Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dare I Hope?

I didn't make it to any judo or aikido lessons this past weekend...and despite my best efforts, I was not able to do a Judo/BJJ "study group" with either of my nephews. My wife went out of town, so my 14-month-old daughter and I chilled out all weekend.

Before my wife left for her trip, I asked her to let me try a triangle choke on her (I had just watched the Gracie Combatives lesson for it). I always bother her like that , haha! "Let me try this armbar..." or "Try this choke on me..." Sometimes she indulges me, sometimes not. She was packing her luggage and didn't have time, but she said "I'd like to learn that one when I get back". That was different! Normally, she will participate to help me out, or simply to humor me, but never expresses a desire to learn. Back when we trained in aikido together (at my previous dojo), she was really into it - she loved it! It was like pulling teeth to get her to try it out at first, but the more she did it, the more she liked it. Since we stopped (due to her high risk pregnancy), and especially after our daughter was born, she's had better things to do with her time, so her interest in aikido waned.

I think she's interested in learning a few things in the event she needs to defend herself, and the triangle choke has obvious applications for a woman defending herself from a rape attempt.

So do I DARE hope that this may be the beginning of a renewed interest in martial arts? I don't want to get my hopes up, but it's difficult not to. I'll definitely be nurturing her interest though.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More Fitness

Tonight I made the decision to buy an exercise ball on the way home. I also decided to try the 30 minute workout on the included DVD. I made it through 20 minutes of it actually got my heart rate up more than I expected it would. It seemed like the balance involved really will help my core strength.

Oh, and I didn't stop at 20 minutes due to fatigue, or lack of will, or anything like that. My 13-month-old daughter brought me a book she wanted me to read with her. I decided to go with the far more worthwhile option.

Every decision matters.


I've had several false starts this year with my fitness goals. I'm hoping my current motivation doesn't wane so easily.

I've set an arbitrary target date of August 3rd for myself. I don't have a measurable result I'm looking for by then. Rather, my idea is to see just how much I can accomplish in that short amount of time. Basically, I'm committing to making great decisions with regard to my diet and exercise every day for the next 5-and-a-half weeks or so. I'm just going to take it one day at a time and live by the mantra:

"Every decision counts".

So last night, I didn't eat the skin of the chicken I BBQ'd the night before (the skin is my favorite part!). I stayed clear of the "Ooey Gooey" dessert bars my wife made, and opted for a banana instead. I drank only water. I put in my Hip Hop Abs DVD, intending to do the 30-minute workout, but decided I've had enough of that one for a while. I put on my gi pants, and made up my own routine:
  • 2 rounds of the ground mobility cycle (on a heavy bag grappling dummy)
  • a set of crunches
  • a set of push ups
  • another set of crunches
  • a set of bench pressing the grappling bag
  • repeat from the top
I started out at a moderate pace, focusing on correct form (particularly with my holds and transitions during the ground mobility cycle). I increased speed and intensity with each round of the routine. Pressing the heavy bag was pretty cool, because it's oddly shaped and balanced, with no places to grip, which added to the difficulty of lifting it. It weighs around 50 pounds. After 35 to 40 minutes of this cycle, I was dripping sweat. Way more so than I usually am after 30 minutes of Hip Hop Abs. I like this routine better anyway - it provides a chance to drill judo holds.
We'll see how this goes!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rant, Part 2

Another thing that struck me as ridiculous in The Gift of Fear was the following quote from page 307:

"I recently met a middle-aged couple from Florida who had just obtained licenses to carry concealed handguns. the man explained why: "Because if some guy walks into a restaurant and opens fire, like happened at Luby's in Texas, I want to be in a position to save lives."
Of course there are plenty of things he could carry on his belt that would be far more likely to save lives in a restaurant. An injection of adrenaline would treat anaphylactic shock (the potentially lethal allergic reaction to certain foods). Or he could carry a small sharp tube to give emergency tracheotomies to people who are choking to death. When I asked him if he carried one of those, he said "I could never stick something into a person's throat!" but he could send a piece of lead into a person's flesh like a rocket.
Statistically speaking, the the man and his wife are far more likely to shoot each other than to shoot some criminal..."

