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.