Kapatiran Suntukan Martial Arts


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Posture, Structure, Stance and Mobility

Guest Blogger Bobbe Edmonds 

Motion is to Pencak Silat what Rooted Stances are to Karate

Stance + Posture = Structure

Structure + Footwork = Mobility

Structure divided by Footwork = Mobility vs. Stability

In the above equations I am using the following terms and definitions in a calculated formulae:

1: Stance: The position and transition of all body elements from the waist down. This sometimes includes the spine.

2: Posture: Position and alignment of all body elements from the waist up. This always includes the spine.

3: Structure: The marriage of Stance and Posture to reflect the needs of the body’s defenses or attack at any given time. Structure is a fluid concept, it does not mean “Stance” or “Footwork”, it means the use of a variety of postures in Silat while maintaining balance in motion.

“Stance” in the accepted Martial Arts reference can be misleading when it comes to Pencak Silat. In the fundamental training of any Martial Art, a stance is noted as a means of sinking the body closer to the ground using the legs for support and stabilization. Now, we do that anyway, every day, just by walking. But a stance is more of an unmoving thing, and the word itself when in reference to Martial Arts usually invokes a kind of statuesque image, the practitioner in a deep-seated squat of some sort, tensing his body and rooting himself as much as possible. Although this is a correct definition, it’s not a really a true one. 

Balance is the heart of stance work, and any art worth its salt will show this early on. Pencak Silat is no different in this regard, only in the approach. In any art, there are essentially two applications of balance in Silat, and they both serve an important purpose:

1: Balance in STILLNESS (Rooted stance, sinking/squatting with a wide base, almost no mobility at all)
2: Balance in MOTION (Footwork, Body English, high mobility & ground coverage)

Balance in stillness isn’t difficult to achieve, it only presents one option: Stand still and find your balance. You would have to be a pretty thick brick to not have some degree of mastery over this after a few months of training. Some arts specialize in this, the common rationale behind such training being that you must be able to stand there and absorb ANYTHING that is being hurled at you. Indeed, most arts advocate sinking deeper in whatever stance and rooting to the ground to appear “immoveable”. The fallacy with that sort of thinking is that it’s only one side of a two sided coin: Motion is just as important as static rooting, and a lack of one will force you to overcompensate with the other. Thus will begin a long confusing road of trying to force the fit of something into a situation where it doesn’t belong, a place where common sense should have just pointed to MOVING out of the way for a better vantage point.

Balance in motion is the more difficult concept, it doesn’t have a permanent place of residence and therefore harder to nail down in specific terms and postures.

You can observe the stance-posture-structure relationship in any martial art and discover how it supports the nuances of that particular style: Pencak Silat is mobile and fluid, so less time is spent in rooted positions. Karate is more rigid in terms of posture and stance, so it’s mobility lends itself to the rooted approach. Southern Chinese Kung Fu styles usually have a blend of the two, although it’s never a balanced one, the static sink/root method being the more dominant.

To understand the unique use of stance in Kali and Pencak Silat, first look at the objective of these arts: Motion. Everything in the combat systems of the Archipelagos points to MOVING, not ROOTING. Think of stance like this: If you are constantly moving with an innate sense of balance and coordination, then your stance becomes just wherever you happen to be standing, in whatever position your legs/feet happen to be in. It’s not something you think about, or have to look down to make sure it’s there; if you train for it then it WILL be there. The first action in the feet should be to move, not root to the ground. You need to be able to find balance and stability in motion, moving from one point to another without achieving the rooted aspect of stance. If your first action is to sink and root, then you will have to bring your musculature back to the initial point of relaxation before you can move at all, and who has that kind of time in a fight? Mobility is necessary for entries, evasion and counters. Mobility allows you to adjust for sudden changes in tempo and rhythm of the fight, as well as drastic shifts in terrain, conditions, etc. Mobility promotes adaptability, and helps you maintain a feeling with your opponent at several angles at once. Rooting in stance/structure only applies in a force-against-force contest, something you should be striving to avoid.

