Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dirty Fighting in MMA: What to Expect and When to Use It

As far as MMA training goes, I covered a number of dirty fighting tactics with Perry Kelly Sensei, though he didn't present it as such.

Perry would demonstrate one technique after another. After each I would ask him, "Is that legal in MMA?" and he would answer, "It doesn't matter. Your opponent is out there to hurt you. You should be willing to do whatever it takes to protect yourself." He explained that it doesn't matter if a technique is legal or illegal. What matters is what you can do without getting caught. And even if you do get caught, you generally only get a warning as long as the technique isn't so devastating that the other fighter can't continue on.

This was demonstrated in the fight between Cheick Kongo and Mostapha Al Turk in the recent UFC 92. Al Turk accidentally (or not so accidentally, it can be hard to tell) struck his knee in Kongo's groin. In the same round, Kongo responded in kind and intentionally struck him back in the same way. His response makes sense if you look at it the way Perry does.

"It can be well worth it to knee an opponent in the groin," Perry explained. "All you get is a warning and while your opponent is still recovering from having the fight knocked out of him, you end up winning the round." If this is the case, Kongo was smart to respond in kind so that the two were fighting on even ground, even though it was a dirty and illegal move.

Perry showed me a few other, very subtle things you can do both standing and on the ground that are questionable for rule abiding fighters. One of these includes doing a horse bite (i.e. a pinch with your full hand) to the flesh on the side of the body. The sharp pain that results can serve as a great distraction as you fight. It is against the UFC rules, but as Perry put it, it only matters if the ref sees it, and that type of pinch is hard to see. And even if he does see it, you would only likely get a warning. You're also not supposed to put your fingers in any cuts or lacerations that your opponent may have, but you see people do it "by accident" all the time in the UFC.

It is good to be aware of what types of dirty tactics people might end up using as they fight. And it can be competitive to initiate the use of dirty tactics, but be warned: If you fight dirty, your opponent will likely respond in kind, just like Kongo did.

My personal message to any of my potential MMA opponents: I will not initiate dirty fighting, but know that I am very capable of fighting dirty. My style of Jiu-jitsu the one I have trained in for 15 years specializes in self-defense for the street in which there are no rules, only results. If you take the fight to that level, I won't hold back.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Training with Perry Kelly Sensei

Before the damage of the indulgent holiday meals could set in from the past week, Chris and I went to meet and train with Perry Kelly Sensei. Perry Kelly Sensei is a 4th degree black belt in Can-ryu, as well as a instructor of Muay Thai, Shamrock fighting, and Fast Combatives. Being a martial arts author/ historian with several books published, he had contacted me earlier this year having taken an interest in my book, Weapons of Opportunity.

What his impressive list of accomplishments doesn't tell you is how, over his decades of martial arts training, he has used an inquisitive and open-minded approach to training to intelligently and effectively integrate his multiple disciplines and training experiences for the purposes of martial arts competition and self-protection. Needless to say, training with him was a fascinating and educational experience.

Chris and I trained with Perry Kelly Sensei for 3 hours, which seemed to go by in a blink. He showed us some very interesting training methods and technical applications, many of which we had never seen before. A number of them, I intend to employ myself. Others, well, even if I would prefer to avoid using them personally, they were certainly effective and gave me things to think about.

The most important thing I took away from our training session was the confirmation that I should make the most of all the various opportunities to learn from the myriad of skilled martial arts instructors that are out there. As Perry himself said, even if you only take away a single concept that you can use and apply from a seminar or other training experience, it is well worth the time, money and effort.

We took away much more than a single concept, but far too much to tell you about in a single post. I'll cover 2 of them in my next 2 posts, one of them relates to MMA, the other to self-defense. The next post will be on the MMA concept, Dirty Fighting Tactics.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have a Merry Ninja Xmas!

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers, as well as my students, training partners, Senseis, etc. Though I've been in Ottawa for the holidays, I've managed to squeeze in two training sessions at the Gladstone Shorinji Kan dojo. I'll also be visiting with Sensei Perry Kelly with whom Chris and I will be doing a little Muay Thai and grappling training. I've also managed to maintain my strength and cardio training for MMA with a little help from Chris. I'm very grateful for all who have contributed to helping me keep active over the holidays.

Please enjoy this cute take on Santa from

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shorinji Kan Meets Can-ryu

This past Sunday, Chris invited me out for dinner with a group of people from his other style of Jiu-jitsu, Shorinji Kan. When he can, he helps out with the BCIT Shorinji Kan class taught by Kevin Eugene on Tuesday evenings immediately after our own class. The students of that class graded over the weekend and they were celebrating their successful testing. The test was conducted by Andy Dobie Sensei, head of the style in Canada, so I got to meet him at the dinner.

Andy Dobie Sensei is a very interesting character with whom I had the pleasure of exchanging training stories. At the end of the night I invited him and his group to come to one of our classes while they were in town. To my surprise and delight, despite the fact that he was fighting a cold, they accepted the offer.

Last night I ran the class and it was good fun. Even though he is the head of his own style in Canada, with nearly 30 years of training experience, Andy Dobie Sensei got on my mats and trained with all my students and did so with a smile. In my mind, this is one of the signs of a true master. He loves the martial arts and takes something away from every experience. He seemed to enjoy his time on the mats, even though I'm certain most of what I taught was not new to him. Coincidentally, he is also going to train with Robert Mustard Sensei tomorrow night, whom Chris and I went and trained with last Saturday.

Kevin Eugene, the instructor of the BCIT Shorinji Kan class, also trained with us. He is getting ready to grade for his Shodan in the new year. I offered for him to come train during our open training sessions on Sundays so he can work with Chris. Though I secretly harbour a desire to throw myself into the mix occasionally so I can learn more of their style.

Anyway, it's been a busy last week of classes before the holidays. Tonight, I fly back to Ottawa to spend the holidays with family. Chris will also be in Ottawa (he also has family there) so tomorrow we'll be heading out to train with his old Shorinji Kan group. It's so nice to be able to keep up the training while I'm away. :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Visit to Robert Mustard Sensei's Aikido Dojo

Chris and I visited Robert Mustard Sensei's Aikido dojo in Burnaby earlier today. We were welcomed warmly and very much enjoyed the training in the short time we were there.

One of things I like most about experiencing other martial arts styles is seeing how certain principles are consistent across all styles. Robert Mustard Sensei's strong focus on "kamae," the stance that is foundational to their style, reminds me of the emphasis we place on stance when applying our own techniques.

In kamae and in some of our own style's stances, there is a groundedness that starts at the legs but influences your entire body's movements. That groundedness makes certain takedowns, throws and joint locks much more efficient so as to make their application seem effortless. It can take many years of training to develop this sense, but when you are able to achieve that groundedness without thinking, you can apply it in a wide variety of situations, and not just ones you are specifically trained to handle.

Robert Mustard Sensei generously offered to visit one of my dojo's classes to teach one night some time in the new year. I believe my students will greatly benefit from the opportunity. I am very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Invitation to Train with Robert Mustard Sensei

As many of you know, I like to learn what I can from a variety of martial arts, not just my primary style. When I can, I like to expose my students to instructors of other styles of Jiu-jitsu or other martial arts altogether. Since I had a little extra time on my hands, having been recently laid off, I decided to look into bringing in one such instructor. And that man is Robert Mustard Sensei, 7th Dan in Aikido.

