Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goals For The New Year

Last year's goals and their results:

  • Maintain a weight of 185lbs or lower.
    • I weighed 178lbs at my last weigh in.
  • Go to the gym at least 3 times a week
    • From February on I was at the gym 5 to 6 times a week ending this week when I only made it twice... I think I will call this one achieved.
  • Fly at least 3 hours a month
    • I only went flying once this whole year... I failed.
  • Take Microsoft Certification Tests for SharePoint 2010
    • I passed three of the four tests I wanted to take, however I succeeded in getting a MCITP in SharePoint. I passed one developer test, so I guess that makes me a MCTS in that regard...

This Year's Goals:

  • Mantian a weight of 180lbs or lower.
  • Go to the gym at least 4 times a week.
    • At least two BJJ and two Muay Thai work outs per week.
  • Fly at least three hours a month.
  • Complete MCPD SharePoint certification.
    • Apply for Certified Master courses.

Magazine Change

Really good demonstration of different ways to do a magazine change. I always try to do the third way. Keep the weapon up and visible as you bring the magazine to the well. Situation awareness is not affected and you are not surprised by things that pop up as you switch mags.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

42 Half Guard Positions


Beretta PX4 Storm First Dance Review

The wife was feeling generous this Christmas and allowed me to purchase the Beretta that I have been wanting for... forever. You can see me mention it in this post, this post, AND this post.
I got the standard "F" type of the PX4 Storm in .45, because... Well because I wanted to take it home right away, and not bother with special ordering the "C" type.

Type F has an external safety and a hammer. It shoots Double Action/Single Action.

Type C has no external safety and no hammer. It shoots Double Action Only (yeah Beretta has a fancy name for it, and it isn't a true DAO, but for all intents and purposes, there is a long trigger pull associated with DAO pistols. Get over yourself...)

The biggest differences between the F and C types is that with the F type, you have a big trigger pull on the first shot, then a short trigger pull on subsequent shots. The C type has the same trigger pull no mater what. With the F type you need to physically move the safety lever in to the "shoot" position before you can fire. The C type is ready to rock and roll as soon as you rack the slide. Your index finger is your safety.
The C type is designed in the less is better school of thought that in a self defense situation you want as few things as possible for your fine motor skills to do. So things like cocking a pistol or switching to "fire" are simple one more thing that you have to do before you can get your gun in to the fight. Therefore, it is one more thing that can go wrong. But, my wife was more comfortable with the external safety, and I wanted the gun right away, so we went with the F type. The F type did incorporate the 92F's integrated safety and de-cocker, so there are no extra leavers on the side of the pistol. That is a nice addition.

If you have ever fired the Beretta 92F, not the Military M9 variant, you know the pleasure of the smooth Beretta action. This pistol is all about smooth. When you buy a pistol from Beretta, and it has been made in Italy at Brescia, you know you are getting a product that has 500 years of tradition and pride behind it. Everything that is on that pistol has been made at the Beretta factory, specifically for that firearms line. They forge their own steel, hammer forge their own barrels, mill their own blocks, and they bake their own ceramic. Nearly every part of the pistol is created in a high tech automated environment where precision is the name of the game. It is then assembled by individuals who have been working for Beretta for generations. The pistol shoots like you are challenging all of that tradition and talent.

The biggest feature that separates the PX4 Storm from the other full size pistols out there is the innovative and unique way it addresses recoil. In a traditional Browning pistol action, like the 92F or Glock or 1911, the pistol uses the recoil of the round to push the slide back, eject the spent casing, and load a new round. To load this new round, the barrel is moved slightly upward to receive the new round from the magazine. Take a look at this video and note how the barrel back moves down and the muzzle is moved up:

What this barrel movement tends to do is flip the muzzle upward. The bigger and more powerful the bullet, the more pronounced the muzzle flip. The problem that most people have with a .45 is that the muzzle flip is so pronounced it discourages them from firing it. This is one of the reasons that the military has moved away from the .45, non-shooters have a much more positive experience shooting the smaller, weaker 9mm round. So, what do you do if you want the muzzle flip of the 9mm in a .45? Beretta went WAY outside the box and developed a rotating barrel lock. What this design does is instead of rocking the barrel upwards, they rotate the barrel about a quarter turn. What this does is it drives the recoil straight back in to the arm of the shooter rather than flip it up in to the sky. So, when shooting the PX4 Storm, the recoil is much more manageable, and is much more comfortable to shoot than the standard Browning short recoil operation pistol.

Note how the barrel does not move from the horizontal in this illustration. Check out the videos on this page for cut away videos.

Getting back to my shooting experience...
I wanted to make sure I was getting a good approximation with the different actions, so I brought my Glock 30, 200 rounds of target ammo, and 80 rounds of self defense ammo. The target ammo was Winchester's standard FMJ, 230 grain .45 target load. I went a little nuts with the self defense stuff, so I had my standard Glaeser Pow'R'Ball 165 grain +P hollow points, Winchester's 230 grain Bonded PDX1, and, because I fell for the marketing name, Hornady's 186 grain Zombie Max.

I loaded up the two pistols and fired away. The ammo performed about the same, except I could really tell when I had just shot a PDX1 round. The heavier bullet under the +P pressure gave it a distinctive recoil. I was pleased when I found that all of the ammo that I threw at the Beretta and the Glock fed through with no problems at all. They both went BOOM every squeeze of the trigger. Despite all of the marketing and hype, you are still shooting a .45. The recoil is heavy. What I did notice is that my wrist did not break upwards nearly as much as it did with the Glock. I was able to bring the PX4 back on to target for the follow up shot. One thing I like about the Glock over the Beretta is the Glock's rear sight.

As you can see from the picture the Glock's rear sight has a white outlining border that gives grater contrast, making it very easy to bring the font sight back down in to the sight picture. The Beretta uses a three dot system, that is more difficult to pick up and put back on target.

So, while the PX4 had less muzzle flip than the Glock, I was able to reacquire my sight picture, and therefore fire faster with the Glock. This may just be to unfamiliarity with my new Beretta, but I am going to look in to getting better sights for it.

One unanticipated hang up with the Beretta was with chambering a round after a magazine reload. I don't like to use slide release leavers during a reload. The release is in a different place depending on the pistol you are shooting, and each pistol has its own spring tension on the release. It is also a different movement than if you have to rack the slide to chamber a round from the closed bolt position or if you need to clear a jam.
What IS the same for all automatic pistols, is the same movement for clearing a jam, or chambering a round from the closed bolt position is simply reaching up and pulling the slide all the way back. If there is a round in the magazine waiting to be fed in to the chamber, the slide catch will not engage and the slide will close in to battery. So, no mater what pistol you are using, for any type of feed or charging issue, you only need to practice a single movement. Reach up, pull the slide all the way back, release, shoot.
A nice feature that the Beretta has is an ambidextrous safety leaver. So if you are left handed or right handed, you can flip the safety up, no problem. But then you have a big thing on both sides of the slide, and they can get in the way when you reach up to rack the slide. With the external safety-less Glock this action is smooth and easy, the Beretta, not so much. Having the safety there encourages you to use the slide release. I know not a big deal, but it was something that I noticed.

Groupings were similar with the Glock and with the Beretta at 20 yards. Interestingly enough the best groupings of the day came from the Hornady Zombie Max. Beyond 20 yards the advantage of the longer barrel on the full sized PX4 became clear. I am confident with the short Glock 30 up to 20 yards, but anything over that, I would want the longer more stable platform offered by the PX4 Storm.

