Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mixed Martial Arts: Infinite MMA Academy: Loveland, CO

Background: Despite never having been involved in Combat Sports himself my father has always enjoyed a good fight. One day he came home with something new in his hand. It was  a VHS tape titled “The Ultimate Fighting Championship.” We plopped down on the couch and fired up the VCR with anticipation. I was taking kids Karate classes and with all the blind faith of a preteen child I prepared to see Karate dismantle every other fighter with crisp, clean hits. Instead, like so many other people, I watched a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner named Royce Gracie run through the competition in one of the most dominant displays of martial talent ever. Martial Arts changed for me right then and you could no longer excuse not having a ground game.
I get shown how roll an opponent from reverse-scarf hold. 

Over twenty years later I had the privilege of visiting Infinite MMA Academy run by Adam Martinez. Coach Martinez is a PAN AM medalist and trained directly under Royce Gracie. On their website you will see claims that they are a home to Pro Fighters that have made it as far as the UFC and Bellator. Once you walk through the door you can see why Infinite MMA Academy produces champions. You have a clean, professional gym with a cage and ring that speak of dedication and hard work (Hint: Schools often visually provide a reflection of the staff).

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has two primary facets to it. A competitive, sporting side to it where the Gracies have been instrumental in creating the UFC and most recently Metamorphosis, and a self-defence side. The self-defence aspects of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu don't feature in the limelight as often as the sport side but it is an important piece that grew from Helio Gracie, was carried by Royce Gracie and continues to be passed on by Coach Martinez and his staff.
I shake, bump and roll with Coach Martinez.

As a traveller I get to meet people around the globe and being active in forums I find that Jiu-Jitsu often is short changed by members of the Reality-Based Self-Defence (RBSD) community. You will hear arguments like “Jiu-Jitsu only works on the mats” and “what if the guy has a weapon? Jiu-Jitsu is useless.” This has always struck me as both misinformed and ignorant. First, there is ample footage and stories  of Gracie challenge matches where they fought on all types of terrain from hardwood floors to the streets. Second, we have very recent stories of fighter’s disarming and submitting armed robbers including one where UFC Champion Jon Jones took down a purse snatcher in the streets. Third, and sometimes forgotten by the RBSD crew, most fights don't end in horrible eye gouging, genital mangling terror. In the vast majority of cases restraining someone is in order. Any police office, bouncer or security professional spends the majority of their conflicts restraining a belligerent not shredding them to pieces. 

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu helps prepare their students for a vast number of scenarios. It could be restraining a drunk friend to multiple attackers. Coach Martinez stressed that you didn't always want to go to the ground in a grapple. However, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu gave you the ability to choose those moments instead of ending up on the ground against your choice. 
I swing my leg over to lock up an armbar I was shown.

What did I learn?: Infinite MMA Academy is a true Mixed Martial Arts school. While there I followed their Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, no-gi grappling and Muay Thai programs. Needless to say, I learned a lot in my two days. However, if there was something I learned it was during their Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Judo classes. Wrestling with a Gi has always been my weakest area. Although I have a background in Russian Sambo I have always concentrated on the no- gi areas. My personal neglect of of the jacket has led to some major holes in my game that are exposed by people like Coach Martinez.
 I take full mount after drilling a sweep.

The wonderful thing about Jiu-jitsu is that you can wrestle with anyone as Coach Martinez and many members of his school obliged me with a roll. I am a big heavyweight standing 6’6 (2.2m) and weighing in at 275 pounds. Coach Martinez is perhaps 150 pounds and certainly not my height or build. Looking at us you would think that I would crush him based on my size advantage. Instead, I was flipped and tossed around to be submitted in any number of ways from armbars to chokes.

Both him and Coach Troy (The Judo Coach) demonstrated to me that the principles that made Jiu-Jitsu and Judo so strong was the emphasis of leverage over strength. By using the correct leverage fighters can multiply their strength several times over without gassing out while stronger opponents struggle and deplete their cardio reserves.
 I make the mistake of putting hands on a coach.

What was awesome?: Attitude makes a successful gym and fostering that atmosphere is impossibly important. I have been to gyms filled with great fighters but have such a poisonous atmosphere they implode under the weight of their own negativity. Rickson Gracie published a great article on how to train and how you don’t need to try and kill your partner. Instead, you should be training to learn and to help your partner grow. A close friend and teacher of mine, Sifu Nik Farooqi, calls this not “Training for Pain.” It does nobody any good to let your ego run rampant and hurt your partner.
Pro Fighter Nick "The Natural" Laney snaps a jab out.

