Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Feedback for Upcoming Ground Defense Book

Hello everyone! Sorry I didn't post last week. I had a good reason; I was away on my honeymoon. Anyway, I'm back now and am ready to share some good news with you all. Over the past few months I've been working with representative of Tuttle Publishing (one of the largest martial arts publishers in the world) on a book proposal. I didn't want to say anything until things were a bit more solid, but things are starting to look promising.

The book is about practical ground defense, specifically in a street self-defense context. The goal is to provide easy to learn tactics and techniques that a BJJ-er can combine with his sport grappling training for an effective toolbox of skills that can be used in a street defense context. Conversely, traditional martial artists that are more focused on stand-up defense would also be able to learn an effective package of ground defense tools. The book will also be accompanied with an instructional DVD to supplement its contents.

My contact at Tuttle said that there is definitely interest in my book and on top of that they're interested in having me expand the content. There are many different topics related to ground defense, and I have many of them covered already, but I would like to find out if there is anything of particular interest to my blog readers on this matter. Please let me know in the comments of this post. I very much appreciate your feedback and support. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A New Rank in a New Shorinji Kan Curriculum

If you follow my blog regularly, you know that this fall I got back into training in Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu under Jonathan Jamnik Sensei at his dojo in Vancouver. I had trained with him and with Kevin Eugene Sensei at the BCIT dojo in Burnaby over a year ago, having double graded and earned my orange belt. I ended up taking a break from it for a little while I focused on my own dojo, but decided to get back into it with a goal of developing my throwing skills more since Shorinji Kan places a heavier emphasis on throwing than we do in Can-ryu.

There was a big change when I came back though. A new curriculum had been developed with the addition of Henka-waza (transitions) and Kaeshi-waza (counters) as applied to throws, joint locks and ground work.

With all the changes, I was glad there was no talk of double-grading again. At first it seemed like there so just so much more to learn on the curriculum, I wondered if I would even learn it all in time for the November grading. The additions affected all my previous kyu levels as well as the one I was grading for, and I was expected to know them all. But as I spent more time playing with the new additions, I realized it wasn't so overwhelming after all. The so-called "additions" weren't all that "additional". The transition and counter training techniques were more a way of teaching how to flow between the different moves so that students don't get stuck on one way of getting the job done, so to speak. When trained correctly, it helps students adapt to the changing circumstances that are likely to occur in a real physical encounter.

The key to training transitions and counters correctly is to maintain proper intention, which can be tricky at times. If training a transition, you have to go in for the initial move, whether it's a throw or joint lock, with the intention of completing it. If you only go in for the initial move half-committed, holding to the goal of the final transitory move in mind, you miss the point. The transition is only meant to be used if the first move fails.

As an uke, it's a good idea to let your tori follow through with the first move on occasion, as well as performing the appropriate counter for the purpose of transition practice. This helps "keep it real." As for counter training, uke should always try to throw tori for real so they develop the necessary movement skills to do a proper counter. Of course, when first learning a counter, it's a good idea to go more slowly, while still committing to the throw.

As for the test, all went relatively smoothly and I passed. As always, there were a number of things I would have liked to do better. I certainly wish I hasn't lost my balance while performing a ko-uchi-gari and fallen butt first onto my uke's chest with all my weight :(. Thankfully, my uke was a strapping fellow weighing in at over 200 lbs, so he could handle the unexpected blow. But when all is said and done, I accomplished my goal of improving my throwing skills, and certainly the transition and counter training played an important part of that. I look forward to working on those skills further as I continue with my progression as a martial artist.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Upcoming Shodan Grading for Chris

This Sunday is my assistant instructor Chris's Shodan grading. He is fine right now, but I know that the night before the test he'll be very nervous, but he has his own ritual for dealing with nerves. He eats a healthy, high-carb meal, takes a hot bath or shower to loosen up muscle tension, then he watches one of his favourite Kung fu movies.

I too will be a little nervous. This is the first time I've ever gotten a student up to Shodan before. I can't take full credit for it though because he had years of prior experience having trained in Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu. Still, he is being judged on his calibre of skill in my particular style, Can-ryu, and as a result, I too am being judged.

For those of you who aren't in the know, I'll be the one running the grading, but the heir apparent to our style, Steve Hiscoe Shihan will be there to witness the test. So even though I'm running it, if Shihan watches the test and is dissatisfied with what he says, he has the last word. Not that I'm worried that Chris won't pass. I just want him to do his best and show off the skills I know he has. If he does that, he'll definitely succeed.

