Iron Fist and Martial Arts

     Marvel Studios released the series Iron Fist on Netflix on March 17, 2017.  The series based on the Marvel comic about Danny Rand, a young man presumed to have died in a plane crash.  Rand is rescued as a child by monks, who teach him martial arts in the Himalayas.  The series contains a number of great martial arts fight scenes.

     While Iron Fist will probably lead to a big increase in kung fu class enrollment, most martial arts classes will probably see an increase.  Enter the Dragon (1972) starring the incredible Bruce Lee inspired martial artists for many years.

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     The Karate Kid (1984) filled karate and taekwondo classes after movie goers watched Daniel LaRusso beat the Cobra Kai bullies.  Royce Gracie’s early success in The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) led many students to seek out grappling training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Ju-Jitsu.

     Unfortunately, students inspired by these movies often disappear after a few months.  After they realize there are no shortcuts and only hard training will allow them to achieve the desired results, many students leave.  It is a real shame because you can develop amazing skill through time and dedication to hard training.

     Studies have shown that for every 10,000 students, who start a martial arts class, ten percent leave in the first month.  Within six months, half of the 10,000 students drop out.  By the end of a year, about a fourth of the original 10,000 students are still training in the martial arts.

     100 of these students will continue on and earn their black belt.  From the original 10,000 students, 10 students will advance past 1st degree black belt.  Only 4 students will become instructors.

     I normally don’t share these statistics with new students because I don’t want to discourage them.  You see many students come and go over the years.  It’s hard to see so many people leave but you have to focus on the students who stay.

     If you are considering martial arts training, I encourage you to do two things.  First, find a school you like and which teaches a martial art you are interested in.  Second, commit to attending the class regularly for at least one year.  Any less of a commitment and it will be difficult for you to make any real progress.

     What has been your experience with the martial arts?  You can leave a comment or ask a question about this or any post on my Facebook pageTwitter profile and Google+ page.


Great Advice – If You Are 20

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come back to more traditional bodybuilding training as a supplement to my martial arts training.  Traditional bodybuilding is less ballistic and leaves me less vulnerable to injury.  When I was younger, I never worried about injury nor did I get injured often.  Once I passed 35 years old though, I started getting injured much more frequently.

Traditional bodybuilding flies in the face of most of the current athletic training focusing on crossfit, functional training like climbing ropes, etc.  Trainers correctly surmise athletic training creates more functional abilities for competition.  Few mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters do traditional bodybuilding anymore.  After they retire though, I believe the older martial artists should consider the benefit of traditional bodybuilding.

Kenneth and Caleb Promoted to 2nd Black Rank and 1st Black Rank respectively.

Based on my own experience and what I’ve seen in the gym, crossfit’s ballistic training leads to injuries such as knee, shoulder and bicep tendons injury.  As long as you stay away from ego lifting and keep your reps at or above the 6-8 range, traditional bodybuilding is extremely safe.

I’m closing in on 50 but still maintain a traditional lifting regimen such as Kris Gethin’s 12 Week Muscle Builder.(Warning: Kris tends to curse quite a bit.)

I had a lipoma removed from my shoulder in November 2016.  Two days later, I was back in the gym doing cardio.  Seventeen days later, I was lifting weights again.  I credit my consistent bodybuilding training for my quick recovery.

I do not discount the value of crossfit in competitive athletics.  Long term, I would give traditional bodybuilding training a chance.  If you are no longer in your twenties or thirties, you will find it more forgiving.

Take Care and Keep Kicking!

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Embracing Taekwondo

When I earned my 1st Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo during December 2005 at Willow Martial Arts, I had already studied Judo for three months.  My instructor, Master Pat Weseman, is a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Judo as well as a 6th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo.  With this background, a number of our self-defenses were Judo based, so I wanted a deeper understanding of Judo.

At Black Belt, we are also encouraged to study other arts and bring the knowledge back to our school.  I studied Judo for several years eventually reaching 2nd Degree Brown Belt.  I also studied Gracie Jiu-Jitsu through Gracie University even though I did not attain formal rank in this art.

