Monday, January 26, 2009

My Protein Power Shake Breakfast

I'm not a nutrition freak by any stretch of the imagination. I only follow a few loose suggestions that my trainer, Louis Sargeant, has offered. 1) Eat a healthy breakfast as soon as you get up. and 2) Avoid carbs after 3pm (except on evenings when I'm training, in which case I can have them before I train).

The healthy breakfast gets taken care of by my trusty protein power shake that gives me a solid start to my day. It's tastes reasonably good if you don't mind protein powder. I'll share the recipe here.


1 scoop of vanilla-flavoured protein powder
1 small banana
2 handfuls of berries
1 tablespoon of flax seed oil
2 tablespoons of ground flax seed


Add all ingredients except milk to blender. Add milk until mixture reaches a total of 3 cups. Blend until smooth. Drink immediately after blending or else ingredients will settle and the drink will become "blech-y."

This is what I usually eat for breakfast, but I'm not so stuck on it that I won't go for breakfast with friends and break my routine every so often. My philosophy toward eating is that one should try to eat healthy but still enjoy food, which in my case, means splurging once in a while.

Friday, January 23, 2009

How to Get Your Gi Really Clean

After you've used your gi for awhile, you may notice that the arm pits and other key areas start to discolor from use. Today, I was introduced to the solution to this problem: OxyClean (no-name variants are fine too).

Now that I have 3 martial artists now staying under the same roof, my white wash is entirely for gis. One of them extolled the benefits of OxyClean for getting out those unbecoming discolourations, so I thought it worth a try.

You do your wash as usual and add a scoop of this stuff (2 for heavily soiled gis) and it works like a charm. It's not chemical-based so it's safe on pretty much any material. If you have any major stains, just give a scrub with a mix beforehand. It's inexpensive too.

So if you're tired of hiding those awful pit stains and such, give this stuff a shot!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Day at a New Dojo

Last night, I attended my first class at the BCIT Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu dojo. The first class of anything is usually a little stressful in that there are always new training methods and patterns of behaviour to learn. It was a bit easier for me though due to my several previous experiences training in this style.

Kevin, the usual instructor, unfortunately, was not available to teach last night so Chris (my right hand at my own dojo) and Jon, his old Sensei from Ottawa who just recently moved to Vancouver, took over the class.

Since it was the start of a new semester for the dojo, there were a handful of new students starting for the first time. Some were naturally a little tentative and nervous, having never trained in a martial art before. But I remember my first time stepping on the mats as a newbie. If it's anything like what it was like for me, there was also an underlying excitement.

Beyond the techniques themselves, new martial arts students are exposed to a different, very foreign seeming type of etiquette and code of conduct. The training environment in the martial arts, particularly traditional schools, is usually very different from anything they've ever experienced.

Myself, I always enjoyed the dojo training atmosphere, which emphasizes discipline and mutual respect, something that is absolutely required when doing potentially harmful techniques on each other. If there is no trust, there is no learning.

For me, of course, none of this was new, though there were slight differences to the formalities. It was still satisfying to put on my dirty, old white belt and absolve myself of instructive responsibilities, looking out only for my uke's and my own personal safety. The only thing I have to do there is train. What a great feeling, even if it was the last 1.5 hours of a 6-hour training stint. :P

Monday, January 19, 2009

Extra Training with a BJJ Purple Belt

This morning I woke up with a few extra aches and pains. This was the result of my grappling session with a new training partner, Jennifer, whom I met at the 10th Planet seminar a couple of weeks ago. The photo here shows her grappling at last year's Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Pan-ams. She took the gold.

I didn't know what to expect going in. I knew that she had trained for 7 years, mostly in gi grappling. I knew she would likely dominate me, but that's about it. But her technique was so amazing that she just completely owned me. She is also incredibly flexible and can put it to good use on the ground. I imagine she'll do quite well at the Pan-ams, the tournament which she is currently training up for.

It's no wonder she is so good at what she does. We talked in detail about her training regimen after class. She is a consummate athlete. She trains pretty much every day, often as much as 5 hours a day. She does weights, yoga, trains at multiple BJJ schools, and she maintains a strict diet. And all of this she tracks in complete detail in a training journal.

Jennifer has an excellent attitude towards training with other people, completely devoid of ego and attitude. She was quite open and willing to teach me anything that would help. She believes she can get something out of training with anyone, no matter what their skill level. Lucky for me since I see there is much I can learn from her. Being around the same size as her, she says she is able to practice moves on me that she wouldn't necessarily be able to use on the men that she usually trains with, so even though I'm not as experienced as her, she sees our training time as beneficial to her goals. I just hope that I can pick up everything she teaches me so I can be a better match for her eventually.

