Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Learning Through Play

This is my living room.

There is one thing you should notice right away from taking a look at it.

It's all about my kids.

I decided a long time ago that my home would be all about them.

This means my house is not going to be furnished with antiques and expensive decor. I will not be going with any interior design themes such as "French Country Side," or "Spanish Colonel." I will not be trying to hide my kids toys away in a fancy steamer trunk or custom made cabinetry.

What this does mean is that I want my kids to have their toys out an accessible! My furniture should be cheap and easily replaceable. It means if my son wants a skateboard ramp going from his bed room to the garage I'm all for it. If I need to convert my dining room into a play house for my daughter, the play house wins. And there's good reason for this.

I have always believed my home should be two things fun and functional. Having to worry if this or that is going to wreck the sofa is not fun. Having a hard edged, rare, antique coffee table that could practically scalp you if you were to fall on it wrong, that you can't even put your feet on, let alone a soft drink without damaging it is not functional.

The more access my kids have to playing, climbing and working with their toys, the more they're able to learn about the world around them.

The more they can play the more they are able to develop and utilize their imaginations, their motor skills and their creativity. The key reason why my living room looks like it does is for my kids to have the best possible environment I can give them to develop and foster their inherent somatic intelligence.

Unfortunately as we grow older and become adults we stop playing, we no longer get on the ground and roll around. We don't try to climb up anything, jump off anything, crawl over anything, or just make up stuff.

If fact we seem to go the opposite direction. We put on suites, ties, designer and restrictive clothing that doesn't allow us to move freely or naturally. We decorate our homes with fancy expensive furniture that cannot be played on and we spend most of our day working not just at work but everywhere.

As a result we loose touch with our bodies, we are no longer developing our somatic intelligence. Our proprioceptive, kinesthetic awareness gets lost. The athletic abilities we had in our youth diminish much faster than we actually age.

It is therefore fundamentally important to engage yourself in playful, physical activities throughout the rest of your life.

This is also why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the Crazy Monkey Defense Program are so awesome.

They are both playful, fun, physical, activities that can continuously challenge ones proprioceptive, and kinesthetic ability on an on going basis.

Similar to my kids playing in the living room.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Best Approach to Exercise, Fitness and Health

What makes my approach to exercise, fitness and health unique?

It is athletic. It is my stance that the athletic approach to exercise, fitness and health is the most superior. It is the most functional and the most fun.

Learning to train like a world class athlete is important for several reasons. First there are very few other populations in the world that put more care, precision, planning and research into their exercise programs than the elite level athlete. Second an athlete doesn’t just exercise for the sake of exercise. The athlete is trying to improve their performance outside of the gym in another environment. The athlete’s mentality is to improve performance in their sport through the training done inside the gym.

This is the mentality you want to have when training yourself regardless of whether you play sports or not. The goal is to improve your performance, your energy level and your ability to function on a day in and day out basis outside of the gym through the training done in the gym. When you can take the things you do in your training and immediately get positive results in other environments; out on the field, the basketball court, at the golf course, at work and at home exercise becomes more fun and more rewarding and a lot easier to do. This is when you are no longer just “working out” but you are now TRAINING!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Most Often Referenced Movies

The following lists comprises of our most often referenced to movies while training in marital arts. Note: these are not recommended as the best movies or anything of that nature they are just the most often quoted and referenced too while we train. If you don't have them all I suggest you get them.

1. Star Wars; The references to this movie never stop, the Force, Yoda, Padawan learners, the Dark Side, Sith Lords and Jedi Knights seem to always come up.

The Last Dragon; The Last Dragon is a hit with both it's theme song and the glow. "To reach that higher level your body mind and your soul have got to be one its a sacrifice its a way of liffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffeeeeeeeeeee."

Karate Kid; classic lines such as "sweep the leg! do you have a problem with the Mr. Lawrence?" can never be forgotten.

4. Pumping Iron. A cult classic this movie does get quoted from time t
o time although not nearly as much as the others. Arnold does have some of the most memorable lines in this film.

5. Enter the Dragon; If you are going to watch one Bruce Lee movie then this is it. Enter the Dragon has everything. The number of times I've mimicked from this Bruce Lee while training is many. Whoooaaaaaaa!

6. Dumb and Dumber; A timeless classic that is only mentioned with the utmost reverence.

Other movies we've talked about but are not on the all-stars list although they may be one day are;

That's it for now. If you can think of other movies that should be on either one of these lists post them up in the comments and I'll add them.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Small Private Exclusive Group Class

The easiest way to truly master Jiu-Jitsu is through small, private, exclusive group classes. A small private group class is a martial arts class consisting of only 4-6 members that meets at a regularly scheduled time each week. It is exclusive because no one else is allowed to train in the class other than the limited members of that group. This is unlike the large classes found in the big martial arts academies where there almost seems to be a revolving door letting new students in as the old ones leave.

A small, private, exclusive group class functions very similar to a private lesson. The difference being that the cost of the private lesson is distributed among the members of the group making it more affordable. The small, private, exclusive group class will behave similar to a private lesson in that the content of each class is determined by the needs and desires of the members of the group. Similar to a private lesson there is a lot of hands on coaching, personal attention and focus given from the instructor to each person.

Here are some of the many benefits of training in the martial arts this way;

  • In a smaller, private, group setting there is far less competitive pressure enabling you to become free to make mistakes, learn and develop your game.

  • Fewer people in the exclusive group classes allows for more focus and attention on you. In the overly crowded classes of 15 - 20 people you can not get the attention from your coach that you need.

  • In a small private setting it is easier to pick-up the nuances that make the art of Jiu-Jitsu work. In a large class by the time everyone gets the general technique down there is very little room left to dive into the finer points of each movement.

  • Small group classes of 4-6 dedicated members enable everyone to keep the best interest of the entire group at heart. As your other class members focus on improving your game as much as their own everyone gets better.

  • No longer do you have to deal with the random people who show up from time to time. These people always tend to have only their own self interests in mind. The majority of them are really only concerned with finding out who in the class they can or can't beat.

  • Most Jiu-Jitsu programs I have observed running large classes in big gyms seem to always produce a few super athletes that win a lot of competitions. I have never found this to be very impressive. However I have been impressed with the many smaller size Jiu-Jitsu programs I have observed where in the entire group of people training together are improving and getting better on a consistent, on going basis, year after year.

  • It is is much easier to consistently raise the skill level of the entire group when that group is comprised of a limited number of highly dedicated members. In the large group classes commonly it is only the most athletically gifted that seem to do well while everyone else flounders aimlessly.

  • In the large hyper-competitive class setting you will only grow and develop as far as your natural athletic ability will allow you too. Once you hit that ceiling progression either stops completely or slows dramatically. In the small, private, group one can truly learn the art and easily continue to progress and develop far beyond ones natural athleticism.

  • The small group class allows each and every class to be tailor made to the specific needs and demands of the few exclusive members of that group. Versus the large group class where everything is either tailored for the few super athletes who are actively competing or the instruction follows a standardized curriculum designed for a large population without each individual taken into consideration.

  • Fewer injuries are prevalent in the small group class. Because the small, private, group class is exclusive those people who often train too hard, hurt others and are always trying to win at the expense of their training partners health are excluded. This alone dramatically decreases the chance of injury.
There is some Mythology concerning large group classes. Primarily that you need to train in a large Jiu-Jitsu program with lots of members so that you will be exposed to many different opponents who can challenge your game. This philosophy while it may seem logical is completely false.

First it is just as easy to challenge your game in a small private group as it is in a large class. If anything your game is better challenged in the small private group as you get more time on the mat, less waiting and less sitting around. If anything the larger classes seem to slow everyone down more than speed them up.

Second quantity does not equal quality. Most of the time majority of the members of the large classes suck while there is a hand full of members in the same large class that are really good. The few really good classes members always seem to have formed almost what I would call an elite inner circle. Everyone who sucks is training hard trying to be included with that elite inner group of guys that are really good.

Although you may be training in a class with 20 + people realistically only a handful of them will be any good for you to train with anyway. The vast majority of them will be a waste of your time. It is more beneficial to train consistently with four or five really good training partners who have been carefully selected than with 10 agro white belts and bunch of blue belts who are trying to break in to the elite circle of purple and brown belts found in the class.

Finally there are many ways you can still challenge your self against lots of different opponents should you feel the need to in a small, private, exclusive group class. You can get together with members of another group and train from time to time. You can go and visit another school for an open mat session or you can simply enter a competition and compete.

I began training in a small private group class with my Jiu-Jitsu coach Chris Haueter several years ago. Since I began training this way my skill level and also my overall enjoyment of Jiu-Jitsu as increased exponentially. It is so fun to be able to train with the 3-4 members of our group each and every week and help each other get better class after class.

Another huge advocate for small, private group classes is Rigan Machado BJJ Black Belt and Founder of the Crazy Monkey Defense Program Rodney King. In fact all of Rodney's gyms in South Africa only offer small, private, exclusive group classes.

Currently at our Martial Arts Life Studio in Carlsbad all of our classes are small, private, exclusive classes. If you are interested in learning martial arts this way and live in the San Diego area you can learn more about our program at

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Do you know what the BOP is?

Unless you're hip to comic book nerd lingo most likely you do not. The BOP stands for Bottom Of the Pile.

Pictured above; myself and a really tall guy with an awesome Darth Vader Costume (he's not with Lucas) at the San Diego Comic-Con 08

Essentially what this means in comic bookdom is; when a comic book nerd goes to the comic book shop and purchases all his stuff this guy then places all of his books in a pile. The pile is organized in a specific order. At the top of the pile is the stuff he's not as concerned with or less interested in. At the bottom of the pile is always the stuff he's the most interested in reading and can't wait to get to. The strategy in placing the best stuff at the bottom of the pile is to insure one reads everything one purchased, to have something to look forward too and to save the best stuff for last. The goal of every comic book nerd is to get to the BOP as fast as possible.

Having piles of books and stuff around is a habit I picked up long ago when I was a young comic book reader. I still remember my first pile when I was about 12 years old. No one taught this system to me it was just something I did naturally. Then as I got older I discovered that comic book readers from all over the world kept piles around with a

Today my daughter (
thanks to me) has her own pile right next to her bed (that I have to read to her). In fact right now I have piles all over the house. I have my bathroom BOP, my night stand BOP, Living Room BOP and so forth. It particularly drives my wife crazy when I can sit down virtually any where in the house and pick something up from one of my piles and start working towards the BOP.

Anyway I'm going to try and get to the
BOP by this weekend. However I don't have too many comic books in my pile anymore. Instead I've got medical texts, research reports, folk lore and fiction and all kinds of other stuff............. and well maybe a few comic books. I haven't been to the BOP in a long time so we'll see how it goes.

Posing with the guys at the Lucas booth click on this picture is worth the closer look!

Friday, May 23, 2008

2008 USA Trainers Clinic

Marcus, Mars and Myself After Close to Two Hours of Straight Jack Clinch Training

Last week end I had the privilege of attending the USA trainers clinic for the Crazy Monkey Defense Program.
Today I've finally I've been able to get some time to put up a post about the entire experience.

This was my second year attending the trainers program for the Crazy Monkey Defense Program last year was the first year of the trainers program and I feel fortunate that I was able to get on board such a high quality martial arts program from the beginning. With that said this years coaches clinic was awesome and far better than last years.

The clinic began on Thurs night and ran through the weekend concluding on Monday Morning. Here is a quick and very brief break down of the material we covered this year. Honestly we covered enough material to work on for the next several months and most of us where experiencing some severe brain over load by the end of it.

Thursday - Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Guard passing both opening the guard and working various levels to pass. We also did some really great side control material.

Friday - Crazy Monkey
In the morning session we worked various drills and games to help improve sparring. During the evening session we sparred and were able to get specific feed back from Rodney and the rest of the trainers. I even got to do some friendly sparring with Rodney himself who helped me realize how much work my clinch boxing game needs. We finished off the evening with a presentation by Rodney on The Martial Arts Game. Here Rodney went into a discussion about his new book titled; The Martial Arts Game what was cool is we were all able to go much further into detail and discussion on information in Rodney's new book.

Saturday- Fight Compass

The characteristics of each style on the compass.
Four specific techniques for developing the characteristics of each style. Following two hours of fight compass training all the trainers each did ten rounds of sparring!

Sunday- Straight Jacket
How to enter into the straight jacket.
The proper method to get and maintain a control position in a clinch. Striking out of a control position, without giving up control or loosing balance.

Monday - Somatic Martial Arts
This was probably one of the most interesting of all the sessions. We broke down and worked on the jab for the entire session. With the specific focus of learning how to improve the quality of our movement.

Me and Some of My Friends After a Lot of Training

The trainers clinic was so much fun I already can't wait for next years. Needless to say I will be coaching all of the material we learned from Rodney at my Gym Martial Arts Life in San Diego over the next several months.

I will also be putting up a series of posts here on the Crazy Monkey and the Crazy Monkey Defense Program specifically how I became involved in it, what I think about it and what will happen with it in the future.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Creating a Training Environment Together!

In San Diego we finally finished up painting the inside of our Martial Arts Life San Diego gym. This was a fun project everyone helped out with. We started a little over a month ago and knocked out most of the major work in about four hours. After a taking long break from painting we finished up the project just a week ago.

Throwing up the new paint was a lot of fun it was great to see everyone getting involved and helping out. The best training environment we can have is one we all create together.

This new look really helps set the entire tone of our gym. A place where individuals can come together as a team and accomplish the extraordinary.

Special thanks to everyone who helped out; Bruce, Brian, McCray, Jeremy, Ryan, Spencer, Peter, Elizabeth and Greg.

Check out the pictures below to see the finished paint.

Strength Training Area

Back to Front View

Front to Back

We have G.A.M.E.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Goal Setting Schmoll Setting

At the end 2007 we set and worked towards some personal goals to finish off the year strong. Since that time I haven’t emailed or talked much about goals for a few reasons. I do hope to incorporate goal setting into our program in the future. It can serve to be a powerful and unique part of our Martial Arts program. While this post may appear to be anti-goal it is not. I am in favor of goals these are simply some of the obstacles that must be avoided when the topic of goals comes up.

The popular media seems to bank heavily off goal setting. Every month it seems a new goal setting guru pops up on the shelves of the nearest book store trying to cash in on societies desperation for success. In most cases these literatures offer very little in real content. The authors are often nothing more than the snake oil sales men of the past offering advise with little credibility or expertise of their own.

Even Disneyland with the “Year of a Million Dreams” campaign (which has been ongoing for almost two years now!) is trying to cash in on it. Somehow by going to Disneyland all your dreams will come true.

Pictured Above; Has my daughters dreams come true or is she scared out of her mind?

It is easy to become so consumed with your goals you are no longer happy or enjoy your life as it is NOW. Instead you are constantly thinking and focused on what you want to accomplish or bring into your life. It becomes a cycle in which you are constantly thinking about accomplishing the next thing rather than enjoying today.

The popular SMART formula for goal setting is laid out as follows; A goal should be Reasonable, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic and Time Lined. If one doesn’t accomplish their goal in the time line they specified even if it’s a reasonable time line it is easy to become frustrated and begin thinking about the past, what happened and why. Again you are now no longer in the present but have projected yourself back in time thinking about something you can no longer change.

Traditionally it is taught to announce your goals to everyone you know or to make a public statement about what it is you want to accomplish. The logic behind this thinking is that doing so will cause you to really follow though with it. What happens often is the person announcing their goal to the world gets all the praise, recognition and credit from their friends for setting such a great or inspiring goal without every accomplishing anything. The person then rarely follows through as they already got all their accolades for something they never actually did. I think it was a fortune cookie I read once that said something along the lines of; “He who talks less accomplishes more.”

They say an hour of well planned work is several times more effective than an hour unplanned. In goal setting it is easy to take this too the extreme spending all ones time filling out work sheets, breaking everything down and writing lists rather than just doing it.

I knew a guy who had written out on a piece of paper his schedule. He had sleep 7 hours which he planned to cut down to 5. He had work 9 hours and 8 hours of free time. All of which was scheduled out. Personally I’ve found most of the time such a rigorous schedule often never plays out exactly as planned in addition scheduling to this degree would drive many crazy.

Writing a goal down and creating a plan can be helpful and in some cases necessary. But stay within reason. If you want to improve your flexibility to a certain degree your time may be better spend stretching. The idea that you have to write everything out in order to accomplish anything simply isn’t true.

Many of the popular books, tapes and courses aimed at goal setting devote entire sections to teach you how to eliminate distractions. Books such as “The Four Hour Work Week”by Tim Ferris go into detail about how to get by without answering your phone for days at a time, (I actually did do this and it really pissed a lot of people off) checking or responding to emails and so forth. Too often in these books and course they seem to suggest a person should almost become some kind of machine, a goal working robot that never stops. I picture Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “If it’s a distraction I must terminate it!”

The fundamental problem with the distraction elimination theory is it becomes easy for a person to be so self absorbed they are no longer thinking about helping others or contributing in anyway to the world. Family, friends and loved ones are soon viewed as distractions. The next thing you know you have a person working in almost complete solitude while they pursue their own self interests.

In the introduction of a Jiu-Jitsu book I read once the author writes about how he has cut virtually everything out of his life that could possibly get in the way of his goals. He states that he hasn’t had a girl friend for several years and has cut out anything else that could distract him from accomplishing his goals in martial arts and music.

What good is it to accomplish everything in the world if you don’t have anyone to share it with? How much more fulfilling would it be to achieve your dreams with family, friends or loved ones there with you sharing in your experience?

Finally remember there is no point in setting or trying to accomplish a goal if you don’t enjoy the process. If anything that should be the best part about the entire experience.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New Mats

Our new mats showed up this past week. So far they are awsome we now have wall to wall 2 inch thick seemless mats to train on. No more dealing with folding and unfolding mats, fold lines, velcoro, ect. I hope everyone enjoys training on them.

This is the first improvement too many we will be making at our new Martial Arts Life, San Diego training location. In the future we will be adding several more awsome improvements.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Certified Sports Performance Coach

This past January I sat in to become a Certified Sports Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting. USA Weightlifting is the governing body for Olympic sport of Weightlifting in the United States. The Certification is primarily based upon the applications of the Olympic Lifts, the Power Clean and Snatch, to Sports Performance.

I sat through a two day course of hands on coaching. All participants of the course had to actually perform the Olympic Lifts with trainers from the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs coaching. The course ended on the 2nd day with a written exam (which I passed).

Going through the training I quickly found out how much I suck at the Olympic Lifts. I originally learned how to perform all the Olympic Lifts from my boss back in
College where I worked as a Fitness Center Supervisor. My boss was a former competitive Powerlifter and set several national records in his day. He was also trained by Mr. Hawaii in strength training and had an extensive knowledge of Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting. Take note; the two sports are in no way similar!

After having been taught by my former boss I thought I would be able to bring some game to this certification program. To my surprise I am like a baby in the sport of weightlifting compared to the coaches and several attendants in the course. I'm not talking about how much weight I could lift I’m talking about pure technique as it's applied to the Olympic Lifts. There were some serious fundamental mistakes I was making on all the lifts. I quickly learned that in my opinion 99% of the strength coaches, football coaches and personal trainers out there have no idea what the hell they are doing when it comes to the Olympic Lifts (power cleans and snatches) and they actually teach most of it incorrectly.

One exercise I am doing now that I never worked on before is the Front Squat. I originally wrote this lift off years ago. I saw it as a useless body building exercise aimed at developing the quads for the purpose of looking pretty. In Olympic Lifting the Front Squat is an extremely important exercise and one of the six fundamental lifts. The Front Squat develops the catch position for the Power Clean. In fact I my wrists are too tight and I need to Front Squat more just to develop the flexibility I need to improve my catch position for the Power Clean.

Overall it was a fun weekend the written exam was very straight forward but still required about an hour of study a night to get through it with a passing score. I now hold a total of 5 Certifications (all current) related to Strength Training and Conditioning (this is not counting my CPR and First Aid which is mandatory to do anything anyways).

I have already registered to sit for my 6th Certification in May. I am going be trying to become a Certified Life Style and Weight Management Consultant through the American Counsel on Exercise. This Certification will basically consist of a two hour proctored exam.

There are some who criticize people who collect Certifications. For the most part Certifications make money for those bodies that create and administer them. In fact I believe they do more for the entities, persons, bodies, corporations or who ever is giving to Certification to make money than they do for the actual personnel becoming Certified.

The big money in creating a Certification is not just in charging for the test, text book and study materials there is also big money in the continuing education, seminars, membership fees, renewal fees and so forth.

In Martial Arts you have guys who will send you DVDs and a Certificate in exchange for sending them money. Other Martial Arts Certifications are semi-legit but overall the only way to know if a Certification is has any credibility is to look at the body administering or backing the Certification. What is the credibility of that body? In addition there are many certifications accredited by the
National Commission for Certifying Agencies. This is supposed to mean when the test is proctored it follows a specific protocol and the Certification meets some type of professional competence. What this actually means is nothing really other than the Certifying body paid some money and went through a bureaucratic process to get their Certification, "Certified."

I realize that holding a Certification in no way guarantees competence in anything and should never replace or supplement actual performance, results and experience. I think it was in the Movie "Tommy Boy" Chris Farley said something like; "You want certified brake pads? Well I can take a crap in a box and stamp it certified for you but all you'll have is a certified box of crap!" Unfortunately most of the world doesn't seem to get this.

I have a friend who has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Exercise Science plus four years in the Coast Guard and all the major fitness clubs in L.A. have turned him down because he doesn't hold a Certification. I don't believe it's because the job market has become so competitive you have to have Certification to get hired but that people have become so brain washed they now think Certifications actually mean something more than you paid some money studied for an exam and passed it.

Personally I just enjoy the process of looking at an exam, studying the material and challenging myself with taking the test. Every time I do it I seem to learn and retain at least a couple more things. But even more improtant I can boost up my ego by putting all my certification on a wall or shrine where I can admire myself everyday as I seek to have the most certifications in the world!