Sunday, November 28, 2010

Video Review: Tim Cartmell's "Standing Grappling"

It's amazing how things can come full-circle.
In my martial training, I started out as a wrestler, and most of my fights went to the ground. In Tae Kwon Do I trained kicking techniques for years. Later in Kenpo we practiced nasty hand strikes and Western Boxing. Aikido and Small-Circle Jujitsu re-introduced grappling techniques. The last ten years have been spent practicing the Chinese Internal Arts, and in an amazing way, it has brought me back to wrestling.
Attending seminars with Tim Cartmell has been a revelation in martial experience. Tim is undoubtedly the best grappler I have learned from, and his background in traditional Chinese Martial Arts is legendary. Many of you know that Tim has become a skilled competitor and coach in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well.
In his video "Standing Grappling", Tim covers escapes and counters to many of the most common grappling techniques seen in common street fights. These include things as simple as wrist grabs, but the meat of the video is on dangerous techniques such as headlocks, chokes and body locks used to slam an opponent.
Tim first introduces the proper way to properly perform these chokes, headlocks, etc. Then he shows how to prevent someone from gaining such a hold on you, and
how to escape if you do get caught in these types of holds and locks.
The difference in Tim's method is that he asserts that striking, kicking and elbowing will simply not cause an extremely strong opponent to release their grip.
Instead, Tim demonstrates very logical and scientific ways to use body leverage that nobody can resist. For instance, he suggests you can not use isolated muscle groups in the arms alone to break holds. Through subtle angles and body positioning, you can force your opponent to have to contend with your entire body weight, the use of torso, back and waist in unison as opposed to isolated arm muscles.
Within each counter-technique is redundancy, that is a "plan B" for every attempt. What to do if the first part of the escape is not successful. What to do if the opponent changes his tactic or positioning. And what to do if the opponent maintains the lock on you after you have successfully thrown him and you both go down together.
There are plenty of opportunities to loosen the hold, strike the opponent and get away. But Tim sticks strictly to grappling techniques that work and can be practiced safely with training partners at near-full strength. Options to many of the techniques include breaking the hold and getting away, or following with a submission such as an arm bar, shoulder lock or choke.
There is probably nothing more dangerous in a street fight as being choked out or slammed to the ground on a hard surface. In "Standing Grappling", Tim demonstrates some very common-sense methods to defend yourself if you are ever caught in a head lock, body lock or choke by an opponent that may be bigger and stronger than you.
Great stuff, and it includes many out-takes of Tim with some incredible BJJ competition moves, and his students at "Shen Wu" sparring and grappling with many of these techniques. I highly recommend this video;
Tim Cartmell's "Shen Wu" website is at this link
and all his videos are available here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone is having a nice Thanksgiving holiday, it's been a rough week up here in the islands off the coast of Washington State.
Monday we had the worst windstorm I've experienced up here. I've got ten-thousand pounds of broken Maple tree laying in the yard. It could have killed us... That was the little treat between snowstorms and power outages. Trees are down all over the property.
Ah, life on the frontier...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seattle: Rain City Superheroes

Oh man, I'm worried this could turn out bad...

From The Seattle P.I.

"Vigilante justice has come to Seattle, and the caped crusaders drive a Kia.
Seattle police say a group of self-described superheroes have been patrolling the streets at night trying to save people from crime. They call themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement and say they're part of a nationwide movement of real-life crime fighters."

(D.R.)- I have a feeling that this activity is a product of uncertain times. The financial elite have looted the wealth of the nation. Millions face homelessness, chronic unemployment, and shattered families. Crime will naturally increase. People have a need to try to regain control over their personal lives and try to improve society at large.
But this is not without personal and societal risk:

(Seattle PI)
"Phoenix was interviewed by detectives this month and came to police headquarters dressed in most of his costume, police said.
(Phoenix) apologized for not being in full costume, as it was being repaired after (he) was stabbed while trying to intervene with a drug dealer and a citizen," the police bulletin stated, according to a police source.
The man was not seriously wounded during the incident under Interstate 5, and police say he may not have actually been wounded.
Now, police were told Phoenix wears body armor, a ballistic vest, arm and leg trauma plates -- and a ballistic cup. Police were apparently told that bulletproof vest helped stop a bullet during an incident in Tacoma a year ago.
Others are expected to be at police headquarters this week for identification."
"I don't condone people walking around on the street with masks," said the man who called himself Phoenix Jones. "Everyone on my team either has a military background or a mixed martial arts background, and we're well aware of what its costs to do what we do."

