Drunk as a Skunk

Just taking a little advice from John Will about drinking half bottle of scotch before wrestling.  Not too good in my line of work if I have to go to work the next day.  I get the picture now – just pretend to be drunk.  Well, after a back injury, you don't have much of a choice, because going hard is out of the question.  This has turned out to be good for me. Lately, I seem to be holding my ground much better and I'm getting the submissions effortsly.  

One morning, I got two of my students to wrestle with each other, one go hard and the other go soft.  I wanted to put my money on 'go soft'.  Luckily for me, I didn't get my bets in on time.  They both ended up in an arm wrestle with nobody getting the submission.  I said to 'go soft', "you should always stay relaxed even if it means getting tapped out 1,000 times.  In fact, keep count.  At some stage up to 1,000 you'll start tapping them out.  If this doesn't work, get yourself a back injury". 

Richard Norton said, 'wrestling with a BJJ master is like wrestling with an empty jacket'.  I laughed because I thought he's being funny again, as he usually is, but what a great analogy!  The master, is like an empty jacket, offering no resistance nor using strength, but relies on pure technique.

John can now travel lighter and leave those bottles of scotches at home.  I've got a few rough looking jackets around the house which I think I might just take on!  I wonder how an empty jacket taps out, Richard.

Haste makes Waste

Haste makes waste ie 'quickly doing things results in a poor ending'.  Most of us by now know learning is a relatively slow process.  It typically takes years to earn a Black Belt, it also takes years to finish schooling  'hurry up and grow'and years to earn a degree etc.  If you're not patient enough then you are one of those persons who will get upset if they cannot see the grass grow.  If you're patient enough you will eventually get results so you shouldn't despair when things don't seem to be working out for you on partciular days whether it be in the martial arts or at regular school.  The 'grass will grow' as long as you put some work in!  Sometimes, if you have high expectations then expect to see the frustration set in.  Some people just need a little more time than others to get to the fnish line.  

Learning is a like a sinewave.  It has its ups and downs.  There is no such thing as a perfect day, every day, but that does not mean you don't step out of your front door if the weather is a bit cool.  The same goes when you have your bad days in training; nobody's an exception.  Sometimes, learning may appear to be too slow because the other 'guy' is moving faster than you, giving you the perception that you're too slow.  It's just that the other guy is moving faster than you.  

'Slow' is not necessarily a bad thing; Hanshi Tino Ceberano has said it many times, "Slow to learn, hard to forget".  That sounds like me; I'm actually better at the things that took me a little longer to learn. 

Don’t Fall Head over Heels

My approach to martial arts is one of curiosity ie why we do things in a certain way and what is  the benefit of doing them that way.  I like to investigate because I am not always satisfied by some of the explanations, and there may be further reasons.  For example, why do we do Jiu Jitsu rolls and breakfalls?  You might expect, 'in case you get thrown on the ground', and that's great in class which gives your opponent, a number of opportunties, to practice their takedowns or throws without you getting hurt.  Is that the only use?

If any martial artist believes that they can do any of these classy rolls and falls on a hard surface in real combat, they should think again!  If you end up in a clinch it would be difficult to be able to do any of these especially with hands tied up.  It's even more difficult when you're not expecting to take to the ground so you would be caught by surprise thus not executing the fall as you do in class.  Your skills also do not guarantee you will not hit the deck if you're up against a good adversary.  So the point of practicing the rolls and falls should see you better off than your opponent by taking the fall the best way possible making sure you protect your head and back.  

This training helps students conquer the fear of falling down and to be better off than the 'other guy' who might not know anything at all.  Anyway, you'll eventually see everything will fall into place!

What a Weekend!

Another glorious weekend with Richard Norton over the last 3 days in Sydney.  Our first stop was, Joe Ingrati's gym, (Friday morning), for a private, then off to my place for some good coffee and rest.  The evening was a Reality Based seminar at Robert Janceski's school; This is well over my 10th seminar of this type and I am still amazed how much more I have picked up.  It was great to see the really dedicated students, from my school, turn up including those who came from the ACT and Qld.  Saturday was a BJJ seminar (you can see the tired look on Wayne Miller with arms folded - happy with Plan Cpeople's faces after 3 hours). 

