Archive for the ‘Krav Maga and Other Martial Arts’ Category

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Warren getting his black belt, with daughter Christine on left.

Similar to most judokas, I started judo when I was quite young, around 10 years old.  I was born and raised in Victoria so I attended the Victoria Judo Club headed up by Sensei Inouye and assisted by Bill Kovitz, Mark Grant, Mark Kendell, and others whom you may or may not have heard of.  Unfortunately I stopped judo when I went to university and then life took over to the point that I didn’t go back to it for literally decades.  That is, until my then 12-year old daughter Christine asked if she could try judo and that inspired me to re-join the community.  However, even though I was in my 50s I wanted to do more than just practice, and although I loved the sense of competition I was realistic enough to know that it wouldn’t be a wise choice to get matched up against others who had continued training all those years that I had not, so instead I chose to get involved by becoming a referee.  Doing so would allow me two things: One, I would be involved in the competition aspect of judo and two, it could be my avenue for giving back to the sport by contributing my time.

When I checked the Judo BC website for info on how to become a referee, I found some guidance as to the high-level process but many questions remained.  However, it became apparent that the first thing I needed to do was to attend a referee seminar.  Fortunately there was one scheduled in the following months so I registered for it and spent 2 days one weekend in the Abbotsford Club, along with several other participants.  It turned out that most people who attended the clinic didn’t actually want to ref, but they were there as coaches wanting more information on what the refs are taught, and perhaps wanting to take the “secret information” back to their clubs to share with their club’s competitors, or perhaps to give them an edge as to what the refs look for (or don’t).  In any case, it was an interesting seminar given that part of the time was spent watching video clips of several high level matches, seeing a technique performed that caused an opponent to falter, and having the video stopped at that point while the instructor asked the class “So what do you think…yuko, wazari, ippon, or no score?”.  I managed to get some right and some were quite difficult to tell, so it became apparent to me that experience played a great part in being able to make the right call.

The first time I reffed an actual match was at an Abbotsford Inter-Club Shiai, and it was an “interesting” experience.  I had intended to ref but instead found myself conveniently sitting on the sidelines with the rest of the crowd watching the matches.  It was like the tournament was on auto-pilot, it was just happening, and I gave myself every excuse in the book not to go up.  I finally admitted to myself that the hesitation I was feeling was actual nervousness.  Given that I’ve been working in the corporate world for over 30 years, having given numerous presentations to senior management, leading and managing teams, and being closer to the end of my career than the beginning, it was a very strange feeling to find myself in a new, unexplored and therefore intimidating, situation.  Who gets stage fright at my age?  Christine kept asking me to go up and I would say “In a minute”, or “After the next match.”.  I likely would have sat there for the rest of the tournament if Christine didn’t finally say, “If you don’t get out there right now, I’m going to tell Paul (Wishaw) on you!”.  That did it, so I got up, caught Paul’s eye, and asked if I could try reffing a match.  Fortunately, and I’ll forever be grateful to Paul for this, but he didn’t start laughing and instead said “Sure, by all means!”.  I was nervous, yes, and I probably came across as very awkward, but I did it, and I also knew that it would only get easier from there, and hopefully more enjoyable.  And all it took was for Christine to threaten to embarrass me.

As predicted, after the first time I reffed it did get easier, and I started reffing at the larger tournaments with the next one being the shiai held in North Vancouver.  There were only about 150 participants so it wasn’t overly large and the day didn’t go that long, but it was just the right size for me to get my feet wet again.  A Fall Burnaby tournament soon followed, and I was starting to feel more comfortable in the technical aspects of reffing, although I was still nervous before I went out on the mat.  When I told Christine, she asked why I would be nervous and I said all the people are watching me.  Then, in her usual supportive manner she said “Sorry to disappoint you, but nobody cares about the ref.  They’re not looking at you, they’re watching the competitors.”  After that blunt feedback my stage fright dropped right down and I’ve been fine to walk on the mat ever since.

As a fairly new ref, I can tell you that it’s an experience that can be both very enjoyable, and very stressful.  The calls you make will decide whether or not a competitor moves to the next round, or is perhaps out of the tournament.  It is a responsibility that all refs take seriously.  I’ve never forgotten the three most important things that a ref needs to know about a match, and that is safety of the competitors, fairness in the match, and the quality (excitement) of the competition.  To that degree, the ref looks for things that likely the competitor isn’t even aware of.  For example, is the competitor’s hair tied right, or are they wearing any jewelry.  It’s also important that the refs work as a team, with one ref on the mat and the other two judges watching from the side, ready to overrule a call if it’s deemed appropriate.  I’m aware that even international refs have their initial calls overruled from time to time, and that’s ok.  Anything during the match can be corrected, as long as the right competitor wins at the end.

The more I ref, the more I enjoy it, and my refereeing highlight to date was to ref at this past February’s BC Winter Games.  I had competed myself at the BC Winter Games when I was a teenager so I felt honoured to be given the opportunity to ref at such an important event.  Since I’m now comfortable with the basic mechanics of reffing, the feedback that I’m receiving from the higher graded refs has become less general, and more focused on helping me to improve on some specific facets and nuances of refereeing.  I’ve found that I have to work more on calling osaekomi, especially in the female matches.  Some girls are so flexible that their lower bodies can be twisted 180’ and be propped up on their knees, and yet still be in osaekomi.  I continue to be amazed at that when I can barely reach down to touch my toes.  My goal is to be a good, strong ref.  I have made it my goal to try to be the best ref that I am capable of being.  As long as the parents and competitors don’t groan whenever I step onto the mat, then I know I’m still heading in the right direction.

