SW Portland Martial Arts Blog

An Introduction to Falling

January 30th, 2022
How to fall safely

Falling is one of the most practical skills you gain from training martial arts. It’s not particularly glamorous, but you’re much more likely to slip and fall than you are get into a fistfight or a grappling match out there in the wild world.

So what about folks who want the benefits of learning to fall with all that extra martial arts business? Can you extract the practical falling techniques without having to learn all that other stuff? Of course. Help yourself to the video.

It’s easier to learn to fall if you already know how to squat and have a soft floor but having neither of those things won’t stop you if you are determined and patient.

Moving the Armbar from the Dummy to Real Humans

January 22nd, 2022
Moving from the dummy to a person with your beginning armbar

When we teach our youngest students how to do an armbar, we show them on a grappling dummy. It’s safer. It’s quicker. You don’t have to be patient with your partner. However, it leads to a problem: how do you take this skill you’ve learned on the dummy and transfer it to an actual human?
The best bet, I think, is to have the young student practice it with an adult who is (at least) minimally familiar with the armbar. We hope that this video can help parents learn the basics of the movement so that the students gain a deeper understanding of the technique. Who knows? Maybe practicing the drill back and forth with your kid will even have some parents considering doing some martial arts too!

Healthy Hamstrings

January 15th, 2022

All those squats, kicks, and triangles can leave the hamstrings haggard and the back bruised. How to cope? Make a plan. Here’s mine, and you’re welcome to steal it wholesale, although I really do recommend amending it to fit your own needs:

Repeat the following stretches twice a day, holding each one for 30 seconds: Child’s pose, up dog, standing forward bend. I’m currently on month number two, and my back already feels better. Let me know how it goes for you.

Low back and hamstring mobility


Improving your squat

January 7th, 2022
Would you like a better squat?

The squat is a fundamental movement. If you have trouble squatting to full depth comfortably, it’s almost guaranteed that you also have trouble doing all other sorts of movements. Assuming you’ve simply lost the range of motion required and you’re not injured, there is a fairly simple (though not easy) way to regain your squat: two minutes of assisted squat every day for two months.
The equipment you’ll need is: your body and something you can grab on to that doesn’t move.
The time you’ll need is: two minutes a day for two months.
Using the thing that doesn’t move (a post, the leg of a heavy table, whatever), climb your way down to the bottom of a squat. Once there, straighten out your back. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Stand back up and go about your day. At three other times that same day, repeat the process.
Every few days, check and see how your unassisted squat feels, and if it is improving. Continue the process for two months. If the problem was that you simply weren’t using that range of motion, you will see definitive results within two months.


December 11th, 2021
Evade and counter punch

If you’ve ever sparred, you know one of the most sublime things you can experience is an effortless evasion of your partner’s punch accompanied by your own perfect counterpunch. It’s so sublime because against a partner anywhere near your own skill level, it’s really hard.

One of the more difficult things to get down when evading is moving your feet. Most folks can move their head out of the way and shift their torso but this usually puts you in a bad position to counter strike and a worse position to handle any additional strikes your partner might throw at you after the first one. To help with this difficulty, we broke the drill into four parts.

Step one: let your partner throw the punch and let it hit you. Provided you’ve got a decent partner, they will be feeding you a slow punch. You want to know that if you don’t move out of the way, there will be some (but not a damaging amount of feedback.)

Step two: Duck. When that roundhouse punch comes at you, and you now know that your partner is going to hit you if you don’t move, get out of the way. Keep your hands up and your eyes forward. If you know how to do a weighted back squat,  the structure of your body is going to be pretty similar to that movement, although you only need to make the punch just miss your head – there is no need to duck any lower. In fact, ducking lower will waste time, time in which your partner might throw another strike before you have recovered.

Step three: move your feet. Not one foot. Both feet. Try and go under your partner’s strike and end up on their outside – away from their other hand and away from their centerline. You have now moved to a spot where they have to turn and adjust before they can hit you. You have better position.

Step four: counterpunch. At the bottom of your duck, seamlessly throw your own strike back at your partner. It can be a hook, an uppercut, an elbow, or even a groin or throat strike if you’re drilling for self defense. I recommend getting one strike that feels easy for you (a hook to the body works well for me) and then branching out after a few minutes of drilling.

Drill. Be patient. Start slow. Take it step by step. One day, when you are sparring, you will achieve the nirvana that is dodging a strike and delivering your own counterstrike. When you do it right, it will feel effortless and require no thought but, you will know it was all those hours, days, and years of training finally bubbling to the surface.