I’ve sat in the tiny space of Tai’an, the tea hut in Kyoto, Japan, that was among the last places Sen no Rikyu performed the Japanese tea ceremony. His descendants, more than 400 years later, continue to carry on the art. Sitting alone in that shadowy two-mat space where he once sat, I felt the weight of history. It was as enormous as the universe. Before Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), Japanese tea ceremonies were an exercise in opulence, conducted in fancy halls with gilded bowls, a chance to show off one’s wealthy and chic style. Sen no Rikyu fundamentally changed the art. He prepared tea and shared it with a few guests, sometimes just one on one, in simple, rustic huts, with plain implements: rough ceramic bowls, bamboo scoops and whisks. Under his guidance, the Japanese tea ceremony became devoted to the quiet, the subtle, the unpretentious. Instead of a grand party, it became a way to understand how quickly life passes and how host and guest can communicate beyond words and learn fundamental truths about each other. Under Sen no Rikyu, the ceremony became chado, the way of tea. Chado flourished during Japan’s centuries-long civil war, the age of the samurai. You may have read that the warrior class embraced it because it offered a moment of peace and contemplation amid the chaos of battle. That’s mostly nonsense. The samurai studied chado because it was a concentrated form of the interactions, on and off the battlefield, that gave them critical insight into life. It wasn’t an escape from their everyday lives; it was, and remains, a direct confrontation with life. All this may seem odd, comparing the serenity of the tea ceremony with the chaos and violence of the battlefield. Sen no Rikyu, however, spent his entire career around samurai. He understood their world. Some of his students, like Nobunaga Oda and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, were ruthless and coldblooded strategists. Rikyu knew, as did his warrior followers, that budo, the martial ways, were no different from the way of tea in that at their heart, they were ways of learning to deal with others and of facing the inevitability of death. Ichi go, ichi e is a core value of chado and budo. “One encounter; one chance.” If you make a mistake on the battlefield, you must move on. You live or die with it. There aren’t any do-overs. If you make a mistake in the intricacies of chado, the same is true. It’s impossible to do a perfect tea ceremony. Things will always go wrong. It isn’t in the perfection of the movements that we find the worth of chado; it’s in how well we can integrate our mistakes in such a way that the process continues. Combat, of course, is no different. “Prepare for rain” was one of Sen no Rikyu’s rules. The unexpected is always expected. Rain—along with countless other elements—can change the way our guests arrive for tea. Unexpected developments must also be considered in a fight. The lessons samurai learned in dealing with them in the tea hut were reflected in their adventures on the battlefield. Doing chado, they weren’t indulging in quiet contemplation, escaping from the rigors of martial strategy; they were polishing strategy. “Boil water and make tea,” Sen no Rikyu replied when asked the secret of chado. Sounds simple, but watch the elaborate motions and rituals of even the most informal of Japanese tea ceremonies (there are more than 400 “kata,” called temae, in chado) and you’ll find it hard to believe. It looks a lot more complex. In truth, chado, like budo, is an eliminative process. Chado forms are about getting rid of unnecessary movements. Just like beginners in a karate dojo who fidget and waste energy with poor body mechanics, beginning tea students lack the ability to focus, to simplify, to do what’s necessary to get the job done and nothing more. In budo or chado, it’s the expert who can reduce the complex to the artfully simple. Sen no Rikyu’s relationship with his most famous student, the warlord Hideyoshi, was particularly challenging. Hideyoshi was flamboyant and volatile. He regarded Sen no Rikyu as his teacher, probably the only one he ever had. At the same time, he was jealous of Sen no Rikyu and resented the master’s expertise and calm, implacable demeanor. In a fit of anger, Hideyoshi claimed to have been insulted by Sen no Rikyu and ordered him to commit suicide in 1591. You may still be skeptical that chado has anything to do with the way of the warrior. Maybe you’re right. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to note how Sen no Rikyu died. He held a final tea ceremony and wrote a farewell poem. Then he requested a dagger. It was brought in on a tray. Calmly, without hesitation, Rikyu stabbed his own abdomen, then cut it open and sliced out a section of his intestines. He placed it on the tray and told a witness to take it to Hideyoshi, his student. “Tell him,” Sen no Rikyu said, “that’s how a samurai dies.”
Talks About Being a Smaller Fighter in a Combat Sport Ruled by Giants
At first glance, most people — most martial artists, even — will zero in on the smaller person in any fight and deem him or her to be at a distinct disadvantage. It's a natural tendency to draw this conclusion based on obvious attributes such as height, weight and reach. However, that tendency does not always lead to accurate conclusions.
Fighting Style<p>Johnson attributes much of his success to his background in pankration and wrestling, a foundation he laid before he embarked on a career in <a href="https://blackbeltmag.com/arts/mixedmartialarts/" target="_blank">MMA</a>. Both styles emphasize the strategic use of leverage, which makes them ideal for smaller fighters."</p><p>I try to find my opponent's weakness and exploit that," Johnson said. "Being well-versed and competing in several types of martial arts in my amateur career allows me to find that weakness, take [my opponents] there and then put them in that realm where they can't survive — and beat them there!"</p><p>This strategy, inspired by the teachings of pankration and wrestling, has proved a viable solution for Johnson time after time. In fact, it's his proficiency in both systems that's enabled him to excel in MMA. Consider the following:</p><p>Any observer of the fight sport will tell you that plenty of practitioners are proficient in one discipline, which they often augment by cross-training in techniques extracted from other styles that are believed to help them round out their skill set. These fighters tend to lean on their adopted techniques for setups and fakes designed to engage their opponents. Unfortunately, when fatigue sets in, they frequently fall back on their primary skill set in an effort to gain the upper hand — or, in some cases, just to survive.</p><p>This isn't the case for Johnson. He represents a new breed of combat athlete who's gained extensive experience in a variety of fighting disciplines. Being well-versed at executing a mass of moves, fighters like him need not rely on their primary martial art, which winds up making them more adaptable and unpredictable in a match.</p><p>Johnson's record of 30-3-1 offers tangible proof of his ability to exploit his opponents' weaknesses. Those 30 wins consist of 12 submissions and five knockouts via punches, head kicks and knee strikes, a testament to his proficiency in all the ranges of combat.</p>
BODY JAB TO HOOK PUNCH TO HEAD KICK
TAKEDOWN TO ARMBAR
Technique Alteration<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3OTQ5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjgxMjcyOH0.4UkgOc1GZ7yTg669vPYYZyapzuJhaTJmn137mIW17z4/image.jpg?width=980" id="b07bf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5dd1006607f5c8bb7c069aa8adb2b1a7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Alteration With the right coaching, almost any basic martial arts move can be altered to make it work better for a shorter fighter, Johnson said. He brought his point to life as he walked through setups for his combinations and takedowns designed to fell taller opponents during his Black Belt photo shoot. He started his explanation with the simplest punch of all.</p><p>"When a jab is thrown from someone at a lower angle, you can fit it between [the opponent's] arms and into this wide-open gap to the body," Johnson said. "[The opening] just isn't there with guys the same height as you."</p><p>He went on to say that this observation can allow you to elicit reactions from your opponent as he defends himself. That, in turn, can open other areas for you to target.</p><p>The same logic, Johnson noted, applies to takedowns. Here's how: Against a taller opponent, the conventional double- and single-leg takedown normally do the job. A shorter fighter's size, however, enables him to shoot in at a lower level, which makes the techniques harder to defend against and the shooter harder to grab. Furthermore, the shorter person's often-superior speed permits him to transition to a follow-up grappling technique before the pair even hits the ground.</p><p>"By grabbing the right spot on the wrist during a single-leg or starting to climb up their body as they fall during a double-leg, you can put yourself in the right position," Johnson said. An expert at such tweaks, he noted that advanced concepts like this have allowed him to dominate in the cage despite disadvantages in height and reach.</p>
New Challenges<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3OTUwMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMjkwNjY3OH0.cdhkoclQKHqpeRWm3QDkeET7-uJIvVkkSXUkqPzxTaY/image.jpg?width=980" id="b7dc2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1c786eb156d34f93628ff1422aeaa94b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>New Challenges Johnson's decision to join <a href="https://www.onefc.com/" target="_blank">ONE Championship</a> in late 2018 means that his previous success as a flyweight in other fight franchises may be in jeopardy. </p><p>That's because the Singapore-based promotion touts a strict "no weight cutting" policy that will force the American to take on heavier opponents in his normal 135-pound weight class.</p><p>The new challenge is nothing he can't handle, Johnson said confidently, because he's well-versed in using his size to his advantage. On top of that, he has years of experience on the North American MMA circuit to back up his skill set.</p><p>Nevertheless, Johnson admitted that a fight is a fight and therefore unpredictable, and that his opponents from the Far East will not be easily conquered. In fact, because ONE is based in a part of the world where fighters tend to be smaller than in the West, he likely will have his work cut out for him.</p><p>"I'm fighting guys who are a lot taller," Johnson said regarding his ONE Championship opponents. "In my last fight, I fought [Tatsumitsu Wada], who is 5 feet 9 inches tall, and when he took my back, he was able to get a triangle on my body so easily." That feat, he added, is rarely accomplished on a person who is equal in stature.</p><p>Johnson's solution? When preparing to take on a taller opponent, he likes to abandon the "fighting tall" mentality that's so common in his sport. It revolves around the urge to strike the taller person's face while squaring off. That tactic is simply not an option in such situations, Johnson said.</p><p>Instead, you need to focus on your strengths as a smaller fighter, he said. Get low and use your leverage for offense and defense. Take advantage of the gaps that exist in the taller person's stance. When you strike, do so with intent. Get in, execute and get out. Don't get caught in between, taking your time — because sooner or later that mistake will catch up with you</p>
Future Fights<p>Whenever you're the first person to gain fame for achieving something, it means you have to pave your own road to success. When Johnson entered the martial arts in 2007, he found no prominent examples of smaller fighters who consistently saw success in the cage. Consequently, there was no one he could turn to for inspiration.</p><p>"When I jumped into martial arts, there was no avenue for me to go," Johnson explained. "[I was] sitting there as a kid, watching these guys who were all heavyweights in boxing and MMA. With me weighing a buck twenty-five, I never thought those were the professional athletes I wanted to be like."</p><p>The fight sport is different now. As Johnson enters his 13th year as a professional mixed martial artist, he serves as an exemplary lightweight role model — precisely the kind of person he failed to find early in his career.</p><p>As scores of smaller martial artists scramble to follow in his footsteps, Johnson has inadvertently secured the future of his weight division on the global stage. For an athlete as disciplined as Johnson, the notion carries no added burden.</p><p>"I'm at a point in my career where I'm just focused on the grind of putting on great performances," he said. "That way, when I'm done with this sport, that's it. I'm good. I can be done with it and with no regrets."</p>
SIDE CONTROL TO MOUNT TO ARMBAR
2019 MMA Fighter of the Year<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3OTU2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTU2MjM3Mn0.LrW3wCdX6bc_Ago2X34P1EG87EwZP6pUhXwJbpZ-Iec/image.jpg?width=980" id="ffa02" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="21aff8779f96ba47af9b40ef6aaedcb3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>When he hit the MMA circuit in 2007, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson was a human tsunami. An immediate force to be reckoned with, he dominated the bantamweight and featherweight divisions of the sport thanks to his lightning-fast fists and his arsenal of grappling techniques. Like a true martial artist, he hasn't let his success go to his head.</p><p>"I am very happy with where I'm at in my career," Johnson stated. "The martial arts have given me and my family a wonderful life. If I were to stop fighting today, I'd be satisfied with the way everything has turned out."</p><p>That said, Johnson has no plans of bowing out of the ring anytime soon. In fact, he's gearing up for his next big fight, which will have taken place in Japan before this issue of Black Belt hits newsstands.</p><p>"I'm training for the World Grand Prix — ONE: CENTURY in October,2019" Johnson said. "It's a big event! This is the 100th time [it] has been held, and I'm very excited to be part of it. I grew up watching Japanese MMA, and now I get a chance to win one. It's awesome!"</p><p>From the moment Johnson first came to grips with an opponent in the cage, it was apparent that he was a rising star. Now, with a string of victories under his belt and numerous awards and honors bestowed on him, he's been dubbed one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the world. In a sport abundant with talent, Johnson has achieved rock-star status with legions of fans glued to his every move.</p><p>Why are they so devoted? A glimpse into Mighty Mouse's makeup comes from one of his most-talked-about fights in which he squared off against Miguel Torres. After breaking his fibula when he checked a leg kick in the second round, Johnson continued to wage war. He ignored the pain and concentrated on his grappling skills to survive. In the end, he won a unanimous decision.</p><p>"The key to winning, and sometimes the key to surviving in order to win, is having the ability to stay focused and take care of the task at hand," Johnson said. "That is how I approach my fights and my personal life. I know what I really want out of life, and I stay focused on that task — whether it's winning a fight or taking care of my family. My wife Destiny and my three children are the most important things in my life."</p><p>Because of his past accomplishments, his bright future and his pervasive martial mindset, Black Belt is pleased to make Demetrious Johnson its 2019 MMA Fighter of the Year. </p><p><em>— Terry L. Wilson<br>Photography By Patrick Sternkopf<br>Event photos Courtesy of ONE FC<br></em></p>
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Intuition is always right in at least two important ways. It is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart. — Gavin de Becker
When intuition grabs our attention to warn us of danger in our surroundings, it often feels like an alarm going off in our body. When danger is present, the sensation we feel, in the words of some people, is like an electric current that starts in the gut and radiates outward. Others have described the feeling as a chill running up the spine or a generalized lack of comfort.
The commonality is a definite sense of unease, a nagging feeling that won't go away. There also might be a flash of insight or a sensation that comes to us, one that we never sought out.
Bellator 242 will officially be the promotions return to the spotlight on July 24th since canceling its remaining events due to COVID earlier this year. The main event for the card will feature Ricky Bandejas vs. Sergio Pettis.
As promoters and fans alike begin to settle in to the new normal, Bellator MMA has announced it will resume fights beginning with Bellator 242 July 24th. With UFC, One Championship, Invicta FC, and many other small promotions having already returned fans have been anxiously awaiting Bellators next move.
Bellator 242 Fight Card<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://blackbeltmag.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ1OTcyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjMzMzMxOX0.dwMAW6ofX38VmK6CzGPHFb1p9XRRlhKJ-nWneTWSbqg/image.jpg?width=980" id="0c999" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc7599480d6967eb7d4ae4d1bdc38850" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Scott Coker President of Bellator MMA" />
Bellator President Scott Coker
ONE Championship is set to return on July 31 in Bangkok, and now the full card has been finalized with four ONE Super Series bouts and two mixed martial arts affairs.
Previously announced was the top of the ticket with two title tilts and an epic trilogy bout of two high-profile signees making their organizational debut.
In the main event, Rodtang Jitmuangnon puts his ONE Flyweight World Championship on the line against Petchdam Petchyindee Academy. This will also be a trilogy bout for the headliners with the series even at 1-1.
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- ONE Championship Returns July 31st. - Black Belt Magazine ›