17 Dec 2004

It’s nearly the end of another year and what an action packed 2004 it’s been in Meerkat world. As it’s my last day in the office and I have nothing to do, I totted up all the hours I spent doing some form of MA this year. It adds up to a staggering 378 hours. That's more than one hour every day! And it doesn't include time spent travelling, work-outs at home or in the gym.
It doesn't quite compare to legendary masters who live in mountains and meditating for years on end, but not bad considering I have day-work and home chores too.
I had several highlights for 2004, including; finding a great new place to train BJJ, competing at the Jikishin Nationals, discovering systema, passing my second dan and enjoying the parties afterwards. But the bits I cherish most are the people I meet along the way. Watching Wayne battle his way to a second round win at groundfighting was inspiring. Eddie coaching me at the same event was tremendous. Having the camaraderie of my training pals during the Nidan examination day was a real support. Basically ending the year on a very big high and looking forward to more Meerkat adventures for 2005.
Cheers everyone!

Looking forward to 2005

It’s nearly the end of another year and what an action packed 2004 it’s been in Meerkat world. As it’s my last day in the office and I have ...

13 Dec 2004

Whoa! What a weekend it’s been. First off, our little gang all successfully passed their second dan gradings. Two years of training was finally over and you could see the relief on everyone’s faces. We all now get to add a second stripe to our belts and walk a little taller today. For some reason I had it in my mind that second dan would be less tough than the first dan. Don’t be fooled. It was tough. By the second mat my gi was soaked in sweat and I was starting to hit the wall – the place where strange anarchic thoughts take over your head and threaten to jeopardise your carefully laid plans. I certainly was not going to give up then so I resolved to hit harder, throw faster and kick stronger – the horrendous bruises on my poor uke are testament to that! She clearly also thought the same and my wreck of a body is barely functioning enough to type this blog.
Lock after throw after choke after kick, the grading wore on and I was hardly able to catch my breathe when it was time for my favourite bit – modules – the bit where I get to show off the Meerkat skills like no other. After a shaky start, I soon got everyone’s attention with my jumping flying (yes Meerkats can fly) knee stamp – a real crowd pleaser and one that got many positive comments later in the day.
Then, it was all over, not with a bang, more with a whimper as my shattered body was then ordered to help clear away the mats. A nice certificate, some photos and lots of beaming faces, we all trundled off home to prepare for the gala dinner and dance in the evening.
It’s nice to know that we all did well. I got a real sense of camaraderie this time because a lot of my fellow training pals were grading at the same time. Quite a few seriously senior senseis complimented me on my techniques and mentioned how close I was to receiving a credited honour in my marks. I’m not fussed, just passing is good enough. At this level, you are not competing with anyone, you do these advanced grades more as a challenge to yourself, rather than any other reason.
There’s more happening this week with the club party and works party and loads more, but right now, my crippled fingers need a rest.

Roll on for the third!

Whoa! What a weekend it’s been. First off, our little gang all successfully passed their second dan gradings. Two years of training was fina...

8 Dec 2004

It’s really nice every now and again when our club can do something for it’s members other than just teach martial arts. Last night was excellent as we began the session by congratulating David on his purple belt grading and presented to Wayne the 2004 club merit award. With the forthcoming joint clubs Xmas party and the return of a few old faces, it was an excellent evening.
It wasn’t all plain sailing however as one new person confessed to me that she was only here to accompany her mate and didn’t really want to come. In fact she explained in no uncertain terms that she had certain ‘issues’ with ju-jitsu as a martial art. Well, all I can say is I tried my best, but we can’t please all of the people all of the time. I’m reminded of an old Chinese proverb that my dad used to say (really!): the half empty bottle makes more noise when shaken than the full bottle. Using that criteria, I would say I am a shamelessly three quarter empty bottle. But hopefully after this Sunday’s Nidan grading, the bottle will be slightly less empty.

Empty Bottles

It’s really nice every now and again when our club can do something for it’s members other than just teach martial arts. Last night was exce...

2 Dec 2004

The Meerkat's day-world of office humdrum rarely crosses over into the more exciting nocturnal world of martial arts madness, but the other day I had the rare pleasure of being asked to assist in a photo shoot involving 6 year old twins partaking in a mock karate class. I bought uniforms and belts, worked out poses and sketched ideas. The day of the shoot came and while the professionals were busy sorting out the equipment, I also turned into kiddies entertainer and motivator as they were looking a bit bored and probably would have got up to all sorts of mischief. Anyhow, we got them into their little Ninja poses and there was me running on and off set making sure they kept their places, while the stylists was making sure the pins and clips didn't show and the hair&beauty person brushed makeup on everyone. Am happy to report that the shoot went very well and my ideas were transcribed fairly faithfully by the photographer. The only annoying thing was that my final idea - the one where the twins would muck around and fight with each other - didn't really happen on cue, but once everyone's attentions were turned, they would do precisely that! Anyhow, a fun day and of course, the Meerkat is now available for hire for photoshoots and martial arts lessons to juniors.

Double Trouble

The Meerkat's day-world of office humdrum rarely crosses over into the more exciting nocturnal world of martial arts madness, but the ot...

16 Nov 2004

I was given a sudden introduction to the lucrative and commercial world of mixed-martial-arts merchandise when I decided I needed a specialist gi to train in BJJ. A brief surf of the net and Geez, you should see the range on offer from like a zillion manufacturers, all hailing to offer the best grappling gear around. Not only is there a plethora of fabric types (Gold, single, double and hybrid weave), then you have to choose colour (white is usual, but black, blue, red, even denim coloured can be bought), and of course size – not immediately obvious as you would think. The general spiel promises to increase your advantage in the fight game with extra breathability, tough stitching, and tight body armour-like fits.

On top of that, you have to decide what patches to have sewn on. Oh yes, patches. It’s all the rage. Top fighters are sponsored to compete professionally so have to wear sponsorship logos, just like any other sport I suppose, but now, you too can emulate your fave fighter by buying the same patches to sew on your gi. These range from simple manufacturer logos to fierce motifs revealing badass and angry intentions. Also, don’t make the faux pas of sewing on the wrong team patch. For example, if you are from Royce Gracie, don’t put on Gracie Barra, even though both sport a similar looking ‘G’ in their design. Confusing? I know!

In fact, the whole story of the Gracies, who’s who and what they have done, is the intriguing subject of a book (The Gracie Way, Peligro). Most are brothers or close cousins, some have fallen out with each other, some are bestest friends, a few are sworn enemies. It’s an amazing story, but I digress. Gi manufacturers fight too, just like their sponsored protégés. One company (Gameness) with the same name is split between Brazil and the USA. Each claiming to be the official maker and warning you not to buy the inferior other version. Some companies claim to offer essential benefits over other ‘named’ rivals. I’m sure you weren’t allowed to mention other manufacturers names in advertising?

All of this points to what is a very lucrative and money-making enterprise. So very different to the more meek and less showy trad martial arts merchandising I am used to.So there I was faced with a huge diversity of choices. I closed my eyes and clicked on the cheapest one I could find. It arrived last week (normal white and minus showy patches thankfully) and I must say, it is a dream to spar in. Though it alone does not make me a better fighter. I don’t think anything can, other than perseverance and hard work.

Kerpow! Kerching!

I was given a sudden introduction to the lucrative and commercial world of mixed-martial-arts merchandise when I decided I needed a speciali...

7 Nov 2004

The groundfighting category in our national championships is becoming more and more popular. Gone are the days of simply dumping on your opponent and hoping for the best. These days, to even stand a chance, nearly everyone has to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – there simply is no other way to win. This year was no exception as it seemed almost everyone wore a BJJ Kimono replete with fierce looking patches. But I was not to be outdone. I had something no one else had – my very own personal (and bona fide) BJJ instructor right beside me giving me support.

As soon as Eddie turned up, I could sense the whispers and looks of interest. If they did not know who he was, he certainly made sure donning a fetching Royler Gracie T-shirt and accompanying tattoos! For once, perhaps the usually all dominant Irish team were looking a little nervous?

Well, I certainly couldn’t say I did not prepare. The past two months have seen me train intensively in BJJ, concluding in a seriously mind-blowing private session with my coach. The details of the fight I have left on the main club website [link]http://www.whitewall.fsnet.co.uk/southend2004.htm [/link] but suffice to say that in my mind, I did well to counter and almost beat an experienced BJJ specialist in my first ever ground fighting contest.
The atmosphere surrounding our mat was very special as Eddie and co sneaked on to my mat and, together with Kev and Wayne, we suddenly became a very vocal and supportive ringside team. Brilliant, just like a real BJJ contest.

Ok, so I never won my fight and the Bronze slipped out of my grasp, but I think, I gained something more important. I succeeded in proving that I can hold my own in a sport that is very new to me and is still very much in the novice stages. I realised that all they say about positioning, timing and technique will allow the smaller individual (read, always me) to defeat a bigger person. The Gracies were right in believing this and proved so.

But let’s not forget what our main style of (Japanese) ju-jitsu has and continues to offer me. The other night, as I drilled my juji-gatame escapes, so common in BJJ, a nagging thought that I had seen this technique before. Then it dawned on me – white to green belt kata, shows this very same escape, only contained within a flowing kata. Wonderful stuff, so actually, it was in my syllabus all along. What other nuggets of wisdom are waiting to be discovered? That’s why I am happy to train in both styles and marvel at both the differences, and similarities between two arts that on the surface, share only a name in similarity.

Southend 2004

The groundfighting category in our national championships is becoming more and more popular. Gone are the days of simply dumping on your opp...

2 Nov 2004

The National championships are on Saturday and I'm pooing my pants. I don't know why I entered for my weakest event (groundfighting) but I'm worried of making a tit of myself. True, I have been cramming my training in BJJ but only for four weeks and it's too little too late. Despite this, my BJJ instructor seems to have faith and is coming to watch. He's even offering me free private sessions this week to work on more techniques. I'm afriad I will disappoint him but I've got to do it now and I just hope I don't get my arm or neck broken.

The anxiety I have with the contest is several-fold. First, the weight divisions are unfairly split so that I (at a meerkat friendly 57Kg) will possibly face competitors of up to 74 Kg. Secondly, I will probably face competitors who have trained in BJJ or judo for many years. Thirdly, I have heaped an undue amount of pressure on myself by entering in this event, with my club, family and friends all watching to see how I do. Finally, the event is not like BJJ and there are many favourite techniques (like standing up and running away) that I am barred from doing, drastically reducing my options.

Having said all this. On my side there is the fact that I have done many of these contests before (sparring and randoms) and I actually enjoy the build up of energy and nerves. Also, I don't think anyone thinks I will do particularly well so even though I am a black belt, the expectation is not so high. It's also my first time doing GF and I will have built up good experience for future fights - maybe in pure BJJ for the future?

So there you go, my next entry will report on my efforts and let's hope I actually have working fingers that can type...

Crunch Time

The National championships are on Saturday and I'm pooing my pants. I don't know why I entered for my weakest event (groundfighting)...

28 Oct 2004

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Mrs Meerkat put her foot down and told me off for spending too much time on martial arts and not enough time with her - it's the not being at home for seven nights a week that was upsetting her. Fair enough, I couldn't really give a decent response, apart from some feeble comment about preparing for my second dan and for the competition. I left the discussion with vague promises about cutting back to only three nights a week once my grading was done. It'll be hard though. At the moment, I really feel I am hitting a peak never before reached in terms of mental and physical well-being. I really want to push myself to the limit and see how far I go. Maybe, I am addicted. I get a real sense of high after a good training session, but as soon as the next day breaks, all I can think about is hitting the mat again.

To describe the sensation - well before, I used to train and the next day feel really achey so I would rest, then train the following day. Recently, I have been training without those breaks. First, the intensity of workout impacts negatively on your body and you get run down, maybe catch flu or some cold. Then you get over that and build yourself back up. Training day after day without a break, you experience pain accumulating and the aches get achier and the stiffness just gets stiffer, until one day, you feel no pain. It's still there but in reality, you have blocked it out. Now, you can perform any number of circuit exercises at the drop of a hat, stretch to regions never before reached, kick higher, punch faster, throw further. It's an amazing feeling.

But I guess I have to take a step back and review where I am in life. It's nice to work towards a goal, like a grading or competition, but I should consider the bigger picture. What's the point in ignoring the very thing that keeps me together -my family and my friends. The number of times I have turned down invites and outings in preference to training. The number of times I have come home late to be greeted with 'dinner's in the oven' - it's all going too far. Sacrificing marital happiness for martial happiness is not worth the trade-off. Compromise is in order and this will be my resolution for 2005.

Mind you, there's always lunch time training...

Trouble and Strife

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Mrs Meerkat put her foot down and told me off for spending too much time on martial arts and not eno...

26 Oct 2004

Last nights BJJ training was my worst. My instructor, in trying to help me practice for the Nationals, asked all my sparring partners to work me extra hard. I was thoroughly beaten to a pulp and found it quite soul destroying. Not that I was tapped out too regularly, but I had no choice but to defend all the time and could not find one single avenue to attempt an attacking move. This is the hardest thing for me, due to my small size, this Meerkat struggles against a bigger opponent and I suspect that the rather liberal weight divisions at the Nationals will mean I will probably be the smallest there.

I did discover one nugget though. When I first joined, my instructor soon found out I was a shodan in ju-jitsu and he expressed his delight that I was happy to throw away any pretensions and ego (that some black belts have) and simply train as a white belt.
This confused me a bit since I didn’t even consider it an issue – why on Earth would I swan in to a different style of MA and boast about being a shodan – especially as I know I’ll get my ass whipped in sparring. But I found out that my instructor gave lots of private one-to-one lessons to senior dan grades in various styles of MA. He wouldn’t name names but did hint that some of them were heads of styles who wanted anonymity – and perhaps would find it a loss of face to come to a group class and get beat by mere white belts (some of whom may even be their own students).
I pondered on this thought and realised that at the end of the day, we are all in the same boat. White belt or 10th dan regardless, we are all on a continuous rollercoaster ride of learning – it never stops. I know in my mind that I am happy to get beat on a regular basis, as I can only learn from the experience – I’m not sure how and it’s frustrating as hell but I will learn to get better.

One step forward, two steps back

Last nights BJJ training was my worst. My instructor, in trying to help me practice for the Nationals, asked all my sparring partners to wor...

18 Oct 2004

The new head of Jujitsu HQ has updated the association website and added a mission statement. The statement is available for all to read but I am particularly excited about this bit:

"there is a need to improve the overall level of Groundfighting skills, in particular with the youngsters, and this means getting our coaches up to speed so that we can pass along these essential skills. You can expect Groundfighting to be more prominent in the syllabus in the future."

This is something I have definitely been harping on about to anyone who will listen (usually just myself). Whilst the syllabus is extremely diverse and comprehensive, it is seriously lacking key ground skills. It is also the main reason I chose to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I am sure the growth of that sport has not escaped the notice of our new head.

