Let Me Tell You About My Greatest Enemy!

In a short period of time, I will be in my mid-sixties.  Age is my greatest enemy, and as anyone my age or older will tell you; the things that once were easy have become a lot more challenging. 

Well, all enemies are the same, whether human, physical, or psychological.  What enemies are, are negative entities in your path of success.  So, how do you get rid of your enemies?  My answer to that is very simple;  simply confront them and defeat them.  Age is no different! 

One of the first things to do on the path of defeating age is not to consider it a factor at all.  I came to the realization, that I was spending more time worrying about the limitations of age than I was on the ways I could overcome it.  Once I got on the right road, I came up with a pretty successful framework for defeating the aging process, and adding to the time I will be able to train.  Here are a few things from the Corrigan master plan:

  1.  Work Backwards – Don’t start by comparing yourself to a 20-year-old.  First, compare yourself to those your own age and see how you fit.   Are you the same as them physically and mentally?  If you are “younger” than them – go lower.    For example, if you truly feel that at your age you are physically and mentally “younger” than someone 5 calendar years younger than you, then that is where you start.  Hold yourself to your “calculated” age standards.  Conversely, if you feel you are much “older” than your age – start there and work your way backward until you are physically and mentally fit as your peers. 
  2. Take care of your body.  Don’t train injured, baby the injuries. Rest.
  3. No Excuses – I hear older Martial Arts students say all the time (including me sometimes!) “at my age…,”  “I used to be able to….,”    “I'll never be able to…,” etc.  These are just excuses and self-limiters.  If you set the bar at 3 inches rather than 3 feet, then that is where you will stay.
  4. Stop trying to use “old man strength” – Listen, all this does is make you tired, and the bane of everyone’s existence.  You don’t have to win all the time to maintain your respectability.  Chances are, if you are “older” then all the young guys respect you, and want to treat you with respect.  Enjoy the respect, and stop hurting them with your desire to beat them.
  5. Supplement your training – Go to the gym, walk, run, move, stretch.
  6. Make time – I have a physician that I go to that has said to me for the last 12 years “ Man, I gotta try that, but I just don’t have the time!”  He is my doctor, but I know for sure that he will take the “dirt nap” before me.  Why? Because he is fat, out of shape, stressed and overworked.  I need to write him a prescription, but he’ll never get it filled. 
  7. Variety.  If you like martial arts, don’t limit what you study.  I often say that I am good at boxing, okay at Jiu Jitsu, excellent at Kali, and great at Kenpo.  Combined, I am satisfied.  The moral of the story is that you might just be training in the aspect that you will never be GREAT in, no matter what age you are. Seek things that you can excel at as well as those that you might just be mediocre in. Besides, variety makes you train differently and with all you got.
  8. Train as much as possible with younger people.  Enjoy their ability and learn from them.  Ask them how they are dominating you.  Learn ways to dominate them using your experience.
  9. Finally....Make martial arts a lifestyle.  That DOES NOT MEAN MAKE IT YOUR ENTIRE LIFE!  You have other things, like a family, a job, other hobbies, kids, grandkids, etc.  Make martial arts fit in your life, and use your training to enhance everything else you do.

5 Reasons Martial Arts Training Is The Best Activity for Your Brain and Memory!

A recent Consumer Reports article presented the latest research on keeping our minds sharp, especially as we age. As I read the article, I couldn’t help but notice that each of the five areas discussed could be addressed by being actively involved in a Martial Arts program!

1.    Reducing Stress

Exercise is well known for its ability to aid in the reduction of stress. Add to that the myriad of stress-reducing benefits of the Martial Arts in particular and you have a true stress buster. 

2.    Staying Connected

By this, the authors meant staying connected socially with others. The social aspects of a training class such as a Martial Arts class cannot be underestimated, not to mention Martial Arts classes are fun and engaging, helping you to commit to the long term benefits. 

3.    Feeding the Brain

Consuming a nutritionally-balanced diet is key to any Martial Arts program and your overall healthy lifestyle. The recommendations for maintaining healthy brain function are much the same as for maintaining overall healthy body function: minimizing trans-fat intake, reducing saturated fat intake, and consuming more fish and other foods that contain healthy fats. 

4.    Staying Fit

Physical activity is the best-known way of protecting your brain against aging. The recommendation here is the same as for general health and well-being: at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Martial Arts training incorporates daily exercise into your routine in a fun and exciting way so that you can stick to it. 

5.    Flexing Brain Muscles

Use it or lose it. The mental aspect of Martial Arts training provides this type of mental stimulation along with a great physical workout. This is something I discuss with our adult students on a very regular basis. Adult students often notice that the martial arts we teach are so technique oriented, cerebral, and detailed that they sometimes have difficulty remembering the techniques. That is exactly why it is so beneficial for you. Using the brain to make the mind and body work together performing a complicated Jiu Jitsu technique, or a long Kata in Kenpo is exactly the kind of workout that your brain needs!

Keep in mind that “aging” doesn’t mean you’re heading toward your 90s. Depending on your lifestyle, aging-related changes in your brain such as memory loss can begin as early as your 20s or 30s. So stay committed to your Martial Arts training. Your mind will thank you for it.

Some people plan on doing crossword puzzles and sudoku to keep their minds working as they age. I for one plan on rolling and practicing my forms/techniques when I’m 90!

Should We Teach Children How to Fight?

When watching kids play, you’ll often see one lose his temper when he doesn’t get his way. The feeling that arises when he doesn’t get his way is completely normal and okay, what we aren’t okay with is the reaction to lash out at the other child in response to that feeling.

Adults aren’t any different. When you watch a sporting event, you’ll often see tempers get the best of the athletes and fights break out during what was supposed to be a game. In some sports, like hockey (one of my family’s favorites!), the fighting aspect may even be encouraged. The crowd goes crazy, and some argue that it even has a place in the game so that the bigger, tougher guys on the team can stand up for the smaller, skill-based players when they take a big hit or are getting roughed up by the opposing team trying to slow them down.

When two kids fight, you’ll often hear the adults say, “they're just kids,” or, “boys will be boys." I'd like to argue, though, that they're just human. Adults and kids alike!

Fighting is a natural part of life, and unfortunately, children may sometimes be put into situations where they need to stand up for themselves or a smaller, weaker child. Teaching them how to fight should be an essential part of their childhood.

However, it is not because we want them to fight.

We teach our kids how to fight so that they don’t have to. When training martial arts, the most important things you learn are how to respect everyone (including your opponent), how to control your actions (even when you are angry), and who you are at your core. How do you respond to stressful scenarios? Do you run? Do you stand up and fight? Do you let your pride get the best of you? How do you walk away from a fight? When should you walk away from a fight?

These questions are all critical for a child to answer for themselves, and martial arts training will help guide them to the answers on their own. No one will sit down and tell them the answers. They have to come to them on their own.

How? Through learning how to fight.

Next Thursday, September 14 we are canceling all of our kids’ classes for the night and holding a free bullying prevention class from 4-6 PM open to the public. We would like all of our youth students ages 6 & up to attend this class and invite some friends to also. 

Our space is limited, so please reserve your spot at the link below (even current students should reserve their place). We encourage parents to attend this class also, as we will talk about some valuable information that you and your children should discuss at home so that you are on the same page when it comes to how they will handle these challenging scenarios that are bound to happen.

CounterBully: More Information and Reserve Your Spot Online - 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/counterbully-seminar-tickets-37441138453

5 Paradigms Adults Believe About Martial Arts

Every adult, no matter their age, gender, or physical limitations, should be training martial arts! Unfortunately, many adults have a mental block that keeps them from even exploring it as a possibility. Let’s break down the different misconceptions:

1. Martial Arts Training is for Kids

Yes and No. Martial Arts is incredible for children! BUT, it is designed for adults. We modify our curriculum quite a bit for children by removing some of the more violent self-defense techniques, highly detailed techniques, and complicated techniques.

Many of us grew up watching the Karate Kid, and that has planted the idea in our brains that Karate is for Kids. Through the years, we have somehow come to believe that martial arts are just another after school activity that we throw our kids into.

But, have you ever wondered what you would do in a fight? Every adult, both men and women, should learn self-defense. This is one of the primary reasons to train. It’s an important reason for kids too, but the character development is most parents’ main concern. For adults - it’s self-defense.

Check out this video from Jocko Willink talking about what arts you should train in (I’ll give you a hint, we teach them all!) to learn self-defense:

2. Martial Arts Training is Like a Kung Fu Movie

At our academy, we teach martial arts such as Kenpo, Jiu Jitsu, and Jeet Kune Do. One of the first responses we get from adults when they hear these names is a funny sound that you might hear Bruce Lee make in a Kung Fu movie.

They can’t imagine themselves making those silly noises and doing a “karate chop.”

Then there’s this guy:

In reality, martial arts training is really normal. Adults from all walks of life come together to learn fighting techniques that could save their lives, get a great workout, and have a lot of fun in the process. The benefits are innumerable and include things like stress-relief, discipline, and focus. Each class you leave as just a little bit better version of the person you walked in as. 

3. Martial Arts Training is Cagefighting

In 1993, the Gracie family from Brazil created the Ultimate Fighting Championship as a way to showcase their family’s art, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, against other martial arts. Royce Gracie dominated the first few UFC events, and two things blew up in the United States - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

Many adults have now come to believe that martial arts training is the cage fighting (Mixed Martial Arts) that you see when you are flipping through the channels. While we will teach you the same techniques being used in the cage or boxing ring, it does not mean you take the abuse that a professional fighter does.

There are safe and fun ways of training that will challenge you and develop your skills as a martial artist without getting into a cage. 

We study these events as a way to learn about which techniques are being used most effectively in these rule sets, but we anticipate that 99.99% of our students will never enter the cage to be in a fight!

4. You Need to Be In Shape to Start Training Martial Arts

WRONG! But we understand why you feel that way. Instead of waiting until you are in shape, use martial arts training to help you get in shape! Don’t wait any longer. Just start!

Once you step on the mat, you’ll never look back. You’ll be surrounded by encouraging partners that have been or may currently be in the same stage of their fitness journey as you are. The people you train with will be one of your greatest tools to getting in and staying in shape.

5. You Can’t Train with a Bad _________________ (Fill in the blank - knee, shoulder, back, etc.)

As you get older, you will have injuries, illnesses, and all kinds of things “wrong” with you. We are human, and unfortunately, that means our bodies will slowly break down just like a car. These things shouldn’t hold you back unless you let them.

Modifications can always be made to adapt the training to what you need. If you allow your “bad knee” or whatever it is to keep you from starting something like this, before you know it you will have other bad things due to inactivity and unhappiness.

So, what does martial arts training look like? 

Well, at our Academy it typically starts with a warm up of jogging and various exercises to prepare your body for the lesson planned that day. Then you will spend some time learning the technique that has been scheduled in our curriculum for that day. 

