Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ho Shin Sool MMA Fighters Gearing up for King of the Cage Dec. 12th

On July 25th five Ho Shin Sool MMA fighters, including myself, stepped into the cage at King of the Cage: DisputedDisputed had some match-ups that would settle some regional rivalries and Ho Shin Sool proved again that not only were we the first to bring MMA to our area, but we were, by far, still the best.  The night ended 5-0 for HSSMMA with 3 KO's and 2 submissions.  Those who had questioned our legitimacy, dedication or talent were left to eat their own bitter words.

    Ho Shin Sool Fight Team celebrates going 5-0 at KOTC: Disputed

If you were at Disputed and want more (or if you missed it and are mad about it) you'll get your chance to see the HSS boys in action again on December 12th at King of the Cage: Title Defense. Four HSS fighters will be in action at Title defence, which will take place at Vegas Kiwedin Dreamakers Theatre.  If you've never been to a KOTC show, don't miss this one.  The atmosphere when HSS fighters get in the cage is something not to be missed. The Sault area is lucky to have a quality promotion like KOTC coming back so don't miss out.   Coach Liguori will guide  Adrian "So Young He's Almost Sperm" Vilaca, Trevor "The Tremor" Manchester, Ray "Broken Parts" Gowlett and Jeff "The Big Caboose" Elliot into battle.  I might have to check the accuracy on those nicknames, but I'm pretty sure I got them all.

          Poster boys Jeff Elliot (far left) and Adrian Vilaca (left).  Trevor Manchester
and Ray Gowlett didn't make the cut due to aesthetic issues.

Tony Hervey will also be defending his 145 lb KOTC title at Title Defense.  Hervey just lost a close 5 round decision to Takanori Gomi, considered one of the best lightweights in the world, at Vale Tudo: Japan. 
Tickets are available at Ho Shin Sool Martial Arts and Fitness Center, Brody's Bar ad Grill and Sportscenter Bar and Grill.  Brody's and Sportscenter are also HSS sponsors so show them some love!

P.S.  Boy have I got a treat for you!  Every once in a while I'm going to post a clip from the movie "Vision Quest" on the blog.  If you're a wrestler and have never seen this movie I'm calling you out right here and saying that you're not a real wrestler.  Boxers have "Rocky", Football has "Rudy", Wrestling has "Vision Quest".

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lost in Daegu, Turkey Day and a Bit of Payback Wrestling Style.

There's no 'Bed Bath & Beyond' in Korea... But a nice little Saturday nonetheless.

Saturday I got up early and headed out to meet up with a friend. Armed with the most basic Korean language skills, a couple of dollars in my pocket and some directions written in Korean that I copied off the interent I set out for my rendezvous. If you know me and my sense of direction you probably already know I never found the place or the person I was looking for. No matter though, I decided to cash in the silver lining and explore a cool new part of Daegu that I had never seen. I walked through a lot of interesting traditional shops and found the Daegu music district where I priced out a few guitars for a later date. Eventually I stumbled across a subway station which meant I was home free. Good thing too, 'cause I had no phone, was lost and had apparently copied my directions down wrong. I decided to hit the Seomun Market where you can buy just about anything for really cheap. The place is huge and there are different sections for produce, textiles, shoes, clothing, seafood, housewares, hats, bags and all sorts of other stuff. You could easily spend all day there just walking around, checking out the cool foods and vendors (check out the video of the pig "snack bar"). After a while I made my way back to Daegu MMA where I had a good Saturday workout and then hit the neighbourhood Jimjillbang, something I'm glad to say is becoming a Saturday tradition with some of the boys.

Picking up the pace at Daegu MMA
Everyday at Daegu MMA Heung Gull tests the limits of the connective tissue in my arms, neck and legs. I get submitted a lot. Without the gi I'm happy to keep it even, in the gi I have to set smaller goals such as "don't die". Wednesday was different. Heung Gull is fighting a wrestler soon so we've been doing more wrestling. On Wednesday we scrimmaged. Just the two of us. Ten 3 minute sessions. I beat him like he was the bully who picked on me and stole my lunch money in elementary school and we were meeting 10 years later after I grew two feet, hit the weights and figured out that I was good at inflicting pain on people. I tried to steal his soul. Heung Gull is just good enough at wrestling that I can use some of my really good stuff on him. He reacts properly, which allows me to set up and hit some of my best techniques. I threw everything in my repertoire at him and then some. Doubles, singles, high crotch, shoulder throw, front headlock, stepper, hip toss, whizzer, over under, inside leg trip. I hit them all and I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel gooooooooooood. Unfortunately, as every fighter knows, Some days you're the hammer and some days you're the nail. The next day was back to Gi Jiu Jitsu. With Heung Gull I'm more often the nail than the hammer.
Things have been ramping up at Daegu MMA. Un Sik has a kickboxing fight on Halloween night, Heung Gull is fighting in DEEP in November and there is a Jiu Jitsu tournament in early December. There are a lot more guys training a lot harder these days and more sparring partners to choose from. Wednesdays no gi class has had more of an MMA slant to it lately and people have been doing more MMA based drills and conditioning during open mat. It's a good atmosphere.
Heung Gall's opponent in DEEP is Mori Akihiko. Akihiko's record of 7-6 doesn't tell the whole story. He's fought in Sengoku, DEEP, K1 and many other quality promotions in Asia. He's been in the ring with some some very tough hombres. I've been working on the wresting clinch with Heung Gall quite a bit as Akihiko seems to like to bully people into the corner, tie them up and try to drag them down to the ground. From what I've sen I think Heung Gull's Jiu Jitsu and striking are better than Akihiko's. Even if Heung Gull does get taken down, this might not be a bad thing as long as he doesn't end up mounted or in side control. It's an interesting fight, I hope I can make the trip to watch.

Turkey Day & Pumpkin Carving
Being away from home on the holidays is never great, but lucky for us we have some awesome friends that hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving Day to make everyone feel a little more at home. Karen and Brian prepared a full thanksgiving spread and there were contributions from everyone else as well. There were no turkeys to be found anywhere in the city, but it's just as well, they probably wouldn't have fit in the toaster oven like the chickens did. Ovens don't really exist in Korea.
About 15 people took part in the festivities; most were Canadian but there were a few Americans and an Irishman stirred in for flavour.
The same friends, Karen and Brian, also hosted a pumpkin carving night as a low key alternative to our regular Friday night festivities. Unfortunately the pumpkins were carved pretty quickly and what followed was a 4:00 am Noraebang session. Some people should sing. Some people shouldn't. Sometimes Soju convinces people from group 1 that they belong to group 2.

The Contradictions of Korea

Before I left for Korea I had some friends who had been there tell me that I would run into all sorts of things that just didn't make sense. So True.

Example #1:
Being caught behind a Korean girl on the escalator is awkward; they wear skirts that have shorter inseams than some brief-cut underwear I own. Suffice it to say that girls would not be allowed to wear skirts like that in a Disney film. This seems to be perfectly ok with everybody. On the other hand, Koreans find it absolutely SCANDALOUS for a girl to show her shoulders. How dare they!?

Example #2: Blowing red lights is ok. Driving on the sidewalk is ok. Cutting off cyclists and pedestrians is ok. But don't you dare jaywalk, Koreans will yell at you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The MMA Update

An Improved Mental State, a Battered Body.

The last two weeks of training have been much improved, despite my body feeling beaten and run down. I have added a few hours to my weekly training but the real difference has been not in the hours I train, but in the intensity and focus that I'm bringing with me to the gym these days. I push myself harder in sparring, I use my time better and squeek out more reps during technique and I use the open mat time to pick the better grapplers brains and work on things from the last class. I spar more on the feet and have added a little lifting back into the equation. I've also become more selfish. I almost always pick the most skilled guys to work with during technique and sparring. It might not help them a whole lot but hey, this is about me.

Everyday day at the club there is an hour and a half jiu jitsu class at 7:00 and another at 9:15 with 45 minutes in between where people relax, eat, work on technique or spar if they want to. I normally stay for one of the classes and the open mat time. Wednesdays is no-gi night so I've been staying from 6:45 to 10:45. The no-gi is much more MMA specific so I've been trying to take advantage a little more. Because of the length of training, I can't maintain the same intensity on Wednesdays as I do the rest of the week. I treat the first class as a technique class. In sparring I sometimes work with younger guys, give up positions and try to work out of them using movement instead of strength or speed. During open mat time I drill technique, stretch and stay warm. When the 9:15 class starts, it's on. I only scrap with the studs. I push myself to failure during conditioning. I yell, I bleed, I tap people out and I fight off chokes and submissions until I'm almost unconscious or broken. My body hurts a lot right now, but I feel like I'm working at a higher level than I have in a long time.

Some of the guys from the club think that I'm bat guano crazy because I bleed so much but keep sparring or training anyways. "Kinchanaieo", meaning "it's ok", has become a verbal staple for me. I say it about 10 times a night. The truth is that I just bleed a lot. One time I got cut by a stiff breeze. I briefly contemplated Brent "stretched out saran wrap skin" Fryia as my professional nickname. When I wrestled in university the trainers were always at matside with gauze, tape and cotton balls ready to go. I know that having thin skin is probably not the best characteristic for an MMA fighter, but it is what it is and the fans love blood right?

I realized recently that I haven't posted anything visual in regards to Daegu MMA. To remedy the situation I took a few videos last night to show you what the place is like. The videos are from after all of the classes for the day are done. Most people have gone home but some have stuck around to roll or work on a few things. A lot of the people in this video have already been at the club for more than four hours.

Cast of Characters: These are a few of the guys I train with every day
Hyung Gull (young gal) is a a purple belt, but that's misleading. I've been told more than once that he should be a brown belt but won't do it here because his master is a brown belt. He plans on going to Japan to get his brown and pursue his black belt. He's an unbelievable athlete. Strong fast, flexible and smart. He recently won the Korean regional qualifier of the ADCC against brown and black belts. In the semi final he faced his teammate, Un Sik and nearly broke his arm clean in half. Un Sik is just back training now after having minor surgery on that arm. Sounds like a jerk move on one of your buddies? Keep in mind Un Sik could have tapped at any point. You can see Hyung Gull in the red shorts in the second video.

Un Sik (oon shik) is an unbelievably skilled fighter. He is 7-0 and had developed quite a following before he entered the military and was forced to put figting on hold. All Korean men have a two year mandatory military service. During this time you can work one other job, but not two. Un Sik has a part time job that pays the bills, meaning if he gets paid to fight, he would face military charges and punishment. Raw deal. Un Sik is also a purple belt, has awesome Muai Thai and is picking up wrestling very quickly. One of the reasons I like him a lot is because he didn't like me right off the bat. While everyone else accepted me right off the bat because I was Mitch's brother Un Sik couldn't have cared less who I was, who I knew or what I had done before. He made me earn it. I like that because I'm the same way at home at Ho Shin Sool... don't tell me how good you are, show me. Un Sik has an amateur Kickboxing fight at the end of this month. You can see Un Sik wrapping up for sparring in the first video.

John is an 18 year old highschool student. That's him pretending to do something and throwing punches at the camera in the second video. he has an English name and speaks the language pretty well because he took several years of English in school. He likes to show off his knowledge of English slang by swearing at inappropriate times which is often hilarious, but only to me. I use him as my translator a lot. He has real sharp standup and is pretty slick on the ground. He likes sparring on the feet with anybody, guys who are better than him, guys he can work over without sweating or guys who give a him a solid challenge. Next year he'll start the first of his two years of military service after which he plans on beginning his fighting career.

"Super Babies" is what some of the older guys call the young kids who train at the club all the time. I think they are genetically engineered to be jiu jitsu machines. They're mostly in middle school and early highschool and spend ALL of their time at the club. They don't train super hard all the time but their skill level is pretty amazing considering how young they are. One of these kids first introduced himself to me as "Young Korean GSP". I thought that was pretty funny until I rolled with him. In the next 5 to 10 years I think you'll be watching one or more of these kids. In the second video you can see the two kids with no shirts on rolling. It might not look like they're rolling real hard but when that video was taken they had already been doing it for four hours. Pretty wild.

There's a bunch of other awesome guys at the club that I roll with on a regular basis, but I'll save them for a later date.

Things Koreans have figured out...
Cell phones. Every cell phone has the same charger and you can charge your phone at any store, restaurant or cafe for 20 cents. You're phone is essentially never dead. There is also one cell phone store for every3 people in Korea. Maybe a bit of an exageration, but not much. Think Starbucks and then multiply by a millionbazillion.

Things Koreans have not figured out.
Clearing your throat discreetly. You know when you wake up in the marning and are feeling really flemmy? And the only way to clear your throat is by making making a sound something like "HRANCHKXXXXXXXXT" and then hocking a loogey that could probably make into the next time zone? You know how you always try to do that secretly with no one around. Koreans don't. It's perfectly okay to do that anywhere in public. Kids, moms, dads, old ladies, small dogs... everyone does it and it's kinda gross.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Happenings Keep Happening!

A new approach, a renewed commitment
(edited, click on the pics for high quality, full size versions)

I had an interesting day at jiu-jisu today. When I walked in, the club manager approached me right away and took me by the arm. I figured she was going to hassle me about club fees since I hadn't paid for this month yet (I had the money in my bag). Instead the conversation went like this.
"There is competition in Japan.. you compete?"
"Yeah, sure."
"It is MMA."
"Oh... when and where is it?"
"November 1st, Tokyo"
This puts me an interesting position. I do want to fight while I'm here and what better place than Tokyo, considered by many to be the mecca of MMA? I'm also honoured that Jae Hoon and the rest of the guys would ask me to represent their club as a pro. There are two problems. Number one is that my current visa is a one entry visa only. If I leave Korea I can't come back. I can get an addendum to my visa to allow me to travel, but I'm not sure how long that would take. To fight in Korea I also need a special "entertainers visa"... my current E2 teaching visa doesn't cut it. A few North Americans have been busted on this in the last year and fined heavily. Korea is also in the middle of a crackdown on foreigners working illegally. I'm assuming there is a similar type of visa that would be needed to fight in Japan.
While these are problems, they are probably solvable. The second problem is the big one. I'm not ready. And that's embarrassing. I've been here for almost a month and a half and while I've picked up my training a bit, and my jiu jitsu is much better already, I am not ready to fight and don't think I could be in less than a month. I discussed my concerns about the visa issues and my preparedness with the guys at the gym and thanked them for the opportunity but declined. I told them that I do not want to represent their club unless I am at my best and can represent them the way they should represented.
There is a jiu jitsu tournament on the first weekend of December. I plan to keep upping my training to compete at this tournament. I also decided on the spot that I wouldn't let a lack of preparation keep me from an opportunity like this again. After this tournament I need to be able to fight at just about any time. I've heard lots of stories about fights being offered on very short notice in Japan. Even in the days of Pride many fighters never found out who their opponents were until two weeks before the event. I need to take better care of my body, do some more MMA specific training each weak and start hitting the weights and conditioning a little harder. Don't get me wrong, I'm in good shape, I'm about 5 lbs. leaner than when I left from Canada. It won't take a lot to get to where I need to be, but I need to start now.
P.S. As I'm writing this I'm watching Dream 11 live on cable TV. All of the UFC and K1 events are also free on cable here. So awesome.

Chuseok Weekend

Last week we had Thursday and Friday off for Chuseok, which is usually called Korean Thanksgiving even though that comparison isn't entirely accurate. Wednesday at school we had some Chuseok celebrations. We got to wear Hamboek, traditional Korean clothing, make songpeon, which I like to think of as a Korean pirogi. We got lots of good pics so here's a few.

There sure is nothing wrong with a four day weekend and we took full advantage of it. Thursday Lisa and I climbed Gatbowi Mountain. It's about 2.5 km up and very steep in for the last half. At the top is an amazing Buddhist sculpture that was carved around the year 620. There is a Buddhist village, lots of monks around and a large prayer area at the top of the mountain. We got some awesome video and pictures and were able to buy some beads from the monks. Probably the highlight (or maybe lowlight) of the trip was when we were buying the beads the monk got a text message on his cellphone. I am not kidding. It kinda ruined the effect for me. I think Korea is probably the most wired country in the entire world. ou gt service everywhere; at the top of the highest mountains, deep underground in the subway and anywhere in rural Korea. Grandmas and Grandpas rock their Ipods on the subway and every six year old has a cell phone and can text faster than you can talk.
Friday afternoon a bunch of us left for Incheon, the second biggest city in Korea. We had booked a deep sea fishing excursion and were pretty stoked. This was our plan. We would leave Daegu at 5:00 pm, and get to Incheon around 9:00. Since the fishing people were picking us up around 4:00 am we would not bother with a hotel, and instead carry our gear around downtown while we explored the nightlife. When the shuttle picked us up we would just get on the boat and start fishing, which would go all day until 6:00 pm the next day. What could go wrong right? Believe it or not, nothing did. We had an awesome time all night (the bus ride could be a separate post in itself) and made our connection with no problem. From there things got a little shaky.
Our driver took us to the wharf which in the middle of the night was one of the sketchiest places I've ever seen. The roads where rough, there was garbage blowing across the streets like tumbleweed and stray dogs were wandering all over the place. The place we stopped at looked like it was once a convenience store but was now half covered with a tarp instead of a roof. The lights that were actually working weren't throwing enough light to see anything, but just enough to make the shadows look extra scary. This is when our guide got out and disappeared. He probably only left for a few minutes, but in a place that looked like the set for a bad horror movie, it felt very, very long. We eventually got down to the boat landing where we had to wait about 20 minutes for a boat. While we were waiting I heard "thump, thump" and looked over to see two south Korean soldiers, fully armed and outfitted for taking care of whoever needed taking care of, crouching down after coming over the wharf fence. Two other soldiers quickly followed and the entire unit came out way. These guys had some serious firepower with them, but turned out to be very friendly. They did not want us to take a picture of the door that they were heading towards though... I guess this is the reality of living so close to the border of two countries that are essentially still at war.
Once we got on the boat we had to motor out of the harbour, a trip that took about an hour and a half. This trip was really representative of Korea for me. Amazing natural beauty scarred by major industrial development and waste. We moved through an entire fleet of rusted out tankers and barges and past shore based refineries that blocked the view of the nearby mountains. It looked like something out of 'Waterwold' or some other cheesy, post-apocalyptic movie.
When we busted out the fishing rods I was pretty jacked. They were heavy duty and were spooled with 30 lb test fishing line. We were going to catch some serious fish here. We thought. About five minutes into fishing I caught what looked a lot like a rock bass and was about the same size. I wished the little fella bon voyage and sent him back from whence he came. About 40 minutes later depression set in as I noticed that the Korean guy with us was keeping all of these fish and that's all we'd be catching. Check out the video above to see what I'm talking about. Overall the trip was great, it's just too bad we paid a bunch of money to catch a couple fish that I wouldn't keep at home.

P.S. Does anyone know who this blond girl is? Every time I mention getting some pics for my blog she jumps right in there. Photo stalker I guess.

Shinya Aoki is an absolute wizard! He just scored full mount with a guillotine, added a top side body triangle and transitioned into an armbar to beat Joachim Hansen with 2 seconds left in the fight to win the Dream light weight title. I think he was losing the fight until that point.