Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The secret of a great turn-out?

An anonymous poster asked "What's the secret of a great turn-out?" in response to a picture of a packed mat.

I'd say that there are several elements, primarily:
  1. A great class
  2. A core group of regulars
  3. A good time slot
  4. A convenient location
  5. Patience
At least these are the factors that have conspired for my class.  It's always been a good class -- hands-on instruction in an excellent martial art -- but it's got better as I've developed as an instructor and a core group of regulars has coalesced.  This year I have been greatly aided by having Anthony assist with the large classes as well as all the colored belts.  Since Jiu-jitsu is predominantly a paired activity I can't teach a hall full of beginners single-handedly: students teach each other and I demonstrate and guide.  Learning this martial art teaches you how to teach one-on-one ... from day one.

The core group of regulars also means that a newcomer observing the class for the first time sees a group practicing with real skill, learning and having fun.  That's appealing.

One of the factors that seems to have contributed to the growth of the class was a switch from Monday to Wednesday nights: mid-week nights seem to draw a bigger group than Friday or Monday evenings in my experience.

We're situated across the road from a major railway station, making the class easy to get to and increasing the catchment area.

Also, it's taken quite a few years for the club to achieve "critical mass".  In the early days sometimes I'd get just one student (or even none), but I was encouraged to persist by my own instructors through leaner times.

* * *

The big classes are great because there's a buzz and energy that you get from a packed mat.

At the same time it's been nice to have some smaller classes from time-to-time, where we have room to do stand-up randori, practice sutemis, and in which I get to spend more one-on-one time with everyone.

Finally, I don't measure success purely in quantity, but in the quality of experience and the learning that takes place.  There's such a thing as too big as well as too small a class.


Congratulations to everyone who trained hard in the latter half of the year. Presentation day was on Sunday 19 December, and everyone who graded was successful.

Well done:
  • Lejoe: Orange belt (1 bar) in both jiu-jitsu and judo
  • Damian: Orange belt (1 bar) jiu-jitsu and yellow (2 bars) judo
  • Ashley: Yellow belt (2 bars) judo
  • Tegan: Purple belt (1 bar) jiu-jitsu
  • Ed:  Purple belt (1 bar) jiu-jitsu
Congratulations also to everyone else who successfully graded from the Honbu, Monash Clayton, and Cockatoo.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Full mat!

The mat's looking pretty full nowadays. With a large class it's starting to get cramped during warm-ups:

Warming up with some breakfalls
And it's really full when everyone stretches out:

The class at rest

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Throw or takedown?

John Coles is investigating the difference between throws and takedowns in the martial arts for his forthcoming book, and has written a couple of blog posts on the subject.  John points to some discussion of the various takes on the difference this thread from the Martial Arts Planet forum.

An empirical exploration that anyone (with a bit of experience) can do is go through their style's syllabus and pull out the techniques explicitly labelled as throws and those labelled as takedowns and look for any differences of principle.

That's what I intend to do!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Getting Things Done

I haven't been blogging much in the last couple of months, and with good reason: a new job, complete with learning curve and travel, and consequently a paring back on other activities.   A good friend told me that getting settled in to a new job typically takes three to six months, which sounds about right.

Anyhoo, as part of my drive to get more organized in my new gig (and generally), I finally picked up a copy of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen -- perplexingly re-titled "How to Get Things Done" for the Australian edition -- something of a "sacred text" for the geeky Lifehacking movement.

Here's an article from Wired magazine Getting Things Done Guru David Allen and His Cult of Hyperefficiency that delves into the somewhat colorful background of the author.

A synopsis of the approach, given at Google (46 minutes):

What I hadn't realised previously, and what the video and the book make quite clear is that GTD is in many ways an application of a few martial arts principles to the very modern problem of having too much on one's plate.  The author claims past experience as a karate instructor, and builds much of his approach around working towards an ideal state of having a "mind like water".  Rationalism plus martial arts: what's not to like?

For those not ready for the somewhat daunting transformation that an approach like GTD entails, there is the highly amusing structured procrastination, which I recommend reading, but would counsel against adopting!

Wushu vs Chen Village

This first clip is of a wushu competitor performing a (winning) Chen-style-taijiquan-inspired routine:

And this is Chen Bing of Chen village doing a section of  the actual Chen-style taijiquan cannon fist routine:

Quite a difference!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Left-handed training

Traditionally, jiu-jitsu is performed right-handed: "there are no left-handed swordsmen in Japan".  The jiu-jitsu syllabus is large enough that for self-defence purposes ambidextrosity is not required for many techniques: need the left-handed version of a technique?  Use something else instead.


On the other hand(!) judo techniques are often practiced on the non-preferred side -- hidari in Japanese -- thereby developing the body evenly on both sides.

For me, one of the best reasons to practice left-handed is to increase one's focus on what you're doing.  A reasonably well-grooved technique suddenly becomes challenging again.  I find myself changing from side-to-side, engaging in self-observation and self-teaching as I work to transfer the technique to the other side.  And the best thing ... the original migi side inevitably benefits too.

Other reasons to practice left-handed:
  • Injury: sometimes its unsafe to work on the regular side
  • Rehab: I have been working on one of my Chinese boxing weapon sets left-handed to try to stretch and strengthen a shoulder that appears to have sustained a (mild) injury
  • Teaching ploy: One of my students, who had previously been programmed to do a very different (Olympic judo) version of a throw, is learning our version in hidari first, as a stepping stone
In sum, I recommend occasionally training on the non-preferred side, as opposed to: never (traditional), 50-50, or mainly non-preferred (a competition-oriented strategy).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Well done

Congratulations to everyone from Monash Caulfield who presented for the mid-2010 gradings (all successful!): AnthonyLisa, Lejoe, DamianAsh, John, Lizzie, and Soksan.

Almost everyone graded in both jiu-jitsu and judo, and several did multiple grades.  This was by far the biggest group who have graded from Caulfield, and all set a great example through their dedication and hard work.

Well done also to all the other students who graded across our Federation.

 I cannot stress enough how helpful it is to one's progress to be part of a group who are training together.  Cooperative learning and friendly competition are boons in this regard.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lessons in Character

Some excellent writing on courtesy, humility, and example-setting from Charles C. Goodin's Karate Thoughts blog.  Start with these:
  1. Character 1-2-3
  2. Domo arigato sensei
These lessons don't just apply to karate, but (hopefully!) to all martial arts, and to living a good life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The "Steven Seagal" technique

I recently learned that one of our restraint and control techniques, which officially goes by the (not very descriptive) name of "wristlock technique" has gained an unofficial moniker: the Steven Seagal technique, referring to a scene from the critically panned Under Siege 2.  If someone can send me a link to the requisite bit on YouTube I would be grateful, and will share.