Where do I begin? Since the Luby's massacre was brought up, I'd like to say something about that: Here's a snip from the wiki article:

"During the shooting, [the shooter] approached Suzanna Gratia Hupp and her parents. Hupp had actually brought a handgun to the Luby's Cafeteria that day, but had left it in her vehicle due to the laws in force at the time, forbidding citizens from carrying firearms. According to her later testimony in favor of Missouri's HB-1720 bill and in general, after she realized that her firearm was not in her purse, but "a hundred feet away in [her] car", her father charged at [the shooter] in an attempt to subdue him, only to be gunned down; a short time later, her mother was also shot and killed. Hupp later expressed regret for abiding by the law in question by leaving her firearm in her car, rather than keeping it on her person."

My observation is that a shot of adrenaline or a sharp tube would not have stopped Ms. Hupp's parents from being murdered before her eyes. If she would have had her handgun (assuming she had been trained in its use), not only her parents, but around 20 other people might still be alive today. But that logic should be obvious to any thinking person - I won't dwell too long on it.

Mr. de Becker seems astonished that the gun owner would be willing to "send a piece of lead into a person's flesh like a rocket", but is uncomfortable at the thought of performing a field tracheotomy. There could be many reasons this would be the case, but among them COULD be that the man was not trained in that procedure and feared screwing it up and causing a bigger problem. Conversely, he may have been well trained in defensive tactics and handgun use. Maybe the hands-on, bloody aspect of the procedure would be more traumatic than firing at a murderer from a distance. But I'm speculating wildly - we have no way of knowing. We're not given more information. Certainly one could argue that a greater number of lives could be saved by the handgun than the sharp tube. Here's an idea that would surely satisfy Mr. de Becker: Just carry all 3 items. The handgun, the adrenaline, and the sharp tube. But why stop there? Maybe the guy should keep a portable AED machine in his car.

As icing on the cake, the author throws out this line: "Statistically speaking, the the man and his wife are far more likely to shoot each other than to shoot some criminal..." Excuse me, "far more likely"? I'm sorry, did I read that right? I wish he would have cited the alleged "statistics" and given the source. We all know how studies can be skewed. Maybe they're "far more likely" because they're around each other far more than they're around criminals. I would lay odds that's the case. Maybe the study dealt only with brand new gun owners before they'd received any training. But if we're talking about responsible gun owners who carry to protect themselves and their families, and get proper training, I have a very hard time believing they'd be more likely to shoot each other than a criminal, all else being equal. It's absurd. Talk about "unwarranted fear" (which the author claims is a curse)!!!

I'm glad that's off my chest. You may have noticed I harped on training a good bit. As a relatively new "gun guy", I take the responsibility of proper training very seriously. I look at it as a way of protecting my family not only from the bad guys out there, but from tragic accidents as well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Judo/BJJ Study Group 6/21/09

Last night, Chase and Cody came over to train a bit. We were able to go through Lessons 1-3 of the Gracie Combatives DVDs, and I was pleasantly surprised, given how long it took Chase and me to just go through lesson 1 last time. This was Cody's first experience with these particular DVDs. They both got their own copies of the set, so we can watch the lessons during the week, and spend more time actually doing the stuff when we get together.

Lesson 1 (trap-and-roll escapes/open guard pass) - I felt like the punch block variant of the trap-and-roll went much better this time, for both Chase and me. Cody picked it up extremely quickly.

Lesson 2 (Americana) - This lesson went quickly; there are only two "slices": standard version and neck-hug variation. The neck-hug version was a little weird for us, but there's more coordination involved. I don't think it'll take that long to work out the weirdness.

Lesson 3 (positional control) - speaking of coordination, this lesson took way more than it looked like it was going to when I first watched it. The low and high "swims" went great, but the transitions from one side to the other (in response to bad guy trying to roll you) requires you to do an opposite-side hook, same-side open knee, and opposite side neck-hug, while keeping your knees light on the mat and your hips pressed into him. It was just several things to think about all at once. We probably need to go more slowly until we get the sequence down.

