Get Smart

Everybody should get smart about their training.  The thing about Xmas is the period leading up to it that gives rise to some people to cut down on their martial arts lessons and training when they should be topping up as much as they can before the doors close on you for a couple of  weeks. 

As history has a habit of repeating itself, people worry about what they eat between December and January when it should be the other way round.  It is those two months when people go on a food binge and that's where the problems start.  We can't avoid that but we can do something between January and December, especially, the period leading up to it by working out to counter the influx of calories. You should be training twice as hard and get to every lesson before the doors do a Maxwell Smart on your nose (reference to the famous Get Smart door scene).

Train, train, train, that’s the best advice from Santa.

Kickboxing (boxer learning to kick?)

Kickboxing has come a long way since it first came on the ‘market’.  I was one of the curious ones who went out to investigate, in the mid '80's, and found it was not something that was readily going to convince me to  give away what I was already doing (karate).  What I saw was an amateurish boxer doing a crash course in kicking.  Unfortunately, kickboxing, back then was very primitive, and there was no leading authority to persuade us this futuristic concept especially, in an era, the norm was just to concentrate on the one thing.

Once upon a time if girls were allowed to take up Kickboxing, a typical male chauvinistic response was ‘you’ve got to be joking’, if anybody wanted to do it for fitness, the reply was ‘don’t waste our time’, those who wanted do it for the art and pleasure were laughed at ‘if you’re not going in the ring, then take up crocheting’.  If the attitudes didn’t change there would be less people in the industry and kickboxing would not have progressed to where it is today.  There was also somewhat noteable resistance from boxers and their fans to allow Kickboxing a chance in the arena but Thai Boxing, which was very popular in Thailand and truly developed, kind of pushed Kickboxing in the western world.

The more people in the martial art the further it will progress.  Some schools are too busy recruiting or even trying to create Gladiators at the expense of other students when they should be given just as much attention because, without them, the martial art or school would not exist.

More than just a Party

Another year is almost over and we had just celebrated the 2011 BKJ Martial Arts Xmas and Presentation last Friday night.  What was different about this one was not all students were from Budoshinkai Karate; we also had our kickboxers, students from BJJ, and persons from the fitness classes (all under the BKJ Martial Arts banner) – all in all, 130 people in attendance.

Special guests included Professor Rob Naumoski (Roots BJJ), Shihan Rob Janceski of Ryu Bujitsu Kai, Sensei Mark Szalajko (of Narellan BKJ and Bujutsu Martial Arts) and Sensei Roland Winter (and his black belts) of Zen Do Kai Karate. 

It was a beautiful evening with everybody together at a great venue for a 3 course meal.  There were no complaints, only compliments (too many emails and sms’s to reply to), so thanks to everybody if I missed out anyone.  The speeches summed up what we were all about and saw selected students being presented with one of the extraordinary awards, however, those who did not receive one of these were given a special award instead because they, too deserved, recognition on the evening.  There’s nothing better than a student walking up in front of guests, friends, instructors and families and accepting an award in this environment; it's also about the experience.  The atmosphere was spellbinding.

Our entertainment was full of surprises with my son, Jonathan, taking the stage with his sister, Marcia, and keeping everyone attentive and amused (I just don’t know how they just come up with these things).

At one stage when we had a large number of students standing up front (see pic), I took a few steps back to have a look and told the crowd I just wanted to see what it looked like with so many students standing together.  My final comment, on the night, was telling students to train till the very end of the year because that’s what we martial artists do.

BJJ for Black Belts

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), to a number of other martial artists, may be controversial because of the nature and complexity of the art.  Nevertheless, if Kickboxing rose to the occasion despite the failed attempts by the traditional and classical martial arts to obstruct its propagation, then it seemed likely that BJJ and MMA would also take their rightful place in the martial arts industry.  Today, armbars and chokes appear to be on everybody’s mind.  You only have to look at the demonstration events at open martial arts tournaments, everybody's doing them although feeble attempts. Kickboxing and BJJ are only a small part of the martial arts world but it is worthy to note these particular arts had to fight for their claim to fame in an already established industry. 

The popularity of MMA has prompted many people to take up BJJ, or even Kickboxing, which may has caused concern for many Instructors of other martial arts to re-evaluate the future of their school.  The difficulty for many Black Belts is making the decision to cross over that line.  BJJ requires many hours of hard work and a black belt is not given out lightly and only some will ever get one.  In terms of skill and the hours spent, a blue belt in BJJ is equivalent to a brown belt in karate; a purple belt is equivalent to a black belt in karate (now that’s tough).  In most BJJ schools you have to fight for your belt, usually in competition. This does not undermine other martial arts, far from it. This is just the way it is with BJJ. 

