really start learning. As I have told my instructor, I have not yet taken an entire single form to this point in my kung fu training (though I feel that I have come closest in a particular kempo form of mine that he likes). Even so, I have found sections of a few of my forms where I feel I am able to absorb and begin to understand more about them. It is a place for me to start, at least.

Once again, this is another of the goals that I strive for. Learning the smaller pieces and nuances, gaining increased understanding and sensitivity. At the moment I feel as if an apt analogy would be me trying to read braille. Difficult now (as in not even there yet), but attainable with enough practice and enough( but not TOO much) effort.

For me at this current time in my current place in training and in life is, whether it be smaller movements or smaller people, to learn from the little things.


Posted in Kempo Karate, Kung Fu, Martial Arts Philosophy

Integrity: Stand Up or Get Out

Everyday, as people, we are presented with challenges.  These challenges can attack us physically, mentally, and even spiritually.  The ways in which we react to these challenges speak volumes about our character and our pride.

Anyone who trains hard in the martial arts knows what it means to be challenged physically.Some think that training technique is the most essential aspect of training and hours should be spent practicing the same maneuver in every possible form.  I love these people.  Others think that  the best way to train is through ridiculously high stress work outs that push you to the physical limit of your abilities.  And I love these people too.  The point I am trying to make is that we may not all agree on the method of training that works best for us, as individuals, but we can certainly agree that the method that works best for one may not work best for another.

Mentally, we challenge ourselves.  We are the ones who create our internal world.  We take our feelings and swallow them selfishly and then use them to protect ourselves or for our own selfish gain.  Feelings can be our greatest strength or our greatest weakness.  Someone once said that holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal with the intent of throwing it.  You are the one who gets burned.  But, by holding on to anger we can also grow.  Anger can help teach us about ourselves and fuel our ambition to be better and stronger.  It can be transformed into other feelings.  Joy, passion, or even envy.  To fear an emotion is to fear the self.

And finally, we are challenged spiritually.  Spirit can be a term that is open to interpretation.  For me, it stands for the ideals that I follow in this world.  Ideals such as honor, integrity, and hope.  It is our follow through with these ideals that shows we are not mere animals who survive for our own selfish ends.  My ultimate fear is that we become a world of hedonists.  Face booking away our lives while we waste away and never truly develop any sense of who we really are.  We like this, we dislike that, and relationships fade away into a puddle of internet memes and high ideals that are passed around as internet postcards.

Some of us are already challenging ourselves on a daily basis and to me that is extraordinary.  Others feel overwhelmed and that is something I can understand.  We cannot just give in to being overwhelmed, however.  High degrees of stress can be the turning points on which we transform ourselves from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  We may relive old challenges on a daily basis, just to prove we can.  We may suffer, but that suffering can lead to incredible levels of growth and understanding about who we are and who we need to be.  Be a time traveler in your own mind.  Remember your deepest, blackest, loneliest nights and think deeply on them.  Feel them out.  Imagine to your fullest content and recreate that kind of darkness.  And then conquer it.

Conquering that kind evil helps create an inner strength that is impossible to see with the naked eye.  Any cut you receive won’t seem so deep.  Any lie you hear won’t sting quite the same way.  And anyone who stands up to challenge what you think is right will be immediately challenged in turn.  That level of integrity cannot be bought or sold to anyone because it will be part of who you are.  It will flow through you like water to nourish you when you are ill, and it will consume you like fire when the need to fight arises.  This is why we challenge ourselves.  To prove we are alive.


Posted in Announcements, Encinitas, Kempo Karate, Kung Fu, Martial Arts Philosophy, Rancho Bernardo - 4S

Rebuilding Discipline

BRRRRRRNG.  BRRRRRRNG.  BRRRRRRNG.  The alarm blares at you in an unforgiving manner.  It’s six in the morning.  Again.  You curse softly to yourself.  It’s been three weeks since you promised you’d start a new workout routine.  You had to, after all.  At least, that’s what you told yourself three weeks ago.  Lately you’ve been feeling a bit round about the edges.  I mean, let’s face it.  You’re not twenty anymore.   You’re somewhat satisfied with how you look, but you know you could look AND feel better if you just put a little effort into it.  So you made a promise to yourself that things would change.  Diet, exercise, it didn’t matter.  You decided you’d do whatever it took.  Unfortunately, it was a promise you just couldn’t keep.  You roll over, tap the SNOOZE on your alarm, and resolve to make it up at tomorrow’s workout.  If tomorrow ever comes.