Then last night at training I demonstrated a knife disarm and threw the knife "out of play", apparently with a Seagal-like flourish.  So now we have two Steven Seagal techniques.

Here's a nice demo that Seagal did in 1982 on The Merv Griffin Show:

It includes some weapons self-defence, and kenjitsu at the end.  Note how, after taking the weapon from his assailant, he always indicates "the finish".

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Defending the cows - with judo

A former student -- he may well return! -- sent me a link to a real-life judo in the news story:
Judo-trained dairy owner sees off armed youths

A Levin dairy owner used his judo skills to fend off would-be robbers pointing a pistol at his head.

Playford foodmarket owner Tushar Patel was walking out of his Bledisloe St dairy at 1.25pm on Sunday when he saw four young men, two wearing balaclavas, about to enter.

He managed to dial 111 on his mobile before one of youths snatched his phone and tried to punch him in the face. 

A former judo competitor in India, he deflected the blow, grabbed his phone, and held on to his attacker's wrist.

He saw one of the group rushing towards him pointing what looked like a pistol at his head. "I thought, 'That is a bloody gun he has."'

The gunman threatened to shoot Mr Patel, prompting him to push the man he was holding towards the gunman and yell out to his neighbour to call the police. The group ran off.

"I was yelling loudly. I did not think they wanted to kill me – they wanted to rob me."

His wife, Vanita, praised her husband's bravery. "He is a little bit strong man," she said.

It was the third time the couple have been targeted. Two years ago a man threatened Mr Patel with a vegetable knife and demanded money. Mr Patel showed off a bigger knife he kept behind the counter, and the offender fled.

About two months ago a man in a balaclava, brandishing a screwdriver, demanded money before running off empty-handed.

Mr Patel urged dairy owners to be careful and protect themselves. His wife agreed: "They cannot treat you that way, steal like that, otherwise they do it every day. I am proud of my husband but I am scared now."

Two 16-year-olds had been caught, police said. The gun is thought to have been a BB gun.

Thanks, Steve.  Only in New Zealand!

* * *

Apparently I misunderstood the location of this dramatic confrontation.  Steve explained in an email:

A dairy is what kiwis call a corner store or a milkbar.
I realise in Australia a dairy is a cow farm :)
I was wondering why these NZ-farmers were under almost incessant attack ...

Monday, August 02, 2010

What I look for in gradings

Over the weekend our organization had its winter gradings.   I sat on two grading panels observing and assessing students testing for jiu-jitsu and judo student grades ranging from 12th kyu to 1st kyu.

Formal testing is only part of the assessment.  Other elements include: class hours, seminar attendance, points scored in judo competition, and their sensei's recommendation.

The formal testing itself includes a physical component (demonstration of techniques and self-defence) and an oral component (knowledge and terminology).  Attitude is also assessed.

Assessment is subjective -- which is one of the reasons we typically have three black belts per panel -- but here are some of the things that I look for in grading a physical technique (easily adapted to an oral explanation):
  1. Identification: Was the requested technique demonstrated?
  2. Completeness: Were all the technical elements present?
  3. Correctness: Were there any technical defects?
  4. Control: Was the technique executed safely, or was the partner hurt or at risk of being harmed?
  5. Effectiveness: How well did it work?
  6. Efficiency: Was excessive effort or superfluous movement used?
  7. Improvisation: If the student encountered problems, how well was (s)he able to recover?
  8. Depth: Was non-basic knowledge shown: e.g. variation(s), unusual detail?
  9. Grace: Overall flow, fluidity and grace
* * *

One of the things that I have been able to do at my club has been to prepare students for their first grading with a mock grading.  This familiarises them with the format, and allows me to pick up on glaring defects just-in-time.  Also: When several students have the same issue it points to a common source: their teacher!

Now that the class is growing, I think that next grading season I'll try something that helped me in my early years of learning jiu-jitsu and judo: an in-house mock grading session with the students getting a chance to sit on the panel and assess, as well as to be tested.  It should be good.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The acronym of the day is FOOSH.  It stands for Falling On OutStretched Hand.  John Coles has written an informative post on FOOSH injuries.

I just like the sound of the word.  Say it out loud: "FOOSH".  But I bet that's not what you would say if you sustained a FOOSH injury!

This is what a FOOSH injury looks like:

Ouch!!  Search YouTube for "skateboard wrist break" for more disasters.  Link.

This old post explains how the judo alternative, trained breakfalls, can lower the risk of FOOSH in day-to-day life.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Self-defence technique meets 1920s chic

Fabulous clip of 7 stone (44.5 kg) Miss May Whitley giving a lightning introduction to the role of unbalancing  in jiu-jitsu  before throwing her good friend "the bandit" repeatedly onto a hard stage floor.  Be sure to watch with the sound turned up to enjoy her wonderful accent and his howls of pain:

Attacks and jiu-jitsu counters demonstrated:
  1. Handbag snatch: Arm-lock plus projection throw
  2. Rear choke: 1st shoulder throw (kata seoi)
  3. Straight punch: Reverse arm-bar (waki-gatame)
  4. Front kick: Inner-rear sweeping throw
  5. Front choke: Circle throw (tomoe nage)
Thanks to Sue for highlighting this clip and more on her blog.

Simply spiffing: what, what!?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Mifune

Here's some 90-year-old footage: judo randori from 1922 featuring a young Kyuzo Mifune (then only a fifth dan!) in action.

Lovely throws: fluid yet powerful, opportunistic rather than pre-planned.  This is what we should be striving for!

Monday, July 19, 2010

RIP Kancho

Today I attended the funeral of our Kancho, who died last week suddenly and unexpectedly at his home.

Barry William Bradshaw, 1939 - 2010

He will be sorely missed by his loving family, by his many friends and colleagues, and by the incredible number of students he taught, mentored and befriended in over 50 years as a martial arts instructor.  He lives on in all of us, as does his legacy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kyuzo Mifune: God of Judo

Kyuzo Mifune was possibly the greatest judo technician ever.  Beginning Judo training at age 13 or 14, by 30 he was already a 6th dan under Kano,  and nicknamed "The God of Judo".   At 40, and all of 5'2" tall and 100 pounds, he defeated a 6' tall 240 pound challenger who was skilled in sumo.

Mifune wrote one of the best Judo books, The Canon of Judo: Classic Teachings on Principles and Techniques.  Out of print for many years, a new translation is out as a reasonable price.