With over 5.5 years of intensive training I may have become a honey pot to Black Belts who are shy to approach a BJJ school fearing what awaits them after they sign on the doted line.  I can tell you it’s like a lamb to the slaughter because the black belt you have been wearing for many years, all of a sudden, can be your biggest nightmare in not being able to live up to your reputation in that environment.  As a Black Belt in Karate I make Black Belts, who want to learn BJJ, feel at ease because I do have a better understanding of them than most BJJ Instructors.

The first thing Black Belts ask on their first lesson is if it OK to wear their black belt.  I remember asking John Will the same thing, which he replied, ‘you can wear whatever you like, I don’t give a shit’ (well said).  On the next seminar, I wore a white belt because I realised I was only going to learn starting from the bottom; if it was good enough for Chuck Norris, Richard Norton, John Will to wear white belt, then it is good enough for me.  When those Black Belts come back after their first lesson wearing a white belt, I congratulate them, ‘you are ready to learn; now we can begin’.  It's about climbing the mountain not being put on the mountain.

Sensei Benny ‘the Jet’ & Kyoshi Norton

Looks like I have been slowing down between blogs lately.  I am not too sure whether the full time centre is taking up much of my energy or Facebook absorbing a lot of my ideas.  How does John Will do it?  He has them coming out on a conveyer belt (to quote, ‘what else am I going to do?).

What a grand time we had with Sensei Benny Urquidez putting a seminar on a recent Sunday (13/11/11) with Richard Norton as surprise guest.  To have two martial arts legends in the same room is a historical event.  Those who were not able to make it will just have to live with it because it is not an easy task to bring the two together.

Apart from the fabulous martial arts content, the incredible talks by Sensei Benny, to the 40 people who attended, were truly inspirational.  He just about sums it up when he talks about dedication, striving for technical excellence, sharing of knowledge and wisdom, respect for everyone and chasing a long life dream in the martial arts.

 Richard stunned me by giving me his original purple belt in BJJ.  (this was given to him by the Machado brothers).  Sensei Benny spoke about, for an Instructor dsto give this to someone, is honourable and very special, ‘the value of that belt is one man’s sweat and history’.   Unfortunately, a little tight for me because I would’ve liked to wear it at seminars but it’s not so much the belt that was important it was the thought behind it and what Kyoshi Richard Norton and Sensei Benny had to say in front of everyone. 

Sensei Benny is still going and is still very popular with 18 seminars in 5 states in Australia.  Sorry, to those who missed out this superb day.  It was really brilliant seeing Richard Norton (a student under Sensei Benny of over 30 years).

Rollercoaster Rides

 For most people, BJJ can be quite an emotional rollercoaster ride because of the many 'highs' and 'lows' one endures during the long and hard journey.  When BJJ students talk about having a great training session it’s usually because they pulled off a submission or two, or maybe just gave somebody a hard fight; that means a ‘high’ for one person and a ‘low’ for the other. 

This type of martial art is particularly made up of these ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ but students need to accept and deal with them without resorting to an emotional crisis and call off sick at work the next morning.  If BJJ is your thing and your only goal is to submit, then you may be gravely disappointed because that may not happen often enough to satisfy your indulgence and you may be missing the whole point of the exercise.  Rolling (a more diplomatic term for wrestling) should be about exploring and discovering where both persons can benefit from it.  It's not about feeding someone’s ego at the expense of the other. 

If you are in this game try helping each other to try something new to experience it under pressure.  One can be the ‘master’ and the other, the ‘student’.  Then they can swap roles. This sort of training is a great self-esteem booster, this is how the professionals do it.  Try it first before you say you don’t like it.

What a Fluke!

If a novice gets a good technique in on a more experienced opponent, it is often called, by many, a fluke. But if you look at it closely it is a case of being at the right place at the right time, and that my friends, is called good timing.  Speed is important but not the only source of success; an integral part of success is timing.  That good timing is not so good for the other opponent and not good for the parachuter (great for the crocs, though).

This got me really thinking when Jean Jacques Machado, last weekend, wrestled everybody at the seminar in Melbourne (JJ is a world class master grappler and teacher).  He did not submit anyone immediately (although he could have) but just rolled around with his opponent until it was the right time to finish them off.  Sensei Benny ‘the Jet’ Urquidez (undisputed world champion kickboxer) has proved to be a master of timing in the ring, countless times, knocking out his opponents with kicks and punches.  All it takes for those techniques to become null and void, if the target is slightly out of focus, the strikes are thrown too quick or too slow or the balance is compromised.

