Friday, November 25, 2016

Top Three Favorite Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals

There are some great deals happening today, or today through Monday. If you need some martial arts gear, consider these offerings.

DiamondMMA is offering a 20% discount through Monday. Check out my July post that explains why I think they make the best male protective gear. Use code GIVETHANKS.

The KMG USA store has some Black Friday deals. I picked up another sweatshirt and pair of pants.

The Kali Center is offering 25% off their store items, and 20% off their online videos.

Did you find any good deals that you want to share?

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Top Seven Favorite Martial Arts Podcasts

Podcasts keep me sane. If you're at all familiar with the traffic in the northern Virginia area, you know what I mean. I spend hours every week driving, many times slowly and with the company of thousands of my not-so-closest friends and neighbors. Thanks to podcasts, the experience is much more enjoyable.

When I returned to martial arts training in January, I switched from listening to courses-on-iPhone-or-iPod to podcasts-on-iPhone-or-iPod. (Yes, my car is old enough to require me to use a 2007-era iPod as my primary digital music player!)

In this post I share my favorite seven currently active podcasts. I finish by listing a few that were recently active, and perhaps will make a return in 2017.

I am not listing the podcasts in order of preference. Many times whatever podcast I'm listening to at the moment is my "favorite." Each offers something novel. The order below does not reflect any favoritism.

1. Bruce Lee Podcast. The Bruce Lee Podcast is relatively new; it was first published on iTunes in July 2016, and is currently showing episode 19. Hosts Shannon Lee (Bruce's daughter) and Sharon Lee (no relation) share Bruce's philosophy and wisdom with the audience. They publish almost every week. I recommend this podcast if you want to learn how Bruce Lee's outlook can help you identify your authentic self and live up to your potential. Shannon and Sharon communicate in a very friendly and positive manner, and I always find new ways to connect with the deeper meaning of Bruce Lee's message.

2. Kung Fu Podcasts. Kung Fu Podcasts (note the "s") is one of two podcasts by kung fu sifu T.W. Smith, who lives in the Charlotte, NC area. He explores the culture, adventure, and impact of Chinese martial arts. I like to think of Sifu Smith as a bridge between the worlds of martial arts researchers and martial arts practitioners. For example, I recently listened to sifu Smith explain the content and meaning of a scholarly article about an aikido school in Calgary. Sifu Smith is a big fan of martial arts history and grounding one's practice in physics and structure, not "rainbows and chi-balls." This podcast first appeared in iTunes in July 2014 and is currently showing episode 102.

3. Finding the Path through Kung Fu. Finding the Path through Kung Fu is sifu Smith's other podcast, and appeared in iTunes in June 2014. It is currently showing episode 88. Sifu Smith publishes this content mainly for his students, but the material is broadly applicable to any martial artist. While Kung Fu Podcasts are more about the wider martial arts world, Finding the Path tries to help students develop as people first and martial artists second. It is a more personal journey with fewer outside references than its companion podcast.

4. Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio. If you like interviews with martial artists, Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio is the place to be. Host Jeremy Lesniak uses a set of thoughtful questions to elicit stories and advice from each martial artist each invites on the show. He takes suggestions from listeners for future guests. I took advantage of this opportunity to get my friend Jeremiah Grossman an interview, and he turned out to be the first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player on the podcast. Jeremy manages to land some amazing interviewees, and even the less well known guests are generally interesting. This podcast first appeared in iTunes in April 2015 and is currently showing episode 136. Check out this podcast if you want exposure to a variety of martial arts styles and personalities.

5. Confessions of a Martial Arts School Owner. Do you want to run your own school? If you respond "yes!" then Confessions of a Martial Arts School Owner is my podcast recommendation. I'll mention a defunct podcast shortly that is also a good choice, but Confessions podcaster Zach Hayden is still active. He first published to iTunes in May 2015 and is currently showing episode 71. Zach is a TKD instructor, but he addresses a diverse set of issues for school owners and martial artists in general. he encourages interaction with his audience via Facebook, and is an avid user of new technology and social media. Although I do not yet run a school, I enjoy Zach's enthusiasm and willingness to share tips and tricks.

6. Off the Centerline Podcast. Off the Centerline Podcast is my only active podcast that makes the three-host format work well. Three TKD, Hapkido, and BJJ practitioners in Florida -- Brian Stanton, Shelby Creech, and John Combs -- cover a variety of topics, including martial arts events in the news. The three person format is evenly balanced, with each host offering a distinct point of view. Shelby usually takes one side, with John on the other, and Brian somewhere in between. Shelby is a school owner, so he can integrate that aspect of the industry into the episodes. They also answer questions from the audience and have been kind enough to provide feedback on some of the material in this blog! The podcast first appeared in iTunes in August 2015, and is currently showing episode 34.

7. Iain Abernethy Podcast. The long-running Iain Abernethy Podcast just made the "active" list, having last published an episode one month ago. Iain is currently showing episode 80, but his podcast first appeared in iTunes in October 2006! Iain is one of the leaders of the practical karate movement, so you might wonder why a Krav Maga practitioner like myself would be interested in his point of view. In reality, Iain emphasizes many of the elements that Krav Maga embodies -- powerful, hit-to-knock-down striking, realistic training, understanding violence outside the ring, and related concerns. I really like how Iain makes sense of the martial arts world; for example, I addressed one of his frameworks in my post All Over the Map? Krav Maga and Iain Abernethy's Martial Map. I'd like to congratulate Iain on the latest addition to his family, and I hope to hear from him again soon.

Those were my top seven active martial arts podcasts. The following four are currently inactive, not having published in the last month or two. I'll list them here, and if they return I will say more about them in a future post!

Fight for a Happy Life by Sensei Ando Mierzwa.

Conquest BJJ Business Podcast by Lance Trippett, Kail Bosque, and Nate Grebb.

The Martial Arts Business Podcast with Mike Massie.

Martial Arts Lineage Podcast by Tim Johnson.

What martial arts podcasts do you like? I have a few others queued for listening later. What do you recommend?

UPDATE: As you can see in the comment below, Sensei Ando reports Fight for a Happy Life will be back soon! Therefore, I'll share my thoughts on his podcast. Fight began in February 2013, although iTunes starts with episode 5 from May 2013. The latest episode is number 44. Sensei Ando uses martial arts as a vehicle to teach life lessons. He puts a lot of thought into each episode and frequently publishes an accompanying blog post. I feel comfortable having my kids hear the posts and I believe the wisdom he shares is appropriate for anyone in, say, fourth grade or higher. Sensei Ando packages action steps into each podcast, which will help us all get off the couch and marching toward our goals!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Five Reasons to Camp -- Plus Two for Krav Maga Global

Eyal Yanilov addresses the group.
Have you ever trained in your martial art for a weekend or more?

I just returned from the annual Krav Maga Global (KMG) Practitioner and Graduate ("P&G") camp, hosted by Battle Born Krav Maga. It was my first camp and I'd like to share five reasons you might want to attend similar training, whether in KMG or your own system or style. I finish with two bonus reasons for the KMG family!

1. Instructors everywhere. I am fortunate to train regularly at First Defense Krav Maga in Herndon, VA. Our lead instructor, Nick Masi, is an E-2, and USA director for the system. As of yesterday's grading (more on that shortly), we also have an E-1 instructor, and multiple G-level instructors. I do not take these instructors for granted! However, at the camp we had access to even more instructors -- and this was an amazing opportunity.

At P&G Camp, participants learned from some of the highest ranking people in the system -- starting with the head instructor, Mr Eyal Yanilov. Instructors flew in from all over the US, and in a few cases, from around the world.

The benefit of so many instructors in one place should be obvious, but let me give one example. At one point on Sunday we had time to practice individual material. My group needed assistance with P-3 headlock releases on the ground. Within seconds of asking, we received help from E-level instructors and members of the national team. These men and women, with years of experience, got on the floor and showed us how to execute the techniques. I was so impressed with their willingness to get on the ground and help those of us at the other end of the experience spectrum!

2. Students everywhere. The pictures accompanying this post do not do our group justice. I do not know how many people attended, but I would not be surprised if there were around 100 active participants. With so many students in one place, I was able to meet people from all of the other KMG schools in the US. All of the people with whom I interacted were polite and interested foremost in learning. I didn't meet any over-sized egos, or students who felt the need to prove something to others.

In one memorable part of the camp, a few other P-2s and I worked on how to do a technique. I felt that I had learned a certain move differently, but they made a compelling case for another approach. This situation could have gone south quickly in another setting, but I was pleased to be able to work with genuinely helpful colleagues from other schools. They were very helpful and patient with me.

