Sunday, 27 December 2009

More training

Bodyweight work yesterday - different styles of press ups plus plenty of crunches, followed by plenty of two arm kettlebell swings with the heavier bell. Finished off with some stretching.

Today was serious kettlebells. Work with the lighter bell on:

2 arm swing
press (both sides)
single arm row (both sides)
'round the world'
high pull
single arm swing (both sides)
2 arm swing

Work time was probably about 15 minutes, so was v glad to hit the shower after that little lot!

After breakfast it was off to the in-laws to swap presents. It was a mixture of rain and sleet here, but we hit snow on the bypass. Nasty, nasty but had cleared by the time we were coming home. Even spotted a wee deer on the way back, but couldn't see whether it was a roe or a red deer.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Work problems solved

only to find other problems at home!

We currently have no water due apparently to a "burst pipe locally". Oh joy.

Och well, we have bottled water for drinking plus some Pepsi. When that runs out there's always the whisky liqueur lol.

I'm sure it'll all be sorted soon.

This is me ....

.... in the office on Boxing Day!

Have popped in to try and fix a problem with one of the corporate backups. Have discovered a potentially more serious issue and am just awaiting feedback from a colleague. Hopefully will be easy to resolve.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

I am being picked on ....

.... by the weather!

I cleared and salted the paths this morning and got the worst of the snow off the car. It is now snowing again ....

It snowed when I went running on Monday and stopped when I got back in the house. It snowed on me when I was in town most of yesterday.

What is that if not picking on me????

Oh and the cat is clearly feeling neglected:

A clear case of huffy mchuff lol.

Terminology - some explanations (I hope)

A few posts back I mentioned the terms pelampas and sumbrada in passing. In her comment Sue quite rightly asked me to clarify and explain the terms.

I'll be honest and say that I've kind of held off from doing this. Partly because they're a wee bit difficult to explain in text and partly because I don't want to appear as if I'm claiming some kind of authority or expertise in these areas. I was hoping to be able to link to some videos which a former instructor of mine had uploaded to YouTube, but sadly these appear to no longer be publicly accessible.

Basically the terms pelampas and sumbrada originate from the Indonesian art of pencak silat. They refer to flow drills which students use to drill certain core movements. I guess the closest example from say karate or tae kwon do would be one or three step sparring.

These are partner drills with each student taking turns to feed the attack. Pelampas is an empty hand drill and sumbrada is a weapons drill. I've trained sumbrada with both single stick (rattan cane, kali or escrima-style - closest Japanese equivalent probably tonfa) and knife.

- as I have been taught it - allows students to drill empty hand defences against a number of attacks, both straight and angled. Initially however we learnt it as a defence against a straight attack.

To perform the pelampas drill:

  1. Both partners face each other.
  2. Attacker feeds the defender a single straight right punch (jab).
  3. Defender brings their left arm across their body and uses the palm to intercept the attacker's punch just above the wrist.
  4. Defender then brings their right arm up underneath the left, using the back of the right hand to monitor the attacker's arm. The right hand is slighly higher up the attacker's arm.
  5. Defender then uses the palm of their left hand to check the attacker's arm, pressing slightly downward. This time the left hand is higher up again on the attacker's arm.
  6. Defender then becomes the attacker and feeds their partner a straight right punch.

This is referred to variously as a 3 or a 4 count drill, depending on whether you count the last punch.

The movements at 3. and 4. are the core of what I was taught as a defence against a straight attack. Ideally the defender wants to be working to the outside of your attacker, but the same moves will work on the inside - you're just more vulnerable to a follow up attack.

When you bring your left hand across to intercept the punch, I think of it not so much as block but more as a means of taking the punch "offline". It also serves to redirect the energy of the punch away from you and across the attacker's centreline. Also, by taking their arm across their own centreline you are effectively locking up their body structure, making it difficult for them to launch another attack and potentially setting them up for a sweep, throw or takedown.

The move with bringing the right hand up underneath the left is a difficult one to explain in words only! If you can imagine that you have brought your left arm across your body so that the blade of your hand is pointing towards your attacker, your right arm then comes up the way - palm up and hand open, as if you were holding something. This is known as holding the mirror.

In a self defence situation, this right hand can quickly be rotated and slid down the attacker's arm so that you can easily transition into a standing arm bar / back sweep (baset) combination. You can also transition into any number of strikes, throws etc.

