Friday, August 12, 2016

This Is How I Roll

This week I attended several extended training sessions offered by Trident Martial Arts. One of the sessions included Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu-styled grappling, with a focus on extracting elements for combatives situations.

It sounded like I needed a BJJ gi. The last time I wore anything like that was my sophomore year at the Air Force Academy, when I took a judo class for one of my physical education requirements.

I turned to online vendors with a very clear mission: buy a gi that was of decent quality, and was as plain and white as possible. I had read about the "plain white gi" requirement in several articles.

Basically, when visiting another school, you don't want to be an advertisement for your home school. Now, I don't train BJJ at my home school, but I still didn't want my gi to look like the inside of a MMA octagon. Therefore, I searched for plain white gis.

I bought the Your Jiu Jitsu Gear Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Uniform White with FREE BJJ White Belt pictured above, from Amazon.com. I was a little worried about buying a product sold by a company called "Your Jiu Jitsu Gear," but the reviews were strong and the plain white color was right. I am 5'9", 155 lbs, so I ordered size A2.

I immediately like the gi when I unpackaged it. It felt solid and well-constructed. It also fit me perfectly. I thought it might have interior ties like a karate gi, but I was wrong. The belt would keep it closed.

Speaking of the belt -- it initially confused me. I was not familiar with the concept of a "grading stripe." This is the black end of the belt, and its use is described in this IBJFF page. Originally I planned to just use one of my white belts from another martial arts style, but I was glad the YJJ company shipped a proper BJJ belt with the gi.

In class, the gi held up well -- much better than my right toe. You can see me in the gi in the picture above. I enjoyed the session and thought that Jordan, Jim, and Ben were great instructors. I described my experience to a friend who is a BJJ black belt as "learning to speak a new language, but at least recognizing a few words."

After class, I washed the gi in my washing machine. However, I only dried it for a few minutes on low heat. Then I hung it to air dry. I wanted to minimize any shrinkage. It seems to have weathered the washing process well.

My verdict? If you are looking for a reasonably price beginner BJJ gi for visiting other schools, I recommend the Your Jiu Jitsu Gear Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Uniform White with FREE BJJ White Belt. It met my needs and I hope you have a good experience as well!

What else can you share about what sorts of gis people wear for BJJ?

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

These Aren't Steph Curry's "Dad Shoes"

I'll admit it. Last week I checked out what sorts of shoes the guys in my Krav Maga classes were wearing.

I prefer to wear sneakers when training, because I wear orthotics. I also don't walk barefoot on the street, so I like to train in shoes. I didn't always practice martial arts in shoes, but at this point in my career I prefer to wear them.

For the last seven months I wore black Nike Air Monarch IV cross-training shoes. These worked pretty well, but they suffered a few drawbacks, especially weight and undue contact with mats. I primarily chose them because they were sold in wide sizes, they were black, and they were cross-trainers.

Last week I decided to take a closer look at the shoes the instructors were wearing. That primarily means you, Sam and Chris. I noticed these two high-ranking gentlemen were wearing wrestling shoes. I hadn't wrestled since high school gym class, and certainly not in special shoes. However, I decided to do some research and buy a pair.

The major problem I encountered was that most wrestling shoes are very narrow. I found only a few options for those with wide feet. The shoes I decided to buy are ASICS Snapdown Wrestling Shoes, pictured above. I bought them from Amazon.com because it was difficult to find them in local stores.

My verdict, after wearing them for about 8 hours of class doing striking, kicking, groundwork, weapons, and Kung Fu forms, is that they are keepers. I like how light they are, and that they allow me to pivot more easily. They remind me a little of the racing flats I wore in high school track. I'm using a set of orthotics that are half-inserts, meaning they sit at the heel but don't reach into the toe of the shoe. They fit well and support my feet as necessary.

A word of warning: pay attention to the reviews which recommend buying a full size larger than your regular sneaker. I wear size 10 in the Nike Air Monarch IV cross-training shoes, yet as you can see I bought size 11 ASICS. The ASICS are not as wide as I would have liked, but they still fit well.

If I encounter any unforeseen wear or product failure, I'll update this post!

