Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sport Jujitsu

Like many artist on the martial path, there are loads of things that I don't know about. Sport Jujitsu is definitely one of those things, so I went to a seminar Sunday hosted by former Sport Jujitsu World Heavy Weight champion Linda Ramzy Ranson of the Women's Empowerment Self Defense Academy in the Bronx to find out about what it is and how to judge during tournaments.

According to the International Sport Jujitsu Association, Sport Jujitsu:
...consists of five major elements; Ukemi waza (break falling technique), Nage waza (throwing technique), Katame waza (grappling technique), Atemi waza (striking technique) and Katsu waza (revival technique). Therefore a competition that consists of only strikes without grappling is not true sport jujitsu because it is missing a very important element of jujitsu (grappling) which makes it more like a point karate tournament. Also a tournament which consists of only grappling and no striking cannot legitimately be called sport jujitsu because it too is missing a very important element of jujitsu. Without strikes it is only a grappling tournament or often called submission wrestling. A true sport jujitsu tournament represents the art’s totality and consists of all the physical elements.
- sort of like MMA without the ground and pound or knee/elbow strikes.

Points are awarded as follows:
1 point for a hand or foot strike to the body
2 points for a controlled kick to the head
2 points for a half throw (where one foot leaves the mat)
3 points for a full throw (both feet leave the mat)
2 points for maintaining a controlled mount for three seconds
4 points for a referee intervention submission (under-belt divisions only)
Automatic win by tap out submission (black belt divisions only)
Strikes to the nose, eyes, groin, spine or against a joint are not allowed. Neither are finger locks, head butts or leg kicks.

The competitions begin much like karate kumite where opponents start standing up and facing each other. The difference is that grappling is as much a part of the game as front kicks and reverse punches are. All the action eventually ends up on the ground. 30 seconds of grappling time is allowed once competitors get there. In the two 2-minute rounds of the competition, if the competitors don't make progress (for example, guards are stalled and no submissions seem eminent), the center judge orders them to their feet. The fight, however is constantly live. In other words, there is no reset that allows everyone time to adjust their gis and gear or get back to the center of the ring. They stand where they are and must be on guard for punches, kicks and sweeps even while returning to an upright position. Competitors are allowed a coach and get 30-second rest between each round.

This explains it better than I can:

Interestingly enough, while hand, mouth, foot and groin protection is worn, black belts do not wear head gear. And the under belts that did had their helmets pulled off during the match anyway. It is intense as all get out, but looked fun as anything. I might give it a go, you never know :-)

Monday, March 14, 2011

(Martial) Art Imitating Life

Whenever a person who is brand-spanking new to martial arts comes into the dojo and we start with the basic hand and foot positions, I am the first one to encourage them to scream - loud, often and like a banshee - because their lives could someday depend on it. Especially with children, I let them know that an evil-doer trying to get them to go "away" by force wants them to remain as quiet as possible. Never let them stun you into silence because using your voice is a way of fighting back.

More often than not, that first kiai they let out is accompanied by giggles and blushes - embarrassment if you will - because they may have never done anything like it before without someone telling them to shhhh! or tone it down a little. But using your voice is so much a part of self-defense and the newbies need to know that. So I illustrate it with a nice, long and extremely loud spirit yell. Then I explain that being encouraged to scream my head off is one of my most favorite parts of karate (hitting things is the other, but I don't share that with them so early in the game :-). There's nothing wrong with expecting your scream to raise the roof and have people next door wondering what the heck the noise was all about, I tell them. That's totally the point!

Now that the confrontation I experienced last week outside the dojo ended in my being suspended from my job, I kind of just want to move on and put it all in my rear-view mirror. Yes, it was handled very badly on the part of the agency I work for and yes, although I did what I was supposed to do to avoid physical conflict, I am still the one sitting home this morning. True, I no longer have any desire to work for an agency that puts money over employee safety (when confronted about his behavior, Angry Dad threatened to take his children out of the program; to keep the income stream coming, the agency decided to move me to a before-school program location that was further away which I can't do, so I'm out until a closer spot opens up), but somehow, it just doesn't feel right to just giggle and blush. I think I have to use my voice.

This situation really transcends my personal safety; it's also about the well-being of the next employee that has to deal with the same irate morning program parent or any one who thinks yelling, cursing or blocking a path of escape is totally acceptable way to deal with life. In other words, it's not just about this woman, but about all women; not just about this person who was bullied, but about all people who are; not just about the ugliness directed at me, but about the nastiness directed at anyone. So, in addition to the police report I've filed, I'll be figuratively screaming at a few someones today - because I can and because I should. Letting this get swept under the carpet would be totally contrary to everything I try to teach my students and to what my instructors have tried to teach me. The agency may want to be reactionary by waiting until Angry Dad does something again before removing him from the program, but that doesn't mean that I have to be.

There's an adage that that says if one is not part of the solution then he/she is part of the problem. Even if I'm not successful at getting this ticking time bomb away from the next person, I definitely won't be if I don't try.

That piercing noise you hear? Yep, that'd be me...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Moment of Truth

For the record I've only ever had one physical confrontation in my life (in second grade and a girl named Terry Daniels got upset with me for some reason or another; she puled my hair so hard it made me cry, so I yanked hers back, made her cry and that was the end of it). That was all before this morning.

Because my son's college tuition deposit to whichever institution of higher education he chooses will be due in four short months, I've taken a few side gigs to help squirrel away a couple of extra dollars to pad the 529 account that took a bit of a hit when the economy dipped. My morning job is a before-school program for parents whose work hours start before their children's school days do. For two hours each weekday, I play board games, draw and read to/with a few kids before their school days begins. Our time together ends when I drive them from the activity center we meet in to their bus stop.