Silat tends to work off a number of key principles and concepts which include: adhesion, shearing, gyroscopic rotation etc etc. I was taught that if you understood the principle and / or concept then it didn't matter which technique you applied in a given situation. This certainly allowed us a degree of flexibility in terms of finding techniques appropriate to our skills, preferences, gender, height, body type etc.

Moving on to sumbrada. This is also a flow drill but for weapons. I've seen it done most often with a stick, but you could use most impact or edged weapons. Again students work with a partner and takes turns to feed attacks. The attacks are based on the angles or cuts which that system uses. All of the weapons arts which I have come across so far use systems of either 12 or 24 angles. They all cover the same basic cuts although some might be numbered slightly differently.

Along with heaven and earth and other drills, sumbrada is basically intended to help the student defend various strikes then deliver their own attacks. I am particularly fond of the double stick heaven and earth 6 count drill - it flows really nicely. Sumbrada can also flow v nicely if both students know what they're doing - which is always the challenge!

As I said at the top, by no means do I claim any sort of authority or expertise on any of this material. I am only recounting it as I was taught it and currently understand it.

Keeping up the good work

No classes this week, so it's up to me to keep in shape.

Monday I went out to the Cammo estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh and had a wee trot round. Not much of a trot as it snowed the whole time I was out there. Was v glad to get home and into a hot shower!

Tuesday I spent the day running around doing many pre-Christmas things. Managed to chuck some weights around later on though.

Yesterday my exercise was tramping round the streets in the snow. Surprisingly hard work it was too.

Today I have done some serious stuff:

Warm up - mobility work and punchbag
bench press
upright row
shoulder press
single arm kettlebell row
rear squat

all 2 sets x 10 reps.

Then I finished off with some serious kettlebell swinging. Am happily knackered and needing a shower now!

I'll be looking to do some bodyweight work and stretching later on in the day. In the meantime, I'm looking out at the snow and wondering if I could still make a snowman ....

In other news, there was a significant spider alert this morning. The cats found a medium sized spider on the curtains. It's not there now, so it's either legged it to emerge later on or it's in a cat. We are visited by some of the most gigantic and aggressive house spiders I've seen in a long time. I'm not spider-phobic but it is a little disturbing when a spider is big enough that you can see it looking back at you! I don't like killing them though, so if the cats don't get them they go outside (if they fit in the jam jar that is!)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

What's in the box?

Nothing to do with martial arts, but I think this is funny. My cat Frankie demonstrating the What's in the box game ....

Snow. We has it

About 3 inches of the cold white stuff to be precise. Not a great deal compared to the quantities that fall in other countries, but certainly enough to bring this fine city of Edinburgh grinding to a halt.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Endings. And beginnings

Last night was the last Tactical Edge class of 2009. Several things conspired to make it more 'interesting':

  • Only 4 of us turned up.

  • The weather - incl the first snow of the season - managed to make it even colder in the dojo than normal.

  • It was the last ever class in that venue.

Thoughts on the session - I'm glad I went even though I've been bone-tired all week. Because there were so few of us, Marcus ran a different sort of class. We worked variations of what I know as a pelampas defence, working from the inside and outside. We then developed this to start adding in striking combinations.

From there we moved on to some knife stuff, using the pelampas defences to defend against single and double blades. We did some sumbrada 5 count drills. It was nice to see that I was just as mince at sumbrada with a knife as I ever was with a stick lolololol. Adding a second knife actually made it slightly easier for me for some truly bizarre reason.

I was training with the inimitable Bear, who is a lovely guy and who definitely deserves top marks for his patience and sense of humour!

I'm certainly not sorry to be bidding farewell to that venue though. Unheated, damp, falling apart, grubby and nasty - nah, not sorry at all.

Here's to many happy training hours at the new venue.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Ouchie mini-seminar

Well, our wee mini-seminar started well last night - tripped over someone during the *warm up* and cracked my elbow off the wall. Since we were training in a judo dojo and there is matting part way up the wall, missing the matting and hitting the dado rail was impressive. Right on the point of the elbow that was .....

That set the tone really. I have many many bruises this morning. I suppose you could argue for judging the quality of a seminar by the number of bruises you acquire. If that's the case, then last night was a very good seminar!

It was run by Mark Davies who is the founder of the Tactical Edge system. Now I know why the krav maga guys that I train with are so keen on him. Mark has black belts / instructor credentials in multiple martial arts, and it shows. This guy knows his stuff! I liked his presentation style - he talked a lot about the principles behind what he was demonstrating and broke techniques down into their component movements. He was also excellent at helping a short arse like myself adapt moves to suit their height.

I also really liked the fact that he wasn't up there promoting his own system whilst disrespecting others. I've been in and around martial arts a while now, and I've come across more than one instructor who will extol the virtue of their own system whilst loudly insisting that taekwondo / karate / judo etc are rubbish and have it all wrong. In my very humble opinion, there are no bad martial arts. There are certainly martial arts which are very strong in some skills and perhaps weaker in others but there are definitely a lot of very poor instructors out there. The more martial arts available, then the more chances there are that people will find an art which suits them. I have a very strong preference for the modern, very practical systems (eg MMA, krav maga etc) but I have every respect for the traditional arts and for those who train in them. Kuk sool didn't work out for me, but that was my issue and certainly not the fault of the art.

- climbs off soapbox and puts it away tidily -

Anyway, getting back to last night's seminar. We worked empty hand defences against close range elliptical attacks, gradually building up from limb destruction entries through locks (hullo nikyo!) into takedowns and finishes. We then moved onto using the same techniques against impact weapons. Some cool stuff, possibly made slightly easier for this occasionally hard of thinking student by having covered similar material with kupso and CREST.

Really enjoyed the seminar and glad I went on a very cold night, even though it took me 15 mins to find somewhere to park. Needless to say I was the only female there again, but I can live with that lol.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Last Monday class of 2009

Last night was the last Monday krav class of this year. We were pretty thin on the ground, what with it being nearly Christmas and all, I think there were 8 of us all told. I was impressed that 2 of the newbie females from last week came back. It's good to see people giving us a 2nd go.

Class started with a circuit style warm up for a change - rounds of skipping, step-ups, tricep dips, barbell shoulder presses and bicep curls. The guys got to do pull ups as well since there is a pull up bar in the room. I would have given that a go - IF I was tall enough to reach the bar!

Then it was on to combatives, punching this time rather than palm heel strikes. Both Marcus and Lee picked me up several times on my left jab which I'm currently doing some very odd things with. Basically I'm not rotating the hand enough as I punch. I know that I'm doing it, I'm not sure why I'm doing it - I don't do it anywhere else - and I'm having difficulty not doing it. Very strange.

We then started adding in front and round kicks to our combinations. That ended up getting a bit complicated until we ended up with front kick, jab, cross, round kick, front kick, jab, cross, knee, knee .... It got a bit messy in places really.

Then we worked some takedowns. I ended up taking a few awkward falls onto an unmatted floor. I'm quite heavy and I didn't think it fair to expect my smaller and much lighter partner to control my falls. I don't mind breakfalling without a mat, but my old bones start to feel it after a few falls! Still, I survived with no harm done.

Mini-seminar tonight, think it's on empty hand self defence.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Nae seminar for me

Could have gone as well, despite being on call as it was a v quiet weekend :=(

Och well, there will be other seminars, and I pretty much got the Xmas shopping finished.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Curses! Foiled again

There is a free Tactical Edge seminar in Arbroath on Sunday, given by the founder of the system.

I was all set to go, looking forward to it etc.

Have remembered that I am on call this weekend. And I've been paid for it already ....

Now, I could go to Arbroath with the on call PDA and hope for the best that there are no major problems .... Or I could get a call that I need to go on campus to resolve - like I did last weekend.

Decisions decisions ....

Think Arbroath will need to wait for another day. :=(

Tactical Edge last night

Tactical Edge is the name given to Mark Davies' combatives system, and it's linked to the krav maga class I go in Edinburgh. Last night was the first time I'd ever gone along to the class, although I'd been interested for a while.

Tactical Edge is not light and fluffy, and like Tuesday's Combat Sport, I was the only female in the class. I'm not sure why that is, but I guess that some of the content could make women uncomfortable. In actual fact, this is the stuff that women need to learn if they're serious about learning self-defence. Still, I guess it's all down to taste.

