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.

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