Sunday, January 26, 2014

Aikijujitsu: Chiassi Maru: Brossard, QC

Background: Sensei Andre Boudreau encompasses the spirit of Martial Arts more than just about anyone I have ever met. He is a small, unassuming man with a great sense of humor and always a smile on his face. If you didn't know of his skills you would pass him by on the street with maybe a wave and grin. But for all of his considerable skills those aren't what define him as a Martial Artist.

 Myself, Chisaii Maru, Jukaido Kan and many more at Sensei Boudreau's 25th
anniversary seminar.

Over the years I have known him Sensei Boudreau has given back like crazy to the Martial Arts Community. He holds seminars where he invites Martial Artists to get together and exchange knowledge. I have been with him as he teaches at seminars for charity and then participates in other teachers’ seminars. Yet when I visited him last he set the bar higher again.

He informed me that we were having other visitors as well. This in itself is novel since most times I am the only outsider in a school. However, I then found out that the reason we would be having visitors is was because another school that had lost their facility due to unpreventable circumstances and had nowhere to train in the interim. Sensei Boudreau opened his own school, invited them to come train with him and told them that the door was opened to come visit as often as they needed while they were getting settled. This is what makes him a great martial artist. He puts aside all pride and pretence and steps in to help members of the Martial Arts community because it is the right thing to do. That is a true Martial Artist.

What did I learn: “Aiki” anything has faced criticism in recent years. With effectiveness of a Martial Art being tied to its ability to produce an MMA champion “Aiki” has suffered ridicule and disrespect. I don’t believe that the success in the ring is indicator of the effectiveness of an art. Rather, it is a statement about an arts global presence and organization, both factors that have nothing to do with anything martial.
Sensei Boudreau demonstrating the knee bar. 

The nice thing about Sensei Boudreau’s classes are that I don’t have to mount a defence Aikijujitsu. They do that all on their own with their actions. Contrary to many places I have been Chisaii Maru students have the option to begin their training with an hour long grappling session. This is where they test their skills and develop new ones. As they are interested in grappling and submissions from a self-defence perspective they aren't training from a tournament stand-point or to get medals. Rather they are more concerned with controlling and submitting non-conforming opponents.

In Sensei Boudreau’s class what I found very interesting as a lesson was breaking up a fight. In the scenario’s we worked on you had a dominant attacker and a more submissive victim. Our task was not only to gain control of the attacker but we had to meet certain criteria. First, controlling the attacker and stopping the violence. Second, we needed to stop the attacker without using excessive force. After all we were interfering with the attack from behind. Third, we had to maintain a position of dominance so should the victim begin attacking we could extricate ourselves and deal with them.
Sensei Boudreau showing how to pull an attacker down. 

What was similar: Joint locks are joint locks and many of them I have seen before. This is why when wrist locks are applied I typically drop to my bum and not my knees. Kicking my feet out has several advantages in my opinion. I immediately relieve pressure from the area and hopefully create a little space allowing me to break the lock. Also, it brings my feet into play for grappling while removing my head from nasty striking bits like fists and feet.
 Sometimes it is fun to be the attacker.

Pressure points are another thing I am familiar with. Compliance through pain is taught in almost every Martial Art. Being able to control someone without permanent injury is becoming increasingly important. With the prevalence of video technology the ability to subdue an attacker via compliance techniques is quite relevant.

Conclusion: Training with Sensei Boudreau will always be a pleasure. If you are interested in learning not only the principles of Aikijujitsu but also testing the applications than Chisaii Maru is a great place to train. You will meet great people and Sensei Boudreau brings in enough outside talent that you will never be bored.
Myself and Sensei Boudreau after a great evening of training. 

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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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Combat Sambo: Club Kozak: Verdun, QC

Background: I have known Coach Eugene Shewchuk for many years. I am not sure what first drew me to his school all those years ago but I knew I had found a home when I did. The classes are intense and designed to pushed you to your limits. Because I was pushed to those limits I found a lot of success in the ring fighting.

Fighting in a Combat Sambo tournament with a pro fighter.

While Sifu John Hum developed a lot of my stand up fighting it was Coach Shewchuk that gave me a ground game. Wutan Canada had just implemented our grappling program in Ottawa and I had almost no experience in ground fighting when I moved to Montreal. After many hard hours in Club Kozak’s gym it was Coach Shewchuk who really motivated me to try full contact fighting.

Coach Shewchuk’s gym has grown and changed over the years as well. I remember training in a homemade ring that wasn’t even close to regulation size. Today the school boasts a real ring and beautiful wrestling mats. Montreal Pancrase tournaments take place in the ring as well as submission wrestling and Sanda Kickboxing matches.

Coached at Kozak I compete in a Pancrase Montreal Tournament.

However, it isn’t just inside the walls of the school that the fighters participate in tournaments. Look around at NAGA and Grapplers Quest and you will find them competing. Club Kozak’s Combat Sambo is routinely on display and bringing home medals. Top quality amateur fighters will find a great home in the gym and can be sure that they will gain a great mix of striking and ground skills.

What did I learn: What makes Club Kozak such an interesting place to train at is that they mix the Combat Sambo together with both sportive and self-defense aspects of training. Coach Shewchuk is a licensed security professional  and you will often find him on patrol during community events in Verdun. The fact that he is working in the security field as well as coaching provides a great dynamic.

When we were working on knife defense this perspective shows. While disabling the attacker there were often times that the defender was placed in a superior position and able to do great harm. Because of Coach Shewchuk’s experience we were shown how use non-lethal force to restrain an attacker. It was this trade off that was fascinating to participate in. I worked on establishing my own security and once I had secured it ensuring that my opponent was restrained properly for their security. All too often I have seen people “freak out” on an opponent and carry a fight well beyond self-defense and into assault.

Coach Shewchuk tosses me around and restrains me to remove my knife.

Travelling the world and getting stay in so many different locations I have had the privilege to train with many different people. As such, I have noticed that self-defense is far from a global standard. Rather it is broken down into smaller regional standards that make sense within their own context. For instance, I have friend that teaches “Conceal & Carry” in Illinois. In Montreal carrying a collapsing baton requires security professionals to have a permit.

Why I like training with Coach Shewchuk is that he intimately knows the regional laws and “rules of engagement.” The movements that we did were done with an example as to why we were executing them. This greatly aids the learning process. Often I hear people question an instructor only to be told that “this is the way we have always done it” failing to account for local laws and the changing times.

Start of a grappling session with friends. 

What was similar: Training with Club Kozak is always a pleasure. It was my home for years and when I showed up with my admittedly ridiculous camera rig they laughed at me. However, in true Kozak style, Coach Shewchuk and a friend of mine stayed after hours and helped simulate a class to test the system. It is moments like that which make me so grateful for their friendship.

Like before, we warmed up with a quick run and then launched into tumbling. In many grappling arts learning to fall and roll are fundamental pieces that need to be practised every time you train. At the end of a class Kozaks will all get together and grapple. Combat Sambo is similar to MMA in most regards other than the fact you wear a kurtka (gi or jacket). This combination of grappling and striking is incredibly effective and not to mention a lot of fun. For filming purposes we limited ourselves to just the grappling aspect in order to test the headgear with the mounted camera in a stressed environment. It was a smashing success despite a few glitches.

Coach Shewchuk and I test the camera rig. 

Conclusion: Club Kozak is a great training centre if you are looking to compete as an amateur fighter. Whether you are grappling, striking or getting into MMA this is a great place to look and develop your skills. The street applications are well thought out and grounded in reality rather than fantasy.Also, if you are in the security field this is a great place to train with an instructor that knows and understands the limitations you face in the workplace. 

A great night training with some great friends. 