If we can focus our minds on the importance of timing we will be more successful or better off.  This shouldn’t be too hard because we do it everyday in our lives such as mapping our routes and times to avoid traffic.  My last classic case of timing, outside of the martial arts, was the trip to Melbourne, there and back, in one day for the JJ seminars.  Planning time to leave home for Airport, check in, fly across, pick up rental vehicle, 1 hour drive time to location and, after the seminars, do it all over again to make sure I didn’t miss the flight back.  Of course, I allowed time in between, should anything happen such as traffic, vehicle breakdown or any other misadventure; that extra time and planning was my insurance if my timing was out which might make some sense to anyone in their martial arts training.

Checkers or Chess?

A lot of people shy away from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu because of the difficulty and that is quite understandable  because complexity it is not for everyone just like chess is not for everyone.   But the people who do play chess are a special kind of breed in that they like challenge and strategy, and enjoy the involvedness of the game.  Ask a chess player if they would like to play checkers (a very simple game and probably an insult to chess players), you will get the same reaction by asking a BJJ player if they prefer to build sandcastles.

Martial arts in their entirety are very complex but that’s what keeps our interest going because of the never ending research and experimentation.  I often advise martial arts instructors to take up and train BJJ and then decide, after 5 years, whether they should continue or not. Not the other way around ie think about it for 5 years and then take it up.  That way, they don't waste those youthful years.  That applies to anbody in any martial art, of course.

Every martial artist develops their own techniques, strategies and solutions to their problems just like  a chess player.  These are life skills and what better way to help the young find their way into the big world.

Play the Stock Market

This blog is particularly meaningful for the BJJ martial artist but hopefully interesting reading for everybody which can relate to Kickboxers as well.  ‘Death type matches’ in BJJ are no different to mates wrestling in a school yard where nobody learns anything except for demonstrating who has the highest testosterone level. In many BJJ schools (including my own), people will do almost anything to avoid tapping out regardless if their arm is ready to snap in half.

Use this analogy; if somebody is holding a hot rod right up against your face and you know it’s only a matter of time before it makes contact with your skin, why would you not concede defeat and tap out early?   So why do many people turn blue in the face before tapping out?  Blame it on the ego, I guess. Being submitted does not mean being defeated. The idea of ‘rolling’ (wrestling) is to ‘give and take’ (famous words from Sensei Benny), which otherwise, potentially somebody is going to get hurt, or at least hurt their ego.  The best deal is to slow it down a bit and save the extreme aggressiveness for the arena if you want to see what you are made of.

Think of the Stock Market.  Experienced people do not go in ad hoc.  Smart stock market investors carefully analyse situations to get the best possible results.  Students need to do exactly the same if they want the best results.  The point is you are investing time, money and effort so why not train BJJ wisely.

Welcome to the Family

The martial arts industry is more like a martial arts society where people meet and share a mutual passion.  What a great way for humans to get together and form friendships and help each other.  I remember when I started BJJ (5.5 years ago), Australia’s International Cage Fighting icon, Elvis Sinosic, said to me, ‘welcome to the family’.  That I have not forgotten and I now regard all my students and other close martial arts colleagues as family.  The Father of Karate in Australia, Hanshi Tino Ceberano, always addresses me as his little brother.

I look at our karate kids and often think about them as individuals and I make an effort to greet and speak to them as often as possible; that’s the way I would’ve liked to have been treated when I was young but we were brought up differently in the martial arts when I first started 37 years ago.  Sitting at a restaurant with some of the students recently, I was really admiring the view and thinking; ‘all these people here together tonight is a result of my passion and dedication’.

Exploring the other arts such as Kickboxing, BJJ, MMA, has further expanded the family.  Even people who I have worked in the Police Force and have not seen for many years or even met, the martial arts has finally brought us together.  I have trained many police over the years and some of them have even made Superintendents; it’s like a family within a family, some still training with me.  It’s an unusual and wonderful feeling meeting up with a number of police officers, on the weekend at Richard Norton’s seminar, wearing gi’s and speaking a language making others shy away from the conversation; that’s just police culture, I guess. 

There's a big family get together at the end of the year (Xmas Dinner and Presentation Night).  I hope to see everyone in the one room on one night.  We always hear the saying, ‘never forget family’.  How true is that in the martial arts!