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Ever stub your toe twice?

Once I found something the other guy didn't like, I've always attempted to do it repeatedly. If it worked once and it hurt, it'll work again and hurt more. Saekson demonstrated that this hypothesis has validity.


Hypothesis: Martial arts stances and kata are not for fighting but a strength and conditioning program for fighting

Tradition is what we do because we are not comfortable with seeking evidence disagreeing with the way things have always been. It's not always a bad thing, the tradition of turkey on Thanksgiving works out pretty well for everyone except the turkey. When they get opposable thumbs I'll start worrying about it.
According to legend and somewhat supported by historical fact Bodhidharma was a Bhuddist monk who travelled from India to China via multiple other Asian countries and transmitted Zen to China. When he arrived he found the monks to be so out of shape that he provided them with instruction on how to hone their bodies called yi jin jing (muscle and tendon changing).

Apparently monks were regularly robbed and this instruction helped to decrease such activity. Perhaps Bodhidharma was preceding Gable with "Conditioning is the greatest submission hold". If you watch the video you will see a Shaolin monk go through exercises that are less combatative and more conditioning. Now if we expand the supposition that many martial arts have prearranged exercises that are at best suboptimal and look at their movements not as fighting but conditioning, it may explain why people trained in more traditional styles practice forms one way but fight another. Why do positions in yoga look so much like stances?
Since you had to do something while standing in awkward positions, why not codify some of the arts techniques into this training. I've heard multiple explanations for the low front, horse, crane, and cat stances, none of which have ever rung true. For example, "We train the low front stance so that when you are in a fight your natural tendency to rise up will give you a functional fighting stance". Or "Because Okinawa is a coral island, they could not move or fall because they would be slashed to ribbons by the coral, hence a low solid stances". This might further explain why kata is generally taught to people below shodan "first grade" or blackbelt. The first few years weren't teaching you to fight so much as conditioning for fight training in the future.

Iron and Latex

In the past few months I've been introduced to more ways to torture my sinews than before. As I've mentioned before I'm a fan of maximally efficient gains, in other words what gets me the most with a minimum of hassle and time consumption. There are numerous previous entries on high-intensity training and Tabata protocols. Following my surgery and rehabilitation I've met not only the iron I've also been playing with rubber (kinky I know). This is almost a modern parable of hard and soft styles, the yin and yang of conditioning. Its a little tough being a big bad fighter guy who gets a little shiver of fear when he sees a big rubber ball or resistance bands.
I consider myself a strong person, I can still lift and move weights that others find daunting, but this strength is deceptive. Why? If I was this physical uberman I wouldn't be writing about rehabilitating two knee surgeries as well as other injuries. Stabilizers and core are essential for strength, without them your body is exposed to forces that the primary muscle groups can handle but all the weaker links in the chain, specifically tendons and ligaments have to take up inordinate loads, they become the weakest link in the chain and the hardest injury to rehabilitate.
Primary, among my awakening are those damned stabilizers. Try standing on one foot, if you are wobbling it shows that various stabilizer muscles are firing, presumably too much to correct the deficits of other weaker stabilizers. The burning sensation is ischemia, literally those muscles are using oxygen more rapidly than your blood, lungs, and heart can deliver it to those muscles. Once you've mastered 30 secs, a minute, or two minutes whatever, try shifting your center of mass by bending your knee or reaching for the mat. Get a stabilizer pillow, the jelly donut version of a hemorrhoid pillow and stand on that, it works against your body's equilibrium establishing mechanisms, every correction making you feel like you wobble more. If those are working well try doing one-armed push-up hold or T-position. Once you've got the static part down you can start moving to dynamic movements like farmer's walk (walking lunge to lunge) or sideways lunge.
My new favorite toy are resistance bands. Typically in workouts the resistance is uniform, that is when one benches the weight really doesn't change. Resistance bands (and weight chains for that matter) increase resistance during the exercise, resistance bands are governed by F = -kx, the force is proportional to the distance moved. The further the conditioning band stretches the harder it is, usually at the limit of your bodies reach the weakest part of the motion. Aha! We are going to make you work hardest where you are weakest. I've tried shadowboxing in them, which turns 3 minutes of shadow boxing into a muscle burning good time (although I recommend doing both leads for symmetry).

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Stephan Kesting's Half Guard Leg Position Drill

Nice drill! Check out more wisdom from Stephan Kesting with and download a free book there, too.

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Dog Brothers Open Gathering 2009

I like the Dog Brothers training mentality push as hard as you can to elevate your team/tribe/clan/group but not so hard that you break someone and the group weakens overall.

That being said, whacking each other with sticks just looks fun.

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Obi Wan was right!

Either in vain hope of maintaining an edge to my martial skills or because I find benefit in cognitive expenditure during physical activity, I increasingly believe that the cerebral architecture is much more important than the physical structure. Anecdotally the performance and benefits of my strength training have seemed best when I actively concentrate on the muscles I work, instilling better form and imagining the functional work that they perform. In other words if you can do anything except lift the weight, like talk or eyeball the co-ed next to you, you simply aren't working hard enough physically or mentally. Similarly as I have worked on describing technique in this blog or simply visualized what I wanted to do, I feel I've performed better. These mental exercises or visualization are more commonly called "motor imagery" ( J Physiol Paris. 2006 Jun;99(4-6):386-95).
Doing a light cursory literature search I found an interesting article (Memory & Cognition 2002, 30 (8), 1169-1178) that shows that "expert divers visualized their dives closest to their performance times. Intermediate divers visualized their dives slower than their performance times. Novice divers visualized their dives faster than performance times." This is a fascinating result because it can be extrapolated in many ways. Expert fighters have the best control of range and timing is this due to years of seeing stuff (real or imagined) flying at their head that they mentally have conditioned themselves to their own physical speed? Does the underestimation of physical time necessary to complete a task by a beginner explain why they always try to do things faster? Does this explain why despite excellent physical conditioning beginners become exhausted with the technical level of the skill set needed to fight, i.e. they are driving their minds and bodies faster than they are capable because they think that's how fast it is? This may even explain why intermediately trained folks perceive things as taking longer, their physical capabilities have reached a set point better than what they thought they started with, i.e. they are actually as fast as they thought they were when they started but are still cognitively using their (lack of) experience as a beginner to establish time dependence of what they do? Or am I ranting like a madman again?
It appears that visualizing or "thinking about the problem before attempting it" works better than just the good old college try (Behav Brain Res. 1998 Jan;90(1):95-106). This has a whole host of implications and applications. Before practicing anything, make a movie in your head describing the frame of reference as well as the dynamic evolution of the technique, see if that makes you learn it better and faster. Taking these "movie clips" would allow you to string them together, allowing you to "train" anywhere. Does this power of imagery explain why people can progress technically between practices simply because of conscious or subconscious processing of mental images of a technique? Would combat athletes progress faster if they had "previews" of material to be taught at the next practice because it would stimulate motor cognitive pathways, that could be physically refined later?


Community Acquired Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (CA-MRSA)

I recently heard a lecture from Audio Digest entitled Community-Acquired MRSA: Risks and Management by George C. Mejicano, MD and I thought I'd share the highlights.
Staphylococcus aureus is a normal occurring bacteria that is founded in almost everyone's nose. It can cause numerous infections when spread to the wrong areas or entering small breaks in the skin. Bacteria are very adaptive organisms so exposure to antibiotics has developed strains of Staphylococcus aureus that are resistant to most common antibiotics. Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA was originally only found in hospitalized or very ill patients. Now we're finding community acquired that is the general populace getting these infections as well. This is particular interest to the combat athlete as being an athlete is a risk factor for gaining MRSA infections. The reasons for this are multifold and include:
  • sharing of towels
  • not showering immediately after practice
  • fingernail length
  • shaving that causes micro-abrasions by which bacteria can enter the skin
It is important for combat athletes to recognize ways to decrease their risk of obtaining an MRSA infection by keeping fingernails short, showering immediately after practice, and using their own towels. It is probably also wise not to shave immediately before practice.
In addition it is important to recognize that if you have an in section not to go back to the mat but rather get it treated. One should be suspicious for MRSA in skin lesions "looking like a spider bite" and then rapidly developing worsened redness, swelling or warmth. It should be noted that products containing tea tree oil have antimicrobial action against Staphylococcus, MRSA or otherwise.