If you’ve ever thought to try reffing, I encourage you to sign up for the next referee seminar and start learning the basics.  Start reffing at your own club and then at Interclub shiais, as these would be venues that give you the opportunity to try out reffing in a less formal environment.  It gives you a different perspective to a competition and also gives you a better appreciation for what the officials contribute to a tournament.  When you’re out there making the calls and the crowd is cheering for one competitor or the other, you can feel the energy and it’s great to know that as a ref, you are helping to make it happen.  And, as I read in another reffing article and to which I totally agree, you get the best seat in the house.

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I Must Not Fear 1

Pull yourself together! Just overcome your fear! It always sounds so corny or easy when people tell you that but it actually can be very difficult.

Last weekend I participated in my first BJJ tournament and I sucked, I lost my two matches and still got away with a bronze medal. But even though I lost, that bronze medal means so much to me – over 20 years ago when I competed in Judo I always dreaded competition day. When I stepped on the mat I was scared and I often blanked. I was afraid of doing the wrong thing so I often did nothing. You remember the colours we always talk about in krav maga? White being oblivious, all the way through yellow, orange and red and the colour we always try to avoid – black. This is where I was, code black, frozen, unable to do anything. I didn’t enjoy competition at all and tried to avoid it like Satan the holy water.

So why would I sign up for a BJJ competition to begin with? We were talking about cross training for Krav Maga and how competition can help you to get better. When rolling mostly with the same people you are getting used to their style and it limits you. When I signed up I was hoping others in my club would follow. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but it doesn’t really matter.

I was incredibly nervous and anxious, like for my orange belt test. It was my first competition in decades; I read the rules over and over again to make sure to understand them and not to do anything that could get me disqualified. When I stepped on the mat for my first match I tried to focus only on my opponent and also to be active. And I somehow managed to not go into black but was able to do something, I faked one way, used my opponent’s reaction to throw her and got her to the ground. I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to submit her and we went into overtime. Each of us had to take the back of the other and we had to try to escape out of the seatbelt grip with the hooks in as fast as possible. My opponent was a bit faster than me.

Editors note: Though we fully understand the ruleset of the competition she was in (a submission only tournament). Petra should be proud as in a points tournament petra would have dominated as control is an important aspect in these styles. We want to give props to her opponent who showed excellent defensive skills.

I was disappointed in myself. I usually tend to be very hard on myself and that’s not always easy to deal with because it is in my head, my inside voice(s). When somebody else is yelling at me or gives me a hard time I can go away, close the door or hang up the phone. That is impossible with my inside voice. After I also lost my second match I was sad, disappointed and then also relieved because it was over. And then I realized that I also had a bit of fun. I have to train more, put in the effort but it also means that next time I’ll be better prepared, I’ll know a bit more about BJJ competition, the rules etc. It won’t be completely new for me. If I had given in to my fear I would not have made that experience and learned something. Every failure is also a learning experience, unless you die, of course. After the matches were over I started to feel excited because I had stayed and seen it through and this is what that bronze medal stands for.

if you let fear run your life, you don’t have a life.

 

Fear can be good, it makes us more cautious. I’m an analytical person. When I’m in a difficult situation or have to make tough decisions I analyze everything and try to be as rational as possible. When I’m able to understand what makes me feel scared I can somehow handle it better. It doesn’t take the fear away but it helps not to drive me insane.

Petra wins bronze.jpgI also had a little bit of an epiphany when I was in my early twenties and working as a travel rep in Crete. I got into an argument with a co-worker who lost his cool during that argument and started threatening to kill me. He got fired right away and had to leave Crete. I went to the police but they couldn’t do much. It didn’t take long and that guy came back, he had gotten another job at a car rental place. He started stalking me and one night he slashed two of my tires. My car was parked right in front of my apartment. The knife marks on the tires weren’t pretty and it was a shock for me. At night I kept my windows closed, my door locked. I was incredibly scared! Also because he came back couple nights later to slash my other co-worker’s tires. It took me a long time to get over that fear but it taught me a valuable lesson – if you let fear run your life, you don’t have a life.

 

Above: What Judo can be!

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Warren in 1980

Some of you may be aware that I am currently in the final stages of being graded to my black belt in judo.  I first started judo several decades (!) ago when I was 10 years old, and then I had to stop at a blue belt level once I entered university.  I was never that enthused about judo when I was younger so when I had the time after I finished school I went onto other things and left judo behind.  Fast forward 30 years and my then 12-year old daughter started taking it, and surprisingly enough she started doing so well in competitions that it inspired me to get back on the road to getting my black belt.  I should mention that I’ll be 55 at the end of the month so it’s never too late to accomplish something!

The first step was to get my brown belt so I started attending the adult classes and slowly, ever so slowly, dusted off the techniques and began to get my timing back.  I was promoted to brown belt within 3 months of my return and then the official clock started on the path to a black belt.  In judo there are very specific requirements as a brown belt in order to be graded to black.  You need a total of 120 points, accumulated through a combination of competitions, time in training, attendance at seminars, volunteering at tournaments, etc.  For older judokas such as myself, you aren’t required to compete and you can gain 30 points per year just by attending regular classes. However, I wanted to speed up the process so I trained to be a referee and began reffing at tournaments several times a year.  The points gained by being a referee probably knocked off at least a year from just attending classes to gain points.  Also, I wanted to give back to the competition community since I fought in tournaments when I was younger.  Although refereeing can be very stressful, it can also be quite enjoyable.  The highlight of my career to date was when I reffed at the BC Winter Games this past February.

Once a brown belt accumulates enough points then there’s one more hoop to jump through before being graded, and that’s having to attend a 10 week kata clinic where you learn 9 specific throwing techniques.  Although it’s not mandatory to attend, it’s highly recommended and serves to make grading that much easier.  You also need your club’s sensei to write the grading board a recommendation letter on your behalf, so if you pull off the attitude that you won’t be attending the clinic then you likely won’t get your recommendation.  So not wanting to leave anything to chance, I signed up.

The kata clinic is held in Steveston every Monday night from 8:45 to 10:15 PM.  I live in Burnaby close to New West, so Steveston is not close and it takes me about 40 min to get there and back.  Plus, it’s at a time when it’s prime time for kicking back and winding down for the day.  Needless to say, I find it a struggle to get my butt to the class.  The clinic started in September, will end in November, and I have 3 more classes to go.  Learning kata isn’t difficult because it’s just a prescribed set of moves, like choreographed dancing, however, if you’ve never done it before then it can be very confusing.  While you’re trying to remember exactly how to pull properly for the throw, you forget that your foot needs to be planted and pivoting instead of moving.  And since there are kata competitions, it’s very important to get it right because it’s well known how good the kata can actually look.  However, the reality is that, like many things in life, it just comes down to practice, practice, practice.  The instructors know the moves like the back of their hands and have been doing the kata for literally decades, so it’s easy for them to demonstrate it.  However, for newbies like myself, we’re doing well if we can replicate the moves without looking like complete idiots.  Learning the kata will also improve my general judo as well, since I’m now being shown more accurately what makes the throws effective.

If all goes according to plan, I will finish the kata clinic on November 5th and be graded

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Warren today

to shodan (black belt) on November 18th.  It will have then been a 3 year long journey from my brown belt, and a 45 year journey since I first started judo, and it will be very rewarding once I can put it on for the first time.  And as proud as I should be, it’s difficult to overlook the fact that my 16-year old daughter got her brown belt in only 3 years and is already on her own journey to get her black belt.  Kids!

Warren Green Belt techniqueA work colleague of mine recently joined UTKM on a trial basis. He had never trained in martial arts before although he always had an interest, so he decided to give it a try.  Based on our discussions about what to expect, and not, he was quite excited to give it a shot.  His father was a martial arts practitioner when he was younger so he was also happy that his son showed an interest in self-defence.  At the end of each class we spar with a partner for a couple of rounds, so since he had never sparred before and I introduced him to Krav Maga, I felt some responsibility to help him ease into it by being his sparring partner, rather than throwing him to spar with the other, more experienced, students.  As a green belt, sparring is now optional for me instead of being mandatory, and when I passed my green belt test I had hoped I would never spar again.  Never say never.

Since my colleague only had sparring gloves and no protective headgear, I had to be careful to only use kicks and body shots against him, and allow him to hit me in the head if he wanted to since I was protected. We’ve sparred now a couple of times and he’s not bad, so I can see that once he’s fully geared up it will be an interesting experience helping him improve.  It then got me to thinking how my sparring is, and whether or not I’m very good, or need much improvement myself.  The answer is, no, I’m not very good at sparring and yes, I could also use improving.  It then made me think exactly what the differences are between someone who just started taking Krav Maga and someone like me, who’s been taking it for years.

When I first started training in Krav Maga, I had never sparred before so it was a new experience for me. The first thing I noticed was that it’s much different than just watching a boxing match on TV and there are consequences for every move you make.  I keep my hands up to protect my head, but then that means I can’t throw a punch.  I use a hook which then leaves my head open, albeit for a split second.  Still, I immediately feel vulnerable.  At the same time my partner is throwing a kick which I need to block and try to counter-strike.  Do I go fast and try to overwhelm my opponent, or go slow and measured, and ensure that my throws reach their intended target.  It was very confusing and chaotic, and while I’m now much better at controlling my emotions and being more precise with both my technique and power, I’m still not very good at sparring.  But as a green belt, shouldn’t I be?  The answer is no.  We are learning Krav Maga, and not learning how to be an MMA fighter.  Yes, I should be better than someone who has never sparred before, but it doesn’t mean that someone trained in Krav Maga should be able to out-box a boxer, out-kick a kickboxer, or out-grapple someone taking BJJ.  Krav Maga is a self-defence system, and its prime purpose is to a) not get into a confrontation to begin with, b) if a confrontation arises, to try and de-escalate the situation, and c) if it gets physical, to be able to fight well enough to be able to buy enough time to get the hell out of there.  And, as Jon had passed some words of wisdom to the class just yesterday, to run to safety, not to just run away from the threat (think about that for a bit and you’ll see why it makes sense).

As a green belt, I have learned and been tested in parts of the curriculum that the lower belts have not yet seen, such as multiple attacker defence or ground fighting. But right from the first class that anyone takes in Krav Maga, they’ll learn to spar.  So it should come as no surprise that when I watch someone taking their Yellow Belt test and they get to the sparring section, they can be pretty good and I certainly wouldn’t want to get into a fight with them.  There are some beginner students who are very strong and are natural strikers, and they can easily give the higher belts a sparring challenge. The main difference is that they can often lose control of their emotions and power, and that’s where experience comes in.  So I fully admit and concede that in a 1:1 sparring situation they may overwhelm me, but that’s ok, because I’m not taking Krav Maga in order to be a boxer.  And it can take some students a longer time than others to be good at sparring and again, that’s ok.  We’re all here to learn and help each other, not to point fingers at one another and say “I’m better than you!”.

Also, progressing to the higher levels in Krav Maga is more of a linear, as opposed to vertical, progression. In a traditional martial art such as judo, it is more of a vertical progression, and advancing to the higher belts actually does mean that you can do the technique better than the lower belts, along with its application in a competitive situation.  It can take years, and repeating the same technique thousands of times, before you can execute an advanced throw cleanly and efficiently.  The lower belts will know the same throw, but the upper belts will perform it properly, and hence the acknowledgement that the higher belts are more skilled than the lower belts.  In Krav Maga, the techniques are simple by design, so it doesn’t take years to learn how, for example, to hit or kick effectively.  Progression in Krav Maga is about learning more techniques and strategies as opposed to learning how to do a technique really, really well.  Yes, with more practice some techniques will also improve, however, I’m sure that if I throw a jab-cross 10,000 more times I won’t get that much better than I am now.  And since I am taking Krav Maga to learn to protect myself in a real-life situation, I am confident that I will be good enough to be able to escape and get to safety.

Keep in mind why you are taking the martial art or sport you are. Time is very limited and we’ll never get it back once it’s been spent.  In my case, I love watching judo matches just as others enjoy watching their sports, but I freely admit that in a real life-threatening situation, judo is not going to help me much if someone came at me with a knife.  And that’s why I take Krav Maga, so I can learn what to do in an end-to-end situation and get home safely, regardless of who was better at sparring in class.

 

 

 

 

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In addition to being a Krav Maga practitioner, I train in judo and have always been interested in the competitive and tournament side of the sport. While others may love watching a great football pass that leads to a spectacular 50 yard run resulting in a touchdown, I am equally enthralled when I watch a judoka execute a perfect throw on a resisting opponent.  It can be an amazing sight to see.

One thing that I always found interesting was that at the end of a match, several times the judokas would be splayed out on the mat, seemingly exhausted to the point of not being able to move. They would lie there for several seconds until the referee would motion for them to stand up and bow off, thus officially ending the match with a winner declared.  I would think, “How could they be so active and fighting hard just a few seconds ago and now they can’t even move?  They’re young and they’re fit, so how could they be so tired?”.  I spoke to my daughter about this, who is also a judo competitor, and she said she’s experienced that level of exhaustion many times in her tournament matches, or the training camps.  It wasn’t until I experienced the same level of exhaustion in my recent green belt test that I appreciated even a small trace of what my daughter was talking about.

It is difficult for a person to independently push themselves to the point of exhaustion because usually before they get to that stage, they’ll stop and take a break. It’s like trying to hold your breath until you pass out.  There may be some fitness fanatics who do push themselves to that degree on a regular basis, but I believe that for the average person, which I consider myself to be, there are primarily 3 situations which could drive them to the point of exhaustion and beyond.

1) In a test,

2) In competition

3) In a life-threatening situation.

 I heard people shouting “Get up!  Get up!” but it just wasn’t happening.  My spirit was there, I was fully aware of what was going on, but my body was just not responding.

 

In each of these situations, the timing of when the “ordeal” ends is out of your control, so you have no choice but to fight through the pain and keep on going.  Personally, it’s been years since I’ve been at this level of intense situation, if ever, so in retrospect, I found it an interesting experience to be pushed to the point of exhaustion.  During the green belt test, this point occurred when I was sparring one-on-one with someone in the last few minutes of the 3 hour test.  I was already tired, physically and mentally, and I found myself on the ground.  As I was trying to get back up my body, my arms, my legs, and anything else literally felt like 1000 pounds and I could not lift myself up, as much as I was telling myself to continue fighting and get back up.  I heard people shouting “Get up!  Get up!” but it just wasn’t happening.  My spirit was there, I was fully aware of what was going on, but my body was just not responding.  It was like being in a bad dream where you find yourself running through molasses.  I think that was the point that Jon told me later when he thought I wasn’t going to make it and was going to give up.  But slowly, ever so slowly, while trying to punch at the same time, I managed to get up.  I know now that when pushed to your limit, it truly becomes a game of mind over matter.  It would have been so easy to just lie down and think “Who cares.”, but if you’re determined and you refuse to give up, you will overcome things that your body tells you it doesn’t want to do.

Warren Green Belt Tired

I can’t imagine being in a situation like this again, at least in the near future, but I now better appreciate how competitors will find themselves splayed out on the mat at the end of a match unable to get up. I also appreciate more what my daughter has gone through in her judo training and competitions.  If you get the chance where you will be pushed to this point of exhaustion, you should embrace it and relish the opportunity, because it will likely be in a safe environment where there is minimal risk of injuring yourself, or worse.  It’s an interesting experience and you will be surprised at how much you can tolerate and where you discover the edge of your envelope is.  And then the next time, you can push beyond it.  Push yourself, strive for more, keep going and don’t give up!  You’ll thank yourself later.

If you are new to martial arts or have done it previously but are switching schools there are always some dos and don ts. This is of course only my opinion, but it is based on what drives me nuts when new students come. And trust me, annoying your martial arts instructor from the start is not the way to go. Remember your instructor is a human too, and like any relationship sometimes first impressions do matter.

