Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Make Them Miss, Make Them Pay

Saturday afternoon First Defense Krav Maga hosted GM Jeff Smith, a karate and TKD practitioner from the "blood and guts" era of full contact kickboxing. Krav practitioners spar, but not competitively. Our head instructor Nick Masi brought Mr Smith to the school to share his knowledge of movement, striking, and tactics. Here I will try to capture some of his drills and key themes.

Mr Smith began the seminar by explaining his key principles: footwork, distance, accuracy, timing, and speed. We worked movement drills and relaxed our shoulders to avoid wasting energy and losing speed.

Mr Smith said skipping rope was a great way to practice relaxing shoulders while developing endurance. If you constantly trip on the rope, get rid of it! Just work the movements. You generate the most striking power in a stance, not while moving. Therefore, we drilled moving, striking, and moving again.

Mr Smith led us through a series of attack sequences. From a left foot forward fighting stance, these included:

  • Lead (left) jab, lead (left) front kick, right cross.
  • Jab, lead side kick, cross.
  • Jab, plant left foot, spinning side kick with right leg, left strike.
  • Jab, lead (left) round kick to opponent lead thigh or body, cross, left upperhook.
  • Jab, lead outside crescent kick (strikes with outside of foot), cross.
The counter-attack sequences included stepping offline and blocking the jab with the near (left) hand, then striking with the rear (right, or cross) hand. 

Versus the lead round kick, Mr Smith showed the importance of the defender stepping to his or her 7:30 (diagonally left and back) to take away some of the kick's power. Stepping to the 1:30 (diagonally right and front) would put the defender closer to the kicker. Mr Smith taught us the "universal block," a two-armed motion that drops the defender's right arm low and the left arm high to protect the head. The defender can try to trap the attacker's leg with the low arm and then throw the attacker. 

When executing this block, the defender should turn the right shoulder towards the attacker. The high left hand should face palm out. One of our senior instructors, Chris, served as demonstration dummy by having Mr Smith whack Chris' left hand, with palm out and palm in. Palm out engages stronger arm and shoulder muscles, while palm in collapses such that Chris hit himself in the face while Mr Smith struck his arm.

Versus the front and side kicks, the defender should step to the 1:30 and deflect the kick to his or her left side before striking.

Beyond specific techniques, Mr Smith described how a combination of technique and application makes a good fighter. He said to practice in stages: first 1/2 speed, then 3/4 speed, and only later full speed. Always practice drills involving head contact while wearing a mouth guard! 

Movement-wise, you "bounce" to set distance or get to the outside, and walk when advancing towards, or what I thought of as "stalking" the opponent. Mr Smith said one of the keys to his success was to "make them miss, make them pay," hence the combination of defense and counter-attack skills.

When meeting an opponent at the center of the ring, don't touch two gloves to the opponent's glove or gloves. Always touch one glove, and use the moment to gauge the correct striking distance. Clever!

Mr Smith noted that he turns 70 next month, and afterwards my fellow students were amazed. We thought he was in his 50s given how well he moved. Of course we hadn't done the math concerning his fighting in the 1960's and 1970s, so we were all surprised. I felt he was a great role model for staying incredibly active while others his age might barely play golf!

After class I asked Mr Smith to share his toughest fight, and what made it difficult. He said fighting on the undercard at the "Thrilla in Manila" was the toughest, because millions of people watched and he as a light heavyweight fought a heavyweight. You can see the fight online here, with part 1 being the introductions and part 2 beginning the first round. 

I hope Mr Smith returns for the next level of his seminar. If you have a chance to invite him to teach at your school, I am sure you will enjoy the experience. Thank you GM Jeff Smith for sharing your knowledge with a Krav school!

What did I miss? Let me know here on on Twitter!

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Does the Student Need

I've been enjoying the Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood podcast, hosted by Nic Gregoriades. Nic brings a deep philosophical approach to his jiu-jitsu, and his podcast reflects that thinking. In episode 10 he interviewed Matt Thornton, the famous coach known for his concept of "aliveness" in training.

Nic asked Matt for advice on how to be a better martial arts coach. Paraphrasing Matt, his response was the following:

When teaching, ask yourself "what does the student need from me, right now, to succeed?"

Matt's question really resonated with me. In jiu-jitsu I'm a student, but in Krav Maga I'm a student and a member of our instructor development program. I help teach kids and adult fundamentals classes, and I'm available for private instruction.

Matt added that instructors should worry less about "looking good" in front of students, or demonstrating the latest and greatest flashy technique. Instructors should concentrate on getting through to the student and connecting with them, such that the student makes progress.

Nic has also said that jiu-jitsu (or really most martial arts) are the only athletic endeavor where there is an expectation that the coach is "the best player on the team." He said:

Imagine if people expected the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers (currently Tyronn Lue) to be better than LeBron James. Does that make any sense? We do this in jiu-jitsu though.

It's probably a function of rank, given the instructor is likely the senior person in the room. I agree that it does not make sense. In some cases it is true, but only in certain applications. When I see Prof Pedro Sauer demonstrate his technique, it's clear he operates at a level beyond anyone I've seen personally. Probably Rickson Gracie is the only person I've witnessed with technique at our beyond Prof Sauer's level. However, Prof Sauer, at age 59, can't roll the way he did 20 or 30 years ago. Does this mean he needs to be replaced? Of course not!

