Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Returning to Jiu-Jitsu

Last night I returned to Jiu-Jitsu training at One Spirit Martial Arts, the HQ for Professor Pedro Sauer's association. I had suspended my membership in August last year in order to concentrate on my KMG G1 grading.

It was very good to be welcomed back to OSMA. Several of my old training partners and instructors were there, and it was good to catch up with them.

We started the class with some functional movement drills. We started in cross-mount, then moved to mount, then moved to cross-mount on the other side. We then moved to the opposite side in a reverse motion. The goal was to be as technically correct as possible and capture all the details that make life difficult for the person on the bottom.

For techniques, we worked a standing self-defense move against a thumbs-down grip, transitioning to a standing arm bar. On the ground, we worked on the arm bar from the guard. My partner was a blue belt who helped me with the movement mechanics for transitioning from the guard to a position at the side of the opponent.

My plan is to visit OSMA for the evening fundamental classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and join the lab classes on Friday evenings. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I will go to KMG. If I have a chance to train Saturday, I may go to KMG then as well.

I really like the new striking and sparring half-hour classes on the KMG schedule, and I will also take advantage of the higher level classes that teach the techniques I need if I want to try for G2.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018 Martial Arts Year in Review

2018 was my third full year practicing martial arts, since my return in January 2016. About a year ago I posted my 2017 Martial Arts Year in Review, reporting some statistics on my training and how I spent that time.

Krav Maga

In 2018 I began my third year of training at First Defense Krav Maga in Herndon, VA. I started the year as a P4.

Prior to my P5 test in March, I participated in 29 formal Krav Maga classes. (I had trained 58 hours since my P4 test.)

Between my P5 test and my G1 test in December, I participated in 91 Krav Maga classes.

After my G1 test and through the end of December, I participated in 3 Krav Maga classes.

That is a total of roughly 123 hours of regular Krav Maga classes, down from 130 in 2017 and 144 in 2016.

In addition to regular classes, in July I attended a seminar with Master Eyal Yanilov on countering active shooters.

That is a total of roughly 3 hours of special events, down from 93 in 2017 and 73 in 2016. Combined with my formal classes, I spent 126 hours training Krav Maga in 2018, down from 223 in 2017 and 217 in 2016.

I removed myself from the Krav Maga instructor's program in late 2017 and I did not teach any classes in 2018.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

I continued studying Jiu-Jitsu in 2018 but stopped training mid-year due to changes at work and in my ability to study and prepare for tests in two different systems. I spent 35 hours in formal classes plus 15 hours in weekend test preparation workshops and 1 hour in a private class.

I also trained outside of formal classes.

In February I spent 3 hours with Rigan Machido at his seminar in Woodbridge, VA.

In February I also spent 2 hours with Relson Gracie at his seminar in Leesburg, VA.

In May I spent 1 1/2 hours at the Pedro Sauer spring camp in Herndon, VA.

In June I spent 2 hours with Ryron Gracie at his seminar in Leesburg, VA.

Adding these 8 1/2 hours to my 51 class hours, I spent just under 60 hours as a student in Jiu-Jitsu in 2018, half of the 120 I spent in 2017.

I did not test for my blue belt in 2018. That was one of my goals at the beginning the of the year, but I abandoned it mid-year.

Other Martial Arts

I did not train any other arts in 2018. In 2017 I spent 16 hours in other arts.

Other Training

In September 2017 I began practicing Yoga at East Meets West Yoga Center. I continued in 2018, attending 24 hours of practice. In 2017, I attended 14 hours of yoga.


Adding up all of the time I spent in formal training in 2018, the total was approximately 210 hours, down from 463 hours in 2017 (376 hours without instruction), and 300 hours in 2016.

Only looking at training hours, about 60% involved Krav Maga (the same as 2017) and 29% involved Jiu-Jitsu (32% in 2017). The last 11% involved yoga.

Looking Forward

I am considering a visit to a nearby Jiu-Jitsu school to see if that fits with my current schedule, interests, and physical condition. Looking back briefly, I can see that I missed chunks of training time due to various injuries. I am not sure how much I can commit to training outside of Krav Maga, which I consider my core art at the moment.

