Friday, June 27, 2008

Last weeks lesson....Bookends

Each of our karate classes ends with a short talk and an inspirational message. We have one message per week and since I make it to several classes, I hear it several times.

Last week was about "the importance of bookends". This means that it's important to pay attention to how you start and stop each activity. The two examples that were give: focus on starting class with real intensity and having the intensity at the finish too. And, you should start each day with intensity (they suggested a short run) and finish it not with the drone of a TV but with some reflection on the day.

As I listened to the talk, it seemed to me that they were suggesting that you should finish each day with a short blog post reflecting on the reality of today and the promise of tomorrow.

This reminded my of one my favorite posts: Why do I blog? Any current favorite marketing activity: Promoting the BlogWritingCourse.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jiu Jitsu Self Defense Demo by Kyoshi Steve Lavallee

Note - here is a link to an updated post about Steve Lavallee.

About a decade ago, Kyoshi Steve Lavallee started training at the Gracie Academy in Miami. He has enjoyed it and incorporated some of it into our curriculum at the dojo.

Here's Kyoshi's demo of Jiu Jitsu self defense that he gave at a recent Black Belt Spectacular (Parker Playhouse, Broward County, Ft Lauderdale). Great stuff.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Living the dream.....

Tonight, the sparring went great. I had five rounds, two minutes each, and I was fully "in the game". In short, it's time to admit that I've been exaggerating about how much I had slacked off. I was scared that I had lapsed in the vacation and that I was way off track. I'm now thinking that I was just jet-lagged the first night back when I whined about the hard class. Since then, I've had a great week of workign out. Conclusion, I did work out enough on my vacation which I took with the kids and my fiancee. I'll go further, I am managing to hit a balance that really works for me. I'm more than just pleased. I feel it's time for me to admit (not in any particular order): I'm staying in shape and moving forward in the dojo, I've got a great family life, I'm happily engaged, and I have a most interesting/satisfying job. I'm living the dream....

Moving on....Thursday (today) was bugo kumite. This translates as fighting with armor. A good description in that we wear foot guards, shin pads, cup, chest protector, 16 oz gloves, mouth guard, and head guard. As I said, five rounds and not fully exhausted.

Also Thursday night in class, it was announced that two of our classmates, Melissa and Mr. Dan, are training to go into the amateur MMA ring for the Warriors Collide 6 in Ft Lauderdale's War Memorial Stadium on September 13. Very exciting. Of course, I worry for them but then, that goes with me being 50 and they being in their 20s. And you can be sure that I'm going to attend.

Some news for you blog techie types. I've wondered how many people read this blog and how they find it. I have long had this blog hooked up with a service called Feedburner which is supposed to provide statistics (and subscription services). But, the stats haven't ever worked. Today, after months of intermittent fiddling with it, I finally got it to register some visitors. So far, since I got it working at 10 am this morning, there are 7 visitors (6 from google, 1 who typed in the site URL), I'm pleased that it's working. Next techie project: try to get the blogcatalog widget working so that it stops showing that my most recent post was March 2008.

Heh visitors, leave a comment.


Olympic Martial Arts - Expect good coverage

Backing up for a second to the previous post on Olympic martial arts.

I researched it and found that the Martial Arts currently in the Olympic Games: Archery, Boxing, Fencing, Judo, TaeKwonDo, & Wrestling. The Olympic committee also officially recognises the following Martial Arts as International sports but they are not yet part of the Olympic games: Karate & Wushu. Note the lack of any recognition of MMA. I would expect that this is a 25 year process to get accepted.

BlueWave from the Convocation of Martial Artists explains why there should be significant coverage of TaeKwonDo here in the States and cites the site as the best ongoing source. I just went there and I can see why our taekwondo team will get alot of coverage. Our team seems to have two brothers and a sister on the same team. And Charlotte Craig! What a story. Plus they're very, ahem, photogenic.

This post is sponsored by the premier online homeschool site. And click through to follow the future of Olympic Martial Arts in 2016.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A two week vacation - What a bad idea!

I just got back from a two week trip with the kids to Yosemite and San Francisco. It was fun and I somehow convinced myself that I was working out and staying fit. Woe is me, was I kidding myself?

Yes, I did some stretching, some pushups and situps, and swam some laps in a pool. But here's the $64 question, how big a difference is there between the sort of casual workouts that I was doing and what is required to "keep me in the game"? How much a setback will that two weeks be?

On vacation, I often did two sets of twenty pushups and situps with three minutes of stretching. I used weight machines twice. I swam three times. I did a cardio machine (eliptical twice - which was in a friend's private gym and yoga studio in the woods but that's another story).

Unfortunately, based on my struggles in class tonight (Monday night), that turns out to not to have been enough. I'm not nearly limber enough and I've lost the cardio that that was getting me thru the classes with some grace. There were alot of kicking drills and I looked a lot worse for wear. I was more than a little embarassed in front of the green belt that I was paired with.

(written later) Tuesday night, I got to class a full 45 minutes early to be fully limbered up. The good news is that either this was an easier class or I'm closer to being shape that I thought. There were line drills and I seemed to hold up fine.

I did struggle with the new kata - XMA chuck form one - which is annoying since I had been proud of my chuck handling. I keep confusing the 5 count and 6 count parts.

Wednesday morning - a little litmus test - let's do a timed one mile run. At the half, I had 4:15 which really pissed me since I was hoping for 8 minutes. Galvanized with a little self-fury (who says negative energy isn't useful), I pumped out an even 8 minute mile. Smile. Fortunately, there was no class Weds night (testing) because even with the stretching afterwards and a lot of hydration (excuse me while I make another quick run out), I was very stiff Wendesday night.

And it's now Thursday morning and I'm very focused on sparing tonight. Will I be back in the game? I ran and stretched again this morning. First half was an even four minutes and I relaxed on the way back to finish at 8:02. Drink, drink, stretch, stretch. We'll see about tonight.

This is a public blog, not a personal diary. Why would anyone else care about my times and the struggles of middle aged guy trying to stay in black belt shape? I'm not sure anyone would. If they did, it would because they too struggle with balancing somewhat conflicting desires. There are only 24 hours in a day. We do need vacations. Injuries do happen. Extreme training is great fun but can it be fit into a normal life? How much freedom am and relaxation am I willing to give up to stay competitive? I know that I'm out of the up-and-running-5-miles-at-6am routine that I was in 2003-04 and that I will take vacations to get dedicated time with the kids. But this question of struggling to find a balance in the question that I'm exploring at the nitty gritty level here. Looking forward, I hope to explore the nutritional side of this since I know so little and I'm hoping to make it work for me.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Olympic Martial Arts

Its only in the last few years that I'm into the martial arts. Here's a very basic question: What martial arts are there in the Olympics? I remember boxing but are there others? I seem to vaguely remember judo and wrestling and taekwondo.


coming back after two weeks of vacation

It's Sunday night and I just got back after a two week trip.

I started my two week vacation with a few workouts. The first two days I was at home: I ran, stretched, and practiced kicking, katas, and pushups. And on the first three days of the trip, the hotel had a gym which I used. And a pool which I swam in.

But, the next ten days, between the kids and whatnot, practically nada.... some token stretching and a few sets of pushups....

Well, tomorrow is Monday and it's pay-up time....


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

CBS PrimeTime - EliteXC - Right direction?

I had a great Saturday night watching the MMA fights on CBS. Thanks CBS.
It was some of the best TV sports that I had watched since the SuperBowl (granted, I don't watch much sport). It was dramatic and had good human interest stories. But, the fighters were not a first rate card and the spectacle was a little ridiculous. While I like prime time exposure, it's only going to work if MMA is ready for prime time as more than spectable but as an organized interesting spectator sport.

1. The sport is plenty great. MMA is a cool interesting sport much more exciting to watch than boxing or judo or wrestling. It's first rate entertainment and as the public learns about, I think its growth will continue. I'd like to see some colleges adopt it as a sport. And the Olympics. And I don't want the sports promoters to wreck it up (more on that below).

2. The rules are good, could be refined. MMA has done itself a world of good by getting rid of eye gouging, finger grabbing, knees to the face and groin, and head butting. I think they could keep refining the rules to keep it exciting. Remember, basketball added the shot clock and the three point shot to keep it exciting. Soccer has changed the red card rule a few times to eliminate the roughness that use to make the games boring. To keep improving MMA, I would limit the time on the ground with an automatic stand-up restart after maybe 40 seconds. The ground game is exciting but too much of it isn't. Right now, it seems to be ref's opinion when to restart. And I'm not sure that a lot of ground and pound is going to help grow the sport.

