Monday, 30 June 2008

The Book of Five Rings on Fridays

The Book of Five Rings by Miyomoto Musashi is one of the greatest texts on strategy ever to be written. Originally intended for the purpose of military strategy and combat it has been used by business entrepreneurs over the years, as sections of the book which discuss taking advantage of an opponent and gaining the upper hand in combat can be easily related to there line of work.

Musashi was an undefeated swordsman from Japan who started his duelling career from an early age ending it just before his 30’s.

The book of five rings holds five different short books which deal with elements of battle including posture, strategy, rhythm, timing etc. The books are,

Ground (Earth) Book
Water Book
Fire Book
Wind Book
Emptiness Book


For the next few weeks, each Friday, I shall be taking parts of Musashi’s writings and discussing them and there applications in unarmed combat.

I hope you check out these next few articles as the principles Musashi discusses are more than capable of being adapted for modern day martial artists of all styles.

Marks
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

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Saturday, 28 June 2008

Strength from the Mind

Everybody wants to be strong and powerful. Good technique and dazzling speed are a must for each martial artist, but most want to be strong, powerful and above all, want to be able to use this strength.

To acquire this ability, many lift weights. They lift, push and pull daily, constantly trying to overcome barriers and lift that little bit more. Lifting weights is probably the best and quickest way to build the kind of strength wished by many. The only problem is, if you stop lifting, even for a couple of weeks, you quickly see this strength fade away.

Some martial artists build there strength through the practise of there martial art. Grapplers throw, scramble on the floor and constantly push and pull there opponents to get strong whilst strikers kick and punch the heavy bag with full power for years. Like with weights, this produces some good all round strength which is more specific for there chosen art/s.

Others however think that strength does not have to be built but that it has to be found. Without sounding like on old philosophical wise man, these people believe that strength can be found using the power of the mind. If you think you’re strong you shall be. A portion taken from Arnold Shwarzenegger’s book The Encyclopaedia to Modern Body Building tells the story of Franco Columbo about to squat some weight. He couldn’t even manage the one rep. A bunch of Italian American kids (what Franco is) then walked in, with the hope of watching there idol train. Arnold proceeded to take Franco outside and said to him “you cant get under the squat bar again and fail whilst these kids who idolise you watch” Then Franco’s face changed as he marched back into the gym, psyching himself up, getting under the bar and managing eight reps instead of the six he was going for!

Did Franco suddenly become stronger and more powerful? No. But he did find the strength somewhere with a little help from his mind and a positive attitude to succeed. This is the type of strength that people rarely have the ability to achieve. The strength of the mind is greater than any amount of bag work or weights. The relationship between the body and the mind is something that all must strive to find as with it, it is very hard to fail.

The following is the great Kyokushin Karate master Mas Oyama. A man with great strength and power. Someone who has obviously found this strength through his determination and motivation. His facial expressions clearly show that his mind and body are linked which is probably why he has become one of the greatest martial artists ever.





Marks

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Are MMA Fighters Predictable

Mixed Martial Arts is the greatest method of combat for anyone. By mixing different elements of different styles a fighter can become on all round expert. However is MMA becoming just a mix of Mauy Thai, BJJ, and Wrestling?

Many MMA gyms nowadays have fighters who have excellent BJJ skills, great Mauy Thai techniques and can wrestle nearly all to the mat when needed. They can fight standing, on the floor and anything in between. Maybe this is all they need to survive in the cage or the ring.

The problem however is, that nearly all that fight in MMA do exactly the same. They may be seen by some to be predictable. They expect low Thai kicks , boxing style punches, and BJJ rolling and can easily defend them.

At the beginning of the UFC most fights where over in seconds through knockout or submission. The reason being, one fighter was dominated by the other because they encountered a scenario they where not familiar with. Royce Gracie beat all with his grappling because not many knew grappling. Ken Shamrock used ground and pound and viscous leg locks and no one had answers to it. Today MMA fighters know what to expect and can defend accordingly.

Occasionally though you get the odd fighter who can shock others through unusual ways of fighting or rarely seen techniques. Lyoto Machida with his karate skills for example or Cung Li with his array of different kicks which always seem to land. Karo Parisyan uses judo throws to dazzle his opponents who dont see them coming.

MMA is MIXED MARTIAL ARTS, not just a couple combined together. There are many techniques from other arts like Taekwondo, Kung Fu etc and occasionally you may come across these techniques. Practise them and try and combine them to make yourself a less predictable fighter.

Below is a great knockout. It seems to be some kind of Capoeira style kick. Would it work again? Maybe not, but it was definitely not predictable and the result was devastating.





Marks

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Monday, 23 June 2008

How do I Become a UFC Fighter

Almost every time I go on to Yahoo Answers I see the question, “how do I become a UFC fighter” or “how much do I need to train to become a professional MMA fighter”. Many martial artists think that it’s an easy task to reach the top or to be able to fight in the cage. Well I’m afraid it takes a little bit more than you think to become the best.

Firstly you have to train in martial arts diligently. To get good you train 2 times a week, but to get great you train 6 days a week, leaving a day for rest. You have to train hard, with full focus whilst maintaining a burning desire to succeed. Even when you get bored of training, (which WILL happen every now and then) you have to push yourself harder and harder because this is what it takes to be the best.

Aside form the countless hours of martial arts practise, you must also build your body in order to take the demands needed for fighting. This means you have to work out with weights in order to build strength in your muscles but more importantly you have to enhance your cardiovascular endurance to its peak. You can be the greatest martial artist in the world but if you do not have the strength and endurance to last 5, 5 minute rounds of striking and grappling your skills shall not show and you will not get very far.

As you can see, training involves a lot of demand which would mean a lot of commitment and time. It may be that you have a job, or you go college or school. To fit your training around your other commitments you may have to get up an hour or two earlier to train, or instead of going out with your friends on a Saturday night, you may have to find the determination to hit the gym instead. You wont like it, but this is what it takes to be the best.

You shall also have to become committed to restarting certain food types. Training hard is one thing, but destroying your hard training through a poor diet is another and you shall have to watch what you eat from now on I’m afraid.

As you can see, the money and fame which pro MMA fighters achieve is really attractive, but please also understand that a lot of lot of hard disciplined work is needed to achieve it. If you thing you have what it takes, then go for it and good luck to you.


Marks

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Thursday, 19 June 2008

The Most Influential Martial Artists Ever

Bruce Lee, Jigoro Kano, Anko Itosu, Morihei Ueshiba. These are just a few names of martial artists that have influenced hundreds and thousands of people through there training. But who is the most influential ever to exist. Who paved the way to how we train today.

Bushi Matsumura is seen by some to be the greatest karate fighter of all time. Without him karate would not have been passed down to Anko Itosu, one of the men responsible in teaching Gichen Funakoshi who then introduced karate to the rest of the world via Japan. Maybe karate would have found another route to the world if there was none of the above three, who knows. This however is what happened and certainly should cement there reputations as great and influential martial arts masters.

Everyone in the martial arts world was stunned back in the 1990’s when Royce Gracie shocked the world by beating nearly all comers with his jiu jitsu techniques. He most surly started the “grappling era”. Grappling was well known before the early UFC but he put it on the map so to speak. A truly influential person. But someone taught him, which was Helio Gracie and someone taught the Gracie’s which was Maeda. You could even say that Jigoro Kano, the person who created the Judo system and from his Kodakan came Maeda, was the man responsible for creating the grappling era. After all, without him, Maeda would not have learnt Judo who passed it on to the Gracie’s and Royce would not have competed in the UFC. There may never have even been a UFC.

The Ancient Greeks created pankration. It is believed that from them, pankration travelled to India via Alexander the Greats conquests. The Indians where then taught the Greeks system of fighting, which travelled to the Shaolin Temple and became known as kung fu and kung fu is said to be the father of all martial arts. Maybe the creators of pankration hold the right as the most influential martial artists of all time.

Bruce Lee has inspired millions. It’s a fact. He has given many people inspiration to become not just great martial artists but great people. For this reason surly he will be known as one of the most influential.

The fact is, it’s impossible to point out the most influential martial artists because there has been so many over time. Many people have proven themselves as great. The common link which they all share however is that they all believe in there own abilities and this should make them great alone regardless of there technical abilities. This could be the reason they inspire and influence so many, and why they shall continue to do so.


Marks

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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Axe Kick

The Axe Kick is a kick that not many people can pull off. Not only does it require a great deal of flexibility, but timing and spot on accuracy all play there role in the deliverance of the kick.

If anyone is familiar with the great Kyokushin Karate Fighter Andy Hug (RIP) you will know of the axe kick. Sometimes called the drop heel kick or Otoshi Geri it is one of them rarely thrown kicks that if landed can do a great deal of damage.

To execute it from a fighting stance you simply swing your back or front leg up keeping it straight and drop it down on your opponent. As your foot makes a decent from its highest position you lean slightly backwards from your upper body so as to keep stabilised, well balanced and for further reach. On contact try to avoid having the striking leg completely straight but bent slightly so as to not damage the knee. Your striking weapon is the heel of the foot. As with all kicks its best to have your standing leg slightly bent also for extra balance. Targets for striking include the top part of the head, collar bone, shoulder, your opponents back (if they are bent forward) and your opponent’s front thigh (if the leg is bent enough).

This is a technique that can work well in most kickboxing and MMA fights. These fighters are used to attacks from the front (straight techniques), from underneath (uppercuts) and from the side (hooks and roundhouse kicks). Rarely do they get attacked with techniques from above coming down which is precisely the route the axe kick takes.

As with all techniques, use it in conjunction with others. Don’t relay solely on it but don’t omit it from your repertoire. Practise it, use it, and have confidence in it and it shall work for you.

I leave you with a compilation of the late great Andy Hug and some of his finest moments. Watch out for the axe kick and all his other spectacular techniques which are rarely seen. Enjoy.





Marks

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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Masakazu Imanari Highlights

Some people where just born to perform a specific skill. Masakazu Imanari' s case was to grapple!

One of my favourite grapplers of all time. Here is a highlight of just some of his fights. As you will probably tell, he is a leg lock specialist. Hope you enjoy.



Marks

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Monday, 16 June 2008

Dealing with Different Ranges of Combat

Kicking range, punching range, clinch, ground fighting etc. These are just a few ranges of combat. Everyone has one range which they are most skilled at and which they prefer there fighting to take place. Boxers obviously favour punching ranges, Thai boxers work well in the clinch, Teakwondo fighters nearly always try and stay within kicking range and grapplers like taking the fight to the floor.

Because everyone likes fighting within a certain range a lot of the times we try and “look” for that range during sparring or competition. By this I mean we try and get within that range because it suites our preference. This should be avoided as sometimes it can turn out for the worst.

For instance, a grappler who is always trying to take the fight to the floor may try countless attempts at shoots or tackles. Against another grappler who will not strike back, that is ok, but against a seasoned Mauy Thai fighter who will use his knees and elbows when given the chance, this could prove disastrous for the grappler. Or maybe a preferred kicker may constantly try to get within a long kicking range. Whilst backing away from his/her opponent, the kicker may find that there opponent is a great puncher who is hurdling towards them throwing fast and powerful shots which land and do damage.

As mentioned, everyone has a range which they feel most comfortable in but one of the worst things to do is to constantly try and get within that range. Learning how to cope with other ranges and going with the flow of the fight is important. If it happens that you find yourself in a position not familiar to you, its best to try and relax, defend well, attack if given the opportunity and stay ready rather than trying to force yourself out of that range which will result in much energy expenditure and maybe some hits in the process.

Practise as many ranges as fighting as you can manage so as to get the basics of each one and so you don’t panic in any of them. Train them in your workouts so when caught in them when fighting, you are ready.


Marks

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Thursday, 12 June 2008

Combination Training for Striking

Combination striking training against focus pads, heavy bags or an opponent is a must. You have to get used to attacking in combination using techniques that flow freely without the need of having to think before you strike.

The one problem with this kind of training however is that most, when learning a new combination do not take the time to study it correctly and end up being sloppy.

When you first practise a combination break it down slowly. Perform each technique slowly, pausing between each one to begin with and not at full power. Rushing through the combination with the hope of performing it fast will not do anything for you and could lead to you not performing at your greatest speed possible.

Whilst performing the techniques slowly, make sure you concentrate on correct form, i.e. correct body/hip rotation on strikes and kicks, your guarding hand when punching and returning to a safe fighting stance at the end of the combination.

Each technique should leave you in a position to use maximum power for the next. For instance, if your in a shouthpaw stance and you right hook, you should be in a balanced position so as to use full power and speed for your next technique, which could be a left cross or left roundhouse kick for example. It should also feel natural to perform from you right hook finish position. If it does not feel natural to perform, meaning that your body position is wrong after the hook, then go back, practise the hook again concentrating on getting your body position after the technique correct. By trying to perfect your body position, your combinations will feel as if they have a greater flow to them and that every technique is fast and powerful.

Always be aware of your defence when practising combinations. Against a heavy bag, your not going to get counter hit in the middle of your combination, but against an opponent in sparring you shall. Make sure your guard is always there and that you are aware of you opponents possible counters to your strikes and kicks. Good training for this is to practise a combination whilst having your partner throw an occasional punch in between. This will get you used to reacting whilst keeping you aware and on the balls of your feet.

It is always wise to practise combination techniques. They help in developing your timing, balance and endurance when fighting. Practise them but always remember that good technique should come first. With good technique you shall be able to perform at your fastest and most powerful pace.


Marks

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Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Ground and Pound Training for MMA

About 20 years ago, if someone saw ground and pound they would probably call it brutal and unnecessary. Fast forward 20 years to the present however and it is a common thing to see, occurring in nearly every MMA fight and is even more common to see being practised in martial art schools the world over, than ever before.

To be a true martial artist, you need to be capable of fighting from all positions, including standing, on your knees, from your back and whilst on top of your opponent. Ground and pound training therefore is a must.

If you are new to ground and pound training it is wise that all you practise is strikes from the mount to begin with, concentrating on straight punches. Striking downwards at first can feel tricky to some, but after a few sessions of it, you should become more comfortable with downward punching.

When you feel you have progressed with punching from the mount you should progress to punching from the knee on the stomach position. This is great for working balance. You should also try switching sides so as to work left and ride, for you never know which side you shall end up in during the course of a fight.



I have shown above one round of ground and pound training using a heavy bag. I start by striking from the mount and the knee on the stomach positions using straight punches and elbows. I circle the bag by either stepping round or swinging one leg over the bag pivoting on the opposite knee. The scarf hold and side control positions are also worked, whilst incorporating a variety of elbow strikes and knees.

When transitioning through positions try and stay a low as possible when moving. You do not want to get into the habit of raising your body when stepping round the bag. You must make your movements as subtle as possible. Also, always think of your guard and your striking technique just as you would during stand-up striking.

Ground and pound is an excellent form of stamina training. After a couple of minutes of it your heart will be pumping fast. As you are constantly moving around the bag whilst striking you also improve your scrambling abilities and you shall notice the differences to your grappling. If you have not trained ground and pound before, start now.


Marks

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Monday, 9 June 2008

Towel Chin Ups

On bodybuilders the back is one of the most staggering muscles to see. Having a pro turn around to reveal a V shape which blocks the sun proves the strength in it also. Training chin ups is completely necessary to develop these kinds of results but in order to deal with the intensity needed for chin-ups, the forearms must be able to also take the punishment of hard training.

This is where towel training comes into play. By gripping a towel you are forced to grip harder and stronger than if you where pulling yourself up using a strong thick round bar.

An excellent form of training for martial artists and grapplers especially, towel chin ups help in developing a strong grip, which could be enough to control the gi of your opponent making it hard for him/her to perform throws, scramble on the floor or break holds used for controlling when ground grappling.

To perform the exercise use two towels thrown over a chinning bar. Try and grip as least of the towels as your grip allows. It may be that you need to fold the towel so it is as thick as a bar in the beginning but as time goes by the aim is to grip less and less and also with less fingers. The end result is that you are performing chin-ups with no folds in the towel and with a grip of just your thumb and index finger.

As with all exercises start off slowly and build the reps as you get better and stronger.


Marks

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Sunday, 8 June 2008

Triangle Choke from the Crucifix

The triangle choke is one the most sought after techniques when grappling from your back. Along with the arm bar it is something that everybody has been caught with from one time to another. The main escapes which people try when caught in this technique is to simply stand up or push the attackers legs away from there neck. By standing up, your straighten the persons legs who is trying to secure the submission, and break the hold.

The below video is a great and simple variation to the triangle. It is combined with the crucifix hold where your control both of your opponents arms (not to be confused with this crucifix)




As you can see it is virtually impossible for your opponent to resist the technique after being caught in the crucifix position, for he is incapable of using his arms or standing up. Gaining this crucifix is not too difficult and can be attempted whenever your opponent is on all fours as shown.

I would not recommend you always go for this crucifix position as your opponents shall become aware it and shall develop effective counters, but occasionally it can surprise them and give you a possibility for the triangle choke.

When training this, at first your partner should not resist and allow you to practise (and vice versa). After it feels natural, your partner should defend it, forcing you to counter effectively, moving into another submission or a controlling technique.


Marks

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Friday, 6 June 2008

Students becoming Masters

Someone new to martial arts first goes to class with the hope of learning something new. Obviously they wish to be taught by the master of the school. Being taught a technique by one of the schools students, which sometimes happens, could result in the newcomer never coming back. After all, you want to be taught by the master, not the student. But when does the student start being called the master. And what must happen for him/her to be given this special title?

Does the student after years of training suddenly wake up one morning and think “I shall regard myself as a master from now on” or maybe he/she has to win a certain amount of fights or tournaments. Someone who is successful in competition with others has a lot to be proud of. Training hard for them and coming out on top over others who wish the victory as much as the winner, is a great achievement but does not necessarily make them a master.

Fedor Emilianenko is probably seen as one of the greatest ever MMA fighters and maybe has earnt the right to be called a master, but how about when he is in front of his coaches. Would he then be seen as the student and his coaches seen as masters or would they all be seen as masters.

Rickson Gracie is seen by some as the ultimate master of Jiu Jitsu. His won countless amounts of fights. So could Rickson teach someone how to be gracious in defeat? Probably not, as he has never lost! If someone has had 100 fights without winning a single one on the other hand, they maybe could teach this and could be seen as a master in it.

Maybe the right thought would be that a master is someone who can pass on knowledge and a student is someone who can learn that passed knowledge. This would make everyone masters AND students. No one is perfect but everyone has something that they can pass on, it just so happens that some have more to pass on than others.


Marks

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Wednesday, 4 June 2008

From Brown Belt to Black Belt

Everyone who trains in an art that uses the belt system at some point in time puts all his/her focus towards gaining there Dan grade (black belt). There will always be this fascination towards it as most seem to think that it is an achievement.

While it is, and someone who has gained there black belt should be proud of there achievement, only once you earn it do you realise that it is just a belt like any other and it does not make you the expert fighter you thought it would. But does any other belt push you to achieve greater ability? In my experience, the brown belt does and is more beneficial than the black.

When I achieved my brown belt, it was like seeing light at the end of the tunnel. After years of training to earn it, which included long runs home from work late at night, many hours of solo training, millions of pushups and crunches and countless whacks during sparring, I could see that it finally was paying off and I was one belt away from achieving my goal at that time.

Having this thought in mind gave me great inspiration and determination to boost my training and go all out every workout, and for the year and a half or so it took from my brown belt to my black, that is what I did.

It was during this period where I feel I started to develop my own way of fighting specifically suited for my body type and natural abilities, breaking slightly away from trying to mimic the exact movements of my teacher, or other higher ranked martial artists in my school.

Once I achieved my Dan grade, for a few months, I slackened off slightly, thinking that I was at the top of the mountain, not training half as hard as I did when was on brown belt level. It didn’t take me soon to realise via some harder sparring that I had just started my “real” training and that everything prior was kind of a warm up.

Eventually every martial artist should go through this same process. No two fighters are the same. A person can only perform his best, according to his/her own abilities. Trying to work yourself around someone else’s way of doing things will only result in you never being able to feel comfortable in your fighting style, whichever it is and no matter when it happens during your training years, you must realise what YOU can do, and start adapting your way of fighting around that.

For me it was the hard training during my brown belt stage and for this reason it was the most important belt for ME. For others it may me different and I wish you good luck in your process of trying to better yourselves as martial artists.


Marks

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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Self Defence and Going to Far

Most martial artists have the attitude that on the streets, they will not go looking for trouble and only use there skills when there is no other option. Of course there are some which don’t follow this rule and all I can say to them is, what goes around comes around, but the majority keep themselves to themselves on the street. But when the unfortunate time of having to defend yourself comes around, how far must you go to defend yourself successfully.

In most countries, there are specific laws regarding defending oneself and going too far. If a thug in the street tries to strike you and you retaliate by striking him back then running away while he is dazed that’s one thing, but if that strike knocked him out, then you continue to hit him/her whilst they are on the ground unable to defend themselves, then that would make you the aggressor and you would probably get into trouble for it.

To some people the above is obvious, but to many new martial artists who are not familiar with there countries laws, it is always best to research them so as to know how far to go on the street without getting yourself into trouble.

Up until a few years ago in many countries if you held a black belt in a specific martial art, it was your duty to inform the police so they could register your hands as so called “lethal weapons”. Although this is not the norm now, some authorities still see martial artists as people with an edge over untrained people and when they are involved in any kind of street fight, defending themselves or not, the fact that they are martial artists is taken into account and if they have been seen as using unnecessary force during that fight, they could get into a lot trouble for it.

MMA is my favourite sport, I love MMA training and think it is the number one fighting sport in the world with some of the most well trained athletes, but the fact is when some people see kicks against someone on the floor or ground and pound in MMA, they may get the impression that in the street this is what you must aim to do. The aim is to defend yourself successfully. If there is no need to keep hitting someone on the floor, DON’T DO IT. If the person has a weapon and is intent on really hurting you, it may be necessary to use this kind of force. You must correctly judge yourself, how far to go. Defend yourself, but keep within the law.


Marks

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Monday, 2 June 2008

Uppward Elbow Strike

I like to occasionally mention techniques that are rarely seen but very effective. The upward elbow /elbow uppercut is one of those techniques that is not used as much as it should. A very simple technique to perform it can be devastating when combined with close range techniques such as the roundhouse elbow or knee strikes.

The way it is performed is relatively easy. From a fighting stance with your hands held in your usual guarding position the elbow is struck upwards with the arm kept as bent as possible. Think of trying to scratch your upper back by stretching over your shoulder. When the elbow is struck upwards, a common mistake is for the forearm of the striking elbow to cross over the face, as if touching the opposite ear. This must be avoided. If your striking with the right elbow then the right forearm/hand should rest close to the right ear, not the left. It is not wrong to cross the hand over the face, but maximum power is lost by doing this.

Combined with strong body rotation, the strike can be very powerful, fast and unexpected. From the clinch its use is obvious but another good way of performing it is when a failed shoot has been performed. As your opponent blocks your shoot by sprawling or dropping to one knee, as you stand up you drive the elbow uppercut upwards. Using the upwards movement when rising to an erect position can help in delivering a lot of power into the blow.




(ref: www.globalsecurity.org)

Marks

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