Archive for the martial arts Category

Pacquiao punches the hyperbaric oxygen out of Marquez

Posted in martial arts on November 14, 2011 by gohelpyourself

Manny, Juan Manuel, please fight again.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Juan Manuel Marquez was ready to raise his arms in victory and show off a nice bush of armpit hair. Instead he saw the one belonging to Manny Pacquiao victoriously gleaming in the lights as the winner was announced.

He was flabbergasted.

Pacquiao and Marquez did basically the same types of exercises during months of training. They trained as intensely as they could. They had access to similar supplements to nourish their bodies.

The only difference? Marquez has undergone hyperbaric oxygen therapy for an hour or so after every training day. This involves being locked up in a pressurized chamber and breathing pure oxygen, which he thought would help in muscle recovery.

I would have loved to offer him a cigarette while he’s inside the chamber, just to see how he’ll recover from that. Then again, he doesn’t smoke.

In any case, he lost to Pacquiao by a majority decision. The hyperbaric oxygen was not enough. He couldn’t knock out Pacquiao. And I’m glad I watched the fight live… live from Makati Palace Hotel’s conference room.

I got a deal from Ensogo and I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to finally watch a live Pacquiao bout. The voucher cost me P900, inclusive of a buffet brunch. The food was not great, though. They probably hired the street vendors nearby to cook for them. Yet for a hungry man, it was good enough.

I was nervous all throughout the fight. I didn’t want to be the jinx who would cause Manny’s defeat. I just wanted to know how it was to watch a Pacquiao fight live on a big screen.

I was alone. Every time Pacquiao landed punches on Marquez, there was a collective “ooh”. But every time Marquez pummelled Pacquiao, you’d hear the same “ooh,” though with a slightly lower pitch. I guess it was like that during Pacman’s earlier fights.

This is what I ate. You can find food like this in street food stalls in Makati.

There were a lot of middle aged and older people watching. Around 250 were comfortably seated in round tables in the conference room. Three big projector screens were placed in strategic spots: one each on both ends of the L-shaped room, and one on the corner of the L. A few Americans were with their escorts who giggled too much, as if being tickled. There were a few kids with their parents, too. There were groups of friends in their 20s. I saw laptops and iPads. I guess people just can’t help posting messages on Facebook or Google + and tweeting about the fight.

Most of the time, I found myself, well, talking to myself. “Go Manny!” “Knock him out!” All the others were talking to their companions. But I was one with them. I felt their excitement. I shouted when they shouted. I oohed when they oohed.

It’s amazing how mere spectators can instantly become experts when watching Pacquiao fight. After the 12 rounds, some of my companions at the table were saying that Pacman would probably lose.

And I thought so, too. It was a close fight. It appeared to me that Marquez had more solid and clean shots than Pacman. But I didn’t keep score. I was still hoping that Pacman would win.

For some reason, before the winner was announced, my companions were already leaving their seats. Did they have a sudden urge to empty their bladders? Was there a fire in the building? Did I suddenly zone out and miss the announcement of the winner?

When Pacman was finally announced as the winner by majority decision, I said, “Wow, galing! Ang swerte ni Pacquiao!” I high-fived myself and the table. No use running after my table mates.

I admit that I desperately wanted Pacquiao to knock out Marquez. It was not a satisfying victory for me. But still, I’m glad he won.

Am I going to watch a Pacquiao fight in a hotel again? Probably not. Not unless I know the food is going to be great.

It was an awesome experience nevertheless. I’m not going to worry about any hanky-panky in the results. But I’d love to see another re-match.

So here’s a collective high five to all of you Pacquiao fans out there. Don’t leave me hanging.



Remember the whip

Posted in martial arts on July 1, 2011 by gohelpyourself

"I will whip you good!" (Photo courtesy of Pernilla Lindmon Gauffin)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Some may think that a whip is a kinky toy that you take out only on special occasions. But for me, it’s the perfect metaphor for attacking in martial arts. Even if you don’t care about martial arts, you may find this metaphor of the whip useful, especially when you want to imprint your hand on the face of an enemy as a sign of peace.

I have seen many beginners in martial arts who had a hard time punching or kicking with force and speed. That’s understandable. What may help them achieve the force and the speed much more quickly is a useful metaphor: arms and legs are whips.

That’s right. Your arms and legs are whips that can do damage to your opponents. As you know, the whip is a very flexible thing. Its tip travels faster than the speed of sound, making cracking sounds as it slices the air. The tip of the whip delivers the greatest damage.

Now if you think of your arm as a whip, your fist becomes the tip of your whip. Imagine yourself whipping your opponent with your arm and letting your fist strike your opponent like the tip of a whip. You will notice too that there is a recoil when you try to hit your opponent.

Just let your hand hang lose and let it travel like a whip toward your target. Then at the latest possible moment, just before impact, you stiffen your hand a little in anticipation of the impact.

Chances are you would have made a more powerful and faster strike… just by thinking of the whip metaphor.

It’s the same with kicking. Your foot becomes the tip of the whip. You deliver more power and much greater speed compared to just being mechanical about it.

I learned this when I took up Kendo, an art dealing with sword fighting. Though I was already proficient with using the bokken, or wooden sword, Kendo still had a lot to teach me.

The shinai, the bamboo sword used in Kendo, is pretty inflexible. The instructor told us beginners to imagine that our sword is a whip and that the tip of our shinai is the tip of the whip. He also gave us another image: our sword is like a fishing rod and that the tip of our sword is the hook with the squirming worms.

I thought the whip metaphor was better and kinkier, and therefore much more interesting and memorable.

I began applying the idea whenever I instruct people in martial arts. The metaphor can be applied to many other weapons. Arnis sticks can be thought of as whips. Wooden staffs can be likened to whips too.

So it may be a good idea to think of the whip when you need to defend yourself. Want to bitch slap that uncouth ogre at the office? Your whip can serve you well.

Just don’t get too kinky.


Decision-making and Aikido’s 5 martial arts steps

Posted in health and fitness, martial arts on November 18, 2010 by gohelpyourself


That's me trying to look fierce.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

To the uninitiated, Aikido may appear to be a graceful, dance-like martial art taught by men fond of wearing black skirts. And to those who know Steven Seagal, that great popularizer of Aikido, it may appear to be a brutal form of self-defense that involves breaking fingers and arms like twigs.

As an Aikido practitioner for 13 years, I’ve often wondered about the sound of breaking arms. But then I never got willing and enthusiastic volunteers for my live experiments.

In any case, Aikido can be both graceful and brutal. It’s very effective, too. But it’s a long story and I’m here to discuss the parallels of great decision-making and Aikido’s five martial arts steps.

Recently, my Aikido sensei, or teacher, announced via email that there is a video about these Aikido steps for sale. I think the video is a great idea. But having recently attended a seminar on analytical thinking at the company I work for, I thought of using decision analysis.

Should I buy or not?

That’s when the idea hit me. Why not use the five Aikido footsteps as a framework for decision-making?

It may appear silly, but who knows what may come of it. So here are the results:

1. okuri-ashi – Some rough basics first. When you assume the basic stance In Aikido, one foot is in front of the other. In okuri-ashi, the front foot or the leading foot initiates the movement and moves forward. The hind foot follows, and you end up in the same stance.

In decision-making, sometimes we need to initiate the move to come up with a good decision. We initiate the research and gathering of information. In this case, I did a little research and I found out there is no other similar video about the five Aikido steps made here in the Philippines. If there is one, please let me know.

2. tsugi-ashi – Now this involves the hind foot initiating the movement, moving forward until it reaches just behind the leading foot. The leading foot then quickly moves forward and you end up in the same stance. In making decisions, sometimes we are pushed by events and ideas. We don’t initiate the movement. We are pushed and forced to make a decision. The stimulus that we receive forces us to think about the situation and take action.

In deciding whether to buy the video or not, I was pushed or influenced by my sensei, who can be very very persuasive. He’s a 5th dan black belt and has almost 30 years of experience in teaching Aikido.

3. ayumi-ashi – This is just like walking. From the ready position, the hind foot moves forward and overtakes the leading foot, which subsequently takes a similar quick step forward so that you end up in the same initial stance.

Sometimes, when making decisions, we are not pushed by other people but led or directed to certain directions. Other people initiate the move and lead us to certain decisions.

In my case, I was also pulled and led by my sensei to make a certain decision. Of course, the promise of a great product attracted me, too.

Another "warrior-like" pose.

4. tentai – From the ready position, you just turn 180 degrees or face in the opposite direction, with your feet turning but still on the same two spots on the floor.

In decision-making, you also consider opposing views or perspectives. I’ve turned 180 degrees and thought that the video won’t really make a significant difference in my Aikido.

5. tenkan – This also involves a 180-degree turn. But there is a difference. You plant one foot in place and turn your body and swing your other foot behind you until you face the opposite direction.

Sometimes you just have to look at it from all directions or perspectives. In any decision there are always other perspectives, and all of them can  be valid.

In deciding whether to buy the video or not, I had to look at different perspectives: from the perspective of the learner, the skeptic, the know-it-all, the open-minded, the spend-thrift, the curmudgeon, the gullible, etc.

In the end, after considering these five Aikido steps in my decision analysis, I decided to buy the video.

Why? Simply because it is a well-made video and a pioneering video for my club, which is the Makati Aikido Club. And I wholeheartedly support any worthwhile and great product.

I know I didn’t have to use the five Aikido steps to make a decision. But then again, would you like to volunteer for my experiment? The five Aikido steps can help you decide.


(For those interested in Aikido or the Five Aikido Steps video, visit the Makati Aikido Club website

Mindful learning and Aikido

Posted in health and fitness, learning, martial arts on June 14, 2010 by gohelpyourself

Fujimaki Hiroshi, 6th dan shihan of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, together with Ton Alcantara, 1st dan shihan wannabe of the Makati Aikido Club.


By Anthony O. Alcantara 

Recognizing distinctions. That’s what mindful learning is all about. The same thing taught or done over and over again is meaningless unless you seek out the distinctions that make it fresh, meaningful and memorable. 

 It reminds me of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. And it reminds me of those days when I did those stretching exercises hoping to become six feet tall.  

Today I’m still 5 feet 6 inches. My days of insanity are over, though they still occur occasionally when I’m bored. I’m reminded again that mindful repetition is the way to go.  

Thus I gleaned three key takeaways during Fujimaki Hiroshi’s Aikido seminar recently at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. He’s a 6th dan shihan, or master instructor, from Japan.  

Ton Alcantara feels the heat in the dojo. Participants pay for the excellent Aikido teaching and the sauna service.


1. There are many ways to skin a cat, but there is only one essence of a technique.  

Fujimaki Sensei, lamented that the brown belts who took the exam failed to satisfactorily execute different ways to do a technique. He said it’s one technique, but there are many ways to do it depending on the hand positions, whether low, medium or high.  

It’s not that the brown belts had no idea what Fujimaki Sensei was talking about. They just failed to understand what Fujimaki Sensei wanted to see. Perhaps Fujimaki Sensei’s English is not that good. Or perhaps the brown belts were a little nervous.  

In any case, I was reminded again about finding the essence of the technique. It may be important to do different versions of a technique, especially during exams, but efficient and effective execution borne out of a mastery of its essence… that’s the sweet spot.  

If you break down the technique to its bare essentials and find a way to apply these in a real fighting situation, you’re in much better shape as a martial artist. Sticking to the essence is better than having a fanciful repertoire.  

Ton folds his hakama after a session of "I'll kick your ass if you kick mine" Aikido practice. It's all give and take.


Fujimaki Sensei also taught about keeping your center, which some say is about two inches below your navel. It’s your center of gravity, center of balance. You get your power from your center. Each movement should emanate from it.  

Easier said than done. Sometimes I forget to apply this myself, confident that I’ve done the techniques thousands of times. But mindful movements can help. And I realized that keeping your center is about asserting yourself, asserting your presence in front of your opponent. For me, it’s a new way to think about it.  

Your opponent is trying to do you harm. So you stand your ground and face the threat not with the intention to clash, but with the intention to neutralize the threat quickly and with the least possible pain. Just like breaking your opponent’s arm instead of breaking his neck. Or perhaps breaking a finger instead of an arm, or rewarding him with a cheek with an imprint of your palm and a reddish blush on to go with it, instead of an eye with a very dark eye shadow, whichever seems appropriate at the moment.  

Ton smiles before the camera together with the somewhat unwilling Fujimaki Sensei and his first Aikido sensei way back in college. I think his name is Kozuma.


3. Complacency and pride ought to have no place in Aikido.  

The senseis, or teachers, of the examinees received a gentle reprimand. Fujimaki Sensei said it was the fault of the teachers that most examinees failed to do different versions of a technique he asked for.  

While all the examinees passed, Fujimaki Sensei exhorted the senseis to shape up. Even the simple rituals of bowing and entering the mat during exams must be revisited.  

I guess sometimes even experienced practitioners take many things for granted. Many are tempted to think that the way they do their techniques is the best.  

It’s probably human nature. But Fujimaki Sensei reminded us that complacency and pride are an undesirable combination in Aikido.

So these three distinctions relating to the essence of a technique, asserting your presence, and the danger of complacency and pride have made the seminar valuable for me. And I’m sure many others learned something, too.  


How to choose your martial art

Posted in health and fitness, martial arts on February 9, 2010 by gohelpyourself

This is as close as I got to being an action star.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. They were my idols.

That was a long time ago, and I still haven’t even tried Jeet Kune Do or Kung Fu or any other martial art that Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan studied or practiced.

Instead I became a practitioner of Aikido, which is the discipline practiced by another martial arts hero, Steven Seagal. It’s what I predominantly practice these days. I did practice other martial arts such as Judo, Karate, Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, Kendo, and Pekiti Tirsia Kali, but not as long as I did Aikido.

“So why study martial arts?” you may ask. It’s simply because I like to learn new things. And it’s not because I want to kick ass or have girls admire me for being so manly, although that would be a welcome side effect. Anyway, different people are motivated by different things.

Right now I just want to share some tips for those who’d like to try martial arts. Some people may think they’re too old for this. But that’s nonsense. I know a woman in her forties who decided to learn Aikido some years ago. She is now a black belt and she continues to learn other martial arts as well.

Tip 1: Research.

This is the first thing you would probably do. There are many martial arts disciplines out there. Don’t limit your research to the ones you know.

Aside from finding out more about Taekwondo, Karate and Judo, also check out the lesser-known Capoeira, Pencak Silat and Sambo, to name a few. They all come in a variety of flavors. You may find something that would appeal to you.

When you research, learn the history, philosophy, basic movements, and physical requirements of the art. The internet is a good source of information. Just use Google or

Tip 2: Consider the venue.

Just like with choosing a gym, it’s better to choose a dojo, or a martial arts school, that’s near your home or place where you work.

If you choose Aikido, for example, but the dojo is far from your home, the chances of you continuing your training is low. I had colleagues who quit practicing because they found going to the dojo such a hassle.

Of course motivation is a big factor. If you are really motivated to pursue martial arts training, you will find a way. But still, finding a school near your home is much better.

Tip 3: Interview practitioners.

Knowing what practitioners of a martial art have to say about their discipline allows you to make your own judgments. You will know what motivates them.

Ask them what they like about their martial art, what difficulties they encountered when they started out, what makes them come back for more. Ask them about the inadequacies of their martial art, too. You’ll learn a lot from what they have to say.

Tip 4: See yourself sticking with it.

Imagine yourself practicing your chosen martial art. Do you see yourself doing it for months? Do you see yourself sticking with it for years? Do you think you will enjoy learning the intricacies of the techniques? What will motivate you to keep on developing yourself in this art?

Sometimes, it will depend on your temperament or personality. Imagining yourself going through the rigors of training can help.

Tip 5: Try it.

Of course, the best way to know if a martial art fits you is to try it. Observe a class first. Then ask if you can join a class or two. You’ll get a feel of what goes on during practice that way. You’ll also learn the group dynamics that occur.

Some teachers are patient and accommodating, but others are not. It’s the same with the students. Others are rough and impatient with newbies. In that case, you can choose another dojo or class.


Learning martial arts can be serious fun. It can instill discipline, promote good health, increase flexibility and strength, improve physical coordination, and teach you conflict resolution skills, practical self-defense moves, and leadership skills. It can even help build self-confidence.

These are just a few of the wonderful possibilities. Keep in mind, though, that there is no perfect martial art. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Eventually some of you would want to learn other martial arts as well, just like I did.

You can actually apply the lessons you’ve learned in one martial art in another discipline. There is always a link. Some principles don’t change.

If you do decide to take up martial arts, I envy you. There’s nothing like coming for practice and learning something new. With the simple tips I listed, you may find a new world of possibilities.

Good luck.


7 survival signs that can save your life

Posted in martial arts on September 10, 2009 by gohelpyourself
(photo courtesy of

(photo courtesy of

By Anthony O. Alcantara

In the Bible, Adam dominated all the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the earth by taking this first crucial step.

He gave them their names.

I have discovered the same thing with martial arts. I learn more quickly if I know the exact terms to use when executing a movement or technique. And even in the psychological realm of self-defense, it’s the same.

Most people can sniff danger instinctively in any situation involving human interaction. A fleeting expression of the face, certain movements, a combination of words… they can mean trouble depending on the context.

Here are 7 survival signs that I’ve learned from Gavin De Becker, an expert on violence and security. Knowing the names of these 7 survival signs may be useful particularly for women and children.

1. Forced Teaming

This is primarily a way to establish premature trust. When a stranger or a new acquaintance says, “We’re in trouble,” “How are we going to solve this?,” “I’m sure you’ll do the same thing for me,” when there is really no shared purpose or experience, it can mean only one thing: That person wants something else from you.

So we should be wary of strangers saying “we” far too often. Rebuffing the stranger may appear rude. But in this case, it’s the right thing to do.

2. Charm and Niceness

We all like charming and nice people. But people who charm you and act nice to you are not necessarily charming and nice. Even serial killers are “charming and nice.” The message is simply this: inherent characteristics such as charming and nice emanate from within and not from explicit acts of the person.

Therefore, we should be wary of charming acts and nice gestures especially from strangers. It’s one way for somebody to quickly build rapport and get their evil way in the end.

3. Too Many Details

Most people who try to deceive others simply give away too many details. It’s similar to kids lying about their whereabouts to parents. They say they are at their friend’s house because they have to do a project, and that they have solicited the help of a friend’s brother, and that the teacher expects them to submit an excellent project because they had low test scores in the quizzes, and, not to mention their other classmates are doing the same.

Too many details. It’s as if they’re trying to convince themselves.

A person with evil motives will do the same thing. He tries to make small talk and tell you details about a sick cat, problems with the plumber, busted cellphone, etc. The person is a stranger. That’s the only detail that matters in this context.

4. Typecasting

Watch out for strangers who, in an effort to make small talk and build rapport, tell you that “you appear to be too snobbish” or “you don’t seem to be the independent type.”

He’s trying to bruise your ego with little insults, which you can readily refute by, guess what, acting the way he wants you to act. He is manipulating you. The best way to react is to simply stay silent.

5. Loan Sharking

A stranger offering help without you asking may simply be a kindly person. But watch out for other signals. Someone with evil intent expects something greater in return.

Motive should always be on one’s mind. If you are hesitant about letting a stranger help you with your heavy bags, you can always say no politely.

6. Unsolicited Promise

If, for example, a stranger says, “I promise,” when you appear to be doubtful, he is simply trying to convince you of something. A promise is no guarantee.

Filipinos may not be fond of saying, “I promise,” but words that indicate an unsolicited promise to do something, or words that unduly compel you to give in may indicate evil motives.

A rapist tells his victim, “I promise, I will let you go. I just need to wash up.” That’s scary, and that’s not going to happen.

7. Ignoring the Word “No”

When a stranger ignores your “No,” it is a means to control. You know the feeling. It’s as if the person is imposing something on you, and it irritates you.

If a person doesn’t seem to understand the word “No,” just think that he is trying to control you and that he has motives that you can only guess.

One thing that struck me when I learned about these survival signals long ago is that they are often used by people we know… our loved ones, friends, bosses, colleagues. But they don’t usually have evil motives.

Two important things here: context and intuition. My examples illustrate a certain context. But along with context, intuition plays a key role. It always tells us something. It may just be a trivial thing, but it can also be a matter of life and death.


Pressure points

Posted in martial arts with tags , on July 22, 2009 by gohelpyourself


Some useful pressure points.

Some useful pressure points.


By Anthony O. Alcantara

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by how Kung Fu masters can paralyze their opponents with some precise finger jabs on some pressure points. Their opponents were helpless. And I thought it was cool.

When I got older and gained some experience in martial arts, earning a black belt in Aikido, a blue belt in Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, and having several years of experience in Judo, Pekiti Tirsia Kali, which is focused on knife-fighting, and Kendo, which dealt with sword fighting, I realized that there are hundreds of pressure points you can effectively use.

But then, not all pressure points are created equal. Some are difficult to find. Some don’t have an effect on others. Some require considerable skill and force in execution.

I’m going to share with you some of the pressure points that, in my experience, are 1) easy to find, 2) requiring little or minimal effort to attack, and 3) very effective when used for self-defense. And I’m going to show you how to attack these pressure points. Though I don’t wish that you use this knowledge someday, it may come in handy. You can never tell.

1.     Temples – Attack the temple with gusto using the big joint of your middle finger when you form a fist. The big joint should protrude a little as shown in the picture. Punch the temple with the protruded joint. You can also grind it on your attacker’s temple. It’s painful. Try it on yourself if you don’t believe me.

2.     Eyes – I’ve never met anyone who can resist an attack in the eyes. Poke them with your fingers, or use your thumbs to try to gouge them out. It will be painful and distracting for your attacker.

3.     Ears – The eardrum is a sensitive thing. It can pop with sudden pressure. You can slap the ear with your hand, with the commitment to pop the eardrum like a balloon. I assure you that it will disorient your attacker and cause him a lot of pain if done correctly.

4.     Maxilla / Nose – The maxilla, or that part of upper lip with that groove in the middle, contains some nerves that are sensitive to pain. It can even make your eyes water when struck. It’s the same with your nose bridge. For those who do not know how to punch, the best way to attack this pressure point is by using your head when your attacker is close. A head butt would be illegal in sports, but definitely not in the streets.

5.     Carotid Artery – A cut in the carotid artery will lead to a sudden decrease in pressure in the brain, unconsciousness, and eventually death. It’s that lethal. But we can also use a finger, or perhaps two fingers (forefinger and middle finger), to jab at this pressure point to cause pain and distract the attacker. If we use our knife hand and hit the pressure point with considerable force, we can even knock out the attacker with the sudden change in pressure in the brain.

6.     Base of Windpipe – This is one of my favorites. It can cause a gag or choke reflex when you try to plant your finger or thumb into it. Not even a gorilla of a man can ignore or resist an attack on this sweetspot pressure point. When you are being attacked with a frontal choke with two hands, this pressure point is easy to find and very effective.

7.     Carpals – Attack the carpals with the joint of your middle finger as mentioned earlier. You can knock the carpals to cause sudden pain or you can grind into the carpals to cause even greater pain.

8.     Fingers – All fingers when hyperextended, or bent against the joints, are painful. The best fingers to attack are the pinky finger and the ring finger. They are the weakest fingers.

In my experience, these are the eight pressure points that are most useful and effective. When your attacker gets near you, use these pressure points to distract your attacker, inflict him some pain, and give you a chance to get away.

With these pressure points, you may never get to paralyze your attackers like a Kung Fu master. But you get to live another day.