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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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Theatrical Fighting: Medieval Times: Chicago, IL

Background: Medieval Times is a call to your inner child that always wanted to witness knights fight on horseback and on foot. The crash of steel of and whinny of horses will excite and fascinate you as you cheer for your knight to be the victor of the tournament and vanquish the terrible barbarians. This is of course the “Pro Wrestling” of Historical European Martial Arts as it is all “fake.” However, as Rhett told Scarlett at the end of Gone with the wind, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Horses are still very much in use today. If you look around you will find cavalry features in police forces and militaries across the globe. In Montreal mounted police have a large presence in the city. Because of the amount of parkland in the city the police are able to go where cars cannot and foot patrols would be ineffective. During the student protests of Montreal police rode horses to corral and control the riots and marches. While I was in Botswana on Safari three commandos rode out of the bush. Motors would have given away their positions to poachers and horses allowed them to cover more ground following game trails only animals use.

Police in Montreal patrolling snowy parks. 
Commandos in Botswana as part of an anti-poaching unit.

Obviously we can’t have “real” knights doing a “real” joust with “real” swords. Since they are going to be doing the show several times a day for hundreds of fans this would be impossible. Not to mention the obvious health and safety concerns of doing true combat. Therefore they have taken the approach of Pro Wrestling and make the performance about the show and the demonstration of skill. Often I have heard it criticised that any type  fake fighting requires no skill. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just the horsemanship required to spear a ring at full gallop is exceptional.

A knight taking spearing a small ring at full gallop.

Throw that together with joust and the sword fighting from horseback and you are watching fantastic martial artists.

What did I learn: As Martial Artists we are always putting on demos and performing. Whether we are demonstrating techniques or putting on seminars very often our skill set is available for public consumption. Despite so many Martial Artists decrying that they don’t like things that are fake we are constantly stretching the bounds of reality ourselves. In every Martial Arts show I have been to I have never seen an instructor doing “real” techniques. Never once has a teacher purposefully shattered a student’s limbs as spectacle to prove the effectiveness of the technique. They stop short and let our imaginations fill in the gaps. They are putting on a "fake" show just like the knights of Medieval Times.

The knights of Medieval Times take the theatrics of fighting to the next level. There is not one person that walks through that door expecting to see a knight die in mortal combat. Yet everyday people show up to be entertained by the martial spirit of the event. I began think of this for my own performances that we do at galas. Could I incorporate what I learned at Medieval Times into our lessons?

Two of the knights engaged in combat.

At Martial Arts galas the standard format is to go onstage, bow to the audience, show your skills and leave. Many of these demos are very good but Medieval Times takes it a step further. They don’t bother to just show skills like the joust or sword fighting. What Medieval Times does is much more. They create emotional investment in the characters. We are all cheering for our knights and the knights display both talent in arms and also chivalry and grace by getting their sections to cheer and presenting the flowers to the ladies.

Knights distributing flowers to the crowd.

There is also the infamous heel. Every show at Medieval Times has a villain. Not only do we want to cheer for our champions but there must also be someone for us to hate. In two hours we are hooked on our champion and routing against an arbitrary bad guy. We knew it wasn’t real from the outset of the show and yet we really enjoyed cheering for our hero. I think I am going to try to incorporate in my next demo. The question is just how? I will have to think on this.

What was similar: I watched a video on how they do the fighting at Medieval Times. The head knight was describing how they use a very “opened style of fighting.” The reason was that we were doing this was to allow everyone seated to see what was happening. The big movements and pauses were to give the audience an understanding of the techniques. I think back to my Sifu preparing us for forms tournaments and telling us to open up our movements. The judges needed to see our movements in order to appreciate our talent and judge it. It is preparing for tournaments all over again.

Conclusion: Medieval Times is a blast and if you should have the chance to go see it definitely do it. However, as a Martial Artist don't just go for the show. You should be watching to see how they conduct themselves and get the audience involved. I watched dozens of men, women and children exit the arena pretending to swing swords or be knights. They all wanted to ride into combat and do battle. Wouldn’t it be great if after your school did a demo the audience left and pretended to be you? Wouldn’t that be a good way to get students? 

The Royal Guard on parade.
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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Behind the scenes of Medieval Times:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ju-Jutsu: Jukaido-Kan Ju-Jutsu: Verdun, QC

Background: I was attending a Martial Arts fundraiser for cancer research and saw that Jukaido-Kan would be teaching a seminar. I didn’t know anything about Shihan Bedard or his school but decided that I had nothing to lose and the description sounded appealing. It seems appalling to me today that I nearly missed getting to train with such a quality school because of my whimsical approach to choosing courses that day. What followed was an incredibly interesting and fun afternoon of throws and locks.
Working takedowns with a stomp to finish my attacker off.
Sensei Julien of Jukaido-Kan helping correct us in the background.