Either way, Chris's test is a milestone for me and I'm looking forward to running it. He's the first Shodan candidate I've had in the 7 years of I've run my own dojos. Has any of you out there reached this particular milestone? How did it feel for you?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jiu-jitsu Style "In-Laws": The Marriage of Can-Ryu & Shorinji Kan

Some of you may already be aware of this. For others, it may be new information. Last month, I got married. The man I married, Chris, is my second in command at my dojo, who had originally come to us just over 3 years ago as a brown belt holder in Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu.

Apparently, a new term has been coined with regards to our marriage, with our two styles now being referred to as "in-laws." Steve Hiscoe Shihan, heir apparent to our style, recently visited the dojo run by Andy Dobie Sensei (head of Shorinji Kan's Jitsu Canada) in Peterborough. After the class, Shihan was quoted as having been very glad to have the opportunity to visit, explaining the connection between our two styles as "in-laws" now that Chris and I have married them together, so to speak.

Chris came to our style having moved to the Vancouver area, where there were no Shorinji Kan dojos at the time, which is why he started training with us. Originally, he took up Can-ryu with the goal of keeping an open mind, but naturally looked at everything we did with a Shorinji Kan eye. Over the years, he has come to be a Can-ryu practitioner every bit as much as he was a Shorinji Kan-er. He earned his Shodan in Shorinji Kan in December last year. And at the end of October, he'll be testing for Shodan in Can-ryu. If he passes, he'll be the first to hold the rank of Shodan in both styles.

I, too, have earned my own place with Shorinji Kan, having received my orange belt last year. I took up training with the new instructors who had moved to the area with the hope of focusing on skills that receive less emphasis in our style. It's also just nice not to have the weighty responsibility that comes with wearing a Yondan belt. I had to take a break from it for awhile, but I've re-started my training this fall and hope to test for green belt in late November.

Chris and I hope to continue to maintain a good relationship with both styles. Of course, our dojo is a Can-ryu dojo, but Chris still goes to the Shorinji Kan dojos that now exist in Vancouver to help out whenever he can. We also invite Shorinji Kan instructors to teach at our dojo as guests and, vice versa, I occasionally teach at Shorinji Kan dojos as a guest. And, of course, we always welcome Shorinji Kan students to drop in at our dojo. They're family after all...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Importance of Surprise in Self-Defense

Surprise is a very important fundamental to understand when it comes to self-defense, but it's difficult to incorporate into one's training. There are two sides to the coin to consider; removing an attacker's ability to surprise you and using surprise to add effectiveness to your own physical defense.

Removing An Attacker's Ability to Surprise You

This is accomplished by being aware of your surroundings and taking sensible precautions. When out and about, whether you're walking home from a transit station, walking to your car in a shopping garage, out for a run for exercise, etc, you should always be generally aware of all the people and vehicles that are in close proximity as you move about.

As part of this practice, you should avoid closing off your hearing and outward focus by listening to an MP3 player or talking on the phone while walking about. You should avoid going close to areas that could allow a person to jump out at you quickly. You should also avoid allowing people to follow you into an isolated area or to triangulate around you as a group.

Even if you're as good a martial artist as Bruce Lee, if you let yourself be caught by surprise, you may not have the opportunity to put those skills to use for self-defense.

Using Surprise to Add to Your Own Self-Defense

Catching an attacker by surprise is one important way a person can make up for lack of size or numbers in a self-defense situation. Women have been known to successfully repel much larger attackers by using the element of surprise. Most of the time, if a woman has been targeted for an attack, she has been perceived as an easy victim, which makes using surprise that much more effective a tactic.

I remember one example of a woman in Ottawa who was attacked while rollerblading. A man jumped out of the bushes and took her to the ground. He may have thought that she would be helpless while wearing a pair of those cumbersome skates. He was wrong. The woman managed to kick him in the groin using her skate. She successfully immobilized her attacker and was able to flee to safety.

Weapons of opportunity make for great elements of surprise because they're usually not accounted for by the attacker, whether it's sand thrown in the attacker's eyes, a pen used a striking implement, or a trash can thrown in their path to trip them up.

