Sunday, December 18, 2011

Jiu-jitsu Sensei's Martial Arts Blog is Moving!

Hello Everyone,

Just wanted to let you all know that we are in the process of re-locating this blog over the next couple of weeks. As a result, we have closed commenting on blog posts (so we don't have as much to move). I will post an update after the move with the new URL. Thanks for your continued support!

Lori O'Connell

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ip Man the Movie & Wing Chun for Martial Inspiration

Back in July, I wrote a post about my top 5 martial arts related movies, not just based on the fights alone, but the movies as complete works. A few people mentioned that Ip Man should really have been on my list, but I hadn't seen it. I finally managed to rectify this over the weekend and I must say, this movie would have made my top 5 list for sure. Check out the trailer:

Not only was the story well told, it was also well acted, not that cheesy-I-can-put-up-with-this-for-the-awesome-fights kind of acting. And the fights are indeed excellent! They did a great job of representing the style of Wing Chun and even made the Japanese's fighting style look, well, Japanese, with Karate style striking (though I would have liked to see a bit more Jiu-jitsu, naturally).

This movie made me remember way back in university when I did some Wing Chun training for a period of about 6 months. Its fluid striking and blocking blends hard and soft martial art principles and can be quite practically applied. One of my favourite drills was chi sao, a "sticky hands" drill that allows you to practice feeling your attacker's energy, so you can block, redirect and counter. Here is a video explaining the principles of this (you'll have to excuse the poor sound quality, but it really is a good video):

Anyway, Ip Man was a great source of inspiration for me, making me want to play with more flow drills. Have you seen it? What did you think? Out of curiosity, are there any Wing Chun practioners out there who have seen it? If so, do you think it stayed relatively true to the style?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Warrior Movie Giveaway!

I don't know what this movie is going to be like. I've been disappointed by MMA movies before (I prefer not to discuss how I suggested going to see Red Belt with some of my students). But who knows? Perhaps Warrior, a new MMA movie with an all-star cast, will break the mould.

Anyway, the promotions company for Warrior offered to do a giveaway of a Warrior Fan Prize Pack for my blog's readers. This prize includes: Lionsgate Action-Packed DVD Pack, The Men of Warrior coffee table book, Warrior t-shirt, and a Warrior one-sheet. To enter this contest, simply write a comment for this blog post. One commenter will be chosen at random to receive the giveaway. This giveaway is only valid for people who live in either Canada or the United States.

Here is the description I was provided for this movie (I will reserve judgement until I see the movie for myself): Haunted by a tragic past, ex-Marine Tommy Conlon (Hardy) returns home for the first time in 14 years to enlist the help of his father (Nick Nolte) to train for SPARTA, the biggest winner-takes-all event in mixed martial arts history. A former wrestling prodigy, Tommy blazes a path toward the championship while his brother, Brendan (Edgerton), an ex-fighter-turned teacher, returns to the ring in a desperate bid to save his family from financial ruin. But when Brendan's unlikely underdog rise sets him on a collision course with the unstoppable Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront each other and the forces that pulled them apart, facing off in the most soaring, soul-stirring, and unforgettable climax that must be seen to be believed.

A rousing ode to redemption, reconciliation and the power of the human spirit, "Warrior" is also a moving testament to the enduring bonds of family.

Here is the trailer for the movie if you're curious:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Enter the Dojo: An Introduction to Ameri-Do-Te

I recently happened upon a commercial video for a dojo down in New Mexico, teaching the style of Ameri-Do-Te. Here is that video:

If you haven't guessed already, this is spoof. Actually, it's a trailer for a spoof video series, a mockumentary if you will, about Master Ken and what he teaches in his "perfect" martial art, Ameri-Do-Te, a made-up style that takes self-defense/combat concepts to ridiculous extremes. Watch episodes 1 and 2 below to see what I mean:

I quite enjoyed the humour of these videos being an instructor of a self-defense oriented martial arts style. I've even had a few requests for "groin grab sparring" from students in jest. That being said, I noticed in the YouTube comments that a number of people thought this was a real martial arts school, criticizing its operations. What a sad state of affairs that there are enough McDojos out there that people could think that this spoof is for real! Ah, well. It is what it is. You just have to find the humour in these things. I hope you find these videos as entertaining as I did! If you want to watch another full-feature martial arts mockumentary, check out The Foot Fist Way.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Self-Defense Fitness Classes

At our Vancouver area martial arts school, we pride ourselves in offering a full schedule of adult Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu classes, which offer students a wide range of self-defense skills, including striking, throwing/takedowns, breakfalls, joint locks, sparring, ground techniques and more. Our standard classes start by introducing the most practical, easy-to-learn defensive skills with strong emphasis on gross motor skills while also providing foundations for higher level learning that is developed as a student progresses.

