Wednesday, December 30, 2009

High Standards or Sandbaggers?

I want to start off by saying that the jiu jitsu standards at Daegu MMA are extremely high.  I've rolled with some really tough dudes back at home. I've rolled with belts of all colours including black and brown.  I've been successful in grappling tournaments.  I trained with the National no-gi champ right before I left for Korea and didn't feel the least bit out of my element.  Things are different here.  Every blue belt in the place will choke me out quick if I'm not right on my game.  There are white belts who give me heaps of trouble.  Purple belts?  Forget about it.  When I'm at my best and they're at their worst I can keep it pretty even... in no-gi at least.

To put hings in perspective, there's an American guy here who had a blue belt from his club in the states.  After a few weeks at Daegu MMA he started wearing a white belt again.  One of the purple belts here won the Korean Abu Dhabi Trials against black and brown belts.  As I said, standards are high. The Jiu Jitsu curriculum here is centered around competition.  Sport Jiu Jitsu takes precedence over self defense techniques, although there is obviously lots of overlap.  It takes a long, long time to advance your belt ranking here.  There are people who have been white belts for years and train almost everyday.

One of the good things about Jiu Jitsu is that a Jiu Jitsu blackbelt still symbolizes years of study nd true mastery of the sport.  Jiu Jitsu rankings haven't been corroded by the money making McDojo's who hand out belts for cash like many other of the traditional martial arts.  The Jiu Jitsu community polices itself constantly and is absolutely ruthless with those who fake or embelish their credentials or Jiu Jitsu lineage.  Daegu MMA seems to hold true to that ideal.  A blue belt from this club really means something. 

The flip side of the coin is that some of the competitors here probably could move up in ranking but haven't taken their belt test.  Having to move into the blue/purple belt division in competition is a major deterent for some people.  At home, people would probably call this sandbagging; competing in a division that you probably should have moved out of so that you can still win.  The Koreans definitely don't look at this as a negative thing the way it's looked at at home.  The common belief is that it keeps the standards for progrssign throught the belts high.  This is true, but at the same time I think it might hold some promising grapplers back a little bit by keeping them from stepping up to tougher competition.

I waffle back-and-forth about whether or not these very high standards hurt or help in the long run.  In the end, I usually settle on the fact that regardless of belt ranking I get to roll every day with a lot of tough dudes and will be much better for it.

Me and one of my homies, Po Kue.  He is a 90 kg stud and one of my favourite training partners.
Notice the blood on me and not Po Kue.

New Vision Quest Movie?!?!
I've posted the dramatic conclusion to "Vision Quest".  Louden Swain's showdown with Shute is pretty awesome, but I wonder what it would look like in an updated version.  We may just get a chance to find out.  Rumour has it the guy who plays the werewolf in the Twilight movies wants to play the role of Louden Swain.  Check it out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Korean hospitals and a mutinous body

Hold it right there... 
Well, that didn't last long.  I'm not fighting in Japan next month.  I accepted the fight on Thursday and pulled out yesterday (wednesday).  Monday afternoon at work I noticed my ankle was getting a little sore.  By the time the end of the day rolled around I could barely walk and my ankle was swollen to the point I didn't want to take my shoe off because I didn't think I'd be able to put it back on.  There's a hospital on the short walk to my house, which was a good thing because I'm not sure I would have made it all the way home. I might have had to knock some kid off his bike, or at least get him to double ride me home.   
I have no idea what caused my ankle to swell up.  I trained hard on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  My ankle was fine until Monday afternoon and I did nothing in between except go to an indoor water spa with some co-workers (don't laugh, it was awesome).
On the positive side I was extremely impressed with my first Korean hospital experience.  I got signed in, triaged, assessed by a nurse and a doctor and X-rayed in a span of about  25 minutes.  There was nothing broken but they couldn't really tell me anything more than that.  They gave me an injection of who knows what (it felt like liquid gold), a prescription for some pain meds and put me in a half cast.  The cast was pretty cool.  It was a flexible piece of plastic and gauze that they injected with some sort of warm plaster.  the warm plaster molded to my leg and cooled and hardened to the shape of my foot.  The plaster is wrapped with bandages to keep it in place and they gave me a walking boot to wear with it.  Unfortunately I don't think the cast formed to my leg as well as it was supposed to.  Sometimes it doesn't keep my foot from moving around and it's a pain to walk around with.  I keep trying to wear it around but I find taping up my ankle does just as good a job.

I guess for the next few weeks I'll be standing in front of a punching bag working on turning my hips and shoulders and keeping my chin down.  I'll also have some time to do some strength work in the weight room, which I'm a little glad about.  I know that the "silver lining" expression is cliched but there's always something you can do, and if I don't do something I'll go crazy.

It feels like my body is conspiring against me to keep me from competing in Asia.  Jiu Jitsu tournament? Sublexed shoulder.  MMMA fight? Mysterious ankle explosion.  I think I'm going to have to keep my body in the dark about these things from now on.  Then again, some people say my body should always be kept in the dark anyways.

After slouching around for a few days and being generally grumpy about not fighting I've cheered up a bit.  First of all, tomorrow is my birthday.  E-mail me and I'll send you the account # where you can deposit my gift.  Secondly, one of my 6 year old students wrote this in her weekend diary. Click on the picture to enlarge and read it.

 If that doesn't make you laugh you've obviously had a successful senseofhumourectomy.

It's the thought that counts:
When it looked like I was going to fight in January I was looking for some sponsors to help cover the cost of travel an accommodations since the fight organizations doesn't do that for it's fighters.  ARMBAR Athletics stepped up right away and offered to pay a good chunk of the expense.  I'm extremely grateful that a small company would do that, especially for a fighter that is just getting going in his career.  ARMBAR Athletics sells MMA gear and fashion and has a lot of the big names in their store.  If you're in the market for something I hope you'll support them... their support for me is greatly appreciated.  If you buy something from them, tell them I sent ya!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

KOTC and Fighting in Japan.

The last few days have been filled with all kinds of MMA related news for me.  I've been keeping in touch with the boys from Ho Shin Sool about their fights at King of the Cage: Title Defense, I watched UFC 107 and had some exciting MMA news of my own.

Ho Shin Sool MMA Rips it up at "King of the Cage: Title Defense:

What else is there to say?
Ho Shin Sool fighters went 5-0 at King of the Cage for the second time this year. Two KO's, one submission and two unanimous decisions.  That's good fishing. Ray, Adrian, Jeff, Trevor and Dalton all came to fight and showed why we're the first and best MMA club in the area.  Big props to Jeff for ending his pro-debut in under 30 seconds.  Here's a highlight video of the event featuring most of the Ho Shin Sool crew.  You can also read some good newspaper articles about the fights here and here.

Watch live streaming video from soonews at

Who's Fighting in Japan? I am.
I've accepted a fight in Japan for January 9th.  I was a little apprehensive about taking the fight because there are lots of things I still don't know about the fight and some things I probably won't find out until I get there.  When you're dealing with two language barriers (Japanese to Korean and Korean to English) it's tough to get accurate info. Here's what I do know.
  • The fight will be at 70 kgs.  This is a weight class higher than I normally fight at but weigh ins are the same day and I know that most Japanese fighters don't really cut weight.
  • I will fly from Busan to Tokyo with 4 other Korean fighters on Friday January 8th, fight on January 9th just outside of Tokyo and fly home on Sunday the 10th.
  • The rules of the fight are slightly modified.  Full MMA rules on the feet, full ground and pound on the ground but no submissions.  I'm not sure if this is good for me or not.  On one hand being able to take someone down without worrying about submissions is awesome, on the other hand my submission game is a lot more dangerous now than it was three months ago.
  • The organization does not pay travel.  It's really expensive to fly to and stay in Japan, especially Tokyo.  Luckily I've had a few sponsors step up and it looks like I'll be able to swing the cost of travel. More about that later.
Other than that I'm pretty much flying blind.   I don't know much about the guy I'm fighting, but the owner of Daegu MMA seems convinced that this is a fight I should win.  I don't know who will be cornering me.  I'm not sure if anyone from the club will be going.  I know there is a fighter from another Daegu MMA location that is also fighting. Maybe we will corner each other.  Maybe I'll put some feelers out to see if there are any mutual acquaintances in the fight scene in Japan that would be up for it.  I don't know the name of the organization I'm fighting for; it might be an organization I know or it might be a fly-by-night one time promoter tat will never be heard from again.  I don't know how big of an event this is.  I'm prepared for the venue to be a local gym with 30 people watching and I'm also prepared to walk into a big venue with a few thousand spectators.

There were a number of legitimate reasons for me to not take this fight. Wrong weight class, lots of unknowns, bad money etc.. but in the end one of the main reasons I came here was to fight and fighting in Japan is an opportunity that a lot of fighters would kill to have.  I don't want to leave Korea and say, "man, I wish I would have fought in Japan while I was here."

So, as they say, Game On.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Soooooooooooooooo... my computer died.  That was a while ago.  I have tonnes of pics and vids on there that I want to put up on the blog.  Apparently there's an evil computer genius that lives near us that can hopefully recover those files.  Lesson learned; always back up your files. When I say lesson learned I mean, that's what you should do, not necessarily what I'll do from now on.

The MMA Lowdown

I skipped the Jiu Jitsu tournament this past weekend.  I hurt my shoulder a little while ago and hadn't done any real sparring in almost two weeks.  I've had a lot of time to work on some technical things that I've been thinking about so it wasn't a total waste of time. I sparred for the first time on Saturday and every day this week and it feels okay... just a little limited in my range of motion.  Daegu MMA won the team title at the tournament again.

Daegu MMA has undergone a bit of a facelift.  There are huge new banners that pull down from the ceiling everywhere with pictures of team members in action and accolades that have been collected by the team in the last few years.  Some of the pictures that are on the banners are pretty cool.  For example, there's a picture of Jae Hoon (the owner) holding pads for Lyoto Machida.  When I asked him about it he said "Yesh. Lyota Masheeda. Vely good balanceuh."  That's it.  After training with one of the best fighters in the world all he can say is that he has good balance.  Hilarious.

On Monday night we were treated to a seminar by the first Korean born Ju Jitsu blackbelt.  The seminar was good, but focused on how to use the gi against your opponent.  There was some pretty interesting stuff, but there's no real application beyond sport jiu jitsu...  unless of course you get into a fight with a guy wearing pajamas that have double reinforced collars and sleeve cuffs.  With that being said, I am really starting to appreciate the intricacies of working in the gi, even if a lot of it doesn't translate to MMA very well.

I've been training at a new kickboxing gym in my area for the last few weeks.  The guy who runs the gym is pretty young and has fought in some big events.  He has held multiple belts, including one world championship belt at 81 kg.  I don't know how legit the world title is, but all of the guys at Daegu MMA say he's good, which goes a long way in my books.  Because the gym is brand new there aren't a lot of people who train there yet. There are some classes that run on a schedule but I've been lucky to work mostly one on one with the owner.  When I go to the club right after work he's usually the only one there, watching TV or playing video games. I warm up on my own and hit the bag until he decides that I'm ready or until he can't bear to watch my brutal technique anymore.  That's when he puts the pads on and works me through 20 - 30 minutes of technical and conditioning padwork.  His English is about as good as my Korean, which is to say embarrassing.  Luckily we both speak the universal language of dirty beatdowns. When I'm done on the pads I always have to do between 400 and 600 roundhouses on the heavy bag.  Then it's "fwee time-uh".  It's awesome having someone of his caliber to work with one on one and I think he appreciates having someone around who is willing to work his but of and do whatever he says. 

KOTC in Sault Ste. Marie
On Saturday night 5 fighters from Ho Shin Sool will fight at King of the Cage: Title Defense.  This will be the first time that anyone from HSS has fought without me being there.  I was the first HSS fighter to step in the cage, I've fought as the only HSS fighter on a card and I've traveled to support other fighters when they were the only HSS fighters on a card.  I'm extremely proud of what we've been able to accomplish with Jim leading the way and I couldn't be happier with the group of guys that train at HSS.  The last time KOTC was in the area our team went 5-0.  While no one can guarantee that it will happen again I can tell you that every fighter is well prepared and will leave everything they have in the cage that night.  Adrian said it pretty well in his athlete profile on the Catalyst Fitness website.

"...when you step into the cage you stand alone but you hold a piece of each of those people. Every time they have ever pushed you, tried to break you, punished you they make you stronger. They stand beside you because “I” don’t fight on the 12th “We” fight. It’s a family, never before have I belonged to a family as completely as to this one and nobody attacks this family. I hope you all read this and know I love all of you like brothers.
Lastly, I cannot guarantee you a win. It’s a fight and anything can happen, I can however guarantee that everything I have gets laid out for everyone to see and would bet my life that my teammates do the same. In return I ask one thing when a Ho Shin Sool fighter’s name gets called you leave everything you have inside that building. Don’t save it for the next guy, you always have another gear and I want you drop it into fifth. Make the floor vibrate, make the other man tentative to come out, put fear in his heart and fill ours. That’s it that’s all I ask, come 12 – 12 bring the noise."

Give you chills? It did for me.  If you need another reason to go see the fights it shouldn't hurt that Tony Hervey who holds the 145 lb. KOTC World Title will be defending his belt.  Hervey just lost a very close 5 round decision to Takanori Gomi, long considered one of the best fighters in the world, in Japan.  Some people are calling that fight the fight of the year.  Do yourself a favour and look it up, it's one of the most entertaining fights I've seen in a long time.  Check out the commercial for KOTC: Title Defense at the top right of my page.

I'm not going to say god luck to the fighters because I believe when you're skilled, well trained, in shape and focused luck doesn't play a roll.  Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.  The preparation has been done, the opportunity will come along Saturday night.  Do what you do guys, I can't wait to hear about it.

Ultimate Frisbee
I'm surprised that I haven't mentioned this before.  For the past 10 weeks I've been playing in an Ultimate Frisbee league in Daegu.  The league runs on Sundays and there are three or four games every day.  Getting out and running hard every Sunday is great but the best part is that most players show up for the whole day and just hang out.  The expat community here is pretty small so everybody knows each other somehow and it's fun to have everyone in the same place.

There are some really good players in the league and lots of first timers and can't throw or catchers.  Some people take it pretty seriously and some show up in their bar clothes from the night before.  The games are competitive (my team played 9 games and 7 of them were decided by two points or less) but they also serve beer on the field.  Here's a few pics of the Sunday afternoon action.

Most of the Daegu Hurricanes... best team in the league

The man known simply as B-Vance stretching for the disc.

Me trying to knock down the disc.  For arguments sake let's assume I was successful.

Things that are awesome in Korea: Heated Floors.
Koreans are way ahead of North America when it comes to Radiant heat flooring. Every building or house is heated this way.  It makes sense in a culture where people sit on the floor a lot.  It's awesome in the morning when you step out of bed ad your feet are on a toasty warm surface.  It's also awesome if you think ahead far enough to throw your clothes on the floor at night. When you wake up your underwear is like it just came out of the dryer.  EVERY DAY!
Things that suck in Korea: Bathrooms that have no heat at all.
Things in Korea aren't insulated very well and the bathroom which is always against an exterior wall has no heat source.  Bathroom tiles on a December morning are pretty much the worst thing you could ever step on.  Sitting on a plastic toilet seat in those temperatures creates a whole different world