Even when you're not using a weapon of opportunity, you should do what you can to conceal your attacks. This is why we try to avoid telegraphing our strikes and kicks with exaggerated motions. You should also save any strikes you intend to use for a moment in which they can be used most effectively. For example, you shouldn't try to knee someone in the groin from far away. They're more likely to see it coming and if you miss, you can better believe your attacker will be even more ready to defend against it the second time.

These are but a few examples of how surprise can be used. Please feel free to share your own examples of how you've used surprise to keep yourself safe.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Most Embarassing Moments in the Dojo

Last weekend I was asked to teach a technique at a black belt course that was being hosted at my dojo. I confidently got up and demonstrated a particular wrist takedown to the group of 12 or so black belts who were in attendance. As I was stepping back into a stance having finished the technique, I heard a loud ripping noise coming from behind me.

"Hm. I think I just ripped a whole in my pants," I announced to the group.

As I moved, I couldn't help but noticed the increased breeze caressing my back-end. I covered it up with my hands then backed away toward the washroom in a decidedly undignified manner. The best part of it is that it was all being recorded on camera so that everyone could "review" what was taught as necessary. Needless to say, the incident elicited a lot of laughs.

Now that I've shared my most embarrassing dojo moment, I'd love to alleviate my embarrassment by hearing some of your most embarrassing stories. Please share in the comments! :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When Old Becomes New in the Martial Arts

While I was in Ottawa, I did a little training with Perry Kelly, a Godan in Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu who has a very diverse training background, and his friend Chris Anderson, also a black belt in Can-ryu as well as a WWII combatives expert. As always, I learned a ton, and am looking forward to bringing what I learned back to my dojo.

One thing that was of particular interest to me from this training experience is the way that old becomes new in the martial arts. Knowledge is cyclical. Things go in and out of vogue over time and what was once old, can be rediscovered and re-popularized, making it "new" again.

Take Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for example. BJJ wasn't new. It's essentially a combination of Judo/Japanese Jiu-jitsu techniques that came to be re-emphasized and re-explored. Much of what you see in the BJJ core curriculum can be found in older Judo and Jiu-jitsu texts. That is not to say that it hasn't evolved since then, but when it was first re-introduced to the world, it seemed completely different from anything else. Even though it was derived from Judo and Japanese Jiu-jitsu, those arts had moved in different directions in more recent decades.

There is much to be learned from historical martial arts texts if you can get your hands on them. Perry and Chris both have extensive libraries with texts dating back to the late 1800s. I was amazed at the information they contained. Some of it seemed silly at first, but make sense when you understand the context under which the concepts were developed. Take the stance that was used by bare-knuckle boxers. It looks goofy under a modern eye, but there is a big difference between bare knuckle boxing and modern boxing. According to Cris and Perry, the back hand was held across the chest to protect against strikes to the heart. With gloves on, this strike is largely irrelevant, but with bare knuckles, a strike to the heart area can cause a palpitation that can heavily impact the recipient's performance.

You'd be surprised what can become relevant again over time. Knowledge that gets lost in the shuffle often gets re-shuffled back into the mix when someone re-discovers it. Some people even establish their entire martial arts reputation just by doing this.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Gives You the Teaching Jitters?

I've been teaching martial arts for going on two decades now. I'm pretty comfortable in my skin when it comes to teaching, at my own dojo, at other people's dojos, even at major training events. There is, however, one thing that still gives me the teaching jitters after all these years: teaching in front of my Sensei.

Last Thursday I taught at my Sensei's dojo in Ottawa. I taught some of the ground defense concepts I've been working with and teaching my own students. Every time my Sensei would come onto the mats, I found that I would get nervous and wouldn't be my usual confident self. I've taught in front of other heads of styles before with no problems, but with Ed Hiscoe Sensei, it's different.

He remembers me from the time that I was only 16 and a lowly white belt trying Jiu-jitsu for the first time. He remembers all my awkward years as a teenager. He remembers the times when I was first learning to teach as a brand new Shodan. And it's not so much that he remembers all those things, it's that I remember all the nervousness and lack of sureness in myself associated with those times, and somehow it manages to creep in when he's on the mat while I'm teaching.

Hiscoe Sensei ended up watching most of the class I taught from the other room on his dojo video system, making the class go more smoothly for me (which I know he did on purpose). I'm sure that one day I'll get over it, but I have to say that his willingness to help me by doing that put me a few steps further in that direction because it demonstrated his empathy for my situation and that, on some level, says to me, "You see? It's only in your head." It was an effective way of conveying that message.

