29 Apr 2009

This is not a blog as such, but a continuous forum thread written by a supposed teenager called Shinkengata who studies ninjitsu. Regulars to the Bullshido website will recognise this, but I've only recently come across it, so I thought I would share choice snippets with you...

Day 1:
Dear Diary,
I was walking home from school today with Vampirefr34k and D1abl0 and we saw this hella s1ck poster advertising Ninjitsu classes. It said we could learn to be Ninjas, which is hecka cool. I copied the number from the poster down into my cellphone with the HIM logo on it and walked home. Mom got p1$$ed when i asked her if i could join. She said something about me being gay enough as it is. I called her a bitch (under my breath, of course). I swear my parents just don't understand me.

Day 35:
Dear diary,
I got in my first real fight today. It was totally sweet. He started talking trash about my nail polish. I told him that his feeble mind was too weak to comprehend the symbolism behind it, and he called me an emo fagg. I felt all the power of all the Ninja grandmasters through the years swell up in me as i kicked him over in his wheelchair.

Day 74:
Class went pretty well. Some kid from a cage fighter school showed up and called us all pussies and homos. He challenged me to a match, but i didn't want to kill him, so i declined. Sensei cast a spell on him , so his penis should be shrinking pretty soon. hehe.

Day 160:
Dear Diary,
I got into a fight with Sensei when i went to his class to turn in my belt and tell him i was starting a school of my own. I won, because he went to do a rolling meerkat (!!! yeah.Ed) death kick and threw his back out. Maybe it was my constantly increasing Ki that caused his back to go out during the roll, because i put up a chi shield when he started to roll. I think it worked pretty well, if you ask me. I took most of his students, and we had class in my new Dojo behind Wal-Mart.

and so on for about 30 odd pages. It's worth reading during your lunch hour. Here's the full thread.

Also on Bullshido, presumably by a different author, is the Diary of a BJJ Teen: which is not quite a funny as the ninja thread, but not bad in places.

Martial Arts is so ripe for parody, I'm surprised it is not done more often. I myself am not immune to the odd juvenile gag, but I save those for April Fools Day.

Wish me luck for Sunday. I compete at the Essex BJJ Open.

Blog highlight: Diary of a Teen Ninja

This is not a blog as such, but a continuous forum thread written by a supposed teenager called Shinkengata who studies ninjitsu. Regulars t...

23 Apr 2009

I love being a family man. My kids, my wife, my folks, the in-laws, the whole caboodle. But occasionally I ponder the fact that all this family time means I will never reach my full potential as a martial artist. The guys I train with and the guys that compete think nothing of training 4 - 5 times a week. Some train even more than this. Me, I'm lucky to get two mid-week sessions of BJJ in.

In my heyday, I was packing in 5-6 sessions of various martial arts a week (see my '7-day slam' posts: day1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Fast forward to today and I feel more like one of those 'mature' contestants on reality shows who are giving it 'one last shot' because they never got the breaks when they were younger.

But it's not all doom, in fact my family can help and inspire in ways I didn't think was ever possible...

My kids are the greatest source of inspiration ever. My little boy, 18 months old and so full of life and energy I can only marvel at this little dynamo. For little toddlers like him, everything is instinctive and self learned. Like the way he stands up in base - straight from the Gracie school of basics (hand on ground, nearside foot placed behind said hand, stand up in base and ready for fight or flight). His breakfalls are amazing. In fact his favourite game is to fall flat on his face and 'breakfall' with his hands at the last possible moment. He thinks its funny.
Then there are his attempts to beat me up. seriously, he grabs my legs for a takedown, and when I comply and do a comedy fall, he sits in full mount and starts slapping my face in true UFC stylee. I swear I did not teach him this stuff, he just does it.

My 3 and a half year old daughter is completely different, but no less inspirational. Where my son pushes, she yields, where he hits, she evades...and so on. Sometimes she shows jaw dropping flexibility - she can prop her leg over her head and behind her neck, and do the splits at will. All her natural abilities are facets that us adults have long ago lost.

Both of them never cease to amaze me with their fun, play and zest for life. Of course, they can be real pains in the bum too, but that's another story.

My wife, the long suffering missus who endures my martial arts obsession with good humour and interest is a great support. She actually showed a lot of promise as a competing kickboxer and trad JJ player before the rigours of kids and a busy job got in the way. Recently, she asked if I would help her get back into fitness and we started doing our own in-house gym sessions. I forgot what great fun it was to partner up together. We work on the pads, some trad JJ and BJJ drills. I have to admit, she's still got a very useful left hook!

Even my pops, well into his 80's and crippled by a stroke and arthritis asked if I could help him with some simple mobility and weights exercises. I mean I'm no physio, but I showed him some simple arm and leg movements and basic dumbbell exercises that would help warm the joints and muscles up a bit. He seemed to like doing them.

These are just a few examples of how my family help to inspire and motivate me. Martial arts is not just a hobby, it is a way of life. No, I don't mean like you have to walk around acting like a ninja. What I mean is that many parts that make up your life outside the dojo can be viewed
in the context of martial arts.

I may not be able to train 5 times a week, but I do have a living, breathing, loving, 24-hour academy that is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year...whether I want it or not!

Family matters

I love being a family man. My kids, my wife, my folks, the in-laws, the whole caboodle. But occasionally I ponder the fact that all this fam...

16 Apr 2009

I've mentioned Oli several times in my blog. He's a hugely prolific competitor and a real nice guy. So I thought I would speak to him and would you Adam and Eve it, my interview gets published in leading BJJ news website: TheFightWorksPodcast.

Here's an excerpt:

SY: Your website (http://www.thejiujitsugame.com/) lists all your fights, which total over 40 (BJJ and grappling) tournaments and comprise over 200 matches (150 wins with 98 by submission) in a little over 2 years. That's a phenomenal number of competitions, why do you compete so much, are you attempting some sort of record?

OG: It gives me something to do on Sundays! No, seriously...it has a couple of purposes. On a basic level, I figure that the more I compete, the more likely I am to win things. Everyone has good days and bad days in jiu-jitsu, whether in the academy or on the mat in competition, and when you have a bad day, if the opposition is good, then you're going to lose. So by competing more, you reduce the good day/bad day effect and you get to win things you might not normally if you only competed once. Secondly, the more people you fight in competition, the more times you have people ask questions of yourcompetition game, the more ready you are when you step up to the big IBJJF competitions and have to fight guys who seem like they have all the answers to your game. Plus, uh, winning a lot of stuff can only help with sponsorships, right?

Read the full interview here:

Meerkatsu interviews: Oliver Geddes - The Half Guard Wizard

I've mentioned Oli several times in my blog. He's a hugely prolific competitor and a real nice guy. So I thought I would speak to h...

14 Apr 2009

Money. It makes the world go round and helps pay the rent. We all need it, and there's never enough. In BJJ, money is a subject that gets discussed a lot. As a massively growing sport and hobby, it is inevitable that this increase is accompanied by more opportunities to make a living.

Like a lot of amateur sports and hobbies, a whole industry is supported by 99.9 percent of people buying expensive products and paying for equipment that help fuel their dreams of becoming a Mundials champ. Of course they (me included) never will in a million years, but somehow, paying for stuff makes you feel like you are adding to your abilities.

Take BJJ uniforms for example. Old footage of the Gracies shows that they simply wore crappy old judo gis as their uniform. Fast forward today and there are a zillion gi manufacturers, all claiming to offer something special that will help your game. Meerkatsu favourite gi manufacturer - Faixa Rua - is famous for taking this selling mantle to it's humorous extreme by claiming their gis actually help you obtain a 'clock choke' in a real street fight. But in reality, you could progress just as well wearing a crappy old judo gi (NB: no offence to judo, just saying that you can buy really really cheap judo uniforms).

Despite the new wealth that BJJ brings some people, it is still pretty hard to make a living as an instructor and even harder as a top-level competitor. Sure, sponsorship helps, as do academy and seminar fees. But doing tournaments is an expensive business, with flights, accomodation, transport, food, entry fee etc, all for the glory of...a medal, not even a cash prize.

So eyebrows were raised ever so slightly higher than normal among the BJJ top brass when it was announced that there would be a BJJ gi-only tournament that would offer the winners $7,000 in cash, plus, winners of their respective regional trials would have all their expenses to the tournament paid for. Yep, the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup, is one helluva way to get the world to notice how massive BJJ is right now. And, best of all, we even have a British contender in the shape of Ollie Geddes.

