Grappling versus Wrestling

Ultimate Fighting Championship matches are always fun to see.  I thoroughly enjoy all matches, I come away a little disappointed in the ending of a few but on the whole they are good fights between very talented competitors.  Over the last several months I have been noticing something among the various fights. There is a huge difference between grapplers and wrestlers!

As a martial artist who was a folk-style wrestler in high school and have trained in Judo for several years, I have noticed the big difference in these two styles when it comes to getting opponents to the ground.  It is without question that fighters trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and to a much lesser extend Judo have a significant advantage once they get to the ground, many BJJ only fighters have a harder time getting people on the mat.  American folk-style wrestlers have a much easier time getting people down on the mat.

I have noticed this in my own competition on submission grappling tournaments.  I was not a high skilled wrestling in high school but I did alright, yet I am almost always able to take to the ground someone who is only trained in BJJ or Judo.  Once we get to the ground I find myself lacking in training and experience.

Why is this?  I firmly believe it has to do with the way each sport is structured.  From my knowledge of BJJ, the ultimate goal is a submission.  You get a guy to the ground and spend the rest of the match trying to get that person to tap out from a joint manipulation, choking technique, or strangulation technique or get them to pass out from the two latter methods.  American wrestling has a different focus.  It’s goal is to win by points or achieve a pin – where the opponents shoulders are on the mat for three seconds.

In wrestling, the players get points for every take down, reverse of position, and escape from the down position.  This means that their entire focus in on the act of taking a person to the ground at the start the match so they can get points.  Once they are on the ground they are not worried about achieving a submission, they want to control the person and turn them.

Fundamentally, it means that a wrestler is more focused on take downs than a BJJ competitor because they are trying to score points from this method.  There are no points give in BJJ (as far as I am aware) for take downs.  In the UFC and other MMA contests like Strikeforce, the method by which each round is scored makes it important to get a take down but not like wrestling. In the UFC and Strikeforce, fighters are rewarded for the take down and submission attempts as well as their aggression.

Which of these focuses is better?  Take down versus submission.  I’m not sure.  As my own experience attests, I can take someone to the ground more successfully but have a problem with the ground game.  If I was in a MMA match and I wanted to submit someone on the ground or ground and pound them, I know I could take them to the mat but I would have to work on my mat skills.  I would also hope that I am not facing someone with extensive BJJ training.  On the other hand, if I wanted to stand and strike with someone and use my Taekwondo training, I would hope I have someone who has only trained in BJJ.  Either way, I have my own set of advantages and disadvantages.

In my opinion though, I think it is better to have the ability to take someone to the ground efficiently.  If I take my opponent to the ground, I am in control of the situation and can begin to dictate how it will turn out.  I will have to train from there to take advantage of that control but I want to be on top, I HATE being on the bottom.

UFC Buys Strikeforce: What does that mean for us?

According to this article from the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, the recent deal between the UFC and Strikeforce means that Strikeforce will continue to operate independently of the UFC.  Yeah right!  This won’t happen and we know it.  They might legally be independent with their own contracts and fight cards for a while, but we all know what will happen eventually.

Pretty soon we will all be screaming for the mega-card match up between Fedor and Lesnar or whoever it is that kicks our fancy at the present time.  Will it mean that the UFC will become as big as the NFL or MLB?  Maybe, but it will take some time.  A friend of mine is very excited for a major network deal for the UFC and maybe this will push that closer to reality.   We can all only hope.

Imagine for a moment if you will what the future could be for the UFC and MMA.  Friday afternoon standing around the water cooler, someone asks, “What are you doing this weekend?” “Watching the fights,” you respond.  “Which one?” comes the question.  You answer that you are really looking forward to the welterweight card on CBS that starts at 3:00 PM.  “Aren’t you going to miss the Patriots game?”  “Yeah, that’s alright.  Their not as exciting anyway.”

That would be Dana White’s dream day; when blue-blooded American workers choose to watch his fighters on a Sunday afternoon over the American pigskin players and the biggest network in America has chosen to broadcast his fights over the NFL.  I wonder what those NFL and NFLPA negotiations would look like then?

Ultimate Flexibility

Want crazy flexibility?  You could take a seminar where the leader shows you the best way to stretch and break some psychological barriers preventing you from being more flexible.  Or you could read the following book.  Sang H. Kim has put together an incredible book in “Ultimate Flexibility: A Complete Guide to Stretching for Martial Artists.” This book is awesome!

