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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you encourage students in martial arts classes?

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

In Memory of True Leader and Warrior Hal Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Five Reasons to Love Krav Maga Seminars

What's so special about seminars?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, January 27, 2017

The Time for Krav Maga Is Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Locking Car Doors and The Left Turn Incident

Have you trained for self defense while driving a car?

In October my school First Defense Krav Maga conducted a Saturday afternoon seminar on self defense while driving. Our instructors, Sam and Chris, helps us learn how to deal with various scenarios, and we drilled outside, in and around student vehicles. We spent a decent amount of time dealing with intruders in the passenger's seat, as shown in the photo at left. I'm wearing the stylish wool hat, because it was freezing outside!

Since that class I have begun locking my car doors as soon as I enter my vehicle, but after all passengers have closed the doors. It's such a simple step, but it can thwart a decent number of problems.

For example, rather than locking your car doors immediately, you might close the door and pull out your phone. Maybe you want to check email, or phone messages, or engage Google Maps. In any of those cases, you're taking your attention away from your surroundings, and becoming immersed in the digital world. It's easy for an attacker to approach, open your car door, and threaten you. Locking your car doors right away makes sense and is very easy to do.

I have been making a subtle mistake however. I started locking my car doors to address the threat I just described. This mistake could have caused me trouble last night, during what I will call "the left turn incident."

Last night I was driving my two daughters to piano practice. My car had been parked in our garage. When we left the garage, I did not lock the car doors. Because I was leaving our garage, and not a public space, I did not have my mindset in the attack model I just outlined.

Partway to the piano studio, I needed to take a left turn onto a one-way street. It was dark outside and the traffic was fairly heavy. I had a fair number of vehicles waiting behind me as I concentrated on finding a gap in the traffic. I was looking out the right window when I sensed a presence at my left side. I turned to my left and suddenly saw a person standing right outside my window!

It was a male, wearing a knit cap and a large winter coat. All clothing that I could see was dark colored. He bending down slightly to make eye contact and was looking straight at me. His left arm was raised and his body was tilted toward the door. His left hand was empty. I could not see his right arm. Anti-Carjacking Training Module
Typing these words I can feel an adrenaline response, similar to the reaction I had last night. I had never encountered any pedestrian traffic on this street. It was a busy road and I could not imagine why someone would be standing at my car door.

I had two immediate reactions: 1) what does this guy want? and 2) if he opens the door I am feeling really confident in throwing a long roundhouse with my right arm. I'm surprised somewhat by the second response. It is absolutely a result of my Krav Maga training. I had my two daughters in the car and I was ready to clock this guy if he opened the door.

I had two subsequent reactions, milliseconds after the first two. 3) can I lock the car doors before he reaches for the door handle? and 4) do I pull into oncoming traffic to get away?

Milliseconds later I perceived that the man appeared to be gesturing with his left hand. I interpreted what he was saying as "move along." It seemed like the sort of motion you get when you stop your car to let a pedestrian cross the street, but they want you to drive ahead regardless.

I remember thinking "if he is gesturing for me to roll down my window, forget it. If I have the time to reach down, it will be to lock the car doors." I briefly wondered if he needed directions, but I was not going to engage a stranger on a busy street with my two daughters in the car.

I quickly looked right, saw an opening in the traffic, and took my left turn. My kids had no idea what had happened, but I immediately began a mental after-action report. I also locked my car doors!

At no time did I feel panic. All I remember were those four reactions, which was more of a problem-solving mentality.

My biggest take-away is recognizing that my attack model must incorporate more than a carjacker or similar approaching my vehicle in a public lot. It is possible for an attacker to approach a car stopped in heavy traffic. While I believe it is less likely to occur, if I had locked my car doors last night I would have mitigated one attack vector at insignificant cost.

Some readers might consider this a paranoid scenario, but those of us who practice self defense, and especially those protecting family members, will appreciate how common-sense prevention measures plus training equals great safety. If you'd like to know more, check out Membership at the site includes access to a 50 minute set of videos taught by Master Eyal Yanilov, specifically addressing scenarios like this one.

On January 8th Master Yanilov conducted a 40 minute Facebook Live event discussing transportation safety. He will be teaching a new course for instructors of transportation safety in Norway, with plans to deploy later to other countries.