Playing devil's advocate here, you might be tempted to say: But BJJ is a sport and we are self defence, so why should we learn ground skills just to keep up with the latest trend? Well, my answer is that BJJ offers so much more than simply a new way to compete in sport.

For a start, if anyone has gone four rounds with a BJJ specialist, you will realise that these skills are very useful indeed. Being tied up and having the life squeezed out of you from a choke of strangle is very scary - try anything unsporting and they laugh in the face of punches, kicks and pressure points. More than simply learning new techniques however, it is also a whole way of dealing with fights in terms of strategy and tactics. One person who frequents the MA forums, describes BJJ as the best 'delivery method' for fighting on the ground. I like that term, delivery method, it seems to encapsulate what the art achieves very succinctly.
Clearly, we are not trying to compete with BJJ, our art exists on it's own merits, has done for a very long time and will continue to do so. But I support the need to add new elements and slightly tweek the style to suit more modern times.

It is interesting to see how life goes around in circles. In 1915, a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu instructor named Esai Maeda taught his brand of jiu-jitsu, which was actually Kano Judo, to a young Carlos Gracie in Brazil. The whole Gracie clan adapted and learned the art, challenged the world, blah, blah etc etc. Today, I personally know of many ju-jitsu students from our style who also train in BJJ - myself included. Out of respect to our instructors, we try to be discrete about it but I find that the two methods really do complement each other well.

I'm a big advocate of sporting based sparring and grappling to enhance the student's martial art abilities. Back at the club, we have always made groundfighting and sparring a part of our regular training but it's important people understand the differences with self defence and sport.

Well, that's the rant, now I get to eat my words as my BJJ instructor has come back from holiday and my groundfighting training resumes in earnest on Monday. Gulp!

Groundfighting - the best delivery method.

The new head of Jujitsu HQ has updated the association website and added a mission statement. The statement is available for all to read but...

11 Oct 2004

During an after session pub conversation with the young Algenon I spotted that he chose to wear martial art shoes as his daily footwear. A couple of jokes about always being prepared for random attackS on the street and then he said that actually, it was quite the rage to wear these shoes - you'll see all the kids wearing them. For those not accustomed to the martial art, or 'Budo' shoe, they are invariably black or white, with red or black flashes and do not have laces - the tongue being stiched into the main shoe to provide a suitable surface area for striking.
They also have very thin soles with the key trademark of a single, circular grip underneath the ball of the major toe. Not exactly fashionable, they are, very practicle and, until Saturday, I thought cheap.So there I am on a Saturday afternoon in a trendy shoe shop, the missus fretting over which monstrously priced shoe to buy when my attention wanders and I spot an adiddas martial art shoe exactly like the one's we use. A quick check at the price tag and what I misread as £6, actually was a heart stopping price of £60!!!
Wow! What price fashion. Especially as these shoes cost tuppence to make and contain absolutely no hi-tech features like air this or air that. My MA supplier kindly offers me a club discount on equipment and these same shoes (without the Adiddas branding) are sold for about £20 each.

Shoes You Sir!

During an after session pub conversation with the young Algenon I spotted that he chose to wear martial art shoes as his daily footwear. A c...

6 Oct 2004

Just what are the college thinking of? Last week, Kev parked his bike as usual outside the main building to our dojo and lo and behold, he returned to find it had been clamped! Wheelclamping bicycles - now that is taking the biscuit. It seems the powers that be are sick and tired of piss poor students moaning about their stolen bikes so now, there is a blanket ban on parking bikes on campus. Instead, you must obtain a swipe card, have your details registered, then only use the allocated bike shed (a thieves den if ever there was). Us visitors are not allowed to use these facilities. So what are the half dozen or so cyclist members supposed to do? Tie their bikes up to a lampost and leave them at the mercy of thieves, dog wee and student pranksters?
I thought London was supposed to be getting a greener transport agenda. That means congestion charge to dissuade drivers, more buses, cycle lanes, cheaper tubes and obviously - more places to put your bikes. But what have we seen? Now't. Congestion charge hasn't reduced traffic much, none or very badly designed bike lanes, rising tube fares and now this from the college. Ridiculous!!!!
John reckons we can use the bike shed in an adjacent quadrangle but will have to fight for spaces since the rival Jitsu club are the main users - could be interesting, the real fight school - but with proper rules and stuff.
Mind you, I use the car so will have no need to fight for bike spaces.

On yer bike!

Just what are the college thinking of? Last week, Kev parked his bike as usual outside the main building to our dojo and lo and behold, he r...

4 Oct 2004

Sometimes traditional ancient medicine can work where the conventional fails. All week I have been wracked with flu - not something I normally fall victim to, I was stuffed full with tablets and vitamins and cough syrup and my energy reserves were down to their lowest on Sunday. So, without much choice, Mummy Meerkat gets out the chinese cups and begins her cupping therapy. To those not in the know, cupping is an ancient eastern therapy where glass miniature bowls are heated with a wick for a split second then placed in the body. The temperature gradient means that as the cup cools, it sucks the skin into the space of the bowl. Rather like an over keen love bite. That's usually painless but the next bit is less pleasant - having previously applied a light coating of vaseline on the back, the cup is then slid along the back up and down, all the while your skin is 'sucked' within the space of the bowl. That's a tad painful. then after a few minutes of moving, five or six more cups are applied and left there to do their magic. After ten or so minutes, the cups are removed and you are left with some very severe looking red circular marks on your back. The effect however, is interesting. After about an hour or two, I felt my energy level slowly begin to return and after a good night's sleep, I am almost totally back to normal - refreshed and invigorated.



To the dismay of Mummy Meerkat, I am usually quite skeptical of most Chinese medicines and the way they work, however, I am pleased to say that cupping is a useful therapy that definitely accelerated my return to health and fitness. Apparently it is also something one can easily do at home without too much prior training - although in future, I feel much safer if left in the hands of the experts.
Sometimes traditional ancient medicine can work where the conventional fails. All week I have been wracked with flu - not something I normal...

28 Sep 2004

My cover has been blown. It seems the boys at the BJJ class are all aware that I am a ju-jitsu instructor and my days training as an anonymous beginner are over. No idea how they found out as I certainly never said anything, but it seems they are cool about the fact and the coach even chatted about how good it was to don a white belt and try something new. It's a different attitude to when I told the other BJJ class about me and they all saw it as a green light to thump me to submission. Anyway, making interesting progress with the BJJ as I managed to get a couple of tapouts. In fact I enjoyed it so much time just flew and sparred for over an hour past the official finishing time. Sadly, two weeks holiday for the coach means I am BJJ-less for a fortnight and with Nationals fast approaching, I may not be match fit in time.

My cover is blown

My cover has been blown. It seems the boys at the BJJ class are all aware that I am a ju-jitsu instructor and my days training as an anonymo...

22 Sep 2004

Ko-budo on Saturday started off badly as during the very first warm-up exercise, the sleepy headed Meerkat managed to bash his injured elbow with nunchakus. Severe pain, but managed to hack way through 6 hours of weapons training, the highlight was some nifty new tonfa strikes and a new nunchaku kata.

Sunday was a day of rest thankfully - calm before the storm as I willingly stepping into the BJJ class on Monday. Two hours of grappling fun. MP commented that I was going rather manic on the mat. Manic is not the word - getting tapped out for six is what I would say. But Eddie is a good instructor and the club is the friendliest I've been to.

Today, Tuesday, was our guest systema seminar. I was worried no one would come but in the end, an ace turnout and most of the members were raving about systema. A couple didn't seem to think much of it, but that's usual I guess. It might even have pursuaded a couple to try it out on Friday nights.

Tomorrow is more training and then off to Milan....phew!!!!

Not enough days in the week!

Ko-budo on Saturday started off badly as during the very first warm-up exercise, the sleepy headed Meerkat managed to bash his injured elbow...

16 Sep 2004

Injury-bedevillled Jamie has come back from a few weeks absence of training to tell us of his amazing injuries. I'm pretty sure he won't mind me recalling his antics but this one is a corker: Jamie is frustrated at with his niggling joint injury so decides to do a spot of exercise using those giant elastic bands that you have to pull and stretch to gain resistance workout. This he does fine until, doing an upward pull, the rubber thingy slips from his foot grasp and, in the recoil, slaps him full force on his right EYEBALL!! Hitting it so hard that it started bleeding, and to top it off, starts to close up like a twelfth round boxer. Everytime he closes it to sleep or blink, the wound opens up again to bleed some more.Ok, horrid injury, go see a doctor you say, but Jamie is hospital-phobic and has so far resisted the temptation to see anyone. A week after his accident, he still can't see properly out of his eye. The best we can convince him to do is to at least see a high street optician.

Eye-eye!

Injury-bedevillled Jamie has come back from a few weeks absence of training to tell us of his amazing injuries. I'm pretty sure he won&#...

11 Sep 2004

I cannot recommend enough the forthcoming epic movie 'Hero'. It is a martial arts spectacular following the traditional storytelling of Chinese folklore - you know, ancient King, mystical assassins, lots of wire-fu action etc. Very crouching Tiger, but what sets this movie apart from the others is the sheer majesty of the cinematography. Colours - Jeees yes COLOURS wrap the film like a soft silk sheets. Action - you can believe a man can fly. Acting - love, betrayal, vengeance, kick-ass swordplay it's all there. Stars - ha! could you GET more famous than Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Donnie Yen and Zhang Ziyi.
This film screams OSCARS!!! It's also number one film in America right now, a stunning achievement when you consider it is in a foreign language.
Go see it.

My Hero

I cannot recommend enough the forthcoming epic movie 'Hero'. It is a martial arts spectacular following the traditional storytelling...

9 Sep 2004

I never used to prescribe to alternative therapies and supplements, I still very much doubt 99 percent of it stuff actually works, but I thought I would give Cod Liver Oil tablets a try. These fun sized translucent egg-shaped pessaries allegedly alleviate joint pain and, after a couple of weeks of eating them, I must admit, I am waking up with far less joint stiffness and the aches have virtually disappeared. Now all I have is muscle pain.

A fresh intake of newbies last night at class. It’s kind of like the start of new academic year at school. Keen, eager young students stand there wide eyed giving me there best “show me what you got” stare. Well, I think I did a good introduction as they all left with smiles and promises to return. Sadly, as is tradition, there is always one for whom the pace of warm-ups exceeds their own fitness expectations and he had to run to the loo, hand holding back a mouthful of vomit. He was fine afterwards and seemed very embarrassed. The irony is I thought I did a very short and easy warm-up segment. Oh well, we all have to begin somewhere.

Speaking of feeling sick, I was told that the girl we were watching very carefully hash her way through green belt grading on Sunday promptly collapsed in a feint at the end. Blimey, if you thought green was tough, wait til brown and black belt!!

Codswallop?

I never used to prescribe to alternative therapies and supplements, I still very much doubt 99 percent of it stuff actually works, but I tho...

6 Sep 2004

Grading day at the big HQ and it's here where us dan grades have to offer to volunteer as spare uke for partnerless kyu grades. My first one was incidentless as a yellow belt uke - pretty easy stuff. I get my pass stamped, breathe a sigh of relief and think: ''well, done my bit.'' But they are a man short down at the purple belt end and I'm the nearest one to the room...darn, I have to uke again...and this time, I get Big Tom. Big Tom is so tall that my pathetic over head punches barely reach his nose. Conversely, I'm too short for an effective shoulder wheel that he merely stoops over, making us both look rather dodge. Despite our height difference, he pulls off a near faultless grading as I get thrown around the dojo with gay abandon and the senior senseis have observed that I have given of myself to association causes more than adequately. Still, I think I had it lucky as all the other dan grades had to partner for brown belt, and man, that is one hell of tough a grading.

Volunteer punchbag

Grading day at the big HQ and it's here where us dan grades have to offer to volunteer as spare uke for partnerless kyu grades. My first...

1 Sep 2004

MY BIG FAT THAI KICKPAD
KBXG coach is back from his sabbatical in Thailand and don't we know it! I'm still sore after endless hours of roundhouse kicks to a big fat kick shield. It's such good fun and it puzzled me why his club didn't use shields before - relying instead on gloved partner cooperation. Shields are ace since you can whack them with mindless full force. Mind you, they are so big that you simply can't miss the pad, which probably means bad habits creep in, and probably why coach hasn't utilised them before. The kick drill where you start with one, then two, then three etc all the way up to ten is hard. One to five are great, then you hit a mini-wall and by the time you get to nine and ten, your previously invincible kicks are turned into a pathetic and weak imitation, then, you have to do the whole thing again for the other leg. And that's only the first drill!
I do like the fact that coach is still finding new ways to improve his own martial art development (we're talking about a real World Champion here) which ultimately we will benefit from. It's the right attitude and something I hope to emulate.
MY BIG FAT THAI KICKPAD KBXG coach is back from his sabbatical in Thailand and don't we know it! I'm still sore after endless hours...

27 Aug 2004

FLYING ARMBARS
That Guarana choccy bar is definitely giving me a chemically assisted boost to my training. Last night I was working on flying armbars as a counter to a counter to a front kick. Pretty awesome stuff. Might be rather over indulgent in self-defence terms, but it looks damned cool! We should split the syllabus into two parts. Part 'A' are techniques that work for self protection - like a hip throw, naked choke, groin kick or palm heel to the chin - all of them rather simple and unspectacular. Part 'B' techniques that probably would not work but look really cool such as flying armbar, leg wheel and most sacrifice throws. Of course some people are so good at part 'B' techniques that in all honesty, they probably could pull them off in real life. Now if I can somehow integrate my flying armbar sequence into one of the second dan modules, then I will definitely be flying (long as I eat some guarana of course!)

FLYING ARMBARS

FLYING ARMBARS That Guarana choccy bar is definitely giving me a chemically assisted boost to my training. Last night I was working on flyi...

24 Aug 2004

SEMINAR TIME
Been trying to organise a club seminar - usually we invite some of the Mill Hill club down but this year I thought we should take a diversion from ju-jitsu and invite my systema instructors. Speaking to Sam and Mary, they seem really keen on the idea, in fact they've taught the aikido club already so are fully prepped for a session with some jitsuka. Should be a good sesh though I wonder if Sam'll let us do a mass attack as requested, he says he wants to keep it simple. Either way, as he is fresh back from a training trip to Russia and soon Canada, he'll be buzzing with cool new ideas. The lack of matting may scare some of my members initially, but it's good to get out of the comfort zone every now and again. As for systema - it'll be interesting to see who 'gets' it and who doesn't.

COMFORT ZONE

SEMINAR TIME Been trying to organise a club seminar - usually we invite some of the Mill Hill club down but this year I thought we should t...

20 Aug 2004

DRUGS IN SPORT
With the recent farcical debacle involving the two Greek Olympic sprinters, I pondered on the question of whether drugs ever affects ju-jitsu (or indeed any martial arts activity). Our Association Governing Body certainly has a drugs officer representative and I suppose in theory, competitors should be submitted to random testing, but I doubt anyone ever has done so.Last night before training, I ate a Gurana Boost chocolate snack - this enabled me to train harder, faster and more intensively than normal, in fact, I was flying and everyone duly noted how intensely I trained. Mind you, being only a small furry creature, I am particularly sensitive to small amounts of stimulants such as caffeine and other alkaloids in drinks such as Red Bull, to extent that I act all hyper for about three hours then cannot get to sleep. Who needs illegal drugs!

DRUGS IN SPORT

DRUGS IN SPORT With the recent farcical debacle involving the two Greek Olympic sprinters, I pondered on the question of whether drugs ever...

18 Aug 2004

The BBC3 documentary Mind, Body and Kick Ass Moves is proving a real hit with the Meerkat and his friends. The highlight in episode 3 was Chris Crudelli volunteering himself to be attacked by genial but deadly karate Master Oshiro, who proceeds to continually poke his finger in the poor chaps neck, sending him flying backwards. There's no doubting Crudelli's expertise in the martial arts and he is an enthusiastic presenter but I'm not particularly wowed by his on-the-street chi-kung demos - in fact I don't buy the whole chi-energy thing at all, preferring to lean on the old 'it's all in the mind' hypothesis. Mind you, windmilling your arm around really really fast and then delivering a knockout punch is rather fun and really works! Looks like a new warm-up exercise for the next training session beckons.

Windmilling your arm around

The BBC3 documentary Mind, Body and Kick Ass Moves is proving a real hit with the Meerkat and his friends. The highlight in episode 3 was Ch...

16 Aug 2004

I'm happy to note that the wife has secured herself a permanent job, after months spent freelancing. The celebrations are tinged with a slight regret that this now means she has the excuse to go on a permanent spending bender in replacement of attending ju-jitsu sessions.

New job

I'm happy to note that the wife has secured herself a permanent job, after months spent freelancing. The celebrations are tinged with a ...

12 Aug 2004

Martial arts documentaries on British TV are one of the rarest events. You can probably count on one hand the number of docs ever shown terrestrial TV. Cable and dish users can watch any number of imported docs on the Discovery channel and anyone over 30 will remember 'The Way of the Warrior' the excellent BBC2 doc that travelled the world to show the usual collection of Chinese and Japanese MA but also travelled to India - supposed root of all the Eastern MA - revelation to me at the time. Sadly, it was never repeated and never released on video or DVD. The book of the program can easily be found but doesn't quite convey the magic of seeing old-time masters going about their MA activities.
BBC3 - that's digital TV to us no hopers stuck in analogue hell, is airing a ten part series called Mind, Body and Kick Ass moves. It follows one chap, an obsessive martial artist fluent in Chinese, who travels the far east in search of elusive masters and gets them to show us their tricks.
Consider the number of people in the UK who do martial arts (many hundreds of thousands I'm sure) compared to the number who play, say, snooker regularly (a few hundred?), never was there such a huge anti-bias towards television airing our favorite activity. The problem with filming real MA is that in 99 percent of cases, MA consists mostly of unspectacular and tedious repetition of techniques - a problem voiced by the producers of 'Mind,Body and Kick Ass Moves'. The other problem is that the general public is gorged on the high-wire kung-fu antics of recent blockbuster films such as the Matrix trilogy and it's ilk. As we all know, MA in the real world is nothing like that.
Apart from WOTW and maybe one of two other shorter less publicised programs, MB&KAM is a welcome breath of fresh air. Go on BBC, be brave and put the series on terrestrial, not the fringe digital.

MIND, BODY AND KICK ASS MOVES

Martial arts documentaries on British TV are one of the rarest events. You can probably count on one hand the number of docs ever shown ter...

8 Aug 2004

ONG-BAK - Quite the most fabulous martial film in recent years (and that's saying something!) Starring an unknown Tony Ja in this Thai-boxing spectacular, this films rocks big time!

As usual, the plot is incidental to the stunts, and boy what stunts. Too used to the wire-fu of films such as Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Ong-Bak is a refreshing return to 'old skool' stunts of the Jackie Chan kind, where comedy and risky inventiveness combine to great effect. The difference here is that all the stunt moves are Muay Thai inspired, rather than kung fu, so you will notice a radically different set of moves between the combatants.

Amongst the many favourite scenes, is one where the star is fleeing from a really big gang of roughnecks and has to dodge over, obstacles such as panes of glass, boiling woks, and get this - a pike jump through a ring of barbed wire as small as a sterring wheel...amazing stuff! Even the slow action scene where we watch Ja perform a Muay Thai style kata is quite amazing to see.

Forget Van Damne's apalling effort (Kickboxer) this is the real deal, I'm not sure it has seen an official release in the UK yet, so go order it from import on Amazon now!

Film Review - Ong Bak

ONG-BAK - Quite the most fabulous martial film in recent years (and that's saying something!) Starring an unknown Tony Ja in this Thai-b...

