Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ali: The Unexpected....

I had a great conversation about Muhammad Ali's fight against George Foreman recently. If you aren't old enough to know about the Rumble in the Jungle, I recommend watching the documentary When We Were Kings by Leon Gast. Anyone interested in martial strategies should see this film.

Anyway, Foreman was the favourite, after beating the legendary Joe Frazier by knocking him down six times in two rounds. Foreman was a giant with big power. Ali was long-in-the-tooth and had recently been suspended from boxing for three years for not participating in the Vietnam conflict.

Although many fight historians focus on the strategy of Ali to let Foreman punch himself into fatigue (rope-a-dope), what I was fascinated by in the documentary was Ali's very deliberate decision to utilize a right cross as his engaging strike, instead of the boxer's higher percentage and usual first strike, the jab.

It was dangerous, as the back hand must travel farther to reach the target, and can leave you open for a counter. A jab, with its speed and accuracy, is usually used to wear down an opponent and set up for the more lethal right.

But Ali, despite being told this strategy was highly dangerous and could backfire, stuck to his guns and when he wore down poor George by pretending to be a punching bag for several rounds, he took Foreman by surprise with such an unpredictable attack. It was one of these right crosses, I believe, that initially buckled Foreman's knees and led to Ali's victory in Africa that night.


One part confidence and one part sheer unpredictability.

A lesson for anyone interested in the psychology of combat.

Oh yeah, for the record, I was only two-weeks-old when the fight took place ;)

Friday, August 27, 2010

rat armor is quite good...

OK, Sensei Strange was right, rat armor is wonderful! I also found a helmet for another dog (neverending story luck dragon?) and a cat.... oh dear..... time well spent.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

size vs skill

Two Montreal boys--UFC's Georges St.Pierre and former National Hockey League enforcer Georges Laroque settle a friendly score in a grappling match. More interesting than the footage itself is the comments made by each athlete during and after the match. St. Pierre is about 5'10" and 170 lbs. while Laroque is about 6'3" and 245 lbs.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rust Never Sleeps

Ok, i'm now twenty-some-odd days into my training hiatus. My body-pains feel the best they have in a year; i've explored some concepts of martial arts outside the dojo; and am still learning despite my break.

That said, I feel like I'm slowly rusting away.

This morning I went downstairs to smash the heavy bag a bit. I haven't done this in awhile, and just wanted to throw a few kicks and practice a few lead punches. But whoa! The bag felt twice as full as it did a month ago. My speed was fine. Technique felt good. But everything was just a touch more difficult than I remembered. Anyway, I managed to get into it, with some work, and could nearly see bits of rust landing snow-like on the basement floor by my feet.

Another 10 days left. I think I'll go back downstairs to work-out again tomorrow.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Boxer

I was given some pointers from a retired military boxer recently.

We went over stances, guards, strikes, etc. He told me his theories on fighting in the ring versus self-defense on the street, and we then went over some good martial arts strategies for facing a boxer. Namely, don't let him break my ribs and take minimal damage while I moved inside his striking range. However, the full details of these points I will not go into right now. Rather, I want to point out one of the most important things I learned from him before even a friendly sparring punch was thrown. Namely, that I knew his power and intent were there before we even took a step towards each other. His guard was tight, his face was mean, and he showed an inherent awareness of why I travelled so lightly on my front foot. He narrowed my options and had no problem with forcing the action. He was more interested in striking my ribs first than my face, claiming if "I can't breathe, well... I can't fight." And believe me, while qi studies may not be a usual component of boxing, the qi was definitely there.

A good post that ties into this is at Be Not Defeated By the Rain, here. Another, at Physics of Aiki, is here.

Anyway, I valued this former fighter's insights very much and love when I get a chance to learn new knowledge whether in my own style or not. In fact, often learning from someone outside of one's own style can be the most eye-opening.
In this instance this was certainly the case.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Reaction to Reaction Post

Today I was going to write a bit about reaction time and it looks like ol' Journeyman and i were thinking the same thing. So read his post here first.

I was actually thinking about this because Journeyman and I discuss this point a lot, and I consider him my teacher in many ways. He's a modest chap, but he has experienced much in his field of work, and I value his opinion on "real life" situations as much as anyone I've ever met. And although we break techniques down, discuss options and what not, Journeyman has always said one thing regardless of a person's level in martial arts: Do Something! Do anything! Just make sure you react.

A good example is from a punch. The attack comes, the uke blocks the strike, then fails to control the attacker. Of course control is very important, but at least you stopped the attack. You are not hurt, and have bought some time to default into plan B. Or you are asked by an instructor to do hip throw from a hook punch and you freeze up and execute body drop--it still worked, and you didn't end up a deer in the headlights. And hurt.

So, for this reason, we always execute some form of technique from an attack, even if it's not even close to what we were asked to perform. Then we laugh, the uke reloads, and we try it the way it is supposed to go.

Monday, August 9, 2010

learning cycles

Breathing is a majorly significant aspect of martial arts: both external and internal.
But it represents something more than just air intake and focus... it is a metaphor for training as a whole.

Expansion: The taking in of air. This is the time where we devote ourselves to countless hours of taking in diverse techniques, information, trials, and experiments. It is the state of mind where we devour concepts and open our beings to new insights and styles. It is the feeding of the martial body and mind, just as breath invigorates our blood and tissue.
Contraction: The exhalation. This is the moment where we clear our minds and focus our attention on all the things we've taken in, discard what is not to our liking, and fine-tune the lessons we have learned during our cycle of learning/expansion. It is the realignment, where knowledge is turned into understanding. Just as air is cleansed and filtered through our lungs, then given as oxygen molecules to fuel our system.

In yogic tradition, all things are accomplished in cycles of breath, namely the universe itself. It is considered to be in a constant state of increase and decrease, comparable to breathing. All the worlds and stars are created in this process, just as when one meditates, worlds of thought and energy emerge in our minds.

To the martial artist it is all a part of the spiral of learning.

Friday, August 6, 2010

stepping back

Just like that.... an entire month without training. No injuries, no travel plans. Just no training.
At first, when the dojo closed, this seemed like an opportunity to explore some other styles and take in some different venues to sharpen my budo senses. Then, it became a welcome hiatus in which i would attempt to heal my body's various pains and discomforts. But my plan, now, is to use the month for one main thing: To think.
This month, for me, without the physical application of jiujitsu will be a great opportunity to step back from the whirlwind of classes and focus on what I, myself, would like to improve over the next few months. What are my weaknesses right now? How can I build on strengths and become more adaptable? Is there something my body and/or mind is trying to tell me but I am moving too fast to consider?

Anyway, maybe i'm just attempting to make an undesirable situation seem better in my mind. That's fine. But I shall think hard nonetheless.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


“Any coward can fight a battle when he's sure of winning, but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he's sure of losing. That's my way, sir; and there are many victories worse than a defeat.”
—George Eliot