The content might be a self-defense technique versus some of the most common assaults, a traditional martial arts form to develop traits that enhance your skills as a martial artist, or dynamic skills from Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, or the Filipino Martial Arts. 

After training the material for a while, the class usually finishes with some drills to make the technique functional so that you can use it effectively in a fight if necessary. At the advanced stages, this includes sparring drills with partners that will challenge you and protect you at the same time.

Here’s a demonstration I did of some of the techniques taught in the adult curriculum at Progressive Martial Arts Academy. No, they’re not all for kids. No, you don’t have to be in a Kung Fu movie, and no, you don’t have to fight in a cage!

So, if you’re still here reading this and you’ve been on the fence about starting martial arts, take action right now. I mean, RIGHT NOW! If you wait five more seconds, you will come up with a reason not to start now. 

I’m telling you, you won’t regret it. Just start. Take action right now. I’ll even make it easy for you - put your contact info below and I’ll reach out to you about setting up a free private introductory lesson.

Name *
Name

See you on the mat! 

Leave Your Ego at the Door

Any student at Progressive Martial Arts Academy should be familiar with the phrase: “Leave your ego at the door.” We did not coin this phrase but consistently encourage our students to follow it. The thing is - this phrase means much more than what it may seem on the surface. This phrase is an essential component of “the Martial Arts Way of Life” and something that we can all do to grow our sense of true self, become better martial artists, and live more in the moment than ever before.

At first glance, I think most students believe that this phrase is telling them not to be afraid of making mistakes, losing sparring sessions, or admitting weaknesses. They are right, but when you examine it, it means so much more. 

What is an ego?

An ego is something every person develops at an early age that can influence anything from the way we dress to the way we speak and behave in social situations. At a very young age, we realize that people around us expect us to act a certain way, and we learn that certain behaviors cause people to “like” us more so we conform to those expectations and develop a version of ourselves that we “put on” when we leave our homes.

Many times, if you pay attention, you may notice that you might have different egos for when you are with different people. You might speak one way when with family members, another way with friends, and a completely different way with co-workers. That is a classic example of the ego in action.

When you walk onto the mat, we would love for you to leave your ego behind and be your true self. Many factors may make this easier than it would be in other situations - starting with the uniform and the belt. Every student at PMA starts with the same white uniform (gi) and the same rank (white belt). You do not have to think about dressing a certain way to impress anyone or fit in. It doesn’t matter where you come from, who you know, how much money you make, or what your gender, age, or race is - everyone starts at the same rank and has to earn their position in the dojo with hard work, dedication, and consistent training. 

Why Should We Leave Our Ego Behind?

In our academy, we have this phrase (Leave Your Ego at the Door) hanging on the wall; partly because we know it is essential for a student to keep this in mind or they may not make it far in their training. When the ego is not left behind, and emotions are allowed to enter the dojo with you, you are bound to run into issues. 

The martial arts we teach are extremely functional, and you cannot “pretend” to be skilled in them if you are not. For example, in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, if someone allows themselves to mistakenly believe they are more skilled at grappling than they are, that they should be able to defeat a particular training partner, or that they have the ability to perform a difficult technique, they will quickly be faced with reality. There is no way to pretend in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that you are what you aren’t.

Bringing any emotion onto the mat can be detrimental to a student’s training experience. We encourage pride, expectations, stress, anger, frustration, sadness, anxiousness, and even positive emotions like happiness and excitement to be left at the door because they can cloud our judgment, decision-making processes, and ability to learn. Doing this can prove to be extremely challenging and something that takes most martial artists years to master but is one of the most defining qualities of martial arts masters around the world from many different arts.

How do we leave it behind?

Start with insecurities, expectations, and self-consciousness. This week in training, avoid coming into class with any expectations for your performance. That includes how quickly you should be able to learn the techniques, or how much you think you already know, who you think you can “beat,” and what you should or shouldn’t be able to do. 

Starting with your words, do not talk about yourself or compare yourself to other students (this already shouldn’t happen because of another martial artist quality - humility), but also include your thoughts. Before, during and after training resist the urge to judge yourself and other students. 

Here are some classic examples of the ego not left behind that you can try to avoid:

Example #1:

"I'm not very good at ________________."

We make statements like this to lower our teacher's or training partner's expectations of our performance. This insecurity will get in the way of your training. At least in our academy, your teachers and training partners will not be disappointed in you for doing your best and falling short of perfection. We will be impressed with you just showing up and training hard!

Example #2:

"Hey, when I caught you in that arm bar, do you remember how I did it?"

If you do something well in training, don't draw attention to it. That is a classic example of the ego in action.  I know you are proud of your accomplishment but drawing attention to it will only make your partner feel sad or angry, and make you look too proud! Again, just show up and train hard!

Example #3:

**Teacher walks by to watch you practice a technique, and because you are a little embarrassed by what you might look like if you mess it up, you stop and ask a question instead of doing the technique.

Your teacher does not expect you to be already able to do the technique, that's why you are in their class! If you try your best and mess it up, your teacher should be embarrassed for not teaching it well enough if anything.

Instead, when the teacher comes by - do the technique to the best of your ability and show them what your best looks like right now. They might make some corrections, or they might be happy with where you are now and move on. Afterwards, if you genuinely do have a question - now ask it.

Example #4:

**Getting angry or frustrated when you don't "win." Or sometimes worse, trying too hard to win.

In our kid's classes, we have "mat chats" from time to time where we talk about "the spirit of competition." The spirit of competition is when everyone is having fun. The nature of competition is that you have to try to win, but when you start letting your desire to win become so important that your partner's well-being or safety are at risk, then you have let your ego get in the way of the training.

Don't be overly happy when you win, and don't be overly frustrated or sad when you lose. After all, we are not opponents in the academy - we are training partners, and we are all co-trainers for each other. 

We are so proud of the culture and training environment we've built at PMA because of rules and mindsets like this. Training in an environment where you are challenged, safe, having fun, and getting better every class is how you set yourself up to train for the rest of your life - which should ultimately always be the goal.


In closing, come to class with a clear mind and empty cup, and you will leave with one of the best training sessions of your life. Hopefully the first of many. Share this post to help eradicate egos from martial arts academies around the world!

How Brittany Lost 38 Pounds and 8% Body Fat This Year

Today, I want to brag on one of our students. I'm a little biased obviously, but very proud, so I'd like to take a minute to brag about my wife, Brittany Corrigan.

For those that don't know, earlier this year she was selected to test for her Black Belt in Kenpo and is now in the preparation phase, but the story I want to tell goes back to last summer.

One year ago, my wife came back to PMA to get back to training after giving birth to our second child, Auggie. Without going too far off on a tangent, let me just give so much credit to women for what they have to go through with pregnancy, childbirth, and the recovery afterward. I know we see some stories about some women snapping right back, but I've seen first hand how difficult it can be (twice!), and all I can say is WOW.

So one year ago, Brittany returned to training at 212 pounds, and at 6 feet tall her body fat was at 38% (yes, she's approved of me giving you all of these numbers!). Today, she is at 174 pounds, and 29% body fat- officially in the first level of healthy body fat percentage for women (read more about the different levels here - http://www.precisionnutrition.com/cost-of-getting-lean-infographic). Best of all, she has done it in what I consider the best possible way - slowly and sustainably.

Brittany didn't go on a diet. In fact, we just finished eating at Chuy's for our date night, and I watched her eat a burrito (slowly and mindfully - more on that later!).

Being a personal trainer and nutrition/lifestyle coach, I could've designed an exercise program and meal plan for her that would have helped her lose the weight and body fat even faster. But since becoming a Precision Nutrition coach a couple of years ago, I know that is not the ideal way.

I've seen it play out so many times, and surely you have too. I look in the mirror and realize I'm not quite in as good of shape as I'd like to be and decide to do something about it. Well, I've heard a lot lately about the ________ diet or this new _____________ workout that people seem to really get great results with. So, I think I'll try that!

A few weeks or months later, assuming I stick with the program, voila! I've lost weight and have gotten in great shape! Well good, I'm glad that's done with, that diet sucked! Or you know, I was getting sick of that workout!

A few months pass by...

I look in the mirror, and huh? I seem to be getting out of shape (maybe even a little worse than last time this happened). But you know what? That program I did last time worked! Let's get back on it!

And repeat...

Most of us have gone through this process, and depending on your age, you may have done it over and over again throughout your life!

So what did Brittany do?

1. Martial Arts Training (2-4x per week)

Last year she got back to her martial arts training 2-4 times per week. This part is essential because finding a hobby like this can help give you a little extra motivation in the nutrition and fitness areas of your life because they will help your performance with your hobby/sport! I say 2-4 because we have two small children and sometimes life interrupts your ideal schedule for the day. It's critical that you consider this, or you can end up letting your whole plan be derailed by your normal life. If you plan a routine to get in shape that doesn't fit into the context of your real life, then it is not going to work. If you just make it work for the short term (90-day program just to get in shape, etc.), then you will go back to where you started before the program when it's finished.

2. Strength Training (3x per week) & Running (1-3x per week)

She does a simple strength training workout I've put together for her that includes body weight, cinder block, and TRX exercises. She does this 3x/week and does a shorter modified version at home if she can't squeeze in the whole thing. In addition to this, she runs 1-3x/week.

3. Nutrition & Lifestyle Habits

She has gone through a year of PN coaching learning habits one at a time that change key areas of her lifestyle but don't require her to adapt something that she cannot maintain.   These habits are things like eating slowly, stopping eating before she's stuffed, balancing her meals correctly, de-stressing, creating a good sleep routine, planning meals, and food prepping for the week. In the coaching program, she's learned about each habit, and built the skills to put them to practice. Best of all, she still gets to enjoy foods that she likes (like that burrito tonight)!

She has done it all in a way that is sustainable, and while she still has high goals for herself over the next few months preparing for her Black Belt test in December, she has adopted the habits that will prepare her for a lifetime of health and happiness.

I am incredibly proud of her, and can't wait to see where she ends up in December, and afterward. After all, Black Belt is just the beginning!

3 Reasons Martial Arts Training is the Perfect Fitness Alternative

Yes, I said perfect. And I mean it!

We all know that exercise is important, and all of the benefits it can give you. We all know that we should eat healthier and move more. In fact, we know too much.

In this information world that we live in, we are knocked all over the place by information that constantly conflicts and contradicts what we were told the day before. This diet and that diet. This new workout plan, and oh, wait, that one isn’t right for you anymore - this one is.

We don’t need any more knowledge though. We need action. Whether you are 4 or 74, martial arts training is an excellent source of exercise, personal discipline, and of course self-defense.

The simple, focused workout provided by high-quality martial arts training has many advantages over a traditional gym membership. So let’s look at three core reasons we believe martial arts training fits perfectly into the modern adult lifestyle.

