28 Aug 2008

According to google stats, I’ve just received my 2,000th visitor to the Meerkatsu blog this year. Of course this figure could easily represent 10 people visiting 200 times, or one person 2,000 times (more likely), I’m not entirely au fait with analysing the figures, but it is reassuring to know that some people read my rants at least some of the time. Interestingly, in the figures for 2007, there was an extraordinarily huge peak of visitors when I posted a photo of the rather gorgeous Kyra Gracie. So just for the sake of clarity, let’s see what she looks like again…

Taken from her website: http://www.graciekyra.com/
Every male BJJ practitioner I know goes on about Kyra, including me. But the website actually offers very interesting information, revealing her impressive fight stats and training photos and it endorses the widely held view that she is a tremendous athlete who is dedicated to her sport, which is more than can be said about me.

I had a number of people emailing me and commenting in my last post about the Chinese characters I wrote in the made-up fake martial arts diploma. It translates: I believe I am Chinese, but I am really a ‘Big Nose’.
'Big Nose' being an old-skool insult that Chinese people give to western ‘foreigners’. Other phrase book nuggets to use on your holiday could include ‘pale face white ghost’ (very nasty insult), ‘son of a turtles egg’ (probably the worst you could ever say) and ‘Imperialist Opium dealing scumbag’. OK I made that last one up, but in my experience, Chinese people used to be very blunt with their insults. What with the Olympics, international economy and general more openness they are probably much more world aware now and have more subtle insults. Or maybe not.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that I sometimes come across people here in the UK, especially martial arts fanatics, who live, eat, breathe, dress, and even speak with an oriental accent in their quest to be a martial arts master. It is really weird. But there are also reports of American BJJ instructors who, overnight, begin to take on a Portuguese twang when naming their techniques. For example, the word ‘guard’ is almost universally re-iterated by a Portuguese speaker as ‘Gwardo’, which is very quaint sounding but you know what it means. If you catch a native English speaker saying GWARDO, he has either been watching too many BJJ DVDs or has spent half his life in Portugal or Brazil…or just wants it to appear that way.
But nowhere is the ‘crime’ of pretending to speak in a fake accent more prevalent than in the karate dojo.
24FightingChickens master, Rob Redmond writes in his excellent website about just this very phenomenon:
To quote his article:
“I personally do not like using Japanese terms in my karate classes. I think it gets in the way of good communication, and that it makes things seem mystical that are truly quite plain and unimpressive. I also worry that use of Japanese in my karate classes will create an exclusivist culture where newcomers feel uncomfortable. I also tire of spending time and energy teaching the terms to students, or reminding them of what they mean. I also do not care for trying to teach pronunciation, since my Japanese is accented with American, it seems a little preposterous that I would be correcting pronunciation.”
It is probably for this reason that our style of trad JJ does not use Japanese words to describe techniques. But this can lead to problems when I get the odd Aikido, judo or jitsuka from another style coming to my dojo and talking about techniques using the Japanese terminology. I just nod, sagely, narrow my eyes, and witter something inscrutable under my breath…was that an insult maybe?…I'm not saying.

Forked Tongue

According to google stats, I’ve just received my 2,000th visitor to the Meerkatsu blog this year. Of course this figure could easily represe...

26 Aug 2008

Photo (c) Yahoo Sports/ AP News

Wow, what an Olympics we just witnessed! With all the Gold medal bling of Team GB, and the world records broken it was armchair sports fan heaven. But for me, one of the surprise highlights of this Olympics was the taekwondo.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m just stating an observation, but to my untrained eyes, tkd does look a bit funny. I mean, there’s lots of hopping around with arms hanging limply by the sides, a bit of argey bargey interspersed with amazingly acrobatic kicks that seem unrealistic in self defence terms. But I was proved wrong. The success of the GB team meant the BBC showed lots of TKD (well, more than usual) and you only really get a sense of the skills when they show the slo-mo replays. Some of the kicking on display was unbelievable - sheer speed, accuracy and skill. It also highlighted the darker side to sports – the biased judging and ‘blindsided’ reffing that I thought was a hallmark of Olympics long past. I’m really glad the British girl, Sarah Stevenson, got her results changed. It showed what a farce, in these modern times, that such a clearly won technique could go against her. The decision to change the final result was unprecedented apparently, so she’ll go down in history, despite her eventual loss in the semi (she won a Bronze later though). I was also amazed at the Cuban guy, Angel Matos, who kicked a judge in the face with such ferocity and speed, you couldn’t help but he amazed at the skill – but of course we don’t condone his actions do we? Yes, in all the slickness and glamour of the Olympics games this year, it took an ancient martial art to provide some gritty entertainment.

My post ankle injury BJJ is progressing nicely at the moment. I managed to get 5 bouts of sparring in last night, one of them with the female blue belt, multi Gold medal winning whirlwind that is Pippa Grainger. My god, this girl, although petite, is fast and furious and armed with some neat techniques. I managed to get a few sweeps during sparring but she was strong and fast, oh and did I mention she was fast? I’m pretty pleased that I can roll with such a high calibre of students these days, my only concern is that I don’t make a tit of myself too often by getting caught with basic errors.

Always believe in your soul, you're indestructable

Photo (c) Yahoo Sports/ AP News Wow, what an Olympics we just witnessed! With all the Gold medal bling of Team GB, and the world recor...

19 Aug 2008

A-levels, SATS, GCSEs – every year the same headlines ring out – exams are getting easier, grades are too high, ‘A’ grades are worthless, etc etc. But of all the academia stories seen in the press during this silly season, the press seem to reserve a special sneer at the unusual and quirky university degrees that our beloved institutes of education appear to specialise in. You know the ones. Degrees in things like surf science, acupuncture, parapsychology, even a degree in funeral studies – the list of non-traditional academic degrees is endless.
So why not a BSc in martial arts?
I’m serious! A curriculum could include all aspects of sports science that affect martial arts, lots of practical training in eastern and western arts, coaching studies, psychology, physiology and anatomy, history etc.
A degree in martial arts would give weight to individuals who wish to pursue their career as instructors with universally recognised academic qualification, as opposed to a simple black belt in a style no one’s ever heard of.
STOP PRESS…I’ve just been informed, and this is no lie, that you can actually do a university degree in martial arts. It comes from the University of West Coast in Panama (not quite Ivy League then) and is a distance learning course (those dreaded words distance learning…ahhhhh!)
STOP PRESS…God, I knew it, this Meerkat is obviously quick on ideas, slow on realising them. The University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, US, has an established martial arts degree – and one you can actually attend, rather than from a bogus place in Panama.
STOP PRESS…OK I give up, you can do a degree in martial arts at the even more renowned, Indiana University in the US.
Oh well, back to the drawing board. Martial Art doughnuts anyone?
BTW - the diploma picture above contains some offensive chinese words - you know when you are paranoid that the Chinese waiters are mocking you in front of your face?

Finally, finally, after about 7 weeks of injury provoked inactivity, I got back onto the mat at Nick's BJJ club. It felt sooooooo good to be back in training, and the sweeps we drilled were excellent. I was a bit gutted to miss the sparring but it was probably for my own safety so soon after injury. Instead, I looked after a bunch of kids who were scarily good at BJJ, despite being so young and tiny - the future of BJJ.

Martial Art Doughnuts

A-levels, SATS, GCSEs – every year the same headlines ring out – exams are getting easier, grades are too high, ‘A’ grades are worthless, et...

15 Aug 2008

I came across this clip quite randomly (I googled Juko Ryu, more about that later). If I am honest, it is pretty amazing stuff, I can't work out how they manage to withstand punches to the throat and kicks to the groin. If we disregard the ambiguous claim of channeling 'chi' energy, I would imagine that this skill takes many many years of repetitive training of those parts of the body to tense at exactly the right moment.
Not easy, but certainly feasible physically (not that I would want to test the idea personally!)
Genki Sudo is a MMA star who rather shockingly knocked out Royler Gracie in an MMA tournament. Us Royler fans don't talk about that one too much. Ahem. BTW Royler is coming back to the UK in October for a seminar, hoorah! I'm getting my gi ironed in anticipation right now!!!!

Balls of Steel

I came across this clip quite randomly (I googled Juko Ryu, more about that later). If I am honest, it is pretty amazing stuff, I can't ...

11 Aug 2008

Ju-Jitsu was entering an exciting time when I first joined my club over ten years ago. The Association was abuzz with news that a good showing in the forthcoming World Games would ensure a favourable candidacy towards Olympic Games acceptance. Fast forward ten years and those heady days are long gone and as I watch the Beijing Games, I can't help but feel a tang of envy at the judoka, taekwondo and even wushu competitors as they show the world their exciting martial arts.
What went wrong?
Nothing really. I think Olympic acceptance was never gonna happen for many reasons, mainly, that (1) it already has judo which is too similar, (2) the world governing body for ju-jitsu (JJIF) is not powerful enough to lobby the Olympic officials and (3) there are too many competing and, let's face it, more telegenic sports than ju-jitsu. Heck, even BJJ, a very glamorous and lucrative martial art if you compete at top level, will probably never reach Olympic acceptance for exactly the same reasons. And anyway, does anyone actually notice the World Games? go on, test yourself, where is the next World Games gonna be? Answer - Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Where? Yeah, exactly. But if in 2009 you do manage to find it televised on some obscure satellite channel, you will find the likes of Team GB competing in events such as skydiving, korfball, sumo, tug of war, fistball, and....life saving!

I write about this because I just spent two whole days qualifying for my Level 3 coaching certificate. Not much coaching was actually on display, simply a boring powerpoint demonstration about ethics, child protection, communication skills etc. But what made it worthwhile was the brilliant stories and anecdotes from Sensei Terry Parker, founder of the Jikishin system and, with 54 years of jujitsu experience, a wonderful mentor and host for the sessions. But, inevitably, during proceedings, my mind did wander and the whole JJIF and World Games debacle did enter my head as I was longing to be somewhere else instead of a coaching lecture...like watching the Beijing Games.

By the way, some will recall my post about my all night vigil to complete 11 essays as part of the written assignment part of my coaching qualification. Well, I passed them and not only that, was told that I passed with top marks and that my essays should be used as model examples for other students. Phew! My traditional tactics of crashing for exams at the last minute still works. Sadly I can't remember a single word, so I can't say I learned much by writing them.

So there you go. As you progress up the ladder of any organisation, be it sport or commerce, you inevitably come across bureaucracy, politics, officiousness and administration. The powers that be see it as a necessary goal in promoting the martial as a safe and respected sport. Nothing wrong with that. But as I wade through binders full of pages about health and safety policy and ethical obligations, I cast my mind back to the excited talk of World Games and Olympics and wonder if it has all ballooned just a bit too much beyond what is actually necessary and what is actually needed to maintain a decent organisation. During the two days, the best bits were when us candidates could actually express an opinion and share experiences about our own coaching tips. I learned a more through listening to what others experienced directly in their clubs than from the pages of any manual. Oh well, only another 3 years until I renew all the licences again.

Coach Trip

Ju-Jitsu was entering an exciting time when I first joined my club over ten years ago. The Association was abuzz with news that a good showi...

5 Aug 2008

I must give a shout out to Stephen Chee Shihan, founder of Ju-Jitsu Kobudo Singapore, who made our man Rob Line so welcome. As some of you know, Rob was a big presence at my club, having trained up to brown belt and was a winner of several medals in the random attack competition. He left the UK to take up a post in Singapore and wondered if he could find a good club out there. Well, Rob just emailed me to say he found a club and wrote a detailed account (which I will post in full on the Imperial website in due course) of his first session, here’s a snippet from his article:

“I had emailed the most promising looking jujitsu club last week, explaining what I was looking for and a little of my background training with Jikishin. I received an immediate reply from Stephen Chee Sensei, inviting me to join his dojo and make sure to ‘bring my gi’ on Sunday. Result. Turns out Stephen Chee Sensei is a 6th dan Jujitsuka, affiliated to the World Jujitsu Federation, which was developed by jitsu luminary Prof. Robert Clark in Liverpool.

After warm-up, was sparring. The rules were 1) no punching in the face. 2) Er..that’s it. We rotated along the line swapping partners every 20 seconds, and trying to work throws in. I managed an inside hock counter to a roundhouse kick on one of the brown belts - happy with that – and then the next fellow attempted a cheeky hip throw. I pushed him off and swept his leg - he didn’t go down, but was certainly well off balance. That was fun.

Finally we repeated the 20 second sparring rotating line-up, but with groundwork. This was interesting also, and I have to say that practicing at Seymour’s BJJ-infused groundwork sessions stood me in good stead. I fought three blackbelts, one orange belt and one brown. Drew the first four and submitted the last one, so I was quite pleased. With that the class was nearly over ; some warm down exercises brought things to a conclusion.”

From the impressions given by Rob, it seems they run things pretty well in Singapore and ju-jitsu classes are no exception. I noticed on the web that Stephen Chee is not only a 6th dan in jujitsu, but is a 5th dan in judo, 4th dan in karate and is also a qualified krav maga and arnis instructor…phew! What a cv. Good luck to Rob in his continuing jujitsu studies.

Singapore Ju-Jitsu

I must give a shout out to Stephen Chee Shihan, founder of Ju-Jitsu Kobudo Singapore , who made our man Rob Line so welcome. As some of you...


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