Monday, December 21, 2009

Guest Instructor: Robert Mustard Sensei

Last Thursday, my good friend, Robert Mustard Sensei came and taught as a guest instructor at my dojo. Holding a 7th degree black belt in Yoshinkan Aikido, Robert Mustard Sensei runs Aikido Yoshinkai Burnaby. He has been training in Aikido since 1977 and has been training in the martial arts since he was a child.

It was a full dojo the day Mustard Sensei came to our mats, but the class was fun and entertaining, and it gave us all something to think about too. I am happy to say that even though Mustard Sensei's style is very different from our own (despite their common roots) the students in attendance all kept their minds open to the experience.

Mustard Sensei teaches joint locks and manipulation as ways of controlling a person, but not through pain compliance like what we teach. It is all about breaking balance and preventing movement as opposed to getting your attacker to do what you want through the use of pain. That is not to say that pain cannot be applied should the need arise, pain, after all, is easier to use and apply. That being said, the methods that Mustard Sensei uses can be applied in a more humane way.

Here is a short clip of Mustard Sensei teaching that day:

Mustard Sensei has asked me to come teach a women's self-defense class at his dojo, which I am happy to do. Chris and I are also planning to do some extra training with him in the new year. I am interested to find ways that Aikido principles can be applied in my own Jiu-jitsu training.

Thanks again go out to Robert Mustard Sensei and his uke Christian. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to Train through Injuries

Last night, I was feeling good. I had enjoyed one of my first training sessions at my dojo since Chris came back to teach (he was on hiatus for the last month as he prepped for his black belt grading. Then it happened. After class I was grappling with one of my students and there was an unfortunate slip that led to me getting injured. Now I'm suffering from a hyper-extended elbow.

When it comes to injuries, obviously you should rest or take the necessary time off until you can train safely again. But I can walk. I can move. I just can't use my left arm right now. So instead of taking a break, I'm going train in how I would defend myself if I couldn't use my left arm.

Chris is teaching at my dojo tonight with his shiny new black belt. I'm having him teach a special Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu class to my students to pay homage to his recent achievement. As a gesture to me, he is teaching the entire class on doing one-armed defense. I am grateful for this gesture.

But if you have a particular injury, there are always ways to train around it. Like, for example, you could do defense from a chair if you can't use your legs for some reason. Obviously, not all injuries permit this. Neck, back or hip injuries, pretty much limit your options for safe training, but the next time you have an injury, ask yourself: How would I safely defend myself if someone attacked me while I'm still recovering from this injury? It's a good exercise in creativity and it might lead to some interesting training.

Monday, December 14, 2009

11 Signs That a School Might Be a McDojo

I've discussed the topic of McDojos in the past, their disadvantages and their benefits, but how can one tell if a place is in fact a McDojo? To help identify them, I've compiled a list.

It Might Be a McDojo if...

1. It's located in a shopping mall.
2. The words "black belt" are part of the dojo's name.
3. Their logo involves some sort of cartoon animal.
4. They teach every martial art you can think of.
5. They advertise children's birthday parties on the home page of their website.
6. They absolutely refuse to give their prices over the phone.
7. You have to test for "stripes" between standard belt tests, both of which you have to pay for.
8. Everyone always passes their belt tests, no matter how much curriculum they forget during the test or how incompetent they are at what they perform.
9. They make the statements like "Your real goal should be to attain the rank of black belt."
10. As an adult, you have to train with 6-year-olds.
11. They do demos that involve light shows and smoke effects.

This is by no means a complete list. If you have any other items you think should be on this list, by all means, share them in your comments.

Be sure to check out "The Foot Fist Way", a classic mockumentary of a McDojo. Or, read "Enter the McDojo" for a more serious post on the topic.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Addressing Size Issues in Ground Defense

As many of you know, I've been asked to review the ground defense curriculum of my style, Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, and to propose updates that will put our curriculum more in line with the 4 key tenets of our style.

In doing so, I've come to accept that we can't always have a single "basic" technique against a particular ground attack that is taught to all students. The problem is that what works for a person who is small and/or short, doesn't necessarily work well for someone who is big and/or tall and vice versa. In stand-up defenses, it's easier to establish basic techniques that will work for the greater majority of people because there is more room to move and the situations tend to be less confining. But size differences matter a lot more when it comes to the ground. We would be doing a disservice to our students to force them all to use the same techniques in cases where the size difference matters.

As such, I'm reviewing each ground hold defense in terms of how it works for both shorter and taller, smaller and bigger people. Where possible, I'll work out basics that will work best for greatest number of people, but I'll establish back-up techniques to be taught for the exception cases, for whom these techniques aren't as practical.

On a separate note, I'd like to congratulate Chris Olson for achieving his Shodan (1st degree black belt) in Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu over the weekend. Next stop: brown belt in Can-ryu. :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wishing Chris Good Luck for His Shodan Exam

This Saturday, my assistant instructor Chris Olson is testing for his Shodan (1st degree black belt) in his other style of Jiu-jitsu, Shorinji Kan. He is flying all the way to Peterborough, Ontario for the privilege of being repeatedly attacked by a group of Shorinji Kan black belt toughs.

Getting the opportunity to test for Shodan is a milestone for Chris, who has been training for 9 years. No matter what the outcome of the grading, he is an excellent martial artist and teacher and everyone here at West Coast Jiu-jitsu is proud of his accomplishments.

Good luck, Chris! Break some legs! ;)

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Holiday Gift from Me to You

December is rolling in and the holiday season is in full swing. Traditionally, there is a dip in attendance at this time of year with all the merry-making, but Chris and I will both be teaching right through the holiday season except on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and New Year's day.

I know it can be hard to work in Jiu-jitsu training with all the festive events and holiday shopping that needs to be done, but it is definitely worth it to make the time for yourself to help keep your sanity together.

To thank everyone for their continued support on my blog and in my martial arts training, I'm offering a 10% discount on my book, Weapons of Opportunity, an autobiographical narrative of my training experiences in the martial arts. The discount code is 'holiday2009' and it can be applied when you buy my book on my website until Dec. 25, 2009.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Monday, November 23, 2009

On Being a Guest Instructor

Being a guest instructor at another dojo is an honour. Particularly so when it's a different style. Especially so when it's a completely different martial art.

I have been invited to teach a ground grappling class at the BCIT Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu dojo tomorrow night. I very much welcome this opportunity in the interest of fostering a good relationship with people in this style, but also for my own development as an instructor.

Teaching students that are not my own is a good exercise. They're used to different ways of receiving information in a different style of class. It is therefore a good way to test my own teaching abilities to help make me more adaptive, and to see the different difficulties a different set of students might encounter.

It's not just me either. I'm quite happy to say that the leadership of our two styles do teaching exchanges. Steve Hiscoe Shihan taught a class at a Shorinji Kan dojo in Ottawa. Andy Dobie Sensei taught a class when he visited Steve Hiscoe Shihan's dojo in Chilliwack.

Being exposed to different ideas allows us to expand on our own knowledge and question concepts that are may be taken for granted. I'm glad to do my part in encouraging an openness to learning in the martial arts world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The 4 Key Tenets of Can-Ryu Jiu-jitsu

In re-evaluating the ground defense portion of the Can-ryu curriculum, it is important to think long and hard about the key tenets of our style to ensure that the core curriculum I propose fits with those tenets. I will review them here.

1. Simplicity. Our core curriculum is meant to be easy to learn. A student should be able to be able to learn a defensive technique in a way that is usable in less than 3 minutes. If it doesn't work for the student for whatever reason, the student should be shown something different. But ideally, our core curriculum should comprise of techniques that will work for the greatest variety of body types and attack situations.

2. Commonality of Technique. We strive to use similar types of techniques in similar defensive situations. The purpose of this is to prevent brain stalls which can occur in the pressure of an attack as a person tries to "think" of what to do. If the defense that is taught is the same within all the different minor variations of the same attack, it reduces the chances of this.

3. Usage of Gross Motor Skills. In the interest of making our core curriculum easier to learn and apply, we emphasize the use of gross motor skills over fine motor skills. Gross motor skills include manoeuvres like knee strikes, shin kicks, open hand strikes, and simpler takedowns like centre heel lock or the jugular notch takedown.

4. Awareness of Multiple Attackers. In all the defensive techniques we use in our core curriculum, we emphasize a constant awareness for the potential for multiple attackers. This means that we teach students to look around and be aware as though someone may attack, even while you are defending against one person. This is true whether you're taking someone to the ground, striking, or doing after throw techniques. We also don't emphasize techniques that leave us prone on the ground. This means there are no sacrifice throws and we teach students to get up off the ground after every ground hold technique that is successfully escaped.

Our primary purpose for teaching Can-ryu is to teach usable self-defense. These 4 tenets are the focal point of all our "core" curriculum that is to be uniform across all Can-ryu dojos to keep us in line with that purpose.

That being said, we still have the liberty to teach outside the core curriculum at the discretion of the instructor. Manoeuvres like hip throws, joint locks and other moves that take longer to learn and apply have a place in each dojo's "variation" curriculum. Students are to understand that their first line of defense is Can-ryu's core curriculum. The variation curriculum, on the other hand, which receives increased emphasis from green belt onward, provides an avenue for skill enhancement over the long term. It also keeps things interesting.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What's in Store for My 33rd Year

Today is my birthday. I am now 33 years old. I have now been doing martial arts for more than half my life. And this year has great expectations for me as such.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with my Sensei, Ed Hiscoe Shihan, head of the style of Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu. He gave me my assignment for my Yondan (4th degree black belt) test. I've essentially been asked to write a thesis about knife defense, covering the history of knives as weapons, different types of edged weapons that are used, how they are carried by civilians, the attack & concealment methods used by the military, criminals, prisoners, and police officers. In addition, I am to describe how I would teach knife defense, as well as the reasoning behind my teaching methods. After my thesis has been submitted I'm also expected to teach a seminar on knife defense, drawing from my thesis, during which I'll be evaluated as an instructor.

I've decided that since I'm putting in all this research time anyway, I will structure my research for the purposes of writing a book. Who knows? I might even be able to get it published.

The second big thing for me in the martial arts world is that I've been asked to review the ground defense portion of the Can-ryu curriculum with the goal of putting ideas forward to help bring it up to date with the key tenets of our style. I'm to compile all my information and ideas in time for the next black belt seminar in January in Western Canada at which I'll be presenting them.

I am honoured to be asked to do this. Having spent a few years training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and MMA, I have been combining it with my Can-ryu training to create an effective system of ground defense that I have been passing along to my own students. I am excited to share this with other instructors in the hopes that even more people can benefit.

When I look back at when I started training in Jiu-jitsu about 13 years ago at the age of 16, it's amazing to think about how far I've come, while simultaneously seeing how much more I have to learn. That's why I recently decided that I want to work toward an early retirement from the 9 to 5 working world (ideally by the age of 40) so I'll have more time to focus on martial arts and writing. That would be an amazing gift to myself when I turn 40. Here's hoping...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Turning My Focus Away from the MMA Ring

Ok, it's time to face facts. I've started to turn away from the idea of getting into professional MMA fighting. Part of it has been life getting in the way. In the last 8 months, I've opened my dojo at a new location, I did special abilities extra work for 2 different movies (very time consuming). I sold my apartment and had to move out and live out of suitcases at a friend's place for a month. I bought and moved into a new house. I brought 2 cats into my life. I started a new full-time job in which I have a supervisory role.

Needless to say, these things kept me a little distracted.

Now that the distractions are starting to calm down and I'll soon be able to devote more time to training beyond that which I do in my own dojo. But I find myself wondering if pro MMA is where I want to focus my efforts.

Don't get me wrong. I love the martial arts training aspect. I love hitting pads. I love grappling. I love sparring. I am happy to do martial arts training several hours a day, most days of my week. But there are 3 aspects about professional fighting that make me hesitant to recommit.

First of all, I committed myself to a rigorous MMA training program for nearly 2 years with a coach/manager pushing my development, first Mark, then Louis. I was told of many instances where fights were being negotiated for me, but nothing ever materialized. There were numerous false starts when I was told that a fight would happen, but didn't back when Mark was my coach/manager. And after so many disappointments I found it harder and harder to throw my heart into my training.

Secondly, I found that the huge amount of time that I had to devote to conditioning, both strength and cardio training, was much more than the time I spent training in martial arts techniques. While I do believe that everyone should have a good base level of fitness and should spend some time doing conditioning, I personally would rather spend that time developing my technical abilities in the martial arts. In the ring, you are preparing to fight against someone that is the same size as you, so with conditioning, you are trying to get every advantage you can get. In a real street defense situation, you don't have the luxury of choosing your opponent. Attackers usually choose to attack you because they think they're bigger or stronger than you.

No matter how much you condition yourself, there will always be a bigger, stronger attacker willing to take you on. Particularly so in my case, being a woman of small stature. Furthermore, as one gets older, the body inevitably gets weaker, no matter how much a person trains. Technique is the only thing that can stay with you no matter what. It makes sense to make technical development a top priority.

To me, ultimately, the martial arts are not limited to the context of the ring in which you face only a single, unarmed opponent of a similar size within a set of rules designed for the fighters' protection. In a true street defense situation, there are no rules or limitations other than what you place on yourself, so you have to train for the many possibilities that can put you at a disadvantage.

Lastly, I am first and foremost a martial artist, as opposed to a fighter. For me it's about personal discovery and development, not the desire to inflict violence on another person. I've been told time and time again by various martial arts mentors that when you get into the ring, you cannot hold back, you have to fight with everything you've got. I am no stranger to this mentality, but in my 16 years of training, I've come to fundamentally believe that the only place for this mentality is a true street defense situation.

I see MMA as a sport and wouldn't truly want to injure an opponent in taking part. In a street defense situation, my rights are being violated, I'm likely going against a much bigger, stronger man, and there are no limits to the potential dangers that could arise. It make more sense not to hold back when someone is not holding back with you and has advantages over you to boot. I think that if I won an MMA fight against another woman by knocking her senseless or injuring her in some way, I would feel bad about it afterward. And I'm told you can't really afford to have compassion when you get into the ring.

This is not to say that I see no value in MMA training. I love what I've learned from my experiences and I will keep training in it. There is real practical application in what I've learned and I've found a place for it in what I teach in my own dojo.

As for entering the ring myself, I won't be actively seeking it out. I think it would be an interesting experience and if the opportunity presented itself, I might take it. Despite all my misgivings, part of me is still curious to do it. But I don't want to throw myself into a heavy conditioning program unless I have something specific I'm training for. I will simply train for the love and take things as they come.

Friday, October 2, 2009

When Life Gets in the Way of Martial Arts Training

This past month has been a little sad for me as a Sensei. I had about half a dozen students tell me that they're going to have to take a break from Jiu-jitsu this semester because their school schedules are too hectic and they need more time to focus on school.