Fortunately for us, there is reasonable footage of him as an old man throwing younger and larger opponents all over the place.  In particular, at 2:30 Mifune demonstrates utsuri goshi  (our 9th hip throw) as a counter to harai goshi (5th hip throw), which I have been working on with a couple of my students; followed by utsuri goshi as a counter to hane goshi (6th hip throw):

Isn't that wonderful?  Observe how fluid and mobile Mifune is, generating enormous power (and lift!) from motion rather than brute strength.

Inspiring stuff.  Watch it again and again: repeat viewing will reveal new insights.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Judo as organized by Kawaishi

The judo I practice is a descendant of the method of the approach to judo devised by Mikonosuke Kawaishi adapted for teaching Europeans and partially documented in his book My Method of Judo (out of print).

One of my old posts includes a summary of Kawaishi's syllabus:

  1. The art of falling: Breakfalls and rolls
  2. Methods of disturbing the opponent's balance
  3. Throwing techniques
    • 15 leg throws
    • 15 hip throws
    • 6 shoulder throws
    • 10 hand throws
    • 15 "sacrifice" throws
  4. Ground-fighting techniques
Check out this web page for a complete listing of the techniques in his book.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Sword vs stick, fists vs throws

In a battle of sword vs stick, I'll take the sword:

Nice exhibition of throws, too.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One of my kung fu teachers is nine feet tall

I refer, of course, to my dragon pole, pictured below.

Father, daughter, and dragon pole (circa 2007)

In principle, a weapon is simply an extension of the body.  In practice, it takes a lot of intelligent  and diligent practice to attain that kind of mastery.  [I'm working on it...]  In the meantime, training with a weapon, especially a large weapon, is a valuable source of feedback for developing efficient body movement.  Weapons are great teachers.

There is also a conditioning effect.  Look at the picture: talk about torque!  Repeatedly working through the hung kuen dragon pole set, or even individual movements as a drill, soon becomes a demanding workout.

I like to practice the dragon pole movements not only with the big stick, but to a lesser extent with a 6 foot bo, and also with no stick at all.  After training with the dragon pole switching down to a bo feels like a toothpick!

Nowadays we don't travel around armed with our preferred weapon, so ideally you want to be able to improvise by picking up whatever comes to hand.  While giant sticks are hard to come by -- and don't make great indoor weapons, anyway -- bo-like brooms and mops are relatively common, so practicing with shorter sticks makes practical sense.

Dispensing with the weapon altogether leads into an exploration of the relationship between weapon techniques and empty-handed body movements.  This is valuable.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't do this in a judo competition

Kani basami is judo's flying scissors throw, and was banned from competition because of the risk of breaking one or both of uke's legs.

It's a fun throw, and requires a strong breakfall from uke.  In learning this throw it is helpful to put one hand on the floor, but it's much more satisfying to do it in mid-air.

In wrestling you'll sometimes see the even more spectacular and dangerous flying head scissors variation, performed here (at 1:20) by Scarlett Johansson's character in Iron Man 2.

That's not allowed in competition, either!

Friday, June 11, 2010


For a bit of a change I taught a class built out of variations. Starting with our first leg throw (o soto gari) and the related ninth (o soto otoshi) I led the class through about 8 variations. We repeated the dose with around a dozen related hip throws and variations, all emerging from our nfirst hip throw (uki goshi).

Because we practice osoto gari and uki goshi so much, even for the beginners this was viable. The related principles form a bridge to the variations. It is not a case of learning something completely unrelated, but rather building on what you already have. At the same time, learning a new variation is not just accumulation; there are distinctive points and refinements to be learned and most everyone runs into a particular variation that poses problems that need to be worked through.

After this tour, we went back to some rapid-fire throw-for-throw practice on the first leg and hip throws with a variety of partners, which were -- gasp! -- now a bit better and more robust thanks to the exploration through the wider world of variations.

It's a bit like a chef experimenting with all sorts of flavors, but then going back to his speciality and making small adjustments, leading to significant improvements.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A few reliable techniques, or a smorgasbord?

I say both.  Despite our large syllabus, we spend most of our time practicing the fundamentals, both techniques and drills.  The higher techniques are practiced less often, but build on and compliment the principles instilled in the fundamentals.  This maintains interest, adds scope, and reinforces the fundamentals (example).

At first only the basic techniques will be sufficiently internalized to pull off under pressure, but over time one's applicable repertoire becomes richer.

An analogy is learning another language.  Maybe you only learn a handful of words and phrases by rote at first -- traveller's French (or whatever) -- but if you are serious, in time you will want to develop a richer vocabulary, a sense of the grammar, idiom, etc.  Even learning those first few phrases may be really difficult (at first), but it is not clear that restricting yourself to a small set that intensive practice of a small subset will lead to better results than a serious, broader study.

Of course, if you don't have the time/dedication to pursue a broad and deep study of a language (or a martial art) attempting to do so will lead to shallow and disappointing results.

How do we defend against kick-boxers and armed attackers?

Our self-defence requirements include scenario training against differently trained attackers, and armed assailants.  That said, I think that intensive training in weapons and in a fist-and-foot style helps a lot in comfort and expertise in those kind of scenarios.  And that takes training time, whether in one art or many. 

I have trained in ken-jitsu a little bit, and I like it.  In people who have done a lot of sword-work you can see it reflected (positively!) in their jiu-jitsu.  Similarly, as I make progress in chinese boxing, I am finding all sorts of cross-connections with jiu-jitsu.

Real combat, especially when weapons are involved, is of course extremely dangerous.  Personally, I'd rather face a kick-boxer than an attacker with a sword.

Is there such a thing as a complete martial art?

Kano's early Judo included distinctive striking techniques (atemi waza), and training in many weapons, as well as throws, groundwork, and revival techniques, all distilled from multiple jiu-jitsu ryu.  When Funakoshi brought Karate to Japan from Okinawa there was cross-fertilization with Judo, similarly with Ueshiba's aikido (Tomiki, I believe, was ranked 9th dan in both arts).

So judo was an evolving composite, from which specialist streams have emerged.  You can see echoes of some of this stuff in the higher judo katas, but overall there seems to have been a loss of heritage, at least in mainstream Olympic Judo, due to multiple factors, including: optimization for a particular rule-set, with victory in competition as the main goal; popularization as a national physical exercise regime suitable for dissemination through high schools; and the banning of most martial arts practice in Japan following its defeat in WWII.

Similarly, chinese boxing (kung fu) styles have evolved, combined and recombined over the centuries.

