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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Funny McDojo Sign

I found this hilarious pic of a McDojo's sign whilst surfing the Net recently and thought I'd share. They clearly cater to kids, based on their choice of logo, a frowny gorilla, but I can't help but think that they should have reconsidered what they publicly proclaim being proud of. ;)

Photo was originally found here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Successful Dojo Launch Party

This past Saturday, West Coast Jiu-jitsu in conjunction with Louis Sargeant Fitness held a launch party to celebrate our new location. The party was a great success and we all had a great time... even B.O.B. See more pics from the party.

Thanks to all who came and contributed to the party and the development of the new location. Special thanks to Kevin who built the Torii gate for our shomen, to Glenn who donated his photographic skills and did a portrait of Louis and I together, to Kris who did the lovely calligraphy scroll that now hangs on our shomen, and to Chris and Jon who put in hours of work to make the dojo what it is now.

I'm now looking forward to putting more of my energy and focus back on teaching and training...

Friday, March 13, 2009

How to Build a Torii for a Dojo Shomen

It was always my dream to eventually have my own dojo space. Part of that dream was to put up a nice shomen ('front wall'), with a torii ('arch') honouring the history of dojo's art. And now I have it... I rule!!!

Kevin, one of my students, is a hobby carpenter and a good one at that. He very generously offered to build the torii for the shomen as a contribution to the dojo. I'll explain how it was done. On the right here you can see the tools that were used to mount the torii.

First, he measured out the space the torii was going to go up on, then bought all the lumber (we used pine because it was the least expensive). The lumber was cut and the pieces that needed to be fastened together were glued. He then applied 4 coats of a dark stain to make it match our dojo's decor.

The two vertical pieces of the torii were glued to the wall. The two horizontal pieces were then nailed to the horizontal pieces. In the photo on the left, you can see Kevin hammering in the top piece.

Next, we hung the flags and the dojo's calligraphy scroll inside the torii. The flags came from a local flag store. Artist & graphic designer Kris Tung, a good friend of mine, created the calligraphy scroll for our shomen. The characters feature the name of our dojo, 'West Coast Jiu-jitsu.' We took lots of measurements to make sure we got it in just the right place.

There is symbolism to each piece that is hung on my shomen. The Canadian flag represents my style of Jiu-jitsu, Can-ryu (Canadian style). The Japanese flag represents the roots of the art of Jiu-jitsu. The calligraphy scroll represents the history of our dojo specifically.

I couldn't be happier with the end result. It looks awesome! Now here is a shomen I'm proud to bow toward:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to Mount Mats to the Floor and Wall

The renos of my new dojo location are coming along strong. The other day we finished mounting our mats to the floor so they won't shift. We also mounted some to the walls for safety and for doing self-defense when backed into corners. I'll describe how we did it.

First, we measured out exactly where we wanted the mats laid out in the space. We then screwed some wood down around the outsides of the area to keep the mats in place. Lastly, we stained it with a dark stain so that the wood matched our dojo's decor.

Mounting the mats on the walls was a bit more effort. We used Scotch Outdoor Carpet Tape to do the initial mounting. To be honest, this would have been more than enough to keep the mats on the walls. One of my guys even did a full chin up off one of the mats and it still stayed up. Aestheically though, it needed a frame. To frame it, we mounted wood around the outside of the wall mounted mats, then nailed in a flatter peace of wood that overlapped the mat to keep it in place. The frames were then stained. Make sure you use painter's tape to protect the mats and walls. If you want to be even more careful, you're better off staining the wood before you mount it, but the timing didn't work out well for us to do this. You can see the details below:

And here is the final product (before we removed the painter's tape):

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Little Girl Shows Us What Boxing Form Is About

I stumbled across this video on YouTube recently and am completely amazed by it. This little girl who doesn't look any older than 6 shows us great boxing form on the pads. Her speed and reaction time is very impressive. Makes me wish I had taken up boxing as a kid. Enjoy!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Welcoming B.O.B. to the Dojo

I am happy to announce a new addition to the dojo. B.O.B. has come to us to take our physical abuse without complaint and give us the chance to practice our striking.

I've always loved working with B.O.B. (or "Body Opponent Bag"). I acquired him during a recent Century Martial Arts sale. Training with B.O.B. is a great way to practice striking on target, improving distance, and more. B.O.B. can also be used to practice various neck restraints and submissions, as well as ground and pound.

There are 2 versions of B.O.B., one with just a torso and one that is longer and has the top half of the legs. I got the latter so it can be used to practice leg kicks and groin strikes.

There are some complaints that he knocks over too easily, but I find that when he's filled with sand and struck at the proper distance he stays up just fine. Remember, when you stand too close to your target when striking, your strikes become more like a push and have less impact on the body. If you want to work with a bag with the purpose of building your striking muscles, a traditional heavy bag is better, but for technical development and targeting improvement, the B.O.B. is an excellent tool.

Here's one guy doing a striking workout with B.O.B.:

Here's another that shows a wide variety of ways to work with B.O.B.:

I hope my students don't get to used to having him around though. My intention is to move him to my basement in the long term when I get around to buying a house. But for now, he can play with my students. And who knows? By then I might be able to get a second one. :)