Let’s Go Live!

If Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has a shape, then it would have to be a sphere because of the almost endless directions and angles the techniques are executed from.  Coincidentally, BJJ students use the word 'roll' when they wrestle which fits that description perfectly.  The thing about BJJ & stand-up Jiu Jitsu is you need a partner to learn and practice the skills – not normally done when training in the more traditional styles which involve movements executed in the air. 

When partnering up, you go 'live'.  This also includes partner work with Kickboxing and Karate.  Your techniques have to constantly adjust taking into account the partner's size, strength, speed and agility.  Students holding pads need to be reminded it is not about one person training only.  They are supposed to be involved with their partner by observing and, if possible, help them along the way.  My Thai Boxing coach, many years ago, told me that I needed to learn to hold the pads if I wanted to improve my skills so that I have a better understanding of the art.  One of my previous blogs makes mention 'if you really want to learn something, then teach it.' 

Going live is not about beating each other to a pulp.  How is anybody going to learn anything if  we revert to caveman mentality in a club belting exercise?  It's about 'give and take'.  Famous World Champion Kicboxer, Benny 'the Jet' always stresses that.  The same said by BJJ professionals – going too soft, nobody is going to learn.  Also, going too hard, nobody is going to learn. 

Next time, don't get a 'shock' when I ask you to teach.

Quick Word – John Will seminar

Great seminar this past weekend with my pal John Will (I call him the QC of BJJ) and I am truly amazed with the response we are getting from people turning up to these seminars lately.  Not forget to mention a special thanks to our ACT Instructor, Damien, who has a following and brought a whole bunch of Ground Fitghters with him. The seminar was absolutely sensational as always. John is absolutely entertaining whilst getting his points across.  He is quite theatrical.

Unfortunately, I could only spectate this time round, and video with my new toy which astounded John who had to have one then and there.  Concerning my injury  I do not have too long to go before I can start sweating again.  I have been given the green by Dr Chris but I am still exercising caution.  I am looking forward to my very good buddy Richard Norton who is coming down on the weekend of 25/26 July, 2009.  We are very fortunate to have access to the best BJJ Instructors in the world. 

It was a really great weekend for all and I, in particular, enjoyed John's company over the time we spent.  There was a lot to talk about.

Have You Got any Change?

Development is basically change which occurs in all aspects of life and technology.  Something good today, will one day in the near future, be improved or  superseded with another.  It’s called progress.  This is a better word because the word 'change' can be quite negative to many people. 

This does not negate that some things need, or best stay, in their original state, eg traditional martial arts or tried and proven techniques.  Many of the modern martial arts have evolved to suit the environment and times.  However, they always pay tribute to the customs (bowing and respect) of the traditional martial arts (that part should not ‘evolve’).  The biggest problem of evolution, in the martial arts, is not understanding the grass roots level where it all began. To evolve is to progress and you need that to start at the very bottom to be part of the evolution process. 

The Muay Thai, I learnt in the ‘80’s, is nowhere near the same taught today; that has evolved and continues to do so.  The same goes for BJJ and MMA.  In fact, we should pay tribute to these arts which have shown us it is OK for any martial art to change (advance). BJJ, in particular, is an incredible art because it is constantly evolving from school to school, and from person to person. 

In addition, the techniques in traditional martial arts, on the surface are also evolving.  Even our karate has undergone some changes by the introduction of new techniques and new ways of training.  This is what makes it exciting.  However, as a Teacher, I frown upon students who amaze me with things I have not seen them do before but can't execute a basic punch correctly.  Progress is also about learning more, not instead of! 

Change is not something people are accustomed to, whether it be work, technology etc. This can also apply to the martial arts.  Changes must be useful and can only occur with an open mind.  Your Instructors have open minds.  Spread your wings and take advantage of everything else we offer.

Guilty until Proven Innocent

How often do we feel like giving training a miss because we couldn't be bothered?  Not many times, I hope.  But  the thought has passed my mind but I always seem to overcome negative feelings when it comes to martial arts.  After missing out 2 months of training, beyond my control, I see how more important it is not to miss out when you don't have to.  I told students, the other night, 'if time or bad weather are your only excuses preventing you turning up to training, then I envy you'.  I wish had that choice right now (but that's about to change shortly).

I  love the look of guilty faces that come into class after their missing person report has been filed.  Whatever, the excuse, it's great to see them again. People, understandably, do go through slump periods but there are consequences to go with them.  Every delay now will mean a longer delay later. I wish there was an easier way out of this!  Some students, feeling guilty, will even punish themselves.  Some time ago, a student called to say he would return to training and admitted another hobby got the better of him (golf on the Gold Coast).  To this day, I am still tyring to work out what he was trying to say, 'if I come to training tomorrow (which was a grading night), make sure you don't grade me'.  He said this several times.  I assured him that was not going to happen.  Well, he didn't show up, ever!  Maybe, he was punshishing himself (he should've let me done it for him).

Training should not be a chore and time should be put aside to ensure you do not miss out classes.  It all comes down to time management. Solutions are better than excuses. 

Don’t Get Cut up Over Nothing

Knives come in all shapes and sizes and are more dangerous than they really look.  Last  week’s 60 minutes programme should have alerted you to these facts.  Knives are readily available, easily concealed and you won't be able to tell who has one by their looks; that’s why it’s becoming increasingly difficult for authorities to detect.  Martial arts training, to defend against bladed weapons, is generally inadequate and not ‘pressure tested’.  Only professional people in the armed forces and law enforcement agencies, who train 2 hours a day, will ever be good at this.  Although there is a lot of good stuff out there, any martial arts training should be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to this risky business.  Because this area of self defence allows no margin for error, it is most important for instructors to seek expert training prior to teaching.  Australian Police Instructors sought their training from Benny Urquidez, many years ago, and have recently updated their training package with Ray Floro.  Both these guys are world reknown experts in the martial arts.

In brief, people who are going to use a knife will usually lunge forward towards the victim's stomach (there will be no ritual as a pro knife fighter who will slash before the kill).  Also interesting to note, the only person who holds a knife with a hammer grip (see pic) with downward strikes is likely one involved in a domestic situation. 

After learning the best from the best it is quite clear these techniques need to be practiced every day (not necessary if your lifestyle doesn't call for it).  Our recently discovered cutting edge technology takes into consideration victims will be on adrenalin overdrive, they will experience tunnel vision, and with sweaty hands are not going to be able to pull the knife off anyone.  Our solution is based on simplicity and reliability.  In the 35 years of martial arts I see this as a major breakthrough (compliments of Victor Matos).  Although so far, so good, I would like to see the system undergo a bit more 'pressure testing', and see what kind of feedback (good or bad) we can get from the experts,  Richard Norton and John Will.  

Just a helpful hint: If you are unfortunate enough to get held up at knife point, drop your wallet  on the ground and run like hell.  They are not going to chase after you if they got what they want!  Even if they do, you have already gained distance by distracting them with the wallet being dropped on the ground.

To Teach or Not to Teach

To Teach or Not to Teach – that is the question.  I’ve recently caught up with Richard Norton, who is recovering from successful surgery on an old shoulder injury whilst in thePete 'Sugarfoot' & Richard Norton at Starbuck's USA.  He told me I might have a chance in the next 'no rules' contest, with his arm in a sling.  I told him he needn't worry because it’s not going to make much difference with my back (lol).  Richard and Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez, (World Kickboxing Champion and Super Martial Artist) have had some interesting discussions about the difference between a Teacher and Coach in the martial arts.  In a nutshell a Teacher is a 'life coach' and mentor.

There are literally 1,000’s of coaches (instructors) and only very few teachers in comparison.  Anybody can literally be a Coach but not everybody can be a Teacher.  A Coach, metaphorically speaking, can be an Instructor who picks up a few techniques from youtube and DVDs.  The problem is, the techniques taught, have not been ‘pressure tested’ ie Instructors don’t have the experience, and real understanding and long term ramifications of them.  A Teacher, should have a comprehensive knowledge of the mechanics and workings of all techniques they teach.  A good Teacher also has a long term plan for the student and not just a quick fix like some of the MMA classes offer (unfortunately, today just about every Instructor claims MMA wisdom without getting suitable training).  A Teacher can also solve problems and answer questions.  Most Coaches may frown upon anybody asking them questions because they might consider it an insult.

Commercial schools tend to offer a variety of martial arts.  Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing, BJJ, MMA, Fitness etc.  I have yet to find a doctor who is also an architect, lawyer, engineer.  I am sure these schools have plenty of Coaches but I wonder how many Teachers do they really have. 

In my opinion, the term Grandmaster title, is misused in terms of its true definition.  If a Teacher is to maintain integrity of their martial arts ability,, they should be willing to keep their ego in check by training with the very best.  I don’t believe they can give themselves such a 'title', it can only be bestowed upon by the very best.  Me, personally, I wouldn't want to be called Grandmaster; it would make feel as if I know everything.  Besides, there are too many of them around!

GA (the Teacher)

All Different Shapes and Sizes

Instructors know it more too well that everybody in the martial arts comes in all  different shapes and sizes.  Age, gender, height, weight, strength, fitness, attitude, mental and physical ability (have I missed any) all have a bearing on the ability to learn, level of performance and results.  Instructors, including students must be made aware of these variables which will be either a hindrance or an advantage depending on what skill they are trying to master.  Speaking from experience, traditional martial arts training often demanded an amost similar physical outcome from each student.  This was achieved by the natural selection of the few who stayed on to get Black Belt.  The rest had to move on.  I remember one of my Black Belt's attitude, in the mid ‘80’ with his students, ‘you’ll never be any good, take up needlecraft instead’.  I don't think that sort of sarcasm exists today.

Martial arts have come a long way since then, encouraging everyone to take up training and Instructors are willing to help students achieve their goals.  This can be done in many ways which does not necessarily has to be solely based on physical attributes.  But having said that, I can’t remember any student who has not impressed me with something they can do better than the other person in the classroom.  It's all about discovery, students will eventually do particularly well in some specific area of their discipline.  I don't know whether they are good at it because they like it, or whether they like it and that is why they become good at it.  Maybe, John Will would like to do a bit of research on this.

Everybody in the martial arts, with time, will gain confidence, and become faster, stronger and fitter, that's the way the body works.  So there is no cause for concern to anyone hoping to achieve their goals. 

You Can’t Handle the Truth!!!

Quite often we see the glamour and excitement of self defence routines usually at tournaments and exhibitions.  They are usually unrealistic and cloud the student’s  perspective on the reality of self defence.  But that is OK if it is done purely for entertainment value and creativity.  However, the opinion of the few Instructors, who are skilled in Reality Based Self Defence, will agree they have a duty of care to their students.  What concerns me is the ‘wow’ look on some of the unwary students’ faces.  The truth is, it is only the most simple and effective techniques with a good base of street knowledge, will work.

Most Instructors are not aware what they teach will actually work in a hostile environment.   Jack Nicholson’s quote from ‘A Few Good Men’ – “you can’t handle the truth” is what I want to say to those who bombard their students with Walt Disney techniques.  This can prove dangerous to the student who believes they are ready to do battle.  God help anybody who thinks they can defend against a knife.  However, the good news is martial arts is not just all about self defence and that is probably why, in this day and age living in a more passive society, most martial arts schools do not have to prove themselves. I don’t believe this blog will offend anyone because I have no doubt evey Instructor believes what they teach will work and that might be the problem.  A good Instructor either has the experience or will seek training from an expert and then might reassess the self defence component of their art.  I, like some others, have the experience, through many misfortunes of coming into contact with bad elements in the past.  Although, this may give me the right to say I am qualified, I still seek training from the experts because there is always more to learn. 

This does not negate the fact we have very good Instructors and schools but I believe the importance of this subject is to ensure students are aware.  Next time you see a demo, enjoy it for the entertainment, and clap as loud you want.  But as far as being practical, ‘if it’s looks too good to be true, then it can’t be true.

‘Elementary My Dear Watson’

What made Sherlock Holmes a famous detetive was his magnifying glass and his  ability to see things, and clearer, than other people.  Martial arts students tend to loathe the basics when shown to them because humans tend to get bored.  But that is all a matter of perspective because, to an advanced student, a basic technique looks a whole lot different to that from a beginner.  In fact, an advanced student probably finds its more exciting because they discover new detail in a basic technique just as a Forensic Scientist sees things which are usually oblivious to  that of an ordinary person unless given a magnifying glass.  For a beginner to appreciate the advanced student’s perspective, they should look at a difficult technique and they will soon realize that it has more than one shape.

As I’ve told students before I can almost write a book on the execution of a punch because to me a punch cannot be explained in one word or move.  Can you imagine how a punch could be explained by a Medical Practitioner in terms of biomechanics, physics, biology? 

I tell students the importance of not missing out class because 'no two classes are the same'.  They might appear the same in terms of presentation but the delivery might be different and this is where students have the opportunity to understand more of what has been shown.  Martial arts is not just about the execution of movements but also understanding concepts and forensically examining detail.