Category Archives: Martial Arts

My first cage event, XFP4

I was recently invited by Jose Torres of Dominion MMA to check out their local MMA event. It was held at the Longbranch in Raleigh, NC and there were 8 fights. As I walked into the bar I was impressed by the very professional set up. Walking toward my ring side seat I could feel the energy and excitement in the room. This side of the Longbranch has been used as a country bar for many years and I have been there are several occasions. Never before has it looked as good as it did with the octagon sitting in the room.

As the fights began, I was impressed by the ground techniques used by several of the fighters. I had a good view of a text book rear naked choke early in the evening and there was some good wrestling as the fighters used take down defense and worked to get up after a take down. The two main event fights were for titles, and both fights lived up to my expectations. Trey Singleton pulled off a dominant performance on the way to a decision victory against a game opponent (Garrido). The Kenna vs. Roberts fight was quick, but I had a good view of the Americana  (which is also one of my favorites to use) and it was a solid technique.

I am definitely looking forward to XFP5 and I am very excited to be able to say that I have been to an event with an actual octagon (instead of a boxing ring). Hope to see you there.

 

Lao Warrior Update – follow up

We recently filmed two great scenes for Lao Warrior; Phantasm and Candlelight. The Phantasm scene was very exciting and involved Jennifer Williamson, Miles Snow and a SWAT team. Kenji Saykosy choreographed some incredible martial arts scenes for this shoot and Directed a long but rewarding day of filming. Kenji was also a part of most of the scenes. Earlier scenes that day involved Jennifer and Nina Bartula. Jennifer’s parts in the movie have now all been filmed, and we will miss seeing her on set. Hopefully, we will see her at the premier.

The Candlelight scene was a re-shoot from earlier this year. We did it this time as an outdoor night shoot and the lighting for the scene, set up by Sean Pollock (cinematographer), was perfection. This scene is a very special scene for the cast, and for Kenji especially. In this scene we see Kenji’s Master (also Tyler’s Master) pass the sword as Kenji takes over teaching at the school. This scene shows the mixed emotions of the main character as he is happy for the promotion but also not sure how Tyler will react.

We are set for more filming this month and July is going to be very busy as well. Thanks to all of our contributors and sponsors for your support and to all of the incredible actors and martial artists for continuing to make Lao Warrior a great project.

Lao Warrior Update

April has been a busy month. On the 7th, we went to Triangle Jiu Jitsu in Durham, NC to film some fight scenes for the movie. We had several talented actors from Charlotte (Mike Gutowski, Brittany Bass and Jennifer Williamson) and local incredible actor Tony Basile present for a great day of filming. Kenji Saykosy was directing as myself and several stuntmen spent hours in the cage knocking out some great scenes. Sean Pollock and Daniel Calvert were the cameramen and Jonathan Carvajal was running sound.

On the 14th we had a huge night of filming at the local bar Mosaic here in Raleigh, NC. Except for one person, we had the entire main cast and crew together. This was the first time we had this many main characters together since the photo shoot for the movie posters last year. Once again, the energy was incredible and we filmed until about 2 am. Many thanks go to the extras and supporting actors who stepped up to make it a great night.

For the weekend of the 20th, Kenji headed out to Wisconsin for the Lao International Film Festival. Kenji did a martial arts demonstration and showed the music video from the movie (also released this month), our initial trailer and a promo reel. The reception was great and many new friends were made for the star of Lao Warrior.

We look forward to what May brings as we plan to film several more great scenes for the movie in addition to training a lot to make the fight scenes great. Thanks.

 

More about my fighting experience

Although I have competed in Taekwondo tournaments over the years (record 8 wins, 3 losses with 5 gold medals), my real fighting experience starts in 1987, the first time someone pulled a knife on me. When he opened it up (remember, this is the 80’s, so people carried buck knives) I remember the effect seeing that blade had on me. I went into survival mode, grabbed him by the wrist and throat and slammed him onto a car so hard that the knife went flying. He then slid off the car onto the pavement. Thankfully, that was the end of that conflict.

In 1988 I joined the US Army at age 17. I think most people know by now when you throw a bunch of young guys together from different backgrounds, and force them to live in a confined area (no, this wasn’t TUF and we weren’t in a nice mansion in Vegas) there are going to be problems. Added to this, the stress level was intentionally kept high by the Drill Sergeants most of the time mixed with sleep deprivation and general hazing.

