Archive for August, 2011

Belts as Goals

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Attitude, Belt Test, Belts, Older

At our recent belt ceremony we heard more about what belts mean at our school. The topic of belts is a very touchy one for some and a very engrossing one for others, oftentimes depending on where a person is on the ‘belt continuum’.  Observation has led me to believe that more advanced students claim to think less about belts than newer students. Anyhow, what made this talk interesting was that it gave us another way to think of the belt. Many of us who train in martial arts see the belt as a reward and there’s no doubt that it is indeed that.  But it is actually something more.

The reason that our school grants so many belts when compared to many other Krav Maga schools is that belts are seen as goals.  Our school Master told us that when he first obtained his Black Belt he asked, “What next?”. He had been conditioned over the years to never be satisfied that “that was it”.  He has been training in martial arts since the age of 11 and this is one of the most important lessons he has gained from it: to set goals and always look for the next step — how to improve and get to the next level of greatness.  It’s his and the school’s philosophy that belts provide those incremental steps to get to your ultimate end goal, the Black Belt and beyond.

One analogy he gave us is the old adage of:

“What’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time”.

This is, in his opinion, the way to achieve the long-term goal of Black Belt. And what better way to do it in martial arts than defining belts that are not strung out by many months. One could argue that belts separated by a longer time interval serve the same purpose, I suppose. What is truly the difference between a belt being granted every 3 months vs. every 12 months, right? I think, as a matter of personal preference, that the difference is there and appreciate the smaller increments.  Again, to paraphrase, the school Master said if he were to set out to lose 20 pounds in 2 months he wouldn’t make that his only goal. It’s too big and tough to measure progress against and could be frustrating and overwhelming. Instead he would first figure that he’d need to lose 10 pounds a month, which means 2.5 pounds a week.  This is how the Black Belt journey is subdivided.  Assuming the average student requires 4 to 6.5 years of training to achieve that level of mastery and proficiency, the journey is divided by rough intervals by belts (and some of the belts further divided by stripes).

In the end, the belt to us now looks a little different. Yes, it’s a measure of our experience and time spent training.  But now, thanks to that talk, we can now recognize it for something even greater — a tangible goal that we can aspire to attain through hard work and dedication every day we spend in class.

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Let’s Talk Equipment

Posted: August 8, 2011 in Equipment, Older

This post is all about the stuff that will keep your injuries to a minimum.  I’ve seen and talked with people who show up to class without owning/wearing some key equipment and see their reactions when they are injured in class.  Baffled, moaning in pain, and — at that moment — utterly convinced that they need to make an investment in some more gear.

I am pretty sure there would be a fair amount of debate over what gear is essential vs. optional so I’m not going to go there.  This post is about what I use and some of my rationale as to why it matters to me.

The Cup
If you are a female reading this post you can safely proceed to the next item in the list (unless you have a male partner in training who hasn’t yet “seen the light” on this piece of equipment — believe me they will once they get clocked in the nuts once).

Oooooooofff!

This, to me, is the most critical of all protective equipment for guys.  I was stupid enough to show up to my first several classes without owning or wearing one, ignorantly believing that it was something you needed to invest in only when you started sparring.  Dumb. Fortunately for me, I never got beaned in that area so I was one of the lucky ones.  I did, however, become aware of this mistake when an instructor told us about the importance of one in class.  I found the time to order one online the moment I got home.  The HELL was I thinking?

Anyhow, as I found out, there are many brands to choose from but startlingly they haven’t changed shape since I wore one as a kid playing football.  Same awkward pyramid shape which gives you the least amount of room where you need it most.  Leave it at that, ladies. I went ahead and ordered the most highly-rated one anyhow (the Shock Doctor Men’s Ultra Supporter with Ultra Carbon Flex Cup) and wore it to my next few classes.  It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t going to be the most comfortable form of protection I was going to own.  I immediately went searching and eventually found a standout cup that had rethought the whole notion of a cup, the Nutty Buddy.

My Nutty Buddy made a huge, huge difference and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a cup.  Super comfortable and its design allows for you to slip in or remove the cup while you’re wearing the jock strap, making the drive to and from class even more comfortable. You should know that the customer service was non-existent and the order status on the site was completely broken but I got mine in a week in perfect condition and have been liking it a lot since.

Note: you don’t have to buy the compression shorts from Nutty Buddy.  There is nothing unique about theirs and I think you can find cheaper ones elsewhere that are actually machine washable.  Champion is a good brand to seek out for these.

By the way, you can check out my other blog post, Never Without a Cup, for more details and thoughts on cups.

Ankle Supporter Wraps
I was finding that my ankles were turning during sharp turns and could use some more support during some of our bouncing around.  I got my hands on some Muay Thai ankle support wraps (more like heavy elastic socks with the heels cut out really) and have felt a lot more confident in class as a result.  I have big ankles and calves and these tend to really hug me tight but so far my feet haven’t turned purple and the benefit outweighs the slight discomfort so I’m sticking with them.

