Archive for Review

“Fight Science” : A No-Holds-Barred Review

Posted in Martial Arts, MMA, REVIEWS with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2011 by chencenter

Before I begin this review of Fight Science: Mixed Martial Arts, which was aired in January 2008 on the National Geographic Channel, I’d like to state for the record that I’m a fan, teacher and (naturally) a critic of the martial sciences.  It’s this last characteristic that I’d like to clarify.  I’m not the type of critic that gets pleasure from casting shadows on people, styles, or anything of the kind.  Personally (and the teacher in me) sincerely hopes that it’s moreso seen as “casting a light” than anything else.  There is a creed that every teacher should follow:  teach from the heart [with love]…teach the truth [without ego, without secrets, with honesty]…and become an example of what you teach.  Now, with that said…

Fight Science is a television program in which scientists and martial artists work together to discover the mysteries of the artform, the capabilities of the human body and the damage that the human body can cause with various striking techniques.  The latest episode of Fight Science featured four of the most prominent fighters of the Ultimate Fighting Championships: Randy Couture, Bas Rutton, Tito Ortiz and Dean Lister.  The questions were the obvious ones: how do these Mixed Martial Art (MMA) athletes compare to the average person, traditional martial artists, how much force/damage are they able to inflict and how is it possible that the human body can produce such results.

I’m not going to spoil the results for you.  You can watch and enjoy the program on your own.  However, I wouldn’t have decided to make this a blog entry unless I had something to say….

MICHAEL’S POINTS

NO STYLE, OR STYLE: We, the masses, obviously know that MMA is now a pop culture phenomenon.  It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and clearly gives society a clear view of “what works” in an actual, real-to-life hand-to-hand combat (ok. minus the gloves + several rules governing safety).  Fight Science clearly made MMA fighters out to be the pinnacle of athletic excellence and implied MMA as the most effective “style” (if you call it a style).  Can MMA be a “style” when it’s just a combination of effective, battle-hardened techniques?  Isn’t this just what Bruce Lee did with Jeet Kune Do, but vowed never to refer to as a “style?”

Who,… What…umm…Who again?:  Exercise scientists tested these MMA stars on crash test dummies rigged with state-of-the-art, pressure measuring sensors.  When these researchers spoke to us (the audience) in terms like pounds per square inch (for the knowledgeable) and “concusionable” (for the less knowledgeable…[and ok, “concusionable” isn’t a word.] ), they neglected to give actual results.  How did these traditionalists (i.e. boxer, muay thai boxer, taekwondo “so-called experts”) fare result-wise?  Who were these so-called traditionalists and how close did they actually come to these MMA phenoms?  Not revealing this information only softens the argument that these MMA athletes are superior.

The Remark:  There was a remark regarding fighting as “a game of chess” in which a fighter uses strategy to plan several moves ahead.  I’ve heard this analogy before and think it’s utter nonsense.  Fighting is nothing like chess… it’s actually more like ping-pong.  Fighters simply react.  They react with a conditioned response forged by countless hours of training.  Fighting is not a sport that requires a great deal of intelligence (as the show implies).  Intelligence helps (don’t get me wrong)… but genetics, training, desire and the dent of hard work makes a much greater impression!  It’s like in the movie Top Gun when Maverick says (regarding an aerial dogfight), “You don’t have time to think up there…if you think, you’re dead.”  The instructor follows up by adding, “That’s one hell of a gamble with a 30 million dollar aircraft.”  My advice… don’t think like chess…. otherwise, “Yeeha, Jester’s dead.’

MMA less dangerous than boxing?  Hmmm…. okay, I see the logic.  The higher-ups are trying to justify MMA as being a less risky hobby/sport/profession than boxing due to lack of repetitive head trauma.  Avid fan of both here…. university graduate…umm…still not buying it.  Let’s look at these fighters at the end of their careers and count their aches, pains and nervous disorders shall we?  I’ll bet my pinky-toe that more MMA fighters are carried away on stretchers, visited the hospital more times and much more likely to become paralyzed when compared to the sport of boxing.

MMA fighters are saints… yeah…. I said it.  Ok, that’s a lie.  Ok, I’m going to do what a teacher should do and tell the truth.  There are some gentlemen in the sport.  “some”… not many.  The ones that spring to mind are George St. Pierre, Carlos Newton, Cung Le, Rich Franklin and (my favorite) Kazushi Sakuraba.  Apart from these examples…examples of stellar sportsmen… there are nearly twice as many ego-driven, barbarous “thugs.”  I understand the mindset of fighting “in the zone”… but a true martial art professional knows when his opponent is “out of commission.”  Hint… if you are a fighter and you see your opponent’s skull ricochet off the campus and limbs stiffen straight, don’t hit him again. He’s not faking!

Brain over Brawn: “MMA fighters are brain over brawn,” says the legendary Randy Couture.  (I roll my eyes sarcastically)  Well,… yes Mr. Heavyweight Champion.  My opinion is… in the UFC, don’t always bet your money on the bigger guy, however, it hasn’t been a true “David vs. Goliath” since the early days of UFC when they threw in a sumo wrestler.  But let’s face it…  Royce did a great job fighting at a natural weight of 170 lbs (give or take),  but he’s been doing jujitsu since he came out of the womb.  The reality is this…if you are under 200 lbs, plan on making the opponent miss… a lot.

Final Note:  Martial arts are more than mere strikes and arm-bars.  There is often neglected a spiritual side to the martial arts… and it is this side that I hope all martial artists are able to find.  Our goal as teachers is to help guide our students towards self-knowledge.  Our goal as students is to find meaning and bliss behind what we do.  I said once (3 years ago), that if I had it to do all over again… I would have become a fighter.  I wanted to fight in order to promote taijiquan as a legitimate fighting art and thereby draw more students into my studio (we all must make a living).  But that was all a fleeting thought.  My heart is in teaching and in spreading the art of Chen Style Taijiquan (among other things).  And although I think I can handle myself with a few of those guys, I’m not a big fan of being bruised…or bleeding for that matter.   And also…look at the statistics, even the “champion” and “hall-of’-fame” fighters lose one-out-of-four fights.  I’m content with my record of 0-0-0.  That’s undefeated, baby!

Final words,… Much respect to all martial artists, Mixed Martial Artists and Traditionalists alike.  Gracious bows to those masters that choose to fight honorably.

Overall review of this particular episode:  2 and a half stars (out of 5).  “I wish they didn’t sugar-coat the fighters and the UFC as much as they did.  The show and the athletes can stand on their own merit.  The animated skeletons, Bas Rutton’s comical remarks and the desire to write this review (having watched the entire show) were the only things that kept me from flipping the channel.  I can still hear Bas saying (about his biceps), ‘they’re not marshmellows.’  Did I mention he makes me laugh?”

Extended Question to Readers:

What was your take on the show?  Did I miss anything?  Do you disagree with anything any this review?  Anything you’d like to add?  (Don’t forget to mention if you’re a student, teacher, fan, fighter, or all-the above)

Michael Joyce

Article originally posted on Feb. 1 st, 2008

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The Gracie’s “Women Empowered” Course

Posted in Products, REVIEWS, Self-Defense, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2011 by chencenter

It arrived the Summer of 2011… and finally the world has a women’s self-defense curriculum that not only is presented in a fun and energetic manner, but one that covers the wide array of violent situations with quality instruction and the attention-to-detail that the Gracies give time-and-time-again.  This review is intended to be “no-holds-barred” and will give the reader not only the strengths but weaknesses of this dvd series from both the viewpoint of a professional self-defense coach and from a beginning student. 

{Michael in off-white, Jenny’s comments in green}

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Before I dive into the meat of the series – and what a succulent morsel it is – let me begin by saying that the roster is beyond exceptional in that they include two wonderful examples of “Women Empowered” in Eve Marie Torres and Sage Gracie.  Their comments are invaluable in both helping the beginner understand the pitfalls and difficulties common when anyone begins a training program and the fact they they are women helps to reinforce the female viewers that the techniques can be done effectively with the natural, inherent strength that all women possess.  Ryron & Rener (and later, Ralek) provide most of the technical advice as well as providing answers to common mistakes & questions from students they’ve had in previous classes.

After popping in the first disc and hearing them welcome you with such openness and sincerity… it’s easy to not only get excited about learning, but excited about DOING… which is (or should be) the most important characteristic of ANY learning series.

Rener Gracie is like the self-defense version of Tony Robbins.  He is so motivating and as he moves and makes some of the most interesting facial expressions, you can’t help but to have more focused energy on the task at-hand –  learning self-defense!

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DISC ONE (BASE, RELEASES, TRAP & ROLL)

DISC ONE really gets the ball rolling by discussing the enemy (strangers/non-strangers) and the “Triangle of Victimization.”  What was a pleasant surprise to me and something I deem a necessity (in teaching self-defense) a strong emphasis on what the Gracies call the “Base Get-Up.”  Balance is crucial in self-defense and nothing rattles/confounds a woman more (initially) knocking her off balance.  (Regarding the “Base Get-Up) In the words of Eve, “It is not the most lady-like, but it IS the safest.”  The most important thing to take (after viewing) is that you shouldn’t expect to have the technique when you need it most if you don’t use it in everyday life.  Learn the “Base Get-Up”, train it and make it an organic part of your movement.

Having the women perform the techniques gives the viewer relatibility and identification in the movements.  In terms of video, every so often the camera would zoom in on a specific body part during the techniques which is extremely helpful for the student viewer.

DISC TWO (CHOKE, SUPER SLAP, GUARD GET-UP)

Again, the Gracies begin at the beginning, and add what many instructionals (books, dvds, etc.) leave out; how to prepare your body for an attack.  In this case, tensing your neck muscles in order to resist the pressure on your windpipe.  There are some pros and cons when it comes to the “Super Slap” (endnote 2.1), however, (as someone who has taught women’s self-defense for over a decade) I can see why they choose this approach.  Regarding the remainder of the disc, you receive what Rener & Ryron consider one of the most important (if not THE most important) technique of the entire series… the Guard Get-Up.  A great deal of fear comes when your assailant has you on the ground.  In this gem of a technique, the Gracie brothers show the viewer not only show an effective and energy efficient escape, but distraction techniques (i.e. Super Slap) and distance builders (as pictured to the left).

The front choke defense and guard get-up feel very practical.  The guard get-up is my favorite because it provides hope when you are in a panic-causing position whereby the predator is between your legs.  When this happens, this technique is very useful.

DISC THREE (FRAME, T & R EXTRAS, GET-UP EXTRAS, TRIANGLE CHOKE)

In this disc, the viewer/practitioner (having 6 lessons under their belt) really begins to learn that what might have worked in one scenario, might not work in another.  In self-protection, variables change and it’s very important that the student knows not only how to remain relaxed/confident in their actions but also how to recognize when something doesn’t work.  Beginning with the Stop-Block-Frame, this disc offers the viewer a sturdy support system for any attacker that encroaches within your personal boundary.    In three distinct “slices”, the Gracies effectively show the student, first, personal defense with the attacker outside of arm’s length.  “Slice 2” covers how to “Brace & Base” when the attacker makes contact, and finally (slice 3) shows “The Frame” technique (for those persistent buggers who won’t take a hint).  *It should be noted (in my opinion) that the Stop-Block-Frame is somewhat flawed (see End Notes).

Lesson 8 & 9, however, is endorsed with the highest enthusiasm.  There are many variations of techniques in the self-defense world, but when an attacker (for example) mounts his victim but is supporting his weight strongly with his arms or (possibly a scarier & more common scenario)… he’s pinned your wrists!  What do you do?  Again, these “Extras” are perfectly placed to optimize peak performance and diminish the “quicksand” that many self-defense professionals call “The Fear Loop.”  The disc ends with a popular jiu-jitsu technique known as the Triangle Choke, which utilizes the strongest asset a woman has (her legs) against the attacker’s neck.  The ability to render your attacker unconscious is bound to empower the female viewer to new heights.


Lessons 7-10 are fun techniques.  What makes this dvd set so thrilling to own is that it provides tools for almost any situation.  (If not exactly, there is something adaptable).  Whether you are in a tight space or in the middle of a parking lot, the teachers will instruct you on how to use the technique according to the scenario and what techniques to use for the different types of attacks.  Once you are successfully “proficient” on all the moves, you will be much more confident about yourself and your ability to defend against an attacker.  (Then, it’s off to Disc 5 where you can earn a Gracie Pink Belt!)

DISC FOUR (HAIR GRAB, GUILLOTINE, ELBOW ESCAPE, REAR ATTACK DEFENSE, WEAPONS)

Just when you though things couldn’t get more interesting, more empowering, the Gracies give you lessons 11-15.  As viewers… we are introduced to another Gracie, Ralek.  In this disk, the student is introduced to many of the “more challenging” situations; specifically the hair grab, attacks from behind, and attacks involving weapons.  In the world of self-protection there are numerous techniques, many of which are too difficult/complex to pull off in a high-pressure situation – NOT SO in the Gracie curriculum.  First and foremost, they present two important statements that every woman must take to heart:

  1. Those who use a weapon, normally will use as intimidation. (Usually to move you to a secondary/more isolated location)
  2. Don’t ever let them take you to a secondary/more isolated location!  (weapon or no weapon)

An important aspect however, that is rarely touched upon in weapon defense is what we should do (or expect to do) if we manage to disarm our opponent [see endnotes].

The guillotine chock happens to be one of my favorite moves.  Perhaps because I am always able to use it when my husband and I practice self-defense and other times when we are play-wrestling.  For some reason, he loves to go head first into me and then that’s when I pull the choke.  All the other moves are also fun, but are not quite as easy to perfect as this one.

DISC FIVE (PINK BELT QUALIFICATION TEST)

In this disc, the Gracies explain that (if you so choose) after reaching a solid foundation regarding the mastery of these techniques, you may want to make a qualifying video of yourself to be evaluated by one of the Gracie instructors themselves.  Not only will you be rewarded a pink belt if pass the test, but (pass or fail) you will be given a review sheet of comments and areas that need more work.  With or without this step, the Gracie family sincerely wants to help keep women safe; and to be evaluated on your performance of the techniques is just one of the ways in which you’ll feel more empowered and capable of handling any future situation that you may (but hopefully may not) confront.

DISC SIX (TOTAL EMPOWERMENT TALKS)

One of the most beneficial aspects of any program resides in connectivity.  The message and depth of knowledge aside, our ability to “connect,” relate and understand what women go through and may have to go through at some point in their life is (not to overuse the word) Empowering – but also comforting and reassuring.  You may listen to these talks at any point in your training and segments of these are offered for free on the Gracie’s YouTube channel.

Links :

Get the Women Empowerment Dvd Course and you’ll also receive two additional talks not found on YouTube entitled, Street Smarts and The College Talk; two very important additions.

DVD SERIES CONCLUSION

There is absolutely nothing like this on the market today (in my opinion).  The presenters are not only young and fun, but have a deep knowledge-base and can communicate their thoughts brilliantly.  Speaking from personal experience as a self-defense coach (and primarily a “Women’s Self-Defense” coach at that), I can say with 100% certainty that the lessons in this dvd series will not only empower you, but will serve as a wonderful foundation for future study in jiu-jitsu or any other martial art you undertake.  Also, and most importantly, the techniques (if you diligently practice them) could one day save your life!

 Buy your copy today by clicking on the picture to the left or below.

The Gracie self defense program, Women Empowered, is a good foundation for learning self defense. The teaching is enthusiastic and easy to follow with funny metaphors and clear imagery to help learn the step-by-step techniques. The program not only teaches you how to do a move for escape, but also demonstrates common moves that are incorrect and weak.

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END NOTES:  WEAKNESSES IN THE PROGRAM

We’ve discussed the Pros of the program, which are almost too numerous to mention in one review.  Here are the Cons:

CALLING FOR HELP

The dvd is technique oriented and will surely empower any woman who decides to actively participate in the drills.  And although the Gracies discuss the emotional and psychological aspects of attack, they forget to mention that while these techniques are being applied, you can (and likely, should) be screaming for help!  While you should never rely on help, you can always improve your chance for survival (and of scaring your attacker) by vocalizing and making both your location and distress heard.