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Rehabilitation High-Intensity Training

This workout is based on what I've been going through with physical therapy and "High-Intensity Training" (John Philbin). The overlying goal is:
  • Time under tension 48 - 72 sec
  • Increase weight 3-5% @ 12 reps or time under tension > 72 sec
  • 75 - 90 sec recovery time
Theoretically these workouts should take less than 90 minutes to complete. Based on my current restrictions I plan the following
Lower body
  1. 15 minute warm-up on stationary bike
  2. 10 minute dynamic stretching
  3. Leg press (less than 60° flexion)
  4. Leg press (less than 60° flexion)
  5. Calf extension
  6. Calf extension
  7. Hip abduction
  8. Hip abduction
  9. Hip adduction
  10. Hip adduction
  11. Hip extension
  12. Hip extension
  13. Hip flexion
  14. Hip flexion
  15. Hamstring curl
  16. Hamstring curl
  17. Hamstring extension (less than 40°)
  18. Hamstring extension (less than 40°)
  19. 10 minute cool down stretch

Upper body
  1. 15 minute warm-up on stair master (or equivalent with upper body movement)
  2. 10 minute dynamic stretching
  3. Pull Up
  4. Dip
  5. Lat Pull Down
  6. Lat Pull Down
  7. Seated row
  8. Seated row
  9. Dumbell Bench Press
  10. Dumbell Bench Press
  11. Seated Dumbell Press
  12. Seated Dumbell Press
  13. Shrug
  14. Shrug
  15. Back Extension
  16. Back Extension
  17. Abdominal Extension
  18. Abdominal Extension
  19. 10 minute cool down stretch

Dynamic stretching
  1. Ankle rotations
  2. Knee circles
  3. Straight leg swing forward
  4. Straight leg swing lateral
  5. Hip circles
  6. Trunk twist
  7. Front/back bends
  8. Side bends
  9. Arm circles
  10. Arm wrap
  11. Wrist circles
  12. Grips
  13. Neck circles
  14. Shaking head "no"
  15. Nodding head "yes"

Cool down stretch
  1. Feet shoulder width down, left and right
  2. Feet twice shoulder width down, left and right (shoulder width, wide, wider, widest)
  3. Feet as wide as comfortable down, left and right
  4. Down into Cobra
  5. Back up and as far hand walking backwards without sitting down
  6. Up and stretch left lunge
  7. Switch to right lunge
  8. Back to center and down into Cobra
  9. Back up and hand walking into sitting position
  10. Stretch middle, left and right
  11. Leg’s together stretch middle
  12. Left reverse hurdler stretch, stretch along leg and between
  13. Left pretzel
  14. Left leg pull over back stretch
  15. Right reverse hurdler stretch, stretch along leg and between
  16. Rigt pretzel
  17. Right leg pull over back stretch
  18. Crowd pleasers
  19. Up and do ham string stretch
  20. Picking high fruit
  21. Forward bend
  22. Rear lean
  23. Forward bend
  24. Stack vertebrae
  25. Wrist In Turn
  26. Wrist Out Turn
  27. Wrist Press
  28. Wrist Reverse Press
I plan to mix the machine/free weight programs with the body weight high-intensity training (BWHIT) program I proposed in the past.

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GNP Drills

Coup de Grace
Using a standard boxing round at the end of a random combination drop the level of a focus mitt to mat level simulating a downed or injured opponent. The mitt should generally be placed somewhere that the momentum of the previous strike would have put an opponent and it helps to create a little distance as a stunned opponent rarely has the common decency to fall invitingly to the ground. The fighter can finish with an overhand lead or rear, hammer fist, or stomp.
Fall and Stand
Using a standard thai pad round, the command "fall" is randomly called. If the holder does not encroach the fighter should stand as quickly as possible. If they encroach with pads against their belly, the fighter kicks away and stand. If held perpendicularly at head height the fighter stands by throwing a head round kick and standing with the rotation.
Sidemount GNP
Stack two thai pads on top of one another, the fighter places their chest on the pads to simulate the sidemount. The fighters have numerous options, such as the hammer fist to the face, belly, or far lateral thigh. They can punch, essentially an upper cut to the face or body. Also available is the knee and downward elbows. Make them stand and immediately sprawl for variety.
GNP conditioning
Series of cross-hook-cross or pitterpat followed by sprawl and "horizontal skip knees" essentially mountain climbers without placing the foot nearest the face on the floor, simulating a knee. Spiderman with punches added for variety.

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Fall goeth before the pride

"I'm strong, fast and mean. Hell on wheels." -- Frank Miller's Wolverine

I've been theoretically aware that having bilateral ACL replacements would greatly diminish my athletic capacity both prior to and following my surgeries. I have daily experienced the indignities of limbs that are weaker and stiffer, ready to betray me without notice. I thought I had accepted these as part of the recovery process. I am...was a good athlete I have won national and international titles in different combat sports and sparred professionals to a draw (and sometimes better). I prideful in the physical gifts I possess and arrogant in my contempt of the small things that are a lot more difficult than we think they are.
I was made acutely aware of my weakness with a lower extremity high-intensity training / rehabilitation workout I did today. I started with leg press, doing two sets of warm-up with only the sled, my thighs already protesting a weight that I would formerly have found laughable. During my heaviest weight training I was able to leg press over half a ton for reps, today I found my legs twitching and trembling after three sets of 12 x 180# (that's right a weight less than my body weight), these were also leg press keeping my knees bent less than 60° (or when you don't need to bother setting the safeties because you don't have to undo the brake). I couldn't even do the hack squat at the gym, even on its most liberal setting my surgically altered anatomy couldn't bend itself into a position capable of doing the exercise. I worked my abductors and adductors with three sets of 12 x 50#, embarrassed by the shaking induced by what had previously been minimal effort. One set of 12 x 10# LLE hamstring curls concluded my shame, I went to teach and stretch. If anything this injury has already made me a more grateful person, it will probably also make me a humbler one. Everything we have is a gift, take none of it for granted.

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May have to join Endorphins Anonymous

Today marks the first day of conditioning training for me. I actually did an upper body High-Intensity Training circuit today with the goal of a 7 second per repetition for 12 repetitions. My goal in lifting is to augment my combat sports training (such as it is at the moment) so I focus on quality biomechanical movement and I'll let the amount of weight worry about itself. Everything attempts to be a smooth motion without using the momentum of the weight to move.
ExerciseSet #1Set #2Set #3
Dumbell Bench40 x 1252.5 x 1150 x 8
Machine Flys70 x 1290 x 1290 x 12
Lat Pulldown90 x 12110 x 12110 x 12
Bentover Row70 x 1270 x 1270 x 12
Strangely my legs felt like jelly after the work-out indicating my lower extremities still have a long recuperation ahead of them and how globally fatiguing HIT workouts are. I did some pool exercises like "jumping" off the bottom of the pool. I also put in an hour on the bike (while watching a Bas Rutten instructional) and then did the mogul (shifting my weight from knee to knee) and step-ups.

I'm coming down from the endorphin high...and looking for my next fix

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Mike's Mixed-Martial Arts Cardio Training Audio Download

I made these MP4 files a few years ago to assist me with doing Tabata protocol before we acquired our fancy timer. The first track is an introduction (which you should be hearing now) that describes the protocol and the different tracks. Essentially there are two five minute rounds composed of 10 "mini-rounds" of 20 second on and 10 second off cycles. Between each round there is a 30 second pause/break.

  1. Introduction
  2. Rounds with coaching and music intervals
    This track has both the buzzers, music for rest periods, and tells you what to do for the next round.
  3. Rounds (with music intervals but without coaching)
    This track drops the coaching allowing you to design your own work-out.
  4. Rounds (without coaching or music intervals)
    This track provides you with freedom from the corny music.


The Curly Ronin's second bout at the 2009 TBA MTC

Before they announce the decision, choose a victor.


2009 Thai Boxing Association Muay Thai Classic, Des Moines, IA

2009 TBA MTC Poster

Off to Des Moines to coach my fighters...


Cro Cop Interview

Interesting look into the motivations of a seasoned professional like Mirko "Cro-Cop" Filipovic


R.I.P. John Wynn

I met John in practice on the occasions he came over from Terre Haute. John was not a fantastic athlete but he had the heart of champion. It was always surprising training with John, he didn't wrestle like most teenagers, rather than trying to muscle his way through positions, he played with technique beyond his years. John competed in sport jiu-jitsu and even fought mixed martial arts. But John was more than fighter, he had a quiet humor and didn't have any quit in him. He was a good a good man, he will be missed as a friend, a team mate, and a brother.

