Sunday, May 30, 2010

Squatters, Gymnastics and Tough Training

Gymnastics in Wrestling, MMA, Jiu Jitsu
I stumbled across the video below by chance, but it reinforces what I've always believed.  Athletes with gymnastics backgrounds or skills have an enormous advantage in any sport that requires balance, kinesthethic awareness, agility and explosiveness.  When I run gymnastic type warm ups when I coach wrestling or grappling at home lots of people complain.  Some people cop out and don't even try.  It's frustrating because those people can't see the benefits of these types of skills.  I'm fond of telling those people "If you can't control your own body, how in hell are you going to control your opponents body?"
When people say "Why are we doing this?  We're not going to do a cartwheel or handstand in a match."
I respond with "Why do you lift weights? You're not going to bench press or clean and jerk in a match."  The answer is the same for both activities.  They both develop and enhance physical characteristics that are important to wrestling, jiu jitsu and fighting.  I would go so far as to say that if you had to pick only one, gymnastics training trumps weightlifting.  My girlfriend used to coach at the National Training center for mens gymnastics.  Some of the guys there were the most jacked guys I've ever seen and they never lifted a weight in their life.  
Consider the following
  • In Russia and Turkey (where wrestling is the national sport and athletes start in the sport at a very young age) youth programs focus mostly on gymnastics before introducing much actual wrestling technique.  They believe it's important to develop a strong physical foundation before trying to learn things that your body is not prepared to do.
  • Most big time BJJ dudes from Brazil practice what they call "gymnastica naturel"  which is basically just tumbling.  They say it gives them a much better awareness of their body.
  • The sheer number of high level wrestlers I have met that have some sort of gymnastics background is staggering.  It can't be a coincidence.
A little background... AACC is a wrestling and MMA school.  Lots of top MMA guys (and girls ie. Megumi Fuji) train there.  It's one of the places that lots of pros stop in to train when they are in Jaoan for fights.  The youth wrestling club is also world famous, having produced world and Olympic medalists.

New Gym, Hard Work
The new gym has been up and running for a few weeks now.  It's a smaller space, but there is much less wasted space.  The main mat area is bigger than at the old club, but we don't have a ring at the new location.  We still have a bag area, weight area, an office and (a big improvement) showers with hot water.
View of the new club
Un Sik has a big fight coming up in DEEP against a very tough Yasuaki Kishimoto (10-3) and the two of us have been working out together a lot lately. We've been working on lots of wrestling and lots of situational sparring.  I've been getting as much out of it as he has, which is good as I'm looking to fight sooner than later.  My body is definitely feeling it.  Today is Sunday, and my 7th day in a row of training with Un Sik.  We'll go in tomorrow and do some work and then I'm going to take Tuesday off and try to explain the concept of "tapering" to him.  Hopefully someone with decent English will be there to help translate.
There are a few young guys that train at Daegu MMA that have really enjoy the wrestling training and are getting pretty good.  A few of them heard Un Sik and I were training on the weekend they came in to work on their wrestling too.  The smaller guy in the video is only 15 and has better jiu jitsu technique than I do. When we roll I have to be a bully and muscle him around to avoid getting beat. Add in some solid takedowns and defense and that's a tough kid to beat. The bigger guy is about 20 and has a great single leg.  When we scrimmage he can score if I'm not really focused on defending the leg hard.   I think I've been able to leave a few of the older guys and two or three of the younger kids with some much improved takedowns and takedown defense and I think that makes them a lot more dangerous, whether in Jiu Jitsu or MMA

Korean Crappers
This is a "squatter".  If you can't see why it's called that please use your browser's back button and go back to whatever internet hole you crawled out of, your presence alone is hurting the average IQ of visitors to this blog and I have standards to uphold around here.
Squatters are a bit intimidating at first.  Which direction do you face?  What do you hold on to?  It's a bit like the old "grab a tree in the woods and squat", but with no tree to grab.  For these reasons I was pretty apprehensive of squatters during my first few months in Korea.  Sometimes there just isn't a regular toilet to be found though.  In these cases I usually just take my pants right off to avoid a stain that would be very tough to explain to your friends.  Everyone's heard the story of the guy who answered nature's call in the woods and ended up with a present in the hood of his snow-suit right?  Nobody wants to be that guy.
Despite the awkwardness and potential danger of using a squatter there are some benefits.  My friend Margot mentioned a while ago that there is absolutely no skin to seat contact and you flush with your shoe covered foot, not your bare hand. Hygienic!  I guess if you're a germophobe using a squatter is the way to go, although it definitely takes some getting used to.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Has Anyone Seen my Battle Pants?

The Bolt Strikes Daegu
The Daegu "World Challenge" Track meet was here on Wednesday and a stack of world and Olympic stars showed up.  Daegu didn't disappoint and put a LOT of people in the stands for this event. Without a doubt, Usain Bolt was the biggest star.  He looked like he barely broke a sweat in winning with a time of 9.84 seconds.  Crazy to think that in 1996 that time would have not only won him an Olympic gold, but also broken the world record.  These days that's not even in the ballpark when compared to the mind-bending 9.58s that Bolt ran last year.  For my money Bolt is one of the best pure athletes living on this planet right now.  The funny thing is, I read an interesting article about how if Bolt had grown up in the U.S. he would never had been a 100m/200m runner.  The thinking that his height put him at a huge disadvantage in the starting blocks would have pushed him into the 400m and 800m races where the effects of a bad start are a bit less.  Interesting stuff.  Here's a video of the race I shot on my camera.  I wasn't sure if I got it all because the display on the camera bit the dust, so no chirps about the bad angle. At least we had pretty good seats near the finish line.

Usain Bolt in Daegu from Brent Fryia on Vimeo.

Crowd Shot.  Good turnout.

Missing Gloves and "Battle Pants"
I brought a nice pair of red Twins sparring gloves to Korea with me.  A few weeks before we moved the gym they disappeared.  I had been leaving them around for some of the other fighters and sparring partners to use in their preparation (there's really only 2 other pairs of gloves you can spar with at the club).  The problem is that, like every MMA gym, there's a revolving door of highschool and college kids who come in thinking they're tough and leave after a few weeks of getting their limbs tied in knots and their bottoms spanked like toddlers. At least in Korea they don't show up in TAPOUT and Affliction gear to show how serious they are about MMA.  I'm sure one of these wannabes took the gloves. Given the family environment at Daegu MMA I can't imagine any of the regulars touching them.   On Monday I was hitting pads with Un Sik and he asked where my gloves were.  When he heard what happened he was pissed.  He pulled all of the highschool kids to the side as a group and absolutely reamed them out.  I'm not sure what he said, but they looked scared.  I felt a bit bad because all of the kids that were there are regulars and I'm sure they didn't touch the gloves.  I hope he was just mobilizing the troops to find out where the gloves ended up.
Side Note: While I was looking on the net for some replacement gloves that would ship from inside Korea I noticed that Koreans use the term "Battle Pants" instead of "Fight Shorts".  I think that sounds way cooler and, effective immediately, I will be referring to all of my shorts as "Battle Pants".

New GYM Location
The new Daegu MMA location is set up ad we've been using it all week.  It's a little smaller than the last place but much nicer, a little more open and in a much better location to attract traffic.  Being on the fourth floor with no air conditioning makes the new gym a bit of a sweat box. Temperatures are hitting 30 + degrees these days and it's only going to get hotter.  When you're training in a gi it's not such a big deal, because the gi soaks up most of the sweat, but no-gi, MMA or kickboxing is a different story.  The mats get pretty slick and I've seen a few cases of "bambi legs" already.  I'm not looking forward to the temperature in there during the hot and humid monsoon season.  I'll post some pics of training at the new place in the next week.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cans, Bottles, Pets.

Increased Training
I've picked up my training again in the last few weeks.  I have an injury that limits what I can do in certain situations but certainly does not prevent me from training.  I got a little caught up in feeling sorry for myself and was letting the things I couldn't do get in the way of the things I could do, and that should never happen.  I'm not sure what shook me out of it but my workouts have been a lot better lately.  I've been doing a lot more stand up sparring lately, especially because a lot of the guys have had kickboxing fights to get ready for.  There are a lot more opportunities to fight for our club right now and I think that I'll take a fight before I leave.  I won't be fighting at 100%, but no one really ever does and I've competed with worse injuries.  I think if I went home without fighting at least once I'd be mad at myself for a long time.

Usain Bolt and Company
The World Track and Field Championships are coming to Daegu in 2011 and to lead up to it the venue is hosting a few preparation meets to get the logistics ironed out.  The last of these meets is this Wednesday.  The lineup for the meet is pretty wild.  4 former Olympic Champions and about a bazillion world champs, olympic medalists and world medalists.  Usain Bolt will be here to run the 100m which should be pretty awesome.  I'm pretty excited for this.  I love track and field and I love watching people who are the best at what they do. Watching the best track athletes in the world is double +++ in my books.

I found a few more good Konglish signs lately.  These are two of my favourites.

Man, they recycle everything here.

This is either a place where a dude can get his hair cut by another dude, or one of `those` barbershops.

New club, New Weekend Job
Daegu MMA is moving it's location to an area that is a little more advantageous as far as visibility and passing traffic.  Daegu MMA is also starting a weekend kids program for elementary school students.  A little bit of wrestling, a little bit of jiu jitsu, and a little bit of kickboxing.  In Korea having English speaking instructors is a big deal and a major draw so they asked if I would coach the program. I really like coaching kids, especially in an environment where we can run around, roll around and play combative games. and said yes before I even knew they were going to pay me.

Things Koreans are Awesome at: Parking
Because space is at such a premium in Korea Koreans are amazing at parking.  They fit cars vans and trucks ito spaces you would never even attempt in the western world, and they usually do it on the first try.
Today I saw a guy park his van so close to a wall he couldn't even open the sliding door.  No joke.  Fact is, if you can't park like this, you proabably can't drive in Korea.
Things Koreans Suck at: Signaling
Koreans don't feel the need to signal anything.  Instead they just fly their car into the smallest opening and lay on the horn if someone looks like they're coming too close or weren't able to telepathically anticipate the lane change or turn.  If you see someone with their blinker on it simply means "Hey loser, quit riding my bumper and go around."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Korea vs. Japan(MMA), Korea vs. Europe (Christmas Trees)

Here's the Un Sik Song's first fight after coming back from active military service.  There's a short video profile of him before the fight starts. If anyone out there speaks Japanese let me know what it says. The guy he fights here (Atushi Ueda, 8-3-3) is no bum, although he is obviously not on Un Sik's level.  
As for the fight, Un Sik was really embarrassed about it. He really didn't want me to see the fight on video. It was his first fight in over 2 years and he fought only 2 weeks after being discharged from the Army, so I think everyone would understand the ring rust. Even still he was really mad at himself for gassing and not being able to finish a few of the submission opportunities he had. The fight was probably perfect for what he wanted; shake off some ring rust against an opponent that was game, but didn't pose a major threat.  I think his next fight, in DEEP: Cage Impact, will be much crisper and cleaner.
 Intro and Round 1

Round 2

How the Grinchy Europeans Stole Christmas (Trees)
Koreans are a very proud people. And they should be.  They have managed to accomplish a lot of amazing things without outside help.  There are a lot of things that Korea just does better than the rest of the world (or at least the parts I've been to).  Sometimes though, Korean pride and nationalism can get a little carried away.
Exhibit A:  A few weeks ago I went on a tour of the area surrounding Yeongcheon.  The tour included a hike up a mountain guided by a university biology/horticulture student.  The mountain had some pretty unique flora, but to say it was mildly interesting would be flattering.  The only interesting part was when our guide showed us a tree (looked like a white pine) and told us that 150 years ago Europeans came to Korea and stole this tree.  They took it back to europe where it flourished and eventually led to the creation of the Christmas tree, a symbol which spread around the world, thanks to Korea. 
Think about it for a second.  This guy is saying that there were no pine trees in Europe before 150 years ago and that the Christmas tree is younger than that.  I think these guys would disagree.
Like I said, Koreans have a huge amount of stuff to be proud of, but sometimes they lack a little perspective.  If you move to Korea you may be shocked to discover that Korea created the I Phone and cloned the first human, among other things.  I don't know if it's comforting or scary to know that blind nationalism is a worldwide phenomenon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Big MMA Weekend. Plus, Fate is Garbage

Everybody's Kung Fu Fighting.
Last weekend was a big one as far as MMA is concerned.  Most people are well aware of the Machida vs. Shogun results from the UFC event, but there was a lot of stuff going on that hits a lot closer to home.
The Ho Shin Sool boys were in action at King of the Cage on Saturday and didn't disappoint.  The guys went 4-0 with none of their opponents making it out of the first round.
  • Trevor Manchester picked up his opponent and slammed him before finishing him with strikes in 24 seconds.
  • John Veltri hit his opponent with a straight counter right on the button and dropped him.  He pounced on his opponent and finished with an official TKO in 20 seconds, but the fight was over as soon as the first punch landed.
  • Ray Gowlett was just as dominant but wanted to enjoy his time int he spotlight a little bit more than Trevor and Johnny.  He picked up and slammed his opponent, dropped some shots from the top position and took the back of his opponent and almost choked him out.  After a scramble he went back to the feet and dropped his opponent with a four strike combo, finishing with a body shot that crumbled his opponent.  Ray followed him to the ground and dropped some shots for the first round stoppage.
  • Jeff Elliot looked good in his second pro fight.  He managed to control his larger opponent in the clinch and score a takedown.  he eventually passed to full mount and started dropping down punches from the top position.  Afte a quick scramble, Jeff found himself on his back where he immediately sunk a triangle choke to get the win.  A good win showing some god wrestling an jiu jitsu to go with is well known striking.
Ho Shin Sool has fought for KOTC 5 times now.  This is the fourth time that the club has gone undefeated, having gone 3-0 and 5-0 twice in addition to this weekends festivities.  We have been set up with tougher and tougher opponents and have responded every time.  You can watch all of the fights on the Ho Shin Sool Facebook page here.
Next up for Ho Shin Sool, Mitch and Adrian fight at XCC:58 Battle at the Border, Canada vs. USA.

 Three guys from Daegu MMA also fought this weekend in kickboxing fights.  Un Sik Song fought his second pro kickboxing fight in the last 4 months and won, although I don't know how because he wasn't at the club last night.  John, a Korean kid who just graduated from highschool fought his first kickboxing fight and won by decision.  "Korean GSP", as he likes to be known, also won his first kickboxing fight.  In his own words he won via "duhty boxshing uppacut, uppacut, uppacut TKO."  He's 16.  Both of these young guys have really slick jiu jitsu and it's fun to watch them expand their arsenals as they work towards becoming MMA fighters.  The next generation of fighters from Daegu MMA looks pretty strong.

Daegu MMA is also moving to a new location this weekend.  I've heard that the new location is not any bigger, but a "better environment".  I'm anxious to see what it's like.

Pulling a Runner

Some people get to Korea and realize it's not for them.  Some get homesick, some can't handle their first real responsibility after University and some can't handle the culture shock.  For whatever reason some people leave in the middle of the night, skipping out on their contract, their students and their coworkers.  I suppose sometimes there are reasons why someone has to leave, even though the life here is pretty easy.  It's one thing to admit to yourself that you can't handle it and you cant stick it out for a year.  What I don't get is bailing on your friends and co-workers and leaving them in the lurch.
Last week it happened to us.  There are only three foreign teachers at our school and the other one bailed on Thursday.  Packed up and left in the middle of the night.  Left us high and dry, short-staffed and having to clean up the mess she left behind.  Didn't even have the courtesy to give us short notice so we could find someone to fill in for her in the short term. Pretty lame.
The only positive side to it is that I got my friend Scott to fill in at our school in the mornings starting this week.  Scott's one of nicest dudes I've ever met  and it's nice to have another guy in the office every now and then.

Destiny, Fate
I hate the idea of Destiny and Fate.  I find the idea that you are not in control of your life stupid.  Fate and Destiny are convenient excuses for people who are too lazy to get up and make something happen.  I'm sure nobody who ever accomplished anything great ever attributed it to Fate or Destiny.  Those people got up and worked their asses off. They earned every bit of their accomplishments.  I saw this commercial on youtube today and loved it for that exact reason.  The commercial is about Destiny and Fate as they relate to sports, but like so many other things in sports it can be applied to the rest of life as well.  Get up and make your own destiny.

Click Here!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Brush with Bushwackers, Baseball Games and Boring Workouts

The Bushwhackers
I saw this hilarious clip of Eddie Bravo giving The Iron Sheik a ride to the airport and it reminded me of one of my favorite PG stories from highschool.

When I was in the 11th or 12 grade the regional wrestling championships were in the small town of Sturgeon Falls, which most people know as the speedtrap on the way to North Bay.  The night we arrived and weighed in happened to coincide with the arrival of some mostly washed up "professional" wrestlers who were doing a low budget tour of Northern Ontario.  I don't think anyone thought much of it until one of my teammates came running into my room yelling "the ^%*&ing BUSHWHACKERS are in our hotel!"  To a bunch of kids who grew up watching WWF superstars pound on the Ted Smiths and John Richards (always in plain black singlets of course) in the 80's and 90's, the Bushwhackers were a big deal.  Forget that as real wrestlers we had always made fun of the "actors"  that populated the pro ranks; this was our brush with greatness, our claim to fame, our 15 minutes.  Maybe they would lick our heads!  Maybe they would show us the "double gut buster"!  Maybe they would come watch our matches the next day!

Three of us went down to the lobby to see if it was true and sure enough, there were the Bushwhackers, along with The Iron Sheik and some other guy named "The Wolf" (never heard of him).  We didn't tell anyone else because we wanted to have these guys to ourselves. Turns out the Bushwhackers were really cool dudes.  We sat up and chatted with them until about 2:00 am, getting all kinds of funny stories.  One of the Bushwhackers even DID lick my friend`s head after he got the guts to ask. The Iron Sheik was a little more quiet, but he actually knew tonnes about actual wrestling (turns out he was a pretty good greco wrestler back in the day).   We hassled all of the wrestlers to come watch us wrestle the next day since they didn't have to perform until the next night.  They said they would think about it, but we were pretty sure they were just being nice.
The next day though, as I was sitting in the stands between matches, I heard a big commotion outside of the gym.  Sure enough, the Bushwhackers showed up.  They came over to say hello and tell us that they couldn't stay long but wanted to pop in to say hi. I was lucky enough to have a match coming up and asked one of them if he would stand in my corner with my coach. And he did.  How radical is that?  Super radical, that's how radical.  Let's recap.  I met the Bushwhackers in a seedy small town motel.  I stayed up talking shop with them all night.  The next day they came to watch me wrestle and were in my corner for one of my matches. Pretty sweet.

Note:  The Iron Sheik is a legitimate bad ass.  He was born in Iran, wrestled there and worked as a bodygaurd for the Emperor of Iran.  He missed making the Iranian Olympic team and moved to the U.S.  While in the U.S. he won the National Greco Roman Championships and was the assistant coach of the U.S. greco team.

YeongCheon Starlight Festival
Lisa and I were lucky enough to grab two spots on a free trip put on by a local magazine called Daegu Pockets.  The Trip was organized by the government of a city called YeongCheon to promote their "Starlight Festival" to foreigners.  It was two days packed full of activities in the area and it was absolutely free.  Transportation, accommodations and all of the activities.  We started by going to a 500 year old school where a famous Korean poet went to school and taught.  After that we went to check out some burial mounds.  In Korea the size of the burial mound denotes how important you and your family are.  These ones were pretty big, but not the biggest I've seen.
Our third stop was at a local winery and wine school.  We got a tour of the place and a free wine school lesson, which no one understood because it was completely in Korean.  We got to do some wine tasting (Korean wine is not my cup of .... wine) and then got to bottle and cork our own wine.  Again, this was all free, including a few bottles of take home wine.  They even made wine labels with our pictures on them.
The only part of the tour that was in English.  A little Konglishy, but true.

Our next stop was way up in some of the highest mountains in Korea (almost 6000 feet).  We were taken to the largest telescope and observatory in Asia.  I guess if you're into astronomy it would be pretty awesome.  It was all Korean to me though.  being so high in the mountains was pretty spectacular, but the pictures don't really do it justice.  There was a bunch of photographers on top of the mountain taking pictures of all the foreigners.  They were probably commissioned by the city to show how much fun the foreigners were having. It was pretty funny.  There were guys following us around climbing over railings and hiding in the bushes to get good shots.  I'm sure we'll all be in the brochures for next year.

 View from the top.

The last stop of the day was at a small resort that was in the first stage of development.  There were some pensions (big Korean style cabins to sleep in) on a man made lake and some riding stables. This was one of the nicest places I've seen in Korea.  The people who were organizing the tour put on a concert for us with all kinds of traditional singers and dancers.  There were also a bunch of huge telescopes set up for anyone to look through. 
Best scenery in Korea? 

Our sweet pensions.

The next day we were all pretty wiped from the activities of the day and night before, but still managed to make it horseback riding (which amounted to being led around in a circle for 10 minutes), to museum of modern art and to the actual starlight festival.  The weather was great and it was solid trip. Can't beat it for free.

Children's Day
Wednesday was Children's Day, a national holiday in Korea.  Having the day off in the middle of the week seems strange but since Wednesday is my worst day of the week, work wise, it was a welcome break.  Me, Lisa and Brian took advantage of the nice weather to catch a baseball game.  Our home team is the Samsung Lions, and they smoked the visiting Lotte Giants. Because of the holiday the game was packed and we had to pay a shocking $13 for our tickets from a scalper.  I can say this about Korean fans, they are organized. There were about 20 different cheers and all of the fans new them perfectly.  An interesting fact about professional baseball in Korea is that almost none of the teams actually make money.  The companies that own them write them off as advertising expenses.  That's why the teams are known by their corporate names and not their city names.  Oh yeah, EVERY ticket to the games is general admission, so if you want to get a good seat you just have to show up early.  Strange for a a country has has assigned seating on cross country buses.
Small Stadium, but packed.

Stale Workouts
It looks like I'm pretty much on the shelf as far as training goes until I get home and get some medical attention.  I had a few appointments with surgeons who think I have a sports hernia, but would have to do an MRI to be sure.  I opted to skip the MRI because if it is a sports hernia, I'm not paying thousands of dollars for the surgery out of pocket and will wait to get it done for free at home anyways.  If it's not a sports hernia I'll just be letting it heal on it's own, which is what I'm doing anyways, and I'll have wasted a huge chunk of cash on the MRI.  None of this stuff is covered through my insurance because it's all elective tests and surgery. boo-urns.  I still go in to Daegu MMA once in a while to coach Un Sik's wrestling and hit some pads. I can do a few things as far as working out, but can't do anything dynamic which is extremely frustrating.  I've been really streaky with my workouts for the last month, mostly because I'm getting so bored of doing the few things I can do over and over and over and over again.  I'll have a good week where I get 5 good sessions in (sad that that's a good week for me now) and then a week where I can't stand the thought of doing the same stuff any more and won't workout at all.  I think I can hear myself getting fatter.