At some point I may have to shift more time to yoga, as that activity has the least negative impact on my joints. I do not want to sacrifice the cardio exercise I get with KMG, however.

I am not sure about my testing plan for KMG this year. If I do test, I think it will only be for G2, no earlier than June and possibly as late as December. Now that I have passed G1, I have met my KMG rank goal.

How did you spend your training time in 2018? Let me know here on on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Notes on Self-Publishing a Book

In this post I would like to share a few thoughts on self-publishing a book, in case anyone is considering that option.

As I mentioned in my post on burnout, one of my goals was to publish a book on a subject other than cyber security. A friend from my Krav Maga school, Anna Wonsley, learned that I had published several books, and asked if we might collaborate on a book about stretching. The timing was right, so I agreed.

I published my first book with Pearson and Addison-Wesley in 2004, and my last with No Starch in 2013. 14 years is an eternity in the publishing world, and even in the last 5 years the economics and structure of book publishing have changed quite a bit.

To better understand the changes, I had dinner with one of the finest technical authors around, Michael W. Lucas. We met prior to my interest in this book, because I had wondered about publishing books on my own. MWL started in traditional publishing like me, but has since become a full-time author and independent publisher. He explained the pros and cons of going it alone, which I carefully considered.

By the end of 2017, Anna and I were ready to begin work on the book. I believe our first "commits" occurred in December 2017.

For this stretching book project, I knew my strengths included organization, project management, writing to express another person's message, editing, and access to a skilled lead photographer. I learned that my co-author's strengths included subject matter expertise, a willingness to be photographed for the book's many pictures, and friends who would also be willing to be photographed.

None of us was very familiar with the process of transforming a raw manuscript and photos into a finished product. When I had published with Pearson and No Starch, they took care of that process, as well as copy-editing.

Beyond turning manuscript and photos into a book, I also had to identify a publication platform. Early on we decided to self-publish using one of the many newer companies offering that service. We wanted a company that could get our book into Amazon, and possibly physical book stores as well. We did not want to try working with a traditional publisher, as we felt that we could manage most aspects of the publishing process ourselves, and augment with specialized help where needed.

After a lot of research we chose Blurb. One of the most attractive aspects of Blurb was their expert ecosystem. We decided that we would hire one of these experts to handle the interior layout process. We contacted Jennifer Linney, who happened to be local and had experience publishing books to Amazon. We met in person, discussed the project, and agreed to move forward together.

I designed the structure of the book. As a former Air Force officer, I was comfortable with the "rule of threes," and brought some recent writing experience from my abandoned PhD thesis.

I designed the book to have an introduction, the main content, and a conclusion. Within the main content, the book featured an introduction and physical assessment, three main sections, and a conclusion. The three main sections consisted of a fundamental stretching routine, an advanced stretching routine, and a performance enhancement section -- something with Indian clubs, or kettle bells, or another supplement to stretching.

Anna designed all of the stretching routines and provided the vast majority of the content. She decided to focus on three physical problem areas -- tight hips, shoulders/back, and hamstrings. We encouraged the reader to "reach three goals" -- open your hips, expand your shoulders, and touch your toes. Anna designed exercises that worked in a progression through the body, incorporating her expertise as a certified trainer and professional martial arts instructor.

Initially we tried a process whereby she would write section drafts, and I would edit them, all using Google Docs. This did not work as well as we had hoped, and we spent a lot of time stalled in virtual collaboration.

By the spring of 2018 we decided to try meeting in person on a regular basis. Anna would explain her desired content for a section, and we would take draft photographs using iPhones to serve as placeholders and to test the feasibility of real content. We made a lot more progress using these methods, although we stalled again mid-year due to schedule conflicts.

By October our text was ready enough to try taking book-ready photographs. We bought photography lights from Amazon and used my renovated basement game room as a studio. We took pictures over three sessions, with Anna and her friend Josh as subjects. I spent several days editing the photos to prepare for publication, then handed the bundled manuscript and photographs to Jennifer for a light copy-edit and layout during November.

Our goal was to have the book published before the end of the year, and we met that goal. We decided to offer two versions. The first is a "collector's edition" featuring all color photographs, available exclusively via Blurb as Reach Your Goal: Collector's Edition. The second will be available at Amazon in January, and will feature black and white photographs.

