Monthly Archives: August 2016

New York’s Hidden Agenda

It seemed like something that would never happen, but New York finally lifted its ban on Mixed Martial Arts. It was a hard fight for 7 years led by the UFC. The ban lift was the culmination of a seven-year effort by UFC officials, who made frequent visits to the state Capitol and retained influential Albany lobbyists in an effort to have the ban overturned. If that isn’t technical enough, the people who ultimately decide, the State Assembly, was opposed to it had a dramatic shift within their Democratic majority, which was the major factor in having the ban overturned.

With the lift of the ban, there was a light.

Madison Square Garden, long famous for being a fight event icon could not be a conquest of the UFC. Did they do it just to be nice? Haha, never, there is always a hidden agenda when it comes to politics.

New York saw it as an opportunity to cash in on a big business. Are they wrong for it? Not as long as everyone is happy including the UFC and other major MMA promotions. So what they are doing is the State of New York is levying a tax on the newly authorized sports of kickboxing, single-discipline martial arts and our baby, mixed martial arts. According to an August 18th notice issued by the state Department of Taxation and Finance, promoters of such combative sporting events will be required to pay a gross receipts tax beginning September 1st. Haven’t there always been taxes on events? Well these taxes differ from those previously imposed on boxing, sparring, and wrestling matches.

It was in April of this year that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation lifting a ban on mixed martial arts contests that had been in place since 1997. The measure also imposed a gross receipts tax on the newly authorized combative sports of kickboxing, single-discipline martial arts, and mixed martial arts. The tax rates on boxing, sparring, and wrestling matches or exhibitions weren’t changed by the new law and remain at 3% of gross receipts from ticket sales and broadcasting rights, with a maximum of $50,000 in taxes per event for each type of sale. The difference is that gross receipts from ticket sales for kickboxing, single-discipline martial arts, and mixed martial arts will be taxed at a higher, 8.5% rate with no cap on taxes. The sum of gross receipts from broadcasting rights and digital streaming over the internet of such newly authorized events will be subject to a 3% tax, with a maximum of $50,000 of tax due per event.

This translates to a lot of money if the events make a lot of money. With the UFC making millions per show, you can see how this will be a huge levy due to the state. Beginning September 1st, promoters of the newly authorized combative sporting events will have to report ticket sales and pay those taxes within 10 days of the event. The taxes on broadcasts and streaming receipts generally are due at the end of the month, unless they are received during the last five days of a month. The state will be paid well and they will be paid quickly. So in order to throw shows in New York, you are allowed, but it will cost you. Fighters are constantly complaining about the minimum paydays from the UFC for the risk they take, maybe this will help them see even further that promoters don’t keep all the money, everybody wants their cut.

How Different Martial Artists Around the World Eat

The words fitness and diet are synonymous, but not so much when it comes to Martial Arts and diet. How important is diet for active fighters? Very, but it should be important for other martial artists as well. I found it interesting that different disciplines have different habits for the most part. Obviously the diet of a martial artist will deal with access to local foods. It is important because the diet of a martial artist impacts how they perform.

From eating to gain strength, to maintaining optimal health, diet is an integral part of martial arts fitness.

Here are some researched facts about what past and present martial artists eat.

Pretty famous for their martial arts, Shaolin Monks are usually a secluded group that live in a monastery. They are the martial artists of legend and countless movies. They are believed to be the most disciplined and they are certainly the most mysterious martial artists in the world. The diet of these monks is based on Buddhist concepts, such as simplicity and pacifism. What is eaten is not only to fuel the body at its essential level, but for spiritual reasons as well. The diet is made up of rice, vegetables, and fruits. Because one of the tenets of Buddhism promotes pacifism, these martial artists are vegetarians. Food is either raw or steamed. The simpler the meal is prepared, the better. Unnecessary sugars and fats are omitted from their dishes. They also avoid dairy and meat. Protein sources usually come from soybeans and soy products, such as tofu and seitan. Nuts are also used as a replacement for meat.

More modernly famous, are the Gracies. These Brazilians are famous for championing the first UFC with the small Royce Gracie. The Gracie family knows how to fuel their bodies for martial arts training. First and foremost, they say their meals are spaced out. Rorion Gracie suggests keeping four and a half hours between meals. The only thing that a martial artist consumes between meals is water. No dessert or soda is allowed. The Gracie family thinks that people generally consume too much sugar. Sugar is unnecessary and too much is known to be unhealthy. They also limit themselves to one starch per meal. This is about refueling energy. Too many carbs makes a martial artist feel slow and groggy. Just enough carbs are necessary to fuel the athlete.

My favorite martial artist and who probably has the name of the single most famous martial artist is my childhood idol, Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was very careful about his diet. He never consumed foods that he thought might interfere with his training or performance. Before they were hugely popular, he used protein shakes. Lee also mixed in supplements, such as ginseng, royal jelly, and vitamins. No coffee for him, he was against its harsh caffeine content.

Lee preferred his tea. Green tea has been shown to improve and speed up the metabolism.

Chinese food, not the kind from Panda Express, was consumed by him as well. He had a famously high metabolism but needed fuel so a carb heavy, low protein diet suited his body type. Most of Lee’s carbs came from vegetables and rice, much like the Shaolin monks. He focused more on carbs for energy than proteins and fats. Like most nutritionists suggest, he ate many meals throughout the day. Bruce Lee ate between 4-5 meals in a day to fuel his workouts and performances.

Ronda Rousey, famed Judoka and MMA champ, is careful about how what she eats might affect her workouts. She is the one of the most modern famous martial artists. Her diet also varies on when she’s trying to cut weight. High carb breakfast is essential for her. Per her interview with ESPN, Rousey usually fuels up with oatmeal or another high carb source to kick start her day. She follows up a healthy snack, with a high carb/half protein lunch. High protein dinner is on for Rousey, also supplements her protein intake with protein shakes and probiotic drinks. The snacks I was talking about were healthy, they include small items such as frozen grapes, almonds, and trail mix. Finally, she subscribes to the belief that you should not eat before bed. Some experts disagree, but obviously, since she always makes weight, it works for her.

All Too Familiar

The story starts out as tragedy but ends with inspiration. You hear about hard times and how people help out to overcome them. You hear about harsh places and how a few people with heart help children and those in need overcome hardships with the tools they are given for success. Lives change for the better and Martial Arts has a hand in that in a lot of cases. Rio De Janeiro is one such place where there are beautiful sights as well as dark corners. The Favelas are infamous for being the kind of place you don’t want to go. Children who grow up in the Brazilian Favela of Maré, one of Rio’s most dangerous slums are faced with violence and poverty that we don’t see in our country. The sprawling neighborhood, which is home to approximately 130,000 people, is a frequent target of harsh military and police crackdowns, as well as deadly conflict from the area’s drug cartels.

Thinking ahead for the World Cup in Rio in 2014, the government sent almost 3,000 troops into Maré as part of a “pacification” plan for the Favelas, but as expected, crime and violence has continued. Despite the myriad of problems that life in the Favelas holds, José Aldo, one of the best champions in UFC history, conceived of a project that gives hope and purpose to the children there. Aldo opened a martial arts school in his name in the favela last year. So far, José Aldo Fight School has served 534 students, between the ages of 6 and 22, giving them a chance to cope with the hardships of their daily lives through practicing judo, jiu-jitsu, and boxing. As Brazil’s political turmoil, rising violence and gaping economic disparities form a gloomy backdrop to the Rio Olympics, this school offers an example of the power of sport to build community.

With world-class coaches and a clean facility. Jiu-jitsu teacher Marcelo Negrão explains that the school has offered kids a compelling alternative to the perils of the street. “Here, we replace a gun for a kimono,” Negrão says. (Quote from the Huffington Post). While the Favelas are underserved and lacking in child-friendly facilities, the José Aldo Fight School seeks to build a strong and healthy community for the kids, Negrão says. “There is lack of support, education, and health care. There is only one [Emergency Room Unit] here. Children don’t have anything. Aldo’s school is the only leisure activity available. The wrong path takes you nowhere,” he continues. “What they need is discipline, respect, and hierarchy. They must keep their minds busy, they must have activities, and they must study. And they find discipline in martial arts.” Sounds familiar to the teachings of most martial arts coaches.

The children of the Favelas are potentially the next generation of drug cartel members, robbers, murderers, or other bad guys… If their course can be changed and their energy redirected, then they can be saved and maybe hundreds or thousands of others can be changed exponentially through them. A quote for the conclusion of this notion sums it up nicely. “Martial Arts does not teach you how to fight, it teaches you why not to.” Lakshya Bharadwaj said that, and it makes perfect sense if you believe in the spirituality of Martial Arts. Kids will follow the example of their heroes, whether those heroes are good guys or bad guys will determine the way they behave and the goals they aspire to attain. Starting to teach them that there is more out there than destruction and harm is a great way to start the improvements.

Tomato Cans

Boxing, or prize fighting as it was referred to for a long time, has a lot of history of tough fighters, trainers, camps, and sayings. An opponent who wasn’t nearly as skilled as a champion, or a well versed fighter was commonly referred to as a “tomato can.” The wiki definition is: “In boxing, kickboxing or mixed martial arts, “tomato can” or simply “tomato” or “can” is an idiom for a fighter with poor or diminished skills (at least when compared with the opponent they are placed against) who may be considered an easy opponent to defeat, or a “guaranteed win.” Fights with “tomato cans” can be arranged to inflate the win total of a professional fighter. The phrase originates in the childhood pastime of kicking a can down the street-a boxer is advancing his career with minimal effort by defeating a “tomato can” and notching a win. “Tomato” refers to blood: “knock a tomato can over, and red stuff spills out.”

Although the definition of tomato can is sort of dark, it is usually used as a light-hearted reference to a fighter that doesn’t really stand a chance. With that said, there is another saying in reference to tomato cans.

“Sometimes a tomato can doesn’t know he’s a tomato can.”

I find this to be true when a fighter that is not as well heard of as their opponent is actually a great fighter, but has yet to be given the opportunity to prove themselves. Rocky is a story about a tomato can that beat all odds and even ended up winning the title in the sequel. With all of this said, the champions of yesteryear in MMA, the guys who held titles for several defenses and years may be a thing of the past. The highest level of MMA is (arguably, but barely) is the UFC. The year of 2016 has been a crazy year for upsets. Some may even say the rise of the fighters who may have been tomato cans in the eyes of their champion opponents.

Recently Tyron Woodley took the crown from Robbie Lawler who humbly gave himself no excuses and submitted to the fact that he was not the better fighter that night. The Atlanta crowd saw Robbie, who is thought to be one of the toughest strikers in the world get knocked out in defense of his belt. Dominic Cruz, Miesha Tate, Stipe Miocic, and Michael Bisping all proved themselves to be anything but tomato cans. One can argue that none of these fighters are tomato cans, but for the sake of my blog, I’m simply saying that they were all underdogs to the champions and found a way to get that shiny strap despite the odds. Mixed Martial Arts training and professional fighting are all open to interpretation by the coach and the fighter. New methods of training and cross training are still introduced in every camp. Eddie Alvarez and Amanda Nunes were also new belt holders that nobody thought had a chance. The bottom line of the changing of the guard is that seven new champions were crowned in just seven months to these fighters that many believed were not in the right place in their careers to take what the champions had.

I guess this all boils down to belief in ones self. It doesn’t take a crowd or the masses to believe in you.

If you truly believe that you are the better participant in any sport, you are well on your way to making those beliefs come to fruition.

People like that are an inspiration to the masses that didn’t believe in them in the first place. Movies like Rudy and Eddie the Eagle more recently are all about sportsmen who truly believed in themselves and persevered through the naysayers and the critics, most often even people close to them telling them they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in July. Doesn’t Martial Arts embody that belief as a whole? Isn’t self confidence at the root of sports and martial arts? I think so, it all starts with a belief and an inspiration. Before every football game, the assistant coach, who had a deep strong voice used to start a poem that he read us. I have found the poem since then and memorized it. It is about this notion as a whole. It is titled “The Man Who Thinks He Can”. It isn’t hard to find if you google it. It gives me the chills when I read it because I picture his voice saying it. It always ended up with him yelling “Do you think you can!?” and we would all be so pumped up and yelling back “YEAH!”

In conclusion, I know life isn’t a movie, but anything people want to accomplish, especially something that others think is impossible starts with the belief in one’s self. We teach children that they can be anything they want, then when they get older and hold on to that notion, we often tell them it isn’t going to happen. We should start with belief, and end with it as well. We should support ourselves even when nobody else will. Look up the poem, you won’t be disappointed.