If I knew then what I know now about Injury Prevention

InjuryPreventionI sign up to a lot of newsletters…
especially those in Martial Arts and fitness.

I do so for a couple of reasons.
1) I do it for my own education and edification.
While I think what we offer is absolutely unique,
we know that we don’t know everything.

2) I do it because I want to see what other people are talking about.

I saw one today that prompted me to write.
It was about injury prevention.
Injury prevention was something I was I had known long, long, ago
as my life would have taken a VERY different direction.

Here are a couple of things I wish I had known that could’ve saved me a lot of pain experienced and time (almost completely) wasted.

1) How it feels is more important than how intelligent it sounds
Whether you lean more towards the natural or supernatural, either God or nature endowed us with sensations to guide our actions. It’s best we not ignore them no matter what information is presented to the contrary. If something hurts, it’s not because we’re weak…it’s because it’s making us weak. Don’t do what hurts. Do what helps.

2) What you’re not practicing will keep you healthy
As important as specific practice is for specific improvement, practice all movement. Moving what’s not moving will keep you healthy. And when you’re healthy, you’ll have more time to practice what you specifically want to…including the Martial Arts.

(If you’d like a little more specific direction, check out THE MASTERPLAN!)

Your Weapons

skulls guns the expendables 1920x1080 wallpaper_www.knowledgehi.com_38I was watching another episode of The Ultimate Fighter a while ago
and it happened again:
A fighter was striking from top guard and got triangle-d.

I’ve written an earlier post
disagreeing with the strategy of striking from the guard…
so I don’t want to do that here.

Here, I want to talk about a very simple metaphor
to make use of in all “combat sports” applications:
Get Your Weapons back.

Your arms are what you will use to submit your opponent.
They are your weapons.
But they are also part of what is attacked:
more specifically the shoulder, elbow and wrist.

And so,
when your opponent grabs one of your weapons…
get it back
because giving your opponent your weapon
makes your weapon your weakness.
Which brings me to another dove tailing concept:
If you cannot bring your weapon back to your body…
bring your body back to the weapon.

So let’s go back to that TUF contestant.
His opponent in bottom guard grabbed his arm.
At that point, if he could not pull his weapon back to his body,
he would bring his body to his weapon…
get both his weapons back,
posture up,
and start striking
or even better…
pass the guard.

But no matter your Martial Art,
no matter your strategy,
if you’re going to win,
you can only win if you’re armed with weapons
and at least some of those weapons
are your arms.

Change in the Martial Arts

ufcd0_royce_gracie_v2_mcIn 1993, Royce Gracie changed for me
what it meant to be an effective Martial Artist.

Being from stand-up disciplines
and having never encountered Judokas or wrestlers,
I thought I knew enough…
but this new champion changed my mind for me…
and changed a lot of other people’s minds, too.
Consequently, many of us are now BJJ practitioners.

That is the wonderful thing about Martial Artists
contrasted by those from the thinking disciplines.
Once we see that something works,
overall, we stop doing what doesn’t work
and start to learn what does.

But isn’t there evidence of what works
before there is a champion for it?

Was 1993 the last time that the Martial Arts paradigm will shift?
Doubtful. Very doubtful.
What will you do whenever the next discipline emerges?

Will you need, as I did,
a champion to uproot you
from solid ground
and plant you in richer soil?

Will you listen to what coach and Martial Arts
(and otherwise) Philosopher extraordinaire,
John Danaher recommends,
and look at competition record
and lineage before you listen?
What if there really isn’t much of a lineage…
or a record?

There is a change coming in Martial Arts.
There always is.
Will you cling to the dying
or embrace the emergent?

Open Hand, Closed Hand

open-closed-handsOne of the elements that separate how we at Movement Martial Arts approach all Martial Art is how small we look at it.  Martial Art is just a collection of movements and all movements matter… especially hand movements.

Entire categories of Martial Art are defined by whether hands are opened or closed. But every Martial Art, including the grappling arts, have both open and close handed techniques. In grappling (submission or otherwise), offense is usually characterized by closing the space while defense is usually characterized by making space. In general, hand movements are no exception to this rule.

While the hand is capable of many degrees of articulation, let’s examine opening (extension mostly) and closing (mostly flexion) the hand. The very act of closing the hand moves the fingers closer to the body closing space while opening the hand moves the fingers further away from the body making space. It’s no coincidence that these actions of the hand correlate the offensive and defensive movements.

If opening the hand makes space, you can utilize this movement defensively in terms of a block. If closing the hand closes space, you can utilize this movement offensively in terms of a grip. While there are exceptions to this concept in grappling, try opening your hands in defense and closing your hands in offense. I think you’ll find your offense and defense more effective.

Leg Kicks, Breaking Legs

orlando-martial-arts-karate-kicksI hate getting my legs banged up.
Unless you catch someone on a meaty part, kicking someone’s leg hurts.
Getting kicked in the legs hurts.
Checking a kick hurts, too.

I’m sure there are regimens for desensitizing one’s legs…
but that ain’t gonna stop the damage.
Just ask MMA, Kickboxing, and Muay Thai veteran Anderson Silva.
Yes, I’m gonna reference the leg break,
but this isn’t another article on that.
There have been more than enough of those.

While I’m sure there is going to be a whole lot more checking of leg kicks
and perhaps a few less kicking of legs,
leg kicks will persist…
especially if fighters use it appropriately.

But when should a fighter kick?
It depends on what he is concerned about happening.

If he is concerned about not getting taken down,
then kicks need to be aimed high…or low.
Anything towards the middle is fodder for catching.

If he is especially worried about the takedown,
he will only kick when his opponent is moving backwards.

But if he is worried about his own leg breaking,
then he wants to make sure his opponent can’t
have weight behind his check…
he needs his opponent to be off balance.
Balance is of the utmost important in a fight…
and especially for kicks.

In order to kick,
a fighter must lift one leg, leaving him with only one leg
(and often not even a full foot) to use as a base of support.

If a fight were a competition between bases of support,
(which it is), in order to kick,
the kicker purposefully puts himself into a position of disadvantage…
so he wants to make sure that he kickswhen
his opponent is in a position of disadvantage, too.

So what is that position of disadvantage?
That position of imbalance…of being off base.
Kick, but in Kuzushi style.  Kick when your opponent is off base
from your feints, punches, elbows, and knees.

I can’t guarantee you won’t break your leg
but it is much more likely you will hurt your opponent
than hurt yourself…
and that is what the striking arts are all about.

Martial Art as “Do”

michi-e1361579096661One of the last times I saw one of my original BJJ coaches, he gathered us all in a circle and asked us what BJJ meant to us.  Of course, I took it a little more philosophically than most.  I’d like to share with you not only what BJJ, but what all Martial Art means to me.

If the little guy couldn’t beat the big guy, all of us “little guys” would be at the gym instead of the dojo.  But since the little guy can beat the big guy, we spend much more time at the dojo.  Martial Art can be all about simply learning how to use our own force and our opponent’s force against him.  And I think that is the first use of Martial Art.

All of our time could be spent on how we relate to our opponent: making sure we are not going against our opponent’s force, but with it…unfortunately, that would be ignoring the most important dimension of Martial Art: how we relate to ourself.

Kumite, Randori, or otherwise is stressful. We not only have to deal with the stress our opponents are placing on us, we are having to deal with the internal stress, our reactions to someone attempting to or being successful at striking, throwing, sweeping or submitting us. We may overreact to having shortness of breath, experience negative self talk, get anxious, nervous, scared, frozen, ashamed, imagine defeat…any number of negative consequences…and this is the other side of Martial Art.

Just as we do not meet our opponent’s force with force, we cannot overcome our own stress with “force.” We cannot power our way out of a negative state. Just as we must yield to our opponent’s forces, we must relax when faced with our own distress. It’s only when we can weather the storm raging within ourself, that we can calm the storm from our opponent.

This extends beyond the dojo. Martial Art is not only a way to deal with opponents but all the forces life puts on us…and some of those forces will be far greater than any opponent has put on us. But the most deadly force, that force that can lead to quitting in the ring or cage, psychosomatic / psychogenic death for the soldier on the battlefield, or abject depression from the vicissitudes of life, comes from within.

Martial Art is a way of life, a manner for living. As long as I am alive, there will persistent distress from both within and without, but Martial Art has given me the answer for how to navigate it. In fact, I have found it to be the ultimate metaphor: this physical practice informs the rest of my practice. For me, Martial Art, is not a way…but the way to live my life. Martial Art is my “Do.”

Coach, Chael

round-5-chael-sonnen-tuf-figureChael has had his chances to win fights and win championships.
While he wasn’t close with Rashad or Jon Jones.
he has been.

It doesn’t seem like a championship is gonna happen for Chael…
at least as a competitor.
But I think it can
if he will coach.

Beyond being an incredible writer and orator
(if that’s what you want to call trash talk / psychological warfare)
The Ultimate Fighter demonstrated that Chael had quite the acumen for coaching.

Being that Psychological challenges are no stranger to Chael,
as well as his accomplishments as a wrestler and a fighter,
he is tailor made to be an outstanding coach
(which he already is as a volunteer high school wrestling coach).

I’m going to digress for a moment.
I’ve never really understood ranking…
especially upper belt ranking.

It seems many ranks are about consistency of practice…
and time.

While that is important, I wonder if it the most meritorious of criteria.

What if upper rankings were based on the accomplishments of students such as:
achieving black belt
winning national and world tournaments
producing black belts of their own

I think the biggest accomplishment anyone can achieve is taking a student further than he/she went.

It is not vicarious living.
It is evolution.
It is the position of the Master.
And if their students can do the same,
one attains the rank of GrandMaster.

And if anyone can be an MMA GrandMaster,
it is Chael Sonnen.

I think we are going to see that again when he coaches against Wanderlei
in the forthcoming THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER.
Hopefully coaching will encourage him to really embrace the title of
“Coach” Chael.

Kuzushi Striking

got_kuzushi_bargain_t_shirt-rb1eb0282f116478eb28cefd7c63c980b_804gs_324“Yeah…but that doesn’t work for striking.”
That’s what I hear nearly everytime someone hears how I approach grappling.

In actuality,
I couldn’t disagree more.
Part of how I approach all Martial Arts is the principle of Kuzushi,
or unbalancing of the opponent, popularized in Judo. I find this principle to be so important, that I think it is the first step and every step thereafter except the last step in a match or fight.

I believe Martial Art is expressed best when we keep our opponent off balance until we can make our final move – whether that be a submission, pin, and of course – a finishing strike.

So when I teach (or practice) striking, it is about keeping the opponent off balance until the opponent can be hurt, or better, finished.

Many of our best strikers make use of feints and footwork to get their opponents off balance. They minimize their defensive blocking and maximize their parrying and slipping.

And when they finally hit their opponent with the final strike, whether it be a punch, elbow, knee, shin, or foot, their opponent is so off balance that they don’t see the strike coming or if they do there is nothing they can do about it. This is Kuzushi Striking.

So the next time you are watching a boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, or MMA bout, pay attention to the replay of the knockout and I’m sure you’ll see the victim being the victim of Kuzushi.

So You Wanna Be a Professional Cage Fighter?

cagefighter-2I am not a cage fighter.
I have coached and consulted with some, though,
and I have some ideas for you.

I have noticed a lot of people cage fight with some very short term goals:
They want to win (and that’s a pretty good goal)
They want to prove they can do it (well, with enough training anyone healthy can)
They want to be known as a cage fighter (ugh)

I guess those are decent enough reasons to cage fight, especially in the amateur ranks. But if you’re going to become a Professional, I think there a few benchmarks to make in the amateur ranks…and they’re incredibly simple.

Fight at least three opponents:
One who is a better striker
One who is a better wrestler
One who is a better sub-ber

Oh, yeah.
Forgot to mention one thing.
Beat every one of them.

If you can do that,
then you are, at least, not an entirely one dimensional fighter.
You have proven that you can adapt whenever your opponent has a weapon better than your own.

Be a specialist.
Continue to be either a striker, wrestler or sub-ber,
but build more skills in each domain between fights.

Build skills that are counters to the counters of your existing skills…
because your opponent will be building counters to your existing skill set.

If you can do that, you’re well on your way to not only being a professional cage fighter
but a well-paid professional cage fighter.

10PJJ after Marcelo

eddie-bravo-highWhenever people find out that I am exclusively a No Gi guy,
they ask my opinion of Eddie Bravo.

The conversation will inadvertently
move to the advantages and limitations of the “lockdown,”
whether Gi is useful for MMA,
and if weed can really make one’s BJJ better.

I don’t do the lockdown any more,
I don’t believe the Gi is the best use of training time for MMA,
and I have no idea about the pot.

I love so much of what Eddie Bravo does and what 10th Planet JJ stands for.
Eddie’s integration of any BJJ into his system,
naming of techniques,
his comparison between Gi / No Gi and Judo / Greco,
his persona,
his sprawling BJJ empire,
his musical aspirations,
his fight commentary…
but I’m no Eddie Bravo.
Let me explain.

When I come across martial art that beats my own,
at the minimum,
I at least stop doing what got me beat.
At the maximum,
I may stop what I’m doing altogether
and start learning what beat me.

Have you seen this:

In my estimation, Marcelo was nice…very nice to Eddie,
but I think Marcelo did enough to demonstrate that Eddie didn’t possess the answer
for the problems his Jiu-Jitsu posed.

Maybe there has been a change in 10PJJ since this meeting,
I hope there has been.
I hope within it there now resides an answer for Marcelo’s JJ within 10PJJ…
because if there isn’t,
I fear Eddie and 10PJJ will be just a footnote in the history of BJJ…
and that would be a buzzkill.