Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just a Shorty

Even tough guys aren't immune to Konglish
Just a quick note today...
After a slow week last week (I took a few days off to heal my body after the Sambo championships) I've been back at it hard this week.  I think I'll be travelling to a jiu jitsu tournament in a few weeks so I'm trying to get as much mat time as possible.

Yesterday "Nuna", the club manager, gave me a bunch of patches to wear on my gi.  I guess I've finally made the cut and can now represent the club with their logo on my back.  One of my other teammates actually asked me a little while ago why I didn't have any Machado Jiu Jitsu or Daegu MMA patches on my gi.  I told him that he would know better that me since I don't speak Korean and had no idea how to get some.  The best part about the patches though is the "Konglish" phrase on one of them.  It's a pretty typical English translation from Korea.  Check it out.

I can see what they're getting at, but I think they were after something like "Those who desire victory must be willing to pay the price."

I'll be heading out of Daegu again for another tournament on Feb. 7th.  After not competing for so long it's nice to get two tournaments in a month.  They are calling this tournament the National Championships, but it's really only the National Championships for jiu jitsu clubs that are affiliated with Machado Jiu Jitsu.  From what I hear, the quality of competition is quite high, as I would imagine. In the gi tournament There are two divisions for white belt (basic and advanced), the blue belts get their own division and purple, brown and black belts all compete together.  In No-Gi there are beginner, intermediate and advanced divisions.  I'll be competing in the advanced white belt (gi) category and making a big jump to the advanced division in no gi.  Even in the white belt division I'm sure to have some trouble. It's possible that I wouldn't even win my weight class if there was a white belt tournament just for Daegu MMA members.  There's a few guys around my weight who give me tons of trouble everyday in training.

Something Awesome about Korea:
The city bus system.  I know I've talked about transit here before but the bus system here puts most North American bus systems to shame.  The buses run every ten minutes, but that's not even the best part. Every bus has 3 identifying numbers.  Each number corresponds to a part of town.  For example: I live in Siji. Siji is #9 on the bus routes. That means I can get on the 459, 938, 129, 396 or any bus that has the #9 anywhere in it's number.  You don;t have to know the bus route or schedules at all.  It's so easy it's almost ridiculous.

Something not so Awesome about Korea:
Sidewalks made of marble and smooth stone.  When it rains the sidewalks are mega slippery.  You know those slippery shoes that curlers wear on one foot to glide down the ice?  Try wearing two of them and then getting to work on an ice rink.  That's what it's like when it rains here.  It's extra dangerous when you are stepping from a surface with good grip to the smooth stone.  You're lucky if your lead foot doesn't go shooting ahead of you and split you in half for your troubles.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Life hurts, but it's worth it.

Today my whole life hurts.  It hurts to smile.  It hurts open and close my eyes.  It hurts to walk and talk. I hurt my foot and I hurt my hand. I do not like green eggs and ham.
Saturday evening I left for Seoul to compete in the East Asian Sambo Championships.  My first Sambo experience as well as my first time traveling and competing with my Daegu MMA teammates was a wild one.  I'll give you the tournament highlights and fill in the blanks later.  Just getting to the tournament to weigh in was as eventful as any single day I've had since I've been here.
There was a total of 12 fighters from Daegu MMA competing in all; five guys and one girl from our club (the main Daegu MMA site) and a few from the three other satellite clubs.  On arrival at the tournament one of my teammates told me that I should let the weigh in official know that I was going to weigh in for Sport Sambo and Combat Sambo at the same time.  This was news to me as I didn`t know I was competing in Combat Sambo and I knew none of the other guys from my gym were.  Combat Sambo is pretty much MMA.  It allows full contact striking as well as takedowns and submissions.  You wear headgear, shinpads and 4 oz. MMA gloves.  You can win by knocking your opponent out, Submitting him or winning by points earned on takedowns and by gaining dominant position. I wasn`t particularly prepared for this.  I had spent the last 2 weeks working mostly on takedowns and, thinking that I was only competing in sport Sambo.  I hadn't done any standing sparring in at least that long.  At the same time, I didn't want to miss an opportunity to test my skill sin a live situation.  I was already registered, weighed in and paid for so I figured, what the heck, let's giv'er.
The Sport Sambo tournament was first and Hyon Gul and I were in the same weight class.  Luckily for us we were on opposite sides of the draw.  Here's how the tournament went for me.

Match #1:  I ran up against a pretty solid wrestler right off the bat.  We had a few good scrambles before I was able to take him down with a double.  Once on the ground I realized that his groundskills were pretty basic.  I passed to full mount quickly, he rolled to try and escape and I caught him with an armbar over the top.  It was nice to get the tournament started with a submission "W".  At some point in this match I got headbutted really hard.  I actually spit out  a piece of my lip the size of my index fingernail and three times as thick.  The inside of my mouth looks like somebody put a wire brush in my mouth and then hit me in the face with a brick.

MFight (a Korean MMA website and magazine) was at the tournament taking pictures.  They snagged this one of my armbar in the first round.  The guy in the sport coat is Jae Hoon, the owner and head coach at Daegu MMA. Bo Kue is the guy on the far right.

Match #2:  This match was against a guy with a solid gi stand up game, he was either a Sambo player or a Judoka.  I was able to chip away and get a few takedowns here and there.  I threatened with a few solid submission attempts that earned me advantage points but wasn't able to finish.  At one point I locked up a calf lock.  I heard the referee say something and I let go, thinking that the calf lock might be an illegal technique (It's tough to understand the rules fully when you don't speak the language).  It turns out that he was simply awarding me an advantage point for a strong submission attempt.  I was well ahead on points near the end of the match when he threw me to my back for 4 points.  That made the score 6-4 for me; much closer than I feel the fight actually was.  I threw him to his back right at the buzzer for some insurance points, even though the score clock still read 6-4.

Match #3: This was probably the easiest match of the day for me.  I was able to take him down repeatedly and pass guard to earn position points.  I won by technical superiority (score 12-0) at about the two and a half minute mark.

While I had been fighting my way through my side of the draw Hyon Gul had been absolutely dominating his side.  In his first three matches he had won with three flying armbars for a TOTAL match time of under 40 seconds.  That put us in the final against each other in a major clash of styles;  his fast and dynamic submission vs. my game of takedowns and control.

Match #4: I was able to score several takedowns throughout the match.  Every time I took him down it was a mad scramble to avoid his submission attempts that came rapid fire, one after the other.  I was so worried about the submissions that Hyon Gul was able to score some sweeps and land in dominant positions to earn points.  This is pretty much how the match went.  Takedown, submission attempt, mad scramble, sweep, mad scramble, stand up, repeat.  With 20 seconds left on the clock I scored a 1 point takedown for the lead and was immediately swept into side mount where Hyon Gul earned 4 points.  Final score 13-10 for Hyon Gul.  I was happy to not get submitted but not happy with the result.  There were some definite tactical errors that I made more than once during the match that might have made a difference. Then again, that's why Hyon Gul is the National Jiu Jitsu Champ.

Here`s a pic that captures our match pretty well; me taking Hyon Gul down and him pivoting for an armbar before we even hit the mat.

Un Sik won his weight class as did Yeung Sai who was throwing people like wet noodles. Bo Kue placed 3rd and some of the guys from the other Daegu MMA clubs medalled as well.  Daegu won the team title.  Not bad considering we were one of the only three non Sambo clubs in attendance.  Un Sik spent a good part of his day talking to reporters, signing autographs and posing for pictures with people.  It turns out he only has about 3 months of mandatory army service left and people are pretty excited for his return to MMA.

Un Sik after submitting the Korean Sambo champ in the final.

After the Sport Sambo tournament wrapped up there was a short break to weigh in the new competitors arriving for the Combat Sambo tournament. I used this time to take a much needed nap.  After my nap I felt pretty good.  I got my hands taped up, warmed up and watched the first few matches of the tournament.  There were a few guys who were in the Sport Sambo tournament but most of the competitors were there just for Combat Sambo.  In the first few fights I had seen a lot of fighters engage in toe to toe "I'll punch you, then you punch me" battles that seemed like pretty poor strategy. My plan was to engage on the feet but not get into any slug-fests.  Having not trained my standup much lately I figured the key would definitely be the ground game.

Combat Sambo
Match #1: This wasn't a match at all since the guy I was supposed to fight was off searching for his arm after getting armbarred by Hyon Kul in Sport Sambo.  I think the arm is on Hyon Kul's trophy case with a bunch  of other ones.  I took the medical forfeit rather gladly since I had already had 4 matches on the day and many of my opponents were coming in fresh for Combat Sambo.

Match #2:  This match went as well as I could have hoped.  I controlled the standup, landing the better combinations and using my jab to maintain distance.  I used the striking to set up some takedowns and won on points by a score of 12-0.

Match #3:  Despite the final score, this was definitely the toughest of my Combat Sambo fights.  My opponent was the Japanese Combat Champion.  He tagged me  a lot on the feet.  I looked and felt a little slow.  I wasn't moving my feet at all and ate some decent shots.  For everyone who has ever wanted to see me get punched in the face repeatedly, just fast forward to the 2:26 mark of the 3rd video to have your wishes fulfilled.   I was able to score points on takedowns and some guard passes, but even on the ground he was much more dangerous than my other opponents.  Anytime I was behind him he threatened with kimuras and knee bars and was fairly active from the bottom looking for knee bars, ankle locks and triangles.  I eventually won the match 12-0 on points.

Match #4:  This match was a little slow.  The guy that I fought squeaked his way into the championship match with a last second arm-bar victory after getting dominated for most of his semi-final.  I took him down early for a decent lead and then kept the rest of the fight mostly on the feet to avoid his submission attempts.  Towards the last two minutes of the match it became clear that he couldn't get anything going so he started swinging for the fences, trying to knock me out.  The last minute was pretty much me throwing jabs and avoiding haymakers.  A late takedown sealed the deal and the championship.  Final score 8-0.

It was a tough, tough day. I can't remember having 7 matches in one day for years. By the end of the day I had bled from every hole in my head, including a new few ones courtesy of my opponents.  My entire body aches everywhere but it was worth every ounce of discomfort.  I can't ever remember getting much satisfaction out of doing something that didn't require gritting your teeth and doing something hat was difficult.  This was one of those very satisfying days.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm just a wrestler who's trying to learn Jiu-Jitsu but my coach took me to a Judo practice because I have a Sambo tournmanent coming up. Capiche?

I'm finally going to get to compete in Korea.  Not in MMA, not in Jiu Jitsu, but in the sport of Sambo. Sambo is a Russian martial art closely related to Judo, Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling.  I actually think my skills are a little more suited to Sambo competition than Jiu Jitsu.  Sambo emphasizes takedowns and, like wrestling if noting is happening on the ground the referee will stand you back up to fight from the feet.  If you throw your opponent off of his feet onto his back you win automatically, like in Judo.  You can also submit your opponent for the win, but there are no chokes allowed.  Sambo practitioners are well known for their leg locks.   In Sambo you wear a Gi top with some shorty-shorts, half way between a wrestling and Jiu Jitsu/Judo uniform.  Here's a Sambo highlight of a guy who is apparently one of the best Samboists of all time.

Only 5 guys from the club going to the tournament in Seoul; me, Po Ku, Hyon Gul, Un Sik and Yeong Sai.  These guys are pretty much the studs of the club so I feel like I'm in pretty good company.  When I showed up to Jiu Jitsu tonight Jae Hoon told me "No Jiu Jitsu.  Tournament team, Judo training."  It took me a while to figure out that we were actually driving across town to a Judo club to work on our takedowns in the Gi with the Judo guys.  They probably told me yesterday. Then again, they probably told me in Korean. Funny that we drove all the way across town when there's a Judo club across the street. Martial Arts politics rears it's head again;  across the street.. not friends.  Across town... friends.

Doing Judo again was pretty cool.  Judo is a takedown based sport like wrestling, but the gi changes things a lot.  Being a lot more comfortable in the Gi these days made the transition a lot easier than the first time I tried it back when I was in University in Thunder Bay.  I dare to say that I held my own with the black belts and even scored some decent throws. I think the Judo guys were a bit surprised as they were expecting a bunch of Jiu Jitsu players.  Yeong Sai is also a very good Ssirum (Korean wrestling) wrestler and he was chucking guys around as well.  Ssirum is a very traditional sport, dating back to at least 65 BC.  In Korea the big national tournaments are still a pretty big deal and are televised.  All of the Ssirum dudes I've met are tough customers and can throw like crazy.  I'd like to find a place to give it a try.  Check it out.

Anywho, I'll bring my camera and try to get lots of pictures and video of the tournament.  If I get thrown or armbarred, you will see noting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Life is so Cold.

S.. S..S.. So C.. C.. Cold
I've been back to regular training for a little while now.  While it's great being back, the conditions at the club are not ideal for training right now.  The club is extremely cold.  People who are not training are usually wearing coats and tuques and you can see your breath when training.  The temperature makes it really hard to get warmed up and loosened out.  If you do manage to get a good sweat on it takes about one minute of rest for your body to cool down and your muscles tighten up.  This is the kind of environment that leads to injuries pretty easily.  I'm doing my best to stay warm (I wear tights and long sleeves under my gi) but it sure isn't easy. 

It's possible to keep most of your body relatively warm if you keep moving but it's your feet that are the problem.  Everything in Korea is heated with floor heat but because Daegu MMA has mats from wall to wall they can't heat that way.  The heated floors would soften the mats and make them useless and dangerous in a hurry.  Instead of floor heat we've got a big space heater that is about five feet tall and four feet wide.  You'd think it would keep the place warm, but not so.  There's a radius of about 4 feet around the heater that is warm and the rest of the place is freezing.  The mats are so cold that after training last night I had to walk to the subway extra slow because I felt like my feet were going to shatter.  I think it's time to break out the wrestling shoes.  The only cool (pun intended)  thing about the situation is that after a sparring session everyone is steaming and it looks pretty rad.

I`ve been battling a cold the last week or so too.  It`s pretty much done with now but let me tell ya, when your sinuses are congested getting caught in a triangle choke is one of the worst feelings imaginable.  I felt like my head was going to explode like a a green snot bomb.  

Speaking of freezing,  the heat and water in our apartment stopped working on Friday and still isn`t fixed. This has been one of the oldest winters that people in Daegu can remember.  Korea is a lot warmer than Canada but my life here is freezing, I can never get warm. I think I`ll be spending a lot more time at the jimjilbang this week.
Seoul and The DMZ
Lisa`s family came for a visit over the holidays which was great.  We spent some time in Daegu, Seoul and went to the DMZ.  The DMZ was awesome. Learned a lot of history and got to see some interesting things.  Our tour guides were American airborn infantry and they were pretty awesome. It`s pretty crazy to stand on the border of two countries that are still at war and have soldiers from the other side watch you with binoculars. Here`s few pictures.

In this picture you can see one of our guides and behind him are South Korean soldiers keeping an eye on the North Korean`s.  You can see the North Koreans shoveling snow in the background.

If you look closely enough in this picture you can see the North Korean guard looking at us with his binoculars.  Intense.

This is a cargo train that got caught in a crossfire during the war.  It has over 1200 bullet holes in it and never reached it`s destination, obviously.  It was stopped on what ended up being the border between North and South Korea and had a memorial built around it.

Things I love about Korea...
History at your fingertips.  Korea has a bunch of UNESCO world heritage sites and all kinds of historic temples and artifacts that are easy to get to.  The history and culture of Korea is very interesting and very accessible to anyone who`s even moderately motivated to check things out.

Things I hate about Korea...
The Anti English Spectrum.  This is a real beauty of an organization who`s goal is to rid Korea of all foreigners.  They like to send press releases to the Korean media with fantastically researched claims.  Here`s a few gems from the spectrum.  The vast majority of foreigners in Korea are HIV positive.  Most foreign men are sexual predators with a particular interest in underage girls.  I know, I know, I was as surprised to learn it as you.  The worst part about it is the Korean media is not real big on fact checking and often runs with these stories.

I`ve been contacted to write a column for  They are the biggest Canadian MMA site on the web.    My next article should be up within the next two days.