Friday, January 11, 2019

Why Being "In The Know" Feels So Good

F. Andresen illustration of one man applying kimura armlock on another man


When you were new to grappling, didn't it it feel good to learn a submission hold in class and then identify that hold out in the world?

I felt that satisfaction after being introduced to the kimura armlock; a Brazilian jiu-jitsu submission hold; aka double wrist-lock, in catch wrestling.

Part of why the experience is so cool is, before learning the kimura, I couldn't watch a grappling match and identify it, if applied.

After walking through the kimura with my instructor, thereby becoming familiar with when and how it can be used, I now have a vague understanding of its practical application.

Moreover, when watching a fight, it's pretty awesome to identify the move in action; to have a glimmer of recognition and understanding of what's going on.

Oh, oh, oh! That's It!


Here is the kimura as it was taught to me, via the Gracie Combative series from Gracie University.

Kimura armlock performed by Rener and Ryron Gracie
The Kimura armlock as taught by Rener and Ryron Gracie via Gracie University


It was only a couple days after learning the move, while watching a 2018 World Catch Wrestling Championship fight video, that I saw the armlock applied and recognized it.

In that moment, sitting in bed with my partner, each of us on our own laptops, I got excited, pointed at my laptop screen and blurted out, "Oh! Oh! Oh! That's a kimura armlock!"

Here's the armlock, attempted from the back, in the catch wrestling championship match...

Kimura armlock aka double wristlock Jacobs v Ruiz
Kimura armlock variation aka double wristlock
Brandon Ruiz vs. Curran Jacobs: The 2018 Catch Wrestling World Championships


It felt awesome to have a working, albeit vague, understanding of the thing I was watching.

I mean, it's one thing to watch a fight with interest, but with no real understanding of what's going on.

It's an entirely different experience to see a move in competition and at least feel like I've got a novice's understanding of it.

Why Recognition Feels Good


So, as a new grappling enthusiast, why does it feel so good to recognize a recently-learned-hold outside of class, such as during a catch wrestling world championship match?

Well, I recognized the armlock because I had studied it.

And I studied it because I went to class.

I went to class because I want to learn grappling arts.

An education in grappling is an investment in myself.

And feeling invested makes the education (being "in the know") feel really good.

Like I've got a little skin in the game.

So, hell yeah, it felt good to see and identify the kimura armlock in competition after having just learned it.

Because no matter how ignorant I am about grappling, any little breakthrough, any little spark, any glimmer of recognition shows me I'm learning, and learning about this thing that's important to me.

When was a time you recognized a newly learned hold and blurted, "Oh, oh, oh"?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas Wish: I Want My Father Back

It's Christmas and I want my father back.

He passed away over 10 years ago and, to this day, I cannot think or talk about him long without tearing up.

It's evident without saying, but for the sake of clarity, I love my dad and miss him terribly, and want him back for Christmas.

Christmas Day


This 44th Christmas of mine has been good; great, even.

Farley and I spent this morning at home, gathered around the tree – adorned with only blue twinkle lights and two ornaments, both of which were given to us –  exchanging gifts with her two children.

After the morning festivities, and as it seems with modern families, the four of us split up to enjoy separate family gatherings for the remainder of the day – the kids went with their father and Farley and I made the short trip to see my mother.

It was in my mother's living room that thoughts of my late father occupied and then nearly overwhelmed me.

Remembering My Father


Other than the trees attractive but standardized aesthetic with white lights and silver baubles, hanging from one branch, in memory of my father as it always is, was a colorful Scottish bagpiper ornament.

Even though Farley has heard me say it the two previous Christmases we've been together, I let her know the bagpiper's significance.

Since both his parents were off-the-boat from Scotland, my father was first-generation American and proudly, if not distantly, connected to his past.

And while I can get a little misty looking at the ornament memorializing my father, there was enough upbeat conversation between my mother, Farley and me to keep me occupied.

It wasn't long into the conversation before my mother wanted to share photos with us.

On her phone were images that supported the stories she was telling of spending her Christmas morning spent at one of my brother's houses.

While scrolling through the kinds of pics that only a technologically challenged grandmother can take, I came across a small, but wonderful, photo album of my father.

Immediately I went into self-preservation mode, steeling myself from the embarrassing tears I knew I'd cry if given too much space to dwell on my father's absence.

Of the handful of pics, one stuck out from the bunch.

