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I found it strange when “No-Gi” became a thing. Not the concept of training without the kimono, which I do at least half of my training time, but the label. I see the necessity, the value and the realism of it. But the moniker, and the way it stuck and the eventual dogma that has become associated with the concept of No-Gi training is just, well…weird.

Here is why I think it is weird to be dogmatic about no-gi training, and by dogmatic I mean the viewpoint of those convinced that training with a gi is somehow less realistic for self-defense purposes. Do these people plan to only fight naked? Because I YouTubed it and I found very few completely naked fights (although there are some bizarre things turned up by a Google search for “Naked Fighting” and I don’t recommend this search).

All joking aside, I understand how this came about of course. The more grip dependent bjj became in sportive and sparring contexts, the more divorced from real fighting it became. I agree that spider guard has extremely limited application to a street fight. But this is the extreme example, and too many folks confuse the part for the whole in regards to usefulness in martial arts training in general. For example, if you think that the patty-cake drills frequently found in Wing Chun, JKD, FMA styles, etc. are direct reflections of how the fight would or should happen, then you understand nothing about violence. Moreover, you missed the point of those drills. Drills like those are like chain wrestling or kata: they are segments of techniques connected with likely transitions, not necessarily linked for practicality but for flow and fluidity to enhance sensitivity, receptiveness to changes in energy, angle recognition and building of attributes useful in an actual fight.

Back to BJJ and No-Gi grappling, I find it especially strange that I don’t hear criticism of wrestling or boxing as “unrealistic” methods of training for fighting. Rarely do I see a comment on a boxing video the way I see on BJJ competition videos such as “This shit will get you killed if you try it in a street fight.” Yet, I don’t think it is even arguable that a bjj competition is more of a “fight” than boxing by far.

And now that I said that and surely pissed off some BJJ haters, let me elaborate: Boxing is extremely useful and valuable for a street fight, in my opinion. My opinion, however, is that the rules of boxing are far more strict than boxing.

Here is a comparison:

What can you NOT do in BJJ competition that you CAN do in boxing? Strike. That’s about it.
Now what can you NOT do in boxing that you CAN do in BJJ competition? Clinch for extended periods of time, throw, sweep, grapple, choke, attack joints for submissions and the list goes on.

Please understand, this is not saying that one is superior to another. This is just to point out the absurdity of comments like the example given above that are ubiquitous on BJJ videos.

Back to my original point, I suggest that training in the gi, with accessibility of grips, is potentially more realistic for self-defense. Understanding how to grab, hold and control someone is very important when not in effective striking ranges, and whether you want or not, most likely the fight will hit a range where striking is not the most effective tool for the job. And while the clothing an attacker has on may not identically match a gi, there will be comparable grip opportunities, that with intelligent training can be modified to fit the occasion. Training with complete restriction against grabbing the clothing can limit this ability.

If you are training for a No-Gi competition or MMA, then of course, don’t become too dependent on gi training. Although, it is arguable that there is still some benefit to training with the gi for some portion of a fight camp for MMA. But that is a subject for another time.

So in summary, unless you are training for No-Gi comp or MMA or specifically for battling nudists, there is a benefit to be had from training with the gi, especially as it pertains to self-defense. And even at the sport level, there are attributes to be gained or polished by wearing the gi. Sport is sport, whether wrestling, boxing, fencing, whatever and one should develop a filter for absorbing what is useful and discarding what is not for varying contexts of fighting.

Too many times I hear and read, when showing a self-defense technique, “You shouldn’t have let the attacker get that close,” or “you should have gone on the offense.” Here’s the thing: self-defense techniques are about dealing with a situation gone bad already. If you could preemptively end the situation or avoid, then awesome, do that. But when you are caught off guard and placed into a negative situation is when you need the techniques the most.

Having said that, I at least wanted to put out a video showing a jiu-jitsu option for going on the offense when you can. In this video the fight has ensued and you are squared up with the opponent. Here’s what happens:

1. You manage the distance until you decide to engage.

2. You close the distance with a jab to cross or overhand right, which if it lands, great, but at least opens the opponent’s hands to get you into position for a single leg takedown.

3. If the opponent is unaffected by the strikes to the extent he stops your single leg setup, you can transition to a dirty boxing clinch. The dirty boxing clinch allows for strikes and throwing potential as demonstrated in the video.

I’ll let the video show the rest. Please like, share and comment on the YouTube video! Thank you all!

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I have tried having the conversation/debate/argument about Sport and Self-Defense for BJJ, and I have arrived at this: It is all good. Train it all. The sport can enhance the self-defense and vice versa.

Oddly, this isn’t always a popular opinion, because the self-defense purists argue that the sport is a corruption of the original intention of the Gracie family martial art. I totally understand this viewpoint, because if I were to call boxing or wrestling or judo a complete martial art, I would be very sorely mistaken. Sport BJJ is just that though – it is a rule-based and structured sport in which many techniques are adapted and applied in a competitive environment in order to determine who can best apply their art in that setting. I don’t know any serious competitors that think what they are doing is a complete representation of the totality of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

However, there are many sport competitors who neither see the need or value of practicing the more martial aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They are content with training only for sport, and don’t care about the self-defense. This is perfectly OK! If I only want to box, and have no aptitude or interest in grappling or weapons training or whathaveyou, then fine! Let me box. However, if you are like me, you enjoy the entire art and see the value of sport jiu-jitsu in building attributes that enhance your ability to apply all techniques, such as timing, sensitivity, reflexes, athleticism, etc.

So what is the real problem here? It is when one side of the “argument” makes the assumption that the other views their version as the true and only way to train. Competitors thinking the self-defense is impractical or a waste of time are as bad as self-defense practitioners who train in a vacuum and never pressure test their abilities in a competitive environment. Personally, I believe these two myopic groups have the loudest voices (or keyboard strokes) in the debate, which is very unfortunate because it makes it seem as if they are representatives of BJJ…and they are not. These loud voices of opposition and critics of other practitioners should be marginalized and minimized. When we focus too much on the criticism of others, we take the attention off of our own progress.

I will leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

These are a couple of favorite high percentage finishes off the arm drag. Enjoy!

Check out this technique that has gotten me out of many a difficult knee-on-belly situation. I hope you like it.

GSP vs Hendricks

It’s been 20 years since MMA has exploded and I personally feel like it is the best and worst thing to have possibly ever happened to martial arts. We now have a showcase for applying martial arts in a limited rules arena, creating an environment to pressure cook fighting techniques for applicability. We have one of the most exciting sports ever invented. We have martial arts being cool and not cheesy now…sort of.

What else did we get with it? Well, there are some serious drawbacks. In the beginning, the fights we real and raw and brutal. Too brutal to sustain it as a mainstay without some overhaul and additional rules. It had some significant growing pains. And with rules you lose some reality. And with repetition and mixing of the arts and studying of tape you lose some of the spontaneity that makes for real fights. The fighters no longer train to fight anyone as much as they train to fight a specific person whom they have ample footage on to inspect.

When the weight classes appeared, a degradation took place as well. No we have 200+ pounders fighting at 170 and nutritionists revolutionizing the weight cutting process. Which is fine. It’s a sport after all.

And that’s what we have now. A sport. And again, that’s all well and good, but now I find myself as one of those folks I argued with for years saying “it’s not real fighting.” It was tantamount to real fighting and it has elements of fighting and very few could argue that a UFC fighter would have a hard time in a street fight against 99% of the population. This isn’t my point. The people that I say this in opposition to now are the ones who scoff at self defense because they don’t see it in the UFC.

The ones I speak of are the ones who “wanna train MMA” without wanting to train martial arts.

MMA = striking, takedowns, grappling & submissions / rules & money

There is a necessity to train these in blended settings but there is also a more important need to focus on the individual arts as well as pay respect to the arts. Too often now guys wanting to earn themselves a belt or be looked at heroically by their peers want to go jump into a cage and play fighter for a night. Insufficient training, lack of respect and humility, and just plain trashy behavior are rampant in the small amateur cage fights put on by shady promoters looking to make a payday.

And then we have the fighters who are essentially the Frankenstein monster of a team of analysts and trainers and doctors and the like who have culminated their efforts and produced a human machine for battle within the cage. Which is an interesting experiment and amazing to see what can be created, but not exactly conducive to a fighter vs fighter atmosphere.

Ultimately, these criticisms or critiques of mine are not to put down MMA. I think it is entertaining and informative and important. I’m simply pointing out the pros and cons and if anything warning about the potential degradation to martial arts as the proliferation of MMA only grows.

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The largest, one of the most destructive storms to hit land ever. That’s what they’re calling Typhoon Haiyan that decimated the Philippines. The images and video are horrific. But it’s so far away, so far from home here in the US. Why help? How?

It’s overwhelming when you see the scope of the destruction. After the Tsunami in Japan and before that Hurricane Katrina, I began to realize that I could do more to help instead of sending whatever I could manage to afford by itself. I began to consider how I could use my immediate sphere of influence to increase the amount of help to the cause.

I believe, regardless of what it is, you can use your vocation, avocation, hobby, passion or influence to bring attention to causes when they arise. As a martial artist my charge was to find out how to use Jiu-Jitsu, and how to relate it, to the cause at hand. So far I have done charity martial arts workshops for breast cancer awareness and research, autism awareness and research, food and clothing donations, anti-bullying campaigns, and domestic violence awareness and resource funding. Sometimes I managed to raise thousands of dollars or hundreds of items while other times I’d only have a few people show and barely raise more than I could have donated alone. But the point was that I got others to pay attention and increased help to the cause.

So if you are a martial artist (and I suspect you are to some capacity if you read my blog), I want to share a couple of ideas about how to help. Maybe you’ve already done something like these or have already considered it. But if you haven’t thought of these or haven’t acted yet, now is the time.

Find an organization with better resources than you have.
The Red Cross is one of my favorites but there are countless others that specialize in disaster relief efforts. But do your homework because you will find unfortunately that there are many organizations that claim to put much more toward help than they actually do and some turn a bit too healthy of a profit while providing too marginal a portion of the money they collect to the effort.

