Monthly Archives: April 2017

Famous Martial Artists

It dawned on me, that it is common sense to me that celebrities are people too and that they probably have an interest in martial arts. Specifically with the popularity of the sport of mixed martial arts, especially the UFC, it’s no surprise that there has been a direct correlation to the growth and popularity of people training martial arts, specifically Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This doesn’t exclude A-list celebrities, however; on average it takes a person around a decade to achieve the rank of black belt and that is with consistent training. To achieve the rank of black belt in BJJ is an honor, a privilege, and one of life’s greatest accomplishments for practitioners of the art. Several famous actors, actresses, musicians, and athletes are trained in various martial arts. Some celebrities are black belts in Karate while others study Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Several Hollywood actors began studying the martial arts in preparation for roles in popular action films.

Musicians who know how to rock but also know martial arts are a pretty famous group. Willie Nelson earned a black belt in Taekwondo. Megadeath musician Dave Mustaine has a black belt in Karate and Taekwondo, and Tool front man Maynard James Keenan trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Lou Reed practiced Tai Chi on a daily basis, reportedly for up to three hours at a time. I’m sure the discipline of music is similar to the discipline required for martial arts. Rikki Rockett and Guy Ritchie are also martial artists. Ritchie not only holds a brown belt in Karate but held that same rank in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu…for 8 years! That is until BJJ pioneer Renzo Gracie surprised Ritchie at the movie premiere of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and presented him with his black belt. Renzo had this to say in regards to Ritchie’s accomplishment,

No one has ever worked harder than Guy to get his black belt; he spent 8 years as a brown belt – training every day. He is my favorite.” ~ Rockett

Rockett, the drummer of the beloved band Poison not only has a background in wrestling, boxing, and Silat but is also a 2nd degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under Renato Magno. Rockett began training in BJJ back in 1998 with Rigan and Jacques Machado and supplemented his classes with private lessons from Magno. Rockett is also a fierce competitor having competed in the 2010 Pan-American Championships

Some celebrities have obviously studied martial arts. It is apparent from their smooth moves on film. Wesley Snipes is an action star, so if we were to find out he had never trained martial arts it would be crazy news. That of course, isn’t the case. Snipes began training in martial arts when he was 12 years old. He has a 5th degree black belt in Shotokan karate and a 2nd degree black belt in Hapkido. Jason Statham is another guy who throws the good strikes on camera and even shows up at UFC events on a regular basis. Since he is so proficient at martial arts, Statham was offered more film roles, and in 2002 he was cast as the lead role of driver Frank Martin in the action movie The Transporter, in which he was responsible for his own stunts (Statham has made this choice for all of his films). He has studied Wing Chun kung fu, karate, and kickboxing. With the popularity of Jon Wick, you would think Keanu Reeves has had extensive training in martial arts. To even my surprise, Keanu Reeves doesn’t practice martial arts. Although he does play a kung fu master in movies. “I’ve done a lot of Movie Kung Fu. So I’ve had some training in that,” Reeves has been quoted as saying.

The famous comedian and announcer Joe Rogan speaks quite often about martial arts. He is a proponent for them. He is also holds black belts in eight different styles: Shotokan, Taekwondo, Kobudo, Goju Ryu (for which he studied under Master Eddie Morales where he learned to sharpen his Goju karate technique), Tang Soo Do, Wushu and Kyokushin, with a specific focus in Kyokushin. Most widely known as his role as the UFC’s primary color commentator, Joe Rogan is a very interesting and popular personality indeed. He is also widely known for his work as a standup comic and has one of the most interesting podcasts currently on the air, The Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan, a Taekwondo national champion and lifelong martial artist, is also a black belt under 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu founder Eddie Bravo.

Some other unlikely celebs who are proficient in martial arts are pretty entertaining. Ed O’Neill, that’s right, Al Bundy is not only more of a man than you’ll ever be but could more than likely wrap you up like a pretzel and make you scream uncle with his hands literally tied behind his back.