While we were able to set the price of the book directly via Blurb, we could basically only suggest a price to Ingram and hence to Amazon. Ingram is the distributor that feeds Amazon and physical book stores. I am curious to see how the book will appear in those retail locations, and how much it will cost readers. We tried to price it competitively with older stretching books of similar size. (Ours is 176 pages with over 200 photographs.)

Without revealing too much of the economic structure, I can say that it's much cheaper to sell directly from Blurb. Their cost structure allows us to price the full color edition competitively. However, one of our goals was to provide our book through Amazon, and to keep the price reasonable we had to sell the black and white edition outside of Blurb.

Overall I am very pleased with the writing process, and exceptionally happy with the book itself. The color edition is gorgeous and the black and white version is awesome too.

The only change I would have made to the writing process would have been to start the in-person collaboration from the beginning. Working together in person accelerated the transfer of ideas to paper and played to our individual strengths of Anna as subject matter expert and me as a writer.

In general, I would not recommend self-publishing if you are not a strong writer. If writing is not your forte, then I highly suggest you work with a traditional publisher, or contract with an editor. I have seen too many self-published books that read terribly. This usually happens when the author is a subject matter expert, but has trouble expressing ideas in written form.

The bottom line is that it's never been easier to make your dream of writing a book come true. There are options for everyone, and you can leverage them to create wonderful products that scale with demand and can really help your audience reach their goals!

If you want to start the new year with better flexibility and fitness, consider taking a look at our book on Blurb! When the Amazon edition is available I will update this post with a link.

Update: Here is the Amazon listing.

Cross-posted from TaoSecurity Blog.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Thoughts on my Krav Maga Global G1 Test

Sunday I successfully passed my Graduate 1 ("G1") test within the Krav Maga Global system.

I last tested for P5 in March 2018.

I wanted to share a few thoughts on how the test went. If you review the krav maga topic link on this blog you will find many posts about my training and philosophy.

I started training in the Krav Maga Global system at First Defense Krav Maga in January 2016.

My 2016 year in review and 2017 year in review posts document my Krav Maga training journey. As we near the end of 2018, however, I can note that as of this post I trained exactly 120 class hours at First Defense (29 prior to the P5 test and 91 prior to the G1 test), plus 3 hours during the summer in a seminar with master Eyal Yanilov.

Thus far I am 6-for-6 with passing scores, having tested roughly every 6 months since starting at the school. The first exception was my P1 test, which occurred in April 2016, 4 months after I began training. The second exception was this G1 test. I had planned to test in September 2018, but I suffered a back injury at a seminar the day before the test and had to postpone it until yesterday.

I'd like to share three main thoughts from this test.

First, I'm very glad that I passed. I was ready to go in September, but I pushed myself too far. I didn't want to miss a seminar with Rory Miller the day before my originally scheduled test. However, the seminar was not what I expected. A younger, bigger, stronger training partner at the host school threw me around like a rag doll, and that was it for my lower back.

To avoid that scenario this time, I planned my activities very carefully for the two weeks prior to yesterday's test. I tested my cardio with a couple back-to-back classes, but I didn't push it other days when I felt that I could jeopardize my health. I didn't train on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday before the test, and on the Saturday prior I made sure the class was largely a review and not an intense workout. The morning of the test I skipped yoga as well.

Second, our grader and instructor, Nick Masi (far right in the above photo), did a great job administering the test. He kept us moving the whole time. He had to juggle testing P3, P4, P5, and G1 candidates, totalling 7 people. There were a few times when the P testers took an extended break while Josh and I worked specific G curriculum, like throws and a few ground escapes. Otherwise, Nick grouped techniques to make us keep progressing. For example, he would ask individual levels to demonstrate all the techniques they knew for striking, or kicking defenses, or choke defenses, so we each kept moving while he evaluated us in turn.

Third, it really helped me to focus on KMG curriculum alone in preparation for the test. Aside from a few seminars, I stopped training jiu-jitsu in April, for multiple reasons.

First, I returned to a normal W-2 job in May, which added two complications: fewer opportunities for noon training, and with a headquarters on the west coast, more duties late in the day. KMG classes tended to start later, making it easier for me to attend.

Second, I was having a difficult time balancing training for both arts. I could not keep multiple ways to escape from a headlock, for example, straight in my head. My limited jiu-jitsu training definitely helped me in ground situations in KMG, but it was too stressful to be studying two large sets of curricula.

Third, my body couldn't handle the training in both arts, at least at the pace I was trying to maintain. I got tired of feeling broken all the time, especially with my knees. I have a degenerative immune system disorder (RA) that eats my joints, and my knees and shoulders tend to manifest the condition in the most painful ways. I was able to manage my health and protect myself best in KMG, so I decided to concentrate on that.

I haven't thought out my plan for KMG going forward. I expect to continue training, but I am not particularly intent on G2 or higher. I no longer plan to be a KMG instructor, and as I understand, one cannot test for Expert 1 (E1) unless one is a certified KMG instructor. I could still continue training and testing through G5, but at this point I'm mostly interested in the fitness, camaraderie, and mental stimulation I get from training.

Finishing my third year of KMG training, I'm happy that I accomplished this goal. Thank you to my instructors and fellow students who made it all possible, and to my family, for understanding my interest in an activity that yields too many bumps and bruises to count.

Finally -- I apologize for not posting here in months! With my new job I've returned to covering cybersecurity issues at TaoSecurity Blog. I plan to say more here as well as at Martial Journal.

How are your testing experiences? Let me know here or on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Eyal Yanilov Seminar Thoughts

Tuesday I was happy to attend another Krav Maga Global seminar by KMG lead instructor Eyal Yanilov. Master Eyal was visiting my hometown KMG school First Defense, which hosted him for their grand opening at their beautiful new location.

I first trained with Eyal at the Martial Arts Supershow in 2016. Eyal was my instructor for the Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning Class later that year. I also trained with him at the fall 2016 KMG camp and in the spring of 2017. When I heard Eyal was going to teach a three hour seminar on countering active shooters, I knew it was a must-attend event.

Eyal started the seminar with his perspective on KMG and active shooters. He talked about the inherent conflict between the three KMG missions -- self defense, protecting others, and combat fighting. In self defense, running away may be the best option. When protecting others, sacrificing yourself may be necessary. When fighting in combat, your goal may be to kill the enemy. Knowing the mission and acting appropriately are critical. This discussion grounded KMG in its history as a system used by the Israeli Defense Force when countering terrorists or enemy forces.

After the discussion we did a warmup. Eyal included exercises from Ground Force Method and yoga, many of which were challenging. I was able to do some of them. I think I've developed a better sense of coordination and balance over the last few years, now that I incorporate Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and yoga in my practice.

Eyal reviewed the three main tactics for countering an active shooter: run, hide and barricade, and fight. We worked on the first and third tactics. Eyal ran us through some drills designed to make us move as soon as a presumed shooter appeared. We tried to minimize our silhouette and move efficiently, using available objects to change direction.

To fight, we concentrated on approaching the shooter from behind. Eyal favors elbows to the back of the neck, driving the shooter to the ground, and then seizing his weapon. We also tried double-leg takedowns from the rear. Eyal added a hostage scenario to the training, where a shooter uses a hostage as a human shield while pointing a firearm. In that case, the human shield takes control of the gun arm and attacks the attacker.

The seminar lasted over three hours. It was a great combination of exercise, training, discussion, and Eyal's expertise. Thank you Master Eyal for flying all the way from Israel to visit us in northern Virginia!

Have you attended an Eyal Yanilov seminar? Let me know here or on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Ryron Gracie Seminar Thoughts

Today I attended a Jiu-Jitsu seminar by Professor Ryron Gracie, hosted by Professor Marco Moreno of The Basics Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I want to share a few thoughts on the seminar for anyone who wants to attend one in the future.

I always enjoy visiting Marco's school. I was last there in February for a seminar by Grandmaster Relson Gracie. Today I was happy to see several of my teammates from Professor Pedro Sauer's school in Herndon.

