Mushin #2

mushin2 Mushin #2


In a previous post I postulated that the preferential level of physiological arousal required for MMA or a fight is similar to the concept of mushin in Japanese Martial Arts, rather than a raging state. The following quote is from a short piece on developing mushin through makiwara training

Makiwara training also develops mushin, which literally means “no mind”. If you only concentrate on the pad in front of you, your sense of awareness is limited to the board alone. The moment you make impact the mind, the spirit, and the body must join together and then instantly relax, again allowing the spirit to absorb whatever is going on around you. This total physical/spiritual contraction and then relaxation is essential to develop the ability to defend yourself against multiple opponents. Commit just as fully to the completion of the technique as you commit to the execution. The mind should be the same throughout and only with mushin can this be accomplished.

I don’t know the person who wrote the above quote, and as such I have no idea as to the training advocated by the club/association he represents. I am fairly certain though that this approach to mushin is on the esoteric side and not really set up for defence against multiple opponents at all. It all sounds a bit airy fairy to me.

At Primal Steve Morris would get us into a heightened state of physiological arousal, by performing drills intended to set the CNS (Central Nervous System) to a high level of motor unit recruitment so we could strike with increased power. That sentence doesn’t do the drills justice, it’s very difficult to get the feeling over in the written word. He wrote on his blog about how the sprinter Ben Johnson would do heavy squats prior to running the 100m, in order to prepare the CNS for full explosive power.

(You can read what Steve Morris says about this here, here and here.)

It sounds counterintuitive, as you’d think the squatting would fatigue the muscles. Its an approach that works and enables you to get more than you think you can get. I first described the one drill on the old Shikon forum and will try again in a later post. But it’s not just the drill, it’s a case of using the drill to reach a level of intense power, an impression of which can then be “memorized” and repeated. This impression is then surpassed and a new impression “memorized”. The main outcome of the drill was very powerful strikes, but also along with the impression of power was the impression of the heightened arousal required to enable the expression of the power in the strike. Hopefully, that makes sense, you could even think of it as a mushin like coming together of the mind, spirit and body, because all of that happens. The mind is clear, you’re just observing whats happening, the spirit is high, you’re highly aroused, the CNS is set to fire at a high rate and the body fires off the shot. It’s a release, a big big release.

So while you could fit that description of mushin to what we did, it’s a giant leap, and there’s no actual indication in that description of the amplitude of arousal required, which is high, although not raging. In the previous mushin post I suggested that people may be inclined to develop a kata performance mushin, which seems to be more in line with the description above, and kata mushin is not whats needed for MMA or a fight.

Originally posted 2009-04-17 08:00:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Combatives in an MMA Setting

Army Combatives Championships 300x237 Combatives in an MMA SettingI saw this clip posted on Facebook (thanks Steve) and was intrigued because here’s the Army using cage fighting as a model to test the Combatives ability of their soldiers, both males and females. It’s interesting because there are many out there who suggest, in fact more than suggest, that cage fighting or MMA is hopeless for reality self-defence, street fighting or whatever you want to call it.

I’m not in that camp because I think there are enormous self-defence related benefits to MMA training. Of course, it is not directly transferable AND, of course, there are certain skills that should be avoided in a real street fight; shooting on an attacker with his mates watching would not be advisable. That’s pretty much accepted across the board.

The video is of the 2011 Combatives Championships for the US Army. The first thing to notice is that the people taking part are in great shape and are taking it all very seriously and they clearly need to go through a hell of a lot to win. The video illustrates the blood, sweat and tears required to compete.

Army Combatives Championship 2011

Of course, MMA training has applicable skills to real fighting and as mentioned others that are less applicable. But also, what it really has, that is completely transferable is the chaos of having someone coming at you wanting to cave your head in. It’s all in this video and in some ways seems more pertinent when it’s soldiers in the cage or on the mat.

