Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jits for Jeriatrics!

Sorry, Justin, don't mean to imply that you are. I'm actually way closer to that demographic comapred to you! :-)

This post is in response to an email that my friend sent to me about getting back into training after a really debilitating injury. And believe me, his is really bad. But I admire his incredible verve and spirit for even contemplating that. The great thing is that he is using phrases like "soul searching", the "mental game" and the like. This is a great first step

Now I know the young bucks will poo-poo all this and just believe that you should train on tank filled with 99% testosterone and 1% intelligence but I just want them to reach my age and see whether it's possible to do so without ending up on a first name basis with your Orthopaedic surgeon. (In my case, it doesn't apply - my brother is one)

When you get older, the ratio should be reversed; not because your nuts get smaller but because your body can't take at 40 what it did at 18. It's not possible. Not even with all the supplements and ginseng known to man. So, below are a few tips on how to get back into the game safely when others are saying that you should be playing golf (blech!)

1. Train more often, but less intensely

The second part sounds wrong but hear me out. It's better for you to train 20 times and progress 1 km each time then to train once and blow yourself out , and never come back. I have seen a few blue belts who have stopped training, return once to great fanfare..and drop out once again, never to be seen.

I think what you need to do is set a goal in terms of quantity of classes or sessions and reach that. At then end, you'll find that just through sheer doggedness in coming to each class - you'll achieve something. This year, my goal was to come to 20 open mat sesssions. Compared to 2007, where my attendance was sporadic and depended on whether I "felt like it"; the improvement in my game has been noticeable.

2. Don't be afraid to go back into 1st gear

As I have said before, an instructor usually concentrates on his top students and at that pace; leaving the slower ones disheartened when they can't keep up. Bugger that. He hasn't got your body, your aches and your pains. And he won't be paying for your medical bill for ibuprofen either.

If the pace is too fast and potentially damaging for you, don't be afraid to pull back and slow down.

3. Leave the memories in the Kodak box

Guys being guys, we want to believe that we will remain invincible and potent forever. It's related to a fear of death, but I'll save that for my religious blog. Consequently, we seek to relive your past glorious moments again and again. So, we kind of replay that line from Eve 6's song " Here's to the night we felt alive" ad infinitum

This sounds brutal; leave them. Save them for the occassional talk cock session when you've had a few bears at the pub. But it's over. And once over, it will never happen again. As in Ikebana, the arranged flowers are beautiful; but they are essentially dead, disconnected from their roots. Their decline is assured.

So too the past glories. Find new ones, or new vistas when you roll. Don't be punch-drunk Pauly at that rundown gym going " I coudda been a contender!". Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, so..get drunk today! :-)

Before I go all Deepak Chopra..

4. Train with a brain

It's not a bad thing to engage your brain. It means that you have a plan, a schedule and course charted. If it fails, so what? At least you tried to go somewhere. This means asking questions like "what do i want to work on", "how long?" and "what do i want to achieve?"

Leave the romantic "mind of no mind, train like a man without a care in the world" b.s behind. Show me a guy like that , and I'll show you a guy with crippling mortgages, a neglected wife and kids and unwashed clothes

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How's your Game been?

As the year draws to a close, one question any person training in combat sports should ask is: How has my game been this year?

It's important to ask this as like it or not, a combat sport is predicated on a few things, and one of those things is that there should be improvement seen over time if one if diligent, aware and mindful of what they are doing. It is not optional

If you are doing a non-competitive art like aikido or tai-chi, then this discussion doesn't apply to it. But the combat sports are inherently competitive and about dominance over your opponent; or at least control over your actions. So there are ways to gauge whether you are improving or not. Some may be valid in theory but not in practice. Take the example of performance gauging through winning compeitions

Say you won a gold medal this year in a Jits competition whereas last year, you got a silver. Sounds good, right? It is until the truth comes out that last year, you had to fight 5 opponents to get your silver while this year, you had a walkover all the way to the finals. The end doesn't always tell the whole story

If you were out with an injury last year and this year, you only started rolling or sparring again; there is improvement. It doesn't matter if everyone is kicking your ass. If next year, you are where you were this year, then your game hasn't imrpoved.

