Sunday, February 26, 2017

Stanley Tam Qigong Seminar 25 Feb 2017

The seminar was hosted by Joe Worthington of Jungle Brothers Movement.

Qi can be thought of as bioelectrical / magnetic energy.

Stan dispensing the knowledge

Check Stan out on Facebook and the web

Five Aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine

  1. Acupuncture
  2. Herbalism
  3. Moxibustion
  4. Bian Stones 
  5. Qigong, Massage, etc.

Only Qigong is a solo practice. Also known as Daoyin.

External exercise - Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts, Weight Training, etc. depletes energy.

Internal exercise / Qigong is like recharging a battery.

Qigong is of two types:

Static - both standing and seated

Big 3 Foundational Principles

  1. Regulating the Body
  2. Regulating the Breath
  3. Regulating the Mind

Regulating the Body

Bowling ball posture - feet shoulder width apart, tilt the bottom of the pelvis forward and bend the knees slightly. Knees should not go in front of the toes. Hold the hands near the waist as if you are holding an imaginary bowling ball. Over time, you may begin to "feel" a ball of energy and your fingers begin to tingle as the qi flows.

Shaking/bouncing - from the centre, not the legs
Twisting - fast, arms loose
Twisting two - slap lower back and chest with alternate hands as you twist to each side
Bend from the waist and shake alternate arms downwards - centre, left and right

A video demonstrating these appears below.

Regulating the Breath

Sleeping posture - lie on the back, feet drawn up, let knees fall out to the side in a butterfly position. Hands have fingers interlaced and rest on the belly / Tan tien. Can also have arms overhead to reduce anxiety.

Sleeping on the side - Sleep on right side, so the heart is on the upside and not smothered by other organs' weight. Knees are not stacked.

The yoga Child Pose (Balasana) with outstretched arms can be adopted immediately after waking if you are feeling fatigued or otherwise out of sorts on waking. Hold for up to 10 minutes. Also a good posture for upper back mobility.

Child Pose (Balasana)

Seated Meditation and Breathing

A small cushion to sit on is recommended to make the posture easier and help stop you rounding the back.

Place one heel directly in front of the perineum (between anus and genitals). The Kegel exercise targets this part of the anatomy. It is believed that Qi will leak from here unless the heel is there to block it. The other heel goes directly in front of that foot. The posture is Siddhasana in Yoga (the Adept's Pose). As in the image below, though the hand position is different.


Move the butt back on the cushion so you have a very slight forward lean. This will help prevent rounding your back from fatigue.

Place your thumb on your palm the pad of your thumb touching the palm just below the ring finger. Close the fist around the thumb lightly but completely. Rest each upturned fist on the corresponding knee.

From here, clench the fist over the thumb

Types of Breathing

In all cases we try to breath using the diaphragm, and not the clavicular muscles. You should be able to "breathe into the kidneys" so the breath expands the lower ribs and abdomen out to the sides and rear.

Regular breathing - as you inhale, deep into the lower lobes of the lungs, allow the abdomen to expand out. As you exhale, the abdomen comes in.

Reverse breathing - as you inhale, pull the abdomen in, and lift the perineum and anus up. Hold this position briefly, everything drawn in and up (rising). Relax as you exhale and allow the abdomen to expand out, sinking into the abdomen.

Combination breathing - inhale into the upper chest, pulling in the abdomen and pelvic floor. Hold, relax and transfer the breath down sinking down into the lower lobes of the lungs as the abdomen goes out. Exhale. Like a see saw.

In general, static qigong uses regular breathing, moving qigong uses reverse breathing. But you can practice both styles either way.

We performed an exercise for the lung meridian (see videos below)

Regulating the Mind

In Chinese Medicine, there is a concept of the Heart Mind. As if we had two brains, one in the head and the second in the solar plexus (where the is an anatomical nerve plexus).

We did a standing exercise where it was important to lift and inhale as we raised our arms up, twisting our shoulders one way and our pelvis the other, so the nexus of the twist was in the spine at solar plexus level. To be honest I can't remember this that well and probably conflated it with the third qigong exercise in the videos below.

We sit, as for seated breath meditation above, and perform the "turtle breath", tilting out heads far back so ass to engage the traps as we inhale and imagine breathing in white smoke or white light. Then we take our head forward as we exhale all our worry, stress, fear and negativity.

Internal Exercise has been described as working IN, not working out.

Internal exercise left column, external right

Wim Hof's methods have a different purpose than does Qigong. Adrenalizing the body to withstand extreme cold or other stress. Impressive as hell, but for different goals than those of Qigong.

Eastern philosophy is about experiential thinking, seeing for yourself.

Western philosophy is more logic and theory.

Videos and Qigong Exercises

Most of these videos were taken the day after the seminar. Obviously, I had just learned the exercises and have much practice to undertake. Use them to jog your memory, not as any sort of technical reference.

In general, inhale when the body extends or straightens, exhale when contracting or bending. There are exceptions to this rule which I try to elucidate below as necessary. Staying relaxed and keeping a flow going with the breath is better than tensing up to try to keep too "correct" a breathing pattern. It would be a mistake to take my breathing cadences in the descriptions as gospel. They are my best memories, and in some cases, guesses.

For some movements you must learn to "budget" your breath to match the movements, not breathing too fast or too slow. If you cannot sustain a particular breathing patter, because it takes too long, try speeding up the movement to match your breath capabilities.

Return to the bowling ball position between exercises.

Shake, Twist, etc. for Regulating the Body

Not sure the last one (bending) is quite right. 

Shake, rattle and roll

You hear breathing during the videos below, taken at Red Boat Wing Chun Global HQ. I don't think it's me, there are other people off camera doing "external" exercise (Jiu Jitsu) 😉

Exercise for the Lung Meridian

From the bowling ball position, inhale and lift your hands to the prayer position. (Exhale and?) push forward shoulder high, arms horizontal, leading with the fingers, getting a stretch across the upper thoracic spine. Inhale, open and stretch the arms to the sides, leading with the wrists. Hold the breath, clench the fists and tense the arms while outstretched. Slowly lower the arms, exhaling, while progressively relaxing shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers. Repeat. (In the video the final relaxation phase is done too early and too fast).

