The Full Circle Connection Between Jujitsu and FMA

Prof. Vee and Powell The FMA and Jujtisu Connection

Filipino Martial Arts or “FMA” for short, are the cornerstone of weapons study in Full Circle Warrior Arts.  My main study of FMA stems from the Serrada Eskrima style Founded by Grand Master Angel Cabales (October 4, 1917 – March 3, 1991).  I studied under Master Khalid Khan who was master #13 directly under GM Cabales.  I trained with him for 9 years before leaving Los Angeles to move to Phoenix, Arizona.  In Phoenix I met Master Michael J. Butz whom I studied another 3 years with.  Under Master Mike I was given further understating of my Serrada training as a bladed system, not solely stick.  This opened new worlds of opportunity to unlock the potential of the art.

In a very “full circle” sense my study of FMA has led to greater understanding of my roots in the martial arts. You can trace my jujitsu lineage directly to Dr. Florendo “Vee” Visitacion , the founder of Vee-jitsu-ryu jujitsu system. Dr. Vee was grew up in the Philipinines and learned Arnis as a child. In his later years he would return to his cultural roots and pursue further study of FMA eventually founding Vee-Arnis-Jitsu. His earliest student was the legendary Dr. Moses Powell (June7, 1910 – January 4, 1999) who taught my first sensei Soke Chaka Zulu as well as Hanshi Anton Muhammad. The jujitsu that Dr. Vee taught was laced with his early martial art experiences. At first glance of “pure” FMA one might not see the connection. The further you delve into FMA theory the more you start to see the correlation.

Jujitsu and FMA both stem from the understanding of blade work. Jujitsu has never been simply a grappling method, although that aspect is wildly popular these days as it was in the 20th century in the form of its off-shoot, Judo. Rather it is designed as a last line of defense against an opponent armed swordsman. The traditional motions take blade awareness into account. However in the modern training this is still evident and found if one knows where to look. Modern FMA styles tend to be “stick” oriented, preferring the cylindrical theory of rattan over the original blade theory of old. As Master Mike always said, stick comes from blade, blade doesn’t come from stick. The blade is there waiting to be unlocked by the right instructor. Two disparate blade oriented cultures, in my experience, came to many of the same conclusions. The differences in methods tend to be cultural and practical (e.g. armor vs no armor, katana vs bolo). There is a gap there that is easily bridged should you have serious study of both methods.

 

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Reiki as the calm during the storm

Reiki as the Calm During the Storm

Today, while going through some personal adversity, I turned to Reiki to calm myself. My heart was racing and my thoughts focused on the worst aspects of my situation. I went and grabbed what I call my “Reiki cheat sheet”, this contains notes I have on healing and the Reiki symbols. I find constant review of the symbols aids in my “digesting” of them, much in the way I still practice my martial arts basics on a regular basis. The keys to all are in the basics! I cleared my head and accessed the universal Reiki energy. In doing this I envision and experience an opening in my crown chakra that brings energy down through the heavens. It’s akin to a cloudy sky suddenly opening up to reveal a bright sun behind. I’ve never spoken to other practitioners about this so I’m not sure it’s the same for them. My actual experiences with energy work precede Reiki, however my attunement made the access and process much more refined and powerful. From there I decided to draw the Reiki power symbol (cho ru kei) on my heart chakra. My heart was hurting and I felt it could use the draw of power. On top of this I drew the harmony symbol (sei hei kei). Sei Hei Ki helps with emotional and mental harmony. In this case I needed purification and protection. Finally, to bind this all, I drew the distance symbol (hon sha ze sho nen) in the air. “Distance” in this case doesn’t mean physical location, rather it refers to time. My hope is to heal not only the future but the past as well.

When I first started the healing I was rather cold and had just put on a sweater. Within 60 seconds of completing my final symbol I was burning hot and had to strip down to my teeshirt. I could feel a flood of healing an calm descend upon me. Did my troubles suddenly disappear? No, not completely. However, what did transpire was the actualization that everything can and will be ok. My worry turned into acceptance. My pain subsided to an unaffected level. I was able to carry on normally and centered.