What sort of shoes do you wear training? Do you prefer to be barefoot?

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Give Me a Break! Kids Breaking Boards

Have you ever broken a board? If you practice a Karate or Tae Kwon Do-related system, I assume the answer is yes. So what's the point, especially for kids?

In this post, part of my series on martial arts business practices, I will share why board breaking might be a tool for attracting and motivating younger martial artists, and perhaps even their families.

Several of the Martial Arts SuperShow (MASS) speakers talked about the power of board breaking, especially for kids. At the time of the show, I had little experience with the kids version of the exercise. I had only broken boards as an adult during my year in military intelligence school, when I studied Tae Kwon Do. I remembered thinking it was a fun exercise, and that I needed to pay close attention to placement and punching or kicking "past the board." So how could this be useful for kids?

The MASS business consultants discussed board breaking in several contexts. First, they offered four benefits for kids who break a board at some point in their practice:

1. Confidence. Boarding breaking can help instill the message "yes, I can." Just as you can succeed in breaking a board, you can succeed whenever you apply yourself and work hard.

2. Focus. A child breaking a board cannot succeed by hitting the board off-center. The same focus you exercise during board breaking can be applied when listening to parents or teachers.

3. Determination. Breaking a board requires the determination to succeed. A nonchalant attitude will not yield results inside or outside the dojo.

4. Follow-through. Kids can't stop short of the board and expect to break it. They have to power all the way through it. The same sense of follow-through will serve them well in life.

The second aspect of board breaking discussed at MASS was the family bonding experience. The MASS consultants recommended making the board breaking a family event. Ideally, one family member, say one parent, holds the board for the child. Another family member, perhaps another parent, sibling, or extended family member, records the event using smartphone video. The board breaking takes place on the dojo floor.

The key to the bonding experience is the parent seeing the child's face when he or she breaks the board for the first time. This can be a magical event for younger children. Of course, this exercise should be structured to help the child succeed. Use the appropriate equipment to ensure that a child of a given age, striking the board in the proper location, will break it without injuring himself or herself. This is not a military drill for adults, but a confidence-building exercise for children!

Furthermore, "family" board breaking invokes the power of getting the parents and/or siblings onto the dojo mat. Most people are intimidated by the dojo, and there is a psychological barrier of sorts separating the mat (or wood) floor from the waiting area. A board breaking exercise, whereby the family supports the young student by joining him or her on the mat, helps cross that psychological barrier. I will have more to say about this phenomenon in future posts.

The third and final aspect of board breaking involves attracting new students. This aspect was completely foreign to me, but it made a big impact. The MASS consultants discussed board breaking as a tool to capture the interest and imagination of prospective students. They shared how board breaking could be used at booths and demos. They discussed using board breaking at school visits and birthday parties. I will have more to say about this when discussing those events in detail, but apparently board breaking can be a compelling tool for grabbing the attention of prospective child martial artists.

At this point you may have several objections. Maybe you've read Board Breaking Tips: How Anyone Can, Why Nobody Should. That post documents how board breaking can be a demotivating experience, and how some can see it as a fraudulent activity. To me, it depends, like so many aspects of the martial arts, on what you are trying to achieve.

Consider the point of view of a child, aged between 6 and 10 years old. The idea of putting a fist through a piece of wood, of any kind, can seem intimidating! Successfully breaking a board takes faith, trust, and belief, three concepts emphasized by Krav Maga Global founder Eyal Yanilov -- faith in the system, trust in the instructors, and belief in yourself. Breaking a board is a tangible representation of those concepts.

Since attending MASS, I've seen the power of board breaking for children in my family life. My nine year old daughter is training in Tae Kwon Do, and she broke her first board last month. She recognized that she was not demolishing granite slabs, but she was still scared. She was thrilled when done! She did not know she could accomplish that feat. These are the sorts of progressive steps that build the four benefits mentioned earlier.

A final objection may be that your system doesn't break boards. In my case, board breaking is not a part of Krav Maga, or Kung Fu, or Filipino Martial Arts. However, as a motivational tool for children, as an instructor I would consider introducing it into the curriculum for the reasons outlined here.

What is your perspective on children breaking boards?

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