I’ve recently began practicing my techniques, blocking set and kicking sets as well as short form 1 in my very small closet sized bedroom. This may seem counterproductive or ridiculous to some, but it really helps a lot when doing American Kenpo. For Sungadan, it definitely would not work at all. The stances and movement is far too wide for me to make any progress. In contrast, for American Kenpo, it actually helps me keep my form and stances tight and sharp and prevents me from using unnecessary space to do the movements. I find this really beneficial because I have the tendency to do wide large movements if I have the space to do so. Practicing American Kenpo in such a small space does not allow me to practice large movements or wide movements for any of the forms or techniques. I recommend this to anyone who is practincing American Kenpo or anyone who is practicing another martial art that requires small, close to the body sharp movements in each technique. Please leave comments! Let me know how this works for you: what problems do you encounter with this method of practice? What benefits you from working the techniques and forms in this type of space? Are there any other practices that you could recommend? Let me know!

Good luck!


After spending this much time practicing the little that I have learned so far in martial arts, I’m starting to realize how much it affects your mind. I think that while it affects everyone differently, it has a profound effect on each of us, whatever that effect might be. For me, it’s a clarifying, calm experience, the same I experience during those moments of extreme fitness where you’ve just finished X amount of push ups or some other crazy exercise, one you never thought you would be able to complete so much of. You’re standing there, panting and sweating so much the salty sweat is threatening to burn its way into your eyes and yet, while you’re amazed that you were even able to do something like it in the first place, you almost crave more of it. You crave more of that feeling, that almost mind numbing clarity. It’s the same feeling for me with martial arts. I get that quiet focus which, to me, feels exactly like my meditation sessions and my mind recognizes that even though my physical body is in pain at the moment, I’m fine and I can do more if pressed. And I’m addicted to not only this kind of clear mindedness, but also the pain that brings it to me. It’s an odd feeling of not quite infallibility, but more of a possibility.. like anything you want to do is possible. And personally, I think we all need more of that feeling in our lives. That feeling that nothing at all can stop us in the world, that the world may even be working in mysterious ways, working to help us on toward our goals. I’m addicted to that kind of feeling. And, of course, it may just be that my body and mind are addicted to the endorphins that are being released every time I do this, but there is something to it. Something about it that feels a bit more fulfilling. Just food for thought. I leave you with this awesome quote from a book I really love. I definitely recommend it to those who like reading philosophical fiction about the journey to self discovery and life, etc.

When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
(The alchemist to Santiago, echoing the words of the old king.)

What is Sungadan?

July 31, 2010

This is a further in-depth explanation of what exactly Sungadan is. Please keep in mind that these are excerpts as written by Mr. Francis C. Blanco (Founder/Instructor) and as such was not written by me. All written below is for information purposes only to inform those who want to learn more about this Martial Art Sungadan and therefore all the credits and rights go to Mr. Francis C. Blanco.

“… Our studio practice the Discipline of Sungadan, ‘The Art of Self Preservation.'” Sungadan is a blend of several empty hand and weapon base combat discipline that I have studied since I started training in the Philippines in 1967. Using Okinawan Shorin Ryu Karate as the base art, I incorporated the empty hand art of Awaten Combat Ju Jutsu, Tae Kyon (Tae Kwon Do), Yang Luchuan Tai Chi, Gee Joh Acupressure and Dimmak, and the weapon base art of Filipino Stick Fighting, Filipino Knife Fighting, Japanese Sword Art of Goshindo and Okinawan Kubodu Weaponry intro one system…”

Further Explanations of Each Art Involved in Sungadan/Sungadan Studios::

“Sungadan: a small fishing village in the llocos region of Northern Philippines. It is a place where people put Love, Peace, Respect, Honor, and Commitment to Family above anything. Sungadan ( literal meaning “Entrance”) is chosen for the name of the art, to symbolize the student’s entrance to the secrets of martial arts.

Karate – Shorin Ryu (Kobayashi Ryu): an Okinawan form of martial art which focus on strong traditional movements. It is an art that covers the long combat range with kicks, punches and hand strikes. It also covers the medium combat range with blocks, elbow strikes and knee strikes.