Being hurt is always something that scares me in being a “Travelling Ronin.” As I stood across from Pro Fighter Nick “The Natural” Laney I was wondering how sparring with him would be. We had spoken briefly before the round agreeing that neither one of us was there for a fight, yet, I had my reservations that I would be in trouble if Nick  decided he wanted to “impress me” or “teach me a lesson.” Instead of a fight we had an awesome round of sparring. From the moment that we touched gloves to the takedowns and ground and pound everything was beautifully controlled

Coach Martinez told Nick that he wanted him to work on hustling someone against the fence and takedowns. With Nick keeping his composure it allowed me to work with him and to not mind being thrown because I knew I was in good hands. It also meant that when something happened I wasn’t expecting, like the ground and pound, I wasn't hurt. For my part, despite all my travels it was the first time I had trained in a cage. I have always fought on opened mats and rings. Therefore, as Nick was working the drills for his upcoming fight I was studying everything he did and getting a first rate education on cage strategy. After the round we both left in good shape and in good spirits. Creating and keeping that attitude is key to creating a great school and Infinite does it incredibly well.
Looking up at Nick as he rains punches down on me. 

Conclusion: Infinite MMA Academy is one of the top places to train in the North Denver area. If you are in the area you should certainly go check them out. The mix between competition sports and self-defense is a great balance in a gym with a great attitude. 

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. 

Coach Martinez locks up a great armbar as we close out an awesome night of training.

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I also have the privilege of writing for Martial Science Magazine. They have great articles and you should go take a look.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lohan Kung Fu: School of Chinese Martial Arts: Parker, CO

Background: I was going to Colorado and I didn't know anyone to train with. Normally I go to Google to give me a school to reach out too but this time I decided to try something different. I participate in a forum LinkedIn and decided to ask my network if they knew anyone that I could learn from. A friend of mine, Matt Relyea, told me that I had to check out the "School of Chinese Martial Arts." An email and phone call later I was having coffee with Shifu Wayne Hinton.

After a great conversation where we discussed our past training and where we had both come from Shifu Wayne took some time to work with me personally before class started. On his floor I noticed that there were two triangles. I have seen triangles in almost every Martial Art I have visit. They are a fundamental piece of architectural engineering due to the strength that the structure creates. The strength they confer on the human body is no different. 
Lohan Kung Fu can be beautifully graceful and wickedly powerful.

When Shifu Wayne took me over to the triangles and asked me what I saw. I talked about structure and strength and how the triangle granted both. He smiled and then added to my answer pointing out that the triangle on the floor also showed how to take structure. To illustrate the point he shoved me straight on. Predictably, I rocked back on my rear leg and returned to my fighting stance. Taking a step to the side he gave me a much gentler push. No longer able to brace myself I rocked back and ended up pedalling through the air to catch my balance.

Shifu Wayne pointed out to me that we are all essentially three-legged tables that only have two legs. You need to understand not only your own structure but your opponent's as well. It was a pertinent lesson that you need to not only focus on yourself but on yourself but on your assailant as well. Quoting Sun Tzu, "If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles*."
Takedowns on triangles. Sifu Wayne gave me a great lesson on balance. 

What did I Learn: Lohan Kung Fu is characterised by large swing hands. Their big movements are designed to help a fighter generate the maximum amount of power possible. There are several very good reasons to train like this. First, you can offset relative strength. There will always be stronger fighters and you may require additional power to win the fight. In the Lohan system you use body mechanics to build that additional power which can give a "weaker" fighter a strength advantage over a much "stronger" opponent. 
Lohan fighters training with weights to develop power. 

However, the second reason is even more important. These big movements teach you to carry through on your strikes. A friend of mine, Paul Ingram of the Kali Center, often says "under pressure you will perform at your lowest level of training." I have seen really good fighters begin to choke under stress and begin to pull their punches. Once this happens that fighter is no longer committed to the attack and they get picked apart. 

Lohan Kung Fu gets fighters to always commit to their attacks. When Lohan fighters fall back on their training they are always active and always striking. Some of the striking might look wild but techniques are sound and aggression has its own value. Roy Nelson, a Kung Fu practitioner, uses these techniques all the time to lay fighters out in the UFC. Similar techniques always give him a "puncher's chance" and he seems to chance on luck a lot. After all, a good defense is a strong offense. 
Take out the weights and the techniques just flow.