In terms of material, it wasn't at all dissimilar to the stuff I learned with Kupso and with CREST. There was the warmup from *hell* - loads of running with random changes of direction (dangerous with socks but there was *no* way I was going barefoot in that temperature!!), random situps, pushups, knees to chest, floor touching etc thrown in for variety. It was so cold I did the warm up in my hoodie and although I was out of breath, I wasn't even really sweating at the end.

Then we moved onto some padwork, working pre-emptive elbow strikes. From there we moved onto a basic takedown then into defending a clothing grab using strikes to either side of the head then a neck rotation.

We then looked at defending against edged weapons and this is where I saw the parallels with what I've learned previously in terms of taking joint locks into weapons strips and disarms. Marcus then demonstrated the use of Filipino-style circular techniques to defend against edged weapons. This did make me smile because it's what I learned in CREST as the sambut sambut drill.

I had a complete brain-fart about 10 mins from the end where nothing worked for me the way I wanted it to. Luckily my partner was v patient! Actually, I felt really sorry for the poor guy cos I didn't half crank on a few locks and I heard his elbow crack a couple of times. I kept trying to encourage him to 'get his own back' on me!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

It's Christmas day, "All is secure"!

Snagged from Kick-Ass Sue's blog:

This poem was written by a British soldier stationed overseas on peacekeeping duties. The following is the soldier's request -
"Please would you do me the kind favour of sending this to as many people as you can. Christmas will be coming soon and much credit is due to our servicemen and women for our being able to celebrate these festivities."

Happy to do it, soldier!

It's Christmas day, "All is secure"!

T'was the night before christmas, he lived all alone
in a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give
and to see just who, in this small home did live.

I looked all about, a strange sight I did see -
no tinsel no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the mantle just boots filled with sand
on the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kinds.
then a sober thought came into my mind.
For this house was different, it was dark and dreary,
t'was the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone
curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home.
The face was so gentle, the room in disorder
not how I pictured a lone soldier...

Was this the hero of whom I'd just read,
curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?
I realised the families that I saw this night
owed their lives to these soldiers, who were willing to fight.

And soon round the world the children would play
and grown ups would celebrate a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoy freedom each month of the year
because of the soldiers, like the one lying here.

I couldn't help but wonder, how many alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home?
The very thought brought a tear to my eye
I dropped to my knees and started to cry

The soldier awakened, I heard a rough voice
"Santa don't cry, this life is my choice.
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more
my life is my God, my country, my corps"

The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep.
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent and still
and we both sat and shivered from the cold nights chill.

I didn't want to leave, on that cold dark night,
the guardian of honour, so willing to fight...
then the soldier rolled over with a voice soft and pure
whispered "Carry on Santa, Christmas day is secure"

One look at my watch and I knew he was right
"Merry Christmas my friend - and to all a good night!"

Our thoughts are also with the families of those soldiers who will serving abroad this Christmas.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Combat sport

After giving up the kuk sool - which has actually proved to be a rather suprising relief - I needed something to do with my Tuesday nights.

Last week it was Rannoch's combat conditioning workshop which I really enjoyed. This week I thought I would give the regular combat sport class a whirl. And I'm pleased to report that I really enjoyed it. Surprise surprise, I was the only female there but since it's part of the krav maga setup I did at least know a lot of the guys.

Rannoch wasn't there so Marcus took the class. I suspect this made for a different sort of class. For a start there was no mobility warmup - we just went straight into shadow boxing. I generally quite enjoy this but I found myself slightly put off by a niggly ankle / foot / heel thing that's I've had going on for a wee while now. I soon got into the swing of things though, esp when we started doing something called 'partner kicking'. Basically you partner up then taking turns throwing the specified kick at each other. Idea is not to hit each other but to build up speed. We started with front snap kick then went onto turning / roundhouse kicks.

Then we moved onto padwork drills - front kick, jab, cross first then onto jab,jab, cross and jab, cross, hook, cross. A couple more complicated combos then it was onto sparring.

Now, sparring generally pushes my aggression buttons big-time, so I was trying to be a good girl and wind back the power and to *think* about what I was doing. Did not too bad on the first fight, second one I was in that wee groove of mine ..... spent a lot of it apologising for belting the poor guy! I felt so sorry for him cos I think he was being nice and controlled. Och well, it's not lacrosse we're playing here!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Indomitable Spirit, redux

At the 'top' of this blog (more like the bottom in reality!), I made this entry which I never expanded on at that time:

Isn't it funny how the best examples of that good old martial arts principle of Indomitable Spirit are so rarely demonstrated by humans?