Ed O’Neill, Al Bundy is more of a man than you’ll ever be

Ed O’Neill, famous for his role in the sitcom Married with Children, has been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for more than 22 years and in 2007 received his black belt from one of the UFC and BJJ pioneers Rorion Gracie. Another one, but not as surprising is The Boondock Saints and Dexter star Sean Patrick Flanery began training martial arts at the tender age of nine and continued with various disciplines through his college years. Flanery began his BJJ training with the legendary Rickson Gracie in 2000 and then continued his training with Renzo Gracie in 2003. For the next five years Flanery continued his diligent advancement through the ranks and on May 4, 2008 he received his black belt from one of Renzo’s top instructors, Shawn Williams.

Martial Arts and Disabilities

One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of being a youth instructor is coaching disabled children. From kids with autism, to a double amputee, to children with traumatic brain disorders, I have been lucky enough to coach some amazing disabled children. Dealing with unruly children or disrespectful teenagers is definitely a challenge. It is more of a challenge than it is to coach children with disabilities. I have taught several children with what people consider to be a disability.

Some athletes with disabilities have accomplished some pretty amazing things.

If you don’t know who Anthony Robles is, you should. He was so good at wrestling that he became an NCAA champion, an amazing feat. This was with the fact that he is missing a leg. Yes, he has one leg. He became such a dominant force that coaches were even saying he had an unfair advantage because his strength was that of a wrestler in a higher weight class. Amazing young man. He isn’t on the scene anymore but Matt Hamill is a deaf American mixed martial artist and wrestler who has competed in the Light Heavyweight division of the UFC. He is a three-time NCAA Division III National Champion in wrestling while attending the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Hamill also has a silver medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling and a gold medal in Freestyle Wrestling from the 2001 Summer Deaflympics, which is impressive also, but tells the story of how many deaf wrestlers must be out there and are very good at what they do. I’m sure these two don’t consider themselves to be disabled at all.

Another great example is Baxter Humby. Baxter Humby is a Canadian kickboxer known as “The One Armed Bandit” due to his missing right hand, which was amputated at birth just below his elbow after becoming entangled with the umbilical cord. He is the only man in the world to win world titles with only one hand. He competes against not-disabled fighters and I have seen him fight on several occasions. Baxter is the current IMTC World Super Welterweight Champion. He holds a number of different title belts including WBC Super Welterweight National Champion , IKKC USA Kickboxing Champion, IMTC World Middleweight Champion, and IKBA International Kickboxing Champion. His interest in sports led him to take up running at age 11 and martial arts at 17. He ran for the Canadian National Track Team in Barcelona in 1992 and in Berlin in 1994. So the man has accomplished many feats that people with all of their limbs will never come close to.

What an amazing person to not let something like a missing limb be an excuse for not doing the things he wants to do in life.

Coaching these types of athletes has proven to be something that I love. I find that people with disabilities in one area of their person, always make up for it with excellent strengths in other areas. A person who is blind is known to have better hearing than others. The other senses seem to be amplified when one is absent. This has been true about everyone I have had the privilege to coach that has a disability. I hope this goes to show those of us with no disabilities that if we were to have half the drive and determination of those who were told they couldn’t do something because of a disability; that we are only limited by our own minds. More power to all of those out there trying to do what they dream.

Who Needs Martial Arts the Most?

After blogging about law enforcement and their need for martial arts, it occurred to me that although they are in serious situations often, military personnel may be in more dire situations more often. Now in any war, there is always a necessity to be skilled at close quarters combat. Encounters with those who mean to kill you in the name of country are readily available and are usually at war because they are trying to occupy the same space you are. The whole point is, if you are in the military, Martial Arts are going to be taught to you. Krav Maga is a martial art that was specifically developed and adapted for Military use, Israeli Military to be exact.

Marines implement martial arts as a huge part of their regimen. Mainly because Marines are in the thick of the battle most of the time. Marines are on the front lines and must be highly skilled at hand-to-hand combat because they are the most likely to employ its tactics. They have their own program. Marines have the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, or MCMAP, which focuses on hand-to-hand and close-quarters combat. There are specialized instructors that are usually taught by some of the masters of certain martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai in order to take what they learn and pass it on to their students. How involved a Marine gets is usually up to them, but all Marines are required to gain minimal knowledge of Martial Arts. It could surely save their lives.

The flexibility and muscle memory in martial arts is necessary and must be learned and then practiced.

With all of the physical attributes mentioned, I’m sure you can easily the connection between the mental toughness and discipline needed for both military training and martial arts. It is well known and quite celebrated by both that discipline is not just present but very necessary for becoming an expert in hand-to-hand combat. You have to get through the bumps and bruised involved in learning. You have to deal with the disappointment of being beat by those who know more than you. You have to endure the hours of conditioning. You have to keep an open mind and follow instructions from those who teach you. There are so many similarities in the mentality that it takes to be a soldier and a martial artist. Perhaps the need to protect yourself, or your country is the motivation for most soldiers. What is the motivation for most Martial Artists? The notion of being able to defend yourself is probably the number one motivation for beginning a Martial Art.

When something is a life-and-death situation, you want as many tools as possible. Martial Arts provides that. There have been many young people that came into the gym because they had intentions on joining the military. I always thought that it was a good way of “cheating”. It isn’t actually cheating, but why not become proficient at it quickly. As I have mentioned several times, learning a Martial Arts also allows you to learn how to learn. Those of you familiar with my writing know what I mean but for those of you who don’t, I stress the fact that learning a Martial Arts helps you become a “coachable” person. Learning how to learn is a great way to advance in any aspect of your life.

Martial Arts teaches you about yourself; your strengths and weaknesses all come to light when you become a Martial Artist.

My advice to anyone thinking of joining the armed forces: Get a head start now and learn a Martial Art. A great coach once told me that it is better to become a master of something than a jack of all trades. Become great at a Martial Art, it just might save your life.

Law Enforcement Officers Should Always Train

Knowing what we know about recent history, it seems like common sense that those in Law Enforcement should not only have trained, but should have ongoing training in Martial Arts and Self Defense. For them it could be a matter of life and death. I read articles all the time on Law Enforcement Agencies and their need to defend themselves. Practical Martial Arts should apply here. MMA, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Jiujitsu. The arts can be brutal, but people don’t die when they train or compete in MMA, what is brutal are the streets. The martial arts I mentioned don’t kill the person who is at the unfortunate receiving end, but it helps practitioners enjoy better fitness and confidence.

With the ones I mentioned, people have tried these techniques and they work. The training teaches approach techniques, immobilization and how to disarm someone with a gun or knife. The training also includes self-defense techniques, ground encounters with weapon retention, ground avoidance and ground escapes.

These skills can save the lives of people who are put in harms way daily.

With all of the negative press surrounding law enforcement in regard to brutality, this may be a great way to reconnect with the community.

The purpose of this training? The training is intended to keep officers up-to-date on the latest techniques and provides them with the knowledge to better perform on the job. As someone who trained and teaches MMA, I can attest to the many benefits associated with MMA. It may go further and actually change the lifestyle of an officer who didn’t realize the obvious benefits until they started practicing. If the training can save a life, or cause an officer to be more confident so that they don’t have to use more force, then the training is working for everyone.

Who was teaching the El Paso police officers? You may recognize the last name, Colin Gracie from The Gracie Gym/Fight School is led the instruction for officers. The Gracie name is famous for being one of the leading founding families in the sport of MMA. Royce Gracie was the first winner of the UFC when it was a tournament style format. I don’t need to go over the entire history, but let’s just say that before him, nobody knew what BJJ was, now all MMA practitioners incorporate it into their regiment.

After competing for a number of years, it became apparent that Officers of the law benefit from training in martial arts.

The benefits don’t just include them being able to defend themselves, they benefit the community.

When an officer can share his knowledge with the community through teaching, it boosts morale and brings worlds together. The other side of the coin is true as well. When an officer walks into a studio and meets new people, they become more approachable and more understood by the community around them.

In conclusion, I would say that training in Martial Arts is good for everyone. The benefits reach beyond personal goals and self defense tactics. The benefits are social as well as physical.