Monthly Archives: March 2013

Thanks for nuthin’, endorphins!

Sorry for the delay.  It’s Thursday, and I’ve had this post in draft format for a few days now.  Better late than never…right?

So what’s new, hmmm?

My last post talked about the Krav Maga level test.  That was a real kick in the ass.  I realized on Sunday following the test that my body was sore.  My entire body.  Some of my sore muscles had sore muscles.  By Monday, sore muscles turned into tight muscles – regardless of any efforts on my part to stretch them out.

But having missed a week of BJJ due to travel (and the Krav Maga test), I was anxious to get back on the mats. And what better way to work out soreness and tightness than warming them up with a little BJJ, eh?

Monday’s BJJ class was great – it was choke night.  We drilled two basic collar chokes: one from mount, and one from a modified side-control, where you begin from a standing position while controlling your opponent’s legs (opponent on his back).

[Side note: I realize that in many of my posts I explain a move in narrative, mostly because I don’t know the proper names.  For you BJJ aficionados out there, my apologies.  I’m learning the lingo, I promise.]

As we drilled, we continued to refine the technique, which is something I really enjoy with our Professor.  He demonstrates a few times, we drill it a few times, and after he’s satisfied we have the gross movements down pat, he corrects us on the finer points – a turned wrist, a better hip position, a foot pointed this way, a squeeze in your knees that way.  Rolling was fun…as it always is!  As usual, I rolled with the big guys.  Something interesting happened: remember a few posts ago, when I talked about Carmelo (I’m still spelling his name wrong, I’m sure of it)?  This is the tree-trunk of a human who is incredibly strong.  The last time we rolled, he smashed me because I was fighting him too much; I tried to meet his strength with my own.  Bad call on my part.  Well, on Monday, he still smashed me a little, but instead of fighting his brute strength, I just (tried to) flow around it.  I ended up taking his back and securing a collar choke.  Before the end of the round, he was on top of me again, but I was able to position my hips to where I could regain half/deep-half guard once he passed me.  So – yep, he still beat me up, but the victory was me consiously not fighting him strength on strength, but rather trying to flow around him.

Last night’s BJJ class was no-gi.  We drilled ankle locks, ankle lock escapes, and knee bars.  Again, Professor allowed us to demonstrate gross movements, then went around to refine our technique.  I had plenty of energy going into our 30 min rolling session.

I rolled with Wes, who is another young gun with huge strength.  He got on top of me pretty easily, but I was able to stuff an arm in my guard, and secure the triangle.  Now, it was interesting – he’s a very muscular guy, and I was surprised that even though I had the choke, and my legs were properly locked, I had to be patient and work the submission because he was just so damn strong.  I thougth for a moment that I’d have to release the attempt and work something else, but patience paid off.  The rest of the round was spent in my guard, and he managed to get his signature ‘grab my neck and squeeze my head off my shoulders’ submission.  I tapped, and thanked him for his chiropractic services.  I know, I know…he shouldn’t be able to do that to me while in my guard.  But he’s that strong, and I have a hard time controlling him in my guard.

I also rolled with Zack and Eric – great rounds with each of them!  I finished the night with Pete.  This is a full round of me on the defense, because he’s always in motion, always improving his position, always going for a submission if it’s there.  A great/fun round, and one where neither of us used strength as much as we did technique (which is to say I used my 4 techniques, he used his 400).

Which brings me to the point of tonight’s post.  I felt GREAT afterwards.  I drove home feeling like I learned a lot, performed well, and didn’t get too beat up.  A win-win class!  Only to wake up this morning feeling like I was trampled on by a small water buffalo.  I guess the endorphins from class masked the fact that my body is still recovering.

So without trying to complain or bellyache too much, I guess I’m just surprised that after doing this Krav Maga / BJJ thing for over a year now, my body is still learning how to handle the stresses of training.  Maybe it’s ego, but I thought for sure I’d be able to roll hard for one evening, and wake up refreshed and feeling like a million bucks.  Not today, I guess.  I woke up tired, and feeling like a crumpled dollar bill stuck between your car seat.

