21 Dec 2006

Well, another year has passed and we look forward to the start of, omigod, will it really be two thousand and seven???

Highs of the year:
· Winning silver medal in groundfighting
· Meeting and training with 3 Gracie brothers (Royce, Royler, Rolker)
· Getting the VIP treatment trailing Gordon Liu at SENI 06
· Getting my photo published on the front cover of Combat

Lows of the year:
· Getting something like ten colds or flu bugs in a row which stopped me training
· The constant struggle to fit in work, family and martial arts, with MA losing
· Imperial website (and influx of new students) disappearing from google

So overall, a good year with highs just outweighing the lows. My resolutions next year:
· Enter the BJJ Gracie Open at SENI 07 (just to see if I can survive 1 round)
· Increase my photographic work – starting with coverage of the 10K Challenge
· Actually try to learn some 3rd Dan techniques
· Get that elusive gold at the Jikishin nationals

So this is Meerkat signing out and wishing all my readers a very happy jujitsu Christmas and New Year.

Meerkat's End of Year Review

Well, another year has passed and we look forward to the start of, omigod, will it really be two thousand and seven??? Highs of the year: ·...

8 Dec 2006

In a survey of over 360,000 people by Sport England on the nation’s sporting hobbies – it turns out half the population over 16 are couch potatoes. The others are quite sporty – walking being the No.1 physical activity. Martial arts makes it in at No. 31 with 0.3 percent of the population doing it 3 or more times a week, just above tenpin bowling and darts – let’s be ‘aving ya!
Interestingly, they list martial arts and then they put separate entries for karate, taekwondo and Chinese martial arts. Now, assuming the category for martial arts does not include the others as listed, then actually if they did combine all the martial arts together, then it would be higher up the list – maybe making it a Top20 sporting activity.
I’m pretty chuffed to know statistically that we (as a collective) are a majority sport, but I’m a little disturbed that the Top 20 also includes: fishing and snooker. So if we get rid of the crap zero physical exertion ‘sports and activities’ from the list, then martial arts looks like being Top 10 easily.
I wonder what the breakdown of most popular martial arts are? The list probably goes something like this:
1. kickboxing
2. karate
3. taekwondo
5. judo
etc etc with jujitsu and BJJ coming somewhere in 10th to 12th I reckon.

Martial arts No31 in the charts

In a survey of over 360,000 people by Sport England on the nation’s sporting hobbies – it turns out half the population over 16 are couch po...

5 Dec 2006



I couldn’t resist it, to test the imbedded picture function on this blog, here is a photo of Aimee – or Aimee-sensei to you. She’s a black belt in ju-crawling and almost-walking-jitsu.
Well, it’s been an odd week, actually a bit ratty to be honest. At BJJ, black belt head of our club David Adiv was meant to come over from America, then it was cancelled, then it was on and now it is off. The reason – not enough people could commit to attending. Eddie was understandably a bit peeved and gave us all a bit of a dressing down about how embarrassing it is for the club to invite special guests and only a few turn up etc. Of course Meerkat is not amongst those to blame as I am always first to sign up. In my opinion, I wonder if the club actually has the numbers to make it work all the time. Sure, when a big name like Royler or Royce show up, we do get 20-30. But the hardcore of the BJJ club I see who turn up week in week out only ever number about 12, maybe 15 – and it is these guys, us, that are ever likely to respond to less well known (but equally excellent) instructors coming over from the States or Brazil.
Next year, Eddie hinted that Saulo Ribeiro was making noises about coming over. This would be totally awsome. Saulo is like one of BJJ royalty. I have the BJJ instructional box set that Saulo put out and it is singularly the best BJJ instructional on the planet – no comparison. I have a lot of DVDs and most are passable to unwatchable, maybe one or two tips filter through. But the Saulo Ribeiro set is awesome. Every single technique (and there are hundreds) is totally money and spot on for technique and applicability. If the man is coming to the UK, then we had better put on a big effort to show up cos his seminar I predict will rock your BJJ world.

Mini-Meerkat passes her black belt in crawling

I couldn’t resist it, to test the imbedded picture function on this blog, here is a photo of Aimee – or Aimee-sensei to you. She’s a black ...

22 Nov 2006

The life of a working professional martial artist is not all it is made out to be. Some have jobs or full time dojos to support their income, but for most of those who are actively competing, full time training is the only way to be the best. But most tournaments in the grappling world pay no more than a token prize and that’s only if you win. Sponsorship helps, but it’s not huge sums. Sure, some of the top guys can earn tens, maybe hundreds of thousands through televised MMA events such as Pride and UFC. And there is of course the Abu Dhabi tournament which is pretty well funded. But for the rest, well, they’re doing it for the love of the sport rather than the paltry money.
So when the 10K Ground Clash Challenge was announced, everyone’s ears shot up. What? £10,000 pounds and only one winner. And here in little old Blighty? This was surely interesting enough to attract the attentions of the best in the world. And sure enough this event, being held in Hackney next March will include the very best current exponents of grappling in the world. It won’t be easy, there are no weight categories, something often referred to as the ‘absolute’ division and there is only one winner from a pick of 32.
Full marks to the organisers who are trying to make ground fighting - submission grappling - BJJ etc reach a wider audience.
Of course such an event cannot go un-recorded so guess who is to be an official photographer at the 10K Clash? Yours Meerkatingly truly! One just hopes the soon to be acquired new camera gear works properly.

Ten thousand

The life of a working professional martial artist is not all it is made out to be. Some have jobs or full time dojos to support their income...

17 Nov 2006

One of the more interesting ‘perks’ of running your own club is that you get asked to participate in interesting stuff. In the past I have been asked, though sadly had to turn down, a spot on a TV reality program, an interview with a magazine and an offer to be the private instructor to one of the biggest bigwigs in the City. But last week, I was asked by a sales company to take their sales staff on a team bonding session involving ju-jitsu. Now this I couldn’t refuse. The challenge for me was that I had to incorporate their sales ethos into my session and somehow relate martial arts to being a good sales person. Hmmm, a tricky challenge, but with my previous sales experience, I thought I could give it a go.

Well, the evening was a success. 13 sales staff from Magentanews came down to the dojo not knowing what to expect. After the obligatory ‘Welcome to Fight Club” announcement I got the team stuck in to various ju-jitsu drills and, with a little help from my systema training, some non-jujitsu drills. It was all very good fun and I even managed to use martial arts skills as metaphors for handling tough clients or negotiating a sales deal. The men and women seemed to take to the drills with much enthusiasm and merriment. Most of the drills were based on simple wrist lock defences, which always go down a storm with non-jitsuka. There was also a basic rear naked choke, simple straight arm locks, some padwork and the handshake of death grips I picked up recently. I really wanted to introduce groundfighting too but I ran out of time.

I was pleased that they all left the dojo with big grins on their faces and half a mind to try out their techniques on some unwitting office colleague the next day. For me, I enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity to reach a wider audience and show them ju-jitsu.
Who knows what to expect next in Meerkat world?

Closing the deal

One of the more interesting ‘perks’ of running your own club is that you get asked to participate in interesting stuff. In the past I have b...

8 Nov 2006

Following last year’s popular seminar, Eddie Kone popped down to Imperial dojo again yesterday. I asked him this time to begin with the Gracie’s take on self defence before moving onto sport BJJ. He was happy to oblige and began with defences to a two-handed strangle and pushes against the chest. There was something of a muted appreciation from the students. Uh oh, I thought, maybe they were giving the old ‘seen it all before’ attitude (we have very similar techniques in our white belt), but before long, these simple starters quickly progressed to more diverse techniques that got our crowd wowing with jitsu glee. From the hip throw, Eddie showed various restraining methods from the knee on belly hold down with armbars and chokeholds aplenty. After a brief interlude, the second half of the session was dedicated to sport BJJ starting with a standing takedown so cheeky it surely would never work (but it does!), counters, some simple chokeholds utilising the lapel, triangles and knee bar submissions. Eddie also showed that many of these could be done without the gi. The finale, was a very quick demo of the cartwheel guard pass (done properly, rather than my lame effort at the comps) and a takedown that somehow ended up in a foot lock that defied belief – and to the gasp of the audience. The session was clearly a big success with all the Imperial students chattering away about how cool the techniques were and asking Eddie for details about his classes.
Ju-Jitsu styles fall under many names and each purports to be the definitive art.

For me, IMHO, they are all valid and one should open the eyes to all the other systems out there and learn as much as one can. This will make you a better martial artist.My big thanks to Eddie, and to Greg and Brian from RGDA-UK who assisted. Eddie is off now for a whirlwind tour of Europe giving seminars and promoting the Gracie style of jujitsu. We wish him luck and hopefully another return to Imperial next year.

Cartwheels and strangles

Following last year’s popular seminar, Eddie Kone popped down to Imperial dojo again yesterday. I asked him this time to begin with the Grac...

3 Nov 2006

The dust has barely had time to settle on my Southend exertions when this week I have been thrust back into training. Today I just attended a seminar by Rolker Gracie down at Eddie's Bethnal Green dojo.What to say about Rolker? He is not as famous or well known as Royce, Rickson or Royler but he exudes the same persona - confident yet approachable, with mischievous sense of humour, and with a unique way of phrasing English words. Today's seminar was free from flash or showbiz, it was straight up basics and getting them done correctly. We learned 3 ways to defend the guard pass. We played with spider guard. We practised chokes from back mount. All very basic - but not to be confused with easy. It is easy to try these and fluff them up, it is harder to do them properly. So something clicked with me today. For the first time in my short BJJ career, I actually managed to use something in real
time sparring that I had only just learned in class earlier. Those simple defences to guard passes really work - and against even the most determined (and heavy) opponent (that's our Greg). So thanks to Rolker, for teaching us honest, good techniques that I will remember easily and use regularly. Next year, there will be a Gracie Brothers Fest - Royler, Royce, Rolker - all together in one room. This kind of thing just doesn't happen - I truly cannot wait. Oh, and the 'Hong Kong Royce' reference - it's the name Rolker used to refer to me. I wasn't sure whether that was a compliment or something else!

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One of these guys looks like a hardened fighter.

Hong Kong Royce

The dust has barely had time to settle on my Southend exertions when this week I have been thrust back into training. Today I just attended ...

29 Oct 2006

Wowee what a day, what a tournament!
Just got back from the Jikishin National Ju-Jitsu Tournament in Southend.

The facts:
1. The Meerkat defeats 2 rounds of ground-fighters to reach the final, gets a draw in the final with the referees final decision going to the opponent – SILVER medal.
2. Two out of five Team Imperial ground fighters (Anh and Colm) win their first round with solid techniques as drilled in the dojo.
3. Rob Line wins GOLD in purple-brown belt random attacks – in his first attempt!
4. Pete McCarney wins SILVER in his weapons kata event with a superb Sai 3 kata.
5. David Tedora loses only to a split decision in the random attacks.

Here are my recollections of the under 69KG GF event:
Firstly an apology for misinforming the GF team. I had told them to expect a grip to the uniform when starting the fight (no, the start was not from a gripping position) and to expect the round to be 90 seconds (it was instead 2 minutes). So that flummoxed us a tiny bit, but we were not to be deterred. Having shown out in full force, we all bonded well and kept our spirits up.

First up was Anh. Now Anh had literally just got off the plane from holiday. With only 4 hours sleep, he was the amazing slippery eel that we know him to be. His opponent tried everything, but Anh escaped each time, finally ending up with a nice pin, which earned him the winning points.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOo7zk8DDYI

Next, they pitted our Colm with our Kevin. Oh no, an Imperial stand-off, no one could call it. So, in the end we just said let the best man win. And the best man on the day was Colm, showing amazingly good technique to pass Kevin’s guard and pin him and attempt a submission, it was BJJ straight out of the Gracie book.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GD789T67yaA

Daniel was up next. What a start. His opponent jumped at Daniel but, savvy to the move, Daniel used his legs to fend off the attacker and literally catapult him into the air! This move is actually a BJJ move, I think called a helicopter pass or something – I need to check with Ed. The fight went very well and I was sure Daniel did enough, but the judges gave it to the other guy, so a close call.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqjLHqHFLQU

Me – lucky Meerkat got a by to the second round, which gave me an excellent chance to suss out the opposition. I observed Some very aggressive play, with everyone bull rushing each other – just as I expected. Already I was forming a strategy but it was not without risks.

Second round –
Anh was already up for his second round. It much tougher of course, and he did his best to repeat the slippery guard passing and pinning, but the opponent was too heavy and pinned Anh to score the points.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2adB9e5Iuc

Colm’s next round was also tough, with a bigger opponent, he still managed to hold his own, but a couple of accidental rule infringement (standing up) are probably what caused Colm to lose the fight. Several times the opponent dragged Colm into his guard and if only he could utilise the special anti-guard technique we had practised so hard, but nevermind, it is so hard to think out there!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJln3mk03JU

Seymour – round 2.
OK, here revealed was my last minute thought strategy – use an audacious and outrageous opening move to completely stun my opponent. That move was the hand-stand guard pass, or cartwheel pass. In my mind I imagined a Capoeira style wheeling over to the back of my opponent. What actually happened was a sort of half-hearted wheel-barrow which ended up no-where. However, it had the desired effect. Even though I knew I would get told off, it did cause the mental block in my opponent I was looking for. The ref got us re-started and I began to work my thing. The tactic thereafter was simple…let the opponent do all the aggressive actions and simply sweep and pin with hooks in. That’s all, get the points, cause frustration and win the match – and that’s exactly what happened. In between, a couple of attempts at armbars which nearly came off, after that, back to plan A.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVkcv2R9F-8

Seymour round 3 (semi-final)
The next opponent had obviously seen my crazy stunt earlier. HE was very wary and sat off. So, thanks to being inspired by watching Sami the Hun Berik, I started waving and flapping my arms Matrix style then prancing from side to side like Drunken Monkey Kung Fu. I must admit, it was a bit disrepectfl but I really enjoyed seeing the confusion on my opponent’s face. He just did not know what to do. After the opener, it was back to PlanA which worked a treat where I nearly got an armbar and a knee bar. But on each time, the ref stopped us as we were coming off the mat. Then, a little trick I shared with the team earlier, I went for my favourite BJJ technique – SPIDER GUARD. Clearly he knew nothing of this easily defeated guard, so I just wrapped his arms and played him like a marionette and swpt him. It was joy. Verdict – a win to me (though one judge mysteriously gave it the other way – like HOW! You can’t fight ignorance).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxHjjBsZwWs

The Final
So, there I am, my first ever GF final and I was tanked. I had nothing left and already my 37-year-old body was beginning to seize up. I planned my tactics again. This guy I knew was fairly good and very strong and much bigger (where are those weighing scales when you need them?) I would play open guard to save energy and hope for the best. IT almost worked as well. He was desperately attacked my neck but my tight defenses were frustrating him. So he tried an ankle lock – easily defended – then he went back to choking and I switched to upside down arm bar. It was lousy, so I switched to triangle. Just as lousy so I reverted back to open guard and then that was time. Very boring I’m afraid and no effort on my part to ‘win’ the fight.
The judges all gave it a draw. So it was left to the ref to give the final verdict which, rightly in my opinion, was given to the opponent. On another day, if I had the energy, I know I would definitely have won it. But I played safe and clammed, so it was my own fault. Thanks to my opponent who graciously complimented me and assured me that I should have won it. Silver medal it is then.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjCTaUGG0_g

So to conclude, it was a great tournament showing from Team Imperial. My report focuses mainly on the GF because that is what I saw close-up. The lads played brilliantly and were easily the most technical of the lot. It goes to prove my theory that utilising solid BJJ techniques is the best way to win at ground fighting tournaments.
My thanks to Eddie Kone who helped our team with a special coaching session and a mention to Oli Geddes from Roger Gracie Academy who also helped. Next year, we’ll be back and we’ll be better!




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Southend 2006

Wowee what a day, what a tournament! Just got back from the Jikishin National Ju-Jitsu Tournament in Southend. The facts: 1. The Meerkat de...

24 Oct 2006

Someone asked me the other day why I liked ground-fighting so much?
Well, I have two answers.
Here’s the serious answer: ground fighting offers a proven system of self defence where the smaller, less strong individual can defeat a bigger opponent. As many fights end up on the ground, it is an essential part of one’s armoury.
Ok that’s the official version, the REAL reason I enjoy it is because I am a lazy git. Let me clarify that. I’m getting old and my bones and muscles kill me after every training session. It’s far worse doing stand-up than doing groundwork. I don’t know why, but gravity could be a key factor.
This month, I celebrate 2 unbroken years of BJJ training. I very nearly didn’t re-start at all after my experiences at my former BJJ dojo where I felt I was effectively mat fodder for the higher grades and constantly tapped into ego-crushing submission.

Team Imperial is shaping up to be a formidable force this year, with several members of the ground fighting team following my example and taking extra BJJ classes to supplement their training. Personally, I feel I am peaking at the right time, although who knows what to expect on the day?
Our random attackers are getting more training than ever before and hopefully will produce a few of the tricks we have worked out. The final category of sparring I thought was gonna be a no-shower, but it appears both senseis Steph and Andy will be competing. Steph won gold in her division last year, let’s hope for more medal success. Just 4 more days to go and I’m already feeling the buzz.

Big tournament build-up

Someone asked me the other day why I liked ground-fighting so much? Well, I have two answers. Here’s the serious answer: ground fighting off...

19 Oct 2006

Just when I think my embryonic photography career is dead and buried, in comes the latest issue of COMBAT magazine (Nov 06 issue):

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Thanks to David T. who suggests that I am the new David Bailey of the martial arts world. Those of you who are under 30, David Bailey was very famous in the 60’s and 70’s for photographing and bedding hot skinny models. Sadly, my allusion to said photographer only extends to the shared ability to press the shutter button on a camera.

The Meerkat Strikes Back

Just when I think my embryonic photography career is dead and buried, in comes the latest issue of COMBAT magazine (Nov 06 issue): Thanks...

17 Oct 2006

Whilst I like to think that I possess Meerkat-like speed and grace, I can be a bit dopey sometimes. Not least when, after months of notice, knowing full well that the BJJ gym was relocating to Bethnal Green, what happens on Monday night? I drive all the flipping way to Wanstead on autopilot. Duh! Anyway, I eventually made it to Bethers and it was a really good session. I’m lasting longer in rounds, getting more technical and moving better. Of course, the way BJJ is designed, you never feel like you are good enough as the next person could easily outfox you. But it is encouraging to be able to hold one’s own against one’s peers.

Towards the end, there ensued an extraordinary scene. But first, let me explain a little about the Bethnal Green gym locale. This is a lock-up or works garage located in the heart of the Bangledeshi and Pakistani community of east London. The front door literally opens out into a backstreet off Bethnal Green High Road where social housing estates dominate the skyline. Gangs of youths roam the streets with, well, not very much to do other than smoke, spit and just hang out. This is no vision of racial integration and ethnic diversity, but the kids here are no better or worse than any other poor inner London borough.
So when a couple of heads peered into the gym to see what was going on, we all were aware of them. After a while Eddie went over to see what they wanted. Boys being boys they started posturing and mocking the ‘gay wrestling shit’ that we were doing so Eddie very graciously, like a good host, offered the ring leader a free sparring session. This lad was about twenty and after proclaiming his skill as a boxer of many years who could knock anyone out boldly stepped onto the mat.
You should have seen us. The whole class stopped their own sparring and made way as the young lad entered the Dragon’s den. Up went his fists and as he was shaping up, in dived Ed for a double leg take down. The poor lad never knew what hit him as he crashed onto the ground and basically gave Eddie his arms. Like taking candy from a baby, Ed immediately went for the armbar and somewhere in his muffled moans and cries, we were all shouting, TAP! TAP! YOU BETTER TAP!
Eventually Ed let go of his vice grip and the youth, by now with his head lowered and grin wiped off, sullenly sloped off the mat holding his arm and vowing to call the police. The whole dojo erupted with enormous laughter whilst Ed slapped him on the back and told him he was welcome to come back (I assume as a student rather than a challenger). What was particularly sweet was that Ed used pure jujitsu to silence this guy, no punches, kicks or nasties were necessary. So in many ways, it was a very humane way of using martial arts. The best bit was that it was all done infront of this Asian guy’s mates, who sniggered and hollered throughout. Needless to say, he walks a little less cocky now but hopefully a lesson will have been learned.Those who follow the path of pacifism and the ethic that martial arts should never be used might be appalled at the incident described. But it was not in any way vicious or nasty. It seemed appropriate - and damn funny! Our one regret - no one took a video of the incident to laugh back at!

Rumble in the Green

Whilst I like to think that I possess Meerkat-like speed and grace, I can be a bit dopey sometimes. Not least when, after months of notice, ...

10 Oct 2006

Meerkat was knocked out last week having caught a bout of gastroenteritis. In fact the whole Meerkat family caught it. Being ill sucks, especially when you still have to do all your chores and look after a sick baby. But I'm better now and back in action.BJJ sparring this week has been going pretty well. I finally feel I am achieving a level where I had left off a few months back. My plan to get down to BJJ training twice a week is paying off and the techniques are beginning to flow. Mind you, young whippersnapper KJ still caught me in a nice gi choke from the back leaving me with no choice but to tap to the pint sized assassin.

The autumn season is gonna be a busy one. Of course there is the Jikishin tournament in a fortnight. Team Imperial is shaping up pretty well, with me and the guys drilling some ground-fighting basics each week (6 of us in total entering ground fighting). I can only really cover the basics, and then, only the need-to-know relevant techniques. After all, one could go on for hours about how cool this pass would be or that hold or this choke, but really, for the groundfighting tournament that we enter, it is all hands on decks basic escapes, pins and submissions - all in the space of 90 seconds. Not pretty and not tactical, but still very workable, and it is where my BJJ training is helping big time. I have NO IDEA how competitors from our style managed to win ground fighting prior to BJJ coming onto the scene. Maybe they knew some judo or wrestling, or just played it instinctively. (I know, ju-jitsu came before BJJ etc, but you know what I mean).
And I have not neglected the random attacks event either. Three Team Imperial members are entering this year and we've made an extra effort to drill these. I think the standard is better than previous years, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Soon after the tournament, there is the Rolker Gracie seminar at Eddie's club. I'm looking forward to this because Rolker is less well known but he has established a very good rep as a teacher so I hope to pick up some valuable tips.Then, after that, I'm glad that Eddie has agreed to come down to Imperial again and host a seminar. We talked briefly about the content and I think it would be nice to mix it up a bit this time. Maybe include more Gracie self defence, since a lot of it is similar to our own ju-jitsu, but with nice little twists here and there which I'm sure the dan grades will just love (with modules in mind!)

Meerkat's martial arts media career has been scuppered. I finally finished my 'Secrets and Science of the Martial Arts' magazine article (3,000 words!). This has taken me about 3 years to mull over and finally get written. So as I send out the final version to all my magazine contacts and international agents - what happens? Flipping National Geographic Channel release their 'Fight Science' TV press release pictures exactly at the same time. Of course my little write-up can't compete and everyone has printed the NatGeog pictures and text instead of mine. Damn their eyes!Although I have to concede that the graphics of the human body they use are very funky.All may not be lost however. Some of my contacts say they still like the feature story and may run it later in the year, we'll see.

A little note about BJJ uniforms - which the general lingo affectionately call the 'kimono' even though it is not strictly a kimono. I see the brand KORAL is being marketed quite heavily here with big star endorsements (Wanderlei Silva and Jacare). And I bring this subject up because I see a lot of newcomers to the BJJ club have bought one. But I can't think of a more ill-fitting and badly designed uniform. For £120+ I expect something from Saville Row, not Skid Row. Maybe it is just down to personal taste but it's one expensive mistake to make if you agree with me. I got mine brand new from Ebay for £50 ages ago, and that I think is £50 too much. My criticism is that the cut is too baggy, the collar annoying (it is made of rubber), the cloth like sack canvas and the damn trousers always fall down no matter how tight I make the ties. For me, ATAMA is the best. Wearing and training in one is like a second skin. They are less expensive and do shrink and fade a little, but that is all part of their charm. Each week, while one gi hangs drying, I pack the other one in the bag. I actually dread having to wear my Koral instead of my beloved Atama, that's how bad they are.The other uniform I had was an MKimonos. God knows what I was doing but that thing shrunk to the size of a Barbie Doll singlet after just two washes. Anyway, enough ranting, just wanted to add my tuppence to the great kimono debate.

Postus pebbledashium

Meerkat was knocked out last week having caught a bout of gastroenteritis . In fact the whole Meerkat family caught it. Being ill sucks, esp...

22 Sep 2006

Oli from Roger Gracie’s club came to visit our JJ dojo last week. It was a good session with him offering to roll with the guys and share some techniques. Well it was ok until he sparred with me and somehow ended up popping his knee. Oops. I bet he now thinks it was all a ploy to eliminate him as a potential competing dojo – but it was an honest accident.

Meerkat’s day job is to produce photographic feature stories for the Science Photo Library. And I have been thinking of ways to combine my two passions (science and martial arts) into one feature. It’s taken about five years of thinking in fact but finally, I have completed the story. It will be aimed at the 12-17 year old market of kids who are healthily into computer games and kungfu movies. The story will be something cheesy like ‘’How to be a black belt in 10 easy steps’ but it’s a thinly disguised article on biomechanics, Newtonian physics, anatomy and medicine. Well that’s the plan, I haven’t quite finished it yet, but once it is finished, I will cobble together some photos from the SPL collection and offer it to youth mags. There are some interesting facts I found out in research, like human bone is 40 times stronger than concrete, and that a karate expert can punch at a speed of 24 miles per hour.

The science of making things up as you go along

Oli from Roger Gracie’s club came to visit our JJ dojo last week. It was a good session with him offering to roll with the guys and share so...

18 Sep 2006

My training program in prep for the big tournament is going gradually down the pan
but what can you do? Marriage, kids, parents, work - all these take precedence over silly hobbies such as martial arts. No wonder history's most eminent martial artists were either celibate monks or lone samurai!
All except Helio Gracie. The man who brought us 'Gracie Jiu-Jitsu' had 9 children. It beggars belief he had the time or energy. The trick I guess is the get your kids really into martial arts and then you have the best excuse to continue training whilst also being seen as the committed and active father. This too, will be my plan. Now breakfall Aimee!!!

Next Tuesday I'm hoping to hook up with a chap who is a student of Roger Gracie and is starting a BJJ club at Imperial College. I said he should pop down to our dojo and informally help us out with some ground work, which he agreed to do. Since there are a growing number of IJJC members who love the ground work, it would be a good opportuity for him to advertise his club. I'll report on how it goes next blog entry.

No more sightings of my Royler Gracie photo-shoot. Oh well, one obscure wrestling mag will have to do. So much for my budding career as a photographer to the stars. Never mind, I wouldn't have the time anyway.

Last Sunday I visited Blitz, the martial arts supplier. After my purchases, I asked the counter guy if he could point out any local parks since it was a lovely day and I cuold take Aimee for a walk. He looked at me, then silently beckoned me to follow him outside, which I did. Once outside, he looked at me and said, There you go, our local park. Following the direction of his finger, I stared for ages, but at last found the 'park'. He was pointing to a tiny square of grass where dogs crap and one lamppost stands. No more words were needed. The urban blight of decrepit underdevelopment that is Woolwich and Royal Arsenal (and I include the fancy new homes in that sentance) has left little in the way of public amenities. Shame.
My training program in prep for the big tournament is going gradually down the pan but what can you do? Marriage, kids, parents, work - all ...

11 Sep 2006

IJJC Club members enjoyed a successful kyu gradings last Sunday. We had ten in all and a very good standard was achieved by all. Special mention to Rob and Aubrey who endured their purple belt gradings in a hall heated up by the unseasonable hot weather outside. It was so hot that someone passed out doing their grading.

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Gradings are a strange concept if you think about it. You train hard for months and months and then it all comes down to how you perform on the day. The key word here is 'perform'. It's no difference really to practising a play or learning a new choreography for a musical. You learn to become very technically adept. But one could reasonably argue that it begins to get a bit too rehearsed and a bit far removed from the vagaries of self-defence reality.
This is why I am a big advocate of sparring - any kind of sparring be it ground or stand-up or even a mixture of both. With sparring, you get to practice against resistance under controlled conditions.
And it is sparring practice that Meerkat is clearly lacking in.
Today, I was set-up big time. Last week, all the class at RGDA learned a new submission. I think it was called the Koala Bear crush - and I thought koalas were cute cuddly creatures? Erm, maybe someone can correct me on the name.
I was in Adam's guard and he proceeded to work his way into squeezing my rib cage until it was reduced to about half the size. The pain was unbearable and the ear-piercing yell made everyone in the class stop to look. Then everyone laughed in unison. Hello? Had I missed something? Turns out the class I missed last week was where everyone learned that move and they themselves recognised the same blood curdling yell, so when I did it,they knew I was the sucker that fell for that one. Ha, well, now I know it so I ain't falling for it again!
Right now, I am definitely paying the price for long absences from BJJ training. Everyone is streets ahead and I am struggling to keep up with even the new white belts. But I am setting myself a training schedule and, crossed fingers, if I can stick to it, then I should be back to my full potential come Jikishin tournament time.

Bear hugs

IJJC Club members enjoyed a successful kyu gradings last Sunday. We had ten in all and a very good standard was achieved by all. Special me...

14 Aug 2006

Meerkat just attended a 3 hour sparring seminar given by our JJ association head. It was the first of its kind for Jikishin since each club usually takes it under its own capacity to teach sparring with everyone ending up with their own ideas. JJ head decided it was time to streamline things a bit and get everyone thinking along the same lines.
The seminar began with a briefing of the rules. Nothing new there. But it was clear from his opening speech that JJ head was a big fan of MMA and was happy to introduce elements into our sparring work. Maybe I heard it wrong, but I'm sure there was a little dig at Gracie jiu-jitsu at one point - maybe I misheard. Anyway, the session proceeded and we went through a variety of takedowns and kick/punch combinations. I think what was valuable was the main idea that one should avoid flapping arms around in a vain attempt to block an attacker and instead, keep elbows tied to body and block more economically. Sensei also was clear to establish that sparring for sport was very different to self defence work.
My uke for the day was a good sport and we were bashing the pads and each other with gay abandon. To the point where sensei told us to tone down the power and aim for speed - which we did for about 2 seconds before bashing each other again. Poor Meerkat shouldn't have eaten his sandwich just before training, cos it nearly came back up again. The session ended with a few minutes of groundfighting with my uke which I enjoyed thoroughly, then it was over.
I kind of miss the kicking and punching of sparring and this seminar was a nice reminder of my past passion. I wish I had more time to do it.
In other news my Dad is recovering - the other day he managed to take his first steps. A massive improvement when you think that bits of the brain die in stroke victims and they have to learn to do things all over again. Fingers crossed he improves even further.

Sparring seminar

Meerkat just attended a 3 hour sparring seminar given by our JJ association head. It was the first of its kind for Jikishin since each club ...

28 Jul 2006

It’s been five days now since my dad suffered a stroke and Meerkat has had time to reflect on what it means to be paralysed. 'Stroke' - it's such a small word that it is easy to not realise that it is such a devastating condition. All the MA knowledge in the world is useless when confronted by something that is more powerful than any punch or kick.
In the stroke ward, I was able to see first hand, how much of a lottery a clot to the brain can be. In some beds, there are people who cannot move at all – they need complete help for feeding, changing and toilet matters. In other beds there are those who can quite happily walk and move – but can’t remember their name and look lost and confused. For my dad, he is paralysed on his left side, but is thankfully not mentally impaired. After five days, he has regained some movement, but not much, and can talk fairly ok. He still needs help with bodily functions and everything else is a zillion times more difficult. It will be a very long haul to recovery with no guaranteed result.
One of the shocking sights on the ward is how young some of the patients are. I would say at least two look like they are in their mid-forties, maybe younger. Smoking, high cholesterol & high salt in diet, high blood pressure, illicit drugs like cocaine – all these things contribute to stroke. Observing the people in the stroke ward is a stark warning to everyone out there – live well, but live sensibly, or you too could be a victim, and sooner than you probably think.

It's a small word

It’s been five days now since my dad suffered a stroke and Meerkat has had time to reflect on what it means to be paralysed. 'Stroke'...

23 Jul 2006

Just had another seminar with Royce Gracie, this was definitely his best so far (I been to 3 now). Royce showed us a technique and then a follow-on and then a defence or counter to it. Some of the moves were again, so simple and yet, it seemed no one realised the possibility that the move existed from that position. My favourite of the night was a calf muscle crush which was achieved by attacking your opponent who was in turtle position- Royce then showed how this very painful technique could be overturned into an armbar by the opponent - sweet!
There were lots of great moves like that but the extreme humidity and warm temperatures (London is currently gripped ina heatwave) inside the Bethnal Green dojo made training almost unbearable. I think I sweated about three gallons. The whole floor was awash with fellow sweat and the mirrors were completely steamed up. The only person without a bead of sweat was Royce - I guess it like just another night in Rio - or California for him.
The session concluded with Royce making us spar. The first spar I had was with blue belt Suzi, who was fast and furious but I had a good weight advantage (hard to believe I know there are actually people smaller than me) so I felt ok with that one. Royce could see me and made me change partners to RGDA member (Adam?) who is a very big guy. Of course I got totally owned and got tapped about four times in a row! Royce looked at me and demanded to know how long I had been training? I thought he was having a go at me - like, Seymour you are so pants, how come this white belt is beating you! - but no he just wanted to assess my experience because he promoted my opponent from white to blue belt 2 stripes! Wow, now I didn;t feel to bad about getting owned. Royce also gave me another stripe (out of pity probably).
After that it was Q&A. He must get asked the same questions time and time again from all his seminars it was like he had an automatic response each time. Especially when asked about his recent Matt Hughes fight (overtraining was the fault in that case). But he was genial enough to answer any Q thrown at him, although he did get a bit touchy at one point - not even sure what the question was, but he tried to say how much Gracie Jiu-Jitsu had contributed to the current MA scene.
Anyway, a great session. I still didn't get to spar with Royce (he didn't offer this time round) but some lovely technques learned. And thanks to Suzi, the lone Leicester BJJ rep, for being a great training partner - come to London again soon!
I'm in bad need of rehydrating now...until next time!

Hot & Steamy in the Baja-de-Bethnal

Just had another seminar with Royce Gracie, this was definitely his best so far (I been to 3 now). Royce showed us a technique and then a f...

12 Jul 2006

Meerkat is pretty chuffed to see the fruits of his labour - under the alter-ego seycat, when perusing through a copy of Fighting Sport Magazine at WHSmiths. I saw that my Royler photos were finally published nice and big. Hoorah!

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To see all the images and read the article, you'll find Fighting Sport Magazine at a 'Smiths near you (tucked with the other martial art mags in the Hobbies and sports section)
Seycat/Meerkat photography is available for weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvahs...as long as there is a fight to shoot.
Meerkat is pretty chuffed to see the fruits of his labour - under the alter-ego seycat , when perusing through a copy of Fighting Sport Maga...

10 Jul 2006

Everyone who watched the World Cup final of France v Italy will have seen the Zidane headbutt into Italian defender Materazzi. Commentators publicly deplored his violent attack but something inside of me went “WOW!” Call me sadistic, call me irresponsible but when I saw that head strike, all I could think of “Wow! So the head strike to sternum really does work!”
I mean, although players are known for their diving and play acting, there is no way in the world you could tell me that Materazzi faked his injury. That man was floored plain and simple. And our good ole syllabus includes just that very technique (green belt attacking sweeping loins if you must ask).

Sunday was also the day that Meerkat took part in a 3 hour Okinawan tonfa seminar. It was ok I guess. I’m sorry I can’t get too enthusiastic about yet more weapons kata, no matter how authentic. I didn’t give up karate to do jujitsu just so that I could do yet more karate katas – and tonfa work is basically karate in disguise. But it was taught well by a very senior and respected South African instructor, and it was nice to see my JJ buddies from other clubs.
Anyway, enough moaning. Looking forward to our club drinks and curry night. It’ll be a nice way to celebrate the summer.

On me head son!

Everyone who watched the World Cup final of France v Italy will have seen the Zidane headbutt into Italian defender Materazzi. Commentators ...

28 Jun 2006

WHALLOP!!! I smack the wooden stick down hard on my
opponent’s skull and watch in glee as it fractures into a zillion
pieces. Well, it would have done were it not for the fact that
my weapon was heavily foam padded and my opponent
covered in full face and head shield. This is the world of
Philippino stick fighting and it was introduced to us at
Imperial by our old mate Barry Harte, 4th dan at the
Hakudakan Dojo. Amongst a myriad of skills Barry teaches,
he is an instructor of this wonderful art and showed us how
lethal it can be in expert hands. The slender bamboo stick can strike,
obviously, but it blocks, parries, disarms, counters and crushes with
alarming speed and ferocity. Wow!
Sensei Barry also showed us a selection of very very cool control
and restraint techniques - including a lot of two fingered control
restraints...ouch!
In a nutshell - the best two hours spent with a stick and two fingers.
Many thanks to Barry for the top notch seminar and we hope to see
him again soon!



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Mind, Body and Stick Ass Moves

WHALLOP!!! I smack the wooden stick down hard on my opponent’s skull and watch in glee as it fractures into a zillion pieces. Well, it would...

21 Jun 2006

After a giddy past couple of weeks what with SENI and Royler and also Gordon Liu, it was time to get back down to normality in Meerkat’s martial arts world, so its back to BJJ and JJ training as usual. And my next project is to try and produce a competition team to enter this year’s Jikishin National Tournament in October.
About ten years ago, when I first entered the tournament (and won a silver in sparring!), it was quite a big event in the ju-jitsu world. Now it probably seems less big when you compare it to SENI or the many MMA events up and down the UK. But in our world (trad JJ), it is still seen as the big one to aim for. A medal placing here brings the respect of your ju-jitsu peers and is getting tougher and tougher each year as more and more competitors train in other MA to hone their fight skills.
Obviously for me, ground-fighting division is the one I want to aim for and it is encouraging that a troupe of my JJ club buddies are similarly keen. Could 'Team Imperial' win a ground-fighting medal for the first time ever?
Let us also not forget the other divisions of stand-up sparring and random attacks, where we usually do quite well.

In reminiscing over past times, I recall our good friend Chris Allen, who moved out of town and hasn’t trained with us for a long time. But I remember him because years ago, he came up to me and enthused about this new form of ju-jitsu from Brazil where most of the action was on the ground. We laughed. How could Brazilians know about jujitsu? And surely our devastating array of wrist locks and hip throws meant we didn’t need to learn ground work? Then he showed us a few moves. One was a triangle choke and the other a scissor sweep. We stopped laughing and wowed at the dynamics of these 'new' (sic) techniques. Chris since went on to devote all his training to BJJ – spending time in Brazil – and we were left wondering how we could learn this cool new stuff. Now, everyone is at it. It’s like an arms race at times. If we don’t learn BJJ to supp our trad training, you sure as hell know the dojo down the road is.I wonder where Chris is now?

Back to reality

After a giddy past couple of weeks what with SENI and Royler and also Gordon Liu , it was time to get back down to normality in Meerkat’s ma...

1 Jun 2006

In a small, slightly hidden warehouse, last night, 35 eager students of the grappling game took part in a seminar with the world's second most famous Gracie brother - Royler. This was one special night as Royler has never been to the UK before and a real privilege. The seminar was three hours long and I could have stayed there for three more, so fascinating the tuition, so sharp the dissection of techniques and explained to a level where every one of us had the look of 'ohhhh, so that's how you do it'. Stand up, passing guard, choking, combining choke with sweep - all basic and simple stuff, the stuff you can pick up in any training vid or BJJ book. But here, in this dojo, shown by one of the world's most enduring and evergreen exponents of the art, here the techniques came to life.
It must have been a little tough for Royler. Brother Royce has literally just lost his fight to Matt Hughes the night before. The two brothers are very close so it must have been a blow to the family pride. But here was Royler, explaining to us about joojitsooo and still smiling and showing us the joy of grappling.
Of course Meerkat and Mrs Meerkat were especially honoured to be given the job of official photographer. With big white backdrop and studio lights set up, we snapped away crossing our fingers that the pictures would come out. The pressure was on as all the camera crew, reporters and magazine press were opting not to take photos instead happy to rely on our product. Gulp! Well, I think my pics are a little overexposed, white gi - white backdrop darn! But one or two are hopefully useable. I'll post a full reportage on my pic gallery soon. In the meantime, here are a couple of interesting poses!

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Royler helicopters Meerkat - oh the fun on my face.

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Meerkat sends Royler flying the wrong way, oops.

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Royler gets his own back, this pressure point hurt like hell!

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Baby Meerkat gets in on the picture.

More photos here: http://www.pbase.com/seymour/roylerseminar

Royler Gracie seminar

In a small, slightly hidden warehouse, last night, 35 eager students of the grappling game took part in a seminar with the world's secon...

30 May 2006

It’s been a mixed week if you are a Gracie fan. At the weekend, UFC legend Royce Gracie lost his fight to Matt Hughes. I did not see it but read that it was pretty one sided and quite vicious. With Hughes winning by taking the back and hammering blows until the ref stopped it. Although Royce lost, I don’t think anyone was too surprised by the result as Hughes is younger and has had a huge number of top level MMA fights to his name. It also shouldn’t affect Royce’s popularity as his achievements in the early days will always be remembered. With BJJ rising in popularity beyond all recognition, the Gracie name is etched in granite.

I said a mixed week, well, the good news is Royler Gracie is coming to town on Wednesday. Not only am I quivering with expectation but Eddie asked if I could take some official photographs before the seminar – with the possibility that they would be published in martial arts magazines. I certainly was not gonna miss this golden chance to capture one of the martial arts greats, so off me and Cat trudged to Calumet to buy a 9 foot backdrop and stands. I also managed to acquire my dad’s Canon Eos 5D – a real beast of a camera that can snap images at a whopping 35 MB per frame. Just crossing my fingers and hope that everything works as planned. Imagine me, ordering Royler Gracie around telling him to stand there or put his arm there like some bossy photographer…gulp.

Graced

It’s been a mixed week if you are a Gracie fan. At the weekend, UFC legend Royce Gracie lost his fight to Matt Hughes. I did not see it but ...

7 May 2006

Wow! what an amazing SENI Show I've just had: I got a VIP all areas pass; I got to hang out all day with top HK movie legend Gordon Liu; I got to see my BJJ buddies compete and to top it all, I got to meet Chuck Liddell (current UFC champion) all on my own!

But first, there was hassle getting my pass, my name was not on the guest list as promised and my aunt was not around to verify my credentials. Somehow I convinced the woman at the gate to let me in, plus I got an almost impossible photo pass to allow me complete access to all areas and photograph whatever I liked (videoing and photography was not allowed in certain zones). This gave me the unique chance I was dying for to capture the BJJ contest in all it's close detail. How pleasurable it was this year (unlike the ridiculous debacle last year) to walk unimpeded into the fight zone and snap away, and whenever a steward jobsworth tried to chuck me
out, I just showed them my stamp and they backed away muttering apologies.

RGDA-UK fielded a small team this year. First up was the Asian whirlwind KJ in the rooster blue belts, who despite all his best efforts, could not get the better of some very technically
proficient blue belters. But he got to have two fights and never got submitted - a proud debut I think. Mark was next, his blue belt middle weight division had something like 20 or more competitors, so it was a long wait for his turn. Although outpointed in the end, Mark's flexible and subtle approach to competing meant he was always in with a good chance, just narrowly missing the crucial submission he was looking for. Mark was disapointed but as one of
our best players, he looked prety good to us. Next was Melitta, the dark haired assassin Melitta in the ladies white belt lightweight. I joked with Melitta after her fight that I tried to get good
photos of her but since she spent all match being pinned under her stronger but rather unimaginitive opponent, all I got was a picture of her arms and legs doing their best to escape. A tough match with few chances for Melitta, but she gave it everything and can be proud to have entered. Last up was our man Oz. Now Oz is special, he is as strong as an ox and knows no boundaries. In the middle weight white belts, this was probably the toughest division with
over 40 competitors. Oz began very well with a superb double leg takedown - 2 points straightaway. His opponent looked stunned and frantically fought back eventually getting Oz's back and sinking in those hooks. He then worked the choke for what seemed like ages. Yeah, it was ages because Oz refused to tap and eventually went to sleep. Eduardo the ref called a halt and there was poor Oz, lying unconscious on the mat. After only about a minute, he came to but
didn't seem to realise where he was. His first words apparently were 'I want a PIZZA'. Anyway he soon stood up to a very generous round of applause from the crowd and grinned away to much credit from our gang. Fomr now on, Oz will be known as Pizza Boy!
Full respect and props to all our competitors, a brave and honorable bunch. Next year - we'll be back!

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For the rest of SENI, I hung out with Gordon Liu and I ended up pretty much trailing him as his personal photographer all day. It was a very interesting insight into how the PR machine works from 'inside' as it were. To be honest, I never knew how famous and popular Gordon was, but his fans queued up all around the Combat Magazine stand and he would have been there all day were it not for his schedule and the very efficient Aunty of mine, ushering him to the demo stage.The HK cinema buffs were a refreshingly mixed bunchof people, young and old, nerdy and the trendy. I think he was amazed to see so many recognise him everywhere he went. At the demo stage, he showed a kung-fu form that was blindingly impressive. Again, I got privileged access to photograph up close and afterwards, another queue formed for autographs. Everyone wanted to chat to Gordon and if they couldn't get to him, they talked to me, assuming I was part of his entourage (which I guess I was!).
Then there was a Q&A session at the movie lounge. Gordon was in his element discussing his Kill Bill role and his views on martial arts cinema today.

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Later in the day while we were chilling in the VIP lounge. There developed an extraordinary scene. Some PR woman came in and asked if we could all move out since Chuck Liddell was being interviewed here and they wanted privacy. My Aunt, whe is a most feisty PR woman kicked up an amazing fuss with the organisors (who mistakenly double booked the rooms). Poor Gordon, me and Chuck were standing there gobsmacked at the ensuing row. Anyway, I was too nervous to photograph the big man, but I did shake hands and say hello. He got to have his room in the end, because he is Chuck Liddell - UFC champion and the biggest MMA star on the planet, and we were, well we were next doors.
The rest of the day was spent at more signings and official photograph sessions. I wandered around snapping all the impressive displays and browsing the millions of merchandise stands. For the evening, we watched PRIDE & GLORY, the multi martial arts fight show and saw great Muay Thai, kickboxing and MMA action - a real nice end to the day and it seems that even traditional kungfu guy Gordon enjoys a ripping fist-fight as jolly good entertainment.
Here here!

FULL PHOTO REPORTAGE HERE: http://www.pbase.com/seymour/seni2006

SENI SHOW 2006

Wow! what an amazing SENI Show I've just had: I got a VIP all areas pass; I got to hang out all day with top HK movie legend Gordon Liu;...

3 May 2006

Things are hotting up again in Meerkat World as we prepare for SENI 06. This is the biggest martial arts exhibition in Europe. Loads of stars of the MA world turn out for SENI, and this year, Meerkat will have an exclusive access as his relatives from China will be bringing over Chinese acting legend Gordon Liu (Kill Bill films and numerous Chinese Language kung fu films)



Meerkat is the grandson of Hong Kong film directing legend Li Han Hsiang. Most of the Chinese film industry knew my grandfather very well - he made a lot of movies! Sadly my Grandfather passed away in 1996. But his legecy still continues and every now and again, Meerkat is lucky to meet those who knew him and acted in his films - including Gordon Liu.
Gordon will be signing autographs and talking about his movies at SENI. He will also demo his Shaolin Kungfu skills - hopefully Meerkat will not asked to be uke! It was even suggested that Gordon pop down and train either at my JJ club or at BJJ - can you imagine that! Unfortunately, the timing would not make this happen.

I will report on SENI, how well my BJJ buddies did at the Gracie comps this year and my meet with Gordon in the next bulletin!

Fist of the North Star

Things are hotting up again in Meerkat World as we prepare for SENI 06. This is the biggest martial arts exhibition in Europe. Loads of star...

19 Apr 2006

The news that we have all been waiting for – BJJ and MMA sensation Royler Gracie will be hitting the UK for just one day in May. And lucky ole Meerkat will be first in line to attend this special seminar. Thanks to BJJ coach Eddie being the only international affiliate carrying the Royler name, this will be his first ever visit to the UK.
A little rundown of the who Royler is: to most he is the 5th son of Helio Gracie, and the younger brother to Royce Gracie. Royler has carved his own name as a fight legend with over 300 fights including winning the BJJ World Champs 4 times and the Abu Dhabi subgrap champs 2 times. As a willing ambassador for the sport, Royler showcases his techniques in several popular BJJ instructional books.
This visit is special. But more than just being a chance to meet a legend, what Royler’s visit demonstrates is a huge expansion of BJJ and MMA in the UK (and also Europe). From very small and humble beginnings a decade ago when one or two plucky Brits first began their clubs, BJJ is now one of the fastest growing martial arts in the UK and I have lost count of the number of clubs and instructors there are.

In other BJJ news, Meerkat was happy to add his contribution to the RGDA-UK new club logo. See here:
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Royler Gracie Coming to the UK!!!

The news that we have all been waiting for – BJJ and MMA sensation Royler Gracie will be hitting the UK for just one day in May. And lucky o...

25 Mar 2006

Day 7: Saturday - Ju-Jitsu in the church!
A slightly easier start to my day - it being Saturday I could afford a lie-in. But before I knew it, I realised I was on the northern line to visit Pete McCarney's new dojo in Kentish Town.
I wasn't sure what to expect, I walked in and mass was being held. Ooops! Wrong part of the church.
The training hall is behind the church, so when I walked in I was pretty impressed that it was a good size and very quiet - a world away from the hustle of LA Fitness, his previous venue.
I was in a different state of mind today. By now, my aching joints and sore muscles still hurt, but I cease to notice them. Instead, my body was conditioning itself to everyday training, and as such was ready for anything. I found my breakfalls and strikes were getting snappier and the throws a little bit tighter. In essence, I was reaching the level of fitness and conditioning I used to have when training towards my black belt.
I'm not going to make too much of a big deal here, my 7 day challenge is nothing compared to the training a marathon runner, cagefighter or soldier would do.
So what was the point?
Well, apart from showing that I have an appalling lack of social life and that I am a rather neglectful husband and father - I wanted to prove that I could physically train every day. I also wanted to illustrate that in order to succeed in anything, you need to dedicate a lot of time to it. This is especially true in martial arts. Just training once a week surely cannot do justice to one's ability in MA. In our jujitsu style, we train to react to punches and strikes with our own strikes or blocks and throws. Just how good do you think you can be with just once a week training?
It is my opinion that once a student embarks on martial arts as a hobby, a twice a week regime is the bare minimum one should do. It doesn't have to be the same MA, but the body needs to be conditioned to accept this standard.
In this month's grappling magazine, I'm reading an interview with a BJJ black belt who mentions that he trains every day, twice a day! And I know that this is fairly common amongst the senior BJJ community. Maybe this will be my next Meerkat challenge!

Until then - together in jitsu pain.
Meerkat

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Seven Day Slam - Day 7

Day 7: Saturday - Ju-Jitsu in the church! A slightly easier start to my day - it being Saturday I could afford a lie-in. But before I knew ...
Day 6: Friday - Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Day 6 of my strange seven day self-declared odyssey began poorly. I woke up with a stinking cold and a body wracked with pain and stiffness. I found it hard even to put my socks on.
It was at this stage that I began to regret my challenge - I'm no spring chicken anymore!
But I bravely soldiered on to work and then, in the evening, walked to BJJ class.
It was a good session with emphasis today on defence against single and double leg takedowns. Then we practised some sweeps as your opponent passes the guard. Nice techniques and ones that could be used immediately - as big geezer Brian happily demonstrated on me when we sparred - cheeky sod. A couple more rounds of sparring and it was time to limp home, where I sit now nursing my swollen joints and bunged up nose.
Just one more day to go...tomorrow, some Jikishin ju-jitsu training in the Church!

Seven Day Slam - Day 6

Day 6: Friday - Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Day 6 of my strange seven day self-declared odyssey began poorly. I woke up with a stinking cold and a ...

23 Mar 2006

Day 5: Thursday - Kickboxing
Woohoo! That's how I felt after a session at the Paragon Gym kickboxing club. It's been about 18 months since I last trained there and I forgot how energy sapping a session could be, and yet I left feeling invigorated and pumped up.
Stuart Lawson took the session. you never know what to expect when Stuart is teaching. He had us spinning left and right with hook kicks, roundhouses, sides. We were jumping karate-kid style into switch kicks and spinning backfist punches aplenty. Stuart is definitely the master showman of the kickboxing world and he enthuses that in you. Not that many of us could actually do the techniques, but I was surprised I haven't lost too much of the snap, crackle and pop.
I definitely miss my time down at Paragon. But the gym is not without its critics. Some say that the sparring (or lack of) during lessons leaves much to be desired and students are training, in what is effectively just padwork and shadow drills. But I like it there. And I think the teaching is sound. Not everyone likes sparring, but if you do - they have sessions dedicated just to sparring, which I used to do quite often.
In any case, time and priorities mean that my patronage of Paragon will be sporadic at best. If I had to choose, BJJ and JJ comes first. But it is nice to know I can still do those crazy kicking.

Tomorrow...more BJJ...

Seven Day Slam - (7 martial arts in 7 days) Day 5

Day 5: Thursday - Kickboxing Woohoo! That's how I felt after a session at the Paragon Gym kickboxing club. It's been about 18 month...
Day 4: Wednesday - No gi submission grappling
Meerkat woke up this morning with aches, pains and all over stiffness - yes! Just like old days.
I can't explain what possessed me to do this 7 day challenge. I could so easily sit at home and make the most of my week off from the demanding baby. But I read in the papers about Steve Vaught the obese man who is walking all the way across America. I read his diary online and it is an inspiration. Real human courage of spirit and guts. Makes my little 7 day effort seem rather silly. Still, no giving up now as tonight, it was off to Bethnal Green for some no gi grappling, also known as subgrap. Basically it is BJJ without the uniform and it is the speed demon of the fight world. You have no time to rest and hold your guard or cling on mercilessly to the uniform, you have to move move move!!
I have DVDs at home of subgrap tournaments and those guys are amazing. The pinnacle of the sport is the annual tournament in Abu Dhabi. Win that, and your fame is assured.
But back on Earth, my sub grap experience starts here in Eddie's Bethnal Green class. Again, Ed went through a number of techniques, today focusing on takedown, sprawl and counter to the sprawl manoeuvre - ending up in various submission winning positions. I must say, I love subgrap. It suits the smaller faster practitioner and you can still use BJJ skills with slight modifications.
Some pictures from tonight:

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No, I am not pretending, it really does hurt!

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Meerkat (centre) as ever the shy and elusive one.

Tomorrow - kickboxing...

Seven Day Slam - Day 4

Day 4: Wednesday - No gi submission grappling Meerkat woke up this morning with aches, pains and all over stiffness - yes! Just like old da...

22 Mar 2006

Day 3: Tuesday - Imperial Ju-Jitsu
Normal training down at the club, only this time, sensei Kevin hosted a series of Iaido introductory seminars. He went through a number of Iaido techniques which led to a basic kata - all vaguely familiar through our own katana work, but perhaps a little more refined. Kev finished the class off with a very impressive kata. This Iaido stuff certainly looks the business when it comes to using a Japanese sword and the precision needed must take hours and hours of practice. It also somehow looks much more impressive when wearing the full haks.
So, club night as normal, mainly teaching but got thrown for a couple of techniques - so I still count it as part of my magic seven!

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Tomorrow - submission grappling!

Seven Day Slam - Day 3

Day 3: Tuesday - Imperial Ju-Jitsu Normal training down at the club, only this time, sensei Kevin hosted a series of Iaido introductory sem...

20 Mar 2006

Day 2. Monday. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
The first night of full sleep for four months has rejuvinated Meerkat. I entered the dojo refreshed and itching to spar. Monday night is officially beginners night, so there were a lot of newcomers. But I chose to spar with the blue belts and experience white belts. Although I found it hard going (those once a week only sessions mean I am barely topping up my skills) I have found that my defence and escapes are improving marginally.Quite a few members are gearing up for the big SENI tournament in May. I would love to compete, but will have to wait maybe until next year when I can dedicate more time. So, business as usual on Monday night, I survived and feel great, roll on day 3...

Seven Day Slam - Day 2

Day 2. Monday. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu The first night of full sleep for four months has rejuvinated Meerkat. I entered the dojo refreshed and ...
I never thought anything could be so hard as looking after a baby. But there is something almost just as hard - and that is not being able to do my MA. Clearly, baby Meerkat is the priority, and I'm lucky to be allowed time off to still train in BJJ once a week and teach JJ. So when Mrs Meerkat decided to take the baby and spend a week with her folks, I jumped at the chance to use my week off to do as much MA as I physically could.
Hence, my new challenge - the 'Seven Day Slam'. To go training in various MA for 7 days in a row and still live to tell the tale, so here goes:

Day 1. Sunday. Vale Tudo
My BJJ coach Eddie has started a new Vale Tudo (aka NHB or MMA) class in Bethnal Green of all places - YES! Only a stones throw from where I live - there is a God.
I used to deplore the seemingly mindless bish bash of MMA, but now I love it. Not only is it an exciting spectator sport, it is a very realistic method of training self-defence. Without the gi to grip onto, you have to rely on cunning body movements and timely striking. Without doubt an art in its own right.
Eddie taught techniques for us to drill for about 1.5 hours then we sparred for half an hour. At this stage, you could be toe to toe with an experienced cage fighter. But the pace is just right, as no one wants to get seriously injured. Still, I seem to be a sucker for getting my foot locked.
I survived (despite having only had one hours sleep the night before) and so onto Day 2...

The Seven Day Slam - 7 Martial Arts in 7 dayz

I never thought anything could be so hard as looking after a baby. But there is something almost just as hard - and that is not being able t...

13 Mar 2006

I somehow knew that JJ kyu gradings were not going to be as straightforward as normal when one student pulled out and another's budo pass went 'walkies' all at the last minute. Then, there was mini chaos when unbeknown to me, head sensei had changed some of the belt colours around (I seem not to have received the circular that went around a few weeks ago). White belt was now yellow and yellow was now orange. This led to dozens of yellow and white belt students running around not knowing which hall to grade in and which colour belt to wear. Still, it was all sorted out in the end so I settled down to watch my green belts grade for their blue. Oh dear, what are the chances of two of your students who week in week out produce quality techniques to have a really bad grading. Poor chaps, they looked almost ashamed of their performance. But it wasn't all that bad, their minds just went a bit blank. They passed in the end, though Meerkat was given a little bit of a dressing down by one of the examining senseis about the performance and I could only mumble something about possible nerves getting the better of them as my defence.
Still, the day was not all lost. I got to catch up with my original sensei, Steve H, and it was really nice to see him again after such a long time. Plus, with slightly fewer numbers of students at these events due to a couple of clubs leaving the association, I quite like the newer slimmed down version. Previous events always seemed to me rather bloated with huge numbers of bodies running around, the noise, the nerves, the whole thing seemed a bit too much. Mind you, it means less places for grading students to hide on the mat - so that probably contributed to my blue belt's nerves. The events of the day gave me the resolve to get students working harder and committing a little more to their training. Hopefully, the next grading will be incident-free!

Red and yellow and pink and blue...

I somehow knew that JJ kyu gradings were not going to be as straightforward as normal when one student pulled out and another's budo pas...

26 Feb 2006

Many martial art philosophies believe in the circle as the ultimate symbol of their art. For me, this is true as I have recently revisited my old martial art haunts. Whenever I spend a considerable time indulging in one activity - and then leave it - I never forget about my time, always thinking that it will come back around again.So it is with kickboxing. I left the gym around 18 months ago. Mainly to spend more time on BJJ and JJ but also to leave more time for my family too. But since Mrs Meerkat gave birth, she has been bemoaning her lack of fitness. So I hooked back up with the kickboxing gym and our coach has offered to give private training sessions just for Cat. It was weird going back into the gym. Nothing really has changed and the staff greeted us as if we had never been away. It strongly tempted me to restart my kbxg training.
I often wonder how many of my ex-students who had to give up JJ, actually intended to come back, but were too afraid to make that step back into the dojo?

I've just had 5 hours of kobudo training (traditional weapons) and finally managed to nail a couple of the new katas. Kobudo is an art that you must contstantly practise as they always grade you on the previous katas as well as the new stuff. Towards the end, our head showed us a new way to twirl the bo staff and I must say, I really took to this more dynamic option.

Revisiting the past

Many martial art philosophies believe in the circle as the ultimate symbol of their art. For me, this is true as I have recently revisited m...

18 Feb 2006

Just got back from a seminar with the legend that is Royce Gracie. Once again, his tuition was first class and every technique was sweet and simple but no less effective. You can almost imagine being in the ring tapping out some big UFC fighter using the same trademark subs that Royce just showed us.
The particularly nice thing was that 7 of my JJ colleagues came down too and the grins on their faces at the end of the session said everything it needed to say. Although BJJ was very new to them, they followed the techniques effortlessly and I hope they went away knowing they learned some very useful solid techniques. Thus proving my personal opinion that trad JJ and BJJ do make for a very nice combination of styles.

This year, I came better prepared than last year's seminar and brought my camera, permanent marker pen and a copy of Royce’s latest book for him to sign. The one thing I am kicking myself for not doing was rolling with Royce. Towards the end, he was offering to spar with us students and I could easily have offered myself but I lost the nerve! Typical. Definitely next year though.

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Grinning JJ buddies, left to right: Steph,Eddie,Wayne, Grant,Royce,Meerkat,Pete,Phil and David

Finally, a big shout out to KJ and Greg who received their well earned blue belts by Royce. I look forward to the big man's next visit, and I wish him well for his next fight.

Rolling with Royce

Just got back from a seminar with the legend that is Royce Gracie. Once again, his tuition was first class and every technique was sweet and...

16 Feb 2006

Meerkat popped down to Tilbury last night to pick up some club merchandise and managed to wind up training with head of JJ. Actually, what happened was I ended up groundfighting with a 4th dan sensei who was three times my size. We were only practising escapes but put it like this - the fact that I could not get the full extent of my legs around his waist to do a closed guard says something about the size difference. Still, I managed to think my way out of a couple of pin downs, and was quite pleased but he casually mentioned that he was letting me do that. What made it a little more awkward was that everyone seemed to know that I have been training in BJJ, so they were keen to see what I could come up with. Erm, not very much seemed to be my reponse. Oh well, maybe Royce Gracie, who is coming this Friday, can offer me a few tips on handling giant opponents. The good thing was that I did show my face, especially in the light of the news below:

A few rucktions within the JJ association have happened this week. Four very senior senseis, representing about a dozen clubs, have declared their split from the association with immediate effect. This has been very sudden and no one seems to know the true reason. I am assured that it was an amicable split, but it is still sad to see their departure. The JJ association remains healthy though, with clubs expanding all the time and students joining in their dozens each week, so I am sure it will take the news in its stride.

Off to revise my defences against titanic sized opponents now....

Rumble in the docks

Meerkat popped down to Tilbury last night to pick up some club merchandise and managed to wind up training with head of JJ. Actually, what h...

7 Feb 2006

Blimey - had to share these pics with you.






They came from Rob's friend Kaoru Kawai, a karate instructor in Japan.

Hmmm, training ideas for the next session...

BUT, not before I attend them mighty Royce Gracie's forthcoming seminar. I really enjoyed it last time and hope, a year on, I will be able to understandmore of the techniques he shows for my own use.

Crazy Training

Blimey - had to share these pics with you. They came from Rob's friend Kaoru Kawai, a karate instructor in Japan. Hmmm, trainin...

5 Feb 2006

I managed to get away from the little one last night and enjoyed another scintillating night's entertainment at Cage Rage 15. Good to see Brad being taken to very edge by a very good opponent, and still maintaining his crown as UK featherwight champ but sad to hear the booboys who disagreed with the decision. I thought it was close but Brad edged it.
Good to also see the Americans coming over and using solid BJJ groundwork to eventually tap out their opponents. Although one chap, who is a boxer by training, refused to mix it up on the ground against a Japanese wrestler. That fight got a bit predictable and boring in the end.
Bizarrest match up of the night was giant handlebar-moustachioued newcomerDave Legeno versus Japanese wrestler simply known as 'The Punk'. What the punk lacked in size, he made up for in technique and won with a rare ankle lock. Something tells me though that we'll see more of Legeno as his ego is as huge as his presence.
Another interesting fight was that of Jason Delucia. Representing his own style called 'CombatAikdo' he is a veteran cage fighter of mixed fortunes. Tonight, he fell victim to a classic armbar within two minutes by Brazilian fighter Fabio Piermonte.
I think my favourite fight of the night was the wiley Jean Silva against young Brit Paul Daley. Jean, a BJJ specialist seemed to want to prove himself as a stand-up, and Daley, clearly a stand-up, was playing tactical cat and mouse. It lacked the big gun fireworks but I found it enthralling as each one tried to size the other up. Daley was more than amatch for Silva but unfortunately broke his thumb during the fight and had to stop, handing Silva the victory. There will be a re-match and I lok forward to it.
There were lots of other fights but my time away was limited so I missed the mighty Cyborg being defeated by Muay Thai expert Melvin Manhoef.
Roll on CR-16!

Cage Rage 15

I managed to get away from the little one last night and enjoyed another scintillating night's entertainment at Cage Rage 15. Good to se...

17 Jan 2006

Some time ago I wrote an article on my club website detailing my first experiences of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). At the time, I was shocked to discover how little my previous ability in ‘traditional’ Japanese ju-jitsu (JJ) could help deal with the relentless tangling of arms, legs and neck chokes that I was subjected to. Now, over two years later, it seems appropriate to review what I have learned from training in both BJJ and Jikishin Ju-Jitsu.

At first, the actual techniques and training methods of BJJ seem a world apart and I struggled to cope with learning two systems (plus the fact that everyone was bigger than me). But I am now beginning to appreciate both styles for their own merits. I am also seeing how knowledge and practice of both can link seamlessly into a whole. My BJJ has definitely improved my JJ, and my JJ, has given me a more knowledgable insight into how certain BJJ techniques work.

Learning a syllabus based martial art is an efficient and productive method of learning techniques. At every stage, you and the instructor can see the steady progress with gradings. But I have always felt that training via only the syllabus is a bit too one-dimensional. There must be a component of resistance work against an unpredicatable opponent. I took up kickboxing for this very reason and very much enjoyed it. But when I first stepped onto the mat to begin my BJJ journey, it really sunk home that this was the perfect complement to JJ.

As for actual techniques, the two styles are not so different. A throw is a throw, a joint lock is a lock and a strangle is a strangle (only BJJ likes to call it a ‘choke’.) As I have improved at BJJ I am getting better at my position strategy, timing, fluidity and a myriad of other aspects that can only come through repeated exposure to resistance sparring. But in the topsy turvy world of BJJ, feet are kept firmly on the ground for no matter how fantastically you disposed of your last opponent, the next one could just as easily crush you. I find this weekly challenge very exciting, if unnerving!

In Meerkat world, self-defence style JJ and sport-based BJJ are the perfect complement to one another. Not everyone agrees. Many ju-jitsu clubs (though thankfully not from our style) frown on sport martial arts as irrelevant for self defence. Not surprisingly, I don’t agree. But that argument is for another blog entry.

This year will be a tough year for Meerkat to fulfil all his martial arts desires, since baby Meerkats needs must be the priority. But I am still there, still teaching JJ and attending as much BJJ as possible. As a sign of my progress, Eddie my BJJ instructor awarded me another stripe on my blue belt. This little creature has certainly come a long way since that first date as a confused and frightened fodder for the tapout merchants.

When worlds collide

Some time ago I wrote an article on my club website detailing my first experiences of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ). At the time, I was shocked ...

2 Jan 2006

You are never too young to start your budo training with Meerkat...

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Happy New Year to all my readers!

Happy 2006

You are never too young to start your budo training with Meerkat... Happy New Year to all my readers!

 

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