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.