It is impossible to not be able to relate to this type of experience.  We have all set goals in the past.  We may wish to establish a new exercise routine, meet new quotas at work, or possibly spend more time with our family and friends.  The specific goal is not particularly relevant.  What matters is that we all have made a choice at one point or another to carry out a specific desire.  We work towards that desire on a daily basis and push ourselves to meet our own expectations.  And then something happens.  No matter how hard we try, life always seems to get in the way.  You may become sick.  You may become injured.  You’re family may develop new problems that prevent you from achieving your goal.  These problems make us falter on the path towards our inner desires.  Eventually, we will find ourselves back where we started or even further away from our goals.


So how do we ensure that we will accomplish our goals?  One path is to cultivate an extraordinary level of discipline.  I say level because I do believe that discipline is something quantifiable.  It can be strengthened just like a muscle, and it can be weakened just as easily through inactivity.  Let us define discipline as the choice to do something in any particular moment whether or not you actually want to.  For example, if you have a strong desire to go eat a giant slice of cake, but you are on a diet, then your choice in this moment to not eat that cake is you exercising your discipline muscle.


Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  This is where it gets interesting.  It doesn’t take a lot to build up your discipline muscle.  All you have to do is take a couple of things throughout the day that you normally would always want to do, and choose not to do them.  Obviously I am speaking more of hedonistic, low reward activities.  I don’t want you to skip your morning run when you’ve finally starting feeling good every time you do it.  Choose something simple like eating dessert.  You know you want to eat a whole bowl of ice cream, so instead eat half.  It is small changes like this that will change the amount of control you have over your daily life.


The hard part is that this needs to be a daily routine.  You must, on a daily basis, choose not to do things you normally want to, and choose to do things you normally would not want to do.  The key is that you are exercising your discipline muscle daily.  Choose to wake up five minutes earlier just to prove you can.  Choose to skip the giant Bacon Cheeseburger for lunch and instead eat a chicken salad.  By making little choices like this on a daily basis you will break the control simple pleasures have over your life and develop a lasting feeling of freedom in everything you do.  And then the next time that alarm goes off, you won’t find yourself lying in bed daydreaming about that SNOOZE button.  You’ll already be out the door and heading for the gym.

Posted in Martial Arts Philosophy

5th Annual Liam’s Fund Kickathon!

The origins of the WCMAA Kickathon originated with the AVID Walkathon.  The AVID Walkathon began in April, 2005, in honor of our classmate Christina Tajyar, who had 6 brain surgeries due to her diagnosis of Arteriovenus Malformation.  I have to be honest, I barely remember how it started.  I want to say we were just figuring something to do for our Senior Project, but it sounded like a great opportunity to help someone and actually see the benefits.  Call me selfish, but when I help someone, I want to see the difference it makes.  So we started a fundraiser to see if we could raise a bit of extra money for the Liam’s Fund.  We orchestrated an event to take place on the Mount Carmel track, and pushed everyone into it to the best of our ability.  We wanted to make a difference and support other kids who needed brain surgery, due to similar illnesses, in hopes to brighten their future.

Can you imagine having to go through brain surgery?  That was my first thought.  To have to endure something like that would take an incredible amount of strength and support from everyone around you.  I have had minor surgeries, and even then one of the scariest things I have had to do in my life is walk down that hall, not knowing exactly what was going to happen to me.  That is when I heard the story about Liam Gutierrez, who endured more brain surgeries than I ever thought possible. To this day Liam has had over 80 brain surgeries. When I heard that more sophisticated equipment would reduce the number of surgeries some of these kids have to endure, I was ready to sign up full force. When Hank and I started our own business we knew we wanted to use the extra publicity somehow, and the Liam’s fund just seemed like the perfect charity to continue aiding.

Medical equipment can be expensive.  I have an emergency room bill from flipping off a trampoline that shows it(over $36,000).  Do not let this discourage you from contributing!  Even a couple of extra dollars helps. A scalpel that you were able to buy for someone who needs it can make just as much difference as that fifteen thousand dollar machine.

So how can you help the Liam’s Fund today?  Simply donate to our kickathon page below!  You can sponsor the school directly or one of our students who is going to be kicking. It’s a great opportunity to help someone learn the importance of raising money for causes they find important.

The date of the Kickathon is currently scheduled for June 2nd, from 1-2pm.  If you would like to drop by and support the students you are more than welcome!

Donate here!