There are broader and narrower martial arts.  Training in a broader martial art as a base has much to recommend it, if you're in it for the long term.

Cross-training in multiple martial arts?

In response to one of my posts from 2007, Jiu-jitsu is Adaptable, an Anonymous commenter posted a couple of interesting and essay-length comments meditating on the merits and practicalities of many techniques vs few, and of different systems of martial arts, contrasting and comparing his experience of Jiu-jitsu with various other styles, including Krav Maga, Kali and Kick-boxing, and finishing up with the question:
What do you think about cross-training and how do you train defenses against kickboxers and armed attackers?
A few comments, broken across a few posts

Can be good, can be bad.  I appreciate that the hope is that by training in multiple arts you will be able to compensate for weaknesses in one art with the strength of the others, but I think that it is more complex than that.  Do you have time to train sufficiently in both arts to really get them? Do they blend harmoniously, or do they contain opposing principles and strategies?

I have students with a background in other martial arts come and train with me.  Inevitably they have a lot of patterns of movement drilled in that are difficult to modify; the level of difficulty varies with the individual and the kind of training that they have done.  Put their body in a particular position or situation and the drilled responses come out.  With those who empty their cups, and persist until they reach higher grades, there seems to be a process of unlearning, and then eventual re-integration, but it takes dedication and time.

Our organization primarily teaches Jiu-jitsu, classical judo and chinese boxing, with secondary arts including (but not limited to) ken-jitsu, aiki-jiu-jitsu, judo-do, and sambo.  So you could say we have built-in cross-training.

The head of our organization replaced his late master's preferred striking art -- shotokan karate -- with hung kuen chinese boxing, because he found that it made for a more consistent mix.  Even masters disagree on these things.

My rough advice to people who are aiming to be in martial arts for the long term is:
  1. Seek the best instruction you can find that seems like a good fit for you.
  2. If this includes integrated cross-training, great.
  3. If not, defer cross-training until you have reached a significant level of expertise in a base art, and then seek cross-training in consultation with your instructor.
I just don't see people without expertise being able to mix and match disparate martial arts training particularly effectively.

Another point of caution is that standards of safety in training vary widely.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Coach Wooden: Definitions of Success

I have just finished reading the fabulous Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court by the all-time greatest ever college basketball coach, John Wooden with Steve Jamison.  Apparently still alive, but gravely ill at 99, Coach Wooden was profiled in Carol Dweck's fantastic book, Mindset, which I reviewed previously, and I am now reading some of the books recommended therein.

Wooden's approach to teaching, coaching, and life, which led him to an unrivalled record as coach of the  UCLA Bruins, including 10 national championships, including a streak of 7 (the previous record was 2 in a row), was built on an unconventional but efficacious definition of success.  He disagrees with the dictionary definition:
I knew how Mr. Webster defined it: "as the accumulation of material possessions or the attainment of a position of power or prestige, or something of that sort." Worthy accomplishments perhaps, but in my opinion not necessarily indicative of success. So I wanted to come up with something of my own. ...

From those things, and one other perhaps, I coined my own definition of success. Which is: Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you're capable. I believe that's true. If you make the effort to to the best of which you're capable, try and improve the situation that exists for you, I think that's success.

The catch in this is that it leads to highly refined, systematic, and committed approach to training and learned.  It's not easy, it's not about talent, but consistent and intelligent practice and teamwork.

The ultimate accolade that Wooden received was that his past players routinely said that more than teaching them how to play basketball, he showed them how to succeed in life.  It took fifteen years for Wooden to win his first national championship, but well before then, by his own lights he was already successful.

His book is great, and you should read it.  Here's a sample of some more of his pithy wisdom:
The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition. The goal is to create a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure. To make sure this goal was achieved, I created eight laws of learning: namely, explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition and repetition.
Needless to say, everything in the book is applicable to almost any area of endeavour.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hooray for hip throws

Spot-on post from Jiu-jitsu Sensei: Everything I need to know I learned from doing hip throws.
The more years I do hip throws, the more I seem to get out of it. At first it was simply the joy of slamming someone down on the ground effortlessly... Who am I kidding? I still enjoy that. But now I look at the hip throw and see how it has many parallels to life in general. Read on...
The hip throws are the "core throws" of jiu-jitsu and judo, in more ways than one.

Body skill

I have previously written about how I think of martial arts training as having two poles
  1. Kata: Pre-arranged, cooperative practice (includes: sets, forms, drills)
  2. Randori: Competitive, sportive, game-like, chaotic practice (includes: sparring, games) 
Taking the metaphor further, and visualizing these poles as the north and south poles of the world of martial arts training, one can explore the rest of the surface, with extreme structure and extreme chaos as the poles, and all other training methods in-between.  This article talks a bit about one way to move from cooperative combinations towards randori, step-by-step.  There are many, many such approaches to practice.

Regardless of the method or methods of practice, the aim is to train the mind and body to internalize martial arts skill and ability.  The japanese term tai-jitsu (body art) captures some of the flavor of this; in chinese gong fu or kung fu (mastery from long practice) is arguably a closer match.

Physical attributes must be trained (broadly: conditioning) -- body; and coordination refined and knowledge acquired -- mind.  The mix, order and priority varies between martial arts, styles and schools.  For example: high kicks will demand considerable leg flexibility, strength, and balance; skill in joint-locks require anatomical knowledge, fluid movement, and sensitivity.

In terms of training methods, there are different schools of thought about training holistically or component-wise, directly and indirectly, incrementally or by successive refinement.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If it doesn't work ... change it

Even a very well-honed and skillful technique won't necessarily work on everyone.  There are some flexible people in my class who certain joint locks won't work on; others are fairly impervious to strangles; various throws are more difficult to pull off against heavy, short or tall partners; particular pressure points are "dead" on some people.

  1. practice with many partners;
  2. learn variations;
  3. learn to flow into other techniques.
If a technique doesn't work, work on it and improve it, and figure out what else it sets up.  I haven't met anyone yet who is impervious to all techniques.  When I do I'll ... run away!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ninjas in the news

Like this Far Side cartoon come to life, but arguably better, "ninjas" in Sydney came to the rescue of a mugging victim.  I kid you not:
Ninjas rescue Sydney mugging victim

A German exchange student was reportedly rescued from a violent assault in western Sydney after a group of men dressed as ninjas confronted his attackers.

Two teens and a 20-year-old allegedly initially approached the 27-year-old medical student while he was on a train on Tuesday night and demanded he hand over his wallet.

When the student refused and got off the train the three allegedly followed him.

But the trio allegedly chose to launch their assault on the man in the most inopportune spot — outside the Ninja Senshi Ryu martial arts school in Penrith at around 10:10pm.

As they allegedly grabbed the student's iPod and phone and kicked him to the ground, one of the ninjas raised the alarm with his teacher Kaylan Soto and fellow ninjas, all of whom came rushing out to help.

"The first thing we saw was three guys on top of him, so we ran towards them," Mr Soto told ninemsn.

"The look on their faces — they would have seen five guys in ninja costumes running towards them."

I also cannot recommend the Algorithm March (with Ninjas!) highly enough:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Most everyone has heard "practice makes perfect".  If only it were that simple!  Some more accurate quotes:
  1. Practice makes permanent.
  2. They say 'practice makes perfect.' Of course, it doesn't. For the vast majority of golfers it merely consolidates imperfection. -- Henry Longhurst
  3. Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. -- Vince Lombardi
Through repetition we burn movements into our brains and bodies, making them easier to repeat (for good or bad).  It is difficult to unlearn one way of doing things and replace or augment it with a better way; but unlearning is an unavoidable part of learning, and worth getting good at.  If we practice to do one thing, we'll need to practice further to undo it or evolve it into something else.  In practicing a new way, I discover how deeply ingrained the old way was -- habits are hard to change!  So:
  1. Practice as if you are the worst, perform as if you are the best.
  2. When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win -- Ed Macauley
  3. It's not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts; it's what you put into the practice. -- Eric Lindros
Finally, practice can be profound:
  1. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired. -- Martha Graham
  2. We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. -- Martha Graham (again)
Now go (and get really good at) practice!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A great groundwork game to play with kids

"Crazy horse" is a tremendous game that you can play with small(ish) children, devised by the Gracie family, but equally good preparation for judo:

  1. Great fun
  2. Builds skills in both parties
  3. Makes good use of the adult/child size difference
  4. Reasonably safe
One of "ten playful jiu-jitsu games" demonstrated in the new Gracie Bullyproof 10 DVD set, this has got me curious about the other games, too:
Discs 2-3: Gracie Games™ 
In the beginning, Rorion didn’t teach his children Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, he “played” Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Using a series of 10 playful jiu-jitsu games, Rorion engaged his children in the learning process while informally introducing them to the fundamental principles of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
The idea that most young children (say under 8) will struggle with more formal martial arts training, but love  all sorts of wrestling games and other horse-play rings true to me.

I particularly like games that are intrinsically fun, rather than relying on competition to add zest to them.  Competitiveness can wait until later.  Enjoyment and skill-building should come first.

Edit (19 June): Just got the DVD set.  The other games are also very good.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Are there any questions?

In our classes, prior to the closing ceremony, it customary for the instructor to ask, "Are there any questions?".  Usually these are answered with briefly, then any announcements are made, and the we pack up, get changed into civvies, and go straight home*.

This format is fine for covering Q&A about administrative matters, but not ideal for consolidating learning. While I have been toying with extending the time available to allow greater reflection and sharing about technical matters, I am coming round to thinking that keeping it brief is fine, and other approaches may work better anyway for enhancing reflection and learning.

One approach that appeals is used by one of our Shihans.  After giving the class a new or challenging exercise to work on, he'll often get the group to debrief  by having the class form a circle around him and each in turn describe something they just learned or observed.  This encourages reflection, and also gives everyone the benefit of picking up on the perspectives and observations of others.  The instructor is also at liberty to respond briefly to some of the observations, but it's not compulsory.  I think I'll trial this method for a while in my class.

Another good way to help consolidate one's own learning is to make notes after each class.  And review them later.

*Or hang round and chat, but that makes for a late night.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

What are your (other) favorite martial arts blogs?

I list the martial blogs that I regularly read on the right sidebar.  Some of the ones I enjoyed have dried up and stopped, so I'm on the hunt for replacements, especially (but not only) "Japanese" Jiu-jitsu blogs.

What are your top recommendations?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Flying practice

Judo doesn't teach you to fly, but you will learn to fall (safely).

A couple of weeks ago Lisa and Ash brought their digital SLRs to class and captured some nice action shots:

Up in the air

Seoi otoshi (4th shoulder throw): Sensei Dan, tori; Brenton, uke

Hane goshi (6th hip throw): Damian & Lizzie

Hane goshi (reverse angle):  John, tori; Ash, uke 

Remember to breakfall

The moment before landing

Lejoe's breakfall is a blur

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Complexity vs Simplicity

When I started learning jiu-jitsu and judo, I immediately appreciated the broad, intricate and varied syllabus.  If I was unable to make a particular technique work, be it a throw, groundwork technique, or restraint & control application I was nevertheless making progress in other areas, which was good for my morale.  I would struggle for a few minutes with the problematic technique, try some things, get some tips, and often get a bit frustrated, but then my sensei would move us onto something else.  Over time, the progress on other fronts would help me get unstuck on my problem technique (really techniques), since the underlying principles all intersect and what I learned elsewhere I would eventually be able to apply.  From time to time techniques would cease to work, or fail on a particular partner, even in cooperative practice, but nothing was permanently stuck.

By contrast, when I took some ken-jitsu (japanese sword class, performed initially with a wooden bokken) we started by doing an entire class of a single cut (maybe there were a couple of variations), with YELLING.  The next day I had a raspy voice, sore arms, and blistered hands.  But I was fascinated by the sustained demand for focus, the feeling of surging energy, and the occasional blasting through a pain barrier that such narrow training demanded.  Truly a complementary experience to what I was used to in jiu-jitsu.  And yet, "jiu-jitsu comes from the sword".

As I progress with my martial arts, I have begun to ask myself what hidden possibilities lie behind simple-seeming movements, while complex techniques reveal themselves to consist of common components and principles.

Is it better to start with the simple and build to the complex, or to start with the composite and discover simplicity?  For me, the latter approach proved a better starting point, but eventually the two perspectives must intertwine.

Friday, April 02, 2010

New template: Tell me what you think

Dear reader

As you can see, I have finally updated the template that controls the layout of this blog, including colors, fonts and what goes where on the side-bars.  I hope you like the new look!

I'll continue to refine the layout, but I am keen to hear how I can make it work better for you:
  • What do you like / not like?
  • Suggest improvements
And, while you are at it, please tell me what kind of posts you would like to see more of in the future.
  • Principles
  • Learning and teaching tips
  • Connecting martial arts practice and real life
  • Links to other online martial arts articles and resources
  • Book reviews
  • You name it (and I might do it!)
If point me to examples of past posts that you liked (or don't! ;-), that helps me too.

