Atomic Athlete Austin

Gracie Humaitá Austin has moved to a new location in East Austin, last Monday. Our new home, the ‘Atomic Athlete’ gym is a 3000 ft^2 facility populated with all manner of foreign-to-me equipment and staffed by coaches whose stated purpose is to make their athletes “stronger, faster, harder to kill.”1 While I have never used their equipment or workout regimes, there is a guy on our team who’s been training with them for some time. And this little brown man is a dynamite-jointed, John Saxon bodyslammin’, “He’ll knock yuh to tomorrow, Rock,” Vietnamese, yoked-dynamo. His physical abilities are proof enough that their expertise is relevant. Seriously.

[Technically the wrong movie, but hopefully you get the idea.]

Anyway.

After having a tight-knit group of ten (or so) these six months, we now have seventy (70) additional students in enrollment. I, for one, did not anticipate such an enthusiastic response from both the public and fellow practitioners in the area. Well, I guess I’m not really sure what I anticipated…to be perfectly honest. But it does indeed seem like “The days when a dozen students in a class counted as busy” are gone! New and exciting days, my audience.

This past Monday was my first opportunity to see the new school with all the new people. There were approximately thirty students, about an even mix of new and familiar faces. After a nice warm-up, we covered some self-defense – how to escape a rear bear-hug (over your own arms). As always the case with Mr. Park, the emphasis is on actually trying to escape. By that I mean, having this person actually grabbing you, attempting to maintain the rear bear-hug; and you struggling through their resistance and actually executing the technique. I can’t imagine the strange, mixed up feeling of exhilaration and ‘holy crap, that guy is almost certainly injured’ I would feel if I ever successfully executed this technique in a real self-defense situation.

Here we have Jake Whitfield and assistant illustrating the technique for us. Starts around 1:34.

There were several more things we learned that day, which I do not have the time to detail here. But yes, new and exciting days. If you’re in the Austin area, do not miss the opportunity to swing by. You won’t regret it.

One Team. One Family. One Legacy.  Gracie Humaitá Austin

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Jiu-Jitsu Saved My Life!

Maybe.  A funny, slightly horrifying, slightly tangential story.

During the day, the weather in Austin is positively spectacular. Clear skies, crystalline blues pattered here and there with fluffy, white clouds. Light breezes stir the trees in my quiet neighborhood. On a day like this, some two weeks ago, I decided that I would have a productive day. But first, lunch!

I took my friend’s bike, which I have on loan. On the return ride, there’s a soda in my right hand. The lever on the left-hand side of the steering wheel is for the front brake which I realized, as I rode home, ‘could be a problem if I have to stop quickly.’ Yes, indeed. But what a lovely day!

I’m daydreaming this beautiful ride away, as I begin to accelerate down the hill which leads into my neighborhood. It is, perhaps, 400 yards to my place. The rush of a passing car snapped me from my reverie, and there began the beginning of the end.

Instinctively, I squeezed my hands. The 32-oz Styrofoam cup was no match for my Jiu-Jitsu grip and near-instantly crushed, splashing me and surrounding areas with Dr. Pepper. I was soaring, hauling ass down the hill, and my left hand clamped down on the front brake. I tried ditching the cup to grab the back brake, but things are happening too quickly.

The rear tire leaves the ground, as the bike lurches forward. Time to put my feet on the ground, and stop myself the old-fashioned way. Forward momentum cannot be stopped however, as my ass leaves the seat. For the briefest of moments, the delusion I have mildly entertained for years is finally realized: I’m flying. I am finally flying! I am flying in the air!

But racing into the clouds, shrouding myself in the soft blue of the sky, visiting my friends abroad using the grit of my own locomotion, was not to be achieved on that day. After the tenuous, split-second, motionless hang – when a projectile reaches the apex of its upward motion – passed and I began my downward descent, The “Failure to Fly: Contingency Plan A” manilla folder was wiped of dust, and implemented.

The gravel from the road digs into the palms of my hands as I execute a near-flawless break-fall. Had the bicycle not tumbled with and over me, banging my damn ankle (recently healed!), it really would have been quite the illustrious, if overdone, break-fall. Brown belt level. At least.

There I was again, basking in the spectacular weather. The ground was cool. Laying face-up on the side of the road, blinking, bleeding but unharmed, surveying the series of events which led me to that exact moment, I might’ve had the best view of the sky in all of Austin. What a lovely day it was!

Fifteen seconds passed, and I had still not made the decision to move. Not for any particular reason. I was still ‘taking stock of where my life went wrong for me to have ended up there,’ and wondering whether there was any conceivable way to recover some of the lost Dr. Pepper, when a brown van pulled over on the other side of the road and rolled down the window…:

“Hey, are you okay? Do you need an ambulance?” asked a woman my mother’s age.

“No, I don’t need an ambulance,” I told her, sitting up. ‘Don’t look at my face,’ I wanted to add. ‘Never recognize me again. Pretend this never happened.’

“I saw the whole thing, young man! When you weren’t moving, I thought you were dead.”

“I’m fine, I’m fine. Just my ego, just my ego. Thank you.” If I had had one, I would have shot her van with a bazooka as she drove away. The Embarrassment. The Self-Loathing.

I stood up in base, walked over to the bicycle, pulled it to the side of the road for inspection Also unharmed. Does my friend’s bicycle know how to break-fall too? Apparently so. Hands bleeding and now terrified of falling off bicycles at any speed (but most especially high speed), I pedaled home, thoroughly washed the blood off my hands, grabbed a pair of tweezers, and carefully removed the bits of hanging skin and imbedded rocks from my palms. The Pain. The Horror.

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I abstained from telling the story for several reasons. I wanted to be sure I was unharmed, which I am. Otherwise, it’s not really funny…or, at least, a lot less funny. Secondarily, I wanted to find a YouTube video illustrating the kind of fall it was. An hour of mostly hilarious searching later, and I found one…missing only the break-fall…and the simple, objective fact my fall was faster, stupider, more embarrassing, and more painful.

If I had fallen on the road like this girl, going at the speed I was going, the person writing to you now would be, at a minimum, much uglier.1 Even with the break-fall, I still got a little scuffed up and spent all the next day in bed, too sore to move, watching episodes of Seinfeld. And at a maximum…dead. Or worse, severely or vegetable-type handicapped.2

Break-falls. Learn them. They could save your life one day. Seriously. Do it.

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1. Sunday was my first day back on the bike. First thing I did was buy a helmet, thank you. I thought they were dorky…no, wait. They are dorky. But I had been inaccurately assessing the risk involved in falling off a bicycle, prior to the fall itself. I’ll always wear it now.

2. The last two sentences are not a typo, or mixed up in any way. Though I suspect it would probably be easier to be maimed as opposed to killed, it would be far worse a fate in my opinion.

Lingering Holiday Indolence

As it happens, there’s a creative writing contest whose deadline is fast approaching. Aaand, I think I have what it takes to be competitive in said contest. Forgetting that Wednesday is when I normally write for the blog, I scheduled all the rigorous work for tomorrow. Whoops. So here I am today, my audience, writing a little note to you.

Upon the inception of this blog some six months ago, I anticipated writing about my most-keen interests – chief among them being Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. As of yet, however, I have still not done much (anything?) on traveling, or on writing. All this ado, all this painful ado, and what I’m skirting around trying to say is here’s the first page of a creative writing story I’ve been working on these past few weeks. It’s completely unrelated to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. So you may disregard this at your leisure.

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Briefly, it’s a story about the last night I had with a group of friends in Toronto – a group whose composition, I should mention, includes an elephant, a pig [not present], a Colombian woman who sometimes turns into a lion, and a Serial Reprobate who once got into a knife fight in Madagascar (an actually true story).