In this environment there were a lot of fights, I remember one day a guy from 4th platoon was trying to bully me so I smacked him. At the time he did nothing about it. Later that day when I was in a line unloading a truck, someone suddenly hit me in the head from behind. I spun around and there was my friend from 4th platoon on the ground. Without even thinking about it, I had punched him in the face.

In 1990, when I was in Fort Hood, we had the night off and headed downtown to a bar. Two of my friends left the bar and ran into trouble. When the rest of us (about 7 guys) went looking for them, we found them facing 3 or 4 members of a gang. When the gang members saw us, they made some sort of sign and about 20 other gang members were suddenly on us. Despite the odds, we were winning this fight badly when suddenly someone yelled, “I’ve been stabbed.”

We were up against several people with knives and pipes. Two of my buddies got stabbed and one got his nose broken. I managed to make it out safely by staying calm and watching my back while watching the backs of 3 of my friends. After the stabbings, the gang vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

In 1995 I was hanging out with friends at a bar and making general conversation with a group of people. Suddenly a guy from the group said he had been looking for me for over a year (over a girl–stupid–and for the record, if you want to “look” for someone, it doesn’t take a year). He was drunk and I wasn’t, so I tried to talk him out of fighting. Eventually, his shenanigans (love Super Troopers) got him thrown out of the bar.

Then his friend comes over to me and starts telling me it’s a fair fight, and I am just scared, etc. Again, I tried to tell him that I would just hurt his friend and it was not worth it to me to go to jail (I was actually on probation at the time for assaulting a police officer–but that misunderstanding is an entire other story).

Eventually, I reached my limit so I headed to the door where the bouncer did not want to let me go outside because he knew there would be a fight. I used a Jedi mind trick on him, and he opened the door for me. Once outside, my opponent, an Army Ranger who had about 40 pounds on me and was about 4 inches taller, charged me and went for the take down. Unfortunately for him he walked into a right jab (I have twemendous power in my wight hand). Since his guard was down, he only had his nose to stop the punch. I won’t bore you with the rest of the fight (there wasn’t much), but basically his friend from the bar (Mr. Fair Fight) jumped me from behind and I elbowed him in the head. He wanted no part of me after the elbow, so I headed back inside the bar.

From my years of training and experience I have learned the difference between a pro fighter, a semi-pro, an amateur, someone with training and the average person. As with most sports, the difference between average and pro is like going up against a super hero; you will lose badly. I have trained or fought with the whole gamut and I have seen many differences within each of the five types that I list above. As with what I do every day at the pharmacy, my goal is to help people and I hope that I can provide something useful to everyone with this blog, even the pros. Thanks.

 

Follow the Leader

Anyone who has fought in the ring, cage or on the street knows how fast things can happen. In a fight, your anxiety level increases and your ability to think is affected. Often, you will see a fighter revert to the style that was his first (his base) or to the techniques he has trained the most over the years. An example of this is a wrestler who has started training MMA (kick-boxing, Jiu-jitsu, etc), but during his fight takes his opponent down and holds him there instead of using his new skills.

I mention this to make several points. It is important to control your anxiety so you stay in control and make good decisions. It is important to train with good form so that when you revert to techniques you do them well. But, I want to focus on the mindset you are in when you are “under fire.”

You often see a fighter’s corner yelling at him to use certain combos or techniques that will work in the situation. An example is someone yelling, “Elbow!” If both fighters hear and listen they will both be reminded to use elbows. If only one fighter hears, the first time he hits his opponent with an elbow (and doesn’t knock him out) he is reminding him about using elbow strikes and in fact encourages him to use them (I call this the “hit you back” effect).

This also applies to someone in a self-defense scenario. Know that if you try a technique you learned in a self-defense class and it doesn’t work or you miss, you have just made the attacker mad and given him ideas about what to do back to you. Be prepared for this. If you don’t know the defense against a technique, don’t use it.

Train hard and keep learning.

“Check” it out

David training

David Nelson training

I love it when I watch a fight and see someone using techniques I learned in Tae Kwon Do (TKD). TKD was my first martial art and I studied it for about 16 years before branching out, so I will always have a great appreciation. One of my favorite techniques (from TKD) is “checking.” The definition of checking is using a feint or movement that makes your opponent react. If your check is successful, your opponent will think you are attacking and you can see what he does. This allows you to assess his skill level, speed and his preferences for evading and/or countering.

