Sparring from a TMA background

So, most of my sparring experience (outside of swords) has been in a TMA background.  Not much ring experience via kickboxing / boxing / etc.

It’s itneresting and as Randy pointed out, causes a problem with the way I spar in that I generally don’t follow-up.  I set up a single, clean shot and take it but never do a follow-up – instead bouncing back to safety.  It’s great for point sparring – not so much for actual fights.

Went and sparred against a boxer on Monday.  He’s got a few years of boxing experience and some kickboxing experience, has done a lot of sparring recently for sure.  Me… well, first time I’ve put on gloves in months.

It wasn’t as one sided as you’d think. My understanding of measure kept me just out of range for a lot of his shots, my ability to fade before attacks meant that he only managed to land a few good shots.  I still don’t check as many kicks as I should, but I got a handle of that eventually.

He had trouble with my ability to pop-shots in to his centre and I got a few good kicks in.  No real combinations, though I managed to do a few nice spin kicks.  Towards the end I started to read his movements and checked quite a few kicks perfectly – both using Thai checks as well as savate shin kicks and straight kicks to his rising thighs.  That screwed with him for sure – he’s not used to that idea.

I got to work on making myself do combos more and work some of my TMA stuff into combos. Still, it’s fun and certainly not a rout.


Love meatballs.  Been having fun making Gordon Ramsey’s Meatballs for a while.  Up here, we’ve been making the meatballs from a mixture of beef and pork – boar when we have enough of it.

I much prefer the mixture of pork and beef because the pork adds more fat to the entire dish, making the meatballs a bit tastier rather than plain beef.  I also generally use paprika instead of black pepper – smoked paprika as far as I’m concerned is a much better product.

In addition, I’ve taken to using finely minced onions as well as garlic.  Other than that, I ignore parsley too because the yuck.  I don’t mind adding basil or summer savory depending on what I have on hand, but plain works quite well.

The major trick though is the milk and breadcrumbs – it keeps the meatballs pasted together nice and tight if you get the consistency right and gives a nice ‘springy’ texture to the meatballs.




Mentality and Sparring

Had a semi-serious challenge happen this week.  I lost – badly.

Watching the fight, and as Randy pointed out, I was holding back.  Significantly.

Personally, I’ve realised I have major issues in the mental department for sparring / duels.  Especially when it comes to sparring with swords.  Basically, they break down to:

1) Inability to take sword-fighting seriously.  It’s a general thing, but it really shows when sparring in tournaments.  I don’t necessarily take the entire tournament thing seriously, so I don’t fight to win or go in thinking ‘I will win’.

2) Inability to warm-up fast.  I really, really need to work on that – I warm up to fights real slow -it generally takes at least 4 to 5 passes before I’m ready to fight, often 4 to 5 minutes of pre-sparring at full speed with a good opponent before I feel ‘ready’ to fight.  I cool down from that mental mode fast too.

3) Not caring – or caring too much.  I don’t have a lot of in-between gears, so I’m deathly afraid of making this a ‘serious’ sport – because then I’ll want to take it seriously.  It’s better (or so I tell myself) to not care…

Something for me to think about and figure out.  It’s definitely something I have to work on if I ever want to get really good at this sport.


Oooh, stances.  Not going to write much here today, but I thought I’d discuss stances.

I’m a right-hander, so I should be fighting orthodox.  It puts my strongest side back, lets me hit hard with my right fist / kick and allows me to block with my left.

However, due to years of fencing and some Tai Chi work, I actually automatically assume southpaw.  I move more fluidly in southpaw, I block faster, I hit faster and chain combinations more smoothly in that stance.  However, my left side is weaker, so my stronger side is forward.

It’s weird too because I know my left side can grow stronger.  I just haven’t gotten the iterations up.  It’s mostly due to practise – I practised a lot of strikes & kicks in orthodox while learning (Karate, etc) in the beginning and just continued practising in that stance.

However, because I fight southpaw normally, I just don’t have the muscle memory to turn on the power on my left side as much.  With practise though, I’m hitting harder and more smoothly and soon should be able to ramp it up – though I think I’ll always be weaker.