Keeping "what does the student need" at the forefront of teaching led me down this path: the student needs the type of instructor that connects with him or her, helping the student to make progress. Some students may need a sparring partner who can push him or her physically, as is the case with competitive athletes. Even in that situation, it may be better for the instructor to coach from the sidelines as the student engages with a comparable competitive sparring partner. Others may need a more technical approach. Still others may need help in areas we haven't considered yet.

I also subscribe to the philosophy that the teacher should always try to develop students who surpass his or her capabilities. Nic called this "creating the weapons of your own destruction!" Jeremy Lesniak from Whistlekick makes a similar point. The alternative to constant improvement -- stagnation, or worse, degradation -- is unacceptable to me. We should all want our arts to improve, and that manifests through students who surpass their teachers.

How do you answer "what does the student need?" Let me know here on on Twitter!

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Bouncing Back During the P4 Test

Last weekend I tested for Krav Maga Global Practitioner 4 ("P4") rank. I had last tested in March, for P3. This test taught me a lesson about resiliency and keeping calm in the face of adversity.

To grade those of us testing for P4 and above, my head instructor flew in a former student now living in Austin, TX. Will is an Expert 1 known for being a serious grader. We heard he had failed 5 of the last 7 people he tested for Graduate rank. I had trained for a while with Will before he moved from northern VA to TX, so I knew he was tough but fair.

The first hour and a half went well and soon it was time for me to demonstrate "stop kicks." You have probably seen these in Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do -- using the lead or rear leg to intercept and block an opponent's low kick. I had just worked on these with our kids classes that morning, so I felt ready to go.

It was not meant to be! I couldn't stop a single kick my partner threw at me. Will even swapped out my original partner for another, in case I was worried about hurting my partner. No difference! Will walked away and I knew he gave me zero points for that section.

I was so angry! I do not have a temper, but you could not tell it last Saturday afternoon. I was near the half-wall separating the training floor and the waiting area, and I hammer-fisted the horizontal wall surface. I'm sure a few bystanders suspected something was wrong, because they had never likely seen me so angry.

I had 2/3 of the test left, but I was upset. What could I do about it? I  remembered a situation at the Rickson Gracie Cup jiu-jitsu tournament a couple weeks prior. One of my team members from Prof Pedro Sauer's school was not happy with her competition performance. I remembered hearing Professor tell her that it was water under the bridge, that she could not do anything about it, and it was better to focus on the next challenge.

I decided that I was experiencing the same problem, and I would adopt the same solution. I made a sincere effort to let go of my frustration and concentrate on the next portion of the test.

We moved on to self-defense techniques. Will told my partner to execute a series of attacks until he said stop. I would have to deal with each in turn. My partner started throwing attack after attack, and in between each I took about one second to concentrate on shaking off the stress, relaxing my body, and preparing for the next challenge. During this portion of the test I probably felt the most "flow" of the whole 4 1/2 hour event. It was quite a change from my feelings only a few minutes earlier!

I successfully completed the test, and I realized it could have gone south pretty easily. I was thankful that I was able to turn it around.

Have you experienced a setback like this, and if so, how did you respond? Let me know here on on Twitter!

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Krav Maga Global Training for Jiu-Jitsu Practitioners

I've been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner since the very end of January 2017. I listen to several BJJ podcasts, and I sometimes hear participants critique Krav Maga. Some of the popular comments include the following:

  1. Krav Maga is mainly groin kicks, eye gouges, and palm strikes. 
  2. You don't need a long time to learn Krav Maga. In fact, you could learn the system in a week.
  3. If you practice authentic, self-defense Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, you don't need to learn a so-called "reality-based self-defense system" like Krav Maga. 
  4. Krav Maga students say their techniques are too deadly to train against live, resisting opponents. Yet, "aliveness" is the key to training. Therefore, Krav Maga is of little use in real confrontations.
I've been training in the Krav Maga Global system since January 2016. I'm a "practitioner 3" who has completed the first five days of our 24 day General Instructor Course. I'm no expert but I'd like to offer my reaction to these critiques.

First, if you've seen something called "Krav Maga," it's possible it indeed was nothing more than groin kicks, eye gouges, and palm strikes! "Krav Maga" means "contact combat" in Hebrew, so anyone can brand their "fighting system" as "Krav Maga." In fact, Krav Maga as a term has become a popular marketing mechanism. Plenty of teachers offer one- or two-day "certifications" to become "Krav Maga instructors."

My experience is solely with Krav Maga Global (KMG), the system codified by Eyal Yanilov. KMG is primarily a striking system. We do not try to overcome opponents using joint manipulation or chokes as we do in BJJ. KMG's curriculum includes hundreds of techniques to address a variety of armed and unarmed confrontations. The techniques are based on a handful of natural reaction principles, similar to core tenets of BJJ like leverage, pressure, and so on.

Second, Krav Maga is often advertised as a "simple system." This is based on the natural reaction principles and the relentless desire for efficient and effective solutions. As with BJJ, "knowing" a technique does not mean you can apply it when challenged. 

For example, in my 2016 Martial Arts Year in Review post, I documented that I trained Krav Maga for over 200 hours last year. Only this month (August 2017), did I start to believe I am moving in the right direction with my striking, footwork, and overall movement! It takes hundreds of hours to even begin feeling like you are making real progress.

Third, KMG is without a doubt focused on self-defense. There is no internal debate as we find in the BJJ world between the competition people and the defense people. One of the reasons I feel comfortable training at Master Pedro Sauer's school is that his school and system are very self-defense focused. He cultivates incredible competitive talents like David Porter, but the school's focus is self-defense. Nevertheless, I feel that there is room for collaboration among my KMG and BJJ communities. Some KMG solutions to problems seem more effective to me, and some BJJ solutions to other problems seem more effective to me.

