March 29, 2009

Plum Publishing

For those of you seeking hard to find media about the Chinese martial arts, my good friends Ted Mancuso, and Debbie Shayne at Plum Publishing cannot be beat! Their selection is second to none. Customer service has always been there strong point. And overall they are great people to work with!

If it has been written, or produced on DVD/VHS (what the hell is that??), they have it. Rare Chinese language books are their specialty! Check them out www.plumpub.com, and tell them Jake sent you!

Cheers
JAB

DVD Review - Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing


I have not included much on the Chinese martial arts (CMA) as of late because, well, not much is happening within the community that is worth reporting on in my opinion. But I thought I would share this DVD review I offered to my good friends at Plumpub.com a while back.

The demonstrator and producer of the DVD is my martial uncle Gao Jian from the land of Down Under. He was a student of the late Ma Han Qin with my teacher Hu Xi Lin.

Hope you enjoy!
JAB

I recently obtained a copy of Gao Jian’s first public DVD, “Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing” from Plumpub.com, and decided to write this review of one of the first English language DVD's produced on this rare system of Northern Praying Mantis. Ma Han Qin (1920-1997) (Gao Jian’s teacher) was one of the foremost experts of Northern Mantis in all of China during the 20th century, and he trained many students in Meihua Tanglang, (Plum Blossom Mantis), Liuhe Tanglang (Six Harmonies Mantis) as well as Taiji, and weapons. Gao Jian has a very nice montage in the beginning dedicating the DVD to his late teacher Ma Laoshi, under whom he was an 8th generation disciple.

Filmed and produced in Australia, where Gao Jian lives, this DVD is a cursory overview of the Liuhe Tanglang (LHTL) system offering Ji Ben Gong (basics) as well as Taolu (forms). The DVD itself is in PAL so you need to ensure that you have a DVD player that reads PAL, prior to purchasing the DVD. Otherwise you will need to pay extra to convert it to NTSC (which I had to do). Total running time is approximately 30 minutes.

The structure of the DVD begins with Gao Jian giving a basic overview of the characteristics of LHTL, as well as showing the basic stances, hooking methods, and a few conditioning drills. They are very easy to follow along with, though there are no close ups of the hand work. Gao does not spend much time explaining the technique, nor showing how it is applied. It seems as if he was essentially demonstrating the basics without any intent of making this part of the DVD instructional per se.

As soon as the basics are covered Gao Jian dives into demonstrating the seven forms found within LHTL, some are even shown twice though others are not, again a lack of congruency in the flow of the film. As with the basic’s section of the DVD, the forms are essentially being demonstrated without any instruction. There are two different spots they film in, one with a building in the background, the other in a park setting that is quite serene.

All seven forms of the LHTL system as taught by Ma Han Qin are represented:

Zhe Shou Quan – “Breaking the Arm Rounding”

Zhao Min Dan – “Illuminating the Face Lantern”

Yie Di Tsang Hua – “Hidden Flower in the Sleeve”

Duan Chui – “Short Strike”

Shuang Feng – “Double Sealing”

Xian Shou Ben – “Immortal Hands Progressing”

Tie Si – “Iron Shot”

Gao Jian does a very nice job demonstrating the fluidity and power of LHTL throughout all these forms. As stated above some of the forms are played twice while others are not. After the forms are complete the DVD ends.

Overall I think it is great that more information is slowly starting to creep out about LHTL, as it is truly one of the treasures of Chinese martial arts and has been scarce here in the western hemisphere, being more accessible in mainland China. This DVD is a rarity indeed simply because Gao Jian demonstrates all of the forms found in this system in their entirety. He is obviously very willing to share his art with the world.

My only criticisms of the DVD are the absence of applications (something sorely needed in Chinese martial art DVD’s), and the hodge-podge production quality. Gao Jian’s voice is often hard to hear because of the wind and poor sound quality, and while the video was clear and in color, using the building as a background shot was a poor choice. Other then that the DVD is fairly simple to navigate and access.

It is a bit pricey for a 30 minute DVD that is basically a quick demonstration of the forms, and a few basics (certainly not comprehensive of the LHTL basic training regime), but serves as a nice reference for those trained in LHTL. Do not buy this DVD for any instructional information, as it has none. I must say it is refreshing to finally see some media coming out involving Liuhe Tanglang. “Six Harmonies Praying Mantis Boxing” is a nice reference DVD for those who train the art, and a great general overview of the varied forms for those who have never seen this beautiful martial system.