I totally understand that career aspirations must be prioritized over martial arts training, as should family commitments. Personally, when I was in school, I never missed a Jiu-jitsu class for the sake of my studies, but then I was in a fairly easy program and I had decided to make martial arts a priority in my life no matter what. But then my program wasn't very demanding so I never needed to make a choice.

The students who are taking a break are all very dedicated, very promising martial artists, and while I will miss them during their absence, I hope they know that I respect their decisions and will welcome them back when they return. It's all part of running a dojo, and it's the reason why a Sensei must maintain at least a small degree of detachment from their students so that they won't feel guilty about making decisions they have to make.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mifune Sensei & the True Spirit of Judo

First off, I apologize for my recent absence in the blogosphere. I started a new full-time job that has been keeping me very busy.

In following with my last post about the new Judo rule that was conceived to prevent cross-fertilization with other styles, I want to show you a video that, to me, gives you a little sample of the ultimate goal of the Judo that Jigoro Kano (founder of Judo) had intended when he created the style. For those of you who don't know, Judo was conceived of using a subsection of Jiu-jitsu techniques.

The tiny, frail old featured in this video, is Kyozo Mifune Sensei, 10th degree black belt, who is considered by many to be the greatest judo technician ever, after Kano.

I've seen a more complete version of the part where Mifune Sensei goes through 5-6 high ranking Dans (5th-8th), taking each one on individually and finishing each with a clean 'ippon' (in Judo terms, a solid throw that finishes the match). Every time any one of his younger, stronger opponents tries to throw him it's like he's not even there. It's like trying to throw a wispy feather. His body goes up then sails around them, landing perfectly on his feet, even after throws like ippon seoi nage (shoulder throw) and tomoe nage (stomach throw).

Judo was never intended to have weight classes, which is why the open category is still widely considered to be the only place where true Judo can occur. That being said, these days it is largely populated by the heavier weight categories. The idea was that if you had truly grasped the concept of Judo, you don't have to use any energy or strength. It all comes from your opponent, as Mifune Sensei so skillfully demonstrates.

To me, this is the highest form of martial arts, effortless, beautiful and you better believe it's got practical applications. Sigh. Where are masters like these nowadays?

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Judo Rule Introduced to Prevent Cross-fertilization

Recently, the International Judo Federation announced that they were testing a number of new rules at the upcoming World Junior Championships. One rule in particular gave me pause. All techniques below the belt line are banned. Only techniques using leg against leg will be allowed, or if the hand grip in the leg is the continuation of another technique tried (ex. o-uchi gari which can develop into kata guruma). The purpose of this new rule is discourage Judo from being combined with other martial arts like wrestling, Sambo, or BJJ. I think this is a sad development for Judo for a couple of reasons.

First of all, this ban removes a number of techniques native to Judo. Morote gari (double knee pick-up), for example, is a traditional Judo technique. Sure, it also used in wrestling and MMA, but what of it? The argument is that they're trying to keep their art pure, and to do so, they're comprising the integrity of their art. How does that make sense?

Secondly, so what if a few wrestlers or Sambo fighters come in and do well in their tournaments? This is just an opportunity for Judo to evolve and learn to effectively counter different types of attacks. Unfortunately, there is a lot of pride/ego when it comes to the martial arts, and I believe these new rules are a way of ensuring that Judo students aren't tempted to add to their knowledge by cross-training.

That is the problem with competition though. If you look at the Kodokan, the original bible of Judo, there are a number of techniques featured that are no longer allowed in Judo competition, like shoulder locks, leg locks, etc. Because of this, and the emphasis on competitive applications inherent in Judo training, there is little incentive to show to teach these techniques in dojos, causing these native techniques to be lost to the art. I think it's all rather sad.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Defending Against the Shoot: Sprawl or Sacrifice Throw

In my last blog post, Gi Grappling vs. No Gi Grappling, I received many questions/comments about defending against BJJ/MMA takedowns. I promised to do a detailed post on this topic, particularly about defending against the shoot in a self-defense context. So here goes.

The first way I recommend to defend against the shoot is through the use of the sprawl. When done properly, this is the best way to defend as it keeps you on your feet (or close to it) and in a dominant position. It is very important to stay off the ground in a street defense context because of the risk of environmental dangers and of the possibility that there could be multiple attackers who could kick you while the first guy keeps you occupied on the ground. More on why you should stay off the ground in a self-defense context.

Here is an intro to the sprawl care of the the TV series, The Human Weapon:

It's important to note that the sprawl is not just a matter leaning into the attacker and throwing your feet back. Done this way, an experienced attacker won't have much trouble getting under you and forcing you off your feet. To do the sprawl properly you must redirect his energy downward by dropping your hip into them, using your shoulder, chest and arms secondarily for support as well as control.

It's also important to get a good sense of timing when using the sprawl. If you do it to early, an experienced attacker could fake you out and put you in a vulnerable position. If you do it too late, they'll likely get under your weight and take you down.

Here is a video by Tito Ortiz showing some good practice methods for the sprawl:

Note that if you're using the sprawl in a submission grappling or MMA context, you have the option to grapple your opponent from the resulting dominant position you get. Or if your opponent doesn't protect his neck properly a guillotine can be applied for the submission. But in a street defense context, you want to get up from the ground as quickly as possible, so once you've sprawled, strike your attacker to create the opportunity to get free and to your feet as quickly as possible.

If you fail to do the sprawl, you're going down so your best bet is to go with the energy and reverse it to your advantage with a sacrifice throw. The one I like to use best is the tawara gaeshi (rice bale throw). Here is a video showing its application:

In this video, the instructor uses both legs, but if you first attempted a sprawl, you're likely going to have one leg forward. This isn't a problem though, as the throw can be done with a single leg. If my right leg is forward, I plant the ball of my right foot into my attacker's right hip. Alternatively, you can hook your foot under the hip at the top of the thigh.

In practice, I always try to roll up and end on top of my uke and take the mounted position, but in the context of an attack, you might not get enough control to do this. In this case, you can just loosen the grip you have on the head with your arm and try to drive the attacker's weight over you as aggressively as possible to throw the attacker as far from you as you can.

If you have any further questions, please don't hestitate to ask in the comments. Have fun trying it out!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gi Grappling vs. No Gi: It's All in the Grip

One other thing to come out of my training in Spartanburg was a short grappling match I had against a 220 lb. British shodan named Oliver who, in addition to his training in Shorinji Kan, has spent some time studying BJJ gi grappling. After some chatting at the bar, we agreed to have a go at it after one of the training sessions. I've always maintained that gi grappling favoured larger, stronger people when the face off. Never was this more apparent than when I grappled Oliver. But then it wasn't just the size and strength difference. There was technique on top of that.

When I had grappled world-class BJJ competitor Jennifer Weintz in the past, she was very skilled at using my gi to manipulate me from her back like a puppet master using strings. With Oliver, it was the other way around. Being much bigger it was a simple task for him to hold me down from on top, but the gi added something more. Without a gi on, I'm usually able to use my speed, flexibility and agility to keep myself out of tight spots, even against much bigger guys. Oliver easily got around this by taking grips on my gi that effectively pinned my shoulders to the ground in ways that made it impossible to move the way I usually do. Yes, his size made it easier to hold me there, but the grips he used are technical and could be used effectively even without the physical mismatch. After he tapped me out, I was quick to ask him to show me the gi control he had used.

Upon reflection on this experience, I've decided that I want to devote some time to developing my gi grappling. I've always liked no-gi for its speed and the way you're required to use your body to control the person through weight shifting and body positioning. Gi, on the other hand, uses the same principles but adds in another layer, a fabric layer that can be used for added control.

I've found that generally when people lack skill in grappling, they tend to take a death grip on the gi and forget all about body mechanics, which is why I encourage my students to grapple without a gi first. But now that I've gotten a decent base in no-gi, I want to turn my focus to gi so I can learn more about grips, grip breaks and gi controls. This type of training can have practical applications in street defense too, particularly if you live in a climate in which people need to wear jackets. I'm going to study from some of the books I have at home when I get back to Vancouver, but in the meantime, I started checking out some vids on YouTube. Here is one video I found on YouTube showing a simple grip break from guard:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Featuring Two of My Blog's Readers

One of the coolest parts of attending the Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu event in Spartanburg was not only meeting but actually getting to train with two people who regularly read my blog. I'd like to tell you a little about them because they were both great martial artists and very cool people.

Jennifer Higgs has been training for several years and holds a brown belt in Shorinji Kan (seen here on the right). She currently trains in Toronto. From what I've heard of her, she is truly dedicated to the study of Jiu-jitsu, having persisted in her training after sustaining multiple injuries that would have caused most other people to simply drop out of the martial arts altogether. I trained with her a few times over the course of the conference. She trains with both an appreciable level of skill and a keen interest and enthusiasm. She is around the same size as me... ok, maybe she was just a little taller. My point is that being a similar size, it was interesting to see that we moved in similar ways. It's cool for me to discover training partners like her as we likely have had similar challenges throughout our development as martial artists. Jennifer is planning to come visit our dojo in BC in the fall some time. I very much look forward to the opportunity to train with her again.

The other reader I had the pleasure of meeting was Ian Purnell Sensei, instructor of the University of West England Jitsu Club in Bristol, England (seen here on the left). Ian has been training for over 2 decades and was awarded the rank of senior second degree black belt (a high level for this particular style) at the conference for all his hard work and dedication to the art. He is taking the helm in the organization of the next international event to be held in England 3 years from now. I had the pleasure of training at two different seminars that he taught, one on shiatsu and another in which he taught a number of practical self-defense techniques. Both were well-taught, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable.

There was one exchange between him and one of his students I had the privilege of witnessing outside of the seminars he led. His student stepped off the mat having been severely winded from a blow. She was looking panicked as she tried to draw breath to no effect. Without even getting up to his feet, Ian tapped her on the body with an open palm then drove a thumb into a point at the top of her chest, which had the immediate effect of causing her to take a huge breath of air. I couldn't help but be impressed and immediately asked him to explain what he did. Essentially, he drove his thumb into a shiatsu point known as 'lung 1', which can be used to stimulate the breathing process. Ian explained that this point can be used on people having an asthma attack if they don't have an inhaler. He himself uses it on students while they fumble to find their inhalers in their bags, fixing the problem so effectively they have no need of them when they finally do find them.

I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to meet and train with both Jennifer and Ian. I feel very honoured that my blog has attracted such impressive martial artists.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Jitsu International - Spartanburg 2009

Yesterday morning, I took my gi out to throw it in the wash. There were blood stains both in the top and in the pants. I can't say whose blood it is, but I know it's not mine. Oh, those Shorinji Kan-ers...

This past weekend, Chris and I travelled to Spartanburg, South Carolina to attend an international event being held there for students of the style of Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu. It was a great privilege to have been able to go and a wonderful experience, albeit a brutal one. I would challenge anyone who'd say that Shorinji Kan-ers don't train seriously. After 4 days of training, conference participants could be seen sporting black eyes, bruises, blisters, fat lips, and more besides. A couple of guys' faces were so scratched up they looked like they had stuck their head into a bag of angry cats. I can't help but wonder what went on at that particular seminar...

While I've been studying Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu for 16 years, I only recently started learning Shorinji Kan at the beginning of this year. As a result, some concepts that were featured at the conference's seminars were more natural for me to pick up, others had me fighting against my previous experience. And as frustrating as it can be to learn new things that are very different, there is something comforting about the fact that there are still many concepts out there that can make me feel like a white belt just starting out, even after 16 years of training martial arts of various styles. The more you learn, the less you realize you know.

Overall, the conference was fun and educational. My muscles were pretty sore by the end of the 4 days of training, but it was worth it. I am very impressed at the Jitsu Foundation's level of organization, allowing them to coordinate huge multi-national events like this one, which attracted over 100 participants from the UK, Canada, the US, and South Africa. In my next blog post, I'll write about two impressive Jiu-jitsu practitioners, both followers of my blog, whom I had the privilege of meeting for the first time at the event.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Classes Continue While I'm Away

Me and my dojo's other official instructor Chris are going to be away for a week and a half for Jiu-jitsu related trips to South Carolina and Ottawa. When we first planned the trip, I was expecting to have to close down my dojo while I was away.

I'm very happy to report that classes will continue while we're away thanks to the voluntary efforts of my martial arts contacts here in Vancouver. We'll be away for 6 classes and we have 3 guest instructors each taking over 2 of our classes. The instructors are Alex Fairweather Sensei, 2nd degree black belt in Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu, Les Andrew, 2nd degree black belt in Shito-ryu Karate (and orange belt in Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu), as well as Jenny, my faithful doctor student who holds a purple belt in Can-ryu.

I'm very grateful that everyone is so willing to contribute to help keep the dojo running while I'm away. My only regret is that I won't be able to be there for what I expect to be some very interesting and educational classes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

See You In Spartanburg at the Shorinji Kan Internationals

As I write this, I am eagerly anticipating my upcoming trip to the Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu International conference in Spartanburg. I see this as a great opportunity to meet other Jiu-jitsu instructors from around the world and have a good bit of fun too. I know I have a number of Shorinji Kan practitioners who read my blog. If you're going to the event, send me a message so I know to look out for you. I am excited to meet my readers from around the globe in person. I'll be the one wearing the gi with the "West Coast Jiu-jitsu" patch on my left chest and the Jiu-jitsu BC patch on my right shoulder (looks a little like the Canadian flag). Oh and if anyone is interested in buying a copy of my book, 'Weapons of Opportunity' let me know and I'll bring an extra copy for you. I'll offer it to people at the conference for a discounted price of $15 US.

I look forward to seeing you on the mats!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Knee on Belly: A Solid Top Position Against Larger Grappling Opponents

In the last couple of months, I've been playing more with the knee on belly position when I grapple. It's not for everyone. To make the best use of it, you need to be fairly flexible in the groin. You also need to have great balance and quick reflexes. But I've found that as a smaller person grappling with larger people, it works really well for me as a top position.

Here are a couple of knee on belly videos I found on YouTube, showing how to apply an arm bar to either arm of your opponent:

The reason why knee on belly can be better than side control or scarf hold against bigger opponents is that it allows me to use my speed and agility to counter their efforts and getting me off the top. Even if I have a very solid side control or scarf hold, it requires that I put more of my body closer to my opponent where it can be used, attacked, entangled, etc.

With knee on belly, on the other hand, I can keep my body away from my opponent. And if he tries to shrimp away or push me off, I simply lift my weight off to keep control then re-establish the control point. Plus, there is the added benefit that I can drive all of my weight into the muscles that control breathing, causing my opponent to tense those muscles so that he doesn't lose his or her breath. This is great for tiring out a larger opponent, while conserving your own energy for a decisive attack. On top of that, if you're doing MMA, this position can be a great place from which to strike your opponent.

Anyway, it's been working out pretty well for me. Give it a try!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Proud to Announce Two Purple Belt Promotions

I am proud to announce the recent promotion of two of my students, Glenn and Jenny, to purple belt. These two were two of my first students who started soon after I founded my dojo back in January 2006.

Both of these students lead busy lives, one being a doctor, the other being both a store manager and a father. That being said, they have continued to balance their lives enough so that they could progress in their Jiu-jitsu training, while maintaining their devotion to their other pursuits and commitments.

Glenn and Jenny are both very active people. In fact, neither of them took much of a break after their tests (which lasted over 2 hours). Jenny cycled home (from Richmond all the way to New Westminster) and Glenn went home and mowed the lawn.

Both of these students have come a long way in their training through dogged persistence and a love of the art. I am very proud of the progress they have made over their time at the dojo.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Kali Knife Defense Techniques at the Action Room

This past Friday I went in for one more class at the Action Room. Two hours flew by so quickly as instructor Kirk Jaques led a class of conditioning, kicks, and Kali knife techniques.

I was very much interested in the knife blocking and stripping techniques Kirk taught, particularly for the way they blended into joint locks that are used in Jiu-jitsu. Some of these blocking techniques are more easily learned than others, but I believe that some of the easier blocks and controls could be practically applied to the police-oriented Can-ryu style of knife defense. The ones that take much more practice, like some of the knife stripping techniques, while they aren't as quickly and easily learned, I believe they could be effectively applied in real defensive situations (if the time is taken to become proficient in them).

Here is a video of the techniques Kirk taught that day:

Please note that while some Kali schools may teach the use of a knife for use in a defensive context, in Canada it is illegal to carry a knife for intentional use in self-defense or any other kind of combat. The use of lethal force must be legally justified according to Section 34 of the Canadian Criminal Code. Read more about self-defense and Section 34 of the Canadian Criminal Code.

Special thanks to Kirk for allowing me to film and post these techniques!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Movie Sword Work Training in the Heat

Yesterday was the hottest day in recorded history in Vancouver. So what did I do? I went out to a Vancouver area stunt & martial arts training hall called the Action Room and spent most of the day doing movie sword work training outside in the heat. Aside from the heat, I had an awesome time.

The morning was spent going through basic attacks and defensive manoeuvres, working in groups of 2 or 3. We went through various sequences then later paired up with someone and put together our own sequence, which was later used to put together a bigger battle scene that was filmed.

The training was led by Kirk Jaques and Ernest Jackson (owners of the Action Room), both martial artists with decades of experience. Ernest Jackson is also a prominent stunt coordinator in the Vancouver area. Both were great instructors and led a fun and educational session.

For this session, I had brought my white oak bokken to train with. However, I noticed the ones they had for people to use were made of a hard plastic. They were lighter and easier to swing, which I thought might be nice because you would get less tired over the course of a long day, plus you don't have to use as much energy to do your routine at a faster pace. I asked Ernie about this, but he advised me to stick with wood.

The reason he gave me was that it forces the user to have proper form. Because it's heavier, you have no choice but to use the full motion. He said that when people use the lighter swords they often cheat and don't go through the full motion. By this logic, I think it's probably best to use a heavier sword for training, but if you need to make something look really sharp for a demo reel or for a stunt try-out, it might be good to have the lighter one too, as long as the form can be properly maintained at the increased speed. It's important to remember that even though the sword is lighter it is supposed to be heavier. So part of the stunt performer's role is to make it move like it's heavier even when it's not, which is not as easy as one might think.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kettlebell Review Coming Soon

CSN Stores recently contacted me asking me to review one of their fitness products. I figured this would be a great chance to try out the kettlebell, which is becoming popular with martial artists. It seems to me that because of its design it is versatile enough to be used for a wide variety of exercises.

Here's a YouTube video of some basic techniques and their relevance to BJJ and Judo:

Anyway, I am now anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new kettlebell so I can play around with it and give you my opinion. Oh and in addition to fitness equipment, CSN Stores has a great selection of office furniture, from office chairs, to desks and accessories, and even massage chairs (oh, if only someone would ask me to review one of those!).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Congrats to Jennifer on Her BJJ Brown Belt!

After having successfully winning 3rd place in the World BJJ Championships and the Pan-Ams this year, Jennifer Weintz recently earned her brown belt. I have always maintained that Jennifer is a consummate athlete who works harder than anyone I've ever met in the sport. Her promotion is certainly well deserved in my opinion. She is one of the most skilled BJJ-ers I've ever rolled with.

Jennifer was recently interviewed and written up in an article for It certainly is nice to see her getting the recognition she deserves.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why It's a Good Idea to Vary Your Class's Strength Training Exercises

Today, I got some happy news from one of my students. He emailed me to tell me that because of our strength training workout in class last night, he managed to work out a pain in his lower back and hips that had been bothering him for some time. It was because of a pelvic lift exercise that I ran with the class that was newly introduced to him.

As an instructor, it's easy to get in the habit of using the same types of strength training exercises class to class, not just for the purpose of strengthening different muscle groups (though variety of that sort is also important), but doing different exercises that exercise the same groups. I am even guilty of it myself on occasion, so every so often I try to bring in something new.

For lower back strengthening, I often use back crunches in which you lie flat on their belly and lift up your upper body off the mat. Last night, I ran my students though pelvic lifts instead, in which you lie on your back and lift your lower back and hips off the mat (as shown in the picture above). And on that evening, it was just the right exercise for that particular student I mentioned. Apparently, it stretched out the area in just the right way that it seemed to correct a problem that had been causing the pain in his hips.

Beyond this wonderful success story, it is worth pointing out that the body does get used to exercises that are repeated regularly, which causes your muscles to get complacent, so to speak. This is why it's a good idea to try and vary the types of exercises.

Instead of just using push-ups to work out the pecs, chest passes using a medicine ball can be used, or resistance training using weights or resistance bands. Instead of using stomach crunches, you can do medicine ball tosses on the abs (great for working the inner abs for taking hits), or just holding the plank position for a minute or two, or any of the myriad other options out there. This will keep your or your students' bodies on their toes and give them a better overall conditioning program.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Experimenting with My Stand-up Grappling Game

Yesterday, I met up with Shelene, my new grappling buddy, to do some rolling. The thing I found most interesting was how different our stand-up grappling styles are.

Because of her heavy wrestling background, Shelene favours a stance in which her upper body is bent over and her hips are far back. It's an aggressive stance that lends itself well to leg takedowns, crotch takedowns, etc. My stand-up grappling game is more similar to Judo, favouring a more upright stance, bending low at the knees.

What I found was that while my style worked well defending against and countering Shelene's wrestling takedowns, I didn't find it very easy to engage her and initiate my own throws and takedowns because her hips were so far back I found it difficult to take her balance.

Since Shelene and I had such a great time rolling together, we definitely intend to do it again. It's rare to have the opportunity to roll with skilled female grappler. So for our next session, I intend to be more aggressive with my takedowns to see what opportunities I can create. With Shelene's skill, I'm sure that this experimentation will lead to her taking me down in new and unexpected ways, but it's the only way to learn new things.

Shelene currently does her submission grappling training at 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu Vancouver, a school that teaches Eddie Bravo's signature style of BJJ.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Introducing My Newest Grappling Buddy

Ok. I'm officially out of shape. I hiked the Chief (4.5 hours straight up and down a local mountain) last Saturday. Result: My legs hurt for several days after. Yesterday, I did my first upper body resistance training session with my coach since I started my movie work a month ago. Result: My upper body ached all over today. Tonight, I did some of the first sparring I've done since before I started the movie work. Result: One of my students owned me because I had become all flinchy.