Just a short Reiki story that was very powerful to me.

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How to Choose The Right Martial Art and the Right Teacher

Students Training -How to find the right martial art and he right teacher

When it comes to selecting a martial arts instructor or a martial art, it’s not always an easy task.  In this day and age there are dozens of martial arts and an abundance of schools to choose from. While you are never married to staying with any class you decide to visit,  your first experience with any martial art or instructor should be a positive one.  Ideally it should result in you wanting to stick with your choice.  There are few important things to consider before visiting a class for the first time or meeting with an instructor.

First and foremost, think about why you want to learn a martial art. Ask yourself the question, “What do I desire from my study?”  I fully believe that there is no wrong answer for this but it’s good to know what you are looking for just the same.  Even if you just are looking for a fun social activity that will get you in shape, knowing your goals will allow you to select a school or instructor that will help you meet them.

Here are some common reasons for wanting to start martial arts:

 

  • Self defense
  • Physical fitness or “getting into shape”
  • Social activity
  • Engaging in competition
  • Building self discipline
  • Wanting to train with a particular instructor you met
  • Studying a cultural activity
  • Any combination or all the above

 

Whatever motives you have for beginning martial arts, make sure that the school or instructor you select will be able to support them and help you progress. Many martial art schools will tell you that they offer everything,  that they are complete, and that they can meet any need. While this can be true, more than likely they will have a particular emphasis. Some schools specialize in competition, whereas others focus more on fitness and self defense.

Some arts have a particular “purpose” attached to them — Brazilian Jiu Jitsu often draws people who want to compete and who are looking for a social way to get in shape and discipline themselves. Karate often appeals to people who enjoy bettering themselves through hard work and self discipline, whereas some arts, like the Filipino Martial Arts, offer a more casual approach that appeals to people seeking immersion in a particular culture and social gatherings.

Once you’ve figured out your reasons for wanting to train, it’s time to figure out where and who to train with. Options range from large commercial schools to one-on-one training in backyards and living rooms, and everything in between. There are great, good, not so good and bad instructors, and there are martial arts that will be suitable for your needs, and some that you just wouldn’t enjoy.

The Commercial School

Usually these schools are a storefront at a strip mall or a standalone building. They will have signage and will unmistakably be a martial art school. People are sometimes leery of these schools because they fear becoming simply another number (and that’s not always without reason), but there are world class instructors who have big schools. A commercial school or academy shouldn’t be ruled out just because it’s big.

See if you can observe a regular class at the level you would be training at, or ask if you can watch a couple of back to back classes so you can see different instructors. Don’t be rude or intrusive but be wary of an instructor who won’t allow you to sit and watch.  Typically, they don’t (or, at least, shouldn’t) have anything to hide but they usually are trying to funnel you into introductory lessons which are designed to culminate with you signing a long term contract.  Long term contracts to train aren’t a great thing to get into sight unseen.

Most martial art schools offer a series of trial lessons that is sometimes combined with a free uniform.  This is always a good deal but will more than likely end with you being asked to sign up for a long term commitment. If you don’t desire a long term commitment then it would be a good idea to steer clear of most storefront schools. Some schools may allow you to request a month to month contract instead, although the price per month may be higher.

Most commercial schools teach traditional or competition martial arts, like karate, Taekwondo, judo and jujitsu. This type of learning environment and the most common types of arts offered tend to appeal to people who are looking for self discipline, fitness, or competition training.

Community Training

The right teacher may be at a community center, YMCA, or completely underground.  Most martial arts instructors aren’t business people.  They are hardworking, passionate and even extremely talented people, but they often don’t have the know-how for the day to day operations of a small business. Unfortunately, sometimes the inverse can be true — there are far too martial arts business owners who don’t have the same level of talent for teaching. While this is a generalization on both sides I will state that I’ve rarely been taught at a commercial school.  Most of my teachers never had a place that they controlled completely.  Two taught in local parks (an advantage to living in Los Angeles and Phoenix).

