Martial Arts Round-Up – May 20, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

Here’s a round-up of the best martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

Learn the Winning Secrets of Georges St-Pierre
Georges St-Pierre is one of the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artists on the planet. What is it that makes him so effective? In this post, karate school owner Matt Klein breaks down the secrets to GSP’s success.

“Boards don’t hit back”: Part 1
Bruce Lee made these words famous in “Enter the Dragon.” What he meant, of course, was that if you want to be a good fighter, you need to be able to hit someone actively resisting your attack, not just immobile targets. In this post, martial arts instructor and blogger Dan Djurdjevic explores how to structure your training so that you “bridge the gap between the dojo and the street.”

The Gift of Fear vs. the Price of Worry & Ignorance
In this post, jiu-jitsu instructor and blogger Lori O’Connell reviews the book The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker, which explains the process by which fear is generated and shows how it serves to warn us of danger.

Kyudo Mugen: Karate Is Like Boiling Water
Martial arts blogger Jesse Enkamp can’t stand people who “take a break” from karate. Why? Because he believes it’s one of the worst possible ways to sabotage one’s training. In this post, Enkamp explains what boiling water has in common with karate training, and what you can learn from it.

What Should I Be Working On?
Before you earn your black belt, it’s easy to know what you need to work on. You know all the forms and self-defense moves you must learn to earn each successive rank. But how about after you reach your black belt? In this post, blogger and martial arts student Michele explains how black belts should plan their training.

Martial Arts Round-Up – Apr 15, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

How to Improve Your Success Rate in Applying SubmissionsHere’s a round-up of the best martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

How to Improve Your Success Rate in Applying Submissions
With so many tutorial videos online nowadays, anyone can figure out how to do a basic submission. But in this post, jiu-jitsu instructor and blogger Lori O’Connell explains that videos won’t allow you to learn “the finer points that helps you actually complete these moves against a live, resisting opponent.” She breaks down the 3 key concepts you need in submission grappling.

Guts Are the Anesthesia That Deaden the Pain of Fear
Why is it so important for martial arts students to compete in tournaments? In this post, kenpo instructor and blogger Sam Bowley explains that the courage a student develops by competing is invaluable because if they find themselves “in a more intense situation, like a fight or flight problem, they’ll have developed the guts they need and won’t freeze.”

How to Become a Better Fighter with Kata
Many people dismiss kata as that “old-school stuff” and think that in today’s martial arts landscape, with the increasing popularity of MMA, it has become irrelevant. But did you know that fighters like Lyoto Machida, Mas Oyama, Andy Hug, and even Georges St. Pierre use kata as part of their training? In this post, martial artist and blogger Josh Skinner explains how kata is still useful for martial artists and combat athletes.

Are Martial Arts Ruining Action Movies?
Provocative headline, huh? In this post for the blog Vulture, Kyle Buchanan declares that “with little in the way of stakes, a sameness in presentation, and no blood or bruises, martial arts have turned action scenes into dance scenes, and while those can be fun, they’re not usually renowned for their suspense.” What do you think?

Karate Analytics: Test, Think, Triumph!
In this post, karate blogger Jesse Enkamp details an exercise/experiment he did in which he had some junior black belts teach some intermediate students a section of a kata, then had everyone switch so that by the end of it, each “instructor” had taught 5 students and each student learned from 5 “instructors.” What did the junior black belts learn from this exercise? That by teaching the kata, they were able to learn it better themselves. In other words, teaching = learning.

Martial Arts Round-Up – Apr 8, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

Here’s a round-up of the best martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

Boost Your Karate Talent the Spartan Way
In this funny post, martial arts blogger Jesse Enkamp wonders if there’s a correlation between the condition of the facilities at a martial arts school and the quality of the students. In other words, do you need a run-down, “butt-ugly dojo” (his words) to develop the most skilled practitioners?

A Lesson About Character
Martial arts writer and researcher Charles C. Goodin shares a simple but profound story that illustrates what it really means to be a successful martial arts student. Hint: It’s not about how many trophies you have.

Karate: Is It About Fighting or Self-Defense?
Almost every martial arts school touts the benefits of learning how to defend oneself. But isn’t point sparring, for example, more about fighting? In this post, martial arts student and blogger Sue C. explores the blurry line between self-defense and fighting in karate.

The Most Important Thing…
What’s more important? Footwork or stance? Stand-up or ground? Whatever aspect of martial arts you seem to be lacking in will be the thing you think it’s most important. But that’s the wrong approach. In this post, Charles C. Goodin argues that in fact, “everything is important in karate. And character is always the most important and essential thing of all.”

The 5 Essential Elements of Martial Arts
The elements that are most essential to martial arts are just as essential in everyday life. In this post, martial arts blogger and instructor Andy Dickinson breaks down the importance of awareness, breaking balance, distance, breath, and eyes.

Martial Arts Round-Up – Apr 2, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

Here’s a round-up of the best martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

Martial Artist: Work in Progress
Martial arts blogger Matthew Apsokardu pays homage to the black on yellow “Work In Progress” symbol, asking “could anything be more aptly descriptive of the process of following a martial way?” Inspired by the post, some of his creative readers send in their martial arts-themed versions of the symbol. Nice stuff.

10 Best American Martial Arts Movies
See if your favorite martial arts movie made this list from entertainment blog Screen Junkies. Many of their selections — “Enter the Dragon,” “Karate Kid” — aren’t all that surprising. But among those expected films, they threw in a few picks that raised an eyebrow. “Shanghai Noon” anyone?

Shotokan’s Secret
Martial arts blogger Bob Patterson gives a glowing review to the new book “Shotokan’s Secret” by Bruce D. Clayton because it provides an “excellent overview of the historical events that took place mainly in Okinawa, and how all this influenced the development of karate.”

Returning To Karate Training After A Long Break
Chances are, at some point in your martial arts training career, you’re going to take an extended break. In this post, martial arts student and blogger Michele shares some great advice on how to get back into your training groove if you’ve been away for awhile.

The Disadvantages of Having a Friendly Dojo
It’s a good thing for your martial arts school to have a warm, friendly culture. But as martial arts school owner and blogger Lori O’Connell explains in this post, there are three areas “when this jovial, friendliness can interfere with the actual learning process on the mats.”

Martial Arts Round-Up – Mar 25, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

Here’s a round-up of the best martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

Tools of the Sensei
School teachers and karate Senseis are both educators, but that’s where the similarities end. In this post, martial arts blogger Matthew Apsokardu breaks down what the differences are: “The ‘Sensei’ is a unique figure in modern culture, as he/she is not a school teacher, nor a coach, nor a guidance counselor. The Sensei is somewhere different, with an intriguing mixture of tools and responsibilities.”

Push-Ups for Martial Arts
Push-ups are a staple of martial arts class warm-ups. You’ve likely seen many different variations of the basic push-up: with your arms out wide, with your hands forming a diamond, tapping your shoulders, and so on. In this post, martial arts blogger John Vesia introduces us to a new and particularly intense type: the Muay Thai push-up.

The Freedom of Discipline
Many parents bring their children to martial arts classes because they want their kids to “learn discipline.” In reality, what martial arts instructors do is not so much develop discipline, but teach students to discipline themselves. And in that lies freedom, believes aikido and judo instructor Patrick Parker: “The same way that a person that is super-diligent on their diet and exercise is free to go to a special meal occasionally and eat whatever they want without worry about consequences.”

The Jab in MMA
The jab is a staple of boxing, but how does it carry over to MMA? In this post, MMA strength and conditioning coach Rob DeCillis shares a video from top boxing trainer Wilson Pitts, in which he shows how a jab “will help you slow down an opponent that likes to shoot and help you keep your distance to prevent it.”

Bruce Lee’s One Inch Punch
Is the one inch punch just a neat party trick? Or is this actually a useful technique worth learning for martial artists? In this post, martial arts school owner and blogger Jon Law examines how to apply the short range power of this punch to other types of movements.

Martial Arts Round-Up – Mar 18, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

Here’s a round-up of the best martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

How Do Your Assumptions Hold You Back?
When it comes to self-defense, one of the most dangerous things you can do is hold false assumptions about martial arts styles, or about your own physical capabilities. In this post, jiu-jitsu instructor Lori O’Connell explains why we must “be willing to challenge our assumptions and accept that reality can unfold very differently from what we expect, regardless of what we’ve trained in, learned, or experienced.”

