The Top 5 Injuries in Jiu-Jitsu : Gracie Academy

Posted in Health, Jiujitsu, Miscellaneous, Safety, Training with tags , , , , , , , on September 23, 2015 by Combative Corner

One of the most important videos of all-time!

Although Rener Gracie almost always starts his videos with these words… this time, I whole-heartedly agree!

Injuries can and will cause people to not only stop training, but in some unfortunately instances, stop training all together.  Remember, many of these injuries are preventable… learn to roll safely, learn your body and its limitations, and learn the best ways to heal & recover.

In future articles, we will have more information on various injuries.

Check out these great links !

Neck Injuries : Common Injuries #1 – The Neck

Back Pain & Rehab : Rener Gracie on Core Strengthening

More on Neck & Back with Keith Owen: From The Ground Up

If you have any advice or comments – REPLY below!


10 Questions with Chungliang Al Huang

Posted in 10 Questions, Internal Arts, Peace & Wellbeing, Philosophy, Spirituality, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2015 by Combative Corner

Chungliang Al Huang

Chungliang, Al Huang was one of my earliest experiences in Taijiquan with his book, Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain.  I read it again when I decided I was going to teach the art form.  His philosophy and playfulness in what is often an “atmosphere of seriousness,” a breath of fresh air.  Allowing music, nature, and dance to enhance and revitalize the spirit and influence the direction of your practice – these are just a few things that I took from his example.  But here are some of the questions that both myself, my students and our CombativeCorner readers had to ask Master Chungliang….

How did you come to first play taijiquan?

As a child in Chinese villages hiding from the war, observing nature’s flowing movement, and inspired by EveryMen and Women of China, believing in waking up the bodies first thing in the morning, in the “Watercourse Way” of organic Tai Ji moves, cultivating the Body-Mind-Spirit entity. I embodied my Tai Ji playful-ness through osmosis naturally.

What did your friendship with the philosopher Alan Watts entail, and did he have any influence on your teachings of the Tao, Taijiquan, etc?

We met by destiny, Chinese call it Yuan 緣。Mutually appreciating the opposites in each other for personal inner growth and outer balance. As he wrote in the Foreword of my first book, “Embrace Tiger, Return To Mountain”, “For us, the East and West have truly met.” He was my mentor, colleague, and kindred spirit; he helped instilling self-awareness, confidence in myself of my unique potential and integrity, to become a lifelong student and teacher of TAO. He put me at ease to be an intellect, the scholar/philosopher, and I helped him to trust his spontaneous dancing self. His words made my dance more sublime; my dance helped his words to soar. We were blessed to be partners when we taught together—but sadly for such a short few years before he passed on. Now, more than ever, his writings, words continue to grow in me and in my teaching. His legacy lives in me and will perpetuate on and on for everyone who reads him and still can hear his voices on recordings he made. I feel blessed to have known him and learned from him, and shared our explorations of “TAO: The Watercourse Way” together.

As taijiquan players we seek for balance and rhythm in our lives. How does music shape (and/or enhance) your taijiquan practice?

Tai Ji resonates with the Music of the Spheres, especially the rhythm and the organic patterns, Li 理 in nature. When we dance Tai Ji, we reverberate the “Silent Sound of CHI/QI”. We also have such vast repertoire of great Music from all around the world and all ages, to play with and find inspirations in. Music is a great guiding force to dance to and flow with, allowing structured sound and natural rhythms to fine tune us in our movement practice. But the best and the most inspiring music is in the Sound of Nature, such as the roars of Ocean waves, the soft quietude of changing tides in the River, the bird songs and its ethereal silence in the forests and woods… on and on… Music is everywhere, shaping and forming our Tai Ji dances of Living.

Most masters of taijiquan that I’ve come across are very self-controlled, unmoved in a sense. Especially those teachers who teach taijiquan with an emphasis on form, application and pushing-hands, tend to have a unemotional response to their artform. If you agree with this, could you answer why might this be? If you disagree with this statement, could you answer why? (Part 1)

Studying forms is a necessary discipline, nothing wrong with this emphasis, but it can also be very dry, even robotic in fixing our practice too rigidly. We must not forget we are human beings made of flesh and blood, filled with raw emotions and feelings. We cannot ignore this multi-dimensional consciousness of being a Whole Human Person when we focus on the discipline of forms and structures. Both form and genuine expression of human emotions are important. They are inseparable as Yin/Yang can never be separately regarded as only Yin or Yang with the “and” in-between the two integral, embracing halves. Simply meditate on this marvelous “YinYang Tai Ji” sign and you will be instantly transported, to embody this never-ending, ever-changing transformative Polar Dance, to realize the ultimate ONENESS in yourself, to be Fully Human.