We didn't have time for any rolling this time, but we did do the reflex development drills at the end of each lesson. We practiced having the bad guy feed random "indicators" to good guy, and letting good guy respond with the appropriate technique. I think that part went really well and was very helpful. I think we did a good job being "partners" rather than opponents last night. Bad guys tested the techniques for good guys and helped them remember the particulars of the techniques. There was really a feeling of "mutual benefit" to our practice.

This week, we're all going to watch lessons 4 - 6. Next time we get together we plan to:
  • Review lessons 1 - 3
  • Practice the "Fight Simulation Drill" for lessons 1 - 3
  • Go through lessons 4 - 6 ("Taking the Back", "Rear Naked Choke", and "Leg Hook Takedown"). These next three lessons look really fun!

Judo 6/20/09

We transitioned from our aiki lesson into judo by looking at 4 entries into osotogari (2 on "my side" and 2 on "his side"), and the otoshi and guruma motions in each of them.

We went through a few repetitions of the ground mobility cycle as a review/warmup, then reviewed the hold-down cycle. I was badly in need of a review of that, and definitely need to practice that more at home.

We reviewed escapes next. We played with the bridge-and-roll escape from munegatame and the "step over" escape from katagatame. For the bridge-and-roll, I need to remember to take out the space/slack (hold top guy closely to me). I also need to remember to get my bottom shoulder out from under him while shrimping.

For the step over escape from katagatame, I need to remember to bridge onto him and push his head into the mat. I need to use the "stepping over" motion to get my bottom arm out from under him.

Good, good lesson. I felt the review did me some good.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Aikido, 6/20/09

As usual, we started with tegatana this morning. We talked about how the arms are not necessarily pushing - sometimes it's like you just fling them along the path they need to go and your body positions itself accordingly.

Next we did releases 1-8, focusing on 6 and 8. We looked at how 6 and 8 come nicely out of 2 or 4, *IF* I follow uke's force rather than fight against it. We played with Chain #2, and Pat demonstrated how release 6 and 8 are kind of "brackets" around all sorts of neat variations of shihonage.

Lasty, we had a good discussion about one of Pat's recent posts regarding otoshi and guruma, and how they tend to show up in Ju Nana and Owaza. I think I understand what he was saying better after his explanation today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rant, Part 1

This post is part 2 of my "micro-review" of Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear, but part 1 of the aforementioned "rant". In yesterday's post I promised to address the author's anti-gun views in more detail. This post might be more appropriate for my little gun blog, but I'm putting it here to continue the post from yesterday.

On page 306, we read an account of a home invasion. In it, the criminal locates the home owner's handgun and holds he and his family at gunpoint before finally releasing them. Mr. de Becker writes (emphasis mine):

"The intruder not only left, but he left the CD player. He did the family another favor too: he took the gun, which now won't be available to some more dangerous invader in the future (Bill is not replacing it)."
I see a few problems with this statement. Without knowing any details other than those given by the author, I think Bill (the home owner) should have had the gun in a location more accessible to him and less accessible to the criminal. Secondly, how was the theft of Bill's gun doing him a favor? Any time someone breaks into my home and attempts to take my property (or potentially worse), I don't consider it a favor. Additionally, if that gun is subsequently used in a crime and traced back to Bill, I don't think he'll be sending the burglar a "Thank You" card. How is it better to have that gun owned by a criminal (someone who would invade a home and attempt to steal property) than by a law-abiding citizen? And where is the guarantee that this gun will not be sold or given to "some more dangerous invader"? Or that the initial invader may not become more dangerous or emboldened upon acquiring a firearm?

More examples to come!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What-I'm-Reading-Wednesday 6-17-09

Ok, I finally finished reading Gavin de Becker's book, The Gift of Fear. I started it about 6 months ago!

Am I glad I read it? Definitely.

Will I read it again? Probably the first one-third of it.

Reflections? I would break the book down in this way:
Beginning: very helpful - great premise. Middle: very interesting. End: Meh.
The idea that we are already experts in human behaviour, as well as the part our intuition plays in helping us avoid/survive danger was fascinating. I think that's the part of the book that may (as the cover claims) "save your life." The middle of the book covered things like stalking, celebrities, and assassinations. Not so much use to me. Some, just not a ton. This was the part of the book I got bogged down with - and why it took me so long to finish it. The end of the book (last chapter and epilogue) is sort of a recap, which is fine, and it discusses differences between "real fear", anxiety, worry, doubt, etc. I found that somewhat interesting, but not necessarily helpful. I'm not trying to be a hater, I did enjoy the book, and others' mileage may vary greatly. One other thing: I did not care for Mr. de Becker's anti-gun views in a few places in the book. I'll expound on 2 specific examples from pages 306 and 307 in tomorrow's "Thursday Thoughts".

Recommended? Yes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Judo 6-14-09

Pat allowed me to do a make-up Judo lesson last night since I had to miss Saturday. I am way more a morning person than an evening person anyway, and hauling my butt out to the dojo after a lazy Sunday afternoon wasn't easy!

We started by learning a new exercise to get us ready for the many falls we would take from hip throws during the lesson. Pat called it "oozing" - one guy gets on hands and knees while the other wraps an arm around him and falls over him in a slow, controlled manner.

We moved on to a new (to me) entry into hip throws. "The middle one" is what we were calling it. It happens not on uke's forward or backward step, but tori causes him to step "around the corner" for this entry. It was kind of like the version of kosotogari we worked on recently.

From this off balance, we worked on ukigoshi, ogoshi, and koshi guruma, or the "not enough butt", "crack of the butt", and "too much butt" hip throws, as Pat called them. Since I was first exposed to them, hip throws have been tough for me. They always cause me to feel like I have a learning disability! It's times like last night I'm very thankful I have a patient teacher. Ukigoshi gives me the most fits, I think, but after several different explanations and analogies, I started to get it a little better. Things for me to remember: 1) clamp uke to me before bending over. 2) ukigoshi makes uke spin on my hip like a propeller, ogoshi rolls him around my hip, across my kidney, and koshi guruma rolls him along the line of my belt. 3) for the floating part of ukigoshi, I need to just try to get his feet up and place them behind me. 4) I need to learn to recognize when the "T" (or "L") is made with our feet - that's the time for whichever hip throw to happen.

Next we did a much-needed review of yellow and green belt escapes. 4 escapes from kesa: Leg entanglement, sit up, uphill, and bridge-n-roll. 4 escapes from mune: Bridge-n-roll, Shrimping (elbow-to-knee), leg entanglement, and spin-out. 2 escapes from katagatame: Uphill (millstone variant), and legs-over. 3 escapes from kamishiho: Bridge-n-roll, spin-out, and double bridge-n-roll.

We took a look at the Trap-and-Roll variants presented in lesson 1 of the Gracie Combatives DVDs, and the principle behind all those variants. My nephew and I were having trouble with the "punch block" variation, so Pat went over some tips for that one that I think will help us. I observed how in these DVDs, the Gracies seem to be developing kata, even though they're not calling them that, particularly with their "Fight Simulation Drills". We talked about how even though those specific attacks may not show up in real life, they demonstrate the underlying principles. Just like kata! Pat wrote a neat post on this concept earlier this year. Read it here.

I was BEAT after the lesson last night, and I'm still feeling it today.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday Thoughts 6-11-09

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts yesterday: Practical Defense by Alex Haddox. The topic of the episode I was listening to was "Terrorism Survival", and he gave some tips that may increase your odds in the unlikely event you're ever present during a terrorist attack (or any "active shooter" situation). Mr. Haddox stressed that odds are, you and I will not find ourselves in that situation. The statement that follows is probably not original to him, but when I heard it, it summed up why I began training in the martial arts in the first place:

"It's better to have knowledge and not need it, than to need the knowledge and not have it."

My shorthand answer to people who regularly question my motivation for self-defense training has become "Just in case." I could go into statistics, or examples of when I've needed (or very easily could have needed) self-defense skills, and I will if they're interested. But for me, it all boils down to Mr. Haddox's statement above.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

US Customs is After My Pocketknife!

I just got word that the US Customs department has DENIED an extension on their absurd 30-day Request for Comment on their ridiculous redefinition of a switchblade. To make a long story short, this new definition would make 80% of pocketknives illegal.