The police seem to be taking this lightly for now, but it is a slippery slope from crime fighting to pure vigilantism.
How much of a stretch is it before some "team" begins "hunting" supposed "illegal immigrants"? Or "Arabs"? Or Hippies? Or Gays? Or Democrats?

For now, this appears to be merely an odd trend that is becoming a national movement. According to the "Real Life Superhero" website, members not only arm themselves with tasers, batons, pepper spray and body armor. They study anatomy charts, supposedly allowing them to disable attackers.
To their credit, they also recommend donating blood, distributing food and blankets to the homeless, and handing out leaflets for missing persons and unsolved crimes.
This hearkens back to "The Guardian Angel" movement, started by Curtis Sliwa. Sliwa, now an extreme reactionary talk show host has commented that "The Guardian Angel" movement has morphed into a "paramilitary organization":

"Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa has declared his volunteer street patrol group “a paramilitary organization.”
“Having guardian angels out there is the second line of defense for the police. Highly visible red barret, red satin jackets, it’s a paramilitary organization,” Sliwa told WYTV Channel 33 News in Ohio.
The Guardian Angels have been sharply criticized as a vigilante or paramilitary group since it first started 30 years ago. Sliwa and his followers have always taken care to emphasize its street patrols are merely “eyes and ears” for police and work more as a deterrent.
The group has recently come under scrutiny after members of the Davenport, Iowa franchise broke an Iraq War veteran’s arm in three places while detaining him.
Sliwa made the statement in New Castle, Pennsylvania, where he was holding a press event for Guardian Angels members who just passed a Tae Kwondo class.

There are a lot, a lot of grey areas of law here...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Seattle's Brian Johnson Wins U.S. BJJ Open

This old Dojo Rat owes a lot to instructor Jake Burroughs. Jake has surrounded himself with the best experts like Tim Cartmell, the late Mike Martello and others who he brings to Seattle for great seminars.
We meet and practice at "The Northwest Jiu Jitsu Academy", run by Jake's BJJ coach Brian Johnson. Over at Jake's Blog "The Ground Never Misses" Jake has posted this great short video of the U.S. Open BJJ highlights, and the first competitor shown is Brian Johnson. Brian won the Black Belt open division, giving away as much as 90 pounds.
It was also great to see how tough the women competitors were, and the quality of sportsmanship.
I swear, if this stuff was around when I was wrestling, I would have been ape-shit nuts for it. But for now, these old bones will merely appreciate learning a few modern techniques for holding my own -- if I find myself in the unfortunate position of defending myself on the ground.
Great, great stuff, congratulations to Seattle's own Brian Johnson!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Real Fights

Four Versus Four Fight In Siberia - Watch more Funny Videos

Continuing on with our current discussion on where traditional martial arts end and modern fighting skills begin; we look at this four-on-four fight at a mall in Siberia.
I've been in fights like this, two of them were three-on-three and we were surrounded by a crowd both times. One I ended up with a guy in a choke and my back to a wall, the other I was in a mount on the guy with his face down on the sidewalk, hammering the back of his head. His friend grabbed me by the sweatshirt and pulled me off. I'm lucky he didn't kick me while I was on the ground pounding his buddy.
Note what works in the video above. Once it starts, it happens quick. Straight up boxing punches, a few front kicks, and stomping the guys on the ground.

Serious business, it's good no knives came out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Martial Metanoia

My old San Ti stance, pre-correction


: a transformative change of heart; especially : a spiritual conversion.
Greek, from metanoiein to change one's mind, repent, from meta- + noein to think, from nous mind
First Known Use: 1577 (Merriam-Webster)

Every now-and-then we experience something in our training that shakes our core beliefs. This is a natural process, and we are smart to learn and grow from it.
Ever since I attended the Tim Cartmell seminar on MMA concepts adapted to street use, I've had to really re-think where my training is going and what I would like to change.
First of all, let me say that nothing in Tim's presentation was new to me. With the exception of Tim's subtle ways of using angles and leverage, I had seen most of the techniques in past programs. There was a lot that took me back to wrestling techniques, knee strikes, basic chokes and focus-pad boxing strikes. These were done with the open palm, which Tim recommends for any strike to the hard head surface of an opponent on the street.
All these things are techniques I have practiced, the technical rise - returning to your feet safely MMA-style was the only really new addition and I had practiced that with Jake Burroughs a couple of weeks before.
So why did this cause me so much consternation that I would seek reflection and change?

Let's use another couple of big words to answer that: Cognitive Dissonance

: psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously

Despite the fact that I've been in many, many real fights in the past - and know what that takes - I was falling into the traditional martial arts trap.
I was conflicted because I knew deep inside that half the stuff we teach in traditional martial arts will get the crap beat out of you on the street.
None-the-less, rosy-cheeked Tai Chi Chuan students begged to be taught two-person fighting sets, stuff that they thought would help them survive a home invasion or mugging at the ATM.
In teaching traditional arts, there is pattern, practice and method. Nearly all of us, especially if you have experienced multiple styles, see the building blocks that are supposed to stack together and eventually form an impenetrable castle.
So much of that is deeply flawed, yet we continue to teach it textbook fashion.
Tim's MMA for the street presentation was nothing new, but truthfully, a beginning student would get more out of that five hours than in five, maybe ten months of traditional training.

So here's my dilemma; traditional or practical?

I think I have a solution.
Our Monday-Wednesday club practice has always had sparring, self-defense and form work, all in a very non-structured way.
The grand experiment is with "The Barbarian Brothers". These guys are huge football player types that have an interest in MMA. They can easily pick my 200-pound ass up and toss me. But they know nothing about real technique. They come on Wednesdays from the mainland to practice with us and are very consistent. But when they first came, it was because another Tai Chi Chuan instructor brought them up to learn more advanced Tai Chi with us. We got stuck in the routine of introducing internal concepts to guys that have trouble with basic stances. Furthermore, they like to mix it up and follow MMA.
So we set another program for them. They come in and start with Tom, our boxing coach on basic western boxing drills. From there, Corey takes them for Small-Circle Jujitsu and related grappling and self-defense. But they still need the structure of form work so they can get familiar with their bodies, so I started them on the first of the short but effective Xingyi Five-Element Forms. They really need stance and root training.
This proved to be a well-rounded scenario, everybody participates and we get a great workout. I'm sure this program will grow and change with time and experience.

Now to the matter of My Thursday Tai Chi Chuan class.
This class is populated with a core group of people ten years older than me and the occasional young people. Seeking the balance is more difficult. Since these students all know the Yang Taiji form, I think I am going to dispense with it for a while. They need to work on basic defensive structure for when people push or grab them. They need to get out of the locked-in-your-stance immobile position and start doing some freestyle movement with a partner. Where is your defensive bubble? What angle do you choose? What gross motor skills are most effective in a simple confrontation?
Gone for now are the inner journey of internal adjustments. These oldsters will never really mix it up with anybody, they just need a little practical protection.

I'm sure other instructors have had to work through these issues, we'll see how it goes...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mr. Pang's Bagua, 1974

This demonstration puts the "art" in "Martial Art".

Here, our local Tai Chi Chuan and Bagua master, T.Y. Pang runs through the eight stepping methods of Sun Xikun lineage Bagua. I studied with one of Mr. Pang's top students, Joel Chung, every Sunday for a year. The foundation of the style comes from Cheng Ting-Hua, a renowned wrestler in his day. Tim Cartmell has told us that in order to seek the applications of Bagua, especially Cheng lineage, is to imagine your body right next to the opponent's body. Within these stepping methods are grappling takedowns, sweeps, arm drags and close striking methods.
Seattle internal art instructor Andrew Dale stated in a 1991 issue of the "Pa Kua Chang Newsletter" that:

"Pang's Pa Kua was the most intricate he had ever seen."
"Seeing Pang do Pa Kua was like watching a powerful snake coiling, attacking, twisting, darting, spinning and turning."

I know for myself, that Tai Chi Chuan balances my yin and yang most effectively.
Xingyi raises my yang energy and is the most direct expression of power.
But Bagua provides the most stimulation and has the appeal of whole-body Yoga. This method articulates and opens every joint in the body and is the most physically expressive of all the internal martial arts I have practiced.

Combat brings necessary pain, Art necessarily brings pleasure...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Freestyle Taiji and Bagua with T.Y. Pang

It's a pleasure to see our local Tai Chi Chuan master T.Y. Pang in this demonstration from Amsterdam in 2009.
Mr. Pang doesn't teach much anymore, but I visited him at his house a while back and hope to again soon.
Pang is among the few living students of Tai Chi master Dong Jinye and Bagua master Sun Xikun. Look how supple his body is, he's well into his seventies. His Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan is what I practice, as taught by his long-time students Jack Greene and Joel Chung. Same with the Bagua, Sun Xikun lineage. I spent a year walking the circle every Sunday with Joel.
Mr. Pangs longevity is a testament to the health and physical skill his Taiji and Bagua produce.
Here, he begins with the opening of the Yang form, slides into freestyle mode, and finishes with some Bagua.
Great stuff...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Re-post: Western Boxing Influence in Asian Martial Arts

In the course of our discussion of the "close cover" as opposed to extended guard, I'd like to take another look at a post I put up in May, "Western Boxing Influence in Asian Martial Arts":

In our recent review of the book "Chin Na Fa", we read that author Liu Jinsheng held Western boxing in great regard:

""Those who have practiced these (edit-Chinese martial) arts twenty or thirty years have never defeated anyone who has practiced Western boxing or Judo. Why is this? It is because the practitioners of Shaolin and Wudang styles only pay attention to the beauty of their forms - they lack practical methods and spirit and have lost the true transmissions of their ancestors. Hence, our martial arts are viewed by outsiders merely as rigorous dancing."

In a discussion in the comments section, I brought up the theory that Western boxing had influenced the development of Wing Chun Kung Fu. This is something I had heard and read about, but never confirmed.
Sean Ledig, who writes from "Tales From The Carport Kwoon",

Karl Godwin, a Wing Chun instructor in Altamonte Springs, Fl., wrote an article about that idea for Black Belt in 1986.
I can't remember which issue, but Google books has a complete collection of Black Belt from the first issue to present day.
Karl hypothesized that Wing Chun was a synthesis between Western Boxing and Taijiquan.
I've heard similar things. I'm sure there's some cross-pollination between fighting arts. Good teachers and good fighters, no matter what country they're from or what time they live, are always on the lookout for anything that they can add to their arsenal."

As it happens, I just started reading "Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals - A Historical Survey" by Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo (review to follow).
In a short chapter on Western boxing, the authors write:

"Noted Chinese martial arts researcher and teacher Tim Cartmell wrote, "When the Chinese army was researching and developing their hand-to-hand combat, (which later evolved into the modern San Shou/San Da tournament fighting popular today) they researched all the popular forms of martial arts, including their own. The conclusion was that Western boxing hand techniques, when it came to developing practical striking and defensive abilities in a reasonable amount of time, were superior to all others, including their own".

So it appears that there is no doubt that Western boxing had a great influence on Asian martial arts, especially after 1900.
However, in my opinion, Western boxing is not necessarily in the "Art" category. Western boxing combines exercise, sport and combat skills. It is perhaps the most effective and easily learned fighting method, but it lacks the philosophical grounding that would put it in the "Art" category for me.

Combat brings necessary pain. Art necessarily brings pleasure.

This opens the door to a future discussion, also fueled by Kennedy and Guo's book "Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals" on the integration of religion, morality and the martial arts.


With all that said, I still like the extended guard for something approaching at long range, but the close guard just makes sense when the hitting begins.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More Thoughts on Close Cover vs. Extended Guard

Perennial pain-in-the-ass Scott -- ("Expert" video at this link, LOL), writes in to challenge the concept of a close guard as we practiced at the Cartmell MMA seminar:

"The old masters 150 years ago had experience with real violence, they knew what they were doing when they designed the forms and they didn't do it just for muscle training! If some modern people aren't able to use the postures and stances the way they were passed down it is because they don't have the correct theory of power that goes with the movements."

Scott, with all due respect, looking at the extended Bagua guard and details of body alignment in your video you are not following your own advice. You wouldn't last 15 seconds against someone that can really hit.

Let me clarify what I believe the value of the extended guard to be.
If a guy is beyond kicking range but closing in, it is perfectly natural and smart to raise your guard up. Extended may be fine, like a "hey, back off" position. It can even appear non-threatening, especially if there are witnesses.
-But look at the video above;
Once a boxer has moved into serious punching range, you gotta' cover. It's easy to knock down or simply hook-punch around the extended guard at this range.
The technique in the above video is exactly what we practiced at the seminar last weekend.
Look, the extended guard is a natural defensive posture. There's nothing wrong with it at a certain range. I practice it in traditional form work.
But in close against someone that can really hit, without a close cover you're done.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Training Superfood: Vietnamese Pho Soup

