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There is often controversy in how best to develop a skill.  Which is better, quality movements or quantity of movements? Perfect practice or just practice? It can
very much depend on who you talk to and what skill you’re developing.  

In the martial arts especially, technique is critical.  There are correct ways to throw a punch or kick (just as there are “different” ways to throw the same punch or kick).  Sensei Dorow once told me
“There will come a day that you will be called upon to defend yourself.  If you are not technically proficient, you will be destroyed.”   Hmmm.  Coming from a guy that was physically tested during 2 tours on the ground in Vietnam, as well as dojo “confrontations” in the 60’s & 70’s, that’s something I take to heart.  
 
But on the way to perfection in technique, you have to practice a lot of reps.  A lot. Of. Reps.   And those first dozen, hundred, thousand reps are far from perfect, but they count towards the larger goal.  I like the examples used in this Fast Company article (be sure to watch the “Girl Learns to Dance in a Year” video).   And the axiom “Try fast, fail fast,
learn fast” has a lot of merit.  
 
So, if you’re waiting for that perfect time to start or for inspiration, don’t wait.  Get some
reasonable instruction, then get out there and try it.   Then try it again, get some feedback from a credible, reliable source, and try it some more.  Sooner or later, just about anyone can do anything.  It’s a marvelous testament to the human organism and spirit.  



 
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Are you a resident of La-La Land?  As in living in some fantasy world where everything is good, nothing can go wrong, or "that can never happen to me"?

Unfortunately many people live in this world.  And therefore grossly unprepared to cope when things go horribly wrong.  Case in point - Acapulco.  Let's say you happen to decide on a well-deserved vacation to this tourist hot spot with your spouse, SO, and/or family.  Then this storm comes, the SHTF and things go from bad to worse.  Looking past the obvious needs for food, water and shelter, can you protect yourself and loved ones?  
 
Chances are you haven't been able to travel with a firearm.  Do you have basic empty hand skills?  How about if you need to kick it up a notch?  Can you
wield a stick?  What about a knife?  Or machete? There are some that question the need to spend time on these  "traditional" martial arts in the time of modern firearms.  But I'd sure like to have some basic understanding on how to keep a crowd at bay or protect my family with anything I could get my hands on.

But where would I even get those weapons?  Where's the housekeeping closet in your hotel?  Do they have brooms or mops?  Many have handles that are metal, but even wooden ones are better than nothing. Have you eaten in the resorts fancy restaurant?   I'll bet they have wooden handled steak knives.  Wouldn't be a bad idea to "acquire" one of those in advance, just in case.  If not, do you know how to get to the kitchen?  Chef knives, cleavers, carving knives - anything sharp and pointy.  Is there a local hardware or supply store?  Maybe not at a resort/tourist town, but if you're out in town, keep your eyes open.  In many other countries a machete or brush knife is a common household tool.  Also might be worth acquiring one in advance. Think that's unrealistic?  Think about Rwanda in 1994 (not that long ago).  500,000 - 1,000,000 killed, many with
machetes.
 
So, not to be paranoid, but use your head and be prepared.  As demonstrated in
Acapulco and elsewhere around the world, most places are only 72 hours from
chaos when the "normal" social systems break down from any reason. Get some training.  Firearms are good if you're so inclined and have legal access.  Stick skills like those offered by the Dog Brothers or machete/sword skills as proposed by James Keating.  Hopefully you'll never have to use the skills you develop, but it's better to be prepared.  Besides, it's fun and adds another dimension to your current skill set.
 
In closing, stay out of La-La Land, face some cold, hard facts and be prepared.  

Now get out there and train.


 
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Good article in Feb 2012 issue of the Strength & Conditioning Journal that discusses specific needs for female Mixed Martial Artists.  In general, a focus on increasing lean body mass, upper body strength, and preventing injuries, especially in the knee. 
  
In an effort to increase LBM and testosterone  levels, the authors (Schick, Brown, and Schick) emphasize multi-joint lifts  (squat, clean, deadlift etc.), decreasing rest periods between sets, increasing
sets (at least 3) and increasing intensity.  Makes sense, but it never ceases to amaze me the number of folks that seem to emphasize single joint, machine based “weight training”. Unless you’re trying to rehab an injured part or you’re prepping for a bodybuilding competition, I don’t know why you’d consider most single joint exercises or a
machine.

I really liked a couple of their interval training examples given.  The first was a Circuit
weight training session.  Meant to be done 3X with a minute rest in between (to mimic an MMA fight).  

Exercise            Reps/duration
Jump rope                 1 min
BB rev lunge              10-12
Push Press                 4-6
Bent row                    8-10
Hang clean                 4-6
Deadlift                       6-8
Med Ball jump squat    6-8
Med Ball rotations        20
KB swings                    10-12
Plank                            1 min

The second included MMA specific exercises and requires a partner and/or grappling dummy.  Each technique done for 30s ea, 3 min total, one minute rest between rounds.

Round 1
Shadow Box; Takedowns on dummy; Guard passing drills; Ground & Pound; Arm Bar submission drills; Triangle Submission drills

Round 2
Kick heavybag; sprawls; punch heavy bag; knees in clinch; elbows drill; shrimping drill

Round 3
Kickboxing with pads; tie ups; knees in clinch; sprawls; isometric bridge; ground & pound
 
I liked the focus of this article.   It’s one of the first I’d seen specifically targeted at female MMA.  With the rise of athletes like Ronda Rousey, I think the trend for female participation in the combative arts is likely to increase for the foreseeable future.  



 
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Lessons learned from this recent incident in NASCAR truck racing.  Key event is approx. 50 seconds into this video:

1) The open hand slap is an effective technique.  There are
many that prefer the slap vs. the punch as an offensive technique.   Much less risk to hurting your hand on someone’s cranium.   Anyone can apply it without specialized training or hand conditioning. 
 
2)The preferred angle of attack on the jaw is from back to front.  This makes it most susceptible to break or dislocate.

3) Don’t piss off the girlfriend.  If you do piss off the girlfriend, don’t block with your
head.


 
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Many recommendations out there from the experts
on keeping a low profile and not flaunting your level of readiness or preparation, for several reasons. First, so that you’re not so easy to pick out by the bad guys. Second, so that you’re not perceived to be a “bad guy” by one of the “do-gooders” who may not be comfortable with concealed carry, open carry, or any other means that you’ve taken to ensure your rights & responsibilities of self-protection.  
 
So I was pleasantly surprised during a recent Karate Club workout in the PSU squash courts to find that someone (ESACT course?  Squash team/club?) must have gotten a delivery of rackets/cases, only to throw away all of the cases.   So I decided to recycle and turn their trash into my treasure.  
 
These cases make perfect unobtrusive carry cases for my kind of toys - Tomahawks, Bowie knives, assorted training or live blades.   I can have these sitting on the back seat of my car.  I can have them on my credenza at the office. I could have it thrown over my shoulder while sashaying down the street.  And to the untrained observer and most of the sheeple on the streets, it’s just a squash racket.  
 
Something to think about, hidden in plain sight.  What do you have easy access to, that’s effective, without raising the eyebrows of your co-workers, curious cops during a traffic stop, or the neighborhood shrill?


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Trash - After
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Be Prepared - today's Boy Scout: SOG Fusion Tomahawk James Keating Crossada S&W Airweight .357Mag Springfield XD 9mm
 
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Great recent article at Beyond Strength.  With an emphasis on Strength as the base and then Conditioning, as well as references to Martin Rooney, Dan John, and Alwyn Cosgrove, it would be hard for anyone in the combative arts to go wrong in applying this philosophical approach.  

I tend to use a bunch of intervals and complexes in my training.  There was a time period where I found myself focusing more on strength and conditioning than I was on technical skills, so I’ve tried to shift the focus.  If/when I have time to train, then I make sure I get the skill work done first - punch, kick, pad work, stick, knife etc.  Then I get some strength/conditioning in.  Here’s where the intervals and
complexes work well.   
 
Intervals - since I don’t have the fancy HR monitor (yeah, I know I should get one), Fixed intervals are the easiest for me to implement.  Usually in the 20-30 second work range, with 2X rest.  Occasionally I’ll throw in some 1:1 work:rest sets or 2:1 work:rest.   One of the rope intervals that I use follows this sequence

30’ x 1.5” rope: 30 seconds “Fighting”, 60 seconds rest
50’ x 1.5” rope: 20 seconds “Fighting”, 40 seconds rest
50’ x 2” rope: 10 seconds “Fighting”, 20 seconds rest
Repeat 3-5X

By “Fighting” I mean that the rope is not anchored by anything and the goal is to keep the rope moving for the entire period and to keep the entire rope off of the ground.  I learned this from John Brookfield at a Perform Better seminar a few years ago.  
 
Complexes – I mostly use Rep based or AMRAP style complexes with KBs, BW, and Sandbags.  Here’s a sample KB complex:

Snatch 5L; Overhead Carry (scaled to space available)
Snatch 5R; OH Carry
C&P 5L; Rack Carry
C&P 5R; Rack Carry
One arm Swing 5L; Farmer’s Carry
One arm Swing 5R; Farmer’s Carry

Set a timer for your preferred round length (ex. 5:00 min) and see how many times you can get thru.

That’s all for now. Get out there and train, because your next opponent probably isn’t just
sitting around eating Krispy Kremes.


 
Only had time for a quick workout before dinner.  Just did a some Tabata style rope.  Three 4 minute rounds of rope patterns done in 20 sec on/10 sec off fashion.  Two minutes rest in between rounds.  Then a finisher in the back yard which consisted of:

     4 Burpee Pulls {burpees with a pullup on the “jump” portion}
     Farmer's Carry, two 70 lb. KBs, ~ 20 yds
     Lunges – back to the pullup bar

 Repeat for 4:00 min total

 I liked this finisher. Well rounded, push, pull, carry, squat, lunge.  All wholesome goodness.  Could have added a sandbag to the Lunges, but didn’t feel like messing
around with getting any more equipment out.   Could also add or substitute Bear Crawls, Crab Walks, or other Quadrapedal movements in place of the Lunges.  
 
There you have it. About 30 minutes total with a quick warm-up, 4 x 4:00 minute rounds, and rest periods.  Quick and dirty, then done.  


 
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An article in the recent Tactical Strength and Conditioning report, July/August 2013, Issue 29, outlines a pilot study and sample program using KBs for Firefighters.  Although the sample size was small (n=5), the exercises are solid and the program fundamentally sound.  One of the reasons that I like it is that it shows how a few basic exercises (in this case Turkish Get-up, 2H Swings, Military Press, Front Squat)  followed in a disciplined fashion over 12 weeks can result in substantial strength gains (33-200%).  
 
The program consists of 4 sessions alternated 3X/week for 12 weeks.  
 
A1, B1, A2
B2, A1, B1
A2, B2, A1 
B1, A2, B2 etc.  
 
Training Session A = TGU + 2H Swing
Training Session B = Military Press + Front Squats

The specifics for A1, B1, A2, and B2 can be found in the article linked above.  Basically they
consist of focused practice for time (ex. 10 minutes of TGU, 20 min Swings), ladder progressions, or sets of 5X5 or 3X3. 

This looks like a great program to focus on the basic KB lifts.  And if you could only do 4 KB exercises, these are the 4 I would  pick anyway.  The sequence and reps are laid out for you, so it’s a no brainer to follow.   Why not give it a try?  My plan is to work on this as an 8-week cycle as I ease into some KB work after tweaking my back in July.  

 
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Although you can’t always be prepared for an altercation
(surprise does happen), there are some things that you can do to facilitate a better outcome if your situation suddenly goes bad in a hurry.   

One habit to ingrain is the position of your hands.  As
Guro Crafty says “hands are more useful when they’re up” (actually his is a more colorful variation, but we’ll leave that for another time).   By assuming a classic “interview stance” with the body bladed, dominant
leg (& weapon) usually in the rear, and one or both hands up and open in a  non-threatening manner, this does several things.   

a)  Provides a barrier if necessary between the opponent and your head/torso/duty
weapon.
b) Puts one/both of your empty hand weapons closer to your opponent, reducing your time
to contact if necessary. 
c) Gets your hands up in a non-threatening manner and puts them in a closer position to
block/parry/intercept an attack.

As Matt Powell from Pramek discusses in this video, practice your responses – blocks, strikes, counters - from a variety of starting points with one or both hands up. Make sure
they are open hands, since posturing with fists in a classic “boxing”pose is perceived as aggressive by an opponent (and/or bystanders) and can escalate things that may otherwise be talked down.  I’m not a huge proponent in having the hands together or crossed, but as
Matt discusses, there are ways to do it successfully.  



 
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Muhammad Ali Compilation -  Need some inspiration for hand & foot speed + movement?  Check out this compilation.  I saw Ali at Notre Dame’s Bengal Bouts (charity boxing tournament) in 1988.  He was in attendance the one night that I went to watch.  As he passed thru the crowd, less than an arm’s length away from me, he seemed to be a mere shell of a person.   There was no recognition of the crowd calling his name, no emotion, no registering of even being present at the event.   A very sad drop from his physical prime, because he was amazing.  

The Earth is our Gym - I like the one quote from Mike Rashid:  “Be your own motivator".  And I love to workout outside.