Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why Being Punched in the Face Is a Good Idea

Last night, Shane Fazen Tweeted the following:

I genuinely believe that every single person in the world should be punched in the face, at least once, before the age of 18. #BeHumble

When asked "why?" Shane responded:

It's humbling. Knowing that your actions could lead to, say, a broken nose, I think people would be a lot less selfish.

This is a good example of another person having a completely different perspective. I never considered that I might act in a way that would prompt someone else to want to punch me in the face. Now, I am not a paragon of virtue, but it's unlikely that I would put myself in such a situation. I would also not consistently associate with people who try to solve problems by hitting others!

I tend to agree with Shane for a completely different reason, however. When I was 18 I enrolled at the US Air Force Academy. All male freshman cadets were required to take boxing. (All female cadets were required to take a self-defense class, which male cadets also later took.) As of last fall, USAFA, West Point, and Annapolis all require women to take boxing as well, due to new DoD combat rules.

I was not a spectacular boxer, but I have two notable memories. First, in the regular boxing class, I remember doing fairly well against an equally unskilled opponent of the same general weight class. The coach said "you did pretty well, let's pair you against someone bigger." I don't understand why that happened, because that is not how boxing at any level works. Nevertheless, I proceeded to get pounded for the next bout. I think the other guy knocked me down four or five times. The coaches videotaped every fight, so during the review I was able to "enjoy" the experience from the perspective of an onlooker. I finished the round, getting up after every knockdown, which I remember to this day.

Second, as a sophomore I was forced to box for my squadron team. These teams were essentially canon fodder for the Academy team that would fight other schools. Back then my street weight ranged from 145 to 150 lbs, at 5'9. (Today I yell at the scale when it reads 155 lbs.) During my summer Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training I lost about 20 pounds. My health was also complicated by an illness that inflamed my spleen. As I was trying to recover from the weight loss and illness, the senior cadet running our squadron boxing team assigned me to fight at a ridiculously low weight -- either 125 or 132 lbs. I can't remember which, but I had no choice in the matter. I made weight,  fought, and was knocked out in the second round by a right hook to my left temple delivered by a Golden Gloves champ prepping for more serious competition. Onlookers said I flew through the air at a 45 degree angle, and when I woke up two new fighters were already in the ring!

After the fight a doctor checked me and said "you really need to gain some weight!" He put me on a mandatory weight gain program. The insanity of the Academy intramural boxing program required fighters to stay in one weight class for the duration of the season. Because I had already fought at a specific weight class, I would have to make that weight all season. When the time came for the weigh-in, I registered in the high 130's. I ended up "failing" my sophomore intramural season, and was put on athletic probation, because I was assigned to a doctor-required weight gain program. There was no way out of this dilemma until the season passed and I was assigned to another intramural sport for the winter.

Despite this misery, the reason why being punched in the face was a good idea is simple: I lived to tell these tales. Today, I enjoy sparring in my martial arts classes. I do not like being punched in the face, but I know I can survive and learn from the experience. This is the reason service academies require cadets to take boxing. They do not want young officers to experience their first physical adversity on the battlefield. Better to be hit in the gym first than in a trench.

Could there be a better way? Periodically we read articles like this arguing that the concussion risk outweighs the training value. Could cadets experience simulated combat stress through a non-striking art like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Clearly one can experience stress in BJJ, especially if one is a smaller person underneath a larger, smothering opponent. I am not aware of the role of BJJ or other grappling at service academies, although BJJ plays a huge role in the Combatives programs required of enlisted troops. Does anyone know about this topic?

Thanks to Shane for his great work and for prompting this post!

What do you think? Is there a good reason to be punched in the face?

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Five Reasons to Consider GIC1

Have you thought about becoming a certified Krav Maga instructor?

On Sunday I completed part one of the KMG General Instructor Course. I took the course at First Defense Krav Maga in Herndon, VA with five other students. Our instructor was Nick Masi.

GIC1 is the first of a multi-part process for becoming a fully certified KMG instructor. In the United States, we divide the curriculum into three parts. GIC1 is 5 days while GIC2 and 3 are each 9 days. In some parts of the world, like Australia, the GIC is divided into two 12-day courses. Elsewhere, GIC1 and 2 are each 9 days, while GIC3 is 5 days. In any event, the material taught within a given country is the same as other countries, and the entirety of the training is 23 days.

