On May 29, 2010, at DREAM 14 held at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan, Ralek Gracie defeated the "Gracie Hunter," the famed Kazushi Sakuraba, via unanimous decision. In this exclusive video shot at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, CA, Ralek shows you how he countered his opponent's kimura.
The 2021 Diamond Nationals took place on October 8th and 9th, the first time the prestigious event has been hosted since 2019. World class competitors gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota to test their skills in forms, weapons, point sparring, and more.
In the early 2010's, Ken Warner (otherwise known as ZenInc on YouTube) always shared his "Top Five" on Facebook after major sport karate events. Reflecting on these posts has inspired me to write a top five article of my own for the Diamond Nationals, and I plan to continue writing these articles after each tournament I attend. Special thanks to Ken Warner for his contributions to documenting sport karate history. Without further ado, here is Jackson's Five for the Diamond Nationals.
5. Seniors in the Spotlight
Photo Courtesy: Becca Leiker via Facebook
Senior competitors have been fighting for more recognition in recent years and all of that hard work is finally paying off. The Diamond Nationals introduced the Diamond Ring title for the 30+ age division back in 2010, with Eric Tremblay of Canada becoming the inaugural forms and weapons winner. The 2021 finals for this division featured the bo form of Top Ten Team USA's Becca Ross-Leiker, who has one of the most decorated résumés of any female competitor in history, against the traditional kata of Team KTOC's Samuel Diaz III. Ross-Leiker would win the contest by unanimous decision, becoming the first competitor to win a Diamond Ring in the junior, adult, and senior divisions. Diaz represented the senior competitors well too, not only by making it to the senior Diamond Ring final, but also winning the men's bladed traditional weapons division against the younger athletes with his powerful kama routine.
4. Junior Point Fighting on Stage
Photo Courtesy: Mason Bumba via Instagram
Much like the senior competitors, the junior point fighters have been lobbying for more recognition in recent years as well. These combined efforts are why Black Belt Magazine now features both senior divisions and junior point fighting in their official sport karate rankings. It was a breath of fresh air to see both the male and female 14-15 age groups have their grand championships featured on stage. The boys' match saw Mason Bumba of Top Ten Team USA use his speedy movement to evade the attacks of Team Next Level's Jeremiah Alvarez and earn a 3-1 victory. Lady warriors Alexi Jimenez of Team Legend and Callie Garrett of Team Dojo Elite also had a showdown, in which Jimenez was able to get the win by a score of 5-2. Featuring these young athletes on stage more often will give spectators and coaches alike an opportunity to see the talent that is headed to the adult division in the coming years on display.
3. The Future of Men's Weapons
Photo Courtesy: Dawson Holt via Instagram
Speaking of talent coming to the adult division, the future of the men's weapons category is in good hands. The talent in the 14-17 boys' division is incredibly deep thanks to the likes of Mason Bumba, Esteban Tremblay, Phillip Brumme, Riley Tracy, and company, but here I will focus on the two that made it to the finals at The Diamonds: Ben Jones and Dawson Holt of Team Competitive Edge. Ben "The Truth" Jones is one of the most innovative bo competitors on the circuit today. Opening his form with a spinning release catch that lands immediately in striking position, and ending with his own signature take on one of my tricks (my finger spin fashioned into what he calls The Ben Spin), his routine has excitement from start to finish. Jones suffered a drop at the end of his performance on stage, which allowed his teammate Dawson "Mr. Clean" Holt to have an uncontested victory. Holt, in my opinion, is the cleanest single sword competitor we have seen since 4x Diamond Ring winner Kalman Csoka. Whether it is traditional or creative/musical/extreme, you can be confident that Dawson Holt will put on a clinic of solid stances and clean cuts. This duo and their peers will dominate the men's weapons division for years to come.
