Monday, March 19, 2018

Be An Asset

The way to change the world is through individual responsibility and taking local action in your own community. 
~Jeff Bridges

I've been holding my breath for a while on this, but let me take a moment and indulge myself in my own writing to get this off my chest. I need to vent.

It's not just social media, not just on facebook or the endless lists of click bait blogs and garbage media but I see more and more of complaining as if its action. More and more people lamenting the state of the world and crying out that someone else fix it for them. This isn't a political post guys. I'm not talking about "snowflakes and rednecks" here, and don't try to warp my words to fit your ideals cause its likely I'm talking about you.

If your so upset by a school shooting that your pouring out digital tears on social media and the most you could manage was to give a couple bucks to ceasfire you can just shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down. If your idea of activism was to repost some meme you can get the fuck right out of here with that shit. Likewise if your posts are all threeper MUH GUNS talking about standing up to tyranny and your big contribution to liberty is a donation to the NRA, yeah, you guessed it, there's your corner. The 2nd amendment protects you from tyranny you say ? Never gotten any formal training you say? Your the problem asshole.

Well, here's my opinion, the way I live my life. DO WORK. My words don't mean much, my intentions, my feelings, they have no mass. Put them on the scale and see for yourself. What matters is what I do. Concerned about gun rights? Go out of your way to take out a new shooter, welcome someone from another social or economic class to the range with you. Do something to better your community. I see people who are frustrated with our culture, did you know Big Brothers and Big Sisters is looking for volunteers? How about the Homeless Children s Education Fund? If your really sick of the mess our college campus have become you'd love the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Deeply concerned about the loss of life at the Boston Marathon, the last church or the next school shooting? We put on a free Stop The Bleed seminar the other day. Warning, you may need to step out your bubble and meet people you don't agree with! Good! Become a positive influence in their lives. Give them a piece of yourself, of your time, of your energy, reach out and care about another human being and strengthen our inter-connectivity.

What have you done to make your community better? What actions have you taken to improve the world? To change the culture? When shit goes down do your people want you around? When your friend needs someone to talk to are you there? When I'm feeling stressed and tired and ready to quit are you going to build me up and carry me through or tear me down? Be a fucking asset!  Are you someone I want to have around, or are you a liability?  Either DO WORK, or move motherfucker, get out the way!

Shawn Lupka

Thursday, February 8, 2018

It's All Mathematics

Numbers is hardly real and they never have feelings
But you push too hard, even numbers got limits
Why did one straw break the camels back? heres the secret:
The million other straws underneath it - it's all mathematics
-Mos Def

Saturday morning we have an open mat at our Cranberry PA location at 9AM. It runs until 10AM when I teach the Fundamentals BJJ class. I try to get there early, warm up a little, and try not to take any rounds off. It's just one hour. 5 minute rounds with 1 minute rests if can get the first round started on time I should be able to get at least 10 rounds in.

After the 10AM Fundamentals class I teach the 11AM Self Defense class. Last week following that I taught a private lesson. In discussion after that lesson we discussed how to train at open mats, setting training goals, and general training philosophy. It's always a goal of mine to distill solid framework of how to train in new students. I'm a big believer that a little planning, some forethought, and smart purposeful execution pays off huge dividends in skill development. 

One of the items that came up has come up several times recently. I don't take any rounds off at that open mat. Now, for me, where I am now that's no big deal. I have plenty of much much longer training sessions in the week. Doing 2, 3, or even 4 hours is not uncommon as well as days where I train in more than one session throughout the day or lift in the morning and train a few hours at night.

I just want to go over the math real quick with you.

Lets say we have 2 students. Student A, and student B. Now A&B both train a respectable 5 times a week for 1 hour sessions. To keep this simple lets say each of those hour sessions is 10 x 5 min rounds. Student A takes no rounds off all week. Student B takes 1 round off each session.

Here's what that week looks like
A: 5 sessions of 10 x 5 min rounds = 250 min (50 rounds)
B: 5 sessions of   9 x 5 min rounds = 225 min (45 rounds)

52 weeks in a year , lets say they each took a week off every 6 months just to keep it easy

A: 50 x 250 min = 12,500 min (2,500 rounds)
B: 50 x 225 min = 12,250 min (2,250 rounds)

That's 250 more rounds a year. Equal to 25 more training sessions
25 more training sessions a year is an extra 5 WEEKS a year.

That's more than a extra month of training per year Student A gets over Student B just by not taking that one round off each session.

So at the end of several years when Student B looks at A and says man, we both started at the same time why is that A-hole getting better than me! Well, in 10 years he may have nearly a full more year of mat time!

That's a simple scenario using some easy numbers and very small amount of training. These dudes are only training 5 hours a week! I normally train 10-12 hours a week. My gains might be double or more if we do the math on it.

Let me challenge you. Find the wasted spaces, and fill them in. When class splits up be the first group to start working. If you are already repping out the technique while another group is still chit chatting it up you may get an extra few minutes than them during that session. Maybe physically your not able to do an open mat and not take a round off, but maybe you can take a round to drill instead with a partner as a rest round. Maybe after class breaks you can get one more round in with your partner if there's time and space for it, so you get just one more round than everyone else that day. I don't know about anyone else but I'd much rather have my years be 14 months instead of 10. Over the long haul its going to add up, it has to, its all mathematics.

Shawn Lupka

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Equipment Evolution

Let me be clear, I'm going to straight up endorse my friends products. Often They give me free shit. Often I wind up beta testing their shit. And we are actual friends, like out to dinner lets hang out friends with some of them. I in no way think that matters to me. If I found a better piece of gear I'd use it, and quite frankly not enough people even read my blog for it to matter much who I choose to endorse. No one is giving me free gear for likes on the gram that's for sure!

Normally I write more about the software side of this thing of ours. The training, the methods, the skills and tactics as we progress and the journey or philosophy of these endeavors. Today I want to talk a little about the hardware. We have come a long long way!

I'm not that old! I swear! But in the short time I've been around holllllysheeeeet have we seen the material goods improved by leaps and bounds! Machines have gotten more reliable, more consistent,  better streamlined and optimized for the tasks at hand as well as better accessible.

The Shivworks Clinch Pick is a prime example. In its infancy over a decade ago when I started I neither knew anyone that had one nor could get one if I tried. It was a tool designed and built for a specific application with a methodology and training system to back it up. If you wanted one you'd have to scour online forums to find one of the limited examples produced by a custom maker and pay whatever price the market might bare. The design changed, the "egg" handle got enlarged as end user feedback rolled in and hands on testing was done in live training. Minor changes, better optimization, more feedback, and the evolution continues. Now, its the golden age, you can get one on amazon prime cheap and you can outfit it with purpose built and pressure tested sheath options by guys that do the work like my long time training partner, student, and friend Tom at Dark Star Gear .

And here's how the evolution works. Makers who have done the work, who are shooters, or grappler's, guys who have been through tough force on force training, these guys are making the gear. Not some dude who doesn't shoot designing a gun. Those guys are using all the modern tools available, injection molding, modern materials, plastics and carbon fiber and purpose built steel but also the ability to manufacture  with consistent reliability, 3D printing prototypes, and utilizing private online groups for beta tester feedback at an ever increasing rate with a variety of experiences.

I think that's the key, if we are talking evolution. The accelerated feedback loop. The amount of information one can now gather quickly eclipses what was available in years gone by. I recently was asked to be a beta tester for the now released Phlster Flex . John created a private group, he sent out prototypes, and we all went about playing with this new thing and having a running dialog about it. Refinements where made, hole spacing was optimized, changes to the design happened quickely and where re tested. During this time people are putting it on and using it during rigorous physical activity, I get it set up with training gear and grapple with it on, use it in class concealed and see how it holds up. The feedback loop is wide, lots of dudes with different backgrounds, shapes and sizes and applications doing a variety of tasks and all talking bringing that feedback back to Jon where he goes back tot he drawing board. From big picture shit like does it hold up while someone is trying to forcibly rip your shit away from you to little details like are the direction clear enough.

That's evolution, not just one one guy thinking up some way to improve a product and putting it out, but a living breathing PROCESS by which we continue to change and adapt to the specific environment.

The Raven Pocket Shield developed by Chris Fry, MDTS is a another example. For years guys who never had to work in an office have been telling us to "dress around the gun". But now we have people who truly and deeply understand the Non Permissive Environment (NPE) finding ways to make concealment mean more than simply not plainly visible. Modern materials manufactured well to fit seamlessly in the environment. Now a petite female like my sister can carry a purpose built Ban Tang in a cut down shield with ease.

I can carry better gear, easier, than ever before.

Recently my friend Morgan Atwood, BFE Labs made me a reverse edge Pikal style carbon fiber knife. Just so happens it fits perfect in my Flat Pack TQ carrier . Lightweight , slim, and easy to carry.

There I was blown away. Looking a this like damn, remember the days when I had a leather double mag pouch for my 1911? When Hydroshocks where the cutting edge in ballistics technology? Back when the best advice I could get on how to actually carry a gun in real life every day was to wear a vest? Back before the current knowledge on tourniquet use was widespread?

Advancements in not just technology but in the culture have brought us leaps and bounds beyond where we once where as a community. Let's keep driving that culture, harder testing, better materials, wider ranges of experiences and viewpoints. I'm excited to see where we will be in another dozen years! Flying cars! Sharks with friggin lazer beamz on their heads!

Shawn Lupka, Antifragile Training

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Home Defense Classes In Pittsburgh

I am excited to announce that beginning Monday Feb 5th 2018 we will begin offering a regular weekly class from 6-8 PM on the first Monday of each month at The Battlegrounds Indoor Airsoft, 530 E 8th Ave, Munhall, PA 15120 .

Class will consist of white board exercises, physical practice, and force on force validation. The focus of this coursework is applicable to Home Defense for the armed citizen as well as concepts that cross over into any context where an individual has need to navigate within or around a structure while armed.

This program is primarily based on the work done by my mentor Craig Douglas, Shivworks and is presented with his permission and ongoing review.
Please read this course review of AMIS if you are unfamiliar with the source material.

Each month will focus on a different aspect of the overall tapestry of issues present with occasional full spectrum integration events.

A partial list of topics to be covered include but are not limited to:

Use of cover and concealment
Appropriate use of geometry to clear space (Pieing Corners, Etc)
Identifying and interacting with unknown persons
Use of lights / low light exercises
Solo structure movement
Shooting from compromised positions
In-Extremis room entry

Students will be required to bring full face safety equipment and a functional airsoft gun. There is rental equipment on site if needed as well as a store where any equipment purchases can be made. If you have a SIRT Training Pistol it is useful gear but not required.  Bring any flashlights you use for your daily carry or at home. Note taking materials are suggested.

Class cost is $25 / class

Please email me with any questions

Shawn Lupka
Antifragile Training

Monday, December 11, 2017

Team Loyalty

Fidelity: Faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty or support

I'm not one for fake traditions, I don't give my trust or my loyalty easy. In fact I tend to react with rebellion more easily. My first instinct is always FUCK YOU I WONT DO WHAT YOU TELL ME FUCK YOU I WONT DO WHAT YOU TELL ME. For better or worse my inner teenager is alive and well.

So lets talk about the notion of fidelity to something like my martial arts academy , Stout Training Pittsburgh - Team Renzo Gracie . I get that to some people the idea of loyalty to team seems a little outdated, that in a world of easy access to online information, multiple competing schools, and the general free sharing of information it can seem silly to fly a flag and to take personal stake in a for profit business. I am not suggesting my way is the right way, or you need to feel the same why I do, but what I wish to do is convey why the relationships I have built at our school hit me on a deeper level.

To state is simply its because they have earned my loyalty and never have they demanded it.

My coach doesn't care if I go to a seminar at another school, if I hit an open mat somewhere else, he doesn't care because he is not insecure. And while I like to get out and visit, make friends, learn new things, and get different looks at other schools on occasion when it comes down to who I support with my time energy and money I keep my resources planted at home. They have earned it.

What do I mean by earned? Why do I feel this way?

Let me start by saying I did not start at my current school. I started somewhere else that no longer exists. I did not improve there. Not because they where bad people or anything, in fact I have lots of love for my old teachers and how they helped get me started. They just did not have the teaching experience and the curriculum needed to be able to share the skills I needed with me. I am if nothing else utilitarian. If you cannot give me what I need in this transaction I am not going to have any emotion about leaving. First things first, my current school has both highly skilled practitioners and take great care in making sure we are able to share those skills with the students.

