Tsako, Chako, Chaku

 

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Until recently, I’ve never known nanchaku, nanchuks, or even tabak-toyok by any other name than tsako, chako, or chaku. Ask any man on the streets of Manila and more often than not, they’ll identify them as such.

I was surprised to learn that it was a tool used by Filipino farmers. “Really? I’ve always thought that they were weapons, from China!”

Master Cris said that in Davao, they would dry rice grains in the sun for several weeks and then thresh them with tsako.

My friend Eli, an agriculturist working at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,  confirmed it but said that farmers no longer use tsako now. Farmers now have threshing machines or if not, they use the traditional but easier method of “threshing grains with their feet.”

Anyway, he tried to demonstrate how to thresh with tsako but because of my zero farming background, I couldn’t visualize it.

Now here’s serendipity: One day I was in a bookstore leafing through a Tagalog Bible comic book about Gideon, the Mighty Warrior of Israel when I saw an illustration of him threshing grains using what looked like a tsako!

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Image Credit: ICI Ministries

You hold one stick and flail the other one against the grains!

I don’t know if it was just a Filipino illustrator’s rendering of the Biblical account, “Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress”. Do you suppose ancient Isrealites had tsako as well?

Anyway, what’s important is I now know more about this farm tool/weapon.

That, I believe, enriches the experience of training with it.

 

 

 

 

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There is always something there to remind me

“This is not good,” I told myself. “I probably should go back to Filipino Martial Arts training soon.”

You see, I was in a church service tonight, and was only vaguely hearing what the pastor was saying because I was so distracted. First, it was the pen in his shirt pocket.  I thought of the long list of  lethal moves I could do with it. Then his microphone, another long list. And then the mic stand….

I’ve burned out and it’s been almost two months now that I’ve pulled back from FMA training and all other related activities. (Check out my earlier post I’m tired of Filipino Martial Arts.)

During this break, I realized that I can’t completely shut off FMA. Remember that catchy 1960’s song “There is always something there to remind me” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David? It’s true of FMA.

I go to a book store and spot a knife book.

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It’s kitchen book alright but that hold can very well be ours. IMG_20141111_160309

I go to a hardware store

IMG_20141112_132131and find walking sticks

IMG_20141112_131139and knives.IMG_20141112_125920And don’t let me get started on the mall’s kitchen section: weapons are just too many to mention!

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IMG_20141112_123925I sit at a doctor’s waiting room and get mesmerized by the pens and scissors on the secretary’s table. I eat lunch and remember the farmers’ bolos cutting palay.   I see a flag and think of Lapu-lapu, Andres Bonifacio, and Diego Silang.

There’s really no escaping. FMA is and will always be a part of my life and unless I want to think of lethal moves in church again, I better start getting small doses of FMA soon.

We’ll see what happens.

I’m tired of Filipino Martial Arts

Sometimes, even I find it hard to believe  that less than two years ago, I didn’t care a bit about Filipino Martial Arts. I didn’t care because I knew next to nothing about it. Sure, I knew that Arnis (as Filipino Martial Arts is popularly called here) was the Philippines’ “new” national sport replacing sipa, and that it used sticks as weapons. But that was it.

Now if you let me enumerate all the things I love, FMA would be easily included. It has helped me become fit and healthy and confident. It has introduced me to worlds that I never knew existed before.

FMA made me happy.

But somehow these past few weeks have been different. I seem to have lost the spark. The excitement and hunger diminished and the emotions were no longer raw. Whereas before, I looked forward to every training session, reveled in it, and then went home only to read and watch some more, now even my FMA Facebook remain mostly closed.   I’m bored, uninterested, and tired.

My rational mind labels this weariness as burnout.

burn.out

:the condition of someone who has become very physically and emotionally tired after doing a job for a long time (Merriam-Webster)

Well, although my case is probably mild, I know that that’s what I have. And because I know the diagnosis, I also know the cure.

I. need. a. break.

That’s why my sticks and blades quietly rest in their cases now.

In the meantime, I rest, run, and do strengthening exercises. Sometimes though,  when I do arm exercises I long for my weapons…

But the longing is not enough to make me take them out of their cases. Not now, not yet.

I’m on vacation.

A-good-vacation-relieves

I’m sure I’ll eventually come back.

But for now,  I rest.

Karambit

karambit

“What’s that, a can opener?”

“No… it’s a… neck opener, haha!”