Highly trained individuals, testing their skills in the relative safety of the cage. It’s clearly a good test of their skills, which admittedly do include some of the less applicable techniques. However, the army choose to use the cage environment to test these skills. It would seem that the army have faith in the cage environment as a useful testing environment. This would then suggest that the environment has something to offer in terms of preparation for real fighting. And of course it does.

It seems fairly obvious that experience of the chaos of the combatives competition depicted in the video, provides these soldiers with something of value that can be taken to the battlefield. Alternatively, for non-soldiers experience of the chaos of the cage can be transferred to a street fight. To underplay the importance of this experience in preparing someone for reality self defence is a bit daft, in my opinion.

Originally posted 2011-08-19 07:56:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

kata kick Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Static karate stance

The importance allotted to historical tradition by karate, and similar arts, results in something similar to the historical weapons used in battle re-enactments such as those of the sealed knot, i.e. sub-optimal in modern times. This post shows how karate’s emphasis on form over function results in a ‘flat’ inactive ‘fighting’ stance which is in stark contrast to the activated, primed posture of the Muay Thai stance.

The irony is that while traditional karate generally favours historically accurate technique, form, it fails to do so accurately. Karate progressed from the secret training in the back gardens of Okinawan masters to the universities of Japan where training methods were altered. In a nation preparing for war there was an emphasis for militaristic precision in technique.

mt stance Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Dynamic Muay Thai stance

Over time performance of the kata, which supposedly contain the essence of the karate fighting systems, was (and is) emphasised over the useful elements of the movements. The outcome is an emphasis of form over function and a perfection of that form. This is clearly a drifting of purpose from the martial to the art, with effectiveness being compromised for the sake of form.

In contrast the progression of Muay Thai technique reflects the requirements of the contest; damage your opponent or get damaged! These requirements ensure that essential elements, or function, are retained, at least potentially, rather than superseded by the need for perfect form.

Activated Muay Thai Stance

An example of this contrast, form v. function, can be seen in karate stances and Muay Thai fighting postures. While karate stances undoubtedly provide a solid base from which to fire off strikes they tend to hamper rather than support movement, while Muay Thai fighting stances deliver on both counts.

In addition, any decent Muay Thai fighter is activated in his fighting stance whereas the karate fighter in his traditional stance is not. This difference can be thought of as the difference between being ‘on your toes’ and ‘on your heels’. One is actively engaging the muscles while the other is rather flat footed.

cycling good poor Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Pedalling foot position

The traditional karate stances such as zenkutsu dachi and neko ashi dachi are like cycling with the saddle too low and the centre of your feet pressing into the pedals. To optimally transfer the force generated from the whole of the lower limb the saddle should be high enough to allow the leg and foot to extend with the ball of the foot pressing into the pedal. Try this on a bike and you will notice the difference immediately.

Humans tend to stand ‘lazily’ with body weight supported by bones rather than anti-gravity muscles. By standing back on the heels with the legs straight the thighs are soft and inactive, analogous to waiting at the bus stop. However, if the bus is in and you need to get on, you shift your body weight, bend the legs and activate the leg muscles to move.

Karate v MT stance Karate Stance or Muay Thai Stance, the Difference is Activation

Karate Stance v Muay Thai stance

Karate stances such as zenkutsu dachi and neko ashi dachi are not active in nature, like you’re waiting for the bus, while Muay Thai fighting stances are active and similar to getting on the bus. The anti gravity muscles in the legs are firm, ‘sprung’ and ready to produce force, as a runners would be at the start of a race, ready for the gun.

The structure of the Muay Thai stance is set up with the muscles activated, or spring loaded and primed for action,  while traditional Karate stances are somewhat flat-footed and static in comparison. This observation is clearly illustrated in the picture from the UFC fight between Machida and Shogun

Originally posted 2010-10-02 00:18:33. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Bruce Lee’s One Inch Punch

Following the recent one inch punch post I found a short documentary on the wing chung approach, which, of course, was Bruce Lee’s approach at least initially. I know very little about Wing Chung so I found it an interesting seven minutes or so.


Interestingly, the one bloke in the video said that on it’s own it offers little value, other than a great party trick of course. The value comes in applying the one inch punch movement. He said when you learn it you discover “invaluable lessons”.

If you manage to learn how to one inch punch successfully, that’s all well and good. The value comes in applying the same power movement in other ways. If you can do so in one context you must be able to do so in another.

Furthermore, it surely opens the door to further discoveries regarding the generation and application of short range power, without having to rely on “centering the chi” or whatever. One bloke in the video intimates using the one inch punch from a combat perspective, firing it from a blocking move without pulling the arm back first. Another mentions the importance of getting the mass into the target. Some sensible stuff here.

 Bruce Lees One Inch Punch

Lee's one inch punch

Right at the end of the video the last bloke to speak says that the one inch punch “keeps opening doors”. That’s the take home point, referred to above, learn it and apply it!

When we look at getting power over a short range we try to take what we know to work and condense it. So to get the mass into a short range strike you can use the same, or almost the same, body movement that powers a longer range punch to power a shorter movement. Add the explosive finish and you’ve got something to work with.

That would be one approach that may prove successful or may not depending on the context. Of course, if you manage to develop a new short range power generation movement, it only has value if it can be applied in a fight. If not it’s just a party trick.

Originally posted 2010-05-07 13:39:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

UFC Fight Night 24: 10th Planet Ju Jitsu with the Korean Zombie

For a while I had a bit of an obsession with the Twister and I do mean the one made famous by Eddie Bravo of 10th Planet Ju jitsu rather than the party game! When we were set the submission challenge at Primal there was a lot of twister stuff going on. I always had trouble with it but it did inspire me to work my way up to the 100 required. It’s a bit tricky to get the hang of but forces the other person to tap out if caught in it. The spine is locked and twisted with the head section of the spine (cervical spine) turning in the opposite direction to the hip section (lumbar spine). It’s a pretty tough place to be.

I’m not sure I have ever fully understood this move and haven’t thought about it for some time, until someone was discussing the UFC Fight Night 24 (thanks Rams). The Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung, managed to finish his contest with Leonard Garcia by Twister. It’s a great fight the highlights of which can be seen online but only on forums, it seems. It’s even mentioned on the Eddie Bravo wiki page! If you go to the second ‘box’ on the mmafv forum page you can watch the full fight. The twister finish itself is up on Youtube and is below.


You have to say he sets it up very neatly moving from a failed attempt at RNC from back control. The other bloke’s ground game is a lot less sophisticated, enabling the Korean Zombie the opportunity to pull it off. Joe Rogan certainly seemed to enjoy it!

Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu

Bravo bases his entire 10th Planet ‘top game’ around this spectacular move. I’ve watched a peculiar video where Bravo narrates you through many BJJ fights where he continually attempts and generally gets the Twister. The clips are great but the entire video has an odd feel about it as Bravo is pretending to have a luxurious ‘crib’ and presents the clips from there….. I think you need to see it to appreciate the oddness. In a similar vein of oddness Bravo presents a breakdown of the Twister as done by the Korean Zombie and shows how to get past various defensive efforts. It’s pretty good.


And more coverage of him twisting in competition, a real time illustration of some of the previous breakdown


To keep up to date with all things Eddie you could subscribe to his Youtube channel or get his book Mastering the Twister: Jiu-Jitsu for Mixed Martial Arts Competition UFC Fight Night 24: 10th Planet Ju Jitsu with the Korean Zombie. It’s great, although I found it a bit difficult to follow initially. However, in conjunction with these videos it’s getting a lot easier, to follow at least. I’m looking forward to seeing more from the Zombie and more of the Twister in MMA!

Originally posted 2011-03-31 02:01:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Goju Ryu Karate Stances or Dachi

After years of training in Goju Ryu Karate I needed more than what I was getting, I went out and got it. One of the things that really used to niggle was the insistence on inch perfect stances or dachi in Japanese. All the moving basics that served as stance practice was also irritating and detracting from the good stuff. This involved shuffling around as forcefully as possible from one stance to the next. The upshot was a completely unnatural, sub-optimal mode of moving between strictly defined standing positions or stances.

Now don’t get me wrong, at the time I enjoyed a good session of bashing out rep after rep of kicks and punching combinations up and down the dojo, it was always a good workout. But you do wonder about the value of such training. Sure your technique is good, or form rather, which is not the same thing. The trouble is while you can hit hard it’s all very effortful, whereas others are able to hit harder without so much effort, this becomes bothersome.

3 Karate Dachi Goju Ryu Karate Stances or Dachi

Anyone with any experience of karate or watching it will be aware of the nonsensical movements of practices such as 3 step sparring and it’s spin offs. I’m not a fan and really time could be much more constructively spent.

I came across a site the other day which exemplifies Karate’s over-insistance on strict form over function. This site has clear illustrations of ‘perfecft’ Goju Ryu Dachi, there are so many and they are so precise it’s all a bit of a shame. Confusing for a beginner and irritating for the more experienced, the real shame is that the act of moving between positions is, of course, necesarry and can be used in the development of power.

For instance, moving from a long stance to a short stance, say zenkutsu to sanchin, creates force through momentum. Furthermore, moving from the short cat stance, neko ashi dachi, which opens the hip slightly into a long stance such as zenkutsu dachi allows a greater potential for opening and closing at the hip and therfore potential to produce more power.

While there is potential within these movements for power to be produced, the trouble is so much credence is given to the actual structure, or form of the stances and feet placement that so much of the ‘internal’ aspect is lost. All the focus is on the feet when really it would be better used elsewhere in the body where the real power can be actioned from the opening and closing.

Karate training such as moving basics has potential to teach people to produce power, and some people naturally can do so, but it is in spite of the training rather than because of it. Stringently emphasising foot placement over other practises is getting it all inside out.

three stanes Goju Ryu Karate Stances or Dachi

It would be much better to have someone practise opening and closing the waist at the hip and doing so while moving forward by taking a long-to-short shuffle step. By concentrating on these movements rather than correct stance, constructed of foot position and rigidly defined posture, the learner’s feet and posture will gradually take care of itself. Sure they will need pointers but what they don’t need is an idealised form forced onto them. Then of course you would need to practice this movement in sparring or partner work.

Put simply, people are built differently, those with short legs will struggle to have a long enough zenkutsu dachi or low enough neko ashi dachi for some Goju Ryu Karate teachers, no matter how hard they try.

Originally posted 2011-06-12 17:20:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Speed 2 – Timing, part two

 Speed 2   Timing, part two


Part one used a highlight clip of Roy Jones Jnr’s exceptional timing as a kind of definition of what timing in fighting is.

At Primal, Morris develops methods for learning the timing skill RJJ exhibits in the clip, which has several components.  This post will describe one drill which helps develop timing, that is the ability to see the opponents’ strikes/kicks/shoots etc coming and get your response in before it arrives. In essence it’s a drill to learn cues by attending to them with peripheral vision. As such a person should avoid staring at the shoulder during a jab feed, with central vision, or tunneling as Steve calls it. Rather the trick is to look at the eyes/face and to let the peripheral vision, which is set up to respond to movement, do its job.

Firstly, it’s important to note that the drill is NOT a fight. It’s easy to get drawn into a bit of competitive ‘argy bargy’, but the idea is to strip the fight down to a level where all anxiety of being hit is removed so that both participants can get to grips with learning the cues preceding their opponents strikes. That is, in order to be able to beat your opponent to the punch, you have to see his/her shot coming. To facilitate this ability, your training partner is required to feed you a cue, on Sunday we started off with a jab, which is thrown in a biomechanically correct manner but the strike is not finished, Steve described it as hitting skin deep. The drill should be considered a flow drill.

The feeder provides a jab which can be exaggerated to ensure that the cue is obvious. The receiver then works off the jab, evading, covering, covering and striking, making angles etc. , the idea is to experiment to see what you can work into the ‘interval of time’, it can be anything. Because the drill is ‘slow’ it’s easy to become floppy or sloppy as the receiver, it’s essential that you do not. You need to stay alert and sharp, and reflect this in your responses to the feed. It’s quite a subtle thing, but brings the drill alive.

 Speed 2   Timing, part two


The feeder can then start experimenting with how the jab is fed, and use other feeds to develop the drill, including kicks. Any kind of strike can be fed, so that the cue preceding it can be learned, as long as the basic rules are applied; slow exaggerated feed, skin deep power, correct biomechanics, alert responses, flowing

action, peripheral vision. It’s a method that begins to give the participants an appreciation of the interval of time.

The drill can then progress across all the ranges of the fight, so that hand fighting, clinching, throws etc. can all be included. As the range closes the cues become rather more kinaesthetic than visual, but the premise is consistent. It is up to the fighters to go through their repertoire of their abilities so that nothing is excluded. For the sake of continuity of the flow drill, rather than performing a throw every time it’s useful to do a ‘touch drill’ within the main drill and only complete the

throw occasionally. That means that the position for the throw or takedown is assumed and the required body part is ‘captured’ or simply touched as appropriate, it saves getting up all the time.

Once a chance to have a go at the various distances has been achieved, the whole thing is put back together, so the feeder feeds anything and the receiver responds as appropriate. At this stage it is then possible to increase the volume somewhat to begin testing the cue responses under a little more pressure. This part must still be regulated as it should not become a fight thereby preventing any anxiety of being hit and/or tunnel vision creeping in. Steve gets us to do this in short duration bursts, something along the lines of; flow-flow-flow-volume up, flow-flow-flow-volume up, etc.

It’s a great drill which brings results.

Originally posted 2009-08-07 08:00:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter


 BODYPOWER Expo 2009

Due to a senior moment I attended both days of the Body Power show on the weekend of 9th and 10th May. I only wanted to see Dan fight in the amateur MMA show on the Sunday, but got the day completely wrong! So I had plenty of time to see the stalls and take in the huge bodybuilders in flip flops, smothered in gravy browning.

There were a few demonstrations which were ok if you are new to martial arts; the UTC training demo’s were decent enough. There were a lot of stalls selling expensive equipment and supplements and the opportunity to meet famous bodybuilders and strongmen. Of course, there was the chance to have a go at the Dragon Challenge, in simple terms how many curls and shoulder presses can you do with 20kg dumbbells. I bet it hurts, but it’s a bit samey.

All great if it floats your boat, but I only wanted to see Dan from Primal in his first fight, which wasn’t until Sunday? There were tournaments at four or five weight classes and the standard was pretty good to be fair. It was a ‘grapple and strike’ set up with no head shots allowed, which meant the advantage  favoured the grappler. Dan is not a specialist grappler but did well enough to finish in third spot winning a decision against a grappler to get there.

He did very well as the general grappler tactic was to shoot in on a leg kick with no regard for head shots as they weren’t allowed. Unsurprisingly, first place spots were dominated by grapplers, although one of the UTC stand-up specialist fighters got first place due to excellent escapes and movement.

Dan kept busy and regained his feet enough to get the well deserved decision from UFC referee Mark Goddard. He seemed to like action rather than control and Dan provided this, overall he can be pleased that he did very well in a contest that didn’t play to his strengths at all. Well done Dan!

The show is set up more for the bodybuilder than the martial artist but the tournament was good.

Originally posted 2009-06-30 10:15:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Indoor bike

 Indoor bike

Tunturi Home Cycle 3 Super

I was given an indoor bike a while ago. It’s not exactly modern, in fact it’s probably 20 years old. The picture is from the user manual and is so cheesy I love it, if only I had a nice white track suit!

