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.