This should be a great course, with practical applications for all students!

I'd like to finish by thanking all of my instructors, and especially Chris and Sam who taught the car seminar, for preparing me for the event last night. Thankfully it was not a problem, but I felt that it was better to be prepared, especially when my family is involved.

Have you encountered a similar situation involving a vehicle?

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Moving Meditation, Ice Skating, and Krav Maga

Is moving meditation possible, and how can it benefit a Krav Maga practitioner?

My last post on Krav Maga and Kendo mentioned how I applied some of Master Eyal Yanilov's lessons from his Combat Mindset Class. Yesterday I had another chance to integrate his lessons on meditation and breathing while spending time with members of the First Defense Krav Maga community.

Sunday afternoon we enjoyed a public ice skating event at a nearby rink. We had a mix of experienced and first-time skaters, Krav Maga practitioners and family members.

On a physical note, our first-timer skaters performed brilliantly. In less than an hour they were taking laps around a crowded rink. Although everyone who skates will fall at some point, during this outing none of our first-timers made unexpected contact with the frozen deck! I attribute their success to great attitudes and sound body awareness due to Krav Maga training.

My sisters and I on a home-made rink.
Now, on to the mental side. I grew up in the American state of Massachusetts, a place where the ponds freeze every winter and most kids spend that time skating. Many boys and increasing numbers of girls play ice hockey, and some eventually compete at the highest levels. I was not a particularly good hockey player, but there was always something special about lacing up the skates and stepping onto the ice.

Years later I left Massachusetts and enrolled as a cadet at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado. The pace was grueling and I added to the military and physical pressures by studying for two major and two minor degrees. As a way to mitigate the stress, I tried my first traditional martial art (Shotokan karate). More importantly, I began carving time out of my schedule to ice skate at our college rink. I later started playing pick-up games, and during my senior year I joined an off-campus men's ice hockey league.

Taking a pass during hockey camp.
During the Academy's public skating sessions I first felt the intersection of ice sports and martial arts. (At this point you might ask: "What about fighting in hockey?" I never really fought anyone during a hockey game, although I gave and took contact that caused loose teeth and stitches!) On a more peaceful note, I experienced my first "moving meditation" during open skating, quietly gliding over the ice, seeking to quiet my buzzing mind.

I paid attention to the weight balancing on one skate edge at a time as I over-stepped through each turn. I didn't need to think about the movement. I knew how to skate well enough, without being an expert. Focusing on the sensation -- through steel, plastic, and cloth -- grounded and calmed me.

The sound is what stays with me always, even as I type these words. I reveled in the "click" caused by the last contact of the toe of the skate as I pushed away from the ice, followed by the "scrape" as I returned the leg for another stride. I could synchronize my breathing to that sound, and escape from the stress of my military life -- for an hour, perhaps. It was enough.

Yesterday at our Krav Maga skating event, I had a chance to recreate that moving meditation experience. This time it was augmented by my Krav Maga training. First, thanks to Master Eyal's class, I realized I was actually enjoying a form of meditation while ice skating. I tuned in to the sights, sounds, and feelings I had experienced as a cadet.

Teaching balance during public skating.
Second, I put Krav Maga situational awareness skills to the test, especially while skating backwards or when helping new skaters. Why? Public skating is a very hectic experience. The main flow of traffic proceeds counter-clockwise around the rink, but disruptions are everywhere. Figure skaters occupy two or more of the face-off circles, moving in directions of their choosing while attempting jumps and loops. Kids flop and flounder in every direction. Nervous newbies cling to the wall, or move without being able to stop. Situational awareness, a keystone of Krav Maga, helps more experienced skaters avoid running into all of these challenges,

Third, I realized that although I had not skated in a few years, Krav Maga had kept me in good hockey shape. Our system's integration of high intensity striking drills is exactly what is needed for the short bursts of energy needed by hockey players. Hockey shifts range from 35 to 55 seconds, which corresponds nicely to many Krav Maga drills. I felt good enough skating yesterday that I might dust off my hockey gear and try a pick-up game in the coming weeks.