Posted in Announcements

Breaking a Brick in Life

On rare occasion I have spoken with someone outside of the school about the complexities of breaking a brick. Typically, anyone who shares their interest in the martial arts to a martial arts “enthusiast” can expect the question, “Can you break a brick or a board?” I used to resent this question. Of all the benefits the philosophy of the martial arts gives you, both physical and spiritual, why ask such a silly question? I used to be of the mentality that breaking anything was akin to a cheap parlor trick, like a carnival game. The man at the carnival makes the game look easy, meanwhile he collects hundreds from poor suckers mistaking the carnival man’s experience for intelligence.  Feeling the need to prove themselves they make a pitiful attempt at “one up manship.”  I have since learned that there is a trick to any type of breaking, but it has its benefits on the mind the same as any training method the martial arts has.  Obviously my respect for the art of breaking has grown tremendously in the past few years.

This is not a long winded tangent about the magical art of breaking, the different types of breaking and how cool it is for demonstrations. Please do not misunderstand, I seriously enjoy attempting different breaks, despite the risk involved, and can see its benefits to my martial arts training in the physical sense.  Despite these benefits I will elaborate on later, I would prefer to discuss the philosophy one can learn from breaking a brick in the martial arts in destroying mental barriers.

For most people, you can use the brick as a metaphor for any problem in your life that you have struggled with. The brick lies there, staring back at you, unmoving. You, unshaken by the weight the brick has on your mind, attempt to crash through it. Most people undoubtedly fail in their first attempt(I know I did), this is not surprising.  Just as you may miss a detail in your conflict resolution at work, or forget to study a chapter for the test, you make mistakes and must learn from them.  The beautiful thing about breaking is you receive instant feedback, which makes learning your lesson much faster than waiting to see if your actions were correct  When you strike the brick and your hand feels immediate pain and swells up like a balloon, you have acquired a great deal of information about breaking technique.   Perseverance is a powerful trait one can hone and sharpen through consistent failure.  You can definitely cultivate perseverance breaking because IT HURTS WHEN YOU MAKE MISTAKES, you know exactly what to change and can typically try again immediately .  This is a popular belief for some styles of breaking, you don’t leave until you do the break.  Imagine if we all adopted this philosophy to great challenges in our life, where we do not leave until it is resolved or a plan of action is created.  Attacking your problems like one does a brick in this way can make life more fulfilling and less fearful.

Technique is important in a brick break.  The amount of force you use to go through the brick is the same as the amount of effort you throw at a problem.  You can have poor technique, smash the wrong part of your hand, and still smash through the brick(I have and do not recommend this).  By throwing excessive force around, and with little technique, you can smash that thing and your hand to bits.  Try to come at your problems with a bit of understanding of the situation, some skill.  Study and refine, do not just jump into a colossal problem eager to make colossal mistakes.  A bit of study can save you a lot of energy and prevent a great deal of unnecessary damage to you.  Learn how to come at the slab with a sophisticated approach that limits your chances of injury and your odds of victory are even greater.  Once you have found the correct amount of force and the right approach, you will slice through your concrete problem like butter.  You’ll also find that this big problem of yours five years from now will seem like nothing.

Lastly, just like all life problems, your progress with be swift with the aid of a good teacher(emphasis on the good).  “Sifu” means the one who has walked the path before you (but hey an Italian told me that so if any Chinese people want to clarify, email me).  Ever have someone give you good advice because they knew where you were coming from and what you were trying to accomplish?  These people can tell you what you’re doing wrong, amend your errors in judgement, and in five minutes do what would have taken you five weeks.  Learning from their philosophy and having them in your back pocket makes your challenges much simpler.  Please do not be foolish and think that you can’t learn something from everyone.  Just as I can train people in martial arts who have gone through years of medical training, I just as easily learn from my four year old niece how to enjoy a piece of pizza when life’s problems make me forget such wisdom.  You can learn from everyone, and almost anywhere when you open your eyes and pay attention.  Avoid thinking that the answers are not out there just because you can’t find them right in front of you.  If you have a problem and you haven’t picked up a book, attended a class or found a teacher to help you out, I can guess how much action you have taken on solving it, typically zero.

Now the brick metaphor does not apply to every problem in every way, but it’s pretty darn close.  My current problem is my Applied Statistics class, I have a mental barrier when it comes to math.  As soon as I stop talking myself out of studying (the brick in my case) I will be much better off.  So, take the five minutes and ask yourself, “what brick is stopping me in life today from taking that next step in my personal development?”

Posted in Martial Arts Philosophy Tagged , , , , , |

The Blog Is Now Linked

The Blog is now linked to the main West Coast Martial Arts Page… Hooray!

This is only a test of the WCMAA broadcasting system.

