30 Jun 2008

I can't help it, I love buying books about martial arts and especially Ju-Jitsu and BJJ books. I don't even read most of them, but I have to buy them.
But there are some that are worth mentioning, so here are my views on a couple, starting off with traditional jujitsu.

Ju-Jitsu, Eddie Ferrie, 1990

In the old days..I say old, I mean pre-UFC and the Gracies... jujitsu pretty much meant one thing - a syllabus-based system of self defence techniques culled from karate, judo and aikido with a few references to more ancient techniques and habits. BJJ has changed this and today, jujitsu could refer to quite a large range of styles. But let's stick with the jujitsu that we know and love and the one to which my JJ club mostly adheres to.

If you wanted to learn about this art in print form back in the oldie days, then Ferrie's book is the main guide to the background, history and modern day status of the art. It introduces all the aspects that typically the syllabus covers, from basic blocks, strikes and kicks to throws, locks, pressure points and weapons. It even has a section on gun defences! In general, the tone is light and easy without being burdoned by too much technicality. On the chapter of ground techniques, Ferrie wisely advises: "always keep the testicles protected...this is perhaps the most vulnerable part of the male anatomy"..quite.

Jiu-Jitsu, The Official WJJF TrainingManual, Robert Clark, 1991

So you've learned the history and liked what you saw in the Ferrie book. Back in the old days, you could learn all the syllabus techniques, step by step from the Robert Clark books. There was even a correspondence course one could follow with a black belt available by post to those who completed the course. Much has been muttered in JJ circles about this, and many other aspects surrounding the man Clark,but let's stick to the facts.

Robert Clark was one of the founding leaders of the style of JJ that most of us practice today and without his endeavours, arguably may not have been the success it is today. So we owe him some respect.

My own style of trad JJ closely follows the WJJF syllabus and so many of the techniques are identical (there is some argument about which came first...Sensei Parker says Jikishin came first so I'll take his word for it). Therefore I found these books to be very helpful when I was training for my kyu grades. Each technique is illustrated with four or five nicely posed and clear photos, followed by a short description. There is no discussion about the origin of the technique or the relevant possible applications, it is just a simple a-follows-b write-up. I personally would like more discussion for each technique.

The WJJF is still going, and these books can still be found on Amazon or Ebay. Worth getting if you train in trad JJ.

I wonder what Clark makes of all this cage fighting nonesense?

Ju-Jitsu, Martin Dixon, 2003

Here's a book written at a time when UFC, the Gracies and BJJ were starting to make big waves around the world of martial arts. In the ground fighting chapter, an allusion is made to this:

"ground-fighting has been very much in vogue in the last few years, but there is nothng new in the techniques."

This book basically follows the Ferrie book in terms of describing the components of the modern syllabus. But a huge chunk of the book is dedicated to non-technical aspects,including chapters on Ethics and Codes of Conduct, Philosophy, How to Find a Dojo etc.
I find all this boring and unnecessary. Speaking as a punter I want to see cool techniques and a description of how to do them.
But Sensei Dixon, who is Chairman of the governing body of Ju-Jitsu in Great Britain, obviously felt these were important to write about.
Overall however, the techniques are described fairly well and the photographs are a big improvement on the Ferrie and Clark books. It's a big ask to cover all the aspects of modern ju-jitsu in such a slim book but this book offers a useful introduction to beginners, if they skip the first half.

The Ju-Jitsu Handbook, Roy Inman, 2007

Roy Inman is an 8th dan in judo and a senior instructor at the world famous Budokwai in London. I was very curious that a judo expert was writing a ju-jitsu book so I bought it. At 250 odd pages it is the thickest ju-jitsu book here and it is in full colour.
Modern ju-jitsu shares many techniques with judo. In fact you could argue that ju-jitsu is judo with added punches and kicks. It is probably true to say, that given most ancient ju-jitsu ryu were secretive and unwritten, judo (and possibly aikido) was the only means by which modern syllabuses could be based. A sort of reverse engineering of martial arts.
Anyway, back to the book. The style offered here is very judo based obviously. The uke and tori in each photo really follow through with their throws in a very 'judo'style of throwing. That last sentance probably sounds pants but exponents of our style of ju-jitsu will probably understand what I mean. Although the photos are very clear, the accompanying descriptions are woefully brief.
Having said that. I like the book. The style difference is very minor so won't stop a student from picking up tips. The format is logical and and easy to follow. And all the basics are covered, from breakfalls to neck cranks and sacrifice throws. The ground-fighting chapter is a little better than the books above, but offers no more than a tiny selection of old-skool ground defences - as if BJJ never existed - which is strange given that it was printed in 2007. (and even stranger when you consider
Roger Gracie - unstoppable World Champion - trains in judo at the Budokwai too). Anyway, I digress.
To sum, this book is the best so far and worthy purchase for keen jitsuka everywhere.

Ju-Jitsu Book Reviews

I can't help it, I love buying books about martial arts and especially Ju-Jitsu and BJJ books. I don't even read most of them, but ...

25 Jun 2008

One of my biggest fears is the fear of making a tit out of myself when demonstrating a technique in front of my students at my JJ club. Well, that nightmare came true last night as I stupidly insisted we drill spinning kicks. It was all going swimmingly well, with everyone enjoying these strange twisty turny kick combos i was coming up with. I was gonna wrap things up, but no, I had to show off just one more technique. Ironically, the least flashy of all the one's so far - the simple jumping spinning back kick. Something I had practised a thousand times before in kickboxing. Last night however, I jumped a little too high, my body angle was all wrong and I landed on the outside blade of my foot, which gave way, a loud 'SNAP', and then me, crumpled on the floor weeping like a toddler. All in full view of everyone at the club. Lovely.
Thankfully, various club members acted swiftly in bringing ice, raising the leg and generally showing lots of serious concern and good advice. Of course I felt like a complete prat, lying there helpless as the rest of the class continued, but shit happens and there's no point going over the 'what if's'. It was only me that got hurt and better me than one of my students.
So here I am at home, hobbling around like Marty Crane from the TV show Frasier and acting all grumpy as it is so frustrating not being full bodied. I can't even pick up my kids, let alone contemplate doing martial arts.
But I suppose it gives me a bit of time to write my book reviews. And as it happens, my latest purchase arrived in the post today. I'll be reviewing this and adding my thoughts in the next blog post. Right, now for the ice pack.

Way of the Falling Idiot

One of my biggest fears is the fear of making a tit out of myself when demonstrating a technique in front of my students at my JJ club. Wel...

12 Jun 2008

Years ago, when my sensei handed me the reigns of the JJ club, I was worried about the big responsibility I was being given. He reassured me that after a short while, it would be a breeze but there would be the occasional tough times too. Largely, I have had nothing but good times and fun times. As a club runner, you get to try out any drills or techniques you like, you can watch students mature and progress, you can invite other experts down to show you new stuff, and generally, it is a privileged existence. But there are tough times too. The times when you have a stinking cold and can barely make it to the venue, or when only three people turn up, or a stranger turns up and tries to cause trouble, or the place is flooded, or a nasty injury occurs to a student etc. All of these have happened at my club.
Right now, it a little tough, I am nursing a painful neck which prevents me from demonstrating anything, and since the new year, newcomers and established members have dwindled slightly. But, as the person in charge, I have to keep things going, turn up and show my face regardless of the situation. And, as I celebrate ten years of being in jujitsu, I know by now that events go up and down in cycles. Club numbers will soon pick up and my injuries will heal. It’s all part and parcel of running a club.