Conclusion: It sucks getting back into the old training regime after having taken too long a break.

What I'm Gonna Do About It: Keep on pushing till I get back what I lost.

Fortunately, I did manage to keep doing some grappling here and there over the past month, so I'm still feeling on my game with that. Gotta focus on the positive too! So going with that theory, this Saturday, I'm meeting up with my new friend, Shelene Yung, whom I met on the movie set. She did competitive wrestling for 7 years and has now moved into submission grappling. Check out this video of her tapping out a guy at a recent tournament:

I like that she made the guy fight on her terms, like any skilled fighter should. Because of her experience, she's more skilled on her feet than on the ground compared to a student in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. So she kept the fight on her feet. Every time she took him down, she'd wait until he got back up, until she eventually choked him out with a slick rear naked choke (from standing, no less!).

Anyway, even though the movie work kept me from my training, it's nice that I was able to meet a number of skilled martial artists, particularly a few skilled women, which is a treat for me. And the way I see it, you can't have too many skilled training buddies. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Serenity Fight Rehearsal: Sweet Moves!

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to the video below. It's the fight rehearsal for the movie 'Serenity' performed entirely by stunt performers. In this movie, the fight is between River and, well pretty much an entire bar full of low-lifes. I personally think it's even better than the fight that ended up in the movie. That's the difference between a fight that's performed by an actor/dancer and a fight that's performed by a stunt performer with a martial arts background. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

3 Things You Should Never Do While Doing Movie Fight Work

I just got home after working 6 days in the woods doing martial arts special abilities background work for a movie being shot locally. There is a long list of things you shouldn't do while working on set, but for the martial arts performer, below are a few key ones. This is relevant whether performing as an action actor, stunt performer or special abilities background performer.

1. Mess around with your props. On movie sets, there is often a lot of time between takes and people often have to wait long periods for the next shot. People have a tendency to want to play with the prop weapons they were issued in the meantime. On set, I saw people whacking rocks at other people with their prop swords, striking trees, spinning them dangerously close to other people, etc. This not only infuriates the prop masters (they have to fix any damage the weapons receive), it can also pose dangers to the people around you. And if you get caught doing such things repeatedly, you may be kicked off the set.

2. Perform a fight without checking your space. If you're performing any kind of fight, be sure to check out your surroundings for your own safety and for the safety of others. If you have to put together your own fight sequence, make sure you have the space to safely perform it. Avoid using wide swings if you know you're going to be close to other people. Also, make sure there are no obstacles in your area that might trip you up or hurt you if you fall. In the show I recently worked on, we were often fighting in close quarters with other performers. A number of people were injured from not being aware of their surroundings or by people who weren't careful with their space. Fortunately, none of them were serious.

3. Try to get a stunt upgrade by doing dangerous moves. There are a number of background performers, both special abilities or general, who hope to get into stunts. Some particularly overzealous ones will do risky moves trying to get upgraded to stunts. This is NOT the way to do it. In fact, people who do this often get kicked off set. As a background performer, you are not covered by the production company's insurance if you get injured taking needless risks. You become a potential liability to the production. If you are SAE (special abilties extra) and there may be some risks perceived in what you are performing, talk to an A.D. (assistant director) and/or the production's stunt coordinator to ensure that you have the 'ok' to perform your skill the way you intend. When I was on set recently, I was asked to perform a Judo sequence with a couple of other performers. What we had in mind involved throwing and being thrown to the ground. Since there was some minor risk involved I checked with the A.D. who then checked with the stunt coordination team to make sure it was ok, assuring them that we wouldn't ask for a stunt upgrade for our performance. Happily, we got approval to do the sequence.

There are plenty of other things you shouldn't do, but let me leave you with one piece of advice that covers them all: BE PROFESSIONAL! If you're on set, you're being paid to perform a specific task. Don't go beyond that unless asked to and don't do anything that will interfere with the production. Act professionally and you will be treated professionally.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Safety Concerns When Doing Movie Fighting

Sorry for the lack of blogging recently. I've been away working in the woods on a movie set, doing martial arts special ability background work. I have the day off today so I'll tell you a little about that.

In the movie on which I am working, they have hired about 30 people to play warriors, all with their own special abilities, including fencing, archery, javelin throwing, horse handling, gymnastics, and martial arts of every description. It's been very interesting to meet all these people, each of which have a strong commitment to their individual arts. I've even set up training dates with a few of them for after we're done working on the movie.

One thing I'd like to emphasize in this post about movie fighting is safety. While the people playing warriors are all very skilled at what they do, they don't all have the same experience in all the arts represented in the movie. If you're ever working on a movie set and someone asks you to do something you don't know much about, either ask for assistance if possible, or give up the task to someone who knows what they're doing. Because people are very keen to get an active role in the movie, sometimes they take on risks they shouldn't.

The other day, one guy got stabbed in the eye with a wooden sword. The person holding the sword didn't have any experience with sword handling and when he got caught up in the action the sword ended up in a place it shouldn't have. This person would have been better off giving up his role to someone with more experience. Fortunately, they were only using wooden swords so the guy on the receiving end only ended up with a nasty black eye. If they had been using the aluminum prop swords he very well may have lost an eye.

When doing movie sword work, you never aim the sword for the person's body. It is easy to make the scene look realistic and still safe by aiming away from the body half a foot wide of the either hip or shoulder. Basically, you are aiming to the place where the other person is expected to block. It usually takes a lot of training to develop the control with the sword to do this at a speed that looks good for the camera while still being safe for those doing the action.

Well, that's my 2 cents. I'm away for another week or so on set so there won't be any new posts (unless my assistant instructor Chris finds the time to do one). Have a great week!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lyoto Machida: A New Hero of Mine

*Spoiler Warning: If you have not seen UFC 98, I discuss the results in this blog post.

I watched the fight in great anticipation: two fighters, both undefeated, Lyoto Machida vs. Rashad Evans. Lyoto Machida is a staunch traditionalist who fights true to his original style, Karate. Rashad Evans is the consummate opportunist who seems to specialize in capitalizing on people's weak moments, often resulting in knockouts.

I cheered on Machida, hoping he would make Evans eat some humble pie (Evans was always too cocky for my liking). I was not disappointed. Machida knocked him out very cleanly using his unique style. To give Evans credit, he has an incredibly tough chin. In this fight, he took a number of hard hits and kept on fighting. But one can only take so many before the body gives out. He was outclassed and in his post-fight interview he was extremely humble about the results of the fight and gave credit where credit was due.

As for Machida, in previous fights he has been known to jump up on the cage, cheering on his own victory. In this one, he pretty much broke down in tears, grateful that all his years of hard work and dedication to his very traditional art have paid off against a truly tough opponent.

Lyoto Machida, I applaud you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How to Improvise Submissions

I recently saw this clip from a fight in which a triangle is applied in a highly unconventional way. Check it out here:

I can't imagine that Toby Imada, the one applying the choke, went out of his way to learn to apply the triangle in this very odd position. In all likelihood, he got into the position and on some level he recognized the opportunity for a triangle.

This is what happens when you devote hundreds of hours to training. You develop an intuition for submissions so that you can improvise application methods that are beyond what is traditionally taught. This is true whether it's a choke, lock, crank or any other submission.

It is this intuition that makes the martial arts truly artful. When moments like the one in the video happen, it seems magical. And I would bet you that if you asked Imada about the move he pulled, he was just as surprised at how it happened as everyone watching.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Out of Print Judo Ground Work Book

Hello everyone. Sorry I've been slow to post this week. I do intend to do the follow up article on open hand strikes, but I haven't had time to do the video for it in the past few days. In the meantime, I was passed along this link to a pdf of a great book that's currently out of print. It's about Judo ground work and it covers a lot of material that seems to not get as much attention in the martial art these days. I think you'll find it interesting.

Higher Judo: Ground Work

The whole book is there in pdf form. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Open Hand Strikes vs. Punching with a Closed Fist

At my recent orange belt grading in Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu, I was told to defend myself against someone trying to apply various joint locks on me. This wasn't something that was on my curriculum for orange belt, they were just curious if I had been shown the counters. Since I hadn’t, I resorted to what I knew from Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu. As my Shodan attacker grabbed my arm to apply a lock I stepped in and delivered a straight palm heel strike to his nose, which apparently provided a good deal of amusement for the grading panel.

Even though I pulled the strike (I didn't want to cause damage), because my attacker was moving into the strike, it hit him harder than I meant to, causing his nose to go purple by the next day. After the grading, I spoke to said attacker and he was under the impression that I had punched him in the nose with a closed fist, based on the force he had received. As evidenced by this example, an open hand strike can be just as forceful and effective as a punch. Sometimes more so.

When striking in a street self-defense situation, you don’t have the benefit of protective gloves. Punching to the head often results in bloody and/or broken knuckles. Just watch some of the early UFC fights to see what I’m referring to. It didn’t take long for guys to mess up their knuckles back then when gloves weren’t worn. The smart ones switched to open hand striking methods to prevent hand injuries. Open hand strikes can be just as effectively used on the right targets. They can break noses, cause brain stunning effects, even knock a person out.

Here’s a bare-handed MMA fight in which an open hand strike all but ends the fight:

Another nice benefit of open hands is that you can more quickly use your hands to grab onto an opponent or attacker so you can throw, control or submit them. Plus, in a street context, open hands send signals to bystanders that you are not willingly involved in the conflict, which is good for gathering witnesses to your aid. You also give subconscious signals to your attacker that can help placate them as you talk them down. And if they do decide to attack you, you can still lash out with your palms quickly and effectively.

This is not to say that closed fists don’t have their place. Closed fists are generally more effective against body targets such as the floating ribs, solar plexus, kidneys, etc, due to the hard surface of the knuckles. The body is much softer too, so there is much less risk that your knuckles could be injured in the process of striking. And of course, in most competitive arenas, gloves are worn for protection so there is no reason to avoid punching. And punches give you a few extra inches of striking range over a straight palm heel strike.

In my next blog post, I’ll detail several of the most effective open hand strikes that are taught in Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu as well as a number of other martial arts.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Shorinji Kan Orange Belt Test De-briefing

Yesterday I tested for orange belt in Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu. Today I feel like I've been hit by a Mac truck. I am happy to report, however, that I was awarded my orange belt with 3 mons (the highest level of pass for orange). :) I think the person who ordered the belt over-estimated the size of my waistline though.

Many people were interested to hear my impressions of my Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu grading so I'm happy to oblige now. My grading was intense, more intense than any other orange belt grading I've ever done (I've done three others in different styles). There is a reason for this.

One of the primary goals in Shorinji Kan gradings at all levels is to push the student to their mental and physical limits and see how well they do once they're there. Since the limits of what I can handle are fairly high, given my prior training and physical condition, the intensity was that much higher to push me there. Because of this, I was glad that all the ukes (attackers) for the test were brown belt or higher, mostly Dans (black belts) of varying degrees actually. They could dish out higher intensity attacks and take what comes back their way.

As for my own personal goals for the test, I'm happy to say that I achieved them. My main goals in training in Shorinji Kan were to get more opportunitues to focus more on different locks and throws that aren't as commonly used in my style of Jiu-jitsu (Can-ryu) and when I tested I felt there was a noticeable improvement.

Of course, there is always room for improvement in some areas and the testing process gave me insight as to what I'd like to work more on. I want to make my disarms quicker and smoother so that I have more time to react to additional attackers in V's. I'd also like to use V's more in practice since I had only got to do them once or twice before going into my grading, so I think I could have benefited from more training in them.

V training is something I've only seen in Shorinji Kan and now that I've had the chance to do a high intensity V, I really want to do more of them. If you don't know what this is, basically one person stands in the centre of the mats and at one end of the mats, a Sensei stands with two lines of attackers (sometimes they're armed with various weapons, sometimes they're unarmed). The Sensei runs the V, sending one attacker at a time from each line. The tori (defender) defends against each attacker as they come. As the V progresses, the Sensei sends attackers in progressively faster so that the tori ends up having to deal with additional attackers while not quite finished dispatching current ones. It's a great training drill that I would like to explore further.

If anyone is looking for advice on how to best handle the rigors of Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu gradings, my biggest tip is this: BREATHE! I breathed on every strike, throw, lock and fall (some of my breaths took the form of kiais). Also, when you get to a break and sit down while other students perform, be sure to take the opportunity to do deep breathing to slow your heart rate. Take a deep breath, hold it for 3 seconds, then slowly exhale. Good breathing strategy helped maintain my energy level and focus throughout the test.

Anyway, overall I very much enjoyed the challenges of the Shorinji Kan grading process. We also got to take part in a pretty cool seminar run by the Dans immediately after the grading. It was a lot of fun despite the lack of energy I had post-grading.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Busy Jiu-jitsu Weekend

This weekend is going to be a busy one for me. Today we're holding a women's self-defense class, which will be followed by a yellow belt test for 3 of my students. Tomorrow, I'm teaching a private lesson for two people, after which we'll be rushing off to the Shorinji Kan dojo where I'll be testing for orange belt. After that grading, there will be a 2-hour seminar with Andie Dobie Sensei (the head of the Shorinji Kan style in Canada) and other higher ups. Then the seminar will be followed with an evening at the pub at which I'll be expected to do 2 shots, one for each colour of belt which I'm testing for, should I pass the grading.

So lots going on and no time to do a very detailed blog post. I will do a write-up of my impressions from my orange belt grading after the weekend though. Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Day Classes Starting May 1st

It's official. I've decided to go ahead and start offering day classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-2:00pm, based on the feedback I've received. I'm hoping that this time slot will appeal to people looking for Vancouver martial arts training for police work as our style is well-suited for use in the field. That being said, I hope to see more people who have to work in the evenings like restaurant workers, people who work at hospitals, stay-at-home moms, etc.

There is a new price scheme for different packages, daytime unlimited, evening unlimited, and fully unlimited. All students will be welcome at our Sunday open training sessions.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Considering Adding Daytime Classes to Schedule

We are currently considering the idea of adding 2 daytime classes to our dojo's class schedule. The idea is that it would appeal to shift workers who often work evenings, students with variable schedules, and possibly people who work in the area who can take off lunch to do some training.

If we go ahead with it, the classes would run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a time schedule of around 12:00-1:15pm mark, with the option to come in 15 minutes before class or stay 15 minutes after class for extra training.

I'm curious how many of you out there do daytime training. If so, is it something you do over your work's lunch break or is it because you're a shift worker and free time during the day? Or if your dojo doesn't offer daytime classes, do you wish that they did?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Capoeira in MMA? It IS Possible...