Also, since I have a few overlapping audiences, could you also tell me which camp you fall in?  E.g.:
  1. Prospective martial arts students, especially those considering learning jiu-jitsu
  2. My own students, and martial arts colleagues
  3. Other martial artists, including martial arts bloggers
  4. Friends and adoring family.
You can leave a comment, or alternatively email me at tenchi.ryu.jiujitsu@gmail.com.

Thanks in advance

-- Dan

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mastery Learning or Spiral learning?

How do you prefer to learn?
  1. Incrementally: a little bit at a time, able to show fairly complete proficiency at one ability or skill before proceeding to the next, slightly more challenging level; or
  2. Iteratively: Cycling through a number of skills and challenges, periodically returning, and gradually ratcheting up the challenge level.
The first approach s sometimes referred to as mastery learning; the second as spiral learning.  As always the devil is in the detail.

Spiral learning approaches are great for those students whose pace matches that set for instruction.  On the other hand, if you're struggling with the pace it will feel too fast, and you may feel inadequate (or resentful); if it's too slow, you may well feel bored (but boredom can often be productively overcome).  Mastery learning, on the other hand is by necessity individually paced, but can be a bit procedural from an instructional perspective.

In my jiu-jitsu and classical judo classes I have learned (and follow) a hybrid approach:
  • The teaching method is spiral, but we are always reinforcing the basics, and pair practice with a variety of partners gives students access to individual instruction (and learning through teaching)
  • Assessment is mastery oriented: you do not get put up for grading until you are ready to demonstrate a section of the curriculum at a high level of proficiency: so individuals tend to progress at difference rates, but there should not be a sense of being an "A, B, C, ... student" with its attendant problems (e.g. encouragement to adopt a fixed mindset).
This may be reasonably be regarded as a best of both worlds approach: we get the interest, variety and reinforcement of the spiral together with the steady progress of incremental mastery.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Every so often I read a book that is so good that, on completing it, I re-read it straight away.  Mindset, by academic psychologist Carol Dweck is the latest.  Entertaining and highly informative, Dweck has a different take on the eternal nature vs nurture debate.  Her research centers not on the relative impact of nature and nurture, but rather on the impact of the individual's belief in nature compared to nurture on their performance and personality.  It turns out that "mere" belief in nurture leads to better performance over time, and much more besides.

With respect to any capacity, be it intelligence, sporting ability, musicality, etc. it is not too difficult to establish whether an individual takes a "fixed" mindset (the belief that, broadly speaking, you got it or you don't), or a "growth" mindset (the belief that that capacity can be developed and refined with effort).  People are not either purely "fixed" or "growth", but may adopt different mindsets with regard to different capacities, and their mindsets can change with time.

When caught in the fixed mindset people tend to be fragile, crave constant validation, and treat success or failure in some test or task as a true measure of themselves (making them a success or failure).  By contrast, those employing the growth mindset are more resilient, treating external critique as a diagnostic of where they need to improve, and tend to define themselves as successful if they are learning and improving.

Dweck's academic work, personal experience, and teaching record demonstrate how this single factor has a profound effect on performance, resilience, and attitude.  The book also has stories from education, sports, business, etc. that illustrate the impact of the two mindsets.  The people who adopt the growth mindset largely do better performance-wise overall, and make great positive role models.  (Some of the well-known people who adopt the fixed mindset make great negative role models.)

Mindset can change and it can be influenced by external factors: the growth mindset can be taught.

* * *

I found the evidence and illustrations of Mindset convincing, and am encouraged to try to adopt the growth mindset more broadly personally, and also in my parenting and teaching to try to try to steer others to adopt it.

The idea of the growth mindset also brings to mind the chinese phrase kung fu, not originally meaning martial arts, but rather "any individual accomplishment or skill cultivated through long and hard work".  To someone trapped in the fixed mindset, this sounds like a waste of time and effort; to those cultivating a growth mindset, it's where it's at.

Adopting the growth mindset is not an end in itself, but rather a beginning.  It means that, with respect to a capacity, you are ready to start learning.  And that is the real journey.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

10 favorite sayings of Confucius

From the numerous sayings attributed to the ancient Chinese sage, Confucius:
  1. "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
  2. "It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop."
  3. "The cautious seldom err."
  4. "A person who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it, is committing another mistake."
  5. "Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles."
  6. "By nature, people are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart."
  7. "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."
  8. "Respect yourself and others will respect you."
  9. "Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three."
  10. "Wherever you go, go with all your heart."
And here's a selection of Confucius jokes like the ones we used to tell in high school.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Big class / hard mats

We had 18 people on the mat the other night, up from 15 the week before.  With 15 on the mat, it was already crowded, so this week we borrowed some jigsaw mats and put together a two-layer annex to the side of the main mat.
Throwing practice on the main mat

I sent the most senior students (plus Tyrone the tyro) to the annex during break-falling warmup.  It reminded me of when we started the main Monash University club at the Clayton campus under Sensei Tony in the mid 1990s.  We borrowed some hard mats from I think the resident judo and aikido clubs and got stuck in.  The problem was that although the experienced students quickly acclimatized, and soon relished the harder conditioning, we couldn't keep new students: you need to ease into that sort of thing.  [In time, we got some softer mats, and the membership grew accordingly.]

Students gather around Anthony for R&C instruction on the annex 

On Wednesday I had my assistant Anthony (a brown-belt) on hand, and he took charge of the annex and taught a smaller group restraint and control techniques, while I led throwing practice on the main mat.  We rotated most of the students between the two stations, and then joined together for groundwork and rolls at the end.

* * *

Given the spurt in numbers, the Caulfield club is not only faced with a space shortage, but a changing dynamic.  That newcomers are signing up and staying is welcome after some lean years at the start, and I take it as validation of the current student body, my own efforts, and the appeal of our system of jiu-jitsu, but we face new challenges with the dynamic that the larger class size entails.

The growth itself will be self-limiting, because the quality of the experience for newcomers will start to decline if we grow much bigger at this stage: Once beginners constitute the majority I will need to pair newbies with each other more often, and that's not conducive to learning jiu-jitsu in a large class.

However, I have a plan in mind.  Thanks to a solid core of students with 1 or 2 years experience (plus a few more senior), I think that is feasible to now pick up the pace (a bit).  This will encourage and challenge the core group, and hopefully motivate the newcomers to rise to the occasion.

