Archive for October, 2015

10 Questions with Brandon Vaughn

Posted in 10 Questions, Bullying, External Arts, Jiujitsu, Karate with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2015 by Combative Corner

Brandon Vaughn CC

The CombativeCorner is proud to bring you this special 10-Question Interview to you today.  Brandon Vaughn is not only a masterful teacher and martial artist, but he’s also Coach Joyce’s close friend and training partner, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu training center owner, author, and contributing CombativeCorner writer since the very beginning.  For those of you that would like to get to know him even better, please read this interview that we did with him, check out his bio here, or train with him in person at KIelkin.com. Without further ado, I give you the man… the Legend… Brandon Vaughn. {wild applause}

How did you get involved in Karate?

Shortly after high school I took informal lessons at a traditional Isshinryu club with a friend for a few months. Later, after College when I moved to Winston Salem, my wife and I decided to look into Martial Arts Schools. She knew how much I wanted to start training again and she thought it would be something we could do together. After looking around at nearby Martial Arts schools my wife brought home some information for local Karate & Kung Fu centers. I didn’t want to train at another Taekwondo school as I still felt a strong connection with my old Taekwondo Instructor and dojang. I was ready for something different. I dropped by to check out one of the schools my wife looked up, Karate International, and talked with one of the Black Belt Instructors. I liked what she had to say and that they incorporated weapons training in advanced classes, so I enrolled us that day. My wife wasn’t too happy that I made the decision without her, but we started classes that week and she loved it. Twelve years later, not only are we still training, we also own our own dojo.

What was it about the discipline, history and art of Karate that appealed to you?

There was nothing about Karate in of itself that attracted me to it. As someone that has struggled with ADHD and Anger Management most of their life, I think I’m drawn to the traditional martial arts on a subconscious level. The structure and discipline that accompanies traditional martial arts training calms and focuses me in a way that I can’t really explain. It’s almost as if I’m not the same person when I’m not training regularly. There’s a feeling of disharmony. I feel less stable, less in control, I don’t like that feeling. It doesn’t matter what style I’m training in, as long as I’m able to practice martial arts I’m happy.

What, in your opinion, is the hardest part in running a successful martial arts business?

All the hours that you have to put into the school off the mat. People don’t realize just how much time and effort goes into running a martial arts school full-time. Not only do you perform all the roles associated with traditional businesses, (Owner, Customer Service Rep., Office Manager, receptionists, etc.) you also have to be a teacher, a mentor, a leader and on occasion a counselor. That’s enough to stress out even the most ardent individual, but add to that the fact that you’re basically your own product and every time you step on the mat or volunteer to teach a P.E. class or speak at a school assembly, you’re demonstrating, not only the effectiveness of the style you teach, but your ability to teach, motivate and inspire others effectively. It’s no surprise that instructor burnout is so prevalent in the martial arts industry.

Anti-Bullying is a subject very close to your heart. Can you tell us a little about that?

As someone who was bullied when they were younger, I know all too well the effects that bullying can have on a child growing up. It’s not just the physical abuse (e.g. pushing, shoving or hitting) but also the verbal abuse (e.g. teasing, name calling or intimidation) that victims of bullying, some as young as 3 years old, endure on a weekly or even daily basis. In school I was picked on for everything, from the way I talked to the complexion of my skin and it was that constant harassment that was the driving factor behind me begging my mom to sign me up for martial arts when I was thirteen. I was tired of being bullied, tired of feeling helpless.

What I gained from my three years of training at Lee Brothers Tae Kwon Do was so much more than the ability to defend myself. I found a level of confidence and self-esteem that I didn’t have before. I also found something that I excelled at, which for me was equally important. As a martial arts instructor I’ve spent the last ten years doing my best to give those same benefits to every student I teach.

The effects of bullying can be both dramatic and everlasting. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse are just some of the issues that can result from repeated bullying that can persist into adulthood. We need to get away from this outdated idea that bullying is an inevitable part of growing up. Instead, we should be giving children the tools they need to effectively deal with bullying, explaining to them why it’s wrong in the first place and teaching parents and teachers how to identify instances of bullying when they occur.

Over the last few years, you’ve become more involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu… Why the change from what you’ve been doing?

Nowadays, the martial arts are practiced more as a hobby or sport than a means of survival. Most modern day practitioners only train in a single style and while this may allow them to become very proficient in their chosen art, it often times makes them close-minded when it comes to seeing the benefits that other martial arts may have to offer. They develop a sense of superiority regarding the techniques that that have spent countless hours perfecting, forgetting a simple but vital truth-  That no one style is going to work in every single situation.  As the popular saying goes, “There are no superior martial arts, only superior martial artists.”

I believe that as a martial artist, in order to truly be able to defend yourself in any given situation, you have to train in more than one style. This was also something that warriors of the past knew with absolute certainty. Yes, they may have specialized in a particular style of fighting or mastered the use of a specific weapon but they also practiced other arts. When the sole purpose of your training is to protect yourself, your loved ones or your land, there’s no room for foolish notions or petty squabbling about which style is best. It doesn’t matter how good you are on your feet, if your opponent manages to take the fight to the ground all those strikes, kicks and punches that you’ve spent months or even years perfecting go right out the window. Thanks to a friend of mine who wrestled in high school and had no qualms about taking me to the ground when we used to spar, I learned that lesson first hand. It became abundantly clear that my self-defense skills were lacking in a key area and I was determined to remedy that.

