Charlie McShane from America's Best Defense Norwich conducted a Krav Maga self-defense seminar for 120 Connecticut Department of Children and Families workers on Tuesday, May 7, 2013.
Held at Paul Newman's Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut, the ABD team was brought in by DCF supervisor Eric Moore to lead the group, comprising mostly of women, through an interactive session detailing the concepts and basic techniques of Krav Maga, the self-defense system developed by the Israeli military.
Attendees practiced striking pads with punches and kicks in between informative discussions on self-defense psychology, how criminals profile their victims, and the mindset required to stop a physical attack before it starts.
Laughter rang through the gymnasium as the DCF workers practiced full-force groin kicks and applauded each other for aggressiveness.
ABD Norwich was honored to be able to deliver this presentation. Thanks to Eric Moore for inviting us, and to Krav Maga instructors Angel Ayala and Eddie Xiloj, and students Zach Ninteau, Joseph Mendelsohn, Michaela and Mike Bourey, Michael Park, and Ray Blomquist for assisting.
Jay Pawloski of Brooklyn, CT is our Victory Of The Month here at ABD Norwich. Jay has been training in our Krav Maga & Muay Thai kickboxing class for a little over a year and has lost 43lbs! We're happy to say, we've seen "a lot less" of him around!
Obviously, if you're in the area, we'd love for you to train here at Macarra BJJ Norwich. But if you aren't, here are some schools and instructors I've trained with that I highly recommend.Disclaimer #1:
if your instructor isn't on the list, it simply means I haven't trained with him. No disrespect to anyone, so don't get your keiko in a bunch. I'm just giving shout-outs to coaches that I know personally. Disclaimer #2:
if I know you and you're an instructor, it's probably not that I wouldn't recommend you. It's that I've been knocked in the head a few times and may have forgotten, momentarily. Just remind me.Disclaimer #3:
There's no order here!Marcio Stambowsky.
Obviously.Josh Hesser / Macarra BJJ Colchester -
Josh is a three-stripe brown belt and an instructor under Marcio Stambowsky. He and I started one of the earliest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu programs in Connecticut back in 2002 here in Norwich, and he's gone on to coach jiu-jitsu at his school America's Best Defense Colchester, where he also teaches Krav Maga and Muay Thai. He has competed a lot in both gi and no gi jiu-jitsu, as well as in MMA and Muay Thai. In teaching, he's brought more than one student to the level of brown belt. As well as teaching competitive-style jiu-jitsu, Josh also likes to teach classical Gracie Jiu-Jitsu style self-defense.America's Best Defense Colchester
Brad Wolfson / Soulcraft BJJ
- Brad is one of the longest training, "homegrown" Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts in Connecticut. He brings his fifteen-plus years of experience to all of his classes at Soulcraft Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Hamden. In the mid 2000s, Brad ran the largest BJJ program in New Haven, and Soulcraft is now one of the premier academies in the area. Brad is an extremely technical teacher and runs his academy with a very friendly and safe vibe, making it appropriate for anyone from young competitive types to fifty-something professionals. His school also has kids and Muay Thai classes, and he has a great team of assistants helping him out, including Josh Randorf, Ed Berberich, and Chase Du Pont. Brad earned his Black Belt from Marcio Stambowsky in 2011 and is the cofounder of the New England Submission Only Challenge
.Soulcraft Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu website.
Jay Bell / Gracie Farmington Valley
- If memory serves, Jay and I started training at the same time at the then-Gracie Academy Affiliate in West Hartford, some time in 2002. As a former wrestler (and marine), Jay was good from day one. I can remember him working omo platas on me while we were both white belts. Jay rose to brown belt in the Royce Gracie lineage, earned his black belt from Marco DeLima, and is today a student of Royce Gracie black belt Rob Kahn. His school, Gracie Farmington Valley, is out in Tarrifville (it's northwest of Hartford. I didn't know either), and he has a large number of high ranking students training with him, including brown belts Aaron Samples and Jim Campbell. Jay hosts a popular youtube channel featuring his favorite techniques called JBellJitsu
.Gracie Farmington Valley Website.
Note: don't break into Jay's car.
Jeff Giroux / GB Martial Arts -
A BJJ brown belt, Jeff has been training in martial arts for almost his entire life (he has a black belt under Chuck Norris!) and has taught Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Glastonbury for years. His program is non-competitive in nature and he provides training for everyone from kids to senior men and women. His school, GB Martial Arts, has offered training to Hartford-area residents for over a decade. He's a student of Brad Wolfson and Marcio Stambowsky, and GB Martial Arts is a Macarra BJJ affiliate.GB Martial Arts website
Jeff was on an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. CREDIBILITY FIRMLY ESTABLISHED.