1. It’s focused.

Every time you come on the mat, your instructor will be leading you through a focused class. Whether it’s a Kenpo class and you are learning to protect yourself versus realistic self-defense situations, or it’s a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, and you are learning techniques to takedown, control, and submit an opponent, the focus is on something other than exercise, and that is reason number one!

2. Exercise is fake.

We seek out exercise because we know we should keep our bodies healthy and strong. But exercise the way we know it didn’t always exist. Our ancestors didn’t go to a building to lift heavy objects up and down to make an isolated muscle on their body get bigger. They didn’t lace up their shoes (they may not have had any!) and go for a jog just to burn some calories. Heck, they were happy to have been able to eat those calories, why in the world would they waste them!?

Their lives just included more movement. They had to walk more, carry more, and just use their bodies more. But as a species, we do a really good job of inventing ways to make our lives easier. This has brought us to a time where the extent of movement for most people is limited to walking from bed to chair to car to chair to car to couch to bed and repeat.

Workout equipment is a modern invention. Martial arts training is the natural way to train - with just your body (we don’t even wear shoes!).

3. It provides the "why" to your exercise and nutrition habits.

Who do you frequently see on the cover of fitness magazines? Most often are professional athletes. This is partly because they are recognizable faces, and fans of these individuals want to be “that guy” so it sells magazines.

The thing to think about though is what is so different about these guys that helps them be in such AMAZING shape? There are tons of answers to that question, and one of the big ones is that they aren’t actually in as good of shape as they appear in the magazine (read more about that here). But athletes are in great shape!

One of the key reasons that they are in good shape is because they have a reason to be. Their athletic performance and career depend on them being in good shape, so that gives them the motivation necessary to make the decisions on a daily basis required to reach and maintain those health and fitness levels.

Martial arts can do that for the average individual. And what's even better, is it's an activity and lifestyle that you can continue for the rest of your life (if you train the right way). Many professional athletes fall way out of shape when their athletic career is over. Your martial arts journey doesn't ever have to be over.

You will be motivated to make better decisions in your daily life to enhance your martial arts ability and raise your potential.


Adults and children have an incredible amount to gain from training martial arts. Most people just haven’t realized yet how beneficial and enjoyable the training can be.

Do you know someone that doesn’t know yet? Share this with them and encourage them to take their first class. At PMA, the first step is a free private introductory lesson. Call us now at (865)481-8901 to set yours up, and you will never look back.

Have you stopped training martial arts for one reason or another? Guess what, it’s happened to almost every great martial artist, but they came back to the mat. Don’t wait another day - get back on the mat today! No excuses, just get up and go. Take the next step necessary to improve your life right now. Not later. I promise this article is done now, so literally right now take that step!

Demian Maia vs. Tyron Woodley - What the Commentators Left Out and Why the UFC Doesn’t Deserve Him

Demian Maia is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter of a rare breed in 2017. He is a specialist in a time when specialists are hard to find in the UFC. That means he’s an expert in one particular area of the fight - for him that area is on the ground. His forte is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which primarily focuses on controlling an opponent on the ground, and Demian is one of the best in the world at it. 

Hang with me through a long post, as I’d like to introduce you to Demain Maia, for those that don’t know much about him, and then break down some key takeaways from his fight last night for the UFC world championship.

In 2007, Demian won the ADCC World Championships, one of the most prestigious grappling tournaments and considered by many to be the toughest championship to win. That same year he made his debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and began a ten-year display of some of the best grappling ever to be shown inside the octagon.

The UFC was started by the Gracie family (the same family that created Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by adapting Japanese Jiu Jitsu to make it their own) as a way to showcase Jiu Jitsu versus other martial arts. In the early events, it was dominated by grapplers, like Royce Gracie, and the world was sent an obvious message - you have to know Jiu Jitsu.

Now, you cannot find a single fighter on the UFC roster that does not train Jiu Jitsu. With the secret being out, stand up fighters began to slowly take over the sport as they developed better and better tactics to neutralize the attacks on the ground, and keep the fight standing up, and the champions all started to have very similar styles - a potent mixture of striking and grappling.

While Demain Maia also trains stand up arts to learn all aspects of the fight, he has stated that his game plan is always to use his Jiu Jitsu. He is a specialist and looks to get the fight to the ground where he can neutralize his opponents’ strikes, control them, and hopefully finish the fight with a submission such as the Rear Naked Choke (“Mata Leao”) shown in the fight below.

While he makes a living fighting mixed martial arts, Demian distances himself from some of the more negative aspects of the sport: the onlookers who are only interested in seeing a blood bath, the unsportsmanlike and overly cocky attitudes, and the constant trash talk. Instead, he treats everyone around him with respect, including his opponents. He is confident in himself but humble. And intends NOT to hurt his opponent!

A lot of jiu-jitsu is based around the idea of not hurting people. Jiu-jitsu gives people an option to tap or submit. The intention is not to hurt or punish the opponent. They are given a choice to stop that. That’s what I try and do in my fights. I try and represent jiu-jitsu to the best of my ability and to show the philosophy of the art. I don’t like to hurt people.
— Demian Maia

The UFC is a business, and to make more money they have to entertain their fans and get people to watch the fights. Over the last couple of decades, a successful formula has developed in which fighters talk trash to build hype and excitement for their fights. Much of the respect, humility, and kindness that was traditionally taught in the martial arts is not present in the UFC culture as fighting and making money has become more important than sportsmanship and similar values.