For the whole story, please visit http://www.kniferights.org/ (just click the button on the top-right side of this blog). There, you can find more details AND suggestions on what YOU can do to join the fight for your Second Amendment rights ("arms" does not only mean guns)! But please hurry - the deadline for them to receive comments is June 21st! And they're only accepting snail mail! An obvious and despicable ploy to slip this one past us!

Please write to US Customs and your senators and representatives today. Kniferights.org has suggestions for letters. Visit this site to quickly find your congressmen. Emails are recommended to congressmen, as they'll receive them more sooner, and the clock is ticking!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Study Group 6-7-09

Tonight my nephew Chase came over for some BJJ practice. We went through the entire first lesson of the Gracie Combatives DVD set. The lesson consisted of:

1. Basic Trap-and-Roll escape
2. Trap-and-Roll escape: Punch Block variation
3. Trap-and-Roll escape: Headlock variation
4. Open guard pass
5. Reflex Development Drill (drilling all the techniques above)

Here are a few of my observations:
- I need to get my hips more elevated in all variations of this escape
- Making the Punch Block variation look as smooth as the Gracie boys' demonstration of it is tough! I find I'm skipping pieces of it, and I'm having trouble making parts of it work without "bad guy" being overly compliant. That one will take the most work, I think.
- I think I will benefit from some solo drills of these techniques just to develop muscle memory.
- I think we did very well helping each other out rather than competing. We talked about the importance of being a good "bad guy" (giving good feedback, testing good guy's holds, techniques, etc).

We didn't do any randori tonight at all. We're going to commit to a more structured pattern of study. We'll still roll regularly, but we plan to prioritize our woodshedding time. It was a great time, and it lasted a little less than 2 hours. I think my hopes of having all 36 lessons down and ready to demonstrate by early next year were way too optimistic. This will take some time.

Aikido 6-6-09

Yesterday's aikido lesson began with tegatana no kata, as usual. I didn't really notice anything new with it this time. I do need to devote more time at home to walking. I've been slipping lately.
We moved on to releases 1-8. Once again, I feel like the last 4 are improving ever so slightly, little by little. The dojo's theme of the month for June is Otoshi/Guruma. To illustrate these principles, we stayed with release 3 for a while. Pat demonstrated the difference between catching release 3 on the otoshi timing vs catching it on the guruma timing. For a much better explanation of otoshi and guruma than I could give, see Pat's posts here:

Pat was able to help me out tremendously with release 7 by drawing a comparison to a particularly vicious flavor of gedanate we've been playing with lately. I think it kind of made it "click" (but I don't think I can explain it very well). He also showed me a very cool thing with the releases: by letting your free hand become the "doing" hand, you can turn the thing into a completely different release. Again, I don't think I can describe or explain this adequately in a post. It kinda blew my mind though.

We continued looking at otoshi and guruma for the rest of the lesson. I was glad for the extended look at these principles - I get the concept, but sometimes it takes me a while to really understand this stuff. I was excited because the throws we were getting out of these examples looked like the type of throws that made me want to practice aikido in the first place (uke is thrown into a forward roll).

Just as we did with judo, we discussed how I felt about the green belt material. I was 50% to my green belt requirement after yesterday's class.

Yellow belt material (improvement in previous belt's techniques is required): I feel like I've been improving in tegatana, one one bite at a time. Same for releases 1-4. We haven't worked on Junana/Nijusan 1-3 in a while, but I think I'll be okay there as well.

Green belt material: The only added requirements for green belt are releases 5-8 and Junana/Nijusan 3 and 4. I do feel as if I'm 50% ready to demonstrate releases 5-8. I don't think I have them down well enough if I were to test today, but I feel like I'm on pace. We've played with gedanate quite a bit since I became a yellow belt, so I think I'm on pace for that too. We've only played with ushiroate once, but Pat's version (slightly different from my previous dojo) makes way more sense to me, so I'm not too concerned about being ready for that one.

