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Rory’s Portland FAQ - Event Date: 10 Aug 2007

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Rory Bowman View Drop Down

Joined: 16 Sep 2005
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 239
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rory Bowman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Calendar Event: Rory’s Portland FAQ
    Posted: 20 Jan 2007 at 5:12pm
As many of you know, I have been watching the front desk in Portland a
few nights a week over the past few weeks. In that time I seem to be
developing a set of standard answers to various questions that I thought
might be of interest to others. Please feel free to make additions,
suggestions or flames.

- R

What is the main focus of your school?

Straight Blast Gym focuses on teaching positive and athletic self-defense
to women, children and men based on boxing, kickboxing and mixed
martial arts. Central to this is an athletic philosophy that founder Matt
Thornton calls "aliveness." The central tenet of aliveness is that people
learn best when they apply and adapt their techniques in real-time
against a skilled and resisting opponent. This philosophy draws heavily
on what has been called "functional Jeet Kune Do" based on the teachings
of Bruce Lee.

What style do you teach?

Given human anatomy and the laws of physics, there are only a finite
number of ways to move through space. These have their simplest and
most sophisticated expression in competitive combat sports such as
boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling and Brazlian jiu-jitsu, which form the core
of the Portland Straight Blast Gym curriculum. Each person or athlete is
encouraged to select among these for their own personal goals and

Do you have a philosophy?

The basic philosophy of Straight Blast Gym is a democratic American
pragmatism and Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do concepts. Chief among these
are a deprecation of excessive ritual, a commitment to development of
the individual and a person-focused style of coaching which emphasizes
physical and psychological health across all three ranges of combat.

What are the three ranges of combat?

Ignoring for a moment weapons such as guns and knives, Bruce Lee's
"Tao of Jeet Kune Do" identified four ranges of combat: kicking, punching,
trapping and grappling. SBGi simplifies this to three: standup, clinch and
ground. Standup range is the distance where two combatants may touch,
but are both upright and not necessarily touching. Western boxing and
kickboxing are two examples of standup arts. Clinch range is where
combatants are touching but still upright, as in Judo or Greco-Roman
wrestling. Grappling range is where opponents are entangled with one or
both on the ground, as in freestyle wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Some
martial arts (such as Muay Thai) include more than one range and
contemporary mixed martial arts (such as the UFC) includes all three.

Do you have kata or forms?

The combat sports have developed techniques such as boxing's "bag
work" and "shadow boxing" which allow a single athlete to imagine and
practice a wide range of combat maneuvers appropriate to their own skill
level and training needs. Because each individual is different and our
understanding of combat constantly evolves, we do not believe that the
"dead patterns" of choreographed kata and forms are a relevant training
method for most people or combat athletes. While it is lovely to think that
learning a certain dance sequence will make me invulnerable to physical
violence, in most cases this is a dysfunctional fantasy.

Do you teach weapons or weapons defense?

Because we try to focus on function and not fantasy, weapons and
weapons defense are a very small part of the SBGI curriculum. A weapons
expert is looking for maximum tactical advantage and that means
overwhelming force and surprise: there is no practical self-defense for a
sniper's bullet or a well-placed knife in the back. Although certain
principles of weapon use and defense are implicit in all functional combat
arts, it is neither psychologically healthy nor physically practical to work
with weapons against a skilled and fully resisting opponent. Those who
need such specialized training may find it through the military and police
or (recreationally) through such groups as the Society for Creative
Anachronism. We do not choreograph West Side Story and we are not in
the business of training duelists. If you have more specific interests or
questions, please speak with any of our coaches.

Do you have a children's program?

The SBGi children's program is play-based, on the belief that everyone
learns best when they are immediately involved in something that
interests them. Rather than focus on the "discipline" of getting children to
stand in lines and perform choreography we encourage kids to be
physically active with games that also happen to teach combat skills.
Variations on tag, for example, teach crucial skills of maneuver and
spatial awareness, while changes in the rules encourage children to think
critically about tactics. Games such as "tree" which involve having children
interact directly with larger adults by climbing not only improve
coordination and body strength, but also fulfill emotional needs while
training them to be physically comfortable with larger opponents.
Whenever possible, parents are encouraged to take part in class
themselves, both for the children's comfort and also for the positive
modeling and emotional bond it creates.

A child's best defense and preparation for life are social skills, confidence
and "a sound mind in a sound body." This is best developed by socially
interacting with others in a supportive and constantly-changing
environment. If you are looking for militaristic or authoritarian
babysitting, Straight Blast Gym is not for you.

How are your classes different from other martial arts schools?

Most schools focus on repetition and drills while SBGi tends to focus on
the individual athlete, with a variety of relatively short and specific

Most of our classes are approximately one hour long and focus on a
specific range or area (such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu) and then explore that
using a student-centered "I method" of introduction, isolation and
integration. An instructor may begin by asking if someone has a
particular area they wish to work on or by announcing a main focus for
the hour such as "tips on holding and escaping the mount." There will be
a brief introduction of the technique with a few key points, and then a
simple drill to allow each student to experiment with the technique from
different sides (top and bottom, attack and defense, etcetera). Usually
there will be some rotation of partners to also let students experience
how the techniques is similar or different across a variety of body types
and skill levels. After this introduction and isolation phase, students are
encouraged to attempt the technique against progressively higher levels
of resistance in a mutually supportive way which focuses on
understanding and not domination. There may be several opportunities to
gather and discuss the technique over the course of the hour and may or
may not end with full-on sparring to incorporate the technique to a
student's personal style.

Can you teach me secret or advanced techniques?

There are no advanced techniques: There are only basics expertly applied.

What is Brazilian jiu-jitsu?

Jiu-jitsu is a traditional Japanese martial art similar to Judo but with less
of a sport focus. In the early 1900's a Japanese man named Mitsuyo
Maeda went to Brazil and taught the art to a variety of people, including
members of the Gracie family. Current events were such that Brazil was
isolated from Japan for many years, and developed along different lines.
In an effort to create a uniquely Brazilian art form, the Gracies de-
emphasized kata exercises or forms and instead focused on developing
rules for competition which would encourage realistic practice and
relevance in the "vale tudo" or "anything goes" fights of the time. Through
television and commercial schools, the Gracie family largely came to
represent Brazilian jiu-jitsu, emphasizing technical precision and
positional dominance.

What is the goal of Brazilian jiu-jitsu?

The main goal of Brazilian jiu-jitsu here is to have fun and stay fit.

In its sport form, the goal is to get one's opponent in a position where
they either pass out from strangulation or "tap out" because you have
gained a decisive and irreversible advantage. On the theory that "position
precedes submission" most BJJ matches can also be scored for positional
dominance based on points for achieving or reversing a particular
position such as guard or mount.

What are "mount" and "guard" and "positional dominance?"

Key to Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the concept that with superior technique a
small, skilled person should be able to defeat a larger, stronger person.
Part of superior technique is an understanding of different positions and
a theory of positional dominance. Different positions have names and
each athlete has their preferred positions and techniques or "game."
"Mount" and "guard" and "back" are the names of positions used by
athletes to organize and analyze tactics and techniques. Any SBGi athlete
or coach should be able to tell you more about position names positional

Why are so many people here doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu?

Unlike many other arts, effectively training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu requires
another skilled opponent. Wrestling is also a very thorough cardiovascular
workout, is relatively painless and (because combat takes place in three
dimensions as one moves through space) is cognitively more interesting.
For this reason and others, a lot of our members prefer to spend their
time here working on Brazilian jiu-jitsu, doing their cardiovascular
training, weightlifting and heavy-bag work elsewhere. If you are
interested in specific classes such as women's boxing, boxing or our kids
class, please be sure to visit during those times.

"Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business." - Thoreau
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Matt Thornton View Drop Down
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All phenomena is natural

Joined: 04 Apr 2003
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Matt Thornton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jan 2007 at 6:14pm
Carefully note that the will to believe & the wish to understand are two completely different things; & only one propels us forward.

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Guests View Drop Down
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jan 2007 at 9:21pm
Nicely done Rory.
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