Perhaps this is all part of the game.  Maybe it takes a few years to be able to roll hard, fight hard, and still feel 90-100% in the morning.  Or, maybe everybody feels this way, and I just need to ‘suck it up, buttercup‘.

Either way, Advil is my friend, and I’m already looking forward to Saturday’s class.  We have two high-level brown belts visiting, both of whom I’ve rolled with before.  It’s a wonderful (and humbling) learning experience.  I can’t wait!

Take care of each other!  Cheers.


Taking Fight Club to the next level…

…as in Level II.

Yesterday afternoon, Kevin and I passed our Krav Maga level test.  We are now Level II students, and I’m one step closer to my goal of – hopefully before I’m 50 yrs old – being a Krav Maga instructor.

As for the test, well, you know what Tyler Durden says.  “The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!”  [Note: if you haven’t seen Fight Club (1999) with Brad Pitt and Ed Norton, stop reading this and go watch it.  Now.  Move it!]

I will, however, say these few things (if Ed Norton’s character had a blog, he’d have said these things too).

1.  For me, it was as physically demanding as the Marine Corps Marathon in 2007.  The main difference is that when Kevin and I ran the marathon, we only had ourselves to keep us accountable for our time goals.  “Be at mile X by this time.”  If we were tired, we walked a bit – which we did starting about mile 18.  Run 5 minutes, walk a minute.  So while we pushed ourselves…if we needed to rest, we rested.  In Krav Maga, there’s no taking it easy.  There’s no, “I need a break now, so I’ll throttle back a bit”.  You are in a fight!

2.  When I learned that we passed, I was elated!  I was relieved, and happy, and exhausted, and a million other things.  But in the back of my mind I knew that this was ONLY step one.  We have to step up the aggression and combatives required for Level II.  I know which techniques of mine are sloppy – I need to refine them.  I realize where the holes are in my cardio and fitness – I need to improve them.  In essence, passing Level I gives us a foundation on which to be better students of Krav Maga.  So achieving one goal (reaching Level II) is nothing more than the beginning of another goal (reaching Level III).

3. We are in this together – which hopefully is a theme that rings true throughout my blog.  Krav Maga (and BJJ for that matter) is not an individual sport.  Yes, you need to master the techniques.  Yes, you need to bolster your fitness and cardio levels.  Yes, you need to be aggressive and display a fighting spirit.  But, when training, you are not the only one there.  You have a training partner who is learning just like you…who is tired just like you…who might get frustrated just like you.  We have a responsibility to be a good training partners in all accounts.  We have to cheer each other on when we are tired.  We have to be aware of our surroundings so nobody gets hurt.  We have to be just as happy for each other’s accomplishments as we are of our own.  We are, definitely, in this together.  And to this end, I’m immensely proud to be a student of this gym.

So that’s all I have this morning.  A quick blog entry to pass along the great news.  Time for me to refill my coffee mug, and my water bottle, and maybe take a little more Advil.

Take care of one another!  Cheers.


To all my 40+ fighters out there…

Dear reader – if you are part of the 25 years old and under crowd, you might want to stop reading now.  If you are 28, and after a tough BJJ or Krav Maga class, you DefenseSoap the single bead of sweat from your forehead and head out to party with the ladies (or men, for you lady fighters out there) – please, log off and stop reading.  This post is NOT for you.

However, if you are 40 and over (ok, maybe 36/37 is acceptable), then please read on…because today’s blog is for all my ‘experienced’ fighters out there.

This week was a hard training week for me, and I’m not sure why.  Krav Maga on Monday night, followed by a great BJJ class (see Blood, Sweat, and Obscenities).  Missed Wednesday night due to a snowstorm.  Thursday night was Fight Class – which was an awesome experience.  As a parting gift from Fight class, I got this beauty from blocking a kick aimed for my ribs.

Better than a busted rib!

Better than a busted rib!

After an ‘OK’ night’s sleep last night, I headed to our 9am BJJ class.  Warmups and opening drills were fine.  I drilled with Carmelo (hope I’m spelling your name correctly, dude).  You should know that this guy is about my weight, but solid muscle.  It’s like grappling with a pit bull.  So while drilling sweeps was nice and smooth, 2-minute drills in grip fighting were NOT.  We got in guard, postured up, then for 1 minute fought for grips.  Sleeves, collars, anything.  The person on top had to fight off the grips.  The person on the bottom’s goal was to get a grip, and pull them down.  We did two rounds each.  Let me tell you – that was HARD.  Carmelo was all over me.

