Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Martial Arts Year in Review

2017 was my second full year practicing martial arts, since my return in January 2016. About a year ago I posted my 2016 Martial Arts Year in Review, reporting some statistics on my training and how I spent that time.

Because I have no official training scheduled today or Sunday, it's time for me to analyze how I practiced in 2017.

For comparison's sake, in 2016 I spent approximately 300 hours in formal training. About two thirds involved Krav Maga. Less than one sixth involved other martial arts, such as Kali, combatives (including my first serious ground work), and Kung Fu. The remainder involved fitness (Jungshin and Ground Force Method) and firearms.

Krav Maga

In 2017 I began my second year of training at First Defense Krav Maga in Herndon, VA. I started the year as a P-2.

Prior to my P-3 test in March, I participated in 50 formal Krav Maga classes. (I had trained 94 hours since my P-2 test.)

Between my P-3 test and my P-4 test in September, I participated in 50 Krav Maga classes.

After my P-4 test and through the end of December, I participated in 30 Krav Maga classes.

That is a total of roughly 130 hours of regular Krav Maga classes, down from 144 in 2016.

In addition to regular classes, I participated in several seminars and camps.

In March I completed the five day, 40 hour General Instructor Course One (GIC1).

In April I completed the five day, 40 hour Kids Instructor Course (KIC).

In May I attended 7 hours of the spring KMG camp.

I September I spent over 3 hours in an instructor seminar.

In October I spent 3 hours in a sparring seminar taught by GM Jeff Smith.

That is a total of roughly 93 hours of special events, up from 73 in 2016. Combined with my formal classes, I spent 223 hours training Krav Maga in 2017, up from 217 in 2016.

In 2017 I spent time as an assistant or as a primary instructor for youth and adult classes. For kids, I spent 61 hours teaching (outside of the classes that overlapped with the KIC.) For adults, I spent 27 hours teaching (outside of the classes that overlapped with the GIC.)

That is a total of roughly 87 hours of instructing, up from 0 in 2016. Combined with my personal training, I spent 310 hours as a Krav Maga student or instructor in 2017.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

I began studying Jiu-Jitsu on January 30th. My last post, Reflections on 100 Hours of Jiu-Jitsu, explains my experiences as of December 16th. Since that post I added 4 more classes, and adding my trial class, I spent 105 hours in formal classes at Professor Pedro Sauer's school in 2017.

I also trained outside of formal classes.

In March I spent 2 hours with Rener Gracie at his seminar in Leesburg, VA.

May was busy: I spent 2 more hours with Rener at his seminar in Baltimore, MD, 2 hours with Royce Gracie in Takoma Park, MD, and 6 hours at Prof Sauer's spring camp. 

In September I spent 3 hours with Rickson Gracie at his seminar in Albany, NY.

In November I spent 6 hours with Henry Akins at his seminar in Atlanta, GA.

Adding these 15 hours to my 105 formal class hours, I spent 120 hours as a student in Jiu-Jitsu in 2017.

Other Martial Arts

I trained in several other venues in 2017. In January I completed an 8 session, approximately 12 hour introductory course on Kendo.

In February and August I participated in two Shuai Jiao seminars taught by Nick Masi, for a total of approximately 4 hours.

These martial arts totaled 16 hours.

Other Training

In February I spent 3 hours with other Krav Maga instructor candidates learning urban defense tactics at Silver Eagle Group.

In September I began practicing Yoga at East Meets West Yoga Center. As of this writing I've practiced 13 hours, but I plan to add a class on Sunday the 31st to end 2017 with 14 hours of Yoga.

This other training totaled 17 hours.


Adding up all of the time I spent in formal training or teaching in 2017, the total was approximately 463 hours, up from 300 hours in 2016.

Removing hours spent instructing, the total is 376 hours, up from 300 hours in 2016.

Only looking at training hours, about 60% involved Krav Maga and 32% involved Jiu-Jitsu. The last 8% involved other martial arts or training.

Looking Forward

As noted earlier this month, I decided to no longer pursue instructor status in Krav Maga. Although I am interested in Jiu-Jitsu instructor opportunities, I do not expect much progress in 2018 due to my low rank. I therefore do not expect to be logging instructor hours in 2018.

I expect a shift towards more equal training time in 2018. For several months I have attended Jiu-Jitsu classes 3 to 4 nights per week, and Krav Maga classes 3 days per week. When possible I try to attend one night Krav Maga class as well. I will probably still train 3 to 4 hours per week in Jiu-Jitsu and 3 to 4 hours per week in Krav Maga. Therefore, the two activities will be more balanced in 2018.

For Krav Maga, I hope to test for my P-5 rank in the spring and G-1 in the fall. For Jiu-Jitsu, I would like to test for my blue belt some time in 2018, although I am not in any rush to do so! 2019 would be fine as well.

How did you spend your training time in 2017? Let me know here on on Twitter!

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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Reflections on 100 Hours of Jiu-Jitsu

On Wednesday night I logged my 100th hour of training at One Spirit Martial Arts, the home academy of Prof Pedro Sauer. We sign into a computer every time we visit the school, so I have a record of my "official" training time there.

My trial class happened Monday January 30th, and my first official class happened January 31st, 2017. At the time of writing, I have a little over 10 months of time at the school. As of Wednesday, I spent 52 hours in Gracie Combatives, 34 hours in Pedro Sauer Fundamentals, 11 hours in open rank classes, and 1 hour each in a Gracie Reflex Development class, a morning open rank class, and an evening "lab" class.

In terms of actual training time, I've spent more than 100 hours doing Jiu-Jitsu in 2017 -- but not much more.  My trial class was an hour. In March I spent two hours with Rener Gracie at his seminar in Leesburg, VA. May was busy: I spent two more hours with Rener at his seminar in Baltimore, MD, two hours with Royce Gracie in Takoma Park, MD, and six hours at Prof Sauer's spring camp.  In September I spent three hours with Rickson Gracie at his seminar in Albany, NY. In November I spent six hours with Henry Akins at his seminar in Atlanta, GA. That's only 16 additional hours.

Realistically I only expect to train 5-7 more hours in 2017, based on the dates Professor's school plans to close. I will end 2017 with roughly 120 hours of Jiu-Jitsu instruction.

Where am I on this path? I'm a white belt, as I expect to remain for a while. In the Pedro Sauer system, we receive up to four white stripes on the black bar. Next, we receive a blue tape bar applied to the other end of the white belt. We can  earn four more white stripes, applied over the blue bar. At that point, we are eligible to be invited to test for blue belt. Because I have my blue tape bar, you might say I'm halfway through this process.

How do I feel physically? I'm still 5'9 (thankfully), but I've lost at least 10 pounds. I weighed a little over 158 at the beginning of the year, and these days I float between 146 and 148 lbs. A cleaner diet is responsible for most of this weight loss, but I do feel heavier on days without Jiu-Jitsu. My muscles and joints feel good, and I'm progressing on my path to stop taking medication for rheumatoid arthritis. I just turned 46 years old, and I feel as good as I ever have. I still need to work on strength, and I have a goal of adding pull-ups to my training program in 2018.

How do I feel about my capabilities? I don't feel completely helpless when rolling, but it depends on the opponent. If I roll with a new white belt, I can be very relaxed while he or she is more likely to be tense and obsessed with strength. Against more experienced opponents, or larger opponents, I'm still in deep trouble. I've recognized that anyone who weighs 20 pounds or more than me is going to be difficult. Guys in their 30s are a challenge, and those in their 20s are killers. I completely agree with the Gracie "Boyd Belt" concept!

I feel like I'm getting the hang of moving my hips. I can recognize more dangerous positions. I can usually identify the point at which I'm going to tap out in a few seconds. I'm much more comfortable just being on the ground! I need a lot of work practicing techniques but I can follow along with lessons much easier than when I started the year.

I'm a much bigger fan of Jiu-Jitsu now than when I started. My favorite aspect of the art is the ability to test everything against resisting opponents. I really like being able to immediately feel that a technique or approach is working or not working. If it's not working, I like being about to make adjustments until it is working. I really like that the system is not predicated on strength, or speed, or explosiveness. I can see myself doing Jiu-Jitsu from now until I am very old.

At the very end of the year I will do another year in review post, as I did for 2016.

Can you remember what it was like to have 100 hours of training under your belt? Let me know here on on Twitter!

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

"Let's See If That's True!"

Last week Professor Sauer taught the mixed level Jiu-Jitsu class Monday night at his school in Herndon, VA. I took the Fundamentals class at 6 pm and decided to stay for Professor's session. We spent time addressing a position Professor had been asked about during his recent seminar tour.

The position isn't that important for this post, but it involved escaping a foe on your back. He has hooks in, ready to apply a rear naked choke. To make matters worse the opponent traps one of your arms, using his leg. We practiced escaping when the opponent traps your right arm.

Professor showed how to escape the situation. Basically, fall to your left side to avoid getting your right arm caught under your opponent. Use your right leg against his right arm to help free your trapped arm. Finish with a variation of the normal curriculum escape to eventually achieve side control or mount.

The end of the instruction had the most impact on me, however. As he has done many times during class, Professor ended by saying "Let's see if that's true!" In other words, go practice the escape. Collaborate with your partner until he learns the motions. Then, start adding resistance. Perhaps you will find that you cannot use the escape, for whatever reason. The point is that Jiu-Jitsu is not performance art. You eventually have to be able to use it against a fully resisting opponent.

We got a chance to do that in the next phase of training. Professor separated the white and blue belts from the other belts. The higher belts took the floor, and Professor told the white and blue belts to take the high belts' backs, trap an arm, and try to choke them. The high belts had to use the new technique to escape the situation.

You could argue that the high belts should have tried their escape against an equivalent belt. I don't necessarily think that's required to make the point. The important element of this experience is that both sides could test the effectiveness of Jiu-Jitsu against resisting adversaries. Each could make adjustments to try to improve their performance.

This ability to work within a "Jiu-Jitsu laboratory," as Professor sometimes says, is one of my favorite aspects of this style of martial arts.

Have you experienced this phenomenon in practice? Let me know here on on Twitter!

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

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Making Decisions

Life is a series of choices. Like the philosophers in Rush said, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." Last month I decided to leave the path towards becoming a Krav Maga instructor. Instead I will focus on progress towards Practitioner 5, and then Graduate 1. At this point I am not sure what I will do after that, assuming I can continue training in Krav Maga and pass the promotion tests for both ranks in 2018. Accordingly I will not open a Krav Maga school in 2018.

Now I'm looking more closely at the path to becoming a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor. I hope to test for blue belt some time in 2018, and perhaps begin the Gracie Instructor Certification program later that year. My home school, One Spirit Martial Arts lead by Professor Pedro Sauer, also offers an instructor certification within the Pedro Sauer Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Association. I do not plan to open a Jiu-Jitsu school any time in the near- to mid-term. It takes at least ten years to earn a BJJ black belt, and I would be happy teaching at Professor's school if he needs the help.

Making these decisions required a lot of reflection and weighing of costs and benefits. One of the factors which encouraged me to change was the opportunity to assist a Federal agency with their cyber security challenges. I've been consulting since leaving my day job with FireEye in March. Through a friend in Krav Maga, I've connected with an amazing company who needs my cyber security expertise. This could be the biggest project I've ever worked, which is why I'm interested!

I encourage you to scrutinize why you train martial arts, how you train, and how you are treated by the people with whom you interact. I think new years are a wonderful opportunity to evaluate where you are on your martial journey, and to make decisions that are consistent with your values and interests.

What are your plans for the new year? Let me know here on on Twitter!

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