The rooting method is usually the first style of stance work trained, and therefore it’s the style that’s emphasized the longest in a practitioner’s life. It’s embedded in his mind, and he will always return to it because it was drilled in as a beginner. Because of this, progression is really the key when training stance. Most beginning students can’t tell their left from their right when they start training Martial Arts, and complex motor patterns will only confuse them. In this respect, focused stance training is fundamental because it teaches a slow step by step process of transitioning from one space to another in a specific manner. Without this training, the beginner will usually have a much rougher road to achieving flow in Silat. That being said, there should be a natural progression OUT of stance work and INTO footwork/Body English, a progression that should move with the momentum of the student’s learning curve. If you delay the transition into motion, then the student gets used to drilling in a static stance, and will have a knee-jerk impulse to “sink and root” in preparation of any conflict.

The problem with this approach is that it encourages you to “sink into a stance” during times of stress in combat, and root when you should move. It is a static element brought into a dynamic atmosphere (fighting). In training different Martial Arts styles, I have discovered that the traditionalist is often taught that the right stance can counter anything, and by implication, if their stance is strong enough then they can withstand even the most brutal attacks. There is some merit to this, and it does have application…But it’s not really a strategy you can go to war with. A rooted stance of ANY sort only works in one direction at a time: The front, or whichever way you are facing/direction you are going, and it will assuredly stack the deck against you in a fight because you will feel encouraged to either stand in the path of danger and “absorb it” as if you were a tree, or meet the attacking force head-on. This is not a very prudent strategy, especially if your opponent is faster or stronger than you, and it will cause you to make poor decisions in combat because you chose a poor position to begin with, and will constantly be playing “catch up” to your opponent’s lead.

Also, if you were successful in the initial clash and you did manage to deflect the incoming barrage, you will likely have every muscle and joint locked down, with the muscle mass so dense and rigid it can hardly move at all. You will be inhibited from responding to any openings quickly, nor will you be able to recover or change positions with any real speed, you must unclench your body first. Once you activate density in your body during combat stress, you will find it difficult (if not impossible) to regain mobility and relaxation needed for fluidity, because you have an innate momentum built up in favor of tension over relaxed, dynamic motion. Again, you will return to your first principles, the thing you were taught at the beginning, only it will be working against you even if you are doing it right.

It may seem as if I am campaigning against the rooted stance approach. Actually, it’s a necessary element, and it does have its uses…but they are far more limited than the use of mobility, and it doesn’t lend itself to fluidity very easily. For this reason you must have a firm grasp of the uses and disadvantages of each.
There is much written about the mathematical and mechanical elements of stance, many calculations, diagrams and equations laid out to give the appearance of something more meaningful than simply “balance in motion”. In a motion-based martial art, this idea is fundamentally wrong, and it’s a mistake to pursue some algebraic formulae hidden within horse stance, except maybe as an academic exercise. Not that the math itself won’t add up, it will. In fact, if you try hard enough you will discover several different formulae for each stance you know. However, the focus will always be on finding that math in the first place, looking for geometrical patterns in every stance instead of looking for the fluidity OUT of stance.

Next on the list: Posture.

By posture, let me say right off the bat that I am not speaking of “proper bone alignment” or “correct shoulder-spinal placement” like what you get from etiquette class. This isn’t the kind of straight-backed walking posture, but how you position your upper body in relationship with two separate points: Your feet & your opponent. Your posture will reflect your ability to move, defend or attack, depending on how you position yourself against an opponent.

Structure is the final element, and it’s last for a reason: You will have to master Stance and Posture to get to Structure, because it’s a combined element of the first two. Structure deals with our body’s trained and natural defenses, and how we find balance while using them in motion. But the definition of structure isn’t “Stagnant”. There are degrees of stability, and you have to decide what you need more of at the appropriate moment: Rooted, unmovable structure or a fluid, less stable one. There are times for sinking down and absorbing everything coming at you, and times to get the hell out of the way.

Moving allows you to negate an attack when “structure” cannot withstand the force. If you do not know or train for this, then you will not be prepared for it when it hits, nor will you be able to recognize when the opponent is doing it to you. If you train for balance in motion, you will not be confused. Your hands and feet will seem to move almost on their own, and your attention will be focused on the attacker, not how good your stance is. Balance is something you FEEL, not SEE.

When it comes to the Filipino and Indo-Malay martial arts, the name of the game is balance in motion. We don’t simply lurch in one direction and pray to God that we have balance when we arrive. The recognition and capitalization of an opening in your opponent’s defenses will only occur if one or more of you is in motion, usually responding to the other’s motion. To pull this off under combat stress conditions, you must be comfortable and confident in your abilities to flow with balance.

If an opponent is simply standing there with his guard up, why attack? You will need to move to a better position, or change your strategy. Also, motion is critical in countering your opponent mentally. Standing still is a mistake, because it allows your opponent to draw a clear bead on you, plot his attack, and gain the advantage of ground and the ability to adjust for his surroundings, as well as any tactical advantages to be had. Movement makes planning difficult for your opponent and allows you to stack the odds in your favor by choosing the setting & pace of the fight.

Rooting also doesn’t address what to do if the attacker decides to use a feint & you are caught by it. The purpose of feinting is to lure your opponent into over-committing to an attack that was never going to the evident target in the first place, a tactic designed specifically for targeting rooted structure. Mobility will save you, but a rooted, non-mobile structure bets the farm on a single roll of the dice. You better be able to fight perfectly every time, because that’s what you are training for. And nobody ever fights perfectly, something always goes wrong.

This article isn't about "A" versus "B", but to bring to light the glaring differences between the rooted and mobility camps. In the end, you have to have a mastery of all four elements. Then you can decide for yourself what tool is most prudent for your situation, mobility vs. stability, strength vs. speed, footwork/Body English vs. stance.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A new milestone

Last weekend was a celebration at Auraria Self Defense. First, it was the 2 year anniversary of me starting to teach there. But more importantly, I had the opportunity to recognize the hard work put in by my students. It is my honor to announce the promotion to Level One in Applied Self Defense Silat the following;
Troy Bernal, studied with me for 5 years+, and really brings out the best in those he trains with.
Raja Simha, great analytical ability and beginning to understand letting it flow.
He is also responsible for me teaching publicly.
Johnathon Colvin, even though he wants to be a cop, he is still the most improved.
Shawn Sneed, came in with a lot of his own training, and heads the program, but has taken what he was given and made it his.
I also was able to induct Troy, Raja, and Johnny into the KSMA, so we have a branch here, in the birthplace of the organization.
A few pictures follow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Heads Up

Maha Guro Brian Buzz Smith will be amongst a gaggle of instructors at an event in Illinois in April. I will pass along more information as it becomes available.

Here is the skinny sent from Buzz:


April 23 & 24, 2011, FMA Brotherhood Gathering in Belleville, Illinois.
This will be momentous occasion for the WSEF.

Dignitaries to include GM Anthony Davis, GM Tasi Alo, GM Chuck Cadell, GM Ron Saturno, Guro Brian "Buzz" Smith,
Master John Malmo, Guro Kim Satterfield, Guro Wes Bennett, Sifu Ralph Paris & possibly Maha Guro Mike Klement.
Also, a very special guest will be LD "Stoney" Stone, Sensei of merit, motivational speaker & just an outstanding individual.

There will be 2 days of workouts, seminar time, & privates by appointment. The event is open to the public. This will be an event that the Midwest Martial Arts Community has not seen. This is a collaboration of momentous proportion, encompassing several systems of the FMA.

There are adequate accomadations very close by the event please feel free to begin to make your hotel reservations now. This event will be a huge building block for future events in coming years.

There will be much more details to come.

Please feel free to email me here on for any questions.


Guro Mike Schwarz

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Over the years one can see trends in martial arts. They tend to revolve around the new kid on the scene. A lot of that ripples out across what we train. The next big thing drives established schools to adopt these trends or aspects of them in order to stay fresh.

These fads take hold for a few years and play out. On occasion they gain a foothold in a wider circle. However, even that wider circle maintains a niche clientele. Heck, even what comes to the mind of the everyday person as martial arts (tae kwon do, karate, gung fu) are a niche.

Regardless of style studied, there is a trend coming down the pike to have a better understanding of violence and its effects. For years, the group I hang out with from time to time has discussed the various aspects of not only the physical but the psychological aspects of what Rory Miller calls, “training to create cripples and corpses.”

Some schools will see this as an opportunity to cash in on the next big thing without seeing the long-term advantages to their students. The flip side is the students will take it in without seeing the long-term advantages of the knowledge. What I mean here is the vast majority of the students will listen to the message, take it in, but not use it when they need it most.

Knowing something two or three times a week for class or rank testing is not putting into practice. Even practicing doesn’t hit the mark directly. My friend Buddha (short, bearded guy, not the plump-bellied dude you see in some Asian establishments) likes to point out, “all plans go to shit on contact.” He’s got it right. You could train every day and feel pretty good about what you do, but all that goes out the window when the shit hits the fan due to a variety of factors.

More and more schools need to bring in people to discuss the reality of violence and the understanding that it comes in so many varieties. It is best to be prepared the best way you can be, but the limitations of knowing that what happens may not be what you are training for.

Instructors need to be upfront and frank about what their goals for their students are. If you teach primarily for fitness and competition, you owe it to your students to make them understand that goal and draw a massive line in the sand about what they are learning.

Too many factors go into violence to say, “this will happen and you do this.” I think if you want to be well prepared, learn how to be aware of your surroundings. Awareness is one of the best skills you have, and you can train this skill easily. Start by being aware of places where bad things are known to happen, and avoid these places. If you are in a situation where bad things can happen, be aware of exits. Look at the people and pick out who may be doing what you are doing. You are looking for those who are scoping the crowd and in doing so, you show you are aware of what is going on around you. That step alone could help you be passed over by those intent to do bad things.

Pay more attention to places you are familiar with as well. Your routine may be being watched and made note of by bad people. What are the exits at your workplace? Is the parking lot monitored? Do you unconsciously go from the store to the car?

What are some other suggestions you can come up with to make yourself and others more aware?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Traveling the Globe!

Buzz has been invited to the Philippines to share his knowledge of the arts!

In his words:

Some of you may know that TINK and I are going to the Philippines for our overdue honeymoon. What you may not know is I was invited by Guro Michael Tuscano to stay with him and have him be our guide. I have been trying to find out the true history of Kuntaw and it started in his area of the Philippines. I told him I would be open to teach some of his students of what i know. So he decided to have a seminar for his group. I agreed but I also sugegested that he open it up to any other groups in his area. I agreed to do the seminar for free. He could charge a small fee to cover expenses and put the rest of the proceeds into his organization. I think he was a bit amazed that i would do this. I referred Guro Mike to check out the posts about our Gathering stateside.

I had been trying to make contacts in the Philippines to find the old timers in the art. I finally contacted Grand Master Shanfrank Aycocho and he offered to be our guide thru the Northern philippines and drive us down to meet Guro Mike- a 12 hour drive. When told about the seminar idea- he said he too would do it for free and has stepped up to the plate. Meanwhile Guro Mike contacted a local Arnis master to also participate.

Now it gets better. Guro Mike reserved the Aquinas University to hold our event there.

Here is a note he sent to me:
"Good day Master, I started inviting participants of different Martial Arts Club here, and I also invite some of the Barangay Police/Tanod of the nearest Barangay in Legaspi City including some Security Agencies. And I also write the Managers of different Malls here if they are interested to send their security guards for this training. Yesterday some foreign Martial Artist contacted me for reservation. Master, if there are some Instructors who would like to join to us, the registration fee is for the foods only and the accommodation are at their own risk. I hope it will be a great day for all of us. Thanks very much for the support. God bless you."

I hope to keep everyone informed as it goes along its steamroller path. Buzz

The information about it is below

August 14-15, 2010
Aug. 14, 2010 : DM Hall, Aquinas University, Rawis, Legaspi City
Aug. 15, 2010 : St. Michael Beach Resort, Sto. Domingo, Albay

Hosted by: AQ BICOL ARNIS REPELON- Aquinas Chapter
in cooperation with BICOL ARNIS REPELON, INC. (Main Headquarters) and
ABSORB, Inc. (Albay Brotherhood of Strong and Responsible Blackbelts, Inc.)


Master Brian “Buzz” Smith
of Traverse City, Michigan, USA,
Founder and Chief Executive Director of AMKA/BAKA and member of KSMA
He is also part of the American film SCOURGE as the leading cast and fight director; this movie will be shown this year.

GM ShanFrank Aycocho
of Metro Manila, Philippines
Founder and Chief Executive Director of AMAC-KKAASI
(Aycocho Martial Arts Center- Kuntaw Kali Arnis Aycocho System Inc.)

Maestro Roger B. Bataller
of Legaspi City, Albay, Philippines
Founder and Chief Executive Director of BICOL ARNIS REPELON, INC.

Open to all Martial Arts enthusiasts. For more information, please contact BROD LYNDON R. ANTE (ABSORB) CP 09103139425; BROD ALVIN SALAZAR (AQ BAR) CP 09177578493; and BROD MICHAEL M. TUSCANO (AQ BAR) at AUL Acctg. Office Tel. (052)-482-0542/ email at: or

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Gathering of the Tribes, 2010 (10 Years and counting)

Well, the 10th annual Gathering of the Tribes has come and gone now leaving in its wake many smiles, achy bodies, bruises galore, sleep deprivation, and fond memories. This event has always strived to be a place for sharing ideas, and building community, as well as physical training…a place for finding/strengthening family. This year proved to be no different.

Our numbers have hovered, historically, in the twenties for attendance. We don’t do a lot of advertising. Mostly, you have to know someone who’s already here…and almost always we’ve communicated in some form or another prior to the Gathering at least a couple times. It wasn’t consciously planned, but just sort of evolved this way. Most years we get about thirty (plus) people who want to attend, but then, for one reason or another, are unable to. (Hence the twenty-ish) An attrition of 25-30% is pretty typical, which makes this year so different. Of the 42 people who signed up, we had 38 in attendance, and that’s not including families! There were more families and kids here this year than ever before...our property resembled a State Park with all the tents and campers present.

There were many first time faces to join the veteran Tribe members, and based on feedback I’ve received so far, it looks like everyone felt welcome.

I’m not going to do much in the way of review for the various training workshop because I wasn’t able to attend the majority of them…and other people have, or will, review them in their own posts.

The reason I wasn’t working on the mats/grass much was because I was kept very busy teaching the knife making classes. I was surprised and pleasantly overwhelmed by the response to the Bladesmithing offering this year. The people who participated in the class ranged from “almost no experience with power tools whatsoever,” to returning blade smiths from last year’s class (and everything in-between). Many of them started out with blanks I’d roughed out ahead to save time. A couple started from scratch with their own designs. All of them were unique.

They definitely kept me busy, but had such patience and dedication to their work that they turned out some very beautiful blades. I was truly touched that they would want take the time to try this. Joseph, Todd, Geoffrey, Jeff, Kym, Josh…thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

Another facet of the Gathering is recognition of achievements or services through out the year..some of them are humorous ribbing, others are genuine salutes. My good friend Bobbe made the revelation this past year, through some Ancestry research, that he is in fact, Dutch. My wife (being Dutch-Indo) and I decided to put together a little “welcome to Dutchdom” care package for him…which he will never forget. (…or forgive, most likely…) Along with this, he was issued Bunny Slippers (made by our own Tina Gray) in honor of his 2D self from the previous year.

Next, Jay welcomed new additions to the KSMA branch of the family. Jacob, Hannah, Amberly, Geoffrey, and Chuck (Sullivan), it’s good to have you on board. “Brotherhood” status was also conferred to Bobbe and Buzz.

Now we weren’t the only ones with recognition “machinations” going on here. Bobbe had his own devious plans in the works as well. With Edmonds Martial Arts, it’s rare to get publicly recognized for anything serious. (For instance, if you happen come to class with your fly down, Bobbe is likely to “publicly recognize” you loud enough for the neighboring counties to hear…repeatedly; but that’s not something you’re likely to hang on your wall.)

Well, this year, we at the Gathering were privileged to witness Bobbe taking a moment to be serious and recognize two outstanding people from his crew, publicly. Todd and Joseph were both granted Na-Guro for their excellence and dedication to training. If you don’t know Bobbe, you won’t be able to truly appreciate what this means…so take my word for it, it’s Something.

