Removing Risk to Make Learning Easier in the Martial Arts

Removing Risk to Make Learning Easier in the Martial ArtsI recently made a big purchase for our dojo. I bought a soft 3″ thick portable folding mat. Considering that we already have 2″ tatami mats over top a custom built sprung floor for our dojo’s training surface, this purchase may seem unnecessary. And for anyone who is fully comortable with their breakfalls, it is. What we have is more than enough for general use, and preferable over a soft mat like the one I got for developing a better sense of the ground and how best to do a breakfall on it safely. It’s hard enough that you can feel your mistakes, but springy enough to take the jolt out of solid impacts. But I discovered that even our advanced system isn’t always enough. (more…)

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How to Make Safe Contact that Sells for Camera

How to Sell Strikes Safely for Camera

I’ve been training to improve my form and structure to make my punches hit harder for 22 years. I know what it takes to hit with heavy hands and have worked hard to do so. But for film you want to “fight light.” This is a skill that can be a challenge for trained martial artists. While a trained practitioner may know better how to look the part because they know how to do it for real, they have to be able to do so, and even make contact, without making impact associated with it. Here’s what I’ve learned about doing that. (more…)

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Using Wirework to Enhance Throws for Stunts

This past weekend, I spent it at Sea to Sky Stunts training with some stunt friends. One of my goals for the weekend was to spend some time applying wire work to throws to make them look more spectacular. The one we worked on specifically this time around was tomoe nage (stomach throw). You can see the results in the video below. (more…)

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Facing Our Demons through Martial Arts Training

Facing Our Demons through Martial Arts TrainingWe all have our crosses to bear in life. We all face our own unique stresses, pressures and frustrations. Sometimes they are small enough that they can be muted when we step into the dojo and set about our training. On other occasions they creep out against our will, sometimes in startling dramatic fashion, but facing our demons is a good exercise for the martial artist and an important part of our mental development.

Demons Come in All Forms

Our demons, whether they are challenges in our jobs, our relationships, our bodies, our minds, etc, can lead to challenges in our training. Sometimes we have more trouble paying attention because we’re distracted by our demons. Other times, we have trouble getting our body to do what we want it to. We can feel more irritable losing patience with oursleves and others. On a really tough day, we can completely lose control of our emotions and break into tears when put under pressure physically or emotionally in our training, or even just from a kind gesture that opens our emotional flood gate. I’ve seen all of these happen in some form over the years. (more…)

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Why We Root for the Underdog

From @Bexmeister Flash on Flicker.

This past week, I ran a test in which I was testing a woman who was even smaller than me for yellow belt. At one point, I switched up her partner to give her an attacker who was close to twice her size to see how she’d fare. And when faced with the additional pressure, she rose to the challenge. I couldn’t help by smile inside my mind as I checked off the technique from the sheet.

The day before the test, I went to parkour class in which we were told to do a vault of some sort and land into a full sprint. I did a kong vault, but took off a little too close, clipping my knee on the hard wood apparatus as I did so. It made a big bang, which I reacted to with a grunt of pain, but somehow still made it over and landed in the requisite sprint. While there were other people who cleared the obstacle much more elegantly than I did, somehow I inspired cheers from the whole class that weren’t there for anyone else.

We all do this. Unless we have a vested interest in a particular party, if given a choice of who to root for, we usually pick the underdog. We love underdogs because they represent triumph over a struggle. Truth be told, we all feel like underdogs at various things in our lives, so when we see someone give it their all, struggle through the effort, yet emerge triumphant, it encourages us in our own endeavours. We can believe that if we make the effort that we too may triumph over our own struggles.

The people who seem to achieve things easily, even if they had gone through their own struggles in the past, don’t usually give us this reminder. But we should strive to remind ourselves; the people we exalt most in life were probably underdogs who kept at it. Few people in the world possess what we call “natural talent.” What appears as natural talent that came out of nowhere is usually someone who just quietly put their nose down and set about working on a particular skill, failing a thousand times in the process, but failing forward, eventually achieving the skill that receives recognition they are now afforded. But at some point, they were that underdog. At some point they had a low level of skill and experience and and to push past boundaries, falling flat on their face once in a while, to get where they are today.

Find inspiration in every person’s efforts on their own journeys seeking excellence. Admire the underdog who keeps at it without the string of previous successes to keep them encouraged. Admire the people at the top of their game who keep up their training because they are the example of that hard work paying off and continuing to pay off. Apply the lessons we learn from these people on your own path toward success. We’re all underdogs at something, but it’s the way we frame ourselves and our journeys that keep us reaching for excellence on our own journeys.

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Thoughts on Fitness Trackers in Martial Arts Classes

Thoughts on Fitness Trackers in Martial Arts ClassesThe first time I saw a Fitbit on a student’s wrist in class, I reminded the student that jewelry was not allowed on the mats. He apologized, but also pointed out that it wasn’t simply a bracelet, that it was a fitness tracker that helped him monitor all their physical activities. I thought it was an interesting device, but ultimately asked him to take it off, as that was the rule. Since then, a couple of other students have stepped onto the mats wearing one, saying that they just forgot about it because they’re so used to having it on, as they hurriedly removed it and returned to their training.  (more…)

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An Easy & Effective Way to Do a HIIT Cardio Workout

High Intensity Interval Training Hill RunningThe weather here in Vancouver this May has been amazing. It’s made me want to train outside more, rather than in my dark basement gym. So instead of doing my typical HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout going back and forth between stationary biking and burpees, I decided to take it outside.

For this particular workout, all you need is a hill. I happen to live right next to a park situated on a hill, surrounded by natural forest. The forest cover offers the perfect amount of shade to keep things cooler too. To use the hill for my workout, I simply run uphill during my high intervals and walk downhill during my low intervals. Hill running is really intense, working out all the muscles in your legs. I still use my typical timing for my workout, 4 minutes warm-up, 8 cycles of 90 second low intervals and 30 second high intervals, followed by a 2-minute cool-down. (more…)

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Student Appreciation Moment – Ivette

Student Appreciation Moment - IvetteIt’s good to take the time to appreciate the little moments that make teaching such a pleasure. I had such a moment this morning. I received a text from one of my students, Ivette, who just received her yellow belt last night (she killed it by the way). I had used her as my demonstration partner last night, having delivered a knee strike to her lateral femoral motor point. The text she sent me today said this: “I’m so happy to have gotten my first belt… 😀 So excited still for some reason. I’m looking forward to learn new things. Also, I have a really good reminder of last night’s class… Every time I walk, I get reminded of what it’s like to get hit in the lateral femoral… hehe. So that’s two 1st timers from you, (being hit in the) solar plexus and lateral femoral… lol.” (more…)

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Potential Career Paths for Martial Artists

Potential Career Paths for Martial ArtistsWhen it comes to long-term practioners, martial artists can be a peculiar breed. When one falls in love with the martial arts, and you do it for years, you can’t help but want to give back in some way through your training, to share that which you love so much with the world. The ones who REALLY love it, try to find some way to make a career out of it. This is not an easy thing. Martial arts skills are highly specific and not in huge demand in a variety of fields. The obvious choice is to open a martial arts school, but if you don’t have other teachers to support the school, or you’re not interested in teaching children, it’s challenging to make a living solely from teaching martial arts. There are a number of natural career paths though that draw in martial artists, however. Ones that can complement teaching, even running a dojo. Here are a few: (more…)

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Getting Comfortable with Discomfort in the Martial Arts

Getting Comfortable with Discomfort in the Martial ArtsIn Jiu-jitsu, there is a lot of close contact in our training. We’re always in each other’s personal space, which can be uncomfortable for people just starting out. Just yesterday, I was demonstrating a defense in which I was prone on my belly while my attacker was kneeling between my legs, holding my wrists down with his body weight pinning my torso. Oh and my demonstration partner was over 200lbs too. For most people, this would feel uncomfortable between the invasion of their personal space and the feeling of being immobilized physically. But if we’re to learn how to defend ourselves, it’s absolultely vital to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

If you let the feeling of discomfort take over, it can create a panicked state, a desperate desire to get out. In this state of mind, it’s hard to focus and see opportunities that can help facilitate your escape. Without the ability to think critically about the best options for escape, you’re more likely to flail about using all your strength up in the struggle. If you’re bigger and/or stronger than your attacker, this may work out, but if you’re at a strength disadvantage, you’re more likely to tire yourself, further limiting your ability to escape. (more…)

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