Sunday, December 30, 2007

UFC 79: An Exhibition of What I Respect and Despise About the Sport

Last night I watched my first UFC event. What intrigued me most about it is the fact that it really was a tale of two cities so to speak. The best and worst that the sport has to offer.

The grudge match between Rich Clementi and Melvin Guillard thoroughly disgusted me. Not the fight itself, but the attitudes of the fighters. Guillard led the stupidity by walking to the ring wearing a mask in imitation of the Predator. Yes, the one from the movie. He even had the music from the movie playing. What was he thinking?!? Then when Clementi won the fight he told his opponent to "suck on it" complete with gestures. They had to hold Guillard back from attacking him. It's antics like that that denigrate MMA as a sport to the general public.

Fortunately, the event was redeemed by most of the other fighters, particularly the ones from the title fight, George St. Pierre and Matt Hughes. The title fight itself was a pretty amazing display of skill. I was amazed at the range of skills that GSP can use effectively in the ring. The neck throw from his offside was just awesome, not to mention the arm bar he used to submit Hughes.

All that being said, what impressed me most was their sportsmanship. They both hugged after the fight, clearly respectful of each others' abilities. GSP even whispered something to Hughes on camera. Something that made him laugh in appreciation. I would absolutely love to have been a fly on the mat to hear that remark.

Anyway, overall I enjoyed the show. Though I still think Dana White needs to get with the times and add at least one woman fight to the card.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Year's Motivation for 2008

2008 is right around the corner so it's time to start stepping things up and looking ahead to the development of my MMA career. Any time I feel like I want motivation, I like to watch Satoko Shinashi's fight highlight video here. Now here is a woman (a tiny woman at that at 4'11", 105 lbs.) who has an amazing combination of skill, experience and conditioning. Her main disciplines are Judo and Sambo. I have the utmost respect for her abilities.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Training (or Lack Thereof) Blues

Christmas is like a training black void. For the past several weeks, class attendance has be lower due to all the merry-making associated with the season. And this next week will be even worse with my MMA coach gone for a whole week.

I'm trying to make up for the lack of training sessions with my coach by training with various partners I have, but ultimately it won't be as intense. That coupled with all the extra eating and drinking that seem unavoidable at this time of the year, I worry that I'll be set back come January.

For other people in the same predicament, all I can suggest is to take it easy on the food and booze. Indulge but don't over indulge, especially if you have a big event or tournament coming up. And if you can fit in a work-out here and there, even if it's not as much as you usually do, you'll thank yourself come January.

Happy holidays to one and all!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

West Coast Jiu-Jitsu Board Breaking Party 2007

A few weeks ago, you may have read my post, The Truth About Board Breaking, in which I had said that in actuality, it is quite easy to break a single board, with the proper mix of technique and confidence.

Last night, we had our annual Xmas board breaking party at which each student chose a single strike and a number of 1" boards that they would break with that strike. I also write each student's Xmas card on their board as a little festive touch. You have to understand that board breaking is not really something we do in Jiu-jitsu, we just do it for fun once a year at this party.

I am happy to report that every student who came broke their boards, as you can see in the video above, though not necessarily with the strike they had originally chosen. Breaking a single board is largely psychological. If you doubt for even a second that you can break the board, it causes a slight hesitation at the moment of impact that can prevent the break. In a couple of cases, we had to switch the strike to a different one with which the student had more confidence, but the students can ultimately learn to take the confidence from the switch and put it into other strikes in the future.

I would like to say at this point that I had intended to break 3 1-inch boards with a side kick, having broken 2 with a hammer fist the year before. I attempted a few set-ups, but noticed that since I hadn't been training my side kick as much recently, I didn't quite have the confidence to attempt a 3-board break. With 3 boards if there is any mistake or hesitation whatsoever, you haven't got a chance. Plus, I had never attempted to break 3 boards at once.

Instead, I switched to an elbow strike, which in theory, would have less power because it uses an arm instead of a leg. That being said, I had been training my elbow strike a lot more recently due to my MMA training, so the confidence was there, as you can see in the video. So, though it wasn't the strike with which I had intended to break the boards, I was still able to do the 3-board break that I set out to do.

Them's the breaks...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Most Recent Grocery List of MMA Conditioning Exercises

At the end of my past blog post, Stepping It Up: Conditioning for MMA, I wondered whether my coach was serious about the conditioning sessions being typically much harder than the one I had just endured. The truth came out last night.

Here is the grocery list of my conditioning session last night: 5 3-min. rounds of skipping, 300 squats, 150 leg lunges (75 per leg), 200 donkey kicks (100 per leg), 200 calf raises, 3 min. of jumping/ stepping up and down off the side of the ring, 3 sets of 50 push ups in three different hand positions, 3 min. of holding my arms out to the side while gripping a 2-lb. weight in each hand, 100 tricep dips, 50 dive bombers (similar to a tiger push-up), 50 tricep lifts with a 9-lb medicine ball, 50 shoulder presses with a 9-lb medicine ball, 100 arm circles with a 3-lb medicine ball (50 in each direction), 100 sit-ups with a 5-lb medicine ball, 100 twisting sit-ups, 100 leg lifts.

Even though last night’s training session was more intense than the conditioning session that I described in my previous post, mentally, it was much easier. I suspect it was easier physically as well, but it’s hard to judge. And it’s only been a couple of weeks since that session too. Conditioning has always been my least favourite part of martial arts training, but it really is amazing how quick you can make progress with conditioning, much as I hate the process.

That being said, when I cheerfully announced that the conditioning seemed to be getting easier, my trainer told me to expect it to get worse… much, much worse.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cat Fighting Legitimized: The Sex Appeal of Women's MMA

When I decided to get involved in MMA, I knew that a large part of the public appeal is sexual. This is a chance for men to see honest-to-goodness, legitimate cat fights.

Like their male counterparts, MMA women wear very little when they fight, usually just a pair of shorts with a sports bra or a slinky rash guard on top. Either way, very little is left to the imagination. As a result, the men who watch women's MMA more often than not enjoy the sexually suggestive aspect of two scantily clad women throwing down as much as they like the technical excellence (if not more).

I expected as much when I first decided to get involved in this sport. What I didn't expect was how in my face it would be. After I posted my first submission fight on YouTube, I noticed that someone had subscribed to find out when I added new videos. I decided to click on this fellow's profile to see what kind of videos he himself had posted. I immediately found nearly a dozen videos of women doing "submission fighting" in bikinis. I call it submission fighting, but in most the videos the women clearly had been prompted to use more sexually suggestive positions.

I sighed and shook my head.

I know I can't change the fact that men are going to have their sexual fantasies related to MMA fighting but I do wish that women wouldn't be so willing to take the fantasy to this level. It encourages men to see women's MMA purely as a sexual show and ignore the fact that these women train their asses off every bit as much as the men to be best they can be.

The people in the crowd watching MMA matches should be doing so in anticipation of a knock-out or a great submission, not sitting there hoping that in wrestling and pawing at each other the women might somehow kiss, as Seinfeld once said.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Mud and the Blood and the Beer

I posted this vid more for fun, but I do want to make a brief point related to it. Training against choreographed attacks as is customary in traditional martial arts, or training specifically for competitions is all well and good and both have many benefits, but you also have to understand that it can be very different in a real situation, in the mud and the blood and the beer, as my Sensei always said.

Sometimes a lack of training can be made up for with pure rage, which can be overwhelming when you don't expect it. There can also lots of other unexpected elements too, like items in your physical surroundings (chairs, bottles, cars, etc.) or maybe your attacker has friends. You have to keep yourself from tunnel-visioning your focus on your one attacker so you can stay aware of everything else around you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pigtails + Scooter = Strong Woman?

Recently, I had my heart warmed by a comment. One of the guys I train with at my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu school said his daughter said she wanted to have her hair tied back the same way that I do. Incidentally, she said she also wanted to ride a scooter like me when she grows up.

The father had brought his 4-year-old daughter in to watch class because he couldn’t get a sitter that night. After having watched me roll with the guys the whole class, she wanted to be strong like me and therefore wanted to copy every other aspect of me.

I am not a radical feminist, but like most people, I believe in equal opportunities for women. And while I think opportunities for women have increased over the last few decades, the reason why we don’t see more women involved in non-traditional jobs and sports is due to lack of role models. Kids are very influenced by what they see when they are young so if they don’t see any women training in a martial art, they’ll think it’s “just for boys.” Incidentally, BJJ schools are bad for this since so few women train in it generally. I'm the only one at the school at which I train.

Now I don’t do martial arts training for the purpose of influencing young women of the world. I just like martial arts. But if it opens the eyes of 4-year-old girls to the possibility that they too can do what I do, I can’t help but be pleased. The 4-year-old girl’s father was also thankful for the influence, as he wants his little girl will grow up to be a strong, independent woman.

That being said, I can’t help but chuckle to think that that one little girl now associates pigtails with her image of strong women.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My First No-Gi Submission Competition

Everyone wants to know how my first no-gi submission competition went. The video here shows the match. There were only two competitors in my division, myself and Tasia Yim from Team Franco.
So now you're asking, "Ok, c'mon! What were the results?" The results were as follows.

It was an excellent match. We were a good challenge for each other skill-wise and we were about the same height and weight. There were a number of good exchanges in both rounds. An instructor from another school even came and congratulated me, saying that Tasia and I are both very skilled and that we put on a more interesting fight than many of the men's matches.

I personally learned a lot from the experience. For one thing, I learned that even though your opponent is not allowed to grab the pants in a match, I'm better off wearing board shorts. This is because bare skin is more slippery and provides less traction when making guard passes. Also, incidental grabbing can still happen, regardless of the rules. It's not that it's necessarily intentional, it's just so natural to do it under the heightened tension of a match.

Yes, I know. You want to know who won.

We both did truly. After the match, we hugged, mutually agreeing that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. We even exchanged contact info so that we can meet up to train together in the future. I have every respect for Tasia's abilities and I think we stand to learn a lot from each other.

Yes, yes. I know. You want to know who won the match.

The truth is, Tasia was awarded the win for both rounds. The ref told me that if we had been going by the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu point system, I would have been awarded the win. In BJJ, you get points for successful throws, guard passes, and dominant positions. In Submission Series competition, points are only awarded for submission attempts. Of course, in either point system, if one of us had successfully tapped out the other, that action alone determines the win.

As a result, I learned that the only way you can conclusively assure a victory in any competition of this sort, whether it's MMA, Pankration, submission competition or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, is to get your opponent to tap out. That or knock them out if the rules allow it. If it goes to points or judgment of any kind, it's out of your hands and there may be room for debate.

I was told by a number of spectators that they had thought that I had achieved equal to if not more submission attempts in both rounds. Even Tasia herself told me that she thought I had won both rounds. But none of this really matters, of course, because only the ref's judgment counts when it comes to determining victory.

You often hear people bitching about politics, bad match-ups, weight cutting, unfair rules, anything and everything that can theoretically cause an imbalance. With a match like mine and Tasia's, gold, silver, it's all the same to me. I entered this tournament as part of my learning process about the relevance of submission competition in real self-defense. It was also yet another way of preparing myself for MMA ring fighting in the future. But first and foremost, I wanted to have fun.

I got all that and more. I couldn't be happier.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Recovery Time and Its Importance in Conditioning

Last week, I started doing some killer conditioning work-outs with my MMA coach. At the time they seemed brutal and inhuman, but I realized that if I stuck it out, it would get easier. I was amazed that by the next week, I could already feel a noticeable difference in my muscles’ ability to endure an even heavier work-out. But this didn’t come without proper recovery time.

After the Thursday work-out, I was sore for the next 2 days. I would have normally gone to do Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training on the Saturday, but decided to let my body rest another day, until my legs were no longer sore. It helped that there was a major snow storm that forced me to park my scooter until all the snow melted. There was still a little soreness left on Sunday, but I trained anyway. I did, however, focus more on skills training. By Monday, I was fully recovered and I was already experiencing the muscular endurance benefits of that recovery.

So many dedicated athletes train so hard that they end up doing more damage than good. If you don’t allow your muscles to fully recover, it actually causes them to weaken over time. And if you train with your muscles in a weakened state it leaves you more prone to injury. A recovery period is absolutely necessary in order for the muscles to rebuild themselves to provide the strength and/or endurance benefits that are sought. The average recovery time is 36 hours but it can be as much as 48 if you do a particularly hard work-out.

So remember: Pain is no gain unless you take time to refrain.