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1. Don’t come in with too many expectations

Everyone thinks they know what to expect especially when they are new, because they researched it on the internet. Or they know exactly how things are going to go. This is not true.

“What you found on the internet, may infact, be bullshit.”

 

Every school is different they have different standards, expectations and cultures and what you found on the internet may, in fact, be bullshit. The best thing to do is show up try out some classes see if its what you like and if so keep going.

If of course, you had previous experience in martial arts for the love of god please don’t talk about the way your old school did stuff. If you were able to keep training there or you liked training there then why aren’t you training there? Again, every school is different, and some are the right fit for you and some are not. So accept the new schools’ culture and ways (if you like it) and leave your old school where it belongs, in the past.

2. Don’t tell them you are serious and are going to train all the time if you are not

This one drives me insane because it happens all the time. I think people just don’t understand how much energy it takes to train all the time. If you have school, work and a family, life gets in the way and sometimes you cannot train as much as you think you can.

But more importantly, Actions speak louder than words. I don’t care who you think you are, I don’t know you and no I DON’T trust you. If you tell me “man, believe me, I’m going to be in here every day,” I WILL assume you are full of shit because 9 times out of 10 I hear this the person is full of shit.

The person who says nothing and is training 3-4 times a week is the person who I will trust when they say they are going to do things.

And no I don’t care what your reason is for not showing up because all I see is you are not showing up. If you want to make the time for it, you will, no excuses.

3. Don’t ask for special discounts just because it’s you

No you are not special and I don’t care, if I wanted to give you a special discount I would. Aside from that, if discounts are not listed don’t ask. Are you my family? or longterm friend? if the answer is no then you are not entitled to any discount (and even then they sometimes are not) because it is a business and until I build a relationship with you, you are not my friend you are a student. So stop asking, it is rude and it is annoying.

Of course, if discounts are explicitly listed, and you are entitled to it, then prove it and you should receive it. For example, I offer 30% off a first program for military or LE etc. (even though most of them never come to train because of time or other reasons.)

4. Don’t complain about the price

It is a business. Period. And unless prices are abnormally high for the region the prices are what they are for a reason. See above regarding discounts. But just like you the business owner may also be struggling, so it is again rude to complain about pricing. Maybe in other cultures where haggling for prices is the norm but in Canada and much of the west it is not acceptable behaviour so don’t. It is insulting to your instructor and school. Plain and Simple. And don’t try to find ways to be cheap about it, because that is even worse. If you like what a school is offering, then pay for it. If it is expensive for you and you want to do it then learn how to prioritise your spending so that it isn’t an issue.

5. Don’t ask why you aren’t getting better if you never show up

Seriously, Show the FUCK up. Again actions are louder than words, and I don’t care what you tell me. If you want to get better, then please know that once a week, or once every few weeks is not good enough to get proficient at anything.

Sure I offer once a week options for people who have busy lives. I would rather you train than not train even if it is once a week. But as long as you know you will not get good fast then it is ok. Stop asking how to get better if you are not training 3-4 times a week because other factors beyond its because you are not training enough.

6. Do not put your instructor on a pedestal

Your instructors are humans, don’t expect anything from them other than being a good instructor. If they are not then going somewhere else, otherwise they are subject to everything life has to offer same as you. If you dont like who they are as a person, but they are really good instructors than you are in fact getting what you are paying for. If you dont like who they are as a person either choose a class in the same school that someone else is teaching or go somewhere else. Because if you put an instructor too high up and one day you see a side that you don’t like then this may affect your ability to train at the school you like. So be realistic and understand that it is about how well they teach you and make you better more than anything else.

This is only a few items, and I am sure I can think of more, but these are some of the things that have come up over the last few months and I feel like they should be adressed.

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Krav Maga is a system based on reality, or at least it should be. The real world is dirty, and our continued belief that people are all good, or they are all stable, or they are perfect is a false narrative. Its just not real, and we need to stop believing such things.

Sure. Some people don’t drink, do drugs, party or do anything that some people might consider enjoying life. The reality is, however, anything but as the majority of people are not “pure” in the traditional conservative sense. Look at the current scandals in Hollywood. These people who are the “leaders” of culture at least in North America and being uncovered to be real people, with faults and dirty secrets. and not the pure people we keep pretending they are.

My point is that life is messy, people are messy, and things are rarely what they seem.

Krav Maga is no different. Though there are many problems in the Krav Maga world one of the issues, I would like to discuss is the idea of the puritan Krav Maga Instructor.

Often, traditional martial artists who have been doing it for years find Krav Maga. For one reason or another, they decide they are going to teach it or integrate it into their programs. Of course, if you taught any traditional martial arts, your mentality and school culture will be heavily ingrained in that styles culture, which may not be realistic in nature.

Take the Bushido code, for example, an ideology that is more modern in many ways than we like to think. If you as instructor adhere to it strictly in your life and school and yet teach Krav Maga, I am not sure if you understand how to teach Krav Maga.

“Do you really understand the reality that is Krav Maga and the violence associated with real self defense scenarios?”

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting people go to any of the following. However, if your life is too pure I ask, do you really understand the reality that is Krav Maga and the violence associated with a real self defense scenario?

If you have never had a drink. If you have never done any drug(s) (coffee is a drug ) or even have never been around drugs. If you have never been in a fight or have seen a fight in the street. If you have never been exposed to the harsh realities or hardship that so much of the world has to deal with like being broke, being hungry or you have never exposed your self to the abuse that some people have had to endure, are you really equipped to teach real Krav Maga?

Real self defense is dirty, real self defense isn’t preatty because real life is neither of those things. If you don’t at least understand these aspects of life I am not sure you are equipped to teach any form of self defense let alone Krav Maga.

Again, I am not saying go on a bender so that you can understand what so many people have experienced but what I am saying, if you were never exposed to the real world then perhaps you do not understand as much as you think you do.

A saying that I like in one variation or another is as follows.

“A fool repeats his mistakes. A smart man learns from his mistakes. But a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

 

In the context of this article, it means that you don’t have to experience it personally but at the very least expose your self to the harsh realities of the real world that so many people have to deal with.

If you have never gone hungry for a few days, if you have never even been around people on cocaine or other drugs. If you have never left your suburban neighbourhood and taken a walk down a dark alley where it’s not so nice, then I ask again. Do you understand the harsh realities of the world? I think not.

If your life has been too pure, you may be lucky, or you may be a fool, but I think you shouldn’t be trying to teach self defense of any kind because I genuinely believe you don’t understand.

One of the reasons this is an important thing is because many people are attracted to Krav Maga because they have been exposed to these realities and they want to learn how to protect themselves from the real world better. So if you have never been exposed to any of it and you live your life according to any kind of puritan code then how can you possibly relate to the majority of your students? I just don’t think you can, and I think you are doing a disservice to them.

Of course, if you only teach to people like you then perhaps you are ok, but I just don’t think these kinds of schools properly prepare people for violent conflict of any kind.

If you are a student, ask your self, does your instructor really understand the real world?

If you are an instructor, ask yourself, do you really understand the real world?

If you are honest and the answer happens to be NO, then perhaps you should either get some more experience or do something else for a living. and for the record, age is not always a factor when it comes to experience. Though it is a correlation, remember correlation does not equal causation. I have met some 12 year olds who have experienced more in their lives than some 50 year olds, for good or bad.

Just my two cents.

 

On September 30th I tested for my green belt and, as with most important things in life, while the test itself was only 3 hours, the culmination of events leading up to the test was far more involved.

Warren Green Belt Certificate

Firstly, a bit of background on myself. I joined UTKM when the school first opened, and while I was just one of several students in the first class, I’m pretty sure that I’m now the only one from that day who is still taking Krav Maga with UTKM.  It’s understandable because circumstances constantly change and life throws curve balls, and for whatever reason people move on.  In my case I’m fortunate because I’m at the stage of life where it’s generally predictable, e.g. job, family, home, so I’ve been able to continue learning Krav Maga fairly consistently for the past few years.

In the beginning, I was diligently attending classes twice a week and attending the occasional seminar, took the yellow belt and orange belt tests within the first couple of years, and even earned my PAL license as a requirement for eventually taking the green belt test. However, as time passed and I was feeling more familiar with the curriculum and life became busy with the judo activities for both my daughter and myself, I cut back to just once a week.  Then once a week became once every two weeks, and soon there were occasions in which I didn’t go to class for over a month.  I had plateaued and I knew it.  Interest was down, and I felt like I was just going through a rinse-repeat cycle in the classes.  One instructor understood what I was going through and he advised me to “Finish the mission.”, i.e. get my green belt.  Although the belt levels progress beyond green, attaining the green belt is a significant milestone because it meant that I had passed the physical and technical curriculum of Krav Maga and would then move into the more advanced strategies and techniques. There would be less emphasis on the physical requirements, and sparring would be optional and not mandatory.  Still, I had lost motivation to progress and, truth be told, I was thinking of stopping altogether.

What finally made me start thinking about taking the green belt test was that I was noticing how many more yellow belt and orange belt tests were being scheduled. Soon the “yellow and orange belt class” started growing from just a couple of students to then a handful, and there were more frequent announcements of students progressing through the belt levels.  On one hand I was realistic enough to know that my prime objective in taking Krav Maga was to learn how to protect myself and my family, so officially attaining the green belt didn’t mean much to me, but on the other hand I wanted to be recognized for my experience and the knowledge that I had acquired over the years.  Another (scary) thought that crossed my mind was that I was getting older, and while age shouldn’t be an excuse for not being able to achieve anything, it is a reality that physical activity becomes more challenging with age.  I turned 54 at the end of October, so the window of opportunity was starting to shrink and I knew that if I didn’t take the physically-challenging green belt test soon, it would likely never happen.  Plus, Jon wouldn’t stop hassling me to get it, so I finally relented and scheduled a testing date.

Warren Green Belt RunningI had 6 weeks to train for the test, and come hell or high water, I was going to be ready for it. Jon told me one time that one of his biggest annoyances is when people don’t follow through on what they say they’re going to do, so once I put out the date I was committed to meeting the challenge and not letting him down.  Since I was already confident that I knew the techniques and the curriculum and would only require a refresher, I was aware that the physical requirement of the test would be the bigger challenge.  The warm-up for the test is 75 push-ups, 85 sit-ups and a 2 km run, and that’s even before the technical part of the test begins.  I usually commute to work by bike, and even though it’s only 6 km each way and it gives me a bit of a workout, I knew it wouldn’t be enough.  I despise running so for me, it was a very big psychological barrier to hit the track and start training for the test.  The first time I ran 5 times around the 400 meter track I was tired, but not exhausted, so I knew if I kept it up it would only get easier once the test day came.  I also began doing push-ups and sit-ups at night, and while in the beginning, I couldn’t reach the required number, after a couple of weeks I was doing 90 push-ups and 90 sit-ups.  I also began eating healthier and cut out the junk food, sugary drinks, snacks, and over-eating.  The results began to show, and I dropped 6 lbs while I was training for the test.

My training regimen seemed to be going well, and then a snag happened. During a class another student puts my head in a guillotine choke and wrenched back on it, and after that my right arm started throbbing and hurting.  This also meant that I couldn’t ride to work anymore so I was afraid that my cardio would drop like a rock.  I went to a physio and he diagnosed that I had pulled a muscle in my neck which resulted in a pinched nerve in my arm, and that’s why I was feeling the pain.  With only two weeks to go before the test, I started seeing the physio as often as I could to try and fix the problem.  After 4 sessions I was still feeling pain, plus I wasn’t sleeping at night where I often wouldn’t be able to fall asleep until past 4 AM, but was still having to get up at 7 AM for work.  The last week before the test I was still seeing the physio, and while the pain had somewhat abated, I knew I wasn’t going to be fully healthy come the testing day.  Still, I diligently continued to keep up the push-ups and sit-ups regimen and also hit the track whenever I could.  The main thing that kept me going was knowing that once I passed the test, I could stop training and wouldn’t have to run around the track anymore, hopefully for the rest of my life.

Test day came, and I did the push-ups, sit-ups and 2 km run with relative ease. However, in retrospect from watching the videos that my daughter took, it was apparent that my sit-ups suck and look more like crunches than full sit-ups.  So one takeaway from the test is that I’m now going to do sit-ups on a regular basis and ensure that they’re proper full ones, instead of the sucky ones that Jon graciously allowed as acceptable on test day.  What came as an unpleasant surprise was that going through the techniques took much longer, and tired me out much, much more, than I had expected.  I thought I was going to whiz through those and get quickly to the sparring part of the test but Jon asked me on many occasions to repeat a technique again, and again.  It became very tiring and by the time the sparring section came, I was both relieved because I knew we were getting to the end of the test, but also dreading it because I knew I didn’t have many physical reserves remaining.  In short, I was very tired.

The last part of the test consists of sparring components which add up to 20 min, with a few minutes rest between each of the 3 sections. In regards to physical activity, one thing I noticed about getting older is that the recovery time takes much longer than when you are in your 20s. While a 20-something person may need only 3 minutes to recover from a strenuous physical activity, in your 50s you may not be able to recover to the same degree unless you had 10 minutes or more.  Still, if that was the test requirement, I was determined to abide by the rules and not ask for any special allowances just because of my age.

Warren Green Belt technique.jpgThe first component of the sparring was to fight 5 different opponents for 1 minute each, with body and leg shots only. At one point Jon tagged my daughter as one of my opponents, and unfortunately, my gross motor movements took over and I threw a couple of punches to her ribs that slightly winded her. She told me later that it got her angry so she started swinging back at me as hard as she could, while I regained my senses and purposely held back.  Nothing like a good father-daughter brawl to strengthen the paternal relationship!  I managed to survive with most of my limbs intact, however, the last round was with Jon and he kicked so *hard* that I still felt the after-effects of his kicks for days.

The next component of the sparring I knew would be my biggest challenge, and that was to survive 10 minutes of attack after attack after attack. It would be relentless and I knew that if I could get past it and have enough energy for the last component, I would be home free.  For some reason, perhaps because I was already in a dream state since I was so tired and I was acting purely on adrenaline, I have no idea where the first 5 minutes went.  All I remember was the countdown for 3 minutes left.  However, I was so exhausted and physically drained by that time that whenever I was down on the ground, and people were shouting at me to get up, my body felt like a thousand pounds and I could hardly move.  Jon told me after that he thought I was going to give up but in the end, I fought through the pain and struggled slowly to my feet while throwing feeble punches at my attacker.  I remembered that Jon had told me that the purpose of that part of the test was not to demonstrate clean techniques but to survive.  Keeping that thought in my mind, I was determined to survive while the clock counted down the last few seconds.

The last component of the sparring was to have 5 rounds of 1 minute each with each attacker. One minute went by, and then another, and I knew that I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  While I had zero energy left and nothing more to give, the thought that went through my head was that I was going to dig deep for additional reserves in the last couple of rounds and try to finish strong.  It must have worked because my daughter told me after that I looked stronger in the last two rounds, and my last attacker also said he was surprised that I was still getting some punches through to him even though I was clearly exhausted.  If this was a real-life scenario I still would have been beaten, but I would have had some solace in knowing that I was beaten by a stronger, more rested opponent, and it wouldn’t have been because I gave up and beat myself.

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So that’s the story of my not-so-pretty journey to attain my green belt. I did it, and while I have no doubt that my fellow green belters, and future ones, will be more successful candidates, I faced my limitations honestly, gave no excuses, asked for no allowances, and did what was asked of me.  And knowing that allows me to be content with myself and feel that yes, I earned it.

And in the end, I guess that’s what’s most important.

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*This is not a sponsored review. This is a simple recount of Borhan Jiang’s experience at this BJJ school in Taiwan.

52852_160175370687660_2773181_oIn 2009, I was a member of a team of fighters that competed in the Bangkok BJJ International Open. We were made up of members from Taiwan BJJ Academy (台灣巴西柔術學院), Evolution MMA, and Tough MMA. The team did an excellent job, training with and coaching each other throughout the tournament, and I personally won bronze in my division. I had some great memories with this institution. This is one of the most well known and established BJJ schools in Taiwan, and it can be said that this academy has truly contributed to the development of BJJ in Taiwan.

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When I trained at the school, it was located near Taipei city hall. The gym had only the essentials – mats. It was small, and since it was on the upper level, it was potentially dangerous to train in if too many members were there at once.

Now they have a new space, which is located in a huge basement. It has plenty of space, lockers, a shower room, changing rooms, and a small shop. It also has full-time staff at the front counter, so you can talk to them instead of interrupting instructors who are teaching class.

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1426135_1809666515926976_7135114262649744218_nMokto sensei takes his BJJ craft very seriously. He is not a native Chinese, but can communicate fluently and teaches BJJ in Chinese. The students at Taiwan BJJ are precise with their movements, and seem more cautious than North American fighters. Some of them also have excellent stand-up game, which is not very common in BJJ.

Generally speaking, different BJJ schools apply their BJJ differently. Some cater to competition, some cater more to self-defense training. I’d say Taiwan BJJ’s grappling style caters more toward sports BJJ and competitions. Overall, I would recommend anyone who is visiting Taiwan to train at Taiwan BJJ Academy. It is professional and friendly, and in some ways, this school still has a pioneer spirit as the first serious BJJ school in Taiwan. Come here to find other people who like to roll and train.

 

 

Whenever I am at a gym, martial arts school or fitness centre, I see guys (yes, mostly males) gulping down sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, or something made from a powder. I have often asked myself, “Is that drink necessary in this situation?” To answer this, I usually observe the individual’s activity, and more often than not answer my own question with a resounding NO. Although, I want to be clear that there is a lot of general confusion about sports drinks and hydration. I hope to clear-up some of the misinformation, and help you understand how to drink effectively, and what to drink when you need hydration.

Sports drinks: The marketable product

What is a Sports Drink? For the purpose of this article, any drink containing electrolytes (sodium and potassium) and carbohydrates are considered sports drinks. Most commercial sports drinks contain both, but sometimes the electrolytes are missing. Typically, a before- and during-exercise sports drink should contain 6-8% solutes. For example, a 500mL drink would have 30-40g of carbohydrates plus electrolytes. A post-exercise recovery sports drink would likely have a higher carbohydrate load.

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Let’s be honest. We all know that nutritional supplements and ergogenic aids (performance enhancing supplements) are big business. They are huge in competitive and elite sporting circles, as they genuinely can give an edge to a competitor, and also because when the public see their favourite athletes slurping on a cold sports brew at half-time, this is good for sales. The companies that make them know that the real money is in marketing these products to the general population. So, companies have a vested interest in seeing sports drinks sold to Joe and Josephine Public in order to increase profit. 

So then, do you or don’t you need sports drinks?

The importance of being… hydrated

Water plays a number of important roles in your body. Since 60% of your total body weight is made up by water, suffice to say, if you run out of water you die. After losing only 1-2% of body water, your heart will have to work harder and your aerobic endurance decreases. Of course, continued fluid loss ensures further consequences. When exercising, body water loss most likely occurs from sweating, particularly in hot climates. The highest recorded sweat rate was 3.7 litres per hour, by Alberto Salazar when preparing for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games! Replacing fluids when exercising is very important.

Rule of thumb: the more you sweat, the more you should drink. It is a great idea to start drinking before you begin your exercise. During really intense exercise or sweaty, long duration training, a consumption rate of approximately 250mL every 15 minutes should be sufficient. For lower intensity or shorter exercise periods, periodically sipping water is fine. Remember, do not to wait until you are thirsty! Once you feel thirsty, you are already 1-2% dehydrated. Continue drinking once you have finished exercising to ensure adequate recovery.

What do drink?

 

Have you ever experienced muscle cramps during or after exercise? This is likely due to  a loss of electrolytes from your body through sweat. If you are anything like me, you will have noticed that sweat tastes salty. This is because it has a high concentration of sodium. Electrolytes are essential for effective muscle contractions, so when you are losing them quickly through sweating, you will need to replace them reasonably quickly. The fastest way? A sports drink. Longer duration vigorous exercise, high intensity exercise, and exercise in hot climates are three contexts in which using a sports drink does make sense. Sports drinks can also be good during activities that require high intensity physical work.

Where sports drinks truly come into their own is competition events. If you are competing in a long duration (45+ minutes) event, or have multiple events on the same day, then sports drinks can be vital to maintaining high performance. This is even more essential in hot climates.

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“I made some blue meth. It’s Gatorade.” -Kelly, Neighbors (2014)

If you are trying to decide whether you should drink water or a sports drink, ensure that you consider these 3 things:

  • the ambient temperature of the climate in which you are exercising
  • the intensity of exercise
  • the duration of exercise

If you are going to be exercising for less than 45 minutes, then water alone is probably sufficient. Should that 45 minutes be high intensity, high sweat yielding exercise, it will be important to replenish both electrolytes and macronutrients soon after exercising. A sports drink during and/or after the session might also be worthwhile to decrease your recovery time.

Regardless of whether you choose water or sports drinks, the most important part is to stay hydrated. Water is good for all occasions. Sports drinks are more useful for intense, long-duration, or sweaty activities. Remember, don’t wait till you’re thirsty. Drink up!