In this post I will provide five reasons that KMG students may consider taking the 5-day GIC1 in the US.

1. Concentrated training. A five-day class is a commitment to training, and the chance to improve your skills on a daily basis is tough to beat. Our instructors had mentioned this phenomenon before, and I felt it in action during the course. While it is possible to begin feeling overwhelmed by the details, overall familiarity with the material prior to the class will help you benefit from the opportunity.

Nick demonstrating the effect of foot rotation on striking
2. Curriculum review. Our class focused on P-level techniques, as well as some G-level techniques for knife defense. Reviewing this material within weeks of your next grading is priceless. If you are a Practitioner level, you are getting additional repetitions of your core techniques. If you are a Graduate level, you are practicing material you may not have performed for months or perhaps longer. In either case, covering so much of the curriculum in a relatively short period of time was extremely valuable.

3. Learning the system. When you learn KMG through weekly classes, you can lose sight of the forest due to the trees. It can be tough to recognize that you are learning a system, not a collection of isolated techniques. During the curriculum review, you work the material in clusters according to the problem at hand or the principle at work. Suddenly all of the choke releases or other techniques seem to make more sense because you recognize how they are related.

4. Introduction to teaching. Our GIC1 offered several opportunities to learn how to teach a KMG class. We started by taking turns leading various elements of the warm-up process, such as elevating the heart rate, beginning mobility, stretching, and power drills. Next we took turns teaching a mini-class of 10-20 minutes. On the last day we each taught a complete but short class of 20-30 minutes. This process encouraged us to deliver clear information, to follow the KMG teaching process, and to be creative so as not to bore our fellow students. I really enjoyed this part of the class!

I still need to work on multiple aspects of striking!
5. Finding and fixing problems. Because we had five days of training, and a small group of six students, we had many opportunities to find and fix problems in our technique. For example, my training partner took videos of me striking the bag. Nick had already told me of several problems, but it was much easier to recognize them when seen on video. For example, I need to work on keeping contact with my right foot, to keep my right hand raised when jabbing with the left, and to recoil the right faster. Collectively these problems weaken my striking technique. Thanks to GIC1 I will be able to work on them, as well as dozens of other items!

Have you taken or considering taking GIC1? What was your experience? Let me know here or via Twitter!

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Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 Martial Arts Goals

In my 2016 Martial Arts Year in Review post I mentioned having martial arts goals for 2017. I realized today that I had not documented these explicitly, so here they are.

My first set of goals involves Krav Maga, my primary art. I plan to attend and pass the KMG General Instructor Course Part 1. If possible I would like to attend and pass Part 2 this year as well, but that depends on the location and timing of the class. I also plan to attend and pass the KMG Kids Instructor Course. My school First Defense Krav Maga is offering both GIC1 and KIC shortly, so I am fortunate to have those opportunities on my schedule. Joining the ranks of KMG instructors is my number one priority for 2017 and 2018.

Also for Krav Maga, I plan to take the Practitioner 3 test in March. If that does not go well, I have an opportunity to re-test at our Spring Camp in May. Assuming I pass P3, I plan to take the P4 test in the fall, either at a regional grading event or at the Fall Camp in November.

My second set of goals involves Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, my secondary art. I already achieved the first goal, which was to begin training regularly with team Pedro Sauer at One Spirit Martial Arts. I would like to complete all three cycles of the Gracie Combatives program. Later in the year I plan to transition to more BJJ fundamentals classes and integrate open classes where possible. Either late this year or early next year I'm considering competing at least once in a BJJ master's division event as a white belt.

My third set of goals involves my tertiary arts, those which lack regular formal instruction. For Filipino martial arts (FMA) like Kali, I plan to attend one formal FMA seminar, most likely this two day Kali seminar in Pittsburgh, and also continue solo practice. For Kung Fu, I need to re-learn all of the Wah Lum 1 form and Straight Form, and hopefully spend a week with my Kung Fu sifus in Massachusetts. I already accomplished my goal for Kendo, which was to complete an eight course introduction to the art at Capital Area Budokai. I do not plan to return to Kendo anytime soon, although I practice movements on my own for fun.