Unfortunately, there weren’t any Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools were I lived at the time so I’d have to wait to several years before I could officially begin my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training.

What has been the biggest obstacle(s) for you in the recent years?

One of the biggest obstacles has been keeping up with my own martial training, specifically my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. When you run a martial arts school full-time and teach five days a week, the time you have available for regular training drops dramatically. With Karate and other stand-up arts you can easily practice as long as you have a bag to work out on or a clear space to practice kata. However, with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, nearly every technique needs to be practiced with a partner to be truly understood, so having one or more training partners that are readily available is an absolute necessity.

Add an injury to an already challenging lifestyle and keeping up with my personal training has become even more difficult. A severe fracture to my fifth metacarpal (aka boxer’s fracture) has pushed me to the limit, physically, mentally and emotionally. Teaching, training, running a business, and life in general, have been more than challenging while dealing with a serious injury.

Besides Karate and Jiu-Jitsu, what other 2 martial arts do you admire most and why?

That’s a tough one, believe it or not I keep a mental list of all the martial arts that I’d like to train. I’m not sure I can pick just two, but Wushu or Kung Fu as it’s more commonly known as, and Eskrima currently rank at the top of my list.

I’ve been fascinated with Wushu ever since I was in elementary school. I would stay up late watching Kung Fu Theatre and copying the moves. Inevitably my mom would hear all the commotion and come up stairs to tell me to get to bed. When I heard her coming I would jump back into bed and pretend I was asleep. I love the fluid movements, the way one technique flows seamlessly into the next. Attacking, blocking, trapping, countering, they all seem to happen simultaneously. I also like the fact that Wushu practitioners can employ each of their weapons (hands, feet, elbows, knees) equally in a fight. It’s like Muay Thai, only prettier. [Laughing]

In the past year I’ve been learning more about the Filipino martial art of Eskrima, specifically the Doce Pares system. I like the fact that Eskrima practitioners learn to apply the same techniques using a stick, a knife, or empty handed. It’s also a very practical style to learn as far as weapons training goes. Nowadays the average person doesn’t walk around with a Bo staff or a pair of Sai tucked in their belt, but most people carry a pocket knife or could find something that mimics for an Eskrima stick in a self-defense situation.


What martial artist(s) currently give you motivation (living or deceased)?

It seems like everybody says this, but Bruce Lee is definitely one of them. He was one of the first Kung Fu instructors to go against tradition and teach Kung Fu to non-Chinese students. He then literally fought for his right to do so. Bruce was also one of the first martial artists to realize that strict adherence the natural doctrine of any single style of martial arts can limit both your growth and your effectiveness as a martial artists. It was this realization that prompted him to throw out years of Wing Chun training and dive into researching other martial arts. The results of which were Jeet Kune Do.

Another one is Dave Kovar, known as the “Teacher of Teachers” in the martial arts industry. Even if you aren’t familiar with Master Kovar, you’ve probably either heard or read his Instructor’s Creed at least once. When my wife and I first started running our own dojo we became members of MAIA (Martial Arts Industry Association). The Instructor Teaching Tips, Mat Chats and Combative Fitness Drills that Master Kovar recorded for the MAIA Instructor DVDs were an invaluable resource that made it easy to incorporate fitness as well as Life Skill Lessons into our class lesson plans.

In 2011 when my wife and I attended our first Martial Arts Super Show we had the opportunity to attend Dave Kovar’s Instructor College. At this point we had been teaching for seven years and officially running a dojo for six years, but we were still able to learn a wealth of teaching tactics, techniques, and tools that we still employ to this day and have started to pass on to our own team of belts and instructors.

Last, but not least would be Jet Lee and not because he is an awesome martial artist and movie star, but because he both sees and believes in the value of the spiritual side of the martial arts, as much as the physical side. Martial Arts are much more than just self-defense, they are a path to self-discipline and spiritual peace. This is something that the majority of people that take martial arts either never train long enough to realize or are too close minded to acknowledge.

How has the practice of yoga helped you?

Let’s face it, as beneficial as it is, stretching is boring! Yoga has given me an alternative way to maintain my flexibility outside the traditional static stretches that I had been doing much my entire life. It has also helped keep me in shape. I don’t even go to the gym anymore, trying to master some of these crazy yoga poses is all the work out I need. [Laughing] Yoga is also one of the many things that I do to center myself and calm my mind, along with playing guitar, origami, and obviously martial arts.

What other endeavors are you passionate about?

Several years ago I got really into writing. Unfortunately my schedule has been so hectic the past few months that I haven’t had any time to focus on that passion in a while. Hopefully that will change here in the near future. I’ve decide to initiate some life changes that should provide me with amble time to do everything I love without feeling overwhelmed. Anyone that is interested can check out my first attempt at writing, The Lycan Chronicles, at lycanchronicles.blogspot.com and my current project Knightfall at knightfallseries.blogspot.com.

Bonus Question

If you could see any bout, between any martial artist (in their prime), what would be the match-up?

