Heaven and Hell on the Night Train

Good dramatic title, isn’t it? One of my favourite zen tales is the story of the badass samurai looking for a little wisdom. He came across a priest, and asked this priest about heaven and hell. The priest started to swear at the warrior, belittling him. The warrior grew angry, and reached for his sword. The priest looked that the warrior as the sword started to come out of the scabbard, and said “Now you enter the gates of hell.” The warrior froze up, realization dawning. He slid the sword back into the scabbard. “And now you enter the gates of heaven.” Good wisdom there, and a deeper lesson than you think for martial artists. Class last night was one of those rare and special moments. We’ve wrapped up two lengthy training phases, and as such the week had been designated for rest. No formal class plans, no workout. The…

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Heavy to Light

It can get a little confusing for students when I lay out the prescription for the day’s class. I’ll explain what’s behind that. The first thing I talk about is what phase we are in. We have four phases that we move through: Power, Strength, Endurance and Mobility. Power is about explosive speed. Strength is where we build our muscles. Endurance is where we work on keeping our strength up for a longer period of time. The Mobility phase is where we take all that strength and learn to preserve it through our whole range of motion. We also take a short recovery phase, as well as the odd single day recovery, where we just give our bodies a chance to catch up. The type of exercise we do is determined by what phase we are in. The intensity of the exercise will vary from class to class. We have…

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Warming Up for Class

I’m an old fat man, so I have to put in a lot of extra to work to get myself ready for class. I’m the teacher, so I need to set the best example I can for my students. I can’t be better than them at everything, but I need to show them the value of what they are doing by being an example of the result. Add in that I constantly experiment with new exercises to add to our mix, and the hit on the body over time can become serious. I can’t afford to give in to aches and pains, and I need to look to my long-term performance. So the warm-up is the most important part of my regime. My warm-up begins in the morning. Usually with my coffee, which gets a 5g scoop of creatine, which is the same amount you would get from eating about…

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Leaving the Past Behind

I don’t know why Achille Marozzo wrote his New Work on swordplay. I know the result of it, but I don’t know what made him sit down and put that first mark on the page. I know what it’s like to teach martial arts. I know what it’s like to write, and what it’s like to try and organize the things you think are important. I’m old enough that I can imagine beyond the romance of writing. Marozzo didn’t write in a montage, he wrote while living a life. A life that we can never really know. We don’t know the quiet intimacies of his daily life. We don’t know what he fretted about, whether his breakfast was a peaceful moment of contemplation or a noisy mess at the start of a busy day. We don’t know his friends or his pleasures. Did he write locked in a dark room,…

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Gun Not-Play

When Danielle submitted this post, I wanted to talk to her about it first, to address some of her concerns, or to maybe encourage her to look at things another way. But then I thought about it a bit, and I realized she was saying some very valuable things about martial arts training that we all take for granted. Things we should dwell on, and discuss. -David For our most recent class we went on a field-trip that included a gun range. We all took up the offer to fire a few rounds from both a hand gun and a carbine. Of the six of us, only one had ever handled a firearm before. As far as I could tell, everyone else was thoroughly excited the whole time, from the anticipation days earlier to hours after wanting more. Not me. I was a roiling bundle of nerves the whole way…

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Better Right or Wrong?

What’s better: Aikido or BJJ? A classical Japanese martial art that puts a heavy emphasis on wrist locks, or a slightly more modern Brazilian art with an emphasis on ground work and constant testing in tournament environments? Have a discussion online, and it’s going to be near-unanimous. BJJ wins every time. Look at the UFC, and see the Brazilian art proving it’s usefulness time and time again. Aikido? You’ve got to be joking. It’s got no place in the ring. And this is very true. If I’m training a MMA fighter, I’m not going to waste time teaching them Aikido. It’s got nothing to do with whether the rules prohibit technique, or whether the octagon is a real martial environment or not. It’s an art that has nothing of value to bring to the cage. So back to my old job of bouncing. Here’s the situation: A very large man…

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