Martial arts quote of the day

Don’t you think that the idea of both of you squatting down, as if to defecate, whilst one holds onto the other’s wrist, so that they can apply a countering technique, is somewhat off the planet?

Ollie Batts (said here)

For those that may not understand what he means, he’s talking about compliant training technique. You and your (compliant) partner face each other, assume a horse stance (“squat down”), partner offers up his wrist, you grab it and apply some sort of wrist lock technique, and your partner never resists. Partner taps because an ounce of pressure was applied, and you stand up smiling because you are obviously a badass. Yes, lots of people have a problem with this sort of training… because what are you training?

Granted, in the beginning, learning any technique requires such cooperation and compliance because you need to understand what’s going on. But once you have the basic idea in place, your partner needs to resist, which could just be applying more tension and “counter force” so it’s harder to apply the technique, all the way up to active resistance and “fighting back”. But, it really all depends upon the context and goal of your study. If you are trying to learn how to defend yourself, do you think some mugger or rapist is just going to compliantly offer their hand for you to twist? Or do you think there’s going to be struggle, resistance, and fighting? So which way do you think you should train?   If however you are just training to wear a flashy uniform and look good for the crowd and the camera, I guess just ensure your teeth are straight and white and keep smiling… or grimacing profusely when the technique is applied to you. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you want to do. Just be honest with yourself and the training you receive.

Really, that’s what it comes down to. Ollie’s comment was a (not so?) subtle jab at Kuk Sool, but likely a deserved one (note: Kuk Sool is FAR from the only art that is like this). Kuk Sool as a martial art is actually a very good one and could be most effective — if it was taught in the right context and manner. However, these days the context predominantly seen for Kuk Sool is compliance and “looking good”, giving office workers a chance to exercise and blow off a little steam after a long day behind a desk. Nothing wrong with that (I can’t deny my fitness/conditioning level was amazing during my time in Kuk Sool). But I left (in part) because I was not being taught in a practical way and had a hard time dealing with instructors that demanded they knew how to do things “realistically” and “properly” when unskilled me could have just grabbed them and sat on them without much effort. Where are your 3608 techniques to save you now?

What Ollie wrote made me laugh, but it’s good food for thought. Ultimately it’s about knowing what YOU want out of your study. If you are wanting exercise and spirituality, find an art to allow you to follow that path. If you want to know how to fight, find an art for that path. You have to be honest with yourself, your goals, and what you’re studying. If it’s not meeting your goals, you waste your precious time and energy to continue down a path that won’t ever help you achieve your goals.

Contrasts, in martial arts

I was flipping through a bunch of pictures on the Mu Sool Won of South Austin Facebook page. It was a few hundred pictures from “seminar”. But there was something different about this seminar. Something about Byung In Lee. It’s too much for  a “comment”, so here I write.

Let me back up and give a little history.

I have a black belt in a martial art known as Kuk Sool. When I received it, I was part of an organization known as the World Kuk Sool Association, which is the original/founding organization of the art, created and run by Kuk Sool’s creator, In Hyuk Suh. In my time in the organization I found the art itself to be a wonderful and practical art, but I grew to discover the art was not for me. I think there was too much “art” and not enough “martial” and I struggled to find people I could work with that wanted more “martial”… demos, spin kicks, acrobatics, all nice, but I’m more concerned with fighting and self-defense. I think Kuk Sool can be very solid in this area, it’s just not really stressed because… there’s not as much money in it. And that’s what ultimately drove me away from Kuk Sool, was the business practices and how so much was kinda cult-like-driven towards isolation and feeding of the parent organization. I’m not saying Kuk Sool nor WKSA are a cult — it’s not; just that things were so driven towards feeding the parent organization, especially money-wise. The last “seminar” I attended was particularly bothersome because they spent every moment they could pimping merch and not really teaching anything of value (exception, the segment with Master Sung Jin on dan bong was worthwhile).

