B.J. Penn is a friend of mine. I gave him his very first Brazilian jiu-jitsu lessons, and for a year we trained together two to three days a week. Whenever B.J. Penn tells the story of how he got started in the martial arts, he’s always kind enough to mention me, which is great. The only problem is he doesn’t tell the story right. His version is close, but it’s not perfect. So, I’m here to set the record straight. After moving to Hilo, Hawaii, so my girlfriend could attend college, we found a house to rent and moved in. Knowing that nobody was doing Brazilian ji-jitsu there, I visited all the local gyms and put up a sign before even unpacking my gi: “Training Partners Wanted. Looking for Wrestlers or Judo Players to Train With.” Here’s where my story differs from B.J.’s. The next day I received my first call at our new home. Even though I knew almost no one in Hilo, I recognized the voice. It was B.J.’s father, Jay Dee Penn, my new landlord. He said, “My boys are interested in your grappling class and all this jiu-jitsu stuff. When does it start?” I laughed and told him the details, and he responded that his boys would come over and meet me for a workout. I think they missed our first planned workout, which would explain why B.J. recalls me bugging his dad to get them to come. B.J. eventually showed up with his brother Reagan. Even though they didn’t know how to defend themselves, they were interested, strong, willing and tough, so they became my new and steadfast training partners. I told the Penns that while I only knew a little Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I had been a martial artist and teacher for most of my adult life. First, I would teach them what I knew, and then we would work on mastering the techniques. Because I could tap them out with ease, they thought I was really good, but I remember telling them, “Wait until you roll with some blue belts. They’re like gods!” After a few workouts, B.J.’s friends started showing up to train. Once, B.J.’s older brother Jay Dee came by, and I couldn’t tap him out. Despite his ever-present smile, he was one strong guy. One of B.J.’s friends, Cabbage, started training with us and eventually became a professional fighter. Cabbage was a nice kid who had really long hair, a big belly, and sweated twice as much as most people. When you rolled with Cabbage, you were going to get wet. The truth is I never had to bug B.J. to work out because the guy never missed a training session. He could go as long and as hard as I could and then some. Also, he was as fast a learner as I had ever encountered. One day, about four or five months into our training, I made the mistake of telling the boys that we were going to do some light stand-up sparring. I told B.J., “So let’s just, you know, sort of slap-box a little.” I was an above-average fighter with decent hand speed, and I wasn’t a stranger to sparring. Before I could throw a decent backfist, he slapped me about five times in the face. I was surprised, to say the least, and I think I chased him around for another 30 seconds or so, giving him the opportunity to slap me a few more times. That was the last time I sparred with B.J. After testing for my 5th-degree black belt with Master Ernie Reyes, Sr., my training dropped off a bit because I was suffering from a lot of hip pain (which, a couple of years later, had to be replaced). However, B.J. and his friends kept on training, and I would show up when I could. When Mr. Reyes celebrated his birthday, I told B.J.’s father that his son should accompany me, and while there I would introduce him to Ralph Gracie. Well, Ralph, David Camerillo, Renato “Charuto” Verissimo, and B.J. were about to make history. B.J. moved to California, and every time I saw him in the coming years he would be better, trickier and tougher. You can teach an entire lifetime and never have a B.J. Penn come out of your school. I feel lucky to know him and his brothers and parents, because they’re as kind and gracious as anyone you could meet. When I lived in Hilo, B.J.’s father built an addition on my house, free of charge, so some of my black belts could stay with me during the summer. He gave me a beautiful building rent free for an entire year. And worthy of note, even B.J.’s mother, Lorraine Shin, was a tough grappler. My wife and Lorraine once participated in one of our Brazilian-jiu-jitsu classes, and Lorraine gave my wife a solid Penn-family thrashing. That was the last time my wife put on a gi. About seven months into training, I recall B.J.’s father came to me and said, “You know, B.J.’s going to be a great champion someday.” I smiled and thought about how many times I had heard that—both from parents in general, and about B.J. himself. I tried to encourage B.J. to train in judo, as I knew Mike Swain and thought that going to the Olympics was a much better goal than entering a sport that didn’t pay. Little did I know that mixed martial arts was going to explode. At the Penn house, the front door is always open (literally). Kids come and go, the refrigerator opens and closes like the door to a 7-Eleven, and the basement is almost always loaded with mats, uniforms and some of the best fighters in the world. I miss the Penn family like I miss Hawaii—deeply. That little ad I posted is part of the reason Hilo is now a Mecca for fighters and Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners. While I would like to take credit for B.J.’s amazing skills, I can’t. The credit belongs entirely to B.J. Penn and his family. As for my skills, last year I earned my purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I think I’m on the 25-year black belt plan. For sure, I’m no B.J. Penn. B.J. may not remember exactly how he started training, but every MMA fan in the world knows what he’s done since. As for my time with B.J. Penn and his family—what a gift! This summer I’m heading back to take some more lessons under B.J. and his amazing stable of teachers and fighters. (A good number of his most experienced students started with us more than 10 years ago.) Good things have happened for B.J. Penn, but I have a feeling the best times are yet to come.
Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.
Combat Chess<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDM0My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5MTk2MDE3M30.ITCjBPu9aE5EUzwZEIKpzlPE_6ovW911ir-ZjIonfP4/image.jpg?width=1500&coordinates=131%2C345%2C357%2C203&height=2000" id="e612a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3072885226e45985dad115a8f6031564" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><em><a href="https://blackbeltmag.com/jeet-kune-dos-combat-philosophy" data-linked-post="2645906483" target="_blank">Jeet kune do</a></em> is a scientific approach to street fighting, a method for developing complete martial artists who are not bound by any style or system. Rather, they're able to adapt to all styles, systems, situations and circumstances. JKD, of course, is the result of Bruce Lee's search for the truth of combat, and part of that truth is that those who have mastered attacking the eyes and groin while weaponizing their awareness will have a distinct advantage in a street fight.</p><p>A street fight is like a very brief game of combat chess involving two strategists. In this context, the "queen of all moves," the most versatile technique of all, is the <em>bil jee,</em> or thrusting finger jab executed with the lead hand. Simply put, it's the fastest, most effective strike in the martial arts. It can be found in all traditional styles and reality-based self-defense systems. It even appears in MMA — think about how many times you've seen an accidental finger to the eye stop a UFC fight.</p>
Defend The King<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDQ1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODEzNjc1OX0.auDCI_jr0vTBCXxwU6R-V0Dd-C78ZMvJawePlK8OBSg/image.jpg?width=980" id="4af8d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="42aa0521105d1a2d677d7e77fef723cd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="As Harinder Singh demonstrates breathing techniques and its importance on conserving energy." /><p>As you attack with your queen, you must not forget to defend your king. The king, in this case, is your breath. In chess, the king can move only one square at a time. Similarly, breathing can be managed only one breath at a time. If you lose track of your breathing, you're doomed — in a fight and in life.</p><p>Proper breathing is important for two reasons: It allows you to conserve energy, and it helps you weaponize your awareness. When you fight, fear, stress and anxiety create tension, which can cause you to hold your breath. When you hold your breath, your energy gets depleted. Feeling slower and weaker, you start to panic. Obsessive thinking sets in, and the chatter in your mind robs you of the present moment, making you your own worst enemy.</p><p>Controlling your respiration in tense situations is a skill that must be developed. Learning to relax on demand during conflict, chaos and the ever-changing circumstances of a fight is often overlooked and usually undertrained.</p><p>Fighting changes from moment to moment based on you, your opponent and your environment. Victory is not in the end result. Rather, victory is gained by making the right decisions and adapting from one moment to the next. To effectively adapt to your opponent, you must learn to weaponize your awareness. To weaponize your awareness, you must learn to come from the center of time and space. The center of time and space is where you, the observer, should live. An observer has no thoughts, judgments or attachments. An observer knows without knowing and acts and reacts on his own. That may sound mystical, but it's really not. Consider:</p><p>While driving your car, have you ever swerved out of the way at the last moment and barely avoided an accident? It's almost like you moved before you had time to process the event, and only afterward did you realize what you'd done.</p><p>In sparring, have you ever just hit your opponent and then, in the next moment, realized that he was open? This is the phenomenon you're after. Awareness is always there; it's just that some people have lost touch with it. By reconnecting with awareness, you're not creating anything new. Rather, you're connecting with something you may have forgotten.</p>
Weaponize Your Awarness<p>My <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai_chi" target="_blank">tai chi</a></em> master taught that to weaponize awareness and orient from the center of time and space, a martial artist needs to know the four pillars of the mind: imagination, sensation, intention and attention. They're considered the keys to weaponizing awareness because they teach you to task your mind with orienting from the perspective of the observer and not the thinker. Outlined below is the three-step process that I teach all my students, from military and law-enforcement personnel to civilian martial artists.</p>
Step 1: Orient From The Still Point
Heed The Wisdom of Musashi<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDYzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzA5ODY2NH0.Cr5sdMob-cL2ZUz6YeCKrDy4qXrQvmewqxnKR_DWqxY/image.jpg?width=980" id="dbd7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="06e28928368d80e6122fd83d3f5e2991" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Implement the wisdom of Miyamoto Musashi" /><p>Tactics, strategies and weapons are just knowledge, and knowledge without wisdom can be dangerous. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. You can learn about awareness, understand strategy and know the fastest move (the bil jee), but if you can't apply this knowledge, it's just useless information.</p><p><a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Miyamoto_Musashi" target="_blank">Miyamoto Musashi</a> said, "The way is in training." Your confidence stems from experiential knowledge and knowing that you've embodied your tools and strategies so they can be adapted for use in changing situations. Only then can you be wholly in the moment and surrender to the experience by letting go of victory or defeat.</p><p>The best way to develop this ability is by using a training method that's fun and functional. It should develop your physical attributes, strategies and weapon selection while sharpening your awareness. It should be equal parts feeding drills, counter-for-counter drills and sparring against resisting opponents. Because a fight is a living exchange, your training must incorporate timing, angles, distance and progressive resistance. To help you with this, I have developed a method that gamifies the learning process.</p>
Play Combat Chess<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDY2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTU3ODUzOH0.vSW3w8FWGRGcNpc1Mfq1ToqiV5SWYm3v3CjqjupG54A/image.jpg?width=980" id="0ddc0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4cf3438b091244ad0911b735b4f7e6d3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Develop your strategy for your own game of combat chess" /><p>To absorb all the benefits of training, you need a step-by-step progression that chunks pieces of information and installs them in your subconscious mind. The greatest chess masters isolate individual pieces — for example, a king versus a king and a pawn. Chess masters learn how these isolated pieces move together on the board, and this information is stored in their subconscious. This isolation method of training accelerates the learning process, which is why <a href="https://blackbeltmag.com/bjj-advice-from-rickson-gracie-grapplers-must-also-learn-to-strike" data-linked-post="2645906301" target="_blank">Rickson Gracie</a> made it part of his <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_jiu-jitsu" target="_blank">Brazilian jiu-jitsu</a> training philosophy. When you isolate tools or positions, you have fewer options and are forced to focus on energy, awareness, timing, and the space between the strikes and positions.</p><p>The four "games" listed below can be used to functionalize any tactic or strategy, but to mesh with this article, you should focus on bil jee attacks to the eyes and lead-leg attacks to the groin. For best results, experiment with opponents of different body types and martial arts backgrounds. Start by feeding each other techniques with no resistance so the correct mechanics can be learned. Next, introduce counters so you can start to understand timing and the appropriate responses. Finally, incorporate resistance and intelligently spar using the isolated weapons and positions.</p>
Game 1: Coordinate Awareness And Movement
Put The Art In Martial Arts<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDg0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDk0MjA5NX0.0jd8wnRcjl7VKjc4pNL79z15oj0AKSBzmgq2B4N_RGM/image.jpg?width=980" id="5309c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b3a9ebb138722b70f6bf83ef5cea4934" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>"Creation" refers to making something that didn't exist before. When you create art, there can be no fear of the outcome, just honest self-expression. By following the combat-chess methodology, you'll start chunking information and installing the chunks in your subconscious. Your subconscious has the ability to connect the various groupings of information and create responses without conscious thought, leaving you to be the observer of the experience.</p><p>Operating as the observer will make time seem to flow more slowly and allow you to "start after but arrive before" your opponent. It's the most freeing phenomenon that can be experienced in the martial arts. It's the instinctive response that Bruce Lee was referring to when he said, "It hits all by itself."</p><p>The master key to success in this fighting process is you. Remember that results rule. Question everything and always look to explore, discover, grow and create. </p>
Sifu Harinder Singh<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzMxMDgzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDk0NTA4MX0.pQ62IzGNpu-B8rhQSCD36VDY69Uq3yBtH8ceH-bYYfA/image.jpg?width=980" id="eeb1c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3359e3406b7d7fd2004ee7ac41a6cf92" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Portrait of Harinder Singh" /><p><em>Harinder Singh Sabharwal teaches jeet kune do, wing chun, tai chi, savate, kali, boxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's the founder of the Jeet Kune Do Athletic Association and Black Belt University. For information about his new online course, visit <a href="http://jkdathletics.com/" target="_blank">jkdforblackbelts.com</a>.</em></p>
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