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“All The Animals pt. 2”

From where we stood, the city’s grand tower seemed to erupt from atop the brewery, and stab directly into the low, overcast evening sky. Yet, framed in the fading yellows and melting oranges which accompany the onset of night, the building looked sleepy in its red brick facade, like an old and smokey textile factory from some earlier New England era. Just adjacent ran an incomprehensible tangle of train tracks, forking off as they jumbled and jangled toward westward destinations. Zooming whispers could be heard in the distance from the highway stretching, following the Atlantic waters pressed against the South shore of the city. This industrial part of town, the buildings, sidewalks, train tracks, and roads seemed empty, seemed austere.

But, but, BUT all that deserted, funereal, industrial emptiness was left behind as Our Merry Posse stepped inside the building and beheld the tinny esoteric wonder, the striking beauty, the celestial and nebular elegance of Brewery World! Shielded by a series of twelve-foot glass walls, a hundred-hundred miles of steely piping funneled a thousand-thousand happy, gulping gallons of hoppy, heaven-nectar into one enormous copper still after another! Sublime sight, o’ beer-making instrumentation! It glistened too, too holy and precious before our lustful eyes. Would we be able to drink it all?

After surrendering our funds, the clerk who manned the register undoubtedly had caught the smell of mammalian longing, the desperation to imbibe. He reassured us that the tour would begin shortly. In accordance with his directions, we shuffled toward the only unguarded length of copper piping. There, we waited.

A minute or two later, our tour guide appeared. He parted the small crowd, making his way to the front, and began a perfunctory greeting. The gentleman was short, dark, an altogether strange-looking man, with a large nose. My best guess, he was the bastard Canadian descendent of an Aztec from Guatemalan jungles. In his eyes and mien was carved the story of his genes, a story written twenty generations ago about an ancestor wreathed in feathers from exotic birds, the brandisher of the onyx dagger who would hack, pry, rend through white bone and yellow marrow, who would make ragged, jagged holes in search of still-beating hearts to feed hungry fires and Sun Gods.

The Priest reached underneath the makeshift bar, and from the depths pulled out a plastic cup. With his other hand, he grabbed one of the eight taps fixed to the shimmering copper and released a single, pitiable mouthful of beer into the artificial chalice. “In the context of beer sampling, this is what you would call a taste,” explained José, raising said cup to heights such that all his now-captive audience could witness – not dissimilar, I suspected, to the way in which his ancestors once raised excised vitals.

But before the audience members voiced their dissatisfaction, before the boos and hissing rained down upon him like a hail of arrows, he raised his hand in a calming gesture. Sensing a pelting with rotten fruit and vegetables on fast approach, The Pagan addressed us further, “We will not be enforcing the standard. So if you want to have ten full beers in this ‘Product Knowledge Session,’ you have my blessings. But remember, that’s ten beers in one hour. I don’t think anyone has ever done it. Not that that’s a challenge!” our Pulpiteer added, recognizing his mistake.

Too. Fucking. Late. It was too late. Before he fired off that last sentence, The Chad and I had already exchanged I-goddamn-well-dare-you glances, eyebrows raised. The Birthday Elephant, Hanno, swooped and looped his trunk under his mighty head to scratch his chin, and consider the proposition with us. Tonight would be the continuation and the finale of the 28th birthday festivities. Every member of Our Merry Posse had to drink as much as they could – irrespective of consequence. Why? Because the number 28 is precipitously close to the number 30, an age whose associations need no further explication. Because the core members of this large group are scattered across at least four countries. When will another opportunity arise to so fully celebrate someone’s birthday? And because, “What Would Khanzir Do?” Tonight, it was ‘now or never’ as we all solemnly resolved to drink far, far too much in the hour we were allotted.

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Thanks for reading!  I’ll greet you next week, my audience, with a ‘proper’ entry.  Leave me, O’ Lingering Holiday Indolence!

What Percentage Of Fights Go To The Ground?

The readers of this blog are, primarily, practitioners of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art whose body of expertise lies inside the framework of ground fighting. Reflecting on this fact, and having just finished reading some patently absurd martial arts blog espousing some very ignorant ideas about the merits of ground fighting, I found myself wondering:

What percentage of fights go to the ground?

The most commonly touted statistic is that 90% to 95% of fights go to the ground. The problem is not that it sounds implausible. I am willing, in principle, to believe it. But this a question of fact, not of opinion. So where are the citations? Where are the original studies? On what evidence is this claim based?

And that’s the strange thing, really. There is, by my account, a palpable lack of hard data on the question.1 The percentage is originally claimed to have been derived from something published by the LAPD. Deeper digging led me to this study originally published in 1997 by The American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, “Use of Force Training Seminar: Future of Non-Lethal Force Training – Reality Based and Integrating Techniques for Non-Lethal Force Training.”2

According to the study, the LAPD made 316,525 arrests in 1988. Of those arrests made, “2,031 incidents contained a sufficient level of aggressive resistance by a suspect toward the officer to qualify as an altercation.” A survey of the ways in which these altercations happen revealed that 95% of the time, they unfolded in one of five patterns. “[A]nd 62% of those five types of altercations ended with the officer and subject on the ground with the officer locking and handcuffing the suspect.”

It seems, then, the original statistic being bandied about by a fair few amount of people was generated from a misunderstanding. What we can say from this 15 year-old study is that 62% of the altercations ended with the officer on the ground, applying a joint lock, and arresting the perpetrator. But it’s hard to know how much bearing, if any, this has on fights between civilians. Little, I think, for fairly obvious reasons.

I am also reminded of the quip about “99% of statistics are made up.”

90 to 95% of the time, Beau.3

But then what is the percentage? In principle, this question does have a definitive answer. In practice, it seems the people who supply an answer are people who have something to gain, in one fashion or another, by the shape their particular answer takes. In other words if you’re one of those ‘lethal’ strikers who espouses opinions like “the average street fight lasts between 3 and 8 seconds,” then it’s better to perpetuate the idea that ground fighting on the street is either uncommon or undesirable.4 And in turn, if you’re a grappler, then all fights eventually go to the ground.

This points to a larger issue, which is we have a question on our hands whose answer is funneled primarily through the Arena of Opinion. That being the case, and without even a semblance of statistical information, I think I’m going to have to leave this one right here. It is, to the best of my understanding, an unknown.

I really did think data on this topic existed somewhere on The Internet, done by some government agency, like the FBI.  But perusing what the FBI had to offer, everything was broken down by crime committed, and not by the kind of fight statistics the UFC would take.  Distilling from the statistics we do have into the ones we want, if even possible, would be a task requiring hundreds of people, people substantially more qualified than me.

What percentage of fights go to the ground?  I simply have no idea.  And throughout my day-long investigation, I did not run into any hard data suggestive of any concrete answer. Thanks for reading.

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1. If anyone has any hard, non-anecdotal evidence or statistics, please further the discussion by submitting it.

2. http://ejmas.com/jnc/2007jnc/jncart_Leblanc_0701.html, reprinted in the Journal of Non-Lethal Combatives, 2007. I should note that the Journal of Non-lethal Combatives looks like the sketchiest journal I’ve ever seen, and has been out of print for some time.

3. Someone submitted this for my Six-Month Anniversary entry, if you can believe that. I’ve been fighting the temptation to publish parts of the email, which read like the fantastical reviews my friends and I write for the blog…except someone actually wrote it unsolicited and of their own accord. Amazing.

4. It was reading ‘statistics’ like this, asserted by fiat (of course), which got me considering whether there were actually any data on the number of fights which go to the ground. I’d provide the citation to the blog where I read these inanities, but I feel like it would be better if said blog just melted away in obscurity forevermore. If you’re that interested, email me. Or just google that fictional statistic. A few entries below was one entitled “Avoid Ground Fighting At All Costs,” which goes to show how ill-informed people can still be in this day and age.