2. Men's Weapons
Photo Courtesy: Alex Mancillas via Instagram
The discussion of up-and-comers moving towards the adult division makes the perfect segue for the current men's weapons division, which made for a thriller that Saturday night. Donis Coronel sent his whip chain flying off stage to take himself out of the running, and Alex Riggs dropped a kama in the midst of an excellent routine to be disqualified as well. However, the rest of the division did not disappoint. The kama forms of Team Paul Mitchell's Alex Mancillas and Team Infinity's Connor Chasteen would partake in an epic war with the double bo routine of Rashad Eugene. Mancillas kicked the division off with a high-flying form reminiscent of Tyler Weaver, and he added a wide variety of releases using both kama at the same time. Chasteen would follow with an expert-level form of his own, jam-packed with difficult releases and manipulations. Eugene closed out the division with his signature charisma, even yelling "LET'S GO" towards the back of the stage before his routine began. He landed his double bo form, but had to chase down a couple of his releases that could have been the difference in this incredibly close division. When the dust settled, Alex Mancillas would help Team Paul Mitchell go five-for-five on Diamond Rings for the evening and win by one one-hundredth of a point.
Photo Courtesy: Century Martial Arts (left) & Point Fighter Live (right)
Despite all the incredible action mentioned prior, there were two undeniable "mega-fights" that sport karate fans got to enjoy at Diamonds. The first was Team Impex's Morgan Plowden versus Team Dojo Elite's hometown hero Ki'Tana Everett, a rematch of the open weight final from the day before which Everett won by a score of 6-3. These women are unquestionably the top two female fighters in the United States and their matchup in the finals was sure to be a clash of titans. Both combatants had their moments in the first round and the Minnesota crowd heavily supported Everett, but in the second round the crowd would be silenced as Plowden pulled away and let out a victory yell as time expired with her in the lead 9-4.
The other megafight was the highly-anticipated matchup between current lightweight king Bailey Murphy of Team Straight Up and heavyweight leviathan Richard Avery Plowden of Team Impex in the special Last Man Standing division courtesy of Jessie Wray's Virtual Fight Tour. This was another rematch from open weight, where Murphy pulled out a 7-5 victory. It was evident that Plowden wanted revenge in the finals as he threw his patented reverse punch with power early and often. It was a thrilling back-and-forth fight as every time Plowden would land and score, Murphy would recover and score with his incredible movement and speed. The three-minute match would go to sudden-death overtime where the fighters clashed time and time again, and the win easily could have gone to either side depending on the judges' calls. In the end, Murphy Mania continued as "B-Reel" scored the final point to end what will go down as the fight of the year in all likelihood. Rest assured, I have a feeling this is not the last time we will see Bailey Murphy and Avery Plowden duke it out.That will do it for the first installment of Jackson's Five. Join the conversation on social media and let us know what your favorite moments from the Diamond Nationals were, making sure to tag Black Belt Magazine and myself. Stay tuned to BlackBeltMag.com for more news and updates from the world of sport karate.
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The golden main event will feature a trilogy bout that will settle a score on the global stage between current ONE Light Heavyweight Kickboxing World Champion Roman Kryklia and Iran's Iraj Azizpour.
The two sluggers first met in 2018, with Azizpour earning a narrow majority decision. Two years later, they collided again, with Kryklia taking home a unanimous decision victory. Following that match, Kryklia jumped to ONE and into the title picture.
The Ukrainian secured light-heavyweight gold in his debut match against Tarik Khbabez with a TKO in the second round. In 2020, Kryklia returned to defend the World Championship for the first time against Andrei Stoica and cruised to a five-round unanimous decision victory.
Kryklia has been unbeaten since that majority decision loss to the Iranian three years ago.
With Azizpour ready to join ONE Super Series action, the series needed to be decided. Given the stature of the two world-class strikers and their history, it made sense to introduce the inaugural ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship to elevate the stakes even higher.
Kryklia had no problem accepting the heavyweight showdown with history on the line to be a two-division kickboxing World Champion. The door opens to a whole new world of possibilities if he can secure the victory with two divisions worth of contenders eyeing gold.
ONE: NextGen's heavyweight main event is locked and loaded, ready to deliver a memorable title tilt and anoint a heavyweight kingpin.
ONE: NextGen airs across all Bleacher Report platforms at 8:30 a.m. EST/5:30 a.m. PST on Friday, October 29.
6-FOOT-6 GIANT Crushes Shorter Opponent 😱Before light heavyweight kickboxing king Roman Kryklia takes on old foe Iraj Azizpour for the inaugural ONE Heavyweight Kickboxing World Title at ONE: NEXTGE...
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The Chinese words yin or negative energy & yang or positive energy.
The Kodokan Lessons Blog from a few weeks ago featured my friend Richard Riehle. It evoked a lively discussion on the importance of refocusing on the tenets of 'Big Judo.' A while back Richard sent me this essay he wrote regarding the importance of kuzushi from both a technical and spiritual perspective which I wanted to also share.
You may recall that the most important thing Jigoro Kano did when he designed judo was introduce a set of principles. This is what made judo different from its predecessors, the various forms of Ju-jitsu. Before Kano's focus on principles, each school taught its collection of "tricks", some of which worked consistently, others of which worked sometimes, and some of which hardly ever worked except under a unique set of circumstances.
Kano studied the ways of Ju-jitsu at several schools and thought about why some things worked and why. He discovered the principle of kuzushi. Then, he went further to break down the elements of each technique into kuzushi, tsukuri, and kake. After Kano, more principles were discovered, most importantly, debana (moment of opportunity), and the concept of continuous control. Additionally, there is the notion of Sen No Sen.
Many modern judo instructors have lost sight of the principles, or only pay lip-service to them. Others understand the happo-kuzushi like Mifune one sees in books, but not much beyond that. Some instructors know little tricks for setting up a technique (often a favorite technique), but have not thought deeply about the range of possibilities in kuzushi.
In the competition world or rough and tumble judo, especially at the elite level, judo is about mastering a set of techniques through repetition, learning how to do execute them faster than one's opponent, and scoring a point. Often, the champions, once they cannot compete anymore using their strength and agility, retire entirely from judo. They have been successful in competition, but not in judo.
As you know, I am in my eighth decade of life and I am still learning judo after 60+ years of study and practice. Most important, since I can no longer rely on strength and agility, I must revisit principles. kuzushi, in its many forms, has become one of the most important of those principles. And, as I study this principle, I also discover that there are many subtle ways to affect kuzushi in practice. I am also more and more aware of the importance of sen, debana, and the concept of continuous control.
Richard Riehle doing O-Goshi.
One of the more important ideas in kuzushi is intelligent use of the hands. Kano introduced the idea of sei-ryoku-zenyo, best use of physical power sometimes translated as maximum efficiency with minimum effort. That is the real essence of judo, not simply learning to execute the waza. I would rather you know a dozen waza well using the principles than all forty of the gokyu as techniques but with limited understanding of when (moment of opportunity) to prepare a technique and force your way into it.
This is why I put so much emphasis on small movements with the wrist in breaking balance. It is why I stress bringing your opponent to you instead of leaping in to lift him when doing seoi-nage or other such techniques. Anyone, in their youth, can learn power-judo; anyone can learn to do O-Goshi by bending their knees and lifting someone onto their hip. As we get older, we discover that lifting is not the right approach.
Rather, we draw our partner over his own center-of-gravity, position our body beneath that center, and continue to draw him forward, lifting, the lighter part of his body, the part below his hips.
Therefore, as you practice your techniques, I want you to concentrate on sei-ryoku-zenyo. When a technique seems to require a lot of strength, you know you are doing something wrong. When it takes too much effort to break someone's balance during practice, stop and think about where you are exerting that strength and ask yourself how you can improve on it.