Mr. Kim’s writing is packed with quality information about types of flexibility, factors impacting flexibility, styles of stretching, methods of efficiently stretching the body, and even workouts for specific areas in the martial arts.  Now, you might think this book would be HUGE, like 500+ pages full of anatomical pictures and medical terminology.  To your utter amazement, you will find that this is not the case; this book is written in plain, simple language that is easy to understand, yet it is not condescending in the least.

As a martial artists of 13 years with experience in four different martial arts, a martial arts instructor for almost ten years, and a holder of a minor in athlete coaching from my local university, I have seen stretching techniques and flexibility theory.  That did not prepare me for the high level of quality material in this book or the new ideas and techniques Sang H. Kim describes within its pages.

To start, Mr. Kim gets the reader to determine which one of three groups of martial artists he or she falls within; newbie to flexibility, moderate level of flexibility but looking to improve, or the advanced student seeking ultimate flexibility.  Then for the groups, he explains ways each group can use the information given in the book.  I did not realize how valuable this would be, I thought that I knew enough about flexibility to just open the book and use it.  I am really glad I read this section first because it has allowed me to focus on techniques to help regain a lot of flexibility I lost after a hip injury. Then to be able to take my stretching and flexibility to a new level.  I believe I am now more flexible in all areas of my body than I was before the injury!

The next two chapters are probably the most critical of the entire book.  It may sound funny because they compose only 29 pages of a 295 page book, but they truly are the most important.  They are the discussion on the difference between flexibility and stretching.  On a basic level, we all understand the difference but these two sections do a much more thorough job of explaining it, yet he keeps it simple enough to understand.  So, what is the difference between flexibility and stretching?  “Flexibility is the ability to move your muscles and joints through their full range of motion.” (page 20) “Stretching is a means to improve your flexibility, but it is not necessarily the only means.” (page 27)  The flexibility chapter focuses on factors that influence flexibility like age, gender, genetics, and injury as well as several ways to measure flexibility.  As a martial artist, I was very impressed with this chapter because it was a great explanation and helped me to understand better why some of my students have a harder time stretching than others while doing the same exercises as their peers.  Several of my students have very good flexibility in one dimension of movement but extremely poor flexibility in others.  For instance, I have a student who can perform a head high ax kick but cannot get his leg to perform a correct waist-high roundhouse kick.  It has been frustrating on both sides to try to remedy this issue but this book is helping out greatly. 

When Mr. Kim moves on to discuss stretching he could be dry and boring, but he is not. He is down to earth and simple, it is quite refreshing to read.  Starting the chapter is a really quick overview of the benefits of stretching, then the basics of stretching.  Alignment, control, fluidity, and breathing are all important elements in performing quality stretches.  For all the information geeks like me, the next six pages are fascinating. They are all about the way stretching works; reciprocal inhibition, bones, joints, connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and the types of contractions the muscles can perform.(page 33 – 38)  This is all fantastic information about how stretching works and incredibly valuable for learning how to stretch properly but the best part comes next; types of stretches.  I had learned in college about static, ballistic, and dynamic stretching but this book also talks about active stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation or PNF stretching.  As an advanced stretcher, the PNF stretches give me the best stretch with the highest return on investment. 

Chapter Four is called “Understanding Your Body” and is exactly what it says; it describes in brief the different areas of the body and lists some exercises for beginning flexibility, maintaining flexibility, and improving flexibility in each area of the body.  A section like this comes in very handy when I am sore or tight in a particular area and need to find out how to stretch that area more effectively. 

Chapter Five is about creating your workout plans so that you get the most out of your stretching.  Chapter Six is detailed explanations of the exercises along with great black and white photos.  At first, I was disappointed that the photos were not in color but in reality it was not necessary as the photos are just a reference, they are not the primary focus.  I think color photos would make the book more cluttered and confusing, this is actually a good use of black and white photos.  Chapter Seven is a layout of several specific workouts for sparring training, grappling training, weapon training, warm up, core, cool down, and others.  This is really a good section because it has a single picture of the exercises and then a page number of where you can find the detailed explanation.  The final few pages is a Top Ten list of his favorite exercises and some top ways to increase flexibility in specific areas.  These are not workouts but a quick list.

Overall, as you can tell, Mr. Sang H. Kim has written a great book, full of wonderful information.  As a martial artist and instructor I appreciate having a single, simple reference of effective stretching.  This is a book I can throw in my gear bag and bring with me to class.  That is awesome!

ProForce Gladiator Punch

ProForce® Gladiator Punch - RedThe Gladiator Punch glove by ProForce is a great all around glove for martial artists interested in a single glove that will work for training and sparring competition.  They have lots of padding around the knuckles and back of the hand as well as having the freedom of movement around the thumb to ensure you don’t get it caught in someone’s gear.  As I said, this is a great all around glove.

There are a few features about this glove that I enjoy a lot.  Number one is the extra padding over the knuckles.  This small extra amount of padding gives the glove a flat contact surface that makes hitting targets and people much more comfortable.  Across the inside of the palm there is a padded insert that gives the wearer something to grab onto in helping to form a proper fist with the glove on, this is a nice feature and something that isn’t in some of the gloves that I have tried.

In addition to these features there is a good air hole on the inside of the fingers that gives some circulation through the gloves and keeps them a little bit cooler than other boxing style gloves.  The padding over the knuckles runs the length of the back of the hand and over the wrist.  This in conjunction with the hook and loop strap that wraps around the wrist makes for a secure fit and good wrist stability.

I have used this glove for several years now both in daily training and sparring competition.  The length of the padding down the wrist does mean that it is difficult to wear forearm guards with these gloves but I don’t normally wear these anyway so it is not a big deal.  My students and I use these for partner kicking drills and full-contact techniques, we can say that the shock absorption is very good.  I have used them for black belt level sparring competition and have not had complaints about the padding.

In some gloves that I have had, after a short time the padding inside the glove starts to break down and degrade.  This is not the case with these gloves.  Even with all the training that I have done with them, the integrity of the padding remains.  The pads feel the same as the first day I put them on, there is one thing that is not the same.

As you can see in the above picture, the gloves come with a very shiny coating covering the entire glove.  This coating has flaked away on my gloves.  This is purely cosmetic as it does not impact the performance of the glove but just makes it look a little more beat up.  That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you want to look while training.  I really don’t mind the way they look but I know some people might so be forewarned.

In light of the cosmetic issues with this glove, I can only give it a 2.5 out of 5 Stars.  It is not perfect but it is a very good glove for the price at only $29.95 from Asian World of Martial Arts.  It stands up to a lot.

Ringstar Fight Shoes

Ringstar® Fight Pro ShoeI have been wearing these Ringstar Fight Shoes for about three months now, the white ones, and I thought I would take this time to write a review about them.  This is a webpage about martial arts gear and what better way to talk about the products we carry than to review them.

First of all, these shoes are much lighter than they look.  Once you put them on and get used to the different feel of the shoe they seem to disappear.  I say get used to them because they feel different than, say Adidas shoes or Pine Tree shoes because these have a bit more substance.  There is actual padding and a sole in these things, yet they are very flexible and maneuverable with your foot.

The sole has very good traction regardless of the surface, yet it is not too much traction.  I have used them on wrestling mat, hardwood gym floor, tile floor, linoleum floor, and carpet.  I really thought they would stick to the wrestling mat, but to my surprise and delight they did not.  I have had Adidas shoes that stick to the mat and make it almost impossible to spin.  I teach Taekwondo and spinning is an important part of our training and technique.  Another good thing about the sole is that it is wide enough to cover my foot.  In many of the other brands of shoes I have worn, the little toe of both of my feet hangs over the edge of the sole.  This is uncomfortable and prematurely wears out the shoe.  This is not the case with the Ringstar.

As an instructor of children’s martial arts classes one of the things I think about in gear is safety for my students.  When you are doing techniques with four year olds, you want to be sure you or your gear does not hurt them.  I have no worries with these shoes.  They have great padding on the top and sides of the shoe.  Even the hook and loop closures on top of the shoe are padded for safety.  This is one reason they are authorized for use in NASKA and IKF fight circuits and 60 other fight sanctioning bodies.  Their padding makes them like wearing sparring boots but you have more traction on the bottom of your foot.  More traction means more safety, especially in sparring.

Now for comfort.  Once you get the shoe on, you are amazed at what you feel.  At least, I was!  Inside the shoe, the toe box is a little snug at first but it is not too bad.  You will get used to it really fast.  There is an actual arch support system inside the shoe, this is great for me because I need some arch support for my feet.  I have worn this shoes through four hours of intense class instruction and teaching and have not had foot pain or fatigue.  I am very impressed.

As great as they are, there are a few drawbacks I have noticed.  First, the shoes are a little hard to get on your feet.  They have both laces and hook and loop enclosures and even with them both fully open, the shoes are at first a struggle to get on.  This is because of the large amount of padding found around your foot, it is just hard to make that padding flexible.  Second on the drawback meter also has to do with the amount of padding – they are hot.  The large volume of padding on the inside of the shoe means that they are very warm and there is not a lot of air circulation.  There are two small air vents on the inside of the shoe near the arch but they do not provide enough ventilation.  Once you take them off after several hours of intense training, your feet feel like they have been in a sauna and look like it too.  It not a really bad thing, as long as you have a change of socks in your bag but it is a disadvantage.