I was actually referring to the cat in the profile picture that accompanies this blog. His name is Frankie, he was 14 in August and I've had him since he was a kitten. On 07 September, I took him to the vet as he seemed to be drooling a bit and he had halitosis that could deliver a knock out punch from across the room. I thought the vet might say that he had some dental issues, maybe need some teeth out or just needed them cleaned.

The absolute last thing in the world I expected our vet Simon to say was that Frankie had a tumour under his tongue, specifically feline oral squamous cell carcincoma. And yes, it is as nasty as the name suggests. And as incurable.

On Hallowe'en, the tumour haemorrhaged. We rushed Frankie to the emergency vet, fully expecting that he wouldn't be coming home again. He not only survived that and came home, he totally refused to give in to the cancer. After a couple of weeks, the boy even got his groove back!
13 weeks on and Frankie is still hanging on in there. You can see he's not a well cat, he drools a lot but he's still eating, drinking, washing and playing. He'll let us know when he needs us to make an end of it for him. Until then, I'm going to admire him for showing me what Indomitable Spirit really means.

Krav last night

Good krav class last night.

There were a few first timers / fairly new folks, so the warmup was relatively light. We used the BodyPump weights and barbells that were already in the gym for sets of bent over rows, overhead presses and bicep curls, followed by alternate lunges with the barbell in the overhead position. Compared to some of our warmups, that was ok! There was of course the obligatory running around before and after.

Then it was straight into our standard combatives, palm heel striking then onto closed fist punching. I'm quite happy punching, thanks to my previous martial arts background but my training partner was less comfortable and stuck with palm heels.

Then we moved onto chokes, working to defend front, side and rear chokes from standing, then side choke on the ground. Then we added in a takedown (yay for MMA breakfall training - some people not too thrilled with this as it's a wooden floor with no mats) before working this situational in a 3:

To defending side choke on the ground
To standing up
To defending rear choke

We finished off defending front, side and rear chokes with only one hand. I got a bit mentally challenged by this one!!

Good fun class though.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Last week

Well, last week ended up being a bit of a lazy week really. I like the odd recovery week every so often, but I generally plan for those. This was just a combination of circumstances really.

Anyway, back on track this week. Went to the gym at 0800 this morning - wee bit of mobility work and cardio to warm up, then onto the Smith machine for bench press and squats. I actually don't squat anything like as heavy as I can (my PB is 90kg on the back squat) on the Smith machine as I can't set the bar as comfortably as I like on my back. I much prefer my squat stands and wee Manta ray bar support at home.

Then I worked some dumbbell presses before having a wee shot on a few machines - chest press, shoulder press, seated row and lat pulldown. I'm actually not that much of a fan on resistance machines. I much prefer free weights for their greater range of motion and recruitment of additional muscles. I like the big compound exercises like back squat, deadlift and bench press.

Finished off with a wee charge on the stationary bike then off to work.

In other news, I heard that we did quite well at the Brawl at the Bay cagefighting show yesterday. I couldn't go cos I was on call (and had to come on campus as well!). Out of 3 fighters taking part, we had a win, a disqualification(!) and a loss. I'm told that the disqualification probably should have been a warning followed by a win, but hey, referee's decision counts. The win that we had came in 30 secs flat - a standing rear naked choke. It's Joe's signature move but the first time he's pulled it off in actual competition.

So much celebration :=)

Krav class tonight and combat sport tomorrow.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

All conditioned out

Last night it was along to the Edinburgh Judo dojo on Lorne Street for Rannoch Donald's ( 2 hour Combat Conditioning workshop.

To say it was hard would be putting it mildly! I've trained with Rannoch before, so I kind of guessed what we might be in for. Unfortunately I hadn't anticipated the cold! The dojo is in an old church and it's unheated. It's also falling apart, smelly and manky. However it IS a good 'space' to train in and fully matted.

Anyway, despite how hard we trained I don't think my feet ever quite managed to thaw out.

We started with a 5-10 min run to warm up (I should have been so lucky - I still had my hoody on well into the session) then onto mobility drills. Rannoch can do move his body in ways that are quite possibly illegal in several small countries, the rest of us just try to emulate him in whatever way we can!

We then moved onto dynamic and plyometric drills, lots of bounding and jumping and generally doing things that our knees complain about. Then we did lots of stuff to open up the hips, very reminiscent of harimau silat. Kicking was next - no power, just height. I was working with this tall Polish guy and I impressed the hell out of myself by getting my foot up to his head (I'm only 5' 2" - 5' 3") - obviously opening the hips really worked lol.

After this little warmup we moved onto 10 press up variants. Probably the less said about that the better, suffice to say that it was both challenging and painful.

To finish off we worked combinations on the pads for several rounds.

I was very glad to go home and get in the bath!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Monday krav

Good krav class last night, although I got some major stick from our instructors Marcus and Lee for attending Sunday's Z-Health seminar. They even summoned me into the circuits class which they run before our class just to really rub it in. Cheers guys!

After a 'medium' warmup, we covered our usual combatives - palm heel strikes, then adding in hammer fists, face claws, knees and front kicks before moving on to 360 defence and situational defences.

2 hour combat conditioning class tonight instead of the kuk sool which I've now officially given up.

I was checking out the circuits class while the guys were giving me a hard time. I thought I was unfit till I saw some of these guys! I don't mean to be unkind and I know it's an hour's class etc, but some people's form during exercises like bodyweight squats, shoulder presses, bent over rows etc, was absolutely appalling. Marcus told me that a number of people have quit the class because "it's too hard". They should try krav class some time to find out what hard really is lol

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Seminar no 2 - Z-Health

So, onto Sunday and a 6 hour Z-Health workshop.

What is Z-Health? According to the accompanying literature, it is "neural re-education". Basically Z-Health takes the premise that the nervous system is the governor of the human body, and that as such it can re-educated to improve physical performance. To illustrate the benefits this particular workshop applied the Z-Health concepts to 3 key kettlebell drills - the front squat, the two handed swing and the Turkish getup.

My impressions? I'm not sure that I completely buy into the Z-Health concepts. However, a number of elements do stack up, particularly if you're familiar with Pilates.

Z-Health theorises that the human body is designed for survival and not performance. It further
suggests that pain and tightness in the body are a 'threat response' which arise when the body views a particular position or movement as a 'threat'. So in some ways Z-Health is about threat modulation.

Z-Health is also about neural plasticity. Wolff's Law and Davis' Law were both mentioned - both refer to adaptation of tissue. Effectively the way we use our bodies determines what our bodies can actually do. Since muscular strength increases the stress on our bones, the stronger we are, the stronger our bones need to be. Therefore if we don't train our muscles appropriately, then the body can decide that we no longer need such strong bones. This can lead to essential minerals being leached away from the bones, causing osteoporosis in later life. This is prevalent in women who have not done enough resistance training.

The trainer then moved on to talk about the importance of proprioception. Proprioception is about our 'state'. It is a map of where we are and how we are. In terms of Z-Health, the two key parts of proprioception are:

Mechanoreceptors - respond to movement, clustered around joints
Nocireceptors - respond to noxious stimuli such as pain

Z-Health postulates that although nocireceptors are quite sensitive and 'noisy', they can be drowned out by movement. Essentially the body wants to move. That said, the trainer did not advocate working through pain, rather she suggested that the Z-Health system can be used as a diagnostic to locate the source of pain.

We were shown a number of drills which are designed to free up areas of tension in the body, eg the feet. The feet contain 24% of the body's synovial joints which is apparently why it is so important for these to move freely. There were similar exercises for the shoulders and for the wrists and hands.

I did notice that people's range of motion in key tests such as forward flexion from the waist and shoulder rotations definitely increased!

Then we moved on to applying the Z-Health principles to 3 key kettlebell drills. I really liked the stuff that worked on the front squat and the swing, but the Turkish getup is just not my thing. I am fine as long as I do it without the kettlebell, but as soon as I start adding the kettlebell, I start freaking out. This is clearly my threat response! I know what's it's about - it's all tied in with the
shoulder injury I got a couple of years back. I know I can hold that bell up and more, but I really tense up in the getup position. Clearly something I need to work on.

So overall an interesting and worthwhile seminar, even if I don't completely buy the concept.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

The weekend of the seminars

My weekend started early. I've taken Friday and Monday as annual leave, just so I can get some 'down time' and some time to do the exciting stuff like housework, grocery shopping etc.

Anyway, my busy weekend started Friday night with MMA class. My friend has a fight coming up in February so we spent the first hour and a bit working on our conditioning. We warmed up on the heavy bags, then moved on to sets of kettlebell exercises (two handed swing, single arm swing, single arm press, squats, single arm row and snatch) interspersed with active recovery. then we moved onto some medicine ball situps, the plank and leg raises. Then it was into the general class melee to work some kicks and for my friend, to work on her ground game.

A fun class.

Today was the krav maga self-defence seminar. This was a 3 hour session (brilliant value for £20!!), which started off with a light warmup. And it was a light warmup which was a pleasant surprise. I remember the last seminar starting with a much tougher warmup. Mind you, that was maybe a mental thing - I was prepared for a tough time, so maybe I was in the right zone for dealing with it.

We had a far lower turnout today than previously, with the ladies by far the more numerous. Lots of familiar faces from our usual weekly classes, plus some newbies brought along by the posters etc. The session started with the usual pad work, drilling footwork and palm heel strike jab / cross combinations. Then we started adding in some hammer fists, elbows and knees before moving on to work front kicks and 'stomp' kicks.

Having acquired some 'combatives' or striking tools, we then moved onto 'situationals', looking at defences against grabs to clothing, wrists and hair, bear hugs and chokes. A fun and useful day with a goodly number of new bruises thanks to the assorted mistimings and general clonks dished out by all. Was v glad when we finished though - I was tired and hungry.

Z Health seminar tomorrow. Have heard some mixed reviews of this, so it will be interesting to see what it's like.

Combat Conditioning on Tuesday night. That will just be hard work!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Kuk sool no more?

I went to kuk sool class last night, and if I'm completely honest, I didn't enjoy it at all.

I have this feeling that I am not suited to this particular martial art.

I like a challenge and I want to do a traditional martial arts, but I genuinely feel that this isn't the one for me. Everything is done at top speed, which I guess is fine if your brain / body work that way. Mine doesn't, at least not yet in this class. I do know that I have an issue with being a 'slow learner' (thank you middle age and hypothyroidism!) and I've worked through this before. However, I am really struggling here. They have a grading coming up soon and we all got put on the spot in grade groups to demonstrate forms. I confess that I got completely lost by the whole thing. Being fairly new, I don't know the form terribly well, consequently I'm a lot slower than the others and I kept getting lost. Given that there was an audience of higher grades, I ended up feeling pretty bad about the whole thing.

Now, I've been in and around martial arts for several years now. I've performed forms in public at gradings and at tournaments - in fact, I've won medals at tournaments for my forms - so I'm not that worried about public performance. I've also found ways of coping with my slow learning issues. This makes me think that maybe I'm not right for kuk sool. I'm certainly finding it to be quite 'flowery' and 'fiddly'. I'm certainly used to intricate and flowing movements, having done silat in the past, so I don't think it's necessarily that.

Other niggles: I've pretty much been getting by on the Korean I learned 20 something years ago in tae kwon do class. I'm realising that a lot of the time I've no idea what's going on or what's expected! I'm just following what other people are doing. I guess you're expect to learn a lot by osmosis but the last 2 classes I've been corrected publicly by an instructor for dojang etiquette faux pas that I simply knew nothing about. I've no issues about rules or about being corrected, but it would be nice if someone told you first!

I guess I'm just used to a different style of class. I definitely miss being able to ask questions of instructors, as I find this so useful in consolidating my learning. So it may be a case of finding something more suited to me.

Despite all of the above, I don't think that it's a bad system, or a badly taught class or that the instructors are poor. I just don't feel that it's a good fit for me.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Seminar weekend pt 2

Ok, so I just booked for the seminar on Saturday. I managed to book annual leave for Friday and Monday, so at least I get to all the necessary household-y tasks as well, plus get some recovery time.

Keeps my krav instructor happy as well, which is always good, esp after I laughed when he fell last night. To be fair, if I had fallen over he would have laughed at me.

Seminar weekend

It's likely to be a very busy weekend coming up. I'm already booked up for a 6 hour seminar on Sunday on something called Z Health. I don't know much about it, but it's based around holistic movement. It may be good, it may be cheesy. The guy who's hosting it is my kettlebell instructor, so I figured it was worth a shot.

