Feature Friday – Follow Eric Primm NOW

Welcome to my Friday Feature, a weekly post designed to introduce to you some of the best and brightest students at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy (HMAA) and throughout the Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS). I’ll try to illuminate where their success comes from, what brought them to our Academy or into CTS, and discuss some of the challenges they may have faced along the way. If you are training with us yet, perhaps you will see yourself in one of the upcoming weekly features. If not, get on the mat already…

In my previous Friday posts, I have focused on a couple of great individual stories at our school, Tyler K. and Ezara S.. Last week, I presented a group of individuals that have had great success at HMAA, the ladies of the “Fight like a Girl” Defensive Tactics and Awareness for Women (FLAG) program. This week I am going to focus on one of our greatest promoters and almost definitely our best and most prolific blogger, Mr. Eric Primm of Saint Louis Counterpoint (maybe I’ll get a T-shirt out of this?).


Eric Primm (w training knife) with Zach Whitson (w handgun)

I’m motivated to do this by the outstanding output and commitment to writing he has displayed over the years. Just today he re-posted about How to Be a Good Training Partner which he wrote a couple of years ago and it reminded me that he has been doing excellent work for a while now. I also noticed that it is a good companion piece for the article that I wrote last week about Haastyle FMA Training Structure.


So, I’ve been talking to Eric, who I like to call Shakespeare, for a several years about wanting to write more, and starting a blog, more specifically. He said “…you should be writing…” Now that I’m doing what I set out to do, he has been incredibly supportive and

Writing Avengers

Steve – Thor – Tony – Bruce

encouraging . His writing is smart and informative. As an Engineer, by trade, he can bring a more technical approach to certain material then you might see from, say, me. I also think it’s great that he kind of put his journey through CTS out there for the world to see. Here is a good primer about whence he came – How Grappling Led Me to CTS by Eric Primm. Eric has become an outstanding martial artist and watching him go through the ranks has been a real treat. To wit:


being-a-good-writerI highly recommend that you peruse the Saint Louis Counterpoint archives and FOLLOW Eric Primm’s blog (Facebook, Twitter, et al). Note: I have found that WordPress is a really good tool for learning, it’s a great tool for writers and the thing I love the most is they don’t send ANY spam, so when you subscribe you will only get what you ask for. Oh, and if you don’t follow me yet, you should …

See you on the mat! RH


Your Martial Art Life Plan from The Martial Arts Woman

It’s been a month or so playing on WordPress and I’m discovering that there are many good writers out there. I’ve decided to follow Andrea “The Martial Arts Woman” because she is a smart and concise writer, and it also seems like we have much in common. Despite the female perspective (I hope Mindy is reading her posts), she and I seem to share a similar approach to learning and training .

Do you have a plan today? If not get one, you can start by reading her latest

Your Martial Art Life Plan


You’re welcome.

See you on the mat!

RHFight Like a Girl FEAR

Bowie Style

Alternate title:

How a Gay, Ginger, Bonk-eyed, Snaggle-toothed Freak in a Dress Led Me on a Path to Martial Arts Success

We interrupt this blog that is primarily dedicated to shamelessly promoting Haastyle Martial Arts Academy and the Counterpoint Tactical System (<– please visit the website for more details), to address a gaping hole in the universe; the passing of one Mr. David Robert Jones (January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016), always known to his fans as David Bowie. I’m aware that most folks reading these words are becoming ever thoroughly dependent upon ingesting my periodic wisdom vis-a-vis martial arts and fight sport, but this day demands another tactic. So, as I have always known since my formative years, and applied for so long now with Master Whitson, you must do what feels right, and the unexpected output may often be the better choice. I know this to be true in martial arts, so let’s see if it carries over to my writing. Master Z is famous for saying “I don’t know, let’s try it and see,” when asked how he would respond to a particular attack. How will this article be received? I don’t know, we’ll see…

My martial arts training has had myriad  influences, probably starting with the G.O.A.T Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee in the early 1970’s, but, around that same time, I was discovering music. The only thing that has impacted my life more than my training is music. David Bowie was one of the musicians that influenced me, beginning as early as I can remember. I don’t know when exactly, I’m thinking it was seeing footage of the screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo singing “Space Oddity” from the documentary, concert film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars which came out in 1973 (I was 9 years old)?

The influence then became unexpectedly reinforced as I sat with my Mom and Dad, thus gaining their approval, for his legendary performance with Bing Crosby in 1977. Here is the Funny or Die version (a fairly reverential take, btw), lest we suffer from Bowie overload this week.