Darin Reisler / Plus One Defense Systems
- Like Jeff, Darin is another longtime martial artist with experience in many other systems, including (get ready) Wu Shen Pai Chu’an Fa Gung Fu, American Freestyle Karate and Kung-Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Freestyle Kickboxing, American Karate, Gelinas Ryu Aikido, Gelinas Ryu Aiki Jujutsu, Ching Sai Do, Capoeira, and Muay Thai. He runs a very successful program in West Hartford, Connecticut at his multi-style academy, Plus One Defense Systems. As a smaller grappler, Darin is very technical and has even written a book on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
. He is becoming renowned for his "baseball choke" in jiu-jitsu competitions. Darin is a brown belt under Gabriel "Gladiator" Santos.
Long-time jiu-jitsu instructors Luis Rosario, Bruno Lichtenstein, and Greg Wood also teach at Plus One.Plus One Defense Systems website
Additional Accolades: Darin, along with Jay Bell, Brad Wolfson, Bruno Lichtenstein, Luis Rosario, and myself, is an example for bald Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guys everywhere. Unfortunately though, none of us has been on Walker, Texas Ranger.
Dustin Rhodes / Crossroads Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu -
Dustin is a black belt under Rhode Island's legendary Tim Burrill, and runs his school out of Waterford, Connecticut. Dustin's style of jiu-jitsu, despite his medium build, is heavy, pressure-oriented, and punishing. He runs tough classes and is sought after by area MMA fighters for his groundfighting abilities. He operates Crossroads under the guidance of Tim Burrill in the Carlos Machado lineage.Crossroads BJJ website
He also has one of the best armbar/omo plata/triangle/armbar victories in MMA ever.
Marco DeLima / Team DeLima
- Check out my write-up of Marco DeLima here
. Marco is a monstrous gi and no-gi competitor and instructor from Brazil who operates his gym out of Danbury, Connecticut. He's won more medals than I can count and has instructed Jay Bell, Josh Hesser, Darin Reisler, and myself. He's currently the BJJ coach at the Lion's Den in Middletown as well as operating Team DeLima in Danbury. Team DeLima website.
Doug Gallant / Royce Gracie Glastonbury -
Doug is another long-time, Brad Wolfson-generation guy, and a four-stripe brown belt under Royce Gracie. He's also one of the most dangerous people I know, being a black belt in Bando and who knows what else. Practicing a style of self-admitted "old guy jiu-jitsu", Doug can be found on the mat at his Glastonbury location all the time - just follow him of Facebook. Doug has a huge personality, and to say he's a character is a big understatement. Royce Gracie Glastonbury website.
No youtube footage of Doug has been found, confirming his mythical and legendary status.
Paul Bratslavsky / Royce Gracie East Windsor
- Paul is an "old-school tough" martial artist and natural teacher. He's got a way with kids and is a dedicated instructor, as well as being very experienced in judo, karate, and Muay Thai. As tough as he is, he's an equally good guy and great to train with. He's a student of Royce Gracie and teaches jiu-jitsu to kids and adults in East Windsor and West Hartford, Connecticut. Paul Bratslavsky facebook.
Paul and I did an exhibition MMA match (because MMA is illegal in CT) a few years ago that you can find if you look around enough.
Rob Magao / Bushido Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Rob is a Black Belt under the legendary Pedro Sauer, and has taught jiu-jitsu in Manchester, Connecticut for years. As well as having a ton of previous martial arts experience, Rob is a police officer and SWAT team member. He's also the cofounder of the New England Submission Only Challenge
with Brad Wolfson. Bushido Jiu-Jitsu is known for it's tough jiu-jitsu and killer Judo.Bushido Brazilan Jiu-Jitsu website.
Note: Rob also represents bald guy jiu-jitsu.
Jim Harpe / Royce Gracie Agawam
- Okay, so technically, Jim isn't in Connecticut. But he's a four-stripe brown belt directly under Royce Gracie and runs his school in Agawam, MA. At fifty-something, Jim has probably been training longer than anyone on this list, and has trained/competed in Brazil for years. He's won multiple senior's titles in Brazilian tournaments. He's also a sixth degree black belt in full contact karate, making him equally as dangerous as Doug Gallant. His school is known for creating tough, no-nonsense jiu-jitsu students. Check out this write-up
I did on Jim a few years ago.Gracie Agawam website
So there you have it. Hope I didn't miss anyone. Let me know what you think!
On Wednesday, February 20, 2013, Neiman Gracie conducted a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seminar at America's Best Defense Norwich.
Neiman is a BJJ Black Belt under his father, Marcio "Macarrao" Stambowsky, one of the most experienced instructors on the east coast. Neiman is an instructor at the Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan and at Gracie Sports in Norwalk.
The seminar was sold out and packed to the walls. The theme for the night was open guard. Neiman gave detailed instruction on:
- a one-sided spider guard sweep.
- a triangle choke from the same set up.
- a shoulder lock from the same set up.
- an easy counter to the bullfighter guard pass.
- an easy counter to the double under-pass.
- a sweep from an attempted double-under pass.
- four sweeps from the De La Riva guard.
He finished the evening by rolling with a few ABD Norwich students.
He also informed me that he's preparing to enter MMA fighting soon.
The class was a huge success and we look forward to having Neiman back in for more jiu-jitsu training in Norwich!
As a member of ABD Norwich, you have special access to a library of training videos called the "Digital Dojo". Within literally hours of instructional footage, you'll find:
- Proper Muay Thai punches and combinations, kicking technique, knees, and elbows taught by Sensei McShane, Sensei Fritz, and Mr. Angel.
- Krav Maga self-defense techniques and scenarios for all levels.
- Bonus lessons on material outside of the typical ABD curriculum.
The latest project inside the Digital Dojo is a video series called "The Essential Eight of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu." These are eight lessons that cover many of the fundamental (i.e. most important) techniques, strategies, and concepts of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu as it's taught in our BJJ classes. Taught by Charlie McShane, there's more than an hour of material aimed to prepare you for jiu-jitsu classes and self-defense.
Again, these videos are only available to current America's Best Defense students. If you don't have the password, see an instructor!
ABD Norwich just received some patches from our friends up at Bushido Jiu-Jitsu in Manchester. Rich McKeegan designed these patches and has made them available to everyone via this facebook page.
The patches go for $20 and 100% of the money raised goes to the UConn Sandy Hook School Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Our supply sold out fast, but if you'd like to contribute to the cause, message Rich through the above Facebook page and get yours!
ABD Norwich students can wear these patches wherever they want: BJJ gis, Krav Maga shorts or pants.
(Old doesn't mean "old". Mr. X is still only 23, but you know what I mean).
ABD Norwich would like to welcome back Edwin "Mr. X" Xiloj to the team.
Mr. X is an America's Best Defense Black Belt, and instructed the kids classes from 2007 to 2010 before moving to Maryland. He moved back to Norwich recently and is back on board, coaching the kids classes and working toward his second degree black belt.
Mr. Xiloj (Chee-Lo) started training here at the age of thirteen with his mother and younger brother and achieved his black belt in 2008.
The response from the kids classes and their parents has been phenomenal and Mr. X has boosted the energy around here through the roof!
Kayla Fritz and I at her kickboxing debut.
Things have changed a lot in the world of martial arts.
In the early years of martial arts in America, training was the realm of men - typically military trained men coming back from being stationed in Asia. Military arts taught to military men trained in a militaristic way.
Culturally, martial arts remained a male-oriented fringe activity for many years. As a pastime, it only began to receive major attention in the seventies with the emergence of Bruce Lee - and was awarded a surge in popularity with the 1984 release of The Karate Kid. Suddenly, martial arts schools - with wooden floors, hard-nosed instruction, and that pervasive smell of feet - were flooded with kids.
And worse than kids... GIRLS! Ewwwww!
You fight like a girl!
When I started karate, a full eight years after Ralph Macchio donned that headband, there were girls in class. Not many, but a few. At the time, I think karate was still considered by parents to be a boys thing - like football or Baywatch calendars. In fact, I wonder if some of that thinking still persists today.
At ABD Norwich though, the "boys only" thing is not in effect - which is great for a few reasons. First, girls need martial arts training as much as boys... ask any father of a teenage daughter. Secondly, girls at that age take training seriously. If there are boys in class that aren't working hard enough, the girls let them know about it. In terms of maturity, girls that age generally seem to be able to focus better than their scabby-knee'd counterparts.
Often, there are more girls in our classes than boys. But it wasn't always like that.
Kayla Fritz with her original instructor, Mike Bogdanski.
In 2002, a young lady named Kayla Fritz came to ABD Norwich. Unusual for a thirteen-year-old, she came to us with previous experience. Her parents had enrolled her at another school at the age of four and she had worked her way nearly to black belt before losing interest.