My Favorite Picture Of Us


In it, I'm sitting next to my father on a long-gone couch. Both of us are well-tanned; he from his time enjoying sunbathing and me from my time then working on a lobster boat.

I'm looking cocky and straight at the camera, and at that age (24-ish), combined with working on the boat and being in the best shape of my life, I was feeling cocky, too.

Sitting on my father's left, my right arm is thrown over his shoulders.

My dad is sitting square to the camera with his arms crossed and his head turned to look at me. On his face is a smile I wish I could see every day of my life: my father looked happy and proud of me.

Sincerely proud.

And after living such a disappointing, unfulfilled, selfish, and nearly meaningless life, I long to be a child my dad can be proud of.

It's only over the past couple of years, several since his death, that I've turned my life around enough that my dad could be proud of me.

Consistently and sincerely proud.

Why He'd Be Proud Now


What I wouldn't give to have him back; to show him that I'm not a black-out drunk anymore; that I work hard, and help support a household; that I took a college class, got my head right, and stand upright with my shoulders back and can look him in the eye knowing that I'm trying my best.

I miss you dad. I miss you so much. Please know that I'm trying and think I'm someone you'd be proud to call your son.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

This 3-String Tab Proves Country Music Is Good On Cigar Box Guitars

Perhaps due to my budding affection for country music, I'm loving the occasional country tune on a cigar box guitar.

And while country music artist Garth Brooks isn't on top my list of country faves, his smash hit Friends In Low Places, I have found, translates well to 3-string gittys.

To that end, linked in this post is 3-string cigar box guitar tab to prove it.

Over the past couple of months at work for C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply, I've been more involved in creating free-to-download 3-string cigar box guitar tablature for another one of our sites, CigarBoxGuitar.com.

The latter is a knowledge base in which numerous how-to-build and how-to-play articles and guides are stored, along with various bits of cigar box guitar history and performing artists' stories.

Also hosted on CigarBoxGuitar.com is a growing library of the aforementioned tablature for all sorts of handmade musical instruments, be they ukuleles, 3 or 4-string cigar box guitars, 1-string canjos, and 2-string basses.

I feel like I'm missing another instrument, but you get the idea.

Anyway. About that Friends In Low Places tab.

While looking for songs to tab – mind you, songs that hopefully appeal to C. B. Gitty's audience – country music is an easy choice.

The songs are often simple enough to strum on a cigar box guitar and generally have a good feel to them, in that they're well-known and pleasing to the ear.

Plus, country music is just downright fun, with it's simple but catchy melodies and storytelling.

Even storytelling as somber as Friends In Low Places is made fun with the upbeat chord progression.

Turns out, Friends In Low Places with its four chords and unmistakable baritone notes has the kind of story that seemingly everyone can relate to.

And Garth Brooks put his stamp on the tune with his fantastic vocals.

Now, as previously mentioned, I'm not real big on Mister Brooks, but that doesn't mean I don't recognize his talent; the dude can sing.

Given his ability to consistently sell-out enormous arenas, it's also safe to say the man can put on a show, too.

Even after years away from recording and performing, Brooks recently stepped back into touring and is currently filling stadiums to capacity with adoring fans, which is why he's on my radar and why I chose to tab his smash-hit, Friends In Low Places.

Head on over to CigarBoxGuitar.com and download the 3-string cigar box guitar tab for Friends In Low Places.

In my arrangement, there's only four chords to the song and as soon as you strum them, one after the other, you'll hear Brooks' incredible baritone low notes and be humming them yourself.

Then before you know it, you'll be playing one of the most commercially successful country tunes of all time.

No, there's no slide-play (although there could be if you want) and there's no long-dead impoverished blues artist to point to for the songs greatness.

But that's not really the point of making and playing cigar box guitars, is it?

I mean, they're not meant only to play one style of music. In fact, country music, with all it's down-home blue-collar qualities, is a perfect fit for handmade musical instruments.

Look at us cigar box guitar builders; we can't even afford "real" guitars. I guess together, we've all got friends in low places.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

My First Rear Naked Choke [Exhilarating]

"Being that you've never done this before, you may have a sore throat tomorrow," says my longtime friend and new jiu-jitsu teacher.

Sitting on the mat inside his barn-studio, heavy bags hanging from ceiling joists, a pull-up bar on chains, and air conditioner roaring in a fight with the 90 degree weather outside, I'm preparing to be introduced to the rear naked choke (RNC).