Last night, Demian Maia challenged Tyron Woodley for the Welterweight title in the UFC. This fight was the culmination of years of hard work and a seven fight win streak (the current longest in the division) for Demian. Along the way, he took down and submitted the best fighters in his weight class but was passed up over and over again for a title shot because he is the antithesis to what the UFC is looking for as stated above. He doesn’t talk trash; he even said that he doesn’t try to hurt his opponents, and that is not the type of fighter that the UFC promotes (though I wish it were!).

In last night's fight, Tyron won via unanimous decision and based on the scorecards and the comments made by the commentators, Joe Rogan and Dominic Cruz, and the media, you would think that Tyron decisively won the fight. Before I go any further, let me say that I understand this is a business and that making exciting fights will entice fans to buy pay-per-views which creates a need for the scoring system to reward what would make an exciting fight. 

Regardless, I watch the matches as a martial arts instructor and look to take away as many lessons on fighting as possible, and I think there are some important ones here that Demian did well (as did Tyron), but the commentators only talked about Tyron’s success.

Dominick Cruz criticizing Demian’s “wrestling.”

Throughout the fight, Demian shot in to take Tyron down 21 times and wasn’t successful at getting his opponent to the ground on a single attempt. This was obviously a job well done by Woodley. He did his homework on Demian’s takedown strategy and shut it down perfectly. Using a combination of his back against the cage, well-timed sprawls, and turning and pulling his leg free anytime Demian was close on a single leg attempt, he kept the fight standing for the entire 25 minutes.

Now, while this was going on, Dominick Cruz was pointing out some things that he thought Demian could do better with his wrestling to get Tyron to the floor. Dominick has had a lot of success in the UFC, and is very knowledgeable in the fighting game, but so is Demian. My problem with Dominick’s style of commentating is that he tends to point out what he thinks one fighter is doing wrong rather than what the other fighter is doing right. I disagree with that approach because the fact that something works one way for one fighter does not necessarily mean that is the “right” way to do things, and all fighters should do it that way.

Last night, Dominick made the comment that Demian is not following through on his shot attempts and that he needs to keep driving through his opponent to finish the takedown. He said, “that’s wrestling 101.” And he’s right. BUT Demian is not a wrestler, he is a Jiu Jitsu fighter and one of the best to ever compete in the UFC. He trains wrestling to improve his takedowns and takedown defense, but if you look at the success he has had thus far, it is not by using “wrestling 101.” He doesn’t usually drive through his opponents to get them down, and one of the reasons is his body.

If you look at Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley side by side you will notice a taller, leaner Demian Maia, and a shorter, stockier, Tyron Woodley. Tyron is extremely muscular, explosive, and powerful. Woodley is a wrestler and has the body necessary to drive through his opponents and follow through on his takedowns with ease. Demain does not, at least not with ease on a strong wrestler like Woodley.

I know this because I have a similar build to Demian Maia. I wrestled in high school and had a much harder time with it than I did with Jiu Jitsu. In Jiu Jitsu, you don’t need the pure athleticism that you do in wrestling. While both grappling styles are technical, wrestling is much more built around explosiveness, and Jiu Jitsu is much more based on control.

In another martial art, Kenpo, five animals are used to showcase the different characteristics and styles that a martial artist can implement. In this fight, Tyron Woodley would be a Tiger, and Demian Maia would be a snake. Tyron has the explosive power to charge forward and quickly take out an opponent, and Demian has the strength of an anaconda to wrap his opponents up and control them (or choke them!).

So when Dominick Cruz criticizes Demian for not wrestling the way a wrestler would, I’d have to say that he’s right, but it’s because that’s not the style of fighting that works for him. The fight video above is Demian in the middle of his 7-fight win streak where you can see his Jiu Jitsu in action, and the way he typically has success getting his opponents to the ground.

Demian shoots in on his opponents, but rather than drive through to finish like a wrestler, he latches on and either drags them down to the ground with him or even pulls them on top of him. His goal is just to get them close. Then he can go to work.

Both Commentators Calling for Demian to Throw High Kicks

As the fight went on, the commentators began to try to come up with things Demian could seek to do to have more success. At one point they began calling for Demian to throw some high round kicks to the head of Woodley.

Their argument was solid in that Demian needed to try to mix things up because apparently Tyron was prepared for Demian’s game plan. They stated that since he isn’t afraid of getting taken down, there was no risk in throwing kicks and that in fact, it would be a gift if Tyron decided to catch Demian’s kick and take him down. This is true, but what they are forgetting is that while half of Demian’s gameplan was to get the fight to the ground, the other half was to control the distance on the feet and ensure that Tyron could not strike effectively.

The most important rule in the fight is to control the distance, and Demian did it beautifully in last night’s loss. He maintained a range in which Tyron could not reach him to land his notoriously powerful punches that have knocked out some of the best fighters in the division. He did this by calmly moving out of punching range or closing the distance with a takedown attempt anytime Tyron came forward with an attempt to strike.

Throwing a high round kick while trying to control the distance can be risky in that you could be caught standing on one foot and your opponent could seize that opportunity to finally close the distance and land a big punch while you are unable to retreat effectively or shoot. This is especially true with a round kick because since the kick travels around the side, it would allow the opponent to move straight forward past the kick and close the distance. Especially with Woodley’s speed and 2-inch reach advantage!

Discussing Tyron Shutting Down Demian’s Game But Not Demian Shutting Down Tyron’s

Lastly, the commentators highlighted well that Tyron was shutting down Demian’s gameplan by stopping all 21 takedown attempts and keeping the fight standing up. And since it was a unanimous decision from the judges, they apparently felt the same way.