This morning, my own son missed his school bus. Dropping him off at the high school made me 10 minutes late getting to the activity center. When I arrived, a very angry parent who almost never drops his kids off was waiting. The two kids - ages 8 and 5 - were just inside the door while dad was outside with a cell phone stuck to his ear. I pulled up to the door and waved to him before lowering my window and apologizing for being late. Before I could even tell him why, he started screaming at me, called me a bitch and told me that since he paid a lot of effin' money for the program - and hence, paid my salary - I should effin' get there on time. He then walked over to my car, stuck his finger in my driver's side window to wave it in my face and continue to berate me for jacking up his day - all while his children watched from about 10 feet away.

This past Christmas, Sensei S. bought everyone in the dojo metal kubatons. We've had a class or two on using them and since they came attached to a sturdy key ring, I keep mine on clipped to my house and car keys. After psychotic dad called me a bitch the second time, I have to tell you the thought of sliding the kubaton off my key ring and shoving it right into his windpipe most definitely crossed my mind - but instead of acting on that, I asked him if he would please move away so I could back my car into a parking space. He refused and actually moved to the back door of the vehicle, stuck his foot under my rear tire and dared me to move. Yeah - exactly...

It occurred to me that I had three choices at that point: run over his foot, get out of the car to try out an ippon combo I learned last night or chill and figure out how to get this idiot away from me as fast as possible. I put my window up, locked my car doors and reached for my phone. Calling the police was my plan, but, probably thinking I was either calling 911 or getting out of my car to move him out of the way, he motioned to his children, got in his car and drove off. I was so upset, I was literally shaking.

After I calmed down and called my boss to let her know what happened, I contacted Sensei S. and told him that I almost had to make use of his Christmas gift today. Once he assured me that I did the right thing by avoiding a conflict, he reminded me that yoking an unarmed (albeit angry) man with a weapon would probably net a legal issue. Like me, dad had choices - and he chose to walk away. Had he taken a different route, I would have been prepared, Sensei said, to defend myself.

The adage that there is no "first strike" in karate rings in my head now and I know Sensei is right, but I hafta tell you that I felt very vulnerable sitting there waiting for him to either stop the foolishness or make a definitive move. I did feel threatened, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it.

But there's something else I felt, too: how easy it is for a "situation" to spiral out of control. Everything happened so fast! If he would have reached into the car to grab, hit or even spit on me, I would have had a reason to do something. But because he didn't, I couldn't.

A non-martial artist friend commended me on taking what he called the high road. "You're a better person than I am, because I would have hit him as soon as he stuck his body too close to mine," he said. I'd probably be explaining all this at the town police station right now if I'd done that, I bet. The reality is that I had no control over how the angry person would act. I guess all I an ever do have control over is how I react to it.

What would you have done?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kata: Best/Worst of Times

I try to do the kata flow drill every morning. Some days, it's as effortless as breathing. Other days, It.Just.Isn't. But I do it anyway - and most mornings, I enjoy it. Yesterday morning's kata flow ended on a high note - a "best of" time. Unfortunately, the day before was an absolute mess.

I admit that I don't always "see the opponent" when I'm doing the drill. The purpose of the flow drill is to NOT worry about cadence or tenacity and just do the form at one tempo without emphasis on the power/speed of any particular strike, kick or block. Trouble is that when it's time to present the kata in real time, I sometimes forget to put that cadence and tenacity back in there. Oops...

Lately, Tuesday nights have been dubbed "Thinking Nights" at my dojo. After we get our warmup sweat on, Sensei picks a kata or two for us to tear apart. Bunkai, strike/block placement and even little things like where your body needs to be in order to end where you started are discussed. There are always A-Ha! moments to be discovered. Next, we present a kata of our choice to the class - a formal presentation - just like we would before judges at a tournament.

Lately, I've tried hard to stay away from the katas we dissected when it's been my turn to present, because I know need a little time to practice and refine it lest the "other way" creep in. And lately, I've flubbed every single presentation. I'm talking forgetting opening moves, losing my balance, ending no where near where I began - the whole nine. I'm not sure if having the group critique after the presentation or if knowing that Sensei S and Sensei J are watching with the visual equivalent of a fine-tooth comb that's giving me performance anxiety, but clearly SOMETHING is. This week, I butchered Empi Ha, a kata I learned about three years ago as a second kyu. It was clearly a "worst of" time for me and my form.

Perhaps I'm taking the idea of emptying my cup - or emptying my mind, even - too literally. It's like the template that has all the instructions switches itself off right when I need it most. And no, I do not have this issue when I am competing. Still trying to figure out why the circuits get so log-jammed when I'm amongst friends but not when I'm doing the same thing in front of total strangers.

During my track and field days, I'd occasionally have the same issue. There were some days I couldn't get off the ground with anything resembling technique to save my life - especially if we jumped for height in the same way a competition progressed. My coach used to call it "Non-Performance Anxiety" - meaning that because I wasn't in uniform, wasn't jumping against a field of other competitors and didn't have the total adrenaline rush that always came on the day of a big competition, my mind knew it wasn't "real" and acted accordingly. To get over that, he'd sometimes have me practice in my uniform or go through my warm-up routine the same way I would on competition day. It helped. But there isn't really a karate equivalent for that - as I'm always in uniform (gi) and on any given day, either/both Sensei S and Sensei J could be my judges in competition.

I was talking it over with one of my training partners and I clearly recall saying that the walk from the wall where everyone sat to the center of the room to present the kata was like "going through hell." Her response? "Well, they say when you are going through hell, you should just keep going."

"'The best 'gains' are made when there is no flow. 'Ughs' help us refine and improve," another martial artist told me. "Keep on kata-ing."

Advice I plan on taking. I'm glad they offered :-)

Getting by with a little help from my friends...