Over all the smoothness of the action and the reduced muzzle flip makes the Beretta PX4 Storm a lot of fun, and very comfortable to shoot. After putting 100 rounds through the Glock and 100 rounds through the Beretta, I came up with the simile that shooting the Glock is like sitting on a very hard straight backed wooden chair, and shooting the PX4 is like sitting in an overstuffed recliner. You really want to be done sitting in the wooden char, but the longer you stay in the recliner, the longer you want to sit. I am very pleased with the PX4, and I think it will be a favorite of mine for a long time to come.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Concealed Carry... Useless?

In this video filed by Diane Sawyer we see several hapless "concealed carry" people immediately gunned down by assailants. Certainly, it would seem that concealed carry in this situation is absolutely useless, and that, as the YouTube host suggests, civilians who carry concealed weapons are living in a fantasy world. First let's take a look at the test itself, the results, and then analyze lessons learned.

First and foremost, Diane Sawyer is a liberal, and an anti-gun advocate. This is common knowledge, blah, blah, blah, water is wet. Let's get past that. We are about the truth here not about protecting any one view point... Well, I am about protecting my viewpoint... So it is good to note that I am a Freedom loving guy who believes that everybody should be packing at all times. Or not, who cares, keep the Government out of it. Moving on...

Let's take a look at how the test was set up, who the participants were, and what we can learn from it.
The show selected three people to have do their little test. Two of which were absolutely new to firearms, their use, and their concealment. One had some range firearms experience. All seemed to be not versed at all in any type of tactical deployment.
They are then allowed to carry the gun, in an outside the waist band holster with a securing strap that actually snaps over the back strap of the pistol. In other words, the absolute worst type of holster you can buy... I don't think I can even find this type of holster any more...

The test consists of putting the armed person in a class where they would learn about safety equipment. At a certain point in time a gunman will enter and start shooting up the place.
Who are the gunmen? Two SWAT police instructors. In other words they make their living by teaching other SWAT officers how to shoot, and firearms tactical deployments.
In addition to this, the armed people are sitting in the exact same place each time the test is run, and the "gunmen" know exactly where they are sitting. Oh, and the class is an amphitheater style classroom where a person on the ground has an unobstructed view of everyone in the class... And there is only one entrance and exit easily controlled by someone on the ground.
What happens? The first one was shot as he stupidly stood up, and tried to draw his gun through his shirt. He is shot before he can get his gun out of the holster.
The second appears to be in better shape as she takes some cover, but is shot as she stands to shoot.
The third... Our firearms guy... It seems that the show was not comfortable enough with this guy just failing, they wanted him to super fail. The send in TWO SWAT trained officers. Turns out this guy is a pussy and is drilled multiple times as he cowers in and indefeasible position.

What do we learn? First, we learn that trained people defeat untrained people every time. The trained SWAT officers who knew where and who to shoot were very effective in taking out their target.
Next we learn that when a gunman knows that there is an armed person in the room, the armed person is the first to be shot. Conciel your weapon, never open carry. That gun on your hip paints a target on your chest that says "Shoot me first!!!"
We learn the first rule of surviving an armed encounter. GET SAFE!!! If someone comes in to a room shooting, you must must must must find cover or concealment. After you are safe, you can then think about returning fire. The only participant who had any luck at all was the one who first got safe.

What this video really shows those of us who choose to carry concealed weapons is that we need to practice. Practice your draw from your concealment. That means moving your shirt pulling and firing. It means going to the range and instead of just blowing through 200 rounds, do 100 rounds drawing from concealment first.
We must practice shooting from concealment and shooting from the kneeling position. And we MUST train ourselves to find the best places for cover and concealment in a room every time, without exception, we enter. Without exception, we must find all of the exits to a building so that we can quickly get to safety.
We must train our bodies to deal with high stress situations. That means going to IPSC night at the range and running through the course. It means training your body in the Martial Arts gym and fighting somebody better than you. It means doing things that force your body in to the fight or flight mode, and learning to function in that mode.

I learned about this mode when I was in Primary Flight School. Back when I was learning how to fly, there was a spin requirement. The airplane had to be put in to a spin, and the student pilot had to recover from that spin. The first time we did it, I froze. I could not function, and the instructor had to pull the plane out of the spin. We talked about what happened, and for the first time in my very young life I realized that I could die in that airplane if I made the wrong choice, or froze like I just did.
My flight instructor was not the type to ever end on a bad note so we did the spin again. This time I recovered properly from the spin. It did not freak me out any less, I just was able to force my body to do the recovery that I practiced.
From that point on I have looked to find that Fight or Flight response. When I know I am getting rusty, I will do something stupid... Like rent an aerobatic airplane with an instructor and run through spins. Or participate in a Martial Arts tournament, or get in to the ring for an actual fight... something I won't be doing again.
With the gun however, I do make it a point to go and do at least one IPSC night a year. It forces that fight or flight in me, and I have a loaded gun on my hip. IPSC forces you to bite down on that fight or flight response and put rounds safely on target. It is the closest thing I can get to actual police SWAT training.

That brings me back to the video... I wonder what would have happened if a trained IPSC guy would have been in that room, in a place unknown to the SWAT officers... Or better yet if the gunman was one of the untrained people told that there would be no one armed in that room. This would be a much better approximation to real life. Because you see, in real life, gunmen don't attack places where there will be armed people to shoot back at them. The hit places where they believe NO ONE is armed. When the police show up, they kill themselves.

This is a good video. First it shows us that the opposition to concealed carry believes that the public are complete morons. It also shows us what happens to the unprepared and the untrained when the unthinkable occurs. Be prepared for when the Fit Hits the Shan. Train yourself for the worst.

Bow and Arrow Choke Defense

I get caught in the Bow and Arrow choke all of the time. My defense for the back mount is pretty good, so my upper level opponents will go to this choke because it gives them an option for an armbar, as well as changing the angle on the choke attack to negate the typical back mount defense (removing one hook and sitting on it...)
My problem has been, what to do when I feel them go for the Bow and Arrow choke? I
Check out this very simple, yet very effective defense!

Ground Skill Is The Equalizer

"I don't want to get choked."
"The arm locks scare me."
"The boys will just overpower me."
"I'll just get smashed in to the ground."
"I don't want to do all of that... touching."

These are the excuses I hear from women on the subject of taking Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes. I have to admit that they are all valid concerns. However the thread running through all of the above excuses, and the other ones that you hear is always: "I am afraid of the great strength difference between men and women." Well... Except for the touching ones... That we can address later.

I am all about truth here, so let us face the truth. As a woman, going in to a BJJ class you will be easily overpowered by the men in the class. They will out weigh you by 20lbs to 100lbs. Even if you find a man your own weight in the class, he is going to be stronger than you are. That is the way the sexes are built, and there is nothing you can do about that. The only thing you can change is your attitude and your mind set.

I have always been a relatively large man. I have never weighed less than 175lbs in my adult life. Most of my adult life I have weighed between 190lbs and 210lbs. However I have had women, who weigh less than 110lbs, tap me out, pass my guard, and render my pin positions worthless. How were they able to do this? Perfect technique.
Men are at an inherent mental disadvantage when it comes to technique. Their entire lives men, especially large men, have used their size and strength to overcome physical challenges. It is ingrained in their psyche that if they can't do something the reason is that they are not strong enough, or the other person was too strong for them to succeed. Therefore, when they are working on something that is technique centric, like golf, or BJJ, it takes quite a while for them to come around to the thinking that they can't just muscle their way to success.
Women, on the other hand, grasp technique centric tasks very quickly. Quite unlike the men, women understand that there are many ways to skin a cat, not just bash away at it.
I have always been amazed at how women, using perfect technique, overcome larger and much stronger male opponents. If they go in to their training looking for the best technique, they always seem to come out on top.

However, in BJJ class, what happens when the technically perfect woman runs in to the technically perfect man? Size and strength win again. With all training being equal, the woman looses. Women must accept this as truth, and work to perfect strategy and deception to prevail against an equally proficient male opponent.

What about all of the touching, and the possibility of injury? Well... If you are hung up on this there is little that can be done.
There is the possibility of injury in any athletic setting, especially in Martial Arts. In my experience, purely anecdotal evidence, I have seen more people injured kickboxing and doing Tae Kwon Do than I have ever seen injured doing BJJ.
With the touching aspect and the fear of one of your training partners injuring you, it comes down to one thing... Trust. Do you trust the other members of your gym? If not, why are you training there? Find a place where you can trust the people you train with. Nobody, including the men, want to get an injury. It is up to you to tap out at any point where you feel uncomfortable, or if you feel you are in danger of injury. There is no shame it tapping. I do it all of the time.
After a while you know what is simply uncomfortable (pain), and what can cause an injury. In the beginning, I tapped to side control. Don't worry if you do to.
Touching... Again it comes down to trust. Everybody is there to learn Jiu Jitsu, not to grope anybody or to get a cheap thrill. Know that the vast majority of the men working out with you in class are not thinking of you in a sexual way. They are trying to practice their BJJ. If you feel that one of the guys IS trying to touch you inappropriately, tell the instructor or one of the senior students IMMEDIATELY. I, and every single guy I know who have women in their classes, would never allow this kind of thing to stand, ever. It comes down to having respect for everyone in the class. If you don't think that the people in your gym would give you respect, don't train there. Find a place that will.

Just for fun, here is a video of a woman versus a man in a grappling event. The woman uses perfect technique to choke her opponent completely out. It is a thing of utter awesomeness!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Weight Loss

As the year ends, thoughts go to New Year's Resolutions. One that is always on the list is "loose weight." Gyms do their biggest membership drives Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers put ads on TV proclaiming to help. Diet books are pushed and "healthy lifestyle" is even in at McDonald's.

I am 37 years old, 6 feet tall, and I weigh about 175lbs - 180lbs. I used to weigh about 220lbs, probably more before I decided I needed to loose weight. Some of my progress I noted in this very blog. Because I am in pretty good shape, I get asked a lot about diet and exercise. Nobody likes my responses, because they are simple and, most importantly, they are difficult.

Loosing weight is a numbers game. You burn a certain amount of calories a day. You take in a certain amount of calories a day. If you take in more calories than you burn, your body will store the excess as fat. If you take in fewer calories than you burn, your body will burn your excess as needed. It is a numbers game. Just like a pilot figuring out how far he can fly on the amount of fuel he carries, fuel in = energy out.

Now, we are talking about weight loss, not nutrition and not general health. They are loosely related, but not interdependent. Weight loss is about how many calories you take in, health is about WHAT you eat. Make sense? Don't give me the whole song and dance about protein calories versus sugar calories. For weight loss a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. For general nutrition then your protein and sugar and whatever else you eat matters. As has been proven time and again, you can get super fat from eating the healthiest of foods, and you can loose weight eating absolute crap.

So, what is my system? Reduce my caloric intake and increase my caloric burn. Said less fancy, eat less and exercise more. That's it. That's all. Anyone who is trying to sell you on some fancy super magic bean diet is blowing smoke up your ass. Now, again, this is about weight loss, not fitness. Weight loss is determined by how many calories you burn, fitness is what you do to burn those calories. You can be thin and not fit, and you can be very fit, and be fat. Weight loss is about calories. Is that sinking in yet?

How do I do this "eat less and exercise more" plan? First things first. Go to the gym or to a licensed dietitian and get your metabolism baselined. This will tell you how many calories you body burns at rest. This is a quasi scientific number, and the only reason we want it is to give us a general number of what your maximum allowed calories for a day is. This is kind of an important number because the fitter you are, and the faster your metabolism, the bigger the number of calories you body burns at rest is, and the easier it will be for you to loose weight. The smaller the number is... well the more work you have to put in.

Armed with this number, you now have an upper limit on the amount of calories that you can consume in a day. Count calories with EVERYTHING you put in to your body. There are smart phone apps that can help you with this. There are all sorts of suggestions out there on when you should eat. Personally, I am hungry almost constantly during the day, so I like to eat lots of small meals. I take in the same amount of calories as I would if I was having one normal meal, but eating lots of small meals helps slate my hunger so that I do not attempt to over consume when the time comes to eat.
What to eat? Just eat what you normally do. Unless you have a real reason for changing your everyday diet, don't. Again this is about weigh loss, not about nutrition. A lot of people think dieting means completely changing what they eat. It doesn't have to be. You can loose weight by eating the same things that you normally do.

Now comes the hard part... Stop eating so much. This is easy to say, difficult to do. The rule I used when I was REALLY trying hard to loose weight was to think about how much food I would normally take, then take half of that amount. I would then attempt to leave some food on my plate. For me, this was the most difficult thing of all.
I was raised to clean my plate. It is extraordinarily hard to break that kind of conditioning. It takes will power. At first I just left crumbs. Then small chunks. Finally, recognizable pieces of the food.
Again this is not easy, especially if a loved one is preparing your food. If you don't clean your plate, many times the person preparing the food will think that you did not like the dish, and they will become upset... EVEN if they know what you are trying to do and support your efforts. Food is social, and the preparation of it is an act of love. You not eating all of what you are given can be interpreted as a rejection of the love that the food preparer put in to the dish. This puts TREMENDOUS amounts of pressure on those that eat to eat everything up.
My suggestion is to try and put less on your plate, and to complement the taste of the food throughout the meal. Food left on the serving dishes is easier to accept than food on the plate.
So, as an example of eating less, say my meal is pizza. Typically I would eat about 4 slices. So, instead of taking 4 slices, I only take two. I then eat one full slice and MOST of the second. I attempt to leave some of the second slice on the plate. I then push away from the table. If you typically have desert after your meal, say ice cream, you play the same game. If I have two scoops of ice cream, I only have one, I then eat MOST of that scoop, leaving some in the bowl. I then push away from the table. You have effectively halved your caloric intake from that meal.

Exercise is a little bit more complex... but not much. Lots of studies have been done on what exercise is best for fat loss, but if you are not working out ANYTHING is better than doing nothing. If you already have a workout routine, try to mix in something extra so that you will burn more calories. If you don't run, add a one mile run to the end of your work out. If you run, stop one mile earlier and work in some free weights.
Try to work in little workouts during your day. I like to do about 100 or so pushups during the day, spread out. I also work in one minute planks a couple of times during the day. If you are in an office, don't use the elevators. If you work in a building that only has one floor, walk around it a couple of times during the day. Do SOMETHING that burns calories, don't just sit at your desk like a bump on a log.

I do not count the calories I burned during exercise against my total calorie intake. Those burned calories are just bounuses. The real work for weight loss is in what you eat, so have your max number and stick to it. Never go over that number, and a bad day is when you reach that number. When you reach the number, that means that for that day you didn't gain any weight, but you didn't loose any either. It was a tie, and we don't like ties!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Interesting Open Guard Sweep

Typically I don't like complex sweeps. They take too long to set up and they have too many moving parts where things can go wrong. This particular sweep from Jason Scully is just simple enough and inovateive enough to try out...

My main worry with this sweep would be after I get to my knees, being able to keep the hand on the mat.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Underestimate NO ONE!! or Even a Guy With a Purse Can Be a Bad Ass

I walked in to the gym the other day to see that I had no training partners. I expected this, because the majority of the guys were at a tournament. I kind of like these alone days because I can work on my kicking and punching technique. I can feel how my hips are turning and what I need to do to increase my accuracy and power, all the while watching that I am using the best technique to preserve what is left of the cartilage in my knees and hips.