On Sunday it was off to Wayne Miller's school at Wilberforce which was a first time for Richard to do a kids' seminar.  He did a terrific job!  A DVD of Richard's film clips was to be screened on the overhead projector but Plan A failed, so did Plan B.  As it turned out Wayne had Plan C; we all went into the carpark, out in the freezing cold, and viewed the clips from the DVD player in Wayne's car.  Richard kept on about over the weekend how you need back up plans (in the martial arts) if the first one fails.  It appears Wayne was paying attention.

We had a lot fun and a lot of laughs.  Richard was hammering me all weekend, about my blogs, and wondered how did I ever have time to turn up to the seminars!  He's a funny man but he is undoubtedly the best ever martial artist on earth.  At least he will make a great stand up comedian if he ever decides to give up the martial arts.

Many thanks to all those who supported and attended, especially Robert Janceski and Wayne Miller who hosted Richard at their schools.  Some of us were in a little pain like Richard with his shoulder, me with my back, Robert with his knee and Damien also with his knee (awaiting for knee surgery but still came down to train).  No use whinnying about it!

Watch my Back

 A quick look at my version of 'Watch my Back'.  Although martial arts is an individual sport/activity/discipline, the fact is you need people to help you through many of the difficulties and obstacles.  I can relate this to my recent back injury payalyzing me for almost 2 months and not being able to go to bed.  On the couple of times I fell asleep, I woke up in the middle of the night, screaming in pain, holding back my vocal chords so I would not wake up the family. 

I was facing a new difficulty and I also needed people to help through this.  They included my Black Belts and friends, in particular, our senior Instructor, Dr Chris Tsolakis who encouraged me each day.  Even the small talks with Richard Norton and John Will helped by sharing me their experiences with similar episodes.  It kind of gives you extra that encouragement because you're made to realise it's not going to last forever. Mind you, there are people worse off than me so I kind of looked at this as a minor set back.

This is not the first time I've experienced agony.  Each time it's my family and martial arts friends that pulled me through.  They say 'there's never is a doctor around when you need one', I didn't have any problems with Dr Chris!  Martial Arts Instructors have a sense of responsiblity and strong will to return to the 'arena' (we're like Gladiators).  I'm back training and teaching (what a great feeling to be amongst students again).  However, I still have more yards to do before I can do cart wheels again!  Nevertheless, it is a good sign when my GP has signed off recommending I be returned to full operational duties.

If you didn't like my story, you can have a look at Geoff Thompson's book. 

Chinese Whispers

Trust but verify.  This is a phrase I quite often use.  We often place a certain amount of trust in people.  Most of the time you trust your family and close friends and then there are the people you'd like to trust.  I expect most students trust their Instructor, otherwise, they wouldn't be training with him or her.  But verifying is not necessarily about trying to find out about people telling untruths, it is about whether the material presented to us is absolutely correct.  Whilst we place trust in what is shown and taught to us we need to approach our martial arts in a scientific way by verifying the information.  Knowledge can sometimes be distorted or may be somebody else's version of the facts.       

There are many ways information can be distorted. Those who have not heard of 'Chinese Whispers' it is a game where the first player whispers a  phrase or sentence to the next player.  Each player successively whispers what that player believes they heard to the next.  The final part of the game is when the last player announces it to the entire group which is significant different from the first.  If everybody believes what they hear is exactly what the other person has heard then we may be misled.  This illustrates how martial arts techniques can be tarnished if subjected through the same process from one person to another. 

Trust can be a lesson in life if it misleads individual(s).  However, you need to trust and you need to be trusted, that's what separates us from the animals.  You don't need to be paranoid, there are people in the martial arts who you have complete faith in because they have earned your trust.  If you are not sure … you can always verify!  Trust me on this one.


How Fast are you Going now?

Sparring and wrestling in the martial arts can get quite intense especially with novices who  might rely on strength because lack of knowledge and technique.  It can get quite competitive just for the sake of satisfying egos.  The experienced martial artist should be past this stage but it may take years for most people to really understand that relaxation is the key to success.