However, I’d like to argue that Demian shut down Tyron’s game effectively as well. As stated above, he controlled the distance very well and didn’t allow Tyron to effectively strike, evidenced by the fans booing Woodley as soon as his name was announced as the winner. The fans were frustrated because of the lack of effectiveness Tyron had on his feet. He did a superb job keeping it on the feet, but then could not execute there effectively.

In the post fight press conference, Dana White was extremely critical of Tyron Woodley’s performance and much like Dominick was doing to Demian Maia as discussed above, Dana was discussing what he thought Tyron was doing wrong rather than what Demian was doing right.

Tyron did not strike effectively because anytime he began to commit to his striking, Demian would shoot in for a takedown. You could argue that while Demian didn’t manage to get the fight to the ground, his takedowns were extremely effective because of what they did. They allowed him to control the distance. 

Demian did a phenomenal job controlling the distance, Tyron did a phenomenal job at stopping the takedowns, and Tyron was able to inflict slightly more damage which is surely what secured him the win on the judge’s cards. Dana White was overly critical and said Woodley should be embarrassed, going as far to say that “it couldn’t be a worse performance.” I disagree, I thought Woodley did a great job staying composed and not falling into the trap that could have landed him on the ground with Maia, not to mention he defended 21 takedowns!

As a martial artist, I enjoy watching someone like Demian Maia fight more than anyone else. He fights efficiently, with incredible technique, and doesn’t look physically imposing. To acquire the skills you see Demian Maia using, you only need to train martial arts for many years. You don’t have to be naturally gifted with athleticism or power, but if you are, the martial arts can provide you with a fighting style that fits you too! The five animals of Kenpo that we mentioned above are the Tiger, Snake, Crane, Leopard, and Dragon. All five are very different, but all can fight effectively. 

Most importantly, I love that Demian Maia carries himself like a true martial artist with respect and humility in both victory and defeat. The UFC really doesn’t deserve him, but I’m glad he’s there so that my children still have some genuine martial artists to watch fight.

Ranks and Titles, Part 2

Before you go on, check out last week’s post if you haven’t read it already!

Ranks and Titles, Part 1

So now, let’s talk about titles. What do things like “SiFu,” “Sensei,” or “Professor” mean? How does someone get these titles?

One of the easiest ways to understand this is to look at the traditions that are used in academics at colleges and universities. First off, back to what we discussed last week - a person cannot just attend college sporadically for 20 years and end up with a degree. They must complete a course of study that has been laid out by a professional and then pass all evaluation by a higher authority before earning an actual degree.

A degree from a university is much like a black belt. It demonstrates that a certain amount of knowledge has been acquired in an individual subject, or in this case a martial art. However, a degree does not give that person the ability to teach others and give out degrees. 

But why not?

A baccalaureate degree is not the end of someone’s path in learning that particular subject. In fact, in many ways it just allows them to begin. They can now pursue a career in which they will learn a tremendous amount more through experience, or maybe they will pursue higher education within that subject area. They cannot, however, teach others. At least not yet.

According to study.com, if someone wants to be a professor at a university they should be prepared to do the following:

The minimum level of education required for college professors is a master’s degree, which can qualify an individual for work as a professor at a community college. A doctoral degree is typically required to work as a full-time, tenure-track university professor. You should be prepared to earn an undergraduate degree in your chosen subject area, go to graduate school, complete a Ph.D. program, conduct independent research, and write and publish articles in scholarly journals.

In addition, you may need to gain teaching and research experience as a graduate assistant, or gain work experience in settings like governmental, nonprofit, and the private sector related to your field of study. The key skills you want to build include critical thinking skills, communication skills, computer skills, and knowledge of classroom management.

The same is true in martial arts. 

A black belt does not stand as one's ability to teach, only as a testament to their technical accomplishment.

There is a multitude of examples of highly talented black belts who are not good teachers. In fact, some of the best martial artists on the planet are terrible teachers because the arts came naturally to them and they have difficulty getting someone that does not have natural ability to perform the techniques.

One of my good friends and teachers, Felipe Costa, is both a world champion and a great teacher. The reason for this is he lost over and over again before he ever won. He is at this time still the only person to win the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Championships in an Adult Black Belt division who did not previously win it at one of the lower ranks - he always lost. BUT, his losses gave him a greater understanding of the techniques than many other world champions and the patience and passion that a great teacher must have to pass on what they know to someone else.

Felipe Costa, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt World Champion

Felipe Costa, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt World Champion

The ability to teach is what makes a “sensei” or “sifu” (which both mean teacher, by the way -  Sensei is Japanese, and SiFu is Chinese). And just as we discussed with rank, it is important that these titles are bestowed upon someone by a higher ranking practitioner of their art. In the martial arts world especially, because there is not one governing body or accreditation system used universally, it is important that a prospective student does their research to validate someone’s background in the art they are claiming to teach, and that they have the authority to do so.

At Progressive Martial Arts Academy, we use Chinese, Japanese, and American titles to show the mixed origins of the arts that we teach. They are as follows:

Sempai (Japanese) - Senior Student - usually brown belt or senior. We bestow this title upon all of our Black Belts and instructors.

SiHing (Chinese) - Very Senior Student - usually brown belt or senior. This title is typically given to one student in the Academy and is senior to Sempai.

SiFu (Chinese) - Teacher - usually 2nd-degree black belt or senior.

SiGung (Chinese) - Teacher of Teachers - This is a very senior practitioner who is awarded this title by the system founder or head of the family - usually 7th degree or senior.