Anyway, I'm very pleased at how our session went. I'm even bringing her in as a guest instructor to teach a grappling class for my students on Sunday, Feb. 1. I'm certain that everyone will really enjoy it and learn a lot from her.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cross-training in Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu

Having Chris as an instructor at my dojo has brought a lot of cross-training opportunities in his other style of Jiu-jitsu, Shorinji Kan. I've enjoyed it thoroughly and have incorporated much of what I've learned into my repertoire. But part of me wants more. That's why I've decided to take up the regular study of this style in my weekly training regimen.

I've decided to train at the BCIT Shorinji Kan dojo once a week, in addition to using open mat time to get additional practice in this style. It's nice because I now not only have Chris training at my dojo (who is a brown belt in the style). Kevin, the instructor at the BCIT dojo has taken up weekly training at my club to help him ramp up for his 1st Dan grading. Also, Chris's former instructor from Ottawa, Jon Jamnik (a Nidan), is also moving to Vancouver this weekend with the intention of training with us too. So with all these great opportunities to learn, it only makes sense to make use of them.

I had the opportunity to meet Andy Dobie Sensei, the head of their style in Canada, who came and trained with us just before Christmas. He even made some complementary remarks in a recent Jitsu Canada newsletter about the day he trained with us.

By becoming a student of Shorinji Kan, I will also get the opportunity to go to the upcoming International Shorinji Kan conference in Spartanburg this August. This will be a great opportunity to meet Jiu-jitsu practitioners from all over the world. It looks like it'll be a great event, so I'm planning to go.

Overall, I'm very much looking forward to putting on my white belt again and learning a style from the ground up. It's very different than just learning a few things here and there. Actually committing to learning everything in a style, practicing it regularly, and getting belted in it, well, it's a process I've come to love.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Double Bagging with Eddie Bravo

Yesterday, I attended a seminar that Eddie Bravo taught here in Vancouver's new 10th Planet affiliate school. Just like the last Eddie Bravo seminar I attended, it was fun, interesting, and informative. One of the main topics was the introduction of the latest permutation of the rubber guard, the double bag. (Yes, the names he gives his moves are at times a little odd. That's what you get when a bag of weed is part of your official list of training equipment. But the man IS amazing at what he does.)

As most of you probably know, Eddie Bravo was made famous for his win over Royler Gracie as a brown belt at the Abu Dhabi Submission Grappling Championships. His style is based largely around a position he developed called the rubber guard, a position that doesn't require a grip on a gi, making it useful for no-gi grappling and MMA.

What really impresses me about Eddie is his open-mindedness toward training, which has led to a highly innovative and constantly evolving style. He encourages his students to try out new moves and incorporate them if they work. He also encourages his students to continue their training in traditional gi BJJ in tandem with what he teaches. A number of his students come from other BJJ schools, but have to train in secret. Some of them go so far as to wear wrestling masks to keep their identities secret to prevent any possibility that their other school's instructor might find out. This is because many schools don't permit cross training and will go so far as to kick you out for doing it. Eddie, on the other hand, embraces it. "Gi and no-gi just aren't the same thing," Eddie says, "There shouldn't be any conflict of interest."

The double bag was borne out of this open-mindedness. One of his students discovered the move and found it to be effective against many people. After repeated successes, Eddie decided to try it out for himself and eventually incorporated it into his teachings. It's called the double bag because it's an even more secure version of the rubber guard. The seminar was filmed and the footage will be released on Eddie's new website, coming this February.

I love attending seminars. You get to meet lots of new people as well as learn new things. In addition to adding new concepts to my submission grappling repertoire, I also got to meet another woman who does BJJ grappling locally. There are so few, it's always a pleasure to meet them (there were only 3 women on that mats in a group of 50, myself included). Jennifer (middle in the photo below) is a brown belt in BJJ and has been training for over 6 years. She is preparing to compete in the Pan-Ams this coming March. I invited her to come train with me at open training at my dojo. I look forward to the experience! On the left is Tasia, whom I met at a submission grappling tournament last year and still continue to train with.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Young Boy Saves Girl from Dog Attack Using BJJ

This morning someone sent me a TV report on YouTube about a heroic 9-year-old boy who saved a little girl and her chihuahua from a vicious pit bull. The technique he use: the rear naked choke. Check out the report:

This boy had only trained in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for 2 months yet he courageously stepped in to do what he could to help another. I couldn't help but be impressed. His trainer says that he encourages students to do what they're capable of doing without getting hurt to help others in trouble. I feel the same way.

In the past I have in a situation whereby I stepped in at my own risk to help someone who was being attacked. I didn't really think about what I was doing, I was simply overwhelmed by the instinct to help. That being said, there are times when the potential cost should give a person pause before helping.

A few years back a Vancouver woman tried to intervene to help a man who was being beaten by two other men. She was shot and killed for her efforts. If my memory serves me right, it turned out that all 3 men, both victim and attackers, were gang members.

There is no way to know what the potential costs of each and every heroic act. But if you're going to get involved, try to be aware as possible of all the circumstances and related risks. In many cases, the best thing you can do to help is call the police.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sitting vs. Standing for Teaching Demonstrations

A little while back, Chris and I had a debate over whether or not it was better to have students sit or stand for teaching demonstrations in our Vancouver martial arts classes. Sitting has been used traditionally in the dojos in which I've trained whereas standing was used in the dojos in which Chris had trained. As a result, we each have our biases. While in Ottawa, I met with John, an old training buddy of mine, for coffee who had experienced both methods. As an objective party with experience with both methods, we were able to fully map out the advantages and disadvantages of both and determine whether or not to make any changes to my dojo's status quo. I'll now share what we discussed.

People tend to associate sitting with learning. This is because most institutions in which we learn have us sitting. As a result, we have a built-in association that tells us that when we're sitting, we should be paying attention. Also, when everyone is sitting, it can be easier to read the audience's reactions to the material being taught because all their faces are on a more consistent eye line. Also, because I am shorter, I find it easier to see everyone when seated rather than standing. That being said, taller people might find the opposite.

When people are standing, they have a tendency to fidget and shift more, leading to natural distractions. These problems can be reduced by having students stand in a consistent position of attentiveness. In Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu schools (Chris's other style), students all stand with their left hand cupping the right in front of the bellies when watching demonstrations. Another advantage is that when people stay standing the body stays a little more active so it doesn't cool down as much as when sitting. Not to mention some of my students find it hard to sit cross-legged or kneeling for long periods of time.

I think the best way to determine whether to stand or sit is to ask whether it allows tactile (or kinesthetic) learners to follow along subtly during demonstrations. I, myself, am a tactile learner and I noticed that when I was at Shorinji Kan dojos I was able to subtly go through footwork and movements as the Senseis taught, making it easier for me to then do the techniques when it came time to partner up. That being said, when ground work is being taught, tactile learners can better do this if they are on the ground.

As a result of my discussions with both John and Chris, I have come to the decision that I am going to have my students stand for techniques that are performed standing (using the cupped hands position), and sitting for ground work. If it might help people absorb our teachings better, it's worth trying out.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Dojo New Year's Resolutions for 2009

I'm putting off the second segment on my training session with Perry Kelly Sensei until my next post so I can deal with a more immediate topic: my dojo's New Year's resolutions. Honestly, I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right away no matter what time of year it is. It just so happens that I have a few resolutions that coincide with the new year, so what the hey.

Resolution #1: Less talking, more training. We dealt with this issue a couple of times last year, but I feel it's worth re-emphasizing. Because of the friendly and open-minded mentality of our dojo, sometimes it opens the door to more "free discussion" on the mats, reducing the amount of actual training time on occasion. If students are having trouble with a technique, I want to discourage too much discussion on fixing the problem. I don't mind if students need to ask their partner for help on sequencing or other easily answered questions, but other than that they're better off waiting for an instructor who has more experience at pointing students in the right direction with more complicated topics without having to talk overmuch.

Resolution #2: More opportunities for specialized training.
I have a number of great resources that allow me the opportunity to expose myself and my students to other styles of Jiu-jitsu and other martial arts. Having cross-trained in a number of different arts and styles, I firmly believe that it can help give students perspective on their own training as many of the foundations of different arts are shared. So this year, I intend to bring in other instructors to teach special topics on occasion.

Resolution #3: Let go of the reins when I'm not leading class. Having allowed a new instructor to teach on my mats in 2008, I found it difficult sometimes to let go of the reins. As a result, every so often I would unconsciously apply my own teaching/ class management skills to classes that I wasn't leading. This sometimes interfered with my other instructor's own teaching plan because he often has different, yet equally valid ways of running and teaching a class. So my goal is to back off and let him do his thing.

2008 was a great year for our dojo, having accomplished a number of great things. We moved from a 2-class to a 4-class training week. I got my first student to the purple belt level, the first the senior belts in our style. We even filled up our student roster at one point and were in a position where we were adding new prospective students to a waiting list. Now that we are starting our 4th year of operation, I want to make it our best year yet.

Happy New Year to everyone and all the best for 2009!