That was an exchange between two of my arnis friends when I recently showed them my new karambit training knife.

“Well, it’s a neck opener alright… and an eye gouger, tendon cutter,  etc., etc., “ we said with a chuckle as only martial artists would considering the gory scenario.

Anyway, I got interested with karambits because my blogger friend, Fia posted hers. And then during the latest Arnis Pasindo tournament, KAMAO’s combat demonstration used karambits.

So, I ordered one from Grandmaster Rodel Dagooc. I think it’s a bit large for me but Master Cris said it’s fine for training purposes.

karambit
Full Length: 7 1/2″ Handle: 4″ Long, 3/4″ Thick Blade: 3″ Long 1/4″ Thick Materials: Aluminum ( Blade ) , Kamagong ( Handle )

Anyway, Master Cris said that karambits are similar to the curved and traditionally bigger blade, the sanggot.

He added that when he was still in Davao, they used the sanggot to harvest coconuts, cut palay, and chop banana tree trunks for pig feed.  The curved blade lessened their wrist fatigue. They usually used the foregrip and did not hook their fingers into the finger ring.  The ring was mainly for the cord they tied to the scabbard on their waist.

Anyway, how did my first day of karambit practice go? Totally enjoyable!

Here I am practicing six different grips.

Karambit grips

It felt familiar yet new. Familiar because it’s a blade and I know blades but it’s new because the curve, the two edges, and the ring allowed different technique applications.

Master Cris added a brief warning:“Be careful with the finger ring. It can prevent you from dropping your karambit but if you don’t watch out, it can also fracture your finger.”

Okay.

On with my moves…

SLASH! HOOK! PUNCH! JAB! PUNCTURE! CUT! RIP!  The karambit felt like a claw and brought out my animal instincts! Cat woman, Arnis version!

Grrrrrrrr!

Totally cool, I must say. Oh yeah!! 🙂

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Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance. Pugay!

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A tree fell on my car and gave me an awesome workout

Photo credit: NASA
Typhoon Glenda 2014. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz

The eerie howling of the wind woke me up at around 5 AM. Power was out and although all our windows were shut, it was chilly. “It’s going to be a memorable day,” hubby said (it was his birthday).

The Philippines has around twenty typhoons (tropical cyclones) a year and this year’s seventh, Typhoon Glenda (International name, Rammasun) was one of the worst to ever strike Metro Manila (sustained winds 94 miles/hour with gusts up to 116 miles/hour).

Around 6 AM, the winds intensified and banged our kitchen windows. I kept praying that the glass wouldn’t break. Hubby decided to open the shutters a bit to lessen the pressure but that meant rain entering our kitchen. I was so nervous that I decided to hole up inside our bedroom! There was nothing we could do but wait.

It took another four hours before the howling stopped. Whew!

The aftermath:

Me and my family in various areas of Metro Manila were safe. That’s the most important. I just hoped that when the national reports come in, they wouldn’t be devastating.

Anyway, we looked out to our yard and saw this:

One of the main branches of our decades-old mango tree fell…

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and hit my car!

Typhoon Glenda 2014

Hubby’s car which was parked a few feet away was spared, yay!

At first, hubby’s plan was to borrow or buy a power saw to cut all the branches, but then I remembered one training session Master Cris and the rest of  our group had.  They cut tall grass with their itak. So I thought, “With all these trees to be cut,  why not use my Eskrima training? It could turn out to be a terrific workout!”

“Go, ahead,” hubby shrugged when I told him my idea. Did I sense some amused doubt there? 🙂

Anyway, I got some old socks, cut off the ends and used them to cover my arms, just like how master Cris described what they did when he worked in the farms in Davao.

And then I hacked and hacked with all my might!

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Our neighbors came to help.

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Janet, who grew up in a farm in Tacloban knew how to wield an itak and her strikes were strong and precise. No wonder a lot of farmers are good in Eskrima!

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Good thing only my rear bumper was damaged. Hey, how did that branch get UNDER the car?  P1060579

That’s hubby, the birthday boy.P1060571

We were careful not to get bitten by these!

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We only had these tools but we accomplished a lot.

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It turned out to be a happy, awesome workout for everyone.

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The next day, hubby hired five men to finish the clearing up.

All’s well that ends well.

That was an awesome workout, I must say. 🙂

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.  Pugay!

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To read my post about another terrible typhoon, the worst in modern history, click here. 