Physical Therapy: Learning to Walk Again

I'm suffering from arthrogenic muscle inhibition (AMI), which is hypothesized to be due to the loss of neuromuscular innervation supplied by nerves running along side the ACL (ref). After all knee surgeries the muscles of the leg surrounding the surgery site are "stunned" and can take weeks to recover. In the meantime I've got an immobilizer on to keep me from buckling my swollen knee and undoing all the good work already done on it. My question to this hypothesis is that since I didn't really have an ACL to start with, what nerves were destroyed in the surgery?
My first session of "real" PT started today. I'd finally gotten so that I could lift my leg mostly under its own power as well as getting me to flex and extend my knee. My physical therapist took a look at my "walk" and explained the proper method for using a single crutch, opposite and simultaneous with the injured extremity. He assessed my knee flexibility, not quite straight and only able to flex it to 72° by myself and 86° with assistance. My right knee is a good inch longer in circumference, too.
I was given several new exercises as well as continued my old ones:
  1. Kneecap Self Mobilizations (basically stretching the knee cap in the four cardinal directions to prevent adhesions from the patellar tendon graft) 2 sec hold x 5-10 reps, 2 sessions per day
  2. Extension stretch (letting gravity flatten my knee with the foot elevated) 1-5 minutes, 3 sessions daily
  3. Lying Knee Flexion (lying on your back trying to pull your foot to your butt) 1 second hold x 10 reps, 3 sessions per day
  4. Quadriceps Set (squashing a towel flat with the posterior surface of the knee) 5 sec hold x 10 reps, 3 sessions per day
  5. Leg Raise 10 sec hold x 10-20 reps, 2-3 sessions per day
  6. Seated Knee Flexion (sit on a table flex the knee) 10 sec hold x 10 reps, 2-3 sessions per day


Saku HL


Evan Tanner Power of One HL

RIP Evan


This May Not Be As Easy As I Thought

Don't step with the bad leg!
Don't step with the bad leg!
Don't step with the bad leg!
Don't step with the bad leg!
Don't step with the bad leg!
Don't step with the bad leg!
Don't step with the bad leg!
Don't step with the bad leg!
Don't step with the bad leg!
But I did get a shower in today and my thigh got off the floor.


Those Are Where EXACTLY

Stylin' my Jackson-Pratt DrainStylin' my Jackson-Pratt Drain
The drainage bulbs for the two Jackson-Pratt drains
I emptied my Jackson-Pratt drains after about four hours, then six hours later and they had pretty much slowed down the following morning when I was to report to the office to have the drains pulled. Just as Lan was about to get me packaged in the car, I heard a dripping sound on the floor as bright red synovial-diluted blood poured down my leg onto the carpet. One of the plungers on the drain had come loose while I had arranged my pants. I slapped my thumb over it and we managed to get me cleaned up in time. Just to make sure that I knew who was boss, I stubbed my toe as I hiked myself forward on my crutches, and my knee wiped the color from my face, the words from my lips, and made sweat sprout on my forehead. At the orthopedists office, the nurse stripped down the immobilizer, athletic wrap, Kerlex, and bandages on my knee to reveal my assaulted hinge joint.
Yeah those are WAY into the joint spaceYeah those are WAY into the joint space
Two drainage ports and the staples over the area where they took the patellar tendon segment
The nurse then removed the drains, carefully and slowly. I could feel the uncoiling drain dislodge within the joint, the burn as rubber tubing moved past raw flesh, and I turned a shade of light green. With the removal of the second drain I felt much better whether it was because I intellectually knew that yet one more foreign body had been removed or the relief from the insult of having something inside my knee joint.
After getting home I worked on my rehabilitation exercises which include knee flexion and extension as well as hip extensions. Extending the knee was simple, it'd been nearly in that position with immobilizer since that day before. Knee flexion with great effort my knee crept a little above horizontal, scant degrees of horizontal. As for hip extension, I strained to failure and my leg didn't even move.
I've got a lot of work to do...


Bow Before the Impotent Agony of Knee the First

The night before surgery was like any night before a big tournament, I was ready to go, telling my body to slow down and my brain from running itself in circles. The weekend and day prior had been a frenzy of preparation to get the house clean, laundry done, and groceries stocked. With four refreshing hours of sleep I reported to the SurgiCenter at 7:45 AM and then went through the standard pre-operative preparation. I had my vitals taken, an IV was established, and they shaved my knee. The anesthesiologist made the fact that his nurse anesthetist was going to knock me out and breath for me sound mundane, while my orthopedic surgeon was pumped to start rearranging the internal geometry of my knee. A bag of ceftriaxone was hung along with some dexamethasone for nausea.
From my highly positive physical exam the plan was to visualize that I indeed was missing an ACL then clean out the meniscus rubble. My surgeon would then use a central piece of my patella tendon to replace my ACL, boring a hole through the bones proximal and distal to the joint. Shortly after chatting with my surgeon I was wheeled into the OR, the nurse anesthetist introduced herself and slapped some oxygen on my face.
I started waking up to someone really far away telling me not to fiddle with the oxygen in my nose. My right knee was a huge, uncoordinated, painful thing down at the end of the bed. As I regained a semblance of consciousness I pieced together that my surgery was done and that the annoying thing in my nose was a nasal cannula with oxygen. A shot of morphine and an antiemetic allowed me to down some ketorolac and hydrodone-acetaminophen. My pain got a lot better and I started to perk up, the nurse brought me something to drink and some toast. As the medications tenacious hold slipped away, they transferred me to the next level of recovery and brought my saintly girlfriend, Lan, to come talk to me. She showed me the arthroscopic pictures, evidence of the beating I had given my knee for the past decade. In my intoxicated state she also almost convinced me that we weren't dating.
Not a desirable region for a high coefficient of friction
Before picture, showing torn meniscus
A little high powered elbow grease
After picture, everything smoothed out

Getting me from the gurney to the easy chair demonstrated profoundly that my knee was impotently pissed off. The slightest vibration was nauseatingly painful but from my hip flexor down my leg hung like a limp noodle. With the added fortification of some cranberry juice and apple cinnamon muffin we attempted the next stage in the right knee saga, getting home. Fumbling against the vestiges of the anesthetic and gravity I was deposited in a wheel chair and moved out to the car, where I was able to prop myself unceremoniously in the back seat, my right knee like so much extra unwieldy baggage.
Yes there's a piece missingSomeone done put a patella tendon in there
Before picture, there's supposed to be an ACL between those two lines there
After picture, voilá a new ACL

At home Jarred had swung by with faux pansies and some milk shakes, and he helped get me inside. I had to figure out how to urinate again and will have to optimize the technique necessary to get the appropriate orifices over the correct waste receptacles with one leg that's a painful, rigid, brittle log. For the next 24 hours Lan watched over me. I spent the remainder of the day dreading having to move, but forcing myself to pump my calf to prevent a venous thrombosis (no thank you 6 months of warfarin). I drowsed in and out of consciousness as the stress, medications, and lack of sleep collided. We emptied the two Jackson-Pratt drains that drew a mixture of blood and synovial fluid from somewhere deep under the bulky immobilizer. Toward night I hopped up the stairs and with Lan's help got myself arranged in bed. I managed to sleep some more.


is trying to update...well...everything


Never has something so simple looked so beautiful

That's right we have our selves a runner

After only a few short months of me saying: "It is my professional medical opinion that not securing these mats with an edge of some sort constitutes a significant potential health hazard," the powers that be did something spectacularly beautiful. One can only conjecture that such safety engineering might mean I only would need unilateral ACL repair.


Team mates

On my way home today I hit a pot hole in the freeway while doing 70 m.p.h. This dented my driver's side rim and cracked the wheel, deflating the tire. I replaced this useless automotive appendage with the emergency spare, a bike tire on steroids, and limped home my regular 50 minute commute now nearly an hour and a half. I went to teach class and relayed my tale of woe to my team mates.
Travis is a blue belt who has been training with us for a couple of years, good athlete and always willing to wrestle. He's also apparently always willing to get a team mate out of a jam. Travis' non-combatitive expertise is in cars, he customizes and modifies automobiles. Without missing a beat he asked me what the radius and size of my tires where as if this was common knowledge that I was supposed to retain. He then furled his brow as he searched an encyclopedic cerebral repository of car measurements to conclude that he might be able to slap some wheels from one of his old cars onto my car until my new rim could come in.
After open roll Travis drove into my driveway with his truck and proceeded to slap two tires onto my car while giving an impromptu tutorial on tire fits and measurements. He then test drove the car with me, despite a little wobble near 75 m.p.h. his replacements were significantly more robust then my spare (and it's maximum rating of 50 m.p.h.) Interestingly Travis felt that he was paying me back for what little coaching I'd done in practice and some occasional extra sessions we've held in the Bugeishako.
I'm humbled and amazed at such friendship and loyalty, I train and coach because I enjoy it. Because of doing something I enjoy, my team mate bailed me out of a significant jam without thought of recompense. It's nice to be reminded that the closest friends we make are the ones that we sweat and bleed on.



On Monday I met my orthopedic surgeon. In conjunction with my sports medicine doc they've seen a significant percentage of my team mates, all of whom have been satisfied with the results. Orthopedic surgeons perform vigorous physical exams of the joints, so when he snapped onto my leg it was difficult for me to relax. The proper response for any fighter placed in a submission is to get out of it. Anyway if I didn't need operative management of my knees (yes pleural) it was a certainty after his tender mercies. Anyway we planned for my right knee in early May and my left knee at the beginning of July. This should allow me the necessary mobility to take care of important events in my life, like my new job.
The other question was when would I be back to being at least physically. I have as much restraint as a puppy despite my seemingly aging demeanor. He cautiously estimated my recovery at between six and 12 months. I'm giving it four. I'll follow instructions explicitly and rehabilitate like its my new religion, but I cannot be if I there is no do. I plan on working non-resistive technical motions within three to four weeks (I think I saw literature that said that was conceivable).
In the meantime I will train in my mind or do what I call cerebral technique (noujitsu). This is actually pretty fun after being medically advised not to be an @$$hole and destroy either knee further. I'm essentially ambulatory sensory organs and central nervous tissue. I cannot show what I want, my latent fear of genu instability coupled with the bilateral inflammation precludes any sort of graceful or effective demonstration (getting up from the mat is a foal-like struggle against gravity's tenacious charms). Instead I'm having to rely on more astute observation of optimal and suboptimal technique combined with finding verbal, tactile, and gesticular ways of conveying information. I have to describe concepts while trying to sculpt stick figure representations of technique with my fingers. I have to point and tap on limbs or bodies to mold them into semblance of technical versatility. This has been leading to even greater analysis of what I am coaching and what I see being taught. In the last week I've been sketching out functional focus mitt drills using three people...more later. As I was watching Jack teach tonight I started seeing anime arrows in my head directing the flux of competing and syncroness force vectors that effortlessly sweep an opponent or change a submission from discomforting to lethal. A fun project would be to sketch these arrows on film or video, maybe even blog about them...
One thing I'd like people to do is use technique or even roll while counting, reciting a speech or delivering a poem. If they adjust their tempo, change their tone, or get short of breath, then they are probably muscling the move rather than using effortless technique. Sensory deprivation and being benched for months may just make me a better fighter. It certainly has already made me a more grateful one.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a radiograph is worth a thousand dollars

Normal ACL

Oh for fucks sake

Sagittal MRI of a knee showing a normal anterior cruciate ligament. Image courtesy of Carleton University Sports Medicine Clinic, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. For more about knees check this out.

Sagittal MRI of my left knee

My imaging experience today confirmed for me that getting imaged is not nearly as fun as imaging somebody else. So glad that I have a little bit of discretion and didn't try something foolhardy because everything feels pretty good.



Bas Rutten: They don't listen, I don't coach

Bas Rutten Interview - Watch more Funny Videos

The End

In the fall of 1996 I started training in Goshin Jitsu. During my first semester I was escaping from a rear bear hug and as I sunk my weight, my right exploded and vanished sending me in a heap to the floor. I had to hold my knee to keep the smallest vibrations from causing my knee to throb with nauseating agony. Surprisingly it went away within minutes and I was up to try again, but with one careless step the pain came back with biblical vengeance. I eventually went to the student medical center and then their sports medicine service who recommend rehabilitation exercises for a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). I don't think I was ever offered an assessment by an orthopedist or even got an x-ray.
For the next year I would have intermittent episodes of right knee pain and instability. Ignorant, stubborn, and uneducated I worked around the problem, using an inexpensive ACL knee brace, odious Chinese liniments, shark cartilage which was eventually replaced by glucosamine and chondroitin, prolotherapy, as well as careful modifications to my stand-up and ground game. My knee would lock, once for 18 hours I couldn't flex it far past straight, until I gritted my teeth and tried a little bit harder.
My friend Bart coaxed me into lifting, especially Olympic and HIT style lifts which strengthened my legs so that the supporting muscles and their attendant tendons took over for the crippled ligament inside my knee. I remember grappling and fighting both MMA and muay thai on a right leg that had buckled or locked days or hours before the event. Despite this I got pretty good at Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay thai, and mixed-martial arts. I've won national and international level tournaments in separate combat sports and can hold my own with professionals. In the words of my coach Jack McVicker, "you move around pretty good for a guy with an ACL tear".
This spring I had grandiose aspirations of competing at three large jiu-jitsu tournaments, my few months of residency carried a fairly light schedule. Approximately six weeks ago I was drilling clinch work when my left knee felt like someone cut it out from under me with a really large sharp object. It too was a little unstable but I thought that this was due to the swelling. I cancelled my tournament plans and trained around this injury until last week, when feeling full of spit and vinegar I grappled more aggressively than I had in some time. I actually mentioned to my partner that my knee felt pretty good. As I bridged to move my partner off my back my left knee twisted, stopping its rotation only because of the shrieking protest of my lateral and medical collateral ligaments. I screamed and a bunch of shocked faces turned to me, seeming to disbelieve that I could be laid low. I held my knee, try to squeeze the pain out of it as well as look for the magic bullet that must have suddenly been blasted into it. My team mates gathered around me, Dan Hornbuckle held my smote knee as he directed my immediate care. The bag of ice laid on top of it was like mom's cool kiss when I'd hurt myself as a kid. The pain subsided and I hobbled home.
The next day things were fine as long as I walked slowly in a straight line. By favoring my acutely injured left knee I placed greater strain on the right, causing into grumble like a spoiled child suddenly called to pull its load after years of being coddled. I was referred to a sports medicine doc who I saw yesterday. One of his therapist assessed me first, poking and tugging on my knee in a disconcerting fashion. When you're used to wriggling out of submissions allowing someone to twist on your knee takes an abundance of will power. He quietly told me that both my knees felt about the same and that the doc would be in to see me. The sports medicine doc did his exam a the end said, "That doesn't feel so good".
I obliviously said, "Oh that's not so bad."
"No I mean on my end." His diagnosis was that I had bilateral ACL tears, serious enough to need both sides replaced. He explained that my knees were the same on exam because of damage to both. On the x-ray he showed me that the right sided injury was chronic, even I could see the loss of joint space on the medial side. Arthritis and degenerative joint problems of my right knee was a certainty, my left was a new injury, more amenable to surgery in the immediate future. He set up the MRI and mentioned that two approaches were possible, a patellar graft or a hamstring graft, the latter of which he thought was a better choice given my gender, age, idiot proclivities, and inherent need for symmetry.
I've read a little bit about ACL replacement surgery, I have no need for an immediate procedure, it appears that waiting for the inflammation to decrease improves outcomes. That means aggravating it as little as possible, i.e. not training, which is probably a good idea since I already know it hurts when my joints try to disassemble themselves. The choices between the two graft types have different pros and cons, I'll be discussing those with the orthopedic surgeon if the MRI comes out as predicted.
Life is about risks, I accept the ones my lifestyle encompass. Everyone gets hurt doing what I do, its not a possibility it is a certainty. Words cannot express how grateful and relieved I am that I can still walk albeit slowly and gracelessly. That does not change the fact that after the injury the choices still abound they simply change in context. I can chose not to undergo surgery, keep training while I wear my knee cartilage to the bone and keep tearing strands of ligament. Or I can chose a more sedentary route that still does not halt my arthritic progression but without training ever again. I can undergo surgery that would keep me from training for 4 (one knee) to 6 (both knees) months, but even then a not insignificant proportion of patients do not return to their original sports activities because after the pain and expense of their surgery they value knee health over their extracurricular activities. No doubt a 4 to 6 month hiatus would allow me to build strength, agility and flexibility but I would losing timing, technical expertise, and repetitions so crucial to maintaining superior martial skills. I wonder if I have the humility to accept not being at the top of the heap anymore. Would I have the willpower to show-up at practice to watch, coach, and help teach, or am I too selfish for that? Given the demands on my time already, adding a rehabilitation routine would mean budgeting time in new ways, most likely shifting my practice schedule to time in rehab. All these choices may be moot in the highly improbable circumstance that my ACL is flawless. In the end this is a beginning, a chance at reexamining the beautiful kinetic chess of training to fight, a moment to relearn how I do things, a lesson in the humility of injury.



Dawg Fight

Dawg Fight from rakontur on Vimeo.

Fighting is as primal as breathing, but everything primal costs something.


Two hands are better than one

Tonight I explained the concept behind the figure four. Simply put the figure four grip concentrates maximum power on the extremity, neck, or joint you are attacking. There are several variations of pattern recognition that are needed to attack with figure fours, and if you miss them your opponent will keep slipping out of them again and again. The figure four uses mechanical advantage of over and under arm control, a two-on-one grip, placing the gripped target anteriorly and inferiorly to you as if it was a tightly sealed jar of succulent peanut butter, just waiting to be pried open. I showed drills that I've done in the past and some news stuff, too:
  • Surrendering Gorilla
  • Every 60°
    Assume the side mount position, use a figure four to attack the arm in whatever position it is closest to, i.e. the sidemount kimura (you will need to shift your base to bring the superior side thigh over the head to lock your opponents body down before you apply pressure to the shoulder), the extended crossbody armbar, or the americana. Make sure you go through all three positions on this side and then transition to knee on stomach and hop to the other side, reset the sidemount and do the same on the other side.
  • Round-the-world chokes
    The rear naked choke is essentially a figure four based off the biceps rather than the wrist, a figure four guillotine uses one wrist under the neck with the hand on the opposite wrist, with this side posted off the shoulder. Work both sides guillotine and both sides RNC
  • MALRotation
  • Kimura flow
    Attack with kimura from the guard, let the roll and attack the shoulder base kimura (post your hips on the same side shoulder as your grip and apply pressure posteriorly). Readjust to straddle their head as you pull you partner on to their side and apply posterior pressure. The extension not trained to day would to transition to side mount reapply the kimura and then have your partner shrimp the guard and reset the drill


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - The Animals Drill

Three Thai Pad Drills

  1. Turn Knee
    Clinch up with the holder, turn them 180° by stepping up next to them and pivoting using your body weight to move them and your arms to snap them around at the end. At the end of each turn deliver a knee. I wanted people to develop a feel for moving and kneeing an opponent repeatedly.
  2. Thai Clinch Arm Developer
    Your holder pushes on your hips with the pads as you work on rapid repetitions of tugging on the head in the air, at random times they yell clinch and you grab the head and knee. This should work to develop the attributes need to shake and bake the neck with your arms during the clinch.
  3. Catch and Release
    Throw a soft kick and have your holder catch it for you, then repeat the same side delivering a hard kick to the pads. I'm trying to get people to develop their kick mechanics and power using this drill.


Team McVicker Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Camp, Part II

Warm-up with Ginastica Natural

Again Jeff Serafin warmed-up the team with Ginastica Natural some of the motion elements used today were:
  • Frog: Feet twice shoulder width, place your hands forward and jump you feet parallel to your hands. Proceed down mat.
  • Chimpanzee: Shoulder width stance, place hands next to you, parallel with your legs and hop your feet past your hands. Rotate and repeat, move down the mat.
  • Basic cricket: From push-up position alternatively hop your hands forward, moving down the mat
  • Seal: Lying prone lift torso up and forward, dragging yourself down the mat
  • Shoulder roll, extension: Controlled roll over one shoulder, stretch with same side leg and end up prone. Spin through to sitting position. Repeat to move down mat.

Brad Peplow shows the Mad Dog guard
  1. Set-up (gi)
    Detach the lapel grip by gripping your partner's wrist with both hands, crunching inward, and then pulling away using your arms to hold their hand in place and your body to move away. Pass the gripped hand to the opposite side and maintain control with your same side grip. Feed the gripped limb under your opposite arm, and grab the shoulder on this side. Simultaneously, feed your knee over the trapped arm's shoulder and cross your ankles. The idea is to tightly control the shoulders.
  2. Set-up (no-gi)
    Your partner is basing on your abdominal muscles, pivot sideways and push the hand on that side across the midline under your opposite arm. Finish the set-up by controlling the shoulders as described above.
  3. Straight arm bar
    Use the elbow overhooking the opposite arm to pinch their elbow against your body. Reach your free arm across, placing your elbow on the seam between their face and shoulder. Slide your elbow and then forearm into place, creating just enough space to bring the same side leg over the head to finish the arm bar
  4. Reverse straight arm bar
    Pivot slightly away from the trapped arm, letting your center point towards it. Slide your arm down their arm to a point just proximal to the elbow. Trap the hand next to your neck. Apply pressure by arcing your body (abdomen away, neck towards) while hugging the arm.
  5. Reverse straight arm bar (head variation)
    If they block the reverse arm bar by placing their head in the void, use your free hand to push the head further down, then reestablish the reverse straight arm bar.
  6. Extended Bump Sweep
    If all else fails, place your foot on the side trapping the arm, into the hip. Extend this foot as you bump with other thigh. Ideally by extending and rotating your partner they should be swept to a mounted position rolling over their trapped arm.

Kyle Watson shows the team how to wrap
  1. Wrapping with the kimono set-up
    Attempt to wrap your opponents same side arm with the lapel of the same side kimono. As they withdraw, fade this laterally such that when they reengage you can pass the kimono over the arm and grip it with opposite side. Set-up a figure four, you may have to do a small hip bump correction to pass the same side arm under their trapped arm. Now pull the trapped arm across the body as you move to the trapped side.
  2. Back threat sweep
    By threatening to attack the back, you will force your partner to react. They will try to move back toward your center to avoid the rear mount. Maintain control of the kimono grip over the trapped hand and use your free hand to reach the kimono under the opposite axilla. Use the free leg to pendulum away and then back toward your partner, and the bottom leg to bump as you pull "steer" them over with your grips. Sweep them to side mount.
  3. Lapel-collar choke
    Reach behind the neck with your free hand from the setup above, pass the gripped kimono to this hand. Use your newly freed hand to apply pressure to the neck from side nearest you by either, gripping a fold in the kimono, sliding down your arm, or sliding under the arm.
  4. Back threat sweep to lapel-collar choke
    Do the back threat sweep but once in mount reach behind the head with the free hand and pass the lapel to this grip. Again set-up the choke as above.
  5. Wrapping with the arm
    Pistol grip your opponent's opposite sleeve, and bring your same side hand underneath to figure four. Pull your partners hand superiorly past your head and use your same side arm to wrap their gripped limb and reach through control the opposite collar, freeing the hand that was pistol gripping. Adjust the grip with your newly freed hand.
  6. Cross collar choke to triangle set-up
    From the set-up above, use the free hand to attack with a cross collar choke. If they defend with the free hand, trap it and loop your knee over this side, setting up a triangle.
  7. Stretched oma plata
    Spin toward the arm inside the triangle and grip the pant leg on this side. Extended this arm as you pull forward into the oma plata. Control their elbow with the opposite side. Move laterally away to flatten them and apply pressure to the shoulder.
It was very interesting this weekend to see the vast diversity in strategies and tactics presented by different students all coached by the same instructor. Jiu-jitsu has certain fundamental, biophysical concepts but their application and the approach varies widely between competitors. Their goals in grappling and their attributes are both limiting step and fuel to overcome the tactical problems they encounter on the mat. It was interesting to contrast three jiu-jitsu veterans' approaches to attacking from guard. All right, all different.

Pictures provided by Pedro can be found here.


A coach's contemplative musings

As I sit in the extremely well decorated Lansing Emergency Department it gives me pause as to why I coach. Tonight, last night at this point, three of my fighters competed in amateur muay thai for the first time at the ActiveEdge Saturday Night Smoker Fights. I think fighting is a valuable, life affirming experience that teaches oneself a lot about themselves and adversity. It is also fraught with physical, social, and emotional risks. You can be grievously hurt or even killed. You can lose your job and your family because you fight. Winning is addictive but the high is short lived, while losing is a bitter pill to swallow and makes you crave the highs of victory.
Tonight Tom, Willy, and Chris made their debuts in the ring, albeit in a smoker that does not count for or against their record. Tom did battle with a fighter of smaller stature but reportedly greater experience. Although hesitant at first, he felt his opponent out. In the second and third rounds he landed devastating punch/kick combinations finishing with clinched knee work. Prior to the third round he said he was exhausted, but looking over at his opponent who had clung to him for support in the second round, I told him to do another two minutes as hard as he could. He went and did, winning a split decision.
Willy also faced an opponent with greater experience, but he attacked with devastating precision landing several strike combinations. Although not usually appreciative of the clinch game he did well there too. He would often land multiple punches and kicks, then wait to see if his opponent would fall down. He seemed a bit surprised when his game enemy attempted reaction. Willy earned a unanimous decision in decisive fashion.
Chris' initiation to the ring was not so smooth. His opponent was a touch taller and carried a record of 2-0, he was also a heavy brawler. As Chris engaged with him he was caught repeatedly with looping lefts and rights. Refusing to quit, Chris battled on, throwing some solid shots straight down the pipe, but eventually get sucked into the all out brawl initiated by his opponent. Chris lost the fight to a unanimous decision. Right after the fight he became quite nauseous and politely vomited in a trash can. Due to this and some right supraorbital pain we took him to the Lansing ED. His eye checked out, he got a CT which was read as normal (which is surprising even at baseline). With Chris' permission I am posting this tonight.
Remember it is a good day when you can wipe your own @$$ and I'm glad Chris' is alright and proud of everyone's performance this evening. Who am I kidding, I love coaching, I just worry about my sociopathic children.

Team McVicker Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Camp, Part I

Warm-up with Ginastica Natural

Jeff Serafin warmed-up the team with Ginastica Natural a form of stretching, strength, and conditioning using body movements. Some elements emulate animal motions while others are yoga poses. There is lots of rolling and movements transitions. I cannot recall the exact order but some of the key elements were:
  • Z-sit: One leg is placed with the knee at midline and the foot at the opposite hip, the other leg is in a hurdler stretch. Several exercises involved rolling to different Z-sits and lifting your body to fold into and out of it
  • Spider man leg-up: Transition from the spider man to the inverse spider man, but rather than placing the foot where the hand was point the leg straight in the air.
  • Push-up hop: From a low push up position, hop alternating your hands superiorly and inferiorly on the map.

Jack McVicker shows passing the hooks inside guard
  1. Sprawl and sit out pass
    From the hook's inside guard, tighten the position by compressing your opponent's legs, pushing their feet against their posterior. Use your head in the center of their chest to hold them down, grip the kimono at the armpits to lock the down. Look to the side you want pass, now sprawl laterally on their leg, flattening it to the mat. Block this knee and sit out, transitioning the far leg underneath your sprawl leg, then turning back into you partner to obtain side mount.
  2. Ankle grab and over hook pass
    As above lock in the top position, now reach back and grab the ankle opposite the side you want to pass. Simultaneously overhook the passing side, pinning that side hook leg to the mat. Pin with your head and shoulder as you walk around the trapped hook leg.
  3. Yoga stretch pass
    Again from the locked in top position inside the hook's inside guard, swing one leg as far back as it will go, freeing it from the same side hook. Bring this leg back in, trapping the hook on the opposite side against their bottom. Now collapse this hook down and move around this side staying low and tight.
  4. Over hook jump pass
    Overhook one side and look away from this side, jump and roll over your overhook shoulder, into a bridge, turn toward your partner's legs and progress superiorly up their body to secure the side mount.

We did several rounds of practice from this position.
Serafimura (Serafin's kimura)
  1. Set-up
    From the half guard, use the top hook to pull your partner forward forcing him to post. Reach with your opposite hand, over hook the post hand, then secure your figure four by grabbing his wrist with the same side hand. Lock the grip pull his elbow superiorly, eliminating the slack in the shoulder.

  2. Freeing the grip
    If they grab the kimono, bridge into them and then use your body to pull the grip off. If they grab the belt, slide the belt to their back and free the grip once their hand has been moved past their grip. If they grab their hand kick your thigh and pull simultaneously.

  3. Over-the-head sweep
    If they sink the arm you have in figure four and you cannot free the grip, sweep them. First pull and bump your hips, loading him toward your head. Then swing your legs over your head, leaving them straight, this should lift your partner over your head. Uncurl and turn over while maintaining a figure four.

  4. Hip bump sweep
    If your partner bases and sinks his jeopardized am deeply, release the figure four and feed the arm trapped in his elbow to his knee, grab the pant leg. Post your other hand and hip bump your partner over.

Jack did a Q & A session on position, one example was the half guard position. With your arm on the side trapping his leg, "pop" your partner in head with your biceps in the direction of your bridge. This either allows you to bridge to the their guard or as they base you acquire the guard.

We finished this day of the camp with about 2 hours of open mat. Yesterday in the evening pre-session I got tagged team by Team McVicker Texas, the Redings, T, and Morgan. Today Team McVicker/Serafin were hot to beat one me. I can't imaging who will be gunning for me tomorrow.

Congratulations to Mark and Nick Reding on their promotion to faixa marrom.


But I saw Rickson do it...

An interesting idea to warm-up and relax a competitor. However just as after "Rickson Gracie: Choke" (Robert Raphael Goodman) came out and everyone plus their mother was out rolling around on the beach because "Rickson did it!" I can see a lot people doing this at tournaments in the future. Remember a warm-up is what gets you primed and ready to compete and will consist of unique behaviors and drills that gets you in fight mode. Practice what works for you which may not be what works for Kron and Rickson Gracie.


Drawing Triangles

Jack taught some triangle set-ups today.
The Belt Grab
Open your guard and reach over one of your partner's shoulders and grab their belt. Readjust your guard to be off center on this side. Hold them tight (they can escape by evading to the inside of your arm) and work on pushing their free hand (opposite the side you grabbed) inferiorly to set up the triangle.
The Kick
Your partner is controlling your lapels in the guard, use one foot to create space by pushing in the hip. The other knee comes over and medially, thrust your knee to their midline, driving the shin into their biceps. As they loosen thier grip, throw this leg for the triangle.
The Leg Catch
From the closed guard work the knees medially under your partner's arms and then laterally, place the feet on the hips and control the center line. Kick one leg just past your partner's head and the other just inferior to their opposite arm pit. Your ankles should cross somewhere behind their shoulder, grasping your partner. From here cinch and adjust your triangle.
I think the Belt Grab has some interesting applications for taking the back (when your partner tries to free themselves from the position) and for cinching them down (by underhooking the opposite side and grabbing your own hand/forearm in an inverse Garcia "seat belt" position).



I have often in my years of training "had" to train while injured. Friends and training partners have actually had to tell me to stop doing something because I was injuring myself further. There is one (and probably only one) perk to training while injured: you have to change what you do. I'm big, fast, strong, enduring, and clever (also a trifle arrogant apparently) but those assets are tasked to their utmost training on an injury, as I use these gifts to prevent myself from getting hurt further while using technique to prevent to humiliating of a beating.
Recently it's been my left knee which has a nice case of pre-patellar bursitis (not to mention whatever other ligament, tendon, and cartilage damage is hiding underneath). This knee is now less flexible, gives laterally, has no ability to drive, and if someone impacts the fluid sack bulging out of the front of me knee I get nauseous. This has forced me to thai box defensively working on my covers and counter punching, but I cannot leg check and if I knee someone I'd probably fall down. In grappling I play almost exclusively off my back, mostly half guard because this gets my "soft" spot mostly out of the fray, playing from the top has led to some new positions I like to call the elevated leg mount and the hip flop side mount which are suboptimal in their effectiveness. I can only train a limited amount before the microtrauma of training makes both knees more swollen and ache. That's right by favoring the new injury, I'm angering the old one.
Injury makes us introspective, imagine a career ending injury something that would close the door to the mats forever? It happens. Imagine an injury that paralyzes or kills you? This happens, too. I had to cancel a tournament and probably a run at the Pan Jiu-Jitsu because I cannot train at a level that I feel is sufficient for me to represent my team let alone place. It also makes me realize what I can and cannot do. I am a firm believer in high-yield, low risk, zero energy technique...not that I don't use brute force to make things work when I have to. This is what I call a progressive tight game. It is a series of simple, calculated steps for victory. No frills, simple, and algorithmic. It's the stuff that everyone can do, although it may be difficult to perform initially. By definition it is non-tasking. Unfortunately it works really well when you are winning. On the other hand a dynamic acrobatic game uses more energy but has greater variability and risk to reward ratio. It challenges the performer mentally and physically to practice, although it should still be maximally efficient in combat. This game can be more effective in the scramble and when you are losing, it also builds cardiovascular endurance and confidence in your less high-risk maneuvers. I think that these strategies exemplify the extremes of the spectrum of combat sports game plans. A progressive tight game is the core upon which more high risk acrobatic dynamic tactics can be played. We will need to interplay "crazy" attacks to obtain solid position from which to wear our opponent down just as a tight game will decrease the need for physically taxing, lower yield attacks.
In the meantime I will continue to wrap my knee, play to its limits, and eat apple strudel.


A mind is a terrible weapon to waste

If you look at people as combat instruments, the physical capabilities they have are all within a few standard deviations of one another. Yes there are outliers in both directions but with conditioning and training amazing gains can be made with the most underwhelming protoplasm. We cannot hope to match the sheer physical power of the animal kingdom yet we dominate this planet. What separates us is an opposable thumb and a highly creative mind. Thus when you train, you train to as a fighter, a warrior, not as someone who wants to do some aerobics. You have a goal and a vision when you enter any arena be it the work place or the gym. Others are content to be there, you are there, for a reason, a goal, a determination of your fate controlled by your hands.
In order to be self-determining we must be able to use the tools we are taught. How are we able to articulate complicated simple motions, i.e. striking, in to complex multidimensional sets, i.e. combinations. The concept of kata or forms are simply codified versions of striking. A "four angles" combination may be "Angles of the Four Winds" a few hundred years from now if it is ritualized, taught based on tradition not applicability. I think people should experiment with the tools they are given:
Jab-cross four counts
In this round each side started with jab-cross and then finished with any two strikes. The goal here is to use a common, familiar reference point to show that there are vast number of combinations from the 2, but only a smattering are usable to and individual. As the 2 is applied it opens channels to land shots on your opponent that will morph with each set you throw.
Counting combinations
Next we had each partner go in turn throwing sequentially increasing numbers of strikes. Thus they would start with one shot, their partner would return two, and so on until one side faltered (and had push ups). This proves how difficult it is to think on your feat and the fatigue that is induced by throwing serial sets of punches. The idea then is to develop confidence in using the letters (individual punches and kicks) and string them into words (short combinations) that can produce sentences (extended combinations) eventually producing a paragraph (a round) and etc. This drill can be simplified by using the ICE drill concept.
This is a slow drill. One side throws a continuous combination, the other side interrupts it by throwing an "action" shot and then flows into their continuous combination. This promotes throwing longer combinations by string smaller combinations together, helps people see the openings in their own and their training partner's game, and teaches us that "offense truly is the best defense".


Working harder than the other guy

Victory, simply put, involves doing more of the right things than everyone else. Thus you have to train smarter, harder, better, more efficiently and more relaxed than they other guy. This means developing increasingly demanding work outs, not only physically but psychologically and cognitively. Your training has to be hard but applicably so.

It is an almost definitive axiom that under stress we fall back on what we are most comfortable, that is "we fight the way we train". As we tire (or think we tire) we begin to regress, that beautiful 3- and 4-count combinations deteriorate into one or two strikes. We try to "save" something for the next phase of the engagement, but our savings are not an investment but rather a fear that we won't have anything later for a hypothetical future.

To that extent I'm making my guys do more cognitively and technically demanding combinations. In this way I hope to produce 3- and 4- count combinations while fighting as well as to tune technical skills and the "fight computer". Combinations that I have been working are:

  • Three cross hook cross: Jab-cross-lead hook-cross-lead hook-cross
  • Reverse three hook cross hook: Jab-lead hook-cross-lead hook-cross-lead hook
  • Corkscrew 12: Jab-cross (stepping)-lead hook-body cross-lead upper cut-cross-lead hook-cross
  • Reverse corkscrew 12: Jab-lead hook (stepping)-body cross-lead upper cut-cross-lead hook-cross
  • 12 body head: jab-cross-lead body hook-lead head hook-body cross-lead upper cut-cross-lead hook-cross
  • High / side / leg cover 7: (cover as appropriate)-cross-lead hook-body cross-lead upper cut-cross-lead hook-cross

In order to throw a 16 punch combination just string one of the first couple to the last one.


Types of Martial Arts Students

  1. Question Lad (aka. What-If?): This guy will bring up every possible permutation for every drill that is being worked. Solution: Make him uki.
  2. Captain Slacker: Dogs the drills and sucks away the stunning dynamic experience that occurs during every class. ;-) Solution: Make him uki.
  3. The Interpreter: Seems to believe that explanations must be altered to so that the masses can understand them. Even when the masses are already doing the drill. Solution: Make him uki.
  4. The Whacker. Selflessly and altruistically strives to make each partner drill ultra-"realistic", for his partner's learning benefit. Leaves a wake of bruises, black eyes, and sprains behind him until he tries it on the wrong person. Solution: trade partners frequently, the right one will come along soon.
  5. The Silver Spoon. Has a unique blind spot that prevents him from seeing anything that needs doing around the dojo. This blind spot is so wide that he can't see an entire dojo floor full of other students with rags cleaning up. Solution: hand him a rag. Or make him uke. Gis make great cleaning rags, with or without a person in them.
  6. The Assistant Instructor. Possessed of a truly amazing learning curve, this specimen has absorbed enough knowledge in six months' study to be able to offer a flawless critique of others' practice. Undeterred by the presence of actual knowledge and experience. Solution: have him do heian shodan. As my sensei told me, "Nobody knows more about karate than a green belt. If you don't believe it, just ask him"
  7. The Vince Lombardi Wannabe: Believes only that a good offense is the best defense. Constantly attacks training partners at full speed to demonstrate this philosophy, leaving confused and disgruntled students in his wake. Solution: He/she feeds the instructor next time.
  8. The Whiner. Common source of "but that huuuuurts!" "I think I need to sit out for a moment," and "that's too hard!" during simple basic partner drills, including all light sparring. Solution: Take two Tylenol and put them back in. They'll either gain a little intestinal fortitude or they'll quit. (Note: the Tylenol is for YOU, not them.) (Note 2: I'm not talking real injury here----I mean the whimpering little whining that happens when someone gets an arm bar put on, so that the pressure on the arm "hurts my arm muscle." Things like that. People who simply canNOT get through an entire class without at least 2 brief class pauses while the instructor checks if the person is really hurt, or just whining yet _again_.) (And yes, I've got one of these. Arg.)
  9. The Toughman. Can take ANY technique, and "tough it out" according to him (it is almost always a him) Pressure points don't work (according to him), locks are something he can handle (according to him), and getting thrown/landed on/smashed/crushed/mangled is something where he can "take the pain, suck it up, and shrug it off." No matter what. Solution: make him uki MORE.
  10. The Cross-trainer. "White belt, you need to adjust your stance this way." "But sir, this is the way we did it in the last tkd/karate/aikido/judo/whatever class I was in. And I've noted you don't do [such and such] technique 'correctly' ---in my last class, the teacher said it was stupid to do it the way you do." Teacher: "Arg. Can I simply kill you now?" Solution: Manage to not show Little Grasshopper why you "do it that way," and simple explain that different classes do it different ways----and in THIS class, we do it MY way.
  11. The Primal Male. Women simply canNOT do techniques that would be effective against this man because, after all, they are women. Smaller, weaker, etc... Solution: Have the smallest high ranking female in class use The Primal Male as demonstration person for joint locks and throws. In front of the new students. (This person is common in many college programs, BTW.)
  12. The Mouth. Has the amazing ability to continue talking while you are standing in front of him stating that he should shut up. (If you're lucky, this only occurs in children's classes.) Solution: His partner gets 10 pushups everytime he opens his mouth.
  13. The Clueless: He's constantly doing stuff wrong. Even the simplest explanations bring a glazed look to his eye as he continues to be unable to improve. Solution: Can't think of a single one. [Ed. Note: Baseball bat. Hey, it is theraputic for the teacher.]
  14. The macho newbie: He's big, he's strong, and he knows it. Furthermore, there's no woman in the whole dojo that he couldn't knock out with his fabulous punch, and he's going to make sure that everyone knows it. Solution: Kick him in the groin. ;) (OK, so you can't really do that if you're the instructor, but you can tell the other students to do it!)
  15. The macho old-timer: He's big, he's strong, and he's been doing this a long time. Ain't no one in the place that better *ever* beat him at a drill, or they will pay the concequences. Solution: Kick him in the groin (Hey, Don got to use solutions over! ;), and then quickly move on to the next partner.
  16. The "in my previous dojo"'er: Need I say more? :) Solution: send him on to his next dojo.
  17. Ninja Bob: is pretty sure that he is training to become a covert agent, and wants constant reassurance of the deadlyness of his/her endeavors.
  18. Every sifu's best friend: wants to be your 'best' student, but unfortunately can't deal with training in the group. It's not his fault really, but he's a kick ass private student at the no contact level. (you guys can call this "The Maurice" if you want)
  19. Mr. Agreeable: Yes, he understands. Yes, the drill makes sense, sure. Sure, keep it slow, watch the contact. (smile, nod) Oh, like that, right. ...Proceeds (as soon as your back is turned) to, in dazed confusion, invent his own damn drill, thank you very much, fast, out of control, and not at all similar to the original.
  20. Ms. I'm-tough-'cuz-I-do-karate. She likes to think she's tough, but anytime someone makes even a little bit of contact, she's going to complain to anyone that will listen. This is to be contrasted with the women who *are* there to train, and say nothing about the multiple bruises they take home every night from the macho-newbie and the macho-old-timer. Solution: Hit her really hard and tell her to stop being such a wuss when she complains. The phrase "It's karate/judo/etc., it's supposed to hurt a little bit" should be used often. Solution: every single time, without exception, pair Ms. Selfdefense with #4, The Whacker. This will necessitate her learning to "whack" back.
  21. Ms. Self-Defense. She's read too many RMA threads, and truely believes that her intelligence will get her out of any struggle she may encounter. And if her intelligence doesn't work, then her legs will, because after all, women's legs are stronger than men's. Solution: Put her one on one with one of the smaller guys, and tell her to defend herself. 19 times out of 20, she'll find that her legs and her intelligence don't matter too awefully much. Every single time, without exception, pair Ms. I'm-tough-'cuz-I- do-karate with #9, the macho newbie. She will probably eventually get pissed off enough to WANT to let him have it.
  22. The glass menagerie: think that they should be able to learn how to fight without ever falling down, getting bruised or otherwise experiencing physical discomfort. Never fully commits to a technique, holds back and typically ends up being one of the first people to experience an injury. (Usually from not committing to the movement properly) Solution: time...they either learn or leave.
  23. The natural: has natural athletic ability which really does help him or her in the learning of MA. Is frequently lazy, however, since it doesn't seem that hard to learn. This person frequently gets bored and ends up leaving without fulfilling their potential. Solution: find something that challenges them (and make them uke?)
  24. Eclectic Man. Has done thirty other arts for one class apiece. Is just killing time until he can create his own martial art and associated web site (whose address he will repeatedly post to RMA). Hopes to be inducted to the "World Martial Arts Hall of Fame" as "Supreme Grandmaster of the Year" before his 23rd birthday. Immediate response to any drill is "In Armenian Tae Kung Kara Aikikenpojujutsu, they do X instead". Thinks you are jealous because his uniform has more patches on it than yours does. Solution: Make him uke. Preferably for "the Whacker" ;-)
  25. Satori Man. Has read every single book or article ever written on Zen and martial arts. Owns stock in Shambala. Has never actually done zazen. Quotes koans at every opportunity. Believes Morihei Ueshiba was God. Believes Morihei Ueshiba was a Buddhist. Is fond of expounding about how "X" is not a "real martial art" because it lacks a "spiritual component" Solution: Invite your friend Charlie, who has been teaching "X" for a couple of decades, to the dojo to teach a surprise special seminar...and thereby acquaint Satori Man with his own spiritual component by making him uke.
  26. Variant 1 on Satori Man: all this and has never done any MA training. Solution: make him stop talking and practice. He'll go away. I recall one kid who rebelled at being forced to hold the shinai with a right-handed grip. He'd read Go Rin No Sho and according to him, Musashi didn't do it that way. He lasted 2 classes.
  27. Jutsu Man. Flip side of "Satori Man". Believes he is the reincarnation of Miyamoto Musashi, John L. Sullivan, and Attila the Hun. Is dismissive of many "-do" forms because they "aren't practical" have "all that spirituality bullshit", or are "just sports". Believes women "can't fight for shit". Solution: Invite a small, female, godan in Judo to teach him the meaning of the term "kata guruma"...and make him uke.
  28. The Ogler. The woman who is so busy oogling at the guys, she's not paying attention to what you're trying to teach her. In my experience, these are always beginners. One possible solution is to pair her up with a guy, ideally one of the guys she's oogling. That way, at least, I can go off and teach someone else or practice with someone who wants to train. Another solution is to throw her quickly and rather than help support the fall, let her weight drop completely. Doesn't leave quite the same bruises as punching, but can be pretty punishing all the same. Of course, *I* would never do this.
  29. The Drifter: Comes to class once every couple of months. Is completely clueless about the material currently being studied, but wants to be promoted to the next belt. solution: Relocate the dojo every once in a while. (Thats what my Sensei does)
  30. The Hasbeen: used to practice five or ten years ago, and has now returned. Thinks he knows just as much as the advanced students that studied with him then and haven't stopped. Tries very hard to prove he is just as good as them by using lots of force while doing the techniques. Solution: pair him up with one of said students.