As I am warming up a guy walked in to the gym and asked if he could join the pro team. One of the perks of my gym is that the pros train for a percentage of their winnings. If they are on the pro team, they MUST compete regularly, and they MUST attend regular practice. Practice times are set everyday at 11am to 1pm. Because fighters, for the most part, don't have a lot of money, this set up is a good deal for them. They get to take advantage of the training, but they don't have to pay for it until after they fight.
The catch is that they have to "try out" for the team. In other words they have to show that they are serious about training i.e. they need to have decent cardo, and need to have some technique. If they don't have basic technique they will be asked to join the gym and take some of the technique classes to get themselves up to speed before they are invited to train with the pros.

Back to the story... So, me being the only one in the gym, and being a senior student, I was asked to come over and work with the new guy so he could prove his skills. I don't like doing this. The guy is looking for a spot on the team, he has come in to a new place where he knows he will be challenged to impress the other pros. I am just some shlub who came in to kick the bag for a while. I know that this guy is going to come after me, and I really didn't come in to the gym to get roughed up today... BUT, I say sure and walk over to the mats so he can show us his stuff.
The kid is at least 15 years or better younger than me, and he out weighs me by at least 20 lbs. Wow, I think to myself, this is going to suck.

They start to warm him up in our usual way, just to be nice I do the warm up with him. We run around the mat a few times, do some shuffle steps, bear crawls, then do some movement drills up and down the mat. Forward rolls, backward rolls, shrimp escapes that kind of thing. That takes about 10 minutes then we do some sports specific calisthenics. Burpies with a sprawl, sit outs, and the BJJ basic stand up. Not tough stuff, but I notice that when we get done with the 15 minute warm up that the guy is starting to suck wind.
We take a short water break and decide to start him off with some kickboxing. He agrees to three three minute rounds, one minute rest periods. He looks me up and down kind of snickers, and we touch gloves to start the first round.

Right from the start, the guy did exactly as I expected he would. He wanted to put on a show by trying to rough me up. But I could also tell that this guy had not had a lot of stand up training. He threw wild overhand rights that left him way off balance. To make up for his loss of balance , he would throw an off balance, again wild, left hook that would leave him open the other way. He was wading in throwing bolos trying to intimidate me, knock me out, or look good in a street fight, I don't know which. I did what I always do when I am trying to keep my head attached to my shoulders against a guy who doesn't know what he is doing. I used the jab, the front teep, and circular movement away from his power. So I move to my right throw one or two quick jabs to his face and move again. If he ever gets close or is able to square up on me I nail him with the teep and keep circling. I start to get comfortable with his style and I start letting him throw his big punches again, I avoid or block them and I start working my leg kicking game.
Now, I admit that I got a little mean here. It was pretty obvious after I hit him with the first or second leg kick that he was not used to receiving them. I didn't like how he was trying to hurt me with the big punches so I wanted to remove some of their pep... I kicked his legs hard. I started working his legs inside and out, landing any chance I could. What was really effective was landing the left teep knocking him back then dropping the big right leg kick as he shifted his weight back on to his front foot to recover balance. At the end of the first round he was limping.
The second round was much like the first, except I started to open up a little bit with my hands, throwing crosses and left hooks. He still wanted to land the big punches so I kept drilling his legs. I also tried to work in the left leg liver kick, but he had an OK defense, keeping his elbows tucked in to his sides to protect his liver.
At the end of the second the guy was visibly tired, sucking wind and obviously frustrated. He was favoring his front leg pretty obviously now. I started to feel bad for him. He said he wanted to continue on in to the third round so we touched gloves for the last three minute stanza.
As I said, I started to feel bad for him a little bit, and that was my mistake. He caught me right off with a big right hand that made me see stars. That pissed me off. I was treating his head nicely, and he came off and clocked me. I suppose you could make an argument that it was payback for all of the damage I did to his legs... I might even agree with you on that point in hindsight... At the time, I wanted to show him who was boss...
I had not bothered with head kicks, because... well after the first and second rounds I knew he would have a hard time with them, and I felt bad for him. But I was mad now. He was well primed for the head kick, because I had been bashing his legs pretty steadily for the last six minutes or so. I was also keeping to the Dutch kickboxing rules of throwing the leg opposite of the hand you just threw (left hook is followed up with right kick, right cross is followed up with left switch kick, etc.). I don't typically throw my head kicks like that. I typically kick to the head with my right leg, and it almost always follows the right cross. I throw a jab cross combo and follow it up with the right kick to the melon. I land flush, and to my surprise, I stagger him. I don't follow up on the attack, and the time keeper calls time. The round wasn't finished, but we don't want it getting out that we knock you out during your trial, and, even worse, we don't want this guy suing the school later on for injuries received. We don't know who this joker is, and he might be the litigious type.

Typically at this point in the tryout, we would move to the ground phase and roll around with them to gauge their ground skill. After a bit of rest, our hero says that he can go on, and that he would like to show us his ground skill. We ask him if he is sure, and if he has recovered, because he took a pretty good shot. He said that he was fine and that he wanted to continue. The coach said OK, let's roll for 5 minutes and see how you feel.

I get down on my knees and get ready for this guy to spaz out on the ground. He was a spaz standing up, and there is no reason why I should think he isn't a spaz on the ground. Just before we start, he says that he is happy he gets to roll with me, because he is a much better grappler than a stand up fighter. I smiled and silently hoped the guy wasn't some NCAA Div I wrestler that would hulk smash me in to the ground.

Since I have been working out at this gym, the head BJJ instructor has really been having me focus on the basic control positions, and transferring between those positions. I have gotten very good at holding side control, mount, and north south positions. I have found that when I hold those positions perfectly submissions seem to fall in to my lap as the guy attempts to escape. So I have found that I have be come a "top" BJJ stylist, in that I work my submission game from top positions, and not from the guard or half guard positions. When I am forced to put someone in to my guard, or half guard, my game is to look for sweeps so that I can attain the top position and work my submission game. Rolling with a "top" is difficult because he is going to force you to work your escapes from the bottom and he will be looking to wear you out while he rests and waits for the submission to come. It can be very frustrating, especially if you are a spaz; because you waste a lot of energy spazing out underneath as the top simply holds you down and maintains position.

The timekeeper calls time and we start our roll. He immediately grabs behind my neck, and tries to slam my face in to the mat. I don't have a problem with this, I simply reach forward wrap up his far leg and push forward while pulling his leg. He is way off balance, so I easily complete the sweep and lock down side control.
Turtle Single Leg Escape from Side Mount by TechniquePrevails
These guys show the sweep as an escape from side control, but you can see that the sweep starts from the turtle.

That is when the fun begins. The dude is strong and he starts to spaz out in a way that I have rarely seen. Unfortunately for him, I have side control locked in and he is going nowhere. I just let him spaz for about a minuite until he wares himself out to the point where he stops moving for a second. I transition to north south and almost immediately hit the north south, or Munson, choke. He taps.

Here is a cool instructional video on the north south choke.

Time is not up, so we start again. Again he snaps my neck down and I go for the same sweep as before. Again, I get it without much trouble. Again he spazes out like it is the new thing that all of the kids are doing. Again, I wait until he tires out and stops moving. This time I transition to a knee ride position intending to go for mount, BUT he pushes on my knee with his elbow wide open. I hook the elbow, pivot over his body and sink the armbar. He taps.

Wander Braga shows this in the gi, and I was doing it no-gi, but the technique is the same.

Time still hasn't expired, so we start again. He gets smart this time around and pulls guard, but he telegraphs it so I move forward to prevent it. I end up with one leg pined underneath mine and one leg on my shoulder. This position sets up one of the most uncomfortable sweeps there is. You lean forward and grab his head all the while keeping his leg pinned to the ground and his other leg on your shoulder. The stretch is too much for most guys to take and they will actually start to turn to allow you to pass. This guy just taps. I almost didn't let him go it was so surprising... It was the first time anyone had ever tapped to a guard pass.

As I was moving the the middle of the mat to go again, time was called. The guy starts dropping f-bombs and saying that he didn't get a fair try out. We asked him why he thought so, and he said that we threw our best guy at him, and that he should get to try out with the other regular pros. I told him that I wasn't a pro. I was just one of the guys in the gym. This made the coach laugh, because... well I am not really just another guy in the gym.

The guy gets ready to leave, after getting a gym schedule and a price list. He looks over at me and says, that he thought that I would be someone he could easily take. Actually, he said that he thought I looked like a "bitch." I told him that next time he should not underestimate any opponent. He looked like he was going to say something back, but he didn't... He might have thought the better of it because he just got his ass handed to him for the last hour or so.

I gather my stuff up and get ready to leave soon after. The coach stops me at the door and says that most of the time I am a nice guy and a good teacher for the other guys, but I can be a real mean son of a bitch when I want to be. We both laughed and I went home for my weekend.

I thought that would be the end of this little lesson on not underestimating your opponents, but the universe, or Karma, or the Jesus, or the Great Spaghetti Monster had other plans.
I walked in to my Monday morning class to find that the only other guy that was attending the class with me was a lower ranked guy who I typically smash through. He tries hard, but he is new and makes new guy mistakes. His only advantage on me is that he speaks Portuguese, and can communicate effectively with the head BJJ instructor in his native tongue. We went through our normal class, focusing on attacks from mount. I got some good details on holding the mount and forcing the bottom guy to transition one way or the other.
It was then time to roll, and I was feeling like this guy has nothing for me, so I should just focus on my technique and attempt to use what was taught in class today. We slap hands and fist bump and we start our little match. Right out of the gate, just like the spaz, he snaps a hand to my neck and tries to put my face in to the mat. I go to turtle position only to find that the guy I should be destroying has moved off to the side and has his arm around my neck in perfect position for a clock choke. He kicks his legs out and snaps on the choke just as he has been taught. The choke is tight, and I am forced to tap. He goes nuts with celebration and the instructor falls on the floor he is laughing so hard at my mistake.

The clock choke that made me tap.

The moral of this story is that first, don't underestimate your opponent because you think he looks like a "bitch." It might turn out that he has 20 years of Martial Arts experience and is a purple belt that trains his ground game everyday. And if you are a guy who has 20 years of Martial Arts experience, and is a purple belt that trains his game everyday, you should treat every opponent just as you would treat rolling with the highest level black belt...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Awesome Pedro Sauer Reversal

Really good reversal here from Pedro Sauer. Simple yet very effective. I use the mounting technique used by the guy getting swept all of the time, because it is one of the safest and best ways to mount. The demonstrated technique is a great way to counter the mount... I hope none of my training partners see this!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Armbar From Guard in MMA

In MMA, unlike in regular BJJ competition, you can punch. This makes it very difficult sometimes to execute submissions and other techniques, as you must always be protecting yourself. However, much of the time, if you are willing to take a little damage, strikes open up many submission opportunities.

A big one is when the guy in guard posts his left arm on the chest or the neck, and punches with the right hand exclusively.  When he does this, the guard player has an opportunity to armbar the posting arm.  As was seen by Diego Brando in the TUF final this last Saturday.  Here is an animated gif of the final moments:
As you can see here, Bermudez is posting with his left hand and pounding away with his right.  Brando pivots, throws his leg over the head, sweeps and extends.  The tap happens immediately afterward.  This is textbook Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and, if you train, you have had it done, or have done it on many guys when they post their hands on your body and try to open your guard by pushing on your knee with their other hand.  

This is an important technique to work with, because in a street fight or in MMA competition, these opportunities will arise.  Often untrained guys, and guys that do not train in gyms where submissions are heavily trained and used, will make the mistake of posting one arm and pounding away with the other.  

In guard, you always need to be aware of the threat that the guy on the bottom poses.  If you can punch do so by alternating arms or, be sure that you are in a safe position before dropping your bombs.  Only post on the neck if you are immediately going to attempt a pass.  Never just stay there in that position, as you are vulnerable to the guard player's submission attack.

Just for fun, here is another angle:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bolt Barrel Breech Bullet... What?? Terms and Structures Guide For New Shooters Part III - Gun Types

This is part three of my series for new shooters. Part one dealt with the parts of guns, part two dealt with ammo, and this post deals with types of guns.
This is a guide designed to educate new shooters, or those who wish to become shooters, with the terms, and the basics of guns. I will deal exclusively with modern, breech loading firearms.
Part I, Part II, Part III

There are many gun types for all sorts of different uses. Just as there are many different types of screwdrivers, there are many different types of guns, specifically created for their job.

We will start with the very basic of breakdowns. The bore. If you remember from Part I, the bore is the inside of the barrel. All projectile firing weapons, from a tank to a derringer, can be broken down in to two categories. The smooth bore and the rifle.

The smooth bore is just like it sounds. The bore is smooth all of the way down. The rifle, in direct contrast, has twisting groves that spin the projectile. Both types serve a purpose.

The smooth bore now a days is found in shotguns. What is a shotgun? A shotgun, or a scatter gun, is a type of firearm that instead of firing a single solid metal piece, fires several spheres called shot. This type of gun is used for close engagements. Why? As the shot leaves the barrel of the gun, the shot begins to expand. At about 50 feet, the shot is so spread out that it is effectively useless. This type of firearm is nearly impossible to put directly on target, so the idea is to get the shot in the general area of the target. This is why the sights of a shot gun are, typically, a little sphere on the end of the barrel.
Because of their limited range, and the spreading effect of their shot, shotguns are mainly used for foul hunting. They can knock a bird out of the air with relative ease, where the hunter can finish off the bird by breaking its neck.
Shotguns are also very very good urban warfare tools. They are absolutely lethal close in, but harmless as the shot expands, thus the danger of killing anything behind your target is significantly reduced. Good stuff if you are shooting at a bad guy and you don't want to kill your kids in the next room.
Shotguns can fire metal slugs, but, again, their range is very limited. It is difficult to determine where your slug will end up outside of about 50 yards. The smooth bore that makes the shotgun so versatile, also severely limits its range.

Shotguns are classified by action. A pump gun, or a pump action shotgun is one that has a tubular magazine under the barrel, and fresh rounds are cycled by moving a handle back (the "pump"), opening the bolt and ejecting the spent shell (if there is one), and then moving the handle forward, putting a fresh shell in the chamber and closing the bolt. The pump action shotgun can only fire once per pump.

Semi automatic shotguns are also very popular. They work by using the recoil of the shell to open the bolt, eject the shell, then feed a fresh shell, and finally closing the bolt. This automatic loading procedure enables the shotgun to fire multiple times, simply by pulling the trigger.

The final type of commonly seen shotgun is the double barrel shot gun. This gun has two barrels, either side-by-side, or one underneath the other (called an under over). These types of shotguns are typically break action, and use two triggers, one for each barrel. If you pull both triggers at the same time, both barrels go off, letting lose with twice the amount of shot. Thus the phrase I gave them "both barrels."

Shotguns, of course, come with many different types of action, but the above three kinds are the most common.

Rifled bores are by far the most commonly used bore. The rifling puts a spin on the bullet, and causes it to fly straighter, making the bullet fly straight to its target. I am going to break down the rifled bores down in to several different categories.