The final ladder exercise during G testing looked tough!
3. Push yourself. I did not test at the event (also more on that shortly). However, I still trained about 8 hours each day. Those 8 hours were far longer than I usually train. Thankfully, over the past 9 months I've been preparing myself mentally and physically for extended training days.

During a regular session I might train 2 straight hours. I've attended a few intense combatives seminars that have lasted 5 straight hours, and I've also attended a few day-long seminars that lasted 6-9 hours, with a lunch break. In September I participated in the KMG Combat Mindset Class, which was a mix of physical training and lectures over a 3 day period. Recently I also took part in SFG, GFM, and Jungshin events, described here. All of this helped me get ready for the camp.

The bottom line is the day-long camp format expects a lot of students, both physically and mentally. By the middle of the third day I felt like my brain was overflowing. My training partner had the same comment at the same time! Still, the benefits outweighed the costs, and besides a few bruises and sore muscles, the push was worth it.

4. Test yourself. The P&G Camp was a massive testing event for all but 10% or so of the attendees. I was not eligible to test, because I had just tested in September. (KMG includes a 5-6 month delay for P and G testing, and a year or more delay for E testing.) Rather than test on the third day, I did more training with my fellow non-testers. At the end of that period, I watched the final components  (sparring, ground fighting, and a grueling "ladder pushup-sprawl" exercise) of one of the G-level tests. It was inspiring and impressive to watch a few of my instructors (plus other testers) leave it all on the mats.

First Defense Krav Maga attendees pose for a photo.
If anyone had simply described the testing experience, I'm not sure I would be able to imagine myself passing or even attempting the G-level exams. However, witnessing so many people pushing themselves to their limits inspired me to think that, with the necessary time, effort, and training, I have a shot at the G grade.

I wish I could have watched the E level testing on day four, but I had to return to my day job and family. (Thank you to my family for supporting my desire to train away from home!) During that E level testing, one current and one remote member of my school passed their E-1 ranks!

5. Camaraderie. Although I feel a bond with my fellow students and instructors at my home school, I really sensed camaraderie with the extended KMG family at the camp. It was cool to see people representing their regions and homes. I enjoyed training with people who were unranked, or from different systems. I liked training with people in their twenties, and even a gentleman who was 74!

One of my favorite parts of the camp involved a giant sparring session on the second day. I think I fought half a dozen people by the end of it. I lost one of my contacts lenses during the session, but I decided to press on and not lose time. No one I met acted like a jerk or tried to put on a show for any onlookers. It can be difficult for non-martial artists to accept that one could build friendships on hitting each other, but it happens!

I believe the previous five lessons were key to our KMG event, and you can relate to them even if you don't practice Krav Maga. However...

Two bonus reasons for the KMG family:

Eyal Yanilov discusses mental training.
6. Diversity and Quality of Training. During the camp, I participated in distinct sessions teaching each of the following: mental training, kicking, striking, open hand defenses, sparring and combinations, knife defenses, gun disarms, and stick defenses. The quality of each session was excellent. We also integrated third party protection with fighting and self defense.

Although each instructor displayed a different teaching style, I was able to keep up with the pace and apply what I learned in meaningful ways. The drills all made sense and I even had a chance to take a few notes. I am sure the structured training program required to be a KMG instructor played a big part in the success of these sessions. I also perceived that each instructor truly wanted to teach what he or she knew, and  thereby benefit the lives of the students.

7. Training with Eyal. In my experience, it is rare to be able to train with the head instructor of a martial arts, self defense, or fighting system. Every day of the P&G camp, however, started with Eyal sharing some wisdom and mental training exercises. Next we ventured outside for warm-up. It must have been quite a sight for visitors -- a hundred KMG students running around the building, then dropping to the concrete for drills!

Eyal always makes time for pictures.
Eyal also personally taught, formally and informally. Because he leads by example, I found all of his senior instructors shared the teaching duties. For example, UK director Jon Bullock integrated his experience teaching around the world, highlighting common mistakes he saw at other events and schools. He then showed proper technique and, importantly, why it mattered.

I also had a chance to go to dinner with members of my school and some of these instructors, and they were friendly out of uniform as well.

If Krav Maga interests you, and you would like to attend future global training events, visit the Krav Maga Global site. In the US, visit

Thank you to everyone who made the camp a success -- Eyal, Jon, Nick, Pat, host school owner Kimi, instructors, and students!

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Did you attend the camp? What did you think? Have you experienced similar events elsewhere? Leave a comment here or let me know via Twitter!

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