jiu jitsu

It Really Is a Way of Life

*On September 13-15, 5 PMA students tested for and earned their Black Belts in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Follow along over the next few weeks, as we share some blog posts that were written by PMA’s newest Black Belts during their preparation for Black Belt. First up is Iain Willborn. Iain is our academy’s first person to begin training as a child (Iain started at 11), earn their Junior Black Belt, and then take the 3-day test to earn their full Black Belt upon turning 18. Hopefully the first of many! Enjoy!


One may observe the phrase “martial arts is a way of life” and think “No, martial arts is nothing more than a hobby, through and through,” and to be honest, when I was younger, I would have fallen into the group of doubters.

Can you find Iain in this 2013 photo? He is the 5th from the right in the back row!

Can you find Iain in this 2013 photo? He is the 5th from the right in the back row!

I was one of the people that do not see martial arts for anything more than basic self-defense and exercise. But when you look deeper, martial arts, in my case, FILKENJUTSU, has a plethora of knowledge and lessons hiding just under the surface. Respect for authority is just one. The humbling experience you receive on a class to class basis through the teachers and the curriculum is another. As you are told often, “a martial artist’s journey is never done,” and indeed there is always more to learn, whether physically or mentally. The self-control, the ability to be a gracious winner and an even better loser, and then the true feeling of comradery between one another are just snippets of what martial arts, especially taught through PMA, have opened my mind to over the years.

I never wanted to train in martial arts in the first place. I was lovingly forced into it by my parents, who hoped it would not only give me some well-needed exercise, but also aid in my anger management issues. And I thank God that they did because it’s been one of the primary means that He has used in my life to this day.

As a lazy, angry child, I saw absolutely nothing good about PMA, other than it was something cool to tell friends about. But looking back at that little boy now, I can see that PMA is exactly what I needed, and exactly what God wanted for me. The investment that my parents made in classes for me over the years has been priceless in my life. My journey through Progressive Martial Arts has ranged years, and I’ve had many different attitudes towards it during that period. I’ve gone from not wanting to do it, to only doing it for fun, to doing it for fitness. But all these have been leading me to where I have landed and settled over this past year, wanting to do martial arts for life, wanting to learn more, and continuing to improve my skills.

August 2015 - PMA's first group of Junior Black Belts!

August 2015 - PMA's first group of Junior Black Belts!

For almost the entirety of my martial arts life thus far, I have been more of a punch and kick oriented fighter. My newest passion, however, is the entirely different fight that happens on the ground, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

When I first started martial arts, I did private classes in which I learned some basic Jiu Jitsu. As I continued to train, however, I eventually started doing group classes in the juniors, then to young adults, then finally to where I am today, the adult Kempo class. In the juniors and young adults, Jiu Jitsu was taught very minimally. So, for years I was in a stagnant state concerning groundwork. I knew the basic positions, and basic movements, but I never practiced them, and I never thought of them very much honestly. But just within the little time that I’ve been training Jiu Jitsu seriously, about a month and a half, I’ve learned just how wrong my outlook was.

My mentality concerning my lack of Jiu Jitsu training through the years was as simple as “I won’t ever let someone take me down, so I don’t need to know Jiu Jitsu,” which is crazy! One must observe that I drastically overestimated one thing, and that was my skill as a fighter. Over the two years that I have been in the adult’s class, my lack of skill in controlling a fight has been demonstrated to me time and time again, and that is just in a civil sparring match! I now realize that I will never be quick enough, or smart enough to guarantee that I won’t be taken to the ground during an altercation. Like SiFu David regularly reminds us, “Action is faster than reaction”. So, moving forward now, what is my goal for Jiu Jitsu?

My goal for Jiu Jitsu, as is my goal for any aspect of a fight, is to learn how to survive. I simply seek to gain the ability to last through the fight, whether on my feet or on the ground. But another more exact point of interest for me is submissions. The art of controlling your opponent, whether to injure or to simply stop them from injuring you has fascinated me. As a person that trained for years thinking about fast, powerful, and rigid strikes to control an opponent, seeing the fluid art of chokes, key locks, and triangle chokes (just to name a few) has opened my eyes to a side of the fight game and martial arts that has been out of my reach for years. I am looking forward to learning and honing these skills moving forward in my martial arts life, and becoming a more well-rounded martial artist.

August 2015 - Iain’s Junior Black Belt Test with his classmates and instructors.

August 2015 - Iain’s Junior Black Belt Test with his classmates and instructors.

The anger that plagued my younger years is still a fault I continue to battle even now, but it is not the destructive hellfire as before. It is now in the form of constructive discontent. Instead of firing my failures, insecurities, and sadness out at the poor souls around me, or destroying myself mentally, I use it to fuel my desire to always be improving, always learning, and always helping others. My hope and dream moving forward is to be a part of the family at PMA, and to be there to support and uplift others as they are embarking on their own journeys.

December 2016 - Iain tested for his first degree on his Junior Black Belt, alongside Monty Blalock and Matt Thomas. At PMA, when a child reaches Brown Belt but is not old enough to take the Black Belt test yet, we test them for a “Junior Black Belt,” which is the belt you see in this photo with the white stripe. Then, they can earn degrees (the red stripes) on their Junior Black Belt, until they turn 18 and are selected to take the test for their full Black Belt.

December 2016 - Iain tested for his first degree on his Junior Black Belt, alongside Monty Blalock and Matt Thomas. At PMA, when a child reaches Brown Belt but is not old enough to take the Black Belt test yet, we test them for a “Junior Black Belt,” which is the belt you see in this photo with the white stripe. Then, they can earn degrees (the red stripes) on their Junior Black Belt, until they turn 18 and are selected to take the test for their full Black Belt.

I will move forward in the race that is this life to learn how to handle myself with honor and dignity, so that one day, I can master the avoidance of battle and strive for peace. The work ethic that I have learned from my parents, my church, and PMA has enriched every aspect of my life. Those three things have sculpted who I am, and who I’m striving to be. PMA is one of the building blocks that is there to support the growth of who I am, and I will continue to build on those foundations for the rest of my life.

Iain amongst his FILKENJUTSU Black Belt family!

Iain amongst his FILKENJUTSU Black Belt family!

I couldn’t be more thankful for the people that have aided me along this journey, especially in the early years, like SiFu David and SiHing Terry. They have been there to lift me up, but also correct me when I was wrong. Their commitment to me, and my fellow students, has left an unperishable imprint on who I am and how I carry myself today. I’m never going to stop pursuing my callings and aspirations, even when faced with failure and hardship.

To fall seven, to rise eight. Life begins now.
— Bodhidharma (Damo)

Tournament Recap - NAGA Atlanta 2018

Our kids had a great weekend in Atlanta! There were so many hard fought battles and great memories made. With each tournament, I am more and more impressed with their effort, skill, and most importantly - character. I couldn’t be more proud as their teacher!

We posted videos and pictures all of last week on our social media pages, so I thought I’d gather them all up here in one place for you in case you missed some!


Connor (in grey rash guard) slaps on a perfect Anaconda choke in his first match of the day in the Advanced Kids division! He went on to use the same choke with the same result in the finals!


Connor gets his second anaconda choke of the day. I haven’t seen a kid go to sleep in a tournament before, so having it happen twice in the same tournament was pretty crazy. For those concerned, both kids were okay!


6 month’s ago, Grace had to face a big challenge when she stepped up to fight in a boy’s division at her very first tournament. She lost her matches at that tournament, but came back with tremendous experience to build off of - today she picked up two submissions and earned first place in her division!

The wins and medals aren’t why we do this. These competitions for kids help them learn so much about themselves and how to find the spirit and confidence to persevere through such difficult challenges. We had many great performances this weekend - in both wins and losses. And Grace was one of our stand outs!


Look out because here she comes.

This was a big tournament for Maggie. She has improved so much in the last few months, but primarily in one area - starting off strong and bringing the fight to her opponent for the full match.

She demonstrates tremendous skill, heart, and effort in this clip (including a textbook guillotine escape), but what you don’t see are the hours of hard practices she put in to get there. She made huge strides in class with her training partners, and decided she was going to fight differently this tournament.

This is Maggie!

ps - she loved training to this song so we had to throw that in the video.


Ty had some of the toughest matches of the day, and was our vote for the MVP this tournament. He won with mental toughness and good position. I’ll share a couple of videos so you can see the intensity that his opponent’s brought, but has one of our parent coaches said - Ty has ice water in his veins.

In this match he has to overcome a tight Kimura submission, fight back to tie it up before time runs out, and then win in overtime. Please excuse the camera being off occasionally, we were a little preoccupied with the match!

His mental fortitude was they key element, and his physical preparation in the months prior to this are what seals the deal. All of those early Saturday morning practices doing their job…


Here’s another quick one! Grace gets her second submission of the day with a back take from the closed guard and a Mata Leao (Rear Naked Choke).


Alex demonstrated excellent top control and continues to showcase more control and confidence with every tournament. Our team is full of kids that are extremely coachable. We’ve built a great relationship between our coaches and kids, and you can see it in how well they receive guidance and make adjustments mid-match.

This relationship is built on respect, openness, and trust.


Aiden worked really hard on his strategy and position over the last few months and executed it so well in this match.

Watching the whole team takes such big leaps forward from tournament to tournament is an amazing process to be a part of.


Here's a longer highlight of PMA's whole team - we have a little bit of each kid in this video. Our team took 21 competitors to this tournament, with 1 teammate that missed out this time (Mack), as he was in Houston competing with his robotics team at the world championship!

There is footage from both wins and losses in this video. Our kids know that the coaches are just as happy with a win or a loss as long as we get two things - they have fun and give us a perfect effort. And in that regard, we were 21 for 21 this trip.

These kids will remember how tired they were for a few weeks, they’ll remember their matches for a few months, but they will keep the memories of their time together with their team forever!

The Competition Team came back and celebrated last week, and they are right back on the mats training! A little tired, a little sore, but ready to go.

And we had them pose for one last picture with their medals and swords from another incredible trip!

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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 GracieMag.com in 2010.

Link: http://www.graciemag.com/en/2010/08/09/jiu-jitsu-thrives-in-the-championship-rounds/

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 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. 

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: 

 https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlist/pmas-top-10-songs-of-2017/pl.u-LRyv4IBkmEE

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

Grafting

*The next two blog posts will be longer posts featuring articles written by our two most recent Black Belts, Kristie Fox and Brittany Corrigan, in preparation for their Black Belt Test. This week we are featuring Kristie's article, which takes a unique look at the concept of "grafting." It was fun to read her perspective on this as a scientist. Come back next week for a great post from Brittany on the avoidance of battle.


Grafting is a horticultural technique used to join parts from two or more plants so that they appear to grow as a single plant (Bilderback, NC State).  These techniques are used to change varieties, repair damaged plants, increase the growth rate of seedlings, and get double benefits from combined strong varieties.  As horticulturalists combine trees of complimentary traits to breed a more resilient or fruitful variety of tree, martial artists have combined the best traits of one martial art with another to breed not only a long lineage of influence and wisdom but also the benefit of combining the best of numerous cultures and people into a single system of self-defense. 

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 I’ll never forget one of my very first classes with SiJo Bruce – it was the first time I had heard the word “grafting” used in connection with the martial arts.  We were taking one of the easier punch defense combinations and adding it to the end of a club defense.  Now I had been fairly proud of my combination in the past, and I had learned the club defense reasonably well.  However, when I attempted to “graft” the techniques together, it was a disaster.  I couldn’t get the motion down and I kept mixing the order of the techniques.  It was painful.  The idea was to take the lessons from each of the techniques together and make them a stronger, more robust form of self-defense.  That was four years ago.  I didn’t realize at the time that this was just the beginning of the application of grafting into my own martial arts experience.  As I began to learn techniques from some of the different arts in the FILKENJUTSU method, including Filipino Kali, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Kenpo with deep Asian roots, I was inspired by the international and historical significance of all the different arts – all in their own way contributing to the whole, complex idea of self-defense. I’m a bit better at grafting now, and I understand better what Bruce Lee meant by “A so-called martial artist is the result of three thousand years of propaganda and conditioning.”  

Kristie with some of her training partners after testing for Purple Belt in Kenpo. Purple belt is a big step in a student's Kenpo journey as it is the first intermediate rank, and the student switches to a black uniform.

Kristie with some of her training partners after testing for Purple Belt in Kenpo. Purple belt is a big step in a student's Kenpo journey as it is the first intermediate rank, and the student switches to a black uniform.

The martial arts have grown out of many years of challenging oneself, fighting, and training individuals throughout history.  While some of the arts have died out from lack of usefulness or changing cultural conditions, each has left its mark on the martial arts that we practice today.  The application, adjustment, and improvement of each art into a new culture or time period has developed into a grafted system stronger than any of the original arts in their independent state.  As the martial arts developed and traversed many Asian countries into the Hawaiian Islands, throughout Brazil, and finally across mainland United States, each movement configured a more complete and thorough system, improving each former technique in its weaknesses and maintaining and developing its strengths.  The result is a method like FILKENJUTSU that draws on these grafted ideas and produces a more robust living system that continues to grow and improve in the same manner as its ancestors.

Kristie's 5 children all train martial arts too! Photo credit to Julio Culiat.

Kristie's 5 children all train martial arts too! Photo credit to Julio Culiat.

While we are not completely clear on all the details, it seems that somewhere between the 5th and 6th century BC, Daruma, a Buddhist monk, prince, and warrior from India who traveled to a Shaolin temple in China discovered the monks had become physically weak.  He taught them simple movements that developed into what we now know as the martial arts.  Later, those traditions, which became the roots of the Kenpo system of martial arts, migrated to Japan most likely through the Buddhist temples.  Of course, our written records from this time are sparse and the details are unclear, but the tradition of training with movement for physical strength is certain.  The Kenpo practices developed and were passed down within families for many generations.

Kristie with friends and training partners, Brittany Corrigan and Linda Davis before running the Secret City Half Marathon.

Kristie with friends and training partners, Brittany Corrigan and Linda Davis before running the Secret City Half Marathon.

There are many other roots that we see develop in these Asian countries.  In Japan for another 1000 years, there was much upheaval and turmoil. Power struggles amongst wealthy landowners were common place.  The samurai developed as warriors that fought for local lords to rule a particular area (Usborne 271).  These were highly trained individuals with a strong code of honor.  Jiu-Jitsu was the art developed by the Samurai.  They were usually armored and on horseback.  Jiu-Jitsu developed as a way to fight when they found themselves on the ground and without a weapon and it evolved to include throwing, joint-locks and strangles due to the restricted mobility and agility from the armor.   As Japan opened its borders to Westernization in the mid to late 1800s, the samurai tradition fell out of favor.  Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), an educated man and a practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu, recognized the usefulness and importance of Jiu-Jitsu, and took many of the same ideas and techniques but developed a new name –Judo meaning the gentle way and adjusted the art so that it could be practiced both safely and realistically and would be more accepted by a people ready for the samurai traditions to fall by the wayside..  It was the official art used by law enforcement in the late 1800s, and continues to be popular to this day.  As each of these arts in China and Japan grew and spread throughout the country, it retained the best traits of the tradition from which it came while grafting in new and more progressive ideas as it developed with the people and culture of its time. 

Kristie with her teacher, David Corrigan, after being promoted to Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Kristie with her teacher, David Corrigan, after being promoted to Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Another significant development emerged as Kenpo spread across the Pacific Ocean and was introduced to the island of Hawaii.   James Mitose was born in Hawaii in 1916 but was sent to Japan at an early age for his formal education at the family temple.  The martial art and religious system his family practiced had been taught only to family members in secrecy due to the upheaval in Japan for the last several hundred years.  It was called Kosho Shorei Ryu – The Old Pine Tree School.  He returned to Hawaii and started teaching his art in Hawaii.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Mitose recognized the need for a shift in precious family traditions.  He opened a school so that all races could be instructed in his family’s art.  This was a significant shift in martial arts training which had historically tended to stay within family groups (specifically, particular castes of society).  It began to take on a distinctly American flair.  The idea that all races could benefit from this type of training was a “melting pot” influence brought to the forefront by Mitose’s experience and struggle with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.  This particular “graft” of new ideas into old ones became the major branch from which most Kenpo traditions in the West have stemmed.  

61 hours into her Black Belt test, over 40 years old, and mom of 5.

61 hours into her Black Belt test, over 40 years old, and mom of 5.

Around the same time, Maeda, a Japanese practitioner of Judo, migrated to Brazil.  He was a direct student of Jigoro Kano and skilled in the art of Jiu Jitsu & Judo.  He was assisted by a local politician, Gastao Gracie.  In thanks, Maeda agreed to teach his son the art of Jiu Jitsu.  Subsequently, the Gracie family opened the first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school in 1925.  They continued to develop the style with no-rules fighting contests both in the academy and on the streets.  Similar to the Hawaiian neighborhoods, Brazil was known for its rough and rowdy neighborhoods and gangs.  This “testing” of their style of self-defense helped to draw back in some of the more ancient but very practical and tangible techniques of self-defense.  Nonetheless, the training maintained its “sustainable” status using techniques that could be continually practiced throughout the lifetime of the student without great injury. Once again, the political and cultural landscape helped to determine the growth and direction of a practical and useful method of self-defense as martial artists grafted some old ideas back into a more developed and progressive system.

Kristie, with her husband, Sam, and their 5 children - Austin, Eli, Maggie, Grady, and Mollie. The whole family trains at PMA!

Kristie, with her husband, Sam, and their 5 children - Austin, Eli, Maggie, Grady, and Mollie. The whole family trains at PMA!

The Gracie family and Mitose’s students were trained and tested in Brazil and Hawaii, respectively and continued to develop their arts.  Eventually both arts moved across mainland United States.  Mitose’s student, William Chow, trained Adriano Emperado, who together with the Black Belt Society, developed the system of Kajukenbo – which recognized the need to combine all the greatest aspects of different martial arts including Karate, Judo & Jiu Jitsu, Kenpo, and Kung Fu.  These martial artists gathered together in Hawaii and trained one another. They shared methods that combined hard powerful techniques with throwing, locks and sweeps, fluid hand motions, flexibility, agility, and evasions.  This major graft once again had a distinctly American ideal in recognizing the gifts and talents of different histories, the weaknesses of each system, and  combining them to create an even more efficient and successful system of self-defense (Walton, Kajukenbo History).  Students of the Kajukenbo system eventually moved to the United States and the art that developed from so many various arts spread across the U.S.  Additionally, the Gracie family migrated to the U.S. and created the Ultimate Fighting Championship which tested their Jiu Jitsu style against any other system of self-defense.  While for a time Jiu Jitsu was a completely dominant system in these fights, over time it created a new style of student who must learn numerous styles of martial arts in order to become a complete competitor.  As these arts migrated across the US, many wise students continued to recognize the need to draw on the various styles of martial arts and sought training under various instructors. The grafting of techniques from one art to another continued.

Female FILKENJUTSU Black Belts!

Female FILKENJUTSU Black Belts!

The story of the martial arts throughout history is a great parallel to the history of our people.  There were many creative developments and inventions, as well as numerous failings and abuses throughout history.  None of the fathers of any of these arts were without mistakes or shortcomings.  Each story is laden with missteps, pride, and arrogance.  Yet the strength of the story of the self-defense system we use today lies not in the perfection of a single person or system, but in the idea that we can draw on the experience and history of those before us, and by applying their wisdom and adding our own, we can continue to grow into a life-giving system that’s strength is far beyond what one people or system could create on their own.  It is quintessentially American.  Our forefathers, in the creation of our own system of government, took the ideas of many different governments such as England, France, and even the native Iroquois people, to come together and create an even stronger system of government.  Grafting is not seamless.  John Bunyan said it this way, “Where there is grafting there will always be a cutting, the graft must be let in with a wound; to stick it onto the outside or to tie it on with a string would be of no use. Heart must be set to heart and back to back or there will be no sap from root to branch.”  John 15 in the Bible says, “No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine.” (New International Version, John 15:4). There have been numerous breaks in relationships resulting in irreparable divides as students parted ways with their instructors.  Nonetheless, we find that those minor injuries where the grafting actually occurred and NOT the severing of a branch – those are the places that become the strongest and offer the most life to the tree of modern self-defense.

Kristie on the day she received her Black Belt, with her FILKENJUTSU Black Belt brothers and sisters.

Kristie on the day she received her Black Belt, with her FILKENJUTSU Black Belt brothers and sisters.

The FILKENJUTSU method is a great example of the power and elegance of grafting.  By patiently pursuing various martial arts and their histories, SiJo Bruce Corrigan has created an extremely strong and deeply rooted system by grafting well-tested systems into a complete system that will fit any person regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.  The opportunity to learn both the system and history of FILKENJUTSU will not only grow a student in the methods of self-defense but will also introduce them to the martial arts way of life that seeks out tried and true techniques and grafts them into their own lifestyle.  Bruce Lee said, “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” As a student of FILKENJUTSU, I recognize that I must remain patiently attached to the tree to receive the benefits, knowledge, and experience of what is useful.  Launching to seed and going off on my own would only lead to cutting myself off from the resources that I gain from an extensive root system.  I hope that we as martial artists are more interested in the root of martial arts than the different decorative branches, flowers or leaves.  It is futile to argue as to which single leaf, branch design, or attractive flower you like. When you understand the root, you understand all that contributes to the growth of the art and the individual.

Works Cited

Bilderback, Ted, et al. “Grafting and Budding Nursery Crop Plants.” NC State Extensions Publications, NC State, 30 June 2014, content.ces.ncsu.edu/grafting-and-budding-nursery-crop-plants.

Bingham, Jane, et al. The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History. EDC Publishing, 2009.

Birch, Jane, et al. The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. Kingfisher, 2004.

Cho, David LoPriore Sensei Kai. “A History of Kosho Shorei Ryu.” Oldpinetree.com Portal - Home, Kosho Shorei Shin Kai, www.oldpinetree.com/kssk/History-of-KSR.html.

Gregoriades, Nic. “A Brief History of Jiu-Jitsu.” Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood - Grappling & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Videos and Techniques, Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood, www.jiujitsubrotherhood.com/starting-brazilian-jiu-jitsu/a-brief-history-of-jiu-jitsu/.

Lee, Bruce. Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Black Belt Books, 2014.

Mitose, James M. In Search of Kenpo. Kosho-Shorei Pub. Co., 1984.

The Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2005.

Walton, Charlie. “Kajukenbo History.” Kajukenbo History, Kajukenbo.org, www.kajukenbo.org/history/.

The Dynamics of Our Kenpo

Many years ago, long before the term “Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)” was ever coined, this logo was designed.

PMA.jpg

 I chose the triangle to represent strength and improvement.  A triangle represents structural strength, but it is also the mathematical symbol (delta) for incremental change.  This change is what a good martial artist must continuously seek as necessary to remain effective.  However, change doesn’t mean that you abandon your art for another – through the process of refinement and change, you make your art stronger and better.  In my case; Kenpo.

The three characters on the triangle represent the base concepts that develop the dynamics of my Kenpo. 

The kickboxer represents the use of constant and energetic movement along with the inclusion of aspects from every possible philosophy of kickboxing/boxing, i.e. western boxing, Pananjakman, Panantuken, Savate, American rules, European, Thai – and whatever else the future brings.

The Kali warrior represents the dynamics of weapons; not in the form of just memorizing a weapons kata, but complete integration.  This integration means – if I can do it empty hands, I can do it with weapons and vice versa.  Weapons training will also significantly develop the awareness of range and entry into combat.

The ground-fighters not only represent the full integration of ground and throwing arts, but also represent the study and mastery of the points of transition from vertical combat to horizontal combat and horizontal back to vertical.

The center of the triangle contains the symbol “taijitu.”  The color of this particular version of the symbol represents Jeet Kune Do (JKD).  JKD is the root of the inspiration that “started it all,” and opened my path to acceptance, redesign, and change while still maintaining the art of Kenpo.  This symbol also represents “integration to create one.”   That means we don’t practice each art as a separate way but practice one art (Kenpo) that incorporates aspects of arts with other origins and primary focus.

However, and probably more importantly, the taijitu (Yin & Yang) represents the natural balance of traditional with modern.  If you only accept the modern and discard the proven methods of traditional arts or the way Kenpo develops a way of life which includes ethics, benevolence, warrior tradition, and health – you lose balance and meaning.

Tournament Breakdown (Videos)

PMA instructor, FILKENJUTSU Black Belt, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Blue-Purple Belt, Madelyn Fowler, competed in her first ever competition this weekend in Concord, North Carolina. After a few months of hard training in preparation, we picked out the NAGA North Carolina championships to be the battleground! With her being an instructor, we thought all of her students, training partners, friends, and family might like to see her matches!

We drove down on Friday night for weigh-ins, and Sempai Madelyn weighed in at 112 pounds and would fight in the 109-119 division (flyweights). After fueling up with a good dinner, we went back to the hotel to rest up before she'd compete on Saturday.

In her very first match, Madelyn demonstrated her skill and strength, executing a couple of takedowns before finishing with a perfectly executed guillotine choke. Our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students will recognize the final move, as it was the EXACT variation that was taught on Thursday night last week!

Then, in the No-Gi finals she was matched against a very tough competitor who put Madelyn in danger early in the match with an arm bar submission. Madelyn would escape and counter with an ankle lock submission to tie the score 2-2, and in the final seconds, her opponent achieved the side control position to win 4-2. This earned Madelyn the silver medal in the No-Gi division, but it would not be her last time facing this opponent!

Now exhausted from experiencing how quickly energy is drained by the adrenaline, nervousness, etc. it was time to switch to the gi. Madelyn faced another new opponent in her first match and planned to use her guard this time to control her opponent and set up an attack. After multiple close attacks, Madelyn won via referee's decision.

She would now face the same opponent that defeated her in the no-gi finals, in the gi finals! After analyzing Madelyn's first match with this opponent and another one of this competitor's matches, we decided that her opponent really wanted to be on top. So this match, we would let Madelyn use her strength and skill in takedowns to keep the fight standing and fight for the top.

She landed a beautiful ogoshi (hip throw) into side control to go up on the scoreboard and would later score an advantage point for a near guard pass, and these would be the deciding points in the match to win the gold medal!

Most importantly, Madelyn is leaving this competition with a tremendous amount of experience. We would be so proud of her regardless of her results, but the wins make it even more sweet! Her results were great on their own, but when you consider that this was a pure grappling competition and she spends more than half of her time teaching and training in a striking art it is even more impressive. 

She demonstrated mental toughness, skill, sportsmanship, and even the proper way to handle a loss all in this one tournament. We could not be more proud of her and the way she prepared for and then carried herself in this tournament.

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!

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!