Check your local parks and rec for lists of classes they offer.  There are always at least one class available.  Also, check out your local Y.  You will find excellent and passionate instructors who are hidden gems.  Most martial arts instructors hold down full time jobs and family.  Their passion leads them to squeeze out a few nights a week to instruct.

Get a referral from a friend who is involved in the arts.  Everyone knows at least one person who is or has been a black belt.  Sometimes that person can actually wind up being your teacher!

Be wary of name chasing.  Not all big name teachers are a fit for everyone. Buyer beware. Some of the bigger names are extremely commercial, whereas others draw people who seek power or other ways to “get ahead.” The environment around some of the more well-known instructors isn’t always conducive to learning, so always make sure to research, research, research. Know what you’re getting into.

There is some conventional wisdom to choosing an art by body type.  Long legs? Try a kicking art like Taekwondo.  Stout and short body? Try a throwing art such as judo.  I find this approach to be too limiting to a student’s potential experience, though. Feel free to explore and challenge yourself.  Also, not all areas are inundated with martial art teachers. Some areas might only have one school, and in that case, you either have to be willing to travel, or you have to be willing to work with what you’ve got.

Final Considerations

When it comes time to finally go and train for the first time, let your gut guide you. Your initial inclinations (and misgivings, for that point) will rarely be wrong. Do what feels right — your martial arts training should restore, rejuvenate and build you up, not break you down or make you feel worse. If it feels right, it probably is. Challenge yourself with your training, and always seek to meet and surpass your goals. If you aren’t seeing or achieving the results you desire from your training, it might be time to reevaluate and reassess what you’re doing and why.

Don’t do more than one style or train with more than one teacher at a time. It can be tempting to jump around from art to art, but until you form a solid training base, you won’t be able to benefit from cross training. Of course, that assumes the art and instructor you’ve chosen are a good fit for you, your needs, your goals, and your reasons for wanting to train. Never feel as though you have to stay with a toxic instructor or one who isn’t meeting your needs, but also be certain that you’re not continuously making excuses to “move on” because you’re being challenged past what you’re used to. Be loyal to your instructor but don’t be blind Don’t be afraid to move on when or if the time is right.

Above all, have fun. Training itself will not always be fun — sometimes it’s hard, grueling and occasionally painful — but you should enjoy the path you’re on and the progress you’re making. When you’ve found the right art and instructor, things will seem to “click” and you’ll feel at home. That’s when you know you’ve made the correct choice.

 

This article written by Alessandro Ashanti first appeared on:

https://www.thisismorpheus.com/2016/09/how-choose-martial-art/

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The Reiki Symbols

Reiki Symbols Stone

While many know Reiki is a powerful healing method, few but the initiated know of the existence of the Reiki symbols that are used to focus that power. The Reiki symbols are characters derived from both Sanskrit and Japanese. While many in the Reiki community consider the characters to be of sacred value, it’s important to note that the characters are not proprietary to Reiki use. Indeed three of the four Reiki symbols have significance in Buddhist philosophy.

Traditionally the Reiki Ryoho (typically stated in English as “symbols”) were passed down from master to student in secrecy. Reiki students themselves were not allowed to keep written copies of the symbols, rather they would need to have them committed to memory. The publishing of the Reiki symbols in print and on the internet is the subject of much controversy among practitioners. Some feel that traditions of Dr. Usui (the founder of Reiki) should be honored while others feel that the characters on their own do not hold power to those who have not undergone a Reiki attunement with a Reiki master.

In respect for my Reiki teacher and own personal beliefs, I will discuss the Reiki Ryoho but will not publish them. They are easily found though.

The first symbol: Cho Ku Rei

The power symbol. A Reiki practitioner would use this symbol to increase the power of their healing. The symbol has many stand alone uses (cleaning negative energy, on the spot treatments, spiritual protection, etc.) and can also be used in conjunction with other Ryoho to enhance their power.

The second symbol: Sei He Ki

The symbol for emotional/mental harmony. A Reiki practitioner would use this symbol for calming the mind or emotions and to promote healing of such areas. The symbol clears emotional blockages, balances the spirit, and heals past traumas.

