Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Getting Back Into Fighting Form!

I had my first sparring session in weeks tonight against Jeremy.  He teaches dancing for a living and is very creative and athletic, having studied capoeira in addition to Kung Fu.  I decided to mix it up a bit, using animal movements and spinning attacks to be less predictable.  I even got a chance to use tai sabaki, a concept from Krav Maga.  Basically, you use a low cover to deflect an arm attack and circle-step out of the way.  Of course, my signature move, the superman punch, was worked into the bout on several occasions.  I felt the match was a draw up until the point that I gassed.  At any rate, I improved significantly since our last couple of bouts. 

The key thing about sparring is that you want to develop your own style.  Once you get the fundamentals down (i.e. hand strikes, kicks, footwork, etc.), you need to tweak them to fit your own personality and body type.  While I have a lot to improve on, I feel that I am finally coming into my own.  I'm not an expert in any of the animal styles yet.  However, I seem to be drifting in the direction of the snake style because I use plenty of quick, linear strikes which I set up with feints.  I will still learn attacks from the other animal styles to make sure that I am well-rounded.  That being said, I will pay special attention to snake moves from now on.      

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My UFC Pound-for-Pound Top Ten List

1) Jon Jones (18-1-0)

Jon Jones has crushed the best of the light heavyweight division and humiliated his former training partner, Rashad Evans, in a one-sided decision.  The only blemish on his record is a ridiculous disqualification loss to Matt Hamill. 

Notable victories: Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Shogun, Rashad Evans

2) Jose Aldo (22-1-0)

The Brazilian featherweight buzzsaw has not been beaten in eight years.  He recently proved who the toughest man under 170 lbs. was when he topped former lightweight king Frankie Edgar.  This victory, and his desire to finish fights, make him a close second to Jon Jones. 

Notable victories: Frankie Edgar, Urijah Faber, Mike Brown, Mark Hominick

3) Georges St-Pierre (24-2-0)

GSP has lost his killer instinct over the years, not finishing a fight since 2009.  However, his high fight IQ and strategic brilliance are still enough to keep him on top of the welterweight food chain. 

Notable victories: Matt Hughes, Carlos Condit, Josh Koscheck (twice), B.J. Penn

4) Anderson Silva (33-5-0)

Sheer hubris has caused the best fighter of all time to take a tumble down the current P4P rankings.  While he will probably climb back to the top of the mountain in December, Silva is never going to live down the most embarrassing loss of his entire career. 

Notable victories: Chael Sonnen (twice), Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin (twice)

5) Demetrius Johnson (17-2-1)

The fastest fighter in the world has nearly perfect technique, a huge gas tank, and an insane work ethic.  His submission victory over Moraga earlier tonight proves that. 

Notable victories: Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, John Moraga

6) Cain Velasquez (12-1-0)

He was the second fighter to ever finish Minotauro Noguiera, smashed the monstrous Brock Lesnar in the first round, and avenged his only loss by giving Junior Dos Santos a five-round beatdown.  Need I say more?

Notable victories: Junior Dos Santos, Brock Lesnar, Minotauro Noguiera

7) Renan Barao (32-1-0)

He hasn't lost in years and has, in all likelihood, permanently spoiled the UFC's plans to make Urijah Faber bantamweight champ.  Dominick Cruz has his work cut out for him when he comes back from injury. 

Notable victories: Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen, Michael McDonald

8) Frankie Edgar (15-4-1)

The ultimate underdog has a granite chin and neck of steel.  He has avenged one of his losses by finishing Gray Maynard and another one was a razor-thin decision dropped to Jose Aldo.  The first of his two "losses" to Benson Henderson was questionable at best.  The second one was highway robbery.

Notable victories: BJ Penn (twice), Gray Maynard, Sean Sherk

9) Chris Weidman (10-0)

The undefeated New Yorker handed Anderson Silva his first ever KO loss.  We'll find out if he can do it again in December when Silva treats him with the respect that he deserves. 

Notable victories: Anderson Silva, Demian Maia, Mark Munoz

10) Ronda Rousey (7-0)

The Muhammad Ali of women's MMA has torn through all of her opposition so far with only an armbar.  The fact that she can do it even though they are expecting it means that she will be moving up this list very quickly. 

