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

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!

“Think street, train sport”

This is a famous quotation from UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor. Like many fighters, McGreor was bullied as a kid and started training martial arts to fend off his bullies. Since we opened our BJJ program last October, we have been asking students to participate in sports fights like Conor McGregor. In addition, last month we launched UTKM Fight Camp, a prep course for anyone competing in kickboxing, MMA, BJJ, and other tournaments under our school.

Surprisingly, some of our most loyal and dedicated Krav Maga students were resistant to competition. Since full contact sparring is familiar to most students, and those at higher levels even practice throws and takedowns regularly, and many others cross train in other disciplines like kickboxing or MMA, we thought that sports fighting would be a compelling opportunity for them.

After asking the students why they hesitate, I found their reasons to be flawed and unsound. Thus, I am here to debunk some myths about Krav Maga and sports fighting. Here are three reasons why it is beneficial as a Krav Maga student to compete in tournaments.

1. Sport training can enhance your foundation skills

Sports fighting is different from Krav Maga because there are rules. Students often think that training in sports fighting would dilute their Krav Maga skills by limiting the moves they are allowed to use. However, it can actually help with mastering the fundamentals of Krav Maga. Since, sports martial arts focus on specific attacks, such as kicks in taekwondo or punches in boxing, you are forced to practice the basics over and over again. For hours, you would work solely on footwork, or a punch combo, or another single move.

Mastering simple movements is the foundation of a good fighter.

Like Bruce Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” If you have a solid grasp on how to apply the basics, you will enhance your overall Krav Maga skills.

2. Training for sports fights can make you better at real fights

Students often think that since Krav Maga is meant to prepare them for real fights, there is no reason to participate in sports fights. In the military, we often conduct field training exercises (FTX). These activities range from live fire courses to expensive army laser tag “games.” We put a lot of effort into making these simulations as realistic as possible. It is the only way to train soldiers to react and to handle stress calmly before sending them to a real battlefield.

Fighting in sports tournaments is akin to a military FTX.

You will have the chance to go all out and fight full force with an opponent who you have never met (like in real life). You will experience pain and may even get slightly injured. You will be able to go through the emotions of joy, anger, fear, sadness, stress that may arise before, during, and after the fight. You will feel real pressure. You may possibly experience a post-fight adrenaline dump.

The most important and best part of these experiences is that you are safe. The referee will stop the fight when needed, and first aid attendants are always ready to assist if needed.

3. Taking time to train for a competition can improve your Krav Maga

The benefit of sports martial arts is that they focus on an aspect of fighting — for example, Brazilian jiu-jitsu on grappling, boxing on punching, and judo on throwing. Students think that it would take time away from Krav Maga training. However, when you train for a tournament, it gives you the opportunity to take a break from Krav Maga and pay particular attention to specific aspects of fighting.

If you are weak in some areas, sports fight training will reveal it and improve it.

Ultimately, Krav Maga is not a martial art, but a tactical self-defense system made up of the best from every fighting style, and a little Israeli flair. So why not take the time to work on a specific building block (boxing, grappling, kicking, throwing), and test your ability to fight under real pressure? In the end, it only enhances your overall performance!

“Someone with only a year of training in boxing and wrestling could easily defeat a martial artist of twenty years experience.”

Ah, more wise words from Bruce Lee. Let’s leave you with some wise words from UTKM:

Someone with only one year of training in Krav Maga and experience in a single sports fight could overcome any attacker in a real self-defense situation.

donna2My husband and I have been training partners since I began doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which means we’ve been sparring for longer than we’ve been dating. We’ve found some perks to having a BJJ training partner who is also a life partner:

Shared Commitment is Strong Commitment

Since before we were a couple, Mike and I have been going to the same BJJ classes, training at the same gym, and making the same group of training friends. It has helped to stay committed by sharing the commitment with a loved one. Some days, when one of us is worn out, the other is an encouraging voice to give the push we need to keep with our training regimen. We keep each other active, engaged, and in shape!

Cooperation and Friendly Competition

We spar to strengthen ourselves, but also to make each other better. This applies to all teammates.

My husband is larger, stronger, and more experienced than I am. Thus, as you’d expect, when we are fully sparring from a fair start, he tends to win. However, the skill gap in BJJ closes as we reach the higher ranks. Since Mike has cut back from his training to focus on school, and I have increased my training regimen to include teaching, the gap has started to close even more and our matches are more even.

We are not just motivated by our own success, but also that of each other. It is exciting to see him do well against others and me as well. When he executes a sweep or submission fluidly and with technical proficiency, that’s exciting and I feel proud. He feels likewise for me. So in spirit of good-natured competition, we agreed that the first time I submitted him, he would treat me to a nice dinner at a local restaurant. When that moment finally came, his reaction was one of excitement and pride, “Great job baby, that arm control was sleek and set up the armbar perfectly, I’m so proud of you!”

An Inside and Outside Perspective on You

Training with your life partner means training with someone who knows you very well personally and physically. As such, they can comment on your development, how you are changing, where you are improving, and where you could use growth. We all carry an internal bias, and someone who sees your performance from the exterior can give you a helpful perspective on where you stand and what you can work on.

Having Someone to Test New Moves and Troubleshoot Techniques

When BJJ embeds itself into your life, you find yourself thinking through techniques at any odd hour of the day. It’s invaluable to have someone you can turn to and say, “I tried this kimura setup and it didn’t maintain the control I needed. Can we recreate that position and work through the mechanics?”

To get a non-BJJ partner to accommodate this… good luck.

However, if your partner doesn’t train, it may be worth convincing them to give it a shot. BJJ is such a martial art that it is not a violent one. Technique and leverage matters more than force. Sparring can also take many forms – aggressive, dynamic, flowing, acrobatic, playful. Obviously, during an argument or rough patch is not the best time to break out in an aggressive sparring session. But to find a partner who loves your sport as much as you do? It’s priceless.

What perks would you add to the list? Leave a comment or tell us on Facebook!