The third symbol: Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen

The symbol for distance healing. This symbol is used when a Reiki practitioner sends healing to a client who is in another area. The symbol can be invoked to promote healing in the past, present, or future.

The fourth symbol: Dai Ko Myo

This is the master symbol of Reiki and the most power of the Ryoho. It is only used by Reiki masters. It signifies intelligence and wisdom and can be used to heal the soul.

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How to Survive a Street Fight

Full Circle Jujitsu How to survive a Street Fight

I worked as a bouncer doing nightclub security for five years in New York City and San Francisco.  I saw a lot of crazy stuff during this time, though I got out of it relatively without a scratch.  I was a young black belt in my 20s, weighing in at 165 pounds and standing 5’9” tall. Typically I was the smallest of the security staff at the club I worked in, although I had full respect of my co-workers due to seeing me deal with situations.  I was never able to visually intimidate most people.  However, intimidation was never my intent at a bouncer.  I was there to diffuse and (if I’m very honest) to put my training into practice.  During this time I saved a number of club goers from danger, but there were those that weren’t so lucky.  This was never due to any fault of my own; some people are just hell-bent on fighting.  I once saw a one-on-one fight turn into a five-on-one fight in the span of 5 seconds.  The loser was beat to a pulp.  I would bet good money he never forgot the experience. So, if you want to know how to survive a street fight, here are some personal observations from my experience.

 

Don’t get into a fight with a stranger if you can avoid it.  You never know whom you are fighting or what their capabilities are.  You also have no idea the level of insanity the other person may posses.  In all reality, dusting it up over something that can be talked out is just bad for personal business.  It’s not worth it.

Talk your way out of it.  Please take my advice on this one and let your ego be bruised. An extremely low percentage of fights are worth it.  Let someone else think they’ve “won” rather than risk damage or worse.

Should you be unwittingly dragged into a fight, don’t ever underestimate the capabilities of your opponent.  Looks can be deceiving!  Take my example of being small for a bouncer.  I was just as, and sometimes a lot more, effective than my peers who had 100 pounds of weight on me.

Watch out for their friends and even strangers.  There is no such thing as a fair fight.  Rarely will you see in this day and age friends who will let their buddy fight one on one.  Especially if their buddy is the one losing! Always assume that there is a potential second or third opponent and watch your back.  Keep moving, and don’t stand still.  This will help you catch your surroundings.

Get out of there.  Don’t stick around to gloat.  Get to your car or to anywhere that would be safe.  You run the risk of being hurt further or winding up arrested.  You might not be charged with a crime, but the police are well within their rights to arrest people who are fighting and sort it out later in the courts.

Don’t do any more damage to someone than it takes to defend yourself.  Should you find yourself in legal trouble, you will have to be able to prove that your response wasn’t excessive to the incident at hand.  For instance, say you wind up in a fight in a bar and your opponent is on their last legs.  For good measure you wind up hitting them one last time and their head hits the bar railing, killing them. You are now potentially (depending on the local laws, I’m not a law professional) on the hook for involuntary manslaughter.  You can’t at that point in front of witnesses prove that you felt in fear for your life.

At the end of the day, just don’t fight.  If you have to fight, keep good awareness of your surroundings and get the hell out of there as fast as you can.  Don’t hurt anyone in excess to the danger of the situation.

This article written by Alessandro Ashanti originally appeared on https://www.thisismorpheus.com/2016/02/survive-street-fight/

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The Importance Of The Book Of The Five Rings In Modern Times

Miyamoto Musashi | Full Circle Jujitsu | Full Circle Warrior Arts

If you ask a martial artist to name the greatest warriors of all times, among them they might say Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), the author of The Book of Five Rings. Musashi was a legendary Japanese swordsman who is known by having cut down 60 men in his time as a duelist. Far from being the only duelist in Japanese history, what separates Musashi is that he took the time to document everything into the paper in the form of the Go Rin No Sho – The Book of The Five Rings, a manual on swordsmanship strategy.