Having taught these types of classes for 5 years now, and we do our best to make these classes accessible to anyone and have people of all ages (even a 65-year-old!), fitness, levels and physical abilities. That being said, some people have different comfort levels in terms of what we do, or are not necessarily looking to learn a comprehensive martial art, but still want a place where they can develop and maintain their defensive skills as well as their fitness levels. It is for this reason that we developed our new Self-Defense Fitness classes.

Using the simplest, most effective self-defense techniques in Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, we've created a program that improves students' cardio, strength, coordination, balance, flexibility, etc, AND teaches students how to apply them for personal protection should the need arise. Unlike our regular Jiu-jitsu classes, these one-hour classes leave out higher impact activities such as breakfalls, throws, joint locks and sparring making it accessible to everyone. It's designed to be a solution for people looking for a lower-impact martial arts fitness option. It also can appeal to people who don't like the idea of being thrown or having their joints locked up, whether they're getting over an injury or just a little intimidated at the prospect.

I never really liked the idea of cardio kickboxing or boxercise classes, finding that these types of classes were more about getting fit with only a minor association with the martial arts, and little to no application as to how to use the martial techniques taught. That's why I wanted to make this class different. Around 1/2-2/3 of the class would be spent on fitness and circuit training with practical striking drills with the remaining time spent on the practical applications of the techniques. This class will not require uniforms and will have no belt system. The only equipment required would be a groin protector.

I am hoping that this class will help broaden our reach by offering a more simplified training option that addresses different people's needs. It would also serve as an ongoing training option for women who do our 2-hour women's self defense class. Additionally, I hope it will also serve to attract curiosity in our regular Jiu-jitsu classes from people who develop a desire to progress further. At the same time, it would also serve our regular Jiu-jitsu students should they want a different format class to help improve fitness levels or give them a training option while recovering from injury.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Look at Filipino Martial Arts

Yesterday, Chris and I tried out a FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) class at a school close by to us in Surrey called Mendoza. We had been looking for something new to try that had daytime classes and this place seems to fit the bill. Being half Filipino and all, it's funny that it's taken all this time for me to give it a shot. To be fair though, there wasn't much in the way of FMA in Ottawa while I was living there.

Our first class went very well and we both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It was all empty handed techniques that day, but really fun, useful stuff. The style of movement is so different from what I've seen on other martial arts. The closest I've seen in another style was Wing Chun, at least for the flow of the movement, but it has its differences. For one thing, a lot of their movements are punctuated with slaps, which gives it a neat rhythmic quality that helps with hand flow.

Below is a sample of the hand flow from Filipino martial arts. We did a similar style of hand flow drill that focused more on elbow strikes.

As fun and useful as the empty handed stuff was, I'm looking forward to trying out the weapons work that FMA is famous for. The video below features the instructor from Mendoza doing free flow stick movements.

I consider myself lucky to live in the Vancouver area, which seems to have a wide variety of martial arts training available with all sorts of skilled instructors. I'm very much looking forward to learning more. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Back on the Mats and Training

Last night I got back on the mats and resumed my Shorinji Kan Jiu jitsu training. I took 2 weeks off after I sprained my Achilles tendon right at the beginning of my purple belt grading. I pushed through the grading and avoided doing things that would make it worse, but I must admit that it was pretty sore afterwards, so I needed to take some time off to recover.

I need my body to be healthy for what I do, so I take my healing very seriously. Whenever you get any joint sprain, it's wise to avoid using the joint for the first 48 hours, a vital period of your healing. I didn't even go into the dojo for the first 48 hours so as to avoid standing on my bum ankle. After that, I resumed teaching, but tried stay off my ankle as much as possible as I did so. Even when I was just standing around and giving advice, I did feel sore by the end of a class at first. Jenny, my doctor student, gave me some exercises to strengthen the joint gradually over time. I've been religious in doing them. And last night, I was finally ready to get back to the mats and train.

I'm still not a full capacity though. Running and skipping are still stressful on my ankle, so I had to do my own warm-up independent of the class. I did 5-10 minutes of shrimping and crab walking rather than participating in the classes usual running exercises. The only other thing I had to make modifications for was forward stance (zenkutsu dachi) practice. When my injured ankle was the back leg in the stance, I had to do a modified half stance to avoid stressing the ankle. Other than that, I was able to function completely normally in class, which is great after 2 weeks of doggin' it! :)

Anyway, sometimes you have to back out of training to let yourself heal, but in some cases you can get back to training in a limited capacity if you're diligent about avoiding things that will could hamper your healing. If you do decide to get back to training, make sure you do so under the guidance of your doctor so you know what types of movements to avoid. Some people, however, just can't participate in a class and hold back in any way. These people are probably best served by waiting until they're fully healed before returning.

Have you ever had to train around an injury? What adjustments did you need to make to allow you to train?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Promotion to Purple Belt in Shorinji Kan Jiu jitsu

Last weekend I graded for my purple belt in Shorinji Kan. I'm happy to announce that I passed. :) After the grading, a course was put on by Andy Dobie Sensei (head of Jitsu Canada) and Steve Hiscoe Shihan (heir apparent to the style of Can-ryu). We were all told that we would find out the results of the grading after the course. I was told to go ahead and change into my Can-ryu gi and black belt, but this of course led to a humourous belt presentation later on.

They called up each candidate to receive their new belts one at a time. When it came to me, Dobie Sensei said, "Hmmm... now where did she go?", then looked at me in the Dan line-up and said, "Oh, there you are!" He even referred to me as O'Connell Sensei when he called me to receive my belt. Since we were taking photos of everyone with their new belts afterwards, I switched my gi, put on my purple belt, then lined up with all the Kyu-ranked students. It was all very amusing. I was proud to be demoted from Yondan to purple belt. :P In the photo below, me and some former white belts are tossing up our previous belts, graduation style.

The course was awesome. Hiscoe Shihan started by teaching handcuffing techniques, which was interesting because this is not something on our usual curriculum. That's the benefit of having the law enforcement influence. Dobie Sensei followed up by showing a number of takedowns with strong emphasis on kuzushi (balance breaking), which everyone appreciated.

These combination style courses are great for students to attend. They get to see different instructors, different styles and different perspectives. I always walk away having learned something and enjoy seeing my students talking excitedly afterwards about the new experience. If you have the opportunity to attend these types of events, I highly recommend it.

I was asked by a few students why I would grade in Shorinji Kan for Kyu belts when I already have my Yondan in Can-ryu. It's all about keeping up with my learning. There is always more you can learn, more you can improve, but sometimes it's hard to get solid training time in when you're an instructor. It's easier to focus on your own learning when someone else is in charge. I've seen many an instructor become complacent in their own learning to the point that they become stagnant and start losing interest. For me to keep my enthusiasm up, for both teaching and training, it's important for me to train outside my own dojo. I chose Shorinji Kan because I wanted to focus a bit more on throwing (which they specialize in more than we do), plus I have the benefit of having an in-house Shodan in that style at my own dojo.

Are you an instructor who cross-trains in another style? What style did you choose and why?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Safety Rules for Women at Bars/Clubs

Over the last year, I taught around 8 women's self-defense classes in Vancouver. During that time, in nearly every group I taught, there was at least one woman who either knew someone personally who had had rohypnol slipped into their drink, or had had it slipped into her own drink. Back when I used to go to bars regularly, it was something that you only read about in the papers. Unfortunately, these incidents have become commonplace in recent years. Read more about rohypnol.

To avoid this type of situation, there are a number of safety rules I teach women to follow in my self-defense class. Here they are:

1. Avoid going to bars alone. You're more vulnerable to these types of situations when you're alone. No one is there to intercept if someone attempts to "take you home" in a suspicious way, nor will anyone miss you if you're suddenly gone.

2. Avoid drinking to excess. I understand that it's fun to let loose, but drinking to excess impairs your judgement. You may not recognize a dangerous situation if it happens to you. You're also more likely to take risks you wouldn't normally take when sober. If you're with friends, you might not notice if your friend is in a situation and needs help.

3. Keep track of your drinks. It's not just about staying close to your drink, but actually keeping it in sight. Many women have looked away just for a few seconds, turning around to look for a friend or put their wallet away, and have had their drink drugged in that time.

4. Don't let strangers buy you drinks. Sure, it's nice to save money, not having to buy your own drinks, but when you let someone buy you a drink it can give a man the opportunity to put something in it. Even if the guy isn't looking to drug you, he may feel that you're now obligated to him in some way, and may get angry if you don't feel any such obligation.

5. Look out for your friends (and make sure they're looking out for you). It can be easy to lose track of your friends in a crowded club. Try to stay together, at least with one other friend. Let each other know where you're going to be. It's easier to stay safe and stop bad things from happening if you're all looking out for each other.

I give this advice to women, not to scare them, or to make them feel unsafe when they go out. These are just a few simple practices one can easily make a habit of doing without having to dwell on it overly. By following these practices, women can worry a lot less about what "could" happen, and focus more on just having fun.

My next women's self-defense class is taking place on Sat. Feb. 5. More information.