Some people object to this stress-testing. They whine "Why can't I just train without caring if I improve or not? I still like it."

Unfortunately, you train with a partner. And if he or she is improving, and likewise the others in your class; pretty soon, you won't enjoy it because everyone will be spanking you. And if you derive a certain pleasure out of that...well, there are other websites that cater for that.. :-)

Nuff said

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My teacher can beat your teacher!

In one of my conversations with Rizo (or more to the point, I was boring him to death..), I related the story of one of my former Kung Fu teachers. Sifu was one heckuva nice guy, and he ran a kwoon with a great training atmosphere that was well equipped and patronised by eager students of the noble art. I used to travel an hour just to get to his place and never once to this day regretted those lessons. There was one problem though…

He couldn’t fight very well

As far as teaching was concerned, he was great. But he had a reputation for being the target of ‘dojo-storming’ back in those days by other teachers. This was back in the heyday of the infamous Wing Chun wars where so-and-so Sifu talked smacked about another sifu, so his students would go to war with the other clan over this supposed dishonour. It was all so Wah-La-Toi-ish.

Anyway, not only did my sifu get jumped on by other members of the same style; practioners from other non Gong Fu arts like karateka got their licks in. I know this because one of my other teachers claimed to be one of those guys…which was something I never told my sifu about due to the political complications, to say the least.

Which goes back to the topic at hand: Should your teacher/coach/sifu be able to fight?

These days, things are a lot more professional. If you want to prove that you are a mensch, you get into the Octagon, if you have the huevos. Should you indulge in uninvited ‘testing’ at another martial arts place, be prepared for the cops at your door and to be sued by your friendly local law firm. Bruce Lee would have been in Sungei Buloh prison by now if he tried his schickt from the movies now.

But that does mean that the teacher/coach/sifu is now off the hook?

Here’s my take on it. Whatever you are teaching, you better make sure you can do what your art says it claims to do according to how you teach it. Fair enough?

That means that if you teach MMA, you have to be able to spar all ranges with all your students because that’s what they do, and that’s what you are supposed to do. If you are a BJJ coach and don’t roll, you don’t deserve that title. You may deserve the belt due to your efforts in the past – but not the present role of ‘coach’

If you do Tai-Chi for health reasons, you shouldn’t have to take challenges from idiots who want to see whether it ‘works in self-defence’. Why? Because you never claimed to teach it for those skill sets in the first place.Those aforementioned twits should take it to an RBSD practitioner if the want to try their skills out. Why the latter? Well, they did put themselves in the position that their art is for self-defence and not sport, right? So, that means that theoretically, they are open to testing and real-life attacks 24-7.

My aim here is not to stir up shite. Okay, maybe a little. All I am contesting is that you should be accountable for what you say you do, teach and are. I have no problem telling people that I am an out of shape desk jockey that does some Jits and Judo twice a week. In no way in the known Universe does that make my Royler Gracie or Yamashiro Yamashita. So,I am a coward and am not a fighter - nor would I claim to be. There’s no point bragging about what doesn’t exist

Now, if one day I started teaching and bragged about how I could sub and throw anyone, and Mr Gracie and Yamashita-san came to the door of my school; then I’d better be prepared to back those words up or sign up for some medical insurance pretty damn quick..

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fight Quest - BJJ

Some of you may know of the show called "Fight Quest" where two hosts go around the world and spend five days learning an art and then take on two of the art's top practioners in a sparring match at the end of the five days.

Last night, 'Fight Quest' went to Brazil and trained with Rickson's team. It was quite good as both of the hosts are BJJ practioners (one is a blue and the other, a purple), so it made for some entertaining watching. What was personally interesting for me was watching how black belts rolled. The key differences that I picked up from the show were:

1) Black Belts (BBS) roll with a greater awareness of leverage and less strength
2) They also learn how to pace themselves
3) BBS seem to be calmer, but I guess that this is a function of mat time
4) Their sense of timing is superb

All in all, it was very enlightening from that viewpoint

Monday, September 8, 2008

And the blind will see..

I came up with a drill for BJJ one Saturday when I was working out Rizan, one of my BJJ training partners and one of the best people to work out with ever. It involves very simply, just rolling for 3 or 4 minutes with your eyes closed. This is done at about 50% resistance or even less if you haven't warmed up

The rationale behind this is that most times, we rely too much on our sight when we roll, and yet, unlike tennis or football where eyesight is paramount, the close proximity inherent in Jits should mean that there should likewise be a lesser dependance on the sense of sight and more on touch.

Thus, I believed that by relying what we see, we tended to take in too much information, more than what we needed to roll effectively and efficiently. Take a blind person crossing the room, he or she doesn't have the luxury of wandering around like a sighted person - the aim is to get to the other side safely and efficiently as every step taken frivolously could mean danger.

Now I am not saying that you have there is no room to play in Jits,; not at all. My point is that you don't realise how inefficient your rolling in in terms of physical exertion and breathing expanded until you are made aware of it. And I believe that purposely handicapping yourself is a good way of opening this kind of awareness

Don't take my word for it..try it!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Impossible is Nothing

Two days ago, I threw someone with Uchimata

Those of you who do Judo will know what throw I'm talking about. To the uninitiated, it's a kind of throw where you come in from the side, throw a leg between your opponent's and lift him up in the air as though he's riding on it. No wonder that the name for a similar throw in wrestling is called the 'flying mare'

It's also one of the most beautiful and spectacular throws in Judo, and also one of the most challenging to pull off properly. It's also a throw suited to bigger guys, not smaller, shorter ones like me. And this is where the story comes in.

All through my judo years till now, every instructor has told me that as someone of diminutive size; I should concentrate on throws better suited to my height and stature. Thus, they taught me ippon seionage ( the classic shoulder throw) till I knew all the variations.

But I wasn't satisfied.

I would dream incessantly of uchimats and it's closely related cousin; harai-goshi. But each time I asked my sensei's to teach it to me properley; they gently suggested that I learn some other throws suited to my stature. So, I continued doing what I was doing until sensei Junji came along. When I asked him to teach me haraigoshi and uchi mata; he didn't brush off the request but went patiently with me and broke down the technique bit by bit.

What was refreshing was that he never once made a comment about the unsuitability of the technique for my height; he just taught it to me. And over the course of a few lessons, I felt sorry for him as my clumsiness in executing the technique must have caused him some physical pain whenever I didn't quite get my throwing leg into his inner thigh. Those of you who have received some badly executed uchi matas will know what I mean :-)

Then, one day, it came. As Matt Thornton would say - it became Alive. It had timing, energy and motion, and I was as shocked as anybody when it happened. My training partner hit the ground and I replayed that throw over and over again in my head

Sensei Junji saw it. But all he said was: "Now, let's work on that some more"

And that is the essence of this post. It's not to crow about me, but to give the biggest props possible to my judo coach, sensei Junji. What he did epitomises what a great coach should be - someone who tells his charge that impossible is nothing. Who makes him believe that it can be done. And makes them work as though the seemingly improbable is just around the corner. After that, they then show you another road and another corner to go through. It's the answer to that perenial question beloved of kids in the back of car on a journey"

" Are we there yet?"

Not yet, not yet, but we'll get there soon, says a real sensei.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Martial arts: It all starts at school

My biggest peeve about martial arts in Malaysia is that it should start when you're young but parents by large just do not do any research into the what's, how's and why they should let little Johnny do martial arts.

Most times, it's because it's part of the school extra-curricular activities and thus, the kids end up doing it because it's something like music lessons or art; another skill to have. But how does it work?

The answer is that this is how it goes; I,the parent, will send my kid to learn martial arts (and I don't care what it is) from a bored instructor who is only interested in cramming as many students he can into his class. I will boost their self esteem by saying how good they are even though they get their arse handed to them in sparring and even if they can't kick above the tibia. Then, because they contributed to my bank balance - I'll give them a black belt to put on their shelf and their resume

Some of you will read this and think I'm banging on TKD. Well, in a way I am as it is the most popular MA in Malaysia and the most common one taught in schools. But I am definitely not knocking the art itself. I took TKD in University for five years. And actuallly used it to defend myself in my last altercation. My instructor worked security and was also a part-time bouncer. His TKD wasn't pretty but it was effective

The point is that I wish parents would do some research into the combat arts. I have gained so much from them that it kills me when someone comes in and has no clue why they are there. Each art has a history, some ethno-related culture and also a contemporary-localised way of being practiced that makes it clear without saying, that not all arts and instructors are the same.

