The Anatomy of the Muay Thai MMA Leg Kick and Beyond

The Muay Thai Leg Kick has always held a special place in my heart.

One’s ultimate goal when fighting should always be to break the spirit of your opponent. When you knock someone out they have no choice in the matter. Their spirit is momentarily turned off. When you tap someone out, they realize that the smart move is to live to fight another day. But when you take someone out with a Leg Kick, they are perfectly conscious and aware. They can continue to fight if they want to.

Most times, they choose not to because of the excruciating pain and this is the moment that their spirit breaks.

How do I know this you ask? I’ve been there, on the receiving end, a couple of times.

The following is an in depth look at the anatomical structure of the nerves and muscles in the leg and the most efficient ways to render them inoperable. In addition we have included several set ups, combinations and techniques for using the information provided by the anatomical study.

As a side note, we learned from Dr. Cacciamani that there are two ways to cripple and immobilize the leg. 1 is an attack to the primary nerve structures (e.g. the Sciatic Nerve) and 2 is an attack on the muscle tissue. From our research, the difference is generally that nerve attacks immediately cause the temporary loss of control for the limb. Whereas muscle tissue attacks cause swelling, cramping/knotting, and gradual deterioration of muscle function.

This makes sense if you think about it. You can take out the structures that send messages to and from a muscle/group of muscles or you can pulverize the muscle itself. Bottom line is, if your opponent can’t or doesn’t want to move his/her leg anymore, you’ve pretty much done the job.

Included are some diagrams for reference. And below that are a series of videos showing how we like to apply the information we’ve learned from Dr. Cacciamani and from our independent research.

Anterior Neuromuscular Anatomy of Human Leg

Anterior Neuromuscular Anatomy of Human Leg

Posterior Neuromuscular Anatomy of Human Leg

Posterior Neuromuscular Anatomy of Human Leg

You can watch them in any order you wish, but

I have tried to assemble them in a loosely organized fashion in hopes that our readers will see how the various techniques can be used to compliment each other

and to form a catch all for reactions, energies, and defenses to any one particular attack.

Top View of Fascia and Nerves in Human Leg

Top View of Fascia and Nerves in Human Leg

Due to time constraints, I have initially included only 5 additional clips in this article. I will be updating it often over the following weeks until all the following clips are published:

  • Jab + Cross + Right Kick (unloaded leg theory)
  • Right Kick Counter to the Jab + Cross (loaded leg theory)
  • Jab + Cross + Hook + Right Kick (loaded leg theory)
  • Overhand Right + Left Kick (loaded leg theory)
  • Left Kick Retaliation to Right Kick (loaded leg theory)
  • Draw Step Set Up for the Right Kick (loaded leg theory)
  • Swing Kick Counter to the Right Kick (neutral leg theory)
  • Outside Angle Kick Counter to the Jab + Cross (neutral leg theory)
  • Jab Set Up for the Outside Angle Kick (neutral leg theory)
  • Left Inside Leg Kick Set Up for the Right Kick or Outside Angle Kick (neutral leg Theory)
  • Calve Punt(neutral leg theory)
  • Over-Riding The System, Forearm Chop, Knee, Heel Kick from the Clinch
  • Forearm Smash Attack vs Guard Pass Prevention
  • Elbow Spike Guard Opener

Loaded vs Unloaded Leg Theory (Weight Bearing vs Non-Weight Bearing – Contracted Muscle vs Relaxed Muscle)

Jab, Cross, Right Leg Kick Combination

Leg Kick By Draw

Jab, Cross, Hook, Leg Kick Combination

Kicking the Rear Leg and Inside Leg Kicks

Right Kick Counter to the Jab, Cross Combination

Swing Kick Counter to the Thai Kick

Outside Leg Kick Counter to the Jab, Cross

Jab, Outside Leg Kick Combination

Inside to Outside Leg Kick Combination

Overriding The System for MMA

MMA Karate Chop Guard Retention Counter

Yamasaki MMA Elbow Spike Guard Opener

Modern Catch As Catch Can: Written By Kris Iatskevich

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier

” Let me show you how to properly do a front face lock”

Thinking that there wasn’t much an old ”pro” wrestler could teach a veteran grappler like myself, but having been brought up to respect my elders (and this guy was old, very old) I let him do his stuff, telling myself it would make the old man’s day ( I’m nice that way). He wrapped his still massive arms around my head, placed a hand on my shoulder, figure foured his wrists and cranked. Although he didn’t seem to apply much pressure, my knees buckled. My jaw, neck and spine made a loud cracking noise. I was certain he had just ripped my head straight off of my shoulders.

But he wasn’t done yet…he took me down and put me in a leg lock, a half Boston of all things, a fake ”pro” move (or so I thought).

What hadn’t cracked on the earlier move cracked then. Two weeks of regular chiropractor visits later, I humbly made my way back to the gym, armed with a new found respect for the old ”pro” wrestler and a desire to learn more about the old wrestling methods.

And so began my journey into the world of Catch as Catch Can wrestling… REAL ‘‘pro’’ wrestling.

(you can see the half boston crab in a MMA fight at 6:00 in, in the clip above)

Much like today, the Catch wrestlers of old were always looking for new ways to pin and submit their opponents. Their livelihood depended on it. In the past, these men dedicated themselves to the very real tradition of wrestling and engaged in completely real professional bouts. Furthermore, this wrestling was not the collegiate, free style or Greco-Roman wrestling we see today. It was submission wrestling, using techniques these men called “hooks’’

These submission wrestlers, called “hookers, shooters, pistols” by those in their trade, were the sort of men who sought real challenges and were not afraid to learn or show anything, Of course, this lead to a blend of wrestling styles. European styles mixed with Russian, Indian, and Japanese styles. So anyone claiming to know the ‘’true system’’ of CACC is either ignorant or trying to confine it to a mould that never existed before. There is no ‘’one way’’ of doing things, only principles and rules for you to use and play with. These principles and rules are what define Catch as Catch Can Wrestling and give it its unique flavour. I do admit that there are some Catch techniques and set ups that I have yet to find in other grappling systems, but what really sets it apart are the underlying principles behind the techniques, the philosophy of the art if you will.

After making its way to North America, around the end of the 19th century, the English Lancashire CACC wrestling style was blended with the “rough and tumble” American mentality of the era and a more aggressive catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling emerged, creating some of the most outstanding grapplers of that period.
In all the annals of history you would be hard pressed to find tougher and more skilled mat men than the Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestlers. These old time shooters took on all comers from all over the world and emerged victorious through a flood of blood, sweat, tears, and broken bones.

You can get a feel for the type of person who would study this art back in the day.

You can get a feel for the type of person who would study this art back in the day.

Catch can be particularly aggressive. Unfortunately, some mistake this aggressive pace for a lack of technical finesse.

The system is based on domination and pain compliance, but also on leverage, physics and control. The use of pressure points is also encouraged to set up techniques and keep opponents on the defensive.

All forms of submission holds, heel hooks, neck cranks and small joints manipulations are allowed within the CACC curriculum.

Catch has a wide appreciation of body mechanics and demonstrates a flexible and innovative mindset when it comes to submissions.

Not only does it use the typical subs you see across styles, but also flows freely from one technique to another, often times improvising subs to better take advantage of whatever the opponent leaves open during a scramble. Hence the name Catch as Catch Can (Catch a hold anywhere you can).

Basically, besides gouging, fish hooking, biting and deliberate striking, all is permitted within the CACC rule set. It’s all about getting the job done, as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.

Here you see typical wrestling holds, arm bars similar to in jiu-jitsu, and throws found in sambo

Here you see typical wrestling holds, arm bars similar to in jiu-jitsu, and throws found in sambo

Actually, the term ‘’ No Holds Barred’’ was originally used to describe the wrestling method prevalent in CACC tournaments during the late 19th century

, Meaning that no holds were banned from competition. That is why the CACC Wrestling men had to know how to throw, control, pin and submit their opponents from every angle and position imaginable. These men coupled brutal submissions (double wristlocks, neck cranks, toeholds etc) with an ability to twist their opponents into pretzels to pin them.

Since a Catch as Catch Can match can be won by either submission or pin, Catch wrestlers pay particular attention to positioning; high level of proficiency in breakdowns, rides and pins is required to excel in this system. Position is crucial to pulling off any submission, and even more so to obtain a pin.