In fact, my experiences with club running are nothing compared to some others. Sensei Grant, my current JJ instructor, runs a club from an army barracks, but for several months of the year, he cannot run the club there due to the army needing the space. Which would be fine except they give no notice, so many a time, students have been locked out or forced to train in a tiny squash court. Sensei G has finally got fed up and found a new venue. One with plush facilities and a clean room that will be the clubs to use as they like all year. BTW, he will be grading for the dizzy heights of 4th dan this Sunday, so again, we wish him good luck.

Another sensei, who I chatted with recently, runs a kids class and during one session, some youths broke in and started mouthing off. The sensei threw the youths out but minutes later, had to deal with an angry father intent on knowing why the sensei had, allegedly assaulted his son. The whole incident blew out of all proportion over the ensuing weeks as a whispering campaign by 'anonymous' pranksters led to numbers in his previously very full class, dropping fast. Anyway, the kid owned up to his misdemeanors and soon, the club members returned. Still, a cautionary tale.

My current neck injury was sustained sparring with Nick at the Mill Hill BJJ class the other night. We were working on triangle escapes all evening and during sparring of course, first thing Nick does is triangle me. My neck ‘cricked’ in an unnatural way and now I can’t look left, right or up and down without a lot of pain. I couldn't physically lower myself into bed that night amd it required the assitance of my wife to cradle my head and lower it onto the pillow (still attached to my torso I should add), where I lay there, blinking, unmoving for hours until my kids woke up yelling for attention. Poor Nick was overcome with apologies and regret, but sometimes, these things just happen, no one is to blame.
Anyway, I’ve had this type of injury before, years ago, it came on when my uke preformed an over zealous neck and spine lock (kinda like a BJJ crucifix lock, with lots of neck pressure). I was out for about three weeks, seeing physio and resorting at times to copious painkillers and a neck brace just to get by. My current neck injury is nothing of that magnitude, but it does suggest that I have a weakness there, and given my prediliction for grappling arts where the neck is a target, I should really be careful in future.

Anyway, Meerkat’s martial struggles will always continue and I promise to be in more upbeat mood next time.
BTW. The picture above has been doing the rounds on blogs and forums but I love it so much I reproduce it here to cheer up those feeling a bit blue. Thanks to Eddie Kone’s new blog for the link and a big congrats to him for being awarded his black belt in BJJ. An awesome achievement and the very pinnacle of the sport.

Upside down, inside out

Years ago, when my sensei handed me the reigns of the JJ club , I was worried about the big responsibility I was being given. He reassure...

6 Jun 2008

I managed to sneek some BJJ in last night at Mill Hill and I'm glad I made the effort as Jude Samuel, the first ever Brit to earn a black belt at BJJ, turned up to take the mat. We went through techniques from the De La Riva guard - a sort of sideways on open guard on a uke who is standing - it was my first go at De La riva and I must say I really enjoyed executing them. From the De La Riva, you can perform simple but brutally effective sweeps.
Jude is a good communicator and teacher, and took his time to look at everyone's technique, correcting as they went along. Of course he happily got stuck into sparring with various members, except me as usual I always end up missing out on sparring with the black belts. However I did have a jolly good run with young medal winning no-stopping him Daniel Strauss, I almost got a few sweeps on him before I inevitably succumbed to his back taking chokes. He was gracious enough to compliment me on my improvement - but all I could feel was a very fatigued nearly-40 year old self panting for breath. Actually, at Mill Hill, I always get to spar with either Daniel, Nick or the other high grades which really helps my game a lot. Sure I end up being easy prey for them, but it's the quickest way to learn, especially as my infrequent attendence can lead to some ropey habits creeping in.

Meerkat would like to take this opportunity to wish his trad JJ sensei - Grant - the very best in his attempt to grade for his fourth dan (with a broken foot bone too). Another one with a broken foot, is our club assistant instructor, David T, who suffered the indignity of breaking a bone during a warm up exercise. Hope it heals soon Dave!

Heel to toe

I managed to sneek some BJJ in last night at Mill Hill and I'm glad I made the effort as Jude Samuel , the first ever Brit to earn a bla...


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