The early influence was solidified with the revolutionary effects in his “Ashes to Ashes” video (from his 1980 disc, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)) that was touted at the time as one of the first music videos. The song itself,  with it’s ‘death of the zeitgeist’ proclamation:

“Ashes to ashes, funk to funky; We know Major Tom’s a junkie; Strung out in heaven’s high, hitting an all-time low”

This was heavy stuff for a 16 year old who could take or leave the ’70’s. This line alone has had a great impact on my life and, indeed, my martial arts training. Things will not stay what they were yesterday; what you once thought, may not be true; and, with perseverance (and the intrusion of alternative influences), hitting an all-time low need not mean the end of the line.

True influence is only achieved through generations. So as I moved on in my life, I continued to feel the great influence the man, now nattily attired in a white suit, presenting himself as a ‘serious, modern man’, had on me. I’ll never forget putting the record (yes, vinyl) on in my dorm room at Tobey Hall on the first day of my sophomore year. By the time I had to flip the record over, half of the hall was gathered listening to the funk get funky and the great, then pretty much unknown, Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar for Bowie’sLemmy-Kilmister-RIP-2015 Let’s Dance (1983). Admittedly, an album of it’s time, but I met a lot of good friends that day. To be sure, most of those guys would like to see a tip of the hat to another recently passed legend, one, Lemmy Kilmister, a man who has also been an influence.

Moving on to the next generation, an early recordings of Bowie’s, turned up as a favorite for sing alongs back in the day at the Haasienda. One of his first singles, “Love You ’til Tuesday” was on a compilation we had of early punk rock influences called “Alter-No-Daze” (I can’t find a link online, but if I do I will update). My daughter Marissa (now the lead singer of the great punk rock band out of Greenville, NC called No Brainer) and I, used to listen to this on a loop. The Ramones, Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees et al., were punks early influences.  The irony in this song was that, despite what a downer Bowie could be in the ’70’s when I was introduced, this was a very fun, uplifting song, and my kids loved it!

I want to wrap up this incredibly self indulgent post by saying that I continue to update my Bowie collection and have followed Bowie’s ch-ch-ch-changes, literally, until the day he died. ChangesOneBowie, his first greatest hits set, has been on my desert island list for more than 30 years without hesitation, and his new record, Blackstar, came out on his 60th birthday just two days before he passed are the bookends. His previous collection called The Next Day came out in 2013 and started up a bit of a Bowie renaissance for me, as I revisited his entire catalog. Has there ever been someone that has combined music and the visual presentation with such amazing diversity, passion and, don’t be mad bro, success, for so many years like he has?

 “His death was no different from his life — a work of Art,”

Tony Visconti, Bowie’s long-time collaborator

No, Bowie was not my favorite, but he has had a tremendous influence on all of them: Bruce Springsteen, Joan Jett, The Pretenders, Social Distortion, REM, Nirvana and Frank Turner, just to name a few.

I could never do justice to a eulogy, so if you need more, check out this great article from one of my favorites sites, Consequence of Sound, David Bowie Lives! The Cunning Exit of a Post-Modern Lazarus.  It provided the final push, and inspired me to go this route with my writing today.   I also thought this was funny – God Finalizes Supergroup Lineup ; or maybe he had a divine plan, according to this article in The Telegraph (sounds English), David Bowie’s last release, Lazarus, was ‘parting gift’ for fans in carefully planned finale.

David Bowie made me understand that I should think outside the box, that I should question what I have been presented, that I don’t have to (and maybe I shouldn’t) be today, the same as I was yesterday and, in his final movement, the finale, if you will, to show grace Under Pressure. These are well known themes that he first helped me with as a child and stay with me to this day, the light of the universe shines ever brighter now that you are among the stars. Godspeed Starman…

Over here on E Street, we’re feeling the great loss of David Bowie. David was a visionary artist and an early supporter of our music. Always changing and ahead of the curve, he was an artist whose excellence you aspired to. He will be sorely missed. – Bruce

“He was the artist who had the most influence on me, both musically and personally. His courage and fearless creativity was a model to follow. I didn’t know him well, but I will always love him. He was supportive, and lent his help, when it meant the most. There will never be another like him, and the world will not be the same without David Bowie.” – Joan Jett