Overall, these are great shoes and I highly recommend them to anyone who is an instructor and sparring competitor.  Currently, I do not believe the World Taekwondo Federation or USA Taekwondo has approved the shoes for competition in their events but they are very good shoes and I would love to see them be sanctioned by these bodies.  I think it would make my competitors feel much more comfortable in the ring and in class, if they were able to wear shoes as supportive and responsive as these.  If I had a Star System for the Ringstars, I would give them 3.5 out of 5.  Well done.

Touch Reflex Joint Locking

Touch Reflex Joint Locking | Ikigai | Blogging the Martial Way.

If you ever wanted to know how to take your joint locking techniques to the next level – read the blog post above.  I am a taekwondo practitioner primarily but I have a lot of training in Hapkido as well.  I have been doing something similar to this for several years now but he explains it so well.  When I started my training in Hapkido, I often struggled with the application of the various techniques.  We always learn them standing in one spot with no movement or resistance.  I would always think of the old joke about Hapkido, “Here let me show you this cool move!  Grab my wrist…NO, the other wrist!”

This post and especially the video does a great job of explaining what that training is for and how to take to a more realistic level.  Learn how to feel your opponent and know where their body parts are regardless of what they are attacking you with.  Once you understand the “Base Level” technique it becomes a simple extension to add some movement to the technique.  This develops your declarative knowledge of the technique, not focus on whether you are doing the fine details correctly, determine if you have done it correctly by the results.

Have fun and enjoy the video.

Cyberbullying: The Nations New Epidemic

If you have anything to do with children of any age please read the following article:

Cyberbullying: The Nations New Epidemic.

When I was a kid, I was bullied a lot in elementary school and it has shaped who I have become today.  I started my martial arts training when I had the chance because I never wanted to be a victim of that harassment again.  I think about it often and am struck by how much of my existence has been impacted by this experience.  Kids today have it much worse than I did.

In my childhood I only had to deal with the three bullies after school and on the school bus ride.  Once I was at home or in the school building, I did not have to deal with it.  Kids today do not even have that luxury.  With cell phones, e-mail, iPods, and all the technology available to them, people can send them messages 24 hours a day.  That means these kids could be exposed to bullying at every waking moment of the day.  It is no wonder there are more and more kids with serious problems related to this issue.

Please, if you deal with children, do them a favor and do not let bullying of any kind happen to them.  If you see it, regardless of your position in the situation take some action.  The victims of the assaults will thank you for it eventually.  No one has the right to bully another child, NO ONE!

Stretching and Flexibility

Watched some of the UFC 123 fights last Saturday and witnessed again with amazement the Rubber Guard. If you have not seen this, watch this video:

It is from Eddie Bravo and his 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu system. Probably one of the most interesting grappling styles I have ever seen. It truly takes someone very flexible and skilled to get it to work, in my opinion.

Anyway, it made me start to think about stretching and how to become more flexible. Just like anything one takes up in life, flexibility is not necessarily genetic.  It is something that can take a long time to develop and refine.  Just like any martial arts training, it takes a high level of dedication and commitment to consistent practice to improve.

I consider myself to be a very flexible person but several years ago I had a sacral injury that seriously limited my flexibility in the hip and legs. That is terrible for a Taekwondo practitioner! I have to work extra hard to increase my flexibility again.  While working hard, I found the best way for me to stretching and increase my flexibility and I think it will be the best for you as well.  What I found is that a good warm up is KEY to making any gains in flexibility. I am not talking about doing a few jumping jacks and push-ups, starting to breath heavy and call it a warm up. I am talking about a heart rate elevating, sweat starting to run warm up. Once you get to this point, now you can start to stretch. You will find that your muscles have so much oxygen in them now and they are so warm that they will stretch much easier than they would have had you not done any of that.

My advise, spend at least five minutes with a heart rate at about 70% of maximum before you start to stretch. Don’t go much harder or you risk causing injury. Now, you can begin stretching the big muscle groups.  When you stretch hold each stretch for a minimum of twenty seconds, one minute is best.  Stretch the entire body from head to toe as one tight muscle can cascade through the muscles surrounding it.  Remember to breath through each stretch.  You should feel discomfort and tightness but not pain in your muscles as you stretch.

Good luck, I hope it helps you become a better martial artist.  While you are here check out our 12 Days of Christmas Sale going on now in the Special area of the site.