Confidence Developed Through Training

I’d like to share with everyone a message I received from one of our female students this week. Afterward, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for an important announcement!

Random fun story:

Last night I was the designated driver for a part bachelor party and part everyone get together for dinner and drinks. We parked in a random, not particularly well-lit garage. At the end of the night, the guys decided to continue the festivities and catch an uber back home.

So I was going to drive myself and another girl home. Her husband was not keen on us going home by ourselves. Honestly, I got annoyed and was trying to insist that we were fine.

Long story short, after thinking about it later, I realized that while of course, bad things could have happened, I felt capable of defending myself. I mean had the guy walked us to the car, I was more equipped to fight back than he was!

I’m not a fearful person, AT ALL! Mostly, I am just stubborn.

But last night was the first time I felt confident because of my skill set.

It was even hard to catch that I felt that way. I had to think about it for awhile because my actions were not any different than normal. I always would have resisted help because I’m just stubbornly independent and just would’ve believed that nothing was likely to happen.

In the deep parts of me, however, there is something slightly different now about how I feel about it.

These kinds of messages are some of the most fun for me to receive. I have also talked with female students after something physical actually happened, and while of course, I am incredibly proud of them for capably defending themselves, I would have much-preferred nothing ever happened.

We were talking last week about one of the differences between men and women training martial arts. Both will receive the confidence like in the story above in feeling capable of defending themselves, but it is a much more important skill set to develop for women.


For men, the majority of situations that we could find ourselves in could be avoided by not getting drunk, and keeping our egos in check. For example, I know that chances are much smaller that I’ll ever be in a street fight because I feel totally secure in walking away from some angry person that’s had a bad day (or life) and is taking it out on me.

We know that walking away from a fight is the best answer, for many reasons, but one of the most obvious is that you never know what could happen. The opponent could pull out a knife or gun for example and change the whole scenario!

For women, however, they are preyed on much more frequently than men. They can feel just as strongly about walking away from a fight and still be much more likely to be attacked than their male counterparts.

Therefore, we view empowering women with awareness, self-defense skills, strength, and confidence as one of our most important jobs.

 Female Black Belts at PMA!

Female Black Belts at PMA!

With that said, I’d like to announce our next free women’s self defense seminar on Saturday, April 28th from 3-5 PM!

As a treat for our blog readers, this is the first place we’ve announced the seminar because these fill up really quickly. You can reserve your spot now at the link below (it’s free, but a $20 deposit is required to hold the spot).

This edition of our popular women’s self-defense courses is going to focus on worst-case rape scenarios. We will spend the majority of the seminar on the ground learning how to survive and ultimately get away from the attacker.

It is open to ages 13 & up as always, but parents should keep in mind the mature content of the seminar when registering their children and we will require that a mom or female legal guardian participate in the seminar also.

Due to the content of this seminar, we will need to limit it to just 20 participants. Tell your friends, and don’t wait to sign up! Once we email this out to our database, it can sometimes fill up within a few minutes.

More info and register online:

Jiu Jitsu Thrives in the Championship Rounds

*NOTE* I ran out of time to finish the blog post I was working on, so this week's post is a recycled article I wrote that was posted on in 2010.


On Saturday, August 9, 2010, Anderson “Spider” Silva won his 12th-straight fight in the UFC Octagon (a record). After being dominated for 23 minutes, Silva pulled off the submission that is arguably Jiu-Jitsu’s signature move: the triangle choke.

The triangle choke can not only put the person to sleep but it is applied from the bottom, a position most every martial art would say is disadvantageous. You should not ever choose to take the bottom in a fight because of the damage that can be done from the top. However, the fundamental principles of Jiu-Jitsu instilled by Helio Gracie were to use Jiu-Jitsu to survive the fight and most importantly NOT LOSE! Anderson was able to do this that night…from the bottom.

It is a rare occasion that one can see this applied in mixed martial arts competition (not losing, as opposed to trying to win). The reason for this is that the nature of the sport demands that the competitors train themselves to the best and push the pace from the very beginning to try to win. There is a limited amount of time to win the fight, therefore every second counts.

However, in this fight, the five championship rounds provided fans the opportunity to witness this fundamental principle of Jiu-Jitsu: patience.

Anderson was taking a beating, but surviving the fight. Though he was continuously put on his back, Anderson neutralized many of the strikes that were being thrown by Chael. Through many of the rounds, Anderson was positioned to execute the triangle, he had wrist control on the right arm of Chael close to his legs and the left arm of Chael was extended inside the guard. In this position, it was a matter of slipping his leg over Chael’s right arm and… game over.

So why didn’t Anderson pull this off quicker? Nobody can answer this but Anderson. It seemed to me as though he was not sure if the timing was quite right. Without the proper timing, Chael could defend the triangle, possibly advance his position, or at the very least have a read on what Anderson would be trying to do. Chael Sonnen did an outstanding job of putting Anderson Silva where he does not like to be, but we had seen this finish once before versus Travis Lutter. When, he finally thought he had Chael distracted enough and the timing was right, the Spider’s legs locked down the submission.

Anderson represented Jiu-Jitsu very well that night, as did Fabricio Werdum a few weeks before when he pulled off a triangle choke finish versus Fedor Emelianenko. Helio Gracie time and time again demonstrated that he could use his Jiu-Jitsu to neutralize bigger, stronger, dominating opponents and look for a finish later in the fight. Mixed martial arts and sport Jiu-Jitsu competitions many times take away this possibility and thus change the nature of the art in most cases. Same techniques, different philosophies. This is probably necessary for the growth of the two sports, but should always be noted by spectators.