Fourth, although we KMG students are concerned with safety, we do not rely on "deadly" techniques. We pressure test our techniques in a variety of formats, trying to simulate the stress and conditions of real confrontations. We also spar at different intensities and in many forms. Sometimes we only spar with hands, or only feet, or everything but the ground, or everything including the ground, or nothing but the ground! 

Our ground games are nothing like BJJ, however, because we do not train submissions -- our goal is generally to disengage and get back to our feet when possible. This is an area where I think KMG could learn from BJJ. BJJ, in turn, could learn by sparring with a striking-focused KMG student. Still, I agree that there's nothing like that resistance you get from a rolling partner in BJJ -- which is one of the reasons I love jiu-jitsu!

Do you train both systems, or are you in a similar situation? Let me know here or respond to me on Twitter!

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Quit Playing Games with My Heart

Have you seen this chart, or have you heard about the topic it describes?

(Scroll to the very bottom of the post for TL;DR if you like!)

From "On Combat", as rendered by Amazon.com. Not for commercial use.
In brief, as I have heard it taught and as this chart explains, the higher your heart rate, the worse your physical performance. This idea has implications for anyone in a physical confrontation, where an increased heart rate seems to mean an inability to perform self defense actions.

When I first encountered this concept, it did not make sense to me. In my teens I was a high school cross country and track runner, and I frequently elevated my heart rate over 200 bpm. I did not encounter these symptoms. In my twenties and thirties I played men's league ice hockey and managed to perform complex motor skills such as skating, puck handling, and shooting, all while my heart was racing. 

Now, encountering this chart and its ideas as a martial artist, I'm learning that I should be experiencing tunnel vision and racing to the bathroom when my heart rate is high. Could there be more to this phenomenon?

The chart appears in On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace by Lt. Col. David Grossman and Loren Christensen, published in 2004, but it derives from a 1997 article Grossman wrote with Bruce K. Siddle titled Psychological Effects of Combat, for the Academic Press Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict. 

In On Combat, the authors write:

"There is a zone that exists, generally between 115 and 145 beats per minute (bpm), where you are at your optimal survival and combat performance level... Starting at about 115 bpm, your fine-motor skills begin to deteriorate."

The authors caveat these statements:

"We should be cautious about fixing specific heart rate numbers (or any other precise measures of physiological arousal) on Condition Yellow, Red, or Black. The impact of these Conditions can vary greatly depending upon training, physical fitness, and other factors. Also, it must be understood that these heart rates apply only to survival stress or fear induced heart rate increases. You can so a set of wind sprints and get your hear rate to 200 bpm, but the effect of this exercise induced heart rate increase will not be the same as when fear or survival stress causes the increase." (emphasis added)

You can download a .pdf version of the chart with similar caveats added to the bottom.

Apparently my earlier examples involved exercise without survival stress or fear, so I did not experience the negative effects inherent in the chart. But what is the source of these statements?

The authors state later in the book: 

"The linking of specific heart rate with task performance was pioneered by Bruce K. Siddle, author of the excellent book Sharpening the Warrior's Edge, and one of the great pioneers in the field of 'Warrior Science (TM).'"

I happen to be reading Siddle's book now. On pages 48-49 he writes:

"Levitt and Gutin (1971) studied the performance of a five-choice reaction time task and found that the ideal resting heart rate performance is at the rate of 115 heart beats per minute... After the heart rate increased above 115 bpm, the subject's performance began to deteriorate, with the worst performance at 175 bpm. 

Similarly, Levitt (1972) examined the affects (sic) of various stress levels induced by exercise, on tasks varying information-processing demands... He found a clear Inverted-U effect, with optimal performance at the heart rate of 115 to 145 bpm. His students' performances were clearly less effective at heart beats of 80 and 175 bpm."

Siddle repeats these findings using different wording on page 79.

I find three flaws with the heart rate theory at this point.

First, as far as I can tell, Siddle did no research on his own, as he has no training or expertise in this area. Despite this problem, Grossman and Christensen refer to "Bruce Siddle's research" as if Siddle conducted original work. Siddle's "research" consists of citing two papers by Levitt, one of which had a co-author, Gutin. That's it. Siddle built his whole theory around two studies, and Grossman and Christensen then built then theory on top of Siddle.

Second, Grossman and Christensen's caveats noted "these heart rates apply only to survival stress or fear induced heart rate increases." I believe they added these caveats to address criticism such as those I listed earlier. However, the caveats are inconsistent with the research Siddle cites to support his heart rate theory.  Levitt's 1972 research involved subjects on treadmills, not fighters in stressful situations. According to the caveats, this exercise-induced heart rate elevation should not have caused degraded performance. However, Levitt's research did cause degraded performance. Which is it?

Third, more recent research shows that conclusions by Siddle, Grossman,Christensen are no longer tenable. For example, a 2007 paper by police officer Kathleen Vonk titled Police Performance Under Stress (pdf) stated:

"Although the Inverted-U theory is well-known within the police training arena, many essential components have unfortunately been omitted or forgotten over the years. Siddle included these components in his book Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge, however much of the information has been left behind. For example, even in basic psychology text books both task complexity characteristics and personality characteristics are mentioned as affecting one’s performance, relating these characteristics to an individualized Inverted-U. Rarely, if ever, are these mitigating factors even mentioned in defensive tactics programs...