Now my professor, the school owner, my primary coach, and my friend Warren Stout. I will tell you two stories about Warren so that you know what kind of person he is. They are not the only stories I have but this is a blog post not a book.

A few years back I hosted Craig Douglas for his world class Edged Weapons Overview course. Its two looooooong days of exhausting physical training and hard competitive live training evolutions. Warren, despite being the monster in the room, the school owner, and the one dude everyone was in fear of having to go live with took the entire class as a student. He sat and listened, he drilled along with us, he soaked it all in and I got to see my teacher enjoy being on the other side. He got beat up and exhausted right along with us. At the end of class we go around the room and everyone gives their feedback and closing thoughts. When it came to Warren he thanked us. He thanked US! He said how grateful he was that we allowed him to train with us that weekend and how welcome he felt. It was honest, it was real, and it showed me what kind of man he was. I had been under him maybe a year or more at that point, but I got a hard dose of respect that day, and I knew that was a dude I could admire as a human being.    

" Nor have I seen
a mightier man-at-arms on this earth
than the one standing here: unless I am mistaken,
he is truly noble. This is no mere
hanger-on in a hero's armour"

Some years after I started there I was showing Warren a video of one of my friends, a student at the school, in a live training evolution. Its a rough affair, close to full contact, minimal safety equipment, simulated weapons, real clothes and gear, just two dudes beating the shit out of each other in a gravel pit. The student in question wasn't fairing well. I was asking for technical feedback. I wanted to know how to improve this, where should we be working, what did he think of the validation exercise. Warren unprompted did a free private lesson with this student. He told me he was 'one of our guys" and he needed to help him. He was genuinely concerned for him but also it showed me what being "one of our guys" meant. It meant he took your performance personally. it wasn't just a reflection on him, it was his just as it was mine. We may perform as individuals but we win and lose on the backs of our team. 

These actions and countless others like them have earned my fidelity. I am proud to be a part of it and to fly our flag.

My teammates have become my friends, and in some cases close and dear ones at that. They have been there for me when I needed them both on and off the mats and I have had the absolute pleasure to be there for them.

This has gone beyond simply training. We have confided in one another. We have been there through injuries, through divorce, through babies being born and loved ones passing. We have laughed together, and we have cried. I am fully invested. I don't just have skin in the game, I have my heart in it too. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Combat Jiu Jitsu

If your a fan of current Jiu Jitsu competition, especially the submission only trends as promoted by guys like Eddie Bravo and his invitational tournament then you have seen it. If your not familiar the basic explanation is that its a sub only grappling match where open handed strikes are permitted on the ground.

Seems simple enough.

While to me this sounds completely reasonable, it seems the "open handed" part becomes quickly viewed as "slap fighting" and silly by many viewers. Especially in Jiu Jitsu circles. It's always odd to me the type of in fighting and division inside such small groups of people. This happens in the firearms community all the time. Hunters who's world view doesn't include your particular rifle, guys that carry a gun but don't see the need for normal capacity magazines, and so on. Truly in these small groups we can be our own worst enemies. 

" Combat Jiu-Jitsu... Lots of back and forth banter on if its good or not.  Who really cares? If you want to do it, do it. If you want to watch it, watch it. If you don't want to do it, don't. If you don't want to watch it, don't..  Stop hating."
-Tom DeBlass

Let me just say I'm a fan. It's fun to watch, and especially for the readers of this blog interested in self defense its applicable and accessible. What we have is a safe way to incorporate striking with our grappling while maintaining real ungloved gripping ability and without the practitioner needing to go full in on MMA ground and pound. It's a step between the two. And it's not entirely new for anyone that has heard of Pancrase.

We often hear BJJ guys contemplate if their deep half will work "in da streetz" or how effective their guard game will be once strikes are introduced. Its not often though that most people (current company excluded!) get the gloves out and get at it. Sometimes the step between pure grappling and dropping bombs on a dude is just too big of a gulf.

Personally I'm excited to see it evolve as it picks up popularity. I always enjoy watching the adaptations that happen in new environments, new rule sets tend to push the desire to innovate and improvise. The athletes today, even those with MMA experience, are still just learning how to maximize their effectiveness in this context and it should prove outstanding for us to see what we can learn from their experience.

This is but one more expression of the core art that is Jiu Jitsu. I often have discussions about what people prefer. Wether thats GI or No GI, points, sub-only, MMA, wrestling, playing guard vs passing, and so on. Personally I love it all, and I like to be well rounded and able to thrive in any rule set. At least that's the long term goal. My rules, your rules, his rules, or no rules at all I'm down! I want to be free to experiment, to be curious, to adapt, and to feel out those core principles that tie it all together.

Shawn Lupka

Friday, November 10, 2017

Structuring Training

I'm a big believer in organized, focused, and mindful training. It's been my experience that I see more consistent meaningful progress when I train with goals and structure than just showing up. I've spoken about this before but lets discuss some specific tools we can use to help us.

"Learning how to learn is one of the keys to success in life in general, and jiu-jitsu in particular." 
-John Danaher

I know some people like to use a Mind Map to study their training. I personally like more of a Flow Chart structure.

My mind map attempts sometimes go a little off the rails

For example as a white belt one of my first flow charts looked something like this:
Closed Guard
>>Cross collar choke
>> Flower sweep > mount > cross collar choke
>>> Posture up > hip bump sweep > mount > cross collar choke
>>>> Post > kimua
>>>> Pressure in > guillotine 

To use something like this as a tool to direct my practice I would suggest focusing either getting to the start position or starting from position and then trying to execute the plan. As reactions and failures appear pay attention and fill in the gaps as they present.

For example lets say my hip bump to mount is straight fire..... but...... often when I mount my opponent they escape by executing a knee elbow escape. This highlights a hole in the system, and informs me of where I am weak. I can then speak to my coaches intelligently about a specific technical issue rather than just vague "How do I get better?" or "My mount sucks." The type of counter I see will inform where the flaw is.

Now, armed with this knowledge I can say ok, I've defined a weak spot, I can train open mat this Tuesday and try to start from mount, or schedule a private lesson where I have an idea of where the flaw is, and I can more clearly see when this spot approaches in a live roll and be more mindful and attentive to the details as the position evolves. 

In the shooting sports for example I found when walking my stages that often I would drop a shot wide on the last target in a array before a movement. By being mindful and reviewing video I was able to see that I was not staying in position until the shot broke but would start to move and break my eyes as the shot broke. This is why I could never call those shots, I was leaving early and would drop an uncalled D zone hit on a wide open target usually laterally. With this information I could structure some focused training on this specific issue and isolate the skill in drills.

Often this will also reveal counters. As I pay attention perhaps I will see that all the upper belts do a specific counter to my plan, or otherwise deny me a control that's a prerequisite for the technique to work. Often times I see the newer practitioner write a move off, claim it wont work for their body type, or otherwise disregard a technique due to initial failures. The flower sweep was like this for me. As a new white belt I recall being in a tournament and attempting it over and over again as I gassed out and was cursing myself ever aware of my team mates watching, my wife, the video being taken, and I just failed and failed. Surely this technique just wouldn't work for me! My hips aren't right! I'm not fast enough! It wasn't until years later that I hit one at open mat and realized all this time I just wasn't getting the right angle! Had I not disregarded what is a pretty common fundamental sweep so early on I could have had years more of reps improving on it and improving my overall understanding of jiu-jitsu. Lost opportunity.

As a good general rule, if its in the fundamentals curriculum trust the technique and try to get all the details correct over a period of time. Like a long period of time. Like years.

I have normally 3 dedicated 1-2 hour drilling sessions a week. Currently I am working on a Single Leg X passing strategy, a back take from scorpion hook that needs added to an already developed series, and tuning up some details on my knee cut pass. I also do one dedicated session working on take downs. Add to this several classes and open mats and the schedule fills up pretty quick!

It's up to me to take responsibility for my progress. Even if I do occasionally get the gift of someone pointing out a flaw, or highlighting a strength, they aren't there all the time. They wont be there whispering in my ear at open mat "don't forget to work on your back take" , they wont be waking me up an hour early to lift weights, they wont be popping into my living room and forcing me to dry fire or watch videos. It's on me. It's always on me. It's ok if I want to just relax and have fun for a little while, I'm not a professional athlete, but when its time to improve then its time to go to work!

Shawn Lupka