When she came back, she was an early teenager in most senses of the word; quiet, shy, less than outgoing. Though she had a good amount of martial arts experience already, she opted to start over at white belt, believing that her skills had accumulated too much rust. Pretty mature decision for a thirteen year old, if you ask me.
What she lacked in confidence, she made up for with hard work. At thirteen, she was just a little too old for the kids class, so was thrust into the no-nonsense adult program. Honestly, I don't think I heard her speak during her first four years of training. She'd just show up, train hard, and leave. Many of the teens in class were there to socialize, but not Kayla. If she had a personality, I had yet to glimpse it. But her work ethic was obvious.
One story I still love to tell involves a youth-only tournament we attended as a school. Kayla signed up for the female division but we were told no other girls had shown up. The director was on the verge of refunding her parents when I requested she be placed in the boys division.
"Are you sure? Advanced teenage boys is a very competitive ring."
"Yes, totally. Boys division is fine."
If Kayla was nervous (or happy, or anything else) about it, I couldn't tell. She just said "Yes Sir", and put on her gloves. Twenty minutes later, she had won the sparring division with her direct and aggressive punching style - leaving at least one of her male opponents in tears. Not proud of it, just saying.* She took her trophy and left immediately.
Kayla earned a green belt. I lost my hair.
The first actual sentence I can recall Kayla saying was "Sir, I'm looking for a job. Can I work here?"
I was happy to see that she had a voice, but was a little reluctant. Teaching kids is a verbal job, requiring public speaking and dynamic communication ability. If you're shy, you need to get over it quick. I had no real insight on Kayla's personality... but she had that work ethic. If she could apply herself to teaching as much as she did to training, big things were possible. I asked her to start Monday at 3:30.
That was almost five years ago. It wasn't easy. She was as natural to public speaking as Chuck Norris was to, you know, acting. Which is not very. But the work ethic... you can never count out those willing to work for it. It wasn't quick and not always fun, but sheer persistence pays off. Before too long, she was teaching classes by herself. I think being in front of an audience came far harder for her than, say, fighting a bracket of teenage boys, but there she was, controlling and teaching up to thirty kids at once. It was a great victory.
The actual Boys vs. Girl tournament. Kayla punching.
But then something bigger happened. More girls started showing up for class. Girls who worked hard and got good fast - and loved training. The boys needed to step up their game just to stay on par. To this day, we have a very strong succession of girls in the ranks, from white to black belt. Why? Because of Kayla Fritz.
"Sensei Fritz", as she's known now, has transformed the kids classes. She'll tell you, as any good sensei would, that teaching martial arts is 20% ability and 80% leading by example. And she has lots of little eyes on her, little girls' eyes, watching her be a strong and confident leader. It's no fluke that nine-year-old girls in her classes become self-assured and empowered after training for even a short amount of time. They don't need to look to the movies (i.e. Lindsay Lohan) or TV (i.e. Britney Spears) for role models. They have a real-life one right in front of them, here in Norwich.
Shy teenager to Sensei Instructor... in 1293 easy steps!
Kayla is a third degree Black Belt now, with a Bachelor's degree from Eastern that she earned while balancing a job at the martial arts school. Her goal is to own her own dojo and to continue being a role model not just for girls, but for women. Just seeing how many lives she's transformed here, I can't wait to see what happens when she's out on her own. She will be a walking, talking female martial arts and business success story - and all at a young age (she's only twenty-two).
Is martial arts training for boys? Yes. For girls? Yes! And there is living proof right here in Norwich, Connecticut!
*okay, a little proud of it.
Just to follow up from last week: I underwent Nir Maman's four-day instructor course last week and came out successful (whew!).
It was a great experience and really complements the other Krav Maga training I've done in various sub-systems. Nir's style is very simple and direct, and his use of principle-based strategies really hit home. Real self-defense (as opposed to fantasy-based) must be simple to learn, remember, and execute - because when the need truly arises, the adrenaline, increased heart-rate, and fight/flight response won't let you perform highly technical, complicated motions and responses. CT707 operates on several guiding principles that, if trained correctly, give you a much higher chance of surviving a violent encounter.
I look forward to adding this material to our classes in Norwich!
For a more detailed description of what the course was like, head to NorwichKravMaga.com
Paul Garcia, Steve Spoth, Nir Maman, Ernie Thivierge, Eddie Diaz, Charlie McShane. 9/12