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.