Hold your own event.
Host a seminar, donate a portion or all of proceeds from classes for a month, talk up the cause during classes and lessons. It is not unscrupulous to do something you were already going to,like teaching or running your business, and raise money or help for a cause at the same time. Now, if you use an event to drum up business for yourself while offering no recompense toward the event, that is unscrupulous and you are a D-bag. So don’t do that. Be good. Don’t suck.

Get out your own wallet.
Don’t ask someone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself. The best way to influence people is to be a good example. There have been events I’ve put on where generous others with deeper pockets than my own have out-donated me, but I always pitch in what I can in addition to my time and organization and instruction.

If you are a serious martial artist you begin to realize that it’s more about helping people than hurting people. You recognize the interconnectedness of all of humanity and that what benefits some of us generally benefits us all. I teach because I care. I want to share with others this wonderful art that has changed my life in hopes that someone will be affected as I have been. And no one needs more help than those hit with such unforeseen, horrific tragedy like the Typhoon in the Philippines. These people, old and young, infants and elderly, pregnant women, handicapped and mentally challenged, those who are lost and have lost, all need help. Please do what you can.

Triumph

There’s always that question, particularly in Jiu-Jitsu, of whether the belt someone is awarded is legitimate. This question isn’t asked the same way in other arts because the criteria are different and in Jiu-Jitsu there is more of a hang up on who can tap who. Is it all about that? If you get that purple belt, should you be able to tap any blue belt? If you are a brown belt and can tap a black belt, do you automatically deserve your black? Does it depend on size or strength combined with technique? Is there a simpler answer?

Technique conquers all. I believe that. But the technique doesn’t guarantee victory. All things being equal, equal technique and experience, the bigger or stronger or faster opponent will typically come out on top. You shouldn’t be expected to best a 250 pound athlete of a purple belt if you are a 150 pound purple belt. So the performance basis of any martial art, Jiu-Jitsu included has a cap on it.

Furthermore, shouldn’t the “art” aspect be considered? The philosophy. The principles behind the technique and the knowledge you gain are benefits of the study and practice that potentially carry on further than even the techniques themselves. Just as in yoga, self-study or self-reflection is a premise of the journey, Jiu-Jitsu likewise should be approached with concern toward the character development of the practitioner. This hits closer to the heart of the questions posed in the beginning.

Here is what I have surmised as one of the most important considerations in progression in Jiu-Jitsu: it’s not a matter of are you better than anyone else, it is whether you are better than the you the you were. Can you tap the yesterday you? The last week or last month you? Do you have a more refined lens or approach to training than the previous you?

Can Buchecha tap Relson Gracie? I’m gonna say most likely. Maybe not, but I’d put my money on Buchecha. So why not give Buchecha the red belt? Let’s pose a different question. Who can teach the most people a deeper understanding and appreciation of Jiu-jitsu? Who can show someone the most versatile of movements for a multitude of situations to the most diverse individuals with varied levels of physical ability? Now my money goes on Relson.

So again, Jiu-Jitsu wins, because it’s not about just a few criteria. A true professor in my estimation, watches students closely and insightfully, considering many aspects of their ability and character. I understand that there are schools and teachers who only award rank based on performance in fights or tournaments. “You got a gold medal? Here’s your next stripe.” “You got a rear naked in your mma fight? Here’s your brown belt.” Sad to see.

I’d rather put a stripe on the belt of the kid who looked the bully in the eye for the first time in his academic life than on the belt of the kid who was already an athlete in five other sports and is now tearing up all the grappling tournaments. That guy who could barely tie his shoes because he was so overweight and now can roll for half an hour – that’s the guy I admire. Again, I admit, I love watching uber talented athletes do miraculous things on the mat or in the ring, but they are not half of the hero as the woman who stopped the sexual assault that was about to happen to her.

So while you have to be able to perform the techniques with understanding and appropriate proficiency, and you should be able to defend yourself easily with these techniques against your physical equal of an opponent, these are but partial criteria in considering ranking qualifications in Jiu-Jitsu. Personal growth and development, and as Grandmaster Helio said, the triumph of human intelligence over brute strength, these all should be considerations in determining rank.

This isn’t always the case. And these are my opinions. And these are my convictions.

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Many refer to Jiu-Jitsu training as therapeutic. The therapy comes from enjoying the moment by being completely involved on the mat. We live in a culture that conditions us to multitasking, pulling our minds in a million directions at once. It is wonderful then to have a place and time that forces you to be completely present in the moment as Jiu-Jitsu does.

Once you get into the roll, you exist outside of your hectic life, focused and immersed into the task at hand. You realize, in that special moment, that nothing exists before or after, and therefore worries and regrets do you no good whatsoever. This is Zen. This is living Jiu-Jitsu.

And as much as it is wonderful to share epiphanies and explain metaphors for life from Jiu-Jitsu, there is no substitute for sweat. The purest benefit comes from the rolling. Drilling, repetition, detail work, instruction are all necessary to training and improving, but the true philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu comes from the mat time, the rolling. That’s where the therapy and wisdom come from.