There's also a 3 hour krav seminar on Saturday which I'm really tempted by. It's only £20 for the 3 hours. It's liable to get in the way on the rugby though, as Scotland kick off v Argentina at 1430. Decisions, decisions.

Krav this

Excellent krav class last night.

The ladies Monday night fitness / self-defence class has been abandoned for now, which means that us regulars (all 3 of us) have joined the general krav maga class. We still do the fitness work though, and although there's less of it, it's possibly more challenging since it's geared for men. Lots of push ups and burpees etc.

After the fitness we moved onto our standard combatives, and then to kicking. Yay for kicking. Hello krav 'stomp' kicking - basically a front pushing kick, then a side stomp then round kick. As a right footed kicker, I really need to work on the power for my left round kick. Then it was on to defending hook punches and clothing grabs.

Krav advocates something called the '360 defence' for attacks to the head and body. It's basically a block using the 'blade' part of your forearm and very familiar to traditional martial artists. It makes perfect sense to me, up to a point. 360 defence is basically an inside block so for hook attacks, I'm happy with this plus an appropriate counter. For straight attacks however, I'm still channelling my most recent 'eclectic' martial arts training, which has silat / Indonesian fundamentals and teaches outside parrying and counters. I drilled that so often, I do it without even really thinking about it (which I suppose proves the effectiveness of drilling!) I like the parrying the way we were taught it - it locks up the opponent's body structure and off balances them for your counter. It also sets them up nicely for sweeps and takedowns. I suspect krav may have similar things later in the syllabus.

The defence against clothing grabs was also interesting. It's basically a modified nikyo wrist lock. Rather than 'goose-necking' the arm, they keep the arm straight. Again with my previous training which also used this defence I found I tended to flow into the full nikyo lock. Either is effective though.

Basically krav has surrended the 'art' for the practical side. No kata or forms here, just smash and run.

Friday, 20 November 2009


Missed my kuk sool class last night. Set out in plenty of time but got gridlocked at the west end. Managed a u-turn eventually but got caught up in loads of traffic that had had the same idea. Could have gone the long way round, but by the time I cleared the city centre, it just didn't leave me enough time for that route.

Disappointed. But at least it gave me some downtime.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Principles vs 'techniques"

Some martial arts systems seem to consist of thousands of "techniques" which their students rush to learn. That is rote learning without understanding or mastery. I used to train in an eclectic system that valued principles and concepts above technique. So I tend to think that if you understand the principles of body mechanics, then it shouldn't really matter what technique you use to attack or defend.

We also have to consider Hick's Law, which basically says that the more options you have, the slower your response will be, because your brain has to sort through them all to decide what to use. That process may take milliseconds, but that delay could very well be the difference between winning and losing, living or dying.

I am also a fan of the need to drill, drill, drill. By drilling, we make sure that our responses become part of our muscle memory. We need that muscle memory, so that when we are under stress the body is able to revert to that muscle memory. Sadly it seems that students in the west are way too anxious to get onto what they perceive as the 'cool' stuff, to spend their time on the 'boring'.

To a certain extent, I blame MMA for some of this attitude. I train MMA, and help teach it and I love it, but the students can be some of the worst for lack of patience and not wanting to drill. I also train in traditional martial arts, and see a very different attitude from the students. Doing both gives me a balance to my training that I find very valuable.

Sometimes I fear that MMA is becoming a place for those who only want to scrap and roll around the mats with their mates but don't have the patience or the willingness to train in traditional systems. When they fight competitively in the ring or the cage, they are often the ones who freeze or 'gas' out.

Train, train, train

Currenly I train in 3 aspects of the martial arts: kuk sool won ('traditional' martial art), mixed martial arts and krav maga.

Although I enjoy aspects of all 3, I find the MMA and krav to be relentlessly practical. Possibly they're more effective as well, but I'm fairly new to kuk sool so will not judge it based on a beginner's knowledge.

For me, it is good to train on 'both sides of the coin', as it were. I think that if you want to be a well-rounded martial artist you need both the traditional and modern styles. It is also very good for the general humility to put on a white belt again!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Indomitable Spirit

Isn't it funny how the best examples of that good old martial arts principle of Indomitable Spirit are so rarely demonstrated by humans?