People relate power with strength when it should be based on speed and technique, power being the by-product.  We have to keep reminding ourselves POWER = MASS x ACCELERATION so it stands to reason the muscles must be relaxed to maximise speed, however, many of us already know this but fail to preach it.

Sparring and wrestling should be done at a 'slower pace so you can make conscious decisions' (thanks, Richard).  This can give you a chance to learn and apply as many of your techniques whilst getting feedback from your opponent.  You can get into 20 rounds and still get up and go to work the next day!  I have never seen a professional boxer or kickboxer spar anything near as hard as they do in competition so it does not make much sense when students are just going all out.  BJJ coach and friend, Steve Perceval made a very valid point about wrestling 'what's the point of doing competition if you are going to go that hard in class'?    BJJ and full contact Karate can be a playground of frustration if the environment is too competitive.  I have to keep reminding students there are no 1st place prizes.   

To improve sparring (wrestling), relax and slow it down.  World class experts recommend sparring/wrestling be done at a slower pace on a 'give and take' basis.  John Will uses the 'half a bottle of scotch' theory before you wrestle.  You will then have no choice but to be relaxed before a roll.  However, I don't suggest anyone turn up to class smelling like a brewery.  Remember, no one thinks big of you if you go fast!   

A Dead Ringer

Sorry for the blogs which have been coming one after another but here's a change from my regular which I am sure you will find very interesting.  Most  people have heard the phrase, 'Graveyard Shift'.  This is how it originated:

In the 1500's England was running out of places to bury people so they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer." 

I found this quite fascinating but what's more, is every Instructor was absolutely astounded when I told them this.  The students now know that Instructors don't just talk about martial arts, they also drink good coffee!  Pleasant dreams!

Music to my Ears

Put a Martial Arts Instructor in front of an orchestra and there's your Meistro.  An  Instructor and a Meistro compare quite similar; both viewed as gracious characters who have control and instruct musicians/students.  They also have the power to change and control the mood and pace in the room.  The musicians would be lost without a Meistro and the martial arts students would not do too well either without an Instructor. 

It's difficult to give your undivided attention to a speech on low volume and single tone of voice.  It's as exciting as a 'B' grade black and white movie.  You can't expect too much from the students with an Instructor using a monotone voice and the volume turned down.  For the students to be on full alert the Instructor has to be in the right mood.  I find sharp counts and a varying voice gets this mood and pace going.  Using the hands like a Meistro will also help.  That's what you call being a 'hands on' Instructor.  

If you ever get a chance to see a Meistro in action have a look at the way he or she controls the orchestra.  Music can vary from loud, soft, quick, slow, explosive to dead silent, all from the wave of the Meistro's hands.  If students can move gracefully like dancers do to music that's what I would call 'music to my ears'.   

I’ll Take on Anybody!

 I'm always up for a challenge.  It doesn't matter who walks in the door, a good Instructor should be able to take on anybody!  We welcome male or female, young or old, fat or thin, strong or weak, tall or short, disabled, mentally challenged, deaf or even blind. It doesn't matter what religion, race, culture, beliefs, marital status, sexual preferences etc, they're all good to go (ie become martial arts students); that's my way of showing respect to everyone and acknowledging how special some of these people, with disabilities, really are by taking up the martial arts.  I've had a 60 year old train with me for a few years and I always made him feel welcome because it was such a pleasure having him around. 

Most Instructors will usually have no problems teaching their art but how many would really be prepared or confident enough to take on a 'not so typical' walk in.  Now that would be a real challenge!   Only recently one evening, I realised one of my students could not execute a particular movement.  He actually came up to me and nervously said it was because of his bad knee.  I said, 'we will improvise and not to worry about it, there are thousands of techniques to do, so I seriously doubt this would affect his ability to learn martial arts.'  I think this was the right answer because a sign of relief showed on his face.  That was only a small challenge. 

Every student has a right to be at any martial arts school they choose so it is important for the Instructor to know that every student should be treated equally.  The Instructor also has to facilitate training for some people who have special needs.  It's an extra great feeling when an Instructor can really make a positive impact on the lives of these special people.  How many Instructors are willing to taken on anybody now?