When we run self-defense classes at our schools, they’re not just about “survival strategies”. They’re about success. And the best expression of that is when people are empowered enough to proactively take control of their safety. Of course it’s important to know tactics and techniques. But in many cases, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
That’s where our guest today comes in. Shihan Michelle Gay is a 5th Degree black belt, 6-Time Women’s full-contact knock-down Karate champion and a Certified Laban Movement Analyst. She has her own dojo - Ken Wa Kan - on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and is the pioneer behind “Safe and Sound”, a self-defense seminar series like no others.
"Safe and Sound" is a completely different take on self-defense. It’s about preventing dangerous situations from happening before they get started. The focus is on a set of awareness strategies for both men and women, emphasizing the pre-conditions of aggression: what they are, how to identify them and how to avoid them.
Our discussion zeros in on some of the key points of the seminar, with solid takeaways for violence prevention, and on the importance of learning to communicate more effectively whoever (and wherever) you are. There are some real mind-blowers in here.
We sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.
Check out “Safe and Sound” here: http://safeandsoundseminar.com/
Transformation is at the heart of many martial arts “success stories”: practitioners go from bitter to compassionate, from reactive to proactive, from an unhealthy to a balanced lifestyle. Even the origin myths - those legends passed down over decades or even centuries - tell stories of powerful, personal change through martial arts practice.
Today’s podcast is a conversation with two students from our dojos - Tara and Nick - who understand transformation in a deeply personal way. As transgender practitioners, they bring a set of distinct experiences to their training. We talk about some of the obstacles they’ve faced (and overcome), what makes their journeys unique as well as what unites them with all martial arts practitioners. And we talk about the universal appeal of a positive, open, inclusive community of martial artists, and the hope that great training provides.
Yes, it’s a lot to cover. But we’ve been waiting to have this conversation. Honest, intimate and personally meaningful, it’s exactly the dialogue we were hoping it would be.
So we're in a bookstore and we come across a kind of weird, modern self-helpy kind of book, and lo and behold it has a bunch of advice about Jiu-Jitsu in it. Not technical advice but guidance and opinions around choosing a place to train, the right philosophy, and on and on. It takes the standard line about finding the right "gym", the gold-medal instructor and many of the other commonly-accepted tropes about doing "serious" Jiu-Jitsu training. And so we're off to the races...
In this episode, we take a look at what's so appealing about the hyper-aggressive vision of Jiu-Jitsu (and modern martial arts) as just another "extreme sport" and what it leaves OUT of the discussion at the end of the day. From choosing training partners, making meaning from your training, creating space for an alternative perception of what it means to be a practitioner - we tackle it all this week.
What’s the relationship between freedom and discipline in the martial arts? How much is too much? And how does your mindset determine your experience in training? In this episode, Gene Dunn and Brian Glick (of Brooklyn BJJ, and 3rd degree Black Belts under John Danaher/Renzo Gracie) look at how constraints operate in the martial arts - why they matter and how they work - and what we as practitioners need to look for (and look out for).
The Martial Arts Mind is BACK!
In this episode, Brian Glick and Gene Dunn (3rd degree Jiu-Jitsu Black Belts under John Danaher and Renzo Gracie) start with an analysis of one of the Martial Arts Mind’s recent posts, “Walk Faster”. Drawing on personal work with their own teachers, they discuss Sifu Paul Vizzio's contention that many practitioners go far…but not far enough. They delve into the importance of eliminating complaints, why presenting an “upright bearing” matters, and why we all need someone in our life to hold us accountable.
Your overall health and fitness often determines how much physical energy you have and how sharp your mental focus will be. How we feel determines our attitude toward everything we do and our attitude influences our actions, or inactions. It’s a tremendous feeling to be energetic, healthy, fit and focused.
It’s always better when your emotions are more up than down and you also transfer a vibrant and positive energy force to others. When you feel good, you tend to spread that feeling toward others.
But as the saying goes, "You can't out-train bad nutrition"....
Health and fitness don't always go hand in hand, and as martial artists we need to keep tabs on both. But finding a starting place can be challenging without a guide, so in this episode we delve into some personal experiences with figuring out how to eat right.
From the importance of martial discipline to the blueprint of the "Whole 30", we catch up on some of the successes we've seen and tools we've used to stay on top of eating right.
Lately we've been receiving a lot of messages about safety in training, so we've dedicated this podcast to the question of how, when and why to manage a rough training session. Sometimes it's the partner you have...sometimes it's something more. Listen in as Glick and Dunn discuss strategies for handling hard training, and why the myth that "only hard training is real training" just doesn't hold water.
Join us for a look back at the landscape of the martial arts beginning in the early 1960s through the eyes (and voice) of a legend. Ranging from such topics as overtraining ("bad training") to surviving childhood to innovations borne of necessity, this interview captures a half-century of martial arts with a true master.
In the early sixties, Sifu began studying Fu Jow Pai in New York's Chinatown. He went on to earn the rank of Sai Chuon (Fourth Degree Blackbelt), the highest rank the Grandmaster has ever awarded a student. He also studied with, and later taught kickboxing for, Shotokan Karate Master Toyotaro Miyazaki. He is best known for holding World Champion titles over a 23-year period from 11 professional kickboxing organizations in 4 different weight divisions: Featherweight, Super Featherweight, Lightweight, and Super Lightweight.
What's it take to become a great instructor?
Does a winning tournament record pave the way for a successful teaching career?
And what's the task for the student when it comes to relating to the instructor?
We welcome Jamie Crowder back to the show, and continue to explore the process of growing into the roles of teacher and student in the martial arts classroom.
Leaving behind our preconceptions is one of the hardest things to do when we begin training, but it's also one of the most essential.
It often seems that the tighter we cling to how things are "supposed" to go in the dojo, the more frustrated we feel.
A starting point for the new student is to trust the classroom - and in order for that to happen, the instructor must create a trustworthy environment and culture.
But it's not always as easy as it seems...
We talk about this and more with Kyoshi Matthew Fremon - a 5th-degree black belt instructor and 25-year student of Ken Shi Kai (a branch of Kyokoshin karate), and a brown belt pursuing his black belt at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Many of our Martial Arts Mind conversations touch on the essential topic of the relationship between the student and the teacher, since it's one of the things that really defines a great martial arts experience.
But when it comes to choosing a model during the early stages of practice, there is another relationship that comes to the fore: the complex interplay between the master and the monster.
The raging, me-victorious "monster" can triumph in the short-term but is it enough to see real success over a long arc of training? And what are the sacrifices for the student who chooses the path of the calmer, inconspicuous "master"?
We discuss these and more with Kyoshi Matthew Fremon - a 5th-degree black belt instructor and 25-year student of Ken Shi Kai (a branch of Kyokoshin karate), and a brown belt pursuing his black belt at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
One of the oft-repeated maxims in the martial arts is "emptying the cup" - if a new student can't put aside their pre-existing concepts, there will be no room for something new to think about.
This idea provides the entry-point for our conversation this week, with some gems from our guest - Master Thai Boxing Instructor Jamie Crowder - about the right way to learn martial arts as a beginner.
(And he has the experience to know: Master Crowder has been a martial arts practitioner for nearly 30 years, has taught students all around the world and is largely considered one of the finest Thai Boxing instructors in New York.)
Professor Jin Yung (Renzo Gracie black belt) shared a story with us a few weeks ago about a newer white belt student in his classroom.
While being guided through a sparring session by one of the black belt instructors, he asked his partner to “go harder” on him - he insisted he could take it. What happened next…well, you’ll need to listen to the podcast.
So we invited Professor Jin to the show this week to delve a little deeper into how students can actually get the most out of their training, and what instructors need to do in order to foster the right type of training environment.
(You can read more about cooperative training at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's website).
Many practitioners and instructors focus more on what they're practicing than on how they're practicing, but setting up a system for success matters a lot. Professors Dunn and Glick talk to one student of Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who's seen both sides, and shares his thoughts about sustainable training.
Most systems just turn on and off. But your body and mind have a lot of switches that have to be flipped with care. We hear that vitamin C is good for us, so we start taking 10,000 units a day, and in the process we train our bodies to throw off huge amounts of vitamin C.
Eventually, we forget or get tired of taking the huge doses but in the meantime, our bodies keep getting rid of huge amounts of vitamin C until it's totally gone. By forgetting about the effect of overdoing, we cause the very thing we were seeking to avoid: a vitamin deficiency and poor health.
Sometimes in the effort to learn more as fast as possible, new students of Jiu-Jitsu want immediate results without considering the longer arc of their experience. It's easy to forget that both the body and mind need time to adjust...and that there's no way to cram for longterm success. Before long, they grow tired or bored or get injured, and end up back where they started - unable or unwilling to continue their training.
When you "turn on" any system, set the controls correctly. Create a sustainable practice. Sometimes even the best-running system needs maintenance to keep it from running itself into the ground.
For more about sustainable practice, read what Brooklyn BJJ is up to.
Part Two of our interview with Susan Guerra!
Susan Guerra is a lifelong martial arts practitioner who holds black belts in multiple styles. She talks with us about her experience as a student (and as a woman) on the mat in pursuit of her Jiu-Jitsu black belt, and some of the long-term benefits she's seen from training over the decades.
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Do NOT miss this episode!
We speak this week with Susan Guerra, a lifelong martial arts practitioner who holds black belts in multiple styles. She touches on some of the most vital lessons she's learned over the past three decades of training, with especially acute insights into the experience of what it's like to be a woman in pursuit of a Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
There was so much great content here we had to split this episode into two parts...so look for Part Two of our interview with Susan coming soon!
If you enjoy these podcasts, please subscribe through Stitcher or iTunes!
In this episode, the Martial Arts Mind is joined by lifelong martial artist and legendary instructor Shihan Mike Vacca for a conversation about the three biggest issues confronting the lifelong Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. The topics range from:
In this episode, The Martial Arts Mind is joined by legendary martial arts instructor and educator Kyoshi Thomas Clifford for a discussion about why it's time to update the dominant metaphor for Jiu-Jitsu. Don't miss this one!
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For some martial arts students and instructors, self-defense and fighting are interchangeable concepts. What's a responsible approach to understanding "a fight" and its impact on the participants? And what's the role of the instructor when it comes to educating students? In this episode, the Martial Arts Mind explores a few things to watch out for.
What are the barriers for an over-40 Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) practitioner? In this episode, The Martial Arts Mind discusses some of the common challenges and issues faced by martial artists over 40...and what martial arts practitioners in their thirties need to be planning for if they want to keep training into their fifties. Included are tips on evaluating your training environment and training mindset for maximal success on (and off) the mat.