Shy of playing hockey, I will probably return to the rink to re-engage the moving meditation of simple ice skating. There is plenty of room for me to improve my physical skating skills. I expect the most benefit at the mental level, however. The peace I find through moving meditation is something that, while typing these words, I can connect with in a profound way.

Have you enjoyed a similar moving meditation experience? Has it helped your Krav Maga practice?

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Monday, January 9, 2017

The Shocking Value of Kendo

How do you train yourself to go from zero to max speed in a conflict scenario?

This question has been on my mind since I started an eight session introduction to the Japanese art of Kendo.

I'm a sucker for "defined introductory programs." I began training at First Defense Krav Maga, one year ago last week, by enrolling in our eight week Fundamentals program. Last month I noticed Capital Area Budokai was starting an eight session introduction to Kendo for only $80, I decided to give it a try.

I already enjoy practicing Filipino Martial Arts, especially double sticks. I also use a bokken (wooden sword) for the exercise-only practice of Jungshin Fitness. I thought these Kendo sessions would be a cool way to learn a martial arts-oriented way to use a sword. (At Capital Area Budokai I practice with a bamboo shinai, not a bokken.)

Kendo training is far different from Krav Maga Global classes. Kendo is much more formal. We spend a lot of time working on a fewer number of topics. Over the course of about 5 hours of training, my intro class has mainly worked on footwork and basic strikes to the head ("men") and wrist ("kote").

The most interesting element of the training is something I've only witnessed thus far, due to my lack of experience and equipment. Sparring, shown in the video clip below, is an aspect of Kendo that triggered my Krav Maga brain.

When sparring, a Kendo practitioner faces the opponent, making minor stepping adjustments to improve fighting distance. When a party senses the time is right, he or she explodes across the floor, striking the head, throat, body, or wrists. The "thwack" of bamboo upon a helmet is unlike anything I've heard before. It seemed that if one party loses focus, for even a fraction of a second, it can give the opponent just enough time to enter and score a point through devastating contact.

This vision of watching opponents move from "zero to 60" appealed to my Krav Maga instincts. In September I was fortunate enough to participate in KMG's Combat Mindset class, taught by Master Eyal Yanilov himself. As I wrote in my blog, Mr Yanilov demonstrated using triggers to "switch on" the burst of violence needed in a violent confrontation. I believe Kendo practitioners must develop this same capability in order to deliver successful attacks.

I recognize that Kendo is not the same as Krav Maga. Kendo is a combat sport where participants score points awarded by judges. However, the focus and combat mindset appeals to me as a Krav Maga practitioner. It's more than just the tension of confrontation, though -- it's the decision to strike and the explosion of energy that resonated with me!

Have other activities had a similar effect on you? Do you cross train to achieve similar results?

See my video below for a sense of what I'm describing here!

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Peter Lorge Smashes Sun Tzu Myths

Martial artists, especially those in Asian systems, are likely to hear about Sun Tzu and his so-called "Art of War" manuscript. Beginning with the 1989 movie Wall Street, it's been fashionable for leaders of all types to quote the general and his most famous book. What do scholars of Chinese history have to say about it?

I learned several answers to this question last year at the first Sun Tzu conference, organized by Thomas Huynh. I enjoyed the event, but in this post I want to share my notes from the talk by Peter Lorge. Dr Lorge is the author of the incomparable Chinese Martial Arts history text, probably the best academic book ever written on the subject. (See Ben Judkins' review.)

Peter made many statements about Sun Tzu and his text which did not sit well with the audience, so they make for interesting reading here!

First, Peter does not believe Sun Tzu existed as a discrete individual. He doesn't believe Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching, existed either. Peter believes they are composite figures, an assembly of historical individuals and their works. Similarly, the "Art of War" is a composite text. It was never written as a single book. The Art of War is considered one of the seven military classics, but one of those "classics" is an 11th century forgery. Apparently it didn't sit well with Chinese leaders back then to have "only" six classics, so they invented a seventh.

Peter reinforced the point that I learned in Dr. Andrew Wilson's course that the title of the book is really "Master Sun's Military Method" (孙子兵法 sun-zi-bing-fa). None of the eleven commentaries were written by generals. Rather, intellectuals likely wrote them. Most pre-modern generals in China were illiterate. Therefore, they did not read the book. Today, Western generals are more likely to talk about the Art of War than their Chinese counterparts. Sun Tzu was popular is China when they were losing battles in the 1920s, but that was the height of its popularity in the Chinese military.

Although many interpret the book's message as implying the superiority of an "indirect method," the Chinese don't focus on this concept. The book's core message is that one must use force carefully, because war is costly. This is a result of the book likely being composed during the Warring States period (475-221 BC), with commentaries written during the 3rd century BC.

Today, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) says the key message is "be cautious," and they believe that no small military force ever beat a larger military force. Although the PLA talks about so-called "Assassin's Mace" weaponry that would give smaller forces an advantage, in the end they believe in size -- hence their ongoing military build-up. Peter noted that China excels in building empires, while the West does not. Why? The Chinese are experts at using force.

Peter is currently writing a four volume history of Chinese strategic thought. Because he can read and speak Chinese, and has written several texts on Chinese history and strategy, he is uniquely qualified to do this work. He is also a martial artist, practicing BJJ in Nashville. I look forward to reading his next books and I hope to see him speak elsewhere in the future.

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Martial Arts Year in Review

2016 was the year I returned to the martial arts. Beginning with my third class on January 20th, I started a training journal. Thanks to these notes, Google Calendar, and a collection of certificates, I can assess how much time I spent training last year. In this post I'd like to capture some statistics on my 2016 journey.

Krav Maga

My first ever Krav Maga class at First Defense happened on January 6th.

Prior to my P-1 test in April, I participated in 32 formal Krav Maga classes.

Between my P-1 test and my P-2 test in September, I participated in 58 Krav Maga classes.

After my P-2 test and through the end of classes on December 22nd, I participated in 54 Krav Maga classes.

That is a total of roughly 144 hours of regular Krav Maga classes.

In addition to regular classes, I participated in several seminars and camps. In July I participated in two Krav Maga seminars at the Martial Arts Super Show taught by Mr Eyal Yanilov, totaling 5 hours. Later that month I participated in a 2 hour hostage rescue seminar at First Defense.

In September I participated in a 3 hour third party protection seminar taught by Mr Yanilov, a 3 hour seminar on fighting skills and tactics taught by Mr Yanilov and Jovan Manojlovic, and a 25 hour, three day specialist course titled Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning.

In October I participated in a 3 hour seminar on Krav Maga for handling road rage, carjacking, and related automobile scenarios. In November I spent another 25 hours, over three days, at the fall P and G camp, followed by a 2 1/2 hour weapons disarm seminar later that month. My last seminar happened in early December, when I spent 4 1/2 hours learning firearm management.

These special Krav Maga events totaled 73 hours.

Combining regular classes and special events, I formally trained Krav Maga for 217 hours, one third of which was seminar time.

Other Martial Arts

In addition to Krav Maga, I trained in several other venues in 2016.

In June and July I enjoyed 6 hours of private Kali instruction with Mr Jim Conklin at Trident Martial Arts. Shortly thereafter in July I participated in a 6 hour seminar taught by Guro Dan Inosanto, also at Trident. In August I also enjoyed 15 hours of combatives training involving weapons, groundwork, and striking, taught by Mr Ben Gilbert from Trident.

In June, July, and August I spent time with my old kung fu Sifu, Michael Macaris, and his top instructor, Steve Mulloy. We trained for a total of about 24 hours.

 These non-Krav Maga martial arts totaled 51 hours.

Other Training

Beyond these classes, I tried three complements to martial arts training. In August I spent 8 hours learning a sword-based exercise program called Jungshin Fitness. In September I spent 6 hours in an introductory StrongFirst class learning how to exercise with kettlebells. In October I spent 10 hours becoming a level one Ground Force Method instructor.

These physical classes totaled 24 hours.

Finally, I took two classes to develop firearm skills, taught by Silver Eagle Group. They were each approximately 4 hours, so they totaled 8 hours.


Adding up all of the time I spent in formal training in 2016, the total was approximately 300 hours. About two thirds involved Krav Maga. Less than one sixth involved other martial arts. The remainder involved fitness and firearms.

Looking back, I am very pleased with the amount of progress I made in 2016!

Within the next few days I will post my goals for 2017.

How do you feel about your work in 2016?

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