Ryron offered three sessions for attendees. The first lasted 9-11 am, and focused on self defense. The second last noon - 2 pm and focused on cross chokes. Students who attended both sessions could attend a third session from 2-3 pm, where Ryron would roll with attendees.

I decided to only attend the first session, which cost $70. I believe about 40 people participated. Ryron brought one of his purple belts, Jordan, to assist, although Ryron demonstrated techniques with a wide variety of people. I was surprised early in the seminar when he called me to the front to demonstrate a standing headlock defense! He had just shown how to perform this technique, and it was similar to the technique we practice at my home school with Professor Sauer. I was able to move without embarrassing myself!

Ryron's main theme was "stopping progress." He built on the concepts from his recent video Survival or Submission - What Is the Objective? By stopping progress, Ryron is referring to preventing an adversary's next move. For example, imagine an adversary has you in his guard and manages to secure one grip for a cross choke. Rather than trying to remove that arm, the concept of stopping progress means ensuring the adversary fails to secure a second grip to complete the choke.

Ryron led us through a series of drills demonstrating stopping progress. We started standing up, and dealt with a headlock. We went to the ground, and had an opponent mount us. We used a "heavy head" to prevent the opponent from headlocking us on the ground, and then leveraged the chance of him getting a headlock as an opportunity for a trap and roll sweep.

We then conducted a series of drills designed to frustrate an opponent even further. We worked on hand fighting to prevent being cross-choked when in an adversary's guard. We also worked counters to a triangle choke and an arm bar. The idea was to deny the opponent these techniques, such that he decides to try something different and perhaps becomes tired and frustrated.

Ryron offered an interesting opinion on using these techniques. He said the first set were mainly useful against untrained opponents. The second set were mainly useful against trained opponents. However, consider the case of trying to avoid a triangle choke. An untrained adversary is not likely to try a triangle choke. We as defenders are more likely to try it. An untrained adversary may blunder into a counter to the triangle when thrashing about. Therefore, it is helpful for us to know what those counters look like, because we want to recognize or anticipate how an untrained opponent might frustrate our techniques.

Prior to the seminar Ryron was kind enough to add his signature to my copy of his grandfather's jiu-jitsu book. I know have Relson, Rickson, Royce, Rener, and Ryron.

I very much enjoyed this seminar. Ryron kept a good pace and structure to his class. He was constantly on the move to provide assistance and answer questions. He was respectful and informative. I would attend another seminar with him, without question. I was so glad he was only a few miles away in Leesburg!

Thank you Prof Ryron for visiting northern VA and to Prof Marco for opening his school to visitors!

Have you attended a Ryron Gracie seminar? Let me know here or on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

It's Been a Rough Few Months!

It's been a rough few months! My last post talked about how I worked through a back injury and managed to pass my Krav Maga Global P5 test. I planned to get back on track in April, but I ran into more obstacles.

More specifically, an obstacle landed on me. While on a business trip, I dropped a table on my left foot. How does such a thing happen? Take a weird retro table with three legs on wheels, what looked like a concrete top, and a thick carpet, and try to move it away from you. You quickly learn that such a contraption isn't stable, when it lands on your foot!

I lost about 3 weeks of training time due to this accident. I returned to Krav Maga before trying Jiu-jitsu, because I could protect my feet with my wrestling shoes. My big toe still isn't healed, but it's manageable. I've been back to Jiu-Jitsu a few times, including 1 1/2 hours at Professor Sauer's spring camp last night.

I'm glad I had decided prior to the injury to not try testing for my Jiu-Jitsu blue belt during the spring camp. I didn't feel like I would be ready in time, and I felt I was in no rush.

This was a big decision for me. Since starting Krav Maga in January 2016, I've tried to stay on schedule for every testing opportunity. I thought I would try a similar approach to Jiu-Jitsu.

This May was the first time I was considered eligible to test for blue belt since starting in January 2017. However, I decided I would wait until this fall, or possibly longer. My goal is to be knowledgeable about the curriculum and confident in the techniques. I am racing no one, not even myself.

This approach has been much less stressful and I'm happy I'm taking this road. On Monday I start a new job, so martial arts will be a supporting activity rather than a primary activity in the coming months. Overall I'm pleased with where I am.