You can learn a lot of good judo by starting to study the nage-no-kata (NNK). Competitors tend to deprecate NNK because the benefits do not seem obvious to them. However, every move in the NNK, when done properly, illustrates the five principles I mentioned: debana, kuzushi, tsukuri, kake, and continuous control. As you learn NNK, watch for how these principles gradually manifest themselves through regular practice. Ju-no-kata is another important demonstration of these principals.
Deep-down, though, you need to be focused on the principles that can be learned from these kata, not on the utility of them in combat or contest. Judo is a way of learning about how to deal with the larger contest of life that we confront each day, not a way of dealing with and defeating our enemies, not a path to medals and trophies, and certainly not simply a path to earning the next level of rank.
The late Keiko Fukuda, 10th dan.
Another important principle in judo, from Jigoro Kano, is jita kyoei, "mutual benefit in our relationship with other humans". It is, in a deeper sense, a notion of "service". It is also a notion of generosity, kindness, and good fellowship. It is this principle that we gather to our own heart as we become more skilled in technique and the application of technique.
It is not a principle we can simply grab and adopt the way we can grab a brass-ring on a merry-go-round. It is a principle that we grow into as we mature in our judo understanding, our judo skill, and our interaction with those who are entering, for the first time in their lives, the practice of judo.
Judo is often translated as "the gentle way." The character used for judo are ju (which can also be pronounce yawara, and do, which is also the word for path, pronounced, michi. One can also think of it as the path (michi) of flexibility (mental and physical) that helps one become stronger through softness (yawara). Below are some of my further thoughts.
Judo is, in its deeper sense, a discipline intended to prepare one for the unexpected events of daily life. It is a lifelong self-assessment and retraining habit in which the judo practitioner is able to determine his/her mental and physical abilities and adjust to those abilities as part of that preparation.
None of the principles of judo can be effective without that on-going preparation. By preparation we include the need for regular training. However, we also mean, continually being prepared so as to never be caught by surprise. To be prepared suggests that the judoka is never at a loss when something untoward occurs.
If the railing on which you are leaning suddenly gives way, you do not fall down. Instead, your body automatically and rapidly adjusts to the change. If you do trip over something, you do not injure yourself in the fall. Rather, you relax your body and roll out of danger. This kind of preparation is not only for the young. As we become older, it is even more important.
Preparation means training to be continuously alert to every event and being able to respond to that event with the appropriate set of actions. While this can be assumed to be the correct mode of behavior in a contest, for the judoka – or for any martial arts devotee – it goes beyond the contest area.
The practice of judo, aikido, or ju-jitsu is not simply to train for defending against a possible attack. Such attacks, in daily life, are rare unless one is in a law enforcement or military occupation. In martial arts, especially in judo, we train our minds and bodies – prepare ourselves -- so we can react to many kinds of danger, not simply with our martial arts technique, but with swift reflexes and control.
In this regard, our martial arts training, including randori, helps us prepare for the unexpected. We learn to move our bodies away from danger, parry a threatening situation, and keep our physical and mental balance regardless of the events that confront us. It is not sufficient to rely only on one's athleticism. As we get older, that capability will diminish. Therefore, we continually prepare ourselves, at every stage of life, with on-going reassessment of our abilities, and we adjust our preparedness with constant training.
Judo is not simply about success in tournament, it is a regimen for life and preparing for the surprises of life at every stage of life.
Preparation, therefore, never ceases. The older a judoka becomes, the more s/he must adjust the training methods to compensate for the changes that occur in our physical abilities so we can be always prepared for whatever challenges daily life may present.
Judo, then, is not simply about attack and defense. It is a way for the practitioner to remain continually prepared for exigencies of daily life, the surprises that will not surprise, the unexpected events that we can handle calmly and with dignity, and the little inconveniences that we learn to take in stride so we are not actually inconvenienced.
As Jigoro Kano matured, and long after discovering the principles that led to the development of judo, he realized that he wanted to seek even higher goals for judo than victory in contest. Reaching back once again into the lessons of the samurai way, he began to see that, in spite of the ferocity and sometimes, cruelty, which characterized many warriors, there were some who, having achieved the highest level of skill in their art, eventually became more gentle, even more generous, more forgiving, and even more loving.