(Part 2) Being such a well-connected teacher (bridging music, dance, philosophy and taijiquan), have you encountered a lot of resistance within the taijiquan community (and even other taijiquan teachers) as to your approach to teaching and your emphasis on more “free”, dance-like movements and creating emotion and a sense of “oneness?”

In the early years, perhaps my approach to the creative freedom of Tai Ji practice and teaching might have raised a few eyebrows from the traditional Tai Ji teaching community. In fact, a few even criticized me for using music, improvising the motifs, and just being too joyful—smiling too much! Their critical but gracious comments came with this, “Oh, he doesn’t do Real Tai Ji. He only Dances Tai Ji! “, which was the perfect description of what I was hoping to do in my philosophy of practice and teaching. I bowed to them with this compliment. Now, nearly half a century later, I think I have proved myself to have been actually Doing the Real Tai Ji after ALL. Time always tells the truth and reconfirms the real “Tao” Way in the end.
Why hasn’t taijiquan been able to bring a younger crowd, like other exercise forms like dance and yoga?

In our hyper-active youth oriented Western society, perhaps it was the superficial prejudice on the slow moving Tai ji which was thought to be only suited for seniors who couldn’t manage to pump their muscles anymore. Also, the subtlety of the practice and benefit can only be appreciated by thoughtful observations patiently. It grows on the person who is also maturing. It takes deeper understanding to find the practice gratifying in the long run. The youths who seek immediate results and instant gratifications, can be disappointed with the slow progress in Tai Ji. Since I often refer to my Tai Ji the Creative Dancing Moves, even “Tai Ji Boogie”, I haven’t had much trouble attracting younger people in my seminars. I trust the subtle learning will grow with these young people as they mature in themselves, gradually, in due time. As we say in China, “When the students are ready, the teaching appears!”
What is your primary teaching message?

Learn about The DANCE of LIFE and DANCE in the TAO with its perpetual FLOW in Time of Now and Space of Here. Stay open-minded, open-hearted and Be a perpetual Beginner in Lifelong learning, always have the ability to Be Amazed with the mystery of Life, and in what we are constantly discovering day by day. Become a TAI JI DANCER of LIVING!
You’ve written some amazing books, and taught a lot of people over the years. What are a few things that you hope people will remember? (either about you, or your teachings)

As I still keep on learning and exploring, I can hardly think in that way for a fixed legacy to be remembered. I have always empathized the fact that I have continued to transform and grow, therefore never the need for my students to copy me as if it is the ultimate. When my students blame me for changing my forms after a period of their absence, I would chide back to say to them, “Are you still doing the same Tai Ji I taught you so long ago. But in the meantime, I have transformed and improved. Are you still doing the same old Tai Ji from way back then, getting fixed and stuck?” It is the same about my teaching which will continue to grow and transform and become more in the Here and Now, as I grow and mature and, hopefully become wiser and purer– in the Tao sense of “returning to being a child again; to return being the ‘uncarved block 樸 and unbleached silk 素’ “. Don’t forget that the author of the classic, “Tao Te Ching”, called himself Lao Zi, the “Wise Old Child”.
Is there a myth in Taijiquan, in Taiji/Tao, that you’d like de-mystified?

Yes, do not fix on any ideas of how Tai Ji Quan was first invented in some legendary fantasies. Never put them into a box or on the altar to worship and imitate. The “original tai ji” is for all people, and for all times, needs to be re-invented every day, anew. Tao must not be “ismed” and be put into a box, the same way we cannot quantify and sectionalize the Watercourse Way which is always flowing and changing. There is also no such a fixed person as a Taoist. Take the “ist” away and simply live as a human person, following the Tao in daily living. “Living our Tao” is not the same as Being stuck within TaoISM, and trapped by being a TaoIST.

Do not concretize metaphors literally. Learn to read and understand metaphoric symbols such as “Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain” and not literally naming the “tiger” as the wild beast, such as the “Dragon” needed to be slain by heroes in the West; or measure mountains with quantitative heights to climb. We embrace the symbol Tiger, our “Crisis” as both our “Danger and Opportunities” in our lives. What one must embrace is “My Life So Far” with courage, equanimity, honesty, completely and fearlessly; and Return to Where We ARE, Here and Now, as our current grounding, our personal Mountain Top. We shall endeavor to rise and elevate accordingly, timely, not to strive mindlessly for more height or attempt to fly higher. We need to learn how to land safely and properly before we take flight and soar, and wisely prepare for our soft “Happy Landings” every time in our “Heroic Journeys” by “Following our Bliss”. For this important awareness, as I get older, continue to gain a little wisdom, my gratitude goes to two of my mentors/colleagues, Alan Watts and Joseph Campbell. And, of course to the sage-teacher Confucius, who happily claimed in his final years to be able to finally, “follow my heart’s desire, without going astray!”