Me Breaking Boards around age 26

As the years passed and my interest in applying mixed martial arts to self-defense increased, I began to focus more on grappling and less on my base art, Taekwondo.  I realized about six months ago that I saw myself more as a grappler than a striker even though TKD is what I consider my main martial art.

I decided to fall back in love with Taekwondo by focusing on three areas over the next six months.

One of the best aspects of Taekwondo is the ability to train solo through forms training, walking drills, bag training, etc.  I consider forms or poomsae in Taekwondo to be the art of martial arts.  The first initiative is scheduling one forms practice of at least 30 minutes once a week.

Second, I noticed a propensity to favor right leg kicks as I’ve gotten older.  To address this weakness, I’m putting more emphasis on left leg kicks for the next six months as well.

Finally, I’m focused on teaching the art more in-depth to our students.  If you want to learn a technique, what enhances the technique and what detracts, you should start teaching.  Teaching brings the art into laser focus.  Students think instructors are always teaching but the students teach us as much as we teach them.

I still like grappling and won’t abandon the training.  I am returning the focus to where it needs to be.  TKD first, other arts second.

What do you think?  You can leave a comment or ask a question about this or any post on my Facebook pageTwitter profile and Google+ page.

Keep kicking!

Brilliant If Not Entertaining

     Ryan Hall fought Gray Maynard at the TUF 24 Finale on December 3, 2016.  I heard about the bout on the Anik and Florian podcast.  Ray Longo talked about the bout and shared his concerns that Hall completely shut down Maynard but his style may make it difficult for him to get fights.  After watching the bout, I understand what Coach Longo was talking about.

     I’ve seldom seen anyone so completely control a fight.  Hall frequently attempted to lure Maynard to the ground but the skilled wrestler wanted no part of a ground fight.  Faced with Maynard’s reluctance to go to the ground, Hall used kicks to keep Maynard off-balance.  Hall dazed Maynard with a back hook kick in the middle of the second round.

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     Maynard grew very frustrated and by the third round was charging Hall with the only weapon he tried to use in the fight, an overhand right.  Hall would simply fall to the mat, invert and try to catch Maynard’s leg in one of his leg locks.  Maynard was so frustrated he quickly left the cage after the bout.

     As a martial artist, I believe Hall’s performance was brilliant.  Did anyone really expect him to drop his hands and run chin first at Maynard?  Hall came up with a great game plan and executed it nearly flawlessly.

     Unfortunately, it is a performance the casual fan didn’t understand or appreciate.  Loud boos were heard from the second round on.  Hall already has a difficult time find fights.  Other featherweights will be hesitant to fight Hall and promoters will be loathe to expose an up-and-coming fighter to such a match.

     If you are interested in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you should definitely watch the match.  You will see a master martial artist at work.  Hopefully, his brilliance doesn’t prevent him from getting another fight in the near future.

     You can leave a comment or ask a question about this or any post on my Facebook pageTwitter profile and Google+ page.

Week 1 of Fall 2016 Training Program

I started my Fall training program on Monday, August 22, 2016, at 255 pounds with the goal of being 230 pound on December 15, 2016.  The training consists of martial arts and Kris Gethin’s 12 Week Hardcore Daily Trainer.  I’ve included a sample week of my training below.

Before trying this or any physical fitness program, you should have a complete checkup with your physician.  You should also realize everyone’s body is as unique as a snow flake.  You must experiment with both diet and exercise to see what works best for your body.

Trey and Me Rolling

Monday, August 22, 2016 – Instead of going to the gym, I caught up on work and did two cardio sessions during the day.  After a productive work day, I did a 30 minute Wii Free Run.  I logged 12,051 steps in total.  Overall, the week was getting off to a good start.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 – I woke up at 4:30 am and walked into the gym at 5:07 am.  Legs were on the menu, so I started off with 3 sets of Leg Press for 10 reps.  Next was a superset of Lying Leg Curls and Leg Extensions for 3 sets of 10 reps.  I finished off the workout with a superset of Machine Hack Squat and Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift for 3 sets of 20 reps.  I took my post-workout protein shake and finished off the morning workout with 22 minutes on the treadmill.

In the evening, Tam and I walked for a mile at the local school track.  I totalled 14,014 steps for the day.  Unfortunately, I had trouble sleeping that night.

