Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rest in Peace Wally Jay...and thanks


"Our Great Grandmaster and Founder Professor Wally Jay, one of the last great martial artists, has passed on peacefully at 2:20 am California time in Redwood City Kaiser Hospital.  Prof Jay experienced a stroke on Tuesday May 24th  and on Saturday as per his previous wishes was removed from life support.  He survived another 12 hours and had family and friends with him.  The Jay Family extends their gratitude to those that were there to lend support and to those that had him in their prayers."

The martial arts world is mourning the loss of a great martial artist and teacher.  Wally Jay has had a major impact on martial arts the world over.  Any who have seen, or experienced the 'dance of pain', can attest to this fact.  Wally Jay was a visionary.  Few martial artists today can legitimately claim that they created or developed a new style or way of thinking and teaching. Wally Jay can and did.

I was never lucky enough to meet the man (my Sensei has on several occasions) but in many ways he and his small circle Jiu Jitsu continue to touch me on my journey.  My Jiu Jitsu style is rooted in the small circle theory.  

Any one who met the man can proudly say they met a legend.  May his unique style and gifted teaching methods survive the test of time.  His family is proudly continuing his vision, his teachings and his way of life.

All my best to the Jay family.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tunnel Vision

There's been several interesting blogs debating the value and timing of cross-training in the martial arts.  I, for one, am a fan, but feel one martial art should be your 'main' style or system.  This way, you can benefit without too much confusion over different methods of movements, or concepts.  Cross training then complements your study, and is not at odds with it.

Keeping an open mind is one of the most important things you can learn in the study of any martial art.  Once you stop having an open mind, your progress stops as well.

Having dabbled in this art and that over the years, I've seen too many people fall into the trap of thinking that their style is the best style out there.  All systems have their strengths and weaknesses.  You just need to find what works, makes sense, and can be applied by you.  And the teacher to teach it.

One thing I've noticed is that many styles out there are extremely good at defending against themselves.  This can lead it's practitioners being over confident in their abilities and having an unrealistic view of how transferable their skill set is to a variety of attacks.

To illustrate.  I am a big fan of Kali and Escrima.  I've had an opportunity to cross-train in them and have benefited immensely from it, especially in my development and research into effective knife survival skills.  What did I take away?  I would never knife fight with a knife fighter.  I would never stand face to face with a dedicated Kali practitioner.  He or she would likely carve me up. Same as I would never fence against a fencer.  Or straight up box with a boxer.  The list goes on.  They are too good at defending against what they do, because they practice both sides of the equation in their chosen art.

It is easy to develop tunnel vision if you fail to recognize that your opponent may not attack you in the style or method to which you are accustomed.  I'm not saying for one second that Kali, boxing, fencing, BJJ, etc. can't defend from a variety of attacks, but what I am asking is does your stance, plan, or confidence go out the window if your opponent 'changes the rules?'

How good is a Kali knife fighter if you run away, dart in from time to time, throw a chair...?  If they really wanted to get you, they'd have to run after you.  What happens to their stance then or their ability to defend from an erratic form of attack?

I've used Kali as an example because I don't want this to turn into a what style is the best type of scenario.  I have the utmost respect for Kali and Escrima and do and will continue to cross train in it.  I could have easily used Japanese Jiu Jitsu as an example as well.

The study of any martial art where combat effectiveness is the priority, must take into account a variety of different methods of teaching, methods of attack and principles of movement.  You need to determine if what you are learning is based on the most likely form of attack that you might receive, in the real world.  If you don't, you might find yourself in a difficult position when you attacker doesn't attack you 'right'.  This is why principles are more important than specific techniques and an awareness of real world violence and your own likelihood of being attacked, by who, when, where and how, are just as important as any other part of your training.

Be safe.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Seagal and Randori

I'm on a bit of a Seagal kick of late.  I'll get back to my knife survival series soon.

This is a great video of Steven Seagal in his earlier years and of his teaching style.  Seagal Sensei believes that randori (free, or spontaneous practice) is an essential part of truly testing your skills.  I agree and have posted on the lessons and the importance of randori here.

Of particular note is the absence of a mimicked sword in the attacker's hands. It's there occasionally, which references the style's time, history, and concepts of movement, but more realistic forms of attack are more prevalent, which I think is important.  Aikido can be used effectively in real world attacks, as if often evidenced here.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Revelations - There are no 'single' techniques and the circle of learning.

Over the last little while, we've been working on perfecting our technique.  My Sensei has spent quite a bit of time going over the finer points of fairly basic techniques.  In recent posts, I've discussed how I've discovered easy and obvious (now at least) ways of improving the effectiveness of techniques that I thought I knew inside and out.

We've spent a lot of time 'connecting' everything.  This involves having your entire body involved in the executions of a technique, and flowing into the next available option seamlessly.  My Sensei always says he's thinking 3 steps ahead.  I never really understood what that meant.  I thought I did, but I didn't. I mean, you can't necessarily know exactly how your opponent will react so how can you know the next move?  Proper technique makes it likely, but combat is unpredictable.

I've taken on my own interpretation of what he means.  We were working on a variation of a Z-lock.  This can be from a lapel grab, a wrist grab, or a punch. First we did a z-lock, then we transitioned into an elbow break/shoulder lock and ended in a complete lock up of the shoulder behind our opponent's back. From there we could take down or sweep.

Here's what I discovered watching Sensei demonstrate.  He went into the z-lock portion of the technique and then into the elbow break and then into the lock up without pausing.  It was then that I realized that there weren't actually 3 separate and distinct techniques.  It was all one.  I realized that while we practiced each section, they were all part of what I now think of as a 'complete' technique.  Complete techniques come to a logical conclusion of some sort based on your movements.  So yes, in extreme circumstances, you might break the wrist and the elbow at the same time while separating the shoulder all in one fluid movement.

3 steps ahead doesn't necessarily mean 3 unconnected moves. The beauty of this is that all 3 happen simultaneously, and if any one part misses or fails to produce the desired effect, the other parts still work. A triple threat, of sorts.

The next discovery, or revelation, was that some disconnected training returns to martial arts study.  As a beginner, you practice each stage of a technique. There is a start and stop to each part of a defense, or any series of motions in a string of self defense techniques.  This is natural and it helps beginners learn the actual mechanics of a technique, as well as control.  

With continued study, we strive to remove these pauses, and develop smooth, continuous flow.

Now, something strange is happening.  I am getting much more proficient in a few 'basic' techniques that I am now perfecting (Sensei's words, not mine).  All of a sudden (or so it seems), my techniques have become downright dangerous.  They've always been (that's why I love Jiu Jitsu), but now my ability to execute them effortlessly and effectively puts my training partner in real danger of  accidental injury.  One of the things that drew me to Jiu Jitsu is that it doesn't take strength.  For years, you 'muscle' techniques, but they don't need to be to be brutally effective.  In fact, using strength can actually hinder you in Jiu Jitsu study.

Now I have to re-insert the stops in the techniques to make sure I don't break my partner.  When done correctly, some of these techniques have surprised me.  My training partner was tapping like mad and I didn't think I had even 'put it on' yet.  Once again, I have a whole new respect for my art and my Sensei.

I imagine in time, I will be able to phase out the pauses as I learn the new control required to prevent injury to my partner.  And so the circle of learning repeats.

So I've discovered there are very few lone techniques in my chosen art.  Each technique involves a connected sequence of movements.

I've also discovered that sometimes you have to insert artificial breaks or pauses in advanced techniques to be safe in training.  You also need to realize that we are quite capable of causing serious injury with little or no effort.  So respect your teacher, your art and your training partners.

"I am often awed by the sheer awesomeness of Jiu Jitsu"  - poorly worded original Journeyman quote.

"If I never teach you another technique, you've already got too much" - my Sensei.

Train well, there's always more to learn.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

UFC and Steven Seagal

A while back, I wrote a post on Steven Seagal.  Read it here.  I've always been a fan of his skill and his impact on the martial arts.

Now, after some less than fantastic films, to many, he has become a bit of a joke.  People criticize him for a variety of reasons.  Most people who have spent time with him, however, believe in this skill and ability.

(UFC 129 spoiler alert)

Interestingly, two of the best UFC fighters have enlisted the help of Seagal in their fight preparation.  Both Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida are training with him.  And each fighter has now successfully used a 'never seen before' technique in the UFC to score knock out wins.  Granted, we've seen the Karate Kid use a variation, but that's another story.  The point is, some of the most elite MMA athletes in the world are turning to Seagal to improve their game.  What does that tell you?

Here's a video to Lyoto training with Seagal:

And here's the knockout kick:

And here's a post fight interview given by Seagal:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger down

As many of you may know already, blogger had some issues and 30 plus hours of added content was  removed as they fixed a glitch.

I've lost a post and some comments that I made.  I'll give it another day to see if they return.  Thanks to all those who've commented on new and recent posts.  I'll do my best to re post my stuff soon (as best I can remember) if blogger doesn't get it back.

Mental note - back up your blog regularly.

Train well.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Living in the moment

In my last post, I talked a bit about taking responsibility for whatever you do and how it can free you to live in the 'now'.

Over the last couple days, I rebuilt a deck.  I did not particularly want to do it, as I don't have a lot of extra time in my life right now and it took me away from other pursuits I enjoy.  It's also hard work.  Now, I could have wasted time before hand thinking how I didn't want to do it.  And I could have spent the time doing it concentrating on how I wanted it to be over so I could do other things.  Instead, I tried to live in the moment.  What I found was surprising.

Sure, it was still hard work, but that's ok, it's good for you.  I also realized how great the weather was.  Ripping up boards, using a sledge hammer, prying up nails, replacing rotting wood with straight good smelling wood, and seeing the tangible progress became strangely satisfying.  I started to enjoy figuring out how to get into a rhythm, how to get faster and smoother in my technique, how to use less effort to accomplish more and so on.  I enjoyed and was present in the moment.

And yes, the parallels to martial arts study are not lost on me.  This same mindset should be applied to training.  What I found interesting was that just by thinking about being present in the moment, I was.  My mind drifted off from time to time but overall I enjoyed the day.

I may just be on to something...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Taking responsibility and freeing your mind.

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to listen to a presentation made by a renowned author and ex-military man.  It wasn't a motivational speaking seminar, but he spoke on a variety of topics.

One thing he said really resonated with me.  He said that we always have a choice in every single situation.    He also said every choice has some consequence, positive or negative.  Take the example of someone asking you to go somewhere or do something that you don't really want to do.

You have a choice.  If you really don't want to go, don't.  Of course, this may have some consequences that you'll need to weigh.

On the other hand, if you do decide to go, take responsibility and go with an open and positive mind.

Where we get in trouble is in the middle ground.  We go, but we're resentful and negative, and we blame the other person for 'making' us go.  This negative attitude means you have a rotten time and chances are you'll ruin the other person's time as well.

The message is simple.  Go or don't go.  But take responsibility either way.  If you do decide to go, let go of all the negative energy and thoughts.  You never know, with an open mind, you might even enjoy yourself.  Some people live their lives blaming external factors, people and circumstances for their woes. This perpetuates the notion that we are living a helpless existence.  Taking responsibility and realizing that you've made a choice is very freeing and often opens you up to new and positive experiences.  It also frees you to live in the moment.

Food for thought.