421R Brace

Knee Brace
Clearly not needed for most people but I have had a history of knee problems starting about 20 some-odd years ago when I dislocated my right knee and subsequently tore my MCL.  I was having a heck of a time with knee pain after class and a trip to my doctor (and an X-Ray later) I found out I have arthritis in the knee.  Anyhow, a good OTC patella knee brace from McDavid (the 421R, Protection Level II for me) really did the trick.  Yes, I can still tweak my knee but this little neoprene wrap does wonders to supply a little stability and keep me aware that danger lurks beneath if I’m not very careful.

MMA gloves

Gloves
This is somewhat of a “luxury item” and some folks in class wouldn’t bother with them as it detracts from the tough image they are trying so hard to cultivate in class.  Nevertheless, I found that during partner routines when bag holding was needed, these gloves have saved unnecessary injuries to the ol’ hands and made it easier to keep control when I am disgustingly sweaty, which for me is pretty much all the friggin’ time.

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Venum Gloves

There are loads of MMA gloves to choose from.  Ultimately you want a pair that fits right for you and everyone’s unique. How do you strike on your hands? Where is the greatest area of impact. Do you like a lot of padding? How hard/soft do you prefer your padding? Do you like open or closed palms? Do you like short of long sleeves on your fingers? These are just some of the things to consider when fitting a pair. I like Venums and Ring to Cage myself.

Spray Bottle
A spray bottle?  Yeah, just a regular old spray bottle filled with water and maybe an ice cube or two if you’re into that.  Works wonders during those super-quick hydration breaks in class.  Just close your eyes and spray your overheated noggin liberally.  You’d be surprised what a refreshing break this can make.  And, hey, in the Summer the dojo can be insanely hot and humid; I need all the help I can get!

Good Gym Bag
I think it’s essential to have a really good gym bag with loads of compartments.  This keeps all your stuff in an easy-to-find location and allows you to get to it quickly.  You should find one with pockets for your keys, wallet, gloves, water bottle…. that kind of thing.  Also, if you can find one with ventilated compartments for wet towels and shirts — even better.  I see so many people show up without gym bags, juggling their stuff as they come and go to class.  Just seems like a real unnecessary hassle to me when a decent gym bag is between $50 and $100.

IMPORTANT: Err on the side of getting a bag too large rather than too small.  You’ll be hauling a lot of equipment to and from class like boxing gloves, chest protectors, shoes, towels, etc. You want to make sure you don’t need to cram things into the bag because you went too small.

Sandals
I have heard stories from friends and parents of students of ringworm.  Gross.  Despite the name this is actually a super nasty fungus called Dermatophytosis that you can pick up, often in the feet, from a sweaty gym surface — like a mat or shower floor.  It’s pretty easily cured but a really uncomfortable condition to have. Even the cleanest of dojos/gyms can have this danger so I protect myself as much as I can by wearing sandals in the common areas.  I have to take them off, of course, when I enter the training area but when I show up and am walking around prior to and after class I always slip on sandals to keep as safe and protected as I can.

I handle mine carefully when I remove them since it’s safer to assume that there are germs on the sandals.  I wipe them down occasionally with Lysol wipes or spray them with Lysol spray.

Mop-Up Towels
If you are serious about training you will sweat — and sweat a LOT.  I find it’s helpful to have a towel or two handy for a couple of reasons.  One, to clear the sweat from my eyes (stings like a bastard) and two, to mop up the mat where I have been creating a pond of sweat.  Not only courteous but also safe (see Sandals above). To perhaps state the obvious here, these are two completely separate towels!

Hand Sanitizer
One thing you can be sure of in Krav Maga and that is that you will be handling other people’s sweaty bodies during the course of any class.  Whether it’s a clinch, a throw, or choke maneuver, you will be getting their sweat and germs all over you, particularly your hands.  Once class is over you most likely put your shoes back on then head back to your car.  Germs find their way onto your keys, steering wheel, and everything else.  Not to sound like I have OCD or anything but this is how germs spread.  Better safe than sorry (and decrease the gross factor), you can zap these germs with some hand sanitizer, Wet Ones, or even a trip to the rest room for a quick wash before leaving the dojo for the night. I actually think dojos should have those dispensers hanging on the walls but hey, maybe that’s just me…

That’s about it.  I am not a fan of over-equipping myself but I’ve learned that this stuff makes all the difference between a painful workout and a comfortable and SAFE workout. My advice is: don’t skimp on this stuff.  Overall, this is an inexpensive sport as far as equipment goes and you might as well make the investments to keep safe.  I am not yet into sparring though when I am you can bet I’ll be buying a good quality mouth guard.  For now I am on the fence about that as it really isn’t warranted quite yet.

Last note: keep this stuff CLEAN.  Don’t cheat and wear equipment for weeks if it should be washed (i.e., jock straps, braces, wraps, etc.).  You won’t be doing anyone any favors if you are wearing these Petri dishes to class and getting germs all over you and the dojo (again, see the note about ringworm in Sandals).

Pain is Temporary

Posted: August 6, 2011 in Inpirational

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

Lance Armstrong