Bottom escapes is another aspect of the game that is perfected. knowing that your opponents will work extra hard at keeping you on your back to obtain the pin, an incredible amount of time is spent working our way back up from bottom .

CACC became by far the most popular American sport during the post-Civil War period up until just before World War I, especially in the carnivals and fairs.

The carnival’s wrestlers challenged the locals as part of the carnival’s “athletic show”

and the locals had their chance to win cash reward if they could defeat the carnival’s strongman by a pin or a submission. This eventually led to the carnival’s wrestlers preparing for the worst kind of scenario and aiming to end the wrestling match quickly and decisively. As carnival wrestlers traveled, they met with a variety of people, learning and using techniques from various folk wrestling disciplines, many of which were accessible due to a huge influx of immigrants in the United States during this era

An ad for a "Catch As Catch Can" Wrestling Bout

An ad for a "Catch As Catch Can" Wrestling Bout

It is important to remember that there were also many style vs. style matches. In this way, the Japanese, amongst others, became very aware of the CACC tradition and vice versa.

Judo expert and prize fighter Mitsuyo Maeda also known as ‘’Count koma’’ perfected his fighting system by competing in and learning Catch as Catch Can before moving to brazil and teaching is style of fighting to Carlos Gracie.

Another judoka, Masahiko Kimura, also learned Catch as Catch Can while working as a professional wrestler. Kimura would go on to defeat Helio Gracie with a staple hold of CACC the Double Wrist Lock aka ‘’The Kimura’’.

Karl Gotch after honing his skills at the infamous ‘’Snake pit’’ in Wigan were he learned CACC, travelled to india and studied Pehlwani (Indian Wrestling) and then to Japan were he studied Judo and Sumo. My coach Edouard Wiecz Carpentier, , practiced Greco Roman Wrestling, Boxing and Savate before turning his attention to Catch as Catch Can. Later, he also became an avid Judo player.

Much like many of their contemporaries, these men were cross training even before we had coined a term for it.

I often thought that, were Karl Gotch, Billy Robinson, Edouard Wiecz and many of the old time greats in their prime today, they would be at the forefront of MMA fighting, as it is results oriented instead of performance oriented like pro wrestling. Given their training and dedication, they would have been at the top of the mma food chain.

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier, Paul Leduc, Bob "Legs" Langevin

Eddy Wiecz Carpentier, Paul Leduc, Bob "Legs" Langevin

Unfortunately, while many of the ‘’Old Timers’’ kept a very open mind towards training. Some coaches today seem to adopt a very dogmatic approach to teaching.

Beware of all teachers who tell you that their method is the only legitimate one. All Grappling styles are good, it’s up to you to find witch one suit you best.

On a closing note, here is what I have learned in my 30 + years of practice.

Judo, Sambo , Wrestling (Freestyle/Greco Roman/Folk style) , Catch as Catch Can and BJJ are all legitimate combat sports. They’ve all been proven effective.
Nothing else needs to be said.

If you want to be good at grappling, find a good grappling club and train there. The rest all comes down to the instructor and the individual.

We all know what styles are effective and which ones are not. Just pick one you have access to and train hard. For the best grappling system out there, the only one worth devoting yourself to, is the one you enjoy practicing.

And to paraphrase my good Friend Jake Shannon president of Scientificwrestling .com

‘’So what is modern Catch as Catch Can Wrestling? ANYTHING that is legal under the rules of a catch wrestling contest IS catch wrestling. I think a lot of people get confused that because catch wrestlers show a lot of little known but effective techniques that they think there is some sort of secret society where a few anointed people “know” catch wrestling. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Catch wrestling is “Open to suggestion”. Anyone can contribute as long as their contribution “works”.

The only “proper” way to pin or submit a man is the way that works. That’s it. Catch wrestling isn’t necessarily a canon of technique; it is a METHOD and a set of rules.
Each person will chain the techniques their own way. Each person will apply the subs and pins based on their individual body types and knowledge base. Catch is rigorously individualistic.

That is why we are here, to continue experimenting in new ways to pin and submit people; no points. The permutations are endless.

That is why it is called Scientific Wrestling; test it, prove it, use it, teach it to others to help them.

These men will champion catch (their own brand of catch) and will have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they know their subject. It is truly an exciting time!’’

Exciting times indeed!

As an addendum to the original article, Coach Iatskevich asked me to include the following links for reference:

first is an article written in 1905 and debates catch wrestling vs Jiu jitsu

second Is an overlook of the history of MMA and it,s link to catch wrestling

third is the story of Ad Santel vs judo

From Kris Iatskevich: “I know some of these stories seem a bit negative,I personally don’t like comparing systems. But what you get from them. is the understanding of how much these arts influenced each other.”

Kris Iatskevich has studied different fighting arts for the last 30 + years.

– Catch Wrestling under the guidance of Eddy Wiecz Carpentier since ’96
– Lead Instructor for the certification program
– Black Belt and Regional rep. for SAW (submission arts wrestling) Hidetaka Aso
– Black Belt Judo
– Canadian rep for FIAS Sambo
– President of Catch Wrestling Canada Association
– Owner and Head coach of the Quebec Toe hold Club

You can learn more about him, his system and more at his official website:


As a final note from me (Brian Yamasaki), I would like to add that I own both of Coach Iatskevich’s Competition Catch as Catch Can DVD’s and consider them some of the best DVD’s I own.  They contain an enormous amount of useful information and give a fresh perspective to the art of Submission Wrestling.  I highly recommend either or both of these wonderful volumes.

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 1

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 1

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 2

Competition Catch As Catch Can Volume 2

Speak Softly And Carry A Big Kick

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’m going to keep on saying it until the day I die. My favorite part of training in the Martial Arts is meeting the wonderful, high class people. Some of whom have become good friends of mine. Khuen Khru/Coach Alvin Chan out of Baltimore Maryland is one of them.

I first met Khru Alvin a number of years ago at the Pacific Northwest Muay Thai Camp. Later I would also see him at the CSW Fighter/Instructor Camp in CA each year. Alvin is a quiet and humble instructor but he really made an impression on me.

At the Thai Camp, we’d always start the mornings off with a 2 or 3 mile run at 6:30 am. Sometimes, by the third day, your legs would be so stiff it would take a good half hour just to stand up straight. Running or even moving for that matter seemed like a stretch of the imagination. At times like that, it was easy to slip into a fog, to just go through the motions and get the run and other exercises out of the way.

Khru Alvin, always made it out in front of me during the runs. He’d turn the corner and make the return trip to camp, but every time, without fail, he would look up from his concentrated gaze to give me a smile and slap fives as we passed during our shared journey of pain.

This always seemed to snap me out of my fatigue induced stupor and remind me that I chose to be wherever I was. I was among friends and we were bound together by a unique experience and the shedding of blood, sweat and tears. And then the world would open up. I would breath deeper, I would begin to smell the fresh mountain air, the semi-sweet tones of pine needles and ferns lacing it with their fragrance. I would remember what a wonderful opportunity I had to train with such incredible people in such an amazing an beautiful place.

Khuen Khru Alvin and I shooting for Damage Conrol MMA

Khuen Khru Alvin and I shooting for Damage Conrol MMA

Later, he would do the same for me on the runs on the sunny streets of California. More running, more fatigue, the same Khru Alvin, ahead of me on the runs, slapping fives, sharing a laugh, a tip, a technique. He would be there for me when I needed him most, right after being chewn up an spat out by the 185 lb. professional fighters, a familiar face in the room, a training partner and friend, a roll of refuge where I could let my guard down and just enjoy the roll.

He is such a great instructor and an inspiration to me. Quietly but tenaciously pursuing the secrets of the Martial Arts, wherever they may hide. I have found them in him. And here are a precious few. The Shin Across Defense to the Prumb, as well as the Elbow and Power Knee set ups from that position. Not a “Kick” per se but “Big” and well… you get the picture.

Thank you for everything Khuen Khru Alvin!

The Wendover Bendover

Here is a stab at our new t.v. format for Damage Control. Less the techniques… kind of. Forgive me for how lame it turned out. I’ve learned that what is entertaining for me (because I was there and was emotionally involved) isn’t necessarily entertaining for others.

I’m going to attempt a future episode like this but I think I’m going to include a narrative like Anthony Bourdain does on his show “No Reservations”. I also think I’ll break up the overall story line with technique clips etc.

But, if I don’t publish this one, you guys don’t get a new article this week. I’ve been working on this thing since last week. Ug. Sorry guys.

Perhaps I can redeem myself by sharing this little beauty with you. A Spinning Back Elbow Counter to the basic Single Leg Takedown Defense.

Arm In Guillotine From Sit Up Sweep

This is an awesome technique taught by our friend, a Pedro Sauer BJJ Black Belt and MMA fighter, Paul Sizemore.

The Arm In Guillotine can be more effective than the regular Guillotine, especially against seasoned opponent’s because the escape and counter measures are different since the arm that would usually go over the back is now trapped.


A Fist Full Of Reality Right To Your Face!

Last week a friend of mine was severely injured during an MMA fight. He is a fan and follower of our Comcast Cable Show and youtube channel Taking It To The MMAT. He has won fights with techniques he’s learned from watching our videos and has made a point to give credit where credit was due. In person he has always treated Kiser and I with the highest level of respect despite our coming from rival camps.

His name is Daniel Grass and

he suffered a catastrophic fracture of his jawbone

in the midst of his fight and before I go any further I want the message of this blog post to be perfectly and crystal clear. I am not bashing or poking fun in any way of Daniel or his situation. I like Daniel a great deal and I wish him a speedy and full recovery. I simply want to use his situation as a teaching tool for others.

Daniel can be seen in the clip above at 7:49 in.

Daniel Grass before his injury

Daniel Grass before his injury

It has always bewildered me how many of my regular, average Joe type students take their training more seriously and more consistently than their fighter counter parts. Common sense would tell you that the exact opposite would be the case. And on occasion, I do have students who double or even triple their efforts when they chose to fight. But they are the exception rather than the norm.

So what does all this have to do with Daniel and his horrible injury? Well, it has to do with the fact that most of my most serious students have no aspirations whatsoever to fight. And I think it’s because they have such a high level of respect for what can happen in one (as in Daniel’s case). And I think most of those that come in wanting to fight have no idea what can happen or how easily it can. I think they watch TV and see fights and always relate to the champion or the guy with his hand raised. Rarely do they say to themselves, “geeze I could have my jaw wired shut for the next 5 weeks, have metal plate put in my head, or lose the ability of speech for a while”. I don’t think they have the slightest clue as to the fact that getting hit hurts. I know it sounds ridiculous but I swear most of these guys just don’t get it.

Daniel Grass moments after his injury, a triple fracture of his jawbone and a lost tooth

Daniel Grass moments after his injury, a triple fracture of his jawbone and a lost tooth

I don’t corner fighters who haven’t prepared properly because it hurts me to see them broken and battered. It takes a serious emotional toll on me. Daniel literally lives at a gym and trains very consistently for his fights. If this can happen to him, the chances of it happening to someone who doesn’t take their training as seriously can only be higher. I don’t know how much time he spends on striking and I am not criticizing his preparation I’m just saying to take a long hard look at what can happen to you during a fight and think of this every time you think you want to. Meditate on it and use it to motivate you to train, to train hard, to train smart, to train consistently and to do everything in your power to prepare yourself properly, Mentally, Physically, Emotionally and Spiritually.

Daniel Grass before surgery

Daniel Grass before surgery

“Death is Life

The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead.”

– From the Hagakure –

“A Samurai must keep first and foremost in his mind at all times, the fact that he must someday die.”

– From Bushido Shoshishu –

Daniel Grass after surgery

Daniel Grass after surgery

Daniel is not a personal student of mine or Kiser’s but as I said before he is a friend and a fellow warrior. And we wish him only the best.

God Speed Daniel for a fast and full recovery. We’ll be rooting for you!

The Half Guard and Guardless Guillotine Chokes

For the next few weeks we will be focusing on the Guillotine Choke. I’ve had more changes of opinion concerning this technique than perhaps any other. I’ve gone from simply noting it as a possible option/threat, to considering it a total asset, back to being casually aware of it and then back to thinking that it’s the cat’s meow. No other move has had the ability to reinvent itself to me as the Guillotine.

It’s such a simple move but just when you think you’ve got it pegged you come across a different variation, a small tweak, a different way of using it. It’s like the duct tape of submission holds. And here is a real beauty demonstrated by my good friend and CSW coach, Brandon Kiser.

I’d like to note a couple things here. You will often find us demonstrating or sharing unconventional techniques on this site and our youtube profile ( This is not because we value the unconventional approach more than the conventional. It is not because we think these techniques are any better or higher percentage than the basics. Our position is that our viewers should be training under qualified instructors who should be more than capable of presenting and teaching the basics and traditional methods. And there are plenty of resources where more information can be found concerning these.

Our hope is that we can share some ideas that may not be so readily available and or give our viewers food for thought concerning possibilities they may not have otherwise considered.

Muay Thai Taking Root

Ajarn Rex stood in the center of the field of screams as over a hundred and forty dedicated Thai Boxers looked on. Wind moved through the towering pines that surrounded us on all sides, producing the sound of applause.

Pines taller than four story buildings tower over a small clearing known as the field of screams.

Pines taller than four story buildings tower over a small clearing known as the field of screams.

As we listened, Ajarn Rex recounted his humble beginnings and expressed his gratitude for Ajarn Chai and how much he has done to promote and spread the art of Muay Thai.

Then he paused and his hands came up to his face as his voice began to waiver. “When I first came to this country, I did everything, everything I could to help Muay Thai.” He said. “Now, I look around and I see all these white guys. We dug a hole and planted a seed. Now that seed has grown and the tree is growing bigger and my dream has come true.”

And as Ajarn Rex said this, I began to think back to the week before. Khuen Khru Will Bernales had just administered a Thai Boxing “Shorts” test and the room was full of eager and excited students. I can remember a time, when it was only a hand full of us, some of us only taking privates. There are really only four of us left since those times, Brandon Kiser, Dillon, Shy Solomon and myself. But now the classes have grown and for the first time, two of my own students were testing for the right to wear their Thai Shorts under my instructor Khuen Khru Will.

It would certainly seem as though the seed has taken root at least here in Salt Lake City, Utah. Growth has been slow but it has been steady. And now, even I can say that many that began are no longer with me. But I can see the future, and there are buds beginning to flower. Muay Thai’s branches are continuing to spread and it’s beauties are being seen by more and more followers.


I watch Khuen Khru Will to see what his impressions are of how the students are doing.

With any luck, even after the father tree has fallen, there will be plentiful, strong and equally as beautiful saplings to carry on the line and the spirit of Muay Thai.

Erik Paulson’s Short Shots

I’m the nerd’s nerd when it comes to MMA and Martial Arts Techniques in general. They are like comic books or fine wines to me. There are mass produced beauties that everyone has access to and can enjoy and then there’s those very rare and hard to find gems. Sometimes they are even more effective and brutal than the average technique (like the shin locks which are completely game changing, they have the ability to take butterfly and open guard away from your oppoent… WOW).

It might be argued that their rarity contributes to their effectiveness. But either way, I collect them. And this, in my opinion, is one of those rare, though perhaps more esoteric ones, Erik Paulson’s “Short Shots”. It’s a personal favorite of mine. It’s so out of the ordinary as far as MMA techniques go. And the way I first learned about them (through Erik Paulson’s gym tour vid) makes them even more endearing to me.

That being said, I heard Ajarn Greg Nelson comment how useful it is to have one more option here, one more little tweak there that can allow you to capitalize from an otherwise neutral position (I think it was on his MMA Workshop DVDs). And the “Short Shots” have done exactly that from the MMA Clinch. When other people are just locking up and establishing neck ties and underhooks, I am jarring their systems with “Short Shots” en route to my neck tie/Prumb etc.

Check it out, Erik Paulson’s “Short Shots”!

Also from CSW Instructors Greg Nelson and Erik Paulson:

The Eternal Grappling Match

The Good Wolf vs The Bad Wolf

The Good Wolf vs The Bad Wolf

For your listening pleasure, as background music for this post.

Now or never, Face yourself, No one else will do
Face your weakness, Face your past, Let your scars show through
It’s now or never, Don’t look back

– Michael Hedges –

There is a struggle that takes place everyday within us all.

An eternal battle waged between our better selves, our greatest being and our basest incarnations. Sometimes the rivals are confidence and self doubt, other times they are integrity and that part of ourselves that wants to give in because it’s easier to sell out.

The conflicts are innumerable but for me, on the mats, most often the battle is waged between the Ego and the Empty Vessel, the pure artist who is ultimately only there for the impermanent tapestry that is the live go, the free roll, the sparring session itself rather than the outcome or the one-upsmanship that can accompany such a session.

The Truth Hurts

Earlier this year, at the annual CSW Instructor/Fighter Camp, I had yet another opportunity to vanquish that foe. I even had people there for inspiration. Mentor figures who have been there and done that, people who I actively seek out to learn from and glean wisdom.

I remember Sensei Paulson telling all the guys who wanted to spar to go to one side of the room. The rest he told to go work on the heavy bags. I remember standing smack dab in the middle as I looked over at one of my seniors, making his way to the heavy bags. I remember thinking to myself, man that’s one cool customer, smart and experienced I should follow his lead. He even looked at me an smiled and said “I’ve got nothing to prove.” Then I sided up with the sparring group.

First round of the first day, I get into it with a youngster (twenty something). He snaps my head back a little with a punch so I return the favor. His head snaps back an when it comes back down he smiles at me. I think to myself… oh $#!T.

After the round, I don’t know what’s happened but my ankle is really hurting. I can barely stand on it. And of course, the next guy I get paired up with is a big 185er also in his twenties. He’s made a point of coming after me every year for the last 3 years. I’ve been able to hang with him in the past but now I’m a year older and in bad shape with my ankle hurting the way it does. He gets the best of me and I am bitter as Hell. One because I didn’t do as well as I wanted and two because now my ankle is screwed for the remainder of the camp (two more days).

I was even more pissed because I look at camps like that as vacation time. I’m there to have a good time and learn. I don’t like to feel like I’m being challenged. But then it dawns on me. I am the one responsible. I am the one who feels challenged because I am the one who has an ego and who gets upset when that ego is challenged. I could have gone over and punched the bags. I could have backed down and let the youngsters have the upper hand willingly and in so doing preserved my body and my vacation.

A Turning Point In The Battle

I vowed right then and there to put up twice the fight next time my ego came a knocking and two months later it did. I had decided to take advantage of an invitation one of my instructors had extended to me to come to his other school and train with a bunch of his guys that I am familiar with but haven’t spent much mat time with. Right off the bat I get paired up with a bigger guy who’s one rank ahead of me.

Speak into the microphone Ego

Speak into the microphone Ego

He says “Hey, I’ve watched your show.” He slaps hands and then begins to wrestle. I hate when people say that kind of stuff to me. I never know what it means. It could mean that they are a genuine fan, but I swear, most times the thought bubble I read over their heads says “And I really don’t think you’re all that good… And now I’m going to prove it to you boy.”

Anyway, his intensity level starts to rise quickly and I think to myself, I could make this a lot tougher on him if I wanted to (not to say that I could have beaten him, tapped him or even escaped) but whenever he got close to a submission I tapped.

I maintain this mindset for the remaining 5 partners and get through the day uninjured and really actually having one of the most enjoyable, fun learning experiences of my career. I didn’t know if that first guy was just trying to defend his belt or if that’s just how he rolls or whatever but later that day, I hear a loud snoring sound. I look over and see him convulsing on the ground. Above him is a bigger white belt who had choked him out. I think to myself. That could have been me, but today I left my ego at the door and it was a good day.

On the drive home I was reminded of an old Cherokee fable:

A wiseman was speaking to his grandson:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a long minute, and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed the most.”

Kneego my Ego!

Kneego my Ego!

Next time I am at CSW Camp I will be along side my mentors on the heavy bags. My ego will be inside those bags, and I will be feeding them my fists and this time, it won’t be able to punch back. And if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll pick up a tip or two from the wisemen.

How goes your internal grappling match?