You were the single flame in the center of it all.
Thank you David
X chrissie

His music got me through a troubled childhood. He provided joy, imagination, and escape. His phrasing when he sings, his poetic and stylish lyrics…this man shaped thousands of boys and girls who went on to be their own rock stars. Thank you, Mr. Bowie, for the special gifts you gave all of us. – Mike Ness

Right now, it feels as if the solar system is off its axis, as if one of our main planetary anchors has lost it’s orbit. That said—I am certain that wherever Bowie is now—I want to be there someday. —Michael Stipe

RIP Bieber


See you on the mat! RH




Friday Feature – “Fight like a Girl”

Welcome to my Friday Feature, a weekly post designed to introduce to you some of our best and brightest students at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy (HMAA) and illuminate where their success comes from, what brought them to our Academy, and discuss some of the challenges they may have faced along the way. If you are not yet a member, perhaps you will see yourself in one of the upcoming weekly features.


“Fight like a Girl” January 2014

In my previous Friday posts, I have focused on a couple of great individual stories at our school, Tyler K. and Ezara S.. This week I am going to focus on a group of individuals that have had great success at HMAA, the ladies of the “Fight like a Girl” Defensive Tactics and Awareness for Women (FLAG) program.


The Haastyle Martial Arts Academy “Fight like a Girl” – Defensive Tactics and Awareness for Women is designed to empower teen and adult women to understand that they can fight back and “win” specifically in cases of attempted assault or rape. By using the martial arts principles of prevention, awareness and easily learned, natural body movement, we will make students safer. In turn, this will allow them to lead happy, confident and more productive lives with their families and the community at large.

We run FLAG two or three times a year at different times and sometimes at different locations. We have had groups at the local Busy Body Fitness Center and the Jewish Community Center in recent years. The curriculum is culled directly from what I learned training Zach Whitson’s, Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS). CTS is a real world street survival system with it’s roots in Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). As a generally Keep Calmdiminutive people, training in the Filipino way is suited perfectly for women that want to stand up and fight back. The techniques used are not dependent upon muscle and the training does not focus on “killer instinct” (something that would take years and years to develop). Conversely, the abilities stem from use of natural motions and staying calm in difficult, possibly life threatening, situations. On top of the physical training we also include extensive discussions about awareness and prevention throughout the sessions. Any time a specific question comes up, we encourage group discussion. Attendees are also encouraged to speak privately with me, or Mrs. Haas (who has been through the training more than anyone) if they so desire.

I have a few people that I want you to meet:

1496825_705676162806010_421962995_n (2)

Olivia age 11 & Barbara P. age (I’ll never tell)

Olivia started training at HMAA as a Little Dragon (ages 4-6). At age eleven, she has been one of our youngest participants. We use frank language in the program which can be inappropriate for certain age/ maturity levels, but as someone that had been around for many years and, with the trust of her parents (her Mom participated in our PTA one-night course), Olivia was able to gain a new perspective on personal safety going into middle school thanks to the defensive tactics and awareness taught in the FLAG program. In the above photo, Olivia is training with Barbara. I met Barbara in one of my Yoga classes, she has participated in FLAG several times. Given her advanced age, she found some things more challenging than others. I always say, “do what you can and don’t worry about what you can’t.” The system allows for changing your mind if the motion does not come naturally to you at first.


Samantha S. (age 18) & Josie D. (age 13)

Meet Samantha and Josie (pictured above). As a busy teenager Samantha had to deal with many distractions while participating in FLAG. She attended the workshops with her Mom, and despite her social calendar pulling her this way and that, was able to feel more confident as she was entering her college years. Just two months ago Sam returned to brush up before moving to San Diego to start a new chapter with her boyfriend. Josie was one of my most capable young leaders before moving away to Orlando last year. The two of us put together a nice demonstration using the principles of “Fight like a Girl” back in 2014:

Fight Like a Girl FEAR

I encourage you to keep an eye out for future Haastyle Martial Arts Academy’s “Fight like a Girl” Defensive Tactics and Awareness for Women.  You can register on my website to stay up to date with our next event. Whether it is for you or the women in your life that you love, everyone comes away safer, stronger and more confident after participating.

Until then, I’ll see you on the mat! RH

Don’t Start in the Middle – Haastyle FMA Training Structure

Have you ever walked up in the middle of a conversation and listened just long enough to know you are never gonna figure out what’s going on? I certainly have, and it’s always frustrating, ’cause I likes to know stuff.

