Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Throwing in MMA

In my style of Jiu-jitsu, we do more throwing than is practiced in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. While it can take awhile to develop the skill and timing to execute throws effectively, I think throwing is a very worthwhile ability to develop for MMA.

Check out some of the masterful throws that were executed at the 2007 World Judo Championships:

Throwing can be a very effective way to take an opponent to the ground while keeping in an ever-so-important dominant position. Not only that, it makes for very exciting fights! Who wouldn't like to see some of these Judo throws worked into MMA more often?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why We Wear Groin Protectors

First-time students at our dojo often ask me, “If this is a self-defense art, why wear a cup? You wouldn’t wear one on the street.” To this I simply reply: “You’ll find out why when you get on the mat."

In my Vancouver Jiu-jitsu dojo, wearing a groin protector is mandatory. Even though it remains out of sight, it is as much a part of our uniform as our belts, as is the case with pretty much all Can-Ryu Jiu-jitsu dojos. In Can-Ryu Jiu-jitsu, we practice our strikes in self-defense techniques with light contact. Whether it’s to the brachial plexus or to the lateral femoral nerve (charlie horse), we make contact to ensure that we are on target on the giving end, and so we know the effects of our strikes on the receiving end.

Naturally, the groin is a common target in self-defense and we practice striking it quite regularly with knees, hands and feet. Of course, the best way to practice targeting the groin is by actually making contact, making the groin protector an altogether mandatory piece of equipment.

And it’s not just for men.

Oftentimes women feel that they don’t need a groin protector the way a man does. Speaking from experience, a solid strike to the groin, on a woman’s pelvic bone, can cause a lot of pain, and bruising that can last for days.

If a woman doesn’t wear a cup, her partners will be forced to be more careful striking her. This brings about entirely different problems. In order to avoid striking the groin accidentally, partners tend to take it easy on all their strikes, impeding the targeting development of the striker and the development of strike effect understanding of the strikee.

Groin protectors are so routinely expected in our class that I tape a red “X” on the crotch of the pants of a student who forgets their groin protection. This practice is usually used to indicate injury so that partners know to go easy on the marked area.

Whether your partner is wearing a groin protector or not, you should still exercise some caution when striking the groin. Even with one, a strike the groin with a lot of power behind it is still felt. The cup only does so much, so light contact is safer. At seminars when we train with students of other schools, I remind my students to ask their partners if he or she is wearing groin protection first before making any contact strikes to the groin. Not all schools have their students wear them while training.

Lastly, I should warn everyone that there are a crazy people out there who don’t think being kicked in the groin is such a big deal. Everyone I’ve heard make the claim that they could take a shot to the groin soon regretted making the claim.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Freeze Tag Warm-up Game

Every other week or so, when we have a good number of people for the game, I have my students play our own version of freeze tag for warm-up. It always amuses me how much more people get out of this exercise than they do out of skipping or running drills. The game aspect is why.

The way we play freeze tag is as follows. One person is "it" and tries to tag the others. If a person is tagged, then they are "frozen" and they must drop into a horse stance. The other students can free someone who is frozen by crawling through their legs. Those who are frozen can assist the people who are still free by grabbing or obstructing the person who is it. They are allowed to do this as long as they don't move their feet.

My students love this game. We're all really just kids at heart and love to play a game with set rules. Much more fun that mindless exercise for which the sole purpose is to get the body warm. As a result, 5 minutes of freeze tag always has my students panting from exertion much more so than the same amount of time spent skipping or running. They push themselves more because they lose themselves in the game, which makes freeze tag a win-win exercise.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Globe and Mail Interview with Jiu-jitsu Sensei

If you checked out today's Vancouver edition of the Globe and Mail, you'd have found a column featuring me and my career as a martial arts and self-defense instructor in the Lifestyles section. It only appeared in the Vancouver edition though, so my apologies if you went out and bought it in other parts of Canada.

You can however see it online, complete with an audio clip of my interview here on the Globe and Mail website.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lori O'Connell in the Globe and Mail Tomorrow

This is just a quick post to let you all know that there will be a bit of a photo feature about me and my career as a martial arts and self-defense instructor in the Globe and Mail tomorrow in a column called "Not Famous" in the Lifestyles section. Look out for it!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Why I Don't Advocate Breaking Concrete Blocks

The founder of a local Kempo school made his fame by setting a world record for breaking the biggest block of ice recorded. I was told by a friend who trained under him that in order to attempt this wondrous feat, he broke every single bone in his hand.

I imagine it looked something like this:

I've dabbled in a little board-breaking for the fun of it, but there are limits to what the human body can take and setting a record simply isn't worth breaking bones for in my mind.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Saying Goodbye

As a dojo owner, I see a lot of faces come and go. Some students come to our mats for a couple of months then move on. Other students find a love for what we do and stay for years. Then there are students who find the love in a very short time but, as a result of life circumstances, have to move on. We had to say goodbye to one such student last night at my Vancouver Jiu-jitsu dojo.

Ray, featured here with me in this photo, was only with us for 5 months but found a love for the dojo that many people take years to develop. He came to us this past January with a background of 9 months training in a different style of Jiu-jitsu in Singapore.

He was an eager student right from the beginning. He even asked to grapple me after class on his first class. Knowing that he was about the same size as me and far less experienced, I decided to take it easy on him, letting him try a few moves, but ultimately tapping him out when I got the opportunity. Ironically, he confessed to me recently that because I did this, he almost didn't join. He had thought, "I don't know about this Sensei, with her experience, shouldn't she be completely dominating me?" I couldn't help but find this cute and laugh in retrospect.

He did end up joining of course and in doing so threw himself completely into his training. Ray showed up early for almost every class and attended most open training sessions. Since he was a good size match for me, I even invited him to come train with me during my MMA sessions with my coach a number of times, which he also embraced. He would also box with my coach whenever invited, eager to learn whatever he could.

Ray is extremely friendly and positive and always brought this with him onto our mats. Everyone in the dojo enjoyed training with him. And even though he was only with us for 5 months and had only reached the rank of yellow belt in his time, he managed to be uke for 4 different students' belt tests, including one green belt test.

For Ray's last day of training, he came in early to train with me and my coach, taking every opportunity to spar and grapple that he could. During class, I went out of my way to use him as my demonstration uke. He threw himself into the role with gusto. He hurled himself at me at sprinting speed so I could demonstrate the defense for bear hug rushing, letting himself get kicked at this speed with a very accurate thrust kick to the solar plexus. At the end of class, I put Ray in the middle of a Jiu-jitsu circle having our students come at him with random attacks for 2 minutes. It was his first and last time doing a circle with us.

It was with a heavy heart that we all said goodbye to this great student and wonderful friend. Though he will be missed, we all expect to stay in touch.

Good luck doing your phd in Hamilton, Ray! You're always welcome back on our mats.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Professor Georges Sylvain Retires

A couple of weeks ago, Professor Georges Sylvain, founder of Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, retired from the world of martial arts at the age of 72. He has contributed a great deal to the development of martial arts in Canada over the past 50 years, so it truly is the end of an era. I consider myself very lucky to have trained under him and worked with him to as a training model for several of his video productions. Here is a little about this extraordinary man.

Professor Sylvain began his training in combative arts over 50 years ago when he served with the Canadian Military Police during the Korean War. Mr. Sylvain undertook training in Judo, Jiu-jitsu, Karate, weapons, standard police techniques and boxing.

When he developed and founded the art of Can-Ryu Jiu-jitsu, he wanted to make it the most effective self-defense system possible. With this intention, he allowed each and every technique that would eventually become the curriculum to be tested on him personally in a variety of conditions.

Professor Sylvain is renown throughout North America having taught defensive tactics at police forces and academies all across the continent, including the Smith and Wesson Police Academy. For the 25 years, he taught defensive tactics for the Law and Security program at Algonquin College. He won a number of awards for his teaching excellence and dedication to his students. His books on police tactics from a policeman's perspective have sold in over a dozen countries and are used as text books by law and security programs abroad.

In the mid-sixties, Professor Sylvain was a top-rated karate competitor, chief instructor of one of Canada's first Jiu-jitsu schools, a cop, author of "Scientific Method of Police Fighting" and the chief self-defense instructor for the RCMP.

In the days of full-contact karate Professor Sylvain wrote an article stating that the competitors that would gain the most success in the future of the sport would have to combine their karate techniques with those of boxing. Soon after, kickboxing was born.

Professor Sylvain was Jean-Yves "Iceman" Theriault's initial trainer in the early part of the 23-time world champion career. He also became an integral part of TSS Productions, which promoted martial arts and kickboxing extravaganzas in Ottawa.

On his retirement, Professor Sylvain gave Ed Hiscoe Shihan (my Sensei back in Ottawa) the task of carrying on his legacy. He truly is an inspiration and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from him.

I'll sign off this post with the opening of my book, Weapons of Opportunity, which quotes him:

Weapon #1: A Can of Beans

A weapon of opportunity is an object that lies conveniently at hand at the moment of an attack, and is used as an improvised weapon in defense.

For example, let’s assume you went to the grocery store and bought a can of beans. The clerk places it in a plastic bag for you to carry home. While you’re carrying it to the front door of your home, you’re suddenly pounced upon by an assailant. Reflexively, because you were caught by surprise, you swing the bag with the can of beans back at him, hitting his head. The can of beans has now become a weapon of opportunity. You didn’t buy it with the purpose of walking around the city and hitting people over the head with it. You used it because that’s what you happened to have in your hands with which to defend yourself when you were subjected to an unprovoked physical assault.

In self-defense, there are no rules, only results.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Self-Defense and What is Allowed By Law

The other day I got to talking with my students about the what-ifs when it comes to what you are legally allowed to do when you are in a situation in which you have to defend yourself against an unprovoked attack. There are so many ifs, ands, and buts that I can't really say what is allowed in every single situation because each situation has its own unique factors. I can, however, provide some guidelines based on Section 34 of the Canadian Criminal Code.

Section 34 is intended to present the circumstances under which you are legally justified to defend yourself from a physical assault. The laws are intended to provide the victim legal grounds with which to defend him or herself. They also prevent a person who perceives themselves as a victim from using excessive force against an attacker which could have been subdued more humanely.

The following is not legal advice and therefore should not be treated as such. These are only guidelines with which you can determine how much force may be considered acceptable for you to use to defend yourself in the case of a physical confrontation.

Self-defense Against Unprovoked Assault Section 34-C.C.C.

(1) Every one who is unlawfully assaulted without having provoked the assault is justified in repelling force by force if the force he uses is not intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm and is no more than is necessary to enable him to defend himself.

(2) Every one who is unlawfully assaulted and who causes death or grievous bodily harm in repelling the assault is justified if:

(a) he or she causes it under reasonable apprehension of death or grievous bodily harm from the violence with which the assault was originally made or with which the assailant pursues his purposes; and

(b) he or she believes, on reasonable grounds, that he cannot otherwise preserve himself from death or grievous bodily harm.

Factors to Help You Determine if You Are in Imminent Danger of Being Assaulted

* Did the assailant have or appear to have the ability to physically assault you in the way you perceived?
* Did the assailant demonstrate intent? Did his or her words, actions or body language lead you to believe the assailant had the intent of attacking you?
* Did the assailant have the means to attack you?

Explanation of Defender - Assailant Factors

Age. An older person who is confronted with a much younger assailant may need to use a much greater level of force to defend him or herself. Conversely, it would be expected that a younger person who is confronted by a much older assailant should not have to use as much force to defend himself.

Size. A relatively small person who encounters a large assailant may need to use greater levels of force in order to defend himself.

Gender. A female defender who is assaulted by a male assailant would probably need to apply a greater level of force in to successfully defend herself.

Skill Level. The skill level of the defender and the assailant also enters into the use of force determination. The defender facing an assailant whose skill level is clearly higher than that of the defender may need to use a higher level of force to defend himself.

Disability. Persons with physical disabilities are much more likely to be injured during a physical assault and would likely need to use any means at their disposal in order to successfully defend themselves.

Explanation of the Totality of the Circumstances

Imminent Danger: The assailant is known to be armed.
Special Knowledge: The assailant is known to have special skills which pose a greater threat.
Injury/Exhaustion: The defender is injured or exhausted.
Multiple Assailants: The defender must face more than one attacker.
Ground Fighting: The defender faces multiple tactical disadvantages (i.e. body weight, debris, communicable disease, weapons, multiple assailants, decreased environmental opportunities.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Message to Dana White: MMA Women Deserve Some Attention

Last night, CBS featured an MMA fight between Gina Carano and Kaitlin Young brought to us by Elite XC. The two YouTube clips below show the fight.

This was a pretty cracking fight, both fighters with heavy Muay Thai backgrounds. It was very exciting and the crowd got a good show. After watching this fight, it is amazing to me that there are still old dinosaurs in the MMA industry who don't think women ought to be fighting.

Dana White, president of the UFC, remains opposed to allowing women on their organization's fight cards, claiming there aren't enough elite female fighters out there. This is just nuts. Is he telling us that Gina Carano, Satoko Shinashi, and Megumi Fujii (and that's just a few off the top of my head) aren't good enough while Kalib Starnes, recently dubbed "The Running Man," after his cowardly performance at UFC 83, is? It boggles the mind.

Many announcers are saying that the women fights are stealing the show in many cases. White needs to wake up and realize how much women have to offer MMA as a sport.