Monday, June 28, 2010

An Up and Down Day, But More Up Than Down

I got back yesterday from a Jiu Jitsu tournament outside of Seoul.  In true Korean fashion, I wasn't informed of the tournament until the week before.  Also in true Korean fashion I wasn't told that this tournament was the Korean Pro Abu Dhabi qualifier and the biggest BJJ tourny of the year in Korea until I got in the van to go to the tournament.  Since I've been focusing on my upcoming fight I haven't really been training in the gi at all and I asked our coach if I could enter the no gi tournament only.  He wasn't buying it and entered me into the gi, gi absolute and no gi divisions.  Tough luck for me.
The tournament was on Sunday in a city called Bucheon which is about a three and a half hour drive from Daegu.  We left from the club at 5:30 am to get there in time to weigh in and start competing at 10:00.  Once our team was weighed in I put my gi on for the first time in three weeks and headed down to the mat where I was the second match of the day.  My first match was against a guy I had beaten handily at an earlier tournament.  I proceeded to get flying armbarred less than 10 seconds into the match.  I'm not sure if I've ever been that embarrassed at a tournament before.  Not only did I lose, I was out of the tournament and had to watch as a guy I've beat before worked his way through the bracket and won the division.  It was frustrating, but I earned that loss.  I simply was not ready for that match. Luckily I still had the gi absolute division coming up.  What chance would I have against the monsters and winners from all of the other weight classes if I couldn't even last 10 seconds in my own weight class?  Plenty it turns out.  I think I just needed a good kick in the pants to get going and that first loss was just what the doctor ordered.
In my first absolute match I fought a guy who had competed in the heavyweight (100 kg) division.  He smirked at me when the drawmaster put us together, kind of like he thought it was funny.  He thought it was a lot less funny when I rolled up an 8-0 lead before submitting him with a north/south choke.  If the first guy I fought was big, the next guy was an absolute terror.  He was a member of the U.S. Airforce and was a superheavyweight who probably had the same body fat percentage that I did.  To say he was intimidating was an understatement.  I heard someone refer to him as "Black Hercules".  Luckily he was considerably less intimidating when he put his gi on.

I don't think many people gave me much of a chance to beat him (he steamrolled a pretty tough dude in his previous match) but I had a decent game plan.  I had watched a few of his matches through out the day.  He had pretty much bullied his way through the tournament by using a bull rush double leg, leaning on people until they collapsed and doing nothing on top except not get submitted.  I knew that as hard as he pushed on his opponents he would be in trouble if he ever came up against anyone who could throw well.  It never occurred to me that it might be me.  Sure enough, about a minute into the match I caught him pushing too hard and launched him with a hip toss going out of bounds.  He got up, dusted himself off and said "good job".  Then he came at me even harder.  He blasted me out of bounds and into some spectators 3 or 4 times, but I kept my feet moving and didn't let him in on my legs.  At one point he shot a double and had me scrambling. In desperation I turned and threw my hips into a whizzer as hard as I could and threw him onto his back again.  This time he did not tell me "good job".  He was getting pretty cheezed at losing to a 68 kg. geek.   I tried my luck one more time and tried to hit him with a shoulder throw. I was very close to scoring the takedown but we went out of bounds.  I thought.  You can't see it on the tape, but I landed with both knees and feet completely on the wood floor.  Little did I know that one of his feet was still on the edge of the mat, making us still in bounds.  I stopped fighting and he took the opportunity to take back mount.  We eventually went out of bounds and got re started in the center with him in back mount.  I knew if I could sneak my way out of danger and hold him off for under a minute I'd win on points.  I managed to do just that.

After that match I had exactly  5 minutes to get ready for the final.  In the final I fought one of my teammates who competed at and won the 90kg. division.  The match was a little slow but I ended up submitting him with an Americana.

What I Really Came For
After the gi portion was done I suited up for the no gi open division which was what I was really excited for.  getting to test myself against the best grapplers in the country in the style that I like best appealed to me.  In my first match I submitted a blue belt with a D'arce choke and in my second match I beat a purple belt on points, 10-2.  In the final I met a very strong blue belt that sometimes comes to our club to train.  I was leading for a good chunk of the match but eventually got my back taken in a scramble and submitted to a choke after fighting it off for what felt like an hour.
A gold in the Gi absolute and a silver in open no-gi was a good way to finish off the day after a tanking out of my first division.

Mfight (a Korean MMA website) was at the event taking video and pictures.  They also handed out a "Fighter of the Day" award. They apparently thought that my win in the absolute division was worthy of the award.  I was honored to get the award but I know there were lots of better performances and better fighters at the event.  For example, my buddy Bo Kue won the Abu Dhabi Trials and the absolute no-gi tournament.  In the semi final he got caught in a deep triangle choke that looked like game over.  He somehow fought it off for over 2 minutes (he told me later that he was very close to going to sleep) before storming back and wining on points.  In the final he dug himself an 11-0 deficit (which I'm sure had something to do with being gassed from his last match) before submitting his opponent with a kimura.  To me that kind of fighting spirit is what should earn "Fighter of the Day".  But the trophy sure is nice and shiny.

Champions One and All
Daegu MMA won the team title, even without Heung Kul and Un Sik, our two best jiu jitsu players competing.  As far as grappling goes, we've won everything in sight this year.  Looking at all of the studs in the team picture below makes me realize what a stacked team Daegu MMA actually is.  Lots of guys train at different times and you rarely see all of the best guys together in one place, but when you do it's a hell of a team to deal with.

Our team with some hardware

It's Not Mother's Day But... 
It's my mom's birthday!  Happy Birthday Mom!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Konglish n' Korean Kids

here are four good examples of Engrish that I found on one ten minute walk to a restaurant in my neighborhood the other day.
This is one of my favourites. It's actually in a restaurant called "New York, New York".  Someone should tell them that Google translator is not 100% accurate. Click on the picture for a bigger view.

So close... So close.

The best thing about this is that it's a big chain.

Chicken in the home?  Chick in the home? Chick and the home?  I have no idea.

I haven't posted or talked much about my school or the kids I teach so I thought I'd give you guys a little view of what I do everyday. The kids I teach are pretty much awesome.  Teaching kindergarten has been a lot of fun and obviously very different from teaching highschool.  One thing that is undeniable is that these kids are deathly cute.  Here's a few pictures and a video as proof. 

7b class.  Pretty Awesome.  They speak enough English that we can have a lot of fun. 

7a class.  Yes, the girl on the right (Catherine) is wearing an "Extreme Couture" shirt. How wild is that? 

Yeah, I taught my kids how to "high five and pound it" and yeah, I have a kid in that class who's name is "Lion"

MMA Update
I'll be travelling to Seoul for a Jiu Jitsu tournament next weekend. I told the guys from my club that I only wanted to do the no-gi division.  With a fight coming up i've only been doing about one day of gi training per week, and even then I try to stick to techniques that will work without the gi and not rely on the grips and cloth too much in sparring.  My idea of competing in only the no-gi division was duly noted before they registered me in the gi, no-gi, gi absolute and no-gi absolute divisions.  Might be a long day.

Training has been going very well lately.  I'm still doing mostly general training as far as technical work but we are starting to work out a basic game plan and isolate some situations that I can exploit and some that I should avoid.  the intensity and volume of my training has been much higher over the last 6 weeks and with a little over 10 weeks until fight time I feel god about where I am physically, technically and mentally.  Having a focus and goal for my training has done wonders for my training.  the increased volume and intensity of training coupled with better attention to nutrition has seen my weight come down a lot.  I am walking around leaner and meaner than I have in a long time.

Happy Father's Day
Happy Father's Day to my dad.  When I was younger lots of people used to tell me how much I was like my dad and it used to drive me crazy.  It's easy to see now that that's one of the biggest compliments I could get.  I've been lucky to have lots of positive influences in my life but without a doubt my dad taught me the most about... everything.  I couldn't ask for a better dad.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monsoon Season is here. It's Raining Fights.

It's Raining men Fights!
Saying "when it rains, it pours" is about as cliched as it gets, but sometimes the cliche fits. The actual monsoon season is approaching in Korea and along with it I've been flooded with fight opportunities.  First I was offered a spot in the Sengoku Asian Bantamweight Grand Prix, but was pulled because I wasn't Korean.  Then I was offered a very tough fight in DEEP at the end of August which I accepted.  Last week I was offered another fight in DEEP: Grachan to fight on the same card as my friend and training partner Un Sik.  I had to decline because of previous commitments that couldn't be changed.  saturday I was offered a spot as a short notice opponent for Ikuo Usuda on the Sengoku 13 card.  The event is this coming Sunday. Even though I initially jumped at the chance to fight in Sengoku the more I thought about this fight, the more I didn't like it.  First of all it is a very big fight on very short notice and I have only been training hard again for a little over a month.  As much as I'd like to think that my athleticism would carry me through I know that there are lots of things I need to iron out before I fight a high level fight.  I fought once on a lot less preparation than I should have had and told myself I would never do it again.  The next thing is that the fight is at 65 kg.  This is the weight I have fought at before but I am much leaner right now and will be fighting at a lower weight in the future.  After practice today I was 66.5 kg.  Usuda on the other hand is coming down for his first fight at 65 kgs. after going 6-0 in Shooto and Sengoku as a 70 kg. fighter.  He would be a huge 65 kg fighter and I would be pretty small for that weight. This is the kind of fight I am looking for in the future, but I don't think is a good decision for me right now.  Coincidentally, Usuda's original opponent was suposed to be a guy I fought and beat at the East Asian Sambo Championships. On the plus side, it's good to know that I am finally on the radar of some of the bigger Asian promotions.

Some things never change.
Jim Liguori, who owns and coaches Ho Shin Sool MMA used to go crazy because I would leave my stuff all over the place.  I would forget my shirt on the floor, leave my hand-wraps hanging on a doorknob, leave my mouthguard on the windowsill... you name it, I forgot it at the club.  Well, Jim will be happy to know that it's just not him, I do it to the coach/owner at Daegu MMA too.  Usually it's not a big deal because I can pick it up the next day, but about a month ago I lost my custom fit mouthguard that my dentist friend Riley made for me.  I finally found it today and was super pumped; I never knew how much better a custom mouthguard was until I tried one.  While I'm on the topic, it's great to have a friend as your dentist.  How many times have you wanted to swear at your dentist?  I can do it freelyWhen she says dentist-y things like "Hmmm, your gums are bleeding a little bit."  I can say things like "No kidding, you just stabbed them with a sharp metal poker; I'm pretty sure I'd bleed anywhere if you did that."

Where Am I and How Did I Get Here?
After a few amateur MMA fights I decided it was time to step things up and fight as a pro.  In two years I racked up a 4-1 record as a pro.  I can honestly say that none of the opponents I fought were particular studs, even the one opponent I lost to.  All of my wins came via TKO or submission stoppage, with none of my opponents making it past the 3rd minute of the first round.  The lone loss on my record was disappointing but I don't think reflects on my skills as a fighter.  It was a fight I took unprepared.  I went into the fight in not great shape and without having put in the training time I should have.  Even still, I was dominating my opponent for most of the fight.  I picked him up and took him down with a slam and was delivering some ground and pound.  As I was standing in his guard I got sloppy (overconfident?) and hung my head lazily, getting caught in a guillotine in the process. I got back on the winning track shortly after, but promised myself I would never fight unprepared like that again. Regardless of the results, I felt like it was time to step up the level of my competition.  I had a tough time doing so, in large part because of the expense of getting me from Sault Ste. Marie to a place where big fights happen.  Sault Ste. Marie is not exactly a travel hub and organizations weren't very willing to spend big money to fly me to their fights.  That's why I decided to temporarily relocate to a place where bigger fights might come my way.  Hence, Korea.
While some people might think I'm jumping into the deep end of the pool with my upcoming fight, that was exactly my goal in coming here.  I always felt like I could compete at  a much higher level than I was and now I'm getting the chance to prove it. I've always thought that testing your limits is an important part of life.  How can you really know who you are if you don't know what you're capable of?

Picnic Time!
The Daegu MMA family often goes on weekend outings together and this weekend I was lucky enough to attend my first team/family outing.  We drove a ways out of town and hiked up a mountain towards a stream and some mountain top pools.  This place was amazing.  There were dozens of pools of crystal clear cold mountain water and you could slide down the rocks into them.  Here's some pics of the main pool that we spent most of our time at.
View from above the main pool.

Left to right: Po Kue, Jae Hoon and Me.

At one point Jae Hoon dove down to the bottom of the pool and came up saying "pink hat! pink hat!".  I wasn't sure why he was so amazed about a hat at the bottom of a pool of water but he eventually said "I get it!" and dove down to retrieve the object in question.  When he came back up he was holding a SEVERED PIG'S HEAD.   No joke.   "Pig head", not "pink hat".  Then he threw it at someone.
After swimming we set up our grill and proceeded to eat ridiculous amounts of samguipsal and galbi.  If we had twice as many people as were actually there we still would have had way too much food,  but that's pretty typical of eating with Koreans.

Quick Question
Who doesn't have a story that starts with "So I'm juggling cans of paint in class..".  I'll let you guess how that turned out.

Monday, June 7, 2010


SENGOKU, DEEP, DREAM;  It's been a Crazy Ride
For the last three and a half weeks I've been sitting on the knowledge that I would soon be fighting in one of the biggest MMA organizations in the world and competing in their bantamweight Grand Prix.  I had been accepted as one of the participants in the tournament and was set to compete in SENGOKU on July 4th.  I almost spilled the beans last week, but decided to hold off because SENGOKU hadn't officially announced the participant list.  It's a good thing I did hold off because when I got to the club today for training I found out that I was out of the tournament.  Someone somewhere along the line had complained that even though I trained and fought out of a Korean gym I didn't meet the criteria to compete in the Asian Grand Prix.  That thought had crossed my mind but I was reassured that it would be no problem when I brought it up.  Apparently it was a problem.
All is not lost however.  I've been offered a fight with a very good fighter later in the summer. The fight offer is against Daiki Hata, a very good kickboxer with a 11-6-3 MMA record.  He has beaten some big name fighters, but his last two losses came to opponents who were 7-7 and 3-4 at the time of their fights.  He has much more experience than I do, but style wise, the match up is good.  He seems to have trouble with grinding type wrestlers.  He also looks like an anime character from some kind of Japanese neo-samurai cartoon.  The fight will be in late August for the DEEP organization. The bonus is that the winner of the fight earns a spot on the nest DREAM event.  DREAM is arguably the second largest MMA organization in the world.  It's where the big dogs live.  Some people spend their whole careers waiting for an opportunity like this.  It's pretty crazy now that it's here.  TopMMAnews posted a story about the fight on their main page. Go check it out.

Submission of the year?
Some people have been talking about this submission by Dan Hornbuckle at a recent Bellator event as a potential submission of the year. It's a nice Kimura into a modified armbar. Go to the 45 second mark of the video and then...
... look at this picture.

This was one of my matches at the Korea Machado Open. Look familiar? I know, I know, I didn't do it to  professional fighter in a major event... I'm just saying.  What am I saying?  I don't know, probably something about me being awesome.

Un Sik Song
Un Sik lost his fight at DEEP: Cage Impact last night.  He lost what sounds like a boring decision to someone who mostly pressed him against the cage.  I knew that cage skills might be an issue for Un Sik.  His wrestling is getting much better, but there is absolutely nowhere to practice anything against a cage or wall.  We don't even have any padded walls right now.  People have been saying for quite a while but Asian fighters who want to fight in a cage have to practice in a cage.  I think it makes a much bigger impact than people think.  So many techniques change next to the cage, and learning to use it and get off of it is a skill you have to practice, it does happen magically.

New Ho Shin Sool Website
Ray started a new Ho Shin Sool website and it's pretty awesome.  It has lots of cool stuff on it, go check it out.