What was Awesome: Coming from a Kung Fu background I loved the atmosphere of a traditional school. But what really stood out to me was the philosophy of "many trees, one forest." You will see this quote on the website and in everything that Shifu Wayne is teaching. When I spoke to with him, Shifu Wayne explained to me that a number of his students had backgrounds in numerous Martial Arts. He had two choices, he could try to remake each student in his image or embrace the differences in his charges. 

Thankfully, Shifu Wayne has chosen to embrace to the later. Instead of forced conformity he provides a framework for his students to follow but encourages them to add their own flavour. By giving a structure and system the students have all the tools they need in order to effective fighters yet the freedom to grow and experiment. 

Continuing to drive forward I crash into my partner. 

Conclusion: I had a great time with Shifu Wayne learning about Lohan Kung Fu. It is both amazingly simple and incredibly complex. I can see why the basic techniques are staples of top MMA Fighters. Kung Fu will always be a balance of grace and raw power. Lohan Kung Fu has both these qualities in spades. 

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. 

School of Chinese Martial Arts is a great place to train Traditional Kung Fu.

Check out the Travelling Ronin Youtube Channel:

Find me on Facebook for more updates and daily videos:

Check out School of Chinese Martial Arts:

I also have the privilege of writing for Martial Science Magazine. They have great articles and you should go take a look. 

Martial Science Magazine on the web:!english-magazine-/c3uy

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* Translating ancient texts is always tough and I found a couple of translations of Sun Tzu's words. If you don't like my translation you can find plenty of other takes on the saying at:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tae Kwon Do: Warriors Martial Arts Club: South Chicago, IL

Background: Tae Kwon Do is one of the most recognised Martial Arts in North America. It came flooding into the continent after the end of the Korean War. Similar to the way that Karate was brought to North America by veterans after the end of World War II Tae Kwon Do was witnessed by many of the soldiers stationed in South Korea. Given the strong military military presence after the end of the Korean War which has continued to this day, it is no wonder Tae Kwon Do is so popular.

It is also one of the two Asian Martial Arts to be an Olympic Sport. With competitors coming from almost every country the influence that Tae Kwon Do has had on modern Martial Arts is undeniable. A quick search on Youtube will turn up dozens of videos featuring wicked knockouts and vicious kicks. Of course someone will also point out that there is a lot of videos of absolutely awful Tae Kwon Do as well. In my opinion, by having so many practitioners you will see both good and bad. I choose to spend my time learning and working on the best aspects of an art not pointing out a Youtube failure.
We start working on some basic strikes. 

Tae Kwon Do is well known for its spinning techniques. Watching fighters fire off spinning back kicks or hook kicks is fantastic. Many criticisms were leveled against Tae Kwon Do in the early days of Mixed Martial Arts. However, today Tae Kwon Do has become an piece of many high profile fighters' game. Anderson Silva, Anthony Pettis, Benson Henderson, etc... are just a few of the many MMA fighters that have trained in the art and employed the devastating kicks,

I met Instructor David Pugh at a seminar on gun disarms. Throughout the evening we ended up working together and I developed a great respect for him. At the end of the night I found out that he was teaching Tae Kwon Do on the south side of Chicago and knew I had to go check out his class.
Throwing out a front kick under the watchful eye of Instructor Pugh.

What did I learn: I have spent a lot of time around fight camps and one thing that always amazes me is the ability for fighters to tweak techniques to offer a new twist on them. As a bigger Martial Artist I have seen the power that spinning techniques can generate. Twisting your body builds up power like a coiled spring. However, how you uncoiled that stored energy can be very different.

I worked on two spinning techniques with Instructor Pugh that evening. The first was the "spinning sidekick" and the second was the "spinning back kick or mule kick." Early in my Martial Arts career I became familiar with the concept of tradeoffs. My first teacher, Sifu John Hum, taught me that there were no good or bad techniques. However, every technique has a series of tradeoffs that you must be willing to accept in order to reap the benefits.
I get hammered with a spinning sidekick.

The spinning kicks we worked on really drove this home for me. The first variation was the spinning sidekick. You started up by coiling your body, however, to maintain the visual contact with the target you begin to uncoil before you fire the kick. The benefits are obvious, by keeping eyes on the target you have greater accuracy than the mule kick and more power than if you threw a normal sidekick. However, the tradeoff is that because you started to uncoil you lose some of your power.

The mule kick on the other hand starts exactly the same way with the difference coming in the execution of the technique. The mule kick fires the leg straight back with devastating force by capitalizing on the full amount of stored energy as you coil. Just like the spinning sidekick there is a tradeoff to get that extra power. Since you are kicking straight back you can't keep the same visual contact and are effectively unleashing the kick blind.
My turn to practice the mule kick.

Both techniques are equally valid and come down to the fighter to choose the application. A faster fighter will dodge the mule kick making the spinning sidekick the preferred technique in order to keep tracking and fighting your opponent. Later in the fight as the same opponent slows down and stops maneuvering keeping the visual contact is less important allowing you to slam them with a mule kick.

What was awesome: Normally I am training with adult classes with morals and ethics being focused on as an afterthought. Adults have largely formed their moral compass and just need to sometimes have it reset but rarely reformed. Participating in a family class was wholly different.
There is a knife in my hand which you can't see as Instructor Pugh hammers it away. 

Many of the school's students are young and impressionable, looking up to the adults as role models.
That is where Instructor Pugh steps in and runs his class perfectly. The class opens and closes with the “Principles of Tae Kwon Do” where the students repeat what they are striving for. Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control, Indomitable spirit. Better yet, at the end of class Instructor Pugh goes through each one of the principles and how they apply outside the Dojang.
I am threatened with a knife by a student.

Martial Arts is supposed to make us better people and provide a variety of life skills. In a church basement in South Chicago I had the privilege to witness it. Warriors Martial Arts Club lives the principles they teach and I couldn’t be happier to witness Tae Kwon Do making a positive impact not only on individuals but also on a community as a whole.

Conclusion: I learned a lot about Tae Kwon Do in the night that I was with Warriors Martial Arts Club. This wasn’t the biggest lesson I took away. I learned much more about being a teacher and creating and image that people look up to and how to inspire the next generation. 
A group shot with just a fraction of the class. 

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 
If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. 
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Check out Warriors Martial Arts Club:

I also have the privilege of writing for Martial Science Magazine. They have great articles and you should go take a look. 

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Civil War: Battle of Peachtree Creek: 9th Virginia Cavalry: Boscobel, WI

Background: Earlier in the summer I had the privilege of witnessing a Civil War re-enactment in Keokuk, IA. I wrote an article about it which found it's way to the men and women of the 9th Virginia Cavalry. They contacted me and told me that watching from the sidelines was interesting but participating in a battle was much more exciting. I loved the idea and immediately agreed while quickly enlisting my wife and one of my friends into the battle.

The Civil War has long been a passion of mine and has grown on me even more so since moving down to the USA. In the same way that we study ancient martial arts and swordcraft I believe it is important to study the generals of past wars. If you want to become a better fighter than there are few better people to look at than the warriors of the Civil War.

Our mortar explodes into flames and fury against the Union.

Robert E Lee's aggression during the Seven Days Battles where his unrelenting ferocity caused McClellan to hesitate and ultimately retreat. Ulysses Grant's dogged determination to keep advancing in the Overland Campaign despite tactical loses to win a strategic victory. William Sherman was a master of maneuver warfare as he demonstrated in the Atlanta campaign.

Learning from these heroes of the past, Union and Confederate, can shape the way that modern fighters approach combat. Whether you are a mixed martial artist grinding your way to a strategic victory or in a street fight using wild aggressive to stave off a superior enemy these are lessons that the Civil War teaches. Good fighters train hard and study technique. Great fighters also study the past. Every boxer will watch Mohammed Ali, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, etc... We can also take similar lessons from the wars of old.
ACWSA shooters sending real ammo into targets. 

What I learned: Battles are team efforts and working as a unit is what drives success. Sure, I had had this lesson before in a number of different formats but never as clearly as when I was crewing on either the Union or Confederate guns. Thinking back to playing Airsoft or LARPing, working together was important but there was also an individual element of success. You could lose your team yet still "go it alone" although you were at a severe handicap. Crewing a cannon or mortar you needed to work together like a well-oiled machine.

On the first day I was fighting with the Union and was stationed on the right flank of the army. In comparison to those around us I was working on a reasonably light gun. The 9 pound Howitzer felt underpowered next to the larger guns around that stretched the length of the field. I don't mind admitting that I was suffering a small amount of envy that my gun wasn't "big enough." Suddenly, Confederate Cavalry swept over the hills and raced towards our lines. Thankfully, they were intercepted by Union cavalry before overrunning us.
Our 9 pounder blazing away.

However, I saw the advantage of our smaller gun on the flank. Able to pivot quickly we might have been able to discharge a round of canister shot. Just like in a modern street fight warriors need to be able to adapt quickly to change. By placing the lighter guns on the sides armies could pivot or "deny the flank" greatly increasing a the chance of surviving an encounter. The greatest damage to an army came when panic set in and they were rooted in disorder. In a fight today, denying that flank is equally important pointing to another great lesson to take from the civil war.

In the end it wasn't my gun that was small. Rather, I was the one being petty and small-minded at not seeing the bigger picture. It is a lesson I won't soon forget.
We work as a team to blast the Confederate lines.

What was Awesome: One of my projects is the "Fighter's Eyes" video series on Youtube where I get to show what it is like to actually be in a fight. One of the hardest and most painful tasks I have is deciding what goes into the video and what has to be cut due to length and flow. In order to keep my videos to under 10 minutes I often have to cut out great footage.
Gatling gun chewing apart targets down range.

This was the case with the demonstrations put on with the American Civil War Shoot Association (ACWSA). The ACWSA is a group dedicated to the firing of historic and replica weapons. After a day on the battlefield we went to go check out the exhibitions of skill and to see real munitions fired. The ACWSA discharged a variety of weaponry including cannons, carbines and Gatling guns.

It was fantastic to see these ancient weapons actually come to life and it gave you an entirely new perspective on them. Watching a cannon rip through barrels and explode against the back of the range was amazing. I actually had the privilege of firing a Gatling gun and it was wild. Pushing the crank around and blasting round after round down range was impossibly fun and really got me thinking on the challenges faced by soldiers in the civil war.
 ACWSA cannon booms on the range.
You can see the impact of the cannon ball after passing through a barrel. 

Conclusion: One of the major concerns that we had was that we didn't have uniforms or any equipment. People clad in 21st century clothing make very poor stand ins on a historical field. When the 9th Virginia reached out to me I broached this topic with them. Without hesitation they informed us that they had spare uniform pieces and could outfit us for the day.

Re-enacting is like any community out there, they want people to participate. They will loan you gear to start and then you can purchase your own pieces. This gets you started and when you are in a position to do so you help the next generation of reenactor, like those before helped you.
Myself, my wife and friend dressed for battle courtesy of the 9th Virginia Cavalry. 

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. 

On Facebook:

On check the video of my experience with the Civil War: Battle of Peachtree Creek
Check out the home of the 9th Virginia Calvary:
The ACWSA can be found here:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ferguson Protests: Walking Through the Crowd: Ferguson, MO

Background: I went to Ferguson, MO on August 14 and August 15 in order to gain a greater understanding of what was happening. As a Martial Artist that travels around the country I have the rare privilege of interfacing with dozens of schools and fighters. This gives me a unique opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and hear their stories and opinions. With enough people posting their positions on Facebook, LinkedIn and in person it was easy to see that there is a range of opinions. Some people vilified the police while others defended the actions as self-defence.

I don’t train law enforcement but having trained with and under them, we are constantly talking. So when a situation as volatile as Ferguson occurs I like to check it out. It helps me validates what I am learning but also take back a civilian perspective to my friends in the law enforcement community. In the case of Ferguson two things became immediately clear, the police in Ferguson had failed the community utterly and the community desperately needed a police force.
A reminder of that we are all the same.

Observations on the police: There have been a hundred analysts that will debate the necessity of the the police response and the way it was conducted. Walking the protests I was amazed by the fact the police could only hug the edges of the conflict. As I walked around there wasn’t a uniformed officer to be found. Regardless of your view on Mike Brown and Darren Wilson’s characters, when thousands take to the streets and expel the police force, you have a major public relations problem.
It was amazing that no one was hurt in traffic accidents.

The night of the 14th the armoured units were not deployed and I never saw the riot gear that caused so much uproar. However, in discussing the situation with the residents you got a sense of the mistreatment that they felt. One gentleman I spoke with mentioned being called “a monkey” and that the officers threw bananas at them. At first I wrote this off to exaggeration and hyperbole of an angry man. Yet, as the week went on and we had video of officers calling the citizens “animals” and threatening them with firearms I found myself thinking about the conversation. Suddenly, the man's statement I had written off moved from fictional to plausible. I found myself realising that I was trusting a man I met for only minutes more than the Ferguson police. If my feelings, as someone that is pro law enforcement, could be tainted then it was a small wonder the residents held such a low opinion of the cops.

Note to police – You have technology: A lot of commentary has been made about the militarization of the police. Strangely though, little has been focused on the the technological gap that exists between protester and police. If you have never walked in a protest I highly recommend it. They are noisy, boisterous masses of people that are boiling at an injustice they perceive. The problem with this is that it reduces your world to a tiny microcosm. Gone is the awareness of your surroundings as your hearing is limited to your immediate vicinity and your vision blocked.
My world is reduced the to the rear of the QuikTrip.

The police have a huge advantage. They are communicating over radios, receiving calls from 911 operators, getting pictures from the media via tweets, live streams and drones. Their ability to process data is enormous compare to the singular, unfocussed protester. Which means, the police  might know that there is looting taking place down the street and are moving in to enforce the law and maintain safety. However, this information hasn't been communicated to the protesters. Now, police in riot gear are moving in to clear the streets for public safety yet the people that have assembled peacefully have none of this critical information. Instead, because they are trapped in a microcosm of their immediate surroundings they view it as the police descending on them.

I can tell you that have been prodded with a baton during a protest, nothing turns you on the police faster. I wasn't even hit hard, rather nudged in the ribs with enough intent to demonstrate what would happen if I didn't move. Once this transpired it marred my opinion of the Montreal police for days. Ferguson is no different. Steps need to be taken to communicate with the protesters so they understand police actions.
Even a small wall of people block your view and shrink your world. 

Note to police – Protesters have technology: Although in the moment the individual is caught up in their immediate surroundings they hold a powerful tool. Ferguson demonstrated wonderfully how the collective rage of the internet can be focused with razor precision. Just like the individual protester is nothing compared to the technological superiority of the police, members of the law enforcement community are subjected to the near limitless processing power of the internet. There is an old saying that a if you have a good experience you will tell one person but you will mention a bad experience to ten people. The internet magnifies this a thousand times over with the possibility of a video going viral and being seen by millions.

A mind shift needs to go on in the police force. Cameras are everywhere and they are here to stay. It means that any time law enforcement is performing a police action they are no longer addressing an individual. Rather, law enforcement needs to consider that they are addressing a nation. Make sure that you are comfortable being on camera and speaking to crowds. Video your training sessions and compare them to videos of "bad" cops that go viral. How close are you? Would a video of your force go viral?
Seriously, what would you do if protesters showed up with a horse? Because they did. 

Note to police - Fashion is important: What you wear is important. Forget the "militarisation" of police force. Instead go look at the international section of your newspaper or better yet google "Police Oppression Ferguson." Then google "Police Oppression China" or any other government that you consider harsh to its people. Notice the similarities between the two? 
South African police suppressing the miners in Mokopane. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Now this isn't to say that the police in the USA are the equivalent to the thugs that are employed by authoritarian governments. Far from it. Having been to places like Zambia where we bribed police officers to drive on the roads, the USA is nowhere close. Yet, it has been said, "appearance is everything" and this is extremely true in this case. Think of the level of indoctrination that the people of America face. Every day they are bombarded by images of oppression and when police dress in the same manner it doesn't matter that they aren't thugs. The perception is that the police force is the same as those they have seen on television. 
Police in Ferguson coming through the tear gas. 

Conclusion: Police are immensely important in any society. Without them law and order breaks down and gangs move in. I saw gangs and had my camera pushed away while being threatened. Yet, the police need the support of the community. When a community would rather trust themselves to the hands of the lawless it speaks not of a single issue but of a systemic distrust. 
. The Outlaw Bikers where just one of various gangs I saw. 

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. On Facebook:
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Muay Thai, Jun Fan JKD & Krav Maga: Northshore Academy of Martial Arts: Libertyville, IL

Background: I found myself at Northshore Academy of Martial Arts (NSA) courtesy of a friend of mine, Randy Siordia. Randy and I got connected through social media, and he invited me to come see what NSA did. When I pulled into the parking lot I saw what looked to be a small school sandwiched in a strip mall. Having trained in plenty of small schools, apartments and parks this wasn't a problem for me. However, when I opened the door, I realised that the school stretched much further back and this was anything other than a small school.

Physics at work. You can see our sticks bending on impact.

Northshore Academy is a modern training facility and is equipped to handle a variety of Martial Arts programs. Since I adore Martial Arts I decided to participate in the three programs being offered that evening. It was going to be an evening of Muay Thai, Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do and Krav Maga which meant I was going to get pushed to my limit.

What makes Northshore Academy a great place to train is that Head Instructor Marc Halleck has acquired a fantastic staff to back him up. Each class is taught by a well trained, experienced instructor with the other instructors participating in the class to prevent "instructor fatigue." Instructor fatigue isn't often considered but having travelled around the continent I can tell you greatly effects a class. When instructors get tired they stop engaging their class, the pace slows down and the class is generally disorganized. Whether or not you are even cognisant of it when you get tired and sloppy as a teacher your class sees it and soon they go somewhere else.
Practising groin kicks is a blast with these bags. Unload at full force. 

The way Northshore Academy is structured prevents this. Whether it was intentional or not, it provides a great environment that is full of energy to learn from. 

What did I learn: Between the three classes I learned a ton of new tips to bring up my techniques. Certainly the class that I learned “most” from was the Jeet Kune Do/ Jun Fan stick fighting. We hopped straight into double sticks and I had to get my coordination down. I have always favoured certain sides when fighting or sparring. While fighting with my hands I almost always fight left leg in front switching when I did Historical European Martial Arts I brought right leg forward. Suddenly, I had to contend with ambidextrous drills and was pushed to get my body into alignment to intercept strikes using either leg.
I am reminded that in a real fight my hand would be gone. 

As a fighter it is great to get pushed outside your comfort zone. Having to switch sides and compensate for that discomfort is something that every fighter should go through. When I was competing I can tell you that I was constantly trying to stay in my comfort zone while pushing my opponent from his. Largely, I was very successful. However, despite this there were times that I was pushed well outside where I wanted. Being able to adapt is critical in these situations and I really felt doing the Jun Fan helps develop those skills.

What was awesome: I really enjoyed the approach to the Muay Thai and Krav Maga. During the Muay Thai class we worked on range drills. As a tall guy I love fighting at a distance and making use of my long limbs, however, this in itself wasn't special. What made the drill amazing was the instructor teaching it was a 'swarm fighter" meaning he likes to get in close and overwhelm opponents with close range techniques. Regardless, he realised that every fighter is different and needs to develop their own skills. 
Working in a round kick as part of a multi-strike combo.

I have met many instructors that don't teach to the student and rather teach to themselves. They understand what made them good and that is all they teach. The problem with teaching this way is that it confines you to an incredibly small set of experiences. Even teachers that have fought in competitions, former police officers, soldiers, etc.. have only seen a tiny number of scenarios when weighed against the collective experience of the many. Any successful fighting program, whether competitive or reality-based, leverages multiple coaches and experiences. George St. Pierre, one of the best ever MMA fighters, has trained with Olympic wrestlers, fight teams in Montreal, New Mexico and Brazil, etc... to broaden his experiences. Krav Maga & Jeet Kune Do both have been excellent about grabbing as many resources as they can. It was great to see the NSA embraced this and keeps growing instead of being locked in its own self-aggrandizing static glory. 
Working in long hooks to stay out at range instead of swarming in.

The other thing I really liked was the way the Krav Maga was handled. Guro Marc Halleck drilled us not only on technique but on the legal ramifications of our actions. All to often I will see instructors teaching that they need to "end the fight" without thinking about how the fight must be ended or the consequences. Marc Halleck coached us to always keep thinking as the situation progressed. Reminding fighters to constantly re-evaluate the situation and keep their use of force to within acceptable limits is very important. Sometimes I will see people get caught up in the fantasy of a Martial Art and forget that the world is an extremely diverse place. The acceptable techniques are extremely different if you are an Israeli soldier in the West Bank or a civilian at a party in Chicago. It was great to see an instructor emphasize this. 
Working on some basic pummelling and defence drills.

Conclusion: Northshore Academy of Martial Arts is a great place to train. From their reliance on multiple instructors to keep the classes fresh to their breakdown of sportive and self-defence programs I had a great time. It was great to see an academy that acknowledges all the aspects of Martial Arts. 
Great academy. Go check them out. 

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. On Facebook:
On Youtube:

Go see NSA's website and more of what they do:
Randy Siordia of Wolf Martial Art's directed me over to NSA. Go look at his stuff as well.