So Meerkatsu would like to wish Ollie the best of luck in this event, which starts on May 1st.

Onto my own BJJ training. Things are going especially well at the moment. I don't know if it is because of my new found zest for playing a more assertive game, or I am just lucky and sparring with partners who are kind enough to let me do my stuff. But I seem to be getting into good positions and even getting some subs where a month ago, I would have struggled. I think after years of being very passive I've got a bit fed up and started to push it a bit more. We'll see where this new line takes me.

Last night Nick taught his favoured defence when your back is caught. There it was again, that simple hand position that he says Ricardo de la Riva showed him. A much tougher defence to break down than the more instinctive palms flat on your neck hand position. Then, as is typical of Nick's sessions, he showed us how to break down even this favoured defence. All a matter of attacking one elbow with both your arms and exploiting the gaps. A nice illustration of a fundamental tenet of jiu-jitsu - utilise two or more parts of your body to lever one part of your opponent.

Lucre Livre

Money. It makes the world go round and helps pay the rent. We all need it, and there's never enough. In BJJ, money is a subject that get...

8 Apr 2009

I've now had a little time to recover from the weekend's competition and reflect on the impact it has had on me. It's kind of weird and hard to describe objectively but I do feel different. Despite losing, I feel I have gained a smidgen of prowess (oh and a bronze medal for my efforts). It has also given me a new source of motivation (as if any more were needed) to get back onto the mats and train harder and smarter.

The event itself was very well run, with 4 mats in constant use and 4 more in various states of action as and when the need arose. I loved the fact that coaches, team-mates, friends, curious bystanders could stand or sit slap bang right next to the action. The huge crowds meant a headache for the organisers but the informal nature of the event I think is what made it so cool.

I was most impressed by the huge contingent that train under the Carlson Gracie banner. One of their main instructors, Simon Hayes, seemed to be omnipresent, bellowing instructions to every one of his team that fought. He is a huge personality and added to the flair and flavour of the day. Almost every mat seemed to feature a Carlsons fighter versus a Roger Gracie fighter, so numerous were both academies. Roger himself came down to cheer on his team, which I thought was a nice touch.

I also got to finally see the 'half-guard wizard' himself in action - RGA purple belt, Ollie Geddes.
Ollie did indeed start each fight by assuming half guard, and then, slowly, systematically, began working his way to victory. One fight was won by a fantastic 'clock' choke'. Another was finished off in style by a 'loop choke'. It was wonderful to witness such highly technical ju-jitsu mere inches away from me. [I'll be interviewing Ollie for this blog so watch this space.]

The womens division was small in number but numerous enough to contain some good fights at both white and blue belt. Notably, my team mate Dominique took Gold and just lost by a whisker to a very good fighter in the absolute category, to take Bronze.

Similarly, the juvenile category was also small in number, effectively becoming an 'open weight' division for under 16's. Team mate Dale Jones won all his fights to pick up gold (the sixth gold in a row, he would like me to iterate). But he also expressed his frustration. At 14 years old, he has no choice but to compete at junior/juvenile division, but his physique is that of a very strong young man. The result is you get the bizarre scenario, as in his first fight, where a very tiny, still boy-like 13 year old is pitted against a lad who appears twice his size. Still the future looks bright with Dale and the other young 'uns producing good skills and nice movement.

With so much action, it was hard to see all the fights. But I did see some very very skillful blue belt lightweight and middle weight work going on. I am SO glad I am not in that division. There was also some very good stand-up work, clearly from adept judoka, that made for some enjoyable throws.

For my first tournament, I don't think I could have picked a better one to participate. When the Gracie Invitational comes back again next year, it will be the biggest event in the UK and a quite different experience. I cannot wait.

On another slightly different note, it is nice to see that the Meerkatsu blog was listed among the Top 60 BJJ blogs recommended by BJJ radio podsite: thefightworkspodcast
Unfortunately, you have to download the list as a google reader import file, but there's lots of good sits among the 60 for me to peruse.

More on Brighton and more on fame

I've now had a little time to recover from the weekend's competition and reflect on the impact it has had on me. It's kind of we...

4 Apr 2009

Just got back from Brighton, here's some photos I took:

Well, my fight occured exactly as I predicted. I lost, but not by much and from what my team mates tell me, it was closer than I thought. My opponent, a very nice fella from BTT I think, was a tournament rookie too so we were a well matched pair. I can't remember the details other than we switched a lot from full guard to half guard on either side. In the end, I think he got a sweep or side control to score a couple of points whereas I did not. I fulfilled my main objective which was to stay in the game and not get submitted. I learned a lot from the experience. Not least how tough it was, with no time to blink, breathe, think or play. It was all adrenaline and instinct. I'm also glad I did not fight the two others in my division (super feather, aka -64Kg or 'pluma') one of whom, Mark Phung from Carlson Gracie's, looked very very impressive (he took gold in the end).

The whole day out was a huge jolly for me. I enjoyed the great team cameraderie and meeting old and new friends along the way. It was brilliant, I'm sore, but I definitely am going to do more competitions. Now let me see, what's up next... ah yes, the Essex Open...put me down for that one please!

2nd Brighton Grab & Pull BJJ Tournament

Just got back from Brighton, here's some photos I took: Well, my fight occured exactly as I predicted. I lost, but not by much and fr...

3 Apr 2009

Oh boy it's all go here at Meerkatsu Central HQ Dojo, home of the small.

Leaving my Trad JJ Club
First up, the big news, I have finally retired from running my trad JJ club.
It is the club where I first began learning my traditional style of ju-jitsu over ten years ago and the place where I honed my teaching skills for five of those. I will miss the club and the great bunch of people who attended, but due to various constraints on my time, I felt the club would succeed better under the fresh stewardship of my JJ pal David. Good luck to everyone at the club.

It's a good time to reflect on the highlights of my time at Imperial. I achieved the rank of second dan black belt, I competed at numerous tournaments, met lots of people and made good friends. And it was through trad JJ that I discovered BJJ.
I will miss the club, it has dominated my martial arts life for so many years. But there were a couple of hairy moments:

Probably the worst injury I recall happened to a chap called Daniel. He was sparring on the ground and, in a completely freakish accident, managed to bang his elbow on the mat surface in such as way to make it shatter in several places. His pain was obvious. He has since recovered mobility in his elbow but can never do jujitsu again.

And who can forget the comedy pratfall as I demonstrated a spinning jumping back kick and landed to the sound of my ankle ligaments snapping apart!!

99 percent of the people that turn up are sound. One or two however were, for want of a better word, misfits, who were slightly deluded as to what martial arts is about and how much work it takes to become proficient. These types, thankfully, never last more than a few sessions. One chap attended one lesson, then went out to buy himself an all black uniform (we wear white) just so he could look like a flipping ninja. He didn't show up after that second time. Then there are the types who ask about samurai swords, and even after I tell them to buy a blunt one, they go and buy a razor sharp one, which is wholly unneccesary and downright dangerous in my view. I could go on, but I should emphasise these were very rare exceptions.

Most of all however, I am proud of the way I have maintained a club where the training atmosphere is friendly, fun and free of bullshit or ego, without sacrificing technical level and quality of instruction. A good session is one where you see the guys and girls have a laugh, sweat a lot, have a drink after and generally beam with confidence.
I was never confortable being called sensei, to me, the students are all grown adults who just come along to learn something new, get fit and enjoy themselves. The last thing they want is an egotist barking at them for two hours. To me, the fundamental principle of good technique over size or strength was always the root lesson of every class. I like to think that as a small guy myself, I could prove to be an example of this principle when competing or applying jujitsu against bigger opponents.

Pre-comp jitters
Well, it is the eve of the Brighton Grab and Pull Tournament and I'm very excited. I've had a clutch of intense sessions at BJJ class, all designed to 'toughen' me up and get me prepared to the type of sparring done in competitions. I must say, it is not pretty. When you spar in competitive mode, gone are the fancy stuff and it is pretty 101 brutal and in your face aggression. It hurts too. Every sinew in my body is aching, and that's sparring with friends! In any case, I fully intend to enjoy tomorrow. It'll be a learning experience and I can only gain, whether I win or (more likely) lose.

Writers fame at last
Finally, those wonderful guys at On The Mat, one of the largest grappling news websites in the world have kindly published my Jiu-Jitsu Sisterhood article. You can read it online here.

April Fools, pre-match jitters and leaving my Trad JJ club

Oh boy it's all go here at Meerkatsu Central HQ Dojo, home of the small. Leaving my Trad JJ Club First up, the big news, I have final...


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