Professor - usually 8th degree or senior.

Grandmaster - 9th or 10th degree, can have more than one grandmaster.

SiJo (Chinese) - Founder of the system, or head of the family. There is only one head of the family.

That's it for this week! I hope this answered some of your questions about ranks and titles. Did I miss anything? Send me an email with any questions or topics you'd like to see covered on our blog at dcorrigan@pmaoakridge.com.

Ranks and Titles, Part 1

Possibly one of the most confusing things for new students in the martial arts are ranks and titles. What are they? What do they mean? How do you get them?

Last week a historic promotion was made in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when Grandmaster Rorion Gracie promoted his brother, Rickson Gracie, to 9th degree Red Belt and Grandmaster. Let’s talk a little bit about what that means, why it’s important, and how ranks and titles are used at Progressive Martial Arts Academy.

First, let’s discuss the belt (obi). In most martial arts, belts (just a long piece of cloth) are worn around the waist tying the top of the uniform (gi) together. It is said that originally these belts were colorless, and over time dirt and sweat would turn a belt darker and darker. When it became necessary to find a way to differentiate between instructors and students, or advanced students and beginner students, many arts decided to use colored belts. They kept the tradition of having the colors progress from white to darker, with most arts having Black Belt be the highest rank.

It is important to understand that the colors are not all the same in each art. Therefore a Blue belt in one art is not necessarily at the same place in his training, as a Blue Belt in a different art. For example at PMA, we teach two martial arts that use a belt ranking system: Kenpo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Kenpo Belt Color Order:
White
Yellow
Orange
Purple
Blue
Green
Brown
Black

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Belt Color Order:
White
Blue
Purple
Brown
Black

Notice the Blue and Purple belts are switched in Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu. I know, it can be confusing!

Wait, what about the Red Belt?

In both Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu and some other arts, the red belt is often reserved for the masters or founders of the art (usually 9th or 10th degree, and can be worn at their option). But in some other arts (Korean arts for example), the red belt is one of the regular belts on the path to Black Belt.

This past week, when Grandmaster Rickson Gracie was promoted to 9th-degree red belt, he responded with surprise and initially did not want to accept the promotion. His resistance has led to some discussion in the Jiu Jitsu community about whether he should accept the promotion or not and what the standard should be. This discussion can help us understand more about the importance of ranks and titles.

Rickson has been working on trying to get a uniform set of guidelines for all Jiu Jitsu academies to use when determining how long it should take to reach each promotion. Rickson’s stance was that by his count he had been a black belt for 40 years, and in the standardization guidelines that he has put forth, it should take 45 years to get to 9th degree. He didn’t think he should be an exception.

The argument to this, and why his brothers, among other famous Jiu Jitsu practitioners, thought that this should be overruled is they believe longevity is a major factor, but should not be the only criteria for promotion. The argument is that merit, growth, contributions, and achievements should also be considered. 

Rickson was considered to be the Gracie family champion for many years in both Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts competitions. Therefore these individuals thought the promotion was a no-brainer. While it is not my position to decide what the criteria should be, I do believe longevity should not be the only factor. There are many examples of individuals who have been Black Belts for a long time, but have not made any sort of effort to continue their personal training and growth or contribute/progress the art forward in any way.

One of the things I appreciated most from watching his promotion, however, is Rickson’s humility. While accomplishing more in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu than virtually anyone, Rickson still did not place too much importance on his rank.

I grew up in a martial arts family. Great martial artists surrounded me as a kid. And truthfully, I don’t remember ever seeing any degrees or stripes on anyone’s belts. I didn’t understand what the degrees or “dans” even were. I was raised to believe that once you earned your Black Belt, you just continued to train because you needed to, wanted to, and loved to. Not for your next promotion.

The degrees or “dans” are used to classify students, instructors, and masters that wear the Black Belt. They were traditionally used in Japanese, Okinawan, and Korean styles, but in America, many Chinese styles (kung fu) even have even adopted a similar system to that used in Japanese arts such as Karate and Jiu Jitsu.

As our family grew in size, the need for degrees and a system to classify the Black Belts also became important, and we began to emphasize our ranks and promotions after Black Belt too.

(However, at our academy, you will often still see high ranking black belts both in Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu wearing a plain Black Belt, despite holding a rank higher than that.)

In both Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu, there are 10 degrees that are awarded after Black Belt. We do not typically use the Japanese Dan rank titles and opt to just say "1st degree" rather than "shodan", but they are as follows:

1st degree - shodan
2nd degree - nidan
3rd degree - sandan
4th degree - yo(n)dan
5th degree - godan
6th degree - rokudan
7th degree - shichidan
8th degree - hachidan
9th degree - kudan
10th degree - judan

It is important to note that there are not any unified governing bodies in the martial arts as there are in academics, and other professions. Therefore, it is important that someone senior in the art to yourself gives the promotions. Self-promotion is not a reliable evaluation of one’s abilities but unfortunately, runs rampant in the martial arts community. There are a large number of high ranking black belts whose only achievements have come through self-promotion or rank. In some rare instances when a high ranking black belts' instructors or those senior to him have passed away, a group of designated individuals lower in rank together may decide to make the promotion.

Now that we understand a little bit better how ranks/belts work in the martial arts, next week let’s discuss titles and the criteria to be an instructor of the martial arts. This too is a major problem in the martial arts community, with many individuals who have never been qualified to teach martial arts, opening schools and teaching with no training or credentials to do so.