And if you do that, you will do your kid a favour by introducing them to something that they might seriously enjoy. Also, you become a participant in this process, even if you do not participate. Just that little bit of effort will go a long way to changing the perception of martial arts in this country

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Counting the Cost

I haven't updated my blog in a while as I've been overseas. Recently, while I was in Australia, I was supposed to train Jits with a friend but as Murphy would have it, he suffered a really bad injury during training, which required an immediate operation. He's on crutches and will be stuck with a metal plate permanently in his ankle

This should give us pause and food for thought. We sometimes forget that what we do can be a dangerous sport and it will take it's toll on the body. We idolise Bruce Lee for his severe training methods but he passed away in his youth before we saw what time and old age would have done to his body. Those masters of yore like Mas Oyama were beset with athiritis from all the pounding to those joints to "toughen"them up.

Thus, there is a cost to this sport, which for most of us is a hobby. We stand (or roll) as though we are invulnerable until that which we do not dare speak about, the dreaded injury, rears it's ugly head. Then, we count the cost. We have to, there is no other option

The cost of time recuperating, in pain, lost income, the all counts. And you should ask "is it worth it?". It's not a question of cowardice or lack of manly courage but it takes more strength of character to admit that maybe, just maybe, there are certain priorities that should take precedent over your 'hobby' (for that what it is, essentially. No one is pointing a gun to your head to take up the combat sports)

For too long, there's been this macho culture underlying the combat sports which has subverted an essentially useful vehicle for a certain measure of self-development into a truck of self-aggrandasising posturing and preening. Instead of making someone look at themselves in self-reflection; it has caused many to fall into denial and an escapist fantasy.

It takes guts sometimes to say that maybe golf is more my thing now, or table tennis. Or maybe you want to spend more time with the kids. Or your loved one. At the end of the day, your kimono won't love you back. Of course, if you think it will..there are probably websites that will cater for that :-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Living up to the name

I'm well aware that while I go by the moniker 'bjjmissionary' on this blog, most of the posts have centered around Judo, and not BJJ. This is something I found odd myself and I did some thinking last night while listening to a live jazz performance at 'No Black Tie'

Now, there is definitely no lack of interest on my part in Jits. I have Eddie Bravo's book on the Rubber guard next to my bed, and a Joe Moreira thome on side control nearby as well. I even fell of my bed a few days ago practising a roll-out. So as far as obsessions go...well, I'm a pretty sick puppy

But I have a definite bent towards Judo at the moment in terms of practice and I think I've worked out why.

Judo practice for want of a better word, is more fun. It is ironic as there is a language barrier between myself and most of the players there (they are chinese educated and my spoken cantonese veers between horribly atrocious and incomprehensible). Definitely, it's not the environment - a small, dusty corner dojo that might have been designed in space starved Hong Kong.

Yet, the strangest thing is that I'm pretty sure I enjoy it because of one simple fact. In judo, you can throw people over your shoulder - and they expect to be thrown. Sure, you fight for it not to happen but if it does, no big shakes, no tantrums and you just keep on doing randori. This goes for everybody - from the most senior sensei to the whitest white belt. Throw, be thrown and enjoy it.

This seems to be missing from BJJ. Ironically, I used to hear the slogan "In BJJ, we leave our ego at the door". Sadly, I don't see much of this in reality. I guess because in recent years. BJJ has taken on a very much air of competition and dominance. In a roll, everyone's going for a submission - and that's the money shot.

If you don't get it - you start questioning your validity as a blue, purple or whatever belt. So if your whole sense of self-worth lies on whether someone makes you tap; you get an atmosphere that is as far removed from that idealistic slogan in the first place. You fight the tap out of insecurity, you seek the tap because of it as well.

Please don't argue with me that BJJ is more competitive and that there are competitions, so you have to be more ruthless. Judo is an Olympic sport and there are more full time judo competitors out there compared to BJJers.

When was the last time you gave the tap to someone. Not once, but over and over again? When was the last time a higher belt or an instructor gave you the submission - not in drilling but in sparring? Drilling doesn't count, it allows you to maintain that unspoken power heirachy ("Oh, I let you tap me because it's a drill" ). But in sparring, now the mask comes off and we're going to see what your self-esteem rests on...

So, the most honest thing I can say is that I don't enjoy BJJ as much anymore because of the way it is structured these days. It has become a way for upper middle class kiddies (because it is expensive vis-a-vis other arts) to get their mini-power trip. People talk about being a 'target' when you get your blue belt. Good grief, Where did all this nonsense come from?

I don't remember being a target for anyone when I went up the Judo belt heirachy and I certaintly didn't think that just because I hit brown, that I was within hitting distance of the black belts. In fact, it was the opposite - I suddenly saw them as further away. And the feeling was indeed humbling.

Chris Hauter has been the only BJJ black belt that I've had those positive vibes about as someone who doesn't give a rip about the whole heirachy thing. And sadly, he's seen as flaky as a result in some BJJ circles. I wonder, as a Christian, is this how they saw Jesus? When the crowds exalted him and wanted him to be an earthly king and when he refused to play according to their rules; they called him flaky as well?

A japanese phrase which we use in Judo which I love is: Sore Made

It means "that's all ", "It's over". And it's a lesson that in life, it's good to throw but that sometimes you learn more from being thrown and that at end - it really is the end; so let it go.

One lovely story which I read about goes like this:

In one of the dojo's in the U.K, an amateur Judo player once boasted that he would drop the visiting Japanese instructor in randori that day. His friends laughed and hooted. Why? For the distinguised visitor was none other than Yamashiro Yamashita; the Olympic champion and former 3 times world champion. He was also undefeated for something like 10 straight years. This man was and still is a judo god to many players

During randori, there was a lot of tugging and shoving and suddenly, there was a loud sound. The impossible happened - a god fell to earth. The whole judo went deathly silent, really silent. The champion smiled wryly, brushed himself off, and got up to randori again. It was then said that from then on, the amateur judoka received throw after throw from Yamashita but each time he did so; he was smiling. For that one moment - he had touched the sky, and no matter how many times he came down to earth: he had been where only the gods were, if ever so briefly

Yamashita knew that all men, even Judo gods, were mortal. And sometimes they fell. It's no big deal. You just get up and straigthen your belt.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Four stitches in a finger pointing to the moon

So, my trip to Singapore for Rodney King's weekend seminar tend out to be a bit of a bust. Having received four stitches in a freak accident a week before meant that the chances of me training were slim to none; less my stitches suddenly exploded and believe me, the thought of paying for a restitching in Singapore Dollars was not an appealing one

But it was a good trip for other reasons. I got some inspiration for poetry, which my friend Kathleen is helping me with and also met up and made some new friends (always a good thing). There's always a silver lining in a cloud and a stitch in time (or four), saves nine. :-)

One really serendipitious moment was seeing Rodney roll with Yuri before class started. As I told my coach, Vince of KDT academy, that completely blew me away. Why? Mainly because he didn't roll like what I had envisaged.

It was amorphous, yet highly structured and rational. The best way to describe it would be diaphonous. Amazingly smooth and silk like. But to say it had no strength or power would be completely wrong as well. The positions that Rodney got were as strong and as solid as they come.

That's beautiful BJJ :-)

I had expected either a plodding, safe game or a strength/power based set from him but not that, which goes to show sometimes that stereotypes can be wrong. And I'm glad I was because I got to see something really special that day. And I think what was special was not that I saw a BJJ black belt's skill or a collection of techniques.

Rather, it was a culmination of years of experience, muscle memory, thought processes, techniques and mat time distilled in the present (or now, the past). It's not a set of moves - it's a state of mind and body. But that aside.. looked da bomb!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Beautiful Judo (Part 2) - Flying the friendly skies

I resolved that starting this year, I would do Beautiful Judo

Judo that looked like those gorgeous black and white photos in my books. Judo that made people fly over your shoulder but where you didn't look as though you were having severe constipation while you were launching him. Judo's maxim, "minimum force, maximum efficiency" doesn't occur when you channel your inner steroid monkey to throw a guy off the mat. To effect this, I knew I would have to pay more attention to the Japanese insructors at my club

The Japanese teachers where I train are a wonderfully strange lot. I used to think that they would be all stern,frowning and inscrutable to the highest degree. Yes, I admit that that's quite stereotypical but hey, I watched too many Kurosawa movies in my time

As I mentioned, almost serendipitously, it was here that I met Sensei Japan Air Lines; or Sensei JAL for short, as I will call him. Anyway, Sensei JAL and the rest of the Japanese teachers are always smiling, calm and eager to share their knowledge with anyone who was interested. Unfortunately, the language barrier poses some issues and I wish I had learnt Japanese as I have no doubt as to the goldmine of information which they possess. Still, whatever I pass on to me is treated like nuggets of gold. Pure gold.

Sensei JAL is different in that his English is quite good, and he is a born teacher. He loves instructing and teaching; it shows in his face, his movements and what he says. He wants to share his Judo with you, but not just any old Judo...he wants you to learn beautiful Judo.

He's called Sensei JAL because whenever I randori with him, he's launched me some many times through the air I could get frequent flyer miles from him. In fact, I think I've enough distance collectively to make it to Tokyo. And he does this by timing, by tai-sabaki (body movement), use and control of 'Ma' ( A Japanese term denoting space) and just good,ol' fashioned Judo elbow grease.

If Judo was cuisine, his would be soul food. Good for you. Good for the family. Nothing fancy, no plating - just served with a whole lotta sincerity and honesty. It's beautiful Judo and that's what I want to learn from Sensei JAL


Beautiful Judo (Part 1) - Slugger Malone and the alley cat

I've been in the martial arts for more than a while. One thing that I used to obsess over is whether I recived the best, most technical instruction possible in that art. Now, unless your name ends with Trump, you are not likely to get the opportunity fly to Torrance to train BJJ with the Gracies nor are you likely to be able to then hop on the next flight to the Philipines to work on edged weapons with Leo Gage.

You are where you are. And most times, you train where you am as well. Granted, my grammar is horrendous there but you get the idea. Likewise, my Judo.

I learnt my Judo in small, cramped training halls from a host of instructors who ranged from absolute saints to some who should be on the show 'Cops'. (And not as the boys from Law enforcement either). One sometimes showed up a little sauced up from the bar. Other times, he didn't show up at all. Others taught me just enough to breakfall (and now in retropsect, not even that!) and one particular instructor, whom I will call 'Slugger Malone", was an absolute classic.

Slugger (not his real name obviously), was the most passionate, psychotic, toughest Judo figher I had ever seen. He was an ex-international fighter and somewhow, I think he was, and still is, fighting those matches. I learnt most of my Judo from him actually.

It was not pretty Judo. Heck, it wasn't even pretty by dragged-down, no-hold barred alley cat brawl standards. I looked like an epileptic ferret on speed during randori; but then, did I really think I was going to look like the Marquis of Queensbury learning my judo from a guy called 'Slugger'?

Nevertheless, I owe him a debt I can never really repay. He did teach me Judo though, effective European, Russian style pickups, grips and takedowns that had my Japanese instructors shaking their head in anguish and probably wondering why Professor Kano even bothered introducing his beautiful art to the cloddish oafs like me in the rest of the world.

Was I happy? Of course not. My techniques resembled nothing out of a Judo text book, unless it was called " Judo for Pachyderms". It was effective, but it was....ugly.

And then I met Sensei JAL


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Judo - Self defence's Cinderalla

I find that most Judoka have self-image problem when it comes to self-defence - and it is utterly refreshing

At times during practice, some will say to me that they have absolutely no idea if someone came up to them and punched them. Let alone if the assailant was carrying a weapon of some sort. The others will admit to knowing one of two really questionable moves taught to them by some 'Uncle' who claimed to be have trained under some ' hush-hush secret sifu' but will readily admit that those said moves were about as useful as more sweat glands under your armpit

It's a welcome change from the self professed 'expert's who claim to know this and that. You know these people. In the gym, in the pub over a beer, they will tell you that they 'know stuff' and then suddenly look distantly into the distance with a glazed look as if they were remeniscing about the days where they were fighting hand-to-hand in the rice paddies of Vietnam with the Viet Cong. Forget the fact that they weren't even born when the last chopper took off from the U.S Embassy in Saigon back in 1975.

Why is this? Blame the Olympics to some extent. The sportification of Judo has meant that the emphasis shifted to ruthless efficiency in taking someone down and winning a medal. Somewhere along the line, the only self defence kata - Goshin-no-kata fell somewhere beween the small spaces between the tatami mats.

The traditionalists decried this but I'm more sanguine. Why? The positive aspect of this shift to sports has meant that instead of being wrapped in airy-fairy mysticism of what works (and by the way, early Judo had already done away with a lot of the B.S content) and what doesn't - we know what works against a fit, atheletic and resisting opponent. So if I can launch my local club player with a tai-o-toshi while he's trying to rip my arms out and kill me, this should work against Joe nasi-kandar should the need arise

Does this mean that Judo is the be all and end all of Self-defence? Or course not. The study of self defence is an area all by itself and it is complex. And Judo as it is done these days leaves a lot wholes to be plugged for the self-defence aspect to come truly alive. But the building blocks are there; I just wish my poor training partners could see that and not look down on the perceived effectiveness of what they do

Years ago, I was sparring in early version of the UFC with a friend in a University hall. We had no mats so we laid some crude stretching mats on the floor and did our throwing there. One day, he launched me with a shoulder the mats

I landed on the wooden floor and it felt as though I was hit by a semi-trailer. Honestly, I had visions of being paraylsed and for 4 minutes I couldn't move an ince from that floor because of the shock and the pain. If that had been an assiailant instead of my friend, he could have done a version of Riverdance over my face, and other nastier stuff in that time. And this was wood - not concrete.

It cemented the notion that this 'gentle art' was not so gentle in the first place. And that there are hidden gems in this much underrated legacy that Kano left us. I wish my friends at the dojo would see this. I would love them to understand while we get down and dirty like swine on the mat (ever see a Judo randori? :-) ), there be pearls lurking in there somwhere


Painting scenery from a Train

There is a saying in Judo:

"In Judo, you can throw people over your shoulder"

Yes, you can. But you can be thrown over someone else's shoulder as well. More than likely depending on your skill level, it's usually the latter. Well, for me it is anyway.

The martial arts has been a journey for me. And when you hop on now, you are getting on a train that has been through many seasons and many stations. The smell of the carriage has been infused with the sweat and perfume of many gyms and training sessions. The interior of the train has a patina of wear and tear that on my better days, i would like to describe as what the Japanese would call 'Wabi'. The train still chugs along on steam, it is obsolete, an anachronism of the past...

..but it still goes on, by the grace of God

And everytime it passes by, it engenders a myriad of reactions. Sometimes it gets calls of derision from those who say it should be in a museum. Others admire it but don't want to get on. They prefer sitting at the station.

This blog is to detail that train's journey. It is more of a philosphical and personal journey into the martial arts rather one concerned with the minutaie of technical details. However, at times, I might be tempted to go into the intricacies of a morote-seio-nage, a Gogoplata or a Chancery if I feel like it. These days, I'm into Judo, BJJ, MMA, and CMDP Boxing; so this blog will refer to those arts almost exclusively.

Lastly, this blog is for me and my training partners. If you choose to visit, feel free to do so and you may leave comments. But please be respectful and courteous. I won't hesitate to delete posts which are inflammatory or abusive. There's enough of that in the world we should all aim to be what Maxwell Smart said in 'Get Smart' : "If only he used his powers for niceness..". I would go one step further - show some love to each other, my brothers and sisters

Because between Heaven and the mat - there's a real need for it