Still, all these changes do mean that I shift quite fluidly between the stances, striking from either without hesitation when I am sparring.  I often don’t even think about stances, just hitting and moving when I am in the groove. Not as good for training specific responses, but great for sparring…

Canada Pension Plan – increasing contributions

Let’s talk about the Canada Pension Plan or the CPP.

What is it?

It’s a government backed retirement plan that provides funds after 65 (or 60 at a lower rate) if you have worked in Canada.  The amount you get is dependent on the amount you contributed through your lifetime, and is a 4.95% deduction off your paycheck along with an equal contribution by your employer.

What You Should Know

CPP maxes out at $1,038.33 currently (2014) and is indexed to the Consumer Price Index, so theoretically it will give you that amount (or it’s inflation adjusted equivalent) when you retire.

However, the CPP is not seperately financed.  All funds currently generated for the CPP goes into general financing for the government and is then used to pay out to current pension earners.  That is, the money you pay in now isn’t set aside for you specifically, it goes into a general pool.

In addition, the CPP is not fully funded though it supposedly is sufficiently funded till 2085.

How Much Do I Get?

25% of your average earnings.   Service Canada (who run the CPP) looks at your average earnings from 18 to 65, dropping out up to 7.5 years of your lowest earning years to calculate your CPP payout.

The maximum ‘allowable’ / calculated earnings was $51,100 in 2013 – if you earned more than that, it wasn’t counted towards the CPP (nor was funds taken for the CPP above that amount) but it did count towards the amount you’d get.

So, most people will definitely get significantly less than the maximum of $1,038.33.

Is Raising the CPP Good Then?

Depends on your point of view.  They’ll take more money from your paycheck now (raising it to 12% total or from 4.95% to 6% off your paycheck), in return for up to a 35% increase in the final payout.

Theoretically then, you could get more when you retire; but the question then is this retroactive? That is, do people who only paid in 9% through their life get 35% payouts? My guess is (and this is political); yes – so that Baby Boomers/etc who never saved get ‘saved’ by the government.  That I don’t agree with…

If not, maybe it’s good.  I still prefer to save money myself, but for a lot of people that might not be what they want.

Is It Going Away?

The important part to note is that while the CPP is theoretically funded sufficiently, there isn’t a separate pool where all CPP contributions are locked away.  It’s just a giant pool of cash which the government pulls from.  So, it’s possible if the government overspends that there just won’t be any money there when it’s needed.

Again, this is a possibility – not a certainty and really depends on numerous factors. However, it’s worth knowing and adding to your own considerations.

Emergency Funds

It’s strange, the question of an emergency fund rises up a lot.  If you don’t know what an Emergency Fund is, it’s a pool of cash you set aside for emergencies.  Most financial advisors recommend between $1,000 to $5,000.

The reasons for an emergency fund basically boil down to – don’t get into debt! Sometimes, expenses outside of your budget happen – a blown tire, an accident, sick days that aren’t compensated.

Having a fund that you can call on to help ease fluctuations in expenses and income keeps you from dipping into debt to cover it, removing you from the spiral of indebtness and poverty.  It’s also comforting to have some money around that you could just use…

Of course, there’s another train of thought that says – don’t bother with an emergency fund; especially when rates are so low.  You can get a much better return investing it and so long as you have a good credit rating and multiple forms of credit (Line-of-Credit or credit cards); you can use those as emergency funds.  With a LOC especially, you only pay for what you use and the rates are often very decent.

This way, the money you’ve invested will ‘work’ for you and you can dump it if and when an emergency happens.   It’s not necessarily a bad idea especially with the TFSA accounts these days.  The bad part of course is that you just don’t have that mental cushion anymore.

Myself, I lean towards the investing side – but I’m pretty comfortable and confident with investing.  For others, pure cash might be the better option.  It’s all about your risk tolerance…


Training while sick

I am sick a lot.  It’s just a part and parcel of my lack of luck with my immune system being shitty. Lots of cold, lots of flu symptoms.  These days I get a lot less muscle strains / aches and damage, but that’s mostly because I’ve slowly gotten pass the ‘I am a weakling stage’/

So, should you train while sick? From what I’ve read – it seems to be a case of – it’s mild sure.  If it’s a flu – no.  If it’s below the neck; no.