Are you a martial arts instructor? What gives YOU the teaching jitters? Please feel free to share in the comments section.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

90 Years of Jiu-jitsu Experience in 3 Cool Instructors

Firstly, I want to apologize for the delay in my blog writing. Last weekend, attended a Jiu-jitsu seminar in Sicamous and was away for 4 days, so I had a few things to catch up on. Now, I'd like to do a little run-down on the seminar.

A lot of times when you go to these types of events, there is a weak link in the instruction. I'm happy to say, however, that all 3 of the weekend's instructors were just awesome. Collectively, Andie Dobie Sensei (Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu), Steve Hiscoe Shihan (Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu) and Michael Seamark Shihan (Kokodo Jiu-jitsu) have over 90 years of martial arts experience between them, and it showed in their instruction (left to right in the pic below). They were like 3 peas in a pod of pure pain.

The participants in the event thoroughly enjoyed being twisted up, punched, squeezed, and slammed. The instructors never seemed to be without a smile when teaching (unless demonstrating their "mean face"). I'm not sure I can say the same for their ukes.

Steve Hiscoe Shihan also introduced us to a fun new "game." He created some Can-ryu Challenge coins (see pic on left). The idea is that you carry this coin on your person and if you whip it out to someone and say "Challenge!" they have to produce their own coin (if they have one). If the challengee doesn't have one, they must buy the challenger a drink. If they do have one, then the challenger has to buy. I got the ball rolling with my own coin (Sorry Dobie Sensei!). It didn't take long before people started buying their own (thankfully!).

Anyway, we all really got our money's worth, having learned/refined techniques, made new friends and shared drinks (so to speak). It was very successful and expect that it will be even better attended next year (we're gonna need more mats!). I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to train under such fine martial artists.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Playing with Improvised Weapons

As a senior black belt, sometimes I want to do something creative in my training, something that stimulates the brain, something that makes me look at an analyze techniques I've practiced for years in an entirely different way. One way to do this is by playing with improvised weapons.

You can take any single item that you might carry with you or have on you in an defensive situation then try to use it in a way that enhances weaponless techniques you've learned.

At the orange belt level in our style of Jiu-jitsu, we introduce the concept of the yawara. In training, it is simply a short stick about 3/4 of an inch thick and about the length of a pen. But this item in theory need not only be a stick. It could be anything that is a similar size and structure, like a pen, small hair brush, a mascara container, etc. Students are taught a variety of strikes with the yawara and are encourage to improvise defenses that incorporate its use. At first, the focus is on more practical techniques involving strikes and simpler movements. Later, as students progress through the belt levels, they are encouraged to use the yawara to enhance joint locks, throws, etc.

When I get on the mats to train rather than teach, occasionally I'll pick out a random item and improvise defenses that incorporate that item. This week, I think I'll experiment a bit with the cane, which could also be a cane umbrella which is an item I sometimes carry on me. I have no formal training in the use of the cane, other than a few random techniques I was shown over the years, but that just makes my play time all the more creative and fun.

How about you? Do you incorporate improvised weapons into your training?

Monday, July 12, 2010

4 Common Problems with Women's Self-Defense Classes

I've been teaching women's self-defense classes for many years now. I've seen all sorts of classes offered by a wide variety of martial arts instructors. The problem is that while many of these instructors are skilled martial artists, they are not necessarily self-defense instructors, and don't run a class that takes into account the realities of what women face.

Here are 4 common problems with women's self-defense instructors:

1. Lack of understanding of the anatomy of an attack on a woman. There are a lot of misconceptions of what the typical assault or attack on a woman consists of. Many people imagine the worst, a woman being brutually and mercilessly attacked and/or raped by some stranger in some back alley. The truth of the matter is that the majority of assaults on women in North America (I won't generalize about the rest of the world) are performed by men that are previously known to the woman. Also, the majority of attacks are performed in a home or motor vehicle. Knowing these facts, an instructor should provide information to help prevent these situations, which leads to the next point.

2. Underemphasis on awareness, avoidance and de-escalation tactics. Many women's self-defense courses place more emphasis on physical combat because that is what the instructors know more about. But ultimately, the vast majority of the incidents women face can be avoided though awareness skills and knowing what actions to take when something is up.

