Before I get started with this last blog, I hear Dave Strasser'.s Freestyle Academy wasn't even nominated for fight team of the year by Wisconsin Combat Sports. Come on guys, lets use some common sense here. We're one of the few gyms that produce international fighters and WEC/UFC fighters in Wisconsin, and not even a nomination? Oh well.
Obviously fighting entails a lot of stress, at least for some people. People like me. Those tough people who don`t think twice about getting punched in the face and risking their health can go jump off a cliff. That`s just not me. Honestly, my string of wins on short notice fights might be because I don`t have the time to freak out. However, after 23 fights in four years, experience has taught me how to use this nervous energy to my every advantage and that it's not something bad, it's actually something to make you stronger.
Oh, Japan, you love and you hate me. You give and you take away. Or, as U2 would say, "I can`t live with or without you." These last two weeks out here have taken me to the heavens and brought me back down to the depths. At this point, my mind has experienced so many highs and lows out here that my mind has no clue what to think. In any case, this blog is way late because I was initially lazy, and then I got very sick, postponing it even more. The story of these last two weeks is basically I trained a lot and then bad things happened.
Happy New Year to everyone from Japan! So picture this: my life is like Super Mario Bros., the original one. I could go through life and my MMA could improve one level at a time. But instead, I went to Japan for some private training, got the secret to the warp zone, and warped to the last level of the game. That's what's happened to my MMA level.
Traveling to Japan, you never quite know what to expect out of anything. Doing the most mundane things can end up with surprises. Sometimes, those surprises are a little pathetic, though they are based solely on a little homesickness. For instance, I was just taking a walk down the street the other day and I found a vending machine that sold Mountain Dew. This is no big deal back home obviously, but since there is basically just Coke and Pepsi out here in good old Japan, my simple mind was easily excited and pleased by prospect of overdosing on some sugar and caffeine. Nothing to help you get in shape and get extreme like doing the DEW!
Loving Japan is like loving your family: it’s often times love/hate. Visiting the family is nice in many different ways. For instance, you get to see the people you love and eat good food, but there comes a point when you realize how embarrassing even the closest relatives can be. If Japan were a member of my family, it would be the crazy distant cousin who is always cool...until they have had too much to drink.
This week passed like lighting. If time keeps passing like this, I`m going to have to weasel my way out here again somehow. Ahhhhhh, but that`s just wishes for my dreams. Knowing that opportunities like this don`t grow on trees, I`m making the absolute best of my time, wasting nothing, and soaking it all in like a sponge. After all, being able to come back this long again simply isn`t likely, and taking my time here for granted would be a major mistake. Well, the themes for this week include improvement, teaching, and drowning...lots of drowning...and a BJJ tournament.
The transformation I am feeling as an MMA fighter is uncanny. And just like those X-Men, my mutation from normal every day MMA fighter to mutant fighter with super powers has been excellent, and I feel ready to take on anyone...maybe even to save the world. Though, a healing factor and adamantium, claws aren`t included, despite how useful they`d be (by the way, those who do not like my X-Men references can just deal with it).
So basically, my striking has rapidly improved over time. The side-step drill and Sebaki drills are taking shape now and we have changed from g.five minute rounds to 10 before having breaks. James Warfield would be proud that I am working on right straight just like he suggested. The change leaves me excruciatingly more tired now but ultimately in better shape. In addition to perfecting the basics of Tsuyoshi`s style of striking form, training has been focused more and more on striking combinations and their applications. And...I do mean applications seriously. It’s not just about the combinations now, but the strategy in using them and when and with what kind of opponent. Tsuyoshi has made it clear that his approach is scientifically and logically based training. As such, I think he hopes my days of simply diving in and going punch for punch and kick for kick are over and now I start implementing logical strategies to dismantle opponents. For those of you who saw the striking transformation last time, just wait until February. It’s so much more than before.
On top of the improvement in form and technique, the strength and cardio regiment have been upped. Due to communication issues, scheduling is often a conflict out here. Because of that, planning my morning lifting and cardio routine can be tricky in an effort to avoid overtraining. Basically, the morning routine at this point consists of lifting very heavy now to put on the mass, eating as many fresh sources of protein that I can get my hands on every day, and on top of it, implementing my training partner (back home/ Sergio Gomez`s) idea of a normal cardio afternoon session into my training. And Sergio: it sucks. I don`t like Giving away trade secrets, but basically cardio involves lots of full speed intervals on the Stairmaster for a longer time than I would appreciate, followed by nearly puking. So, thanks for the inspiration Sergio, and my legs hate you.
This brings me to my next point: I hate swimming, if you can call it that. With me, its definitely more like drowning for whatever amount of time I`m in the pool. Regardless of my thoughts on aquatics, swimming was forced on me by Tsuyoshi three days this week. This I felt ready; after all, I`ve been doing the front stroke for 30 minutes the last few weeks when we went.
Well, he upped it and this week we went for 40 minutes at a time, which sucks because proper swimming mechanics are not one of my talents. Basically, if you gave me a kickboard for me to just kick with, I`d not travel anywhere. Add the water inhalation and you’ve made my life. At this point, sucking it up seems like the only course of action...figuratively and otherwise. Despite my newfound hate for all things water related, at the end of the swim I am always glad... to be done... but also to have done something worthwhile. Still, I`m jealous of all of you who can swim front stroke for more than five minutes without a problem.
This week`s fun did not end there. Tsuyoshi has several other jobs besides just training me and so this week he was extra tired because he takes part in most of the same reGIment I do but with only like five hours of sleep instead of a full night`s rest. By this last Thursday, he was dead after three long weeks of nonstop training. Also, I had a BJJ tournament to focus on so resting a little to recover was good for him, too. So, Friday and Saturday were my days of teaching both striking and MMA to Andre (my main training partner from Gracie Barra) and then taking it a little easier to recover for Sunday`s competition. It went well and I reviewed some much needed submissions, and takedowns.
This all leads me to today, Sunday. Today was a huge BJJ tournament held in Nagoya. For those of you who don`t know, I am pretty worthless with a GI on and honestly have less than two months experience in GI BJJ. I breathe MMA through and through and GI BJJ is not one of my more well tuned skills. Well, my BJJ teacher and head of Gracie Barra here in Nagoya (Alexander Ogawa) deemed me a blue-belt with a GI on. So today competing in the 76kg (about 167lbs) blue-belt division in the GI-only city-wide tournament was a challenge. Lapel chokes suck and they are a constant pain in my ass. The event center was packed with many teams of mostly Brazilians and some Japanese Jiu-Jitsu gyms. The day was long, though the event started at 10 a.m. I didn`t start competing until 4 p.m.
But, when all was said and done, I took my division, subbing every single opponent. Despite my luck and trouble with lapel chokes, I surprised even myself. My sub of choice for the day was the triangle choke implemented from the mount. It was all cool, and I was happy to have the backing of Ogawa`s branch of Gracie Barra. They speak English pretty well, so my coaches helped me through some rough spots with the GI and I persevered in some hard places. Also, good old-fashioned Wisconsin wrestling helped a lot since evidently there is only sloppy Judo or pulling guard in BJJ in Japan. So, thanks to anyone who every helped me learn BJJ, submissions, GI or no-GI, and the good old fashion double leg takedown. Oh and also to Socho for teaching me some basic Judo which I`ve been using lately too. Judo sweeps rock if you`ve never tried them.
Well, I miss everyone back home: my family, my girlfriend, and everyone from Strasser`s and Chosen Few, and I wish you all a happy holiday season. This next week I am finally going to the university in Nagoya to practice with the university Sumo team and eat some sumo food. Despite what people may think of Sumo, it’s actually really good for MMA in small doses. Don`t worry (or do because, I`m dressing in sumo style) there will be pictures for sure. Next week there will be plenty more to explore about the Japanese experience, especially with Christmas and the New Year coming. If you ever wanted to know what its like out here during Christmas, you`ll hear all about it, but their New Years rocks. Catch you all next week!
PS I will try to have more photos next week.
Lots of MMA fighters and martial arts enthusiasts dream of coming to Japan and soaking in the glory, the training, and everything that comes with it. The only thing is, it's a heaven or hell situation in many respects. Dave Strasser spent six months out in Japan doing Shidokan Karate before he did MMA. Six months. Before I came out here last year, he warned me that there could be difficult moments, and I had never dreamed that he was correct.
The idea of training out in Japan may sound hardcore to most people. Thoughts of sleeping on gym mats every night, fending for your self off of supermarket food, and doing countless hours of brutal, perfect training may come to mind. All the while your sensei pushes you past all of your limits by making you kick a countless amount of bamboo trees, making learn to focus your chi blindfolded just in case your opponent throws stuff in your eyes during your fight.
First and foremost, I would officially like to start my own blog by declaring war on Ron Faircloth`s blog. I might not have as many ShamWow`s as Ron but I have more than enough foreigners on my side to avoid absorption from his ShamWows...probably.