Before I found Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I studied Kendo – The Way of the Sword.
In all honesty, I was never any good at it. At 6’5″, and an 80″ reach in UFC fighter’s parlance, I had awesome reach when fully extended for a men strike…but I was always much bigger and SLOWER than my opponents. But regardless of my skill level, Kendo taught me a great deal about martial arts.
First, Kendo taught me the essence of breathing during combat. When I first started training Kendo, I would be winded within 5 minutes of warmup. By the end of training, I would be a sweaty mess in need of gatorade, and sometimes an automatic external defibrillator. But one instructor in particular continued to drill into my head – “Kris, you gotta breath when doing keiko (practice).” This is one thing that transitioned with me when I started Krav Maga…and then BJJ. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I knew exactly how to breath when drilling knees in the carry position, and BJJ took breathing to a whole new level. But the essence of breathing while in combat stuck with me. And now, after nearly two years of BJJ training, I get it.
Second, and more importantly, Kendo taught me the concept of Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi. Broken down into their parts: (1) ki-energy, or spirit; (2) ken-the sword; (3) tai-one’s body. Ichi is “1”…meaning all three must be present in the same moment. So ki-ken-kai-ichi is when your warrior spirit, the cut of your sword, and the proper position of your body must all be present to culminate in a proper and valid sword strike.
So how does my limited Kendo experience relate to BJJ? Well…first, you have to breath. Obviously, if you roll while continuously grunting or straining, you won’t survive for long. Breath!! But what about ki-ken-tai-ichi?
Ki (spirit). We all sometimes bring ego into our jiu jitsu. You have a bad day, you’re frustrated, you’re trying to impress someone. What better for a lowly white belt like me to tap one of our blue belts with a choke? Ahh…that would make up for my boss giving me crap about that late suspense, right? Wrong. When rolling, one of my goals is to rid myself of ego. The new guy just tapped me? Great. I learned that I can’t be lazy and leave my arms hanging all over the place.
Ken (sword). We don’t carry a sword, but we have a technique, which is our weapon. Sometimes I find an arm or a neck exposed, and I’ll jump on it. But once I get it…wait, is it monkey grip or human grip? Do I grab my bicep or his lapel? Do I trap the arm before securing my legs, or secure my legs before trapping the arm? You see…I need to take time to learn the technique so I can execute properly and without hesitation when the opportunity presents itself.
Tai (body). “Posture up, Kris……POSTURE UP!” (even though Professor is yelling it, I sometimes don’t hear….then I get guillotine’d). When I first started BJJ, I was all about the submission. Either I was trying one, or I was defending one – even though I knew how to do neither. But as I settled down, I now know it’s about position. Position before submission, right? So now I’m focusing on improving my position. Keith tells me all the time when we roll…”constantly look to improve your position”. If the arm or neck is out there AND I’m in the proper position – then I’ll attempt the submission. And for goodness sake, Kris, POSTURE UP!
Ichi (1). All of these things need to be working in unison for good BJJ.
However – ki ken tai ichi won’t help me with hurt fingers! Lately, all of my finger joints, and a few toes, have been really achy. Once I’m warmed up and rolling, the aches go away somewhat…but my left hand is still not quite right from the broken finger last year. My left hand grips suck – and worse that I’m a lefty…that should be my strong hand! To that end – does anyone have suggestions on what I can do? All you BJJ, Judo, and Muay Thai masters out there – where’s the special concoction of oils and herbs and octopus mucus that I can rub on my hands to make the ache disappear? If you come across anything, please let me know. 🙂
Finally – a word on T+, my favorite Superman watermelon drink. I know I told everyone that I’d re-do my testosterone levels after I finished the last order. But alas, I’m very busy and a little lazy, and I failed you. But, I just started a new 30-day supply (on day 4 actually), and I promise to get my T-levels rechecked, and post both my pre-T+ and post-T+ numbers. That way, my subjective “this stuff makes me feel super energized, and I recover from training much faster” will be accompanied by the more objective “t-levels were XXX, and now are YYY“. But…subjectively, I can tell you: the stuff makes me feel super energized, and I recover from hard training sessions much faster.
Until next time, keep your ki-ken-tai-ichi in harmony.
And take care of each other. Cheers!