Then it was time to roll.

And, as you know, your first roll is with your drilling partner.  Mr. Pit Bull was STRONG.  I swept him a few times, but he simply overpowered me most of the round.  I was able to maintain deep half guard during the round.  He may have mounted me once.  Neither of us got a submission.  When the round was over, I felt as if I got into a small car accident.

My second roll of the morning was with Pete – a rare treat.  Pete is a 4-stripe blue belt in BJJ (I assume he’ll be a purple belt soon), a multiple black belt in other disciplines, and the head instructor for the school, which means he’s Level one-million in Krav Maga.  Rolling with Pete was an exercise in defending his submission attempts as he ran around my guard at will.  I consider it a victory that I was able to turn my hips into him a few times, keeping him from taking my back.  He also got a really nice “shoulder in my neck” choke…and the grey fog came into my vision VERY quickly.  I tapped fast.  If I had waited another 2 seconds, I would have taken a little nap.

Finished the morning’s rolling session with Eric – who is also a beast.  We are, for the most part, the same experience level.  So each time we roll, it’s a battle of position.  Sweep, sweep, and more sweeps.  We both try to sneak in a neck crank here and there.  I almost got him in a triangle choke from my guard, but he stacked me very well, and I had to release the choke.

I was BEAT when Professor called time.  I managed to get out of my gi, but had zero (and I mean zero) energy left for Krav Maga.  I drove home and showered, got a protein shake in me…and pretty much crashed for 2 hours (thank you to my teenage girls for letting me nap).  I woke up feeling dehydrated and exhausted.

So I started thinking about it.  Was I overtrained?  Under-sleeped?  Under-hydrated?  Under-fed?  I’m not sure – but I’ve rarely seen the ‘fuel light’ go off like that.  Don’t get me wrong, many times I’ve felt drained after class…but today was different.  I woke up from my nap feeling like a zombie.

So I’ll ask my 40-and-over crowd…what do you do to recharge?  I am convinced it’s not an overtraining thing.  I might have been a little dehydrated today.  But I’m curious what you ‘experienced’ guys and gals do to stay in fighting shape throughout the week.  Kick-ass supplements?  Increased food intake?

I will say that lately, I’ve had a little mental block about food.  I’m at 230-ish lbs now, down from 260lbs.  And since my target weight is 220, I still think about calories during the day.  Truth be told, my actual weight is not a factor as much as losing the spare tire.  True, my spare tire is much smaller than it was in 2012…but I want NO spare tire.  Can you have a 6-pack at 40?  That’s the goal…to see if I can do that by the end of May.  That’s two and a half months away.  So I’m likely on the edge of not eating enough to keep up with training.  Ahh, the dilemma of the 40 and over crowd.  At 25, I could scarf pizza and beer all day long, and stay very lean.  Today, not so much.

So along with the ‘how do you stay fueled for training‘ question, there’s also the issue of training with minor aches and pains.  Getting injured is not age specific – our 20-somethings can get a torqued finger just like the rest of us – but the issue is that at 40, I don’t feel as though I recover as fast.  So that sore hip…that sore wrist…those banged up fingers…they just stay that way.  I know minor aches and pains might never fully go away…but what do you do to manage them?  I am a big proponent of taping things up.  Today I looked like I was sponsored by Ace Athletic Tape: taped finger, taped wrist, taped toes.  But what do you do after training?  I’ve heard of Muay Thai liniment oil – anyone have experience using that?  Do you use a secret home remedy of ground up ginger, red pepper flakes, eye of newt, and pee from a pissed-off Gila Monster?  If so, please pass it on.

I know what you’re thinking:  this post was ill-organized and ill-thought out.  It was nothing more than a general gripe-session over feeling dehydrated, feeling beat up, and having no energy.  But it does have a point!  And the point is this:  I can’t just go out there and duke it out with the young guns without careful consideration to my before & after routine.  I have to pay attention to what I eat, what I drink, and how I prep & recover to make sure I continue coming back to the gym…feeling full of piss and vinegar…and ready to roll with the best of ’em.

So get out your glucosamine & chondroitin, your protein shakes, your BCAA’s, your athletic tape, your knee braces (no metal in there, right?), your knee pads, your ibuprofen, your Sam Adams Boston Lager, and your Saturday post-training naps…and I’ll see you on the mats!

Take care of each other!  Cheers.

This is a fight…

Last night was a unique experience.  One of the great things about my gym is that we teach everything:  Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga FORCE Training (for law enforcement and military), KM Fit class, KM Bag class, Fight class, and even Krav Maga for juniors.

I missed training on Wednesday night due to a miscommunication on the schools “open” status (we had a light snowstorm that day).  So I talked to Kevin yesterday about attending one of the Thursday night classes.  “Hey, what about Fight class?”

Fight class is described as “…focusing on kickboxing/sparring using Krav Maga and Muay Thai concepts. A fun class that gives students the opportunity to test their skills in a safe manner.”  Easy decision – we’re in!  We showed up early, because neither of us had sparring gear (16oz gloves, shin guards, & headgear), so we had to borrow some of the loaner gear. 

We arrived near the end of the Krav Maga Level II class.  Kevin and I are both still Level I, so it’s always fun to watch the next level of Krav Maga.  [Note, our Level test is next Saturday!]  The last 15 mins of that class focused on ground technique; specifically, they worked on attaining a mount position on the ground.  Since they were an odd-numbered class, I offered to step out on the mats and roll with the odd-man-out.  The instructor said “of course”…and I was able to get on the ground for a few minutes and roll with one of the Level II guys.  Rolling just plain makes me happy!

So the Level II class ended, and 6 of us got on the mats for Fight class.  My first fight class.

We started out shadowboxing.  Getting warmed up.  Then drilled inside defense – a blocking technique.  Then we worked leg kicks – both how to deliver a kick, and how to ‘check’ the kick…which is nothing more than blocking his kick with your shin, versus letting him kick your thigh.  You can’t take too many thigh kicks before you can’t walk for an evening!

Then the fun began.  We sparred for a few rounds each…punching, kicking, blocking, checking.  First at 30% speed.  Then 50%.  Then gradually building up to 75-80%.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell much difference between 80% and 100%…so if you caught one in the face, you felt it!

Then we did two very cool drills. 

The first simulated two people attacking you at once.  You started with your back to a wall, and when the instructor yells ‘go’, they start punching and kicking and kneeing and holding onto you.  Your objective is to fight your way out and find the door (exit = safety).  I found that to be fun, but extremely tiring!  We did this 4 times each.

The second drill focused on endurance.  One guy gets in the middle and fights an opponent for 60-90 seconds.  The whistle is blown, and the next guy comes in – fight.  Whistle, next guy.  Whistle, next guy.  Everyone had their turn in the middle and fought continuously through 6 people.  I got punched in the face several times, and I lost count how many times I was kicked in the ribs and legs.

I learned two things about myself during Fight class last night.  First, I have a nice quick jab.  I’m able to keep my opponent at a good distance using the jab.  However, once they slide inside, they can get underneath and pummel me.  Second, the more hits I took, the more I wanted to take my opponent to the ground and transition to BJJ techniques.  I guess that’s my comfort zone.

The hour and fifteen minute class was over pretty quickly.  Kevin and I were sweaty, tired, and humbled by the realization that any of these more gifted strikers could beat the snot out of us.

I think I might have to incorporate Fight class into my training regimen more often.  As Kevin and I discussed on the ride home, these skills are the natural middle-ground between employing a Krav Maga technique to counter a surprise attack, and employing a BJJ technique should the fight go to the ground. 

40.  And fighting.  Literally.  (And getting beat up a little bit.)  So today is rest and stretch, because we’re back on the mats tomorrow morning at 9am with BJJ.

Take care of each other!  Cheers.

Blood, sweat, and obscenities

After not training on Saturday due to my ever-increasing sore right hip, it was very nice to get back on the mats tonight!

Krav Maga was a hot, sweaty mess.  Chasity, who clearly cares about our well-being and fitness, started us with 50 partner-situps.  No hello.  No flowers.  No how is everyone tonight?  Just, ’50 partner sit-ups, go.’  That pretty much set the tone for the next hour.

First was a basic move: hammerfists.  We do this a lot because it’s a very effective strike.  Then…the word everyone quietly cringes over: knees.  Delivering a knee into someones torso while holding them firmly by the arm and neck is a devastating move.  In a real fight, I’m not sure bad-guy could withstand many of these, which, frankly, is good…because you are using major muscle groups, and they are VERY tiring.  After several rounds of knees after knees after knees, everyone – and I mean everyone – was sweaty and out of breath.  We finished the class with a good deal of basic ground work.  Staying in a safe defensive posture while on your back, gauging how to deliver good kicks from that position, and knowing how (and when) to get up safely to remain engaged and safe in a fight.  All good stuff!  Thank you Phil and Chasity for another great class!!

Then we hustled into our gi’s for jiu jitsu.  We had a great class, led by Zack, with after a 30-min warmup and drill session, we had 45 minutes of live rolling in 5-min rounds.  After several rounds, I see Chasity with no partner.  “Hey, Chasity, are you tired of beating up on the little guys – wanna shot at the title?

Now, let me remind you, dear reader, that I’m 6’5″, 235lbs.  Chasity might be 120lbs soaking wet.  So, while I don’t normally get paired up with folks much smaller than me, I take this as an opportunity to work technique.  No fair (in training) if I just lay on her and smash her.  So we rolled and scrambled for a few minutes…back and forth.  Finally, I was in her deep-half guard.  From this position I like to go for a collar choke.  Because of my long arms, when my opponent is on their back, I can snake my arm around the back of their head, and with my other hand, feed their own opposing gi collar to my free hand.  In effect, you are strangling them with their own clothing.

So I had this collar choke (there’s probably a real BJJ name for this, but I don’t know it…sorry) on Chasity, and it was tight.  I was able to wiggle her collar under her chin, so I knew I was cutting off some air and blood flow in her neck.  Red faced and eyes shut tight, she was not tapping.  I did a quick check to make sure she had a free hand to tap if she needed to, then tried to sink it just a little deeper.  She was going to tap any second.  Any second…  Here we go….  Annnyyyyy second.

Then….with her face deep red, and her eyes shut tight, and biting down on her mouthguard, this 120lb girl – trapped and strangled under my 235lbs – quietly whispered, “F_ck You”.  She even put a little drawl in the middle, extending the ‘uuuuuh’ just a bit.

How awesome is that??!!  I would have tapped a LONG time ago.  But there she is…regulating her breathing, and letting me know that while this was painful and sucked for her…I was NOT going to tap her with this move.  Her psychological warfare worked wonders, and I released the choke within a few seconds.  The timer went off, and that was it.  A supremely confident Krav Maga instructor and BJJ player who knows her own boundaries so well that she can break me down with a quiet obscenity.  Masterful.  Perfectly played.

So that brings me to my point of tonight’s blog.  This little story perfectly captures why I so look forward to being on the mats.  Krav Maga & BJJ…these combative systems…teach so much more than fighting skill.  They teach respect.  They teach honor.  They teach tenacity.  They teach fortitude.  They teach that even though you might be in a sucky position, you still have the ability to endure.  They teach camaraderie with the people you bleed with, sweat with, and sometimes (playfully) curse at.  [Note: we got a GOOD laugh at it after class.]

So while the physical impacts are huge, and while the fighting know-how (however limited for me) is starting to sink in, the real benefit of being on the mats is that it makes me a better person.  It makes US better people.

So my entering excitement was completely validated tonight.  Sore hip and all…this was a great night on the mats!

Take care of each other!  Cheers.

PS – You never want to hurt your training partner.  Tonight, as I attempted to roll out of his arm bar, my partner (Chuck) slammed his head and shoulder on the mats.  Chuck is one tough mother…but I could tell it rung his bell.  It was totally unintentional, which he knew, but still.  Chuck, if you are reading this, a thousand apologies – I hope you are 100% tomorrow morning.

Protect yourself – oh, the options!

I’ve given a fair amount of thought to the philosophy of self-defense lately.

Not just technique.  There’s plenty of that in both Krav Maga and in BJJ.  In Krav Maga, it’s strikes: straight punches, hammerfists, kicks, knees, several elbow options.  In BJJ, as a self-defense method, there’s body positioning, chokes, and armlocks.

But as a follow-on to a recent post, there’s much more than just a technique; there’s an element of philosophy…an element of emotions and awareness…an element of ‘tools’…and an element of environment (and probably a few more).

Most recently, I’ve given a great deal of thought to the tools of self-defense.  Knowing how to rear-naked-choke someone is fun…and how sweet would it be to pull off an arm-in triangle on the streets?  But what if you are in a situation where an attacker (or attackers) have weapons?  Should you carry a gun?  A knife?  Pepper spray?  Taser?  Exploding ninja smoke bombs and throwing stars?

I’m no lawyer…matter of fact, I’m probably the least-qualified person to discuss the laws, ethics, and mechanics of carrying weapons.  But there are a few thoughts that I’ve considered, and since I have this handy-dandy WordPress Blog, I’m going to share them.  Plus, I’m armed with information from a colleague of mine who is a strong advocate of using a handgun as a primary self-defense weapon.  Not only is he a competitive tactical shooter, but he is a long-time conceal and carry advocate.  Let’s just say that if there were a robbery, or a mall shootout, or a zombie apocalypse, I want to be near this guy.  So he was my first choice to discuss the philosophy of conceal and carry permits.

He first explained his opinion that everyone should have a concealed carry permit, regardless of whether or not you carry a gun.  This made sense to me.  Using New Orleans (my home town) and Hurricane Katrina as an example…he made it clear that normal societal rules and laws can break down rather quickly.  If you find yourself with a weapon (to protect you and your loved ones), but without a permit, you could be, in the eyes of the state, considered a criminal.  So it makes sense to me to have the permit … just in case.

The next question is one of choice: what type of weapon?  I reviewed several websites to see what was out there; one site dedicated to small/compact guns listed over 300 different guns ranging from a $200 mini revolver, to an exquisite $1,300+ compact .380 ACP with laser grips.  Yeah – apparently Kimber makes some wicked good guns.

Some of this is personal preference, of course.  But there should be a great deal of philosophy as well.  Some might want the stopping power of a big caliber round.  Others might want the weight savings and smaller size of a small-caliber pistol.  The right answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

The question of holsters and holster placement it interesting to me…probably just as much as the pistol itself.  For whatever reason, I think an ankle holster would be perfect.  I am almost always in jeans or slacks, so having a concealed pistol on my ankle would seem to offer the greatest ‘ease of carry’.  Of course, enthusiasts usually prefer to carry on their hip for no other reason than the speed of drawing their weapon.  I appreciate this element as well.

Ok – enough randomness about concealed handguns.  Let’s talk about training.

Last night, we had another jam-packed Krav Maga class.  We worked effortlessly through straight punches, hammerfists, front kicks…and quickly transitioned to self-defense techniques.  Last night’s technique of choice: choke from the rear with a push.  This one is perhaps the most difficult to me.  Defending the choke is rather easy…it’s the next half-second or so is hard: hand placement.  Once you break the choke and turn into your attacker, you need to both strike and control.  Now, in the real world, you can strike (and strike, and strike), and that’s infinitely better than saying, “wait, sir, could you please put your arm here so I can hold the proper carry position?”  Of course not.  Just punch.  But to properly demonstrate the technique, hand placement is an element…so I was happy to drill this for 15-20 mins with a rather scrappy partner.  I think he ‘accidentally’ elbowed and knee’d me in the head about 20 times.  Control your body, man!  I instinctively blocked one of his more aggressive knees with my formerly broken finger, which hurt like a mother!

It was also my very first class wearing wrestling shoes.  I thought it was going to throw me off a bit, as I’ve been training barefoot for the past year.  But, much to my surprise, after about 15 minutes, I forgot I was even wearing shoes.  So, luckily, no issues there.

Guns, chokes, and elbows – all in a day’s work.  Ok, not the guns part…but definitely the chokes and elbows part.  All part of being on the mats.

Take care of each other!  Cheers.

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