At first sight this seems like simply another book about martial arts, however the truth is that when Miyamoto wrote the book he was already old and had nothing to lose about revealing his fight secrets. Although a lot of the content is specific to the feudal period of Japanese swordsmanship, there are endless things that martial artists and others can learn from the text. Strategy can be transcendent to context.

Mushashi’s book is divided into 5 different parts:

#1: Ground:

In the first chapter of the book, Miyamoto clearly focuses on the idea that if you want to succeed in combat, you need to have a plan. This is something that you learn in each martial arts style in varying degrees. You need to first study and, only then, fight.

Knowing your capabilities and skills as well as understanding the dynamics of the conflict will help you succeed. Despite not knowing in advance who will win any situation, the better you’re prepared the better odds you have to be the winner.

#2: Water:

Within this part of his book, Miyamoto refers to one of the major difficulties many martial arts have: adaptability. When fighting an opponent, you need to utilize all the tactics and techniques you know and use the best one to defeat your opponent; not the one that you prefer. Before the fight even begins, you need to know what movements you’ll be applying to your opponent and always be ready to change your tactic.

#3: Fire:

This is the part of the book that concerns about being a fierce fighter. One thing is for sure: you may have been trained by a renowned master and be in great shape. But if you lack the ferocity, you will lose the fight if your opponent has only ferocity. You don’t have to be like Miyamoto who never slept or never washed his body. You just need to apply what he said: “The way of the warrior is the resolute acceptance of death.”

#4: Wind:

You need to focus not only on your martial art system but also to study your opponents. And who are they in the 21st century? You need to learn who they are, what they wear, and how they operate.

The lesson behind this part of the book is pretty simple: let’s say that you’re learning karate. You can consider taking Eskrima or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, to expand your horizons.

No matter how much you want to run away from the idea, you know, even though it may be deep in your heart, that combat is animalistic, violent, and simple. You can only understand it and accept it.

#5: Void:

In this last part of the book, Miyamoto explains that you need to focus on 2 different aspects:

— Mental: When you’re with the right mindset, even though you’re in the middle of combat, you won’t have any fear. This doesn’t make you either stupid or brave; it just shows that you were focused on winning. When you study the martial arts as well as you can, when you know all the parameters, when you have a backup plan for any action, you will know what to do.

— Technical: Knowledge and learning are meant to be forgotten. And only when you are able to fully acknowledge this, is that you’ll be ready to fight because your body will move as if it is automatic.

As you can see, the Miyamoto’s The Book Of The Five Rings couldn’t be relevant to the modern era. Yes, things have changed since Musashi’s age. However, all the knowledge and insights written in the Book of Five Rings can still be applied to everyone’s lives.

 

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The Late Night Chase

Car Chase Alessandro Ashanti Full Circle Jujitsu Full Circle Warrior Arts

The late night chase.

22 years ago my girlfriend (many relationships ago) asked me how work was the night before.  I had to think for a second since I had just woken up.  “Hmmm, I had some guys head on the hood of a car and then the police showed up to take over.”, I said to her.  Not a sentence everyone can say about their job.  At the time I had been working as a nightclub bouncer for the last 5 years in New York City and San Francisco.  This gave me invaluable insight into the psychology and physicality of the martial arts.  I had been a martial artist since I was 10 though more seriously since I was 16.  This was and has been my life’s work.  Not all martial arts stories are about how you defeated someone through one on one “combat”.  The following is a story about how I dealt with a car chase through the streets of San Francisco one late weekend night.

When I drive, I’ve always found that my martial arts training applies to how I deal with the road and other drivers. I had one very unforgettable high speed chase in San Francisco in the early nineties. Martial arts strategy helped me out drive a group of four guys trying to do me in.  This was the era of wannabe gangsters thanks in no small part to the popularity of gangster rap.  What the music inspired at the time was every middle and upper middle class kid thinking it was cool to go around threatening to shoot people or giving “threatening” looks outside of the window of a car.  Having grown up in New York City and known actual thugs, this looked ridiculous to me.  Here is what followed that night in San Francisco. I had a group of young very suburban clean-cut types; probably on the swim team, four of them, drive up on me.   The passenger of the car started giving me what they called a “mad dog” stare.  Seeing him with his blonde hair and baseball cap, I couldn’t help it.  I started to laugh.  This was my one mistake.  As I drove off I heard their car start to speed up behind me; sure enough I had given them all the reason they needed to pick their fight with me.  I heard them start to pass, unsure if they had a weapon or not I told my girlfriend calmly that I might have to crash her car into theirs.   They drove up past me.  One of them started to reach out the window with his whole body, something was in his hand but I couldn’t’ tell what.  I swerved the car slightly to the left knocking into theirs on the tail end.  Something hit our windshield from the thrower.  Their ultimate gangster move was to toss a cup of liquid from a red plastic tumbler.  Things then took a more serious note as we started to get into a high speed chase down Church St in the Castro district.  I decided to apply some jujutsu to my driving and lock them into a side-by-side engagement speeding up my car so that they would match my speed.  I then suddenly slammed on the breaks, sending them flying about 50 meters in front of us before they were able to stop.  I sat and waited as one of two things could happen.  They would either have to drive back to me or they would get out of their cars can try to chase me down on foot.  For all I know these kids are now successful doctors or lawyers, however their decision to get out of their car and chase me on foot wasn’t exactly the smartest move.  I waited until they were about ten feet from my car then I swerved around them and took off.  I asked my girlfriend if she could think of the nearest police station.   The other car eventually caught up with us throwing a tire iron out their window.  I found a police car before reaching a precinct.  With the police present it was comical to see the gangster façade on my “assailants” fade.  I was even able to give one of the young men my card (“Martial Arts Instructor”) and ask them to call me so we could work out the damages.  That call never happened directly, instead the driver got his mom on the phone to speak with me.

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Who am I and what is Full Circle?

Professor Ashanti Full Circle Jujitsu Full Circle Warrior a

I’m Alessandro Ashanti, founder of Full Circle Warrior Arts and Full Circle Jujitsu. I use the term “founder” very loosely as I only think of myself as someone who is carrying on the work of several of my teachers. Full Circle was born in the aftermath of politics and has served as a safe haven for myself and my students. Some would call it an eclectic approach, however I’ve never set out to borrow techniques from various styles and then slap them together according to choice. I call this the Dim Sum approach to martial arts (one from column A two from column B). Rather my core ideology is to find where technique and approach is consistent to the core concepts of Full Circle. In all my years I have always remained a student as well as a teacher. I’ve developed an improbably compatible resume of styles through serious study with some incredible teachers. I’ve always strived to learn what my teacher is trying to teach and to limit to the best of my ability what my natural inclination would be while practicing.

Training since 1980 in the martial arts I’ve also earned a 3rd Dan in Zujitsu under it’s founder Soke Chaka Zulu. An 8th Dan with the World Sansei Goju Organization under Hanshi Manny Saavedra, my philsophical mentor for the last 25 years. A 3rd Degree Black Belt in Sanuces-Ryu Jujutsu with Hanshi Anton Muhammad A 5th dan in Jujutsu with the American Jujitsu Association. I have also studied various other styles of martial arts, most notably Capoeria Angola with Mestre Terry Baruti.

Since 2004 I have been in pursuit of “mastery” of the Filipino Martial Arts. I currently hold the rank of Pangalawang Guro Serrada Eskrima under Guro Khalid Khan. Many months after moving to Phoenix, AZ I was fortunate enough to meet Guro Michael J. Butz and began studying Kada Anan Eskrima under him. From Guro Khan to Guro Butz, I transitioned from stick theory to blade theory.

While I currently train under the banner of Full Circle, Full Circle was actually the name of my first dojo. It was a term coined by my teaching partner and senior, “VW”. For me, it has become somewhat of an octuple-entendre. It holds many meanings. In the practical martial arts sense, Full Circle refers to maintaining 360-degree awareness around you at all times. In the philosophical sense, Full Circle means always returning to our beginnings with new knowledge learned on the circular path of life.

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