Since human beings are so different and complex, attempting to categorize or generalize an optimal performance zone to one specific heart rate range would be virtually impossible. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, the police profession may be better off looking to the athletic profession in terms of improving physical and mental skills under elevated stress levels." (emphasis added)

Vonk (who has a BS in exercise science) then describes the results of six years of research where her consulting firm collected heart rate data of police officers in a variety of situations, from training to field operations. I recommend reading her paper to better understand her suggested approach, one that abandons heart rates as factors causing stress responses.

My take-away from investigating the Siddle-Grossman-Christensen heart rate theory is that you cannot make any predictions about individual performance based on heart beats per minute. Martial arts instructors should be very careful how they approach this topic with students.

Unfortunately, we cannot seem to excise this theory from popular or martial culture. For example, consider this 2013 Art of Manliness article: Managing Stress Arousal for Optimal Performance: A Guide to the Warrior Color Code. The authors of that article are also confused about Jeff Cooper's color codes, but that's a topic for another post!

If you would like to read a lengthy criticism of the heart rate theory and chart, see this blog post by police officer and trainer W. Hock Hochheim titled Death to the Heart Rate Chart. Stu Marshall, an anaesthetist (a doctor that administers anaesthesia) calls Siddle's work an urban myth

TL;DR: There is little to no science behind the theory that increased heart rates degrade performance. Multiple other factors appear to be responsible, i.e., read Vonk's paper.

What do you think of the heart rate theory? Is it bogus, benign, or beneficial? Let me know here or respond to me on Twitter!

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Five Exercises to Relieve Martial Arts Wrist and Finger Pain

Do sore wrists and fingers interfere with your martial arts training?

I stopped training martial arts training in 2001 after I broke my wrist in American Kenpo class. I didn't know I had broken it until several weeks later, when a doctor took an X-ray and saw the wrist was healing. I had "protected" it using the sort of wrist brace you use for carpal tunnel syndrome. The doctor said "that's going to hurt again in 10 or 15 years."

Here we are in 2017, and I don't want this old injury to hold me back! My family also has a history of developing arthritis in the fingers, so I am doing what I can to avoid that situation as well.

Earlier this year I felt wrist pain when doing Krav Maga striking drills, and finger pain doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I decided to fight back with a multi-pronged approach. Let me share the drills I do to relieve martial arts wrist and finger pain!

1. Wrist strength. I was inspired by my StrongFirst training to focus first on wrist strength. When the muscles are weak, all that the body has left are the joints. Joints aren't meant to carry the loads intended for the muscles, so joint pain can be a sign that muscles needed to be strengthened.

To address the likelihood that the muscles supporting my wrist were weak, I bought a Sportneer Wrist and Strength Exerciser. The first two images below show how I position my arm to flex my wrist upwards, while the next two show how to flex downwards. It's important to work both directions under load. I do 10 contraction or extension reps per set, with 2 or 3 sets each day.

To work side-to-side motion, I use a light weight (5 pounds or less) and rotate the wrist back and forth in the other plane of motion.




2. Grip strength. I felt pain in the pinkie fingers after rolling in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so I took the strength first approach to deal with that problem too. I'm using two devices, a Kootek Hand Grip Strengthener and a Gripmaster Hand Exerciser. I like the Kootek gripper because it is adjustable. The Gripmaster is only 5 lbs per finger, so I need to buy a new unit to increase the tension. However, I like the Gripmaster because I can isolate weak fingers, such as my pinkie. 

Like the wrist drills, it's important to do "opening" drills, not just "closing" drills. I plan to add some finger expansion exercises to my routine using rubber bands. This will balance the closing strength that I am building.

I do 10 contraction or extension reps per set, with 2 or 3 sets each day. 

3. Wrist protection. I still use wrist wraps when striking, as I described last year. I wear them 9 out of every 10 workouts or so. When I am striking but not wearing wraps, I pay extra attention to wrist position when making contact with the pads. I recommend this video by Shane Fazen with his tips for hitting the bag and avoiding wrist pain.

4. Wrist stretching. Students in today's Krav Maga Foundations seminar probably saw me sitting in a squat when drills were being introduced, holding my hands together in one of the two postures shown below. These are my go-to stretches. There are also a ton of great stretches in this Global Bodyweight Training video. I do these stretches whenever I think of them, throughout they day. 

I also do some wrist twirling sequences, forwards and backwards, that I remember from Wing Chun class. 


5. Kali drills. I need strong wrists and fingers for more than Krav striking or BJJ grips. Kali is both a driver and a solution. I use a single rattan stick in each hand. My main wrist drill involves rotating stick circles forwards and backwards, while keeping a fairly tight grip on the sticks. I am not simply touching my index finger to my thumb and twirling the stick in that space. I try to keep a full grip and rotate forwards and backwards. My right side (being my dominant hand) is much better than my left, but I'm making progress. 

I recommend two videos for Kali drills. The first is more warm-up-oriented and features Shawn Kitzman. Start with Shawn's drills, then add examples such as these by Paul Ingram. Start slow! If you try to twirl as fast as Paul, you will hurt yourself.

Bonus 1. If there is one lesson I learned through months of physical training (PT) for my shoulder, it is to avoid exercising through pain. However, as you develop strength and flexibility, you can add an exercise that works the wrists: the Ground Force Method (GFM) Ground Force Exploration (GFE) sequence. Andrea U-Shi Chang taught me the GFE last year. I use this series as a BJJ warm-up because it takes place on the ground, and it incorporates strength and flexibility motions.

