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Archive for the ‘Self Defense’ Category

Adrenaline Response

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

There’s a large part of my self defense seminar that I devote to understanding the adrenaline response.

Plenty of adrenaline here.

Plenty of adrenaline here.

You need to understand how people react to adrenaline for two reasons.  First and foremost, if you’re ever in a violent situation– or ever in a situation that is likely to hurt or injury you– you’re going to have an adrenaline response, and you better know how to deal with it.  Second, if you can recognize the adrenaline response in a potentially violent person, you’ll better know to avoid that person or how to deal with them if you can’t avoid them.  I also like to dispel the myths about adrenaline– I’ve had people tell me that they don’t need to be physically fit or know how to fight because the adrenaline will get them through any life or death situation they end up in.

There are different levels of “adrenalization.”  Most people are familiar with mild levels, the type you get while watching a scary movie, riding a rollercoaster, or during a competition.  The mild adrenaline response helps put you “in the zone;” your muscles are ready to move, you have slightly elevated heart and breathing rate, and you’re alert, aware and focused.

A moderate reaction is what you might get if a boisterous thug tried to start a fight with you in a public place, or if you were in a non life-threatening car wreck.  You will get some of the benefits of the mild response, plus some side effects, such as tunnel vision and focused hearing, memory distortion, degraded complex motor skills, and/or a feeling of things moving in slow motion (called tachypsychia).

More severe side effects include complete freezing, random irrelevant thoughts intruding, behavioral looping, vomiting, and loss of bowel/bladder control.

Most people haven’t had experience with moderate or severe adrenalization, which leads them to think that they perform better under stress.  The Yerkes-Dodson Law, the result of numerous studies on people’s reaction to stress, shows that ability to perform tasks increases during the mild stage, then rapidly decreases as adrenalization becomes more severe.  The truth is that under real stress, you perform worse.

And, even if you did only have a mild reaction and got the benefit from it, it’s important to remember that bad guys have adrenaline too.

Come to the Self Defense Seminar on February 16th and learn a bit more about adreanaline, and how you can use it to your advantage.

CrossFit & Self Defense

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Here’s a good article from the CrossFit Journal giving some explanation as to why CrossFitters are predisposed toward self defense.

This is NOT Self Defense...

This is NOT Self Defense...

Good self defense techniques follow the same principles of functional movements, and you need many of the same mental tricks to be successful at both.  An efficient lift moves from core to extremity, as does an efficient strike or throw.  To do well in a WOD, you need a good mental map, the article refers to it as a “plan,” of how to pace and deal with the hard parts of the workout.  You need a plan for self defense, as well.

In CrossFit, the workout is different every day, but we come to learn our strengths and develop some general guidelines for how we’re going to deal with each WOD.  Self defense is no different.  You might not know when or how violence will appear in your life, but you can still create a general plan for how to deal with it when it does.

The next Self Defense Seminar is scheduled for February 16, from 1:00 - 5:00.  You should plan to come to it and learn a little more about violence and your plan to deal with it.

Movement Gym Revolution Part II: Mixed Martial Arts & The UFC

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

It was Saturday July 5th, 2008 and the first day of the 2nd Annual CrossFit Games had just come to a close at The Ranch of the ever hospitable Castros in Aromas, California.   My legs were beat to death having completed 3 gruesome WODS earlier in the day (for those of you who care, it was the hill run of death, Snobby chest-to-bar Fran, and the heavy Deadlift-Burpee WOD), and there was one more to do on the next day, but that wasn’t on my mind anymore.  A couple of the CrossFitters that I had just made friends with, and the rest of us who were still there after the event were actually waiting for the title fight between Forrest Griffin .vs. Quinton Rampage Jackson featured in UFC 86.  Back in 2008 not only did the UFC have our attention, but it also had an estimated worth of $1,000,000,000.   The growth of Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC has been astounding since the inception of its modern form on Nov. 12th 1993.  It started with a little experiment that set out to determine which style of martial art would be more effective by pitting champion fighters from several different disciplines in an elimination tournament titled UFC 1 with minimal rules to impede the action.  Since those early days the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) has evolved through a unique history of challenges and breakthroughs and is rumored to be worth closer to $2,500,000,000 that 2 million that the current owners were said to have purchased it for back in 2001.   I’ve tried to look up sources estimating the number of “mixed martial arts” gym in the country, but the statistics don’t exist since they are too hard to track and the definition and standards for an “MMA” gym are somewhat unreliable.  Supposedly there are about 28  MMA gyms regularly producing professional level fighters regularly (as opposed to the perhaps tens of thousands of gyms, studios, and health clubs with “MMA classes”)  After all at that level the fighters tend to cluster and train together.  But here are a couple of links related to “The World’s Fastest Growing Sport”:

This Sports Illustrated article came out in 2008 during the trough of the stock market crash and economic collapse:

Here’s a wikipedia history of the sprot of MMA and the Ultimate Fighting Championship:

I think that the only thing that would stand a better chance of capturing the unguarded attention of the masses would be armed gladiatorial fighting ancient Roman style.  Is Mixed Martial Arts soon to be surpassed by CrossFit as the world’s fastest growing sport?  I for one am fascinated by MMA matches and merely intrigued by watching CF Games competitions, nevertheless one thing that CrossFit has going for it over MMA is that it has a broader range of possible participants who once they experience the “sport” of CrossFit themselves are more likely to become spectators of the CrossFit Games that they can empathize with from their own experiences.   It’s kind of like a baseball player being more likely to watch a baseball game than someone who has never played in their life and doesn’t necessarily understand the sport.  (If you care to have a little bit of MMA-type excitement in your CrossFit life?  Well, if you’re a Caver at least you can get some grappling in during the Judo classes on Mondays & Wednesdays at 6pm with instructor Nick Wise.)  Please post thoughts, comments, questions, or observations regarding the growth of Mixed Martial Arts to comments.

Some New Equipment, a Little Remodeling and Murphy’s Law

Friday, September 7th, 2012

I meant to post this last Friday night, but since most our staff, including myself, were up most of the night working on improvements to The Cave,  I simply ran out of gas and had to go to sleep.  (Just as well, though, because now I can include in the blog post what happened on the very next day, less than 12 hours later, which considering the circumstances is at least as comical as it is tragic.)  Check out these picture of our diligent staff working on the new look of our office area:

Russ, JB, Amy, Tom Hutchman, Amanda & Brian working away in The Cave's office area

Russ, JB, Amy, Tom Hutchman, Amanda & Brian working away in The Cave's office area

What a diligent group!

What a diligent group!

You know, rumor has it that Tom Hutchman actually owns The Cave,... well, at least if you watch American Ninja Warrior!

You know, rumor has it that Tom Hutchman actually owns The Cave,... well, at least if you watch American Ninja Warrior!

Rumor also has it that Brian Oki is the worst one-handed painter in the world, if you listen to Amanda, anyways.

Rumor also has it that Brian Oki is the worst one-handed painter in the world, if you listen to Amanda, anyways.

There's Drey.  He looks very artistic.  Is he actually working?  I can't tell.

There's Drey. He looks very artistic. Is he actually working? I can't tell.

Looks more like he's posing to me.  Drey has a cat-like parkour grace about him.

Looks more like he's posing to me. Drey has a cat-like parkour grace about him.

Here's one with Drey working!  And.... this shot's for the ladies in the house.

Here's one with Drey working! And.... this shot's for the ladies in the house.

In the meantime Roger was busy running wires and moving his desk out of the CF area mezzanine loft.  I mainly worked on the new dyno setup for the climbing wall.  (An explanation of that coming in a subsequent blog post.)   I’d like to recognize JB Douglass, Andrey Pfening, Tom Hutchman (volunteering!), Ryder Darcy, and Travis Furlanic, for coming in and working so diligently.  Also, a special thanks to Amy Dockus,  and Amanda for staying extra late to make sure we completed the painting of the front room in the office area and to Russell Bruel for heading up the whole remodel project.   And now for the Comic relief:  Nick held a self-defense seminar on Saturday from 1-5pm (which was awesome, as usual.  You should take the next one if you haven’t yet.  Keep checking our events section on the website for the next time one is scheduled )  During one of the simulations Sally, one of our lady CrossFitters, walks in on Nick who was pretending to be a murderer and was repeatedly stabbing Sally’s friend with a (plastic) knife.  Instead of panicking, Sally straight up tackles Nick and knocks him into the wall.  I know who I want next to me when Mr. Crazy Bad Guy shows up!

So this is what happens when you take the scenarios from the self-defense seminar indoors!  Poor Nick was straight up tackled by Sandy, one of our lady CrossFitters.  That's what he gets for trying to trying to stab her friend with a knife!  Well, it was supposed to be a simulation.

So this is what happens when you take the scenarios from the self-defense seminar indoors! Poor Nick was straight up tackled by Sally. Damn girl, take it easy. It's just a simulation!

So this was about 12 hours after we had just painted and remodeled!  You can imagine the staff’s reaction when I texted them the picture of the broken wall.  Amanda’s: “Seriously…!?”  Honestly, Nick and I could not stop laughing about the whole calamity.

And here's the newly painted, then broken then patched wall.

And here's the newly painted, then broken then patched wall.

We also acquired some new equipment; I hope all of you CrossFitters have noticed it.  Well, the work at The Cave is never done.  And don’t worry, fun’s not over.  There’s more to come shortly.

Charles Moreland Parkour Training

Friday, August 24th, 2012

This parkour video is a jewl.  It helps you look through the skewed prisms that people view parkour through and gives you a more precise and pure perspective.  Check this out.  I think every Caver that is interested in movement and fitness should watch this!

One of the reason I gravitate towards parkour so much as a training protocol is because I love learning stuff.  I honestly believe that since what humans are good at and designed for is learning, “fitness” has to be directly tied in to learning.  For this reason I think that only promoting “work capacity” in basic movements that have already been acquired is not enough to fullfill our potential for “fitness” and that’s why I promote activities such as parkour, gymnastics, martial arts, climbing, swimming as well as other sports and not just CrossFit. CrossFit should complement and enhance our lives and other activities and not be the only focus of our fitness.  There is no doubt that CrossFit is valuable, it just shouldn’t stand alone.

Self Defense Seminar

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The Self Defense Seminar on Saturday was quite a success.  For those of you who missed out, you should really consider coming to the next one, already scheduled for September 1.

The Short Skills Portion

Some of the Skills Portion

The seminar was about the Three Fights: (1) The fight with yourself, your misconceptions, fears, reluctance to train, and the effects of adrenaline. (2) The actual physical fight. (3) Legal and moral issues of the fight, injuries & post traumatic stress.

We discussed the Third and First Fights in great detail, including how to correctly describe your self defense actions to the police so that you aren’t accused of committing a crime and to reduce your chances of being successfully sued, and how we get screwed up by our misconceptions about the nature of violence and what we think we’d do in a violent situation.  We spent a little time working on front and rear ambush defense, as well as some simple striking techniques.

The remainder of the class was spent doing scenarios, which were very eye-opening for everyone.  We tied those scenarios back into the ideas of the First and Third Fights, and really gave the participants a feel for how your brain and body function in a stressful situation.

The biggest feedback that I got from the participants was that the seminar was not at all what they were expecting.  Many other self defense seminars before focus on physical techniques, while this one is much more about the mental and emotional components of violence and the aftermath of such an encounter.

The next seminar is already scheduled, and you can sign up for it in the Members Area.  Attendance is limited, so sign up ASAP.  I’m also planning to have child care available for the next one.

Be safe!

More Events

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

First, we’re taking steps to make registering for events easy for you.  From now on, if you have questions or would like to register for an event, you can send an email to

Learn how to not get killed by this guy...

Learn how to not get killed by this guy...

In addition to the upcoming Gymnastics Seminar on June 9th (which you should all attend), there are two other events starting up at the end of this month.

The Self Defense Seminar on Saturday, June 30th, from 1:00PM to 4:00PM.  We will will cover much more than fancy ninja moves.  We’ll discuss the Three Fights, the legal and ethical concerns of fighting, types of violent encounters, and ambush training, as well as violence inoculation and a handful of practical techniques.  There’s a lot more to this class than you think.  Cost for members is $50.00.

Also, we’re starting our Tough Mudder Training course again!  The class will cover strategies for overcoming the major obstacles in the Tough Mudder, as well as give you good training tips for preparing for the event in your regular training.  This class series will be held mostly off-site (the first one will be in the gym).  Class topics are as follows

  • Class 1: Climbing & Crawling Obstacles.  Location: The Cave.
  • Class 2: Hill and Trail Running.  Location: Turtle Rock, Tiburon.
  • Class 3: Swimming and Water Hazards.  Location: Pool TBD.
  • Class 4: Hypothermia Inoculation.  Location: Stinson Beach.

This class starts on June 30th, and will be held every Saturday from 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM.  Cost for members is $100.00 for the series or $50.00 for a drop-in class.  There may also be a $15.00 pool entrance fee for class #3.  If you took the first session of the Tough Mudder Training, you can do this one at a discount, $80.00 for the series or $40.00 for a single class.

To register for any or all of these events, or if you have additional questions, email:

Code Red Surfing, Emotional Control and other “Time to Fly” moments

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Last week I wrote a blog post titled “Mental State and Competitive Performance” which briefly discussed controlling your emotional and mental state in anticipation of competition.  Jacqui asked the obvious question, “…but how do you “practice” controlling your emotions before a competition?”  A couple of ideas come to mind.  First and most obvious would be putting yourself in competition situations often so you get better at dealing with your emotions from the experience.  This is how rookies become veterans.  Of course, you may be a rookie and want to get some of that experience before your big competition.  In this case you can set up smaller mock competitions with your friends and gym-mates that may have some of that “go time” feeling to them.  You may also want to try visualization exercises where you see yourself in that high pressure situation and try to create the atmosphere in your mind and  to bring yourself to the emotional state that you want to be in at that moment.  One of the things that I would suggest as a long-term habit is regularly placing yourself in new high-pressure situations where you’re going to be nervous trying something new or even slightly dangerous but where you’re still likely to succeed.  Gymnasts, traceurs and rock-climbers do this all of the time when they’re trying a new trick, parkour move or climbing route.  My old gymnastics training partner used to say things to the effect of “o.k., now I know I’m doing real gymnastics” whenever he started feeling the butterflies fluttering in his stomach.  Of course, “real gymnastics” in this context basically meant he was trying something far enough out of his comfort zone to be scared.  One way to keep this fear from controlling you is to “look past it” or your relation to it, and focus exclusively on the movements, mechanics and body positions themselves.  If you can make yourself do the moves, you’ve achieved the skill, fear or no fear.  There is a level of mental control over your emotions that you have to start getting a grip over when you’re putting yourself in this type of situation.  There is a point where you know what you have to do and  you know you can do it and how to do it, but still, you’ve never done it before.  At that point you just have to go for it and once you do you’re committed, there’s no going back and you know that the biggest obstacle is your own head and self-preservation instinct screaming at you to stop.  As a matter of fact, if you do try to stop or “go back” once you’re “in”, then you’re in real trouble because you’re a lot more likely to get hurt; there’s no hitting the breaks in the air.  It’s time to fly.  It really is a beautiful and frightening feeling, and when you start “getting used to it”, although you never really get used to it, you realize that you’ve started to attain an ultimately desirable level of self-mastery, and you can do it again more easily and apply this self-mastery to other skills.  Nevertheless, you still have to be careful not to get too cocky because you can still get hurt or die if you make a mistake.   It’s always seemed to me that this emotional control applies well to competition situations, at least from self experience and observation of most other people with similar skills, nevertheless I do know at least one excellent and naturally talented gymnast and one amazing lady-rock climber who kind of freak out and aren’t all that good at high stake competition situations but perform extremely well when they’re just practicing their disciplines, so I guess it must not apply universally.  Also, people can get comfortable taking new risks in their “field”  but may experience more serious mental blocks in something that is similarly frightening in a different discipline.  I for one am far more comfortable working through gymnastics progressions, taking that last leap for a big precision jump, or even taking that sixteen foot fall on a lead rope climbing outdoors, but when it comes to going over the edge of even a five or six-foot wave while surfing, oh my God, that really freaks me out.  It feels like I’m plunging over a rolling cliff that is about to toss me into an unknown abyss.  I’m just not used to it at all.  So to me the guys in the following video have achieved close to the consummate level of emotional and mental control.  This has got to be one of the scariest things a human being could possibly do.  You have to have absolute commitment, and you know you’re going to fall and a mountain of water is going to take you for a roll and you may die, but you do it anyways.  This is truly amazing.

I remember a defining character-building moment of my youth.  I was about 10 years old and we were on our way to a camping and backpacking trip in Yosemite with the San Francisco Police Activities League (PAL) youth program.  We stopped along the way at a pool spot along a river that our instructors were familiar with.  At this spot the river widened enough for the current not to be too strong and there were a lot of folks who were bathing or lounging about at the pool spot.  Some of them were diving or jumping off of a rock that may have been about twenty feet over the water.  I remember telling our guide who was a great mentor to me, Walter Scott, that I was going to jump off that rock into the pool.  He said that it was fine and that he would watch, but once I was at the top of the rock my legs literally froze in place and I could not move, I was so scared.  I knew that it wasn’t high enough to be unsafe and that the pool was deep enough and that the people who were there to take care of me could pull me out of the water if I needed it, but changing that knowledge into self-confidence was a completely different matter.  My friends counted me down at least a dozen times while I had at least that many false starts up at the top of that rock.  Finally, after about twenty minutes of waiting Walter gave me “one last chance” at least three times and then waved me down.  It was time to go and everyone was packing up.  I was so disappointed in myself.  I just wasn’t brave enough.  I slowly turned around to walk back down the way I came up when I suddenly told myself  ”No.  I’m going to do it now.”  I turned around and ran right over the edge of that rock and as I felt that I had nothing but air underneath my feet I was regretting that last step, looking over my shoulder to see how far away the ledge was but it was too late to get back.  It was time to fly.  My regret immediately turned to thrill as I dropped and plunged into the freezing cold water.  I easily swam to the shore and saw Walter Scott’s concerned and curious look as he asked me if I was O.K.  ”I’m Great!” was my strong reply.  I couldn’t have possibly felt more alive and excited.  During my childhood that moment always reminded me that I was brave and I could make myself do what I decided to do if I really wanted to.  It helped form my self-perception for years to come and since then I’ve had a lot more practice.  Special thanks to my P.A.L. instructor Walter Scott for the contribution he gave to the lives of so many children growing up, privileged or otherwise.  I think that the moral of the story is to regularly put yourself in new and scary situations “outside your comfort zone” where you have to control your nerves and where you have to learn something new about a discipline, skill or maybe just about yourself.  Make it a part of your life’s history, just as it is part of the history of human beings and our struggle in life and survival.  Just be careful not to get yourself killed.

Technique Review - Basic Foot Sweeps

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I taught basic take downs as the skill work.  Sadly, we didn’t have time to do any upper body, hip or sacrifice throws.  Still, knowing how to do a couple of simple foot sweeps can make all the difference in a fight.  Here’s a quick review of two of my favorite leg sweeps: o soto gari and deashi harai (big outside reap and advancing foot sweep).

First, we have O soto gari.  In this throw, you push your opponent onto their rear right leg, then step in and chop their leg out from under them using the back of your right leg.  We practiced this throw from a roundhouse type punching attack.  First block the attack, then grab the arm, step in and drive your right shoulder through theirs before sweeping their leg.  Here’s a good quick tutorial on the throw from John Anderson.  I particularly like this video because these guys are old and out of shape, but the technique still works because it’s done so efficiently.

Next, de ashi harai.  We practiced this throw from an opponent aggressively stepping into a fighting stance and raising their fists.  The throw is accomplished by stepping in, grabbing the opponents hands and beginning to push them backwards.  Just as they begin to resist by pushing back on you, you use your lead foot to sweep their lead ankle, then give way so they fall forward.  Here’s a beautiful example of the throw being used by Yasuyuki Muneta against Oscar Brayson in the Kano Cup.  Notice how they are pushing against each other so much that the weight comes off Brayson’s right foot.

If you’re interested in trying some of this stuff, come check out our judo classes.  (Don’t worry, we’ll teach you how to fall first).


Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

An important but frequently overlooked piece of CrossFit is to regularly learn and practice new sports.  This might seem trivial, but the whole point of CrossFit is to be good at everything– not just at CrossFit.  We have a couple of options at our gym for other sports to engage in– gymnastics and parkour– and now we have another: judo.

The ultimate odd-object lift.

The ultimate odd-object lift.

Judo is a practical martial art and self defense, an Olympic sport and a philosophy.  It teaches you to move in the most efficient manner possible and to use your opponent’s strength and momentum against them.  Sports like karate, boxing and kick boxing focus on strikes, while wrestling and jui jitsu focus on grappling.  Judo is concerned with take downs, tripping and throwing, and as such, is an excellent tool for practical self defense.

My judo classes focus on technique, but we also spend a significant amount of time on the sport aspect because it has a very positive benefit to overall fitness.  Gymnastics is concerned with moving your body through space, weight lifting is concerned with moving another object, and judo is about moving another person’s body through space.

Currently, classes are Wednesday 6:00 - 7:00 and Sunday, 7:00 - 8:00.  Come try it out sometime and put your general, all-inclusive fitness to the test.