Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pre-Year's Resolution

I imagine the most popular resolution people make for New Year is to get in shape. Seeing the obvious need for it in myself, I'm going to go ahead and do the same, although I'm not usually one to make resolutions for New Year.

But I can't wait until January 1st. To me, that just gives me license to eat like a pig and sit around for a couple more days. Procrastination will not serve me for this need, so I've begun already. For the last couple of nights, my wife have done 30 minutes of strenuous (for me) cardio exercise with the "Hip Hop Abs" DVD (I'm secure enough to admit that, haha!). I plan on getting back up to my old habit of 1 hour of cardio per day. The other things I'm going to do are not that complicated: I plan to cut out sweets, cut out fried foods, and change my beverage consumption from 100% PowerAde to 50% water, 50% PowerAde (I've tried quitting completely, but it never took....so I'm taking baby steps). Portion control will figure in as well. I'll add some resistance training, as well as yoga/flexibility development.

This stuff coupled with my (hopefully) regular mid-week judo/BJJ "study group", and continued Saturday morning Judo, may be just what I need to finally get in shape.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts on UFC 92

I had a group of my buddies over Saturday night to watch UFC 92. It was a great time! Some random thoughts about the fights:

I've only been following UFC for a few months now...the first fight I saw was Quinten Jackson vs. Dan Henderson. Jackson's cocky comments after he beat Henderson made me kind of not like him. However, he did gain some points with me after this weekend. His reaction to Wanderlei Silva's schoolyard shove during the weigh-in spoke of a maturity the Axe Murderer apparently left at home. Rampage just smiled and laughed at Silva...that was great. In the cage on Saturday, 'Page was all business, and laid Silva out twitching. By the way, could there be a more melodramatic nickname than "Axe Murderer"? Give me a break.

I was, on one hand, disappointed in Forrest Griffin's defeat, but on the other hand, I just like the guy more and more. As Joe Rogan said, Griffin is always gracious in both victory and defeat. I like Forrest because he just doesn't seem to have as much ego riding on his fights as a lot of the other guys do. It just is what it is with him. If he loses, he learns, he gets back to training. He's probably now tied for my favorite fighter with Anderson Silva, because he has so much class. Rashad Evans earned his win over Griffin, but his cockiness in the ring (the laugh and "kiss" move after an exchange of blows) made me dislike him a little. After the fight though, he was respectful of Griffin, so I guess I can live with his win.

Frank Mir has got to be crazy calling out Lesner like he did after defeating Minotauro. I mean, I wish him the best, but I don't like his chances against Brock. I can't wait to see that fight. I hope he does take the belt from Lesner, but only because I'm not a huge Lesner fan. I'm not big on Mir, and was surprised he won Saturday.

I'm SO excited for January 31 - Penn vs. St. Pierre. That's gonna be great!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday Night BJJ

Tonight another of my nephews came over, and we worked on a bit more Judo. More deashi barai, but mostly escapes from kesagatame, which are still kind of hit-or-miss for me. We also tried a couple of takedowns we got from a Gracie basics DVD. This nephew is a semi-professional steer wrestler, so I was pretty worn out by the end of our time. My friend, Josh, gave me a call and was available to roll, and my wife is currently out of town, so I told him to come on over.

Josh has a lot of BJJ experience, and I have exactly none. I showed him the groundwork I've learned so far in Judo, and we moved into a bit of ground randori. I'm not really skilled enough to be any threat though. Josh rolls a lot harder than what I'm used to (so far, I'm really just learning the moves), which is ok...but once again I was shown how badly I need to get in shape. We would drill for a while, then randori for a while. Randori was really taking it out of me. I was exhausted! He showed me a variation of the bridge-and-roll escape I learned, which is kind of cool. I was also shown the Americana, Kimura (from mount or with the opponent in guard), arm triangle choke, and an armbar (from top and bottom). We drilled that stuff a few times, then turned our attention to Roy Dean's "Blue Belt Requirements" DVD, and practiced a couple of sweeps demonstrated there. Those were fun, but will really take some getting used to.

I used to think it was all just "rasslin' ", but since I started Judo a few months ago, I'm beginning to gain an appreciation for the sophistication of grappling techniques in both Judo and BJJ. I'm really thankful for Ibuprofen tonight...and, at least physically, I'm okay that I don't have Judo in the morning.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What a Friend I've Found...

Merry Christmas.

"Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
John 1:29

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Judo Study Group

Last night my nephew and his friend came over to practice some Judo with me. Let me start by saying I know that I am supremely unqualified to teach Judo to anyone. But, I figured I could show them a few things I've been learning and we could practice them. It turned out to be a lot of fun!

We warmed up with ukemi, then moved on to the foot sweeping exercise Pat always has us start with. I showed them deashi barai, and we drilled that to death. Then we played with transitioning to ukigatame right after the throw, and into munegatame and kesagatame after that. I showed them the ground mobility cycle, and the few escapes I "know" (sit-up, leg entanglement, uphill, and bridge & roll), and we had a lot of fun with that. I was feeling better about my shrimping/bridging by the end of our time last night. We did a BIT of kosotogari and osotogari as a preview of what we can play with next time.

A few things this independent "Judo study group" showed me:
  • As I said, I really can't teach, I can only show at this point...but I knew that already.
  • I am SO out of shape. These kids are in their early 20's and work out religiously. I'm in my mid-30's and have 25 extra pounds or so I have GOT to deal with. If I want to be able to keep up with...well...anyone, I have some work to do.
  • I should not do 2 hours of Judo after a large meal. A friend was in town for the holidays, so we went to VooDoo BBQ and I got stuffed. We started judo at 9pm, and went till 11pm. I was so nauseated afterward I felt like I would pass out.
  • My 12 foot by 8 foot mat space is okay for now. It's fine for ground drills and throwing drills, but for any randori, I'm gonna need more.

As I said, we had lots of fun, and I was very glad to get a couple extra hours of practice with deashi and the groundwork. Hopefully it'll help!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Times That Try Men's Souls

Last week I came down with an AWFUL bout of sinus crud. Sore throat, a cough that made my head feel like nails were being driven into it, etc. It started Wednesday, worsened on Thursday and Friday, to the point I couldn't really speak. Of course, I had an audit at work Thursday and Friday, so I couldn't take time off to rest. What bummed me out the most was having to miss Judo and Aikido again on Saturday.

Some good news came just in time: I mentioned in a previous post my wish for people to train with at home, between classes. Looks like I may get that wish! I have one friend who's trained in BJJ for years who's going to practice with me maybe weekly at my house. I also have 2 nephews (college kids, one of whom is a semi-pro steer wrestler) who are going to come over once per week to train with us as well. I'll pick up some BJJ tips, and be able to work on my judo takedowns and ne-waza as well!

Life really is much better than I deserve.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Beginning BJJ / Stephan Kesting

I thought I'd give a shout-out to Stephan Kesting, the guy behind the "Beginning BJJ" free e-book. Lots of bloggers have already written about Stephan's websites (here and here), so why does the world need another blog post advertising for him?

I just thought I'd express my appreciation for how he's going about this. For one thing, I HATE "interruption marketing". You know: the unexpected phone call, the spam in your email, the fliers in your mailbox or under the wiper blade on your car, or on your front door. Call me paranoid, but I don't like that strangers feel comfortable walking right up to my front door in the first place (check out this post from Adam @ Low Tech Combat for some thoughts on front door procedures). The fact that they leave litter there that I have to remove adds aggravation. With interruption marketing, I'm uninterested to begin with, and some part of me resents the intrusion upon my busyness at work or time with the family at home.

I'm much happier with "permission-based marketing" (as described by Seth Godin). I and so many others have given Stephan Kesting permission to market to us, and I think he respects that. I get an email from him maybe 2 to 3 times per week. I look forward to reading them. I think he adds value by giving pointers and inspiration to noobs like me. VERY occasionally, he sends me a special offer on his non-free stuff, and I don't mind at all. I'm going to order his full DVD library after Christmas.

Thanks to Mr. Kesting for adding a little value to my inbox, not just more spam.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Aikido 12/13/08

We started off with the walking kata, focusing on the first 7 movements. We then moved to releases. We repeated releases 1 through 4 for a while, then focused on Release 3 in particular. We spent most of the time working on release 3, and some variations that can happen. We talked about being able to move our hands into more of a release #1 relationship once release 3 was executed.

We also looked at controlling uke’s hand, and were shown why we should keep our thumb out of uke’s reach. Turns out “bad guy” can use our thumb as a handle to crank us pretty good if he gets hold of it. We ended up with an introduction to Chain #3.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Judo Anniversary

I got married 11 years ago today! Still got to go to Judo and Aikido. Hot dawg!

It was SOOOO cold in the dojo today. After a brief warmup, we drilled the entire ground mobility cycle for a while, complete with turnovers (turning the bottom man to his stomach by pushing his arm into his face, and turning him to his back by reaching across his face, grabbing his far arm, and putting weight into him). After a review of escapes from kesagatame, we worked on some escapes from munegatame. This consisted of shrimping, bridge-n-roll, and some neat entanglements (leg and body).

Some things for me to remember about escapes:
I need to remember that a leg entanglement can come from a “body entanglement” attempt that doesn’t quite work out.
2) Use top guy’s momentum – when I shrimp and he tries to reacquire position, I can use his momentum to help throw him off of me, or whatever I decide to do.

We also tried some very light ground randori during the mobility cycle, although I think Nathan and I are still trying to just remember the moves too much to be very competitive at this point. Still fun though.

Something I remembered today from last week (but forgot to include in my notes), is the “over, over, under, under” pattern in the ground mobility cycle. It goes something like this: when moving from kesagatame to munegatame, one leg goes under the other. To switch from there to backwards kesa, the one leg goes under the other one again. To transition to mount, one leg goes over, and a leg goes over again to land in backwards kesa on the other side. Pattern repeats.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

To Boldly Throw Where No Man Has Thrown Before...

Pat, Nathan, and I somehow got on the subject of Star Trek during our last Judo/Aikido lessons. I've always been something of a Trekkie, I guess...although it's been a love/hate relationship with all things Trek. Seems like all of the episodes or movies were either so silly they were good, or they were so silly they were embarrassing. Once in a while a truly good episode would slip through, but I still consider it a guilty pleasure (I'm in the minority - DS9 was my favorite series).

Anyway, I mentioned how there was a scene in which Captain Kirk was doing some Judo training (in his red gi jacket and red...leotard...leggings, I think). It was in the episode "Charlie X" from season 1 if you're interested.

Tasha Yar from The Next Generation also had skills - I was re-watching the TNG episode "Code of Honor" (season 1) and Tasha threw a guy with a wrist lock. "That was Aikido!" I exclaimed to my wife ("Mmm-hm, that's nice" she replied). Sure enough, later in the episode, Tasha demonstrates the holodeck to a visitor by running a program called "Aikido 1". But the fight that ensues (with some ninja-looking guy) didn't keep that aiki flow, unless it's a style I'm not familiar with. Tasha was scheduled to participate in a kickboxing competition just before she died.

Hoshi Sato (from "Enterprise") was an Aikido black belt. The actress who played the Borg Queen in "Voyager" is also an aikidoka.

Other martial arts represented in Trek lore: Chakotay (from "Voyager") was a boxer, as was Boothby (the groundskeeper of Starfleet Academy). Tuvok (the Vulcan from "Voyager") studied Sumo. Will Riker's double, Thomas, practiced Tai Chi Chuan. Worf taught a mok'bara class on the Enterprise (a Klingon martial art very much like Tai Chi Chuan). Captain Picard, Captain Sisko, and Jadzia Dax were wrestlers.

Could I be a bigger geek?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

10 Reasons

I used to practice martial arts as a kid, and have only gotten back into them over the past couple years. Here are 10 reasons I'm glad I did (specifically relating to Aikido and Judo):

1. Both arts seem well suited to practical self-defense.

2. They challenge me. Every class. And I like that it's not just physically challenging, but mentally as well.

3. Aikido and Judo are helping me get over the discomfort I feel with a few things. For instance, having someone's hand in my face, falling (or being thrown) down, intense invasion of personal space, groundfighting/wrestling, and so on.

4. The sense of accomplishment. There's nothing like the occasional feeling I get when I do something more effectively than I have before.

5. Fitness. I am out of shape. Woefully out of shape. Aikido and Judo a) expose to me the reality of my unfit condition, b) provide exercise during class, and c) inspire me to exercise outside of class, because I want to be better than I am now.

6. It's nice to have a hobby. With the stress I deal with week-in and week-out (at work), it's SO nice to have mat time to look forward to. It's a very welcome and refreshing diversion from the more burdensome parts of my week.

7. The possibility of competition (In Judo, anyway). I've never been interested much in competition. Maybe it comes from tournaments I was in as a very young Tang Soo Do student. I never really did well in tourneys. But I'm wondering if this will be another point of discomfort that Judo may help me overcome. I sometimes think it would be nice to test myself by competing...

8. Coolness factor. Ever since I would skip Sunday lunch after church to watch "Kung Fu Theater", I've always been enamoured by martial arts. The kid in me still just stares, wide-eyed, day-dreaming of the day I might be able to do some of that stuff (never you mind that I waited until I was over 30 to begin).

9. The people I've met and valued relationships that have been forged.

10. They give me something to work towards. Earl Nightengale defined "success" as "The progressive realization of a worthy goal." I consider practicing these arts a worthy goal, for all the reasons listed here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Newton Sensei

I was thinking about something Pat demonstrated in our last Aikido lesson. We were drilling our 2nd motion template, and I was having trouble getting behind Nathan's arm (he's around 6'4"). Pat said to use a "bump" to help "bounce" myself into the spot I needed to be in. This is tough to describe in words. In essence, I bump uke's arm in the direction of his step, and use some of that energy to help propel me in the opposite direction. I asked Pat if it was the same idea he showed me in osotogari, where you use the pulling motion on uke's chest to propel your leg into position for the sweep.

Both of these ideas reminded me of Newton's 3rd Law of Motion: "To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." I guess it's just a matter of eating or using (directing/redirecting)the energy from that original action, in such a way that it improves my situation, or worsens my attacker's situation.

Funny how you can work on something for weeks, and all of a sudden, you see it used in a different context and think it's something new, until it dawns on you: "Wait...he's been saying that all along."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Addendum to Judo Notes

I just realized there were a couple of items I wanted to include in my last Judo training log. I want to remember these, so I'm tagging them on:

1) Pat talked about how the escapes we practice are not really "escapes" at all. We're not trying to escape, we're trying to turn the bind in which we find ourselves into a more advantageous position. (Remember: "Position before submission")

2) I wanted to record that this week was the first time I've noticed myself getting a LITTLE more comfortable on the ground. One thing that kept me away from Judo for so long is a lack of interest in groundwork. For one thing, it just doesn't feel natural to me to fight on the ground. I do however recognize the practicality of it and the need to develop ground defense skills. For another thing (the main thing), I've always been uncomfortable with people in my personal space. A BJJ friend of mine told me "You'll get used to it", and I think I may be beginning to...but it's still awkward for me. Time and practice will fix that, I guess. I'm actually starting to develop more of an interest in groundwork...it's getting more fun. It's so cool to see how some of the techniques work. I still like the throws more, but maybe it's all starting to coalesce into one thing...

One other thing about ground work: It's EXHAUSTING for me!!! I gotta get in shape!

It's All Connected!

Yesterday was my 11th Aikido lesson at Mokuren Dojo. We started with the walking kata, then moved to aiki brush-off practice. From the brush-off, we moved into Releases 1 – 4, then KiHara’s 2 motion templates. In the motion templates we focused on linear vs. circular motion (to pop open that can of worms on Pat's blog, click here). It was hard to think in terms of linear movement while I’m moving around uke… but Pat demonstrated how trying for circular movement has a tendency to pull tori and uke apart, while going for linear motion helps tori stay in the “safe spot” behind uke’s arm.

We also focused on controlling our eyes and where we look during the techniques to avoid dizziness. If I focus on uke’s head, that provides a constant while everything else (the room, other people, etc) are moving all around, from my perspective. Pat showed how constantly shifting our gaze confuses our brain, and it has to “reset” each time we re-focus. He said when we’re just walking around day-to-day, our brain compensates for how our eyes move to follow moving objects, but if you take a picture of something while moving the camera, the scene is blurry. Our brains compensate for the blur so we usually don’t see it when we’re looking around.
That is so much like what I’ve been learning about with regard to “white balance” in photography. Different kinds of light (incandescent, florescent, etc) give different qualities to what we see. Under florescent lights, a white sheet of paper is given a bluish tint. Under incandescent, it’s given a more yellow, or orange tint. Now, our brains know what “white” is, and our brains know that paper is white, so they compensate, and make our eyes think “Yeah, that paper is white”. But if you photograph it, the camera doesn’t know any better – it shows you the tinted paper. If you adjust the “white balance” on the camera, you can take a picture with truer color and compare it to the unadjusted shot – there’s a noticeable difference.

Sorry to get on such a tangent - I just thought it was interesting how I was JUST learning about the brain’s compensation for our eyes in an unrelated area, and here the same principle pops up in Aikido. It’s so cosmic. Here's another link to my photography blog.

For the end of class, we worked on the second motion template transitioning to aigamaeate.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Judo 12-6-08

We started with warm-up, and a bit of ukemi and shrimping. We went through the Ground Mobility Cycle, and practiced trapping the bottom man’s arms and other hand placement during transitions. Then we did some fine-tuning of kesa gatame.
Things for me to remember about kesa gatame:
1) Be sure to keep legs spread wide for a more stable base.
2) Try to keep both knees and the bottoms of both feet on the mat.

Next we went over 4 escapes from kesa gatame: the sit-up escape, the leg entanglement escape, the uphill escape, and the bridge-and-roll (which Pat nicknamed the “downhill escape”).
Things for me to remember about escapes:
1) Sit-up escape works well if top guy’s base is not wide enough.
2) Leg entanglement is good if his back knee is too high. Don’t go right for the knee with my foot. Goose his upper thigh and drive it down to his inner knee before latching on with the other leg. Straighten out and escape.
3) Uphill Escape – bump hard with belly and hips, grab his head, and drive his nose into the mat while escaping.

We spent a little time at the end talking about using “2 hands on a point” and framing the elbow to help effect a good escape. We also learned some escapes from other positions, like the “leapfrog”, the “crawfish”, and what I can only remember as “the long walk” (if Pat is reading, perhaps he could provide more technical terms for these?)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ready, Fire, Aim!

Ok, my other, firearm-related blog is up and running...check it out here if you're interested! Look for occasional posts there, but I expect it will be less active than this one.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Judo Training Log 12-1-08

10th Judo session. Determined to make up for missing class on Saturday, I planned to sneak out of work a little early to make the 4pm Judo class. Around 1:30, our entire network at the bank crashed, so I had to work on getting us operational again. Everything was resolved at 3:30, and I hit the road to get to class. I was only a little late.

Anyway, we worked on some basics with another new student, including deashi barai, uki gatame, and the ground mobility cycle. We played with some uke-driven groundwork Kyle Sloan wrote about on his blog. All that shrimping really reminded me how out-of-shape I've gotten. I was exhausted in no time! That'll give me a little more motivation for early morning exercise.

This was my first afternoon Judo class. I could really tell a difference between my 7am lessons, and a class right after a full day of work. I'm way better off in the morning!