There is a speedometer and a pretty hopeless timer, it is similar to the old fashioned kitchen timers, complete with bell!While it is not fit for a regular spinning class it is fine for my purposes.

I downloaded a few spinning workouts, which  are definitely challenging, but they are long and the music is awful, so I don’t bother with these any more. My preferred workout on the thing involves the tabata protocol, 8 sprints of 20 seconds with 10 second rest between sprints. I precede this with two minutes of warm up, then follow the first tabata with a second, after another 2 minute rest. The second tabata is followed by 2 minutes warm down and that’s it. So in all it’s 2 minutes warm-up, 4 minutes tabata, 2 minutes active rest, 4 minutes tabata and 2 minutes cool down, 14 minutes in all. A quick little workout that really does test you.

Obviously, with the tabata protocol it’s up to the performer to really push for all out effort, cheating is easy but pointless. Flat out is the key, and this old machine is fine for that.

The point is that you can fit in quick useful workouts at home using inexpensive equipment. I was given this bike and I am sure there are plenty available at ‘freecycle‘ or similar. The price of gym membership or lack of spare time do not have to be a barrier!

Originally posted 2009-08-30 19:21:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

UFC 124, Koscheck vs St Pierre and the Wildcard Boxing Gym

KoscheckEye2 300x199 UFC 124, Koscheck vs St Pierre and the Wildcard Boxing GymI just watched the main event of UFC 124, Koscheck vs St Pierre. Another great effort from GSP, he loves to follow a game plan and he did so again to completely dominate. The commentators said he’d been to the Wildcard boxing gym for some Freddie Roach training and didn’t it show! He dominated by landing a lot of jabs and front leg round kicks to the inside of Koshcecks thigh.

The jab was impressive and really was a lot better than I remember GSP having previously. He stepped in with an angle and landed them with great rotation at hip and shoulder so they were always good stiff damaging strikes. Koshcheck’s eye was a right mess as testament. Once he was controlling the fight and the eye was closing GSP mixed it up a little with some drive hooks and regular ones to really close up the right eye.

For good measure he attacked it with some front hand superman jabs. He was comfortably able to make up the ground on Koshcheck and then duck and move back rapidly to avoid the big looping overhand right counter. To be fair Koshceck was able to ride the damage well enough although he did look a little hesitant, seeming keen to avoid as many jabs as he could. He also managed to cope with the leg kicks well even though his thigh was reddening up right from early on.

KoschecksEye 300x199 UFC 124, Koscheck vs St Pierre and the Wildcard Boxing GymI don’t watch any of the Ultimate Fighter stuff and don’t bother with the pre fight promotion interviews so missed out on all the trash talking from Koscheck but he certainly had it thrown back at him in the fight. He’ll have a lot to think about after this fight because he was well beaten. He couldn’t do anything with GSP in the wrestling, although he did manage to stuff almost all of the takedown attempts, which is a lot better than many of the previous challengers.

However, it was the stand up that he was outclassed in, by some distance. His ‘game’ was too limited for GSP who has benefited from his Wildcard Gym experience. Taking the angle to land the jab time after time is new for GSP, if memory serves. He always seemed to be a straight down the middle kind of fighter, with a much lesser jab. The greater body rotation and resulting greater power generation caused a lot of damage in this fight and will be a great weapon in the future.

If he does move up to face Anderson Silva it will be an interesting fight. Explosive GSP vs the exquisite timing of Silva, although the next fight for Silva will be on similar lines as he has to face Vitor Belfort, which promises to be a cracker. Against Silva though GSP may opt to fight him on the ground given the trouble Silva had in his last fight.

With his Freddie Roach training and ‘Wildcard Boxing’ GSP should be a handful for either Silva or Belfort, although quite different fighters either would be a good match up. Roach himself would be pretty interested as there will be no hanging onto the ‘zero’ as in the UFC the match-ups tend to happen.

Originally posted 2010-12-14 15:37:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter