10 Questions with Douglas Graham (50/50 Fitness)

doug 50 50 logo1) Tell us a bit about yourself and 50/50 Fitness – what’s 50/50 Fitness all about and how did it come to be?

50/50 came with my evolution in teaching. It’s the old saying that ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. I can help you but you need to meet me half way. Otherwise you will always falter in your journey. Without that mentality, it is tough to commit to the way. With that said, I like to think I can show anybody that the mentality is there at their core. People are just bogged down by, or hide behind, the modern way of life.

2) How does self-protection fit into what you do?

I mentioned the way in my last answer. People can call me cryptic or old fashioned if they like but the fact is that everyone is searching for it. Self-protection, Self-defence, martial arts – call it what you like – it fits perfectly into what I do as the art of learning these disciplines can and should be a journey of self-discovery. Much as health & fitness has become in the modern age. Indeed, I found my way to being a Personal Trainer through my study and teaching of Martial Art. And lets be clear, there is only Martial Art for me when it comes to Self-Protection. This led to a love for understanding body mechanics. Naturally this led to a deeper study of the human body and ways to improve performance. Initially in certain areas and movements, but that gave way to a deeper understanding and approach as time marched.

3) What motivates you in your training? How do you get yourself going when you’re not in the mood or you have other things to do?

First off. I am rarely in this magical mood I hear of that people seem to be in. I motivate myself every time. It’s about balance. It’s not about going to the gym/dojo/hall and ‘smashing it’. Not for the average person. Too much emphasis is placed on the kick-ass mentality or the killer workout. Its tough for people to continually motivate themselves for something they just don’t want to do. My self-defence class is not one that seeks out new folks to train; I have never really been that way inclined unless it could do with another body or two to help with training. But if somebody seeks out the class, well then you pretty much have that 50 I am looking for. Motivation is often relative to the task at hand and comes in different forms. Do you motivate yourself to go to a job you hate every day? You may have more than you already know ;-)

4) What would you say is your greatest skill or attribute as a teacher?

Probably best to ask someone that trains with me to be honest. I am sure it varies from person to person.

5) What would you say is the most important aspect of your training, skill you develop or attribute you cultivate in 50/50 Fitness?

Tough question for me. I have a very blurred line between these two. People define it but I still can’t, not really. In general though, I stick my hand up for attributes. Because I don’t specifically define, I won’t say more than this.

6) What is your favourite exercise, training method or drill?

In exercise HIT style workouts have been without doubt my favourite for years now. It’s a style that can fit you at any level or age. The name ‘High Intensity Training’ tends to scare many. That is unless you brand it ;-) Interval Training is an umbrella term but fits fine for me in this case. For my SD training it is also without doubt, free-form multiple attacker drills in full gear. They can be very serious and testing like nothing else. Also very fun and amusing. You very quickly learn where you make potentially fatal errors. It shows up differences between say, perceived speed and real speed, power, accuracy etc, etc.

7) What do you like to do aside from 50/50 Fitness? What interests you?

Outside of MA and Fitness I enjoy growing herbs and spices. I like reading although in the past couple of years I have read only research. It’s something I need to address and enjoy reading for reading again.

8) What advice do you have for the students out there reading this?

Be wary of YouTube. Seek out good teachers, they can be anywhere.

9) What advice do you have for the instructors out there reading this?

Be wary of YouTube. But in a different way. Be thankful for good students, they are your greatest teachers.

10) What is your ultimate goal with 50/50 Fitness? Where do you want it to lead?

Corny as it sounds, wherever it takes me. My goal is to help people improve themselves and understand that ‘perfect’ is a saying, not a finish line. In my eyes there are not many out there on a big scale that are truly achieving this. If I can reach that type of scale, with my approach, it will be an accomplishment indeed. But even on the small scale I am happy if I can pass on knowledge to a few, that will pass through the individual and on to another few. Money is a burden we all share. I like to bear it as simply as possible. The goals and philosophy of 50/50 are an embodiment of myself and the legacy I leave for my children. If it reaches only them, I die a very happy man.

You can get in touch with Douglas Graham about 50/50 Fitness on his Facebook page here or you can email him at fiftyfiftyfitness@hotmail.co.uk by clicking here.

Review: ‘Peter Consterdine’s Training Day Volume 2’ by Peter Consterdine

Consterdine, Peter. Peter Consterdine’s Training Day Volume 2. Protection Publications. 2005.

Review: Peter Consterdine’s Training Day Volume 2:
by Josh Nixon, ESP

Last week we looked at the excellent first part to this two-part series, which can be found here.

The Training Day videos follow on from the enquiries made after the popular Fit to Fight videos became well-known (part one reviewed here and part 2 reviewed here). As you may expect from a BCA video, this one is excellent. It’s fitness-oriented but is packed full of drills that are very combatively useful. The key point of the approach presented here to training is in developing functional fitness by doing cardio, etc that is at the same time developing combatively useful attributes.

The video begins with an important discussion from Peter about concomitancy or flow when putting movements together – ‘getting the transitions right’ – which is a key understanding for those interested in this kind of training. Training in this kind of high intensity and focussing on a small amount of methods is a great way to work on endurance and stamina while also improving the quality of the movement itself.

The video includes a number of additional drills following from the approach laid out in the first part of this pair, including pressure work and padwork with the focus mitts in threes as well as in pairs, punching and kicking drills, the ‘four-corner blitz’, ducking and weaving drills, shuttle drills, combination drills, repetition drills and pyramid drills.

Interspersed between these drills being demonstrated is Peter explaining key understandings for each section.

There’s also an attempt at the end from Brian Seabright to get 60 roundhouse kicks into a minute!

This video demonstrates, again, a group of highly skilled martial artists at work generating some impressive impact and, of course, making it look easy! I definitely recommend using these training methods yourself.

This video is available on DVD or for digital download (much cheaper, understandably) from http://www.peterconsterdine.com/store.htm. Further information and a download link can also be found at http://www.peterconsterdine.com/trainingday2.htm.

Review: ‘Peter Consterdine’s Training Day Volume 1’ by Peter Consterdine

Consterdine, Peter. Peter Consterdine’s Training Day Volume 1. Protection Publications. 2004.

Review: Peter Consterdine’s Training Day Volume 1:
by Josh Nixon, ESP

This review is part one of a two-part series. Part two is can be found here.

The Training Day videos follow on from the enquiries made after the popular Fit to Fight videos became well-known (part one reviewed here and part 2 reviewed here). As you may expect from a BCA video, this one is excellent. It’s fitness-oriented but is packed full of drills that are very combatively useful. The key point of the approach presented here to training is in developing functional fitness by doing cardio, etc that is at the same time developing combatively useful attributes.

There’s a lot of ideas in here for incorporating bag work, pad work, shuttle drills, partner drills, pressure work,  traditional Karate padwork drills with a fitness focus, ‘slow-mo’ sparring, pyramid drills and shield kicking drills.

As well as just the drills, this video shows a group of absolutely phenomenal punchers and kickers at work. There’s some fantastic impact generated by these martial artists; very high levels of skill demonstrated indeed. Martial artists in this video include (of course) Peter Consterdine, Brian Seabright, Bernard Taylor, Steve Williams and Richard Hardy.

I definitely recommend taking a look at this training session and using it yourself as a basis for yours. It really is excellent.

This video is available on DVD or for digital download (much cheaper, understandably) from http://www.peterconsterdine.com/store.htm. Further information and a download link can also be found athttp://www.peterconsterdine.com/trainingday1.htm.

Review: ‘The Pavement Arena Part 3′ by Peter Consterdine and Geoff Thompson

Consterdine, Peter and Thompson, Geoff. The Pavement Arena Part Three: ‘Grappling – The Last Resort’. Legend Video Productions. 1994.

Review: The Pavement Arena Part 3: ‘Grappling – The Last Resort’:
by Josh Nixon, ESP

This review is part of a series. Part one can be found here, part two can be found here, this is part three, part four can be found here and part five (sort of – it follows on from part four but isn’t part of the Pavement Arena series) can be found here.

This third instalment in the popular ‘Pavement Arena’ series is, again, often eye-opening to its viewers. Many do not consider grappling in enough depth for its real combative applications, and many court it too much which can lead to problems of its own. With grappling in particular, a balance must be struck between training it enough to be competent and thus to (hopefully) survive the horrible situation of finding yourself grappling with an assailant, and training it to the exclusion of other things, such as punching. In addition, we must be very careful with how we train grappling, as it can be easy to fall into a sporting paradigm when learning grappling from arts such as Judo. While Judo is excellent and is one of the activities I personally intend to enjoy much more in the near future (as I feel I can learn a lot from it, it will be very enjoyable and will be great for my fitness and strength), we must remember that it is a sport and that certain aspects of sports-based training must be kept strictly separate from self-protection training, just as the premise of this series is that traditional martial arts training and self-protection training are not the same and thus the differences must be appreciated for self-protection training to be efficient.

This video begins with this essential discussion of the realities of grappling in real combative situations, which (as with the others of the series) sets the tone immediately of a solid and well-thought-out presentation. There are some ground mobility drills involving breakfalls near the beginning which, of course, are only to be used on mats. Rolling can work fine on a hard surface, but slapping breakfalls are good only for soft, level surfaces. Never attempt on a hard or uneven surface! They’re essential in grappling training on a matted surface though, in order for partners to fall more realistically for each other without injury and thus to allow the necessary full-force, realistic throwing. The required safety aspects of training in grappling are emphasised in the video, such as the Tap-Out safety system and the necessity of having an onlooker while grappling.

Where this video stands out from the crowd, however, is its treatment of what to do while grappling; specifically of striking from a close range. Many neglect striking at close ranges but this is not an effective way to train or teach for self-protection. The reality is that striking is absolutely necessary at this range as it is at any other, and effective power generation and targeting is essential. Geoff Thompson does a nice section on effective headbutting too, which is an often-overlooked area of combat, followed by some information on blood and air choking.

Making throws work for real combat is another module of essential knowledge that this video introduces you to. What is more interesting however is the section on bag work for grappling training, which I haven’t (yet) seen in any other video. The way they demonstrate the movements done on the bag with cuts to a live partner clip is very effective to help understand what you’re doing with this kind of work too.

I’ll finish with one quote that really stands out for me from this video: ‘the scruffy stuff works’. The concept of progressive sparring, perhaps new to many, is very much worth incorporating into any serious training. This video is well-worth adding to anyone’s collection and if grappling is a mystery to you then it is a certainly a very valuable introduction.

This video is available on DVD or for digital download (much cheaper, understandably) from http://www.peterconsterdine.com/store.htm. Further information and a download link can also be found at http://www.peterconsterdine.com/arena3.htm.

Martial Art? Combat Sport? Self-Defence? Self-Protection? What’s the difference? Why does it matter?

By Josh Nixon, ESP

Please note: This article is now outdated. It is merely retained here for archive purposes, so the changing nature of things here can be seen by all. Consider the following just my older thoughts on the matter, from which the current ones have come.

Here is the updated version of things: http://evolutionaryselfprotection.wikia.com/wiki/Self-Protection

In discussions of different training systems, it becomes immediately apparent after a quick Google or a sift through YouTube that the terms used in the title of this article are used more or less interchangeably by a great many people. This may seem unimportant, but it is becoming a big issue in the martial arts community today. In an attempt to help with this problem, and also to clarify my use of these terms online and offline, I thought it would be useful to produce a short list of these terms, and how I would define them, with some examples of common traits. Note that the following is merely my personal use of these terms, and other peoples’ usage of them will vary, as they are of course completely free to do so.

Martial Art: A martial art is exactly what the name suggests – an art. An art is a method of expression through application of creativity, and is typically concerned with aesthetics. As such, martial arts are often concerned with aesthetics, historical traditions, cultural customs and philosophy. These systems will often focus most of their training on one aspect of fighting, though not always. Martial arts can be traditional or modern, and different systems are often mixed into hybrid systems, usually in order to address what the instructors feel is a shortcoming of their original system. These are often termed Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), though this term is now used more for combat sports systems so many adopt the alternative term Hybrid Martial Arts (HMA) to avoid confusion. Martial arts can be thought of as a method of self-perfection rather than necessarily self-protection, though of course all martial arts training will have some real combative merit, and will often be extremely potent systems with which to protect oneself, so they should be respected as such.

Combat Sport: A combat sport is, again, exactly what the name suggests. If a system focuses on competition then it is a combat sport. These systems are often characterised by points-based sparring, where points may be awarded according to damage dealt, submission, knockout, etc or on aesthetic grounds, for example. Tournaments are often held on a regular basis, and the more well-known ones are the ones you see on TV and online. If training is focussed solely on fitness with any combative merits being considered secondary then that system could also be considered a combat sport.

Self-Defence: Self-Defence is where this topic gets confused on a regular basis, and arguably where it matters a little more pressingly. Self-Defence is a term used for reactive systems that are geared towards dealing with a combative situation by reacting to a physical attack. This includes Reality-Based Self-Defence (RBSD) systems. These systems are not concerned with aesthetics, historical traditions, cultural customs or philosophy.

Self-Protection: Self-Protection is a term used for systems that, in addition to the reactive methods of Self-Defence, incorporate proactive methods such as pre-emptive striking, and a great emphasis on awareness, evaluation, avoidance, evasion and communicative, noncombative strategies such as verbal de-escalation. An understanding of psychology thus often features prominently. As a result, self-protection systems are concerned heavily with how to stop a situation from becoming physically combative in the first place so that in a sense the physical combatives are secondary in focus. However, these physical combatives will often take up a large portion of the training time in sessions. These systems are also not concerned with aesthetics, historical traditions, cultural customs or philosophy.

So why does it matter? It matters because any confusion between these terms can lead to extreme differences of expectation and reality in training. For example, a traditional martial arts class marketing themselves as a combat sport might not be delivering what the students who have seen their posters are looking for, if they rarely hold tournaments or are not very competitive in their training. Similarly, a combat sport class focussed on UFC-style cagefighting could accidentally mislead prospective students by marketing themselves as a martial arts class, as people seeking a martial arts class may be looking for the tradition, philosophy and artistic values that a sports-based class would simply not be concerned with. This becomes more concerning when martial arts are marketed as self-defence or self-protection, however, as confidence in a martial arts technique trained from a perspective which is concerned with aesthetics can often be extremely dangerous in a real combative situation, or even fatal.

This article is not a criticism of any system, style, art or form, but rather a comment on the terminology used to denote them, and an appreciation of the effects that the confusion of these terms can have. Remember though: don’t judge a class necessarily by what it categorises itself as, because at the moment there is almost an interchangeability in many of these terms. Now that these terms have been clarified however, at least if nothing more our ESP-related discourse will be clear and unambiguous.

PHDefence (08.10.2011) Feedback

imageToday we played with a lot of Wing Chun principles, including some fun freestyle defensive drills from Paul. The sparring after that was also good – I can tell you dudes and dudettes have been doing a lot more of it in recent weeks.

In the second half, I took you through some of the basic wrist grab escapes, but with more intensity and resistance, thanks to a mention from Chris. Then we ploughed through some speed drills, which were surprisingly tiring actually, I have to say! It’s amazing how tired you can get in ten seconds. After that we lowered the intensity with some flow sparring, and then some good old-fashioned Shŭāng Chīsau (双黐手) before getting into some Spadwork.

imageAt the end, the lower grades went through some more speed drills and Spadwork, while I took the higher grades through an introduction to basic Ballistic Striking, thanks to some tips from the legendary Val Riazanov. If you don’t know who that is, stick his name into YouTube and you’ll understand why I’m looking at you funny for not knowing who he is! This picture to the left is him, in black (obviously, I mean – can you imagine disarming him? I wouldn’t fancy my chances.)

All in all, a very enjoyable session this week and better numbers that we’ve been seeing in the past. However, it is also university season, and so unfortunately today was the last time we’ll be seeing Charlie and Chris for a few weeks. However, at least they’ve been given something to think about and play around with while they’re gone.

See you next week,
FCIns. Josh Nixon

Image of Yip Man courtesy of http://www.londonwingchun.com/images/Yip_Man_wooden_dummy.jpg

Image of Val Riazanov and Bryan Black courtesy of http://www.itstactical.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/BryanAndValMain.jpg

PHDefence (24.09.2011) Feedback

image

It feels like ages since I’ve done one of these! It always does when we miss a week. Today we did some work on Jiāosao with Paul, and a good section on ground mobility too just to get you all back into it. In my section I took you through sparring in various forms, increasing protection and intensity. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of condition white drills implemented in sparring in the future. No, this picture isn’t PHDefence; it’s a 2008 TKD spar from Wikipedia. It’s a sweet kick though.

Next week, we’ll be working on specific issues that come up in sparring, so get thinking! If you often get caught in the same place, or if a particular technique never works, or if a particular one always works on you, then tell me next week and we’ll work on those problems specifically. It’ll be epic.

An important announcement: YOU NEED SPARRING GEAR!

It wasn’t much of an issue at PHDefence before, as sparring was an occasional thing. However, now they’re aiming to build up the sparring a lot; implementing it at least every other week, if not every week. I’m not saying we’ll be spending as much time as we did today on it every week, but there should be at least a small section of sparring every time. As such, it is imperative that all of you bring your sparring gear to every lesson. Those who haven’t got any really need to get some soon. Low grades can perhaps just about do without headguards and shin/instep pads for a while, but gumshields really are essential. They’re also (usually) ridiculously cheap. If you’re paying more than a few quid (say, £5 or so) then you’re either being ripped off or it’s unnecessarily fancy and technological (though if you’ve got an epic one with lasers and hidden bombs then by all means go for it). Bear in mind that not all gumshields can be re-moulded.

Here are some examples I’ve found on my travels around the Internet of the things you need. The basic kit includes:

  • Gumshield
  • Gloves
  • Headguard
  • Shin or Shin + Instep Pads

Other kit includes padded boots, torso pads, thigh pads, knee pads, elbow pads, forearm pads, groin guards, etc. To be honest, it’s all pretty unnecessary, but if you want a bit more padding then don’t let me stop you! Groin guards are perhaps a good idea, but you’d really need to be wearing it all lesson, which isn’t going to be overly comfortable. Your choice though.

The Three Kinds of Sparring Gear:

Basically speaking, there’s three kinds of sparring gear. Crazy and awesome one-offs aside, they generally fall into these three categories:

Fabric pads, typically white cotton in construction and almost always elasticated, offer the least protection but the most comfort. They’re also usually quite cheap. The foam inside is usually Ethylene vinyl acetate (also known as EVA) polymer foam.
Dipped Foam pads usually have Velcro straps instead of elasticated sleeves, and are coated in a plastic vinyl coating. This means they’re easy to clean and are more hardwearing. They also take a bit more abuse. However, over the years they can be prone to cracking and/or ripping in certain stressed areas, particularly the join between the shin and instep bits of shin + instep pads.
Rigid pads are the most hardwearing, and offer the best protection. They’re also usually very expensive. They have a hardened cover (usually Kevlar) or a leather cover with a rigid inside. This type is usually illegal in competitions, but that’s not really an issue. These will hurt if you smash into them with a shin, but if you’re sparring you should have shin pads of your own, and if you have there’ll be no problems. These pads aren’t rock-solid usually, but their padding is on the inside, so they’re geared towards the protection of the wearer rather than the person getting kicked, so bear this in mind. They’re great for Instructors because it means we can let you kick us properly hard (with your shoes, not your shins – think Oblique Kicks…)

This is the website that Paul uses – Ki Martial Arts – and here’s the protective equipment section for your perusal: http://www.kico.co.uk/products/protective-equipment/

Different Kinds of Gloves, etc:

Gloves come in all shapes and sizes – ‘sparring’ gloves typically have finger holds like these Blitz ones (right).

Alternately, your normal boxing style gloves are fine. Another kind of gloves worth a mention is MMA style gloves, which allow for grappling as well as striking, like these classic UFC gloves (below, left). I don’t think Paul’s too keen on junior members using these though, as they don’t absorb much of the impact from your strikes. They’re perhaps better than other gloves for light contact though, particularly if the sparring is going to the ground. Adults can make their own minds up really. I find them quite comfortable to use, but of course it’s not just you that you’re thinking about!

As for gloves being used for padwork, I would really recommend that you don’t use gloves when doing padwork. If you do, I would recommend ones like MMA gloves which aren’t too padded, as you miss out on the conditioning and the fine detail of the technique then using gloves in my opinion. If you really, really want to though, don’t use soft ones.

More sparring gear can be found on eBay, etc: http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p5197.m570.l1313&_nkw=sparring+gear&_sacat=See-All-Categories

Of course, headguards also come in all kinds, from boxing style ones to martial arts style ones, to grappling ones (just help prevent cauliflower ear when grappling) to full face-visor ones. Pick one that’ll protect you enough, and you probably can’t go far wrong. There’s merits to having a face visor and to not having one: not having one will train your reflexes better because you’re getting hit in the face, which will make you want to keep your hands up, but having a face visor allows the sparring partner to employ elbow strikes, etc which would be dangerous otherwise. Weigh up the pros and cons and decide yourselves, or have a word with us in class.

The bottom line though is:

YOU NEED SPARRING GEAR!

image

If you’ve got any doubts, problems or questions about whether this or that is suitable, just chuck me an email at csps.info@gmail.com

Individual Points:

I’m not going to put names on here, just initials, for the junior members. It’s probably not an issue putting first names, but just in case I’ll just stick down initials. If any of you are really conscious of your personal security, ask and I’ll remove your name or initials straight away. (I doubt any crims will be able to find anyone from initials though!)

G.C: Believe in yourself! I know it sounds cheesy, but you really should believe in yourself more – stop telling yourself you can’t do things, and start telling yourself ‘no, actually – I can’. You’ll go from being awesome to awesomer. :D Welcome back to Callum, who should be joining us more regularly from now on, so we’ll have a more senior student in our midst; a veteran from the Good Old Days! Honourable congrats to Charlie for throwing out epic punches despite a bad back, and goodbye to Owen for a while, as he’s going off to university soon. Hopefully by the time everyone’s back again we’ll have a full and separate adults’ class for them!

See you next week! Training was great this morning – there’s some truly awesome progress being made! Time to make some more though…

All the best,
FCIns. Josh Nixon

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