I will always be grateful to my friend Sensei Andrei Boudreau for formally introducing me to Shihan Charles Bedard. Sensei Boudreau hosts seminars at his dojo where he will invite other Martial Artists to teach and learn from each other. I was teaching at one of these events in the morning and had the opportunity to begin learning from Jukaido-Kan that afternoon. After the seminar at the cancer fundraiser I knew this was not an opportunity to miss.  

The seminars that Sensei Boudreau organizes embody the spirit of Martial Arts by bringing fighters of all stripes together. The only complaint I have with the seminars is that they are bound by the limits of physics and time and therefore always seem to end too fast. However, they did give me a much better taste of what Jukaido-Kan was. I spent much of the afternoon with Sensei Julien and Sensei Dakota working through different locks and throws. It is always a good time to be able to train with some high level fighters and see how they execute techniques. As my Sifu has told me many times, “many people may do the same technique but everyone will flavour it differently.”
The crew that came out with Sensei Boudreau's 25th Anniversary Seminar

What did I learn: While writing this blog I was torn on how to answer this question. Shihan Bedard took time to show me numerous techniques to give me a taste of the Jukaido-Kan style and their interpretation of Martial Arts. I could write paragraphs about that yet have deliberately chosen not to. The reason is because despite having learned a lot it wasn’t the biggest lesson of the evening.  Sometimes lessons aren’t about what you new techniques you learn rather being reminded of the lessons you should know. Those reminders are what I am going to focus on because they were such powerful examples of a quality school.
While waiting to execute any technique everyone jogs.
No lazy students here.

Many schools will incorporate a ying yang in their logo and preach the need for balance and harmony, mine included, yet Shinan Bedard’s school exemplifies this. As I walked through the doors I was greeted by laughter and the sound of people working out. Every instructor was wearing reindeer antlers on their heads as it was the last class before Christmas as they warmed up. It was silly and fun and truly a great idea. However, underneath the antlers, there was a discipline and respect that was impressive. The seniors were organised and moving with purpose to help the rest of the class.

Far too often I see seniors standing around doing “senior things,” which normally include talking, leaning on walls and generally watching others working hard. In Jukaido-Kan this was not the case. Every student of Shihan Bedard’s, from the newest white belt to the oldest sensei trains. Training is actually an understatement, the seniors lead. No student is asked to do something without the seniors showing it first. When a new student doesn’t know a drill the seniors take time to show them patiently and while this is happening the rest of the class jogs on spot continuing to work out. There is a difference between knowing good principles and living them. It is why Jukaido-Kan is as good as they are. They live their principles. 
Sensei Brett & Sensei Julien leading by example with Sensei Dakota set to follow.

What was similar: Just the other night I was training outside leg sweeps with Shifu Lorne Bernard. The first technique that we reviewed at Jukaido-Kan was the inside version of the same sweep. It was like stepping from one lesson right into the next one. We also covered throat and wrist grabs. The white belt defenses to these attacks were nearly identical to the ones that we use in Northern Mantis, MMA and Sanshou.

Front kicks are another of those universal techniques.

There are some techniques universal across Martial Arts. They might carry their own flavour and slight deviations but the core principles remain. This is the mark of a good school and a good teacher. If you are at a school and none of the basics look like anything you have seen before you might want to ask a question or two.

I couldn't be more grateful to Shihan Bedard for having me in class.

Conclusion: Jukaido-Kan is a top notch school. The quality of the Ju-Jutsu is very high and teachers are patient, talented and disciplined. I also made Shihan Bedard a promise to return and provide some filming with my Go Pro Camera so we could demonstrate what it was like to be thrown around. I look forward to visiting him in the near future for another great night of lessons.
Christmas classes are a ton of fun and Jukaido-Kan threw a great one. 

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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Jukaido-Kan's website: