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1.29.2009

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.
Reading
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".

1.21.2009

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.

1.20.2009

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.

1.12.2009

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

1.06.2009

Offense = Off defense, synchronizing your fighting

A few years ago I went to a Marcello Garcia seminar in Chicago, IL. One of the concepts that he endorses is to "play your game, not worry about playing your opponent's". I have been thinking about striking defense and the way it is trained, how it is artificially separated from offense. I think humans require order and this can be seen in the way they express themselves. In all fights from video games to street fights people break things down into turns. When this comes to competitive martial arts we think in terms of discrete segments of offense and defense, and few fighters attempt to break this mold. The ones that do, often deemed "counter punchers" can do exceptionally well, striking the holes created by attacking. Jeet Kune Do attempts to intercept attack, turning defense into offense, but requires a lot of skill and is poorly applicable to the ring (see Randy Couture's early fights in the UFC).
Thus to synchronize your offense and defense you need to tools and concepts to do so. First, your basal framework is a defensive shell, if you are not being actively offensive your hands and arms are protecting your head and body. You maintain a range that is safe, staying out of No Man's Land unless you are attacking. When you are done, you leave, employing an effective exit strategy/disposition for your opponent, always admire your handiwork from a safe vantage point. If you need to think "I'm going to defend myself now" or "I need to cover to do the next part of my fight plan", you are reacting, a waiting offer for your opponent. Second employ all your tools, simplest to most difficult. Thus keeping distance is the first element of defense, next good body and head movement, then catches, parries, and covers. Remember that an effective defensive is retributive, every time your opponent attacks they must receive negative reinforcement for to understand that fighting you is a bad idea. I'm not going to react, I'm going to act.
Thus we worked four sets of round:
  1. Loaded Evasion: A basic boxing round employing bob, bob-n'-weave, and slips to not only avoid getting hit but to load your retribution (not reaction). Bobbing the rear hand sets up H-C-H reaction, the motion loading a heavy lead hook. The lead evasion loads a heavy cross. We did a second round with Thai pads, either covering or evading the lead leg kick and returning opposite and same side kick.
  2. Retributive Flurry: Fighters should be like rabid alley cats on hair triggers, touch it and its razing your arm on its way up to remove your face. However the triggered "bullet" is typically a 3 pattern (C-H-C, H-C-H, Thai, Knee), that in the heat of battle fizzles. People train 3 and 4 counts, but only manage to fight with 1 and 2 counts. This is probably psychological, they know how tired they get throwing 3 counts in training so they try to "save" themselves in the fight and throw a single punch or kick. To train triggered retribution, I throw a flurry e.g. cross-lead hook-body cross-lead upper cut ("walking the body")-cross-lead hook-cross, I'm thinking that will coax out 3-4 punch combinations after covering from now on.
  3. Cover Action: Rather than waiting for your turn after covering, throw as soon as you start doing your cover. Thus a high cover can work with simultaneous straight. A side cover can be the shield for your hook, uppercut, or shovel hook. If your basic guard is solid it should almost be like you are throwing a combination with some one hitting the arm protecting your body on that side between your shots. Even if you never manage to throw this while fighting, it will decrease your reaction time between your cover and (I cringe to type it) reaction. The hold for this difficult, you need to place the pad you want them to hit on your anterior shoulder of the arm you are using to provoke action. Thus for an orthodox lead your right hand provokes the high cover while your left focus mitt is on your right shoulder. For upper cut variations you can drop it to the inferior border of your pectoralis major muscle, still on the same side. Progressive variations include jab high cover action and serial jab variations of the same as well as cross side cover action.

In fighting Sir Isaac Newton's Third Law is invalid, there is only action!