The increased numbers also gives me the opportunity to grow as a teacher.  With the increase in numbers I am doing more demonstration and supervision, and less one-on-one than in the past.  As a result I will need to do a bit more lecture-style talk to the group as part of my demonstrations, while keeping it brief and practical.  Thankfully I have several good models to base my approach on.

I anticipate a great year of learning.  When we come through it, we'll be in a position to grow again, and if the current numbers prove solid, I'll also look into expanding the main mat area.

P.S. Thanks to Brenton for taking the photos on his phone.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Where does jiu-jitsu come from?

"Jiu-jitsu is originally from Brazil, right?"

I've been asked this a couple of times lately.  With the rise of mixed martial arts, kicked off by the UFC in the early 1990s, and before that the "Gracie challenge", Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (which we used to call Gracie Jiu-jitsu) is now better known than Japanese jiu-jitsu.
Jiu-jitsu was the unarmed martial art of the Japanese Samurai class, so it's definitely Japanese.  Right?  There were many schools of jiu-jitsu, and some of them had a heavy Chinese influence.  But legendarily,  the martial arts were brought to China from India, by Bodhidarma.  These things go back ...

A similar story pertains to Karate.  Many people think of Karate as Japanese, but it was introduced to Japan from Okinawa in the early 20th century, and before that was adapted from southern Chinese martial arts, and even known as "Chinese hand" in parts of Okinawa.

You have to draw the line somewhere.  So I say:
  1. Kung fu (Chinese boxing) is from China
  2. Jiu-jitsu is Japanese
  3. Karate is Okinawan
Japanese Karate is an offshoot of (Okinawan) Karate.  Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is an offshoot of (Japanese) Judo.  Judo is a daughter art (along with aikido) of Jiu-jitsu, and they are all Japanese.

Both Jiu-jitsu and Karate, although influenced (and maybe derived in large part) from Chinese kung fu styles, have had enough time to become more than offshoots.  Plus: the names were changed.

In the end, the history doesn't necessarily matter as much as the content.  There are only so many ways to move the human body, and most (all?) ancient cultures featured some form of wrestling, boxing, and weapon-use, and must be the forebears of all martial arts.  Today martial arts have significant areas of overlap.

Getting back to the original question, it doesn't bother me.  Such a question is usually evidence of innocent ignorance on the part of the questioner, and nothing malicious.  Most (all?) martial arts practitioners tire of being asked how their "karate" or "taekwondo" (or whatever the flavor-of-the-month style is) is going, by well-meaning but martial arts illiterate family members or friends, who are merely trying to "show an interest" or make small-talk.

Interestingly, now that there are so many schools teaching Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Japanese Jiu-jitsu may be gaining in cachet because of its relative scarcity.  I do get enquiries from people specifically seeking it out, and that's often a good sign.  On the other hand, some people assume that all Jiu-jitsu is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, but these are quite quickly dispelled.

I wonder how many people think that soccer is originally from Brazil, too.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Hip throws or loin throws?

The hip throws are the most powerful throws in judo, but the term "hip" is somewhat misleading, referring as it does to the joint connecting the top of the femur (bone of the upper leg) to the pelvis, and the surrounding region.

A more accurate term is loin, not in the sense of "loin cloth" or "fruit of his loins", but rather in the sense of sirloin steak, or tenderloin:
In human anatomy the term "loin" or "loins" refers to the side of the human body below the rib cage to just below the pelvis.  It is frequently used to reference the general area below the ribs. -- Wikipedia
This area -- which can also be described as the lower torso, "the core" or even "the guts" -- has as its focal point the body's center of mass, known as hara or tanden in Japanese, and dantien in Chinese.  With reference to this point Feldenkrais writes in his book, Higher Judo, Ground Work:
All movement of the co-ordinated Master is so performed that one point of his body, lying below his navel and situated vertically above the center of pressure of the standing foot, describes a simple curve at the crucial moment of any throw, or rotates only.
Something to work towards.

Monday, March 08, 2010

E.J. Harrison on Judo

"I should explain here that the underlying purpose of Judo is to enable a physically weaker person to defend himself against a physically stronger opponent, alike in mimic combat on the mats of the Dojo or exercise hall and in a genuine struggle for survival outside it. 
Other things equal it is simply axiomatic to say that the stronger man must eventually win, but seeing that not infrequently the relatively poorer physique of one man is largely offset by his superior intelligence, skill, and agility, he may conceivably prove the victor in contest with his physically more powerful antagonist. 
And admitting that there are always numerous gradations of sheer bodily strength among the pupils of any Dojo, the cumulative effect of assiduous study and practice of Judo is bound in the end to convert even a veritable tyro weakling into a physically vigorous and technically skilled Judoka." -- E.J. Harrison, Manual of Judo

Astonishing tiger footage

The club where I started my training in jiu-jitsu is called Tora-do ryu; translation: "Way of the tiger school".  Here's a clip that shows a bit of what a real tigress can do:

Stealth, speed, huge leap, balance, intent: wow!

Snippets from the back-story:
The 25-year-old mahout, Satya Pegu, who was badly lacerated, lost three fingers on his left hand, is in a hospital in Dibrugarh. Doctors are worried about the onset of gangrene and may have to amputate his left palm.

Reconstruction of events and a video taken by the divisional forest officer, R.K.Das, graphically show how Joymala pinned down the tigress with her foot as it was trying to get up and attack the officers who had fallen on the ground.

The team cautiously moved towards it and could get to almost 20 feet where she was growling away. Bodo could see her clearly and took a shot at it with the dart gun. The dart missed her and this enraged her so much that she charged and took a “flying” leap on to the elephant’s head. “I have not seen something as dramatic as this,” Vivek Menon, executive director WTI, who recently saw the footage, said. “I could never imagine that a tiger could so effortlessly leap from the ground on to an adult elephant’s head, which is at least 12 feet above the ground,” he said.

more details...
Notice how the tigress grabs the ground and pulls herself forward with her front legs.  Even though humans have only one pair of feet, we can do a bit of that too.  It's a good exercise (and good exercise) to play with that grabbing and pulling action while walking around.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wax on, wax off

They're remaking the 1984 martial arts / underdog /coming-of-age movie, The Karate Kid, with most of the action taking place in Beijing in the new version. Apparently, the more accurate title of The Kung Fu Kid will be used for the Asian release. Will Smith's son Jaden takes the title role (Daniel is now Dre), with Jackie Chan (nice!) as his mentor.  The trailer:

And here's one of the best scenes from the original movie, in which young Daniel learns the application of his labours painting fences, waxing floors, etc. to self-defence:

Release date for the new version is June 11, 2010.  Title aside, it looks promising.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How mixed level practice can work in judo

Last Wednesday I had three white belts (new this year), four purple belts (our lowest tested grade), one yellow, and two orange belts.  Having a mixed-level class is great, in that many students get a chance to be junior, senior and peer, often all in the one class, but it's quite complicated.  Here's how I rotated the pairings on the night ...

In the cooperative throwing section of the class:

Demonstrated: leg throws 1 to 3 (see this Kawaishi method index of throws)

  • 2 x  pairs of purple belt (peer learning)
  • 3 x white belt - higher belt (most experienced / beginner pairing)
Demonstrated: leg throws 4 to 6
  • 3 x white belt - purple pairs continued working on throws 1 to 3 (reinforcement)
  • orange - yellow pair, and orange - purple pair worked on 4 to 6 (rotating through the purple belts)
Demonstrated: leg throws 7 and 8
  • same as 4 to 6
Demonstrated: leg throws 9 and 10
  • same as 4 to 6
With this system of rotations:
  • the white-belts spent most of their time on the most fundamental throws
  • the purple belts engaged in peer learning, helped the white belts, and got a taste of the higher throws as they rotated into the senior group
  • the senior group worked with the beginners initially, but also had time to work on the higher throws, mainly among themselves, but also with the purple belts
  • everyone got a taste of at least a couple of more advanced throws (variety and exposure)
Besides rotating among the grades, students got to work with people of different shapes and sizes.  Although I started with roughly similar heights and builds that soon changed.  The best mis-match of shapes was 6'5" beginner Tyrone (in his second class) with purple belt Lizzie (not much over 5').  They did well!

The rest of the class was a selection of restraint & control, and then immobilizations, followed by groundwork randori.  Not much rotation in these sections, although I jumped in and did some light randori with about half the class (one at a time, not all at once) at the end.

This kind of rotation scheme depends on who turns up on a particular night, and setting it up is a challenge for any teacher.  Concerns include: safety; getting the newbies off to a good start; blending the need for consolidation with variety; giving the more advanced students adequate time to practice the more advanced techniques that they will need for their gradings.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A bit about my class ...

I teach a two hour class once a week throughout the year, currently on Wednesday evenings.

We study Jiu-jitsu, incorporating classical Judo.

Who are my students? Young adults, women and men, most studying at the University (some not), recent graduates, some older guys (often with some previous martial arts experience).  They come in most shapes and sizes.

Because of the hands-on nature of the class, and because most of the training is done in pairs, I can only take on so many new students at a time.

Once people have been training with me for 6 to 12 months, I encourage them to pick up an extra class (or two) each week at our Honbu (headquarters).  This can be helpful in accelerating their progress through additional training hours and access to high-level instruction.

You will probably like my class if your priorities include some of
My class may not be for you if you
  • Abhor all violence, even for self-defence
  • Can't abide even a little bit of pain
  • Live to compete
  • Aren't prepared to make mistakes and look foolish occasionally
  • Expect to earn a black belt in 3 years (or less)
  • Are currently training in other martial arts
  • Can only commit to training once a month
Before I let you step on the mat I like to know a bit about you. Come along and watch a class and we can have a bit of a chat. If I think that there's a good chance that you are a fit for my class, you can join us for a try-out session.  If that goes well, then you are welcome to join the club and spend Wednesday evenings being thrown, locked, pinned, strangled, and reciprocating in kind.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu from the 1950's looks like ...

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu from the 1950's looks awfully like classical judo, from which it descends. A nice old clip, featuring Carlos and Helio Gracie (Skip to the 2 minute mark if you find the introduction a bit slow):

Good stuff!

Captain Kirk teaches Judo

For fans of the original Star Trek, here's William Shatner as captain Kirk showing young Charlie X a thing or two about judo*:

Gotta love those Federation gis!

Although Shatner does a reasonably good roll, the rest of his judo leaves quite a bit to be desired, in my view.  I'd certainly back legendary tough guy actor and judo black belt James Cagney against him (click the link for an awesome clip), and similarly British judoka and Bond Girl Honor Blackman:

Unfortunately I couldn't find the clip from Goldfinger of Blackman as the fabulously named "Pussy Galore" throwing Bond (Sean Connery) all over the shop.  Maybe someone can help me out?

*Spotted on Sensei Strange's aikido blog.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tans' Unite and Fight Cancer 2010

Last year Tans martial arts supplies organized a charity dinner / martial arts display that raised over $15,000 which was donated to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.  Highlights:

From 0:50 to 1:12 you can see my Federation colleagues in action, first doing the hung kuen chopper set, then a selection of throws.  I was confined to watching, applauding, and eating.

It's on again this year:

When: 7 pm Friday 26 March, 2010
Where: Happy Receptions, 199-203 Union Road, Ascot Vale
Cost: $70 per person (includes banquet meal), tables of 10 available
Attire: Neat casual
RSVP: Catherine 9870 0813, 0413 006 028

Get along to support a good cause.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Class is back for 2010

First class back for 2010.  Nine keen students turned up on a hot night, including one newcomer.

We had a good time with a mix of throws, self-defence applications, restraint and control, and groundwork.  A bit of everything to kick off the year.

With several regulars to return and the start of the Uni. year still a month away it looks like it's going to be a big, dynamic class.  I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A solid foundation

Neal Martin at Urban Samurai has triggered a flurry of posts by various martial arts bloggers about the importance of continuing to train "the basics".

My take:
  • The basics are not just for beginners.  They are foundational.  Perhaps "fundamentals" is a better term than "basics", but I'll stick with the shorter term.
  • Since we practice them every class, we log more "flying hours" in the basics than anything else.  Why?
  • Hopefully because they contain the essence of the style.
But just going through the motions, however regularly, while necessary, is insufficient.  Like the difference between 20 years of experience and one year of experience - 20 times, we need to keep peeling away layers and getting more and more out of our basic practice, both in terms of performance and in understanding.

So I absolutely agree that continual training in "the basics" is not just for beginners, but it has to be more than routine.  For example:
  1. Every time you learn something new: How does it relate to the basics?
  2. Got a question?  Look to the basics.
  3. Want to focus on something: Find it in the basics and work on it there.
  4. See someone doing a different variation from what you're used to.  Learn the other way and see what lessons it has to offer.
  5. Bored by the basics?  Think you have a thorough understanding of a particular exercise or technique?  Time to look again.
It's part of learning to hit the occasional plateau (bored!), or be stuck at the bottom of a cliff (can't do it!), but by training the basics continually and intelligently these obstacles will in time be cleared, and you will have also built yourself a solid foundation for further learning.