But wait, there’s more…

After this, we were supposed to be surprising Buzz with something…and I was (I thought) pretty much in charge of “organizing” everything. Little did I know that I wasn’t totally in the “loop”. Apparently the rest of them had plotted behind my back to surprise me. *insert sheepish grin here*

Well, they pulled it off. Buzz and Deb honored me with a beautiful Shadow Box that held one of my favorite phrases… “Life in Every Breath.” I was truly speechless. (Those of you who know me can shut up now…I can hear you laughing…) For the story on that phrase, email me or call me and I’ll share it with you…it was a turning point for me.

So, we’re back on the list of presentations that I am part of…Buzz’s surprise 60th birthday party. A bunch of us had been planning this for almost a year, lead by Mrs. Treachery herself, the Momma Pixie…Deb Smith. As a lead in, Bobbe (Pendekar Dutchboy) did a rather impromptu Roast of not only Buzz, but the majority of the Core Gathering Members. (My favorite was the bit about Buzz’s Anyo’s, or forms, being originally for defense against Velociraptors!)

Next we presented Buzz the “Guardian of the Tribe”, a special Kuntaw inspired blade…which was possible due to the whole Tribe coming together to make it happen. We also presented him a framed “card” signed by all the contributors. Happy Birthday, Maha Guru Buzz! (You can see more pics of the blade on this website.)

This ended the presentations for Saturday and now it was time for potluck feast. Per our historical offerings, Jeanne and I supplied the Grilled Chicken Sate. The Pinda Sauce was excellent! I think it lasted about 5 minutes. (I could be wrong…it might’ve been less) Food and merriment went on into the late hours with the Gathering core members doing a twilight podcast, 2-3 hours long, which it was later discovered, never recorded. (We revisited it the next evening and actually recorded one.)

The next day, there was one more presentation to be made. For his hard work and dedication to his studies in Pencak Silat Pertempuran (PSP) was my good friend, Sterling Heibeck, was awarded the rank of Pelatih. He will be teaching PSP at the Innovative Martial Arts dojo on Tuesday nights. If you’re interested in studying with him you can contact Sterling, or myself, (contact info is on our website) for more details.

There are a few unsung heroes of the Gathering who really need to be mentioned here as well…

Jeanne, my wife, should be nominated for Sainthood. Most would not believe how much effort she puts in before the weekend festivities. With me in school, working, as well as teaching classes, a majority of prepping the house for invasion was left to her. Add to that being a Den Mother to all of us heathens during the Gathering… *insert headshake here*… and the post war clean up after the event. (…and this isn’t even discussing the demon-possessed plumbing that decide to rear its ugly head during the Gathering…and the week after.) This is not an undertaking for the faint of heart. Jeanne, I love you…thank you for all your hard work and patience!

Amberly is very close friend, occasional student/workout partner, and incredible unsung hero during the weeks leading up to, and during, the Gathering. She came over numerous times to help prep the house, as well as assist with transportation to and from the Airport, Food prep, and just helping to keep things running smooth. Thank you Amberly!

Alicia, another friend of the family, came over to hang out and ended up helping out tremendously! You were awesome! Thank you for all your help. From photographing events, to helping with prepping and clean up…you totally rocked!

Tina, Deb…you’ve always stepped up unasked, and really made a difference. This has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for lightening the load. Tina, you did an absolutely fantastic job on designing the Logo for the Gathering!
I know there are people I’ve failed to mentioned…and for that please accept my apologies. Just know that everyone pulling together is what makes the Gathering a success year after year. Thank you.

After Sunday’s festivities wrap up in the afternoon, people generally begin to pack it in and head home. There are still numerous little classes going on the side here and there…but mostly, things are done, and the energy levels change to more of a relaxed sort.

Jeanne and I were fortunate to be able to spend a few days with some of our closest friends just chilling and relaxing…as well as spend some time getting to know some new friends a bit better outside the friendly chaos that is the Gathering. What a great way to be able to wind down an excellent event…

Richard Bach said, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”

To those of you returning, it was great to see you all again…to catch up, strengthen our friendships, and reconnect. To those of you who are new…welcome to the Tribe. We look forward to seeing you again next year.

Peace and Safe Journeys…
Chuck Pippin - Innovative Martial Arts

©1998-2013 Kapatiran Suntukan Martial Arts