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An Interview with Rafael Kayanan

Rafael Kayanan - Sayoc - Featured image

Tuhon discusses Frozen Lake Metaphor

In our feature story yesterday, we talked about going beyond the Frozen Lake metaphor and really exploring the theory and study behind this unique martial art practice. We had a chance to ask Tuhon Rafael Kayanan a series of questions about this teaching and how his students, including Kensi and Deeks have used it to help them through some challenges times. Here's what he had to say...


We would assume most martial arts have a mind/body component. But are metaphors like the frozen lake what make Sayoc different from other martial arts?

I would define it more like Sayoc is about emphasizing the study of how the mind works. What filters it, why it allows some sensory and motor stimuli to affect it, and not others. Nothing in martial arts occurs without thought; even uncluttered minds required looking within and observing habits and logical biases. Utilizing metaphors benefits the Sayoc student because it asks them to bring some energy back to the class. It forges the whole class, the instructor and future classes when students are willing to engage the mind as much as the physical. Sayoc does not want to encourage becoming a physical threat without learning how to humble your mind as well. Humility is a sharpened ego.

imageHow does Sayoc teach students about the frozen lake and what can they learn from it?

What drills do we put our minds through to prepare us for a frozen lake? First is interaction through dialogue, communication is key with Sayoc. A licensed Sayoc instructor is not someone who attends a bunch of seminars or watched dvds - who sits in class and checks off "to do" lists. They evolve mind and body with the system. They become part of a tribe of mixed backgrounds and life experiences. Each Sayoc instructor has been part of a never ending process of looking how the lessons of a high art or an art of consequences applies to who they are and where they will be.

If a new Sayoc student asks when they will get a rank or how do they become an instructor, they are already telling you more about what else they need to learn besides getting a piece of paper to frame next to another piece of paper on the wall. As soon as your pen touches the check off box on your "to do" list you are patting your lazy self on the back -- great job for a job yet undone. The box is a cube and you're building pyramids. The value of Sayoc is never on what happens on the training floor, what title you give yourself on your website or a big shiny trophy. The certificate of Sayoc is the world you create and how you've positively affected others. You earn your rank with every breath and every moment you spend on the planet. Because when the frozen lake is there in front of you, it will be too late to try to figure out you are even standing on one if you've been too busy polishing your failure formulas.

Rafael Kayanan - Dave KalsteinWhat does the frozen lake symbolize in Sayoc?

What’s wonderful about a tv show like NCIS:LA is that the symbolism can be shown as it is. The viewers have been part of all the characters’ journey. Every writer, every crew member and especially the actors bring them to life.  So the symbolism of the frozen lake for Sayoc is not different from what Kensi and Deeks discuss. A longtime viewer of the show knows each character so well that I bet they can tell you what their idea of Sam’s or Callen’s frozen lakes are too.

imageHow is it used in teaching? How are students expected to apply this information mentally and physically?

Often in between sets of physical drills you can find an instructor relating shared experiences, developing discussions and adding a different training modifier by showing how the physical drill is really also a formula about human behavior. Any physical behavior is applied mental command. It can be applied by a muddled mind or a clear mind; it’s your fire.

imageCan you offer any typical examples that are used when teaching students?

You can apply it on a micro or macro scale. For example, a micro scale is pointing out that perhaps trying to go as hard and fast on a drill is about a student’s frozen lake to look like a high speed knife expert, but the actual point of the drill is accuracy. Applying one’s desire for speed and power to every drill is not exactly performing good reps… just very, very fast and powerful Frankenstein ones.

We’re wondering if Kensi’s dilemma is typical of what students would be taught to deal with when learning about the frozen lake. Did Kensi apply the teaching correctly?

Yes, that’s the macro level or how the drill in class becomes a metaphor for life. The character Kensi is a metaphor. She makes choices, and she desires the similar things many people do in their lives. Whether she is right or wrong depends on how Deeks handles it as well. We can do something for ourselves that is right, or right for the other person or right for all involved. Every move is correct until the next move tells you it’s wrong.

imageWhen Kensi was telling Deeks about her frozen lake it sounded a bit negative, but when the Gurkha described it he put a different slant on it making it sound that if used properly they would both get what they wanted. Is it a matter of discipline (the mind over the heart) as the Gurkha tells Deeks? Is discipline a key concept?

Discipline is a major part of the concept, but discipline often means punishing and obedience. In this case, Thapa (the Gurhka) is referring to looking at what you are really getting yourself into. What are the consequences? Are you thinking beyond what happens if you get what your heart desires? If you do, then perhaps you wait till spring and row out to that lake and apply the one good rep that life allows you for that situation.

When the Gurkha tells Deeks how to cross the frozen lake, he says:  Do not run, stop to look at everything and take your time. Are there other ways as well?

Yes, but that’s for Deeks to show us isn’t it?

Have you ever faced your own frozen lake and without getting personal, can you tell us what you learned?

Sometimes the lake wasn’t frozen at all. Sometimes the lake is warm and the land is frozen.

imageTell us about your own frozen lake in the Comments section, or tweet us @wikiDeeks #myfrozenlake. A big thank you to Rafael Kayanan for taking the time to answer our questions and helping us understand more about the frozen lake teaching in Sayoc. We look forward to seeing him work his magic again as fighting tech advisor next season on NCIS: Los Angeles.

All photos courtesy of Rafael Kayanan and

About Diane (427 Articles)
Founder, Writer and Contributing Editor of wikiDeeks. Always wanted to put together a talented team of writers and graphic designers who loved NCISLA and Marty Deeks in particular! My dream came true! Hope you enjoy what we have created!

1 Comment on An Interview with Rafael Kayanan

  1. Reblogged this on Carrie and commented:
    My apologies if I have reblogged this already, but re-read this again and forgot how good it was. Great insight from Tuhon Rafael regarding the Sayoc Kali system. Even if you’re not into martial arts or NCIS, it’s an intriguing and short read regarding what Sayoc Kali does and how it be beneficially for the mind and body on and off the training mats.


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