*I’d like to send a quick thanks to Nathan over at TDA Training for featuring me in his TDA Blitz. He even posted up my logo, which was great. If you haven’t checked out TDA Training yet (Although you probably have), I recommend it. Top notch stuff. *
Last time you heard from me I was reporting on some Elite XC shinanigans. Since then, I have been wheeling and dealing down in Miami Beach. I’d like to tell you a little bit about that trip, and about how my martial arts training affected the whole experience. Plus I’m going to include some sweet pictures. Like this one –
That was the view out of my hotel window, and I definitely enjoyed it. But let’s start at the beginning…
The Call and the Flight
A few weeks ago I was at work when we got a call. It was an invite to present our company (ClassicWines.com) at the Miami International Wine Fair down in Miami Beach. This event is usually relegated to wineries and retailers, but we’ve been in touch with other businesses in Miami so it seemed like a natural extension to have us there as well. It was agreed upon and plans were put into motion.
Time went by quickly between the call and the event, and before I knew it I was double checking my carry-on and setting out for Philadelphia airport.
You may be surprised to hear this, but this was my first flight! Somehow or another, there’s never been a time when I couldn’t drive or take the train to my desired destination. Naturally, I was very precautious and made sure to check everything twice.
As I was going through security, the metal detector alarm went off. Three armed gaurds came running at me very quickly, trying to subdue me. I was able to roundhouse kick one in the face while tossing pens at the other two like shurikens. (Sorry, I thought this part needed a little extra spice).
No, I actually used martial arts to improve my mindset. In a situation that could be very stressful (crowded airport for the first time), I was able to calm my mind and absorb the commotion around me. This helped me navigate around wayward travelers and traverse security with speedy precision. In fact, when in a calm, focused state of mind, I also find that I am more pleasant and cheerful. The folks working at the airport no doubt appreciate a smile now and then amongst the grouchy passengers in a hurry.
Miami, and the Weather is Fine
My first flight went very smoothly and we arrived safely in Fort Lauderdale. With winter weather quickly bearing down on my native PA, sights such as these were very welcome –
On the Scene – Miami Wine Fair
When we got to the wine fair itself, it was easy to let myself slip into a little bit of intimidation. After all, there were a lot of wine-knowledgeable people in attendance. I wanted to blend into the crowd for awhile and not draw attention to myself. Unfortunately, I knew blending wasn’t an option (Sorry Aikido folks, not this time).
In a self-pep-talk fashion, I reminded myself about the other stressful experiences I’ve overcome. After all, if I can pass my sandan testing in front of the watchful eyes of Hanshi Heilman and the Renshi Kai board, I can do this right?
So I went to it, and after my first few successful interactions, the ice wore off and I was ready to go. It reminded me a lot of sparring: as you are padding up before the first fight, doubts and fears are still running through your mind. Your body is still drumming up complaints, instinctively trying to keep you out of harm’s way. Yet, after the clock starts and the match begins, anxiety melts away inside of mushin and kokoro.
Miami After Hours
Outside of the conference itself, I had a really great chance to sample Miami life. For example, the condo we all hung out at after the conference had this for a view –
The island you’re looking at is where stars tend to buy their pads. I was not invited to that island.
The night life was equally as interesting. I’m sure you’ve heard from TV and word-of-mouth about South Beach being a very trendy, very club oriented scene. These rumors are true. We checked out some fantastic restaurants and they really do spare no expense. Very attentive, very courteous. Very loud 80s music (I guess it’s ironically hip?)
One thing I learned about myself while doin-it-Miami-Vice-style is that I’m a very basic individual. I’ve spent many years through training trying to strip down the layers of myself that I didn’t care for or that I thought needed improvement. Experiencing even a modicum of lavishness put me right out of my element.
After All Was Said and Done
This was a great, eye opening experience; but it was my initial intent to make it so. I wanted to walk into the airport, the city, the convention center, the restaurants, and the beaches with fresh eyes. I wanted it to feel new because it was new, and I didn’t want to let myself get buried in all of the contingencies and worries that could have eaten away at me.
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If you’ve heard of Elite XC, it’s probably due to their two main stars: Gina Carano and Kimbo Slice. These headliners drew a lot of attention – some good, some not so good.
Guess which one is Gina!!
Elite XC was a relative newcomer in the world of MMA, and was not at the same level as UFC by any means. Despite that, they made a pretty big splash through a combination of hype and antics.
Gina Carano, who came from a Muay Thai background, became a quick fan favorite as she racked up wins. Showing poise and skill inside the ring, Gina made her way up to the top of Elite XC and currently has the MTIA championship belt. Another reason she became a fan favorite – see picture above.
Kimbo Slice is perhaps one of the most controversial MMA fighters…ever? I don’t know, that might be a bit strong. But he really does have an interesting story. Getting his start in backyard brawls, Kimbo quickly made a name for himself by taking the beat-knuckle to all comers. For example:
(warning: harsh language and…you guessed it…violence).
This video is actually one of the tamer ones of Kimbo on Youtube. Unfortunately, this brawling success didn’t transfer as smoothly as everyone thought it might into MMA.
In his last match, Kimbo got knocked out in 14 seconds by Seth Petruzelli, a good fighter but not a superstar by any stretch of the imagination. Kimbo’s previous fight had been won on a controversial decision. Despite his grooming for success, things just weren’t panning out.
Ultimately, losses, legal mishaps, and mismanagement all built up into one final collapse. I found it surprising at first to hear about the shut down due to the high profile nature of Elite XC events. They were on national networks and had all the trappings of a big time scene.
But, behind that was a general sense of sleaze. The members of the Convocation of Combat Arts discussed this a little while ago, and we all generally agreed that the fireworks, dancers, and hooplah smacked of cheesy “pro wrestling” style affair.
Steve of BJJ Log stated: ” if they had put together a decent card I might forgive some of the spectacle, but the spectacle only served to perfectly frame the lack of substance in the rest of the broadcast.” I think he’s right.
You’d think I’d be sad to see Elite XC go (what with the above dancers and all), but I’m not. MMA is walking a fine line these days between where it was and where it is going. MMA used to be a testament to no-holds-barred combat between two people of any style and any weight. The goal was to have the better man win, no excuses. These days, UFC MMA has turned into a bonafide sport with exceptionally skilled and trained athletes.
I think MMA will be a better place now, until the next profiteer rolls along and tries to do the same thing. It’s inevitable with big business such as this. Eventually the pomp is likely to stick, but then the next underground fad will start and the cycle will continue.
Your thoughts on the joys or laments of losing Elite XC?
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One of the great things about bunkai (kata application) is how variable it can be. A single series of movements can be transformed a hundred times depending on scenario, opponents, tactics, and strategy. Unfortunately, despite all of this creative fruit for the picking, it is extremely easy to get stuck in a rut.
Base level bunkai is very useful and shouldn’t be over looked. By base level I mean: a block is a block and a punch is a punch. If kata tells you to block down three times in a row, that’s exactly what you do. You block a left kick, a right kick, then a left kick. After that you finish up with a punch, or whatever else kata tells you to do.
Deciphering base level bunkai for kata can take a very long time as many of the moves will seem cryptic and unwieldy. There’s no reason to be concerned by that, and no reason to rush it (as I explained in a previous post).
But sooner or later, you’ll probably find yourself scratching your chin and saying ‘yea…but what else can I do!?’
This is the rut I speak of, and just like with writer’s block, it can be tough to pull yourself out without an external nudge. I figured I might present a nudge here that tends to help me think outside the box when I need to.
Opponents: One or One Hundred
How many opponents are you fighting when you practice your kata? One? Two? A handful? More than you can count? This is a very important question as it will change the entire dynamic of how you perform your kata.
Imagine that you are facing just a single opponent. While keeping alert for other dangers around you, you are free to orient yourself entirely on that opponent. That means you can afford to be a little more stationary, and make small moves with your body to adjust for the maai (distance from your opponent). You can then use your techniques to slip slight angles as your aggressor attacks and counterattack with ease.
For example, let’s say you have a kata that blocks on the left 45 degree angle, then the right 45 degree angle, like so:
(Yea the guy in the picture has a giant head. so what.)
With a single opponent, you can use those techniques to intercept and retaliate:
You’ll notice our brave combatant in the black intercepts the red attack and cuts the angle inward, reorienting himself/herself for a vital point strike to the temple, eyes, throat, or anything else he pleases. This small shift in angle clears him from the oncoming second punch of his opponent.
With a single opponent, this “block, block” becomes an invasive disruption. Since it’s just one attacker, the next step in your kata, whatever that may be, should be used to take this opponent out, or at least to the ground.
One opponent was nice, but now you’ve started trouble with two guys. What did you do??
Well, whatever you did…they are looking for trouble. Let’s look at the same technique with two individuals coming at you in quick succession (or even at the same time)…
This time our hero in black has to move his body around a bit quicker. The subtle angles he used with one opponent aren’t as applicable because he can’t afford to get tied up with in-close fighting while the other opponent rushes in toward him. Instead, he uses a simultaneous block-strike motion as he shifts into each fighter. Many times in kata we find ourselves blocking or striking. Really, why have one hand in motion while the other remains stagnant? Many movements in kata have inherent counterstrikes built in; we just have to allow ourselves to use them in quick time.
The last situation is that of multiple opponents. The exact number of opponents isn’t really important, but it’s obvious that there are a whole bunch. Let’s say they are pretty smart too, and manage to partially surround their target (our hero). Using this same technique, it would look something like this…
Our fighter is using a very wise strategy – get out of Dodge. The first thing he does is analyze as quickly as possible the largest hole in the encirclement. He recognizes that the right side, where the brown attacker is, is very cluttered. Instead, he breaks for the red opponent. Using the same kind of technique as before, he blocks and strikes to the face violently at the same moment. This time, he uses his angling to shift to the outside of his opponent and pushes the red attacker into the blue attacker. Bundling up the two closest individuals, he escapes as quickly as possible.
Final Thoughts on Opponents
When doing bunkai, it’s important to think about your opponents, especially regarding how many there could be. If you train in-tight against single opponents all the time, you might leave yourself tangled up with them too long for multiple opponent use. However, if you are constantly floating around to different attackers, you might miss the more intricate uses of technique and how they can result in takedowns and groundfighting.
Be wary of leaving opponents too soon. If you’ve successfully blocked an opponent, but haven’t dealt them a severe strike or takedown, it is probably unwise to move on to a new attacker.
Be careful not to get stuck in the habit of using 8,9,10 attackers in a kata. You may be moving around and facing different directions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every technique is intended for a new person.
I hope this was helpful. It’s just a method I use to expand the parameters of bunkai, but it can be a great way to add realism to your kata.
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