I first heard about Robert Mustard Sensei from reading the book, Angry White Pyjamas. This narrative non-fiction tells one man's story of how he trained with the Tokyo riot police in an intensive Aikido training course that ran 5 days a week, 5 hours a day, for 11 months. Robert Mustard Sensei was one of the instructors. I won't go into too much detail about what the book said about him. I highly recommend it by the way, so if you can get a copy, give it a read. It reads more like a novel than a biography and it's highly entertaining. What I will say, is that Robert Mustard Sensei comes across as a tough nut, one who earned the respect of high ranking Aikido instructors the hard way, through innumerable tosses, cranks and slams. Check out this YouTube video of him doing a demo:

Ever since I moved to the Vancouver area, I wanted to go visit his dojo and meet the man, but I didn't feel comfortable just calling and asking if I could drop in, especially since I could never be a regular student. His dojo was on the other side of town from me and for a long time, I didn't even have a vehicle. But I recently discovered that he is willing to teach seminars at other martial arts dojos, and of course, I now have a dojo.

When I talked to him on the phone, he was very friendly and affable, and much like I imagined despite the tough picture that was painted of him in Angry White Pyjamas. He was very receptive to the idea of teaching at my dojo and welcomed me and my other instructor to come out to his dojo to take part in a class and meet him so we would know what to expect from him and his teachings. I set a date and am now looking forward to what I expect will be an interesting and enjoyable training experience. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

To Kickbox or Not to Kickbox...

Louis Sargeant, my new manager, called me yesterday asking me if I would be interested in kickboxing as well as pro MMA. He told me that some of the promoters he talked to put it out there that there are more fight opportunities for women in kickboxing so if I'm interested he should let them know.

I had to really think about this. On the one hand, doing some kickboxing could help sharpen up my stand-up game, as Louis pointed out. On the other hand, it's not Muay Thai, so it wouldn't allow me to apply all the skills of stand-up MMA. Moves like elbow and knee strikes are not allowed.

When I originally decided it was worth my while to try MMA, even though competition isn't a focal point in my art, it was because MMA competition is the closest thing to real fighting that legitimate competition can offer. It combines most of the aspects that come up in a fight, standing up and on the ground.

So even though kickboxing would offer me more opportunities for exposure as a fighter, I think I'd prefer to focus on MMA.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Under New Management: Louis Sargeant

Ok, I have good news and bad news regarding my pro-MMA career status. Bad news first.

I won't be fighting this Friday or on Nov. 29th. Mark, my manager and trainer, came to me straight and told me that he just doesn't have the time to put into properly managing my career and as a result the two upcoming fights won't be happening. He still wants to be one of my trainers, he's just too busy to manage me. He felt bad about letting me down, but he did, however, make other arrangements for me.

Good news now. Mark spoke to pro-boxer Louis Sargeant, the guy who recently started training me for my striking game, and Louis is happy to be my new manager. I think this new arrangement will work out a lot better. I could see over the past few months that Mark was having trouble balancing too many responsibilities and I could see that it was hurting his ability to get me into the ring. And with this new arrangement, I'll still get to train under Mark as well as Louis.

Louis has always managed his own boxing career, quite successfully too. He's in the top 100 boxers internationally in his weight class and is regularly in contact with promoters. He is now formulating the game plan for my fight career. So hopefully I'll be getting in the ring or cage some time in the near future. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Essence of Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu

Appropriately enough, the following comic was published on my birthday. Be sure to click the image to get the last segment of the comic.

Pearls Before Swine

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me: Looking Ahead at My 33rd Year

Yesterday I watched the UFC fights with my all my coaches and a couple of my students and for the first time as I watched, I felt nervous. As each pair of competitors entered the ring, I had a felt it at the pit of my stomach. Midway through the fights, I realized why.

I was recently told that I would likely be doing my first professional MMA fight within the next couple of weeks. There are two events that are on the table, one on Nov. 21 in Red Deer, Alberta and one at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington on Nov. 29. So as I watched the fighters, I was imagining stepping into the ring myself. It is finally going to happen and it's starting to sink in. I'm no longer going to be separated from the violent competition I've been watching on TV over the past year, I'm going be in it, taking the hits and dishing them out while another woman does the same.

I would have mentioned it on here sooner, but I wanted to wait until closer to the event in case it didn't work out. There have been a lot of false starts this year that never materialized. That just how it goes. In fact, there is still a chance that things could get cancelled at the last minute, so until my flight to Red Deer gets booked, don't go and buy a ticket in hopes of seeing me fight.

I turned 32 this past Thursday. In taking stock of the last year, I realized it had been a long one. There had been a lot of ups and downs. I was laid off from my job at the end of February. And though I didn't end up starting my pro MMA career in the spring, I did managed to get a flexible job that allowed me to continue my training. Then when I just got comfortable in that new job, I was laid off again, just this past Tuesday. It was essentially a 2-person marketing consultancy and the bad economy hit the company hard.

So now I'm back where I was in February, though I'm not as thrown by it this time. With 2 fights on the horizon, I definitely have something to focus on and look forward to. But outside of training, I've also amassed a lot of useful portfolio pieces over the last 6 months so I'm confident it won't take me long to find work. If I had my way, I'd get a few sponsorships for my pro-MMA career, then I could just do freelance work on the side.

Hey, you never know.

While the last year of my life has had it downs, it has also had its ups. My dojo is thriving and I was able to develop a second instructor, allowing me to expand my classes. I even found someone who will worry about me as I step into the ring while watching through his fingers.

Like Randy Couture, I don't feel like age is catching up on me. While the results of his match against Brock Lesnar were disappointing (don't get me started on Lesnar... he so didn't deserve to be the one to defeat Randy... it should have been Fedor Emelianenko... sorry, I digress...), he is truly making the most of his life, still competently entering the octagon at the age of 45.

I feel lucky and excited to start off my 33rd year with a bang. I plan to make the best of it. And if you can make it to one of my fights, come by and say hi afterwards. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Problem with Limiting Student Numbers

As many of you know, I made a conscious decision to limit the number of students in my Vancouver Jiu-jitsu dojo. I did this in the interest of developing higher quality students by having a lower teacher to student ratio, rather than cramming in anyone and everyone who shows interest just to make more money. But, to my frustration, this sometimes bites me in the ass.

Sometimes when students are up for renewal, they don't show up for a few weeks. This is usually for legitimate reasons (i.e. injuries, busy work schedule, etc.), but because of my decision to limit my student numbers, it can make my finances hard to plan as a dojo owner. You see, if I'm close to being full and several students haven't got their memberships up to date, I don't know whether or not to allow new students to join to fill the gap or to just wait, knowing that they'll come back.

I always hold back from inviting new students in since I would much prefer to develop students into whom I've already put in time teaching. But then when they don't come back for awhile I lose out. And if they don't come back at all, I sometimes lose the opportunity to take in more students because I waited too long before inviting potentials in for trial lessons.

I know there is really nothing I can do to remedy this situation without running my school more like a McDojo. I would rather take the chance and wait it out until MIA students come back. And I don't feel comfortable asking students to pay for time they were away. I think though, it would make me feel better if students just kept in touch and let me know around when I can expect them back so at least I can plan my finances around their absence.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Intensity Skipping Instead of Sprints

In the last month or so, I started doing hard interval running and sprints as conditioning for a potential upcoming fight. Unfortunately, I started to develop some minor pain in my left achilles tendon so, upon advice from my trusty doctor Jenny, I switched over to intensity and interval skipping to replace the running.