3. Over-complicated defensive combat techniques. Whether a class is only a few hours long or several classes over a few weeks, women's self-defense classes are generally short-term classes. Women don't usually continue to train the techniques regularly once the course is over. That being the case, it's a waste of time to teach women techniques that take lots of time to learn and become proficient at. Even if they do manage to learn them, it's doubtful they'll retain the skills over the long term and be able to apply them under the stress of an attack.

4. Lack of Emphasis on the Psychology of Self-defense.
In North America, the typical man who attacks a woman is not looking for a challenge, they're looking for an easy victim. If a woman is targeted, part of their physical defense strategy should encompass the idea of unequivocally demonstrating that they are not one. Whatever physical defense is taught, women should also learn to be loud and vocal to gather witnesses and increase the risk of the attacker getting caught, which they obviously don't want. They should also be taught to fight the response of freezing in fear by harnessing anger so they can channel the resulting adrenaline dump into a fight response that is more likely to make an attacker think twice about his choice of victim.

At the end of the day, without extensive training, a woman is not likely going to be able to mount enough of a physical defense to stop a determined male attacker who refuses to back down no matter what the consequences. Fortunately, most attacks are not like this and can be stopped simply by being an unappealing victim and can be altogether prevented just by understanding and applying safety measures in daily life. This is why a proper, useful women's self-defense class is NOT just a bunch of physical combat techniques. It teaches the whole package. And if a woman wants to learn more and become better equipped at the physical aspect, they can always sign up for ongoing martial arts training that continues to build on that foundation.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hobbies Outside of the Martial Arts

I have been involved in the martial arts for over 17 years. I run a dojo that has 8 classes per week and I do some of my own training in addition to teaching. Martial arts has become a big part of my life. That being said, I've come to discover that I need to have hobbies outside of the martial arts to give my life balance.

I believe that people need both a mental and physical break from the martial arts in order to get the most from their training. They need hobbies that are fun that allow them to enjoy time with their friends and families. These other hobbies can give students perspective about their training, allowing them to step onto the mats with a clear and receptive mind and body.

Lately, I had discovered that my own balance was out of whack. I was starting to feel a dip in my energy and enthusiasm when it came to the martial arts. It wasn't like I was thinking about giving it up or anything. I think it was that I had been so focused in the preparation for my Yondan that I hadn't had enough of a life outside the martial arts to balance things out.

After achieving my Yondan, I looked into finding a hobby I can do with my fiancé that is outside of the realm of martial arts. We have decided to take up fencing at a club that operates right around the block from the dojo, Dynamo Fencing in Richmond BC. I used to do fencing back in high school and university. It was a fun activity that was both physical and social. Though some of you might think of it as being a martial art, it really is more of a sport with only a very loose connection to its martial origins.

Other than that, I have a few seasonal interests that I pursue, including downhill skiing, climbing (indoor & outdoor), and camping. I also do yoga in the mornings, and I both read and write for pleasure.

Since I've started to restore balance, I've found myself happier overall with my life and have renewed my energy and enthusiasm in my martial arts training and teaching.

How about you? I would love to hear what sorts of things other dedicated martial artists do with their lives to maintain balance. Please post your comments! :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

RIP Tidewaters Pub, Our Beloved Local

It saddens me to report that our dojo's favourite pub for after-training drinks burnt down Thursday night. What really guts me is that we weren't able to go to it this past week. There are reports that they'll be rebuilding the pub but it looks like we'll have to find a new regular place for a while. See the complete story with videos of the fire.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting in Touch with Our Own Knife Psychology

(*This is a continuation of my last post Fear of Knives: Exploring the Roots.)

There really is no definitive answer as to whether humanity fears knives more than other deadly weapons or why this might be the case. Moreover, the fear (or lack of fear) that is experienced when faced with any weapon will vary quite widely from person to person simply based on their own individual psychology, making it impossible to predict how anyone would react when the moment comes.

In Jim Wagner’s Reality-Based Personal Protection, he asks the following:

"How will you perform at the moment of truth in a conflict situation? What’s going to happen to you emotionally when you’re facing the real possibilities of injury or even death? Will you have the will to survive, or will you be so paralyzed with fear that you will not be able to move at all? The answer is: You won’t know until you can say, 'Been there, done that.'"