Notable victories: Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman, Liz Carmouche

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Training Again At Last!

For the first time in weeks, I was able to make it to Kung Fu practice.  Even though I forgot Hon 2, the last form which I had learned, Pastor McClure was kind enough to reteach it to me.  Jeremy was also kind enough to give me some pointers on how to improve my technique, such as the fact that certain techniques (like the eye gouge) are supposed to be fast rather than strong.  He showed me how to make my tiger claws more powerful by thrusting them out from my body rather than just using my shoulders.

Additionally, I started doing Qi Gong again about a week ago.  I've been using the DVD titled "Qi Gong: Fire & Water With Matthew Cohen."  I'm not sure whether or not I've got the hang of it, since I haven't been scrutinized by an instructor in this internal martial art yet.  However, my flexibility, movement, and breathing have significantly improved because of it, especially in my forms.  So I will keep using Matthew Cohen's DVD while I wait to take actual Qi Gong classes. 

After form, we did an exercise called "Soft Hands."  Basically, the goal is to throw your training partner off balance.  You have to do this while staying connected to them with your hand and foot.  Pastor McClure showed me that I was way too tense, and that allowed him to better sense where my momentum was going so that he could slip me.  Indeed, I got slipped repeatedly.  However, he did mention that I improved a lot during the exercise.  Since it was my first time, I appreciated the encouragement.  I am confident that continued practice with "Soft Hands" will improve my grappling tremendously.   

All in all, I am glad that I can finally train again.  That being said, I needed the hiatus from it.  The martial arts had consumed my life.  I was bowing down and worshipping self-defense as an idol.  Now my perspective is more realistic.  The martial arts will always be an important part of my life.  However, it will no longer be my sole purpose for living.  It will be one of several tools which I will use to grow as a person and cultivate my spirit. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Books, DVDs, and The Internet: Supplements, Not The Main Course

While I have been waiting to resume my martial arts training, I have been watching a lot of videos on the internet.  Additionally, I have been reading articles as well.  These supplementary materials are great if:

1) You want an extra "boost" to take your skills to the next level
2) You can't access that particular martial art in your area (i.e. the nearest pankration school is 150 miles away). 
3) You are injured/ill
4) You don't have the money to take your martial art of choice yet (in which case, studying such materials should be a reward for an eventful day of job hunting)
5) You just want to have fun

That being said, supplementary materials should NEVER replace hands-on instruction.  This is because:

1) A DVD can't tell you whether or not you are doing the technique properly.  A reputable instructor will stay on your back until you get it right. 
2) A book can't show you how to adapt to deal with different types of opponents.  This can only be learned through sparring and rolling on the mat with training partners.
3) Most internet sources (for example, Wikipedia and Youtube) don't have a strict vetting process.  A reputable instructor will only hire teachers who are skilled in their craft.  In contrast, anybody with a computer can post whatever they want on the internet and call it martial arts training. 

Basically, supplementary materials are like protein shakes and energy bars.  They can enhance your performance, but should not replace the chicken and pasta of hands-on training at a reputable school.  You wouldn't tell your kids not to eat fruit because they had Flintstone vitamins in the morning, so you shouldn't tell yourself that you don't need to take martial arts lessons because you watched Jon Jones' highlights on Youtube.  A lot of people will tell themselves that they only need to learn from books, DVDs, etc. because they are afraid of getting injured in a real training environment.  While injuries do happen, these are pretty rare in a reputable school.  Also, there are an increasing number of "women only" martial arts classes for women who are intimidated by the prospect of fighting men, or who simply don't want to get hit on.  So while there is nothing wrong with using supplementary materials to learn a few extra tricks, make sure that you are using them for what they were intended for: to complement hands-on training.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Hiatus From Teaching Krav Maga

Due to a situation which arose earlier in the summer and another, more personal one that occurred afterwards, I am not currently teaching Krav Maga.  Suffice it to say that, to his credit, Steve has kept the door open for me to return in the fall and I look forward to speaking with him regarding the possibility of my return as soon as everything is resolved.  Meanwhile, while I am currently unable to train in the martial arts,  I will continue to pass on the knowledge which I have accumulated already on this blog.  In addition, I will continue my studies of self-defense through online research.  After all, as Gichin Funakoshi once said, "Spirit and mind are more important than technique." 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Is TRT legalized cheating? Or a legimate medical treatment?