To simulate an MMA fight, I always do three 5-minute rounds with a 1-minute rest in between. When doing intensity skipping, I do three 30-second rounds of double skipping within each 5-minute round. This gives me a solid anaerobic work-out that very much simulates the way a fight goes. Jenny told me however that I should only do this type of work-out once a week as it is hard on the body. On other days, I simply do three 5- minute rounds of regular skipping, practicing various technical patterns, with a single 30-second round of double skipping at the end of each 5-minute round. Check out my post, Increasing Your Cardio When Skipping for a video demo of double skipping.

The skipping work-outs seem to put less stress on my joints. And with skipping, I get to work out my upper body more than I do with running, particularly when I'm doing the double skipping portion of the workout. Skipping is almost always the way I warm up as well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mastery Revisted

I wrote a blog post last year, Banzo's Sword and the Road to Mastery, that discussed the concept of mastery in the context of martial arts. This concept, which can be applied to the learning of any art of discipline, is what distinguishes us as martial artists rather than self-defense practitioners or fighters.

Anyway, I watched an excellent National Geographic documentary on Kendo and what it takes to achieve the elusive 8th Dan. Kendo, also known as Japanese fencing, is considered both a sport and a martial art. That being said, you are not considered a master simply by winning a gold medal at the Olympics. The 8th degree black belt test has a less than 1% pass rate, the testing of which is not based on how many points the applicants score during the testing, but rather the mental and spiritual commitment of their strikes. They must demonstrate the ability to be fully and completely in the moment, free of all attachments, during their performance.

I know many fighters and self-defense practitioners scoff at the importance of this concept, believing that winning fights or being able to successfully defend one's self is the highest goal. But those who apply the concept of mastery to their training usually end up being better at those other goals.

Here is the video below. It's about 45 minutes long, so brew yourself a cup of tea. Oh and if the Korean subtitles are preventing you from reading the English ones, be ready to pause the video with your mouse. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Developing the Lock Sense

Joint locks are incredibly useful in self-defense. In Jiu jitsu specifically, they epitomize the very ideology of the art - the least amount of force needed to subdue an attacker.

Locks are very scalable; you can use a wrist lock to get rid of an overly friendly drunk at a wedding or club without causing any permanent damage or escalating the situation. You can use the very same lock to disarm a weapon wielding attacker in defense of your life on the street.

The downside to joint locks, and wrist locks in particular, is that while you can learn the techniques rather quickly in the dojo, it can take years to develop and master what I call the lock sense.

The lock sense is the ability you get once you've mastered joint manipulation and you can apply locks by feel alone without having to rely on particular technique. Even in the dojo, the same joint lock doesn't work exactly the same way on everyone, and since locks are so incredibly technical, requiring very fine motor skills, people learning locks are not able to successfully apply them every time. Since acquiring the lock sense can take years, I take a very structured approach to foster its development.

When first teaching locks, I like to skip the big easy joints. Causing pain with an arm lock is quite simple, the elbow only bends one way. However, getting into a position to use an arm lock is quite challenging. Since I'm trying to develop that sense for locks, I'd rather go with a smaller, more flexible joint - the wrist. Getting someone's wrist is pretty easy, since many attacks begin with someone grabbing you. Maneuvering your way into an arm lock can be very challenging. And since the wrist bends in every direction to a limited degree, it gives students more opportunity to sense different tension levels.

I start by teaching three wrist locks which all focus on applying pressure in different directions, causing pain in different ways. The three locks, kote-gaeshi (wrist turn), ura-kote (reverse wrist) and kote-gatame (wrist lock also known as z-lock in many styles), require very simple movements of feet and hips and mostly rely on correct hand positioning.

When introducing locks I have students work very slowly for two reasons: one, locks can come on quickly, easily causing damage when rushed. Safety is always the primary concern in the dojo. Number two, you can get a better sense of resistance of the muscles and tendons in the wrist of your training partner when you apply it slowly.

Finally, in an effort to truly grasp the locks, I make sure all the students feel the pain of a properly applied lock. When you know how it feels in your own wrist, you can begin to visualize how the lock should be applied.

Locks are very easy to demonstrate, but incredibly challenging to teach. There is no way to convey the idea of lock sense to a student, you can only point them on the right path, and correct the technical aspects until that moment of realization.

From a self defense standpoint, locks are an exceptional way to control aggressors and defuse a situation quickly. In actual practice, the fine motor skills and minute adjustments necessary to apply a lock successfully in a high stress situation make them unreliable for the majority of jitsuka until they've truly mastered the lock sense.

And on a final note - you always need a distraction when defending yourself, something to disrupt your attackers movements and thought process to give you that chance to take control. If a slap works, I'm all for it :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Cold Shower VS. A Slap in the Face

Tonight, I experienced 2 things that phased me; a cold shower and a slap in the face. You can probably guess which one phased me more... yep, it was the cold shower.

It was my dojo's other instructor's turn to teach tonight. In case you don't know, Chris, one of my students is a brown belt in another style of Jiu-jitsu, Shorinji-kan. After recently promoting him to purple belt, I decided to have him teach 2 classes a week. He's already an experienced instructor since in his style brown belts are considered full instructors, some even running their own clubs. This arrangement has been working out well, allowing me to train with my students on the nights he teaches.

Anyway, tonight Chris taught a class on joint locks. He was teaching an off-curriculum class showing slightly different variations to familiar locks. I had recently chided him that he didn't hit me hard enough when he was using me as his demonstration uke. As a result, he decided to go harder on me. Unfortunately, it was in a way that I didn't expect. For his distraction, he decided to slap me solidly across the face.

"Well you told me to go harder on you!" Chris defended in response to my glare as I touched my hand to my stinging cheek in front of our watching students.

"Yeah, kick me in the groin, punch me in the gut, elbow me in the brachial plexus origin... you just slapped me in the face!" I responded, struggling not to react to the angry shock that comes from being hit that way. The students all shared a laugh at the unusual exchange.

Well as much as the slap in the face surprised me, it didn't bother me anywhere near as much as the ice cold shower I took after I got home. I recently discussed various ways of dealing with muscle soreness on my blog. I even provided information on how to do an ice bath, a method of preventing delayed muscle soreness from working out as recommended to me by Jenny, one of my students who is a doctor. Having told her that I couldn't bring myself to do an ice bath for the perscribed 15-20 minutes, she suggested a cold shower, starting with it on warm, then reducing the temperature.

I figured it was worth a try tonight since I did 2 hours of boxing and strength training with an interval run scheduled for the next morning. As I reduced the temperature to purely cold water, I bellowed loudly and constantly for the full minute or so that I was able to stand it before I wussed out and turned the water off. I can't tell you if this procedure helped. I suspect I didn't do it long enough to get the benefits. Bah!

Anyway, given the choice of being slapped in the face and taking a really cold shower, I would definitely choose the slap. The slap doesn't last as long. :P

Btw, I've recently invited Chris to post on my blog occasionally so expect to see his thoughts on Jiu-jitsu Sensei in the near future.

Monday, November 3, 2008

How to Do Shadow Boxing Effectively

My MMA coach was away on holiday last week, so I met up with my Vancouver personal trainer friend Louis Sargeant (also a professional boxer and martial artist) a few times to keep my training up. We worked exclusively on my striking form and strategy. We did pad work mostly, but he also had me doing shadow boxing as part of my workouts.

Shadow boxing is more than just a warm-up drill, though it is an effective, sport-specific way of warming-up the muscles. It also helps you develop and apply your striking skills. If you shadow box in front of a mirror, you can watch your form and technique to ensure you're striking properly.

Shadow boxing without a mirror is just as important, if not more so. All the best fighters, practice visualizing their opponent when they do shadow boxing. They throw punches and kicks, imagining the reaction of an invisible opponent, then react accordingly themselves. The best shadow boxers look like they're actually fighting someone. Check out Fedor Emelianenko as he does a shadow boxing workout:

Louis tells me that he does a lot of shadow boxing when preparing for a fight. He loves doing it and often does it for as much as 30 minutes. He tells me that if he or my coach isn't available to hold pads for me, that's what I should be doing to practice. I'll definitely be taking that advice on board.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fostering Friendships Through Training: The Legacy Left by Tim & Jo

Recently, Tim and Joanne two of my students moved away from Canada to set up a new life for themselves in Australia. They had only been training at my dojo for 5 months, having achieved the rank of yellow belt, but in that time, they left their mark and created strong bonds through the training they did with our students and teachers.

The kind of bonds Tim and Jo created are great for development in the martial arts. They help motivate you in your training and make it easier to come to class more often, even on days when you're feeling lazy. They enhance your technical development because you feel more comfortable trying new, potentially more dangerous moves due to the high level of trust. And overall, training is just more fun when you're on the same page as the students you work with and everyone supports and encourages each others' development.

Bonds like these are often created over much longer periods of time, but Tim and Jo managed to create them in the short time they were with us. It is well worth it for anyone training in the martial arts to develop these kinds of bonds. And for dojo owners, it's great for the health of your club to encourage your students to do so.

Here's how they did it:

Friendly, Approachable Demeanor.

Whenever there were new students coming in to the dojo, Tim and Jo always introduced themselves, not necessarily waiting until they were partnered up with them to do so. They would offer words of encouragement, telling their own stories of how difficult it seemed for them when they first started, but how it gets easier. They also took an honest interest in getting to know the people they trained with.

Open Training.
Tim and Jo were regular participants during open mat time at our dojo. We offer open training 30 minutes before every class and every other Sunday for 1.5 hours. They trained hard during those periods, eager to learn a variety of skills. But, because of the casual nature of open training, they were able to get to know the people they trained with more easily than they could have during regular classes.

Free Grappling/Sparring (with the right attitude).
Free grappling and sparring require a high level of trust to get the most out of it. When you and your partner trust each other, you are more easily able to push yourselves without risking injury. This is as opposed to when there is too much ego and free grappling/sparring becomes little more than a pissing contest in which neither partner really learns much because they're too busy trying not to lose to "the other guy." Tim and Jo, on the other hand, always took a developmental approach to free grappling/sparring. They would try to work on their technique as they grappled and sparred and supported their partners' attempts to do so as well. It wasn't about winning or losing but learning. You could tell by the broad smiles on their faces, even after being tapped out.

On Tim and Jo's last day, we all went out to a pub after class to give them a send-off party. We all wished them well before they flew off to go down under. The next class after they were gone, a few students commented to me how it seemed like there was a hole left by their absence. And there is. But even more noticeable is the legacy that they left behind. Because of their dedication to doing early, and even sometimes late, training I now see more students on the mat during open training times, grappling, and laughing, and growing.

Tim and Jo: WE MISS YOU!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

15 Personal Safety Tips for Runners

I try to go running 2-3 times a week as part of my MMA training. It's easy for me to run during safe times when it's light out and there are plenty of people around because I work from home. But for many women, as the days get shorter they find it hard to run during ideal hours. And unfortunately women runners are still targeted these days by stalkers and muggers and sometimes fall victim to attacks.

I was recently interviewed for an article on self-defense for runners by They asked for some safety tips and suggestions for female runners. Here are 15 tips that I give for runners:

1. Carry I.D. or fasten your name, telephone number and blood type on the outside of your running shoes.
2. Carry a cell phone or sufficient change for a telephone call. *Remember in most areas in North America you can dial 911 for free.
3. Whenever you can, run with a dog or partner.
4. Run in areas with which you are familiar. Know what businesses are around and the location of telephones. Alter your route from time to time.
5. Write down information about your running route. Ensure that your family and trusted friends know your favourite routes.
6. Whenever possible, avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets and overgrown trails. Stay away from unlit areas at night. Avoid running near parked cars and bushes.
7. Run against the traffic so that you can observe approaching vehicles.
8. Stay alert at all times. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.
9. Avoid wearing headphones; You need to be aware of your surroundings.
10. Wearing reflective material will make you more visible if you have to run before dawn or after dark.
11. Don't wear jewellery. Why tempt muggers?
12. Carry a whistle to call attention to yourself if you need help.
13. Rely on your intuition concerning suspicious persons or areas. Respond to your intuition and avoid any person or area that feels unsafe to you.
14. Don't react to verbal harassment. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.
15. During your run, if you notice anyone acting suspicious or if you are the subject of an assault (even if it is minor in nature) report it to the police immediately. Be prepared to provide the best description of the suspect as you can.

*Note: The article in states that I've been teaching martial arts in Vancouver for 15 years, but she got the information wrong. I've been training in martial arts for 15 years. I've only taught for 12, but only 3 of those years have been in Vancouver.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Bad Idea: Teaching Martial Arts to Criminal Elements

There are some martial arts schools in the greater Vancouver area that will teach anyone who walks in their doors with cash in hand. A number of gang members take interest in the martial arts (especially MMA) to learn fighting skills for obvious reasons and end up at schools that aren't too stringent about their screening process. This is short-sighted and can result in street violence being associated with these schools.

Yesterday, a male in his 20s, a gang associate, was victim to a fatal shooting outside World Extreme Fighting gym, an MMA school in Abbotsford, BC. See the complete news article.

I know that some MMA and boxing school owners have to deal with this sort of thing regularly. Some of them include the question on their waivers: "Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?" Not that people can't just lie, but by actively discouraging criminals from training with them, it sets the tone of the school. I know one school that actively advertises that police officers rent their facilities for training, hoping to discourage gang members etc from training there.

I'm lucky, because criminal types are generally pretty macho and really have no interest in learning from a woman so I don't have to deal with dodgy types looking to join my dojo. The only types of people I seem to get in any numbers are cops and doctors :).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dealing with Larger Classes

I recently started offering 4 classes per week at my Vancouver Jiu-jitsu dojo, whereas before I was only doing 3. The change was prompted by the fact that I have a second instructor who is teaching 2 of the classes for me. This is nice for me because on the days he teaches, I can train alongside my students, allowing me to work on my own skills and vice versa.

With the extra day, I decided to open up my roster to take on a few more students. I decided to still allow students to unlimited classes per week for their membership, going on the assumption that the numbers would generally distribute over the 4 days.

Now that I have the 4-day week in place, I'm finding that occasionally I'll get one big class of 14+ students, usually with a span of 4 different colour belts represented. Both the number of students and the need to teach 4 different curricula are big time eaters. As a result, I found that sometimes I wasn't getting through everything I wanted to teach like I used to and I sometimes couldn't provide as much individual guidance for the students as I liked.

To solve this problem, I decided to make some minor adjustments on days when I get that kind of turn out. If there is a 4-belt span, I'll split the class into 2 groups during curriculum demonstration and have my other instructor teach one group while I teach the other. This will speed up the demonstration process. If there are more than 14 students on the mat, both instructors will circulate to help out the students rather than having one of us train while the other teaches.

The purpose of these minor adjustments is to ensure that the students still get quality instruction and guidance, as well as adequate training time on days when we get that big a big turn out.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Taking a Vacation from My Dojo

For the past week, I've been away from Vancouver on vacation. I went down to the San Francisco area to be a bride's maid at an old friend's wedding. Being the head of a dojo, it's hard for me to leave my dojo for an entire week. I wouldn't do it if I were forced to cancel classes (unless they were already being cancelled due to holidays). The reason I was able to do it was because I have people I can rely on, for which I am very grateful.

I had to miss 3 classes so I got two of my more senior belts to each take over a class. I also got my MMA coach along with one of the boxing instructors he works with to take over a class, teaching grappling and boxing skills. I'm sure that was interesting as they run a very different style class from the kind I teach.

I am very appreciative that all these different people were willing to step in to help me, otherwise it would be very difficult for me to go on vacation. I hope that the students who attended these classes enjoyed them and were able to benefit from the different instructors. I'm very interested to hear how it all went when I get home tomorrow.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why Attend Martial Arts Organization Events

My Jiu-jitsu dojo, West Coast Jiu-jitsu, is a member of the Jiu-jitsu BC Society. This is a non-invasive organization that does not dictate training curricula, nor how dojo owners should run their clubs. It is simply an organization for mutual support and learning of traditional self-defense oriented Jiu-jitsu dojos in the province of BC. It also provides schools with injury and liability insurance for their members.

Every quarter, the JJBC society holds a technical seminar at which 2 or more instructors from the various member clubs teach members of the organization about a specific topic from their own individual style of Jiu-jitsu. If you have the opportunity to participate in these kinds of seminars they are a fantastic way to diversify and learn new things from instructors with styles different from your own. It's also a great opportunity to have fun and meet new people with similar interests.

Every time I go to a JJBC seminar, whether I'm teaching or training, I always have a great time and come away having learned something new. I encourage everyone to take advantage of these opportunities when they arise.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Benefits of a Non-Macho Martial Arts School

Yesterday I taught an impromptu grappling class for my students. Submission grappling doesn't make an appearance in my curriculum until the senior belt levels, focusing more on 'no rules' ground defense (i.e. do whatever you have to to get off the ground and away from your attacker) at the early belt levels. That being said, I do teach submission grappling to my white and yellow belts once in a while as a change of pace.

In the past, I've trained at MMA and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu schools and I found my enjoyment of the class varied quite widely, depending on who I partnered with. I found that some guys were very macho and if I was doing well against them they would use their strength against me often in a dangerous way. On the other hand, when I trained with less macho, more experienced students, they focused more on developing their technique when they rolled with me, staying relaxed, fluidly transitioning from position to position, often ending in a seamless submission.

When I run grappling classes, my students seem to enjoy themselves, no matter who they're partnered up with, big or small, experienced or not. It's because my students share a mutual respect for each other and a positive, non-macho attitude towards their training.

I've been very lucky when it comes to the types of students my Vancouver Jiu-jitsu dojo has attracted. I think that because I'm a woman instructor, and my dojo's focus is self-defense rather than competition, I tend to attract more open-minded, non-macho students who aren't constantly struggling with fragile egos, which usually results in unpleasant, dangerous training practices.

I consider myself one lucky Sensei. :)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another Neck Saved by Breakfalls

One of my students came to me before class to let me know that Jiu-jitsu saved his neck over the weekend. Unsurprisingly, it was a breakfall that saved him from injury.

The student had been on top of a tall truck, loading it up for a move. He was in the process of pulling a holding strap tight when he lost his balance and fell straight back off the truck onto the pavement. He landed in what he described as a perfect back breakfall, with his chin tucked down, arms slamming the ground to distribute the shock as his back hit the ground.

It always pleases me to hear that breakfalls are serving to prevent serious injuries in my students. In a previous blog post about breakfalls, I wrote of another student who saved herself with a side fall, as well as my own story of having breakfallen my way out of an end-over on my bike.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Self-Defense Situations in Japan

Last night, I went for dinner at a friend's place, an old friend named Vicky whom I met in Japan. Seeing her reminded of my time spent in the place where the local time is tomorrow, so today I decided to post a chapter from my book, Weapons of Opportunity, that goes back to that time. Enjoy!

Weapon #33: A Pair of Underwear

In my second year of living in Japan, a cloud descended on the foreign women living in Iwaki. It started with an incident that involved Vicky, a Canadian girl I knew who was working at a local English conversation school.

Vicky was friendly and well-liked by everyone who met her. She had a lively, outgoing personality that was temporarily squelched one August evening. As she sat down to watch TV that evening she heard a rustling coming from the front door of her second story apartment. She walked into her doorway to see a pair of women’s underwear being stuffed through her mail slot. She picked them up and opened the door to see a man in his late thirties walking away down the stairs, wearing a handkerchief over his face in the dark stairwell.

She had a weird feeling about the whole thing but she figured that he was just one of the neighbours who had thought this pair of underwear had blown off her line and was just trying to return them. Being new to Japan, Vicky dismissed the handkerchief as a strange cultural difference she did not yet understand. The pair of underwear in question wasn’t hers so she figured they must belong to her neighbour Jane – another English teacher from her school.

Vicky walked over and knocked on Jane’s door and asked if the underwear was hers, explaining what she thought had happened. Jane confirmed the story and confirmed that they were hers, but looked strangely shaken.

Having thought everything cleared up, Vicky returned to her apartment and started doing her dishes. All of a sudden, she looked up from the sink to see the man with the handkerchief standing directing outside her kitchen window from the landing in the stairwell, looking straight at her. She screamed and then the man tried to come in through the front door. Vicky forced the door shut and locked it. Grabbing her cell phone, she ran to the rear balcony yelling to Jane, telling her to lock her door. She called the police and the manager from her school, hoping help would arrive soon. From the balcony she looked down over the quiet forested area and saw the masked man again waiting below.

Vicky instinctively started screaming the only bad word in Japanese she knew. “Hentai! Hentai! Hentai!” This is the Japanese word for ‘pervert.’ The masked man immediately ran off. The police arrived soon after.

From talking over the incident with the two women, they managed to piece together that the masked man had broken into Jane’s apartment earlier and rifled through her underwear. Jane’s underwear were generally the grandma type, cotton with lots of coverage, but the guy found the one pair she had that was made of satin and stole them. When Vicky returned the underwear, Jane was in a state of shock and as a result, nodded agreement when Vicky came to her with what had happened. She knew that she never hung her underwear outside on her balcony so she was upset and disturbed to think about how they had been removed from her apartment.

It seems strange that someone would break into someone’s house to steal a pair of underwear, but this is not an uncommon occurrence in Japan. There are a number of men in Japan who go around stealing women’s underwear from their homes, off laundry lines, wherever they can get them. It’s a common enough fetish that there were even vending machines selling them in certain red-light districts in Tokyo, at least while I was there.

The police had warned Vicky and Jane to be very careful to lock their doors and windows and to be aware of suspicious characters that might be following them. They filed a detailed report, but they never did find him. It didn’t take long for the news to spread through all the foreign women living in Iwaki. This heaped a nervous tension on top of the regular culture shock that all foreigners experienced.
By the time I heard about the incident, I could see how it had affected all the women. I was concerned about how uneasy they were, so I decided to run a women’s self-defense course.

