Showing posts from January, 2019

My Real Life Application of Self Defense

First off-- thank you to everyone for their well wishes regarding my hand. My surgery for tendon and nerve repair is set for TOMORROW, with three months of therapy thereafter. There's no guarantee that I'll ever regain full function or sensation, but we have to play the hand we're dealt (or the hand that remains after you try to cut the other one off). Additionally, while I intend to keep up my writing, a lot more of it will be edited voice-to-text, so for the next few months I'll beg forgiveness regarding any strange grammar or syntax errors.

But my story tonight is only partially about my hand, and I'll try (inasmuch as I'm able to typing at 50% capacity) continue to try to finish the articles I've roughed out and continue to bring insights besides the joy of recovering from trauma surgery. To that end, tonight I'd like to talk to you about how, even with a jacked up hand, I was still able to successfully utilize self defense.

In his excellent book &q…

Guest Article, Josephine Fan: Perceptions of the Aikido Community

Since my hand is still goofed up, my writing volume will decrease a bit over the coming weeks after surgery. I'll still be writing (and dictating, and maybe God-help-us-all making some YouTube videos) but will also be reaching out to folks for guest articles. We're gonna start off big with a guest article from a friend, Josephine Fan, continuing the discussion about Aikido and its place within the greater martial arts community.
Josephine Fan owns and operates the Long Island Aikikai ( with her husband Adam Pilipshen. LI Aikikai is the home dojo of chief instructor Edward Hagihara, 8th dan Shihan and one of the founding members of the NY Aikikai, is located in Bay Shore, NY. Her first love is cooking and hospitality, so visitors, regardless of affiliation, are always welcome. In her spare time, she writes about her adventures in garden-to-table recipes (

For the Aikido world, the overall velocity of new students joining has been receding s…

How Lack of Focus in Training Landed Me in the ER

I walked up to the counter and signed in at the surgeon's office. My hand, still bandaged tight from the night before, was able to scrawl out a signature on the HIPAA privacy act notification. The secretary took that, with my insurance card and ID, and handed me some paperwork. "Fill this out and then bring the clipboard back to me," she said, rather absentmindedly. I looked over the form for a moment. "Ma'am?" I said as she made her way back to her other duties. She turned around. "This form says 'For Breast Reduction patients only'." She looked at it a moment and squinted. "Huh, I guess that's probably the wrong one?" she said without humor in her voice, and handed me the correct new patient form. I made my way to a seat next to my mother, and had her get started on the paperwork.

I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's back up a few years.

My new katana had just come in the mail. A "beater", it was plain …

Aikido, Past Present and Future. Part Two, Present: The never-ending "effectiveness" debate

Part One of this series is available here.

There is a thread on the old Aikiweb forums called "Aikido does not work at all in a fight". It was posted over 18 years ago, on 10/17/2000. At the time of this writing, it is still the top post on Aikiweb and has 2034 replies.  I know about this thread because, in my True Believer days, I commented on it often, defending Aikido and its martial efficacy. This debate has been going on online for decades. What my research has shown, however, is that this debate has existed since the art's inception. It's never stopped, and never been resolved. Honestly, it never will, but it's at the heart of the identity crisis that, even now, is turning Aikido in a niche art and crippling its continued growth.

My thought had always been that there had to be something to Aikido back in the day that, perhaps, had been lost. Jigoro Kano was a huge fan of Ueshiba's, and sent many of his students to train with him. Martial artists…

AAR 1/11: "The Theme of the White Belt is Survival"

The theme of the white belt is survival, nothing more and nothing less. After all, this is what the white belt has to do from the first day of class. He is not going to arrive in class and beat the best. He has no one to whom he can compare himself because he is still an empty vessel.

Ribeiro, Saul. Jiu-Jitsu University (p. 16). 

Technique: Kimura from deep half guard Thoughts: Deep Half Guard/Reverse Half Guard is almost above my pay grade, so this was tough, but we all have to start somewhere. Honestly, I felt like I got more out of learning how to transition into Deep Half than I did from the Kimura top training simply because I'm so weak with Deep/Reverse Half Guard escapes/defenses/sweeps.
Rolls: 4x5 minutes, regular competition rolls. A bonus 3 minute round with another white belt after class ended.
What went well: I survived, goddammit.
What Could Improve: I need more five minute rounds. I need to learn to transition to more defenses/sweeps from bottom and set things up with…

"Do one thing every day that scares you"

And I'm confirmed. I'm 10% nervous, 100% excited, and 14% bad at math. It's been over a dozen years since I competed in a combat sport. I'm a completely different person in a completely different sport. I have no idea how it'll go, but I'm excited to represent my team and my coach and hazard some Jiu-Jitsu through the adrenaline dump.

Really, I'm not expecting a lot. I want to do my best and leave everything I have on the mat, but I've read how first BJJ comps tend to go for people. It's a strange dichotomy of trying to meter my expectations versus that faux-fighters' confidence where you (have to) believe that you'll beat literally anyone that's put in front of you; otherwise you've already lost.

I've got about a month to sharpen up as much as I can. It's time to get to work.

Aikido, Past Present and Future. Part 1, Past: My Journey Into (and out of) Aikido

Atlanta doesn't usually get very cold, but on that December day in 1999, it was freezing as I walked into the Aikido dojo for my first class. There was a heater, working overtime and doing its best but coming up short as the mats were still rock hard. Saturday classes, as I'd come to find out, were ill attended-- turns out most people would rather not get up early on a Saturday morning to freeze their asses off in a dojo. But here I was, meeting the two newly minted ikkyu brown belts and the other beginner that would be training with me today.

I was barely 13 years old at that point. I had been around martial arts since I was 4, training Shito-Ryu karate off and on with mixed effort and, therefore, mixed results. About a year back, I had fallen for Japanese culture in a big way and rededicated myself to my karate training. I became intensely interested in learning Kenjutsu, the art of the sword, but in 1999 there weren't many options for that immediately available. I enjoy…


Technique: Kimura from half-guard

Thoughts: I do love me a Kimura, but the half-guard setup was more difficult than from side control. Since we've been training submissions a lot, we've been starting with guard retention drills. The one we did today involved going inverted when someone catches you and there's no time to make space. It was wild and I was bad at it. Very exciting.

Rolls: From half-guard with frames/head control, 2 minutes each side then switch, 20 minutes total.

What went well: I'm beginning to understand my options from bottom in half-guard (attempt to recompose or try to go deep half guard). I was able to hit a few sweeps.

What Could Improve: Albeit going against heavier, competitor blue belts, I got tapped fast a few times. All in all, it was still a good lesson: after one, my coach (who was watching and knows I intend to compete) said "That was a twenty second tap. Fight harder and survive longer." I was able to make it 90 seconds the next…

Physical and Mental Toughness

I didn't write an AAR for the noon class yesterday-- I came home and slept hard. I'm still not quite used to double training sessions in a day. Still, above all one thing stands out to me: the fact that I took a round off.

I know it shouldn't be a big deal. I still rolled for 26 minutes yesterday-- I tapped white belts and got tapped by blue belts. I played decent guard against a new guy who was very strong and had wrestling experience. Still, in the 20 minutes we had, I sat out for four-- and I'm kicking myself for it.

The reason is a quote from Teddy Atlas' excellent autobiography, Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring: A Son's Struggle to Become a Man. If you're not into boxing, Teddy Atlas first hit notoriety as one of Mike Tyson's first trainers, famously resigning after pulling a gun on Tyson for threatening his family. Since then, he's trained world champions (Michael Moorer, Alexander Povetkin among others) and served as a color commentator on…

Review: Hayabusa Odor Resist Short Sleeve Rashguard

Welcome to the first of my gear review articles. I'll be posting my thoughts about gear that I've purchased (whether for Katori, boxing, MT, BJJ, etc) and used based on fit, comfort, price, etc. To make your life easier, at the endof every article I'll tell you whether you should, in my opinion, buy the item in question (and with what, if any, preconditions). 
Up first: The Hayabusa OdorResist Rashguard
The Hayabusa OdorResist rash guard is our best performing compression to date. It better protects your skin from abrasions, keeps your muscles warm and engaged, it’s not see-through and wicks away sweat, helping to control your body’s temperature. We used the renowned XT2® fabric and increased the amount of silver from our previous generation. This rashie uses co-extruded silver threads which prevents sweat eating microbes from growing on it.
In 2018, we marked a dozen years of making and improving our rash guards. Give it a roll, it’s worth it.

Price: Retails for $64.99…

AAR: Kimura from Side Control, 1/9/2019 0630

Initial Thoughts: Really glad to be working on submissions this month. I know basically everything in my game needs work but especially with a competition coming up I need to have more tools in my toolbox to attempt to end matches.

Warmup: Hip Escape/Chest Escape/Technical standup and guard retention drills: stepping over from the leg drag position to regain guard.

Technique: Kimura from Side Control. I love going for this or the Americana but I could never really figure out the proper leverage of it. Was good to get some reps in and work on using leverage instead of trying to muscle my ass through it.

Rolls: Side control, 1 minute each, bottom top-- 10 minutes total

What went well: I'm beginning to feel a little more comfortable regaining guard from side control. I was able to move through different positions to set up (if not always get) submissions. My cardio is better and I'm getting better at relaxing when I'm not under threat and letting my partner wear themselves out…

AAR: 1/2/19 0630 and 1200: Paper Cut Choke

Immediate thought: DAMN is it nice to be back after two weeks off due to work/illness/travel. Additionally, DAMN am I rusty after two weeks off.

Technique: Paper cut choke from side control after working guard retention drills.

Thoughts: First time doing this choke. The first grip was a little strange, and it was tough to keep pressure as I transitioned from side control to north/south and back(ish) again. Going to need WAY more reps before I feel comfortable with it but it's good to have more submission options from side control.

Roll: Positional. 1 minute each side in closed guard, half guard, side control, mount, and back mount for a total of 10 minutes.

What went well: Considering who I was working with (an active competitor blue belt with 20+ lbs on me), I felt like I was able to defend reasonably well. I couldn't really set up any proper attacks, but I'm reminded of my favorite quote from Jiu Jitsu University: The goal of the white belt is to SURVIVE.

What could impr…