At the level of MMA seen in the UFC, checking has a very valuable role. A fight between two experienced professionals who have trained hard and are relaxed (they have gotten past first time ring anxiety) becomes a very serious chess game. These pros usually have a strategy that was put together based on watching fight footage and compiling data on their opponent. They look for weaknesses; the way the fighter evades, how aggressive he is, etc.

But, in order to know what you should do, you need to assess the person you are fighting that day. They may have changed during their training camp; added new footwork, techniques, and sometimes styles. You also need to discover what your opponent’s strategy is for the fight. Did he notice something in your game that he intends to take advantage of? Will he keep it standing or go straight for a take down? Does he want to put you against the fence and work from the clinch?

The way to answer these questions is to “check” your opponent. If you do a kick feint and he shoots in, you know he hopes to take the fight to the ground (possibly because of your great striking/kicking game). If you do a punch combo feint and he evades you know he likely wants to keep it standing up (possibly he thinks his striking is better or his ground game is worse than yours). In order for your check to work, it has to be convincing. If it is not, your opponent will not react and you learn nothing.

Spend some time looking in a mirror and work on your feints. Also use stepping, switching or footwork to simulate an attack until you are happy with the way it looks, and start using it on your training partners. See if you can get a reaction from your opponent. The most fun thing is when you get so good with your “checking” that you make people do the counter you want them to do so you can do the counter to that. When you reach that point, you are doing it right. Good luck.

Aim High

It’s great to see a knock out in MMA, but even better when it comes by way of a head kick. There are many reasons why we don’t see these highlight reel kicks more often. Skill, timing, ability, flexibility, situation, experience and knowledge are all factors that come into play. So, what can you do as a fighter to increase your success with head kicks?

The first step is to start improving your flexibility. The more flexible you are, the faster you will be and obviously the higher you can kick. I prefer using Active Isolated Stretching as a great way to get the best results. At the same time you also have to work on your wrestling ability so you will have better take down defense and better ability to get up after you are taken down. This also means you must train a lot of Jiu Jitsu so you can defend or get the submission if you run into an equal or better wrestler. Together, wrestling and Jiu Jitsu make you feel more comfortable doing head kicks because you aren’t worried about the take down.

The next step is timing drills. This involves working with several opponents with varying sizes and experience so you can learn when an opponent is open. Square off and have each opponent do any combos they choose. Watch and use your footwork to circle to the side and always be ready to throw the head kick counter. Repeat this until it becomes natural for you to kick when they are open, which is usually during or right after a technique.

For offense, you have to create openings. Work on your speed and ability to cover ground, and learn how to extend your hips so you can kick your opponent from deceptive distances. Use feints or throw a few low kicks before sneaking in the head kick. For more on this, look for the second edition of my book, FOCUSING MARTIAL ARTS POWER. Thanks.

Don’t take another step

Now that I have discussed my number one pet peeve with fighters (see Hands Up) I am ready to move on to my next. A common flaw I see with fighters is they warn their opponents. Specifically, back when I used to watch boxing, pro boxers would move or draw back before punching which would alert the opponent to cover. The MMA equivalent of this is stepping before you kick (or with Muay Thai, stepping back with your leg before kicking).

Fortunately, there has been some major improvements in this in the past 10 years. There are now a great many pro fighters who have figured out that if you warn your opponent about the first technique, your whole combo is less likely to work because the first technique lets them know that the second, third and so on are coming. The interesting thing is once you step, move, etc and warn your opponent on the first technique, the movement from that technique satisfies whatever natural need it is we have to move before we punch or kick. So, you don’t have any preparatory movement for the subsequent techniques in the combo but now the opponent is ready.

If you can avoid warning your opponent on that first technique, think of the increase in your percentage of contact. It takes specific training to break these bad habits and a lot of it, but if you can break this natural habit of warning you will be much more successful as a fighter. The only time it is okay to warn your opponent, is if you are using it as a check or feint to set them up. More on that in future blogs. Thanks.

Hands up!

David Nelson - Hands Up!

Keep your hands up

Before you old school folks think this is a robbery or a scene from the Lone Ranger, let me clarify that I am talking about professional fighters. I am a HUGE fight fan–I love football too, but in the past few years (does 16 years count as a few years?) since the Cowboys have been sucking it up (the Romo years especially) and my life has gotten very busy with many other things, fighting is the only sport I have been able to follow. I used to be a big fan of boxing, circa the Mike Tyson to Roy Jones, JR era, but with the reinvention of MMA by Dana White and with TUF I found myself unable to watch boxing.

Nonetheless, I was at a party in December 2012 where the host ordered the boxing pay-per-view Pacquiao VS Marquez IV. I decided to watch with true interest since it was the first boxing match I had watched in years. Boxing is an incredibly effective and good style of fighting, I might add, but only if it is part of an overall style that includes kicking, ground fighting, clinching, throws, take-downs, knees, elbows and defense against all of the above. So, anyway, if memory serves it was the 6th round of the main event when the two fighters exchanged punches that put Pac on the mat, and hard.

It was a nasty and great KO for sure, but I have to admit that up to that point I was mezmorized by how many openings these great boxers have in their defense. In addition to the obvious complete lack of defense against MMA techniques, as fast as both of these pro fighters are with hands and footwork, they both share a common problem; they drop their hands when they punch. These pros are not alone. Another prime example is UFC 155 (also in December) and the main event fight between Dos Santos and Velasquez.

I watched Dos Santos demonstrate a great deal of toughness and heart as he took a major beating for 5 rounds and lost his belt. At several points in the fight, even in the beginning when his mind was fresh, his hands were down around his waist as if he were at a business meeting and not in a cage against a heavy striker. As a fight fan and a martial artist this perplexes me. So, we have the question, why do these professional fighters (there are many, many other examples) not keep their guard up when they punch, kick or in general?

The short answer lies in their training. I will be the first to say that 99% of the world can’t handle the amount of training and endurance required to be a great fighter in the UFC. But this is not a good excuse. In the Army we used to say, “Do in training what you intend to do in war.” We said this because when it hits the fan (as it does in combat but also in a cage fight) you will revert to what you know, what you train and what you are most comfortable doing. This is also why it is likely no one will ever beat Anderson Silva because he is so comfortable and no one can put enough pressure on him to shake his nerves (or, when they do briefly, he just beats them anyway).

Back to training. Double check your training habits. If you are dropping your guard when you punch or kick you should make some changes–now. I suggest you start thinking about keeping your guard up on every possible drill and exercise and stretch you do. A few examples are standing hamstring stretches, sit-ups and every fighting technique drill, but I am sure you can get creative and come up with many other ways to add this to your game. I don’t think you will find this is bad advice, but please get back to me if you disagree. Thanks.

More on David Nelson

Martial Arts Expert, David Nelson in Lao Warrior

Writer/Actor David Nelson staring in Lao Warrior

As you might have guessed, David Nelson is a popular name. First let me say I am not the 155 pound MMA fighter (no disrespect intended to him or anyone else who has the guts to step into a cage to fight). I am older than him and my weight class is 185 pounds (look out Anderson Silva). I have not had any MMA fights either amateur or pro, but I have been training in MMA since 2005 and in martial arts since 1984. Even though I am not Randy Couture, I am considering my first amateur MMA fight later this year.

I started with Tae Kwon Do (TKD) and got my first black belt in 1987. I joined the Army in 1988 and was honorably discharged in 1991. I came home and joined the NC National Guard and went back to work as a stocker for Food Lion. In 1992 I started college and began the road toward getting into and completing Pharmacy school, which I did in 1996. I also finished my time in the Guard and received my second honorable discharge in 1996. This gave me time to get back into TKD.

I studied at a great school in Danville, VA (respect to “Brain”) before moving to Greensboro, NC (for a girl-I know, big mistake). I continued to train at another great school where I competed in many TKD tournaments and got my second black belt in 1999 (had to get up and check my certificate to be sure about the year). From there I moved (not for a girl this time) to where I live now, Raleigh, NC.

In Raleigh, I trained at 2 more TKD schools and competed in more tournaments before deciding to diversify. I started with Wing Chun, then Muay Thai Kickboxing, then I found the Royal Tiger Academy where I have been training under Master Saykosy ever since. I am currently working with Master Saykosy on an action movie Lao Warrior, and we plan to release later this year. More on that in future blogs. Thanks.