Category Archives: martial arts

Have Gi – Will Travel: Greensboro Combat Sports

So let me start this post by saying the martial arts community in Greensboro, NC is not what I expected it to be.  For the first time on this National journey, I felt really limited by my choices to train at.  A quick Google search came up with 3 options……THREE!!!

Gym A:  Just posted a letter announcing ownership change and that everything will be just fine……nope.

Gym B:  No website.  No reviews.  No Facebook page……..nope.

Gym C:  Greensboro Combat Sports/Royce Gracie Jiu Jitsu……we have a winner!!!

To summarize, the instruction was good and detailed and the instructor made sure to work with all students in the room.  As with most schools I visit, the number of beginning students by far outweighed those with significant experience but the diversity in the room of body styles, gender and age was great to see.  All in all, worth the mat fee and very glad I took the time to go check it out.

Instructor:  

GCS - Blayne

The class (and school) was lead by a purple belt, Blayne Turnmire (pictured above winning double gold at a recent tournament).  Now before you run off saying “The school is run by a purple belt!!”- as near as I could tell, yes, it is.   Based on my research though, he is also one of the highest ranking people in the Triad area and definitely in Greensboro.  His teaching style was a bit laid back compared to other instructors I have had but it did not lack in detail.  We worked several stand up self defenses (loved it – I don’t do this enough) and then worked on knee-on-belly.

After drilling for 30-minutes or so, we rolled.  Good skill level in the room and a few guys were going hard.  Several of them were competing in a sub-only tournament the following weekend so they were getting after it.  From what I could see on Facebook, looks like they did well and that was not surprising based on my experience with them on the mat.

Attitude towards outsiders:

From what I could gather from Mindy (she really runs the place), the gym regularly has RoadWarriors like myself dropping in for training.  She was quick to respond to my inquiry (and I inquired very much last minute) and commented a couple of times of how she is always surprised how often it happens.  In fact, I was not the only traveling visitor that day.  They had another regular who comes down from Columbus, OH on a regular basis.

As I mentioned before, the class felt less formal than some that I have experienced but when I think back on it, there was definite structure to it.  We bowed in and then went straight into warm ups.  There were no pleasantries between the students (lots between the instructor and the students), it was pretty much straight to work.   Nothing rude or exclusionary mind you, just not a lot of chit chat and welcoming (go back up and see that diversity comment again).

I want to make sure I am painting this picture correctly, I never felt unwanted, shunned, second class or any other form of being boxed out as an outsider.  However unlike other gyms I have dropped in on, I think I would have to reintroduce myself to everyone there.

Facilities:

Located just West of downtown Greensboro, the gym is in a converted warehouse building, it has a HUGE mat space that is separate from an additional mat for stand-up training.  It also boasted full weight training equipment scattered around the gym.

One warning, it is not the CrossFit gym……the one that happens to be next door.  You can guess how I know they are separate facilities.

Overall Experience:

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I really enjoyed my time at Greensboro Combat Sports.  I actually took part in a fight fit class before rolling so got to experience a couple of different types of training.  The technique instruction was exactly what I have been trying to work on so it fit with my training perfectly.  And while the atmosphere was a bit more lax than what I have experienced elsewhere, the jujitsu was on point.

So if you find yourself in the Greensboro area and are looking for a place to train, look no further than Greensboro Combat Sports.  It is proof that just because you don’t have much of a selection doesn’t mean that you don’t have the opportunity to get some great training in!!

See you on the road!!

 

Stop calling it Mixed Martial Arts…..

This week was supposed to be the biggest fight card in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s history.  UFC 200 was stacked with an unbelievable level of talent and 3 championship belts were to be awarded.  And for the first time in a very long time, no one was hurt and pulling out of their bout at the last minute.

But wait….we are not there yet!!

Enter the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and their pesky out of competition drug testing.  Seems that the preeminent favorite to reunite in the Light Heavyweight Division Title, Jon “Bones” Jones, tested positive for two different banned substances (as of the time of this writing those substances had not been publicly disclosed).   Three weeks before the bout of his life and he is caught (presumably) taking PEDs.  Unbelievable.

jon jones

Philippians 4:13 “For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

                Well, evidently that and the right “supplement” regimen.

Oh, and it gets better.  The fighter they replaced Jon Jones with?  Anderson “the Spider” Silva.  Former Middleweight Champion and the fighter who many believe to be the GOAT.  Oh yeah, and also a proven PED user.  Could we not have found another fighter who has not also popped for PEDs?  Perhaps they should have chosen Belfort instead (nope), Machida (PED), Sonnen (still suspended for PED)…….well crap!!

Stop calling it MMA – It’s Cage Fighting!!

The problem is that this has become common place in Cage Fighting.  Yes, I called it cage fighting.  That is what it is.  I don’t mean it derogatorily but rather descriptively.  I completely understand why Dana White and the Fertitas have fought hard to move away from that description and the connotation it carries.

However nothing about the current state of UFC or other cage fighting organizations reflects anything I have ever learned about the “Art” in martial art. 

And until it does, I won’t use it as a describer for what I watch on a regular basis.

Honesty     Humility     Integrity    Perseverance    Self-Control

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In every martial art I am aware of, there are a set of Black Belt Principles that are taught along with the physical skills of the fighting style.  My black belt is in American Karate and the principals that guide us are Honest, Humility, Integrity, Perseverance and Self-Control.

Are they pervasive and common through every marital art?   No.

Does every martial art have some sort of code of conduct/honor surrounding it?  Yes.

If there are no principals, your are not studying a martial art, you are studying a fighting style.  There is nothing wrong with that but let’s stop calling anyone who is willing to walk into a cage a martial artist.  Fighters who are looking to illegal pharmaceuticals to improve their performance are not martial artists.  You cannot exhibit honesty, integrity or self-control if you knowingly and willingly looking to gain an unfair advantage against your opponent.

Helio Gracie

Helio Gracie suggested that you immediately drink a glass of water upon waking because you are dehydrated and should always be ready.  He did not suggest that water should be washing down the latest compound to crank your metabolism.

Guchin

Gichin Funakoshi said to “Be constantly mindful, diligent and resourceful in your pursuit of the Way.”  Not “find the best doctor who will prescribe or acquire HGH for you”

Now I give a great deal of credit to the UFC for bringing in USADA and attempting to clean up the sport.  I think Jeff Novitski has one of the hardest jobs in the organization (he looked absolutely defeated as he was announcing the Jones’ removal from the card).  They realized that removing doping from their sport is way more important than in any other.  A pharmaceutical advantage in fighting can literally lead to the death of your opponent.  These men and women are going into a cage with bad intentions towards each other.  The mat has to be a level playing field.  Fighter’s lives depend on it.

So fighters, I am calling on you to bring the Martial Arts back into cage fighting.  Bring the honor, honesty and integrity back into the competition.  You are the only ones who can actually do it.

Coaches can’t make it happen.

Fans can’t make it happen.

The UFC organization can’t make it happen.

Dana can’t make it happen.

Will I continue to watch UFC, Belator, Glory and others?  Yes.

Will I continue to support fighters?  Yes.

Will I continue to make it a family affair with my boys?  Yes.

But until we see consistency in fighters at all levels testing clean, it will not be mixed martial arts to me, it is cage fighting.  I have two boys who need to understand the difference between winning and honor.

Have Gi – Will Travel : North Broadway JiuJitsu, Bryan Guidry Fitness Training

In researching for a trip to St. Louis, all of the opinions, reviews and most importantly for me, operating hours (they were open later than all the rest) were pointing me to North Broadway Jiu Jitsu – Bryan Guidry Training.

I happened to attend on a day that the focus was No-Gi so I should probably call this one “No-Gi : Will Travel”.   I also had the good fortune to be able to attend on a night when both traditional class and all rank sparring sessions were being held so I got to roll with folks of all belt ranks and experience a great deal of what NBJJ has to offer.

To summarize, the instruction was great.  Although the group was a bit slow to warm up to the outsiders in the room (they were never cold), once we started going, the atmosphere was one of encouragement and support.  The rolling was strong and intense but without ego or intent to harm.  All in all, I had a great experience.

Instructor:  

Bryan Guidry

Professor Bryan was one of the best teachers I have experienced in a while.   My first class was all about technique and drills.  We were specifically working on sweeps from Butterfly Guard.   He was detailed in his explanations, clear in his demonstrations and then most importantly, followed up with specific instructions/corrections to each of us as he observed us working the techniques.  This last step is one that I have seen several instructors skip.  Even with the outsiders, Professor Bryan was observing and providing the feedback necessary to get the technique right.

I was also fortunate enough to get to roll with him in the sparring class.  Like any good instructor, he would let me get in trouble, attempt to work out of it and then show me that everything I was doing was futile.  Six minutes of attempted survival.

Attitude towards outsiders:

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Bryan Guidry has developed a reputation as the place to train in St. Louis.  With this reputation comes a lot of folks that are in just for a session or a week.  In fact, on the evening I visited there was another guy who was in from upstate Missouri looking for a place to train when he is in St. Louis 3-4 days a week.  All this to say, this group is very used to visitors.

The guys were obviously tight knit with a great deal of pre-class conversation around who was rolling in the upcoming submission only tournament, how people’s jobs were progressing, etc.  There was not a lot of pleasantries with the two ‘newbies’ before class but once Professor Guidry got class going, the group was warm and welcoming.  Truth be told, this may also be my introverted nature coming through as well.

Once we got rolling, the guys were great.  No egos, lots of diverse styles and a great willingness to help each other.  Great culture.

Facilities:

OK, this is a gym you are going to want to map out to get to.  If Professor Bryan ever has someone say they were ‘just driving by’ – they are full of it.  It is off the beaten path however the facility itself is definitely put together to train.  Located in a converted warehouse building, it has a large mat space (there were close 20 of us rolling at any one time), a full weight/cardio room and sauna.

Both men’s and women’s locker rooms and showers are available.  Bonus was the ”member lounge” that doubled as a spot for the kids of those rolling to hang out in.  Only downfall to the space was the pillars in the middle of the mat.  Completely avoidable as you roll but could get in the way when Professor was demonstrating a technique.

Overall Experience:

I really enjoyed my time at North Broadway Jiu Jitsu.  I have definitely been to better facilities but the skill of Professor Bryan both on the mat and more importantly, as an instructor, as well as the guys who were rolling make up for any short comings that the facility may present.  My only regret was I was not able to train in the Gi but that was all about timing, besides, Professor Bryan has a whole series on the internet so I can study with him while I am at home or on the road.

One final note, you will notice I didn’t mention anything about the kids program or women on the mat.  I am 100% sure this was just due to the timing of my visit but I did not see either while at NBJJ.  The only reason I mention it here is it is normally a big part of my assessment of a gym.  In this case, there were no kids classes offered on the Tuesday I had the opportunity to roll.  As for women, none showed for the classes I took but one scroll through their Facebook page clearly shows that women regularly attend (at least) Gi classes.

So if you are in the market for a training facility in St. Louis, North Broadway Jiu Jitsu is worth the visit.

The difference between success and quitting is GRIT

Let’s face it, starting anything is easy.  A new workout plan,  a new meal plan, a new book.  We all want the *NEW* thing.  Think about it, anything new has a sense of excitement around it.  There is a sense of adventure and optimism.

A *NEW* iPhone

A *NEW* car

A *NEW*  job

A *NEW*  vacation

The possibilities of a *NEW*  workout plan

Just imagine the possibilities!!! 

This excitement around *NEW* is why:

  • 95% of diets fail over a period of 1-5 years
  • Over 50% of marriages end in divorce
  • Only 6% of Boy Scouts ever reach the rank of Eagle
  • Less than 1% of all those who start a martial art achieve the rank of Black Belt (my own observation on this stat in full disclosure)

The point I am trying to make is that with any endeavor worth doing, at some point the “new smell” is going to wear off and it is going to look a lot like (please forgive me for saying it)……..WORK!!  Nothing can stay *NEW* forever.  Every *NEW* car gets its first scratch.  Every *NEW* career becomes a job.  Every *NEW*  workout hits a plateau.

So if everything new becomes old (and all of it becomes new again), why is it that some are able to achieve great things in these endeavors while the vast majority allow themselves to fall by the wayside?  And more importantly, what can we all do to ensure we are a part of the minority vs. the majority?

The minority decide early they are not quitting:

I cannot over emphasize how important this differentiator is.  If you go into an endeavor with the attitude of “let’s see what happens”, you are giving yourself the out.  There are certainly times that would be appropriate but if you are serious about achieving anything, decide early that you will succeed and never think about it again.

The minority learn to embrace the grind:

This is a term that I stole from Martial Arts and Wrestling training.  Training for these endeavors can be physically and mentally brutal.  I also call it “suck training”.  Suck training is different for every endeavor but learn to make this your favorite training.  You progress more in those times than any other.

The minority identifies the little things but focus on the one big thing:

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins introduces us to the concept of a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).  A goal so big that it inspires your endure all the little things.  Envision the end goal when you are doing the smaller, seemingly tedious, tasks that need to be completed to get you there.

The minority celebrate the small victories along the way:

If I had waited to celebrate anything along my martial arts journey till I received my black belt, I would have been waiting for nearly a decade.  There were plenty of smaller celebrations, belt colors, tournaments, techniques achieved.  Set small goals that lead to the larger BHAG and celebrate those (just not a Big Mac and ice cream for hitting a weight loss goal)

So there you have it.  My plan for becoming a part of the minority and developing a steadfast resolve.  So what are you trying to accomplish?  What is your BHAG?

I’ll start…..I want to end the trend of obesity in the US.  How is that for a BHAG?

Have Gi – Will Travel: Kaizen BJJ in Detroit, MI

I cannot tell you how excited I am to write this review.  When I first decided to start this series, my biggest fear was that the first review was going to be of a program that was sub-par.  Nothing could be further from sub-par than the experience I had while visiting Kaizen BJJ in Plymouth, MI.  I truly could not have asked for a better experience as a visitor.

Let’s start with the Instructor:  

Ali

For me, the vast majority of whether an experience is going to be good or not lies in the hands of the instructor.  When I visited Kaizen, I took a beginner’s Gi class that was led by a Purple Belt, Ali Makhlouf.  He ran a well-organized class that smoothly went from basic drills, to position specific techniques to rolling with specific intent to sparring.  He was sure to move through the class (about 20 students) to give individual attention and instruction to each student.  Great experience.

Ryan

Now the school is owned and run by 4th Degree Black Belt Ryan Fiorenzi, who was at the gym while I was there but not rolling that evening.   He provided me with the experience that impressed me the most while I was at Kaizen.  At one point when we were working butterfly sweeps, he was invested enough in me (an outsider) to call me by name and give me specific feedback that I could apply immediately.  If he shows that much interest in an outsider, who is there for only one class, a class he was not teaching no less….I can only imagine how much he helps his own full time students.

Next – The attitude towards outsiders:

I was not on the mat for more than 2 minutes before I had people coming up and introducing themselves to me.  I have done back to back classes at schools where no one talks to me other than if we are drilling together.  I felt completely welcomed, didn’t sense any animosity at all and really felt like this group was there to get better.  Loved it.

Culture – What am I getting into?

If you look on the www.kaizenbjj.com website, they preach that they train “Leaving your ego at the door”.  I can tell you they practice what they preach.  Remember, I took a white belt class.  During that class I rolled with 2 Blue Belts, a Purple Belt and a Brown Belt.  As the higher belt ranks came in before open mat, they were quick to work with the White Belts.  Not destroy them….work with them.  It was awesome.

Additionally, Kaizen BJJ focuses on real world Jujitsu, not tournament Jujitsu.  Everything they did had a self-defense bent.  Nothing against tournament BJJ but I prefer the more self-defense oriented approach.

Facilities:

The mat was huge, in great shape and clean.  For those interested,  the facility is dual purpose with not only the mat but also a CrossFit gym next door.  The only thing I would improve if they had the opportunity is to have a locker room.  I arrived straight from the airport and changed in the restroom.  Really not a big thing but if I get a magic wand, I am adding a locker room.

Overall Experience:

From my initial contact with the owner Ryan over email, to my arrival, to the training everything was handled with professionalism and efficiency.  I can honestly say that if I was relocated to Detroit, I would make the commute to make this my home gym.

Thanks to Ryan and everyone at Kaizen BJJ for a wonderful experience.  If you are in the Detroit area, I highly recommend you make a trip out there.

Have Gi – Will Travel

Welcome to my new series, Have Gi – Will Travel.   Let me warn you in advance that these posts really are for a very specialized audience.  The traveling martial artist.  More and more as I travel, I am contacting dojos in my destination cities to inquire about training at their facilities.  The good news is you are the beneficiary of my experiences.

This first episode of Have Gi – Will Travel will detail out the rules of the traveling martial artist.

Always disclose your purpose:

Every Martial Arts school that I have ever come in contact with has some type of “Hey – come try us out” special.   My goal is to train every chance I get, not to bilk the system.  If I like a school, you can be sure I will want to come back.  Thus, I will contact all schools in advance and not only ask permission to train but also if there are any appropriate mat fees.

My opinions are always my own:

I am not (currently) sponsored in any way.  I get nothing other than knowledge, comraderie and physical fitness from training with any of these folks.  There is no bias (other than my own) to my reviews.

Every opinion I share here, I also share on social media:

My goal is to promote martial arts and martial artists.  The reality is that reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Trip Adviser, etc. make a real difference in the success of these small businesses.  I am more than happy to share my opinion so they can gain exposure and in the end, more business.

I realize that different schools have different goals:

I lie much more on the martial than the art of martial arts.  With that said, I can learn from both the yin and the yang.  Especially with me, the school should not adjust to the pupil, the pupil should adjust to the master.

I will stay humble and open minded:

It is really easy to fall into the mindset that ‘X’ martial art is the best….or ‘Y’ technique does not work in real life.  While I will certainly focus on the arts that interest me the most (Karate, BJJ and Mui Tai) if I stumble across the occasional Kung Fu or Aikido class, I am not going to shy away.

So come along with me on my journey across the US and the Martial Arts scene.  The first few posts will be of my favorite schools across that country that have been generous enough to let me train with them.  From there, we will experience this journey together.

Do you remember your second step?

Do you ever look back on a journey and ask “what was the second step?”  No.  Most everyone remembers the first step, the proverbial hardest one, but very few remember let alone talk about the second, the third, the fourth, etc.  Well that is what I want to talk about today.

When I first started focusing on my health and fitness level while traveling, I had to start somewhere, right?  Noone just makes a massive change in everything they do, do they?

Certainly not me.

So where does one start on this journey towards a healthier version of yourself?  Here are the 3 changes I made to start.

Change #1:  Nothing Fried

OK people, don’t underestimate how big a change this really was for me.  I would literally eat burgers with fries or fish & chips every day I was on the road.  Literally!!  So this was the first real change I made.  If it came out of a deep fryer, I was not eating it.

The first change here is funny to look back on but I no longer ordered the fish & chips and went with the burger (or chicken sandwich) instead.  I would then substitute a dinner salad for the fries.  I must have had this combination hundreds of times and still do pretty regularly actually.

Change #2:  Do Something – Every Day!!

With how much I love to work out now, it is hard to remember back to a time when I did nothing but that was exactly what I did for years.  Now mind you, I would pack workout clothes every trip but they never saw anything but the inside of a suite case.  In fact, for a while, I was traveling to Houston so often that I literally set up an apartment at one of my communities.  With how much I love to work out now, it is hard to remember back to a time when I did nothing but that was exactly what I did for years.  Now mind you, I would pack workout clothes every trip but they never saw anything but the inside of a suite case.  In fact, for a while, I was traveling to Houston so often that I literally set up an apartment at one of my communities.  They gym there was fantastic.  I think I can count on one hand how many times I actually used it back then.

This change is actually where my guardrail for Workout before Wine came from.  I figured if I wanted to have the extra calories contained in the alcohol, I needed to earn it first….and I really like wine.

Change #3:  Rethink “Free”

Extra (fattening) calories are everywhere for the RoadWarrior!!  The cookie at check-in with the hotel.  The waffle maker and bacon at breakfast.  The evening desert bar in the concierge lounge and THE ALCOHOL EVERYWHERE!!!  Hotel and airlines are very good about making sure their best travelers are well taken care of.

These freebies are anything but free.  It is way too easy to find yourself on glass #3 or desert #2 or having desert every night you travel.  My big change was to eat on the road like I would at home.  I do not have desert every night at home.  I am not having 3 glasses of wine a night at home.

Now notice I did not say I gave all that up.  Nope, I just was conscious in my choices of what I would partake in and what I would not.

So those were my steps two, three and four.  Nothing majorly groundbreaking.  No healthy living overhaul.  Just 3 things I could do every day to get closer to RoadWarriorFit.

So how about you?

What is your next step?