What do you hope to accomplish in the upcoming 5-10 years?

Keep on doing what i am inspired to do, keeping up with my joyful creativity and my Dance of Living. Life is much too ephemeral and brief. 5-10 years can slip by in an instant, or become suspended in the “Stillness in Motion” of the DANCE, in “The Eternal NOW”, depending on how we live the years still given to us. Be grateful to being Truly Alive each day. It is not the goal in the end that counts; it is always what and how we experience the journey we are taking in everyday living. Each moment well lived with joy and gratitude is the ultimate accomplishment.

Interviewed by: Michael Joyce






If you want more of Master Chungliang, check out these videos:

10 Questions with Samir “Sandman” Seif

Posted in 10 Questions, Jiujitsu, Martial Arts, Mixed Martial Arts, MMA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2015 by hybridfightingmethod

Samir Sandman Seif

Take a moment to tell us a bit about your training and professional backgrounds
My professional background began at Red Lobster, ironically enough. I was working tables, washing dishes and cooking, trying to pay off my Police Sciences degree – that course now is called Police Foundations.  I had done some “bouncer” type stuff at parties for cash, on account of my martial arts background, yet nothing too serious. One day as I was serving a table, a man named Randy introduced himself to me, and complimented me on my people skills. He asked if I had ever thought of doing security.  I told him I wanted to be a cop, and he said this would be a perfect start.  That was the start of my security education and the end of me ever being a cop.  I worked the hardest, grimiest bars in Hamilton for 2 years.  It was a security temp (Ranton Security) agency, so I was sent to the bars no one else wanted to work.  In 1993 two things happened, I began training in wing chun and I met a bartender who introduced me to the Canadian Division head of Griffon Group International who trained and hired me.  I went from being a bouncer/martial artist to a professional in executive protection, close protection, and casino security.  Training took place in Toronto and Windsor Universities.  These were my formalative years transitioning from a martial artist into a professional Law Enforcement/Security specialist trainer.  Working the travelling casino’s, protecting clients and training correctional/Law Enforcement in baton, handcuffing and pepper spray use-of-force programs.  The training was based on effective communications, prevention and prediction.  That lasted until 1997 where I went on my own and began training people under the Samirs Combat Reaction name. I continued training in Pain compliance and control systems under Stay Safe President Steve Summerville.  I learned how to be a true professional and legally articulate use-of-force.  That brought me to the next level of teaching and applying Law and Security in my professional capacity as a trainer and operating in the field.  I was hired on full time as the use of force trainer at a large security Company in Hamilton.  Doing work protecting Liberal assets (insured persons), fleshing out RCMP details, and running large security crews for multiple night clubs.
Who have been your major influences in training and teaching?
Major influences in my training and teaching has been Wayne Wells of Griffon Group International.  If you look him up, he has a long line of martial arts qualifications himself.  Ironically he was the first that treated my black belt in jiu jitsu and black sash in wing chun as only a small part of the greater subject when it comes to combatives, close protection and security/law enforcement.  His socially acceptable techniques, politically correct nomenclature and proper training heavily guided my own hand when I began designing programs.  His experience also played a factor in my development as he had committed so many years of his life to training trainers as professional, with himself having trained with the best in the world.  For locks and holds- specific to control and restraint, and with corrections experience my next major influence would be Master Robert Krantz and Master Alex Andrews.  I was a member of the CJC, and CJA during the 90’s.  Master Alex taught me small circle ju jitsu and Judo that would work specifically for Corrections and Law Enforcement.  The timing was perfect, as I was able to apply my skills as a trainer for Wayne’s company and use the skills myself as the head doorman at several clubs.  Master Robert actually graded me in one of my jiu jitsu black belts under the WKF.  He has a no-nonsense style of locks, and with his correctional back ground his method was invaluable.  Between the two, I tightened up my physical locking game, and brought a very high level game to handcuffing and grounding subjects.
The greatest striking influences was Master Chris Hader for giving me the gift of wing chun.  The only martial art that allowed me to assimilate every physical course I have learned and apply it within a solid theory and concept.  He was an old school, hardcore Sifu that put his stamp..and his foot on my spine.
The last phase of major influence in training and teaching has been Grandmaster Bram Frank and Shuki Drai.  As much as I had been doing weapon training throughout my entire professional and martial arts life, a fundamental and moral pillar changed. From a young age I trained with known weapon experts like Grandmaster Rudy Timmerman, Master Robert Doiron and Guru Brian ‘Buzz’ Smith.  All three are traditional martial artists.  Gifted,respected and in the Kuk Sul Wan, Hap Ki Do and Kuntaw world very well known.  They trained me to strike to kill.  In the sense, how most martial arts train..the kill shot.  Meaning that my use of weapons was literal, with no thought to the law and the consequences of armed combat.  I was a martial artist ,with a martial artists mindset.
Meeting GM Bram Frank and then continuing my work with Shuki taught me a new world of reality. How society views weapons of gun, stick and knife. How I view it as a tool like any other item you might find in a tool box. Knowing case law, applicable law of use and defense.  My teaching ability and success by using GM Bram’s “train the trainer” methodology and gross motor skill progressive training under pressure has swelled the curve of skills and attributes.  I can teach and learn new skills or refine old skills in 1/10 of the time it used to take me.  Thats how we get our troops ready-in months not years.  My understanding of anatomy, nerve systems and use of modern day weaponry (firearms) has made me a much more evolved combatives instructor and practicing combatant.  Bram in particular introduced me to many men and women that either had seen or yet remained in active duty in the war theatre, active duty as a police officer or form of duty that included weapons.  It forced me to reevaluate my martial arts training, and get to the range ,and work with skilled shooters.  The impact of reality training, experience in the field coupled with my own experiences has made me search and continue to develop realistic skill sets for modern Combatives.
Lastly the literature of Bruce K. Siddle and Lt.Col Grossman along with the translation and interpretation of Book of 5 Rings by Steven Kaufman have influenced me since I was old enough to pick them up and study them.  They are constant companions to all my combative efforts.  Their work is influential and in my personal opinion iconic.
What systems have you trained in that you find applicable to the kinds of attacks you see in your profession?
The systems that I have trained in that have been most applicable to the kind of attacks in my profession as a security specialist, and close protection specialist has been Wing Chun, Kali, Muay Thai, wrestling and Jiu Jitsu.
Wing Chun has allowed me to deal with the conversation that goes bad.  Most people speak with their hands.  They point, they grab and push.  Welcome to hundreds of hours of chi sao (sticky hands).  If it’s standing and arms are in the touching or within the intimate zone of personal space wing chun has been the answer.  Then the use of KALI becomes equally important as weapon sense from bottles, ashtrays (back in the day), stantions and anything else a person could grab comes into play.  The relationship between wing chun and Kali is synergistic and they complement each other in the CQC area.  If wing chun didn’t have the answer, my Kali filled in the blanks and vice versa.  When it comes to subjects that are actively resisting and striking back, I have to say Muay Thai is the most applicable and has been personally the best “show stopper”, in the arsenal. The neck-tie up (plum), and the devastating elbows conclude any form of aggression very quickly. I have personally had great success with single strikes to assaultive subjects using the elbow, the knee and the round kick. Wrestling tie ups and takedowns go hand in hand with Muay Thai clinching skills; its never my first choice to fight on the ground, yet it’s my first choice for anyone I’m trying to control.  Wrestling allows me to apply that pressure when number of people, size and strength come into play.  A hard head snap or duck under and boom down they go.  Saying that, brings me to the last art I find applicable to my profession.  Bjj/Jiu Jitsu.  Grounding a subject and skillfully lifting them back up with minimal effort and damage to oneself and them.  The controls gained by vascular restraints, joint-locks and come-a-longs are invaluable.  When it comes to mitigating collateral damage, liability and negligence the system of Jiu Jitsu is hand crafted for my profession.
What role does MMA play in your training?
It’s the pressure tester of the weeks drilling, training and specific sparring.  MMA training allows for learning, growth and adaption under real or closely simulated combative pressure.  Resistance to submission attempts, and being stuck in a pound-and-ground position.  Basically have full resistance with protective equipment to see how everything works, and improve the next weeks drilling where the holes were found.
Does MMA prepare someone for street violence?
That really depends, as does the last question on what you define as MMA and how it’s being trained/taught.
If your “MMA” training does not include the following variations of multiple opponents, weapons, hostile environment and role playing I do not believe it will fully prepare you  for street violence.  An example is on several occasions I personally have taken out high level MMA fighters, and watched even my own staff of guards take out good  level MMA fighters for drunken and disorderly.  Their mindset prepared them for the one-on-one, and in that they won hands down.  It was the follow-up of hostile environment, tables, people, hard surface, wet surface and multiple opponents that quickly overcame them.
MMA only prepares you for resistance and pressure. Cardio under battle stress, elevated heart rate and blood pressure.  Exertion and blunt force trauma.  It does not prepare you for pre-indicators of violence, violent confrontation through words. Threat cues, prediction and prevention.  The anatomy of violence and street confrontation can be markedly absent from MMA training.  For the record I would put my money on a well trained MMA fighter to survive a confrontation better than a traditionally trained martial artist.  That being said, as the variables increase, so does the MMA fighters advantages decrease if he is trained in MMA rules, single opponent training.
How can martial artists alter their training to make their system suitable for the street?
As previously mentioned I believe to street-proof any system the following fundamentals must be included.  Multiple opponents, weapons (stick,knife,gun), hostile environment and role playing.  Then all of these need to be trained with progressively increased pressure of resistance.
This is just the physical aspect.  One needs to learn the physiology and phycology of violence to oneself and to others.  The ability to prevent, predict and proactively train.  Confrontation does not just happen.  There are cues and steps that are not part of the regular martial arts training program.  These have to be taught and trained.  It’s a science and must be treated as such.
What are some common traits you see among unprovoked attacks?
The common traits I have observed that unprovoked attacks carry are the attackers are 99% male and under the age of 40.  My reports and court cases would average late 20’s.  They include intoxication or drugs.  They involve criminal elements, meaning that person or persons doing the unprovoked attack have either been through the criminal system or associated with a criminal element.  The person being attacked almost always have their hands down, and are not in control of their intimate zone. It’s like they don’t realize they are in an argument or that the other person could actually hurt them.  The number one has been the attacker was prepared to fight or attack, and the victim or victims were not.
Among the ambushes you’ve seen, what tactics have the defenders employed successfully, and what tactics have they been unable to employ successfully?
I have seen many ambushes via cctv in my years of working security. Among the ambushes the defenders have had success or failure dependent on the reaction to the attacks.  I use the  3F system (First,Fast,Furious) to measure success or failure.  If the attack is first, then the counter-response must be fast and furious.  In all cases of success the reaction time from the subject not simply becoming a victim is they retaliated fast and furiously.  They grabbed a weapon and closed the distance instantly.  If no weapon was grabbed they gave up no room and instantly grappled.  The most successful move is to crash the attacker, hug and hold the attacker and not allow for repeated blows of the dominant hand.  They also covered up initially as they moved forward, blunting whatever attack was coming in.
The reaction that failed almost every time was moving backwards or away.  The environment did not allow for unimpeded movement.  That means they tripped or fell and damaged themselves more on the way down, were continued to be attacked and mounted in most cases.  Ironically it’s not the first reactive block that fails, it’s the fact that time and time again the victim has continued to try to block without any counter.  In one case I watched as the first block worked to stop a knife, and that the person being stabbed had not realized they had been ambushed with a palmed knife.  They continued to back away from “punches”, and was stabbed 3 more times still trying to block the same angled attack in the same manner.  They at that point collapsed, and the ambushed escaped.  In another example, the ambush happens perfectly, but someone behind the ambusher flinches and the victim reacts by putting out their arms.  The knife is blocked barely and the victim slips to one knee, where they are “nicked” in one artery and nicked in a vein,they barley survive and take 6 months to come out of serious condition.
Blocking and not moving forward, blocking and repeating the same block allowed for the ambusher to gain momentum,timing and distance .
Successful defense against the ambush has been that the reaction has not only been fast and furious,but also that the furious included striking and defending.
Failure has come from being slow to react ,creating too much distance that allowed the ambusher momentum and increase in number of attacks.  They also were not being struck back, as the victim was too busy concentrating on defense and not counter attack.
The ambush attack in all cases was missed,as it was clear watching the videos that all threat cues are missed. Clenched fists,blading of the body, puffing of the chest, lifting of the chin..all for naught.  In one case I remember watching in awe as a male takes their jacket off and makes like he is turning away.  He takes off his does one miss this..??!!
If someone could do only one thing to defend themselves successfully from an attack, in your opinion what would that thing be.
Be First, Be Fast, Be Furious.
That’s my one thing.  You feel it coming, you see it coming, you predict it’s coming..Doesn’t matter.
Be FIRST!  Thats a concept and that’s a technique. Eyes, Groin and Neck.
Smash it, bite it, kick it, slap it, stab it, bring blunt force trauma..Just make sure your FIRST.
Being first makes you FAST. You will be at the right place, at the right time to bring on maximum force, with minimum effort.
Which brings you to a place of momentum.  When the engine is rocking and rolling, it brings a furious energy.  Chain your attacks until no one is standing.  Bring an element of controlled passion and anger and rage and even cold tempered steel.  BE FURIOUS.
No matter what reaction you have, nor the style you train you need one method to withstand a seen attacker and the unseen ambusher. BE FIRST, BE FAST, BE FURIOUS.
Where do you see the martial arts as a whole in ten years?
In ten years I see the same evolution of what UFC did for martial arts, blending and merging the best techniques and concepts to create the MMA era happening in the Reality Based Self Defense and Combatives.  The difference will be the best technologies will be brought to simulate weapons of modern and traditional origins.  We will see swords, knives, bats, guns, explosives and multiple persons.  We will have simulated gang attacks, and small armies battling.  We will know how the sword works against the axe, and crossbow against 45 pistol.  The martial will be brought back, and it will become an arena for true to the death combat between not just two dueling combatants, but a plethora of situations that will include multiple simultaneous attacks.  They already have multiple opponent MMA in Russia.  They have prototype weapon and at our dueling in Australia.  A decade from now we will simulate injury, pain and trauma to find the essence and truth of combat which is death on the battlefield without actually killing anyone. That is I’m sure until someone wants to try it for real.  Then we may even return to gladiators and the true arena.
– Interviewed by: T.J. Kennedy
Hybrid Fighting Method
Samir Sandman Seif

Master of Goshin Ryu Seif Jiu Jitsu

Peace and Love/Strength and Honor

Low Kick Defense and Counters [Video]

Posted in Muay Thai, Techniques, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2015 by Combative Corner

Chris Clodfelter profile picI love getting the opportunity to do some videos for.Sean Fagan and Muay Thai Guy. Here is good one on evading leg kicks and firing right back. Dont forget to check out for even more solid muay thai info.

Chris Clodfelter, Eight Points Muay Thai


Exceptionally Answered Questions : on Fencing

Posted in 10 Questions, Swordsmanship, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2015 by Combative Corner

Over the years we’ve had the privilege to interview countless athletes, fighters and teachers.  At the CombativeCorner we love to not just ask the about “the story” (what got them to where they are), but the probing questions that will more likely resonate with the student looking to find a method/style/philosophy/etc that can bring their game or area of expertise to the next level.  To read the full interview from whence the question was pulled, click on their hyper-linked name.

The Princess Bride Duel 001Regarding the art of FENCING (Sport, Classical, or Combative) here are some of the exceptional answers from our 10 Question Interviews.

What was your biggest challenge when you first started?

My first semester of fencing I actually got a C! I had a hard time focusing and paying attention for long periods of time when I was younger so fencing really helped me to improve my focus an discipline, but focusing was also my biggest challenge at the start.

Tim Morehouse

What goes through your mind before you begin a bout?

I’m thinking about what action I’m about to execute and also telling myself to “come to my baseline” mental place. I always want to be fencing from a familiar and strong mental place. Never get too high and never get too low.

Tim Morehouse

In teaching students, what are some of the core principles that you try to instill?

Firstly control. With weapons you need control before you can progress. Control is mostly about mind-set I think – learning to respect the weapon, your capabilities and be respectful of the training partners. Next is how to move – the students generally don’t realise they are being taught this, because they think they are learning techniques of attack and defence. For the first few months though what they are really learning is a new way of moving their bodies. In everyday life we just don’t move our bodies in these ways. At first even strong and fit students exhaust themselves in an hour class because they just aren’t moving right. Learning to move is all about efficiency of course and once a person knows how to move with a given weapon then they only use a fraction of the energy to do things that used to exhaust them. Once a person has learned control and how to move, then they really effectively start to learn about attack and defence, time, distance, judgement, line and the other basic themes of fencing.

Matt Easton

What is your current view on the way they teach (modern/sport) fencing today?

I actually have a lot of respect for modern sport fencing and I think it has some very well-established and effective teaching methods. Some of how we train historical fencing is taken directly from sport fencing. What I have criticised about sport fencing are some of the rules and some of the equipment – I think it has led to a sport that is further and further removed from swordsmanship and therefore is less and less like what most people actually want to do when they start fencing. A huge proportion of historical fencers are former sport-fencers who started because they wanted to learn how to use a sword – some people do both historical and sport fencing, and the two need not be exclusive. I myself did sport fencing for many years and would recommend any child to do it as a basis for historical fencing. In the future I expect that historical fencing will become more like sport fencing in its attitudes to professionalism, teaching and athletic excellence. I certainly hope that historical fencing will learn from some of the mistakes of sport fencing though and not repeat them.

Matt Easton

What weapon appeals to you the most and why?
Foil, sabre then epee in that order. It’s like watching three different movies. They’re all exciting but each brings different feelings to you. The structure of the foil fencing allows you to set up and have resolution in the most powerful way.  Sabre feels like playing cat and mouse with me being the cat.  Epee is like dancing: structured with only three rules that, if you follow them,  you can win the Olympics.  Of course when I was young in the Soviet Union, girls only had the choice of foil.

Julia Richey

Students often have a hard time understanding the difference (besides the grip being used).   If we are talking about aspects (other than the gripping of the weapon) what philosophical, strategic or postural differences does the foil fencer exhibit?

I think that the definition of the classical fencer by Maître Louis Rondelle answers this question the best;

“The Classical Fencer. –  A classical fencer is supposed to be one who observes a fine position, whose attacks are fully developed, whose hits are marvelously accurate, his parries firm and ripostes executed with precision.

One must not forget that this regularity is not possible unless the adversary is a party to it. It is then a conventional bout, which consists of parries, attacks, and returns, all rhyming together.”

In contrast to:

“The Blunderer. – Is a fencer who strives to hit his adversary by all means, fair or foul, without preparation or opposition. His arm drawn back of its position, he advances or retreats without necessity, effects a tension on any attack, attempts to execute time-thrusts on simple attacks, beats the blade and changes the engagement without motive.”

The prime directive in fencing is always defense. If there is no defense it is not fencing. Some may repeat the tired old adage “The best defense is a good offense” but that is not necessarily true. This is because the mentality of the real fencer is centered on self-preservation. The premise in all fencing is to touch without being touched. It does a fencer no good to theoretically kill his adversary as he himself is killed in the process.

Maestro Ramon Martinez

As a masterful fencer yourself, is it hard to contend against a student or challenger (in a bout) using their natural gifts (i.e. athleticism, speed) or even scoring touches in a wild, uncalculating manner?

My obligation as a teacher is to guide the student; not to contend with them. When students are first introduced to the assault in our school, they are only allowed to fence against the master or provost. This is to ensure that the student is given precise responses that he recognizes. These academic assaults have specific rules. The student is the designated attacker. This allows them to use any of the various attacks they have learned. If they are successful, then the master will attack and the fencer cannot step back until he has parried and reposted. As a teacher my job is to give the students tools to overcome their weakness and to build upon their natural attributes. I use the assault as another means by which I polish the skills of my students. As they build their confidence and become more skillful they are allowed to fence with others.

Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martinez

Why are pronated attacks (such as those from tierce, seconde and quinte) and parries so prevalent in the French Small-sword? As Evangelista once wrote “Pronation will invariably generate muscular parries. That’s why the French style, by and large, avoids pronation in its delivery?

The French small-sword fencer seeks to control the adversary’s blade by proper placement and leverage, not muscular strength. The pronated positions allow for strong beats, froissements, croises as one is using the same edge as one uses for the same techniques in quarte. That said, there are actually more supinated attacks and parries used in French small-sword. The use of sixte instead of tierce did not become common until the second half of the 19th century. Even then, most masters did not discard tierce. Correct training will allow the student to develop proper parries without generating a lot of force. In fact to develop sentiment du fer (tactile sensitivity with the blade) one cannot be heavy handed.

Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martinez






Conor McGregor’s #1 Trait

Posted in Martial Arts, Mixed Martial Arts, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2015 by chencenter

“… I have an answer. I have an answer for everything.”

-Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor 1Speaking as a fan, as a martial artist, as an Irishman (albeit long since removed), I’m excited to see someone burst on the scene with such fervor.  Leading up to the fight between Chad Mendes and Conor McGregor in UFC 189, I educated myself on this man.  I honestly wanted to see what all the hype was about.

What I saw, even in just his interviews, was a man destined for greatness.  Some people can talk smack, as Conor often does, but I’ve never seen someone back it up quite like he does.  Plus, he knows it’s for show.  As arrogant as he may seem, it’s clear that he knows the game, knows how to get attention, and with it, how to get inside your opponent’s head.

Some people have been pretty vocal against this guy – Jose Aldo accusing Conor or taking performance enhancing drugs, and lately, famous comedian Bill Burr.  Bill, who admittedly says that he “knows nothing of the sport,” slams Conor on his tactics of intimidation and smack-talking.

The point that I’d like to make is a lot of fighters these days smack-talk- it’s a soundbite; sometimes it’s personal… most of the time it’s business.  If you’re a fight fan, how many times have you seen these athletes belittle and agitate their soon-to-be opponent, only to hug, give kind words and thank/congratulate them for a well-faught event afterwards?  If you’re a fight fan, we know this is true.  As a human being of the modern age; at this point at least, we should know what grabs people’s attention – drama, controversy and rivalry.

“Knowing the game” and “Talking the talk” may be good enough to bring in the numbers, but you have to be able to back it up… and back it up time-and-time again.  Conor has certainly done just that.

Conor McGregor 2It is undoubtable that Conor has an excellent training regiment, focusing on becoming not necessarily the best fighter, but the most adaptable fighter.  He does what it takes to win.

I am fairly sure that he’ll get beaten (at some point), as all fighters typically do – but as long as he listens to his body, keeps up with his training and continues to exude this extremely deep self-belief, he’ll continue to reign for as long as he wants.

While seated at the Bar & Grill with my fellow CombativeCorner crew member Brandon, I speculated on what the upcoming fight between Chad Mendes and Conor McGregor would be like and why I thought that (even with Chad’s tremendous wrestling skills) Conor would continue his glorious unbeaten streak (in the UFC).  “It’s about self-belief.  There is almost an inhuman amount of self-confidence in this guy. While most people might get hit and wonder this and that, Conor remains a confident, beast-of-a-fighter, that in most circumstances becomes even stronger against more stout opposition.  When you strike such a balance between your level of arousal and motivations for a fight, and you couple it with superb training and a monstrous amount of confidence…how can you lose?”

In his own words…

“Doubt is only removed by action.  If you’re not working then that’s where doubt comes in.”

Now I know that smack-talking isn’t everyone’s cup-of-tea… and it certainly isn’t mine either.  Fighters like GSP, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida are amazing sportsman, martial artists and gentlemen of the sport.  But everyone is different. Everyone has their path.  One thing is true; you have to respect the talent of this guy. You have to recognize that it’s because of this brashness, wit and his sharp tongue that he’s been able to turn people’s heads in so short of a time.  Would I like Conor more if he just shut up and towed the line? Nope, because it just wouldn’t be him… and to a certain extent, we all have to agree that personalities make fights.

What are you thoughts on Conor McGregor, and the fight from UFC189? 

Michael Joyce


3 Essential Tai Chi Reads

Posted in Martial Arts, Products, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2015 by chencenter

Just the other day, I had a student come up to me and ask if there is “Anything I can do or read to help me improve” [in Tai Chi].  Immediately, three books shot to mind (out of several dozen that I’ve read over the years).  The first book that I think anyone with an interest in the art of Taijiquan should acquire and read (and definitely if you’re an instructor of Taijiquan) is Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain by Chungliang, Al-Huang. [click on the image for Amazon.Com link]
Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain

Embrace Tiger Chungliang

Published in November of 1973, it is probably safe to say that North American hadn’t had its influx of Taijiquan influence, however it was this author and masterful teacher, Chungliang, Al-Huang that helped me to form my vision of what I wanted (my personal) Taijiquan to become.  There are many parts to Taijiquan and although everyone will see them differently, Master Al beautifully illustrates what they can grow into, and how you can use the power of Taijiquan to create boundless energy and freedom.

Pros: This book is highly under-rated. Because of this, people are selling used copies for only pennies.

Cons: Many people are interested only in the combative potential of martial arts (even Taijiquan) and will thus will get very little joy from this movement/energy/spirit-based book.

Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power

Taijiquan Book Yang YangPublished in 2008 by one of my early teachers, Master Yang Yang, this book is  more detailed on the science and study of Taijiquan as a martial art and system of mind-body therapy.  If you are looking for a clear explanation how and why Taijiquan practice can benefit you, look no further! Very thorough and well-written, Master Yang Yang gives you the foundation for not only Taijiquan practice but gives you principles that can benefit all martial artists.

Pros: This book encompasses everything that is great in a martial art book. Very easy-to-read, and explains what is (for some) a difficult, and deep subject to breech.  As an indoor disciple to the late Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang, and someone who stands strong to his Master’s teachings, you can feel and can’t help but to get swept up in the feeling that this could have easily been written by the founder of Hunyuan Taijiquan (GM Feng) himself.

Cons: Available only in Hardback, this book comes with a higher price tag of approximately $30-40

Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method, vol. 1: Theory

Chen Style Practical Method BookThis book, written by Hong Junsheng was translated and published by his disciple, and my primary teacher, Master Chen Zhonghua.  Hong Junsheng, as many of us know, was the most senior disciple of Chen Fake; one of the true legends of all Taijiquan.  Hong spent his lifetime dedicated to the cultivation and perfection of his master’s art, faithfully practicing and passing on his master’s teaching.  If any book can be called a “Masterpiece,” this one should!

Pros: The one and only book diving right to the source of Practical Method theory, a useful resource for any martial artist (particularly those that study Taijiquan).  Although the book can be costly ($39.99 at PracticalMethod.Com), you can get a digital copy for only $20.

Cons: In order to obtain a copy of this book, you’ll have to spend $39.99, which makes this the most expensive book on the list (and it’s not even hardback). Although you’ll be reading a well-translated volume, the read can be a bit tedious; more cerebral in parts.  There are parts of the book that are quite poetic and without a bit of clarification here and there (most likely from Master Chen’s articles, videos and workshops) you might misunderstand certain concepts. Needless-to-say, this book is certainly for all serious practitioners of Taijiquan (particularly the Practical Method).

Well there are certainly some other books that I could add to the list, but these are my TOP 3.  Do you agree with my list?







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