My fourth set of goals involves supporting arts, those which are related to fitness or tangential to martial arts. For Jungshin Fitness, I already led a class and thereby achieved Level 1 certification. I plan to improve my standing through another seminar in March, as well as continuing solo practice. For Ground Force Method, I will watch for other seminars, but realistically I will simply continue solo practice. I use parts of the GFE to warm up for BJJ. For StrongFirst, I will continue to perform the swing and elements of the get-up, and plan that my shoulder and knee rehabilitation will enable full execution of Pavel's Simple and Sinister exercise regime later in the year. For firearms training, I will continue to take advantage of seminars and courses as they meet my budget and schedule. I will likely apply for my CCW permit shortly although I do not plan to purchase a firearm. For weight lifting, I plan to exercise twice a week, as well as continue breathing and pull-up routines.

On the non-physical side, I plan to continue reading martial arts material five times per week. I do not have page or book targets. I make progress by opening the Kindle or a book five times per week. That makes the process less stressful and more enjoyable. I do the same with martial arts videos. I continue to listen to multiple podcasts, and I will update my subscription list in a future blog post! Finally, I will continue to blog at least once per week, sharing my thoughts as I collect them, hopefully for your benefit as well as mine!

What are your martial arts goals for 2017?

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Power of Yes

Kimura, courtesy of WikiHow
"Yes!"

This week I learned the power of this simple word, used at the right time and with the right emotional content.

Late last month I started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at One Spirit Martial Arts, headquarters for Professor Pedro Sauer. This week I signed up as a regular student. I've spent most of my time taking the Gracie Combatives classes, where a gentleman named Sebastian is usually the coach. I really enjoy these classes because there is a defined curriculum and class structure. I'll write more about that in a future post on the utility of curriculum and structure!

This week I noticed that Sebastian used a simple but effective teaching technique. I'm not sure if the Gracie Instructor Certification Program explicitly teaches it, or if Sebastian picked it up interacting with other instructors, or if he independently arrived at the same place.

The technique is this: when a student executes the proper technique, or element of a technique, or does something right, Sebastian lets out an enthusiastic "yes!" I've heard Rener Gracie use similar encouragement in some of his videos, so I wonder if this is where Sebastian picked it up?

I experienced the power of this sort of "yes" this week in BJJ class. As a beginner, most of the time I don't feel like I am getting much of anything right. Wednesday night we were working Gracie Combatives lesson 17, which includes executing the Kimura from guard.

I was having some trouble getting the technique to work with my partner, who was pretty flexible (or so it seemed to me). Sebastian advised me to posture more on my side and use my body to apply pressure, rather than my arms. It worked, and when Sebastian saw it happening he let out the trademark "yes!"

I felt pretty good about applying my first Kimura, and I remember that feeling when I was helping to teach kids Krav Maga this morning. When I helped the students make an adjustment in their striking, or footwork, or posture, I tried the "yes!" affirmation. It was simple but effective!

How do you encourage students in martial arts classes?

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

In Memory of True Leader and Warrior Hal Moore

In May 1993 I was a third year cadet at the US Air Force Academy, studying history and political science. I learned that the author of a new book, We Were Soldiers Once...and Young, published the previous year, would be speaking at the Academy in one of the periodic guest lectures that most cadets skipped due to exhaustion, workload, and apathy.

The head of the history department invited me and a few other history majors to have dinner with the author, Lt Gen Hal Moore, prior to the lecture. I believe I was strongly encouraged to purchase a copy of the book, which I did at the on-campus bookstore. I did not have a chance to read the book prior to the dinner. I was balancing the academic duties of two major degrees and two minor degrees (French and German) with the leadership duties of running one of my squadron's "elements."

I don't remember much about the dinner, except that I had never spent any time with a flag officer before, and certainly not a three-star. I brought my copy of his book to dinner, and Lt Gen Moore was kind enough to sign it. I remember his lecture was excellent, with an emphasis on the legacy of the men he lead into battle in Vietnam.

Nine years later I saw the movie We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson. If you have never seen it, I highly encourage it. The movie is not 100% historically accurate, but Moore and his book co-author Joe Galloway endorse it. Two of the most emotionally charged aspects of the movie do not seem to be grounded in reality. First, the battle did not end with a bayonet charge. Second, I could find no evidence that Lt Gen Moore made a practice of being the first to step onto any battlefield, and the last to leave.

Nevertheless, many consider the movie to be a master course in leadership and warrior virtues, for both sides of the Vietnam War. The movie also captures the wrenching experience of the family members and loved ones left behind, some of whom never see their soldiers again.

Only after seeing the movie did I realize the sort of leader and warrior I had so casually dined with many years earlier. I was pleased to find my copy of his book still in my library. I was even happier to discover that Lt Gen Moore wrote a sequel titled We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam, published in 2008.

The reason I'm writing this post is that one of my USAFA classmates noted that Lt Gen Moore passed away yesterday at the age of 94. I realized that just as I did not know him in the era before the Internet, Wikipedia, and YouTube, many younger readers of today may not know of his book or the movie depicting his most famous battle.

For those of us aspiring to apply leader and warrior values for the improvement of self, community, and nation, I recommend reading Hal Moore's work, or at least seeing his movie. I just bought the Kindle versions of both books as a commitment to re-acquainting myself with the stories and wisdom waiting for all of us.

Requiescat in pace Lt Gen Hal Moore, and my condolences to your family and loved ones. Thank you for spending time with a group of hungry, sleepy, ignorant cadets who took years to learn of your devotion to your men, family, country, and faith. You and your men are not forgotten.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Five Reasons to Love Krav Maga Seminars

What's so special about seminars?

Last night my school First Defense Krav Maga hosted Master Eyal Yanilov, head instructor of Krav Maga Global. He taught a two-part seminar lasting 3 1/2 hours.

The first part described ways to combat the physical stress causing by sitting, using exercises to open and unfix the hips and pelvis. The second part addressed some of Krav Maga's "sweeping" defenses, starting with the "left vs left" technique found in the Practitioner 2 curriculum.

I admit that I'm a "seminar junkie." When I saw my school announce the event, I knew as long as my schedule cooperated that I would attend. One of our senior instructors, Patrick Hards, told me last week that if he called all of his classes "seminars" then I wouldn't miss a single one!

Why am I hooked on Krav Maga Global seminars? Here are five reasons.

1. Concentration. KMG seminars tend to concentrate on a single principle of the system. This is true of many classes, but the difference is that a seminar continues concentrating on the principle over many more techniques. Last night Master Eyal's instruction on sweeping defenses started with left vs left, then added a right-hand version, then defense vs a knife, then vs a side kick, then vs a close choke, then vs a close choke on the ground. By concentrating on one theme over many techniques, it made it easier to see how they fit within the system.

2. Duration. Seminars are usually longer than regular classes, which typically last no more than one hour. The seminar format gives instructors the time to explore many aspects of the principle being practiced. It's theoretically possible to try six techniques in a one hour class. However, students will not get the depth of instruction and the necessary corrections and repetitions to substantially improve their understanding and execution.

3. Attendance. Seminars gather students who might not normally train together. I saw friends from class with whom I do not normally train, due to our schedules. I particularly enjoy seeing attendees from other schools and even other martial arts systems at our seminars. Sometimes we host attendees who have never studied martial arts before. Seminars are a great way to attract brand new students and sometimes add converts from other schools or systems.

4. Instruction. Seminars offer an enhanced instruction experience to students. When I signed up at FDKM in January 2015, I did not initially recognize how blessed we are by our instructor corps. We have an Expert 2 (Nick Masi) as head instructor plus one E-1 and seven G rank instructors active at FDKM. This may not be the case with every school. I do not mean that other schools have bad instructors. Rather, some schools may have a small number of instructors -- perhaps only one. A seminar is a chance to give students a different perspective on the KMG system. In the case of Master Eyal or anyone from the Global or National teams, the level of instruction will be very high as well as being different.