Posted in Announcements, Encinitas, Events, Miscellaneous, Rancho Bernardo - 4S Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Guro Mario Gajo

Guro Mario Gajo is now offering private lessons at the 4S Ranch/ RB West Coast Martial Arts Academy. Guro Mario specializes in stick and knife fighting, but he has expterise in Black Tiger Muay Thai and a number of other different styles. If you are interested in taking lessons with Guro Mario please contact us at (858) 451-KICK.

Posted in FMA Escrima Arnis Kali, Rancho Bernardo - 4S Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Kung Fu Class 3-20-12

Amazing class run by Eric Montgomery.  The main style that is focused on is Fu Jow Pai (Hark Fu Moon) or Black Tiger Claw Kung Fu.  It is taught along with some influence from other martial arts styles.

Kung Fu Class

Kung Fu Class


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Zumba Class Times

Zumba classes take place everyone Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30Am – 10:30AM.  The class is taught by Patricia Walker who has many years of experience teaching the class.  Come in and try a class today!


Posted in Rancho Bernardo - 4S, Zumba Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Parkour Class Schedule and Information

Parkour Classes:  Learn basics such as the dash vault, kong, speed vault, thiefing, russian roll to more advanced movements like side flips, back flips, and many, many more.

Classes are Saturdays from 2 – 3PM.  Recent additions to the class include a rail and trampoline to practice flips!


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Stickfighting, and Filipino Martial Arts Schedule

Classes are scheduled Tuesday and Thursday Nights from 8:00PM – 10PM with Guro Mario Gajo.  Expect a good workout!

Posted in FMA Escrima Arnis Kali, Rancho Bernardo - 4S Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Understanding Techniques

As martial artists, it is our primary objective to take in any number of techniques and be able to integrate them fluidly into our own individual fighting style.  This can be a long and involved process depending on the movement being practiced and the student’s training level.

Generally speaking, the art of learning a technique and then applying it can take many different paths.  First and foremost, however, a technique must be understood completely.  The technique understanding phase involves a student analyzing a technique and understanding what is going on relative to themselves and the opponent.  For example, one of our most basic techniques, white belt jujitsu (double wrist hand grab), involves many different intricate steps.  First, the student must step backwards and shift their weight onto their back leg without leaning forward.  If the student leans forward then all of their weight will shift forward and they will be off balance.

If we are off balance when trying to defend ourselves then we are in a very disadvantageous position.  We can therefore see how white belt jujitsu teaches us to not only escape a double wrist grab, but to maintain a balanced position while doing so.  The goal should not be to just learn to be balanced in white belt jujitsu, but to apply that concept of balance in all techniques.  Following this idea, we can see how it is important clearly understand the intricacies of all our techniques to see when a concept best applies.  This can be done best through a slow rate of technique repetition.  Practicing techniques over and over at a slow pace will help us digest the movements much more easily than doing them as quickly as possible.  The quickest pitfall when learning techniques is to try and do everything too fast, too soon without actually grasping what we are learning.

The next time you drill a technique focus on the concepts being taught in the technique instead of just the movements themselves.  Anyone can regurgitate martial arts movements, but to take conceptual knowledge and apply it directly and indirectly in other techniques will help you reach a new level in training.

Posted in Kempo Karate, Kung Fu, Rancho Bernardo - 4S Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Congratulations to all Tournament Participants and Winners

A big thank you to all our tournament participants and winner.  Everyone had a lot of fun and we had an amazing turnout.  Special thanks to Master Giuseppe, Sigung Bradford, and Fenton Fong Eng.   We had an HUGE turnout which is what we expect from our amazing and dedicated students.  Keep up the good work and look forward to the next one!

Posted in Announcements, Encinitas, Events, Rancho Bernardo - 4S Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Our new blog is now online! This will be THE place to check for all of the latest news, announcements, and educational tidbits so be sure to check back often!

If you have any comments, suggestions, or requests for things that you would like to see here, please feel free to Let us know!

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WCMAA Tournament March 17th

The WCMAA Tournament for Spring 2012 will be held on March 17th at the Rancho Bernardo location. 10890-B Thornmint Road San Diego, CA 92127 (858) 451-KICK (5425)

The events are as follows:

8 am sharp to 9 am : all levels self defense 9 am sharp to 10 am : forms 10am sharp to 10:30 : all weapons 10:30 to 11:30 : sparring all levels 11:30 to 12noon : prepare for demo 12 noon sharp : demo until 12:30

Posted in Announcements, Encinitas, Events, Rancho Bernardo - 4S Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |