Looking Back on 2014
Toward the end of every year, I take time to appreciate all the great things that happened throughout the year. This year, I figured I’d write a blog post to this effect and take stock of the highlights of my life in the martial arts and in my stunt career.
1. Becoming an International Martial Arts Instructor. Over the past year or so, my role as a seminar instructor has ballooned. Thanks to the publicity gained from publishing my book, When the Fight Goes to the Ground last year with Tuttle Publishing, I started taking my teaching skills on the road a lot more. After teaching at the PAWMA (Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists) camp last year, I received further invitations to teach down south. I taught at and attended my first NWMAF (National Women’s Martial Arts Federation) training camp, and was invited back to teach at PAWMA camp again in the fall. Furthermore, I was invited to teach at Wright Fight Concepts in New Egypt, New Jersey, once in the winter and then again in the fall. I also taught at a school in North Bay, ON, having been invited there by some fantastic instructors I met at the NWMAF camp, as well as a school in Seattle, thanks to some friends I met at PAWMA camp. This is, of course, all in addition to my annual teaching gigs at the Canadian Jiu-jitsu Union Winter and Summer Camps, which are always such a pleasure. And I’m finishing my year airborne en route to New Zealand where I’ve been invited to teach multiple seminars.
How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything
I heard this quote recently and thought about how very relevant it was to the martial arts. It is, of course, relevant in all spheres of life, but as a martial artist, it’s hard not to see the many ways it applies to what we do. Here are a few of the ways I thought about:
Sharpening Your Sword
In Jiu-jitsu, we train in a variety of different skills, including hand strikes, kicks, throws/takedowns, breakfalls, ground techniques, and more. Over time, students start to discover that they have more of an affinity for certain spheres of training, while observing more challenges in others. While it’s good to make the most of your natural talents, it’s equally important not to ignore one’s weaknesses. From a self-defense point of view, weaknesses can bite you in the ass. As with the metaphor, your sword is useless if you leave gaps when you sharpen it. If you don’t fully explore your weaker areas, you won’t learn how best to compensate for them. And with time, they may not even be weaknesses that require compensation. This attitude also transfers into other areas in life, work, relationships, hobbies, etc. When you adopt this mentality in one thing, it tends to affect other things you do and vice versa. (more…)
Why I Sometimes Envy My Cats
I am a cat owner with two bengal cats named River and Kaylee. I’ve always loved cats, but these two lovely girls are the first ones I ever owned. Because of their breed, they have an interesting mix of intelligence and wildly active natures, as well as the calm, cuddly characteristics of normal domestic cats.
I often look at my cats and feel envious of the way they live. Without even trying, they manage to live my ideal life. They run, jump, and play, essentially doing parkour all over the house. They play fight, and quite skilfully I might add. When they go outside, they are fully appreciative of nature all around them. They sleep well, always. They are friendly & social, and enjoy playing with the guests that come in and out of our home. They even meditate, sitting calmly for long periods, not looking at anything in particular, fully immersed in the moment. They don’t worry about the future or obsess about the past. (more…)
Assertiveness, Compassion & the Martial Arts Mindset
In the martial arts, we often talk about the mental benefits of our training. This is not just about developing courage to face a self-defense situation and fight back if necessary. Nor is it only about building the confidence required to learn the physical skills involved in one’s training. The mindset learned through martial arts training also has practical applications for dealing with the wide variety of personal challenges and conflicts we face in daily life. (more…)
Finding the Opportunity in Each Crisis in the Martial Arts
A couple of weeks ago I had my students working on quick wrist escapes in class. The goal is to slip out of wrist grips by engaging their bodies from the hips then directing their trapped wrist through the weakest part of the grip. The action I was teaching is used against a wrist grab from the front in which the thumb is at the top of the grip.
While the students were training, Chris, the other instructor assisting on the mats came over and asked me to grab his wrist so he could practice it a few times himself. After he got to do it a few times, he went and grabbed my left wrist, but grabbed with the thumb down rather than up. As I initiate the action of the technique, I realized the grip was different mid-movement as I met the force of the strong part of the grip rather than the thumb and forefingers that would usually result in a quick escape. As I sensed the resistance, I reached under his wrist, clasped my hands together, then reversed my hip turning into him, putting him in a type of wrist lock using his fingers to apply the pressure. (more…)
My Life as a Martial Arts Instructor & School Owner
A martial arts friend and colleague of mine sent me an email yesterday to wish my happy Mother’s Day. He said, “This may seem weird, but I wanted to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. Not sure if you think about it this way, but you are truly a mother to your dojo.” It was the nicest thing I heard all week.
Finding the Stillness in Movement
A few weeks ago, I was teaching a class in which I had students working on their boxing punches while moving forward and backward in a chasing/retreating drill.
In self-defense or live training exercises like sparring, it is rare that you would get to hit a completely static target unless you managed to stun or distract the person first. That’s why it’s important to practice target tracking and this drill covers one particular aspect of it. It allows you to practice striking while your target is moving backward or while you yourself are backing away for whatever reason. (more…)
3 Dirty Words I’ll Never Say As a Martial Artist
The martial arts world nowadays is full of competition, especially in the urban western world in which schools are all vying to get students from the same geographic area. In classic capitalist fashion, schools try to distinguish themselves from their competition to highlight how they’re the best choice for the potential students’ needs. (more…)
12 Years So Far in Jiu-jitsu
This week marks my Jiu-jitsu anniversary. It’s been 12 years since I nervously stepped onto the mats at Carleton University and was introduced to the world of locks, throws and pain by Kieran Parsons Sensei. It seems fitting that this week also marks my birthday, and gives me an extra excuse to look back a little at the path I’ve taken to get to where I am today. Please forgive my indulgence.
I recently achieved the rank of Nidan in Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu and in addition to the physical testing I was required to write an essay on how teaching this style of Jiu-jitsu has changed my perspective. When I first sat down to write that essay, it was a bit of a trip down memory lane, and led to many of the following thoughts.
It’s weird in how 12 years both seems a fairly long time, and a very short time. It’s over a third of my life, yet, when compared to some of the instructors I get to train under, it’s not that much. I think the instructors with whom I train most regularly, the smallest amount of time they’ve trained is 20 years. Yet looking back at what’s happened in the last 12 years, I see Jiu-jitsu as the only constant (non-family) element in my life.
The Value of Old Knowledge in the Martial Arts
A couple of weeks ago, I went to Powell’s Book Store, a huge bookstore in Portland that had the biggest martial arts section I’ve ever seen with a variety of new and used books on every topic. I bought half a dozen books, but my most valued find was an old book, The Complete Jujitsuan, that was originally published in 1915.
I am always on the look-out for old martial arts books like that for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they’re interesting to read from a historical perspective. The writings reflect the unique attitudes toward training and combat of the time and place during which it was written. The demonstrators wear clothes that are customary for the era, which can make for differences in movement strategy. The techniques sometimes comprise of different moves or even weapons that have fallen out of favour. And sometimes you find different techniques or ways of applying familiar techniques that are new to you. (more…)