My problem is that a lot of the time, I have a cough / cold addition.  That sucks because it’s hard to do anything because your cardio is out and doing a major routine like the MMA training requires a lot more energy / oxygen than I can handle.

It’s weird, but being an adult sometimes means staying away from things even when you want to do it.  Bah!

We Bought a Bread Machine

So, we bought a bread machine on Boxing Day.

It’s been fun, used it a ton.  Made everything from normal white(ish) bread to raisin bread to pizza dough so far.

Amazing how much more bread we’re eating now that I can make fresh bread easily and that it tastes so good.  Like, seriously good bread. Nom, nom, nom.

In other news – it’s not worth adding banana’s to the bread ’cause it just becomes banana flavored bread.  Raisins work well though and I’m sure cranberries too.

Overall, bread is good!

Valyrie, WMA & Traditional Training

Since I’m not in Vancouver right now, I’ve been doing training at an MMA Gym up here in the Great North.  It’s actually pretty solid and the teacher knows his stuff (especially grappling) so it’s been good.  I’m going to focus specifically though on the warm-up / exercise section in this post.

Valkyrie WMA

The breakdown of warm-up for the class is relatively simple.  It generally is only 30 minutes long before we go to focused training, so I’ll discuss that part here.  It breaks down into:

  • Animal Walks / Springs- 10 – 15 minutes generally
  • Gymnastics strength training  – 5 – 10 minutes
  • Movement work (handstands, six-steps, cartwheels, etc.) – remainder 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Break

That’s the general breakdown.  There are numerous short breaks after each portion – e.g. after we do a single animal walk, we have a short (10 second break) then move on.

So, what do we see with the training? From experience, the focus seems to be on muscular strength (absolute) and power (explosiveness), with power the main focus.  In addition, there’s more focus on developing a ’rounded’ core and improving general mobility.

WMA Training

Now, WMA strength training at the gym I’m at seems to be more ‘traditional’.   It’s pretty much a 30 minute workout using traditional exercises – pushups, situps, jumping jacks, wind sprints, wheelbarrows, standing jumps, etc.   If you did it at Physical Education class, we’ve probably done it.

Quite often there’s no breaks between each exercise, so you go full-out completing each repetition of exercise before switching to a new one.

From my experience, even after my time with Valkyrie; I’m ‘gassing’ out.  The focus seems to be on cardio (muscular endurance) more than anything else.  Some muscular power obviously and probably a bit of hypertrophy added in.  However, endurance seems to be the major focus of this – classes are a constant ‘go-go-go’ (other than grappling, where things have to slow down).

Traditional Martial Arts

From my experience (and obviously, this is a very broad term I’ve used), TMA warm-ups are more focused on stretching and gentle warm-ups.  We might do 10 push-ups, 20 sit-ups the entire warmup and the warmup is often only 15 – 20 minutes long.

The goal is to get the body mobile and ready for class, not to improve physical strength at all.  In my years doing TMA, while my overall endurance and strength might have gone up; it’s more a by-product of the training (forms, punches, etc.) rather than a specific focus.

Again, this varies – I’ve had TMA warm-ups / classes which are much more vigorous than others; but compared to the above two, the differences are still striking.


It’s interesting to see how the different systems of warm-ups work.  TMAs, due to their need to be ‘everything’ for most people have extremely simple / relaxed warm-ups.  The focus seems to be on getting through the warm-ups fast so that you can focus on learning the ‘art’, with some expectation that individuals will develop their strength / etc outside of class.

Valkyrie’s system seems to work very well at getting people who have little to no experience at exercise to exercise.  The idea of ‘play’ is important, as does the constant mini-breaks.  While cardio / muscular endurance doesn’t increase at the same rate as the MMA training, I couldn’t see some of the students I’ve known / had doing WMA coming to an MMA gym.  They’d be frightened off / wiped immediately.

MMA training is in some ways the most intense.  The expectation is that most people have some minimum level of fitness.  While the Beginner classes might be less intense, they are still intense.  There is little directed training, with the focus on ‘go-go-go’ exercises.  It’s great if you are already fit, but I’m not sure I’d put someone who is new into it.  It’s also less useful as mentioned for building absolute strength – there’s an expectation people are going to go out and lift weights if you wanted that.