Archive for July, 2011

Yellow Belt Test Passed

Posted: July 30, 2011 in Belt Test, Belts

Great news for me this week.  After many weeks of pounding away and sweating rivers it all paid off.  Most of my class, myself included, passed our first belt test.  Surprisingly I found out that a few students actually “flunked”.  Well, maybe that’s a harsh word, maybe they just hadn’t been at it long enough but word on the street has it that they didn’t get their Yellow Belt following the test.  Bad for them but in a way it makes me feel better that the belt I earned was not just a gimme because I had showed up and did my time.

I am actually going to be vacationing next week which will be nice.  Upon returning I am going to experience my first Graduation Ceremony immediately following my normal class. Apparently the class is a mix of higher and lower belts for socialization purposes so that ought to be nice as I haven’t met anyone in the higher belts yet.

Now, I’m not fixated on the belt by any stretch but anyone who says it doesn’t matter or they don’t care when their next belt is coming is either a Black Belt or a liar. So, yeah, it’s not a small, insignificant deal to me.  It’s a visual reminder that I have put in some hard time and that the lessons are getting through my thick skull.  If all goes according to plan and schedule I am up for my Orange Belt in three months.  Beyond that I will be Purple and moving up to the Advanced class which goes up through Black Belt.  No need getting excited about that yet as the promotion to Advanced won’t be happening for me any earlier than February of next year.

Onward and upward!

A very thoughtful article and well worth your time to read and ponder.

OK, let me start out by saying that I absolutely respect BJJ. BJJ is like chess on the mat, the practitioners have to be very smart and in awesome shape. Most of the instructors at our Krav gym do BJJ with my blessing. We have to be well rounded and know what the heck we are doing on the ground. If my son is going to do only one martial art I would want it to be bjj. There is nothing better for a school yard, one on one fight. What slays me are t … Read More

via United States Krav Maga's Blog

This week’s lesson came to me courtesy of trying to be a nice guy.  Oh, this sounds like an enticing lead, doesn’t it?  Well, before your imagination runs too far afoot let me stop you right there.  Nothing really intriguing led me to this; rather, it was simply taking turns pad-holding and driving knees with a partner.

My partner was a young guy I’ve struck up a dojo friendship with over the past month or so.  He’s a good guy but probably weighs half as much as me and is a good foot shorter. Pairing up for the exercise he expressed concern that I’d knock him through the back wall with my knee strikes as he held the pad but I assured him all would work out.

I was up first with my knee drives and my partner held the tombstone pad, expecting the worst.  I drove a couple home and heard some grunts, leading me to tone down the power a tad. A minute or so later we changed sides and he was up. He drove knees into the pads relentlessly. Good power and focus; I was impressed. I was also getting quite a rib workout too, to my chagrin. My feelings weren’t hurt but it was then that I realized — as nothing stood between me and some high-powered knees but a vinyl covered firm foam pad, looking downward as drops of my perspiration were shaken to mat from my damp hair with each successive and violent impact — that there is no mercy in training.

What I learned is that we’re here to train and these exercises are as much for the pad holders benefit as the student performing the technique.  I have to remember to put my all into it because, in most cases, I’m going to get whatever I’m giving when it comes my turn.

Sure you can’t take this to the extreme. There are some notable size differences between students for sure and putting someone on the Pain Train isn’t what I’m talking about here. In fact, one burly student took it upon himself to go full force with a much smaller female student and ended up sending her to her doctor with bruised ribs. What I am talking about, in general, is that there is no more holding back like that in training when it comes to intensity, no more punches being pulled.  This isn’t ballet and we aren’t knitting hats; we’re learning self-defense and the gloves are off.

In addition to providing classes in Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Jui Jitsu, the school where I train also offers MMA as well.  In fact, there’s a whole other part of the building that is being built out — full-sized ring and all — to accommodate MMA matches.  Kinda cool. Upon hearing of this I, like many other students at school, pictured myself in the ring clobbering and getting clobbered like some Bas Rutten wannabe.  What must that be like? Sounds exciting and, of course dangerous and risky.  Is that something for me?

Former boxer Frank Corti at 71 who beat the snot out of a hoodlum who pulled a knife on him. Image courtesy of Sports Rubbish

This past week, several weeks after first learning about the soon-to-exist MMA ring I was talking with a newer male student to the school.  Big beefy looking character with a strong build and a granite chin. In talking about the school and his experience it came up that he used to fight MMA.  Naturally this led to the school’s plan to build the MMA ring and whether that was something he was considering pursuing.  Though we didn’t compare birth certificates I’d say he was approximately my age. This fact became relevant when he claimed that he wasn’t stepping into any ring at his age and that those days were behind him.

This got me thinking. How old is too old to get in a ring?  Not just MMA but also BJJ competition, boxing, Muay Thai matches — whatever. When are you past your prime and simply asking for a debilitating injury by stepping between the ropes into the ring?

Martial arts has a long history of old masters.  We’ve seen this not only in the movies and history books but also in real-life. You’ve no doubt been to demos and seen wizened old practitioners beat younger students to a pulp. I recall being in a demo in Boston as a teen and seeing an Aikido expert, probably in his 70’s, toss his young strong students around like hay-stuffed scarecrows.  Many lead instructors and grandmasters are also pushing the limit, many in their 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s.  If they can do it in the dojo, is it reasonable to expect similar results in the squared circle?

Having thought about this I would have to admit, from my own perspective, that it’s not altogether likely that the MMA ring is any place for most people over, say, 25 or 30.  Sure there are people who can take it further than that.  Hell, the aforementioned Bas Rutten made a great comeback at 41, didn’t he?

But these, I’m sure you’d admit, are the exceptions to the rule.  The born fighters who are world class athletes and are born for this kind of thing. For normal joes like me — and probably you — I think jumping into the ring will be tempting fate. I think it’s best to focus on the training at hand and train as hard as possible. It’s within this environment that people regardless of age can succeed if they stick with it. Yes, it can be brutal and punishing in its own right. You can still take on some heavy damage and injury but this probably pales in comparison to the kinds of injuries one could sustain in an MMA match going toe to toe with someone half your age.

This week I learned two valuable lessons, which makes up for the last few weeks of not capturing any on the blog.

Lesson 1
My first lesson came midway through a grueling workout, the first since the school’s hiatus last week.  The thought was relayed to us by Sensei as follows:

Imagine your best friend picks you up after class every time to give you a ride home. You go out to your ride and when you get in he starts in with “Why do you do this?  You have no business doing karate!  Look at you — you’re so out of shape!  You can’t even keep up! Check it out; you’re all bruised up!  Those guys are all better than you!  You are hopeless!” and so on. After a while you’d get fed up and say something like, “Hey, man, shut up will you? I thought you were on my side! You’re wrong and you’re pissing me off!  If you aren’t going to be supportive then shut it, you aren’t helping.”

And yet, this is exactly what so many of us tell ourselves in our heads after class. It’s better to focus on what we’ve improved upon and the progress we’re making than beating ourselves up over the negative.

Lesson 2
The second lesson this week was that no altercation ever goes off perfectly and as planned. Sure, you see it in the movies and on TV where the hero pulls off clean moves and TKO’s his opponent but in reality it’s often — rather, almost always — less graceful.  There are missteps, goofs, slips, misses, and only through focus and persistence in the fight will you emerge the ‘winner’.

I know you’ve heard it before.  Heck, if you’ve been training in a particular martial arts style you may be guilty of this yourself. Martial arts style elitism.  Otherwise known as “my style can beat up your style”.  Here’s a fun experiment: go to Youtube and find a video on martial arts.  Go ahead.  Anything. If you are feeling lazy try this one or this one or this one.  Then, go to the comments below and scan them.  Painful, isn’t it?  I wouldn’t recommend doing this too often as studies have shown that frequent reading of Youtube comments can lead to brain damage or dementia.

As human beings, we are hard-wired to take immense pride in groups or clubs we belong to.  When a child is put on one of the four academic teams you’ll see immediate pride in that team.  The team is the best, the other team stinks!  You see it on reality shows like Survivor when teams are broken out by men vs. women or Purple buffs vs. Yellow buffs. It’s human nature to band together and immediately create an “us vs. them” mentality.

I think the same is true with martial arts styles and schools.  Once you commit to a school and a martial arts style you’ve created a baseline perspective, a lens through which you see other styles and schools.  It becomes very personal.  “That style has more kicks than mine”. “That style involves more grappling than mine”.  “That school has more students”. “That school has bigger jerks”.  This is a heated argument that has gone on since the second martial arts style was invented and students learned of each other’s existence.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that most martial artists are male.  And of these, there’s a contingent of testosterone-soaked, pimple-faced braggarts who will always take school/style pride a little too far.  Is BJJ superior to Muay Thai?  Is an MMA fighter the ultimate badass?  Can a black belt in Judo kick a black belt in Karate?  Does School X have lower attrition then School Y?  It goes on and on.

In the end, there is no “best” style.  There are “different” styles, all with their strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, some schools and instructors are better than others — sometimes immensely — so choose wisely.  Looking objectively at it, I think I lucked out with my school and my style.  Is it perfect?  Absolutely not.  There are a couple things I would change or at least tweak a little.  However, Krav Maga has most of the elements I was looking for in a workout routine and martial arts style and my school is clean, close to my house, and fits my needs.  What more could I want?

I think it really all comes down to your goals, your learning style, the make up of a martial arts style and how it blends with your style, and the qualities you look for in an instructor and school.  If you can find good alignment with these attributes I think you’ve done well.  Shut out the naysayers, trolls, buzzkills, and malcontents who are running about banging their style’s gong.  Get what you want out of the experience and quietly smile as the pointless debate rages on.

Krav Maga Demo

Posted: July 6, 2011 in Demo, Video

This is a pretty interesting Krav Maga demo; I thought I’d include it here.  There aren’t too many decent Krav Maga videos out there so when I find one halfway decent I can’t help but to share.

Since our school is closed this week due to Summer break a few students and I met up at the local YMCA which fortunately has loads of pads in one of the aerobics rooms.  They evidently do some kickboxing classes now and then so were equipped with tombstones, focus pads, and punching bags. We knew we weren’t anywhere near qualified to run our own class but it was still a great opportunity for us to work on several techniques we felt needed some work.

The presence of the instructors was sorely missed to be sure, but what I found useful about this kind of workout was the opportunity to slow it down and discuss the techniques with fellow students.  I came to find out that some of the same issues I was having were also common with them.  This was reassuring in a way but it also put some focus on that area as well and let us all know that some more attention to that area was warranted.  It was a good chance to really think about what it was that we were learning and take it at our own pace for a change.  I wouldn’t alter a thing about the intensity that we usually train with but as a rare change of pace outside the dojo this was really an interesting workout.

I can’t wait to get back.  I have some questions to bring back to training next week that, until last night, I didn’t even know I had.  Thanks to the guys for the great workout and some new perspectives on this great martial arts form.

This is an amazing talk by an incredible human being, John Wooden, famous basketball coach legend at UCLA.  There are so many lessons in this talk and the majority of them apply directly to martial arts training.  I pulled a lot of wisdom from this 17 minute talk.  Hope you can too.

For reference, here is the pyramid that is held up in the talk.  It’s useful to print out and keep handy.  Again, it’s surprising how many principles outlined on Mr. Wooden’s pyramid tie directly to work ethic in the dojo.

Where Am I?

Posted: July 4, 2011 in Class

I am a tad over one month into training.  Let’s take a look back and see what’s been covered up to now.  Some of the techniques have been combined at times with others to form combinations.

  1. Left Straight Punch
  2. Cross-Body Punch
  3. Right Uppercut
  4. Hammerfist to Side (with and without pushing/eyes closed)
  5. Forward Hammerfist
  6. Left Hook
  1. Horizontal High Elbow
  2. Sideways Elbow Strike
  3. Vertical Elbow Strike Forward and Upward
  4. Horizontal Elbow Strike Backward
  5. Horizontal Elbow Strike Backward Low
  6. Vertical Elbow Strike Backward
  7. Vertical Elbow Strike Forward and Down
  1. Front Kick
  2. Front Left Kick – Vertical Target
  3. Front Right Kick – Vertical Target
  1. Knee strikes
  1. Front Choke Break (eyes open and closed)
  2. Side Choke Break (eyes open and closed)
  3. Rear Choke Break (eyes open and closed)
  4. Jujitsu Front Choke Break
  1. Muay Thai Front Clinch
  2. Side Clinch with Knee Strikes

Apart from these techniques, there have obviously been many exercises with the intention of conditioning us (read leave us hunched over on our elbows in a puddle of our own sweat, panting madly and strangely entranced by the lint and random hairs that have found their way to the mat).  These have had a large focus on our quads and our core so there have been duck walks, lunges, crunches, planks, etc.  We have also had our share of pushups, sprints, and workouts with 12 lb. medicine balls.

Never a dull moment.  Here’s to another month of intensity!