5. Motivation and Memories. I always leave seminars feeling more motivated about training in KMG. Besides the feeling of completing several hours of solid training, there are usually memories and stories that remain. For example, last night Master Eyal grabbed me and two of my classmates to demonstrate a summary drill. He built a one-vs-two drill where the two defenders did push-ups, squats, or sit-ups, waiting for a knife or other attack. As soon as the attacker began assaulting one defender, the other defender was supposed to assist his comrade.

At one point in the demonstration I was on the ground doing sit-ups. Suddenly the attacker was on top of me, trying to choke me as we wrestled against some equipment near the front wall of the school. It took me a while to flip him over because I felt the wall on my left side and my fellow defender jumped to assist, on my right side. During the struggle I heard Master Eyal say "Come on guys, Israel has fought shorter wars than this!" That was his way of saying I was taking too long to solve the tactical problem. The history major in me thought that was pretty funny, even as I was fighting underneath two people!

Thank you to Master Eyal for training us last night; to Pat Hards for "offering his body to science" as Master Eyal's demonstration partner, to Nick Masi for hosting Master Eyal at FDKM, and to my partner John for a solid training experience.

What do you like about KMG seminars, or seminars in general?

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Friday, January 27, 2017

The Time for Krav Maga Is Now

Yesterday I spoke with a friend who just moved from Ohio to northern Virginia, where I live. I'll call him Randy. He is a successful business person who sold his tech start-up last year. Randy wears many hats: technical director at the company that bought his start-up; venture capitalist, launching new start-ups; and family man, with a supportive wife and children. He used to compete in triathlons, but the pace of his work life has squeezed exercise out of his routine.

Randy and I are about the same age (45), and he knows he needs to exercise to shed unwanted pounds and improve his quality of life. He asked about my time at First Defense Krav Maga. I told him I've been training over a year at the school, and I'd be happy to meet him for a trial class.

Randy replied that he didn't feel ready for Krav Maga, because he wanted to drop around 25 pounds before attempting a workout. He said he needed to be ready for class before showing up to train.

I understand his reasoning. Randy probably fears feeling exhausted, or at least looking exhausted in front of other students. (As far as I know, he does not have any injuries which need rehabilitation before he can safely exercise.)

I'm no stranger to these concerns. In late December 2015 I began looking for a Krav Maga program. I was also worried that I would not be "fit enough" for class. I overcame my hesitation using three tools.

First, I am obsessed by time management. I try to start new tasks at the top of the hour, not 17 minutes past the hour. I prefer to start new routines on the first of the month. As you might expect, the ultimate time to start a lifestyle change, for me, is the first of the year. When I saw FDKM's new Foundations class started the first week of 2016, my time-obsessed mind screamed "do this now!"

With the new year already here, we can turn to my second tool: age awareness, thanks to the body. When I first tried martial arts I was 19, and I practiced for 5 years in my 20s. Back then I felt like I had plenty of time ahead of me. If I didn't try a new art when I was 27, I could try again at 28, or 29, or 30.

Past 40, however, the body is less cooperative. Although I'm in the best shape of my life right now, my body tells me that there is no time like the present to engage in new physical activities. If it's becoming tougher at 45, it will be no easier at 46, or 50, or 55. The body is telling me "do this now!"

Third, my journey back to the martial arts has reminded me of the spiritual component. I'm not referring to a religious practice. I mean the ability to dig deep and find reservoirs of energy that are waiting to be tapped.

I took the pictures for this post during the KMG P and G Fall Camp last year. I was amazed to watch the G candidates test. They pushed themselves to a degree I had not witnessed in other combat systems. Certainly I had seen amazing technical feats by other practitioners, such as triple-jump board breaking kicks in Tae Kwon Do, or blinding speed and accuracy in Filipino Martial Arts. However, the fighting spirit of the G testing candidates left a lasting impression on me.

(Incidentally, I felt the same watching Combat Fighting Instructor Course participants at FDKM last year as well.) This spirit is something we need to be fully alive, and I hear it saying "do this now!"

Mind, body, spirit -- these are three keys we KMG practitioners hear Master Eyal Yanilov teach. They are the reason I encourage everyone to try Krav Maga now!

I hope to get Randy training as soon as possible. Who in your life could benefit from the life-changing experience of Krav Maga and other systems?

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