I'm seeing testosterone replacement therapy (a.k.a. TRT) mentioned a lot in MMA articles.  In particular, Vitor Belfort seems to be getting a lot of heat for taking it.  I'm getting the feeling that people are questioning the legitimacy of his wins over Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold over it.  So I thought it over and came to the following conclusion: an MMA fighter should be granted an exemption for TRT provided that it restores his testosterone to his body's NORMAL LEVELS.

If a fighter abuses the treatment by "spiking" it during training and stopping just in time to pass the drug test, then they should not get an exemption.  We should not punish the other guys who use it correctly because there are cheaters who are trying to get an unfair advantage.  That would be like banning all injured athletes from getting pain killers because some addicts use them to get high.  Nor do I feel that we should ban athletes who have used steroids in the past from getting TRT exemptions IF:

1) They have fulfilled the terms of their suspension
2) They have proven that they haven't abused them since by testing clean in their subsequent fights
3) A reputable doctor says that they need it for their overall health in general (i.e. not just to compete)

To refuse an MMA fighter a TRT exemption under those three circumstances is like telling a track athlete that they can't use an inhaler because they abused their lungs through smoking in the past.  If they've learned their lesson, then they should get a second chance.  If they repeatedly abuse the system, then they shouldn't.  In fact, my personal opinion is that any fighter who fails three banned substances' tests (including weed) should be permanently barred from the sport. 

The fact of the matter is that professional fighting is highly competitive.  Your career doesn't last very long, the toughest people in the world want to rip your head off, and you probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a title shot, much less dethroning the reigning champion.  For that reason, there are a lot of guys who will abuse anything that they can get their hands on in order to get an extra edge, including TRT.  That's why its use should be heavily regulated.  However, there are guys who are willing to play by the rules and fight fair.  Their bodies have simply developed a detrimental health condition or are suffering from the lingering effects of mistakes that they stopped making years ago.  These guys should be granted a TRT exemption and treated like legitimate fighters, for ultimately, they have chosen to play by the rules. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Silva Gets Knocked Off His Unicycle At UFC 162!

I knew that Weidman was going to make Silva pay if "The Spider" clowned around.  Nonetheless, the ending to the main event was still ridiculous and I'm continuing to laugh my butt off a day later.  On a side note, I never thought that I would see Usher at a UFC event.  That was pretty wild.  However, to get back on topic, here are my thoughts on each individual bout:

Swanson vs. Siver: This fight was a wild striking battle that included a cartwheel kick and a crazy judo arm-toss by Swanson.  Siver fought his heart out, but was ultimately dropped by a combination that was punctuated by a fierce right hand.  Swanson then finished the fight with hammerfists and punches on the ground.  In a great display of sportsmanship, he refused to continue beating Siver when he saw that he was out.  After Siver was unconscious, Swanson looked at the ref and held his arms out in disbelief when the fight still hadn't been stopped.  Swanson said he was going to leave it up to the fans regarding whether or not he got another title shot.  After this awesome performance, I definitely believe that he should get one after the Korean Zombie.  At the very least, he should get a fight with Frankie Edgar.

Munoz vs. Boetsch: This was another crazy fight, only it was high octane grappling instead of striking on steroids.  Again, the man who came up short put up a valiant effort.  Boetsch flipped Munoz over twice after being taken down, and almost got a guillotine choke and a Japanese necktie in Round 3.  However, "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" showed how he earned his nickname with several takedowns, and going "Donkey Kong" on "The Barbarian" with brutal body punches and hammerfists throughout the bout.  The highlight was when Munoz threw two diving punches at the end to put an exclamation point on his unanimous decision victory.  I also love how he gave glory to God in his victory.  He called out Weidman for a title shot during the post-fight press conference.  I don't think he's quite ready for that, but I'd love to see him take on the winner of Okami vs. Souza.

Kennedy vs. Gracie:  I look forward to the day when a Gracie becomes a champion in the octagon again.  For that to happen, they really need to work on their striking.  The days in which Royce embarrassed people who were clumsy on the ground have backfired on the Gracies in the professional fight scene because nearly every fighter now has Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training.  In other words, they no longer panic when someone takes their back and gets them into a body triangle, like Roger Gracie did to Tim Kennedy.  Through experience, endurance, and a more well-rounded fight game, Kennedy managed to grind out a victory through striking Gracie in the clinch and tiring him out.  The leg kicks he threw in Round 3 certainly helped, too.  Was it the most exciting fight to watch?  No, but Kennedy's strategy was effective, and proved that, in MMA, it's better to be "good enough" in many things than outstanding in one area to the neglect of all others.

Edgar vs. Oliviera:  I was really shocked that Edgar wasn't able to finish "Do Bronx."  Even though "The Answer" won, Oliviera really made him work for it.  The highlight was definitely Oliviera getting Edgar into a guillotine choke after one of Edgar's trademark slams.  I knew Edgar wouldn't tap, but it was truly a testament to Oliviera's craftiness and resilience.  Oliviera's Muay Thai striking also looked amazing.  Nonetheless, Edgar had more speed and more heart, constantly pressing forward to pepper Oliviera with boxing combinations and maintaining top position whenever they went to the ground.  I thought that featherweight (Aldo excluded) would be easy for Edgar after dealing with the shark tank that is the lightweight division.  However, last night, I was proven wrong. 

Silva vs. Weidman: Okay, so you are up against a focused and hungry contender who has proven that your weakness (wrestling) is their strength by taking you down quickly in the first round and nearly getting you into a leg lock.  Do you:

A) Bring all of your experience and skill to bear in order to overcome your toughest challenge yet?


B) Drop your hands, do the Ali shuffle, and attempt Matrix-style evasion tactics like a showboating clown?

Guess what Silva did?  Option B.  Guess what happened?  Weidman knocked him the heck out with a left hook in Round 2.  There is a difference between getting a mental edge over your opponent and showing complete disdain and hubris.  Silva crossed that line last night (again) and this time, he paid for it.  It would be like Goliath bending over, taking off his helmet, giving David his sword, and daring him to chop his head off.  Slice!  Bye bye, champion!  Or, in this case, bye bye UFC middleweight title! 

The most infuriating thing is that Silva still moved with as much speed and athleticism as a 25-year-old prodigy.  He simply let his overconfidence get the better of him.  I honestly wondered if Silva took a dive at one point during the night.  Based on his post-fight speech, in which he said that he was tired and would never fight for the belt anymore, I almost believed it.  Then I remembered that he had pulled the same sort of antics against Forrest Griffin, Demian Maia, and Stephan Bonnar, and my inner skeptic woke up.  I can't read the mind of "The Spider", but I feel that his post-fight speech about not wanting a rematch, being tired, etc., is more about saving face after realizing that he made a fool out of himself.  At any rate, once everything sinks in, I think that Silva will eventually call in that rematch clause, and if he does, I hope that he actually makes a real effort. 

On the other hand, I'm proud of how Weidman conducted himself.  He was clearly agitated when Silva started goofing off, and even admitted it during the press conference.  However, he kept his cool, stayed focused, and let his fists do the talking.  He was humble in victory, saying "Thank God.  He gave me the power to do it."  He also showed respect to his foe, saying that he looked up to Anderson Silva.  Weidman has said that he was a Christian before this.  However, unlike many others who make that claim, he actually seems to act like one, so I hope that he has a long reign as a UFC champion. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

My UFC 162 Predictions

Silva vs. Weidman was fated to happen.  Granted, I see this in hindsight.  In the past, I thought that Weidman was a promising prospect but that he was seriously overconfident in his persistent calling out of Anderson Silva.  However, after Michael Bisping, Alan Belcher, Hector Lombard, and Tim Boetsch got bumped out of the title picture, it became clear that Weidman was the last man standing.  Is he the one who will finally squish "The Spider"?  We'll just have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, here are my predictions for tonight's card.