On the rare occasions when I make it to the big city, there's an opportunity to try new food and get new ideas.
Last weekend at the Tim Cartmell MMA seminar we had an hour to grab lunch. The guys jumped in our cars and we made a group trip to one of the best Vietnamese restaurants I've been to.
Sandwiched between an Aikido school on one side and a Kung Fu school on the other was a place that served Pho, or Vietnamese soup. It was one o'clock on a Sunday afternoon and the place was packed.
The trick during these training seminars is to get enough food for energy to keep going, while not getting so full that you are sluggish.
Pho is a rich broth soup, served with rice noodles and topped with a nice presentation of cilantro, Thai basil, sliced chile peppers and lime slices. From looking over recipes, it appears the key to traditional Pho ingredients is bone marrow, rich in nutrition. In the days before joint suppliments, bone marrow broth was how people supplemented joint health. The method appears to be to parboil the bones for ten minutes, then discard the initial greasy water and begin again, simmering the bones for two or three hours. There is a quickie recipe that simply uses a good natural packaged broth to save time, but I think I'm going to try the traditional method this weekend.
The meal we had came in large porcelain bowls, a huge serving for around $6.95. It was a delicious clear broth with sliced beef and rice noodles. A small plate with the bean sprouts, basil, lime, chile's etc. was served along side to use as you wish.
An incredible amount of nutrition packed in a very digestible meal, allowing us to continue training exactly an hour later.

Here's a couple of recipes:

Traditional recipe

Quickie recipe

Monday, November 1, 2010

Modern Combat Concepts with Tim Cartmell

After a good five-hour thrashing:
From Left- Jake Burroughs, Me, and Tim Cartmell

MMA Training Group, c/o Terry, thanks

Yesterdays Seminar in Seattle with Tim Cartmell was one of the best I've been to, and my 51 year-old ass held up pretty good. I think the extra conditioning and a preview of Tim's "Ground-proofing" concepts with Jake a couple of weeks ago gave me a heads-up on what to prepare for.

As always, Tim's presentation was brilliant. Tim has experienced the concepts he teaches intellectually, physically, and in highly stressful competitive fighting. Tim knows what will work when the shit hits the fan, and it's no surprise that simpler is better. I've got two pages of notes and had plenty of time to mentally review the seminar on the way home.
As explained, every human will react predictably to given stimulus, like when the hands come up as someone pokes at their eyes. This can be used both ways, in attacking and defending, but let's focus on defense. The key is to take those gross motor skills and morph them into simple and natural reactions that fit a self-defense or fighting concept.
I have to say, this seminar- which was billed as "Intro to Mixed Martial Immersion", made me rethink a lot about how I have been training. That's what a good seminar is supposed to do, and it's sinking into my thick skull.
Tim always keeps his guard in a "boxers triangle" close to his head. He never reaches out to block anything, but rather pats jabs down "monkey paw" style, absorbs hooks against his head with forearms, and blocks body punches with movement and smothering the punches with forearms and elbows, which remain close to the body.
While it may sound like you would take a lot of punishment in this position, it is actually a great protective guard. I asked him if the extended guard of classical styles is still useful in any way, and he said it was just for training. When his master instructors in Taiwan actually fought or sparred, they reverted to this protective position. The idea is, once someone has crossed into punching range, they can work around or knock down an extended guard. The extended guard may work against drunk Rubes, but against anyone that can stand in and throw punches, this is the only guard that will protect you.
Here is where Tim made the distinction between ring fighting and street martial arts. There is no rule set on the street. So when you throw boxing punches, you can not over-rotate and expose your flank, as pro boxers do in the ring at times. You must always remain facing the opponent, so the punches need to be modified.
From the feet Tim moves in to the clinch range, where most fights go anyway. He seeks inside control on the bicep lines and then sets up the take down.
In his way of thinking, even a great kick boxer can get knocked out if the fight keeps on going, and he believes the quickest way to end the fight is to slam the opponent on a hard surface.
Sprawling to prevent leg dives, protecting yourself if you are on your back, and the technical rise to your feet were all covered in detail.
Tim, who wrote the book "Effortless Combat Throws", is an expert in high, damaging throws. But what he teaches are mostly off-balancing knock-downs, ankle picks and the occasional hip throw. Most of the take downs are more like tipping over a large cow; if you use simple angles and leverage it is possible to topple something much larger than yourself.
Those of you who read Dojo Rat regularly know I have a deep passion for the traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts, especially the meditative and health aspects they provide.
But Tim provided a clear summary of the evolution of martial arts as they stand today. While very, very few of us train for ring fighting, we should not ignore new technology that actually makes survival in a violent confrontation possible.
This seminar will give our little Dojo a ton of new material to work on, in stand-up fighting, clinch work, and if all else fails, how to protect ourselves on the ground and safely return to our feet.
Great stuff from a great instructor, special thanks to my friend and Xingyi instructor Jake Burroughs for hosting the seminar.

November: Cute Hippie Chick of the Month

Ah, those Navi chicks keep getting cuter...

And because we just got through Halloween, I thought I'd throw this one in too: