Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Martial Arts Vs. "Combat Zumba"

I had the pleasure of being taught by my Kung Fu instructor's daughter, Amanda, earlier tonight.  She is an advanced black belt who has taught it overseas.  We were covering self-defense techniques for common attacks such as chokes and wrist grabs.  When I was doing a crane technique to counter a straight punch, she gave me a valuable piece of advice:

"Don't just throw your hands out there.  Pay attention to where you are hitting." 

When you are practicing the same move over and over again, it's very easy to lose focus and just go through the motions.  However, when you do this, you are not practicing martial arts anymore; you're doing "Combat Zumba."  Without the proper concentration and intensity, your techniques basically become a dance workout.  Yeah, you'll burn some calories and impress members of the opposite gender with your physique (or figure if you're a girl).  However, you won't be able to defend yourself against an assailant if you are just randomly throwing your hands and feet out like you're at some nightclub.  You need to practice with intention and power so that you are ready to protect yourself when someone tries to take your life. 

Needless to say, I quickly shaped up and brought the intensity back to my training.  After all, if I expect my own students to stay pumped, I need to do the same thing when I am the one who is learning. 


Last night, we had another grappling session near the end of the adults' class.  I managed to last five minutes against Allan before getting caught in an armbar.  Suffice it to say that I am kicking myself for not listening to Clay when he told me to roll in.  At any rate, it is still much better than I normally do against Allan (he usually destroys me within a minute), so I was still feeling pretty good about my progress.  That was all shattered when my next training partner countered my signature move: the arm-triangle!

The arm-triangle was the first submission move that I had ever picked up.  It's pretty simple: from mount, capture your opponent's arm and head, get a good Gable grip, move over to the side of their body and squeeze.  I did it to my partner and waited for him to tap.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Ah, nuts!  I thought as he got me in half-guard.  I don't remember how he managed to defend it.  I was too busy trying to figure out what to do next while hoping that he couldn't tell that I was about to panic.  In retrospect, getting my leg free would have been wiser.  Instead, I saw his left arm hanging out and snatched it to get an Americana. 

"Yeeeeeeeeeeeooooow!" My partner yelled and I quickly released the hold.

Ironically, the pain had come from his leg being twisted, not his arm.  He later joked that it felt good because his leg was loosened up. 

At any rate, this shows that you should always have more than one trick up your sleeve when it comes to self-defense.  Do you need to memorize a million different techniques?  No.  In fact, doing so could actually give you "combat brain freeze", in which you can't make a choice because you have too many options to select from.  That being said, it is always wise to have at least 3-4 moves to use in each situation.  Not least because, if you make one move your bread-and-butter, everyone is going to be watching out for it.  Eventually, someone will come up with a counter.  I was very fortunate to have another move in my repertoire.  If I hadn't, I would have been screwed.  So when you practice the martial arts, always be sure to have a Plan B, C, and D. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Front Face Lock: A Useful Grappling Technique?

After class, I went over a hold with Steve and Allan which comes from catch wrestling.  It is the front face lock, and I chose it for a special reason.  One of my favorite wrestlers, Chris Jericho, used it to subdue Goldberg when the latter attacked him for real backstage.  I watched Billy Robinson, who trained Kazushi Sakuraba, teach the hold on Youtube and decided to see what my boss and fellow instructor thought about it.  They pointed out several things:

1) The hold leaves your opponent's arms and legs free, which is not good when your groin is within reach.

2)  If your opponent is really strong, they can just pick you up and slam you.  In fact, Allan mentioned that this actually happened to Sakuraba during a match with Wanderlei Silva, which led to a serious injury that resulted in a doctor's stoppage.  Imagine the same thing happening to you when there aren't any referees or doctors to stop the confrontation.  Not a scenario that I want to be in. 

3) Even if they don't slam you, an experienced fighter can escape and put you in a nasty wristlock with relative ease.  Again, something that I would prefer to avoid. 


4) Even with all of the above, the front face lock can be an excellent way to set up a guillotine choke or another lethal attack.   

In other words, it's a good transitional technique.  In fact, Billy Robinson shows that you can use it to set up a takedown in the video.  We did not actually test this aspect of it in the academy, but it's definitely something that I will bring up next time. 

You can see the video here:


Monday, March 18, 2013

A Page A Day Keeps The Procrastinator Away!

I'm getting close to the epic conclusion of "A Valiant Effort."  It looks like I'll finish typing it up way before June.  In all likelihood, I will be done by the end of April.  Then I can print off some hard copies for my records and edit it. 

I recently heard from Richard and Emily, two of the friends whom I made on Kosrae.  Richard is an RPCV who served in Jamaica.  He basically became my mentor, and has had a lot of awesome adventures in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.  Emily has become the bubbly, outgoing Southern cousin that I never had and has been bitten by the traveling bug again after doing some medical work.  Both helped me out a lot when I was down and out on Kosrae and I am still grateful for it.  Needless to say, both of them will be in the book.  The good guys (and girls) deserve some press, too. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hendricks And Condit Burn Down The House At UFC 158!