What is generally agreed upon, however, is that knives, being a deadly weapon are likely to cause an increase in combat stress. And combat stress, no matter what kind of attack situation one is facing, has the potential to greatly harm one’s ability to mount an effective defense.

When one is scared, adrenaline levels are high, which cause perception, coordination and thinking to be impaired. People can have impaired sensory experiences including tunnel vision, auditory exclusion and time distortion. When one has gone beyond the levels of being scared to being terrified, a person can freeze up, unable to react or even move.

To prepare yourself for combat stress, you have to learn to handle yourself both physically and mentally with equal emphasis. You need to experience the physical and mental effects of combat stress in your training so you can better equip yourself for what you would experience in a real attack. As Professor Sylvain puts it: “Without both, you can only remain combat illiterate, no matter how well you perform your techniques or how fit you may be.”

A further contributor to the effects of combat stress when faced with a knife is the fear of death and mutilation. While it is impractical to practice death so to speak, a person can visualize their death regularly as a way of combating this fear. The Samurai were well aware of this fact, encouraging warriors to “practice death”:

"The way of the Samurai is, morning after morning, the practice of death, considering whether it will be here, or be there, imagining the most slightly way of dying, and putting one’s mind firmly in death. Although this may be a most difficult thing, if one will do it, it can be done." (From Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai)

While this may considered a bit morbid for the average person who is unlikely to face lethal violence in the entirety of their lives, a soldier or other type of military or law enforcement officer might see the benefits from this type of psychological training. Of course, many strains of philosophy also contend that there is much spiritual benefit to be had from this kind of mental visualization because a complete acceptance of our inevitable deaths allows us to more fully experience life, or so they say.

(**A quick note of thanks to all blog commenters who contributed to my formulation of this aspect of my thesis, particularly ones who contributed without lowering themselves to personal attacks.)

Fear of Knives: Exploring the Roots

(*This article is the more developed and elaborated version of my original post last week, Why We Fear Knives? in which I was exploring one of the questions that was put to me for my Yondan thesis. This article is split into two parts. Please read both and if you have comments, post them in the second article, Getting in Touch with Our Own Knife Psychology.)

The knife is a deadly weapon and people are naturally going to fear an attack with a knife more than one with no weapon involved. There is room to posit theories that humans may psychologically fear knives more than other deadly attacks like guns, bludgeoning weapons or even multiple attackers. Many scientists believe that evolution has produced natural fears in the human psyche which evolved to help protect us from things that would cause us harm (i.e. fear of snakes, spiders, heights, etc). Research shows that mammals in general have developed the perceptive ability to focus on things seen as threatening, such as snakes and spiders, and to respond emotionally with a feeling of fear. (See reference article.)

It’s not a stretch to suggest that humans might have a latent fear of knives which could easily be associated with other natural cutting weapons that go way back in our evolutionary experience, like the teeth and claws of predators that once threatened us. Guns, bludgeoning weapons, even swords, don’t have the long history of being a life threat that small cutting weapons have in our evolutionary background. That being said, Richard McNally, an associate professor of psychology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, stated: "The biggest challenge that we face in considering these theories of evolution is we cannot recover the evolutionary history—there is no fossil record," he said. "People seem to have different thresholds for saying what is a plausible account of evolution."

Even if we don’t subscribe to the evolution theory, we can consider our own experiences. Pretty much everyone has been cut at least once in their lives even if it was just a simple a paper cut. They can actually remember what it feels like to be cut. The memory of that pain could theoretically cause a visceral fear reaction in people when they are threatened with a knife. Most people have never been shot so it does not evoke the same intensity of response when a gun is pointed at them.

What we see and read about in popular media may have an effect on how we perceive knives, whether the perception is accurate or not. When you see people cut with knives on TV or movies, they usually feature a close-up of the victim’s face showing him in extreme pain. When people are shot, on the other hand, the pain isn’t as prominent. Usually the victim just drops to the ground or goes flying back from the impact. To go further with the point of how knives are depicted in movies, the most horrible serial killers in movies are usually depicted as being hackers and slashers. All of this could theoretically contribute to a stronger emotional reaction to a knife.

As children, many people are exposed to toy weapons, most often guns and swords. This familiarization at a young age could theoretically make a person less fearful as an adult. You don’t usually hear about kids playing with toy knives on the other hand so one could surmise that the lack of familiarity in that way leads to a greater level of fear.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why Do We Fear Knives?

You may think that the answer to this question seems a bit obvious at first, but it isn't really. It's a knife! A lethal weapon. of course we fear them! But the fear that comes when a knife is pointed at you as a weapon is so much more visceral than the fear that comes when a gun is pointed at you. This is a question I'm answering as part of my thesis for my Yondan.

Everyone has been cut at least once in their lives even if it was just a simple a paper cut. The memory of that pain causes a visceral reaction in people when they are threatened with a knife. They can actually remember what it feels like to be cut. Most people have never been shot so it does not evoke the same intensity of response when a gun is pointed at them. The same goes for bludgeoning weapons like a baseball bat.

Moreover, when you see people cut with knives in film, they usually feature a close-up of the victim’s face showing him in extreme pain. When people are shot, on the other hand, the pain isn’t as prominent. Usually the victim just drops to the ground or goes flying back from the impact.

These factors contribute to a stronger emotional reaction to a knife, so when people actually face a knife in reality as a weapon, they are more likely to freeze up and cower behind their arms in response. This is something every instructor should try to address in their teachings to help prepare their students mentally for the psychology that might trip them up even if they do become as technically proficient at knife defense as one can get.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Knife Toys for Children... FAIL!!!

One of my students brought in a toy to show me that he thought was hilarious. I won't go into bothersome detail when you can see a demonstration of it in the video below.

Yes, that's right. It's a funky-coloured plastic knife that makes a squeaking noise as you stab someone with the blade. While this toy is a hilariously campy toy that I wouldn't mind having on my shelf, this toy is all kinds of wrong for young children.

What kind of play time would you expect with this toy? Children would run around stabbing each other or their toys to be rewarded with delightful squeaking sound. What does this teach children about knives? That it's fun to stab people! Imagine a very young child who plays with this toy and hasn't yet learned the difference between toy knives and real knives. What would might happen if they somehow got their hands on a real one?

Yes, yes. I know that parents should be active enough in their children's lives that they wouldn't be introduced to a toy at a very young age, nor would they leave knives just lying around. But honestly, I don't trust everyone to properly parent their children and this is the last toy I would want to see in the hands of a child that is being raised poorly.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Note on Accident & Liability Insurance for Dojo Instructors

I have recently been doing a lot of research about accident and liability insurance and how it applies to me and my dojo. This is something of vital importance to every martial arts instructor and is not something that should be taken for granted, even if you are part of a larger organization that is supposed to have you covered insurance-wise.

Having spoken to the insurance broker responsible for our coverage, he told me of a number of horror stories in which sport participants were not covered by insurance because of technicalities that the sport association people in charge were not aware of.

I want to warn all martial arts school instructors everywhere that whether you have your own private accident/liability insurance coverage or you are obtaining it through a sporting organization, be sure to read your insurance policies in detail. If you're a member of a sports organization, make sure you also read its constitution and bylaws to so you can ensure that you are not operating in a way that would preclude the possibility of insurance coverage.

There can be a number of loopholes that could limit your insurance coverage and it is your responsibility to yourself and your dojo's students to be fully informed so as to ensure safe training for all.

(P.S. I haven't forgotten about my promise to do up a video showing some ground defense in application. I promise to get to it next. Sorry for the delays...)

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Class Times for the Dojo

We've recently decided to expand our evening classes to encourage the growth of our dojo.Since our location is in an industrial business area, we're going to start offering an after work time slot, 5:30 - 7:00pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

While we are expanding my class times, rest assured that we won't "sell out" in the process though. We have no intention of ever becoming a McDojo.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Movie I Worked On Revealed!

Last year everyone was curious what movie I was working on doing special abilities extra work using my martial arts background. Now that the movie is done shooting, I can reveal it. I worked on Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief playing a half blood (demi-god) warrior. It comes out on Feb. 12. Check out the trailer:

For this movie, I got to do a bunch of sword fighting, some Judo style throwing and lots of running through the woods and charging. It was lots of fun!

I worked on a couple of the scenes featured in the trailer, but I wouldn't know if any of the warriors shown are me. The shots are just too quick and too far back. I worked on the scene in which the warriors are running through the woods, the one in which the fireball explodes, and the one with the fight on the river bank. Anyway, it sure looks like a fun movie! :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ichi - A Female Take on Zatoichi

Has anyone seen this film yet? I'm curious if it's any good.