Jon (one of my esteemed martial arts colleagues) and I were recently debating the effectiveness of Capoeira (a Brazilian martial arts with African connections) as a fighting style. He had mentioned that he had heard that it was being used effectively as a contact fighting style on a martial arts documentary he'd seen. Given what I had seen of Capoeira, mostly from my experiences in the stunt industry, I found it hard to believe that it would be all that useful in real fighting context. Capoeira, for the most part, is taught as a demonstration style martial art with fancy kicks and gymnastic tricks.

Here is an example of how Capoeira the way it is typically practiced:

After my inconclusive discussion with Jon, I turned to YouTube to find examples of how it was being used in the ring. The first fight I found was pretty much what I was expecting... though apparently it's from the movie 'Never Back Down.' Check it out:

While I found this example amusing, a Capoeira fighter would pretty much have to be an idiot, to show off like that mid-fight. This next fight, a real one, happened only a few days ago. It features a Capoeira fighter from my local Vancouver, BC, using it far more effectively.

Any martial art has the potential to be effective in the ring or on the street... as long as you fully understand its weaknesses and limitations in addition to its strengths. In my opinion, it is true that some arts may lend themselves better to certain contexts and therefore can be learned to a usable level of skill more quickly in those contexts. That being said, if you devote years or decades to learning a martial art, even one that may appear less practical for those contexts, it can have the potential to be equally effective, despite their limitations. People like Lyoto Machida have founded impressive MMA careers based on this kind of devotion.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Special Spring Offer: Free Uniform

With the economy being so bad right now, I know that many people are trying to be careful with money. As a result, people are delaying coming in to take up Jiu-jitsu since it does require a bit of a financial commitment to start training with us. To make it easier, I've decided to offer to give a free uniform to new students until May 15.

I don't usually go for these types of offers since they smack of the tactics used by McDojos. Many dojos offer 4 months training for only $99 to start or offer a free uniform with your first month of training or something like this. A lot of people are willing to try it out because of the low-start up cost, but then the dojos jack up the price once the offer is finished. And of course, they don't necessarily tell you up front what the costs will be after the offer is over.

Despite the association with the McDojo sales strategy, I understand that we're in a recession right now and I do want to make it easier for new people to sign up.

And by the way, the free uniforms offered for these deals are usually cheaply made and paper thin. They wear down fast and soon need to be replaced. The free uniform I'll be giving to new students this spring is a good quality medium thickness uniform that retails at $65.

Anyway, if you know anyone who is looking to learn self-defense and is looking to take up a martial art (like Jiu-jitsu) in the Vancouver area this spring. Let them know about our offer.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Louis Sargeant Retires from Professional Boxing

After his recent re-match against Ralph "Junior" Moar, Louis "Chocolate Thunder" Sargeant has announced his retirement from the professional boxing world. The match took place on Friday, Mar. 27, 2009.

Here is a video of the first two rounds of the fight:

I am glad to have been there for his last fight. It was long and exciting (it went the full 7 rounds) and Louis was clearly the favourite. Alas, the decision went to Moar. Having watched the fight, I believe that Moar was the stronger "boxer" in this particular fight, but Louis was a better "fighter".

Moar was taller by at least half a foot, 10 years younger and boxed for points quite successfully. Louis, on the other hand, fought to land hard hits rather than lots of lighter shots for points (as he always does). Moreover, he took some solid shots and stayed standing, not once going to an eight-count.

After the fight, the crowd roared its appreciation. It was the fight of the night. People cheered on Moar, the victor, but they cheered just as much for Louis, if not more when he took his bow.

Louis told me at his post-fight celebration that he was happy with the fight. Of course he would have preferred the win, but he felt that he fought the good fight. He took the hard hits to the head, he bled, and his face got marred (a first in his career he told me), but he went the distance and put on a good show. He said that he was happy to step down and now focus on my fight career.

Louis Sargeant is a great man with a big heart and a passion for what he does. I'm proud to have the opportunity to train under him.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

West Coast Jiu-jitsu Weclomes Guest from Blog

Earlier this week, our dojo had a guest come for a drop-in. This was a first. It is very exciting to know that my blog is making enough of an impact that someone visiting from out of town wanted to come visit and train at my dojo.

I had never met Dave before, but he has been following my blog for awhile. He trains in a variant of Can-ryu back in Ottawa. Many of the fundamentals are alike, but of course, there are a number of differences. That being said, the differences weren't so pronounced that he was a fish out of water. In fact, he trained with very good intensity and control and with an excellent attitude. He fit in well, both on and off the mats. Because it was our weekly Wednesday wing night, he even came out to join us for a bite to eat after class.

It was great meeting Dave and training with him. Everyone enjoyed having him and we would very much welcome him on the mats again should he ever come back to Vancouver.

This goes for anyone else reading my blog. If you ever come out to the Vancouver area for a visit for whatever reason, please feel free to contact me about coming in for a drop-in if you're up for some training. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting Ready for My Orange Belt in Shorinji Kan

As most of you know, I've been training in another style of Jiu-jitsu on the side called Shorinji Kan. At the launch party it was made public knowledge that I wouldn't be testing for yellow belt at this April's grading, but that I would be testing for orange belt.

At first I was a bit nervous about being given a month's notice for an extra level of curriculum. Fortunately, I had a look at the curriculum and there is sufficient cross-over between our two styles that I'm okay with it.

You may think I am being a bit silly about being nervous at all considering that I have nearly 16 years of experience with Jiu-jitsu under my belt. But if anything, there is more pressure on me to be not just good enough to pass the grading, but to be exceptionally good. The expectation is greater, not just from the grading panel (presumably) but from myself. It doesn't matter that I'm already operating at a level that is beyond what is usually expected for someone of my level in Shorinji Kan. I don't want to be anything less than what I'm capable of. Otherwise I will have failed the grading in my own eyes, no matter what belt I'm awarded.

In my mind, a person's progress in a martial art isn't based on how much better they are than other people, but on how much better they are than themselves. It's about constantly developing your skills in pursuit of an unattainable mastery. It's this mentality toward training that makes martial arts training so great.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Women's Rights in Egypt Gets an Extra Kick

Due to a recent rise in sexual harassment cases in Egypt, it is becoming socially acceptable for women to train in martial arts for the purposes of self-defense, as reported on the BBC News website. At the dojo featured in the article, women of all ages train wearing gis or track pants along with their traditional headscarves. The women train with each other and also with men.

In a survey of 2,000 women conducted by the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights, it was found that 83% of them had experienced some form of sexual harassment. Even more disturbing, nearly two thirds of the men surveyed freely admitted they had abused a woman at one time or another.

The author of the report, Nihad Aboul-Qumsan, says too often the woman is blamed for dressing provocatively.

"Most of the people we questioned said there wouldn't be such harassment if women dressed in a modest way. But when we questioned women on what they were wearing when they were abused more than 70% said they were wearing a headscarf.

Egyptian women rarely report these attacks fearing public embarrassment and the resulting "dishonour" to their family. Plus, the police aren't usually very sympathetic when they do make reports.

According to the BBC News piece though, there was a landmark case last year in which a judge handed down a 3-year sentence to a man who had repeatedly groped a woman pedestrian as he drove alongside her in Cairo. The victim initially held on to her assailant's vehicle and eventually succeeded in dragging him to a police station.

Since that case, the topic has been more openly discussed in the media. The government belatedly has recognized they have a problem. A new legislation is passing through parliament that would define sexual harassment as a crime and make it easier for women to report it.

This is a great start, but of course this legislation will need solid support from Egyptian society as a whole before real change emerges. In the meantime, it's nice to hear that women are learning that they have the strength to fight back.