Ju Jutsu- Awaten Combat: Awaten which literal meaning “Take it” is the basis of our Ju Jutsu philosophy of “Take what you opponent gives you, and let your body dictate what technique to use.” It is a system that employs extensive use of the triangle principle of leverage. It covers the short combat range with different types of joint locks, chokes, throws, take downs and ground grappling techniques.

Weaponry- Filipino, Okinawan and Japanese: We teach weapons to cover the extreme distance of combat range. We teach the Filipino Balisong or Butterfly Knife Fighting and the Filipino Arnis or Stick Fighting. We also teach Okinawan Kobudo such as Tonfa, Sai, Nunchaku and Jo (Bow Staff). We also teach the Japanese Sword Art of Goshindo and Chanbara.

Tournament Training: Sungadan Studios is well known in the Open Martial Arts Tournaments in California, Arizona and Nevada. We have several instructors and students that have won World, National and Local Level Competitions. We teach techniques that turn average students into Martial Arts Champions.

Fitness: We believe that fitness is a foundation of any martial arts. We use Tai Kick Boxing movements in our Adult Warm-Ups. In our junior warm-ups, we use traditional and sparring techniques. In our Little Warriors, we use exercises that improve motor skills and coordination.”

Yes, I stole this saying from ” The Karate Kid AKA Kung Fu Kid AKA Kung Fu Dream,” but the saying does actually exist.  This saying describes my current state in martial arts quite well in that, I am now practicing everything I’ve learned in an almost obsessive sort of way. Because I’ve noticed since I’ve learned a few techniques, stances and one form, coupled with conditioning I find that I really want to perfect each of them. This, of course, is encouraged by the fact that Mando refuses to teach me anything new until he thinks I am comfortable with the things I know currently. Therefore, I am sufficiently obsessed with practicing each stance, technique and the one form wherever I go including but not limited to : the bathroom (mirror is helpful!), my bedroom, the shower, my office, the garage, the pool, the backyard and sometimes if I think I can pull it off with enough subtlety, while waiting in line. There is something infectious about martial arts that I can only compare to the likes of a religion or more familiar for me, acting. I hope that I can reach new heights in this discipline and become graceful, controlled and if possible, wise. :]

Tonight I learned Short Form 1. This form is a series of right and left neutral bow stance movements in basically a circle doing a series of blocks as learned in Blocking Set 1. In short, it’s kind of difficult to wrap your head around if you aren’t used to moving around in odd ways smoothly…which I’m not.  That being said, this was hard. A form is not like a technique. It’s more like a combination of stances and techniques where you combine stances and techniques in movement. This gets you used to moving in a certain way that’s much more applied than a technique. Really, the movements feel awkward and if you’re uncertain, which I am, they look incredibly stiff. So, I’d like to take a second to picture myself moving not so gracefully around the floor looking stiff and uncomfortable and most likely sweating as Mando will have had me do the form over about a thousand times since I can’t get my feet right and my blocks look wrong or my body ends up facing the wrong way.

Yes, this happened frequently throughout the night and by the time it was over, I was pretty drenched in sweat with that metallic-like taste in my mouth that many will associate with “what happens when you’re about to pass out?” Yeah, that.

Anyway, I’ve learned my first form so congrats to me!

I’ve begun meditating before each new martial arts lesson or conditioning session in an attempt to clear the clutter in my mind. It’s not the easiest thing to do as my mind works at a million miles a minute and the moment I think I’ve started to achieve stillness and calm, I’m grasping at another thought. Despite the business of my mind and seeming impossible task of “turning off” so to speak, I do occasionally achieve the stillness I hope for. This is what happened last night. It’s strange to think of achieving this task as so simple, but for some reason, after a bit of stretching and a few exercises to get my nervous energy out, I simply sat down and meditated for 5-10 minutes until I was called up for the martial arts lesson. No thought went into how I would execute my journey to calm. I just sat down on the floor, legs crossed and inhaled. Exhaled. Then the next thing you know, ten minutes gone and it’s time for my lesson.  Not all to surprisingly, my lesson was much more focused this time after meditation. It seems to calm me down and bring me into a weird sort of space where I’m here in the present and yet not and yet floating on stillness. It’s a foreign feeling, but a great one nonetheless and it definitely improves my lessons and the quality of my concentration. I seem to be able to grasp the techniques and movements better after a good meditation session as seen last night. If you want to meditate, but you’re a completely twitchy person like I am most days, try doing some intense cardio or weight training before you start your meditation so you aren’t twitching around on the ground like a lunatic. This really helps to calm me down prior to meditating. After meditation, you will feel much more focused. Might also help with writers block, etc. Good luck!

