My visit at BCMMA7

BCMMA7 BCMMA7 was an event I could not miss.  My friend and kickboxing student Luca Senatore was fighting his first MMA bout and I had to be there.  The British Challenge Mix Martial Arts # 7 was held in Colchester on Sunday 1st June.

I have seen before a handful of MMA fights in various venues in South East England and London. I liked this event more than the others for a number of good reasons listed below:

  • Luca did a fantastic entry and literally dominated the first round; the fact that he lost the fight for submission on the second round did not diminish his enthusiasm and exited like a true winner and sportsman
  • The quality of the fights, all at amateur level, was reasonably high and just in a couple of short occasions they lost control and looked a bit like a Friday night brawl more than a sport bout between trained people
  • The venue was conveniently positioned with free parking, well organised with security efficient and friendly; the fact that it wasn’t too crowded I guess it helped logistics
  • The bar is of very generous size and friendly staffed making the whole drinking experience at the event even better

The positive aspects described above made this event a fun day out with some friends however I have a few recommendations that I would like to offer to the organisers for next time:

  • In more than once occasion the referee let the fight going for a few extra seconds before calling the TKO; those extra seconds have caused one fighter to lose consciousness and another one to have his face more swollen than necessary. I am aware that fighters safety is highly considered in MMA fights but an even stricter regime should be applied for amateurs, particularly at their first fight.
  • Breaks were in my opinion too long and further delaying the show. The first “5 minutes” break lasted about 20 and we left the show at 9:40 at the beginning of the third break when the whole event was supposed to be over by 9:30.
  • The sound system was way too cracking and unable to cope with loud base sounds; perhaps a few extra loudspeakers or better quality ones could help.
  • The round girls… I have noticed dozen of female spectators and a couple of waitresses which were better looking that those girls. It should be that difficult to find to decent looking one next time.
  • Avoid empty tables: I guess there was an expectation to sell more VIP tickets for tables around the cage but, if sales did not go as expected I would suggest to either take out the empty tables or being nice to regulars that perhaps cannot afford the VIP ticket. Once they try VIP treatment perhaps next time they will go for it.

Once again I was impressed of the event and will be back for another one, particularly if Luca fights again.

My fourth Dan grading

Massimo4thDanHaving started practicing kickboxing in 1981 I could say that my approach to grading has been quite relaxed.  Last Thursday, 21st Feb 2013, I finally passed my fourth Dan grading, a rank that many people achieve in their late twenties or early thirties and within 15 or so years of experience in one martial art.  To some extent I was never too rushed into the next rank: it surely is a good recognition of personal achievements but it doesn’t bring to the bearer any better martial skills. In my opinion a rank is just a title and a way of comparing your experience and achievements with others.  At the beginning of my experience I initially managed to skip a couple of ranks and qualified 3 Kyu (3 ranks from first Dan) within two years but it was not until 6 years later when I got my black belt I 1989.  In my experience of late while the first and second Dan grading are still very much based around one’s personal performance there is a substantial shift in expectations from the third Dan and above.

The examiner, represented by Neville Wray (pictured on the right) current vice president of Wako GB and one of the top ranked kickboxers in UK,  wants to see you running a class, the quality of your teaching and consequently the quality of student’s style, knowledge of technique and individual preparation.  To some extent it is quite natural to expect that a person ranked third rank or above would be running a club or at least a class so the quality of their technique, as well as their teaching abilities can be measured by how well their team performs.  In my case I was very pleased of having a nice and varied class of 36 people ranging between beginners with just a few weeks experience all the way to 4 black belt and 5 instructors.  I did run our usual warm up, then split the class in two groups; I run the advanced group while one of my instructors took care of the lowers grades and beginners.   During the first 40 minutes of techniques we displayed some combinations that are typical of the CARISMA curriculum, like fast double kicks with one leg, various applications of the axe kick and various situations of attack and defence.  I then switched group and demonstrated how I teach some of the most basic techniques and postures to beginners.  The whole class behaved, very much like in most classes but with a bit of extra discipline, like a single organism with people pausing and listening when I was explaining new techniques and then immediately performing the various combinations on my command.  Naville first congratulated with me privately mentioning how good the class he saw was.  He then announced to the class the successful result pointing out the quality of teaching and techniques he saw, how well everybody behaved and the fact that on a scale of 1 to 10 he would rank the technical skills at 11 🙂

I am very pleased of having finally reached my fourth Dan; it was particularly interesting to see my pictures tagged on Facebook receiving many congratulation comments and a large number of Likes from friends located all over the world.  I do not feel I am a much better martial artist then I was on Thurs morning… but it surely feels good 🙂 Now it’s time to start thinking fifth Dan.

My Second Seminar with Master Steve Tappin

Escrima Concepts Seminar September 2011I was kind of surprised to notice that about 3 years have gone by since my first encounter with Master Steve Tappin, the founder of the Escrima Concepts style, a complete fighting system that teaches weapon based attack and defences to start with and the explores what happens when you have no weapon available.

One of  my main purpose of attending a martial arts seminar is to have the opportunity of learning, usually new things, from a master or instructor that is usually not available for local tuitions, and share with a few others his/her expertise in a session that is normally longer that the average class. However last Sunday I was particularly lucky; I attended, together with 3 other CARISMA members, a seminar organised by my friends at the Cambridge Kung Fu and I was pleased to find out that just 13 people, including us, were taking part to the event.  The real luck was having Master Tappin in person taking care directly of us for a generous amount of time and really ensuring we would get a great training.

Master Tappin’s teaching style is very clear and effective and he always manages to simply explain the essence of why one thing should be done in a certain way and shows it directly, helped by his expert son Wayne.  It’s shocking to see a man who had a broken back and an injured knee, somebody who struggles to stand and limps visibly but then, when demonstrating a technique, moves with the speed and the grace of the great martial artist he really is.

Weapons are tricky to handle and they open a complete new dimension about what should and should not be done while fighting.  While I don’t feel my skill level has grown substantially I can acknowledge I learnt a lot of useful concepts and by repeating and rehearsing the moves my skill will improve over time.

Whether you have experience in weapon based training or, like me, passionate and curious about exploring a new art I would definitely suggest to join one of Master Tappin’s seminar at your earliest convenience.

Meet Bill Wallace: training with Superfoot

I wrote about Bill Wallace in the past and I explained about his amazing style built on very fast techniques and combinations always developed from the left side stance.  Given his strong knowledge about the human anatomy, built on a master in Kinesiology, he developed over the many years of his amazing career the so called “Superfoot” system that first helps to develop flexibility on the main groups of muscles involved in kicks and then teaches how to use, in a very effective way, the three kicks and the couple of punches on which he bases his system.

Earlier today I had the opportunity of finally meet one of my heroes in martial arts: Bill “Superfoot” Wallace was running a morning seminar organised by Colin Payne from TKO in Chatham (Kent, UK); although I found out about it just a few days before, I dropped all of my engagements and simply went there J  Bill Wallace was famous when I started Kickboxing in 1981 and I never had the opportunity of meeting him so this was a chance not to be missed.

At first impression Superfoot appears as very friendly and unassuming person: he arrived with a big smile and looking to “have some fun”.   Within minutes from his arrival we started with some warm up techniques, very similar to some I have seen on his DVDs and we worked out flexibility for both the hamstrings and internal adductors in order to help relaxing the muscles needed for the 3 main kicks that make up the Superfoot method:

  • Round kick
  • Side kick
  • Hook kick

Then we started some simple exercises to improve speed and coordination about delivering individual kicks from the above list; finally we worked at combinations that use either a punch (typically a jab or back fist) or one of these kicks as a preparation for another kick.

His philosophy was and is conceptually simple: keep hitting with one technique that works and hurts a bit and keep changing angle.  Although the repertoire is quite limited it just works.  It is about working on speed, surprising the opponent with techniques that will probably not knock him down straight away but will upset him many times, make him nervous and help building up for the eventual final strike while scoring many and many points in the process.

At 65 Mr Wallace is no longer a young man: from his face you could compare him to other men of similar age.  Looking just at his body most people will think he is at least 20 years younger and that is until he starts moving.  That’s when you think he could be 25 or 30 years younger.  He can stretch his legs more than the majority of kick boxers and other martial artists I know of.  When he was a professional fighter his kicks were of truly lightening speed but even now he can kick amazingly fast.  There were several under 30 at this seminar that could not do what he was demonstrating at the speed he was doing it.

Is he a super human (apart from the Superfoot)? Absolutely not! He simply (!) managed to improve his techniques to perfection and then he adds to his techniques an amazing knowledge of what works, what scores, what helps you winning.  Full contact kickboxing is today dominated by a number of good boxers that work out how to put a few round and front kicks within a rich combination of punches.  His technique and style is unique and I don’t know of any professional full contact fighter that could fight today in this style but still he can be described with similar words I heard by a TV commentator during one of his fights: “you know he will come from a left side stance and you know he will either kick side, round or hook kick; nonetheless he scores and he does it every time”.

Meeting Bill Wallace was an amazing experience and although the workshop was less than three hours long I took home a list of amazing tricks that I will surely add to my repertoire and I will start teaching straight away.  Thanks Superfoot, looking forward to seeing you again.

Meet Maul Mornie

After having seen the numerous videos that Maul has on his You Tube channel I was convinced I had to meet him and try out his style. I was initially discouraged by the fact that he is always travelling to different places delivering seminars and that he is usually booked for a good part of a year in advance but, nearly by mistake I found out he was in touch with a local teacher of Silat that runs classes in Cambridge University, Lee Wilson, and so I caught the opportunity and turn up at a seminar held in Darwin College in early March.

Silat Suffian Bela Diri is a martial art that originates in Brunei and I believe it is somehow related to other Silat styles that are practiced in Indonesia and Malaysia: Maul himself admits to have little knowledge of those other styles and that what he practices and teaches is a direct lineage from his family.

The first impression of meeting Maul is warm and friendly: he appeared in the training hall greeting in a very friendly way people he met in previous occasions and welcoming in a equally warm way myself and others he was meeting for the first time.  His smile and facial expression is very reassuring and encouraging as well as his teaching style that is involving from the very first second.

Silat, similarly to other martial arts of South East Asia, is a martial art based on weapons, particularly knife: the training is usually starting by learning how to handle and defend against a weapon and moving onto bare hand fighting at a later stage.  As the seminar was open to all levels and there were people that, like me, had very little weapon experience he decided to start with the very basic drills that included the three basic knife strikes (cutting down vertically to the head, cutting across slashing the throat and stabbing horizontally toward the stomach).  Within minutes we were all practicing these basic drills and developed amazing ways of dealing with these kinds of attacks that would potentially be deadly if applied by an opponent with a live blade (all training is practiced with training knife blunt blades and edges).

The most amazing thing was seeing how Maul could handle these attacks with amazing precision and all counter attacks where at the same time conceptually simple and amazingly effective within a broad range of situations and circumstances.  The other hard to believe feature is his skill of moving incredibly slowly to demonstrate a technique that could potentially harm the opponent but then accelerating at an unexpected (even for a trained, expert martial artist) speed when showing how a techniques should be delivered in real life.

I was really amazed and totally impressed by Maul as a top martial artist and teacher as well as by his great personality and friendly manners: if you have a chance attending one of his seminars just go and try his style, technique and his unique teaching skills.