My friend – I'll call him "P" – slowly explains what the RNC is, plus when and how it can be applied.

There's much more to the hold than P is covering, but he's giving me the basics, one small bite at a time.

Good thing too, because learning jiu-jitsu, like everything else I've done, likely will be best done just so: slowly, methodically, and with detailed, hands-on training.

Hands-on is quickly what this lesson becomes.

For some visual aid, P and I got in front of a mirror hanging on the wall next to the double barn doors.

P, explaining again the several steps to effectively secure an RNC, stands behind and demonstrates the choke on me as I watch in the mirror.

His right arm snakes over my right shoulder, bicep pressing into my neck; the crook of his elbow setting under my chin; the forearm hugging the other side of my neck.

His right hand grasps his left bicep with a monkey grip, where his right thumb, as opposed to forming a "C", is inline with his fingers.

P's left forearm angles up to my face and his left hand sneaks behind my head, his palm facing him.

With his head turned left and buried into the back of mine, P shrugs/pinches his shoulders back, puffs his chest, and begins squeezing the arteries on either side of my neck, choking my brain of its blood supply.

With the ticks of a few seconds, I watch my face redden in the mirror, my eyes seemingly bulge, and I entertain a fleeting thought of staying in the choke long enough to experience passing out.

Instead, with a mixture of fear and self-preservation, I tap P's arm and am immediately released from my first run-in with an RNC.

It's a trip, man – choking someone, if only for a moment, and being choked-out.

This introduction to basic jiu-jitsu movements is exhilarating and a fascinating new interest.

I love learning how to move my body in concert with another -- a dance, of sorts -- filled with the primal urge to survive.

It's like nothing else and requires no extra stuff outside of your own body and desire to learn.

I love that.

So my throat, indeed, was sore the next morning.

While contemplating the minor irritation at work the next day, it dawned on me that my right hand was gripping my left bicep in a monkey grip and my left hand was sneaking behind an imaginary head.

I think I'm gonna really enjoy this whole jiu-jitsu thing.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

I Was Almost Run Over. Good.

While walking to my car after exiting the grocery store, I was nearly run over.

Not "Oh, some driver who lost me in a blind spot almost bumped me with their car" run over.

Rather, a driver who presumably didn't check her mirrors, and certainly didn't turn her head, and accelerated in reverse at a surprising speed while casually chatting with the passenger in her vehicle, nearly ran clear over me.

And I'm grateful for it.

Note: There is nothing implied by, or attached to, me citing the driver's gender. It's simply a fact that helps me use the proper pronoun to the tell this story. 

The day was gorgeous and walking out of the store I was happy to feel the warm summer sun on my skin.

In my ears Joe Rogan and Henry Rollins -- two men who share perspectives for which I have deep respect -- were having a conversation, via Rogan's podcast (Youtube version here). 

My shopping bags were light, carrying only a couple cans of black beans and some vegetable broth -- enough food to make lunch for my lady and for a few inexpensive future meals. 

It was a good day. 

Honestly, everything felt so good that the only thing missing was a skip in my step.

Moving left to right across the car traveling lane, from one row of parking spots to the other, I made a straight line to my car.

From out of the corner of my left eye a black sedan backed up and headed straight for me. 

And in a flash I noted that the car was not slowing down. 

Mind you, I'm clear into the empty parking spots on my right.

The car in reverse is pulling out of the spots on my left and pulling straight back, showing no intent to slow or change direction. 

With self-preservation high on my to-do list, I jump to to my right. Literally jump.

Since the car continues straight back -- and quickly so -- I hustle, fast-stepping several feet to clear the path. 

Without even a hint of anger, I spy the driver, hoping to make eye contact. Not to reprimand her, or in hope of receiving some apologetic gesture, but so that she recognizes the danger in her actions. 

To my dismay, she never turned her head. 

The car jerked to a stop, was shifted into drive and moved off through the parking lot, not down the traveling lanes but over the rows of empty spots.

Gathering myself mentally, I finished walking to my car with gratitude in my heart. 

What if I had been someone much older? Someone who couldn't see the black sedan backing up? Who couldn't react quickly or move with enough speed to get out of the way? 

Truthfully, I'm grateful that happened to me.

The situation put me on my toes and, moreover, was one that I could respond to and effectively avoid.