The all-out war between "Bigg Rigg" and "The Natural Born Killer" was so awesome that everyone at Duffy's joined the Montreal crowd in giving a round of applause.  Here are my thoughts on the PPV which held this epic clash of welterweight gladiators!

Ricci vs. Fletcher: Ricci got a less-than-impressive victory over Fletcher with two takedowns over the course of the bout, as well as taking his back in the final round.  The standup exchanges were alright, but overall, this match wasn't anything special.

Ring vs. Camozzi: Again, not the most spectacular bout.  Ring floated like a butterfly and stang like a bee in Round 1, but Camozzi caught up to him in Round 2, attempting a standing guillotine.  In Round 3, Camozzi took Ring's back while they were standing, pushing him up against the cage, got a front headlock, and landed more strikes.  This fight could have been better, but I have seen worse. 

Ellenberger vs. Marquardt:  An awesome KO from "The Juggernaut" changed the tone of the PPV from "meh" to "now we're talking"!  A left hook followed by a fierce right caused Nate not to feel so great as he was finished off on the mat.  I can definitely see Ellenberger getting a title shot after Hendricks if he keeps this up.

Hendricks vs. Condit: Holy crap!  This duel to the death was so heated that I'm surprised that the mat didn't catch fire!  Hendricks hit Condit with his left so many times that he broke his hand, but "The Natural Born Killer" was unfazed!  Condit got some slick combinations and vicious jumping knees, but he just wasn't able to defend himself against a dozen takedowns from "Bigg Rigg."  After a hard-earned decision, Hendricks called out GSP.  He said that if he didn't get a title shot, he would find his house, hire a ref, and do something about it.  I actually sent my boss a text saying that if he didn't get a title shot, I was switching to Bellator.  However, I heard that Dana White declared him the number one contender at the post-fight press conference, so that shouldn't be an issue.

GSP vs. Diaz: Watching GSP fight is like watching a master chess player: not very exciting unless you are aware of the strategic brilliance of what he is doing.  GSP did not just neutralize Diaz's Brazilian jiu-jitsu with superior wrestling, but he also outstruck Diaz on the feet.  He was constantly moving to create openings in order to strike Diaz when he had his back.  Even in the first round, Diaz seemed to be wondering what on earth he got himself into when he took shots to the side of his head with a befuddled expression on his face.  He did manage to do some damage to the champ in Round 3, cutting him opening with his boxing.  However, Diaz spent most of the fight being handled by a tactically superior fighter.

GSP was gracious as always, saying that Diaz was a good guy and that he was a fan of his.  Surprisingly, at the end, Diaz showed a lot of respect, thanking GSP for giving him the credit that he thought he deserved as well as showing gratitude to the Canadian audience.  That being said, it was annoying when he hinted at retirement again by wondering if he should keep doing this.  I don't blame the guy for being frustrated.  After all, he has gone from being the "King of the Mountain" at Strikeforce to being just one of many tough contenders in the UFC.  At the same time, quitting after every loss isn't the most mature way to handle it.  In combat sports, everybody loses sometimes.  The key is in how you bounce back.  That being said, if Diaz's heart isn't in it anymore, then maybe it is time for him to move on. 


Saturday, March 16, 2013

My UFC 158 Predictions

Before we get to my predictions, let's confirm what everybody already knows:

1) Diaz did not earn this title shot.
2) Hendricks got shafted.

Now that that's out of the way, let's discuss the PPV that is headlined by the ultimate "Hero vs. Villain" matchup. 

Ricci vs. Fletcher: My gut tells me that Ricci is going to win this one, but they are both pretty even.

Winner: Ricci by decision. 

Ring vs. Camozzi:  Camozzi's experience will earn him the victory in this bout.

Winner: Camozzi by submission in Round 2.

Ellenberger vs. Marquardt:  After looking at who they've faced in the past, I would have to give a slight edge to "The Juggernaut." 

Winner: Ellenberger by decision.

Condit vs. Hendricks:  I am a huge "Bigg Rigg" fan and really want to see Hendricks get another first-round KO.  At the same time, "The Natural Born Killer" is a bad style matchup for him.  The former interim welterweight champion is too swift and crafty to allow himself to be caught by Hendricks' cinder block fist and will use strategy to outpoint him for the decision.

Winner: Condit by decision. 

GSP vs. Diaz:  I've never seen GSP this furious with an opponent.  Will he win?  Absolutely.  However, I don't see this going to a decision.  GSP is out for blood, and is going to beat some respect into Diaz by doing the impossible: knocking him out.