Only a few young, very conditioned athletes can perform at the highest level MMA competitions. However, people from all ages and fitness levels can train the arts that these competitions come from with a holistic approach and carry away with them such benefits as confidence, fitness, stress relief, flexibility, endurance, and overall well-being – the Martial Arts Way of Life.

Anderson had received a lot of criticism after his disappointing performance versus Demian Maia, but on this night he showed a champion’s heart and the patience of a Jiu-Jitsu black belt. After this fight, Anderson did not have a lot left to prove in the UFC. He had demonstrated his superior striking skills and backed up his black belt. From that point forward, it became hard to criticize this UFC legend again and he began to be called "the greatest of all time."

The Reality: Routines, Time, Priorities, and Your Life

We are nearing the end of February, and you are probably comfortably out of the holidays and back into the grind of your routines. 

Your New Year’s resolutions have probably been squashed. You had tons of enthusiasm a couple of months ago but maybe now you are facing REALITY. You might think to yourself:

"Those dreams and goals I had were too lofty."

"I don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish what I want to accomplish."

You can’t make it to martial arts class, there is too much going on. You can’t get your workouts in because other stuff takes priority. You can’t meditate. You can’t spend time playing with your kids. You can’t walk your dog. You can’t meal plan, grocery shop, and prepare meals either!

I talk to students all of the time that tell me when they are on the mat training they are happy and inspired to make changes in all of the other areas of their life. They might be kneeling at the end of class during meditation, soaking up the vibes of the dojo, and thinking about how inspired they are going to be to make a change starting today.

BUT THEN, they walk out the doors of the academy back into the world and get caught up in the chaos of our culture. Before you know it, work, commitments to family and friends, iPhones, traffic, Facebook, Netflix, and so many other things start to battle for our attention again, and we might never even think about those plans we had while we were kneeling on the mat.

In fact, they tell me that often they won’t slow down and think about those things again until the next time they are in the academy. It happens with their martial arts practice too, they have full intentions of going home, making some notes on what they learned, practicing a little bit or going over the techniques in their mind, but then they walk out and never think about it again until the next class. By that time it’s too late - they’ve already forgotten the technique.

*A huge tip for this one, by the way, is to sit down inside the academy with your notebook and take some notes before you leave the dojo. Then pull out your notes before the next class and go back over them - even if it is right before class! We see students that have tons of success with this formula.

I hear you. I really do. But the reality is that you have the same amount of time in your day as every other human being on the earth. And if your day truly is too full to do the things that you said you’d do at the beginning of the year, the reality is that it’s not because you don’t have enough time, it’s because your true priorities are revealing themselves.

Your priorities are what you spend your time doing. We might say that our priorities are things like our family or our health, but if we aren’t spending our time in those areas, then they aren’t our true priorities.

So what are your priorities?

If you really want to know, keep a genuine time log for a week, but don’t change anything about what you do right now. Funny thing is, you probably won’t be able to stop yourself from changing just a little bit, because when you start realizing how much time you are spending on Facebook, or watching Netflix, you almost can’t help making some changes.

Some of the things that we are spending our time on might be out of our control, but are there any areas that are in our control? And sometimes other things are genuinely just more important.

I don't want you to quit your job and train all the time. I don't want you to skip out on playing with your kids to get a workout in.

But I do want you to just stop at the store and buy a few groceries instead of waiting in the drive thru line. I do want you to put your phone down and get a workout in. 

Your health is a crucial piece to you living a long, happy, and fulfilling life. You have to make it a priority too!

The question is do we just tell ourselves that we are too busy when there is actually quite a bit of free time in there?

Try your best to just track and not change anything about what you are doing. Then add up all of the time doing the different activities and discover what your TRUE priorities are.

Now, if you want to make a change…pick one of those categories that you’d rather not be spending so much time and allot that time to doing one of the things you do want to be doing. 

You have to curate your lifestyle. You have the same 24 hours as everyone else, you just have to decide how you’re going to spend them, and then do it!

Choki Motobu - Brawler, Ruffian, Master.

**Today's blog post was written by PMA FILKENJUTSU Black Belt, Gary Hall. Today also happens to be his birthday! This was written by Sempai Gary in preparation for his Black Belt Test this time last year. This is a longer post, but a great look back in history at a prominent martial arts figure. As we have discussed in previous posts, our Kenpo lineage traces back to a man named James Mitose, and many believe Choki Motobu to have been one of Mitose's teachers.

Sempai Gary does a great job of bringing his story to us - enjoy!

- SiFu David

Brawler, ruffian, master. Choki Motobu has to be considered one of the most unconventional karateka luminaries of his very special time.


Choki Motobu was born on April 5, 1870 in Shuri, Ryukyu Kingdom (now Japan). His father Choshin was a descendant of the sixth son of the Okinawan King, Sho Shitsu, namely Prince Sho Ko, also known as Motobu Chohei (Iwai 1994). Due to this lineage, the male members of the family were permitted to retain the "CHO" character in their given names (Sells 1996).

Young Choki, as third son to Choshin, was regarded by the Okinawan culture of the day as the rough equivalent to a feudal lord in social status. It has been stated by the noted historian Kinjo Hiroshi that although Choki was fathered by Choshin, Choki's mother was not his wife, but a courtesan. Choki was thus only a half-brother to his elder Choyu, the eldest son in the family. It has been further suggested that he was constantly reminded of this fact as a child, and this may have contributed to his rather stern temperament. Choki's eldest brother Choyu, in the Okinawan tradition, was given a fine education. He was also taught the family's secret "Ti" (fighting art) tradition that was only passed on to the eldest son. Young Choki was never allowed to participate. By some accounts, however, Choki secretly looked on at his elder brother's training and picked up many rudiments of the art. (Ross, 2012)

MArtial Arts background

The background of these Okinawan fighting arts can be traced from their origins elsewhere up to and through China. With the coming of the Bronze and Iron ages, weaponry and the means for employing such weapons improved. Early Greece (approximately 700 B.C.) recorded a systemized and cultivated form of self-defense called pyrrhic and pankration which utilized kicking, punching and wrestling in combat. In India, around and about 1000 B.C., the warrior class Kshatriya was believed to have a martial art skill known as vajramushti. 

