Monday, March 31, 2008

Let Us Not Forget Our Roots

Yesterday I participated in the Jiu-jitsu BC Society's quarterly technical seminar, led by Shihan Michael Seamark from Sadhana Dojo in Vancouver and Sensei Ari Bolden from the Victoria Jiu-jitsu Academy.

Shihan Michael Seamark focused on techniques using the concept of "maki-komi" (i.e. rolling limbs to increase joint lock effectiveness). He demonstrated this at first in more traditional standing defenses, but then also showed how this can be applied in a submission grappling context. The video clip below shows him applying this concept to an Americana lock.

Sensei Ari Bolden focused primarily on submission grappling at this particular seminar, but he always takes care to point out that a great many of the techniques used in modern MMA have roots in traditional Jiu-jitsu and that includes many of the locks popularized by Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. In the video clip below, Ari Sensei provides additional pointers on tightening up the Americana. You can see more instructional videos featuring Sensei Ari Bolden at his video tutorial website Submissions 101.

I thoroughly enjoyed this seminar as it demonstrated the diversity of traditional Jiu-jitsu. The technical principles refined over centuries by Jiu-jitsu masters are extremely relevant in modern society, whether it's for self-defense or for competition.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

30-Second Blitz Conditioning

My coach gave me quite a work-out last night. After warming up, he had me and my training partner Gina doing 30-second blitz training.

As far as conditioning goes, this is one of the training styles I quite enjoy. Basically, we cycle between a variety of strength and cardio training exercises, doing them each for 30 seconds with only a 10 second break in between each exercise. We did this for each of the following:

Squats, leg lunges, double foot jumps up and down the ring, push-ups (2 sets), skipping, cone jumping, medicine ball tossing (with a sprawl in between tosses), mountain climbers.

This kind of training really gets your heart going, but what I like best about it is I never get bored since we don't do any one exercise for very long.

Once we were done this, my coach had us do three 2-minute sets of suicides, alternating three 2-minute sets of jumping over a heavy bag on the floor and sprawling. Once we were done this, Gina and I were made to do two 5-minute rounds of pummeling drills. Then when we were nicely tired out from all these exercises, our coach sparred us, alternating between us, 2-three minute rounds with me and two with Gina.

It's good for us to be tired out like this before sparring with him. It trains us to be good at fighting when we're gassed. Though by the end of it all, I had little energy left for my own Jiu-jitsu class that I had to teach that night. As a result, I decided to make my students go through a slightly easier version of my MMA training session that night. Needless to say, they really felt the burn that night.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Throwing to Defend Against Kicks

This video shows a Kung fu sparring competition in which the guy in yellow very effectively defends against kicks simply by snatching his opponent from underside while he's on one foot, attempting to kick him. Be sure to watch the whole thing through. It's pretty cool.

In Jiu-jitsu we tend to think about blocking the kick first, while closing into the attacker so that you are too close to be kicked with any power. Or if you're quick enough, you might try to catch the kick in mid-air while closing. I often do this when doing MMA sparring. But clearly, as the guy in yellow demonstrates, if you are fast enough, you can manage to scoop up your attacker while he or she is precariously balanced doing a kick.

I think it's also important to point out that it's much easier to do this when the attacker is aiming the kick high because there is more space within which to grab, as well as more time during which to enter. Nevertheless, the guy in yellow has great skills either way.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Learning by Teaching

I've often heard people complain about being required to teach as a part of their training towards black belt. Many dojos require a year of service as an apprentice instructor before a student will be considered for black belt grading. I've always thought that you learn as much as if not more through teaching than you do through training alone, particularly at the higher levels. The other night, I experienced a classic example of this.

I had noticed that some of my students were lacking the crisp movements I like to see in their strikes, so I decided to take a class to focus on what is necessary to achieve this. I demonstrated technical principles like hip movement, lowering centre of gravity, and keeping the body loose throughout the movement of a strike while snapping at the time of contact.

As I watched one of my students performing a backward elbow strike to the solar plexus, I noted that he started the movement with his palm down so that he could snap it upwards as he landed his strike.

"That's pretty slick. Where did you learn that?" I asked, thinking he had learned it from the other style of Jiu-jitsu in which he had trained.

The student gave me an odd look. "Uh, I was just copying what you were doing."

I did a double-take, then grabbed an uke to see for myself. It was true. That was, in fact, the way I did it. Yet, because I hadn't put such intense focus on that particular strike in awhile, I had just plain forgotten that it was something I did.

It's little discoveries like this that make teaching so rewarding. It's not just about helping other people to learn. You actually learn a lot yourself in the process. Sometimes you don't even realize all the little things that serve to produce quality technique. Not to mention all the benefits you gain in helping people with different physical and mental perspectives than your own.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jiu-jitsu Sensei on the Radio

Today I received a call from CBC Radio asking me questions regarding self-defense and street awareness in connection with the rash of recent muggings in the South Vancouver area. You can read about the story on CBC's website. They are also bringing me into the studio tomorrow morning to interview me on the radio at 6:40am.

My suggestions on preventing and dealing with muggings as a victim are as follows:

Avoid walking alone late at night.
If it can't be avoided, take well-lit roads, preferably ones with more pedestrian and street traffic. Call someone to let them know that you're walking home, what route you're taking, and about how long it should take for you to get there. Then call them again when you get home. If something does happen to you, they'll know immediately and they'll also know where to look for you.

Be aware of your surroundings.If you're walking alone, especially at night, keep your head up and constantly monitor your surroundings. Don't walk with your head plugged into your MP3 player or while talking on your cell phone. Focus on getting home safely.

Trust your instincts.If you get a bad feeling about an area or people near to you, don't ignore it. Take a different route. If you think someone may be following you, get to a place where there are other people, a store, restaurant, or even a house that has lights on. If none of these options are available, cross to the other side of the street and dial 9-1 on your cell phone. If the person continues to follow you, then dial the last '1' to get help.

Don't fight unless you have to.You never know how your attacker will react, how much force he'll use or whether he's carrying a dangerous weapon. Give them what they want and only use force to defend yourself in response to physical attack.

For those of you who may be interested, I'm holding a women's personal safety and self-defense class on Sat. April 26. See my website for more details.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Hypnotic Powers of Ki Masters

For the record, I do believe in the concept of ki energy and think that it does have an effect on the effectiveness of martial arts. That being said, I do believe it has limitations. I also believe that some people can get so wrapped up in their martial arts training that they literally hypnotize themselves into believing that their masters have superhuman powers and, as a result, they are affected by them. In my mind, this is clearly the case with the master featured in the following video.

Here's another example as supplied by Fox News:

I won't say that these things are necessarily impossible. I have seen some pretty superhuman feats using ki energy performed by Shaolin monks. Nevertheless, I don't think the guys in these videos are all they're cracked up to be.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Revisiting the Turtle Block

The other night I was training with my coach and was made to do several rounds of boxing sparring with him. Going into the ring, one of the other coaches told me to keep my hands up and against my head at all times in what we call in my style a "turtle block." Not knowing what was coming my way, I didn't feel the need to use the turtle block as my guard against Mark. I was soon disabused of any such notion.

My coach is a former pro-boxer, as some of you already know. And he decided that night it was time to put more pressure on me. Without hitting me hard enough to cause injury (though hard enough to cause real discomfort), he proceeded to lay the beats on me for three rounds.

At first, when I stayed in a more traditional, more open guard, Mark just punched right through my guard, landing blows to my head with his own fists or simply by punching MY fists into my own face. After a minute of this, I buckled down and put my hands up into my turtle block position so I could absorb all his blows and throw a few of my own punches when the opportunity presented itself.

In this kind of boxing, there is really no blocking at all. It's pretty much just either absorbing the blows with a solid guard or damage control (i.e. keeping the chin low and actively taking the blows on the forehead where the head is strongest). All the more reason to train yourself to fight the flinch.

I was later told though that I can keep my lead arm out a bit more so that I can snap out my jab more easily as long as I keep the arm quite firm so that my opponent's blows to punch through my guard or cause me to hit myself in the face. I practiced this a bit later on and found it an effective alternative to simply maintaining the turtled position. And as far as MMA goes, I found that this firm guard allows me to absorb blows more effectively when entering an opponent's space for throws and takedowns.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Fighting the Flinch

I was doing some MMA training with a student of mine today who is still finding his feet (and fists!) in his stand-up game. One trouble most people encounter when they're new to sparring is dealing with strikes to the face. Inevitably these people flinch at incoming blows, making it difficult for them to defend.

The best way to learn to fight the flinch reaction is to do drills that involve hits to the head. I like to exchange jabs with a partner, practicing a different defense against each incoming jab. I switch between using a parry, a slip, or simply dropping my chin and taking the blow on my forehead (where the head is strongest). This was a drill introduced to me by my coach.

While doing each of these defenses, I force myself to keep my eyes wide open in order to fight the flinch. I do this by actively raising my eyelids as I do the drills.

This is a good way to train yourself not to flinch, an important skill to learn in order to train yourself not to get hit in the face. :P

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Training While Sick

I am at home right now, contemplating whether or not to go into the dojo tonight. Last night I had a high fever. Though the fever has come down today, I'm still feeling other symptoms. So the question is: how sick is too sick to train? I came up with the following symptom list for determining the answer.

You are too sick to train if you are:
a) Running a fever,
b) Sneezing or coughing excessively,
c) Fatigued and low energy.

The main concern I have when a students come in to train while sick is whether they will spread their illness or whether their lack of energy and focus will cause them to be a danger to themselves or their training partners.

As for myself, I will go in tonight if I'm not running a fever, though I won't train with my students. I'm just going in to oversee the students who are reviewing for their next belt tests.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When Knee Meets Groin

This image shows the back of my dojo's club t-shirt. It is tongue in cheek, but I feel it is pretty relevant for pretty much all martial arts training. Last night, I failed to adhere to one of these tenets with disastrous results.

In my Jiu-jitsu classes, groin protection is mandatory. When I do my MMA training, however, I don't typically wear my cup. I usually wear a rash guard and a pair of grappling board shorts.

Well last night, I brought along one of my Jiu-jitsu students to my MMA training session so that I would have a partner that doesn't outweigh me by 130 lbs. During the session we worked on the knee kick. To do this we held up a padded stomach protector to our bodies while the other person drove their knee into the pad.

We were using a Muay Thai style knee kick for which you lean back in order to drive your knee harder using your hips. This worked quite effectively. It was particularly effective when my partner's knee slipped down the pad and landed square on my unprotected pelvic bone.

I yelped in pain and dropped in a similar fashion as you would expect a man to drop, clutching the effected area. My coach immediately ran to my side rolling me onto my back telling me, "Bring your knees up to your chest and breathe, Lori."

I knew exactly what he was doing. "Mark, I'm not a man! There's nothing down there that that will help!" The collective laughter of everyone in the room ensued.

My coach was acting on instinct. He was trying to get me to do the only revival method he knows for a kick to the groin. By rolling me on my back and having me raise my knees, he would have helped me to lower my testicles back into their rightful position, theoretically relieving the pain. I couldn't help but be amused by this even in the state of unbelievable pain I was in.

What is really ironic is that in every martial art style I've ever trained in, I wore my cup out of force of habit. MMA is the only exception. But after this incident, I will be operating under the following mentality:

"It's better to have a cup and not need it than need a cup and not have it."