Winner: GSP by KO in Round 4.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Time Is Of The Essence, Especially In Self-Defense

Today, we covered about 18 self-defense techniques in Kung Fu.  Out of all of those, I remember two.  I got discouraged afterwards, but then I remembered that I am still just a beginner and that Kung Fu is a highly complex martial art.  For me to quit after one challenging lesson would be akin to a foreigner giving up on learning English because they were confused by the first page of "Hamlet."  So I'm going to stick with it.  At any rate, I made sure to practice the two techniques which I did remember three times from each side at home.  One was "Penetrating Earth", a bear hug defense, and the other was a variation of "Escaping Sparrow", which defends against a double-handed wrist grab.  I am sure that with intentional practice, I will master these and the other 16 techniques which we covered.

A more advanced student waited in a bear hug before practicing "Penetrating Earth" to make it more challenging.  Sifu Chris, who led the class today, warned them that this was a mistake.  When it comes to combat, you always want to escape from a hold as quickly as possible.  In real life, if your assailant has you in some kind of hold, they aren't going to wait patiently until you whip out some amazing technique to show off to all of your friends.  They are either going to:

A) Drag you away and stuff you into a vehicle so that they can do unimaginably wicked things to you at their leisure
B) Pick you up and slam/throw you to break as many of your bones as possible
C) Snap your limbs or your neck to cause serious injury and death, respectively

Your assailant doesn't have to be a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt to do these things.  They can simply be an ex-high school wrestler or experienced street brawler.  Not to mention the fact that they will have a serious size and strength advantage, since most assailants pick on people who are smaller and weaker than them.  So to ensure that you make it home in one piece, take action as soon as you perceive a threat.  Remember, when your life is on the line, time is of the essence!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Try Many Moves But Master A Few

After my last Kung Fu class, I had the pleasure of meeting Sifu Alan, who trained with my master, Pastor McClure.  He was kind enough to give me a brilliant bit of advice: try out as many different styles and moves as I can, but only master the ones which I like.  This doesn't mean that you should ignore your master if he teaches something that doesn't appeal to you right away.  It simply means that, for each common attack scenario, you should have at least 3-4 signature moves which you know so well that you can do them with your eyes closed. 

Doing this will prevent you from getting what I call "combat brain freeze", which is what occurs when your mind has too many moves to choose from.  Basically, the more options your mind has to select from, the longer you will take to pick one.  This could get you killed if you are in a life-and-death situation, especially if you are up against an experienced assailant.  To make it easier on yourself, pick a small number of techniques which you find particularly effective and drill them as many times as you possibly can.  In my case, Pastor McClure taught me one technique from six different styles: snake, tiger, crane, leopard, mantis, and dragon.  My personal favorite is the crane technique, so I drill that one multiple times a day.  I've also decided to add the dragon one to my signature move list, so I drilled that many times tonight as well.  I'm still going to review the other styles, since I am just a beginner in Kung Fu.  However, the crane and dragon styles are the ones which I am probably going to utilize the most.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Use It Before You Teach It!

As I continue to teach Krav Maga and cross-train in Kung Fu, I am coming up with a myriad of moves which seem absolutely brilliant.  When this happens, I want to climb the nearest rooftop and proclaim my newfound knowledge to everyone within earshot, and take to Twitter to reach everyone else.  I eagerly anticipate all the "oooooos" and "aaaaahhhhs" of my future disciples as they worship my genius.

Fortunately, I have learned to stop before I make a complete fool out of myself.

The fact of the matter is that, just because something is new, creative, and innovative, does not mean that it will actually work.  This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try out different things.  It just means that you shouldn't promote something until you have thoroughly tested it out.  There is one place where you can experiment without getting yourself killed: training!  This is where, with the guidance of an instructor, you can figure out whether or not your new technique will save your life.  Most likely, you will need to change the setup, target, and timing of the technique to utilize it effectively.  However, if you put in the effort and make the necessary adjustments, you may have just developed something that will save your life, as well as the lives of others.  Here are some questions to answer before you start showing off your fancy new move:

1) Will it work on someone bigger and stronger than you?
2) Can you do it without putting yourself in harm's way?
3) Is it easy to remember?
4) Is it quick and efficient? 
5) Does it accomplish what you need it to accomplish (i.e. disarming someone with a weapon, handling multiple aggressors, escaping from a grappling hold, etc.)?

If you say no to any of the above, then you don't have a useful martial arts technique.  You have a "combat disco" move that will look great at a talent show or in a Youtube video, but which has no self-defense value whatsoever.  As much fun as it would be to get an award or to go viral, I'm not doing this for a standing ovation or to get a bunch of likes on Facebook.  I'm doing it to protect myself and to teach my students how to save their own lives.  For that reason, no matter how awesome a move looks in my head, I'm going to test it out in training to make sure that it works.  The only way that I will know if it is effective is if I use it before I teach it!