To be honest, I never had much interest in teaching women’s self-defense up till that point. A large proportion of the teaching is imparting street sense and shaping women’s every day habits to make them less prone to attack. Meanwhile, the physical defense component only comprises of the simplest, most effective parts of Jiu-jitsu – not the biggest teaching challenge. Teaching women to defend themselves is less about teaching technical excellence and more about teaching them to break past their fear and get them angry enough to mount an effective defense against a bigger, stronger man.

Putting my own inclinations aside, I decided to run the class because my friends really needed it. No one should have to live in fear. I wanted to remove their fear and replace it with confidence and sensible precaution.

Using Sean as my demonstration partner, I ran four two-hour women’s self-defense classes. I had six students, Vicky and Jane, two girls from my office, and Megan and Ruth, who had decided that they could use the extra instruction on women’s safety.
I knew the general rules of personal safety in a Western country and they were pretty much the same when applied to Japan. The most important differences were cultural; the way the laws handled harassment and assault and the nature of the assaults themselves. For example, while I was in Japan, Japanese law stated that if a man was drunk and he harassed or even committed a minor assault on a woman, the man was absolved of all responsibility due to the fact that he was drunk and not aware of his actions.

The majority of assaults on women in Japan are not reported at all. Women don’t want to risk their jobs if the man is someone from their work or they don’t want people to think that they engaged in the kind of activities that might subject a woman to an assault.

The incidences of harassment and assault on foreign women are significantly higher. This is due to the fact that foreign women stand out due to their physical differences, but in many cases, they are also thought to be more promiscuous than Japanese women. This misconception can spring from the way foreign women are portrayed in Japanese pornographic comics and videos. It can generate a strange fixation on the exotic foreign women that come to their country, leading to incidents ranging in severity.

The worst case I heard of happened while I was in Japan to an English girl who had been working at a Tokyo snack bar as a hostess. The position of hostess requires women to drink, flirt and make friendly chit-chat with the men who frequent the bar. The English hostess disappeared one day after work. Her body was eventually found dismembered and embedded in concrete blocks on a beach on the outskirts of Tokyo. She had been murdered by one of the snack bar clientele, the vice-president of a major national real estate company.

While this kind of extreme situation isn’t exactly common in Japan, pretty much every foreign woman I knew there had at least one story of harassment and number of them had tales of being stalked, even assaulted.

As I did some research about handling harassment in Japan to prepare for the class, I was very interested to discover that Vicky’s reaction, to point at the stalker and yell hentai, is actually what they encourage foreign women to do to scare them off. The logic is that Japanese men are deathly afraid of public humiliation so this fear can be used to dissuade them from illicit pursuits. That being said, a very similar tactic is encouraged in western countries. Noise is considered to be one of the most important deterrents, so women are encouraged to yell strong words like “Stop!” or “No!” should then need to defend themselves or even “Fire!” to get attention. Any kind of attention that is drawn to an assailant’s actions is going to serve as a deterrent whether they’re Japanese or from the West, even if the psychology behind it may differ.

The most surprising thing I learned while teaching the class was that the information I provided about staying safe and taking sensible precautions was mostly new to the students. They hadn’t considered taking preventative measures like carrying a cell phone or not wearing headphones when they go out for a run.

I taught them how to not walk like a victim. This involves walking with strong, purposeful strides, keeping your head up, staying aware of your surroundings and looking at people as you pass. This is something that came to me naturally after years of martial arts training, so it was strange for me to teach it as a skill.
After a few months, fears of the underwear snatcher subsided and he was relegated to being the subject of office humour, but I noticed that since doing the training some of the foreign women in Iwaki walked with a little more strength in their stride.
I had dealt with a couple of cases of harassment throughout my three-year stay in Japan. Mostly it was just a few random inappropriate comments, nothing that ever made me feel worse than a little uncomfortable. Just my luck that on the last weekend before I headed back to Canada, someone took it further.

I was heading to a karaoke house with a friend, after having had a few drinks at a bar. We were being a little melancholic knowing that we were probably not going to see each other for at least a couple of years after I left. We paused to talk about it on a bridge near the Karaoke house.

While we were stopped there, a drunk guy in his mid-twenties approached me wanting to talk. I politely told the guy in Japanese that we wanted to be left alone, but he persisted in trying to chat me up. I told him a second time more forcefully to leave us be and turned back to my conversation.

That’s when the guy grabbed my breast.

I reacted immediately to the offending hand by slamming my palm into his chest, using my hips to thrust him away from me and six feet into the street. Remembering what Vicky had done, I pointed at him and screamed at the top of my lungs: “Hentai! Hentai! Hentai!” I continued to bellow at him as he bolted away like a frightened rabbit, speeding down the path along the river.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Practicing Grappling Transitions

Last night I taught an off-curriculum Jiu-jitsu class in which I taught grappling submissions, specifically arm bar, triangle and omoplata from the guard position. When I do teach grappling or submissions, I always teach them in sets along with defenses against each move so that students can learn transitions. I'll explain.

First, I taught the basic arm bar from guard, similar to the way it is taught in the following video:

Then I taught a defense against the arm bar called "The Telephone":

I followed up by teaching the triangle from guard:

After which, I showed how some people defend against the triangle by tucking their arm back behind them. I therefore demonstrated how to do the omoplata in answer to this. (*Note: The following video only shows the omoplata from guard, not as a transition from a failed triangle.)

Once my students had practiced all these moves, I had them pair up and try them live. Rather than free-rolling, I told one to take guard position, from which they were to attempt any of the three submissions I taught. The person defending from the guard position was instructed to defend against the submission attempts, trying to pass and end in side control, but not trying to do any submissions him or herself. Once either a submission or side control was achieved, the pair would start over, switching positions.

Rather than simply doing free grappling where anything is allowed, this method allows students to specifically practice the moves learned in class in a live context.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why I Get Nervous at Student Belt Tests

Over the weekend, I tested 4 students for yellow belt. Every time my students step up to test, I get a little nervous. It may seem strange; after all, I'm not the one who is being tested... or so it would seem.

The reason why I get a little nervous is that it is actually quite the opposite. I am, in fact, being tested when my students test, even though I am the one that is technically administering the test. The level of improvement between belt tests is a measure of my abilities as an instructor. As my Sensei always told me, "If the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught."

If a student doesn't do well on a test, either because they forgot certain things, they weren't in good enough shape, or their technical performance wasn't up to par, it's because the instructor hasn't been paying close enough attention to that student over the course of his or her training. Or perhaps the instructor hasn't given them enough time to prepare for the test. Either way, they must take responsibility when the student hasn't learned what they were supposed to.

I'm happy to report, however, that all 4 students passed their yellow belt tests. They not only passed, they showed massive improvements since they started their training several months ago. And I can derive some satisfaction knowing that I did my job as an instructor. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Meet the Shillelagh: Irish Stick Fighting

I quite enjoy surfing YouTube for new and interesting martial arts training methods and concepts. I recently stumbled across a video demonstrating the use of the shillelagh, a stick with a slightly curved butt end, similar to a cane, around which the Irish have built a martial art. Check out the video below. The background music is so apt.

I always find it interesting to see the commonalities between martial arts systems that have developed completely independently in opposite sides of the world. You'll notice that many of the techniques used with the shillelagh are also used in cane defenses used in Hapkido and some styles of Jiu-jitsu.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Point of Pre-testing for Belt Tests

I have a policy of always doing a pre-test for students who are testing for their next belts. Some people might think that this policy just creates more work for both me and the student, but I find it works on many levels to help my students do their best and for me to help them to their best when test time does come.

I run my pre-tests at almost the same pressure-level that I run my real tests. It lasts about the same amount of time and I go through all the curriculum as though I were testing the student for real. The main difference is that I don't mark them or take notes.

By doing my pre-test this way, students get to practice for their test, but at the same time they get a reality check of what they are facing in 1-2 weeks time. When students have a test coming up the majority of them, from my experience, take it very seriously. They come in for extra practice. They do visualization training from home. I, as their instructor, usually pay them extra attention as they prepare to help them be ready.

Sometimes, however, students under-prepare either because they don't know their own skill (or lack thereof) or they don't realize how a test can be more pressure than regular training and that this fact can affect their technical performance and physical endurance. The pre-test gives them the chance to realize they need to step up their training for when the real test is given.

On the other hand, sometimes the pre-test makes it apparent that they don't know their techniques well enough or they're not in good enough physical shape to do the test. In such cases, I, as their instructor, can opt to delay the test as long as I feel is necessary to get the quality of which I know the student is capable. This reduces the chance of test failures, which can be extremely demoralizing for a student, often leading to students giving up on their training entirely.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Learning From Other Martial Arts

Over the weekend, I went to Salmon Arm to teach at a Can-Ryu Jiu-jitsu seminar series. The topic I taught was "Defending Against a Skilled Grappler on the Street." The seminar was well-received and I had a great time learning from the other Senseis who taught.

The reason why I chose this topic was so I could apply what I've learned from my MMA and BJJ training over the past couple of years to my own art, Can-Ryu Jiu-jitsu. I demonstrated how strong grapplers are able to more effectively hold a person on the ground using optimal positioning and body weight transfer. I then showed how to defend against it, using various kinds of body shifting in combination with attacks to vulnerable areas common in my style of Jiu-jitsu.

Ultimately, I believe that in order for a martial art to stay strong, instructors should continually strive to learn more, within their own art and by cross-training in other arts. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to apply what I learned through my cross-training and share it with others within my style.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Stick Fighting Without Protection

On a recent surfing expedition through YouTube, I found a video of a Kali (stick fighting) martial arts group that does full contact sparring with very little protection, only a fencing mask and a pair of gloves. Check out the vid:

I did some full contact stick fight recently myself. We didn't use helmets or gloves though we did wear safety glasses and the sticks we used were foam-covered. I can't help but offer up some respect for these people who are willing to experience pain to understand their art. Even with the foam covering, the hits we doled out and took often hurt, however, it was unlikely that anyone would have split a knee cap or get injuries that would require stitches the way we did it. That being said, there was enough risk of pain that it made you not want to get hit.

The risk of pain makes you give respect where respect is due. You are less likely to be willing to take a hit just so you can land one yourself, as would happen regularly if you were wearing protective armour. This is not to say that I'd be willing to lose my knee cap for training's sake, I do have a dojo to run, but I do believe in pain being an excellent teacher from which to learn.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Choosing an MMA Style to Follow

In MMA there are certain basics that everyone should know: boxing punches, practical kicks (i.e. leg kicks, push kicks, etc.), taking and defending the clinch, being on the giving and receiving end of ground and pound, dealing with the cage, etc. But when it comes to throwing/ takedowns as well as submission grappling, there are a lot of different approaches. That's why when you're developing a throwing and ground grappling style, you should look at people have similar build and physical abilities.

If you're the kind of person who has a lot raw power for your size, consider looking at Randy Couture's style. His wrestling-based style makes good use of his powerful build. His book, Wrestling For Fighting, is a good place to start.

If you're on the smaller size with speed, agility, and flexibility on your side, consider looking at Eddie Bravo's style. His rubber guard is great for neutralizing someone within the guard position and it works well against people who might have a strength advantage over you too, since it uses the legs to hold an opponent close, rather than the arms. Beyond the rubber guard, Bravo's moves on the whole are great for people who can move quickly and nimbly. Check out his books Mastering The Rubber Guard and Mastering The Twister to get yourself started.

I could go on at great length on the stylistic differences of many MMA fighters, but ultimately, you know your body type and abilities, so do a little research on the best MMA fighters in the game who are similar to you and see what you can learn from them.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Foot Fist Way - A Martial Mockumentary

One of my students sent me the trailer for a Will Ferrell movie that takes the piss out of McDojos, in this case, a Taekwondo school. Check it out:

I love the full-contact sparring "match" with Marge not to mention the instructor's opinion of Jiu-jitsu, lol. I'm thinking about setting another dojo outing to go see it, if it's still playing in theatres. Hopefully this will turn out better than the one to go see a certain unmentionable David Mamet film...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Being a Student in My Own Dojo

Last night, I participated in a class at my own dojo, but not as a teacher, as a student. One of my students is a brown belt a different style of Jiu-jitsu, Shorinjikan, so I let him teach for a change of pace. After having run my own Jiu-jitsu classes in Vancouver pretty consistently for 2.5 years, it was wonderfully refreshing to train as a student.

As I went through all the motions of warming up, doing breakfalls, learning new techniques, being the instructor's demo uke (partner), I seamlessly slid back into old training patterns I knew and loved. I threw myself into everything, trying to make every technique, every breakfall as good as it could be, losing myself in the moment.

Training with my students as a student was great fun. I got to see my students from a different perspective. I could have fun with them, work with them on accomplishing the same goals. It gave me a sense of camaraderie with them I don't usually get as an instructor. Being an instructor can sometimes be lonely because of the natural separation between student and teacher. But by participating as a student, this temporarily melted away and I could see more of the true personalities within my class.

By being a student, I also got to practice with them and help them, but not within my usual instructor role, as a participating student. I yielded authority to the instructor whenever he was close. This took away the usual pressure that comes with teaching. At the same time, being being my students' training uke, I was able to appreciate how far some of them had come in their training, which put a huge smile on my face.

Another thing I liked about this experience was just having the opportunity to work on my own technique. As an instructor, you often don't get to practice regularly and sometimes your technique degrades over time. I was working with one student who is a fairly big guy with a Judo background. He has a tendency to drop his weight when you try to throw him, making him harder to throw. I used train with similar people back when I was a colour belt, but not having trained with someone like him regularly in a long time, I was having a few difficulties doing a circular moving shoulder throw on him. I knew I could do it, but my feel for it was disconnected. So after class I took him aside for a few minutes to try and regain the feel. After a few tosses, it clicked back and I was tossing him a very satisfying 'smack.'

I know I'm rambling a bit here, but only because I got so much out of the experience of training in my own class. If you're an instructor yourself and you can get the opportunity to do the same, take it. You'll be glad you did. It's a good way to show your students that you are, in fact, human and still pushing your own learning. In theory, you never achieve perfection in the martial arts. By continuing your own training, you demonstrate this and help students realize that you're not a martial arts god and that you're all on the same path of development. As a teacher, you're just a little further down the path.

In a couple of months, after he has tested for green belt in my own style, I intend to have last night's instructor teach classes regularly at my dojo as I expand our training nights. And when I do, I look forward experiencing all these benefits of which I've written here on a regular basis.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dealing With Foot & Calf Cramps from Ground Grappling/ BJJ

Calf and foot cramps are very common when you first start doing ground grappling or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I remember when I first started grappling, I experienced a few very crippling cramps, a couple of which were so bad that I was crying out in pain.

The best way to avoid them is to drink plenty of water before and while training. Many cramps arise as a result of dehydration. When cramps do arise, stop what you're doing, breathe and stretch out the muscle and drink some water. It's the same stretching technique whether it's your foot or your calf. Grab the ball of your foot and extend your leg out from the heel.

As you get stronger and your body becomes more accustomed to grappling / BJJ, the cramps will be come less frequent. I don't remember the last time I had one now.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"The Last Emperor" Reigns Supreme

*WARNING!: If you haven't watched July 19th's Affliction fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Tim Silvia, the blog post gives away how the fight ends.

After watching UFC and Affliction back to back on Saturday night, I had watched a LOT of fights. There were lots of exciting moments in both, witnessing a tap-out to a Peruvian necktie, a right hand knock-out from a caught kick, but the one man who impressed me most in both events was Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko.

In his fight against Tim Silvia, he finished it before Silvia even got a punch off. It was over in 36 seconds. Emelianenko went in swinging, heavy hands landing with huge effect. Once Silvia was downed, Emelianenko finished it with a rear naked choke. The fight was unreal. After witnessing his win, as well as vague promises of a showdown between him and Randy Couture, I couldn't help but want to find out more about him.

MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko has extensively trained in Sambo, Judo, and boxing. When he enters the ring, you wouldn't think of him as the typical pro-fighters. He has the demeanor of a monk as he walks in, without a trace of ego or an iota of showboating. He does not have the ripped abs and cut muscle tone you expect from pro-fighters. He could easily pass for a plumber or construction worker.

Then you watch him fight.

Check out this Pride fight between Fedor Emelianenko and giant Korean MMA fighter Hong Man Choi. There was nearly a foot and a half of height difference between the two. Watch the results:

Then there was the fight between him and Kevin Randleman. He gets suplexed on his head and then well... watch for yourself:

Needless to say, I have a new favourite fighter. :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wushu: The Rhythmic Gymnastics of the Martial Arts World

I have studied a number of martial arts over the years, one of which was Wushu. I had taken it up and trained in it for a year and a half to learn certain performance skills for the stunt world. I was in the Richmond area last night and dropped by to see my old Wushu teacher, Bruce Fontaine. He recently opened up his West Coast Chinese Martial Arts classes at a full-time location there.

As I watched his kids training for an upcoming event, painful memories flooded back of my old Wushu days when stretching resembled a torture practice. I related this to the friend who watched along with me to which Bruce replied, "Lori never did have the hips for Wushu."

"No, but I could kick hard," I replied, jokingly sulky.

"In Wushu, kicking hard is something more in the abstract," Bruce quipped back.

This is absolute truth. Wushu is a performance art that is only loosely based on practical martial arts. When I jokingly ask Bruce what the practical application is of a tornado kick that lands in the splits, he consistently replies, "None whatsoever." It is as I call it, the rhythmic gymnastics of the martial arts world. That being said, it can be a awesomely impressive.

You've seen Wushu in many of your favourite martial arts films. You've likely heard of Jet Li, of course, probably the most famous of the Wushu martial arts stars. But there also are many young talents in China doing spectacular shows, featuring crazy feats of agility and flexibility. Check out the following vid that Bruce sent me to see just how crazy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Iceman" Book Review - An Inspiration for Fighters

Having grown up in Ottawa and trained in Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, I have known the name "Iceman" for quite some time. I knew him as a kickboxing legend, but beyond that, little else. Recently, I read a biography on him, Iceman: Kickboxing Legend Jean-Yves Theriault and found the book and the story of his life to be quite inspiring.

Jean-Yves Theriault ruled the kickboxing world back in the 80s, having been a world champion for over a decade. And yet, I wouldn't say he's a household name that every average Joe knows. Theriault was not in the business for the showboating or the glamour, he just loved to fight and saw it as his destiny. He was and still is a kind, mild-mannered, and unassuming man, except in the ring where he becomes the "Iceman," blasting his opponents with devastating kicks and punches.

This biography tells the story of his development, his interpersonal life, his training methods, and the decisions he made over his long, successful career as a professional fighter. There are also a number of blow-by-blow accounts of his most exciting fights.

Filled with revelatory facts, detailed interviews with Theriault himself, those closest to him, and 5 other world champions, Iceman is a fascinating read and provides useful insights and inspiration to fans and especially to people involved in sport fighting. If every professional fighter went at their careers with the attitude taken by Theriault, the fight world would indeed receive a lot more respect.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chocolate Thunder Successfully Defends His Boxing Title

Over the weekend, I went to see super middleweight boxer Louis "Chocolate Thunder" Sargeant fight in a boxing match to defend his title as Northwest champion. Louis frequents the gym where I do my MMA training. He has often provided me with suggestions and advice on my strategy and has even holds pads for me on occasion.

What's really interesting about Louis is that he is a martial artist, not just a boxer. He originally trained in and taught Taekwondo, achieving the rank of third degree black belt. After he moved from Alberta to BC, he took up boxing. He didn't bother with amateur fighting, going straight into the professional arena.

He is a consummate athlete, dedicated to his craft. And when you watch him fight, it shows. Here's a video clip of the second half of the first round of his recent fight:

After watching Louis fight, it was hard not to feel motivated about my own training. Louis is a classic example of hard work paying off. And he constantly tries to impart this knowledge as a Richmond BC personal trainer.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Foam Weapon Sparring at the Beach

Recently, I've been taking advantage of the gorgeous Vancouver summers by going to the beach and sparring with foam-covered weapons. I haven't done much bokken (Japanese sword) or escrima (Filipino stick) training, but when I was in high school and university I did competitive fencing for about 7 years, at one point achieving the rank of 26th in Canada in women's foil and being on University of Ottawa's women's sabre team, which took first place the year I was involved. Lucky for me, much of the skills from fencing translate over to bokken and escrima sparring.

Anyway, without going into a massive amount of technical detail, my sparring partner and I had tons of fun trading blows with these foam bokken and foam escrima I bought from Century. We were able to spar realistically without hurting each other too badly. We did get a few bruises, particularly across the hands and knuckles, but nothing crippling. They're a great way to practice distance and timing and they're waaaaaay more fun than tossing a frisbee or bumping a volleyball, as long as you don't mind the odd slack-jawed gawker. I can't wait for my foam bos to arrive. :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to Do Shrimping Drills and Why

Shrimping was originally introduced in Japan where it was known as "ebi aruki" or in English, shrimp walking. Judo and Jiu-jitsu schools use it to develop the lateral hip movement that is used to escape from many holds on the ground. The hands are also used in conjunction with the hips to simulate pushing an attacker away. The video below demonstrates this drill very well.

With all the core body that is used to move the hips, shrimping is also great for strengthening the abs. My coach often has me doing this drill for my MMA training. I personally like drills that develop both skills and strength simultaneously.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Is 500 Squats Too Many?

It isn't according to my MMA coach. Last night, Mark had me do an intensive leg workout including: 500 squats, 5 minutes of stepping up and down from the ring, 5 minutes of shrimp walking (aka- shrimping), 5 minutes of pummeling drills, 3 minutes of leg lunges, 3 minutes of calf raises, and 2 3-minute rounds of kicks on the heavy bags.

Last fall, when I first started doing MMA training, half this amount would have had a similar effect on my body. It seems my body is capable of handling quite a bit more than it used to. I won't lie to you though. My legs are pretty wobbly and sore today, but I do like knowing that I'm capable of this amount of conditioning.

In theory, this will help keep me from tiring in the octagon when I do finally enter it. My coach says late August early September, but you never know with these things. He's trying to get me a good match-up for my first fight.