First Qigong Exercise

From the bowling ball position, Lower your hands to your sides, then inhale, raise them forward to shoulder level, arms and hands relaxed, leading with the wrists.

Still inhaling, open arms wide to the sides, leading with the wrists.

Exhale, bring the arms back in to the front, leading with the palm heels , no closer than shoulder width (otherwise you start to clench the pecs). Still exhaling, lower arms, palm heels leading, back next to your hips. Repeat.

You are "swimming in air", according to Stan.

Second Qigong Exercise - The Six Harmonies

From the bowling ball position, bring your fists up next to your hips.

Exhale, reach out forward with your open left hand, turning the body  and extending the shoulder into it, but not bending at the waist. Grasp an imaginary object and inhale, bringing the fist back to your side.

Repeat with the right hand.

Reach out with your left hand, exhaling, to the left side, grasp and inhale as you return. Your gaze follows your hand.

Repeat on the right side.

Turn to your left and reach back behind you with your left hand, exhaling, grasp, inhale and return, gaze following your hand.

Repeat on the right side.

Bring your left palm up in front of your face, as if you are a waiter offering a menu. The hand circles down toward the floor as you exhale, bend forward at the waist, and continues behind you and up until overhead as you inhale, straighten your body up again, continuing forward and down, exhale, bending at the waist until your hand nears your left foot. Now swing your left hand across towards your right foot, continuing over to the right and inhale, circling overhead as you straighten up, continuing out to your left side, exhaling, once again reaching and grasping an imaginary object. Inhaale and bring the fist back to the hip. So your arm first circles forward in the direction of the sagittal/medial plane, and then sideways the direction of the coronal/frontal plane.

Repeat on the right side.

Third Exercise - Press Up, Grab from the Earth

This exercise activates the Triple Warmer (San Jaio) and associated TCM internal structures.

From the bowling ball position, inhale and lift your forearms, palm side down, until your hands are level with your shoulders. At the same time, turn your shoulders about 45 degrees to the left, while trying to turn your pelvis, back the other way, so you are getting torsion in your spine centred around the solar plexus level. Continuing the movement, still inhaling,turn the palms over and press upward with the hands, to full extension, but not tense, keeping the twist. Now exhale, reverse the direction of the push, coming back down and pushing toward the floor, still keeping the twist to the left. As you reach the limit of your mobility (without strain), inhale and reach out with your hands and scoop up and imaginary double handful of good energy from the earth. Bring it back up to the bowling ball position.

Repeat on the other side, turning to the right.

Fourth Exercise - Waist Twist

Bowling ball position. Bring your palms up and cross your arms at the wrists, left hand on top. Inhale and push the hands out horizontally as far as you can without strain, then, still inhaling, open the arms out to the side. Without moving your feet or bending over, exhale and twist at the waist to look behind you, as your left hand moves down. until the back of the hand is resting on your lower spine at the level of your Tan Tien (a bit below the level of your belly button), and your the back of your right hand is out in front of your forehead. Unwind and return to the crucifix position, inhaling, and still inhaling, bring your elbows in to your sides, contract, bring the knees in, bending the wrists, to what Stan calls the "retarded duck" position. Exhale, open out to the crucifix position and then lower your arms to the bowling ball position.

Repeat pressing out with the right hand on top, and twisting to the right. Slight moment of indecision in the video as I struggle to remember which hand is on top.

Fifth Exercise - Teacup

I'm not sure my explanation will add much to the video itself. You will notice I had a small kerfuffle at the start deciding which hand should be on top. Also, the feet should be slightly wider apart for this exercise than the others, and the way I did it in the video.

This exercise is excellent for shoulder, elbow and wrist mobility. Visualise you are holding a Chinese teacup in the hand and endeavouring to do the entire movement without spilling any tea.


Perform 6 reps of each exercise. If pressed for time, can drop to 3 each of the longer ones. There isn't a lot of point doing more than 6 per session.

There was a closing sequence  - 3 lift arms sideways bring down in front, abdominal circles with folded hands on stomach, and some massage exercises as well. I need to revisit this with Stan when I get an opportunity.

UPDATE 28 Mar 2017 - Stan kindly made a video of the closing sequence at my request and uploaded it to Facebook.

Qigong Closing Sequence

Seminar group

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Steve Maxwell - Gracie Jiu Jitsu Core Concepts 11 Feb 2017

It was hot ... it was good

The seminar was held at Higher Jiu Jitsu, Woolloomooloo PCYC.

I arrived early, but not as early as Steve Maxwell, who was already on the mat doing his mobility workout.

It was an extremely hot day. I went up to Steve, shook his hand and asked the obvious Jiu Jitsu question on such a day - "Gi or no gi?".

"It's Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu is done in a gi", was Steve's response. Delivered with a smile.

This was pretty much an introductory lesson for absolute beginners. I don't try to include everything Steve went through below, only the points I felt salient to students with around six months or more experience.

Standing Up in Base

We first looked at standing up in base, also known as the technical standup. Key points are to bring the non-supporting foot right through behind you and ensure the stance you finish up in has both feet pointing in the same direction, ready for immediate follow up (retreat or engage). The free hand should be up protecting the face.

Sweet little girl demonstrates a solid technical standup. I would not straighten out the non-supporting leg before swinging it back, as demonstrated) but keep it in close. The extended leg gives an opponent the opportunity to grab or stomp on the extended ankle. I think Steve would concur. Excellent form otherwise.

Once the student has this wired, a partner should try and hold them down using pressure on the shoulder. This should not stop them from performing the technical standup.

Non Resistance

Resisting the opponent's movements by tensing up allows them to manipulate you too easily. Instead try to stay relaxed and try to use their efforts against them when the timing is right. At aa more advanced level this becomes what Kit Dale describes as formlessness. 

Some drills:

Stand relaxed facing your partner, feet parallel. Bring your hands shoulder height and bring your opposite hands together like a double high five. Your partner and you should try and push each other over while not moving your feet. Tense up, you'll lose for sure.

Both of you have your right foot forward so the outside edges of each of your right feet are close together. Each of you gets a grip on your partner's right wrist. Now try and pull each other off balance, without moving your feet. Keep the grip, don't let go.

Defense from the Ground against a Standing Opponent - Leg Kick, Stand up in Base, Step Back

You are sitting down, an attacker is closing in on you. Assume the preparatory position for the technical standup with one arm posted behind you, the sole of the opposite foot on the ground. As the attacker comes into range, lift your hips, stomp kick the closest shin, take the weight on both hands and bring both feet back away from the attacker as you standup, so you get as much distance as possible from him.

Stephan Kesting demonstrates. Steve Maxwell would have you put both hands on the ground as you do the standup to allow you to back up further as you stand. On the other hand, the method demonstrated still allows you one hand to protect the head. Try both. 

Inside control

Inside control as a principle is extremely important in grappling. The person who obtains inside control has the ability to control the other person's Centreline and centre of gravity. Place your hands on your partner's shoulders. He does the same but outside of your arms. Move your foot to the triangle foot position; his feet are parallel, one of yours is forward and on the line that goes between his. 

You should find it easy to push him back, but he should find it very hard to push you. You are the only one with access to leverage. You foot position also allows you to employ your front leg to throw him. He cannot lift a foot without losing balance.

Move your hands down onto his biceps, no thumbs. This will allow you to turn him and bend him sideways as well as push him backward, and pull him forward to some degree. 

From this position, practice taking him down by using your arms to rotate or bend his body. Lower your centre of gravity, and then pull or turn him toward the ground.

Defending against strikes from inside control

If you have proper inside control on his biceps, he should find it difficult to hit or headbutt you. A few drills:

If you feel him withdrawing his arm to break contact and straight punch. just follow his elbow with your hand.

If you feel him try to throw an uppercut or body hook with his R hand, guide his elbow across your body and point his arm away from you. You should be able to walk him around like this unless you break contact. It is an easy transition to a 2 on 1 from here.

He tries a hook to your head with his R hand. guide it overhead with your L hand and duck under. 

Either go to a body clinch, or: 

Get a seat belt grip by joining your hands over his L shoulder in a gable grip. Move around behind him until you are at a good angle to stomp kick behind his far (L) knee with your L foot, and take him down, possibly getting the back in a crouch position from where you can apply a RNC.

Side Headlock Escape

He tries to put you in a side headlock from your L. Move your hips in close to his and posture up hard, looking at the ceiling, so he cannot bend you down at the waist or neck.

Reach over his R arm with your L hand. Put it on his face (optional eye gouge) or R side of the jaw and push and twist his head back and away until his grip breaks. Push on his R hip with your other hand and spin him to your L, into a guillotine choke using your L arm around his neck.

Throat Grab Escapes

He grabs your throat or shoulders with both hands. Hands up, protecting your head. Step back with your R leg and weave your head to the R under his L arm and out, breaking the grip. Check his L elbow on the outside with your L hand so he cannot hit you with it. Strike him with your open hand (not fist. hand damage!) behind his left ear. get him in a 2 on 1. From where you could go to a guillotine.

The other option against one or two throat grips, is to hold his wrist(s) in place with with your hand(s) and step back out of the grip. 2 on 1, shoot, or plenty of other options from here, There are other options if your back is against a wall.

Mount Escape

Steve demonstrated his version of the bridge and roll escape. He gets a cross grip on the wrist, and blocks the foot on the same side with his shin. His concern from here is that the guy can slide the knee on that side up as he bridges to stop the roll. Grab the sleeve on the trapped arm above the elbow and pull down hard so as to torque his spine and put weight on that knee so it is difficult for him to slide it. Move your head out to the side away from the roll as you bridge and roll, which sets the angle of the roll so as to defeat his attempts to post with his free hand. Per Rickson's Invisible Jiu Jitsu.

When Rickson demonstrates, you watch

This was before the seminar. After, we would have been in a huge pool of sweat

Monday, February 13, 2017

Steve Maxwell - Integrated Breathing 11 Feb 2017

The Usual Suspects

The seminar was held at Higher Jiu Jitsu, at Woolloomooloo PCYC in Sydney.

The major problem most people have with breathing is that they tend to breathe using the top (clavicular) and middle (intercostal) chest muscles for the breath rather than breathing deep into the diaphragm.

This comes about from sitting for extended durations and staying still - like in a school classroom or at a desk job.

The muscles associated with breathing in the upper chest are designed for emergencies only - their overuse results in chronic stress, premature ageing, raised blood pressure, production of cortisol and under-oxygenation. Like a constant state of panic This results in poor health ... but also in poor performance and rapid gassing on the mat.

Proper breathing uses the diaphragm. The upper and middle chest should not move. On inhalation the belly should expand, but also the sides and back of the lower rib cage. Inhaling into the back this way allows for the creation of intra-abdominal pressure to form a sort of virtual weight belt to protect the lower spine during heavy exertion, like a standing guard pass or deadlift.

All inhalations should take place through the nose. Exhaling through the mouth or nose is OK, but mouth inhalation is a sign of poor breathing.

Clearing the Nasal Passages

Steve advocates a Neti Pot which allows you to rinse and cleanse your sinuses with warm, salty water. You need to follow care instructions to avoid possible infections or worse, though.

Another practice Steve advocates is massaging the inside of the nostrils by sticking two fingers up there. You can use sesame oil (Steve's favourite), coconut oil, even olive oil. It should be a natural vegateable oil, not supermarket cooking oil. Sesame oil is preferred due to its amino acid profile and compatibility with human biochemistry. Gently push the fingers up there aas far as you can to open up the nasal passages. Painful, but Steve says it really works well. He has broken his nose five times - not from doing this, but this has improved things significantly for him.

Learning to Breathe Diaphragmatically

Have a partner stand in front of you and place their fingers  on your collarbones. Breathe normally. If your partner feels your collarbones rise. you are breathing clavicularly, into the top lobes of the lungs, a practice we wish to avoid.

Keep breathing normally and have your partner place his fingers on your lower ribs at the sides. Intercostal breathing is indicated by your partner feeling the ribs move.

Have your partner stand beside you and place one hand on your abdomen near the belly button, the other hand on your back at about the same height. If you are breathing into the lower lobes of the lungs using the diaphragm, your partner will feel your stomach, and to a lesser extent your back, moving in and out with the breath.

We want to breathe from the diaphragm as much as possible, with as little involvement of the intercostal muscles and those of the upper chest as possible. I found my breathing was mostly diaphragmatic, with some intercostal. No movement of the clavicles or upper chest.
To practice correct breathing, lie prone (on your stomach). Put your elbows out to the side and rest your forehead on your hands, one hand atop the other. As you inhale, feel your stomach push into the mat.

Lie supine (face up), one hand on your stomach, one on your chest with the thumb and index finger resting lightly on your throat. As you breathe, you want the hand on the stomach to move a fair bit, the hand on the throat as little as possible.

The diaphragm should move out to the sides and back as well. Check this while standing by finding the iliac crests (bones at the top of the pelvis at your sides) with the ends of your index fingers. Find the bottom floating rib on each side with your thumbs. You should be able to feel the ribs expand with each inhalation. Move your fingers around toward the back and you should be able to feel the same movement.

Burst Breathing

This is the primary form of breathing for recovery. Fast inhalation through the nose and fast popping exhalation through the mouth, all done from the diaphragm. Best learned by standing against a wall an having a partner lightly punch you in the diaphragm (not solar plexus, but lower) repeatedly, forcing the exhalation, and going faster and faster, until you lose the rhythm, then starting over at a slower frequency.

Setting Benchmarks and Measuring Progress

Breaths per Minute

Set a timer for one minute. Breathe normally and count your breaths. I got 9.5. Below 10 is good, 20 or over you shouldn't do Jiu Jitsu and seek help. Rickson is reported to breathe 3-4 times per minute.

Control pause

Exhale completely. Pinch the nose with the thumb and index finger. Hold the exhale until you feel a strong urge to breathe.

This checks the efficiency of blood oxygenation at cellular level in the red blood cells. In my three trials I managed between 29 and 35 seconds. 30 is satisfactory, a minute or more is excellent. One guy went for about 1 minute 20 seconds.

Stress test

Walk in place, at 120 steps per minute for two minutes, lifting the feet at least six inches of the floor. Use a metronome app on your phone. Then exhale, pinch your nose as before, and see how long you can hold your breath. 30 seconds is satisfactory. I got about bang on.

This test evaauates your sensitivity to carbon dioxide buildup in the blood. Also a guide to the levels of Erythropoietin (EPO) in the blood, which governs redo blood cell production. THis type of breath training can positively affect your EPO levels resulting in greater endurance. EPO bacame infamous as a performance enhancing drug amongst professional cyclists, including Lance Armstrong.

The training can also affect Nitric Oxide levels, which will favorably increase nasal passage dilation and blood vessel dilation for endurance.

While training you wish to avoid the "Valsalva sync", usually betrayed by involuntary breaah holds, grunting and groaning while exerting oneself. The Valsalva sync and other involuntary breath holding spikes cortisol, blood pressure, and can result in premature ageing.

Holding one's breath voluntarily and mindfully can result in beneficial training effects. It is involuntary holding of the breath that we wish to avoid.

According to Steve, you shouldn't make much noise when training Jiu Jitsu. No snarls, screams, grunts, thumps, or slaps. Both the breathing and technique should be smooth and relaxed.

Breathing Drills

All the following can be lumped under the term "hypoxic training".

Breathing Ladders

Walk at a relaxed pace. Start by matching the breath with the steps:

Inhale - 1 step, exhale - 1 step. Do this for a specific interval or distance, then
Inhale - 2 steps, exhale 2 steps, for the same interval distance, then
Inhale - 3 steps, exhale 3 steps,
4, 5, 6 ... up to 10, 15, 20, ...

Keep good structure and relaxed posture. You should extend the inhalation and exhalation so that they last for the entire number of steps for that rung of the ladder. The hardest part is slowing down the inhalation rather than gulping the air in at the start. Think of taking little sniffs or sips of air.

If you lose control of the breath, do some burst breathing, and start over with a low number of steps per inhale/exhale.

Square Breathing

Similar to the above,  except the pattern is:

Inhale for 3 steps. Hold the inhalation for 3 steps. Breath out for 3 steps. Hold the exhalation for 3 steps. Repeat.

Then increase to 4 steps, 5, ...

There is also oblong breathing, where the length of the holds is different to the lengths of the inhale and exhale.

If you lose control of the breath, do some burst breathing, and start over with a low number of steps.

Breath hold ladders

From a fully relaxed state of breathing, breathe out and hold it while you walk for 10 steps. Recover the breath fully using burst breathing. Then go again, but this time for 20 steps. Recover fully. Then 25 steps, 30, 35, ...

When you can do no more with a held exhalation, try it by inhaling and holding the inhale as you walk. You should be able to go significantly further. I couldn't get past 40 steps on a held exhalation but got to 55 on a held inhalation.

You can do any of the above drills while running ... probably slow running.

Breathing to Overcome the Stretch Reflex

The stretch reflex occurs when you move toward the limits of your flexibility and your muscles automatically tighten to prevent injury. Sometimes the stretch reflex fires at times which can tear muscles, however, it is a blunt instrument.

Get into any stretch position you like, take it close to your limit until your muscles begin to tighten. Do burst breathing while tensing the muscle. Now relax and let all the air out with an audible sigh - Huuuh. You should find you fall a little deeper into the stretch. Tense and burst breathe in the increased stretch position and repeat. Keep going until you are unable to improve after three tense/relax cycles.

This mechanism can also be used to reduce the potential injury from jiu jitsu submissions.

Have a partner slowly put you in a gooseneck come along wrist lock. You will encounter a "startle" reflex when your limits are close and it becomes painful. Stay at the point and burst breathe to overcome the stretch reflex. The pain should reduce and the muscles relax.

This mechanism may be useful for giving that little bit of extra time to escape the submission ... or, more likely, to tap before you get injured.

Dogpile - Staying Calm Under Pressure

Groups of five, all about the same weight. One guy lies on his back, arms in a defensive posture. The first guy gets on top with a side control, weight ideally on bottom guy's lower chest. Other three pile atop him at different angles. The guy on the bottom should burst breathe into the diaphragm, little sniffs if necessary, feel the urge to panic but damp it down, and slowly but deliberately "move to where the weight isn't" and eventually escape out from underneath the pile.

NB - the guy directly on top of the bottom guy is just lying as dead weight, not trying to hold the bottom guy down.

Quite interesting - you DO feel a moment of panic from the pressure, but you CAN get out if you just stay calm and work centimeter by centimeter out from under. (if the guy panics, let him up, maybe try later with fewer guys on top. Probably not a great drill if you have a rib injury either.)

Under pressure

Emil Zatopek, the famous Czechoslovakian runner of the mid-twentieth century, used breath hold training extensively. He won the 5000 meters, 10000 meters, and the marathon at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. He could reportedly run 200 meters on a single breath.

More Ladders

Exhale, hold the exhale. Drop softly, one knee at a time, to a kneeling position. Do a soft front breakfall. Roll onto your back. Kick the legs to sit up and do a technical standup to regain your feet. Recover the breath . Now exhale and hold, and run through the entire sequence twice on the held exhale. Recover the breath, then go for three. Then 4, 5, ... I got to 3, but no further.

Exhale and hold. Drop and do 1 pushup. regain your feet. Recover the breath. Do 1 full squat. Recover. Exhale. 2 pushups. Recover, exhale, 2 squats. 3,4.5 ... I got to 11.

Lying down. Exhale and hold. Lift both legs up and over behind the head to a yoga plough, return, now sit up and back down. Recover. Then try 2, 3, 4, ... leg raise / sit ups on a single held exhale.

Stanley Tam demonstrating the leg raise / situp breath hold ladder

You could follow a similar ladder with kettlebell swings, pushups alone, etc.

When you get past 10 swings or pushups, you might be better holding the inhalation rather than the exhalation.


The massagee lies prone (face down) with head turned to one side arms by the sides, insteps flat. The masseur stands on the person's feet, then moves up to calves, thighs, buttocks, back, can put a careful foot on the trapezius muscles, then down the shoulders, triceps, forearms and hands. May be best done next to a wall so the masseur can hold on to it for balance. The subject should burst breathe through any painful spots and try not to fight it.

Not sure I am a huge fan of this. It may grow on me.

Owwww ... Massage


There is more on breathing in my notes on Steve's 2015 seminar. Including a link to a video on some of the breathing ladders.

Steve has a video on a Breathing Control Workout on his website, in which he demonstrates some options for hypoxic training. He also ha a video for sale on his website of a seminar very similar to the one described here undertaken in Melbourne.

End of another great seminar ... host John Smallios to Steve's right

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jiu Jitsu "Social Media" - A Cautionary Tale

I recently started a minor sensation on Facebook and other social media. Without any intention to do so whatsoever.

I started a snowball rolling by accident and it picked up momentum rapidly, dragging in several "international Jiu Jitsu news sites", and at least one Jiu Jitsu celebrity ... so far.

Fortunately, no one has been hurt by this ... so far. Not even me. As I discuss later, I, and others, could have been less fortunate - and in similar situations have taken serious damage

I train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), a martial art and competitive sport. I have been doing this for eighteen years and hold a black belt. At 62 years old now, I am not and never was a serious competitor, and competition is not my personal focus. However, I believe competition is part of what keeps the art evolving and growing and I support those who do enjoy and pursue competition, mainly by acting as a referee at tournaments. And some coaching. So I do have an interest in competition Jiu Jitsu and rule sets.

There is no overarching body that controls all BJJ competition. The closest thing is the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). The IBJJF runs competitions all over the world, and has a specific rule set it uses. Adults of all ages, and children as young as four, compete.

IBJJF competitions have two strains of BJJ: Gi (where the competitors wear heavy jackets and full length pants, with belts. similar to Olympic judo) and no gi (where competitors wear a rash guard and shorts).

Gi Jiu Jitsu is more complex and allows for more techniques using the grips the gi provides. No gi allows fewer ways to grip the opponent, but tends to be faster and more energetic, without the grips and the friction the gi provides.

There are other organisations with different rule sets, totally separate from the IBJJF. The IBJJF is often criticised for being under the control of a particular Jiu Jitsu organisation, Gracie Barra, and having a rule set which is too complicated, disallows many legitimate holds used by grappling arts other than Jiu Jitsu, and is too often gamed by competitors in ways which make the competition boring to watch, and which are far removed from actual combat. Just saying.

Most of my training and coaching involves IBJJF-legal techniques, but there are a plethora of interesting, very effective, and not necessarily dangerous techniques which are outside the IBJJF rules, but which many of us find fascinating.

A lot of people hate on the IBJJF, but in my opinion without much justification. YMMV.

And there is the old saying: Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

The Australian branch of the IBJJF is The Australian Federation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (the AFBJJ).

While browsing Facebook, I stumbled across a post from the AFBJJ, Western Australian Branch, hereafter called the AFBJJWA.

The post notes a change to competition format.
Dear Instructors and athletes,
Please read the important note regarding Kids No Gi Events.
In line with the accepted International governing body, the IBJJF, the AFBJJ wishes to follow and not allow No Gi categories for Juniors. 
The IBJJF believes and the AFBJJ agrees that No Gi at Junior levels is a poor foundation for Jiu Jitsu. 
Further after consultation with peak insurance bodies, it was established that liability may be evident in Junior No Gi categories, as the International body does not promote them. 
The AFBJJ wishes to fall in line with the IBJJF and not offer nor support No Gi categories for Juniors. 
It can be noted that Juvenile categories (they are those for athletes that turn either 16 or 17 in the said competition year) are allowed. 
We trust that you understand that this is in the best interests of the children's development and safety.
Have a fantastic day.AFBJJ
One apparent (though, as we shall see, inaccurate) implication is that the IBJJF are discontinuing no gi competition for Juniors (up to 15 years old).

I have no personal stake in this. If anything, leaving kids' no gi out would make for a shorter competition day, which for me as a referee, would be a small plus.

Others - those who would no longer be able to charge entry fees for junior no gi competitors, those juniors who might want to compete but can't, no gi-only academies, and those who sell IBJJF-official no gi competition wear, for starters - might feel differently.

I sent the Facebook link to my coach, who runs regular tournaments himself, in a short message. He confirmed in a short reply that it was legit, and that kids' no gi would no longer be offered in kids' competitions run by his organisation.

About here and now is where I stepped on the IED.

I posted on the Reddit BJJ forum, asking whether anyone knew anything about why kids no gi was being discontinued by the IBJJF. I quoted most of the AFBJJWA Facebook post. The responses generated a small amount of heat, but little light. No one knew much.

Reddit BJJ post

I trained at the gym the next day and got some more information from my coach, and one poster on Reddit set me straight on one aspect of the issue. The conclusion that most had jumped to, myself included, was that this was a recent, and poorly implemented, change by the IBJJF.

This was wrong.

But my snowball was already rolling, accumulating debris and irate punters as it careered down the hill, powered by its own momentum, out of my control.

BJJ Eastern Europe took the molehill and made it into a mountain first:

BJJ Eastern Europe: IBJJF Rumoured To Be Discontinuing Kids’ No Gi Competition

They wrote a whole article based on my post on Reddit and the AFBJJWA Facebook post (which was quoted almost verbatim in my Reddit post). I was quoted anonymously as a "verified black belt redditor". Woo hoo.

They saw fit to write an article about a rumour based on a Reddit post, which was about my question about a Facebook post by the AFBJJWA. It doesn't get much more flimsy than that.

No checking with the IBJJF, AFBJJ, AFBJJWA. Not even with me. No apparent attempt made to get any more information from the official bodies themselves, nor from anyone who might actually know.

Not to be outdone, Jiu Jitsu Times got in on the act:

Jiu Jitsu Times - IBJJF: No More No-Gi Competitions For Kids?

And, a couple of days later, a friend alerted me, with some apparent glee, to another article in the Jiu Jitsu "media"..

Chris Brennan, a highly respected American Jiu Jitsu and MMA competitor who has been around forever, mentioned the "ibjjf kids no gi controversy" in a savage lambasting of the IBJJF on that pillar of Jiu Jitsu journalistic integrity, BJJ Eastern Europe:

BJJ Eastern Europe - Former UFC Fighter Chris Brennan Slams IBJJF For Latest Decision: We Can’t Have Corrupt S*it Running The Sport

I've watched your "King of the Kimura" video lots and lots of times, Chris Brennan, and you are a fantastic jiu jitiero, but you and the rest have jumped a whole school of sharks here.

I'm thinking to myself: I've unwittingly created a raving monster out of a vacuum.

What have I done?

So, what actually happened?

The IBJJF themselves run competitions.

The IBJJF have never run kids' no gi competitions. Never. They could not discontinue something they never started. This fact isn't mentioned in their rulebook, even implicitly.

Other organisations run competitions, and many use the IBJJF rules. They may have been running kids' no gi competitions for well over a decade. The IBJJF has very little control over what they do. They did not "stop" anyone running a kids' no gi competition. Nor can they, directly.

The AFBJJ are Australian representatives of the IBJJF. They and other organisations associated with them, tightly or loosely, happily ran kid's no gi divisions in their competitions up until this year.

I don't know who talked to whom, but the AFBJJ realised, or found out, or asked or were told by the IBJJF, that the IBJJF don't run kids' no gi.

The AFBJJ or one of their subsidiaries or officers though that in light of this "new information" that they should check with their insurers that they were still happy with them running kids' no gi competition. The insurers apparently didn't think that insuring organisations running divisions not sanctioned by the AFBJJ's international parent body, the IBJJF,  was a great idea.

So, no insurance for a kid's no gi division? You'd be foolish to even think about running it then, wouldn't you?

So, the AFBJJ announced they wouldn't be doing it any more.

If you wish to run a kid's no gi competition, the IBJJF can't stop you. You just need to find a different insurer prepared to cover you. In Australia, the precedent set by the AFBJJ might complicate finding a willing insurer.

I'm getting this info third hand at best (Unlike BJJ Eastern Europe, who were getting it fourth hand, and Jiu Jitsu Times, who were getting it fifth hand). But, if I'm right:

  • The IBJJF haven't changed anything.
  • The AFBJJ's insurers' reluctance to cover kids' no gi left them little option but for the AFBJJ to cancel that division in their competitions.
  • Any other competition organiser using the AFBJJ's insurers, or any other insurer who might view their involvement similarly, would probably have to do the same.
  • The AFBJJ and others affected could seek an alternative insurer, prepared to cover kids' no gi competition. If such an insurer exists, and the organisations thought the search would be fruitful and worthwhile.

This is about insurance. It's not about the IBJJF taking preemptive steps to prevent the next generation of the Danaher Death Squad, or Eddie Bravo's students, from getting a foothold from which to start the slow destruction of the IBJJF empire.

About insurance, not control.

Among some comments on the related Facebook posts and articles:
This is such bullshit
Sweet Christ ... BJJ is eating itself and ruining the art.
The beginning of the end of the biggest organization, already buggered up with more rules than any other organization.
Zero to do with kids safety...everything to do with the politics of pushing kids toward the gi (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) in a time when no-gi is becoming more and more popular.
This is a good read. (me - WTF??????)
 I think IBJJF is ridiculous stupid. 

Other people have made fairly innocuous comments on different subjects on the web and suffered very badly for them. Some of these are well documented in the book So You've been Publicly Shamed, by John Ronson. He also wrote "The Men who Stare at Goats" and "Them".

"Them" describes how he sneaked into a meeting of the Bilderberg Group with Alex Jones, a journalist and broadcaster well known to conspiracy theory buffs.

I feel as if I have fallen into a similar reality tunnel as Mr Jones.

Be careful out there on the internet. No telling what can happen as a result of your innocent, well-intentioned posts. Some call it the Wild West, after this it feels more like a portal to the Bizarro dimension.

I Started a Joke

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Steve Maxwell Jiu Jitsu for a Lifetime Seminar 4th Feb 2017

The seminar was held at Higher Jiu Jitsu, Woolloomooloo PCYC. Thanks to John Smallios for the opportunity to act as host for a day at his club.

Steve reiterated the importance of training Jiu Jitsu as a "soft" art. Play, give up the hard rolls with full resistance, be especially careful of resisting the stack when someone is trying pass. Just let them pass and work defence.

Jiu Jitsu competition is fun and highly satisfying. But no one said it is good for your health.

Training Pyramid

I am not a graphic designer

The majority of your training should be spent on Jiu Jitsu technique (Base of the pyramid).
The next layer up is mobility training, flexibility training, postural drills, breathwork and other light work. Steve enjoys "Zen running" barefoot. at a pace where breathing is under control (you run "inside the breath" and there is zero trauma to joints or musculature. (There is a book called The Zen of Running that can download for free). This stuff can be done daily, and mobility work maybe several times a day.

At the top of the pyramid is strength training. This should be GPP (General Performance Preparation) rather than SPP (Specific Sports Preparation) and consist of simple movements which involve the reward of increased strength at minimal risk.

Olympic lifts, weighted squats on stability balls, etc. are examples of high risk movements. Some Crossfit style workouts which involve complex or highly technical movements done to the point of fatigue are to be avoided. Kipping pullups place too much stress on the tissues and joints.

Full speed sprints and some HIIT training may be too taxing for the older athlete.

You need a strength routine that works the Five Pillars of physical training:
  • Push (horizontal and vertical)
  • Pull (horizontal and vertical)
  • Hinge
  • Squat
  • Rotation / Antirotation
Plus ancillary exercises for the grip, feet, ankles, and neck.

You should be able to get a good strength workout in 20-30 minutes. If you are training Jiu Jitsu 3+ times a week, you only need 1-2 days a week of strength training. If only training Jiu Jitsu once or twice a week, more strength training may be appropriate.

Steve is a big fan of isometrics and has a related video on his site for sale.

If you are training hard at Jiu Jitsu, strength training more than once or twice a week as well will almost guarantee overtraining.

Example Weekly Schedule

Day 1 - Hard roll, strength training afterwards
Day 2 - Easy roll
Day 3 - Medium roll
Day 4  - Rest
Day 5 - Hard roll, strength training
Day 6 - Easy roll
Day 7 - Rest

You can do mobility and breathwork on rest days (and every day).

Different length cycles are possible, but a weekly one seems to suit most people.


Steve believes the only worthwhile kettlebell exercises for grapplers are the swing, and the Turkish Getup.

Steve claims that he gave Pavel Tsatsouline invented the "Simple and Sinister" workout (which is basically swings and TGU's) and gave it to Pavel over the phone. Pavel then wrote a book on it which is pretty popular.

Most kettlebell professionals concede that it was Steve that introduced the Turkish Getup to the kettlebell lexicon.

Sore Elbow Joints from Overgripping

Many grapplers get tennis or golfer's elbow from overgripping. You can avoid the muscular imbalance which is the cause of this by wrapping a rubber band around the fingers, expanding them away from each other, and bending the wrist back. Either do it for reps or as an isometric hold.

Recovery and injury treatment

Steve recommends a castor oil pack for injuries. Get two pans, one fitting inside the other. Water in the bottom pan, the pack (gauze, cloth, etc.) in the top pan with the castor oil. Heat the water on a low heat on the stove. The pack should be warm but not hot enough to burn, obviously. Apply the pack to the injured joint or muscle and cover it with cling wrap.

An Epsom salts bath is good for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and general relaxation and healing. Cheap to obtain Epsom salts, put a LOT in the bath and soak.


Steve has some strong views on diet and its role in illness and its prevention. He is not a fan of doctors (his brother died as a result of medical mismanagement in his view) and believes that most good dietary and physical culture advice came from before the rise of Big Pharma.

He also believes, that if your aim is to stay spry and mobile into advanced age, you need to find trainers who have actually done those same things successfully. The young trainers peddling supplements and the latest training protocols haven't had the experience of ageing to be able to provide good advice to older athletes.

He recommends two books for diet:

He also recommends the Soil and Health Library, which contains downloadable files of many old books on diet, longevity, and other subjects. Definitely worth checking out.

Postural Drills

The problems caused by sitting in a chair all day for work, and the muscular and postural imbalances caused by Jiu Jitsu are well documented in my notes on Steve's seminars in 2015 and 2016 (see end of this blog post).

We must take steps to rectify these potential postural issues and muscular imbalances.

To avoid kyphosis, "forward head" and inwardly rotated shoulders, we use the

Sphinx Posture

Lie prone (face down) on the mat. Position your forearms so you are supporting yourself on your  elbows, which are under your shoulders. Hands pointing forward. Lift the shoulders and head, insteps flat on the ground.

From here, nod the head up and down, leading with the eyes, not fast but through a full range of motion. Lengthen the spine, lift the head and turn it side to side, trying to see the feet behind you. It is OK for the movement to incorporate a slight hip twist and hip flexor stretch.

Stick Exercises

Get a stick, perhaps a broomstick, about 1.5 metres long.

Lie prone on your stomach, with the stick beneath you at right angles to the spine, stick at a level just below the nipples. Lift the head and shoulders, and try to "break" the stick across the chest, pulling the hands and elbows up and behind you. Pull isometrically for about ten seconds.

Now move the stick up to the throat. Set it just above the collarbones. Pull the elbows and hands down towards the feet as if doing a chin up, the collarbones holding the stick in place. Pull isometrically for about ten seconds.

Now more the stick up to the eyebrow area. Your arms should be more or less in an Americana position. Pull the hands and elbows up behind the head, trying to "break" the stick across the forehead. Pull isometrically for about ten seconds.

Now press the stick overhead in front of you as if performing an overhead press. Keep lifting the arms back and up, and pressing. Press isometrically for about ten seconds.

Now reverse the sequence. So the entire stick routine is: Chest, throat, eyebrows, overhead, eyebrows, throat,chest.

Keep lifting the head and shoulders. Try to keep your legs and insteps on the floor.


The Dand is commonly called the Hindu pushup. Steve no longer uses this term as he travels to Muslim countries, and in some cultures this might be offensive, like calling it a Christian pushup or a Muslim pushup.

The Dand is an old Indian name for this wrestling exercise.

The Dand

At the start let your head hang down. As you come through, run your nose and then your chest along the ground. Keep the elbows in, do not allow them to flare out to the sides. Think of lifting the head and upper back to straighten the arms rather than pushing with the triceps. There should be minimal stress on the shoulders if done correctly. Just return to the starting position with straight arms, rather than making it into a dive bomber pushup - here we are doing for postural (re)alignment more than as a strength exercise.

Note that it can be done on the knees, starting in yoga child pose. Knees apart or together. The toes should be curled under and engaged with the floor to perform the modified Dand.

Ten of these done slowly and completely is a pretty decent workout for the upper spine, rhomboids, teres major, etc.

Child pose. For our purposes with the modified Dand, the toes should be engaged.

A variant on this is moving between yoga's Upward and Downward dog postures - which is not unlike the Dand with arms kept straight. Great mobility drill for the spine.

Pelvic Tilts

This exercise helps straighten out an overly curved lumbar spine (lordosis).

Lie supine on the floor (face up). Bring the knees up so the legs are bent about 90 degrees, feet flat.
Contract the abs and flatten the lumbar spine to the floor. Relax and let the pelvis tilt toward the feet. Repeat, trying to lengthen and flatten the spine to the floor. Maybe twenty reps.

Try it with one leg extended and lying flat on the floor, then the other. Try to keep everything square to work anti-rotation as well.

You can also work the posture by standing against a wall, feet held slightly away from the wall and knees bent, working to extend the spine, flattening both the curves at the neck (back of the head and shoulders on the wall) and lower back (shoulder blades and pelvis) against the wall.

Dead Bug

This is mainly an exercise for the abdominals.

Start supine, lying on your back, arms extended upward, hips and knees bent at 90 degrees with feet in the air.

Move your straight right arm and left heel (leg staying bent) towards the floor, keeping the lumbar spine flattened to the floor and bottom of the pelvis titled upward. Come back to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

A more advanced version has you straightening the leg horizontally with the heel held off the floor. Once again keep the spine flattened to the floor. Do not sacrifice good form for the ego boost of performing a more difficult version of the exercise poorly.

Advanced version of Dead Bug

Glute Exercises

Many people have developed "gluteal amnesia", where the glutes are underutilised as the expense of the lower back and quads, which can lead to knee and lower back issues. These exercises wake up the glutes and set back on the right path.

Glute/ham raise - Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor, heels about a hand's length from the buttocks. Dorsiflex your ankles so your toes are off the floor. Lift your hips up so you are on your heels and shoulders. Squeeze your glutes together and feel them activate.

Glute march - from the raised position, lift one knee up toward the ceiling so you are resting on one heel and your shoulders. Keep you hips up and glutes clenched. Slowly change legs and repeat.

Reverse Bridge - lie prone (face down) on the mat. Forehead rests on your hands. Bend your knees so your shins are vertical. Now contract the glutes to push the feet upward and raise the knees off the mat.

Bird Dog and Raised Bird Dog

The basic bird dog posture has you on your hands and knees, head up, back flat, arms straight. Lift your left arm straight out in front and lift and straighten your right leg behind. Do not allow the pelvis to rotate - keep it horizontal. Perform both sides

Bird Dog

An intermediate version has you performing this with only the left knee, and not the foot on the ground. you can perform this on a flat bench across the breadth of the bench, not the length. Bring the hand and knee closer together to make it harder.

The raised bird dog is much harder. This time curl the toes under and come up off your knee onto the hand and toes. The raised knee should only be a couple of inches max off the floor. Now raise the left arm and right leg without compromising your alignment or lifting the left knee any higher or lower.

Hamstring raise from knees with feet held

It is difficult to find suitable bodyweight exercises for hingeing.

The kettlebell swing is such an exercise, but of course it is weighted.

This raise is one such hingeing exercise.

Kneel down, on your toes. A partner holds your heels and keeps your feet pressed to the floor.

Lean forward slightly at the knees, then slowly bend at the waist and lower your head to the floor. Come back up again. This should place a significant isometric load on your hamstrings.

Supposedly it should be possible to lower down to a flat position and back up without bending at the waist and using the hamstrings to lower and raise oneself, but for me at least that seems a long way off, if it is in fact possible. The waist bending one was way hard enough.

The further you lean forward at the start, the harder the exercise becomes.

You could use a belt tied around a bench or table to hold your feet if you can't use a partner.

Steve and Stan demonstrate

Rickson's Neck Exercises

Rickson Gracie was renowned for having a very strong and well developed neck.

Lie supine (face up) on the mat. Bend the knees, feet flat on the mat and allow the knees to fall out to the side like for butterfly guard. Engage the abs and lift the shoulders slightly off the mat. Move the head back and forth, providing isometric yielding resistance with one or both hands as you lift the head forward and up off the mat. Tilt the head sideways, and rotate it, providing the same sort of isometric resistance with the hands. Reps.

Lie face down (prone). Place your fingers of both hands on the back of your head. Lift the head off the mat, providing isometric resistance with the fingers. Reps.

Stan is not facepalming here. He is doing Rickson's neck drills

Links to earlier Jiu Jitsu for a Lifetime Seminars

Each of the seminars linked to below and this one contain significant amounts of information that are not in the others. Reviewing them is strongly encouraged.


Stanley Tam, Chinese Black Belt and Qigong Master, and myself

Always a privilege