3. The leagues and promoters, too confusing. It would be great if MMA got organized more like tennis or basketball or football with recognized championships and events and very standardized rules. The current situation with competing organizations and confusion does not help the sport's credibility or acceptance. Whats the difference between UFC, Pride, EliteXC, and all the other names with different rules and styles? I know that they are out there hustling but getting it organized and simple with recognized would be great.

4. Be a sport, not a circus. Ikagi on the Convocation of Martial Arts forum, said (paraphrased): This weekend, I got my first taste of MMA on primetime television. It made me stop and think about the direction MMA is going. EliteXC was filled with fireworks, entrance music, cheerleaders, and a bunch of other razzle dazzle. It reminded me of professional wrestling. Some fighters even seemed to be 'in character,' wearing different kinds of costumes (one guy had his shirt ripped off by hot chicks). Is this the right direction for MMA? Is the exposure worth it? ... Popularity breeds nonsense in the martial arts and no style is immune to it, even MMA. I just hope we can stall it off for a little while longer.

I noticed the same thing. And I agree that it had too much hype for my taste. I'd like to see MMA keep the focus on athletics and competition with some human interest but without the fabrication of characters and personalities by the promoters.

4. Focus on the best athletes. Let them be themselves, not cartoons. Men and women. The fighters Saturday night were not the greatest which is a shame. Even the top spot of the night was a pretty middling offering. For MMA to become a top sport, we need to focus on the best athletes, not just the most colorful and interesting ones. This struggle between hype and purity is a constant tension in sports. Colorful athletes are a gold mine for promoters which are generally good for the sport, except when they are overdone or miscued. For an example, look at the highly hyped and really pretty Anna Kournikova in professional tennis who unfortunately, never quite turned out to be a first rate player.

Saturday, as Ikagi pointed out, some of the athletes (and not the best ones) were "in character". But to their credit, the two women fighters (Gina Carano & Kaitlin Young) didn't pander at all. They were all business and simplicity. No silliness, no skimpy costumes, no over-the-top hype. I liked them. I also thought they both had to work on their ground game and that there were some ladies in my dojo that might be able to match up with them. But that's another story.

There is always some spectacle in sports: cheerleaders, football players running out thru a hoop, half time shows and other stuff. Stay tuned for the opening ceremony of the Olympics for example. But in some cases, the spectacle dominates. Professional wrestling is all spectacle, no sports. In boxing, there is the drama of the guys walking out and the comic relief of the ring girls.

In my dojo, at some of the big promotions (Black Belt Spectaculars), they do some special effects such as having glowing chucks done in the dark. They did one very effective MMA routine at the last show that started with everyone wearing white masks.

Personally, I tolerate the spectacle stuff but I don't think it does much for the sport and it mixes pretty uncomfortably with martial arts. And there are a lot of martial arts enthusiasts: that's the natural fan base to start with. Don't alienate us at the start.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Fight Seminar - I watched

Kyoshi held a new type of seminar at the dojo this week, it was for people who were thinking of going into the ring. Specifically, the clinic was for those considering or preparing to compete in Warriors Collide by Left Hook Promotions which is a local group that is putting on amateur MMA fights around four times a year. A pair of ladies who train at our dojo make up 2/3 of Left Hook so we follow it pretty closely both by having a big turn-out at their events and having several people go into the ring.

The class had maybe 20 people attending of a variety of skill levels and ranks including several women (two who are particularly ring-ready). Kyoshi started with basics and orientation like hand wrapping and rules and some training principles. It made it real clear how different competitive fights are from the sparing that we do with our training partners in class. He emphasized how important it is to develop speed and to enter the ring healthy and unbruised. So for most of your training, you need to be really good at hitting quick, but not hard. If you train and spar daily, and you're not great at moderating power, you just won't make it to the ring unbruised. So tap, tap, don't rap.

They also learned some of the techniques used in the ring which are not used when sparing at our dojo. In the fights, they allow leg kicks and knees to thighs, stomach, and chest. And take downs although they stand you back up immediately (ie no grappling and ground and pound). And mostly, you need to really watch out for the person coming at you. Guard up.

I watched and thought about it. While I don't expect to go into the ring, I do think about it. If only I was thirty years younger... Realistically, trying to get and stay fit enough to make 2nd don is plenty ambitious for me. But, next time I feel on top of my game, I might just try one workshop. See how it feels to play with a bigger arsenal. Digg!