SW Portland Martial Arts Blog

Camp Class Preview

June 2nd, 2018

This year, for MDP camp, I’ve been asked to teach a class about takedowns and groundwork for self defense. The two big questions behind the class will be: how and why might we, in a self defense situation, want to take an attacker to the ground? To answer these questions, the students and I have been playing with three techniques and a drill that are starting to coalesce into a decent class.

The three techniques involved in the drill are: a jab, an ankle pick, and the knee ride position. We settled on these three because they are fairly simple, the combine together well, and they allow the student to move from standing to a ground control position while still allowing for the option of standing back up if necessary.

The jab is the setup. As with all setups, if you can land it – bonus! The drill, however, assumes that your partner is going to parry and step away from your strike. This defensive action should give you the opportunity to step in and move on to the second technique – the ankle pick.

The ankle pick is a good fit for this drill because it allows you to take your partner down, and keep control of them by holding on to the shoe, pant leg, or foot without having to follow them all the way to the ground, ending up in side control or mount. While those positions are powerful and functional, we wanted to pick a control that allowed for easier disengagement, so we opted for knee ride.

Knee ride is probably going to be the technique that confuses students the most. It can be difficult figuring out which knee goes where, how to distribute your weight, and how not to injure your partner. We think the effort is worth it, because knee ride can provide a platform from which to strike, remain mobile, and disengage if necessary.

The jab to ankle pick to knee ride drill will be the first section of the class. It provides one answer to the “how” question that I opened this post up with – how do we take someone down? Well, we could fake a jab, move to an ankle pick, and then slide into knee ride. We could, of course, do many other different things to accomplish this same goal and for those students who feel comfortable, we will play a bit and explore some of those options. We will also allow folks who want to play further, the opportunity to sparring to see what happens when resistance gets added.

The “why” question, if you recall, was – why would we take someone down in a self defense situation? This is not a simple question to answer but one line of thought is: given that people can generate the most power when they are standing and can freely utilize their hips, if you can put them on the ground and control them then they are much less able to deliver a strong punch. Put another way, even a completely untrained person can hit hard if they are standing up but if they are flat on their back with you on top of them, not so much.

Hope to see you all at camp! You can still sign up here.


Summer Martial Arts Special!

May 25th, 2018

Have you been hiding in the shadows, waiting to sign up for martial arts classes? Come out into the light and train for all of July and August for only $30! Normally, two months of training would cost you $180 but this brilliant special offer gets you access to all our adult martial arts classes at a $150 discount.

Sign up by clicking the button below. This offer is good for adult martial arts classes (all of them! Boxing, Jiu-jitsu, Systema, Arnis, Mo Duk Pai). This offer is not good for kid’s classes or CrossFit classes.

There are no contracts to sign – just click the button, get out of the shadows, and get in the door!

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Three lessons from the Kids Tournament

April 29th, 2018

I try, after every class I teach, to write down one thing that I think I could have done better, or one thing that worked particularly well, or one thing that completely flopped (and I should avoid in the future), or an idea that a student brought up, or… You get the idea – I try to write something down that will improve the quality of future classes.

I do this for the tournaments that we run twice a year as well. I try to write one thing down for each of the three events (grappling, forms, sparring) that will make the event run more smoothly. I decided to type those thoughts up into a blog post in hopes that other people might also have ideas on how to make things better.

With all this talk of making things better, I hope this doesn’t give the impression that I think the tournaments are a disaster. No way. I think our tournaments are pretty awesome but I also think that there is always room for improvement.

For grappling, it appears that we need to do a better job communicating to the parents exactly what is involved in sport grappling. Over the 8 or so years we’ve been running these events, on several occasions, parents have been shocked to see their children out on the floor choking another child, or being choked. For those of us who have done lots of grappling, this seems like an obvious thing but why wouldn’t, as a parent, you freak out if you saw this happening and had no idea as to the rules of sport grappling? So, I will do my best at the next tournament to explain what the goal of sport grappling is – submitting your partner – and how tapping out works, and how tapping keeps everyone safe. The kids know this already so the explanation will be for the parents, so if there are parents who haven’t sat and watched a class where their child participates in sport grappling, they know what is happening and what tapping out looks like. Maybe it would be a good idea to adopt the Sambo rules around verbal tapping which are (I think) any noise or word is a tap – but that seems a bit on the oppressive side to me.

For forms this time, it was really cool to see the kids do improvised forms during the mystery division. What made the improv forms so interesting was that they looked more like a real fight than the memorized forms did! What this tells me, as a teacher, is that we need to add pad hitting and partner work into our forms so that students are more likely to visualize the fight when they are performing. (It was Sifu Allen who noticed the “aliveness” of the improv forms and pointed it out to everyone, full credit goes to him.)

For sparring, it finally dawned on me that everyone has a Roundhouse kick. In fact, the Roundhouse kick seems to be the ONLY thing that some students have in their toolbox. As a result, pretty much everyone knows how to defend the Roundhouse kick. What to do? Keep the Roundhouse kick but build up the other kicking angles so that the poor Roundhouse kick isn’t left all alone in the toolbox. Front kicks, side kicks, hook kicks, axe kicks… all the kicks!

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I appreciate all the feedback I got this time from students, helpers, parents, and teachers. Let’s work together to make every tournament better than the last!

Coach, My Shoulders are Owie!

March 2nd, 2018

Yes. These things happen. There are many solutions to owie shoulders. Not all of them work for everyone but given enough methods, you’re liable to find one that works for you.

Band stretches are one such solution. They allow you to use resistance (the band) to open up the shoulders and the surrounding musculature. If you try these stretches, my suggestion is to do them every time you come into the gym for a few weeks and then see if your efforts have made any difference in your owie status. If there is no progress after 3 weeks, try something else. If there is, continue for 3 more weeks and then go on from there.

To happier shoulders, everywhere!

Cold Challenge

January 25th, 2018

Anyone who makes a Nietzsche reference in their book title immediately gets points on my nerdy philosopher scoreboard. The book that grabbed my nerdy attention is titled “What Doesn’t Kill Us”. The full Nietzsche quote (from his book “Twilight of the Idols”) that many of you have probably heard or seen quoted numerous times is: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

The meaning of both the quote and the book is that adversity leads to adaptation. In the case of the quote, the notion is quite general. In the case of the book, the author, Scott Carney, is being quite specific – exposure to cold temperatures will make you stronger.

Carney leads the reader through his chilling adventures with Wim Hof (aka the Iceman), climbing Kilimanjaro with no shirt on, jumping in icy lakes, and swimming in pools while carrying weights. The adventures are compelling and seem to suggest that cold exposure increases general physical and mental resilience. Throughout the book , Carney also references a growing body of scientific research that seems to be showing that regular cold exposure increases the efficacy of the human immune system.

The takeaway from the book for me was, that which makes you cold makes you stronger. There are obviously limits to this: frostbite and death being some pretty obvious ones. So maybe the takeaway should be that which makes you cold but does not permenantly damage you makes you stronger.

The book inspired me to start finishing all my morning showers by turning the cold water all the way up and turning off the hot water. It was, at first, remarkably unpleasant. After a couple weeks, it became tolerable. After three weeks, it became pleasant in a similar (but measurable opposite) way that very hot showers are pleasant. I don’t know that it has done anything for my immune system but it definitely gets me awake and alert for the start of my day.

Thanks to coach Spencer for the book loan. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in challenging themselves.