Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Failings of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program circa 2010

                When I was a young man, 19 and without any real direction in my life, I wanted two things. I wanted to have a job that would keep me in good physical shape, and I wanted to learn how to be a martial arts badass. I think it might have been a recruiting poster of some faceless man in cammies throwing a side kick that got me thinking about joining the Marine Corps.

               There were myriad reasons for my attraction to the military, but number one among them was the promise of learning a deadly martial art. Military martial arts...just saying those words evokes mystery and power. And so, it was with great sadness that I learned the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) was mostly useless.

               Here is the problem. On paper, MCMAP looks like a good martial arts system. There are punches, kicks, ground fighting, knees, eye gouges, compliance techniques- everything you could want. The problem is that nearly every technique, from the jab to the ground fighting, was taught by someone who didn't know what they were doing. Many of my instructors had taken a six week course and were thrown back to their battalions to teach MCMAP. Imagine giving a BJJ white belt with a month and a half of experience a class of 20+ students to teach.

                Things would get out of hand quick, and they did. Injuries abounded. 

                One reason behind this was inexperienced instructors. Another reason was that training only occurred every few months, and when we did, we focused on ego driven training. There was rarely an enjoyable rolling session. Usually it resembled a school yard brawl, with all your friends cheering for you while you fought for your reputation. The loser rarely learned anything, and  was often dealt with harshly. In losing there was only humiliation. This might be why people would sometimes refuse to tap, and arms were snapped.

                In the midst of all this, I was lucky enough to find a safe haven. There was a small BJJ club that met on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the on base wrestling gym. There is where I learned to relax, to release my ego and work with others to become a more effective martial artists. It paid off, in that almost no one in my company could really touch me when it came to ground fighting, and my skill level was that of a regular white belt. Also, for those that don't know, I am a small man.

               So, why isn't MCMAP effective at making Marines dangerous martial artists and what could be done about it? I'll try to lay it. 

                First, the ego driven training needs to be removed. This is part of the culture of the Marine Corps, especially among infantrymen, and it hinders all forms of learning, from CQB training, EOF drills to martial arts. 

                Second, instructors need to be heavily trained. Most of the instructors I came across couldn't throw a proper jab, hook, roundhouse, or do simple ground fighting sweeps. That's unacceptable.  

                Third, commanders should allot time to be training these techniques every day. Most days, as an infantryman stationed in North Carolina, I spent my time reading books or playing video games. One reason MCMAP isn't widely trained is because the instructors were incapable. Spending more time training ground fighting, hitting pads, practicing disarming and compliance techniques, in a egoless atmosphere, would do wonders for morale in my opinion. 

                Those three changes could seriously help the state of MCMAP. I think bringing in outside martial arts instructors to help facilitate these changes might be necessary. Regardless, if the Marine Corps' training methods don't change, MCMAP will continue to be mostly useless.

            For dramatic effect, I give you this video. Its already made the rounds, but I think its worth watching again. I want everyone watching it to understand that most Marines who have received MCMAP training, from tan belts to brown belts, even some black belts, would have fared exactly the same as this Marine did.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Micro-post - Losing Weight

               This post will cover a few of my thoughts on losing adipose fat tissue, not cutting water weight. Over the years, and in high school wrestling in particular, I've had people tell me how to lose weight. This advice usually consisted of someone telling me to eat less and exercise more. Not much help. So, being that I'm on the weight loss portion of my periodized exercise plan, I figured I'd share and idea that I have found works for me.

               Firstly, I eat until I am full. I can't help myself. It doesn't matter if it's kale or ice cream, if I'm eating it, I'm eating it until I am no longer hungry. Because of this I have found that foods with a calorie density over 2 calories per gram will make me gain fat tissue. The way I measure calorie density is by taking the calories in a serving, and dividing it by the grams (serving size). Because nutrition labels have hundreds of different ways that they classify serving size, I always do this division so that I can see how foods actually compare. The reason for this is that I'm going to eat a stomach full of that food. Its calorie density is very important.

               Once I have taken all my foods and figured out their calories per gram, I see which ones are highest, and which ones I think I can replace. Tortillas are the highest (3 calories per gram) thing I eat, but I find it very hard to stop eating them. However, I have found that I can take whole fat yogurt (0.8 calories per gram) and switch it out for all the oranges I want (0.4 - 0.5 calories per gram). This doesn't seem like a big deal, but I eat about 600 calories a day in yogurt, so when I switch that food item out for something that has approximately half the calories, I have a negative calorie balance of about 300 calories.      
               I have found this to be an effective method of easy weight loss. It isn't fast, but this, along with an increase in exercise allows me to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

               Now imagine if someone is constantly eating something like cold cereal (usually 3.7  calories per gram) or pop tarts (4 calories per gram) and they switch that out for a less calorie dense food. That can have a major impact. Small note alcohol is 7 calories per gram. Whenever I start drinking alcohol I notice an increase in my fat tissue.

              Also. Back in 2010 there was a teenager in Santa Fe who dressed up like a ninja and went into jewelry stores with a hatchet to steal there wares. If you Google "Santa Fe Ninja" he's on the top of the queue. I assure you, that is not the true Santa Fe Ninja. My beard is far more powerful. I'm gunning for that punk's spot.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Simplicity and Perfection

             With the simplest tools, the most amazing things can be done. An artist can have access to the most powerful imaging technologies, but truth can still be shown with a simple brush and paint. The trappings can often get in the way. Martial arts is no exception.

               What draws many people to martial arts is the style and flash. Spinning backfists and sacrifice throws. Of course they have their place, but perfection, to me, is rooted in simplicity.

               The more advanced students at my jujitsu academy seem to have a few techniques that they work on religiously. I personally only use four or five submissions and 90% of my taps are from one of those submissions. Wrestling is much the same. I have a few takedowns. They are mine and I can transition between them seamlessly. They are simple and everyone knows how to defend them, but I drill them. I tweak them and make small adjustments until my execution is just a little bit sharper than my opponent's defense. And that is where I win.

               I am relatively new to striking, but I apply the same principles. I sit in front of a bag and throw jabs. Throw it out, leave the arm loose, tighten the fist, shoulder impacts the jaw, hit with the right part of the fist, bring it back straight into my guard. The first punch most people learn is deceptively complex. I pawed at the air, or the bag, for six months before I threw my first decent jab. I practice those basic strikes over and over and each time I come back to them, I find some small thing I'm doing wrong.

               With these simple tools, sharpened to a keen edge, the martial artist can do amazing things. That is what most people miss. What we remember are the stunning, impossible moves that end the fight. We forget that what got the fighter there, most of the time, were basic moves, drilled continuously. Simple footwork, clean form. If you've been training for less than ten years, that is where I suggest you focus your training. Still, leave room for the spinning elbows and flying knees. They look really cool.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Technology, Religion, and Transhumanism

I missed my deadline yesterday. Had a surgery, finals hitting for me, deal with it.

 Now, for today, I give you a presentation on technology, religion, and transhumanism. Click the pictures and the bubbles on the top left of the pictures for lengthy monologues. Go from smallest pictures to biggest pictures for optimal experience. Watch the movies. I suggest you open another window and listen to this music while you go through it.

Note: There are some small incompatibilities with my technologies. Might need to highlight and scroll down to read some texts.

C.G. Jung
William James
Peter Diamandis
David Noble

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lies My Self-Defense Instructor Told Me

            I know this post's title is a little sensationalist, but I couldn't help myself.

            I believe self defense is often misunderstood by the majority of people I come into contact with. Say the words self defense and the majority of people think of brutal martial arts techniques, weapons, and firearms. In most cases, I believe all three of these are counterproductive to the goal of self defense,  which is self preservation. A majority of people I speak to, men and women alike, see self defense as a violent repelling of an offender. While this has its place in self defense, it should be a small part of one's self defense training. 

              The larger issue, and one that is often overlooked, is the negation of physical violence through verbal posturing, de-escalation techniques, body language, and awareness. I have used each of these facets of self defense in the real world many times (in Iraq, as a social worker in Toledo, as security for an Occupy encampment), but I have never needed to use physical force in order to protect myself.

               Martial arts is a percentages game. All the blocks, strikes, and techniques increase the likelihood that you'll win a fight, but there are no guarantees. A high level boxer has a good chance of beating a normal man in a standup fight, but the improbable can happen. Sometimes the improbable is personified as a sneaky bastard with a lead pipe that you didn't see. Sometimes it’s a knife, or a gun. You can execute a perfect double leg, take mount, and start viciously beating your opponent, but none of that matters if his buddy boots you in the head and sends you into a comma. Martial arts, firearms and other weapons can increase your odds of survival in a worst case scenario, but if you stay out of physical altercations all together, your odds of surviving a dangerous situation are much higher. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Micro-post Conditioning for Martial Arts

              Micro-post, so I'm going to fly through my thoughts on this. I believe the most important aspect of martial arts conditioning is maximizing your body's anaerobic energy system. Quick biology lesson. The body has three energy systems. The phosphagen system is used for very short bursts of activity, such as a dead lift or sprint that can't be maintained for more than 10-15 seconds. Anaerobic system (no oxygen used) is used for activity that can't be continued past two minutes. Activity that can be continued past two minutes primarily uses the aerobic system.  In competition the body relies primarily on short bursts of anaerobic activity lasting from 30 seconds up to nearly two minutes. In between these sprints, your body uses it's aerobic energy system to replenish some of your spent energy.

               The best way I find to train this is using continuous interval training. One example is using a Tabata clock and a 20 second work, 10 second rest method. I usually use six exercises, doing each exercise seven times. Each exercise is done as fast as possible. I alternate between arm, leg, core and full body exercises. I try to make it sports specific by having practicing double legs, wall walks, working the heavy bag, or doing updowns to name a few examples. For me, this provides the closest approximation to what my body goes through in a martial arts competition. It's a sprint of activity, followed by a short chance to catch my breath, back to a sprint of activity, for a continuous twenty minutes.

               Of course, practicing your actual sport is the most effective ways to get in shape for competition. However, I find that these workouts allow me to learn how to optimize my body's recovery time, how hard I am capable of pushing, what it feels like when I need to ease up, all without having to worry about someone grinding my face into the mat. This allows me to understand cues from my body when I'm sparring or rolling. I know when to push and when to pull back. This is a skill that I feel gives me an edge over many opponents.

Questions or refutations, post a comment.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nationalism and Martial Arts

               Those who watched the Silva vs. Weidman fight last night were treated to some odd happenings. Chief among them was the major upset of Silva losing to Weidman in the second round. There was also the notorious showboating and taunting that Silva is known for, though I think he took it to a new level.

               What I found most odd about the fight was the crowd's reaction to Weidman winning.  As Weidman lifted the American flag over his head portions of the crowd began chanting 'USA! USA!". Personally, I was one of the louder spectators, cheering as I saw Silva go down, but it never occurred to me to see Weidman's win as one more point for the good old USA. It felt eerie; the droning chant, the US flag held upside down. It gave me the feeling that some of the people present were headed away from patriotism, toward nationalism. When I say nationalism I mean: excessive or fanatical devotion to a nation and its interests, often associated with a belief that one country is superior to all others

               What place does nationalism have in martial arts? If we look back twenty, thirty years, the martial arts world was a different place. Martial arts were separate and distinct, usually being associated with a particular nations or geographic region. A bias that had the same flavor as nationalism was present in many schools. Bruce Lee's films were known to highlight his use of Chinese boxing against western boxing thugs.

                I experienced this to some extent as a young man growing up in Montana. The only real martial art that was practiced in my town was wrestling, and only at the high school level. Because we were so isolated all wrestlers had an inherent arrogance when it came to their ability to fight. They saw boxers as pushovers, Jiu-jitsu as 'gay', and any martial arts that utilized kicks as stupid (because they'd be taken down easily). This faulty worldview was helped along by the early success of some wrestlers in the UFC using ground and pound tactics. My illusions of wrestling's superiority to all other martial arts was shattered when I began training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other striking arts.

               For anyone who is a follower of MMA competitions, I think many of these feelings have been dispelled. With such an open rules system, what works in physical combat is kept, while what doesn't work falls into obscurity. The lines are not drawn so think anymore. Everyone trains a grappling art, everyone trains take downs, everyone trains striking. Where the punch, armbar, or double leg originated from is becoming less and less important.

               Though people are losing their fanatical support for certain martial arts styles, many still cling to the country of origin of fighters. This is obvious when GSP fights in Canada, or any Brazilian fights in Brazil. It may have something to do with the collective wanting to share in the victory.

               An example: Weidman won, Weidman is American, America won, I’m American, I won.  

               I feel connected to the fighters, not because of ethnicity, nationality or martial arts styles, but because they are martial artists. I have that connection whereas many people who do not train regularly, don't. As far as ideals and desires go, I probably have more in common with a Brazilian martial artists than I have in common with most Americans. The fights are there so that I can witness whatever truth comes out of the fight. The truth that was presented to me last night was that if you drop your hands and act silly long enough, you'll get knocked out, eventually.

               But back to nationalistic feelings and fighters. I feel more connected to people based on shared disciplines, rather than our shared country of origin. I feel connected to anyone who is struggling and working hard at becoming what they want to be. I wonder if more people focused on bettering themselves through disciplines, if nationalism might fade away. Then perhaps we could start seeing everyone as human beings, not as American, Iranian, Ugandan, or Brazilian.

              Quick word on logistics. I've changed the comment section so anyone can post. I'd love to hear what anyone has to say on this subject.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Micro-post - Play as Divine Action

               Short post today. Something to think on.

               I believe play is a way to come closer to perfection, to divinity. It is a path to egoless action. To play, to release attachment to outcomes and engage genuinely in the moment, with joy, is a high calling. I feel as if our culture discourages adults who play, until that play transforms into mastery.

               When I perform cartwheels in a park, or dance in an unabashed manner, I feel as if other adults tend to be threatened by this. I'm no better. I catch myself being incredibly judgmental of adults who engage in play in the outside world. I believe this lack of play has resulted in a large number of adults being disconnected from their bodies, from their true thoughts.

               Today, as you engage in the festivities (if you're American) I suggest you engage in play. Let your inhibitions go unchecked. Enjoy life.