Ken Breaking in the late 1990s.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 – Due to a poor night’s sleep, I missed my gym workout this morning.  I was going to move it to Thursday morning but decided to work out later in the evening on Wednesday after dropping my youngest son off at church.  I did walk for almost 30 minutes before the bus came in the morning.

I arrived at the gym around 7 pm and was the oldest person by probably two decades.  However, I had a workout to get in, so it was time to hit Chest and Triceps.  I started with DB Bench Press for 3 sets of 10 reps.  Next, I moved to a steep incline bench (60 degrees) and performed 3 sets of 10 reps.  I finished off chest with 3 sets of Machine Flyes.

I started triceps with the Machine Tricep Extension for 3 sets of 10 reps.  Next, I moved onto the V-Handle Pushdown for 3 sets of 10 reps.  To ensure full range of motion, I did the movement while kneeling in front of the weight rack.  I finished off triceps with Dumbbell Tricep Extensions for 3 sets of 10 reps.  I took my post-workout shake and then did 25 minutes on the recumbent bike.  My step total for the day was 11,793 steps.

Thursday, August 25, 2016 – I started the day with a 25 minute walking session.  I also walked for 20 minutes around the lake at Kirkwood Community Center before class.  My step total for the day was 11,441 steps.  During Kid’s Class, I taught and centered the kids in Olympic Sparring.  We spent the two hour advanced class on the bokken.  I mostly supplemented the teaching of technique.

Friday, August 26, 2016 – It was a vacation day, so I went to the gym at 10 am.  It was Back and Biceps, so I got right into the workout.  I started off with Reverse-Grip Lat Pulldown for 3 sets of 8 reps.  Next, I did 3 sets of Barbell Bent Rows for 10 reps.  For the low back, I did 2 sets of Good Mornings for 15 reps.  I finished off back with 7 sets of Stiff-Arm Pulldowns for 15 reps with 45 pounds (FST-7),

Next, I went on to biceps for One-Arm Bicep Machine Curls for 3 sets of 15 reps.  I followed this exercise with Alternate Dumbbell Curls for 3 sets of 10 reps.  Cable Preacher Curls for 3 sets of 20 reps.  I performed one drop set of Hammer Curls with 40, 30 and 20 pound dumbbells for 10 reps each.  I took a post-workout protein shake and finished with 25 minutes on the treadmill.  I finished the day with 10,086 steps.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016 – I hit the gym right after waking up and taking a combination whey protein shake with my preworkout in it.  I started the shoulder session with Barbell Military Press for 3 sets of 8 reps.  I followed this exercise with Dumbbell Side Laterals for 3 sets of 12 reps.  I then performed a variation of Barbell Upright Rows with 7 reps at the Wide-Grip, Medium-Grip and Close-Grip positions.  I did 3 sets of each version.  I finished off the shoulders with 7 sets of Incline Rear Lateral for 15 reps.  During the last three sets of the Rear Laterals, I supersetted them with Seated Calf Machine for 3 sets of 20 reps with 110 pounds.

After performing a supersetted of Weighted Crunches and Body Weight One-Leg Toe Raises for 3 sets of 20 reps, I had my post-workout shake.  Then I jumped on the Elliptical Trainer for 25 minutes.  I got my heart rate up to 85% of the maximum heart rate.  I finished the day with 5,850 steps besides my morning workout.

Sunday, August 28, 2016 – My day was taken up with the Annual Willow Friends and Family Invitational Tournament.  I spent the day centering Forms, Breaking, Foam Sword Fighting and Olympic Sparring.  I again finished the day with a little over 5,000 steps.

Week 1 is in the books.  If you would like to connect with me on MyFitnessPal, drop me an e-mail or contact me on social media.

If you’d like to comment on this post, you can leave a comment, question or whatever on my Facebook pageTwitter profile and Google+ page. I would love to hear from you.

Olympics Effect on Judo and Taekwondo

My daughter asked me the other day if I had seen any of the Olympic Judo.  She was surprised when I told her I had not.  Besides being a black belt in Taekwondo, I’m a brown belt in Judo.  Like both my sons, Caity trained in both TKD and Judo as well.

However, I find most of the Olympic process highly corrupt today.  I also am concerned about doping in sports.  My main concern though is the detrimental effects that inclusion in the Olympics has done to both martial sports.

Judo started out as a demonstration sport in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  Eventually, it would be accepted into regular Olympic competition.  While initially the inclusion was great for the sport, Judo began to focus everything on staying in the Olympics.

Unfortunately, out of the 50,000 lonely souls practicing Judo in the United States today, 8 will make it to the Olympics. The vast majority of judoka have no interest in Olympic or International competitions.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) continues to modify the rules for all competition every few years with the intent of keeping Judo in the Olympics.  These rules effect every competition down to the local level.  The problem is the IJF is scared of a wrester or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor coming in and dominating the judoka, so they make rules that prevent significant ground work or the grabbing of the leg.  This last rule is ridiculous.

You are not penalized from grabbing the leg.  You are disqualified.  For years, competitors could grab the leg.  Dr. Kano, the founder of Judo, modified a wrestling fireman’s carry into the kata guruma (shoulder wheel throw), which he used to throw a 300 pound opponent he couldn’t defeat.  Today, Dr. Kano would be disqualified.

Taekwondo is not much better.  After it became a demonstration sport in 1988 and a regular sport in 1992, World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) has consistently modified the rules to try and keep the sport in the Olympics.  Recently, WTF created a complicated point system and are testing electronic hogus (chest protectors).

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It doesn’t really matter because the fighters just stand there and look at each other for 1 minute and 45 seconds of the 2 minute round.  They both have so much to lose, they never make a move.  If you want to see good TKD, visit a local or national tournament.  These competitions display the true beauty and skill of the art.

Contrast these arts with the actions of the second-generation Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instructor Rolls Gracie.  The Gracie Family is very competitive with a certain number of divisions in the family.  However, Rolls was the son of Carlos Gracie, one of the founders of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu but was raised by his uncle Helio Gracie, the other leader in the family.  Due to his unique relationship with both sides of the family, he could bridge the differences.

Rolls saw that his family’s art was really strong on the ground but lacked strong take downs.  Rolls wanted his students to be strong in all forms of grappling, so he brought in wrestlers like Bob Anderson, studied Judo for a year and brought in Sambo trainers to make himself an all-around grappler.  Rolls would accept any challenge.  He didn’t try to say, “Well, here are the rules.”  He would take them on with no rules.

Some BJJ leaders would like to see it included in the Olympics.  You don’t want that.  Having experienced what it has done to Judo and Taekwondo, it has more negative than positive benefits.

You can leave a comment or ask a question about this or any post on my Facebook pageTwitter profile and Google+ page.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

     Last week, it was testing preparation at Willow Martial Arts.  We went through the walking drills, forms and self-defense required for Taekwondo testing.  As I observed the students preparing, I remembered a statement Master Pat Weseman often told me when I was a colored belt preparing for my next Taekwondo test.  “Practice does not make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Kenneth and me practicing some cane self-defense techniques

     I observed students throwing punches with visible space in their fists.  Some students were pulling their heads down like turtles, when throwing kicks to try to increase the height on the kick.  Other students started their self-defense releases with their foot already dropped behind them, which kills the leverage to get free from a stronger opponent.

     The problem with these habits is it will take the student twice as long to unlearn the bad habit, which slows their progress.  A few key practices can help to prevent these bad habits.

     1. Start Slow!  When you learn a new Taekwondo technique, don’t be in such a hurry to throw it at full speed.  Start by making sure you are in the proper stance and you are maintaining it, while executing the technique.  Next, you should make sure the technique is executed correctly.  If you are throwing a front snap kick, are you pointing the ankle to push the ball toward the target?

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     2. Drill, Drill, Drill!  By far, the biggest weakness, I see in the dojang.  Many students will throw 10 or 20 kicks and think they mastered the move.  If you throw a couple hundred kicks, you will be able to do them decent.  If you throw a few thousand, you will be good.  If you throw 10,000 perfect side kicks, you will achieve mastery.

