March 2014

Innovation Necessitates The Upgrading of The Fundamentals

One of the most exciting and waited for events in the Martial Arts world, especially BJJ and the Grappling scene, has just taken place. The long awaited rematch between Royler Gracie and Eddie Bravo following Eddies win over Royler at the 2003 Abu Dahbi Grappling Tournament.

The match was clearly the favorite at the Metamoris 3 Championships in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 29. The match did not disappoint us grappling enthusiasts. It was a very strategically fought match with a tremendous level of skill being demonstrated by both competitors, however, Eddie clearly had the edge in technical ability and dominated the match.

He had Royler in trouble many times throughout the match including at the finish with a calf slice and potential footlock that had Royler defenseless.

The stand out far for me was the clear innovative game of Eddie. His attacks and skill level from half guard completely dominated the game and Royler appeared to have very little to defend or counter his game.

The evolution of BJJ has carried it to a level that has taken it far beyond it’s original roots and provided strengths at new levels, such that the old solid core fundamentals must be upgraded to deal with the progression.

The classic Gracie Jiu Jitsu approach is not enough now to stay on top of the game. The innovative approaches of Marcelo Garcia, Eddie Bravo and the schools that they came out of Nova Unaioa and Machado Jiu Jitsu have changed BJJ and are definitely the future of BJJ.

While the fundamental will always be the most important part to drill and learn in any discipline, especially the Martial Arts, they also must be upgraded to keep pace with any major changes in the discipline. Countering methodologies must be developed and new strategies for offense and defense incorporated to deal with changes that have become widely integrated. And while the current fascination with the outside hooking guard sweep (known as the Berimbolo sweep) and the 50/50 guard will eventually fade, the half guard as the major position for developing a very powerful Gi or No gi game will not. 

Therefore if you want to stay on top of your chosen game, whether it be Muay Thai, BJJ or MMA you must still drill and concentrate on your fundamentals, but keep note of any major changes that require the upgrading of those fundamentals.

Hard Sparring is Detrimental to Technical Expertise and Fighting Ability?

One of my most difficult problems, as a martial arts coach, particularly in the disciplines of Muay Thai and MMA, is trying to convince my students that sparring should be carried out at a level that is manageable by practitioners and at a level that they can learn from. Unfortunately, with the majority, it becomes an ego driven battle executed at the level of a full competition fight.

I often find myself, as the coach, (I still spar with my students), starting a round with one of my students, with the objective of helping him/her to develop their ability, and then having to fight for my life as I am caught in a full power assault from the student, with little control, trying to prove himself; in fact I suffer more injuries from fighting inexperienced students then any other student.  While I am willing and capable of rising to the challenge, I find it very frustrating as I cannot realistically teach my student much while he/she is locked into this full power attitude.

There is little to be gained from sparring with a more experienced and stronger opponent, using full power and speed in a sparring match, as the less experienced students just get smashed and become disillusioned. That is very old school and does not produce technically proficient well-rounded students.

In the early stages, of a competition career, this will work as the student is fighting other competitors of limited knowledge and technical ability. However, as the competition level increases so does the experience and technical ability. Whereas, in the early stages of his/her fighting experience a blitzing, full power attack would have destroyed the opposition, as the experience level of the opponents increases, so does the ability of the opponents to effectively counter such assaults.

Sparring is certainly important but it must be carried out correctly, otherwise its value is seriously compromised.

There are training schools that place the major emphasis on fighting and sparing as the means to learning the discipline that they specialize in. Their students may do well in competition initially, but their students are few and limited to those that survive. A school with that culture has developed an innate filtering process for culling students that are not going to be very successful in competition. In addition, in my experience the students that do well in these schools have usually come from a previous background where they were taught the technical skills and already have quite extensive experience learning the fundamentals.

The correct and most effective sparring cultures are found at the highest level of competition. Recently UFC fighters Johny Hendricks and Robby Lawler have both related in interviews how they do not go 100% full out in sparring, when preparing for a fight, as they cannot risk the damage that may be sustained.

By sparring at a moderate level you can think through what you are doing and identify problems in your game a lot easier. Skill at the unconsciously competent level takes time and a lot of training to develop, especially in the martial arts disciplines. Sparring is the peak of the learning methodology as it is essentially random and lacks planned control, therefore to learn from it, and progress your game, you must work at a level that allows trial and application of your learned skills.

 Rob Kaman, a former world Thai boxing champion demonstrates the correct pace and power to be used in sparring in his very informative Thai boxing instruction program.

I have observed effective and good quality sparring often with a group of good friends or a couple of well adjusted brothers who have a good approach to developing their game.

At the Academy of Combat we have a culture that is focused on students developing a high quality and technically proficient overall game in the particular discipline that they wish to learn. To do this requires that students work together with an attitude of helping each other so that they can safely train and enjoy their learning experience.

Those that have a greater interest in competing undertake additional training in Fighter’s Classes that provide higher level conditioning and sparring training, however, even in these classes the sparring does not exceed a level that would compromise their learning from the sparring bout, this is usually about 80% speed, power and ferocity. Our very successful competition record testifies to the value of developing good technique and the use of controlled sparring in training.

You must enjoy and look forward to your training sessions to gain the most from them. Developing an attitude of learning with enjoyment, focused on developing your ability and working with your opponent so that both of you develop, is not only beneficial but essential if you want to maximize your ability in your chosen discipline.

The Importance Of Learning To Make Your Own Decisions

Life is a very precarious and risky process, we make decisions with the best of our knowledge or as the mood or mind-set at the time influences us to. Such decisions may or may not be correct, but that is the way that things are. We are not given a manual for how to live our lives when we are born and must rely on the teaching of those we are close to, our education and our experiences.

However, we must take responsibility for those decisions if we are to be successful in life and not all of our decisions will be right but we must accept this and move on.

Good decision making is not taught in schools although, if they had a robust methodology for decision making, it should be. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case as our education system is badly lacking in real world required skills tutelage.

In addition,  and the focus of this article is the presence of several other concerns of decision making:

(1)Refusing to take responsibility for our decisions and passing that on to some one else.

(2) The critics of the decisions that you make, that do not work out, and the effect it can have on you in the future in respect of your decision making.

(3) Those who take the responsibility of making their own decisions, away from others under their control are preventing them from engaging in one of life’s most essential skills.

(4)This also presents the question of, when is the right time and how is the best way of going about, giving our progeny the right and requirement to make and be responsible for their own decision making.

The critics of those that make decisions that don’t work out would do well to look at themselves and ask themselves whether all of the decisions that they have made were correct. Provided that the individual made the best decision they could with the information available, and under the conditions that they were faced with, then they should be given the respect that they are due for making the decision.

By removing the right and, thereby the need to make decisions you also remove the ability to make decisions and force the individual to be dependant on someone or something for the rest of their lives. The NZ social welfare system is a classic example. I realize that may draw criticism from this remark, but ask that those wishing to do so think in depth about their criticism. Social welfare should be “a hand up not a hand out”. It is a fine line but should be handled with a great deal of responsibility.

By allowing our children to make their own decisions you are giving them a great power, but with that comes the responsibility, something that they must learn to understand. If we allow them to make decisions and then if it goes wrong we take care of it them we have removed one of the key factors in making a decision, that of the attached risk factor. For if we make a decision and know tat we have a back stop if it goes wrong then the risk element is removed and they are more likely to make poor decisions.

If we are to make progress in any endeavor we must respect and support those that make decisions and have confidence in making our own decisions.

If they do not prove to be correct, then learn from the outcome so that you are better prepared for the next decision you make.

Good decision making is a product of experience and so takes time and I some cases, where there is no precedent for the type of decision to be made, an element of trial and error.

Learning to make decisions is an extremely powerful and necessary skill for success in life, so embrace it, learn from it and give yourself and your children the best opportunity for success.

The Frustration of Learning Complex Skills.

Aside from the Martial arts I have many other interests that I am very passionate about. One of these is my love of the magicians art, that of deception and prestidigitation. Ever since I was a young boy I was amazed and engaged by this fascinating art.

I used to put on little shows for my brothers and sisters as a 12 year old. However, trying to source information back in the sixties in my small corner of the world was very difficult and, as I grew into my teens, I moved away and found interests in other things.

My obsession with learning the martial arts, interest in business development and NLP and my love of science dominated my thinking and time over the next 40 years. But my fascination with the magician’s art never left me and about 2 years ago I began to search out the source of information again. I was stunned by the quantity and quality of information that has become available now, as a result of the ease of communication around the world via the internet.

In the world of the magician’s art this is a two edged sword. The ability to exchange ideas comes with a cost that some may see this as a way to get a following by revealing the methods underlying the magic effects. And although this is frustrating I don’t see it as a problem. This same thing has happened in many areas of human endeavor, and certainly in the martial arts, particularly in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At first the revealing of secrets was regarded as sacrilege and that it would reduce the dominance of particular groups, a factor that has only occurred to a small degree, it has resulted in a massive growth and development in the sport.

The same has occurred in the world of magic which has undergone a huge growth and renaissance.  Although may think that the internet revealing secrets will reduce the interest and fascination of people, I find and suggest that that is not true. Even when people do have knowledge of how you may have performed an effect, those that truly enjoy magic will still be fascinated and entertained. It is in the presentation and skill demonstrated that they find the enjoyment. This places a big responsibility on us to develop our skill to the highest level that we can.

One of the things that renewed my interest in magic was my interest in neuroscience and how our minds work. Neuroscientists are learning many things from magicians, especially in respect of misdirection and how our mind is fooled by illusions, skills that magicians have been using for centuries. The skill of being able to misdirect the observer at the crucial moment is one of the most valuable attributes that the magician must develop.  This is akin to developing timing in the martial arts. Both must be trained to the level of unconscious competence to realize their full potential.

This can be very frustrating when we are trying to learn and get a new effect working to a level that will fascinate and entertain our audiences. We have to get out there in amongst people and perform; the trial and error in front of an audience is a very tough but an extremely rewarding way to learn. I am often frustrated when I try something and I blow it, however, I usually find that my spectators aren’t too damming, and as long as I leave them with a good finish they are entertained. I have therefore developed a set of “go to” effects that I have a high percentage of performing well, to fall back on, should I need them. Again I see a parallel with my martial arts in that I have my “go to” techniques that are my high percentage techniques that I resort to when I need them.

As I perform my more complex and tougher effects, more often, I start getting higher success rates as I smooth out my problem areas. They then take their place as high percentage effects and I can move on to new effects; a strategy I also use with great success in my martial arts raining.

Underlying this way of training and practice you must cultivate a mind-set that has persistence, resilience and consistency of practice. All skill development requires time and had work to reap the benefits. This is especially true of any complex, technique rich skill.