My friend James is a west coast swing dancer. He does it for fun, exercise, social activity, and simply because he enjoys it, much like the reasons I train in the martial arts. Every month or so, we get together for brunch and get caught up on each other’s lives and inevitably he ends up talking about dancing and I end up talking about martial arts. I used to do east coast swing dancing and other forms of ballroom for a couple of years back when I was in university, so I can also relate directly to his dancing experiences. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that partner dancing and partner-based martial arts training have quite a lot in common, despite their very different appearances on the surface. It’s no surprise to me that Bruce Lee was both a great martial artist and ballroom dancer. What the two things have in common really boils down to one thing: body control. (more…)
I woke up yesterday morning to my 36th birthday, contemplating what I wanted to do to celebrate on the day. I had coffee in bed with my husband then decided to start off the day with a bang by going out for a 5k run, using the new 5k race mission that was added to Zombies Run, the game that got me back into the running regime.
I knew I wanted to be at the dojo for the two adult classes in the evening, even though my second in command offered to let me take the night off for my birthday. Honestly, most of my friends are through the dojo, and I haven’t been able to be at the Tuesday and Thursday classes for the past couple of weeks due to the movie work I do on the side, so I really just wanted to be there. I taught the first class and trained in the second with Chris Sensei running the show. (more…)
This past Sunday we worked with local boxing champion Louis Sargeant to improve our sparring skills. In the second half of the class, we all took turns doing some boxing-style sparring with Louis coaching us. As part of the experience, we decided to film everyone’s sparring so people can watch themselves and get a better idea of what things they need to work on. (more…)
Knowing how to do breakfalls is really useful for a stunt performer. A high proportion of the movie stunts performed involve falling, whether it’s for a fight, chase, or off a building. But it’s not enough to be good at the breakfalls you do in martial arts training.
When we do throws and takedowns in Jiu-jitsu, our first and foremost goal is to prevent injury. In stunts, the goal is to make the fall look realistic. These two goals can clash, however. The big slap and controlled leg position of a very safe breakfall are the same things that make it look as though the person falling didn’t get hurt. No big surprise, right? (more…)
This past weekend I attended the Canadian Jiu-jitsu Union Invitational Summer Camp held in Sicamous BC. In its fifth year, this camp is a great chance to learn from some really talented instructors. In the five years I’ve been attending this camp it’s grown, and yet the level of instruction is consistently excellent, with all instructors contributing a high level of expertise. It’s unlike any other event I’ve attended as there are no weak links at the instructor level, and all the instructors, despite their long years of experience, are approachable, affable, and still learning. Their enthusiasm not just for teaching, but for learning from each other is really great to see, and there’s never been any of the one-upsmanship or arrogance that has been on display at some of the other events I’ve attended over the years.
As always, I try and take away concepts from these events, rather than specific techniques because I find concepts easier to remember and often have greater impact on my overall development. (more…)
Throws get very mixed reviews. Some people absolutely love throwing, and really look forward to learning how to toss people about the mats. Other people get nervous and apprehensive when it comes to learning throws.
The very word throwing carries with it a lot of connotation. Throwing implies a requirement of strength, dexterity and energy, and is generally done in the movies by big tough guys with large muscles.
When people try to throw for the first time, you can almost see the big intake of breath before they try and pick someone up and throw them, regardless of how you’ve explained the technique.
Throwing is one of reasons that the assertion made by Jiu-jitsu instructors that it can be done anyone regardless of strength and size is often met with skepticism. The punching, the kicking, that’s ok, even perhaps the locks seem attainable. But tell someone that they’re going to learn to how throw people larger then themselves, well, that’s hard to believe. (more…)
Recently I was working with Rick, my stellar 65-year-old Jiu-jitsu student, on a couple of his higher impact breakfalls (breakfall #8 and #9 in Can-ryu). He had been working on improving them diligently for over a year now, trying to overcome his fear of falling hard. Being an older guy, he is naturally a little scared about hurting himself. As a result, he has always found himself holding his breath, tensing up and resisting the flow of energy when doing these higher impact falls, when what he needed to do was quite the opposite; he needed to breathe out and relax to take the edge off the impact, and go with the flow so his body could naturally turn into the ideal falling position. For months we gave him the same type of feedback, making very gradual progress all the while, but then he reached a plateau and he wasn’t making the jump he needed to really “get” the breakfall.
Then we added the kiai. (more…)
A martial art derived from Jiu-jitsu, Judo shows beautifully on film. Some of my favourite YouTube videos featuring martial arts are of Judo. As a bit of a lighter post today, I figured I share a few of my favourites.
This first video is a demo that was put on at a festival celebrating the sport, performed by two Olympic-level Judoka. Their core strength is awe-inspiring as they demonstrate Judo throws in slow motion (both forward and in reverse). Also LOVED the Jedi-style throwing from a distance (which can only be seen to be understood). Have a watch: (more…)
Balance, stance and structure are all important concepts in the martial arts. When you take your attacker’s balance, shift them out of their stance and compromise their structure, you can more easily throw them, take them to the ground, draw them into locks/submissions, etc. Conversely, by maintaining strong stance and structure, you apply locks, throws, strikes, etc with greater efficiency making them easier to apply with less effort.
One way we like to emphasize these concepts in our classes is by playing balance breaking games in stances like horse stance and forward stance. These help students understand the give and take of balance stance and structure and its relevance to the martial arts. Watch the video below to see how we play these games. (more…)
In Jiu-jitsu, as in many martial arts, the goal is to develop great technique so as to use one’s energy with the greatest level of efficiency for maximum effect. Jiu-jitsu literally translates to mean “the art of pliancy or flexibility.” When students get stuck on a technique though, sometimes they will try to use power to force it to work. This not a good approach if your goal is to become a better martial artist. Water is often used as analogy of how we should train in the martial arts. It finds the path of least resistance and flows around its obstacles. Bruce Lee himself said: “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it.”
There are a variety of practical reasons for not trying to force your way through martial arts techniques. Here are 6 examples from my own experience: (more…)