Thursday, 27 November 2008

Jissen and Sparring for the Streets

Yesterday I downloaded a copy of Jissen, a free online martial arts publication (download here) and in it was an article written by Iain Abernethy which details sparring for the streets. Sparring for the streets is different to what you may find in dojos, training halls, Muay Thai schools and MMA gyms. In order to spar for the streets you have to add or remove some elements.

The points which are stressed in the article include,

Don’t limit the techniques and ranges

Boxers can not ground fight, MMA fighters can not strike to the groin, Mauy Thai fighters and Kickboxers can not perform submissions and submission grapplers can not strike. On the streets, there is no ref and nothing stopping your opponent (or you) doing any of the above no matter what your martial art is, so it’s best to do some preparation for it.

Emphasize Simplicity and High Percentage technique.

Although the spinning back roundhouse kick or flying elbow strike may look impressive, how many times will they be successful? In the streets, you may have only one chance to defend yourself before getting beaten so would it not be best to rely on simple effective techniques like knees to the groin or punches to the face or even strong pushes.

Vary the numbers

Although a lot of street fights are one on one, many more involve one or more against multiple attackers. Without training using this kind of scenario you are not realistically training to deal with this type of threat. Include it!

Spar when Exhausted.

When your adrenaline kicks in during a street fight, you can use up a lot of energy very fast indeed. Fighting then, when you’re tired is hard. You can get sloppy and leave yourself open. Also, a lot of fights happen after a night out around 3 or 4am when you’re tired. Learning to spar when you’re exhausted can prove a very realistic training method.

I strongly suggest that you download a copy of Jissen which gives further information on all these points plus some great reading material for the realistic martial artist.

Also check out Sensei Abernethy’s webiste. There are great articles regarding realistic training for the streets, karate kata bunkai which is aimed at practicality and simplicity plus much more.


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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Arm Bar from the Guard

The straight arm bar from the guard, (juji gatame) is one of my favourite submissions. It is probably one of the first submissions taught from the guard, and although it is one of the most expected techniques from this position, it still does not fail to pop up in many Jiu Jitsu, Judo or other grappling tournaments throughout the world.

So what are the main points I believe must be stressed when attempting this technique. Well first of all, check out this videos demonstrating it.

The following has always worked for me. Weather the same tips work for you is another matter however.

• Maintain a good solid grip of the arm you intend to attack. It’s best to use both your arms to hold your opponents forearm and wrist, however, if strikes are allowed, be cautious of them and guard yourself if necessary, holding on the best way possible.
• When your pivot your body to the side, make sure that you are side on to your opponent as much as possible. This will allow for a more advantageous positioning for your legs.
• The leg that swings over your opponents head should be swung fast and curled over your opponent’s upper neck if possible.
• Always try and keep the attacking arm/elbow close to your body if possible, whilst pivoting your body and positioning your legs. This will allow you to gain the best possible leverage when applying the lock.
• Rather than crossing your legs, keep them curled over your opponents neck and chest when arching your hips
• To hyperextend the arm, arch your hips upwards while pulling the arm. Weather your opponent falls to the floor or not does not matter as long as his arm is hyper extended. Some people try and push there opponents with there legs to bring them down to the floor ending up in a classic arm bar position. This can be hard to pull off, and can sometimes create to much space between you or your opponent making the technique less effective. Also it delays the submission giving your opponent more time to defend.

Like I said, these points have always worked for me, but everybody has different weight, size, and flexibility so if you find these points don’t work for you, don’t force them, but adjust as necessary.


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Monday, 24 November 2008

Dealing with Fear

You can be the greatest martial arts fighter that ever lived, making legends such as Fedor Emilianenko, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Randy Couture look like amateurs, with a fighting record of 100-0 and be in the prime condition of your life, but if you claim to never get afraid during unfortunate self defence encounters then your lying.

Rickson Gracie famously put it during Choke (a feature length documentary leading up to a Japan Vale Tudo Tournament, see the DVD’s to right for further details), that if someone says he is not afraid, then to him he is a stupid man. Rickson then says “im afraid of everything” and this is coming from one of the greatest fighters to ever walk our planet.

How can someone justify themselves of not being afraid during self defence encounters. With all the news of gun and knife attacks to bombard our televisions and fill our newspapers, its impossible for someone to say it does not bother them and that there 15 years training in the deadly art of blah blah blah will get them through it.

Fear is in everyone but for most is not fully understood until it is felt. At one point in time, every martial artist will think to themselves “does the techniques im learning really work in a street fight”. Some even go as far as to actually put themselves in situations where they may have to defend themselves and it is at this point that they will experience fear. The unfortunate reality is, that by then, it may be too late.

The best and safest way for a martial artist to deal with this type of fear is through his/her actual training. As mentioned in a previous article, Reality of Street Fights, training in many gyms and dojos today is completely different to what you may expect on the street and dealing with fear is not practised to the level that is possible. By incorporating some street style training, (multiple opponents, weapon attacks, full contact sparring, occasional bad language etc), we are preparing ourselves a little more to deal with fear which will help. Also by sparring at other gyms with people you have never even met is a great way to deal with fear. It can be very daunting to train at other schools of different styles to your own and by facing this challenge it definitely helps in building confidence and minimising fear.

Fear will always be around and there is never a guarantee of victory in a self defence encounter, but with good preparation in a realistic manner you will always have a better chance should you ever find yourself in that situation.


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Friday, 21 November 2008

Eddie Bravo's Electric Chair

I found the following submission hold showing 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu master Eddie Bravo, demonstrating his Electric Chair submission.

From the half guard, not only is this an excellent submission (if it works), but is a great way to your opponent and gain a top position (either side four quarters or a possible mount). Since you’re constantly in control of his/her legs, it makes it hard for them to turn and scramble on to there back.

As with all drills and techniques on this site, practise it slowly to begin, with a partner that will allow you to practise, then gradually start to incorporate it in to your sparring. Also make sure you drill it right side and left side, until your comfortable performing it both ways.


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Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sparring Intensity in Martial Arts

Sparring is needed in martial arts. It is one of, if not the best way, to try and apply the basic principles and techniques you practise for hours on end, against an opponent who is doing his best to resist.

The level of contact which is needed when striking should also be given considerable thought. Although full contact techniques will quickly teach you how to give and receive blows and should definitely be trained, it is not always necessary or wise to spar this way and lighter contact may provide opportunities to practise different combinations, without the fear of being punished too badly for leaving openings.

I remember one time while sparring, I let my partner attack first as to get an inclination of the level of intensity and contact he wanted to use. By the ferocity and lack of control of his attacks, I assumed he wanted to spar full contact with high intensity, which was no problem for me. As the sparring pursued, I started to land some hard blows of my own and one of the things which I noticed was that the high intensity and hard contact which he started with, slowly started to ease off ending up with much lighter contact, so I also eased off a little. Afterwards I did not think anything of this, but I found out that this person was telling others that I was in a way bullying him and using too much contact.

After I heard about this, I was very disappointed with this person.

My own personal thoughts when it comes to sparring intensity are that whatever level of intensity one wants to use is completely fine as long as the person they are sparring with is in agreement. After all, one of the reasons we learn martial arts is how to fight, which means hard, fast contact must be used from time to time, weather it be hard strikes, furious throws or fast paced grappling. But one thing that I do not agree on, is that your sparring partner can not also use the same amount of intensity. You must be prepared to receive exactly what you give, without any excuses or any complaints afterwards. Everyone trains in order to learn and everyone will get dominated during sparring from time to time and the best way to deal with it is to practise more, reassess where you think you need improvements and always strive to better yourself.

Others may have different opinions on this and that is fine, but these are mine. Sparring should be an educational exercise. It should be used wisely, practised often and eventually improvements will be made. It should never be used as a way to beat others up, because sometimes you may find yourself on the receiving end.


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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Aggression in the Martial Arts

Throughout the years, many martial art schools state that some of the main reasons of learning martial arts is to actually become more humble, relaxed and to be less aggressive. Although martial arts does provide this to an extent and after many years of training hopefully it should start to show, it is some peoples views that martial artists can also develop more aggression.

Take the following example. A new student starts training and after a couple of lessons of learning basic techniques, his told he will start sparring. Really nervous as its his first time, he does not really try any techniques he has practised, instead just stands there taking many controlled punches as his sparring partner decides to go light on him. This carries on for the next few lessons, but his sparring partner strikes him harder and harder in a bid to make him counter. Knowing that the beginner has to start throwing punches back, his teacher shouts, “hit him, hit him”. After a few more lessons of the same punishment, the beginner decides that enough is enough. However many times he gets hit, he makes up his mind that he shall also start hitting back, hard. His aggression increases immensely and as the weeks go by, he learns that he has to also strike back himself in order to save taking any punishment.

You may have been in this predicament or know someone who has. Someone who goes from being non aggressive to be becoming someone who does not take any abuse from anyone and uses aggression to overcome others.

Obviously for self defence situations, he would probably find that he shall be able to take care of himself but in the long run has the aggression he has built through training and sparring done more worse than good. Is today’s martial arts training producing bad people instead of good ones which is what the old masters intended?

Comments on this subject are welcomed by all.


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Monday, 17 November 2008

Striking to the Body

Some time ago I wrote an article about Body Blows and how useful they are during fights. After receiving a knee strike while clinch training a few nights ago, the whole point of this article is to reiterate that body blows are very effective and can do a lot of damage.

As mentioned, during some clinch sparring, the only strikes that we agreed on throwing where knees. As I was grappling with my opponent trying to gain dominant control I felt a sudden knee strike catch me on my right oblique muscle. Although I’m sure my opponent could have thrown it harder, it still had enough force for me to feel it and wake up a little.

Sparring continued for the rest of the night although the whole time I did feel a little tingle in my side which put me off slightly. The next morning I woke up and felt the worst pain in my side I had ever felt. The exact spot where the knee strike landed was throbbing in pain, not allowing me to bend or twist, so just imagine how I struggled to put on my socks!

Instead of getting better over the next couple of days, the pain actually got worse and yesterday I said to myself that if it still hurt I was going to get my self checked for any serious damage. Luckily, the pain has slightly eased off now and hopefully by tomorrow or the next day it would have gone.

The lesson I have learnt from this, apart from the fact that putting your socks on can be harder than you think, is that body blows are definitely worth practising much more. With such a large target compared to the head area, the body has so many vital points that if struck, can really hurt.

Body blows can also be used as a tactical strategy in order to gain head shot knockouts. By incorporating them often, your opponent shall become aware that you like to strike the midsection and shall occasionally divert his/her attention to defending the strikes. During these seldom moments are your best times to strike at the head area.


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Thursday, 13 November 2008

Superfoot Training for High Kicking

To be able to kick fast and with power is probably the thought that comes in most peoples minds when the word martial arts crops up. Since martial arts where first portrayed on the silver screen, fighters have been expected to be able to pull of jumping spinning kicks, aimed always towards head height.

Of course, the reality is that these types of spectacular kicks should be left at the movie theatre. However, more realistic kicks for fighting sports such as MMA or Muay Thai do require fighters to be able to perform kicks at any height with strength.

Weight training is probably one of the best ways to develop strength in the muscles, but for kicking, especially at head height, requires years of performing the actual kicks to get your muscles, ligaments and tendons used to the rigors of kicking.

A method which I have been using for many years and which I consider to be one of the best for developing kicking strength is slow kicks and isometric holds and I happened to find a video with Bill “Superfoot” Wallace demonstrating the exact exercise.

As you can see, Wallace uses a chair to keep his balance (a wall or post etc will do) and basically performs kicks his kicks. The exercise involves isometric holds where you hold the kicking leg high in a kicking position (i.e, roundhouse kick), slow extensions of the leg to kicking positions at various heights and finally fast kicks (which can be performed with single kicks or as Wallace does with combination kicks)

Now if you’re new to this type of training, you probably will not be able to hold your leg up as high as Wallace does and will probably will not be able to hold a kicking position for 10 seconds as Wallace does, but that’s ok. As with everything you start small, performing to your own specific maximum, but you do want to try and better yourself over time so you are holding your leg in a kicking position for at least ten seconds for a few sets. Perform the same workout with both legs to develop the same strength on both sides.

By performing this exercise you shall develop the exact muscles used for kicking and shall develop other areas of kicking such as balance, body positioning and crisp technique. It is a must for all martial artists who train kicks and should be performed regularly.

Another similar article which may help whilst trying to perform this exercise is here


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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

What is a Black Belt in Martial Arts

Whilst on a martial arts forum I came across the thread “What is a Black Belt and who deserves it” The thread author answered his own question with,

“To me a BB [black belt] is a representation of knowledge over application. That may seem strange considering that I have stated in other posts that I adhere to the "Smash Mouth" MA dictionary. However, my argument for this is simple. To say that all BBs must be able to physically defend themselves not only against common assailants but also dominate lower belts, is to diminish the BB to nothing more than a fighting title. There are those out there, who due to injury, age or other ailment can no longer perform at this requisite BB ideal. Now while it is fair that they lose sporting titles, I hardly believe it constructive to the progression of MA to also take away their BBs. “

Some of the answers which where given include,

“A black belt means fighting ability. Ask 100 people on the street and I guarantee 99 of them will tell you the same thing.”

“To me a black belt means "mastering" basic skills, not mastering the martial art.”

“A bb doesn’t matter much in a matter of self defence if the other guy is 10+ feet away from you and has a revolver.”

“A black belt is just rank in a specific art, in the old days they didn't even have coloured belts, they all started out white and changed colour from the dirt and blood from fighting. Someone who deserves a black belt should be in great physical condition and should know the art like the back or their hand, I don't think its so much about kicking ass more than the actual art, unless its kickboxing or something specifically used for combat only."

As you can see, people have different opinions about what makes a black belt. Further opinions are that wearing a belt is just a piece of clothing to keep your gi top secure and that it has no relative meaning. Others believe that you can only gain a black belt by winning a certain amount of fights in competition or by teaching martial arts classes.

There are also schools which adopt written as well as technical examinations similar to a school qualification, involving questions and a certain pass mark must be achieved.

It would be interesting to find out other opinions on this subject so please feel free to leave a comment.


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Monday, 10 November 2008

Martial Arts from Books and DVD's

The best way to learn martial arts is to regularly attend a certified martial arts training centre, listen to everything the teacher there has to say and eventually you shall grasp the body mechanics and instinct needed to apply the techniques. From then on, its practise via drills and sparring.

Whilst visiting martial art forums I have come across many people stating that there is no point trying to learn from books, dvd’s and other types of media and that you must always go to a martial arts school to learn.

Whilst I do agree that attending a martial arts school is the best way to learn, especially for people who have never trained before, I feel its right to point out that using media is a great way to further ones knowledge and pick up some extra tips on techniques and training methods. There is no martial arts teacher that is an expert in every martial art and studying books etc will enable you to pick up useful information that your teacher may not have been able to provide you with.

The fault would be if when you read or see this information, you just think about it and that’s it.

Lets say you read in a book on how to apply a certain leg lock. The best way to make this technique a part of your repertoire is to practise it over and over again. Meet a friend and try and apply it. Take the book to your teacher and ask him/her to go through it with you. Study further information about the same technique on the internet to see if there is any useful content that will explain it in more detail to you.

By doing these things you will be making the techniques not just good reading materiel but extra pieces of knowledge which you can use. Also, just by practising them you may learn things such as defences to the techniques, best ways to set them up, follow up techniques etc.

Learning from books etc is a great way to further ones knowledge. They should not be used as the only way to learn but definitely should accompany martial artists as they progress.

Below this post are my recommendations on books which will definitely help. Check them out, you may see something you like.


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Friday, 7 November 2008

Mastering the One Handed Press Up

There are certain exercises that are always visually more pleasing to watch than others. Likewise, these exercises not only grab the attention of people in the gym when they are performed, but most of the time make there way onto the dance floors in night clubs every Saturday night.

Exercises like these include the splits, back flips, high jumping kicks, and one of the firm favourites, the one handed press up.

Made famous via Rocky, people still to this very day are left with there bottom jaw dropped when they see Sly pumping them out.

So how can you master them? Check out my recommendations below,

Firstly master the two handed press up first. If you can not do these pretty easily you will never be able to do one handed press ups to a level where you can perform multiple sets. Perform two handed ones regularly (at least three times a week) until you can easily churn out 4 sets of 20 reps with 20 seconds rest in between each set.

For the One Handed press up,

1. Balance your body – you will probably have to widen you legs slightly more than with two handed press ups and shall have to place all of the weight of your upper body on just your one arm (which is why one handed press ups are twice as hard)
2. Perform partial reps at first – Chances are you can not perform a full range rep at first, (where you lower your chest to the floor and you can push yourself back to the starting position) however if you can go to step 3. For those that can not, perform partial reps where you perform only half of the rep. Eg, lower your body only half way to the floor and back up or start from the lowered position with your chest touching the floor and push yourself up as far as possible.
3. Be strict in form – When you can perform a one handed press up, always remember at first to be completely strict with your form. Don’t start using your body to complete your reps, lower yourself and push yourself up keeping your body straight as with a normal press up.
4. Perform full range reps – Apart from those who can not perform full range reps (see step 2) you should be lowering yourself so your chest touches the floor and pushing yourself all the way up. ALWAYS DO THIS.
5. Keep your chin up – The tendency when doing press ups is to lower the head. Keep you chin up in order to keep your back straight.
6. Keeping at twenty – For the best results, keep your one handed press ups at no more than twenty reps for four sets three times a week. If you can do more than this, they are too easy for you and you will benefit more from performing one arm dumbbell presses.
7. Work both hands – Work both hands every workout. A lot of people only perform one handed press ups with one hand and never perform them with the other. DON’T GET INTO THIS HABIT. Work both hands in order to gain strength in the whole body and not just one side which causes an inbalanced physique.

One handed press ups are great to perform for strength and as mentioned above, look good to others. As with all exercises though, don’t just limit yourself to one variation. Experiment with the exercises for yourself in order to find the best way of performing them for you and to work the body in different ways.

I leave you with Bruce Lee demonstrating them, on two fingers of one hand!


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Thursday, 6 November 2008

Why Should I Study Martial Arts?

There are many reasons why people train in martial arts. Be it self defence, victory in competition, attaining a certain fitness level or just to socialise, everyone has there own reasons. However are these reasons valid enough for people to continue there training. Shouldn’t the only reason why people train in martial arts be, simply because they like it and want to?

I read in a magazine a few days ago someone stating that if you do not train in martial arts simply because you like martial arts, then you doing the wrong thing.

At first, I thought what kind of question is that, everyone has there reasons for starting training. But then it hit me, there are plenty who train just to win trophies or belts, those who want to gain a repertoire of techniques in order to fight there local school bully, those who want to get in shape etc. Are these the right reasons to start training?

What about when you’ve won the trophies, learnt to defend yourself or have gained the fitness level you require, what next. A lot of people then get bored of there training, thinking to themselves how they have achieved there accomplishments and have nothing left to gain from martial arts. How many times have you heard of someone achieving Dan grade then saying, “now I have completed it since I am a black belt so its time to quit and do something else”.

The fact is, yes, everyone has a reason for starting, but after a while, if the reason your staying in martial arts is only because of one goal which your hoping to achieve and not because you actually enjoy the training itself, then maybe you should follow the advice of the article in the magazine and ask yourself “am I doing the right thing”. After you achieve your goal (unless you quit) what will your reasons for training be?

This is an interesting topic and it would be great to hear what people think.


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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Defending Attacks

With regards to striking, there is attacking and defending. We all know what attacking is. You attack your opponent with single or a combination of techniques, trying to penetrate his/her guard in order to hit. However, is defending just a simple matter of stopping an oncoming attack with blocks?

When people first start sparring, they rarely do anything in the form of defence apart from blocking with there hands or covering up. This is understandable. Its very daunting to be struck at for the first time and natural instincts are to throw the hands up and try to stop the attacks that way.

The sad truth is though, as martial artists carry on sparring for a length of time, there defence tactics don’t really change. They block and then counter.

Defending can include, blocking, covering up, parrying, moving out of the line of attack, stop hitting, counter striking as your opponent attacks (which requires great speed and timing), taking the blow via a well conditioned body and sometimes even looking at your opponent can be enough to stop them from attacking. How many times have you sparred with someone who has greater experience and sometimes just there look can be enough to stop you from attacking.

Its important to try and practice all these various methods of defending. This is one of the reasons why throughout these articles on this site, I recommend training with many different martial artists. Some fighters parry, some bob, weave and slip, some produce blocks where there aim is to destroy the striking limb, some prefer to defend and counter simultaneously. None are wrong and its always good to experience as many different approaches to defending as possible. Although you may decide that some defence variations are not really suited for you its best to experience what others do.


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