A case of this is Musashi Miyamoto who, after defeating everyone, retreated to reclusiveness and become a philosopher. Kano learned that, once one has achieved a high level of skill, one can afford to adopt a generosity toward those of equal or lessor skill; one can afford to demonstrate patience with those less skillful. We know that the best teachers learn this, but even when we are not designated as teachers, we strive for that kind of patience and generosity.
As a consequence of his meditation on these ideas, he introduced an additional key two principles:
- Sei ryoku zenyo
- Jita Kyoei
The first principle is an obvious concept in how he refined his concepts of judo techniques. It translates roughly to, maximum efficiency with minimum effort. The second principle is a bit more subtle. It translates, again roughly, to mutual benefit or win/win.As we practice judo, those of us charged with teaching the techniques have a responsibility for helping students learn the fine-points such as optimal foot placement, how to use the hands to best effect, good ways to break someone's balance, and so forth. In every case, we are trying to help our students understand the sei ryoku zenyo of a technique. Our teachers did the same for us. If we learned our lessons well, we will do what we are supposed to do.One reason I visit Japan every year, for many years now, is to spend time with some of those great teachers at the Kodokan, and also at some of the community dojos to refresh myself with regard to those lessons. I take this lifelong learning as one of my responsibilities to be a good teacher, a responsibility to my own students.
Jita Kyoei, as noted above, is a bit more subtle. However, it is demonstrated, in part, in my effort to be a better teacher, a better prepared teacher, and maybe, someone who can model what is expected of the person who hopes to achieve the higher ideals of judo. I strive to achieve this, even though I know I fall short of it.
When we think of Jita Kyoei we are reaching beyond simple mutual benefit. Included in this principle are behaviors such as generosity, patience, humility, and trustworthiness. In short, it is a pursuit of wisdom, not simply ability.
When we decide to promote someone through the Dan level ranks in judo, we are looking for more than the ability to throw everyone in the dojo, the ability to win every contest, or a comprehensive knowledge of every waza. All that is important. However, many great fighters never even think to step on the path of Jita Kyoei. Sadly, many instructors fail to ever bring it to the student's attention.
As instructors, we admire the student who is able to be victorious in contest. However, it saddens us when we see that same student being cruel or insensitive toward his judo colleagues, and that includes colleagues from other dojos as well as from their own.
We are a community of judoka, all striving for something more than winning medals and trophies. Shiai, the contest, is actually a venue for self-assessment, not an arena for self-boasting. Many who are constantly victorious in tournament do not discover this until long after their own competition days are behind them.
I hope that, in our dojo, we will be able to strive for a commitment to those two great principles of Seiryoku Zenyo and Jita Kyoei, even as we continue to work toward improving our judo skills in randori, shiai, and kata. Let's dedicate ourselves to be trusted partners, generous toward those with less skill and knowledge, respectful of each other even when we are feeling frustrated, and striving to model the highest ideals of judo as we advance from one rank to another.
A wise old judo master once said, "Rank is less about authority than it is about responsibility". The same can be said even when there is no ranking system, as Musashi learned after defeating all his challengers.
My dad the late Julius Jules Goltz taught me the #1 rule in business was - always make the calls or as Cal Ripkin Jr. puts it - just show up. Mushin focusing on the present being in the here and now means taking the initiative. Kuzushi is the first step in throwing according to its founder, Jigoro Kano.
Teddy Roosevelt wrote about the Man in the Arena (in photo below) referring to taking an action is the key to life. The kuzushi metaphor is analogous with this. Read more about Roosevelt's connection to judo.
Richard and I are working on a book entitled Judo in Daily Life we hope to release next year.
I'm always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, thanks.
Here's a Judo for BJJ Video shot by my student Josh Khoury at last Friday night's seminar - (to schedule a seminar, please contact me directly)
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