When the generic term "rifle" is used, it is generally referring to the long gun rather than the handgun. A rifle is a type of long gun that fires a bullet, and has a super sonic muzzle velocity (the speed of the projectile as it leaves the muzzle). Rifles are used to take down land animals at a range from very close up to excess of 1000 yards. Normal people will use a rifle between 10 and 200 yards. After about 200 yards, the wind and bullet drop (gravity still works, the bullet will fall at 9.2m/s^2) become significant factors.

Rifles are generally broken down by the action that they use. There are generally three types of action that you will see most commonly. Two are single shot, and one auto loading.

Leaver Action
This was the first type of repeating rifle. The ammo is kept in a tubular magazine underneath the barrel of the rifle. A round put in to the chamber by a simple natural process. First the leaver is moved forward, opening the bolt, and ejecting a spent round (if there is one). Then a fresh round is put in to the chamber, and the bolt is locked, by moving the leaver back in to the starting position. Each time the rifle is fired, the leaver must be cycled for the rifle to be ready to shoot again.

Bolt Action
Up until after WWII, the bolt action rifle was the choice of the world's militaries (except for the US, but we will get in to that later). The bolt action is the most accurate of all of the rifle action designs. It allows for the best lock behind the round, and the stablest platform to shoot from. The United States Marines still use essentially the same bolt action rifle for their sniping operations that the front line solder used in WWI. Goes to the accuracy and durability of this action design.

The bolt action rifle typically stores its rounds in either a detectable or internal magazine underneath the action. The bolt is unlocked, and drawn rearward. This ejects the spent casing (if there is one), and brings up the next round. The bolt is then moved forward feeding the new round in to the chamber, and the bolt is locked in to place.
The bolt must be cycled each time for the rifle to fire.

Auto loading
The auto loading rifle uses the recoil, or the spent gases of the ammo to work the action. The first round is loaded manually, by "charging" the rifle. The action is manually worked by pulling back and releasing the bolt, feeding the first round in to the chamber. After that all the shooter need do is pull the trigger. The action will work to eject the spent casing, and feed in a new round.
You many have heard the term "Assault Rifle" essentially, in a military setting, an assault rifle has multiple settings one for semi automatic fire and one for a burst or for fully automatic fire. The "assault rifle" is always an auto loading firearm.
In the civilian world, the clueless media will typically call any semi-automatic rifle an "Assault Rifle"... What am I saying?? The media will often call any gun an assault rifle.

The place where the most confusion occurs is in handguns, so I will go over the two most common forms of handgun actions.
First a handgun is a gun that fits in your hand. Easy right? They are used primarily for self defense. You can hunt with them, sure. I have carried handguns when hunting animals that can hunt me back just in case I needed to put some lead in the air fast.
The handgun's range is quite limited. It is difficult to accurately shoot anything with a handgun at greater than 50 yards, and 50 yards is pushing it. In my opinion if it is a man sized target at anything greater than 30 yards, you need a rifle.

A Revolver is a type of handgun that uses a revolving cylinder. This cylinder contains the cartridges, and also acts to contain the pressures of the explosion. Where the cartridge resides is also called the "chamber."

What is interesting about the revolver is that the the chamber and the barrel are two separate components. The cylinder revolves until it is aligned with the barrel, but leaving a small gap between chamber and barrel. When the trigger is pulled, the gun fires and the bullet travels from the chamber in to the barrel where it is spun by the rifling and on to the target. You have to be careful when shooting revolvers, because if your fingers are near that little gap, the escaping gases will burn your fingers!!

The automatic in automatic handgun means that the action is auto loading. What that means is that the slide is pulled back to feed a round in to the chamber. When the trigger is pulled the recoil of the shot will force the slide back, ejecting the spent casing, and then forward, feeding the fresh round in to the chamber. The gun loaded itself. Thus the automatically loading handgun. The automatic for short.

Now... Remember from my first post in this series about what the definition of single shot, semi-automatic, and fully automatic? Single shot means that the action has to be worked manually before another shot can be made. Semi-Automatic means that one shot is fired for each pull of the trigger. Fully automatic is where the gun continues to fire as long as the trigger remains depressed. Now some confusing stuff... all automatic handguns are semi-automatic. Some, but not all revolvers are semi-automatic. That is where a lot of confusion happens. It is incorrect to call automatic handguns, semi-automatics, because revolvers can be semi-automatic as well. The "automatic" refers to the action only. So there are two types of hand guns, automatics (auto loading handguns), and revolvers. Ok?

Automatic Weapons
There are two types of automatic weapons, ones that fire a supersonic rifle round and those that fire a sub-sonic pistol round. The ones that fire the sub-sonic pistol round are called "sub machine guns." So guns like the Uzi, and the H&K MP5 are considered to be sub machine guns, because they fire the 9 mm Parabellum pistol round. These are for close combat, pistol range engagements.
Supersonic rifle round automatic weapons fall in to a number of categories. You have your standard infantry assault rifles, like the ones I described earlier, and then you have the machine guns. Machine guns only fire automatically, and typically take their ammunition in a long "belt" of strung together bullets. For that reason, they are often referred to as "belt fed" weapons.

Monday, November 28, 2011


On the way back to Dumbfuckville the wife mentioned that she might want to start riding motorcycles again. So, I started thinking about what kinds of bikes I could buy for us.
She wants something in the midsize range of cruisers, no more 250cc bikes for her. I think that if I bought another bike it would be a cruiser as well, but something more like a drag bike, or sporty chopper.

For the Wife

My wife weighs under 115lbs so, the size and weight of the motorcycle is of prime concern. I would like to see her on something under 600cc, but it really doesn't look like the manufactures do that size of bike anymore. The midline bikes seem to be around 650cc to 900cc. I think that is too much bike for such a small woman, especially one who last owned a 250cc 330lb bike...

Honda Shadow Spirit 750

The 745cc Shadow Spirits are the midline cruisers that Honda makes. They are a little heavier that I would have liked, but they have all of the features that the wife likes. Smooth ride, easy to handle and more than enough power.

Yamaha V Star Custom

This bike clocks in at 650cc and seems to be more of my liking in terms of style. I am a big fan of the single interior shock on the rear wheel, than the dual exterior shocks. A tiny bit lighter than the Honda, but a lot lighter in the price.

Suzuki Boulevard S40
Suzuki's midline Boulevard S40 is... well... plain. At 652cc it has plenty of power, but its look is just so... outdated. It is a belt drive rather than the other two shaft bikes. Personally, I like the shaft drive for my wife, the chains and belts can catch loose clothing that my wife will surely trail.
The Boulevard S40 also weighs the least amount, and is the cheapest of all the motorcycles I have looked at. I like very much that it is just a few pounds heavier than her old Honda Rebel. However, being lighter with a bigger engine means that it has much more pep than she will be used to. Not a good combination. 381lbs

For Me

My last bike was a Yamaha YZF R1, and I really REALLY liked the power and quickness of that motorcycle. It was uncomfortable to ride, and that made me like it less. But all of those ponies attached to a little twist of the throttle is exceedingly hard to give up.
For that reason, I would be looking for something that would give me the same pep, in a more comfortable package. This pushes me to the "dragster" type motorcycles and the sporty chopper style bikes.

Yamaha Warrior

I put the Warrior first, because it is closest to what I am looking for. Yamaha has not made them since 2009, and the style has become a bit dated, but it still has all of the lines that I like. Single interior shock, wide back tire, and 1670ccs of power!

Victory Hammer S

The Hammer S sits a little high for my taste, but it has everything else that I like. Big power with a 106 cubic inch (1737cc) power plant. Victory has been going over to the chopper look for a while now, so the big back tire is standard on nearly all of their bikes. However, the price of the bike is so much that I would want two more wheels, AC, and cruise control.

Honda Fury

The Fury is Honda's attempt to crack in to the popular chopper market. I have to admit, they did a great job mass producing something that is supposed to be custom. It is a bit under powered at 1312cc, but the look of the bike more than makes up for a lack of zip in the throttle.

In the end, I don't believe that we will be buying any bikes anytime soon. It is nice to look, but I think that the wife was just messing with me when she said she wanted another bike. She has a long commute everyday, and I don't see her tackling that on two wheels. Especially when she has to look forward to that same commute after a 17 hour shift.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Watered Down Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I have several gym mates who when to tournaments over the past few weekends. My gym is a very new gym, so many of the guys haven't been training very long, 9 months to a year at the very most. These guys have been destroying guys from other gyms. Not just guys in their own belt ranks and skill levels, but guys who have been training a while, and have advanced belts. Most recently, one of the guys, who has only been training for about 10 months, beat a purple belt at a tournament in Tennessee.
Now, I am not a great BJJ guy. I do ok, I have been training a while, and I have built up some skill over the years. The guys at my gym are progressing at a rate that I have seen at other schools, but they are nothing special. The guy that did the tournament in Tennessee, is a guy I normally smear all over the mat on a daily basis. This is not knocking his skill or pumping up my own, however this is as it should be. I have been training BJJ for almost 8 years now, and it is expected that I do this to a low ranked beginner.
So, what is the deal? Why have my gym mates had so much success over much higher ranks in competition?
The reason is the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become as watered down and diluted as the other traditional martial arts. It is very difficult to find a karate or taekwondo school in the US that is worth the price of admission. Most are belt factories that will turn out black belts with out really looking at the skill that they are pushing out. Why is that? Because guys who did not deserve to teach opened schools and started handing out belts.
Case in point... We have a guy at the gym who just started BJJ a couple of months ago, let's call him Bill. Bill sucks. As well he should after training for just couple of months. A couple of days ago we learn that Bill owns his own school in a nearby town, and, incredibly, is teaching a BJJ class. This guy who barely knows a sweep from a submission is teaching other people Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wearing a black belt, and PROMOTING his own students.
Now say I am a guy who trains at Bill's school. I don't know any better. To me, Bill seems like a guy who knows what he is talking about. I train for about a month with, Bill and Bill promotes me to blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I work hard, and in another two months Bill promotes me to purple belt. I decide that I want to test myself against others of my same skill level, so I go to a BJJ tournament as a purple belt, that is my rank after all. My first match I line up against a white belt in the absolute division. I get smashed and then submitted within the first two minutes of the tournament. Later on I learn that the white belt has been training for 3 months at a school run by a true black belt.
In the most embarrassing, humiliating way possible I have been exposed as a complete fraud. Why? Because I was taught, and promoted, by a guy didn't know squat about BJJ.

This is not the student's fault. He didn't know any better. He trained at a gym that, to the best of his knowledge, was lead by an experienced, skilled instructor, and taught the proper technique. It is the fault of the instructor. He KNOWS that he isn't qualified to teach that class. He KNOWS that what he is teaching is not the best technique. He knows it, because he knows he is incompetent.

It is very important when you look for a place to train that you are getting what you are paying for. If the guy leading class wears a black belt, he will be able to tell you who he earned his belt under. From there it is VERY easy to verify his status. If the guy is cagey about where he got his belt, doesn't tell you right away, or says he will get back to you, he is a fake. You don't have to even think about who you got your belt from. More than likely, you are good friends with this person, as you have been training with them for years. So why would you have to get back to someone about them? Why would you be cagey? You wouldn't because where and from whom you got your belt is a point of pride.

I will give you an example from my own experience. About a year ago, I started at a new school in Oklahoma City. The BJJ instructor is a black belt, and I asked him where he trained, and who was his instructor. He immediately smiled said he was a Nova Uniao Black Belt under Leonardo Tapias. A quick Google search later, and I found pictures of him with Leonardo, articles about his tournament wins and losses in major Brazilian BJJ magazines. Very easy verification. If I ran in to someone tougher to nail down, you just get on the phone and call the school that he was associated with. Easy, and it ensures that your getting the most out of your training dollars.

This watering down of the belts is something that is sad to see, but was inevitable. Before martial art movies became so popular, martial art schools were very tough to find. Almost all of them were good, because the community was so tight, that the faker would be exposed and shunned. Then the craze hit, and everybody and their little sister was teaching karate. Finding a school wasn't difficult, but finding a good one was. As more and more people want to get involved in an activity, the more people will rush to provide that activity. Some will simply be looking to line their pockets while providing the least amount of content as possible.
Now with the success of the UFC, and MMA as a whole, the styles of BJJ and Muay Thai are getting their watering down as well. People not qualified to teach are now presenting classes in both arts to grab the unsuspecting student.
I find it sad that the belt around my waist is becoming less and less meaningful due to the actions of the unscrupulous and incompetent. However it is best to remember Royce Gracie famously saying "A belt only covers 2 inches of your ass. The rest is up to you."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Killing American Citizens Overseas

On September 30th of this year, a terrorist, traitor to his country, and an all around despicable man was killed by a United States air strike. Typically, I would be forgetting my normal position on the divine to celebrate another terrorist rotting forever in hell. The problem is that this man, Anwar al-Awlaki, was an American Citizen, and the United States of America is not currently engaged in a declared war.
Now, we have been happily killing American Citizens overseas in declared wars since... well, since we first became a country. Famously, in both world wars citizens of German decent went back to Germany to fight for the Fatherland. They were killed right along with the other German soldiers. Ironically, it was only those of Japanese decent who were interned against their will...
However, then, just as now, a question is raised, were those killings legal? In other words, does the Executive Branch, for the President is the Commander in Chief of the Military, have the legal right to kill American Citizens who have taken up arms against the United States of America? Is that not a treasonous act? Are these people not enemy combatants?

We first have to define what treason is. The Constitution of the United States of America in Article III Section 3 clearly states the critera for treason:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Constitution also gives Congress the power to declare punishments for treason in the same artilce and section:
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
On this matter the Constitution is seemingly very clear. To be convicted of Treason, you need to be brought to court where two witnesses must be produced to testify against you. In the United States, there is no such thing as In absentia convictions. You must be given a chance to face your accusers in public. A trial can not be held if you arn't there to answer the charges. So how can the President think that he can simply drop a bomb on an American Citizen's brain box?
During a Republican debate, Newt Gingrich was asked this very question. Despite the smug look on the moderator's face, he makes a valid point. Here is what Newt had to say: As an enemy combatant DO you give up the right to a trial? The Constitution says no. The Supreme Court says... no. In the famous Hamdi v Rumsfeld SCOUS said that enemy combatants under due process principles were entitled to a written statement of the basis for that declaration, as well as a right to challenge it before a neutral decision-maker in a timely manner. Was Anwar al-Awlaki given that chance? Nope.
Here is what our buddy Congressman Ron Paul said in a letter to the New York Daily News:
As President, I would not hesitate to use decisive force to repel any imminent threat. National defense is a primary function of Congress and the commander-in-chief, and, as chief executive, I would carry out my duties as outlined in the Constitution and in accordance with the rule of law.
President Obama apparently believes he is not bound by the Constitution or the rule of law. When it was reported that Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen last week, certainly no one felt remorse for his fate. Awlaki was a detestable person we believe helped recruit and inspire others to kill Americans through terrorist acts. We have to take the fight against terrorism very seriously. In 2001, I supported the authority to capture and kill the thugs responsible for 9/11. In our efforts we must, however, work hard to preserve and respect our great American constitutional principles.
Awlaki was a U.S. citizen. Under our Constitution, American citizens, even those living abroad, must be charged with a crime before being sentenced. As President, I would have arrested Awlaki, brought him to the U.S., tried him and pushed for the stiffest punishment allowed by law. Treason has historically been judged to be the worst of crimes, deserving of the harshest sentencing. But what I would not do as President is what Obama has done and continues to do in spectacular fashion: circumvent the rule of law.
On Feb. 3, 2010, Dennis Blair, then the country's director of national intelligence, admitted before the House Intelligence Committee that "Being a U.S. citizen will not spare an American from getting assassinated by military or intelligence operatives." This open admission by an Obama administration official, not even attempting to keep it classified or top secret, sets a dangerous new precedent in our history.
The precedent set by the killing of Awlaki establishes the frightening legal premise that any suspected enemy of the United States - even if they are a citizen - can be taken out on the President's say-so alone. Part of the very concept of citizenship is the protection of due process and the rule of law. The President wants to spread American values around the world but continues to do great damage to them here at home, appointing himself judge, jury and executioner by presidential decree.
When Nazi leader and Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann was convicted and executed by the Israeli government in 1962, it was after he was captured, extradited and tried. Respect for the rule of law never has been for the protection of monsters like Eichmann or Awlaki, who should meet their just fate - but for the protection of the vast majority of innocent citizens who should never become subject to mere governmental whim.
Dr. Paul seems to be on the right side of the law here, and if so... Then President Obama has seemingly committed high crimes, thus subject to impeachment. Dr. Paul did, for a time, pursue support for impeachment charges against the President. He ceased his efforts when it became evident that virtually no one in congress would support an impeachment over the killing of a terrorist.

So... where do I stand? This is one of those issues that is just so messed up it is difficult to come out with a view you can live with. On the one hand, if you agree that Anwar al-Awlaki was protected under the Constitution as a citizen of this country, then you must voice protest against his assassination, and petition for the impeachment of the President. On the other hand, he was a terrorist actively working to destroy the very country who is debating if his killing is legal. Very very difficult choice, and, assuredly if you come down against the killing, you are most assuredly helping our enemies slowly achieve their goals.
Again, where do I stand?? When in doubt I default to freedom, and freedom in this case demands that Anwar al-Awlaki be brought in for trial on treason and other criminal charges. His killing, however it may have helped the war effort, was wrong. Just as we must set a child murder free because the evidence that damns him was obtained improperly, so we must hamper our war effort so that every effort can be made to bring American Citizens engaged in acts of war to trial.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What is Your Favorite Beer?

Being a beer snob, you get this question quite a bit. The question is innocent, and, most of the time, asked by those who only know of the major American breweries. The answer is actually very complex, and can't just be answered with a single beer. The more proper question is, What is your favorite STYLE of beer? Even beer snobs will have a favorite style that they gravitate to. I have three styles in particular that always seem to be in my refrigerator.
Most of what I am going to talk about is going to do with hops. Hops are the soul of the beer, and the easiest thing to screw up. If the brewer goes too hop crazy, the beer lacks the sweetness and flavor complexity that comes from the grains. Not enough hop, and the beer tastes like syrup.

American Pale Ales

If I had to pick one style of beer to live with my whole life, it would be the American Pale Ale.
This style is in my refrigerator more often than not, and my first choice of style when I am testing out a new brewery.
The American style of Pale Ale is a uniquely American derivative of the English Style Pale Ales. However, the American variety is an all grain brew that does not use syrups to sweeten the wort and kick up APV. They are also heavily hopped with modern American hops, and typically shun the traditional European "Noble" style hops. As such, the American version have a stronger hop bite, and less sweet malt front.
The hop bitterness should not overpower the malts, and the beer should always finish clean, meaning the after taste should be pleasantly malty, and not burn with hop oil.
The aroma of the American Pale Ale should be slightly piney from the hops, personally I like the dry hopped APAs the best, as there is a very strong aroma of hops left behind.
Of this style the best representatives, that I have tasted, and in my opinion, are
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Boulevard Pale Ale

Anchor Liberty Ale

Great Divide's Fresh Hop Pale Ale

Of these ales, my all time favorite of this style is Great Divide's Fresh Hop Ale

India Pale Ales

I freely admit that I am a hop head, and when I want a healthy dose of hops, I turn to IPAs to get my fix. Personally, I don't like the IPAs that are brewed with syrups to sweeten them up, and I like best the IPAs that finish as cleanly as possible. I like my IPAs to extensively use American hops, Cascade in particular. I also like my IPAs to be dry hopped. It only seems fitting that a beer that uses so much hop in the brewing process, smell like it is full of hoppy goodness.
The history of the IPA starts with the English trying to ship large barrels of Pale Ale to their colonies in India. The voyage was so long that much of the sugary Pale Ales spoiled on the trip. Something that the brewers discovered was that beer that had been more heavily hopped tended to spoil later than beers that had not. This is due to the antibiotic affect of the hop oils, but they didn't know about such things at the time...
Anyway, the brewers began to heavily hop the Pale Ale they sent to India so that it would last the voyage and be enjoyed at the other end of the trip. Thus the IPA was born.
Americans being Americans, took the idea of the IPA and went to the extreme. Using the much more potent American hops, American IPAs tend to be VERY bitter and all around awesome.

My favorite examples of this style of beer are:
Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA

Boulevard Single Wide IPA

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Stone IPA

Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop IPA

I don't think I can pick a favorite here... They are all just so awesome.

American Porter

The American Porter is what I start to grab when the weather turns colder... Or I just want to sip on something for a long while. I love the porter's complexity, its smoothness, its rich flavor. It is one of those styles of beer that you feel genuinely sad about finishing a glass of it, one because there is no more beer, and two because you have just taken something so beautiful out of the world.

The history of the porter is very strange, and kind of gross... Back in the good old days, a porter was someone who worked on the docks moving cargo on and off ships. It was back breaking work, literally and figuratively, and did not pay very much money... Remember that part, it plays a part in the grossness...
Tavern owners were loathe to waste any money at all, so after they finished a barrel of beer they would pour the remnants of the barrel, despite the style, in to another barrel.
Remember that beer was fermented and stored all in the same barrels, so the remnants would be heavy with yeast and whatever dregs of grain that got through the filters at the time. So... yuck.
After they closed, they would also pour all of the undrank beer from the mugs left on the tables in to the barrel... Ewwwwwwww...
So what you had left was a barrel that had a mix of styles in it. The Pale Ales, the dark and pale lagers, and the stouts all went in to this mixed barrel. Of course this mix was the cheapest drink in the house, and usually the ones who drank it were... You guessed it, our poor unappreciated Porters. Eventually the drink itself became known as a "Porter." Just... yuck...

Today's Porter, thankfully, has very little in common with its predecessor. What the porters of yesterday, and the porters of today share is that they hang somewhere between the pale ales and the super dark stouts. The Americans have taken their Porters and infused them with their strong hops to really make the dark brew sing. Many of the best porter brewers have added dark fruits to add rich sweet complexity to their brews.

My favorites of this style are:
Boulevard Bully! Porter

Sierra Nevada Porter

Anchor Porter

Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter

I have a tie as to my favorite porter, between the Maui Coconut Porter and the Anchor Porter. They are just so good. The Anchor Porter has that rich sweetness that comes from using figs to the wort, and the bitter bite from using Cascade hops. The Maui Coconut Porter is so smooth and easy drinking that it almost wins you over with mouth-feel alone. The coconut complements the chocolate malt to a point that you wonder why all brewers don't use coconut in their porters. The hop usage by Maui leaves their porter just a bit wanting, but you hardly notice.