4 Aug 2004

I want to add my voice to the fact that online train booking company Qjump sucks big time. I planned a special surprise trip to Scotland for my other half, instead I spend all my time arguing with the inept customer services to get me a replacement ticket since they failed to deliver the originals. they just don't care and worse, they give you the wrong advice about what to do. Countless calls and numerous broken promises, I still have no tickets so we take a chance and get on the train anyway. Luckily, the GNER train staff are more than sympathetic. When I explain that I bought tickets that never showed, they ask: who with? And when I say Qjump they roll their eyes with a 'oh no, not another one' type of face. Yep, Qjump suck and they do it badly.

Qjump sucks

I want to add my voice to the fact that online train booking company Qjump sucks big time. I planned a special surprise trip to Scotland for...

30 Jul 2004

Why is it I never get the sympathy inducing injuries? It's always something very internal and odd, like my neck strain, and elbow strain, or the little toe is a bit wonky? Tell someone your neck is a bit dodgy and they just look at you funny. Of course, my refusal to bundle up in swathes of bandages or acres of neoprene supports obviously doesn't help. I say this because this month has seen a spate of niggling injuries to the dojo members. One member is out with damaged ligaments in her foot and has to hobble around on crutches (a definite 8/10 on the sympathy spectrum). Another is bedridden with flu (only a 6/10 here) and another has a twisted knee (possible great name for a rock band). Rumour has it, that someone once died of a heart attack doing ju-jitsu - now that is a whopping 10/10 in my book.I finally decide that the elbow thing is not going to go away so I see the doctor. She's clueless about my odd elbow and refers me to Hospital. Wow, now I'm in the sympathy zone big time since going to hospital is, like, a big deal. A couple of zaps of x-ray and the radiographer decides I am not an emergency case and sends me packing. I'm back to zero in the sympathy kudos stakes.

Injury kudos

Why is it I never get the sympathy inducing injuries? It's always something very internal and odd, like my neck strain, and elbow strain...

28 Jul 2004

The training with A. is going well as she is practicing every lunchtime now and puts me to shame with her diligence.
In the old days, a martial arts master would take on board one or maybe two eager young proteges to learn his ancient ways. I am in no way claiming the throne of an old master – far from it - but who would have thought of all the people in the office, the only one keen to learn ko-budo is a 40-something mother of two with scoliosis!
It all began when my brand new katana arrived at the office and I unwrapped for a sneeky inspection.  Passing by was A and she was open mouthed in marvel at the sword. A few months went by and, perhaps being inspired by watching Last Samurai or Kill Bill, she asked if I could show her a few moves with the katana.
Sure no problem! Come to class and we will do some weapons. But A didnt want to learn any of our ju-jitsu, just the katana. She mentioned her scoliosis and busy out of office family life so I figured, sure why not?I lent her a bokken and over the next six or seven weeks, showed her the katana of 8 cuts kata step by step. She learnt it all by heart and has now moved on to nunchaku. I think she is really loving the weapons work but I may present her with the biggest challenge yet - weapons demonstration in front of a select group of co-workers. Let's see if the moves are as slick when the pressure mounts!

Personal Student

The training with A. is going well as she is practicing every lunchtime now and puts me to shame with her diligence. In the old days, a ma...

25 Jul 2004

Last week I had to deal with a little trauma in the dojo. The way we stack the jigsaw mats there usually is little space for the poor buggers to dry out after a heavy session. Well, last week I turned up early and each single mat was dripping. A week's worth of bodily fluids were still embedded in the mats and, as it was summer and very humid, they were minging - i mean really minging!!! It almost made me want to
I layed all the mats out and put one of those office fans on full blast. Unfortunately, since there is no air circulation in our basement dojo, all this seemed to do was to waft all the combined odour of ancient matting and sweat by-products (read: ammonia) around the dojo.
Enter all the gang and the look on everyone's faces! Ewwwwwwww!.
The funny thing is that you soon get used to the noxious odour until someone else walks into the room and goes 'ewww what's that stink?'

We stack the mats vertically now, so they have some chance to dry out.

Smelly Jitsu!

Last week I had to deal with a little trauma in the dojo. The way we stack the jigsaw mats there usually is little space for the poor bugger...

23 Jul 2004

Well, it's here, the first entry in my new time-wasting achievement...the weblog. It won't change the world, and it won't pay the bills, but I'm pretty chuffed to be joining the ranks of millions of others within the Blogging community.Currently, I am laid low due to an elbow injury. Unusually, it is not self-inflicted, rather, an over-enthusiastic ju-jitsu instructor threw me so hard I had no time to unfurl the full length of my arm to breakfall properly. Instead, the very point of my elbow hit the woefully thin mat and it has hurt for the past three weeks.Luckily, this has given me the opportunity to start this blog and concentrate on other neglected duties, such as playing Xbox and updating my growing collection of Ogg files.

First entry

Well, it's here, the first entry in my new time-wasting achievement...the weblog. It won't change the world, and it won't pay th...

 

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