And you see, whenever we had seminars, In Hyuk Suh never taught. He’d come out and speak for a little bit, which sometimes was useful, many times not, and frequently arrogant, then go back and sit in the office and let everyone else teach, like his sons Sung Jin and Alex, or  Barry Harmon. Now, Masters Sung Jin, Alex, and Barry are fantastic teachers and people to learn from, don’t get me wrong there either. But come on… why can’t the founder teach us something? Some say it’s his age, but geez… if all the stuff spouted about the age-defying effects of martial arts practice are to be true, then he should be able to show us just fine. I’ve seen older men and women throwing around 20-somethings — hell, Keiko Fukuda is older and in arguably worse health than In Hyuk Suh but she still gets on the mat!

Anyways, a couple of years ago there was yet another schism within WKSA and many people broke off because of a b.s. “franchise” agreement. WKSA lost a lot of good people, including Byung In Lee. But frankly, WKSA’s loss is the gain for the rest of the world because now Master Lee can do as he wishes, and we’ll all be better off for it.

This is what struck me about those photos.

What do I see in the photos? Well, of course I see Master Lee, with his big smile. The first time I met the man he was smiling and joking with me. In fact, now that I think about it, the very first time I met him I came to visit his school when I lived in north Austin to research it. I recall some other student was warming up the class, but only because he was taking care of business including talking to me. Then he got out on the floor, limbered up a bit, then went right into teaching the class. I’m not sure what his rank was at the time, probably 8th degree? And many times people of such high rank don’t teach the colored belts but have their lower-ranked black belts do so. But not Master Lee.

And so that remains.

What was in the pictures? Master Lee out on the mat. He’s doing everything with the students. He’s directly teaching the students, be it some 3rd degree school owner or some white belt child. Doesn’t matter to him, he’s teaching those who wish to learn.

It was such a study in contrasts to look at how Master Lee carries himself vs. how others carry themselves. I have the highest respect for Master Lee because of the person he is. He’s fun loving, a family man, a bad-ass martial artist, humble, always smiling and joking. If there’s any ego about this man, I’ve never seen it. He’s a good man, in every true sense of the word.

Looking at those pictures just spoke so well about the sort of man he is. I don’t see myself going back to Kuk Sool, but so long as he’s teaching the art and producing good students willing to carry on, the art will recover and do alright.

Keiko Fukuda, 10th degree black belt

She is the highest ranking woman in Judo history, the only woman to be promoted by Kodokan to 9th dan, and the last living student of Judo’s founder, Jigoro Kano.

Keiko Fukuda.

An article on Nerve. Another at the SFGate.

A longer clip

Her motto: Be strong, be gentle, be beautiful. She is.

on training

‎”When a person trains once, nothing happens. When a person forces himself to do a thing a hundred or a thousand times, then he certainly has developed in more ways than physical. Is it raining? That doesn’t matter. Am I tired? That doesn’t matter either. Then willpower will be no problem.”

~ Emil Zatopek, Czech Olympic athlete

(seen on Facebook)

Can I stick with it?

If you know me, you know I’m into martial arts. Unfortunately, I’ve been out of martial arts for some time now. The problem is one of schedule. I had to stop studying with Ray Parra because his class times and my schedule just weren’t working out. I’ve been dying to start studying with Leslie Buck, and while the schedule Leslie now offers is a lot more conducive, he’s almost on the other side of town from me and so couple the drive time in and I could be looking at circa three hours per class. With my day job, my own company, some other side work, Wife, Kiddos, and numerous other things, every minute matters these days and I just can’t afford that time for Leslie. 😦

Unfortunately the lack of exercise is really catching up with me. Sure I was trying to lose weight, and that “up day down day” stuff was working quite well! But then some months ago I got a new job assignment at the day job, it’s been a lot of stress, I’ve eaten more and dropped off the wagon as a reaction to that stress… plus just the lack of physical activity is sad because well… I find myself getting a lot more winded at the simplest of things. That’s lame! 😦

I’m not sure why this is this way about me, but I’m coming to realize in some activities I do better when there are external forces in play. For instance, sure I could work on martial arts skills at home, but it’s a vacuum. I need an instructor to watch me, to correct me, to teach me things because that’s so much of what it’s about. Or at least, after a while you want a partner to work with, to spar with, to throw around, because fighting “air man” or the heavy bag all day long isn’t the same.

Oddly, a few weeks ago I started thinking about lifting weights again. I did that a lot in high school, and on and off throughout my adult life. But most of that was always done me, by myself, at home somehow. But in recent years if I thought about it I always said no I couldn’t do it because it cost money. I said if I could work out at home, have the discipline to do it at home, and then do things like push-ups, squats and lunges, etc. and show I could stick with that? Then I could see about spending money on it.

Trouble is?

I hate push ups. 🙂  Bodyweight exercises I think are very cool, and stuff like Beast Skills are VERY cool.

But get this. There’s a little mom&pop-style gym that opened up near my house. On a whim I stopped in there to check it out. I figured being in its location and the store-front looking small, it’d be unimpressive, it’d be something like a “Curves” with just machines. But actually, I was quite impressed. Full suite of things, yes there are machines but most of those then use free plates. Lots of free-standing benches, full rack of dumbbells. I was actually pretty impressed with the depth and breadth of the offering housewives could have their “toning” workouts, but a serious athlete or bodybuilder could do just fine there too. Plus the terms were very reasonable: no contract, no bullshit, no nothing. Just a simple monthly fee and you can stop any time by just sending a registered letter. I like that. The owner looks to be in his 30’s, very nice, seems to want to run a no-bs sort of place. I dug it.

I signed up.

I need some sort of physical exercise. For whatever reason, working at home doesn’t do it for me. I’ve never been a member of a gym like this, so this will be new for me, but I’m hoping the motivation of the monthly fee and having equipment access like I will motivate me. Plus the time sink is minimal. It’s very close to the house, close enough I could walk/jog to the place. Jog there, quick workout, jog home… could make for a good workout.

Of course, I need to start WAY slow. I haven’t dedicatedly lifted in a long time so I have no idea where my weight maxes are. I’m also somewhat out of shape so I need to slowly ease my body back into things… my doctor keeps reminding me I’m not 18 any more. I’m thinking my first few workouts might be very light, really underestimate the weights, and might be full-body compounds. For instance, jog there as a warm up, get in, 3×10 squats, 3×10 bench press, 3×10 rows, some crunches, then jog home. Uber light, uber simple, compound-only exercises, I have to ease myself back into it. If I can hit the gym 3x-week and do that for at least a week, then I can start to add a few more things in but still keep it a basic “whole body” workout until things are feeling a bit more up to it. And then after another week or two of that, depending how the body is adjusting, go on a split such as upper body minus abs one day and lower body plus abs the other day and try that perhaps 4x week.

We’ll see how it goes. I may stick with it, I may not. One fear is that lifting won’t be mentally stimulating enough for me, because that’s been one reason I haven’t stuck with it in my adult years. It’s one reason I like martial arts because it provided both physical and mental stimulation. But just being physical? will that be motivation enough for me? But on the flip side, my life’s been so mentally overstimulating lately that maybe something like this, where it’s just me and the iron — no wife, no kids, no work, no business, no stress — might actually be just what I need. Again, we’ll see. It’s just part of life’s journey. 🙂

I will say this tho… I won’t be starting until next week. First, I need to figure out a daily/weekly schedule and routine. Second tho… I’ll be helping out at KR Training in 2 days and if I worked out today, in 2 days I would be sooooo sore. 🙂

AAR: Women’s self-defense clinic, KSW Oak Hill

Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in a Woman’s Self Defense Clinic put on by Kuk Sool Won of Oak Hill.

Read about it at the Hsoi Enterprises blog.

ISR Matrix

Over at LowTechCombat, a review and interview about the ISR Matrix.

ISR Matrix is a self defence system which teaches a linear response that aims to overcome an attack in a progressive manner. The defenders response can be scaled depending on the nature of the attack. In particular, the response is scaled according to the legal use of force continuum. For a more aggressive attack, more force can be used where necessary. Where little real threat is present, control is used to neutralize the attack.

You can read more on ISR Matrix’s website.

That sounds interesting. I wonder how it compares to Tony Blauer’s S.P.E.A.R. System.


People think kicking someone in the nuts is the be-all-end-all solution to fighting or ending an attack (e.g. you’ll hear this countless times in “women’s self-defense” classes).

Well, watch this:

All the controversy about “Combat Ki” aside (if you don’t know and are curious, click here), it sure seems that the guy is taking one hell of a nut shot and barely flinching.

Granted, most people will get hit in the nuts and drop to the ground in a fetal position. But the takeaway here is you can’t necessarily expect a nut shot to have a 100% success rate.

But for all the “Combat Ki” in the world…. I doubt they’re able to condition themselves to withstand a good dose of lead…. Sometimes there are better self-defense tools out there.

That aside, I love watching the video. I love the use of “blue balls” (har har) and the little up and down animations. The constant over and over and over and over and over replays of the nut shot, full speed, slow motion, different angles. Amusing.

Yes, fights go to the ground

What with MMA being so hot these days, a common refrain to anyone studying martial arts is about how you need to have ground fighting skills because “all fights go to the ground”. Or maybe not all fights, but a large majority, or some other number pulled out of the air.

How much truth is there to the statement of fights going to the ground?

LowTechCombat pointed me to this article: Do Most Fights Go to the Ground?

So over a period of three months I designed an implemented an exploratory study with the expressed interest of trying to see if there was any validity in the claim that 90 to 95 percent of fights go to the ground or that most fights go to the ground. Over 300 street fights were analyzed during this study. The results were clarifying as well as totally unexpected.

Enter the joy of YouTube, which if you quickly search it you’ll find thousands of videos of people fighting. While the study was certainly not in-depth and more study truly should be done (and use venues other than YouTube, since that could have a “posting/content bias”), I do think the conclusion sheds some light:

So, there you have it; an exploratory study to try to find out if 90 to 95 percent of fights end up on the ground. The results offered in this study indicate that 90 to 95 percent is too high of a percentage rate. It is probably closer to 42% where both fighters hit the ground and 72% where at least one fighter ends up on the ground.

In the final analysis, an overwhelming majority of fights did end where at least one fighter ended up on the ground at some point. As this was an exploratory study, more are definitely needed to explore this topic and other grappling or MMA related issues. However, what was probably the most important finding in this study is that if you are untrained and are the first person to end up on the ground in a fight there is a good chance that you will lose and the best you can hope for is that no victor can be declared.

So yup. You can expect ending up on the ground. Now, I might be curious to know if going to the ground ended up being “an issue”. For instance, A punched B, B went to the ground, fight was over. So yes, B went to the ground so you tally one in the “went to the ground” column. But did B’s going to the ground have any greater implications? That is, the whole “fights go to the ground” issue is predication on the notion that because fights go to the ground you need to have some skills to deal with that situation (thus you must learn BJJ). So if B hit the ground and the fight was over, there really wasn’t need for skills or awareness or to even get back up. I’m not sure if this matters or if this is important, but I am going to contact the author of the study to see what he thinks. I guess it’s trying to find out not just if a fight goes to the ground, but since that assertion is made to imply you need to gain ground skills well, I think it’s worth a consideration if that is warranted. Of course, I’d say yes… but still, let’s discuss.

The best part of the study, however, is the greater implications for avoiding the fight in the first place. Truly, that’s the take-home from this:

  • Most fights are not spontaneous. There’s an incubation period. There are things that lead up to the fight and, if minded, the fight could have been avoided.
  • Be mindful of your personal space and don’t let people get close to you. I think about the book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere because that’s what this is about.
  • Don’t be rude. Trash talking (either you doing it or them doing it to you) usually winds up with someone getting hit mid-sentence.
  • Fight or leave. If the fight is inevitable, either turn it on hard and fast, or go home immediately. Posturing and posing will get you hurt.
  • Multiple attackers will always have a massive advantage.
  • Getting mounted will put you at a severe disadvantage. Avoid it at all costs.
  • Don’t be the first one to go to the ground.