March 27, 2009

Congrats to new promotions at NWJJA


Big congrats goes out to the following grapplers at NW Jiu Jitsu Academy for our most recent belt promotions! Brian wanted to make sure he conveyed how proud he is of everyone for working so hard and training diligently. Belts are not given at the NWJJA, they are certainly earned! A number of students were awarded stripes, but I am too sick to list everyone. So here are the belt promotions:

Scott Pirrie - Purple
Chris McMullin - Blue
Ray Luigi - Blue
Kelland Lindsey - Blue
Phil Kleffner - Blue
Eugene Lim - Blue

Congrats to everyone!
JAB

March 23, 2009

Tiger Balm Tournament 2009


We ventured northward this past weekend for the 2009 Tiger Balm Internationals in Vancouver, BC.
Run by John Funk, and billed as one of Canada's premier martial arts tournaments, participants came from all over Canada (even the Yukon!!), and the pacific northwest to compete in everything from forms, to weapons, to sport jiu jitsu, to San Shou, to BJJ, to grappling, to Pancrase, etc. One of the draws of this tournament is that it encompasses so many different genres and styles.

And perhaps that is where the problem really lies. I attended the 2004 Tiger Balms and overall the event was not very organized, nor ran very tightly. Too many competitors, not enough rings was the main issue. Spectator seating was limited and overall the tournament fell victim to the same woes many tournaments do.

This years tournament was being touted as "more organized," "better run," and overall supposedly a faster-better tournament. I must admit it was more organized than 5 years ago. Seemed to be the same number of competitors, and roughly the same number of events. I did not compete in the same categories this year as 2004, so it is hard for me to give honest criticism in those regards, but here are more overall impressions of the tourney in general:

Judging
Across the board all judging and refereeing seemed to be intelligent, fair, and by the book. I heard no complaints nor arguments from anyone. My only complaint is that we were told their would be a separate rules meeting from the kids BJJ, for the adults, but that never came. Had to chase down "officials" (the head BJJ official was not wearing any clothing nor name tag that designated him as such) to ask about rules.

San Shou
To begin with we had an excessively long, and hard to hear rules meeting. Within that 1/2 hour we were informed of a number of rules that were different than what is posted on their website! It was joked off as the "website has not been updated in the last 8 years." Which is the biggest bullshit excuse I have ever heard! No excuse for that to happen now days, especially with one of the biggest tournaments in Canada! The rules were significant in our training and preparation for the tournament. Though the outcome was not won nor loss because of the rules, it is in every ones best interest, and safety mind you, that rules are updated and participants are well aware of them!

There was only one ring for San Shou, which to say the least was not nearly enough. The division began at 10am (an understandable 1/2 hour late), and the advanced division was not staging until 3pm in the afternoon! Obviously a lot of interest, a lot of competitors, therefore we need to allocate more room for additional rings.

Overall
Overall I think there are way too many people and not enough rings. There is no easy solution I understand, but perhaps the organizers should consider breaking up the tournament into smaller, more specific tournaments. For instance the majority of the karate forms people were not interested in Chinese forms divisions, San Shou, nor BJJ. And vice versa!

The presence of Albanian-like security with ear pieces and intimidating stares was a bit over the top in my opinion. If they are TRULY needed (which I doubt) then they should hire someone more professional, and less "thugish" looking. I worked security for many years, and all but two of the guys I saw were not very professional.

The addition of charging coaches to be on the floor and coach their guys is complete and utter bullshit! $40 to simply get on the floor and coach your students! I cannot believe more coaches did not complain! I am not sure how strictly this was enforced, but it is a very greedy move to charge for such things. Shame on the decision maker for that one!

The timeliness (as mentioned before) needs to be addressed. Especially for those who are fighting. For meals, rest, and prep time to be most efficient, events need to start within a certain time frame. I think an hour is an acceptable buffer, but when there is a 5+ hour difference in when something is supposed to go on, and when it does..... that is ridiculous!

The competition was solid from what I experienced and saw in all categories. People were very respectful when fighting others, and the overall vibe I got was positive (though the above complaints were shared by pretty much everyone on the floor!). The Tiger Balms need to update websites, make directions more clear, and start running a tighter ship if they want to maintain their current participant base, let alone bring in new talent. I for one will most likely not participate in next years event for these reasons.

JAB


Congrats to Iowa - Narrow loss for Buckeyes


Congrats to the Iowa Hawkeye's on their 22nd NCAA Wrestling Title. Their closest margin of victory ever, just 4.5 points in front of the surprising Ohio State Buckeyes, Iowa edged by the competition to come out on top of the tough 09 tournament!

Here are the results:

FINAL NCAA TEAM STANDINGS
Place Team - Points
1. Iowa - 96.5
2. Ohio State - 92
3. Iowa State - 84.5
4. Nebraska - 78.5
5. Cornell - 73.5

Better luck next year Buckeyes!!

JAB

Martial Spirit


When Terry first came to train with me, just over 2 years ago now, he brought 8+ years of Chinese martial training with him, mostly Wu Taiji. At first he was a bit resistant to my training methods and my approach to the arts (neither I would classify as "traditional," especially compared to others in the CMA community), and was not confident that I was leading him down the right path. But he stuck to the lessons, trained hard, and gradually I started to earn Terry's trust.

To be quite honest Terry had no clue how to fight, nor grapple very well at all. He had not been exposed to any for the most part and the principles and applications he was taught were not as sound and solid as he had hoped they were. This was frustrating to him, but he stuck with it and gave me and my lessons a fair shot. So I started from the ground up as if he was brand new to the martial arts.

For a short period ego got in the way of Terry's progress; he was not a great partner; he would sometimes question my understanding; control was not a word in Terry's vocabulary, etc. But I was patient, and Terry was diligent, and over a short period of time ego subsided and Terry made a couple breakthroughs in his skill levels, and overall understanding of the martial arts.

When Terry asked about fighting San Shou 6 months ago, I was a bit surprised, but I also must admit proud of him for taking a challenge and doing something he was NOT comfortable with. Terry was starting to understand what "spirit" means in the martial sense. See Terry was not comfortable with sparring, or grappling at first. So just for him to step into my club and train with us was a huge success for him. He was never afraid, but it certainly was foreign to him yet he pushed his limits of comfortability and stepped up to the challenge. The challenge came in the form of the 2009 Tiger Balm Internationals (more on the event later) in Vancouver BC. and this was a huge leap for Terry. Not only has he never done San Shou, he would be fighting much younger guys, kickboxers, and MMA cats!

We stepped up all aspects of Terry's training including road work, mitts, thai pads, grappling, etc. etc. And Terry answered every challenge his team mates, and I, gave him! He was disciplined, focused, conditioned, and worked his ass off!

Win - lose - draw
Terry fought nerves, screaming sick kids, family distractions, rule changes, boredom, and a terrible case of the "hurry up and waits" at the tournament on Saturday. When his division was finally called Terry was warmed up, and had heard plenty of my pep talks! He was ready.

Terry fought hard and gave it his all. His opponent (from a local kickboxing school in Vancouver) was faster, younger, and overall more experienced. Terry held his own with a few solid shots, but the kid was faster and scored more points then Terry, and in the end Terry walked away with a loss, but his head was high because he stepped up and did what many say they will do, but few have the balls to really try..... Compete!

Terry fought a tough opponent who hit HARD! And what may amount as a physical loss, was really a HUGE win for something that is often overlooked in martial arts.....spirit. Some call it balls. Cojones. Guts. Whatever you call it, only those who have stepped up to the challenge and put it all on the line in front of seemingly overwhelming odds, and with all the eyes of strangers there watching the competition, can truly understand the warrior spirit!

In the process of his focused training Terry became a better partner; has exhibited great self control and restraint both on the mat and off; he is now hitting like a mule; grapples better; mitt work has improved; more disciplined and focused.... the list goes on. All in all this has given Terry a taste of what the martial arts are really about, and that is harnessing the warrior spirit and using it throughout ones life. Many believe martial arts are about violence, when in truth it is nothing but the opposite. Martial arts are about hard work, inner peace, self cultivation, gaining a better understanding of oneself, and self reliance.

Terry, this weekend you exhibited all the true attributes of a warrior; hard work; disciplined focus; martial spirit; and most importantly respect for your opponent and his coach! I am proud to call you my student, and honored to be your coach! You have made the school, your partners, and your teacher very, very proud. From all the people who helped you (Alex, Mike, Ro) and me, congrats on a huge step on your martial journey.

Sincerely,
JAB

March 19, 2009

Haru Basho well underway

While many are all excited about March madness basketball, us martial art dorks are well into the first week of the Haru Basho in Japan. What is the Haru Basho you ask???? SUMO of course mi amigo! This is the second big Basho of the year (one happens every other month starting in January), and we are seeing the Mongolian yokuzuna's Hakuho and Asashouryu dominating early on much to the dismay of the Japanese fans! I personally think it is great as they are two of my favorite Rikishii (wrestlers).

Unfortunately for those of us not fluent in Japanese there is a lack of information on the ancient sport of Sumo both in print and on the world wide inter web! So I hope to offer a few resources you may find valuable.

First of all the majority of Sumo Forum's are not the most welcoming places to learn about Sumo.

Sumoforum.net has lots of information on it, but I find many newbies to forum are not exactly welcome especially if you ask what they consider "rudimentary" sumo questions.

Sumotalk is much more welcoming to newbies, but sometimes it is hard to get any straight answers on there. It has been my experience that the overwhelming majority of posters are arm chair fans who have NEVER wrestled in their life. I actually put up a poll on Sumoforum and I think maybe one or two people admitted to ever doing any Sumo!

The Grand Sumo Homepage is hands down your best bet for up to date info, rikishii profiles, rules, and general history and technique. They also offer live streaming video of the Basho direct from Japan, if you are so tech savvy (I am not. If you aren't either see below for your options to watch).

A while back I looked into getting the Japanese channel on Comcast in an effort to watch the Basho every other month. Unfortunately this service costs $25 extra a month!! And it is not pro-rated like other extra packages. For instance; the upcoming Elite XC event on Showtime April 11, one can order Showtime up on Saturday afternoon, watch the fight on Sat evening, and then cancel your subscription to Showtime Sunday morning, and only be charge a $2 turn on fee and the pro-rated cost for 24 hours of service with Showtime. One cannot do that with the Japanese channel. So I opted not to spend the crazy amount of money on it.

Instead I stumbled across the most wonderful site Banzuke where one can watch edited clips of the actual matches! Now if you are into all the pre-bout ritual and what not, this service is NOT for you. Whomever runs Banzuke.com edits the clips down to just the fight, no commentary, no ritual, just pure wrestling!

What is Sumo's significance in modern martial training?

I have had several students of mine ask this very question, and many people are actually quite critical of Sumo actually having any modern martial applicability critiquing the wrestlers weight, lack of striking, and obvious dismissal of ground combat. If I may....


Sumo is arguably one of the most ancient of arts still in practice today, and maintains true to its roots which lay in battlefield combat. The rules are simple; first one to go outside of the Dohyo (ring), or to touch any other body part to the ground other than his feet, is the loser. This forces the combatants to engage each other quickly so there is no stalling nor "running" away. The proximity mimics a battlefield encounter where one will be fighting in close quarters. Also if one is thrown or knocked down in battle he is doomed, as once on the ground your enemy can finish you with a short blade, or even battle mace or axe. For the most part, unless your opponent engages you on the ground, you are at a disadvantage lying on the ground with him standing over you! Hence no ground fighting in Sumo!


It is a common misunderstanding that strikes are not allowed. Open palm strikes are quite prevalent in Sumo, and the occasional KO (this a great KO off of the Tachiai) happens as well! But again it is human nature to quickly deal with strikes via clinching up and grappling as we see in Sumo, BJJ, and even in western boxing.


Matches are usually no longer than a few seconds which lends itself again to the reality of combat; street fights are quick, violent, and generally last under a minute.


Emphasis on strength and power is certainly paramount! Of course in a sport where girth and weight are attributes (their are no weight classes in Sumo, though you have to be at least 165# to be a pro-Sumo) they are going to add mass! However this does not mean they are fat or out of shape in the least bit! Lower body strength and agility are both heavily emphasized via squats (most beginners in my classes cannot perform 10 slow regular squats let alone Sumo squats), flexibility in the pelvic girdle, and balance. As a matter of fact the two current Yokuzuna (champions) Hakuho, and Asashouryu are two of the smaller rikishii! Asashouryu's body fat percentage is right around 20%. Though he looks much bigger, my body fat percentage was just measured at 16%. So below the layer of fluff there is actually quite a lot of muscle mass.


Misunderstood and under-appreciated here in the west, Sumo is one of the most popular martial arts in the world if we look at the level of interest and fascination it holds in Japan. Obviously there are many cultural and religious aspects involved with the art that I have not even touched upon, but are well represented in a few books that are available in English. I have most of the books I could find in English, but have not read them all. I will offer reviews as time warrants.


One frustrating aspect for me is the lack of training information, and technique details found in most all English language texts I have. Of course the majority of a Sumo's training is centered around actually wrestling, I would like to learn more about their approach to strategy and technique.


Hope you enjoy!
Cheers
JAB

"The Last Wrestlers" book review


I stumbled across Marcus Trower's "The Last Wrestlers" quite by accident one day wasting time wandering around Amazon.com looking for martial arts books (honestly its not an addiction, I have it under control). A mix of travelogue, soul searching diary, and honest attempt to decipher the undying urge for men across the globe to engage in one of the most common combative sports that all cultures share; grappling or wrestling.

What initially turned me on to this book was the fact that Trower travelled to some of the most remote areas of the world in search of the roots of grappling and its spiritual meaning. India, Mongolia, Nigeria, and Brazil all offered indigenous wrestling arts throughout there rich histories and, with the exception of Brazil, all of these ethnic wrestling styles have gone all but extinct! In Nigeria for example Trower struggled just to find someone who was familiar with the native wrestling and cultural ties inherent within its practice. Outside of "The Wrestlers Body" by Joseph S. Alter (a scholarly milestone in terms of ethnic identity via wrestling), I know of no other English publication that addresses the wrestling cultures of Mongolia, India, or Nigeria (if any readers know of such publications please email me and let me know!).

Fueled by the lack of a grappling subculture in his native England, Trower channeled his frustrations over his personal struggle with a chronic disease that prevented him from participating in various martial adventures, into researching the spiritual dimensions of wrestling practice and competition. The reader is walked through Trower's personal discovery of meaning and growth via interviews, practice sessions, and cultural research in an effort to find a spiritual aspect to the martial realm. Disappointingly (for him) Trower finds that the spiritual attributes of practice are secondary to the innate desire to compete and challenge mans limitations and abilities within oneself.

"Though wrestling training can have a profound spiritual dimension... the act of competition itself is essentially worldly, because it centres upon winning matches, and the respect and status that comes with victory."

From here Trower starts to head down a different path focusing on testosterone and it's effects on the male body. His "Rutting Theory" is the central focus for the rest of the book where he attempts to prove that testosterone and mans urge to compete against other men is what essentially differentiates men from women, and in many cultures becomes a central priority that dictates marriage, family life, and ultimately ones status within his given culture.

Filled with anecdotes and wonderful stories (celibacy has some interesting side effects in India!!!) "The Last Wrestlers" is an easy joy to read for grapplers and non-grapplers alike. One can see the evolution of Trower's confidence in his writing, as the first couple of chapters were rather scattered and not very tight in terms of writing ability, but as the book progresses Trower gets very comfortable with his style. In general I would have liked to have seen more pictures especially of the rarely publicized practices of Mongolian wrestlers, Nigerian grapplers, and Indian fighters. But really other than that I have no complaints about the layout of the book, nor it's content. Anyone interested in the art of wrestling owes this book a read through. I doubt you will be disappointed.

I will leave you with what I feel is one of the most powerful statements Trower offers in his text:

"As we allow wrestling cultures to decline, it could be that we are reneging on our side of a clever bargain our ancestors made with human nature both to contain and harness the testosterone-driven urge to fight for females. Having long forgotten the importance of the deal, we abandon wrestling at our peril and invite male aggression to manifest itself elsewhere."

Enjoy,
JAB

Seattle Martial Arts Blogs

My friend and fellow grappler Bryan Edge has a new blog covering Seattle area martial artist's and martial goings on. Check out Seattle Martial Arts Examiner for more info!
Cheers
JAB

March 18, 2009

NCAA Wrestling Finals


If you have nothing better to do (like me) in the mid-afternoon this Friday and Saturday, make sure to tune in to ESPN2 on Fri. afternoon at 4pm, and ESPN on Sat. at 3:30pm to watch the finals of the mens NCAA Div.I wrestling championships.

Iowa is once again the favorite going for their 22nd team victory, but teams such as Cornell, Iowa St., and Ohio State are also favorites.

Iowa Junior 149-pound Brent Metcalf is one young wrestler to keep an eye on. Metcalf has won 65 straight matches, and is 33-0 this season.

No matter who wins it will be an exciting tournament in St. Louis this year!
Cheers
JAB

March 17, 2009

Alberto Crane fight video

http://rageinthecage.com/video/122/ritc122f13.wmv

Here is Alberto's latest fight in which he kicks ass rather quickly!
Enjoy!

Tackling the Globe



I am a huge fan of the Travel channel. A perpetual daydreamer, and chronic adventurer that loves travel many of the shows on the Travel channel are lots of fun and share destinations and venues that I could never afford to get to in real life!

One of the newest programs is "Dhani Tackles the Globe" where Dhani Jones, and ex-football player, travels the world learning about the native cultures via the sports they play. Last nights premier opened up with a full episode dedicated to Muay Thai kickboxing! So naturally I tuned in with excitement!

First of all let me voice my displeasure with other shows such as the "Human Weapon" and "Fight Quest" which have aired over the past year or two on rival channels, and have fallen quite short of what I was hoping for in terms of depth and exposure for the martial arts they featured.

So when I heard Dhani would be tackling many of the worlds indigenous martial arts such as Muay Thai, Glima, and Sambo I was stoked!

For the most part the episode was excellent. Dhani is already in amazing shape so they throw him right into hard training, which he took to pretty well and seemed to pick things up quickly. Realistic training clips were peppered with trips around Bangkok to visit different cultural habitat's such as 14th Century Wats, street markets where Dhani chews on some bugs, and to visit Lumpinee stadium (the equivalent of visiting Wrigley field for baseball fans). A nice combo to keep the wife interested while we get our fix of ass whooping!

Dhani has a very outgoing personality and offers a great sense of humor (his comments waiting for a taxi are great!). Overall a very likable character who can go through the rigors of hard training in hopes of winning a fight that has been set up for the end of his visit.

And this is where I start pulling out what little hair I have!! As witnessed in shows such as "Fight Quest" and "Human Weapon" the "fights" that are arranged for our contestants are usually rather impotent and lame. I understand the producers of the shows do not want their hosts getting their ass handed to them, and on the other hand do not want to have the foreigner come in and dominate either. But overall these hosts had opponents basically fed to them with embarrassing results.

Dhani done did dropped the ball on this one. Now granted it is hard to find a Thai that weighs 200#'s+ to match up with Dhani's 6'1" 230# frame, but the butterball they find is embarrassingly overweight, and could not fight his way out of a wet paper bag! I believe he threw two solid punches and the rest of the time struggled to catch his breath.

Though this drove me nuts I must admit the rest of the show was interesting, entertaining, and overall will get me to tune back in next week for sure! I just hope this is not a harbinger of things to come in terms of "giving" Dhani victories in these different events. I suppose time shall tell.

March 16, 2009

Brian and his Sword!




Brian taking the 2009 Lightweight NAGA Championship in Vegas!
Also here is video

Brian won his first match via Mata Leo (rear naked choke).
Won his second match 6-0.
Dominated his third match to come out 8-0.
Championship round (see above)Brian finishes with a triangle choke.

Brian fought in four matches without a single point scored on him. Brians third opponent is a black belt under Robert Drysdale, 6 X World Champion, who later was overheard saying to Brian, "Good job. He beats most everyone at my school, and he did not score a point on you!" Mr. Drysdale also invited Brian to his school as a kind gesture.

I will post more as they come in!

Cheers, and congrats Brian!

March 14, 2009

Brian "Mr. BJJ" Johnson claims another title!!

Brian Johnson, head instructor at NW Jiu Jitsu Academy has won the lightweight BB NAGA 2009 championships in Las Vegas, NV. Two fights went the distance with Brian securing points, and Brian once again packed his triangles as he finished two of his opponents with tight triangles!
"The level of competition was amazing here!" - Brian after winning the NAGA lightweight championship.

Check back for video, pics and further updates!

March 11, 2009

Martial Rag's - A Dying Media

The advent of the world wide inter-web was destined to threaten the print media industry at some point. The rising cost of paper, coupled with the techno-media-crazed-gadget-happy culture we have perpetuated has marginalized most of all print media. Newspapers, and now magazines are experiencing dropping sales and lagging interest.

Martial arts magazines are a niche market to begin with, and even now we are seeing huge shifts in the industry. Ultimate Grappling switched their focus along with their title to Ultimate MMA. The Journal of Asian Martial Arts will no longer sell in retail outlets, only by subscription. Overall the quality of articles and pieces in all martial arts magazines has dropped, perhaps the Journal of Asian Martial Arts being the sole exception. Quality is of course subjective and is subject to the mercy of a saturated market. But none the less one has to admit the information in many of these magazines is impotent, poorly articulated, and often looked at as nothing more than a self promoting tool.

It should be noted that I have written for most of these publications, so I try not to include any bias.

MMA is the hot trend in martial pop culture at the moment with tons of magazines dedicated to it such as: Tap Out / Sport Fight / MMA Worldwide / Fight / Ultimate MMA / Gladiator, etc. Unfortunately all these magazines basically cover the same fights, and their instructional articles tend to have neither substance nor depth. A lot of the more important aspects of martial training are rarely, if at all, covered by these magazines. Respect, honor, tradition, the martial way, these aspects are rarely seen.

Enter the one shining lite for the grappling community, Gracie Magazine.
The Good News:
In both Portuguese and English languages, Gracie offers the most comprehensive coverage of BJJ and submission grappling events sponsored by the IBJJF. Technique sections tend to offer great submissions, sweeps, and positional cues. And quite often authors tie in the philosophical and spiritual aspects of martial training. A humble, mature attitude is a constant theme within the articles.

The Bad News:
Obviously this magazine is geared towards one business within BJJ, and that business is the business of being a Gracie, or Gracie affiliate. Events covered give no mention of others who placed who are not part of the extended Gracie family (IE. pays money to be an affiliate). I cannot really blame them for showing favoritism (after all the magazine is named Gracie), but for journalistic integrity if you are going to give blanket coverage of an event, make sure it is even across the board.
Cost is a HUGE problem with this magazine. No retailer in the Seattle metro area carries it at the newsstand price of $9 US a copy!! Subscriptions will run you right around $90 for 12 issues!!

Both Black Belt & Journal Of Asian Martial Arts (JAMA) are geared towards the martial arts in general, and that is about where the similarities end!

The Good News:
In regards to Black Belt the best thing it has going for it is the low cost.

As for the JAMA it maintains a standard that so far has not even been close to being surpassed. Basically scholarly in its format and approach, the JAMA offers reviews, technical articles, philosophical / religious articles dealing with the martial arts covering a wide variety of styles and interesting pieces.

