Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Mid-Michigan Martial Arts Summit

The first Mid-Michigan Martial Arts Summit was a resounding success! Thirty-six students from three different schools attended this exciting seminar on self defense. 

Session 1

The event was hosted by Master Dan Vigil on May 23rd at his dojang, Dan Vigil's Academy of Taewkondo, in Northville, Michigan. Master Vigil instructed the first session of the Summit, which focused on kicking. I must say I was very impressed with Taekwondo-style kicks, specifically the front kick, the side kick, and the back kick. The speed and power that result from the mechanics of the technique are incredible.

What is most interesting, and admittedly difficult to coordinate, is that the heel of the base leg has to point at the target. This means that when kicking, the base leg has to pivot via a rotation of the hips. The other requirement is that the knee of the base leg has to fully extend upon impact, maximizing the extension of the kick. I was very fortunate to attend this session, because I never would have thought to throw a kick this way — and without seeing it done, would never have understood why it was technically sound. 

Session 2

The second section of the summit was instructed by Sam Larioza Sensei, whose heads Ohana Karate in Fowlerville, Michigan. Larioza Sensei is a practitioner of Goju-Ryu Karate and Krav Maga. His session covered Krav Maga defenses against a choke from the side, an attack from a wide swing with a stick or knife, and when held at gunpoint from behind. 

Despite my many years of training, I have never participated in Krav Maga. It is quite direct, although this should not be surprising due to the fact that it is a modern military combative system. We practiced techniques that involved "grabbing the head like a bowling ball," as Larioza Sensei put it — the thumb is shoved beneath the chin, and the fingers dig into the opponent's eyes. I personally find bowling uninteresting, but I got in this. It was really great instruction, and the session ended like so: We stood with our eyes closed while the instructors moved around the room making loud noises. At one point they even turned off the lights! Then someone would launch a random attack with little warning, and based on the lesson, we had to respond accordingly.  

Session 3

After breaking for lunch, we returned to training with Nicklaus Suino Sensei of the Japanese Martial Arts Center located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sunio Sensei demonstrated the methods of executing and preventing throws and takedowns in a very intuitive way. The gist of the session was understanding the Strong Line and the Weak Line. 

The Strong Line is a basically an imaginary line you can envision running from one foot to the other. It is strong because you can send and absorb a reasonable amount of force in the direction of the line. The Weak Line can be envisioned by running an imaginary line between your feet. It is weak because you can send and absorb very little force along the line. 

So, in order to effect an efficient throw or takedown, the general goal is to place your Strong into your opponent's Weak Line. The idea is the same to thwart the opponent's attack. The advantage of thinking this way is that you can take this very simple concept immediately into application. Sunio Sensei's session ended with a bit of randori — free practice — and everyone, even those not used to throwing and takedowns, did really well!

Session 4

I taught the final session of the day. My lesson focused on ground grappling. In such a situation, the first necessity is to establish position. Only after your position has been secured can you work for a submission. 

We covered two very common holds — the mount (tate-shiho-gatame) and the side control (yoko-gatame). Following Suino Sensei's lesson in throws and takedowns, these two pins were natural progressions. 

From the mount we worked the Arm Triangle and transitioned it into kata-gatame, the Shoulder Hold. What better time to work a choke when you've been training and sweating all day! From the side control we moved on to a top-side and bottom-side ude-garami, also known as the Kimura and the Americana in Brazillian Jujutsu. We ended the day with ude-hishigi-ude-gatame — the Straight Arm Bar.  

All in all, it was a really great day. We trained from 10am to almost 5:30pm with a half-hour lunch break in the middle. The cost of the seminar was only $89 per person — which is a steal. I look eagerly forward to the next Mid Michigan Martial Arts Summit!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Royce Gracie Seminar

On Saturday, May 8th, I had the opportunity to travel to London, Ontario with a group from the Japanese Martial Arts Center and attend a Brazilian Jujutsu seminar instructed by Royce Gracie, who is one of the most widely-known BJJ practitioners due to his undisputed dominance in the first four Ultimate Fighting Championships. It was a funny coincidence that the UFC 113 went down later that night, and it was a great experience to train with the original champion. 

I have to say that I really enjoyed the seminar, and I was impressed by Mr. Gracie's unambiguous teaching style. He was readily available to answer questions, and he vigilantly circled the area to ensure techniques were being applied correctly. Regardless of his fighting background, he was very straightforward and systematic, and in fact stressed the point that excessive speed, strength and roughness were not appropriate in the training environment.

The focus of the seminar was to maintain a consistent offense toward the opponent. It began with a takedown that secured the mounted position, and from there, flowed sequentially like a kata: Launch an attack, and if the opponent defends, launch an attack to take advantage of his defense. 

We spent a good amount of time on each technique, and at the end of the lesson we went all the way though, from the initial takedown to the final submission. 

The day ended with a bit of free sparring among the participating students. While I am normally pretty passive in competition and free practice, Mr. Gracie made it a point to let him know the victor of the exchange, so the testosterone in me demanded an accumulation of taps. After winning four exchanges, Mr. Gracie told three of us from our group — Suino Sensei, Joe and I — to "Put on a Blue Belt."

Though it may be difficult to understand without having attended the seminar, here are some notes I took: 
1) From the Mount:
-> Arm Triangle (like tate-shiho-gatame in Judo)
2) If the opponent is able to defend:
-> Switch your arms around the opponent's neck and grab the wrist of the arm stuck across his face. Pull it taught and roll him face downward.
-> Lift his forehead and apply a Rear Naked Choke (hadaka-jime)
3) If the opponent successfully prevents you from rolling him over:
-> Change to Side-Mount
-> Create space between the arm and the opponent's neck so that you can grab it with your other hand
-> Lean forward will all your weight on the the opponent's arm
-> Bring your opposite leg over the opponent's head and apply a Straight Arm Bar ( ude-hishigi-ude-gatame )
4) If the opponent grabs his wrist to defend the Arm Bar from the Side Mount:
-> Create space between the arm and the opponent's neck so that you can feed an arm through to open his collar
-> With your other hand, release the opponent's wrist and grab deeply into the opened collar
-> Sliding Collar Choke ( okuri-eri-jime)
5) If the opponent defends by pulling his elbows in tightly, thus making it difficult to create space for the choke from the Side Mount:
-> Grab the wrist around his neck with both hands
-> Lean forward, and bring the leg behind him tight to his body
-> Lean backward, and roll the opponent onto his opposite side
-> Take the opponent's back, and position him directly on top of you
-> Lift his forehead and apply a Rear Naked Choke (hadaka-jime)
6) If the opponent leans forward, so that you can't reach to choke him from his back:
-> Place one leg around his waist, the other on his thigh
-> Place an arm at the side of his head
-> Roll toward that side and swing the leg on his thigh over his head
-> Apply a Straight Arm Bar ( ude-hishigi-ude-gatame )
7) If the opponent grabs the arm you are attacking with his other hand and hugs it to his chest, making it difficult to reverse his elbow:
-> Place the leg not over his head onto his hand
-> Place your arm that is under his elbow on your thigh
-> Break the grip by pushing your leg on his hand and levering your arm against your thigh
-> Apply a Straight Arm Bar ( ude-hishigi-ude-gatame )
8) If the opponent grabs the arm you are attacking with his other hand but does not keep them close to his chest:
-> Weave the leg not over his head between the arms
-> Lift his head and pinch it tightly between your hand and knee
-> Roll back and apply a Triangle Choke ( sankaku-jime)