Making Weight

Another Goshin Jitsu yarn (taken verbatim):

This happened back when Seth (the master of hungover/drunk practices) was training with us. Bart and Tony were for some reason arguing about Tonys' weight. Tony was saying that he's only 200lbs and Bart was arguing that there is no way he's that light. Eventually they settled on a bet, if tony is the weight he says he is then Bart has to do pushups (around 40 i believe) and if Tony is off by more then 1lbs then Tony has to do those pushups. Well Tony, Bart and Seth went into the locker room to see how much Tony actually weighs. A few minutes later they come and Bart and Seth are laughing and Tony, ashamed, begins doing the pushups (he weighed in at almost 215). Around 20 or 30 pushups tony is almost dead and his pushups look more like he's making sweet love to the mat. At this point as we're all watching and laughing, Seth says, "do you guys think that me putting my foot on the scale could have had anything to do with Tony weighing so much?" As we all broke out in histarical laughter, Tony got a very confused look on his face.


A Legend of Goshin Jitsu

This is a story from the annals of my club, taken verbatim:

Jennifer and I showed up at the Wild West at about 10 pm, imagine a white trash bar with a big boxing ring in the center, smells like smoke, puke and bad attitude. What you just imagined, this place was a whole lot worse.

At 10:10 the first fight began -- two frat boys attempted to mate in a submission wrestling match, pretty much any other night at the frat house. I see this, I think "Tony is going to clean up!" This fight ends by submission -- sorta.

The next match is a boxing match, a local and a guy in Muay Thai shorts charge each other and begin to exchange bombs at close range. Pretty much a Toughman Contest without the technical skill. Twenty or thirty furious blows, redneck folds like an beach chair and MT-Boy does spinning kicks out the ring. OK, maybe Tony isn't going to clean up.

The third match is our boy the Polish Kilbasa, he looks cool and collected. Then they bring in this animal, with dyed blond hair -- looks like Tito Ortiz's, ugly inbred cousin. The fight starts with the man ape running across the ring, trying to destroy Tony in a flurry of blows. They go down into Tony's guard and proceed to striking. Hooks inside -- closed guard -- back again, it is furious. The four or five NHB "experts" (myself included) that followed Tony to the ring are yelling contradictory advice. I remember screaming "Hug him", because that is what we did in vale tudo class. The mutant stands up and tries to stomp on Tony's face and grab some sort of submission on the ankle, Tony rides him up to half mounted position and then gets thrust down to the mat. A few more blows and the freak rears back his coconut like head and slams it right above Tony's left orbital socket. A bright fountain of blood leaps from the wound. The "corner crew" yells and curses the other fighter. I'm so shocked that I just shake my head. We all stand around for a second, until someone throws Tony a towel. I figure I better look at his head because for a second I could swear I hear Tony saying, "I'm OK, I can keep going". So I I jump up on the ring apron and take a look. I see a 1" long 1/4" crevasse in Tony's flesh right above the left eye. I can see torn layers of flesh and lots of blood pumping out. Some jack ass bouncer yells at me to get of the apron, and in my most manly mumble I blow him off. I tell Tony he's done, he agrees. Tony has just WON his first NHB match, he is a mess of blood and bruises and a sickly grin. You should see the other guy, not a scratch on him.

I tell Tony to hold the rag tight to his head and he gets down the stairs from the ring. Between his tearful girlfriend Lise and our dipshit friends by the ring we manage to transport him to our table. People start bringing ice wrapped in towels. I sit Tony down, and inspect the damage again while the official ring EMT comes over, another drunk dipshit. I say stitches he says tissue glue and butterflys (and I was right). We put the ice on and get Tony prepped for travel. He's obviously not concussed as he stands on one foot balancing the ice bag on his face and put's his shoes on. I blow off a good intentioned Yars (I'm sorry) as we head for the door and hospital. Tony says "I should have listened to you Mike." We go to BroMenn medical center after getting a little lost and meeting Apu from the Simpsons on the way. At BroMenn we get Tony checked in and make sure Lise can go with him.

Jennifer and I hang out in the ER waiting room. I make several new friends. They are all insane. Jennifer is my friend, I am glad she came along. At 1:30 am Jennifer and I are pacing the halls and Tony is released. We get on the highway.
On our way, we see a car stopped on the shoulder. I switch lanes to be the furthest I can away from him. All of sudden there is a loud popping crunch noise and I ask "What was that?" The next second we hit a the carcass of a big buck (male dear) at about 80 miles an hour. The truck leaps in the air and jerks right on impact. I pull in the opposite direction and the truck swerves hard into it's original lane. If the deer wasn't dead before we hit, it certainly was now. If my truck wasn't the beast it is you wouldn't be getting this e-mail.

We return to Champaign and get Tony some ice. His dorm is totally evacuated and there are fire trucks parked outside. We drop him off at the Orange.

The End