     3.  If you do develop a bad habit, attack it relentlessly.  On my Red Tip test, Master Weseman pointed out that I had a habit of moving my front foot on kicks, which scooted me up slightly.  On the typical walking drill, I was cheating myself out of two or three reps each time.  On a test, I was cut offing a couple reps, which gave me an undeserved break.  For the next six months, I glued that front foot to the floor every time I threw a kick.  I eliminated the habit and have never kicked in this manner since.

     If you want to be an exceptional martial artist, practice perfectly.  If you want to be a so-so martial artist, just practice.  Keep kicking.

     You can leave a comment or ask a question about this or any post on my Facebook pageTwitter profile and Google+ page.

Green Rank – The Last Beginning Step

After you earn your Green Rank, you will have completed your first year of training.  Congratulations.  On average, 75 percent of students who started with you have already quit training.  Lucky for you, they will be much better targets for criminals.

A humorous anecdote is told about two campers worried about a bear attack.  One of the campers tells his friend, “I don’t think we can outrun a bear.”  His friend replies, “I don’t have to outrun the bear.  I only have to outrun you.” We don’t want anyone to be attacked but if you are attacked, we want you to be ready.

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Green Rank Requirements (About 4 Months)

Striking: Low Block, Outside Middle Block, Inside Middle Block and High Block along with Turning Back Kick, Spinning Back Kick and Ax Kick on pads.  Timing Drills: Side Kick, Punch to Nose and Low, Inside, Outside Conditioning Timing Drill.

Throws: Break Falls, Outer Leg Takedown and Body Fold Takedown.

Self-Defenses and Submissions: Overhead Knife Defense, Bear Hug Over Arms – Front, Americana Arm Lock, Gun Pointed at Stomach, Club Defense – Slide, Headlock Escape with Frame – Resistance, Underhand Knife Defense, One-Hand Choke Defense, Straight Arm Lock, Gun Take Away from Waistband – Front, Side Kick and Straight Arm Lock Application.

Form: Taeguek Sam Jang

If you made all of the classes in your first year, you have completed the below black belt curriculum one time.  It’s time to go deeper into the curriculum during your second time through as an intermediate student.

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What Is The Best Self-Defense Technique?

One of the biggest arguments in martial arts is still whether grappling or striking techniques are best for self-defense.  Unsurprisingly, grappling arts advocate grappling techniques, while striking teachers hold up striking as the best method to defend yourself.  The argument ignores the best self-defense technique in martial arts.  Do not put yourself in situations, where the need for self-defense techniques is more likely.

Newsboys Practicing Self-Defense

I first heard this concept, when I was a brand new Shotokan karate student in 1994.  A year later, I switched to training in Taekwondo under my instructor, Master Pat Weseman, but the concept always stuck with me.  In Shotokan, they had a concept called “no first attack”.

Gichin Funakoshi, who founded Shotokan karate, considered it a violation of this principle if you went to a bar, where fights were common.  By attending such an establishment, if you were forced to defend yourself, you attacked first because you should not be there.

Self-defense instructors sometimes ignore the importance of reminding students that their personal habits often determine their susceptibility to attack.  If you get out of your car in a shopping center parking lot and are engaged with your cell phone and not your surroundings, you have made yourself an attractive victim to a criminal.

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No one “deserves” to be a victim.  Sometimes, a person is at the wrong place at the wrong time but you can do several things to make yourself safer.  Don’t shop at night.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Avoid places with lots of people drinking alcohol.  Go out with a group of people.

As far as which self-defense techniques are better, grappling or striking, I don’t believe in either grappling or striking.  You should be able to choose from either depending on the situation.  No technique will work all the time.

Keep kicking!  Or punching! Or choking and arm barring!

The Day American Martial Arts Changed

On November 12, 1993 at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, a fourth degree black belt in the little known art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (commonly called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the United States) cut through an eight man style versus style martial arts tournament.  Royce Gracie would turn the martial arts world on its head.

After his walk through the competitors, martial artists started scrambling to add ground fighting to their arsenal.  Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools exploded in the United States.  These new schools threatened some of the more established Judo and Karate schools.

I have found many instructors in traditional arts addressed this change by pretending it did not occur.  They have ignored the explosion of BJJ and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).  They are cheating themselves out of a rich field of instruction.

Kenneth, Caleb and me on the day we promoted Caleb to Red Rank.

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