So tonight I learned the following two techniques:

  • Sword of Destruction (Opposite of Delayed Sword)
  • Deflecting Hammer (Deflects Right Kick)

I also learned much about the Neutral Stance and how it can be done anywhere in any direction and will always be generally the same aside from the direction your facing. I discovered that the Neutral Fighting Stance can be done using a Bamboo Staff in between your feet with your front foot’s toe touching the bamboo staff and the your back foot’s heel touching the staff. This is a great tool to use to help practice the neutral fighting stance, neutral stance on an angle and attention stance. If you don’t have a bamboo staff, you can just use any long stick-like item you may have around ( ie. broom, mop, or even a long cord or string). I cannot express enough how helpful this will be in gauging where your feet need to be positioned and how to transition between attention stance into a neutral stance or a neutral fighting stance on an angle. To be honest with you, although I am pretty happy I was able to learn the two new techniques tonight, I learned more practicing the neutral fighting stance and shuffling my feet as well as the importance of using your free hand to “cover” your other hand.

When I say “cover” with your free hand when doing a technique or a form, what I mean is if you step back with your left foot into a neutral fighting stance and deflect a kick with a downward block (using your right hand) as seen in Deflecting Hammer, your left hand should be covering your right hand that is blocking the kick. The act of covering is done by holding your palm face down either above or below the hand you are acting with. Meaning, in Deflecting Hammer, since your right hand is doing a downward block, your left hand is covering above your right. This is meant to guard against any other attacks that might come at you.

I personally find the neutral fighting stance and the act of “covering” more insightful than the techniques themselves at the moment. I feel this way because they both go well with the idea that martial arts is the act of fighting without fighting, or fighting by not fighting. The idea that you are, again, mastering yourself and practicing self control and not mastering or controlling others. The proof is in the covering and defensive stances. I also find it more important to learn these as they teach you to always be prepared for those “what if” situations which, let’s be honest, is what we’re really training for, right?

As I learn more and more about martial arts, American Kenpo in particular (though I’m sure it’s something many other martial arts share), and the various idealistic values that go along with it, the more I realize how much emphasis is put on respect and humility. From the way you stand, address and greet your instructor (physically and verbally), put on your uniform and belt (belt direction), to all of the pledges you are made to memorize with each belt advancement until finally your black belt when all of the belt pledges should be fully memorized and recited during grueling tests on forms/karas, techniques, stances etc. It makes me reflect fully on how these things will affect and shape me as a person.

I realize now I pay more attention to the respect of other martial arts and I am learning that there is no superior martial art only, it seems, superior martial artists. I am realizing that martial arts is not about the control and submission of others, but the control and mastery of yourself. It is a test in extreme physical and mental discipline that tries your patience, your body’s endurance, strength and capacity for pain, and most of all, your dedication and determination to better yourself and continue this until you can’t anymore. Martial arts and the mastery of yourself is a lifelong journey and I feel it can only be reached through the utmost humility and consistent dedication. Pledging yourself to a life of martial arts in any style/discipline is a choice you make about how you will live your life each day and how these pledges and lessons you learn will reflect your actions and choices made in your life.

It makes me a bit nervous to realize I’ve made this choice for myself, but I do so without hesitation. There is some level of wisdom and calm and most definitely a level of focus and balance that I want out of this for my life. I am so frequently in a state of nervous turmoil and hysteria being thrown around life. I want to stride forward with the greatest balance and focus so I may accomplish all the things in my life without fear of failure or rejection, a compassionate and accepting heart, and a calm confidence that I may reach my goals if I am consistently diligent in my determination to learn and improve til the day I die. Because, to me, that will be a life well lived; one that is full and left with no stone unturned, no opportunity left without careful consideration and all the compassionate heart in the world to aid humankind, the world, wildlife, etc. To look in the mirror and smile knowing I can say I’ve done all I can and mean it, wholeheartedly and true.