Bonus 2. My second bonus is simple: experiment with different finger and hand techniques when doing push-ups. For years, traditional flat-palm push-ups were tough for me, because of wrist pain. By default I did knuckle push-ups. Recently I've tried adding fingertip push-ups, which I learned from Annika Kahn from Jungshin Fitness

Bonus 3. Finally, especially on the ground, protect your fingers. At BJJ class the other night, one of the instructors recommended using a closed fist when making contact with the mat. You should also be careful when sweeping, because you can end up with a wrist injury if you don't think of how it might move.

What sorts of exercises do you do to relieve wrist and finger pain?

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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sportification of Martial Arts

I'm reading Kendo: Culture of the Sword by Alexander C. Bennett. I started reading it to better understand the history of Kendo, which I've mentioned a bit here. As you might imagine, Kendo started as a battlefield practice. It was one manifestation of the combat art employed by sword-wielding Japanese warriors.

Over time, as the leaders of Japan sought to reduce bloodshed, sword combat became less common. Swords were used in warfare, but as Japan became more peaceful, the numbers of "sword battle veterans" diminished. Various parties sough to continue to infuse the spirit of sword fighting in certain elements of the citizenry, leading to the development of Kendo and its sport elements.

I'm currently reading the part of the book that deals with the re-militarization of Kendo, due to the wars Japan fought in the first half of the twentieth century. This is a fascinating phenomenon which I have not encountered (yet) with other martial arts. Following World War II, however, Kendo (as I will soon read), was "sportified" again, as the population swerved away from militarism.

I find "sportification" to be a fascinating topic because those of us who practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are witnessing similar transitions. BJJ grew out of a sport art, judo, then became "streetified" via the Gracie street brawls and challenge matches. For the last few decades, some BJJ schools have focused on the sport aspects, rather than the self defense elements. Leaders like Rickson Gracie and Pedro Sauer and many others are trying to preserve and promote the self defense characteristics of BJJ, fearing that sportification will deny a key element of BJJ to current and future practitioners.

A similar dynamic seems to be happening in my other main art, Krav Maga. Krav Maga was also born out of combat, in the fight against fascism in Europe in the 1930s-1940s. Krav Maga then became the Israeli Defense Force's hand-to-hand system in the 1950s and beyond. There are no Krav Maga "competitions" that garner any attention, as far as I know. However, the system has effectively adopted a more civilian flavor due to the nature of its demographics -- civilians in mainly industrialized countries. Certainly plenty of soldiers (the IDF of course) and police train Krav Maga, but the majority do not expect to use their training on a regular basis in conflict zones.

Last, I think there are lessons to be learned from arts with longer histories, such as Karate and Kung Fu. I hope to find other books which address how these arts transformed from their origins into the versions we see today.

How do you see the sportification of martial arts?

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Protecting U2 and Their Fans

Last night Mrs B and I were fortunate to attend the U2 concert at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. Between the opening act and U2's first set, I enjoyed observing the physical security arrangements and seeing them in action.

Shortly before taking the photograph at left, I saw a probably intoxicated fan run towards the mass of general admission attendees in the center of the photograph. He was pursued by a yellow-shirted member of the CSC Event Staff. The man either fell or was pushed to the ground by the CSC staffer.

Shortly afterwards a few of the orange-shirted "Apex Security Group" approached the scene. The CSC and Apex crew removed the fan from the field, one person on each side, slightly behind the fan, each holding one arm behind the fan, at the wrist. A few minutes after the fan was escorted from the field, a few Prince George's County uniformed police officers spoke with other CSC staffers, then followed the path taken by the man escorted from the field. They were probably going to arrest the fan or at least remove him from the stadium.

This episode gave me a chance to reflect on the tiered security infrastructure at plan at the U2 concert. The lowest and most numerous tier consists of CSC Event Staff. There are likely hundreds of them in the stadium, but they have the least training and the lowest ability to handle a security incident. However, they can get eyes on a problem and intercede with the hope of slowing down any intruder or troublemaker.

The commotion caused by a conflict between a fan and the CSC Event Staff will attract the attention of the Apex Security Group workers. There are far fewer of them in the stadium. I counted no more than a dozen, working in pairs. If CSC can't handle a problem, then Apex is the next escalation point. Neither CSC nor Apex carries firearms.

The highest escalation level consists of PG county police. I saw a handful of them onsite, but there were many police officers performing road safety and control duties outside. They are armed and can bring deadly force to play if needed to protect U2 or fans. Beyond the uniformed police, Mrs B and I noticed a likely police helicopter circling the stadium, and two officers dressed in tactical gear walking the stadium perimeter.

I am happy to report that I did not notice any other physical incidents after the one I reported. Of course, it was very dark and very loud, but I believe everyone enjoyed the concert!

What have you learned from observing physical security forces at work?

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Longevity in the Martial Arts

How long can we train in the martial arts?

As a 45-year-old who returned to practice in January 2016, I've been pondering this question for the past few weeks, in three separate ways.

First, in episode 161 of the Whistlekick podcast, a practitioner of the Chinese martial arts said that as a younger man he focused on the so-called "hard" or "external" styles, and as he aged he transitioned to the "soft" or "internal" styles. For example, you might begin learning Wing Chun or Kung Fu, then migrate to Tai Chi, or spend more time on Kung Fu forms instead of sparring. I have done some Wing Chun and Tai Chi, but the majority of my Chinese practice involves Kung Fu forms.