That incident-free situation could have been a lot worse for any one of the numerous elderly or less physically-able people who walk that same lot.

And I need the exercise, anyhow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Miesha Tate Podcast Interview with John Morgan on The MMA Roadshow

On episode 173 of The MMA Road Show with John Morgan, former UFC Bantamweight powerhouse Miesha Tate gave a great interview.

Not just by checking the boxes on routine questions, but for giving praise to current UFC fighters, especially Rose Namajunas – the sort of praise that speaks well to both the recipient and the giver.

Family First


During the interviews first half, Tate spoke about how, in retirement, her family comes first.

While she still feels competitive and has plenty of post fight-career financial opportunities from which to choose, she’s enjoying a low public profile.

When asked about what she’s got going on these days, Tate prioritizes her new daughter, Mia, and maintains her commitment to her SiriusXM internet-radio show, followed by appearances on pre-fight shows and other such media events.

Competing at some level is also on on her list of things to do.

Competitive Fire Burning


Regarding the competitive fire within her, pregnancy didn’t slow Tate’s will to train.

Said Tate, "I stayed really active and busy throughout the pregnancy. I was hitting mitts with my former striking coach, the one I won my world title with, Jimmy Gifford, past my due date. I was nine months pregnant and in there hitting mitts. So, it's not too far out of reach for me to get back in shape and start competing."

So what, then, of fighting again?

"If you could just show up and fight, I'd probably do it.” Said Tate. “But to have to go through the whole training camp, dieting, and the politics of everything – it gets crazy. And the sport has changed. Where my passion really lies now is with my family."

Turns out, given her skills in wrestling, jiu-jitsu and submissions, Tate may find satisfaction in grappling competitions.

Dishing On UFC Fighters


Moving deeper into the interview, with a platform to speak freely, Tate stays positive by giving praise to some current fighters, and stoic on a former rival.

Nary a negative word or feint barb was spoken.

Ronda Rousey


Morgan asked Tate about feelings on her old Strikeforce and UFC Bantamweight nemesis Ronda Rousey’s first class induction into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Citing that their rivalry helped kick off the sport, Tate said "It would have been nice if we both would have been inducted at the same time.”

Nonetheless, Tate maintains, "I'm proud that women's mixed martial arts is continuing to be put on the map."

Amanda Nunes & Cris Cyborg


Tate also talked about MMA standouts Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg.

When asked if she thinks former opponent Nunes could be the one to unseat UFC Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg, Tate responds, "I think Amanda could be the one to beat (her)."

Speaking slowly and  thoughtfully, Tate continues, "I've been hit by Amanda. I've never been hit by Cyborg and I'm sure she hits like a truck, but I can definitely attest to the power that Amanda has and she's deceptively lengthy; she's very long. You think you're out of her range and you're not. She is someone who could actually probably hurt Cyborg. Cyborg, I don't think has ever really had to respect the power that another woman possesses standing across from her or at least she never seems to have. With Amanda that's different... If she goes in there and walks in straight like she does most other girls, she could really get hurt.”

Rose Namajunas


Now, the part of the interview that really stuck with me was Tate sharing her thoughts on UFC Strawweight belt holder Rose Namajunas. "I think Rose... is amazing" said Tate.

Speaking of her time watching Namajunas fight in Invicta, before she was a known name and champion, Tate said, "She really came out there to fight and finish people. I remember her flying armbars, and flying triangles... She just possessed something different; a different kind of ambition. When you see that in a fighter really young, that she's willing to take those risks, big calculated risks, you think, 'She's got a fighting spirit.' And now she's the UFC world champion and it doesn't surprise me."

Given that the UFC loves its trash-talking fighters for promotional opportunities, interviewer John Morgan asked what Tate thinks about Rose and her distinctly different approach to public speaking.

"I think Rose is a breath of fresh air. Not everybody is going to gravitate to the trash-talking champion. Rose brings a sense of realness back to the sport. ... the way she presents herself is so authentic... she goes against the grain in a lot of different ways."

Namajunas "talks about people loving each other and not being so hateful” which "goes against the grain and I think she'll stand out for that” said Tate.

As a listener who may not represent the average mma fight fan, and who is still new on the journey from casual onlooker to engaged consumer, I love hearing Tate’s perspective on Namajunas.

The young Strawweight champ’s public facing attitude resonates with me: to be successful does not have to mean chest-thumping and shit-talking; rather, it can mean humility and respect.

Hearing Tate’s thoughts on Namajunas reassures that even longtime, successful fighters can experience and demonstrate empathy; a quality, perhaps, not oft sought in combat sports, but for this fan at least, is a humanizing attribute.

Miesha Tate on Twitter
John Morgan on Twitter
The MMA Road Show with John Morgan podcast on Google Play

Sunday, August 19, 2018

More Than Self-Defense, Jiu-Jitsu Highlights Personal Growth Opportunities

Have you been through times when some of your weaknesses were on public display?

When you, and everyone else present, got an eyeful of those personal deficiencies about which you're a little insecure?

That's pretty much how my second jiu-jitsu class looked.

Thankfully, my weaknesses were highlighted by jiu-jitsu in such a way that the challenge of strengthening those areas through jiu-jitsu excites me.

This gentle art, as I've read to named, is a compelling discipline for self-improvement.

It also shamelessly emphasizes two broad areas in my life that need attention.

  1. I’m freaking out of shape, man.
  2. I need to get back to basics (in everything).

Physical Culture


It’s no mystery that after many years of doing little exercise, other than walking with my partner, I’m in poor shape.

Really poor shape.

Standing 6’ 2”-ish and weighing around 175lb, I have no major injuries to report, but also have little cardio conditioning and certainly no muscle to speak of.

And at 44 years of age, I move pretty slow and my joints are a little stiff.

Such is life, I guess.

But life doesn’t have to be that way, does it?

We don't have to resign ourselves to increasingly sedentary lives the more times around the sun we go, do we?

Of course not.

But this fact still remains – after my first two jiu-jitsu classes I've got some seriously sore body parts including my...

  • butt
  • lower back
  • hamstrings
  • and abdomen

I feel like a tall, skinny, stiff, old Gumby.

The soreness isn’t like that felt the day after lifting heavy weights.

Instead, using my body to secure my opponent, or encourage them to move in a particular direction, calls upon strength I don’t currently have, making my Gumby limbs just a wee bit sore.

And surprisingly, this new, physically demanding way of using my body in jiu-jitsu thrills me.

Back to basics


Adding to that excitement is another highlighted shortcoming I’m happy to work on: I've got to get back to basics.

As it seems with most things in life, learning and lifelong exercise of any skill set starts with basic building blocks.

Just as learning how to properly fret one note at time on a guitar can lead to shredding like Dragonforce guitarist Herman Li, solid fundamentals are the foundation of an exceptional artist, martial or otherwise.

Moreover, the back-to-basics mindset applies to even the simplest of things.

Just as Jordan Peterson speaks about cleaning your room, or Alcoholics Anonymous espouses “keep it simple”, jiu-jitsu promises to help me strengthen those areas that could be the foundation for great personal growth.

One such area – no joke – is personal hygiene.

Now, don’t go thinking I’m some sort of gnarly, messy, neck-beard (although I do, at the time of this writing, proudly sport a bushy beard).

But things like cleanliness are critical in spending an hour on a mat, rolling with another dude who is also sweating from the exertion.

So being mindful to wash before and after a class is important.

Taking it a step further, maintaining clean and short finger and toe nails is a must.

For the first time in my life, I’m consistently using fingernail clippers, as opposed to biting, peeling, or using a pocket knife to trim my finger them.

More surprising is I'm staying on top of my toe nails.

To be honest, attention to my toe nails has traditionally been short and sparse, breaking out the clippers only when I couldn’t stand the sight of them.

And that took a while.

Now, the get back-to-basics mindset (and care and respect for the guys I’m rolling with) forces me to clip and clean those nasty buggers.

This way I’m not contributing that brand of grossness to the gym mats, or just generally looking like a freaking monster.

It’s all those simple things that add up to something much greater.

Over time, maintaining order and wellness in the simplest areas of life, I’m certain I'll grow better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Get-back-to-basics doesn’t apply only to jiu-jitsu; it’s a mantra for life.

Conclusion


So I guess that’s it for now. Jiu-jitsu is revealing itself to be a terrific teaching tool; one that resonates deeply with me.

That it highlights some of my shortcomings – with more on the way, I’m sure – also rings true.

It’s time to get back to basics, and get my body, mind, and spirit into good shape.

Why Being "In The Know" Feels So Good

When you were new to grappling, didn't it it feel good to learn a submission hold in class and then identify that hold out in the w...