Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Blog Page!!

Hey guys for those of you who still care when the words in my brain make it to the page, the new blog page for the Scrapyard is here

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mindset (Part 1)

The Mind
Now, on to business. Mindset is something that is not discussed or understood as much as it should be, considering that this will determine what we accomplish in life and save us in a crisis! For example: goals. The brain is goal-oriented and without any it becomes lazy. A Harvard study in the 90's had shown that people who sat down and said their five-year plan out loud had a more likely chance of achieving their goals than people who wrote it down. They basically determined that people who write it out are thinking of how their answer looks on paper but the people saying get to hear it from their own mouth and it becomes a reality. There are many ways we can relate to this because we all have some kind of achievements (degree, promotion, black belt...).

A recent example for me is a major injury that I suffered last year. I had blown out my knee for the fourth time in a few years because I had a nagging injury that I refused to take care of and continued to re-injure. So naturally, this was as bad as it could get and, despite my stupidity, I had to acknowledge that I needed to fix this. My physio had told me that it was almost too late for my knee, but with some hard work and some time off there was a chance. Unfortunately, she refused to commit to a time-frame because of the severity of the injury. I'll admit that I went into a panic. I had no goal! There was nothing to do but go through the rehab and wait. I told myself that I would stay positive, but after the first two months with very little reward and no end in site, my mind weakened. I couldn't figure it out because I was working full-time at getting better and couldn't get results. By the third month I was just miserable and I used my self-pity to justify a terrible diet and excessive drinking. The one thing I managed to keep during this mild depression was my work ethic toward my rehab. A bad diet and booze slows your healing so the progress suffered, which upset me more. Then I decided that I couldn't keep this up anymore and started thinking about finding a new goal; one that didn't involve my knee. I decided that when I was healthy again I would go back to teaching martial arts as soon as I felt like I was in good enough shape. In order to generate some interest, I would need a website to get my name out there. Unfortunately, I knew nothing about building a website. At this point, I had become so miserable that no one was really in a hurry to spend time with me so I had plenty of time to read and learn all these new programs. This distracted me from getting discouraged and self-destructive. I worked hard at both my physio and my website and the next few months flew by! I got to a point where my physio was giving me homework and a light training program to slowly get back in shape without pushing my knee too far. All said and done, I was sitting on my ass for about seven months! It took a little more than a month to get over the embarrassment of what kind of shape I was in to start a regular training program. The website was up and, despite not being the greatest site out there, it did its job and people were interested in training with me. I started training everyday with the support of my training partners and a good attitude. I dropped 30 pounds in no time and was training full time again! It was a long journey, but I got a chance to dig deep and see how important our mindset really is. It feels good to be training with my Sensei on a regular basis and teaching my own classes again, but I also know that my mind is stronger and if it all got taken away for some reason, I would prevail and find something else to make my life. That's a reassuring place to be and I feel fortunate for this experience!

Combative Application
Hope I didn't lose anyone but saying that I felt fortunate for an injury, but a blessing can come disguised as a curse! Anyway, hope you enjoyed the first part and we hope you enjoy "Mindset Part 2", where we explore how I can adapt this long journey of self-discovery and healing into punching someone in the face a little bit better...

P.S. Running was a big part of dropping weight and getting back in shape after the injury and if anyone wants a little more on this click here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thoughts on Grappling

I've been a grappling enthusiast for the last 12 years and I would like to share some thoughts on the matter. At the time of this writing (2009), I hold a 1st Dan in Kempo Jujitsu (now in 2011 I hold my 2nd Dan)and I encourage grappling in all training programs. I've trained in many different styles in my life, but the ones that truly spoke to me were methods such as Sambo, Wrestling, Judo and other grappling systems. I remember being a very cocky and immature student learning how to escape a guard for the first time and thinking to myself "what kind of weird style is this?" I continued on reluctantly and it was when I got into my first bar fight that everything changed. I clearly recall landing a nice straight on his chin and I thought that I had just landed the greatest knockout ever. Unfortunately, he had some more left in him. The hit rocked him and, as a fear response, he ducked his head and lunged at me. He couldn't afford to take another hit so he shot in to take me down, much like when a boxer seeks the clinch to avoid getting knocked down. The night ended bad. As I lay there sprawled on my back watching boots crash down on me, I thought to myself: "I wish I knew what to do down here other than cover up..." That's when I really started to understand that fights finish on the ground. From play fighting to self-defense, grappling is a part of our survival instincts.

At it simplest, grappling trains cardio and endurance like nothing else! Before any martial training (and during) I was involved in team sports from when I was five. My sports of interest were soccer, football and rugby...all running sports. Cardio was always very important and we trained it in as many grueling variations as possible. None of that mattered when I went to my first Jujitsu class. Lungs on fire, muscles cramping and mental panic ensued and I realized that I had a lot of work to do. There's no better feeling than rolling with someone and beating your time. A good, evenly matched sparring session can lead to some of the most satisfying breakthroughs. Along with improving endurance, grappling leaves you with a good, healthy and rewarding experience in your training.

Rule out Striking
My Sensei Kevin Secours often goes to great length to ingrain us with "distance permits striking". This is an important rule. It's one thing to just say it and think that this will stay with you under pressure, it's quite another to properly train it. When someone is pushed to the point beyond thinking, whether it's due to fatigue or injury, the concepts that are most trained as survival methods will kick in. In a defense setting, the ability to invade someone else's space can quickly change an aggressor into a victim. It goes far beyond just being more comfortable with grappling. It's an entire psychological invasion of an attacker and gives the defender control in a violent crisis.

Restraint Tactics
Years later, I became very comfortable with grappling. It was now a strong part of my game, so to speak. I quickly grew out of the bar fighting scene, for obvious reasons, but I still wanted to test myself. Private security opportunities started to come up and I pursued that line of work for a number of years. I noticed right away that being familiar with grappling and submission techniques gave me an edge. It wasn't only just being a better grappler that helped, but being more comfortable than most of the other guys on my team to know how to enter and take down someone who's acting aggressive and aiming to hit anyone who comes near. Although grappling for the purpose of restraint was quite different than sport submission, I still felt like I had an edge on most.

It's Natural
For the most part we see grappling in some form or another all over the place. Lions teach their cubs how to defend themselves by rolling around with them. Kids are always grabbing onto each other for some fun wrestling. I've even read that tickling a child is a parent's way of teaching the child to protect it's space. Because the child is laughing, the parent is comfortable poking the child. For the person on the receiving end, there's a panic-like response taking place, despite the smiling and the laughing. We want to be close, for good or for bad. Fights usually start on the feet, but they almost always end on the ground. So whether you use grappling training for conditioning, sport competition or professional work, I highly recommend incorporating it into your life. Nothing will teach you how to move better and understand your healthy limits than trying to control someone else's!

**For a more in-depth exploration on grappling and what it means for our natural instincts in the modern world, check out "Primal Power" and "Primal Power 2" by Kevin Secours. For more info visit montrealsystema.com

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Systema Breathing

To say that Systema is a "unique" style would be a huge understatement. Among many original concepts, the breathing system found in Systema is one of its more effective and creative aspects. Here, we will discuss the application of these concepts for fighters, soldiers, athletes and general health enthusiasts.

Mental and Physical Health Benefits
Systema is, and always has been, a health-based system. This might not be evident when watching a class on mass attack or a video on punch-absorption, but practitioners will agree that the benefits are immediate. There is a thin line between calm and panic and only breathing can put you behind the wheel when in a crisis. Systema takes the time to safely simulate a scenario that would induce panic and provide the tools to succeed in gaining control. An example of this is Square Breathing. When running laps, the practitioner tries to time their steps with their breath. One step inhale, one step hold with lungs full, one step exhale and one step hold with lungs empty. Sounds easy? Then we escalate to to two steps for each of the four phases. When the practitioner reaches numbers closer to 10, this will remove you from your comfort zone. The runner starts to feel like they are drowning and the panic reflex kicks in. This is where things get interesting. There is no actual risk here, but the brain feels like it will never regain control and the runner has to fight through this and calm his/her breathing. As you slow your breathing and continue to square breath at a more comfortable level, your heart rate will slow down. Make sure to do this drill in a way that ends with success in order to reinforce positively. I could tell you that your heart rate, fatigue and mental state are all controled in your breathing, but you won't really understand until you test it.

For anyone who has ever worked out, tried Yoga, Pilates or even help a friend move a couch, you've probably noticed that your breathing has a lot to do with how far you can exert yourself. It's not really magic. Steady breathing allows your heart to pump blood at a rate where your muscles are getting enough oxygen to complete the task at hand. Also, depending on how you're moving, the density of your lungs becomes an important factor as well. When doing a sit-up, for example, the body compresses the lungs during the "crunch" portion of the movement, squeezing the air out of the lungs to increase the body's range of motion. It is important to knnow when the body wants air coming in and when it wants air going out. A good way to ingrain this concept into your nervous system is to do 3 sets of 10 push-ups, varying the breathing each time. On the first set, inhale on the way down and exhale up. On the second set, do the opposite. When you reach the third set, take a deep breath and perform 10 push-ups with no air. This will teach your brain to stay calm and complete a task through some mild panic. It's a good confidence builder. What this is also doing is allowing your body to experience different methods and understand why one way is better than another. This is a good way of making proper breathing an instinct that you won't have to think about in a crisis.

Combat Application
Every martial art teaches breathing. Every decent one anyway. The Systema approach is much more complete and effective in my opinion. This is a battlefield-tested system with documented experiences where the unique Systema breathing concepts have saved lives and won battles. Many disciplines would teach certain breathing associated to certain moves, or screaming as a way of making sure that the student exhales at the right time, but these aren't always practical or as efficient as they say. With drills similar to those mentioned above, Systema practitioners have their natural breathing patterns ingraved in stone. Even in a violent crisis, trained people can maintain controlled breathing, which allows them to regulate their heart rate, which allows them to maintain muscle control, which eases the mind and keeps panic at bay. The brain is goal-oriented, so maintaining control over something (anything) in a chaotic environment is the first step to solving the problem.

The benefits go on much further than this, as do the drills and methods of improving your breathing. We, literally, haven't even scratched the surface what Systema can do for your health and general well-being. This is health-based system that will add years to your life that is beyond me to explain. Systema Breathing and other health practices are what you owe yourself to integrate into your life. Thanks for reading.

If there are any questions or if you would like to learn more on this: jordan@scrapyardfighting.com

P.S. Thank you guys for all the e-mails and great feedback. More to come!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Like it or not, Running is Good

I hate running. Before I got serious about Martial Arts training, I was always involved in running-based sports. Even then, I hated running. In soccer I loved the goals, in football I loved the tackles and in rugby I loved the chaos. Unfortunately, having believed that I escaped those long and boring running drills, I find myself on a strict running program. What went wrong?

Good for Character
The least satisfying reason (but kind of true) that anyone has ever given me to encourage me to run is that it's "good for character". I can see that, but it's too weak to stand on its own. They say that while you are running, you're alone with your thoughts and that you work a lot of things out. I agree, but some would argue that they have a porcelain seat that does the same... All joking aside, I have experienced that during my last run. Also, the simple act of doing something you don't like because you know it's good for you teaches discipline and develops character. I planned this whole article on my last run! I treat it as a meditation in motion.

The Best Ones Run
There has to be something I'm missing if all the most impressive human specimens in the world include running into their lifestyle. Obviously, it all makes sense in context. In the military, you wake up and start running before you even have breakfast. Fighters run everyday while preparing for a fight. Just about every athlete of every sport uses running, if for nothing more than a warm-up to their training program. At it's simplest, a good run will get the blood flowing and the muscles warm to allow someone to push themselves to their limits with reduced chances of injury.

Reading up on all the benefits of running was the worst thing I ever did. Even after all this time, they're still coming out with new health benefits to running! This is a curse, because you can't unlearn these facts and if you hate it like I do you're stuck. I'm coming back from two consecutive knee injuries and I was told that running on grass (never pavement, kills the back and knees) would strengthen my legs and greatly reduce the chances of re-injury. So that's one point I can't shut down. It strengthens the heart, literally making it bigger and stronger. This greatly reduces your chances of heart-related illness. Another benefit (among hundreds) of having a strong heart is that it can hold more blood, which means that under duress, you will have an easier time regulating your blood temperature and keeping your cool. Another point I can't deny, even though I tried... Being able to control your breathing is one of the most important skills a person could have. This is something that I would like everyone to be comfortable with. I've been through some pretty sticky situations and if it wasn't for all the patient instructors who taught me how to get a grip on my breathing, I would have screwed it all up. Your breathing, heart rate and mental state all go hand-in-hand under stress. Once you control your breathing, your heart rate regulates and then you don't feel like you're drowning anymore so you avoid panic and make calm, calculated decisions. Unfortunately, one of the best ways of practicing such an important ability is through running...

Well, there you have it. Runners of the world, you win. There are far more benefits and reasons to run, but it's too upsetting to go any further. I hate but love it at the same time. I have to admit that every time I go out there and go 10% further than the last one, run a little faster, go a little longer or do that extra lap I feel good. I feel lighter on my feet, my breathing is solid and I'm just in a better mood since I included running into my training regiment. I fought it for years and lost, running is too good to not have in your life. Whether athlete, fighter or just a health nut, give me 10 laps.

Next: To continue on this "running" theme, we will discuss breathing drills from Systema that can increase your performance and train you to control your heart-rate. Square Breathing coming soon!


Questions? Death threats? jordan@scrapyardfighting.com

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

10 Ways to Improve your Punch

Many think that punching is the simplest thing. Ask any boxer or martial artist and they'll tell you that to punch well is far from easy. There are, literally, thousands of ways to do this. It would be impossible to discuss them all here, so we decided to list our top 10 favorites. These are simply the drills that work for us the most and are for instructional purposes only.

*Scrapyardfighting.com is working on a video blog on this topic to demonstrate the following drills.

1. Hit the Bag
Alright, not the most scientific method in the world, but it is necessary. No matter how many times people tell you to keep your wrist straight, newbies always hurt their hand the first time they hit the bag. Might as well get this over with and you will never make that mistake again. Aside from teaching good form, the bag is good for generating power. Stupid bag...smash him!

2. Strengthen your Swing
Adding weights to your training is another good way to add power to your punch when done correctly. In my experience, free-weights seemed to make my arms stiffer and my range of motion became limited. As soon as I learned how to work out with a Kettle Bell, I could instantly feel the difference. The swinging motions allow your body to grow strong, while allowing the freedom of movement. I've also noticed this change in some of my training partners as well.

3. Vital Point Striking
A wide, barbarian swing might look good in the movies, but just might be one of the easiest things to avoid. It is important to know where to hit and how. Studying the body's vital points is a good way of finding those little spots that knock your opponent down. Having a knowledge base of the sensitive areas in the body also gives you options to adapt to different scenarios, from sport fighting to self defense.

4. Taking Away the Fear
In order to understand what a well-placed hit can do, you must have felt it at some time. It's hard to get the desired effects if you don't know what they are. This means that at some point you're just going to have to suck it up and explore some punch absorbing methods. There are safe drills available to learn how to take a hit.

5. Good Structure Behind the Punch
Without proper form behind the punch, you might as well be hitting your opponent with a face cloth. The arms (as well as the rest of you) has to maintain proper form at all times. Closed fist push-ups are a good way of working on this. We explore new and funky was of doing this all the time at the Scrapyard.

6. Hitting a Person
Bags are therapeutic to wail on, but it's rare that you're going to hit an actual, moving person like that. You're best bet is to train some pushing drills with a closed fist to feel how the fist naturally falls into a person's structure. This can be done at slow and comfortable pace; that way you give your central nervous system a chance to program this.

7. Tendon Power
This is something that is often skipped. I'm guessing people don't understand this concept, because it is one of the most important and difficult aspects of striking power. Any kind of resistance training will build strong tendons, so that when your muscles have given up on you, you'll see that you still have devastating force and no problem maintaining form. Grab some bungy cords and start shadow boxing!

8. Rhythm
We've all seen that Rocky movie where he has to learn some rhythm (if you haven't you should!). Muhammed Ali showed us the same, but decades earlier and in real life! This doesn't mean that you have to dance all around the ring, but you should be familiar with your own rhythm and also to how to break it. Nothing messes the other guy up more than starting a rhythmic pattern and then hitting on half-beats! Put on some of your favorite training tunes next time your shadow boxing or hitting the bag.

9. Slow Sparring
This is something that I really belive in and like to practice often. It's very tricky to do well and very easy to mess up. The trick is to spar with your partner at a very slow pace. This will work your timing, because you'll always have to be in the right place at the right time. You'll instantly want to speed up and fighting this urge is part of the challenge. It gets even harder when your heart rate rises (usually due to frustration) and a true master of this drill will keep the focus and pace.

10. Fight!
Of course, in the end, there is just so much you can believe in something without putting it to the test! Take all of the concepts above, find a training partner you can trust, get all the appropriate safety gear, agree on some rules and let those fists fly. Pressure testing is necessary when you want to know how well (or poorly) you are training. Some styles only pressure test, but that's as bad as never doing it. Remember, while you stress the body and mind to see what sticks, you're not learning anything new, just testing what you already know. Your brain is in survival mode, so it won't really let you try something new that might not work.

I hope these ideas and drills are useful to you at some point. These are simply some of the excercises that have worked for us and we thought we would share them with you. Any feedback on this will be greatly appreciaeted.

If you have any questions: jordan@scrapyardfighting.com

Stay tuned for the Video!!