Swanson vs. Siver:  This is a tough one.  Swanson is on a four-fight winning streak, but Siver is working his way up the ranks of featherweight, too.  I think that this bout will be a standup war that could possibly become "Fight of the Night."  When the smoke clears, I think both men will be standing, but that Swanson will have put on the better performance.

Winner: Swanson via decision.

Munoz vs. Boetsch:  Kudos to "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" for taking on "The Barbarian" after such a long time away from the cage.  However, I feel he would have been better off taking on lesser competition first.  Boetsch is a beast who won't give up unless he is completely knocked out, and I see his heart getting him the victory in this bout.

Winner: Boetsch via KO. 

Kennedy vs. Gracie: I would love to see a member of the Gracie family take the UFC by storm again.  However, I don't think it will happen in this fight.  I think that the more experienced Kennedy will grind out a decision victory.

Winner: Kennedy via decision. 

Edgar vs. Oliviera:  The true UFC lightweight champion seems determined to work his way back to a featherweight title shot and prove that his close decision loss to Jose Aldo was a fluke.  While "Do Bronx" seems like a tune-up fight for "The Answer", I don't see Edgar underestimating his opponent.  I believe that Edgar is going to storm Oliviera right out of the gate and knock him the heck out in the first round.

Winner: Edgar via KO.

Silva vs. Weidman:  My head tells me that Silva is going to win, because of his vast experience and phenomenal skill.  However, my gut tells me to pick Weidman, because he is young and hungry and Silva has a tendency to showboat and clown around during fights.  I think that "The Spider" is going to pick Weidman apart in the first three rounds, start goofing off in the fourth, and Weidman will make him pay for it by pulling off a surprise submission (a la Ryo Chonan) in the fourth or fifth round.

Winner: Weidman via submission.

Being The Best vs. Doing YOUR Best

As Anderson Silva prepares to defend his belt again, I've decided to reflect on two different mindsets when it comes to martial arts.  The first is being the best.  The second is doing your best.  As competitive as I can get, I have come to the conclusion that the latter is more important, and not just because it is more achievable. 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best martial artist, whether it be in the Olympics, the UFC, or some other venue.  You get fame and fortune, everyone wants to train and hang out with you, you get some awesome titles, trophies, and medals, and your name is etched in the record books.  The downside is that, sooner or later, someone will come along who is going to beat you.  Once that happens, die-hard fans will still look up to you, but everyone else will consider you a has-been and move on to idolizing your successor.  In other words, "being the best" is not sustainable, so you shouldn't base your entire self-worth on it.  Should you always strive for first place?  Yes.  Just don't fall into the trap of believing that it's the only thing that can give meaning to your life.  Needless to say, not everyone can be a champion.  For example, most MMA fighters never make it into the UFC, much less win a belt. 

On the other hand, doing your best has a lot more perks.  With this mindset, you're more likely to cultivate your character and spirit, things which are much more important than gold medals and belts.  You're also less likely to let the fame and fortune go to your head.  Not to mention that you probably won't want to cheat yourself, so you'll be more likely to avoid drugs, binge-drinking, and other bad habits.  Not to mention that, if you are always striving to improve, you may become the best as a by-product of your dedication and work ethic.  While you can't stay the best forever, your reign will last a lot longer if you want to push yourself to the max rather than just be better than the No. 2 guy.  With that attitude, you'll be less likely to suffer from "championitis", which is what happens when the guy at the top of the mountain gets complacent and stops working as hard as they used to.  Even if you don't become a champion, you will know in your heart that you did the best you could.  You'll still be able to pursue the martial arts for self-defense, personal growth, and fun, rather than being bitter over not achieving something that was never guaranteed to begin with.

So as you pick your martial art of choice, focus on doing your best, not just becoming a champion.  Best case scenario, you become a champion anyway.  Worst case scenario, you develop your spirit and character, make a lot of friends, and simply have fun.