Good talk Russ

Fun fact: My Dad used to call me “Rusty”

Does this happen in your training? When I develop my lesson plans for our classes at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy (HMAA) there is a fundamental structure that I like to use to insure that everyone in class, of all skill levels and learning abilities is on board from the start. Everyone may not get everything, but everyone is gonna get SOMETHING.

The majority of my classes at HMAA are open to all skill levels and even though my staff is there to help, it is important to me that they get something out of the class as well. My general class structure begins with basics, moves toward attribute training/ technique, then what I refer to as “theme assault” and finally sparring. Take a look at my class structure and let me know if it can help you with your teaching or training.

Part I: Train the Basics

ba·sic – the essential facts or principles of a subject or skill.

Naturally, I always open class with some form of a warm up. Yes, there will be calisthenics, but this is where I lay the foundation for that days lesson. More often then not, I will hit my trusty Ringside boxing timer and start up some footwork to warm up the legs. For some footwork variations, check out Eric Primm’s Footwork Friday archives. Almost anything we do in the Counterpoint Tactical System  (CTS) is gonna require some understanding of how to move your feet, so I am constantly checking to be sure the students are going somewhere with their footwork, not just stepping. Based on the lesson of the day, we might add sticks and/or knives, or maybe just stay empty handed while we move. I’ll call out basic strikes to go with the footwork to warm up our arms and, more importantly, focus the intention of the students for that days lesson. Many of my students arrive directly from their hectic lives, so basics training serves to get them mentally on the mat. And yes, calisthenics on the breaks between rounds.

Part II: Attribute Training

CTS is a tactical training system that relies on the development of reflex actions or attributes. Master Zach Whitson the founder and senior practitioner of CTS, using a computer analogy, says that we want our skill sets to be hardwired as apposed to software.

at·trib·ute – a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of someone or something.

Our attribute training is done mostly through drilling with progressive resistance from a partner. Techniques that can be used to “finish” the progression are often included in this section of class. The focus remains on the attribute though, as the “finishing” technique is of no consequence given the failure of the attribute.

Here’s a brief demo of Bryan and I showing – drill -> attribute -> technique progression.

“True knowledge is a state of being.” – Stephen Covey

(author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”)

Cant handle the Truth

Part III: Theme Assault

as·sault – make a physical attack on.

As we progress in class we include “theme assault.” Theme assault is basically combining two or more drills to begin (or hone) the spontaneous movement that allows various attributes to connect. This is the most frustrating transition for my students. In undisciplined practice, theme assault looks like bad sparring.Break Concentration The student that has not used the initial parts of class to focus their intentions, now feel. like they. walked in. the midddddle. of. the. connverrsaaationn.

I am Jack’s… complete lack of surprise… 

I see bad footwork, bad body mechanics and, typically, a frustrated partner. Point being that you can not push your students into the deep end of training. Theme assault should entail just that; whatever the theme is, plus, add a thrust, add a low line, add third hand, whatever it may be, don’t be THAT guy.

Part IV: Sparring

spar – verb – present participle: sparring – make the motions of boxing without landing heavy blows, as a form of training;
engage in argument, typically of a kind that is prolonged or repeated but not violent.

Now we can argue the definition of sparring, but the bottom line is a) it’s not fighting and b) it’s just another platform for learning. So it’s time to play. We no longer say “it’s your turn” or “it’s my turn”, just go. Now, depending upon skill level we can take it as far as we want. We can retain the theme, empty hand, knife, stick, ground et al, or we can go all the way to juego todos as we call it, meaning, “play all.” Hell, I’ve been known to throw sticks and knives out on the floor during empty hand sparring. You can also add take downs and ground tactics to the whole deal. At HMAA we work hard to keep the energy as close to the initial attribute/ technique training as is possible. We train to relax, not kill, kill, KILLLLL, but that is a source for another discussion.

Get on the mat, work your game, and go through the progression. Begin class by getting your mind on your work so you don’t “drop in” on your partner later in the session. You will get better, develop more confidence and learn the truth, Ruth (I get paid extra for each Sam Jackson reference…)

See you on the mat! RH

Choosing the Right Martial Art the “Rumsfeld” Way

Today I’m taking a look at the decision making process for choosing the correct martial art for you and your family. Many years ago, in response to a reporters question, then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld gave a brilliant answer that has gone down as one of the most glorious examples of double talk in history. He is essentially breaking the strategic process of choice, into three categories:

  • known, known’s – things you know
  • known, unknown’s – things you know that you don’t know
  • unknown, unknown’s – things you don’t know that you don’t know

Here is the press conference bit:

It’s a classic, you’re welcome. I’m going to add one more that follows through the full spate of the logic:

  • Unknown, known’s – more on that later

Mr. Rumsfeld’s attempt to use this logic as a means to appear smarter and talk down to the reporters (he failed) notwithstanding, the logic is sound when attempting to make important decisions like bombing other countries or choosing a martial art.

I am going to stick to my own experiences in training, and as a school owner at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy since 2003, in giving examples of where these four fundamental understandings can be helpful for you. Know it allFurther, I’m going to focus on the two biggest variables; the art, and the instructor. Your personal goals and the way you learn, will also be of utmost importance. There are many other things including, but not limited to; the facility location, the facilities cleanliness and amenities, your finances, those of the facility and, of course, the collateral damage of your bombing. Wait, no, don’t bomb the karate school (unless you are Ted Cruz, then well, you won’t be happy until you bomb something), just don’t bomb the karate school… please…

The Known, Known – My approach to the known, known is simplicity. Do you like things to be simple (not easy)? The two arts that I have trained that come to mind are Muay Thai and Cacoy Doce Pares (CDP). Both are what I would call sparring systems; your progress is going to be achieved less through memorizing vast, progressive curriculum, and more through one on one, face to face sparring. Of course, every system must have the sparring element firmly embedded (more on that later).

Muay Thai front kick

Muay Thai – two fists, two elbows, two knees and two kicks = highly effective fighting art

Personally, I feel that the “full contact” nature of Muay Thai becomes untenable at a certain age, whereas, CDP can be trained you whole life, witness SGM Cacoy still sparring into his 90’s. I’ll find a good example and place it at the end.


The Known, Unknown – Many systems/ teachers will be the first to tell you that their training is going to take you to a certain point and no further. My American Kenpo instructor Manny Reyes Sr., for example, would always teach me the weapons techniques from that system (specifically the blade responses) and be quick to point out that the entry must disarm or control the weapon, if not, you must not continue. You must admire a teacher that knows what’s missing. I feel that most systems do not even try to be competent at all ranges (weapons, feet, hands, stand up grappling and ground). I want you to try to find a system that attempts to develop all of these ranges AND addresses the concept of multiple attackers. Having said that, the systems/ arts that know that they are not complete can often be a good place to begin training given all other considerations.Einstein smart

The Unknown KnownNow, you may remember, that this is the point that I added to the Rumsfeld dynamic. The unknown, known can fall in to two distinct areas for me. First you have the set up where an instructor is proficient but lacks the ability to teach the material. This can best be seen displayed in sport martial arts schools (MMA, Tae Kwon Do, Judo et al). In the competition scene there are a few schools that are noted for putting good players on the mat as instructors in exchange for tuition. It can be difficult to succeed under these circumstances, especially for youngsters.

The second unknown known is far more dangerous. This is the DVD trainee, someone who thinks they know, but have never really worked the  viewed material with a proper training partner. It is far better to know what you don’t know then to not know what you know. I know… try to keep up.

The Unknown, Unknown – This guy can be the most DANGEROUS. Stay away from coaches and trainers that think they know everything. Those guys that carry a belief system of arrogance that shelters them from outside learning. I’ve met a bunch of these guys over the years, “keeping it real”, as Chris Rock says, “yeah, REAL dumb.”

Chris can be offensive to some so, it’s up to you…

 So, naturally, this brings us back to the sparring concept. The BEST way to find out what you don’t know is through sparring. Virtually every single one of my Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS) brothers and sisters has gone through that sparring session (mine was with Zach Whitson, the founder of CTS) where we discover that we have so much unknown, so much to learn. Addressing the concerns about not knowing is a common trait that I see in my friends that are advanced martial artist’s. You simply have got to WANT to know, and that will lead you to the training. Then you have to humble yourself and get in there. As they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Find a teacher with a thirst for knowledge.

When choosing a martial arts training facility for yourself, or member of your family it is a good idea to have some ideas about what it is that you want. It is also very important to be open to knowing that you do not know all that is out there. All reputable schools will give you an opportunity to try some classes for little or no investment (we offer one week FREE), to allow you the chance to see what you may not have seen before.

Now You understand

There’s no way that I wasn’t going to have a Star Wars reference this week…


Get out there.

I’ll see you on the mat!

Guro Russ Haas

As promised (a lot of folks watch SGM Cacoy and find out a whole bunch of stuff they didn’t that they didn’t know):

Feature Friday – Ez-E

Welcome to my Friday Feature, a weekly post designed to introduce to you some of our best and brightest students at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy and illuminate where their success comes from, what brought them to our Academy, and discuss some of the challenges they may have faced along the way. If you are not yet a member, perhaps you will see yourself in one of the upcoming weekly features. We started just last week with an introduction to one of our Youth Phase II students, Tyler K.

This week I want to introduce to you my good friend Ezara–Ez-E (pronounced E-Z-E) as I call him. He contacted me for the first time, as I recall, way back in 2008. We exchanged several Facebook messages through the Miami Cacoy Doce Pares page . Ez was unable to begin


Here’s me with Ezara and Bryan circa June 2014

training with me for a variety of reasons until 2011. I always use him as one of the examples of getting in to train when you are ready. This should not translate to eternal procrastination, just realistic expectations of time, finances, and desire.

I have students come to me for all kinds of reasons: health and fitness, the search for a hobby, and, of course, the desire to learn some form of personal protection. Ezara is one of THE most motivated students who has ever come my way, partly because he was the victim of a terrible assault that landed him in the hospital, and almost worse. Prior to reaching out to me, he had done a tremendous amount of research: he knew a bit about the Cacoy Doce Pares (CDP) system and found the best instruction in South Florida at HMAA. It turns out we had a common background. We both had trained extensively in Bruce Lee’s, Jeet Kune Do and Ed Parker’s American Kenpo Karate. The funny thing is, Ez actually came to me to learn CDP, a deceptively simple, easy-to-learn system that we train primarily for close quarters blunt weapons. We teach CDP in our youth classes, as well as having it as a main part of our Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS) program.

Here’s Ez-E, early last year, as he was preparing for his blue belt test in Counterpoint Tactical System…

Ezara is in his 50s, keeps himself in good shape, is happily married, and travels up from Hollywood as often as three times a week to train with me privately. He works as a professional musician with a nightly gig as the piano man at Runyon’s in Coral Springs. As a musician he needs to look after his hands, so HMAA training is perfect for him as we train safe 100% of the time. He’s awesome–so for crying out loud, put some bread in his jar. Like so many of us, Ezara has had some financial challenges through the years, but has always maintained his personal commitment to be able to protect himself should he ever be attacked again. Ez has very bad knees as a result of spending his younger days “on the boards,” amongst other things, so over the years we have had to modify some of the tactics to accommodate that limitation.

Well, it’s four plus years since Ez started training with me. He is a good friend, confidant, and training partner. He has helped to make me a better martial artist. Ezara was awarded his 1st degree black belt in Cacoy Doce Pares in October 2015 and is a red belt in CTS. Congratulations, Ezara, on your diligence and dedication to training. You are a fine example of what can be accomplished by a student in our adult program at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy!

See you on the mat…

Russ Haas

FMA Training with Music Will Make You Better!

bob_marley__you_feel_no_painSo we begin this week with an expansion of one of the points that was made in last weeks post “CTS is NOT for Everybody…”, if you haven’t read it, check it out. One of the points that I made was that the Counterpoint Tactical System (and Filipino Martial Arts training) may not be for you if you don’t like music. Now, of course, this is an over generalization, it’s clear, when we get together, that many of my CTShello-is-this-thing-on brothers and sisters are not only tone deaf, but one might wonder if they can hear any music playing at all? Yet somehow they still manage great success in their training. As for me, “it sure helps m’trainin’ when the right tunes are a’playin.” There are a couple of elements of my solo practice, and in group classes at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy, where I feel that music has been particularly useful by improving the process, and thus improving the results. That’s what we’re all about, right? Give a few of these ideas a try and let me know if you get the feeling.

Warm-up – The first thing that I do when I step on the mat to begin class is turn on some upbeat songs and this is the only instance where I, personally, will put up with “pop” music. Yeah, I’m taking one for the team here, although, truth be told, I have used this tool when training alone. It’s easier for everybody to get going on the mat when you transition with something you may have heard on the radio on the way over. It’s got to be something upbeat, maybe something that you can sing along to (in your head, I mean, nobody, nobody wants to hear you singing on the mat… **cough cough – Shaun – cough cough**. We’ll get some footwork done, maybe some push-ups, sit-ups, etc. 10-15 fifteen minutes, for me, that’s about my tolerance for this type of music. Here are some good tunes that we have used over the years for this purpose:

  1. Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5 (when they were tolerable)
  2. Poker Face – Lady GaGa (before she became the Queen of England)
  3. Misery Business – Paramore (a guilty pleasure)

“Pop” warm-up fails include Adele, Maroon 5 (new stuff), and ANY country music recorded this century.

Solo Weapon training – Every FMA practitioner spends a good bit of time where it’s just you and your tools. Many of us have weapon racks and displays where we keep our tools/ toys. In CTS and most other systems there are many striking patterns and defensive tactics that are to be practiced on the regs, in an effort to stay sharp (a bit of blade humor there for you). In my training, I always begin with straight up curriculum and work up to freestyle, sometimes going back and forth. I’ll grab a weapon and start to play, I use the music to give me queues. The music will tell me to speed up, slow down, change my timing, or change my weapon. For this type of training, I listen to drum music. Drum music can come from all over the world, in my collection, I have several Japanese taiko drum groups, Scottish, German, African, native American and several Latin drum groups. This type of music tends to vary rhythmically in tempo and time. The use of different percussion instruments and the sturm and drang nature of it can change what you are doing in an instant. Back in the day, I used to workout with Jason Bonham (yes, THAT Jason Bonham) and I was always hoping he would give FMA a try, alas, I did get his son in for a while, but never him. Here are some great drum corps that I listen to:

  1. Fushu Daiko (far and away my favorite)
  2. Wolgemut (German/ renaissance style)
  3. Albannach (Scottish drum corps)

Double Stick banging

“I don’t like to hammer out some nice sinawali’s to hard rock music.”

said no FMA player ever…

At HMAA, all of our Cacoy Doce Pares classes begin with pengke-pengke. For this double stick practice I reserve our best hard rock/ old school punk music. The slamming guitars and super fast tempo lends itself to pushing the pace, forgetting about the minutiae and, above all, don’t stop. The only problem is many of the songs won’t fill a two or three minute round, anyway, go, go, go!

Here are some of my faves:

  1. Bad Reputation – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (THE best)
  2. Run to the Hills – Iron Maiden
  3. Ring of Fire – Social Distortion (I love Johnny Cash, but this is the one you want)

This music is also great for pad work, oh, and, listening to every day…

Doce Pares sparring – Zach Whitson (the founder of CTS) and I always have some music on when we train. The best is when we throw some blues or reggae music on and spar in the way of Supreme Grandmaster “Cacoy” Canete. The chilled out vibe of some Buddy Guy or Muddy Waters blues records, I mean CD’s, I mean MP3’s; or the cool riddims of Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff or, of course Brother Bob really set the tone for a relaxed feeling of the movement of “Cacoy”. Try these:

  1. Peter Tosh – Live & Dangerous: Boston 1976
  2. The Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters – Live at the Checkerboard Lounge 1981
  3. Cyndi Lauper – Memphis Blues (2010)

For me music is as much a part of my life as my heartbeat or breathing and training is as much a part of my life as music, so let the music move you in more than your heart and your head.

So if you’ve come in off the street
And you’re beginning to feel the heat
Well listen buster
You’d better to start to move your feet
To the rockin’est, rock-steady beat
Of Madness
One step beyond!


Like Brother Bob says “one good thing about music, when it hits you you feel no pain.” For a bunch folks who are used to getting whacked with stick all day, well, that’s not nothing. So take advantage of the heavy heavy monster sound. Get on your feet and take your training ONE STEP BEYOND!

See you on the mat!



Friday Feature – Tyler K.

Every Friday, I will try to present one of our outstanding students and share how martial arts has assisted them with their success in life. In doing so, you can take a look at something from our video archives. I will  share bits and pieces of the Haastyle Martial Arts Academy, Little Dragon’s (Pre K-1st grade), Youth Phase I (1st-5th grade beginners), Youth Phase II (4th-7th grade advanced) and Teen/ Adult Programs. Our curriculum is derived exclusively from Zach Whitson’s Couterpoint Tactical System

Today’s video features my buddy Tyler “Derpy McNugget” K.. Tyler is a very bright boy who will celebrate his 10th birthday next week. He has been training with us for about three years now.


Tyler has been using martial arts as an outlet for his great energy and enthusiasm and to control his, sometimes, impulsive behaviors. His parents Patty and Rick are very supportive of our efforts at HMAA to promote Tyler’s enthusiasm and provide the discipline that he (and all children) needs to be successful in all his endeavors. His sister Sofia is currently on our awesome yellow belt team.

