28 Sep 2008


Anything goes - no, not the musical of the same name, I'm talking about 'vale tudo' which apparently translates as 'anything goes'. It is the style of MMA (mixed martial arts) fighting that was taught by the Danny Burzotta seminar I just attended. Danny used to train in our trad JJ system and won so many competitions in so many events they were thinking of just handing him the medal each time to save everyone the bother. Anyway, that was a few years ago and Danny has since carved an MMA career for himself, first as a fighter, now, mainly as a trainer and promoter.
Danny began the session with submissions and takedowns from the clinch. Immediately it was obvious to the group we were in for an interesting ride, as the seminar progressed we sampled techniques from Muay thai, submission grappling, BJJ and even a technique that reminded me of our JJ syllabus.
Let me say that Danny, is a huge man. Standing at 6'3'', weighing 105 Kg and wall to wall muscle, he also has amazing technique and agility.
I partnered Bartek, our club's Polish strongman, who in true Bartek fashion, threw in lots of cheeky moves and variations from the standard drills that goaded me into a full on sparring match with him each time. It was great fun, but we probably should have been a bit more respectful as it could look like we were mucking around.
There was lots of interesting techniques but I felt a little removed from the whole MMA concept as it is a bit far from where I personally want to go with my ju-jitsu, although I do of course enjoy watching MMA, it is not something I want to train in anymore. Having said this, the whole seminar was good. I learned several new things, including the 'anaconda choke' which I have never done before. This was wicked and me and Bartek rolled around thrilled to be able to hurt each other in such a technical and flashy way!
Finally, at the end, we were matched up by Danny for some groundfighting. My first bout was with Bartek but we both agreed we were just gonna go light. Then I was matched with a young lad who I did not know before. He was pretty aggressive but in the end I subbed him 5 times in a row including my newly acquired anaconda choke. But then I got complacent and got caught in a silly ankle lock (duh!). I must say, this bit of sparring at the end really got my competitive spirit going and acted as a lovely taster for the big Jikishin tournament ahead.
If I had to voice once criticism, I would say that, whilst hosting MMA seminar is a nice introduction to the art, I think most members of my JJ association require seminars that are more relevent to our style of sport groundfighting (which is more judo and BJJ based than MMA). Unless that is, our style is going to change to MMA, in which case I will definitely be up for it - anacondas, boa contrictors, pythons and all.

Anything goes

Anything goes - no, not the musical of the same name, I'm talking about 'vale tudo' which apparently translates as 'anythin...

24 Sep 2008

Meerkat just had an awesome three consecutive days worth of training. On Sunday I attended an instructors training day with my Association head, sensei Brian Herbert. This was awesome as we got to examine in minute detail various throws, kung-fu style blocking drills and stand-up sparring techniques. Favourite moments were a quick but more efficient way to do a winding throw and the spur kick as a better way to use the front kick in sparring.
On Monday it was BJJ class over at Mill Hill and I flukely managed to get a collar choke on another blue belt who was much, much bigger than me.
Tonight, as the photos here show, I invited Nick Brooks over to prep our guys on groundfighting, BJJ style, for those interested in our forthcoming tournament.
The session began with one simple premise - the hip escape. Nick then showed a wide variety of escapes from mount and side, all using the hip escape, but escapes that would also lead to a subsequent submissions. We then worked some very simple opening gambits when starting with knees on the ground (our style) which is different to BJJ where you start standing up. These simple techniques were so easy, everyone got them straight away and had fun attempting these when we sparred at the end.
Speaking of which, something I thought quite extraordinary happened. Nick offered to spar with each and every one of us, one after another without a break. He duly did this, against our biggest guys too, and subbed each one with, if my memory serves me right, a triangle choke in each case. It was a jaw dropping display of groundfighting at its best.

Triangle to finish


Erm, triangle to finish

Yep, that'll be another triangle to finish.

Imperial Ju-Jitsu Club London with Nick Brooks

Nick and Seymour possibly in their most aggressive fighter pose.

So there you have it, three days of training bliss, with much much more to come. Sometimes I hate myself.

More pictures on Flickr.

Jitsu Inferno

Meerkat just had an awesome three consecutive days worth of training. On Sunday I attended an instructors training day with my Association ...

17 Sep 2008


Unbelievable as it may seem, I do actually have interests outside of martial arts. Photography is one. But if they gave belt ranks in photography, I would be a white belt one stripe, ok maybe the one stripe is an over-promotion.
Regardless, I do appreciate good art, and they don’t come much finer than the image above, taken by top studio photographer Spiros Politis, and featuring our Escrima buddies Diana and Alex from the Doce Pares Filipino Stick Fighting System.
When Alex came to our JJ club a few months back, he showed us his full contact sparring and the big leap depicted in the image is no trick - he really does leap six feet in the air to attack you. It’s amazing to watch, and really scary to be at the receiving end.
I asked Spiros what inspired him to come up with the concept and how he managed to take the photo. He generously got back to me with his thoughts:


“I was playing around with the idea of doing a rain shoot for quite a while prior to knowing about eskrima. Inspired by films such as Sin City and The Matrix I wanted to create a situation where some kind of action took place in the rain.
I came across Alex and Diana purely by coincidence through a mutual acquaintance who is an eskrima practioner herself and having seen them in training several times approached them with the idea.
The set up was technically very complicated and needed a big studio and an elevated stage for them to perform their action on in order for me to capture them at their most dramatic angle. The addition of rain to the set up meant that it had to be lit in such a way that the light went through the rain and wasn't reflected by the rain whilst still being able to light the people.

Keeping the very powerful photographic lights dry and away from the water was also v important in order to avoid fried martial artists! We then had a collecting pool below to pick up all the excess water. Needless to say it was also a rather expensive set up!
Shooting martial artists really doesn't differ much from shooting other sports in action. Its all in the preparation of the photographer and the talent of the performer. Incredibly though at the very point of capturing the image I cant actually see it as the shutter goes up-so a modicum of premonition is always good.”

The full set of images appears in the October issue of Men’s Health Magazine and is possibly the most exciting visual depiction of martial arts I have ever seen in a long time. Thanks to Spiros for permission to use the images. In the meantime, I’m inspired to take photos of ju-jitsu myself. Sadly, the finger-over-the-lens, out of focus effect is not as striking as Spiros’s. But, as we say in the MA world, practice, practice, practice, then beat the crap out of it.

Stickfighting in the rain

Unbelievable as it may seem, I do actually have interests outside of martial arts. Photography is one. But if they gave belt ranks in photo...

16 Sep 2008

I used to think I was a bit different to other martial arts practitioners. No, seriously, I mean being an established instructor from a trad martial art who moonlights in another (almost rival) martial art (BJJ) can't be too common right? And for a short time it probably was the case, since most of the BJJ comrades I met in the early days were people who only trained in BJJ. But recently I have come across quite a wide variety of guys, several of them who are instructors at their own school of martial arts. At Nick's club, one chap I met told me he runs a taekwondo-based MMA school here: http://www.ukblackbelt.com/ As a two stripe blue belt I thought he would be good, and in the two milliseconds it took for him to sink an armbar on me, my thoughts were quickly realised. God forbid I ever engage in a stand-up spar with him if he is this good on the ground. In fact BJJ now seems to attract a lot of guys who also train in other systems, especially trad JJ, like me. And the BJJ instructors and classmates seem to be very cool about this. It speaks volumes about the confidence they/we have in the art. Clearly, the idea that including an effective ground-based strategy into your repertoire is widely agreed to be important. So I am the special one no more, but I’m glad. The more we all learn to appreciate each other’s style, the better the world of martial arts. No secrets I say. Oh yeah, here’s the blooper reel to illustrate just how special I am:



It was grading day for my club students on Sunday. I had quite a few guys grading and all passed, thankfully. But a couple of errors were pointed out by the senior senseis had me cringeing because I was the one that taught them the erroneous techniques. Invigilating gradings is also frustrating for me as I can't help but look on at other students and critically thinking, Nooo, that was wrong, wrong, wrong. But having to perform in front of a judging panel is a nervous thing and nerves can play havoc with your memory, coordination, and ability to do, erm, ju-jitsu.
So thankfully, the senseis grant a large degree of allowance for this.
Speaking of grades, as we all know, BJJ awards grades ad hoc and not on a formal grading like trad JJ. so it was a nice surprise for me to be awarded my third stripe at blue belt by Nick Brooks. I'm quite chuffed as I feel accepted into the fold at what is still a fairly new club for me. I'd better watch my back though. A three stripe blue belt I think makes me technically the most senior non-teaching regular at the club. Gulp!

Special One

I used to think I was a bit different to other martial arts practitioners. No, seriously, I mean being an established instructor from a trad...

7 Sep 2008

I've finally finished my epic showreel. For a long time, I have wanted to produce some video clips to add to my JJ Club home page. So that newbies can see what our style of ju-jitsu entails and perhaps to add a little flair to static words and pictures. In the world of martial arts, moving footage seems to connect quickly with people, and in today's YouTube generation, one can't afford to be left behind. It was good fun making the video and producing it. I learned alot about editing and the tedious process it involves. I hope it gives a fair reflection of the wide variety of techniques that we practice at the club - including throws, punches, kicks, locks, strangles, kata, kobudo weapons, groundfighting, stand-up etc.

So sit back, get out the popcorn, chill to the sounds of DJ Krush and enjoy.

Coming up soon, the sequel - IJJC - the lost blooper tapes!

It's Showtime Folks!

I've finally finished my epic showreel. For a long time, I have wanted to produce some video clips to add to my JJ Club home page. So t...

2 Sep 2008


I’ve been slightly obsessed with leg locks recently. It’s probably because my ankle injury highlighted just how vulnerable this part of the anatomy is. Our own Trad JJ style has a surprisingly diverse and full array of ankle, knee and hip locks incorporated into the syllabus. I say surprising, only because I never really looked at them in close detail, since they are generally integrated into a ‘locking set’ kata that you learn as a whole piece, or tagged on as a ‘finish’ at the end of a throw. But when I read through my recent purchase of ’65 Vital Leg Locks’ by Steve Scott, I realised that our style covered most of those contained in the book, including old skool wrestling favourite –the Boston Crab (as illustrated so touchingly above) In fact most grappling styles incorporate leg locks, there are a few in judo, Russian Sambo is most famous for them, and of course wrestling, oh and BJJ willingly includes them all.

The book is pretty cool as an introduction to this diverse facet of submissions. But my impression is that it really only offers an introduction and I personally would only feel comfortable using them if I was shown how to get a good position first by an instructor. In BJJ class, we’ve covered leg locks on occasion, but it is only rarely. My favourite is the knee bar. You can transform a giant uke with tree trunk legs into a weeping baby, tapping for mercy with this awesome lock. Having said that, I only ever managed to get this lock on once ever in sparring. I was quite chuffed, but only for a fleet moment since my uke was injured and out of the game for several months (not just due to my knee bar, but it didn’t help in his long list of injuries).

So I quickly realised that leg locks, although an awesome submission, are quite dangerous in training since a lock can go from ‘nearly-on’, to torn ligaments with just a few millimetres of leverage. In BJJ, MMA and subgrap sparring, inexperience or stubbornness could result in a serious injury if the uke does not tap out soon enough. In fact I seem to recall that only blue and above are allowed to attempt leg locks when rolling, and I think even heel hooks are disallowed until purple or brown. Maybe someone can clarify that.

So all this recent fascination of mine with leg locks culminated in a recent episode of
Cage Rage Contenders on TV. Brazilian fighter Jean Silva fought against Japanese MMA fighter Masakazu Imanari, a fighter who was billed as the ‘Master of leg locks.’ See his video here and you’ll see what they mean.Now if you fought against someone billed as a leg lock specialist, why would you willingly tempt fate and offer him your legs, as Jean seemed to do when he went for a crowd pleased spinning guard pass? Naturally enough, Jean ended up being leg locked. It was horrendous to watch since he got caught by what looked like a heel hook and in order to get out, he twisted and rolled frantically, only making it worse. Finally he tapped but Imanari held on until the ref pulled him off. Silva was seriously injured and remained on the mat for ages. Post match reports indicate that he suffered bad ligament damage to his knee – but it could easily have been worse.

CRABBY STYLE

I’ve been slightly obsessed with leg locks recently. It’s probably because my ankle injury highlighted just how vulnerable this part of th...

 

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