Second, I participated in Professor Pedro Sauer's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu spring camp in Herndon, VA. Professor is in his late 50s and he talked about the importance of learning technique rather than relying on strength. He said it is good to have strength, but you should "keep it in your back pocket." When you learn Jiu-Jitsu with technique and leverage, you can continue practicing Jiu-Jitsu your whole life. Professor spoke in front a picture of Grandmaster Helio Gracie, who was still on the mats in his 90s. During the camp I couldn't help but notice the number of older people practicing BJJ, mixed in with the younger students. The camp consisted of a three hour Friday session, two three hour Saturday sessions (with a two hour break), and a three hour Sunday session.

Third, I participated in a Krav Maga Global camp at NovaMMA in Arlington, VA. I was only able to attend four hours on Friday and four hours on Sunday. (Saturday evening I visited Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg, MD to train at a Rener Gracie seminar.) Although there were some older practitioners there, it seemed that most of the participants were a decade or two younger than me. The physical intensity level of the camp was fairly high. One of the outstanding young students from my home Krav Maga school said the Saturday session left him completely exhausted. This young man is 17 years old, and we often joke that a two hour session is just a warm-up for him! The camp consisted of two full days of training (Friday and Saturday, 9 am - 5:30 pm), an extra three hour seminar Saturday night (6-9 pm), and training or testing on Sunday that started at 9 am and ended between noon and 2 pm, depending on the grade being tested. The grading ended with an exhausting "ladder" drill: 1 combat sprawl, 2 punches; 2 combat sprawls, 4 punches, and so on, up to 10 combat sprawls, 20 punches, then back down to 1 combat sprawl, 2 punches.

Comparing these experiences, I wondered about my ability to continue practicing each style.

For Kung Fu, I believe I can continue practicing forms as long as I can walk. My Kung Fu Sifu is in his late 50s and his Sifu, Master Chan Pui, is 80. Master Chan is an extraordinary individual, and I have never been able to move like him, at any age! However, practitioners can modify Kung Fu forms to suit their athletic capabilities. Forms can be a life-long mental and athletic pursuit, albeit one with little combat application (in my opinion).

For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I believe I can continue rolling for almost as long as I can do Kung Fu. The older the practitioner, the more of a focus on defense and survival. The longer you practice, the more technique you develop. I believe the Boyd Belt is one way to keep a realistic outlook as you age. However, I think it is possible to fully participate in Jiu-Jitsu with practitioners of all ages as I get older.

For Krav Maga, I am less certain of my ability to maintain a lifetime practice. Some readers might point to the amazing story of Ton Maas, the 84 year old who just earned his KMG graduate 2 rank. I have also seen some practitioners older than me succeed in their training and grading. However, the structure and pace of the Krav Maga world seems more physically demanding than what the average older practitioner can sustain.

For example, in March I completed the five day General Instructor Course Part 1. My body held up pretty well, but five full days of training is a lot for a 45-year-old. To become a full instructor, I have to complete parts 2 and 3, each of which are nine days long. This process does not seem to consider the physical recovery challenges of someone not in their 20s or 30s!

Some readers may think it's my fault for not pursuing instructor certification 10 or 20 years ago, and that is a fair criticism. Perhaps Krav Maga is ultimately a younger person's art. However, that means the pool of instructors will not be as large as it could be, simply because the training and certification process is designed for younger participants. That in turn leads to fewer people with the life experience to match potential older students.

The same physical endurance dynamic is at play in Krav Maga gradings. My first test lasted 1 1/2 hours. My second test lasted 3 hours and 20 minutes. My third test lasted over 4 hours. I have seen tests for higher grades last 8-9 hours, with no lunch break. I have heard of tests taking two full days! The factor driving these tests is the requirement to demonstrate all material, from all ranks, during the test. Beyond techniques, candidates engage in a variety of sparring matches (standing, ground, mixed, etc.) and cap off the sessions with the ladder drill. I have thoughts on why KMG leadership believes the physicality and comprehensive nature of the tests are required, but I will save that for a future post.

In brief, I see myself active in Kung Fu forms for as long as possible. I hope to continue rolling in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as long as I avoid major injuries. For Krav Maga, I expect to physically top out at some point, so long as the non-routine events (instructor training and grading) expect the physical performance of those in their 20s and 30s.

What are your thoughts on longevity in the martial arts?

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

The True Spirit of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Monday night I took part in the Gracie Combatives class at One Spirit Martial Arts, where Master Pedro Sauer is the head instructor. The class went well, and I felt good enough to stay for the next session. It was an open rank class taught by the Professor himself. He concentrated on techniques for escaping the mount, then split the class into white belts and colored belts for positional sparring.

The goal of the white belts was to keep mount and submit the higher belt. The goal of the higher belts was to sweep or submit the white belts. As the drill progressed Master Sauer took some Facebook Live footage to share with the world.

This was the first time I had tried a drill like this. It was cool, but I had a small problem. I did not really know how to execute any submissions from mount. Because I've spent most of my short time in Combatives, I've only practiced a Kimura from guard thus far. I've worked on the rear naked choke as well, but that isn't helpful from mount either! This is not the fault of the Combatives program. Rather, it's a result of my attendance schedule and the classes I've been able to attend over the last few months, when I started training BJJ.

As a result, I ended up playing more of a defensive game, just trying to keep mount. That was plenty, but I will still missing out regarding the drill. Even with this limitation, my training partners were all cool. Seeing my white belt with no stripes, they offered me suggestions and explained how they were able to sweep me or submit me. In the photo above, a purple belt named Bo is giving me tips on home to better position myself.

The really surprising part of the session occurred when I partnered with one of Master Sauer's black belts -- Dave Porter. You may have seen him politely destroy opponents in gi and no gi tournaments.

When I took the mount, he asked "do you know any submissions?"