What Should I Be Focusing On? A Karate Dilemma
Karate blogger Jesse Enkamp responds to a reader who wrote in asking what aspect of karate training he should focus on the most. Enkamp’s advice? “Keep focusing on everything; if you want to become a true expert you can’t cherry pick anyway.” There are peaks and valleys in training, and sometimes pushing through periods where progress seems slow is what sets one martial arts student apart from another.

Deadlift! Deadlift! Deadlift!
If he had to choose only one exercise to do, MMA strength and conditioning coach Rob DeCillis would choose the deadlift. Why? Because it strengthens everything from your glutes to your grip, and if you do it right, it can reduce the risk of injury. DeCillis also shares a couple videos that can help improve your deadlift technique.

Suggesting an Attitude
Martial arts author Phillip Starr shares a story that demonstrates the power of the mind. He convinced his student that a simple pine board was made of an unbreakable material. His student should have easily broken the board, but couldn’t because he was held back by his beliefs: “The wrong word(s) at the wrong time can have dramatic and even disastrous effects.”

Take Up More Space
“Have you ever seen someone demonstrate kata and seem larger than life regardless of their physical size? They take up space with their presence.” Martial arts instructor and blogger Michele shares that and 3 other tips on how taking up more space can benefit your martial arts training.

Martial Arts Round-Up – March 11th, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

Here’s a round-up of the best martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

4 Tips for Preventing Illness at the Dojo
Since many martial arts styles call for close contact with your training partners, it can be easy to pick up cold or flu bugs. In this post, jiu-jitsu instructor Lori O’Connell offers some ways you can avoid getting sick.

“Body Type Karate” And Why It Doesn’t Exist
Many people believe you should choose the kata you practice based on whether you’re stocky, thin, fat, strong, tall, or slim. Karate blogger Jesse Enkamp disagrees and explains why he thinks this misses the whole point of karate training.

Kids Self Defense: When is it ok to fight back?
Many martial arts instructors tell their students that karate is not to be used at school. But does that mean a child shouldn’t fight back if he’s being physically bullied? In this post, Australian martial arts school owner Matt Klein explains when it is and isn’t ok for kids to fight back.

The real meaning of Black Belt
Martial arts schools put so much emphasis on the goal of achieving one’s black belt, that sometimes students may think that once they earn their black belt, that’s all there is to it. In this post, martial arts school owner Kevin McGeary explains that “reaching black belt isn’t the end of a journey, it’s the beginning of a deeper and more meaningful one.”

Mirror, Mirror on the Dojo Wall
When you think of martial arts training tools, what comes to mind? Probably items like kick targets and WaveMasters. But what about mirrors? In this post, martial arts student and blogger Michele points out that mirrors are an indispensable tool for martial arts training, for both the student and the instructor.

Surviving a Home Invasion
If you were the target of a home intrusion, would your martial arts training help you? It’s hard to say, but martial arts blogger John Vesia points us to 10 self-defense tips from a woman who survived being robbed at home. First on the list: always keep your head up so it’s clear that you’re paying attention to your surroundings.

Martial Arts Round-Up – March 4th, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

Here’s a round-up of our favorite martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

Martial Arts 2.0: How to Download a Black Belt
Can you really learn martial arts just by watching videos online? Himanshu Ojha, a student at the Columbia Journalism School, sets out to answer this question.

The Plight of the Armchair Trainee
Martial arts blogger Matthew Apsokardu gives us the outtakes from his interview with Ojha (see story above). In this blog post, he argues that video can be a great tool in martial arts training, as long as you’re able to distinguish good advice from bad advice.

Gi Washing Tips for Double Weaves
Here’s something we don’t often talk about on the Urban Martial Arts blog: doing laundry! If you’ve got one of those heavy Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gis, what’s the best way to wash it? In this blog post, Jiu-Jitsu instructor Lori O’Connell shares her tips on getting your uniform clean without destroying your washer and dryer.

Bear Crawls in the Snow
Do you live in a cold area? If so, put that snow to use in your martial arts training! MMA strength and conditioning coach Rob DeCillis shows us an innovative spin on bear crawls by doing them in the snow.

Karate Tournament Rules; How Many Points for a Kick?!
The rules of point sparring in karate tournaments have evolved over the years. In this blog post, martial arts blogger John Zimmer wonders if awarding more points to high kicks, jumping kicks, and spinning kicks has been done simply to promote a flashier style of fighting.

Martial Arts Round-Up – February 25, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

Here’s a round-up of our favorite martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

MMA: Sport or Spectacle?
A co-worker recently asked martial arts blogger John Vesia if he thinks MMA is a sport. The underlying connotation of the question seemed to be that MMA couldn’t possibly be a sport, since it doesn’t seem to have any rules and is filled with gratuitous violence. Despite the efforts to “clean up” MMA, it still has a bad rap and is banned in states like NY. What will it take to change the public perception of MMA?

Muscle Memory & Confusion for Building Technique & Strength
Jiu-Jitsu instructor Lori O’Connell continues her series on the role of muscle memory and muscle confusion in martial arts training. In this post, she demonstrates three different sets of warm-ups that capitalize on muscle confusion. The first is a ground warm-up combination of shrimping, bridging and rolling, and turtling. The second helps strengthen the ab muscles by absorbing hits from a medicine ball. The third works the core by swinging your arms and legs in opposite directions while lifting your hips, causing you to move across the floor.

Should I Put Karate On My Resume?
Martial arts blogger Rob Redmond poses a compelling question: “You have been doing karate a long time, and you have achieved significant success in it. You have earned your first, second, third, or higher dan rank. You finished instructor training. You are qualified as a referee, examiner, and instructor. You are licensed by seven different organizations and are even trained in CPR. Why shouldn’t you list these achievements on your resume?” His answer may surprise you!

Knee Defense Against Jab and Cross
MMA strength and conditioning coach Rob DeCillis shares a video that shows you how to defend against a jab and cross using a knee defense. If you try it out, here’s a tip from DeCillis on getting the technique right: “Make sure you apply a decent amount of pressure when grabbing the neck, as it hits a pressure point while you grab.”

Sanchin & The 4 Secrets of The Skill of Strength
Is strength a skill? Karate blogger Jesse Enkamp thinks so. He argues that strength is “the skill to tense one’s muscles harder.” And because it’s a skill, there are shortcuts you can use to take your skill to a new level. In this post, he outlines four techniques you can use to improve your strength: irradiation, bracing, successive induction, and power breathing.

Martial Arts Round-Up – February 18, 2011

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at

Here’s a round-up of our favorite martial arts-related news stories and blog posts that we came across this week.

Martial Artists Perform with Justin Bieber at Grammys
If you caught the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, you saw martial artists Matt Emig, Jeremy Marinas, Sammy Vasquez and Rudy Reynon perform with Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith to the song “Never Say Never” from The Karate Kid soundtrack. Missed it? Don’t worry! We’ve got the video for you. The martial arts performance starts around the 1:00 mark but you’ll have to sit through some pre-roll ads first.

Kata Tells a Story
Mississippi martial arts instructor Patrick Parker shares a fascinating perspective on kata, or forms. He argues that if they’re well-constructed, kata should tell “a real story about strategy and tactics with protagonist and antagonist and dilemma and climax, often divided into chapters, and often encoded with a table of contents or an index or map key so that you can understand the story better.”

Half Guard Guillotine Choke from Standing
Punch Kick Choke, a blog about MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, highlights a variation on the guillotine choke. Instead of flopping to full guard, you flop to half guard. What’s the benefit of doing it this way? “It has the chance to catch the opponent off guard and it may force him to think about how to react, giving you those precious couple extra seconds to cinch and finish the submission.”

Front Kick as Hard as a Side Kick
Australian Taekwondo instructor Colin Wee challenges us to get as much power out of our front kicks as we do out of our side kicks. The mistake that many martial artists make is that they focus only on the leg that’s doing the kicking. Wee says: “You can’t think that the kicking leg is doing all the work. You’re learning a system aren’t you? Well, this is the system. Everything is connected!

The Scandals of Sumo
Martial arts blogger Dojo Rat points us to a fascinating series The New York Times has published about the relationship between sumo wrestling and the Yakusa, or Japanese mafia. As the influence of organized crime comes to light, “sumo may lose its status as a national sport, a status that has given it government backing, tax exemptions and guaranteed coverage by NHK.”

“You Know Too Many Forms”
Dan Djurdjevic is an avid martial artist who studies karate, Chen Pan-Ling internal arts, kobudo, arnis, qin-na and the Shaolin Forms of Hong Yi Xiang. In this blog post, he responds to people who question his approach to training: “I’m not interested in just learning a new skill. I train in multiple arts precisely because I want to improve my existing skills – not because I’m desperate to learn new ones.”