TAKING A HIT

Men are fairly comfortable with physicality.  Women are not.  I’ve always believed that it is valuable (at least) to mention of the inevitability of physical (and/or emotional) pain.  Perhaps this is not what the Gracies had in mind in this “Essential” DVD set, but (in my opinion & Jenny’s) training drills involving more realistic physicality will enable the student to be better prepared for the violence that could come their way.  [Obviously this can and should be done safely with the use of pads (at least at first)]

I feel the Gracies should’ve emphasized the times where it is inevitable that you will get punched, feel pressure, and such. To complement that discussion should be a lesson or a reminder through every move taught to do movements that include protecting the face and center-line.

HIGH-HEELED SHOES

Rener and his brother discuss high-heeled shoes when standing. They explain that high-heeled shoes will hinder the stand-up techniques because they hinder balance and should therefore not be used during training. I would question this because women are usually taught to wear a new pair of high-heeled shoes, especially tall ones, around the house to get used to it. Soon enough, a girl could even run in those shoes, even though it’s not good for you. So if a girl can turn a pair of heels into an extension of their feet, why not train a little bit in heels for the stand-up techniques instead of not at all? At least then the training would be realistic in the situation a women might be in for attacks. The reality is, a lot, if not all, women wear heels. Why not avoid going to the ground with the attacker by not letting the heels prevent you from escape?

HAIR-PULL TECHNIQUES

Also, the hair pulling techniques seem like only a way to prolong the process.  Why not strike, claw and dig if both hands are free?  Also, the head tends to rear back when hair is pulled (this is obvious).   The video should (in my opinion) adjust the training to deal with more naturalistic human responses.

WEAPONS

The question is left open and would be helpful if it were answered, and that is: “What do we do (or expect to do) if the technique works [we disarm the gun/knife].”  I know as a self-defense coach myself, there is all sorts of liability issues with giving advice on these highly-dangerous scenarios, however, these aspects (especially in your basic course) should be touched on.  If weapons are involved, when do we run?  At what range or in what situation is it best to run?  If we get the gun/knife, do we simply threaten to shoot & call the cops or do we place a round in his kneecap?  If the need arises, where is the best place to shoot?  Do you advocate that your Women Empowered ladies learn or take a separate course on gun training and safety?  With this being said, I must commend Sage Gracie as she states plainly after executing an example of the “Armbar” (Arm break/lock), “Make sure you break the arm.”  This is a saving grace to the lesson as it had appeared (to both Jenny and myself) that the student would simply hold/ask them to drop the weapon.  In self-defense, do not give the attacker that level of mercy.

Emphasis is placed on technique, which is only one (albeit large) piece of the puzzle.  Rener says several times in the last lesson, “(When/If you gain control of the weapon) The choice is YOURS.”  And it is!  But what ARE your choices?  In the Mindset Minute, he leaves you with only a partial answer to this question.  He says, “Know one thing, break distances or do something to ensure he doesn’t take it (the weapon) back and use it on you.”  This is true.  But as a coach wishing to give my students ALL available information, I’d want to make sure they know all the available options.

Coach Michael Joyce

Assisted by beginning student and wife, Jennifer Pruna Joyce

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*Michael Joyce is the owner and head instructor of the ChenCenter & the Golden Thread Workshops in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where he has lived and taught for over a decade.  Jennifer Pruna Joyce is Coach Joyce’s wife and is an aspiring writer & photographer who has recently graduated from Appalachian State University  and is just now learning the skills necessary to be proficient in self-protection. 

Raw Combat’s Response To The Zodiac Killer

Posted in Day's Lesson, Philosophy, Safety, Teaching Topic, Videos, Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2011 by Combative Corner

 

In this series, we take a look at both real-world and hypothetical/film/tv self-defense scenarios.  Luke Holloway (links below) offers his advice regarding “The Lakeside Scene.” 

Original Article: Never Getting Tied Up | Movie Look | The Zodiac

….”The visibility with the mask, whatever he had covering his face gave him a sense of empowerment and confidence, I believe, because it gives the victim an inability to ID the offender. …The guy actually said, ‘I’ve killed before’ & ‘I’ll kill again’ (blah, blah, blah) and he gave them some information, and I think that was kind of intentional.” … (hear more in Luke’s video above).

| Luke Holloway | Raw Combat International | LukeHollowayTV |

CLICK ON THE PICTURE ABOVE TO VIEW THE FILM INFO ON IMDB

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