"Not really," I replied.

"Let's learn some!" Dave said.

He then taught me a cross choke and an Americana!

I was so impressed by this. He could have just ruined me in less than two seconds. Rather, he realized I was totally new, totally without skill, and probably interested in learning something. Dave gave me a chance to try the two techniques while we rolled a bit.

To me, this is the true spirit of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu -- everybody learns. Thanks to Master Sauer, Dave Porter, and all the other training partners for making this a positive experience for me.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Martial Proposition

In late March 2017, Iain Abernethy released another edition of his excellent podcast, titled Reinventing Violence. From 25:35-26:05 he makes the following statements:

"We need to understand what criminal violence truly is, and then seek the best solution for that. So, what all arts should do, when it comes to the self defense side of things, is to objectively look at the problem, and from there seek the optimum solution. 

Now what this will mean in practice is that the self-defense aspect of all the martial arts will end up being pretty much the same, because the problem will define the solution."

Iain's idea of the problem defining the solution, rather than the solution defining the problem, is the key to this podcast. His overall concern is that too many martial artists do not understand the true nature of violence. Because they lack this experience or knowledge, Iain says, they claim that their system is, or at least can be, the solution to the problem of violence.

I interpreted Iain's comments in this manner:

If martial artists understand and agree upon the true problem of criminal violence, then the self defense aspect of all martial arts will converge on a single solution, or set of solutions.

This if-then construct is a testable scenario. There is an input (criminal violence) and an output (self-defense). Therefore, we need inputs to begin testing Iain's proposition.

How does one define criminal violence?

In my day job I work in the cyber security sector. Almost everyone has heard of antivirus (AV) software. While these programs do not remotely represent the best way to defend computers from threat actors, the way reviewers test AV software provides a starting point for our criminal violence question.

Thugs assault ice cream truck worker. Source: YouTube.
Some testing shops use a corpus of normal, suspicious, and malicious files as inputs for AV software tests. By asking AV software from different vendors to test against this corpus of files, "consumer reports" shops can try to assess the effectiveness of AV software.

I am not proposing that one can really test the effectiveness of self defense aspects of martial arts in the same way one can try to test AV software. For one thing, testing AV software is a hotly debated subject. However, perhaps we can borrow one part of the idea: the corpus of files, or "problems."

Imagine if a set of martial artists, or even members of the martial arts community voting online, selected real-life videos of self defense situations, and added them to a corpus of "criminal violence problems." Martial artists could then review these videos and analyze how their system addresses each problem.

While this process and idea has many inherent challenges, I am intrigued by the thought of defining "criminal violence" by a selection of real-life videos.

Personally I do not think much would change in the martial arts, for a variety of reasons. I therefore, at this point, disagree with Iain's statement that "the self-defense aspect of all the martial arts will end up being pretty much the same, because the problem will define the solution."

What do you think of Iain's claim, and what do you think of my video collection idea?

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Friday, April 28, 2017

How to Win Wearing a Gracie "Boyd Belt"

A month or so ago I began listening to the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Rocks podcast, produced by Marty Josey. All of the podcasts are excellent, but I really enjoyed episodes 32 and 33 which offered advice for older practitioners like myself. One of those episodes included an excerpt from a Gracie Breakdown titled Jiu-Jitsu Over 40 (5 Rules to Roll Till 95).

The first rule was "know your Boyd Belts," named for a former Gracie Jiu Jitsu black belt instructor who began practicing in his 40s and continued until his passing in his 60s. His name was John Boyd, but he is not the same John Boyd who invented the OODA loop. In the video, Rener explained how one day John was disappointed that he could not beat a blue belt with whom he had just rolled. Rener learned that the blue belt was 40 years younger (mid-20s vs mid-60s) and 60 pounds heavier (220 lbs vs 160 lbs) than John.

Rener and Ryron analyzed this situation and devised the "Boyd Belt" framework. Simply stated:

Every 20 pounds equals a belt.
Every 10 years equals a belt.

Imagine that John was rolling against a person of similar age, but the opponent weighs 60 pounds more. If the opponent is a blue belt, his Boyd Belt equivalent versus John is a black belt: Blue to Purple [1st 20 lbs] to Brown [2nd 20 lbs] to Black [3rd 20 lbs].

In other words, due to the weight advantage alone, 160 pound John was rolling with an equivalently skilled opponent because he weighed 220 pounds.

Now alter the situation to include an opponent who is not only 60 pounds heavier, but also 40 years younger: Black to 2nd dan [1st 10 years] to 3rd dan [2nd 10 years] to 4th dan [3rd 10 years] to 5th dan [4th 10 years]. Due to the weight and age advantage, John is now rolling with the equivalent of a 5th degree black belt opponent.

In this context, John could reframe his experience and be thankful for whatever success he may have had rolling with the much heavier, much younger opponent!

For another example, Rener and Ryron mentioned the UFC 4 fight between their uncle Royce and Dan "the Beast" Severn. Dan was 8 years older but at least 80 pounds heavier than Royce. (Rener says 100 pounds in the video.) Royce was a 4th degree black belt at the time, and Dan was a world-class wrestler who had almost made the 1984 and 1988 US Olympic wrestling teams. It took Royce over 15 minutes to submit Dan, due to the weight disparity.

I think the Boyd Belt is particularly useful for older practitioners like me, who are just starting their BJJ journeys.

Imagine I roll with another white belt who is 25 years old and 155 pounds. Because I am 45 years old but the same weight, my opponent is wearing a Boyd Belt equivalent of a purple belt.

Another way to look at it: I may only be at par with a 25 year old, 155 pounds white belt when I am a purple belt.

Imagine this scenario: I will roll against a 45 year old white belt practitioner, but he weighs 195 pounds. Because we are the same age, but he is 40 pounds heavier, my opponent is again wearing a Boyd Belt equivalent of a purple belt.

So, I may only be at par with a 45 year old, 195 pound white belt when I am a purple belt.

I did not factor the time needed for me to reach purple belt into this discussion, but I think you get the point!

I'll finish by addressing a concern you might have -- one that was mentioned in the video. You might say "I thought BJJ works against opponents of all sizes!" That is a valid concern. Flip it upside down: isn't it amazing that there is a martial art that can help an older, smaller person survive against a younger, heavier opponent?

BJJ isn't magic. A few classes will not help someone like me, at 45 years old and 155 pounds, to defeat a 25 year old, 195 pound opponent. However, the journey to a rank like purple belt (possibly five-six years of training?) could give me a fighting chance to survive against a younger, heavier opponent.

Readers probably know I also practice Krav Maga, so I've got that going for me, which is nice. I don't want to end up on the ground in a self-defense scenario. However, if the situation demands it, I am training to better handle ground engagements. Now that I understand the Gracie concept of Boyd belts, I can better assess my progress and capabilities against training partners of different ages and sizes.

What do you think of the Boyd Belt concept?

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Five Reasons Why the Gracie Combatives Methodology Works

Rener is a giant.
Late last month I was fortunate to attend a seminar at The Basics Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Leesburg, VA. Rener Gracie taught a class on passing the guard. You can see some video from the event here courtesy of school owner  Marco Moreno.

I'm a big fan of Rener because of the teaching methodology he and brother Ryron Gracie created for their Gracie Combatives program. At this stage in my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu development I primarily attend GC classes at Prof Pedro Sauer's academy in Herndon, VA. In this post I will explain why the methodology works for me.

1. Self defense first. Gracie Combatives is first and foremost a self defense system. Rener and Ryron wanted to ensure that blue belt candidates could handle a core set of self defense problems. They selected techniques which addressed those problems and arranged them into a logical progression. Because I am primarily interested in self defense, this focus matched my goals perfectly.

Gracie Combatives Progression
2. Problem-Solution. The Gracie Combatives approach is a problem-solution methodology. The student is given a discrete self-defense problem. After seeing the problem, the instructor demonstrates a solution. This is not a free-flowing scenario, at least not at this point in the training system. For beginners like me, however, the problem-solution system allows me to understand the point of the exercises. Later in my progression I hope to be able to "flow" more easily. For now, problem-solution works!

3. Slices and variations. Each problem-solution package is called a "slice." The first slice shows the core problem and solution. Additional slices explain how to handle variations on the initial problem. For example, Monday night we practiced escapes from low side headlocks on the ground. The first slice involved the attacker not establishing a proper base, which allowed the defender to roll him in order to escape. The second slice required the attacker to establish a proper base, which made it difficult for the defender to roll him. We needed a new escape, which the second slice provided. The third slice introduced a punch defense variable, and a counter. Generally these packages involve two or three slices, which keeps the number of variations within the comprehension of beginners like me. Because each slice is a variation of the core technique, it is easier to understand the material.

23 Lessons
4. Defined teaching structure. The structure to present a slice appears to include the following.

1) The instructor explains the problem, with the instructor as defender and a student as the attacker.
2) The instructor demonstrates the counter at fairly normal speed.
3) The instructor explains the counter several times at slower speeds. He or she presents different viewing angles for students.
4) The instructor mentions checkpoints and safety tips.
5) The instructor changes places with the student in order to show how to perform as the attacker.
6) The instructor performs the counter as a "dry drill," without the student attacker, in order to explain body mechanics.
7) The instructor asks for questions, and then releases the students to drill for several minutes before repeating the process for the next slice. During the drilling the instructor provides feedback.

This structure is highly effective for a person like me. I enjoy the orderly progression as well as seeing the moves multiple times and in various modes (fast, slow, swapped, alone).

5. Predictability. The Gracie Combatives system is composed of 23 lessons covering 36 techniques. I can look at a calendar and predict what I will practice on any given night, so long as I account for special events that might interrupt the regular Combatives class. I can also see what I miss when I cannot attend any given night. We track attendance in the classes using a computer and a card, and the goal is to attend each of the 23 classes at least three times. I have many months (probably years) to go before I meet that goal, but it is helpful to have a concrete way to track attendance, and hopefully progress.

Rener signs my copy of the Gracie Master Text
You might be wondering if Rener followed a Gracie Combatives-style methodology during his seminar. The answer is yes. He presented a series of problems and solutions, using an A-B-C or 1-2-3 approach. As a newbie I was able to keep up pretty well. Having a blue belt partner was a big plus! Rener even helped me out with the first exercise, where placement of the arms for bicep control made a big difference.

I plan to continue focusing on the Gracie Combatives classes because they help me get used to operating on the ground, rather than moving on my feet (as with Krav Maga and Kali). I feel that once I am more comfortable with basic movements and techniques from the Combatives curriculum, I will be better prepared for regular BJJ classes. I am more easily able to attend Combatives on Monday and Friday evenings anyway, with the middle of the week presenting more conflicts.

Thank you to Rener Gracie for traveling all the way to the east coast for the Basics seminar. I look forward to his next event in May in Maryland. Thank you also Rener for signing my copy of the Gracie Master Text!

What do you think of the Gracie Combatives approach?

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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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