The Bad News:

Black Belt
magazine used to be the premier martial arts rag, but the times quickly changed. It has become nothing but shameless self promotion of the next get rich quick schemes of the martial kingdom. Most articles are by teachers and schools selling products in the magazine. Again depth and substance are completely lacking!

As for the JAMA cost and availability are prohibitive. Printed every other month (6 issues a years) the quality of the product, and the thickness of the paper make the $9.99 newsstand price well worth it if their are articles that tickle your fancy inside. Now the JAMA has done away with offering the journal in retail stores, and this means we have to buy sight unseen. For people like me that is a turn off, though the JAMA has a loyal following, and it is left to be seen if this will affect their overall growth and strength in the market.

Enter the world of Chinese Martial Arts (CMA) and their respective magazines Tai Chi / Inside Kung Fu / Kung Fu Tai Chi. Again we are talking about a very select niche market, that compared to say MMA has relatively few events to cover. Yet the CMA have three separate magazines to offer.

The Good News:
In regards to Inside Kung Fu.... man.... I am really at a loss as to what to say. The quality has dropped in this magazine alone more so than in any other in my opinion!

Tai Chi magazine covers an even smaller niche, but arguably the most practiced and popular CMA, Taiji (Taichi). Articles on all five major styles are represented, as well as thorough event reviews and coverage. Though I have noticed reprints of articles written 5-10 years prior have been common over the last year or two.

Kung Fu - Taichi magazine is arguably the best of the bunch. Though goofy ass articles still plague its annals, overall the editor Gene Ching is often left looking for filler and cannot be too picky. Ching travels to almost every major tournament and event in the CMA community, and in terms of coverage nothing gets better.

The Bad News:
Inside Kung Fu...
see Black Belt above!

Tai Chi magazine tends to lean towards the "woo-woo" Taiji practitioners, and shys away from practical application of the MARTIAL ART known as Taiji! I was once even told that my article offered too much application, and was "rather aggressive!"


Kung Fu - Tai Chi suffers from the same symptoms of most the rags, lack of quality info and writing! Overall though it is the one magazine maintaining a decent hold. And Gene is the greatest editor I have ever worked with!


March 10, 2009

Torn...


Here is Sakuraba fighting Royce Gracie in Pride


One of, if not THE, best fighters to ever live, Rickson Gracie
I have been reading through a number of back issues of Gracie Magazine (more on this later!), and came across some interesting quotes from the infamous, immortal Rickson Gracie (considered by many to not only be the greatest Gracie of all time, but perhaps the greatest grappler of all time!) that have me torn about two of my personal hero's!

In issue #141 (Dec. 08) in two different parts of the magazine, Rickson offers the following quotes:
"It would be a dream come true to end my career fighting Sakuraba. He has that nickname (Gracie Hunter) and I have to live with that caught in my throat. He hasn't fought me yet and so shouldn't be using it. He's asking for it. But as we don't have all that we desire yet, I can only hope the promoters manage to put together the right conditions to get us together in the ring. If not, so be it." (May 08)


"I don't see myself getting in the ring anymore. Unless there's some nut ready to pay what I am asking (laughs)." (Oct 08)

It is rumored that Rickson has asked for a purse in excess of several million dollars to fight, which he has neither admitted, nor denied! Obviously if this is true, that is way rediculous in terms of MMA fight purses!

Kazushi Sakuraba has earned the monicker "Gracie Hunter" by tearing through the Gracie family (Royler, Renzo, Ryan, Royce) in MMA fights throughout the 90's and into the 00's in Pride FC. He went unbeaten until a re-match with Royce on June 2, 07 where Royce landed a decision win!

So this leaves me torn! Those who know me, know that I am a HUGE Sakuraba fan, and I also hold Rickson in the highest of regard considering him a modern day Samurai! But the Gracie ego seems to shine through with these comments. IF Rickson truly wanted to set the record straight once and for all, especially if it was family pride on the line, don't you think he would do anything to make it happen?? Surely this would be a fight to be remembered if any organization put it together. Money would not be an issue. Though I doubt any promoter could afford the millions of dollars Rickson wants!

But that is my point, why not put it all on the line! Both fighters are way past there prime, so there is no clear advantage there. Both fighters (say) they want the fight to happen, but always blame promoters for lack of motivation to make it happen. So what is the real deal??? It seems like Rickson contradicts himself by saying on one hand it is a "dream come true.." to make the fight happen, and then turn around and state (in a joking manner) that no one can afford him!!??
I am all about fighters making a living and getting paid what they deserve, but it seems to me that much of the Gracie "familial pride" is centrally focused on the potential financial gain one stands to accrue, and not the "honor" of the family like they are always claiming.

I do not have any "inside" sources, so I cannot elaborate on the truth of the matter. And in reality the only people who know the truth are Rickson and Sakuraba! This is merely a thought based on quotes that I read in the same issue of Gracie magazine.

March 5, 2009

Great Alberto Crane interview

Alberto Crane_Fight.jpg

Found this article online. Thanks to MMAweekly.com

In all fairness to Alberto, neither one of his opponents in the UFC (Huerta, nor Pellegrino) were "gimme" fights. He had never fought anyone of that caliber before, and Huerta and Pellegrino are AMAZING fighters!
But Alberto has never sounded more confident and ready for the big show once again! He has one more fight on his contract and we can look forward to one hell of a fight later this year.



- ALBERTO CRANE ROLLING, WANTS BACK IN UFC
Tuesday, March 03, 2009 - by Mick Hammond - MMAWeekly.com


Lightweight Alberto Crane will be the first to tell you that his initial Ultimate Fighting Championship run was a disappointment on many levels.

After a stellar start to his career, which saw him win his first eight fights en route to the King of the Cage 155-pound title, Crane lost back-to-back fights in the UFC to Roger Huerta and Kurt Pellegrino.

Just as quickly as he had arrived, six months after his UFC debut, he was released from the company.

After losing his first fight outside of the promotion, he has managed to find himself once again on solid ground, winning four fights in a row, including this past weekend’s first round submission victory over Eric Regan for Rage in the Cage.

“For this last fight I felt the most comfortable I’ve ever felt,” admitted Crane of his win over Regan. “I finally feel like a seasoned mixed martial arts fighter.

March 3, 2009

Quote of the Month

This month's quote comes from Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, tactician, president, and fellow martial artist! That's right, few know that "Teddy" was an avid boxer growing up, loved to wrestle, and learned Judo from visiting delegations from Japan. The following was found at www.mentalfloss.com

Jenny Drapkin is the Senior Editor of mental_floss magazine. For the next week, we’ll be serializing “All The Presidents’ Secrets,” her fantastic feature from the September-October 2007 issue. Make her feel welcome.

teddy_karate_2_1_2.jpg"President Theodore Roosevelt not only practiced judo in the White House, he also became America’s first brown belt. It was an accomplishment in the combined history of world leaders and martial arts not surpassed until a century later, when Russian president Vladimir Putin advanced to the level of sixth-degree black belt. (Putin’s known for his vicious sweeping hip throw, by the way.) Of course, Roosevelt wasn’t exactly shy about his hobby. He lined the White House basement with training mats, and he practiced with anyone who was willing to tussle—including his wife and sister-in-law. Once, he even brightened a boring state luncheon by throwing the Swiss minister to the floor and demonstrating a judo hold, to the delight of his guests."


I personally feel the quote to your left truly embodies the warrior spirit that Samurai, Judoka, boxers, and average citizens strive to attain in everyday life. It is not about winning, or losing. But rather about your attitude and approach to any task be it physical, mental, emotional or otherwise! We have all heard the saying "Fall 8 times, and get up 9!" Right? Well in a nutshell that is the warrior spirit.

I have learned more in my recent BJJ losses than I have with my wins. Why is that? The human psyche and spirit strives for perfection, though logically we realize that this is something that will never come. Sure perhaps you "master" that jab cross combo. But while working so diligently on those techniques we cannot help but neglect any other area such as throws, kicks, or defense for example. So therefore we continue to train, and come back and put in hour upon hour of sweat equity. Our "goals" become lifestyles. Our striving for perfection becomes our training routine. And so on....

Those who do not leave their ego at the door and train with an open mind are usually the first to drop out and quit. They quit not because they are physically unable to train (some will offer that excuse). Not because they do not understand the training. They quit because their ego cannot handle losing. And fortunately we have to lose at something many, many times before we "win" at it! No one reading this rode a bike perfectly the first time they climbed on it! How many scraped knees, banged elbows, and spilt tears did you go through before you got the flow of the pedals and wheels under you? Perhaps it is hard for you to remember. Know why? Because when you finally reached that point where you were riding all by yourself it felt so great that you forgot the pain and suffering you went through to get on the bike.

Training is no different. I get tapped every single night I grapple! I get hit every single time I spar! And you know what.... I would not change it for the world! Learn from your mistakes, and celebrate your parteners successes! The most important thing you can do.... just keep coming back! Never quit! Remember a black belt is nothing more than a white belt who never gave up! In the end at least you know you gave it your all, and in that you KNOW who you are!


March 1, 2009

Alberto wins again!


It is with great pleasure that I share the fact that my friend, and coach, Alberto Crane won his MMA fight with a second round triangle choke! He fought in the Rage in Cage in Mesa, AZ. over the weekend, and came away looking super sharp!

It just so happens that Alberto can celebrate his victory along - side the launch of his new site representing his new school Legacy Martial Arts !

Big congrats to Alberto and his crew for cementing one step closer to fighting in the UFC!!