All in all I feel much better about my aikido that my judo. I have several weeks to work it all out though!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Judo 6-6-09

We started this morning, as always, with the footsweep-to-control exercise. Then we played with a "drag-and-drop" version of kosotogari. The set-up for this kosoto is different from the one I knew - I originally learned the entry from a failed deashi barai, but this one's off-balance is more akin to the one for osotogari. Pat showed how this flavor of kosoto can work on a guy defending heavily against osotogari. We looked at how the "feeler" foot works into this sweep, and how sometimes it turns out being nidan kosotogari (sweeping both feet). I like this kosoto a lot. Feels awkward getting thrown with it. There's something cool about confusing uke by throwing him in a way he's not expecting.

We went over a new throw today: Ouchigari. We practiced this one by "stealing" our partners turn (when we're stepping on his "side"). The sweep was different for me, and a little confusing at first - I kept wanting to sweep his foot upward. Eventually I got the hang of it a little better. I have to remember (as uke) to watch for tori trying to immediately pass my guard when I'm thrown.

For the groundwork portion of the lesson, we went over hadakajime (rear naked choke). The entry was from an attack on a turtled opponent, being careful how you approach him so he can't do something to your legs. I need to keep in mind that the non-choking hand can help the choking arm by interfering with uke's defense so I can sink the choke.

After today's lesson I'm 55% toward the class requirements for green belt. Pat and I talked about whether I felt halfway comfortable with the green belt material. Here's how I'd break it down:

Yellow belt throws: I do feel like I've improved in those since my yellow belt demo.

Yellow belt groundwork: I think I've improved in the mobility cycle, but I actually think I've gone backwards with the escapes. I definitely need review work on those. I think a big part of that is the 6 or 7 week break I had to take earlier this year.

Green belt throws: I think we've only worked on kouchigari, ouchigari, and seoinage one time each, and we haven't looked at ogoshi yet. I feel like I'm at 0% for these!

Green belt groundwork: Here again, it's been so long since we covered the new stuff, I'm not confident at all with these techniques.

Don't get me wrong: I've had a blast developing a better understanding of the earlier material. And I'm not really in a huge hurry to get all this stuff by the time I reach my time requirement. I just like to gauge how I'm doing with the material for how long I've been training. Most of my lack is due to missing classes and just not having enough time to train like I should.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Words of Wisdom from Rener Gracie

I recently picked up the new Gracie Combatives DVD set (by Rener and Ryron Gracie). I'm only on disk 2, but I like it a LOT so far.

Rener said something that pertains to training (in all martial arts, I think) during one of their "reflex development drills" that I really like:

"The goal is not to simulate reality right now by going crazy. The goal is to prepare for reality by going slowly."

When my friends and I are playing around in our Judo/BJJ study groups, we tend to do everything all-out, and seldom slow down to analyze things. I think we're about to slow things down, commit more time to drills and a little less time to randori. "Fast is slow; slow is fast".

Rener and Ryron do a fantastic job of breaking things down into their simplest components. Maybe I'll do a full review of this set once I've seen it all. For now, let me just say this: As a newbie, I cannot recommend this DVD set highly enough, and it's a GREAT value at around $120 bucks.

Friday Night Videos, 6-5-09

Two videos today...one is martial arts related, and the other SHOULD be. I'm really digging the silly "Keyboard Cat" phenomenon on YouTube, haha.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday Thought 6-4-09

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"

~ Wayne Gretzky

~ Michael Scott

~ Todd

((Regular viewers of The Office will get this))

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Aikido 5/30/09

We started the lesson with tegatana, as usual. It's so hard to think of too many things at once! This time I was focusing on my taisabaki and the direction of my following foot. I think my posture suffered because of it, and that was displayed by my lack of balance in the turns. I still love the kata though.

We went through Releases 1-8. Release 8 felt better to me than 5-8 have been lately. It felt more natural and less forced.

We camped out on Release 3 and Chain 3, just as we did last week. This time we looked at different iterations of wakigtame (near, far, different grips, etc). I was fussing over my grip, and Pat noted that my focus on the grip was screwing up my synchronization (with uke) in my steps. We spent most of the remaining time on kotegaeshi. We looked at "ratcheting" uke's arm while taking the slack out. Not a forceful thing at all. Really neat. It creates a situation in which uke's efforts to improve his position actually worsen it. There are many directions of "slack" you can take out of uke's arm - all long the range of motion for each joint. We also looked at the unbendable arm's role in kotegaeshi. Subtle, crazy stuff!!