This video is from April 2015 and shows Mr. McNugget demonstrating one of our junior orange belt ground tactics requirements; “around the world”. Our youth Phase I beginner’s focus on escape first on the ground, and learn basic controls. At the Phase II level we are more focused on getting comfortable moving around on the ground while looking for control’s and escapes. Go Tyler!

As you can see, control-move, control-move, we even add some striking in there as a reminder. This was taped on the same day Tyler learned it for the first time. He knew all the positions and began working on his transitions from one to the other. You should see him now!

How’d he do?

See you on the mat!

Russ Haas

>> and Tyler will probably be there too!<<

CTS is NOT for Everybody…

Hey folks! Here’s my first shot at posting via Word Press so, I hope it makes you laugh, makes you cry and maybe makes you wonder WHY? Sheesh, I’m already Dr. Suess; thanks for reading, here goes…

So often, I find myself presented with questions like:

“What is the Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS)? “CTS Crest Hi res crop

“Can everybody do it?”

My responses run the gamut from “Are you looking to start training?” – “YES”; “Are you willing to do something great for yourself?” – “I want to, buuuut…”; “Are you willing to give it a try?” – “WHEN ARE CLASSES?”

You can do it

All that is really all that is needed for success in my program at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy is; 1) the desire and 2) the follow up action of getting on the mat. From that point on any reasonable person can see what CTS has to offer. The high percentage of people that do not follow through, and the sometimes STUNNING reasons why, are a subject for another article.

The premise of this article touches on possible reasons why someone that may try a class or two doesn’t follow through. It’s time to come clean; I’ve decided to put the truth out there:

The Counterpoint Tactical System is NOT for everybody!

Do NOT do CTS if…

  1. You need more drama in your life; you definitely should not be training in the Counterpoint Tactical System if you are the one who is alwaysSweet georgia looking for something or someone to bitch and complain about. CTS practitioners tend to stay cool and focus on the positive improvements that the training brings.
  2. You believe in “no pain, no gain”; the CTS training model is designed to build you physically from the ground up. Initially balance and stability are the focus of the training through the development of proper footwork. Check out my friend Eric Primm’s site for his regular Footwork Friday posts. Punching, kicking, wielding a weapon and evading all of these things are the foundation that we build upon. Do not practice CTS if you need to leave class bruised, battered and broken down to feel fulfilled.
  3. You like a “varied” wardrobe; yeah, well, like it or not, you will likely spend the rest of your days wearing tactical or cargo pants/ shorts and some type of black (maybe grey on “fancy” day) t-shirt, day in and day out (**except for you Val**). If you’re all about the traditional pajamas and belts, CTS is not for you.
    Counterpoint Tactical System first generation black belts circa 2013. L-R Kevin Wagner (Dayton, OH), Brian Brown (Atlanta, GA), Russ Haas (Boca Raton, FL), CTS Founder Zach Whitson (Charlotte, NC), Josh Ryer, Joel Dougherty & David Curet (Pittsburgh, PA)
  4. You need to do jump spinning 360 kicks; just NO…
  5. You need to keep every belief that you previously had about martial arts; most CTS students have had more than one strongly held belief about martial arts, and martial arts training methodologies disproved after practicing our “open training model” with progressive resistance training for a while.Are you serious
  6. You want to rest on your laurels; while CTS is still in its formative years as a system, it stands that training is an institutionalized part of the culture. From the top down, with CTS Founder Zach Whitson as our inspiration, virtually every, CTS black belt trains almost every day.
  7. You can’t embrace change; CTS is an ever evolving system that will change with the times as any, relatively, small group culture is prone to do. It will change as you age, it will change with improved teaching methods and technology. The CTS practitioner is never set on “cruise control.”
  8. You don’t love to laugh; it stands to reason, if you are going to spend so much time with your training partners, it has got to be fun. Make jokes; laugh. Make a mistake; laugh. Do something great; laugh. LAUGH, LAUGH, LAUGH… What If I Told You Missing SomethingThat about covers it, but it seems like eight is not the right number though, so let me add the following:
  9. You don’t like to train with music
    One good thing
  10. You have a fear of trianglesor you suffer from rhabdophobia (look it up).
  11. You don’t like to eat your veggieshealth is wealth!
  12. You don’t like the number twelvesee what I did there?

Maybe my next post will be about why we all SHOULD train in CTS?

That’s going to be long one, with a lot… of… words…

I’ll see you on the mat! RH