China’s introduction to the martial arts is somewhat vague, but according to historians, it is widely accepted that Boddhidharma, an Indian monk and first patriarch of Chan or Zen Buddhism traveled by foot in the sixth century across the Himalayas into China’s northern province of Hunan. There, he settled in the Songshan mountains at the Shorin Ji (Shaolin temple) and introduced to the priests in the monastery 18 exercises and 2 sutras called Ekkinkyo and Senzuikyo. With the passing of time, these exercises of Boddhidharma (called Daruma Tashi by the Japanese, also known as Tamo by the Chinese) which represented the movements of animals, both real and mythical, were furthered refined and developed into a fierce form of self-defense known as the Shaolin temple fist method (shorin-ji-kempo). Thus, the shaolin temple is believed to be the birthplace of systematized martial arts. This is especially significant to the development of Ryukyu martial arts, as generations of secrecy have created a veil of mystery around the development of Okinawan karate. It is known that this Chinese method of self-defense flourished throughout Asia and eventually found its way to Ryukyu archipelago. 

okinawan history

History has recorded that in 1392, 36 families emigrated from China to Okinawa for cultural exchange. It is known that among the 36 families were experts in the martial arts who solidified the growth and interest of Chinese Kempo in Okinawa. Since the Ryukyu people were able seafarers and traders who frequented foreign ports, wares purchased in Indonesia and Southeast Asia were brought to Okinawa and were reshipped to China, Korea and Japan. Through this extensive trading and foreign contact, the already existing methods of self-defense in Okinawa expanded. The establishment of the Sho Shin ruling dynasty in 1477 brought about a ban on weapons across Okinawa. This move to more completely control the citizens became a very important development in the refinement of both armed and unarmed combat.

The year 1609 remains one of the most significant in Okinawan history. The outcome of one of the many Japanese civil wars of that time saw the Satsuma clan of southern Kyushu defeated by the Togukawa clan. As per the customs of the day, close governmental scrutiny was maintained over the losing (Satsuma) samurai. By decree of the ruling Togukawa clan, the Satsuma was permitted to march against the Ryukyu islands. This was done to both punish Okinawa for its refusal to provide with materials needed by Japan for an earlier attack on China and to remove the Satsuma’s samurai from the Japanese homeland because of the persisting armed threat they posed. This military expedition effectively took away Okinawa’s independence, making way for complete Japanese control.

A number of prohibitive ordinances proclaimed by the Satsuma warlord,  Shimazu, addressed a complete ban on weapons by the Okinawans. Arms found in their possession were immediately confiscated and the owner severely punished. Many clashes ensued, with the Okinawans being forced to utilize any and all weapons available. These weapons often took the form of hands and feet as well as agricultural and fishing related. Several failed attempts of disunited resistance led to the various kempo and tode societies banning together to form a unified front. The result was a new fighting style that was simply called te and was translated as hand

During the early years of development, te was shrouded in secrecy due to draconian laws addressed at eradicating all semblance of any Okinawan martial art. Eventually, Japanese occupation ended with Okinawa becoming an official part of the empire. However, the centuries-long underground training and application of te did not end overnight, it was too ingrained. However, the passing down of these necessarily brutal techniques had been done without being committed to writing so they were effectively only handed down to a select few. With the occupation lifted, the martial art now known as karate (the name having been changed from te sometime in the 1800s) was now the fighting art of Okinawa. Methods or systems began to evolve and became categorized as different ryu (styles). These ryu took on the characteristics and thinking of those destined to become the masters of that particular system. By 1903 karate had become more or less standardized into these ryu, many of which are still being taught today. (McCarthy, 1987)

Motobu's Style

Against this history, Choki Motobu’s personal fighting style was primarily his own invention rather than a reflection of any established system of the time. He learned some of the Motobu family style by watching his brother practice and utilized the knowledge by bullying others into street fights so that he could test his techniques in action. He had a great deal of enthusiasm for the martial arts, but most Okinawan masters refused to teach him for fear he would certainly misuse the skills (Wilson, 2010). McCarthy seeks to debunk the entirely self-taught notion to some degree, “Although he was reputed by his detractors to have been a violent and crude street fighter, with no formal training, Motobu was a student of several of Okinawa’s most prominent karate practitioners. Many teachers found his habit of testing his fighting prowess via street fights in the tsuji (red light district) undesirable, but his noble birth may have made it hard for them to refuse him instruction (McCarthy, 2002).

In 1923, perhaps in an effort to find greener pastures, Motobu moved with his family to the city of Osaka on mainland Japan and was hired as a night watchman at a textile company. ( Iwai, 1994)     One day he attended a series of exhibition matches by a Russian (or German) boxer who had been touring Japan as part of a cultural exchange program, fighting Japanese jujitsuans and other martial artists (karate was then unknown in Japan). Motobu, though 52 years old at the time, could not resist entering the competition. He is said to have simply dodged and blocked the Russian’s punches for the first round, without countering. In the second round the Russian charged in and was abruptly stopped by a front kick to the solar plexus, then felled by a single strike to the temple (or under the nose). The Russian was knocked unconscious—some say he never fully recovered—to the great astonishment of the audience, who had never seen such techniques. (Wilson, 2010). This great victory, however, was the catalyst to what some martial artists would characterize as one of the most famous conflicts between leading exponents of their art, the two Okinawan karate masters who helped pioneer the introduction of karate into mainland Japan (Apsokardu, 2012).

motobu and funakoshi

As background, Funakoshi Gichin is the founder of what is now called Shotokan Karatedo. He is commonly referred to as the father of Japanese Karate, and rightly so. No one did more to bring karate to the forefront in Japan, and Funakoshi's efforts to get karate recognized by the Japanese Butokukai (the Japanese organization established by the government to oversee, preserve and promote martial arts in Japan) were immensely impressive. Interestingly, among his peers and teachers, Funakoshi was never considered a dominant fighter or technician. He gained his reputation as a gentleman of elegant thought; a man of philosophy, linguistic skill, political acumen, and of course karate talent.(Apsokardu, 2012) Standing in stark contrast to this elegant and culturally polished rival was the practical and pragmatic Motobu (his detractors were in the habit of referring to him by a childhood nickname “Saru” or “ the Monkey”. Which interestingly enough was a nod to his unusual agility).

When the aforementioned boxing event was reported in a 1925 issue of Kingu, (a popular national magazine),  it was Funakoshi's image, not Motobu's that appeared, although Motobu's name was correctly reported. Some have suggested the reason for this error was purposeful, the articles having been authored or information augmented by Funakoshi's students. Another explanation is that image of Motobu just was not available and the magazine just substituted an image. Whatever the reason, this event exacerbated a rivalry that was really based on professional and personal animus. The differences between Funakoshi and Motobu weren't just theoretical; they encountered and disliked one another. Motobu considered Funakoshi to be rather soft and superficial in his understanding of karate. He observed the changes Funakoshi was making (considered school karate) and decried them as moving away from the true core of Okinawan karate that he had seen and experienced.

Funakoshi on the other hand looked upon Motobu with disdain due to his constant rough behavior and his apparent lack of social grace.  Funakoshi did not believe Motobu was a proper representative of karate. Perhaps this was only natural. Funakoshi was a natural politician. He was also organized and philosophical. He had been an Okinawan educator, taught Okinawan school karate, was fluent in Japanese and its social customs, and was comfortable as a karate educator in Japanese society. Motobu, in contrast, had avoided formal schooling on Okinawa, thus never became fluent in the Japanese language or its culture. Motobu's karate was also somewhat self-developed, partly from experience in small personal classes by his karate instructors, partly self-taught in challenge matches the back streets of Okinawa. In personality, Motobu was also much more direct, outspoken and opinionated. 

What is without question, is the popularity generated by this unexpected victory propelled both Motobu and karate to a degree of fame that neither had previously known in Japan. Motobu was petitioned by several prominent individuals to begin teaching. He opened a dojo, the Daidokan, where he taught until the onset of World War II in 1941. Motobu faced considerable difficulties in his teaching, chief among those was his inability to read and speak mainland Japanese. As a result, much of his instruction was through translators, which led to the rumor that he was illiterate. This rumor has been largely discredited by the existence of samples of Motobu's handwriting. Motobu was active in the martial arts until his death on April 15, 1944 in Shuri, Japan. It is worth mentioning that his legacy is being carried on by his third son, Chosei, who at age 91 still teaches his father’s style, Motobu-Ryu.

My introduction to the life of Choki Motobu has brought me back to what FILKENJUTSU SiJo Bruce Corrigan has said on more than one occasion (I will paraphrase): “We know what we teach works, the history of martial arts is populated by some rough individuals, but as a consequence of their lifestyle these techniques are street tested”. Choki Motobu was a fascinating figure to research: practical, pragmatic and dedicated to his craft. 

Gary Hall, February 2017

 Gary Hall (1st on the left, back row) is pictured here after receiving his Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo - February 19, 2017.

Gary Hall (1st on the left, back row) is pictured here after receiving his Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo - February 19, 2017.

Works Cited

Alexander, G.W. Okinawa, Island of Karate. Lake Worth: Yamazato Publications, 1991. Print.

Apsokardu, Matthew. Funakoshi vs. Motobu. Fighting Arts. 2012. 11 Feb 2017.

Bishop, Mark. Okinawan Karate; Teachers, Styles and Secret Techniques. London: A. & C.                  Black.  1999. Print.

Iwai, Tsukuo. Koden Ryukyu Karatejutsu. Tokyo: Airyudo, 1994. Print. (Partial translation by    Joe Swift)

McCarthy, Pat. Classical Kata of Okinawan Karate. Valencia: Black Belt Communications,    1987. Print.

McCarthy, Patrick and Yuriko. Motobu Choki: Karate, My Art. International Ryukyu Karate                    Research Group. 2002. Print.

Ross, Tom. Choki Motobu: Through the myth to the man. Fighting Arts. 2012. 11 Feb 2017.

Sells, John. Unate. London: W.M. Hawley, 1995. Print 

Wilson, Wendell. Essays on the martial arts. Mineralogical Record. 2010. 11 Feb 2017.

FAQ - What is a Red Belt?

One of the purposes of this blog is to answer some of the frequently asked questions from our students, parents, and others interested in the martial arts, self-defense, or just health and fitness.

In the martial arts world, one of the things that people are often most curious about is the belt system. What do the different colors mean? How long does it take to get them? Why do various arts have different colors?

Today, let’s take a minute to clear up the Red Belt.

In some Korean martial arts, you will see a red belt used as one of the standard colors leading up to the Black Belt. That is not the red belt that we are discussing today. The red belt that everyone is curious about is the one you see the “old guys” sometimes wearing.

Different martial arts use it in different ways, but most commonly, you will see the red belt worn by someone who has reached 10th degree in their particular style. 10th degree is the highest rank achievable.

Two of the primary martial arts taught at Progressive Martial Arts Academy are Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu. Specifically FILKENJUTSU Kenpo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Kenpo has many different groups, and all have decided on different ways of using the ranks and colors. In our method of teaching Kenpo (FILKENJUTSU), we do not currently use the red belt. 

For example, the highest ranking Black Belt in our family, is my father, Bruce Corrigan. He is the only 10th degree Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU and is the founder of our method of teaching. He prefers to just wear the Black Belt with ten stripes (or even just a plain Black Belt!). He also has a Black Belt with a red border which denotes that he is the founder/head of the family.

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, at 7th degree the belt worn is red and black, at 8th degree it is red and white, and at 9th and 10th degree it is red. Check out this trailer for an upcoming documentary done by BJJ Hacks on the Red Belts - 

For more on belt ranks and instructor titles check out these posts:

Ranks and Titles, Part 1 -

Ranks and Titles, Part 2 -

The Importance of the Black Belt -

The Black Belt Problem -

I did a breakdown of our different colors for our YouTube channel a couple of years ago too - 

At the end of the day, your belt is used to keep your gi (uniform) together. We often place a little too much importance on what color it is. And at a time when many martial arts have been watered down, and promotions have been sold rather than earned, what is most important is that you are training with a good teacher who also has legitimate training.

Wait, if you're reading this you are training, right? If not, please call me NOW at (865)481-8901 or email me at and schedule a FREE private introductory lesson. 

It is free, and there is no obligation to keep training afterward. Come see for yourself why this will be the best decision you've ever made.

That's enough for now, see you on the mat!

What are some of your questions? Comment on Facebook or email them to me at and I'll try to cover them in future posts!

Get Worse to Get Better

I want you to think back to the time in your life just before you began training martial arts and visualize a scenario in which you may have been attacked at that point in your life. 

Maybe you started training when you were a teenager, and a realistic scenario might be someone giving you a hard time in high school. 

Or maybe you started training martial arts during your twenties, and a realistic scenario might be someone that’s had a little too much to drink at the bar you’re at with some friends. 

Or maybe you began training in your forties, and a realistic scenario is that someone having a bad day has a case of road rage and gets out of the car to teach you a lesson!

Now, let’s imagine how that scenario goes down and how you might have responded to the attack, assuming that you can’t get away and the attack was physical. You haven’t learned how to throw a proper punch yet or how to parry a strike. You haven’t learned how to take down an aggressive opponent or escape from the mount. You haven’t learned how to prevent being killed by a knife-wielding attacker.

I am proposing that it’s possible you would have done better defending yourself in that scenario than you would have after taking a few martial arts classes.


Stay with me for a minute. The ultimate level of mastery in the martial arts is when we are performing the techniques taught to us without thought. In the Chinese arts, this is called “mushin.” 

It is highly unlikely that you will have achieved mastery with your martial arts abilities within a few months of training. Therefore if you are in the same scenarios we thought of above, but with a little bit of martial arts training, it is highly possible that you will hesitate and think about what you should do. What techniques are you going to use? 

In that moment of hesitation and thought, we could be overrun and beat up.

You may have fared better had you been attacked before you began your martial arts training because you would not have thought about what to do. When the attacker threw a punch, you would not have thought about how to block it because no one would have ever taught you how to block it. Therefore you would have just reacted with some flinch response. And whatever that response is, would have been better than hesitating while you were trying to come up with the perfect response.

Now, of course, there is still a high percentage chance you would not have handled the situation well without any training and be beat up or worse. All I'm saying is that it's possible that you could do worse with just a little training than had you done none at all.


Over time, we will train your automatic responses to be effective and efficient responses of a martial arts master. These will eventually become your reflexes. How long?

Somewhere between 20 to 10,000 hours. 😉 More on that here -

Bruce Lee used to explain this by saying that before you begin training, a punch is just a punch. Then, you start training and realize a punch is much more than you thought! You now are thinking about how you stand when you punch, how your body moves, which part of your fist to make contact with, what to do after you punch, and more! At some point, you train long enough that a punch goes back to just being a punch. Those other details are still there, of course, but they’ve reached the point of mushin which means you aren’t thinking about them anymore - you are just throwing a punch.

This level of skill is IMPOSSIBLE in the beginning stages of training as the techniques have not been repeated enough for this to be possible. It is for this reason that at our academy students do not spar with each other until later in their training when they have had an opportunity to develop a solid foundation of proper technique, control, and reflexes - which will then be enhanced by sparring, not hampered by it.

If caught in a scenario like the ones listed above, remember that all 3 of these were scenarios involving ego and can often easily be avoided. If you are caught in a scenario that cannot be avoided, try your best not to hesitate.

The key will be to just fight. 

The Triumph of Human Intelligence Over Brute Strength

Jiu Jitsu represents the triumph of human intelligence over brute strength.”
— Helio Gracie

Helio Gracie is the founder of the famous martial art, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His son, Rorion Gracie, was my father's first teacher in Jiu Jitsu and the creator of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Helio's quote above is one of my all-time favorites, and this past Winter Break I even had it put on the wall in our academy. The thing is though, when people see this quote and the word "triumph" or are told that martial arts teach smaller people how to overcome someone bigger and stronger than them, they tend to think that "triumph" or "overcome" means "to dominate".

If you watch any footage of Helio Gracie fighting, you will see something much different.

In the following fight, notice how Helio is thrown like a rag doll a couple of times before finally securing a move that will render his opponent unconscious and win him the match. This match is narrated by Helio's son, Rorion.

You see, the primary goal of Jiu Jitsu is just to survive against your attacker. Ideally, that would end with you choking them unconscious so you can get up and get home safely, but it may be just protecting yourself until help arrives, or until such time that you can run away.

Recently, I heard of a scenario in which an untrained male (internet troll) is claiming that he could defeat female mixed martial arts fighters because of how much stronger and faster the average man is. A female MMA fighter decided to take him up on the challenge, and it was held at an academy (as such a match would probably never be sanctioned by any organization).

Take a look:


As a martial arts instructor, I have seen this exact scenario play out multiple times. We get the opportunity to see our female students, smaller male students, older students, or any of our students for that matter, train with brand new students who are just getting started.

When I was a kid, I witnessed my Mom choke out a local wrestling coach with the same choke Helio used in the above video. 

I remember at age 18 watching my wife (girlfriend at the time), control a man that outweighed her by at least 80 pounds (of muscle). He started the match telling her that he was not going to use his strength. About midway through the match, he said, "I take it back, I'm going to use my strength." It didn't help.

You see it isn't that size, strength, and speed don't matter. They certainly do, as we've touched on many times on this blog before. It's just that they CAN be overcome with training.

One of the key takeaways from the video above is how quickly the in-shape male runs out of gas. An untrained opponent is not conditioned to fighting the same way as someone trained will be. In fact, not even close.

I will always remember a student coming to train at our school here in Knoxville when I was a teenager. He was an Olympic marathon runner, sponsored by Adidas. Arguably, one of the most "in-shape" athletes on the planet. He can run 26 miles faster than almost anyone else alive. BUT, within 30 seconds to a minute of grappling, he was utterly exhausted - just like every other person that begins training in Jiu Jitsu. This alone is one of the most important reasons to train.

Solely by training martial arts on a regular basis, you are preparing yourself physically and mentally for an altercation that your opponent will be grossly underprepared for if they do not train. We will teach you to weather the storm, and when their gas runs out, your opportunity to come out on top or to get away will present itself.

The funny thing is, in the interview after the match, the man states that it went about the way he expected and that he dominated until he gassed. What he should have said is that he dominated until she dominated! While his strength and speed allowed him to win the early exchanges, it quickly deteriorated, to the point that he actually tapped out to the exhaustion. That means he gave up (defeated both physically and mentally) due to just exhaustion - not from being hit or submitted by something like a choke.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned Rorion Gracie creating the UFC. Well that was now 25 years ago. At this past weekend's UFC event (the two hundred and twentieth event), we got to witness this exact scenario play out.

In the main event for the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the world, Stipe Miocic weathered the storm of the fearsome striker, Francis Ngannou, to keep the belt and remain the UFC Heavyweight Champion. In the process, he set a new record for Heavyweight title defenses (3). The strikers are so powerful in this division, the fighters have an extremely difficult time keeping the belt for very long before someone else comes along and knocks them out.

Francis Ngannou was promoted as the most fearsome Heavyweight to ever step into the octagon with the most powerful punch ever recorded at the UFC Performance Institute. In his last fight, Ngannou knocked his opponent out with one punch - an uppercut so hard that his opponent was lifted off of his feet by the punch.

Ngannou came out swinging this fight too but had run into an opponent with a gameplan to avoid Ngannou's punches, use his wrestling and Jiu Jitsu to get the fight to the ground, and control him. Despite Ngannou's 20-pound weight advantage, he was unable to escape from underneath Miocic. He had zapped all of his energy trying to knock Miocic out and defending against the grappling positions with a lack of technique (he is still relatively new to the sport). 

The fatigue allowed Miocic to cruise to his 3rd title defense, but gave the rest of us another clean example of overcoming strength. 

Don’t Get Bent Out of Shape When Getting In Shape

“Getting in shape” is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. It’s a great goal, but, unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest resolutions to keep. We’re almost halfway through January, and many of the people who just knew 2018 was going to be their year to get fit, are already struggling - some may even have decided to give up already.

Gym memberships skyrocket at the beginning of each new year, but while gyms may see an initial spike in attendance, those numbers quickly decline. Why? Because getting in shape is hard. 

We all know why physical fitness is essential. We grew up hearing about the benefits of exercise in elementary Physical Education and learned about body fat from unforgiving middle school bullies and learned about muscles and ligaments in high school health and physiology classes. As adults, we get to hear about the endless benefits of eating green, leafy vegetables and taking brisk, daily walks from our concerned mothers or spouses or doctors. No one here is arguing that exercise and a well-balanced diet are bad things - everyone knows they are good. That’s why so many New Year’s Resolutions are some variation of a physical, mental, or nutritional improvement.

So we aren’t going to spend the next few minutes waxing on and on about why getting in shape is good for you. Instead, we are going to talk about all of the reasons it’s HARD, and look at a couple of strategies that might help you get through it.

1. Get Out of Your Own Way

From my own experiences getting back in shape after periods of inactivity, I know that the first thing I have to do is get out of my own way. For anyone that has a job or a family, taking time for yourself - even just an hour or two a week - can leave you feeling guilty and even stressed.

These feelings are totally normal but totally unnecessary. Taking time for yourself is vital for your overall well being, and as we all know from those elementary school PE classes, exercise can release stress and improve focus. Taking time for yourself can put you in the frame of mind to solve that problem you’ve been working on at your job or help you be more patient and present for your kids. How can you take care of your other responsibilities if you don’t take care of yourself?

Get out of your own way, and unabashedly take time for yourself!

2. Lose the Negative Perceptions

While you’re getting out of your own way, let go of the negative perceptions you have of yourself and the perceptions you project, accurately or inaccurately, on the people around you.

Being in shape should increase your confidence, but I’ve been merrily on my way to a healthy body and mind and found myself stuffed into workout clothes that I think make me look like a busted can of biscuits. Self-consciousness happens to the best of us, but we have to let those negative thoughts go.

Everyone thinks they look weird when they run. No one’s stomach stays perfectly flat when they’re sitting down. Most people have a smidgen of fat on their arms that they think flaps in the breeze when they wave. I have wheezing asthma that makes me honk like a goose whenever I do aerobic exercise. Everyone has insecurities, don’t let them hold you back from everything you are capable of and everything you can be.

3. Stay in Your Own Lane

And while you’re on the road to getting in shape, STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE.

In the past, I’ve fallen into the habit of comparing myself to the people training around me whom I’m sure are thinner/stronger/faster/more graceful than I’ll ever be. Focus on your own accomplishments and strengths instead of dwelling on what others can do. Spend your time challenging yourself and learning what your body is capable of instead of being envious of what you see others doing.

If you keep comparing yourself to others, you’ll never feel like you’re good enough. You might start thinking, “what’s the point?”, and give up when you’re really only just getting started. There will always be someone who is better at something than you are. You can’t be the best at everything; you can only do your best in everything. Let go of your spirit of comparing. 

4. It's Uncomfortable

Let me tackle the most obvious hardship of getting in shape last: It’s uncomfortable - even painful at times. Getting in shape is no joke. Your muscles will be screaming one minute and then feel like jelly the next. Your chest will get tight because you can’t breathe and you’ll feel like your heart’s about to pop, but somehow you keep breathing (or wheezing in my case) and your heart keeps beating, and eventually you finish that first jog. The first run turns into a second run that turns into a weekly run and then a daily run and before you know it you have run farther and faster than you ever thought possible.

In the beginning stages of getting in shape, everything can feel overwhelming or difficult. It’s achieving that end goal that feels so good: fitting into that old pair of jeans, seeing your cholesterol or blood pressure go down, passing that stress test, or just having more energy to spend on your family or hobbies.

So how do we get from exhaustion to exhilaration in one piece?

Here are a few things that worked for me:

1. Don’t go it alone.

Find an accountability partner. It can be a friend, family member, or a training partner. It can be as simple as discussing your goals together or strategizing for how you can help each other get there.

My training partners started dragging me on a weekly run with them after I came back from an absence. The farthest I had run before these weekly meets was 1.5 miles - and I thought it was AWFUL. Before I knew it, I was running 3…4…5…miles with them, and the next thing I knew, we had completed a half-marathon together. It was one of the most rewarding experiences, and it will be a favorite accomplishment of mine (though I hope to never do it again…ever) forever. I would never have met my goals without their encouragement and, some days, them physically dragging me on my run to keep me accountable.

 Me and my training partners the morning of our 1/2 marathon!

Me and my training partners the morning of our 1/2 marathon!

2. Find something you love to do.

I’m a martial artist, and I love it. My classes provide an excellent full body workout, and the supplemental workouts I do outside of class are to improve my skills as a martial artist (and also because I really like cake). I’ve found something that I love to do that keeps me fit and motivated. If you are looking to get in shape, discover that for yourself: dancing, running, rowing - there are endless opportunities. Fitness doesn’t have to be limited to a gym.

 Yeah, that's me. Scary, right?

Yeah, that's me. Scary, right?

3. Keep Going

Finally, have the mettle to keep going. When the path to your goals gets uncomfortable, don’t give up. That goal is right in front of you if you only push through.

Remember, you’ve come too far, to only come this far. You can do it; I believe in you!

2017 PMA Year in Review

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorites of the entire year. After getting extra time with family for Christmas, we have a week to look back on the past year and plan for the year ahead.

This year was full of many good memories, but I’ll take just a minute to highlight some of my standouts and then the video can do a pretty good job with the rest!

February 2017 - Gary Hall and Linda Davis were promoted to Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo!

April 2017 - We took our Youth Competition Team to NAGA Atlanta, and they earned 6th place at their first significant tournament!

May 2017 - Brittany Corrigan and Kristie Fox finished their instructor training program/test, and became official PMA instructors!

May 2017 - Brittany, Charlie, and I had the opportunity to spend 11 days in Brazil, with our close friends Felipe and Ana, and their son Bento. This trip will forever be one of our greatest adventures and favorite memories. We can’t thank Felipe enough for bringing us to his home and showing us his city.

July 2017 - PMA students took a field trip over to my Dad's dojo in Knoxville to surprise him during his class for his birthday!

September 2017 - My brother, Nick, and his wife, Kylie, welcomed their first child, RJ Corrigan, into the world!

October 2017 - PMA’s Youth Competition Team brought home 2nd place at the NAGA Tennessee Grappling Championship out of 38 teams!

November 2017 - Sempai Madelyn Fowler competed in her first tournament and brought home the silver medal at the NAGA North Carolina Grappling Championships in her No-Gi division, and the gold medal in her gi division!

I liked competing when I was a child and young adult, but it never became a love of mine. However, coaching Jiu Jitsu has genuinely become one of my favorite aspects of my life. This year, we have had some incredible performances from our students (in both wins and losses), and I couldn’t be more proud!

December 2017 - Progressive Martial Arts Academy turned 15 years old! And December couldn't have been a better month. Brittany Corrigan and Kristie Fox were promoted to Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo! And Austin and Eli Fox were promoted to Junior Black Belt, along with many other students earning their next rank this month. We closed out the year with a wonderful holliday party, and some fun last classes of the year. For the kids class, we had 60 kids out on the mat together! 

Here are our Top 10 songs played from 2017 at PMA (dominated by Imagine Dragons this year!):

1. Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man
2. Believer by Imagine Dragons    
3. Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons
4. Thunder by Imagine Dragons    
5. Shape of You by Ed Sheeran
6. Rise Up by Imagine Dragons
7. Stay by Zedd & Alessia Cara
8. Something Just Like This by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
9. Hard Times by Paramore
10. Shine on Me by Dan Auerbach

You can listen to the playlist while working out this week and getting ready for the new year here:

We had a crew of senior students and instructors in over the holiday break helping us update the dojo a little bit, so get excited about a new look when you come in next week! Thank you so, so much to the people that helped us out with that - you know who you are! :-)

We expect incredible things out of 2018, and can’t wait to share it on the mat with all of you.

Now, enjoy this video to wrap up 2017.

Happy New Year!

David Corrigan
Owner/Chief Instructor
Progressive Martial Arts Academy

The Slow-Moving Plague

Consider some of the following information from the CDC:

More than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults have obesity.

Over 70% of U.S. adults over the age of 20 are overweight.

Approximately 84 million American adults—more than 1 out of 3—have prediabetes. Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Of those with prediabetes, 90% don’t know they have it. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

The good news is that if you are prediabetic, or are overweight or obese, we know what lifestyle changes need to be made to prevent, delay, or even reverse these conditions.

The bad news is that SO DO YOU. The problem we are facing is not a lack of information. In fact, you could argue that we have way too much information. The amount of information practically freezes us. And it changes on a daily basis.

Carbs are good…no, carbs are bad.

Fat is good…no, fat is bad.

You should do more cardio…no, you should do more strength training.

This diet is the best…no, THIS diet is the best.

These conflicting statements that are thrown in our faces all the time confuse us, and freeze us in our tracks. We aren’t sure if we have the PERFECT diet or exercise plan, and so we just stay put and continue deeper and deeper into this hole.

That is until something we see on Facebook, or someone tells us about something that convinces us we have found the perfect plan. And we follow it for a little while, but that idea was such a significant overhaul of our current lifestyle that we started to slip a little.

We gave into some cravings.

We skipped a workout.

We just don’t feel like this plan is the one for us. 

But Monday is coming right around the corner, so let’s try again next week!

And we make it a couple of days into the new week before inevitably slipping again. Before you know it, this cycle brings us back to where we were before the plan, and we give it up. Only to fall out of shape even worse than we were before the miracle plan tried to save us.

But it’s okay because a NEW YEAR is coming up!!!

On this magical day, January 1, everything will change. I will overhaul my life and finally be the person I want to be. Even though nothing makes this day any different than any other day, the difference is now the New Year motivates me.

Well, we all know how that works too, don’t we? Eventually motivation from the new year will be gone.

So, let’s not fool ourselves this year.

Try something a little different this year: I want you to take your time and write out 26 habits that you think are the most important for you to change your life. Just to get you started, think of some things like:

Eat slowly and enjoy your food.

Stop eating before you are stuffed.

Exercise daily, but make it something you love.

Eat a few servings of vegetables every day.

Eat REAL food.

Take 5 minutes to meditate every day.

And so on and so forth. With all of the information you have available to you, what habits would you pick? Now, lay them out in a logical sequence, where one habit builds into the next one whenever possible. What order would it make the most sense to learn all of these habits?

Now plot them on your calendar, and spend 2 weeks working on each one for the next 52 weeks (year), and tell me where you land this time next year.

Our problem is not a lack of information, it is understanding how to make change happen. One habit at a time is the way to do it!

This is the way Precision Nutrition (PN) has built their nutrition and lifestyle coaching program. We teach our students that martial arts training is a "Way of Life," and that means you should integrate things like healthy lifestyle habits, nutrition, yoga, meditation, fitness, etc. into your life. The Precision Nutrition platform has powered our ability to offer nutrition and lifestyle coaching to our students, and we couldn't be happier with it. 

We can only open up a few spots in the program at a time because we just don't have enough time to coach a ton of people. We'd love for all of our adult students at Progressive Martial Arts Academy to go through this program because it lines up so beautifully with the "Martial Arts Way of Life." It is the missing link we were looking for for so many years. Unfortunately, we cannot take everyone on at the same time.

We will be accepting a small group of men and women that wish to embark on a year-long program to build the habits and skills necessary to reach and then maintain the healthiest version of themselves. This program with either myself or PMA instructor and certified PN coach, Kristie Fox, as your coach will begin Monday, January 1, 2018.

If you are interested, please email me at to reserve a spot and get more information.

Changing your nutrition and lifestyle doesn't have to be complicated, boring, or ineffective. If you are sick of trying new diets and exercise programs year in and year out, this is a 1-year program that will help you slowly change your habits to live the healthy lifestyle that you want.

Through PN's ProCoach software, we will provide the nutrition and lifestyle portion of coaching online with daily habits, lessons, and assignments. We’ll get to see your progress, provide feedback on a regular basis to your assignments and progress, and answer any questions you may have along the way. This program can be done 100% online! So wherever you are in the world, don't hesitate to email me.

Space is extremely limited, so please do not wait to email -

I recently heard someone on a podcast I was listening to refer to what’s happening with health in this country as a “slow-moving plague.” I view this element of what we do at Progressive Martial Arts Academy as maybe one of the most important. We’ve always been able to make a large impact on people’s lives through martial arts training, and we are so excited to now be able to help with nutrition and lifestyle coaching too.

I hope you have a great 2018! Even if you don’t go through our coaching program, I hope you will take the advice above and give it a shot. Let me know how it works out. Remember, one habit at a time!