Here are some videos of our lesson last night! My lower back was still a bit injured so I was a bit more upright than desired.

We have finally moved on from the physical aspect of CMD to the strategy aspect and for the past few weeks have been delving into Fight Compass. To be honest, when I first started CMD, I didn't really give much attention about the strategy aspect. As an Aikidoka, we were in a way drilled in a school of thought in which the technique is ALWAYS right and if it doesn't work, you're doing it wrong. After all, who were we to question the great masters who had such and such lineage and had trained every day to come up with the technique?

Aikido in its highly controlled environment where the boundaries of nage and uke are clearly drawn, it is hard to develop any sense of strategy. You know you're safe, your attacker is co-operative and attacking you in a pre-determined fashion or at least in a range of pre-determined attacks.

CMD on the other hand is in its very nature much more chaotic and random. It is suddenly ok to feint attacks, vary your rhythm, attack from odd angles and in fact is even encouraged! This was quite a big departure from my 16 years or so of experience in Aikido in which I thought I knew at least the fundamentals of a fight, but realized I didn't know two hoots about it.

When I started CMD, I focused heavily on developing techniques, over-analyzing things and thinking consciously in sparring, "What technique am I going to do now? I'm going to do a jab, jab, cross now and then come off his side and etc etc...". Funny thing is, even with all this thinking and research...I was often still wrong (as Rodney King pointed me to an old post of mine that referenced to a site that described the CM Defense all wrong). You could even see this in the style of the first few blog posts which concerned almost purely on technique.

Rodney also said that lawyers also have the hardest time in picking up CMD as we always over-analyze things when really, it's not the brain that knows but your body that knows. I guess I had exceedingly tried to reduce what I had learnt into some form of text where the lawyer in me felt that it was more correct just because it was written (CAUSE THE BOOK SAID SO!).

The way I see it, CMD's techniques are a base in which your strategy flows out from. Techniques are like learning the moves in chess or rather sharpening your sword. How you string the moves together  in a chess game or use your sword is something entirely different. You may have the sharpest sword, but what's the point of it if you have no idea how to use it? Similarly, I would have my bets on someone who has had no formal training in martial arts but has fought on the streets to stay alive against someone who has just trained  for years in a traditional dojo.

Sparring is therefore in my opinion the pre-requisite in developing a true understanding of a fight and strategy. Fight Compass made me realize that as I found an immediate improvement in my game over my fellow classmates who prior to this were more or less equal. Now they've caught on to the Fight Compass syllabus  as well and things are in equilibrium again but it is amazing how a few key principles and strategies can alter the quality of your sparring game and is a testament to the importance of strategy.

That being said, that doesn't mean technique isn't important. When I first saw the Fight Compass DVDs, I absorbed it mentally but couldn't really apply it in my game as I did not have the necessary technique and tools to do so. I couldn't counter punch because I did not have the timing down right. I could not angle because I could not circle step fast. I could not run because my footwork sucked and I could not pressure because my defense was full of holes. So technique opened the doors to strategy!

I'll post soon with some videos of us implementing Fight Compass in our classes.

Monkey Mayhem 2010 brought with it many life lessons. I had expected it to be a great way to learn new techniques, refine existing ones, spar with new people and meet world class trainers from around the region but it turned out to be so much more.

First of all, it was a misconception for me to think of these seminars as an accumulation of techniques. Only a handful of new material was covered but it was the greater understanding of the fundamentals and more importantly the mental dimension that it provided that made the seminar a true gem.

I'll delve into the physical and technical aspects of Monkey Mayhem at a later time, but I wish to put down what I felt were the most important lessons gleaned from this short weekend which is already affecting the way I perceive the world and how I do things.

Look to the outside, not inside when sparring.

Rodney gave us a talk that wouldn't have been out of place in a Kung-fu movie: "When sparring, we should look to the outside not to the inside." Luckily, unlike the Tao/Zen/Kung-Fu masters who would leave us with that cryptic phrase, he further elaborated in that when we are sparring, our minds tend to engage with internal dialogue that cloud our judgment.

For instance, it is very hard to control emotions. Emotions of fear, being overwhelmed, the drive to win, excitement all are common emotional responses to the demanding nature of a fight. The traditional martial arts view of this has been to learn to calm your emotions, to control it and prevent it from clouding reason. Coming from a background of Aikido, this had been drilled into me and yet I still found it really hard to contain such feelings when placed in a stressed, chaotic situation. When trying to apply the techniques I had learnt from Aikido, it was a constant battle to contain my emotions and at best it would only hold for a few brief moments until I got hit again and would have to start the process anew. Perhaps I haven't had enough training. Perhaps I haven't been training properly. I've been doing this for close to 17 years, surely I would have some semblance of control? Or perhaps I've been doing it wrong.

Rodney's point of view is that rather than trying to fight the emotions, you just had to accept it and ride it out but without attaching any value on it. If you feel fear, accept that you are fearful. Observe it but don't start attaching value to it by trying to examine the reasons you are fearful. Internal dialogue is the worst enemy of a fighter. Talk such as, "This guy is a black belt, he's going to kill me that's why I'm scared" only serves to worsen the situation. He also mentioned that lawyers have particular problems in doing this and I totally agree.

While sparring people, here's a sampling of some thoughts that went through my mind:
"I hope I'm doing OK and showing a good game"
"Now I should do some CM2"
"Oh no, his CM1 is tight, my combinations aren't getting through, what now?"
"Holy crap, he's fast, what to do what to do!"
"I'm a TnT yet I suck worse than some of the students here, this looks really bad on me, I'm supposed to know this material better."
"I think I should counterattack now, I don't want to appear too passive."
Instead of having my focus outside, I was too busy thinking of irrelevant things. Thoughts that made me fearful, scared and embarrassed. It was preventing me from having a good time and enjoying it as a learning experience. It was also visibly affecting my game resulting in a very tense posture and being oblivious to what my opponent was actually doing which compounded the problem. I didn't even realize what I was having such a chatty internal dialogue within me until Rodney had talked about it. For me was a huge light bulb moment. Once I learnt to let go, the sparring became a whole lot better. It didn't stop me from being getting owned, but my game was definitely tons better and more importantly, I HAD A LOT MORE FUN.

Be a more internal driven person rather than an externally driven person

Interestingly the other important lesson I had seemed to be the opposite of my first lesson but it actually gels together pretty well.
I met a really awesome guy from Jakarta by the name of Yuri, a CM Trainer and we had a long chat in the changing room. One thing he said really drove home and it went something along the lines of this:
"I used to be a very external guy, now I'm learning to be more internal and I am a lot happier. Rodney is an internal sort of guy."
"What do you mean?"
"I used to be the sort of guy who would constantly do things because I was worried about what other people would think rather than focusing on what I really wanted."
This does not mean you become a selfish prick but it's more about being true to yourself and not doing things just to please other people. Life is such in that if you let people take advantage of you, most of the time they will.
As is most wisdom, this seems blatantly obvious but it really made me examine what I was doing. I was constantly stressing over how something will offend someone or how it would make this person upset. This often really stressed me up. As a lawyer, most of the time, someone's needs will conflict with another person and there isn't always a way to make both sides happy and I have to accept that. I just need to do what is right even if it may make someone unhappy. Or even between myself and my client, my client will sometimes set unreasonable deadlines or demands and I will do my utmost to make them happy to the detriment of my health and sanity. There is a point you need to sit down and think, "What do I need?" rather than be a slave to other people's wants. I am my own person too.

The important thing is to make sure you have a strong set of principles to abide by to back this lest you become some sort of monster who constantly only thinks about himself. The key is to do what you believe is right and not to be swayed by other people's opinions or so called 'needs'. Life is too short to not live for yourself as well.

A quick reminder on things I need to work in coming out of the Monkey Mayhem 2010.

Learning to relax during sparring.

Focus on the external not listen to your internal dialogue when sparring.

Takedowns we learnt during the MMA core. Had issues with doing the knee takedown.

Had particular problems in trying to breakthrough in CM1. No strategy feels like I am sparring without any direction or aim.

Need to relearn hunchback stance to keep eyes looking forward. Too common that I end up looking at the floor.

Moving backwards to my lead side.

Did not know how to enter into the one up one down position from a punching perspective.

Learn not to be overly worried about what other people think or feel. As long as I conduct myself with respect for all my partners I should not feel bad that I am holding them back or that I'm getting a technique slower than others.

More fluid use of CM2

Albert mixed it up a bit today with take-downs from the clinch game. We focused mainly on a throw which involves
  1. Getting one underhook and one overhook.
  2. Secure your hands together and bring the person in tight.
  3. Depending on whichever hand is on top, the direction the hand is pointing to is the direction you'll take down the person.
  4. Turn your hips into him with a step and throw him over your hips. You want to do this in one smooth motion.
  5. You can also consider stepping your leg out and placing your ankle near his ankle to further trip him up as he goes over.
 Owen and I also worked on some counters to this move:

Reuben's solution:
As he turns his hip, stepping to the outside of the leg that he just moved to turn his hips to off balance and throw him.

Owen's solution:
As he turns his hip, jam it with your hand so that he cannot turn while you are free to punch him with the free-hand.

Albert also suggested something a lot simpler.

Albert's solution:
Drop your hips lower which lowers your center of gravity.

We also worked on several attack options from the sprawl where we have one hand wrapped around the head. This included several chokes such as the guillotine and another one where one of your partner's hands are wrapped around his neck and is used to choke him.
We of course did some sparring with take-downs allowed:

Chilling out during Albert's debrief (those gloves are comfortable!):

And here's a disturbingly happy shop of Jeremiah grappling with Owen. As Patrick says, "It's not gay as long you don't make eye contact!"

The main focus of yesterday's lesson was working in body shots and level changing for the newer students, while we also worked on improving the sprawl.

Previously, I normally sprawled and wrapped both arms under the armpit but found myself with limited attacking options and it was just a matter of waiting for him to tire and using my body weight to bring him down. Albert also mentioned that if the guy was strong, he could still pop his head out and carry you despite you executing a good sprawl. We tried a modified sprawl with one hand under the armpit and the other wrapped around the head. This not only limited his movements to push out but also gave choke options to the person sprawling.

On an unrelated note, after class we tried out a suggested self defense tactic for women/children: going to the ground, making noise and kicking like crazy. I had my doubts so decided to try it out.

First let's take a look at the proposed defense:

I can imagine this working if help is nearby but I didn't quite like it as
  1. Rules out possibility of escape
  2. Seems to help the attacker if he's trying to get on top
  3. Gives a very clear 'I am weak' sign that may encourage the attacker
  4. Extremely tiring and hard to keep up for a prolonged period
  5. It is not easy to pivot on all surfaces.
In fact, I think for kids, especially with the size and strength difference...dropping to the ground isn't going to make it that much more difficult for someone to drag them away.

Let's give this a shot:

Considering that I'm actually stronger than my attacker and have longer reach, the fact that he could still get on top of me suggests that this tactic seems to only delay the attack for a few seconds.

Also if the attacker side-stepped into my kicks, he could take it and easily cramp up my legs for a position to drop on me.

Someone suggested  to try and sit up when your legs are caught and go feral on their face: bite, scratch, claw, poke the eyes which may deter the less determined attacker but I feel that if it doesn't incapacitate him, it's just going to make him angrier and double his efforts.

Going to the ground right from the get go for self defense, just isn't my sort of thing.

EFC Africa has finally released a highlights video of the Costa Ioannou vs Brendon Katz fight which I had posted photos previously. Costa (who is also a CMD Trainer) was coached by Rodney King, founder of the CMD program and Nuno De Gouveia, Master Coach CMD Trainer.

A solid fight...with a controversial referee decision in Round 2 where Costa had Brendon in a full high mount and initiating his ground and pound when the referee reset the position after Brendon had called for a time-out.

Nevertheless, despite it being his first professional fight, Costa kept his calm, delivering a solid performance to win by unanimous decision. Congratulations to Costa and his team!

It was Lawrence, Foong and Alex's first class on clinch so we went back to basics. This revisit was a moment of 'eureka' for me.

I had been having problems understanding on how to bring the head down easily. Although I knew that you had to drive in the elbow to the neck and cup the hand on the crown of the neck, I still found it required quite a bit of effort to break the posture. I had previously dismissed this as a problem in timing of lack of practice.

What I was apparently missing was the visualization of the elbow as the fulcrum of the lever. Although I was driving in the elbow, I wasn't using it as a pivot point for the clinch. I had been pushing with my elbow and trying to pull down with my hands. Imagining it as a single lever immediately made the clinch very easy.

This actually reminds me of a movement in Aikido where the hands are held from behind. Should you try to bring it forward directly this is difficult but if you focus on bending your elbows first to draw the uke in, you can easily bring your hands in front of you.

It is amazing how strong biceps can be with a properly grounded fulcrum!

Albert also went through the defenses against the clinch.

The first is a preventive measure where you want to turtle up your neck to make it more difficult for your head to bring down which also protects the sides of your neck. It was much harder to establish a solid clinch when the neck is turtled since you don't have a solid location to ground your elbows/upper forearm.

Two other defenses were shown in the case where the clinch is already partially in. The 'shrug' is a popping motion that you use before your opponent gets a solid grip in and also the 'corkscrew punch' where you place the your vertical fist on your opponent's face and corkscrew in in a twisting motion to shove his face away and break his posture and clinch. The corkscrew punch is used when the elbow is already firmly lodged on your neck making shrugging difficult.

Alex raised a good point where because of my height and long limbs, he was having problems breaking my clinch even when he had fully extended his corkscrew punch. Albert told him that it wasn't something to be overly concerned about as first, my face would have already been punched and secondly my front body would be completely exposed to body-shots so it would be pretty hard for me to complete a full clinch.

Class ended with some light sparring with a focus on entering into clinch and fighting for the dominant position (both hands inside). Foong did an awesome job fighting for the dominant position with me and we frequently ended up in a neutral position.

And Lawrence helping me to take off my gloves. :D Special thanks to Georgette who stuck around through the whole class to take photos for us!

I requested Georgette to help me take some photos but had forgotten to switch the camera mode away from Gourmet mode...The results are...interesting:

Session today was on matching height by lowering stance and footwork revision. Felt jabs to be snappier today but have to remember to maintain squared up posture even when working the jab.

The CMD system strongly emphasizes remaining in the stand-up game for several reasons. In a self defense situation, you don't want to be on the ground as unlike training mats, the ground in the real world is often hard and unforgiving but perhaps more importantly, it leaves you vulnerable to multiple attackers. Take-downs are generally quite committal moves where if it isn't successful, it tends to leave you in a vulnerable position.

That being said, take-downs do remain an essential part of any martial artist's repertoire as executed properly, it can easily put you in a position to get away or gives you options when you are being overwhelmed by a superior stand-up fighter. Learning to execute a proper take-down also ensures that your partner gets proper training in learning take-down defenses.

Yesterday we focused on the double leg take-down. These are my notes from yesterday's session:
  1. As a general rule, don't just directly go for a take-down, set it up with strikes to the head to distract before going in for the take-down.
  2. Make sure you're close enough to do it, and you should be at rim-shot range.
  3. After striking, level change first by dropping your body to a lower level and bending the knees, then shoot in by driving your lead foot between the gap in his legs.
  4. Using cupped hands, aim for the back of the thighs above the knees and lift and pull.
  5. Lift with your legs (not your back). Back must be kept straight and not stooped forward to make sure that you are not lifting with your back which is more difficult and can result in injury.
  6. Head is placed on the side of his body, below the armpit area and is in the opposite side of the leg that stepped through.
  7. As you lift, start turning over his legs in the direction that your lead leg is in while using your head to also push into his body to help the take-down along. You want to imagine lifting and then rotating him in one smooth movement as if you're picking up a oil drum full of water and dumping the water to the side.
  8. The rotation is important to sweep him completely off-balance and ensure that when he lands, he cannot get you into guard.
  9. Remain balanced while doing this and aim to remain standing after the take-down (though if you can get into side-control to move into mount is also good)
  10. When in a mirrored stance, it may be easier to take a step in with the back leg as it allows you to scoop up and lift your partner's already bent front leg.
  11. If your opponent is significantly shorter than you, it might be difficult to go for this take-down due to the extreme level change you would have to do which sacrifices your balance.
Albert's favored method unlike the traditional double leg, doesn't require you to drop your knee down to the ground which in his opinion is impractical as hitting your knee on concrete when you're shooting in quickly isn't so fun. Having your knee drop down does give the takedown a bit more oomph as the take-down is aimed at the legs. However, Albert's slightly squatted position still generates the necessary power lift with the power coming from the legs which also has the advantage that you still remain on your feet even in a failed attempt.

While doing some background reading, I realized that recently the International Judo Federation had banned this technique (morote-gari), most likely due to traditionalists viewing the technique as 'bad judo'. I don't understand why such an effective technique should be banned though Bill Lewis had suggested that it was because it was easy enough for amateurs to do and is not exciting enough for spectators.

Conversely, I think this is the very one reason why this technique has to be studied. Out there, someone may just try to take you down with a similar tackle or a sloppy double leg. Knowing a take-down's mechanics and knowing that you can defend against a proper take-down gives us the necessary tools and mental readiness to deal with it.

Rodney's recent move towards implementing take-down defenses in the Evolutionary Core of his system probably reflects this thinking.

Credits: Picture taken from EHow.

With CMD it's about protecting the head....with these guys....

Although Crazy Monkey Defense (CMD) was designed for a self preservation martial art rather than for MMA ring fighting, it has seen its use in competitive fighting.

Costa Ioannou one of Rodney King's students and a CMD trainer, successfully used CMD in the EFC in his first ever pro fight. The photos show classic CMD in action! Costa is in the white and blue trunks.

Images taken from EFC Africa.

We have progressed further into the Evolution Core of CM with the incorporation of more clinch work and takedowns.

My arms have been aching from all this work but it's a nice sort of burn and gives me the feeling that I've got a good workout!

CM's hunchback stance and its squared hip reasoning is reinforced when takedowns are incorporated in. Because of the squared hip, we can readily go into a sprawl position which is very difficult to do from a side facing/blade stance.

Here's a video of our first exposure to the sprawl:

And here's a video of the beginning of integration between all elements of the CM E-Core game, takedowns, clinch and boxing. In these sparring videos, we were focusing more on entering into clinch and takedowns hence the reduced boxing. Knees have not been incorporated yet as well.

Our first session:

Notes from the sparring:

  1. Be aware of closing off the center line. Do not lose attention.
  2. Remember to get full extension on punches even when moving forward. Switch to 3PC if intending to clinch.
  3. Position hands so they don't get locked up in clinch.
  4. The takedown attempt was not a good idea and left me open to knees nor did it have the necessary driving force to reach. Need to make sure my upper body is more upright if I'm attempting takedown. Especially not a good idea when his hands were already on my head.
Our last session for the night:

Notes from this sparring session:
  1. A more raised back heel and don't narrow stance too much.
  2. Better use of 3 point Cover.
  3. Smoother entry into a necktie
  4. More fluid combinations.
  5. Better control of speed and pace.
  6. Try not to charge in like a freight train.

Perhaps the most important thing to be taken from this session after consulting with the helpful guys at the CM Pro Gym (thanks guys!), is to be more proactive with the jab even though you might not land.

Chris Bishop:
JAB!!!!! Use your jab to gauge distance. Use your jab to stop them coming forward... he is able to walk in on you because there is nothing holding him back... stiff jab to the face will make his job harder. Secondly when you work your jab, you will then be able to follow with combinations. You both seem to have an 'all or nothing' mentality with the punching, as in if you can't hit the person you don't throw.... the jab is like a blind man's cane, constantly probing to find objects, feeling around and giving feedback to the blind man. It doesn't touch something all the time, but it's looking.

Scott Walker:
Spend some time on getting that jab really working for you and then start to let the cross work its when in naturally. Get your distancing down and control the range with jabs and crosses and get it to happen automatic. In other words, put some time into getting those straight punches to come off with out having to plan it out, such as "I am now going to jab and cross".
Long story short learning to throw a jab that lands a a few inches from their face as I worked my way in and instead finding my range on the second or third jab really helped me. This of course is not done every time because you would become predictable, but I learned a lot from it.
playing the single shooter jab a lot more and really working on being creative with the jab and coming in on all different angles was a lot of help too.

When I first learnt about hooks, I thought it was about any punch that looped around in an outside arc. The kind of punches you see in bar brawls and untrained fighters.

A proper hook is actually a close-ranged punch. Its power comes from the from the heel and the twisting motion of the hip. It's a very devastating punch but it requires a lot of positioning to pull off properly.

A lead hook is easier to pull off as it's not as easy to read and the distance to the target is shorter.

A good way to enter into a hook is to slip to the outside while he punches and land a hook. Being a southpaw, it's easier for me to slip to the outside of his jab to hook. Instead of slipping, you can also jab while entering while prepping for a hook.

An uppercut is different in that you have to lower your weight first and then spring up from your hips to deliver a punch, ideally to the chin. The hand is also kept tight. Due to the way the hand drops down and the angle of the punch, a rear uppercut is easier to do then a lead uppercut. It took requires the closing of distance and it is ideal to open up with jabs, crosses before attempting an uppercut.