Ooh! Chuck Norris vs. Bill “Superfoot” Wallace

For more info on Master Vaughn, hit him up at his websitewww.kielkin.com

Or, visit his profile here on CombativeCorner.Com

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Women’s Self-Defense – The 3 Distances

Posted in Safety, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Videos, Violence, Women's Self-Defense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2015 by chencenter

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Distance management involves controlling the space between you and your potential attacker.  In this video, Michael brings to our attention how understanding personal boundaries can help to provide the necessary tools needed to defend yourself in a violent (or potentially violent) situation.

When training, think about the various ranges:

  • Conversational
  • Cautionary
  • Close (Danger) 

Remember that what is considered “conversational” in normal, every-day encounters with friends and loved ones is not the situation we are talking about!  These ranges are for situations when your intuition has already told you that something is wrong and that an action-plan is needed.  By training these distances and adding the proper state, posturing, verbal de-esculation (if possible/if time is available) and bridging… we’ll likely be much safer in the real situation.

Please note: These ranges and action-plans (future video, coming soon) is built with the female in mind.  Often, when males fight other males, other cues, posturing and state changes are more beneficial – speaking primarily of what I call the “Aggressive Fence”  (others may call it “ballooning”).  There will be a separate article and video on that in the future.

MICHAEL  & JENNIFER JOYCE
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Five Animal Qigong – Free PDF

Posted in Health, Internal Arts, Internal Development, Qigong, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2015 by chencenter

Five Animal Frolics Qigong

The 5 Animal Frolics (Wu Qin Xi) is a complete qigong system (created by Dr. Hua-Tou), and the most ancient qigong system still practiced today. The series of exercises not only help to keep the body sprightly & strong, but it engages both the mind and spirit as well. [3 B.C. Chinese San Guo- Three Kingdom Period]

Feeling is a language. This language allows your body and mind to communicate. But if you don’t pick up this feeling, the effectiveness of the exercise becomes shallow.”

Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming

FREE PDF

From CHENCENTER.COM

(CLASS HANDOUT)

How To Deal with Fear in Self-Protection

Posted in Krav Maga, Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Violence, Women's Self-Defense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2015 by Combative Corner
Kelina Cowell

Kelina Cowell

You have just finished training and you are on your way home. You had a good training session and you feel great. You are also really hungry because you haven’t eaten since lunch, so you decide to take a short cut in order to get home quicker. Usually you take the long way around the block, but today you decide to take that short cut through a dimly lit and quiet street. Halfway through this street three guys steps out in front of you.

How do you react? Do you want to run away? Do you freeze and do nothing? Do you feel fear? Do you feel stressed? What if they just want to know what time it is? Is that likely? Do you think of where to position yourself so that not all three will be able to attack you at once? How many thoughts go through your head at this time?

In 490 B.C the Chinese martial artist and philosopher Sun Tzu stated:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the outcome of a hundred battles”

Regardless of whether you are experienced or not in martial arts, there are many techniques you can use in order to become better at handling a self defence situation (or any stressful situation for that matter). These techniques are based upon the improvement of your mindset.

This series of articles will hopefully give you some answers on how to develop a functional mindset. Hopefully it will help you to understand how to cope with fear and stress and to function better both in training or if you unfortunately find yourself facing three guys in a dark street one evening. But before I go on, just want to say – no matter how hungry and tired you are, taking the short cut through the dodgy area is not worth the risk!

Improving Your Mindset

Within Apolaki Krav Maga we have a well-developed system for how to improve your mindset. When we talk about developing mental skills, we usually think of five mental training strategies. These are visualization, goal setting, positive self-talk, combat mindset (confidence, courage, determination, aggression) and relaxation.

All these mental skills will help in reducing the effects of fear you might otherwise experience in a self defence situation. As a bonus effect you will be better at coping with general stressful or difficult situations in your life, as your brain will more deal with them more productively.

It should be very clear that regular self defence training contributes significantly to improving your abilities to handle a confrontation. This is due to the fact that while we are training physically, our minds is being trained too. However, in addition to this regular training and in order to further improve ourselves, there needs to be drill included that are especially designed to enhance your fighting spirit and mental abilities.

In his book “Condition to Win”, Wes Doss makes the following important point:

“Greater than any other calling, the life of the warrior requires mental skills in combination with physical or mechanical skills. Yet, mental training is an area which has been long neglected in the fields of conflict management and force application”.

Apolaki Krav Maga is a system that has incorporated mental training into every aspect of our training, although you may not be aware of it at first. When you first start training with us, many of you think a simple beginner level drill such as doing 30 seconds of press ups, 30 seconds of burpees and then 1 minute of bag sprints (running on the spot and striking a punch bag) is simply a cardio fitness drill. In a way it is, but if you think about it beyond the superficial, it is actually a mental drill. You have to keep going until the instructor calls time. There is no stopping, there is no rest. You keep fighting through the pain and fatigue until the job is done. This is developing your fighting spirit right from your first class. Within the Apolaki Krav Maga syllabus we focus upon developing the mental, tactical, physical, and technical aspects of self defence and instilling a proper combat mindset through correct conditioning.

There have been tons of studies on athletes and mental training and this can easily be found on the internet. The basic principles of mental training are the same regardless if you are a Apolaki Krav Maga practitioner, a soldier, a martial artist, an athlete, Joe from the accounts department…anyone! The key point is adapting the techniques to your own environment.

What is Stress and How Does It Affect You During a Violent Confrontation?

Stress occurs from social, physical, or mental stressors. Social stressors are your thoughts on what other people might think of you. Physical stressors are for instance that you are too hot or cold, in pain or overly tired and so on. Mental stressors are caused by your thoughts about what can happen or what to do about it.

Stress is caused by an activation of what is called a “stress reaction”. The activation of the stress reaction is caused by a person’s perception of the situation as threatening. What Psychologists coin as “Psychological Resources”, an individual’s belief in optimisim, control and so on whilst assessing a situation. How many times have you been very stressed about something that a friend sees as not as stressful? This is because their phychological resources towards the same situation is higher that yours. Therefore people with a high degree of psychological resources towards a violent altercation will perceive a situation as less threatening than people who have a low degree of psychological resources.

This is one of the reasons that you should include mental training, that is, to gain more resources to deal with a stressful situation, into your self defence training. To be able to function during a self defence situation, you need to raise your psychological resources.

The Fight or Flight Response

The fight or flight response has 7 possible outcomes. These are: Fight, flight, freeze, posture, submit, choking, and the death grip.

  • Fight-response: your reaction to a situation is to fight, you defend yourself and/or fight with your opponent or opponents. Fighting here not only refers to physical fighting but also to standing your ground and confront your opponents verbally.
  • In freeze-response: you experience temporary paralysis, meaning that you are not able to move or do anything.
  • Posture-response: you stand up to your opponent using both verbal and body language and pretend that you will fight your opponent if needed, in the hope he/she will back down. If this fails it is often followed by…
  • Submit-response: you surrender in hope that your opponent will stop attacking or hurting you.
  • Choking-response: you feel that you are not able to swallow or breathe, like somebody is actually choking you.
  • Death grip-response: you hold very hard on something for instance a door-knob or someone’s arm or jacket but fail to do anything else beyond that.

My Own Experience of Fear (Pre Self Defence Training)

When I was 16 I was out clubbing with a friend, we had an argument and I decided to go home. 3am stood alone on a quiet street waiting for a taxi to pass by. This was my main mistake – too lazy to walk to the taxi rank. At that age with a lack of personal saftey awareness and clouded by my anger towards my friend I chose to wait somewhere nearby the club where taxi regularly drove past but was deserted.

Within minutes a group of older teens found me and took the opportunity. I was shoved against the wall and a knife was put to my neck. Why? Because they didn’t like my heavy metal fashion and purple hair…yes I had purple hair…don’t judge me!

Now at the time I had muay thai training, which got me through all the high school bullying. I always reacted with a fight response, I had a high level of psychological resources to deal with fists, kicks and hair pulling in school. I was stronger and more skilled than the school bullies and they quickly learned to switch to verbal abuse instead. But this was bullying on a whole new level. I was drunk and pinned up against a wall in the middle of the night with a knife to my throat.

I found myself in a mix of mental and physical stress. My drunken adolesant brain was trying to process a huge amount of data:

“Who are these people?”

“Why are they doing this?”

“How am I going to get away?”

“Is she going to cut me?”

“I can’t feel my hands, how am I going to punch her?”

“Should I punch her or grab her knife hand?”

“How do I get the knife away from me?”

” My left leg is numb and my right leg is shaking, how can I kick her?”

“If I get her off me how am I going to run away if my legs don’t work?”

“If I can run what if my knee dislocates?” (I had recently gone through 18 months of physiotherapy for a severe knee injury)

“If I fight back are her friends going to jump in?”

“Do her friends have knives?”

All these questions where running through my brain at the same time as trying to listen and respond. All I remember is this girl spitting “You think you’re better than us, not so cool now are ya” into my face and her friends shouting “Cut her, Cut Her!” I was reduced to a mumbling, stuttering wreck which they found highly amusing.

Lucky for me a passer by, who knew one of the group stopped and started to diffuse the situation. I don’t know if it was what he was saying or a matter that they were bored of the game they were playing. But she let go of me and joined the rest of her group in conversation. I managed to stumble away and into a taxi nearby. It was front that point that I decided I needed to look at self defence training beyond striking skills.

My Experience with Fear (Post Self Defence Training)

Since training in Krav Maga I have been in a few violent situations, the last one was over a year ago when I was approached by a junkie outside my flat in Stockwell, South London late at night and he lunged at my stomach with a box cutter. At the time my training kicked in and I handled it as if it was a drill in class. No hesitation, no fear, no questions, just action. I don’t remember thinking anything. I just remember watching his hands and reacting when he pulled out something shiny. It wasn’t until I got inside and slammed the door behind me that I noticed my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking slightly with adrenaline. A vast difference in response compared to 17 years ago with that knife against my throat – and I owe that to my training.
Join me in Part 3 where I discuss the hippocampus and amygdala parts of your brain and how quality self defence training can re-programme your pre-programmed responses to fear.

By Kelina Cowell

Apolaki Krav Maga & Dirty Boxing Academy

Reposted from her blog: Self-Defence and Dealing with Fear Parts 1&2

——————————————————————————————————–

For more information about training in Krav Maga Self Defence in London, please contact Chief Instructor Kelina Cowell:

apolakicombat@gmail.com

020 3695 0991

www.apolakikravmagalondon.com

Apolaki Krav Maga & Dirty Boxing Academy,

KO Gym Arch 186, Bancroft Road, London E1 4ET

Apolaki Krav Maga & Dirty Boxing Academy is a full time self defence school in Bethnal Green, East London. Contact us today for a free trial class.

A New Channel for Women’s Self-Defense

Posted in Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Videos, Women's Self-Defense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by chencenter

You all know me as someone passionate about spreading the message of empowering women.

That’s one thing that “Real Men Do” (shout-out to She-Jitsu!)

I want to introduce you all to our first video of our Outfoxxed Self-Defense channel.  Lot’s of great videos coming up!  And be sure to tell your ladies about it!

Please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE

MICHAEL JOYCE

OUTFOXXED.COM

10 Questions with Michael Joyce

Posted in 10 Questions, Fencing, Kungfu, Self-Defense, Taijiquan, Women's Self-Defense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2015 by Combative Corner

Michael Joyce CombativeCornerMichael Joyce is the creator and chief writer at CombativeCorner.Com.  He is also a teacher, martial artist and movement aficionado with a passion for taijiquan, fencing and self-defense.  He is also a massage therapist who has been in practice since 2006.  In 2011, he self-published a concise, straight-to-the-point book titled The Golden Thread – Essential Principles of Self-Defense, that was heralded, not only by his peers but also by some of the best in the field.  Continuing his pursuit to create, teach and empower, “Coach Joyce” as he prefers to be called, is hard at work on various projects, many of which will be mentioned in this interview.  So, without further ado…

“It’s a communication thing.  And if we don’t have this communication with ourselves, if we can’t bring joy into practice, we’ll eventually leave it.  Some people even get injured by it. My answer is communicate more, add joy and seek to dive deep into what Bruce called ‘the honest expression of the human self.'”

What prompted you to begin your studies of the martial arts?

big-brawl-movie-poster-1980-1020203414My first experience was when I was 10 (or so) and my mom put me in a Karate class (trial basis).  The teacher had me doing the basic punches and blocks, but it bored me to tears.  I must admit that I was caught up in “what I looked like”…and not what I was necessarily “doing.”  I wanted to move like Jackie Chan, not Chuck Norris.  And it was Jackie (strangely, not Bruce) that led me back to the martial arts – after seeing a film called “The Big Brawl” (which Jackie thought was going to be his big break into Hollywood; but wasn’t).  It was an amazing film (in my opinion) that showcased Jackie’s talents brilliantly.  I would have to say that it was Jackie’s moves, and later, Bruce’s philosophy that kept me fascinated for a long time to come.  Then, as a freshman in middle school, my friend handed me a flyer for a local Kungfu class.

It was here, in this Kungfu class that I began to understand… that it was only through the dent of hard work that I would achieve anything great; anything of value.  And luckily for me, my teachers Jim Holoman and Jack Heineman were fantastic, giving and open to helping me further myself as a martial artist.  Also, it was through this class that I was able to get a taste of what some of these other art forms were about: like Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua.  Little did I know that I would later find Taijiquan (Tai Chi) to be the biggest and deepest ocean of them all… and I was more than happy to take a swim.

What is one thing that you have found through the martial arts that you wish others would find?

One thing I wish more martial artists would embrace would be that once you have solid footing in your martial art (and this works for hobbies and jobs too), that is to say, once you’ve found and understood the principles and have a strong foundation in the basics, “follow your bliss.”  This statement was made famous by mythologist, lecturer and author Joseph Campbell – and it’s such an important statement and life philosophy that I feel that too few people bring it into their life as a martial artist (at least as much as it should be).

This is not to say that if you’re in a formal class you “do what you want.” I’m not saying that. But when you’re engaged in solo practice, add as much joy into practice as you can muster.  This bliss will help motivate you, feed you with long-lasting energy and keep you eager to continue practicing.  It’s a communication thing.  And if we don’t have this communication with ourselves, if we can’t bring joy into practice, we’ll eventually leave it.  Some people even get injured by it.  My answer is communicate more, add joy and seek to dive deep into what Bruce called “the honest expression of the human self.”

Being such a “Jack of all trades” (taijiquan, fencing and self-defense)…what gives you the most joy?

When I hear that question, I never immediately have an answer.  It really depends on the day.  Let’s tackle each of these individually, shall we?

Fencing

Fencing and sword-fighting became a fun past-time as soon as I saw movies like The Sword In the Stone, The Princess Bride and Willow.  So needless-to-say, I was pretty young and impressionable.  Like most youngsters, I grew up with the image of the sword as being a noble and gentlemanly art.  Therefore, even to this day, I feel a sense of nostalgia and childhood energy every time I pick up a weapon (a sword particularly).

Tai Chi

Taijiquan came to me at a very important time in my life.  Because of the intensity of my kungfu training (namely, what I put myself through), and my lack of understanding (at that point) in how to exercise properly, I developed low back pain in my late teens and early twenties.  I wish someone had come around and told me that I shouldn’t be doing all the exercises and stunts that they showed in kungfu movie training montages.  I digress.  When I went to college, I came in contact with a superb teacher through a class he did at St. Louis University; Mr./Sifu Herb Parran.  He was the first to show me the beauty of Hunyuan Taijiquan, which I later found to a wonderful form of low back pain therapy.  Therefore, to answer the question – When I feel that the world is moving a bit too fast, I enjoy taijiquan.  When I walk outside, and the weather is beautiful, I really enjoy taijiquan.  Taijiquan is just another form of play to me and it connects many of the things that I love: movement, physics, meditation, nature, finding that “inner calm”, and artistry.

Self-Defense

As much as I am a nature-loving taijiquan/yoga/movement junkie, I am also a safety-minded, social and combative scientist.  We are all shaped by our past.  Luckily, my past is pretty great, but that doesn’t stop one from thinking, “how might all of this go away?”  The people in my life, just like the people in everyone’s life (close people), really help make Life worth living.  Violence is scary and ugly and requires a survival mindset that includes: detection, avoidance, communication skills and fighting skills (sometimes running skills also).  Self-defense training was a necessity to change myself from an uneasy, unsure, skeptical martial artist, to a confident one.  With women being the highest victimized of any population, I reached out (very early on) to women.  I put together a system of self-defense called Outfoxxed and it quickly became and still remains what I feel as “Priority 1” of my Life’s goals – teaching and empowering women.  Speaking of this… my wife and I just re-vamped our website and recently uploaded our first YouTube video.  Please check it out! [website] [YouTube video]

Jiu-Jitsu

Perhaps the easiest and most enriching endeavor one can do for themselves is to learn and play jiujitsu.  Like taijiquan (and even fencing), some small details seem to swing doors of understanding wide open, and I love that.  With jiujitsu, the movement-lover, the social and physical scientist is let out to play – all you need are mats (or sometimes a carpeted floor).  As a student of Rener and Ryron Gracie (GracieUniversity.Com), I know I can watch their videos, feed off their high-energy and also know that I am being taught correctly.  The only downside to this (especially since I do so many things), is being able to properly invest the time.  Currently I am able to squeeze in only 3 hours a week – which is only a quarter of what I wish I could invest.  The one thing I know about myself though and because jiujitsu and I mesh so well together is that I’m never, ever going to give it up.  To add… I’ve got one heck of a training partner; Brad Vaughn (his CombativeCorner interview is next!).

What teachers in your past have really made an impact on you?

207559_502968047582_8028_nThere have been so many teachers that it’s hard to count; plus, I already spoke of three.  (lol).  With that said, and in order to keep this answer a bit shorter, I am going to go with the teacher that was the most impactful.  That person is my taijiquan teacher, Master Chen Zhonghua.  I first met him at a Kennesaw State University workshop in the 2002 or 2003.  What struck me most was that he was a teacher that not only wanted you to learn the form well, but to actually feel what the body needed to do in order to produce the desired result.  I still had what he called “that wushu hardness.”

 We started to do some push hands, and not the choreographed press, stick and flow exercises – real pushing!  He was able to find a point of leverage from anywhere and that greatly impressed me.  After each off-balancing he would say a word in Mandarin that I instantly understood to mean a combination of “Look at this!” and/or “Do you see/understand?”  I know this because he would point and show either what he did to create the result, what I did wrong or both.  “This is the Practical Method,” he would say.  He was the first taijiquan teacher that did it all – showed me, allowed me to see the inner-workings, and blow my mind (all at the same time).  It wasn’t too late after that workshop that I decided to sell my car and journey to the Edmonton, Alberta to become his full-time student and gain my certification to teach Hunyuan & Practical Method Taijiquan.

What is it about Tai Chi (taijiquan) that you enjoy?  And is there anything that you don’t like about it?

To do taijiquan is to physically feel freedom.  To get good at taijiquan to reach heaven.  Is that too dramatic?  Well, I ask anyone who has maintained a consistent practice of taijiquan for at least a few years to speak differently.  How you feel this, is difficult (if not impossible) to put into words.  You must feel it for yourself.

As for anything “I don’t like” about taijiquan… I would have to say the near-sighted, our-system-is-superior, zealots.  I especially despise the fact that these people exist in every martial art system.  People can really take the fun out of things sometimes.  I remember another teacher of mine Dr. Yang Yang telling me a story about the late Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang and how he never had anything bad to say about another person or martial art.  He would never say that they were doing something wrong, he’d just smile and simply say, “I don’t understand it.”  Because, in my view, a technique either works or it doesn’t work.  The same technique may work in theory, but not work when under stress.  It’s your job as a student to find what works and doesn’t work for yourself.  It’s the teacher’s job to help steer you to the best of his or her ability.

What brought you into fencing?

As you might have been able to tell from a previous answer – fencing seemed to find me.  He-Man had a sword, Voltron had a sword, Lion-O from Thundercats had a sword.  There was Conan the Barbarian, Dar The Beastmaster and even those Jedi Knights from a galaxy far, far away.  Everyone who would seek to vanquish evil had a sword.  Seeing as there wasn’t a fencing club, or fencing salle in my area I never had a chance to study formally until I got to college.  I started with an extraordinary teacher at St.Louis University named David Achilleus (Trovare di Spada).  At that time he was associated with a group called The Baited Blade and taught a very passionate and fun foil fencing class.  Today, he is one of my favorite “fencing purists;” a fencer who stays true to the history and principles of the weapon he chooses to wield.

Would you tell us a little about your passion for movement?

Michael Joyce Lizard CrawlThe art of movement is something that is slowly becoming more of a mainstream sort-of-thing, thanks primarily to people like Erwin Le Corre (movnat) and Ido Portal.  We are essentially intelligent apes – animals that spend far too much time sitting, laying, watching and typing – and not enough climbing, hanging, crawling and dancing.  When we are young, we explore movement, but at a certain point we get to a point where we feel like we know it all.  Slowly, as time passes, we get more accustomed to not moving, no longer exploring, and no longer growing.  Understanding not just movement but the way YOU move is very very important.

When you bring more (conscious) movement into your life, you will likely find a great treasure – a way to improve function (which carries over to your daily activities), increased energy (which relates to productivity and is linked to happiness), and very importantly staves off injury, pain and illness.  What started as a child, one that loved to climb trees, explore the woods, build forts- became ME; a man that didn’t want to give that up.  Instead of building forts, I do yard work and remodel my home. (lol)

What got you into teaching Women’s Self-Defense?

When I transferred to UNC-Greensboro, a more close-knit community, I would hear horrible stories of rape, shootings, and other forms of violence on the regular.  If one was to set aside gang violence, and the Monkey Dance (nod to ‘Rory Miller’) that most men end up doing to prove who’s in charge… it (for the most part) leaves women and children.  Children obviously need to be taught something at an early age, but that is more of a parental responsibility.  Women, on the other hand, are the most victimized member of any society and typically find themselves without any training whatsoever.  With my love for women and to see them taken care for, came a brutal realization… that many men will not take care of them, and worse, choose to harm them.

Lauren BurkIn 2007, I decided to write a concise, to-the-point book on self-defense.  I had never written anything longer than a college essay before, and before long, I was in a bit of a writer’s rut.  I wanted to produce something that could supplement my workshops and give my students some important and potentially life-saving reading material, but the motivation wasn’t quite there.  Then in 2008, there were two senseless murders of two lovely young women, Eve Carson of Chapel Hill and Lauren Burk of Auburn.  I had never met either of them before, but reading about them and speaking with the Burk family, I knew that they were smart, fun and caring young ladies that, doing nothing wrong, met with a violent end.  With this event in my mind, I knew exactly who I wanted to dedicate the book to, and that I needed to get this information out – I needed to do what I could – as soon as I could.  With renewed vigor, I finished the book within weeks and self-published it on Lulu.com (The Golden Thread).

Today, my wife and I conduct classes, lectures and workshops on women’s self-defense known as the Outfoxxed Program.  We are currently working hard at producing a series of YouTube videos, blogs and other materials to help prepare women for what they may (but hopefully may not) come across.  It will certainly take more than my wife and me (Outfoxxed.Com)…but we are determined to make a big impact.  If you want to help us help others, please visit our YT Channel and subscribe (and share!).  We are also here, always, if you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns.

Beyond just the subject matter, what do you hope your student’s understand?

Beyond the message to “Follow your Bliss”? Not very much (in the realm of martial arts).

However, if speaking to my self-defense students, I’d like to make sure they understand to go beyond the palm-heel strikes and knees to the groin.  The bulk of the “attacks” in your life will likely start off insidiously, and unfortunately by someone you know (and trust).  If you don’t communicate and/or take action when someone crosses a personal barrier then it will be harder and harder to get out of that situation.  Your intuition is what will kick things off.  Learn to trust it.  Communication may be an avenue to persuade your aggressor to “take a hike.” Learn to use the voice (insert nerdy ‘Dune’ reference here*).  I say “the” because there most certainly is a voice, an inflection that produces results. Most husbands know what I’m talking about! lol.  This is seldom talked about in self-defense, but might be enough to deter a possible attack before it gets physical.  There is also a way of using your body effectively that produces results.  Some of these movements are very simple, but without the practice will never become reflexive.  Learn to use your body.

What are some of your future goals?

My wife Jenny and I are hard at work creating material for our Outfoxxed YouTube Channel.  We are looking forward to engaging with more women and help to bring a change.  Viva la revolution! I am currently working on two books: my first fiction novel (which I won’t reveal quite yet), and another book on self-defense.  But this won’t just be any ol’ book on self-defense, this is going to be very comprehensive and quite special.  With the success of these venture, Jenny and I will hopefully be traveling more, teaching more and enjoying all that we can out of this great Life.

BONUS QUESTION (via T.J. Kennedy)

If you had only one hour to teach a complete beginner self-defense class, knowing they’d have to use it to fight off imminent multiple attackers, what would you teach them?

I can always count on T.J. to ask the hard-hitting questions!

I would break the lesson-plan into quarters.  The first 15 minutes will be spent on effective movement, and positioning/obstacle-creating.  The second 15 minutes will be on the Trinity Block (love it!), striking and breaking contact/not getting trapped.  The third 15 will be (because I will assume that none have been in a single fight before) stress inoculation drills whereby there will be a lot of pushing, cursing and posturing (one-on-one). In this drill, they will have to utilize what they learned from first and second quarter to move, check your surrounding for a possible weapon and finding the right time to preemptively strike (if available at all).  The last 15 will be 3 students against 1 (depending on the number of students) and will consist of 3 minutes of mayhem.  Momentary evasion, wrestling, and “bad-guys” pinning the “good guy” will likely occur.  At the instructor’s command the “bad guys” will jump off and the “good guy” will have to perform push-ups (or at least maintain a plank).  Then back into the fray!  [Lee Morrison style] The good guy will go through about 3 rounds of this punishment.  Without fail… they will understand physically and mentally how difficult it will be to survive the real thing and at the same time feel more prepared.

Thank you all for reading!

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Becoming a Duellist

Posted in Fencing, Fighters, History, Martial Arts, Swordsmanship, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2015 by chencenter

Duel Basil Rathbone Zorro

In his book, famous fencing master Aldo Nadi realistically describes the tension, obstacles and high-stake nature of the duel – one that he experienced first-hand in1924. Only 24 years old, but an undefeated champion in 3 weapons, Aldo remained confident and eager to prove himself against a live point.  Aldo squared off against Adolfo Cotronei, an Italian newspaper editor, over a story Contronei printed saying that Italian champion Candido Sassone beat French champion Lucien Gaudin 9-to-7.  Honor at stake, they met a secluded place   [read more at “The Duel”]

Aldo Nadi DuelHe writes:

In competition, the good fencer leisurely watches his opponent for a few seconds before starting the slightest motion. Here you are by no means allowed to do so because your adversary immediately puts into execution a plan evidently well thought out in advance: surprise the youngster at the very beginning; take advantage of his lack of dueling and bear upon his nerves and morale.”

THE NATURE OF THE DUEL

The Duellist movie Duel 2No film has picked up on the atmosphere and realism of the duel quite like Ridley Scott’s 1977 epic film, The Duellists. Choreographed by the famous William Hobbs (Excaliber, Willow, & The Count of Monte Cristo) it remains one of the best examples of sword-fighting – especially in this period, (Napoleonic era).

What you notice right away by viewing these fight scenes, is that the intention and awareness is focused on his opponent (remember, your life is on the line). Two, each fighter is hesitant on making a non-calculated action until there is a need to react to something – something that you possibly did not expect. And third, the fight scene is extremely short. Many duels started and finished in the time it took to read this paragraph.* Cutting with a sabre often produced gaping wounds, but it was the thrust (often w/ dueling sword, smallsword or rapier) that was fatal.

*Keep in mind that once the actual sword-fighting starts, depending on the skill, fighting area, luck, etc., duels could last anywhere from seconds to several minutes.  Most duels didn’t last more than 10 minutes.  But think of the amount of stamina that that would require! Needless-to-say, if you are serious about sword-fighting, be ready for anything.  

TECHNIQUES FOR DUELING

epee5It is of my opinion that if you can’t fight well against one person, you can’t and won’t perform well in a skirmish/battle. It is very important that you first learn your weapon (or weapon set) & build your skill. This includes Guard positions, techniques and movement tactics (learning first solo, then one-on-one and then (perhaps) multiple opponents).

>Bruce Lee once said, “One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs in simplicity.” This quote can easily be understood by the experienced martial artist – but is often hard for the beginner. Learn your techniques, various ways of movements…be a scientist of the martial sciences and put your skill and techniques to the test in competition.

What techniques serve you the best?

Which ones keep you safe or make you harder to hit/counter? Keep them.

Discard those techniques that put you in a bad position, are too flashy or complicated.

Find your personal “Go-To” techniques.

MINDSET

The mindset, especially in training and mock-dueling is essential. It must be centered around one thing – never allow a single touch. And if a touch is received, never allow a second. Always make it hard for your opponent to attack, find steady footing, or catch a breath. Use your environment, training and your intelligence in sword-fighting to be victorious. Victory favors the skillful!

FIGHTING FAIR

I tell my young students, “Imagine you stepped back in time… You encounter a villainous foe, and he corners you into a fight; a fight to the death!” In an act of self-preservation you grab firmly your weapon of choice and ready yourself for any oncoming attack.  In all matters of self-defense, I think it is fair to say “Anything goes.” This may include acquiring another weapon, kicking sand, or dirtying your point (in hopes that the doctor or director halts the bout, thus giving you a needed breather).  However, under normal circumstances and in hopes of winning honorably… I find it best to train using solid (go-to) techniques and spar using great sportsmanship.  Ultimately, if one had the liberty of choice (in dying), most would choose the honorable over the cowardly.  At least one would hope.

MICHAEL JOYCE

WSFENCING.INFO

I know there are many fencers and historians out there that might have some a different idea or opinion towards duels and/or what I have written.  If you would like to offer any comments, critiques, or possible revisions/errors, please let me know by leaving a comment and I will review and take them under heavy consideration.  Thank you!

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