 

All that Arnis training and I’m still fat

For more than a year now, I’ve honestly been diligent in my Arnis training. I’ve reaped a lot of benefits like skills, strength and power, optimism, and love for my country. So many good things over the year.

But what really frustrated me was that despite all my exercise, I still gained 14 pounds!  At 5 feet, 4 inches,  I weighed 157 lbs. That’s Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27 (overweight).

WHAT HAPPENED? I think I was so confident that with all my physical exercise, I could just let go of my eating.

I didn’t notice the pounds creep in since my photos didn’t look THAT bad.

Arnis evening training

And then, one day I saw this photo.

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That’s me and my friends taking a boat ride in Batangas about six weeks ago (April 18, 2014.) Look at my belly!

Horrors!

Despite all my exercise, I was I’m still fat! Do you know what my waist size at that time was? I’m ashamed to tell you. Let’s just say that it was way way over the safe waist size limit for Asian women which is 31 inches. (for Asian men it’s 37 inches. For non Asians, it’s 35 inches for women, 40 inches for men.) Or more generally, about half of your height.

Oh alright, I’ll tell you. It was 38 inches!!!! Not only does it not look good but fat inside the abdomen (aka visceral fat) is really DANGEROUS because it envelopes and marbles internal organs.

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Photo credit

Visceral Fat interferes with insulin, lowers good cholesterol, and increases bad cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fat). It significantly increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Scary.

And we all knew that, right? It’s just that for me, that knowledge did not translate to practice. Mea culpa. 

After a few days of feeling down because of that photo,  I willed myself to be diligent about my nutrition as I was with my training.

Author-journalist Michael Pollan articulately summarizes in seven words, what for me is the best eating rule.

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Photo credit
  • Eat food — not food-like substances. That means I’m basically saying goodbye to most processed foods. (But I’m not dogmatic. I can occasionally give myself a treat without guilt. As my 16 year old nephew says, “We need treats for our mental health”. I believe he’s right.)
  • Not too much — portion size is key. Green leafy vegetables–I can eat as much as I want. Starchy vegetables, about 1/4 of my plate. Protein, also about a fourth. Same for grains and fruits.
  • Mostly plants – lean meat is still very much allowed

I don’t like  counting calories and I’m wary of most of the diet programs around.  So I made up my mind to just follow the Healthy Plate recommendation because it’s much easier and more pleasurable to follow.

myplate_magentaAnd thank God, I found this book which really helped me a lot.

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It’s somewhat revolutionary for me because aside from the usual Eat right, and Exercise, the authors also emphasize the importance of  Faith, Focus, and Friends.

  • Faith- pray to God to help you get healthier
  • Focus- have a clear vision of WHY you want to be healthier
  • Friends- find friends who will support and encourage you in this journey

It’s been great so far. I’ve eaten more greens, leaner meat, and healthy grains. And I’ve tweaked some of my eating habits to get rid of sugary food and drinks.  The best thing: I do not go hungry at all. I feel lighter and stronger in my training.

broken stick3

 

As of today, I’m 146 lbs (BMI 25,  just a tad away from normal weight) and my waist size is now 35 inches. Just 4 inches to go, yay!   Pretty soon my internal organs will no longer be enveloped and marbled by that disgusting and dangerous visceral fat.

There’s hope that I can still be a healthy Arnisador onto my senior years. That’s what I want!

How about you, is your belly healthy?

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.

Pugay!

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F=MA

Arnis stick

Force = Mass x Acceleration. And how nice, it’s also Filipino Martial Arts!

Call me a nerd but I remembered that physics equation when I broke Master Cris’s stick this morning.

We were doing Ocho Defensa Tirada drills and I was giving my all. During the first few strikes, I saw some splinters come out of his stick and then suddenly, it broke and formed a “7”. “Na-siete!” exclaimed the boxers who were practicing near us.

I know that I’m going to break more sticks as I continue training but the first always thrills. Afterall, it just means that I’ve come a long way from my weak strikes 15 months ago. Read my blog post about that here.

Anyway,

Force=Mass x Acceleration

The force you generate is equal to the mass involved in the execution of the technique, multiplied by its acceleration.

For our purposes, mass means body weight. The way I understand it is to have much power, have the right form and technique so you can use as much of your body weight as possible and then strike very fast!

I’m flattering myself: I had good form and technique, and was very fast so I broke my master’s stick.

Well, either that or his stick was already worn and brittle, haha!

What do you think?

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Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance. Pugay!

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