Thursday, August 15, 2019

Fitness Update: Return from Pennsic

Confession: One reason that I have been hitting the workout trail so hard is to both look good and move well at the Pennsic War this year. For those unfamiliar with Pennsic, here is the trailer for a documentary I made with Simply the Best G.A. West:

So I went to Pennsic. In the year that I was in "the worst shape of my life," I would go out to the battlefield in the morning to marshal the battles (I was recovering from knee injury) and that knocked me out for the day. In successive years I made sure I had some fitness going on so I could marshal or fight and still recover soon enough to do things before the sun went down. This year I can say that such was the case again.

I only fought one battle due to my shoulder injury. It was the bridge battle, and no, I did not hurt myself worse. In the four rounds, I died in two "glory charges" against an advancing enemy and the killed three people in one battle and one in another.

I marshaled other battles, and though I was capable of being active the rest of the day, it actually turned out that I did not go around much. I felt an overall felling of low energy the entire event, and it was not the same kid of out-of-shape fatigue I had before.

I suspect it has to do with diet and energy drinks. Because I am currently working multiple jobs and long hours many days, I frequently don;t get much sleep and use a variety of energy drinks to keep myself going. Depending on the time of day, the task at hand, and what is available I may use 5-hour energy, Arizona Extreme Energy, Red Bull, Monster, or some random alternate-brand energy drink that is low-cost, on sale, or right in front of me. I have learned when it's time to chug and when to sip. I know that one does not have to finish a whole can in one sitting. Sometimes I believe the taste of a 5-hour energy is more Pavlovian or placebo in its effect, and make sure I am not hungry when I use it so I don;t wash the taste from my mouth.

At Pennsic, I made an effort to not use energy drinks as much as possible. I did not quit cold turkey, but for the most part I was able to avoid them. This may have been why I felt low-energy so much. Fortunately, except for marshaling and fighting there was not much need for energy this year (and those activities usually pick me up by themselves, no chemical additives necessary).

I also notice my diet was different at Pennsic than in NYC. On most days I have a big bowl of high-fiber cereal in the morning, a lunch of rice & beans with roast pork or bacolao and a dinner of leftover lunch or (if at my overnight job) a roast beef hero. This diet also includes 2% milk, orange juice, and snacks of nuts and dried fruits, chocolate candies like Snickers Peanut Butter and Reese's Nutrageous, and yogurt. The occasional chicken burrito, lamb gyro, pork shish-kebab, or ice cream cone gets in there as well. And I drink green tea every day.

With this diet I had been maintaining a small gut that has stuck with  me for the past few years. I was just starting to see some results from the Insanity workouts and switching to vegetables instead of extra beans for lunch.

At Pennsic I ate less, and was more careful about what. I had cereal, yogurt, and orange juice at breakfast, but when given the option at lunch or dinner, I would choose a salad over french fries. I would have a double scoop of ice cream after a battle and a moderate turkey-and-ham cold-cut sandwich later for lunch, and not eat again until dinner. There was little rice, no pasta, and again, few energy drinks. There was also less snacking (though I did make sure to have a couple of pickles every day).

When I got back to the city I looked at myself. I was slimmer! I don't know if I lost weight (I don't own a scale) but my serratus anteriors had returned! I did an Insanity workout and I was not feeling that fat roll on my back!

Now the question is: can I adjust my NYC diet and keep up my exercise level to maintain and advance these gains?

And more intensely, what will my forthcoming shoulder surgery mean for my fitness regimen?

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


So, again it has been a while since my last post. I can let the cat out of the bag now. The objective for which I was training was the TV show "Knight Fight." I had been invited to be on the show and, despite my torn rotator cuff (more about that someday) figured I would be the "(my age) comeback kid." I worked out like a fiend to get in shape, even feting back into the full-contact arena at Sword Class NYC. In the end, however, they decided to cut me before my episodic was to be shot, and I would up watching it from Emblem Sports Bar with the members of the NY chapter of the Armored Combat League (including several fighters who were on the show).

But then I got cast in some plays, and was not making it to the gym as often, so my fitness diminished. I made up for it a bit by bicycling to the rehearsals, and the rehearsals did include a strong dance element, which was good. But when spring came back around, those jogs around the lawn were tougher than hey had been at the end of last summer.

So about two months ago I made the decision to get back on the fitness track. I did not feel like I was in the "top 5" of the worst shape of my live (the bicycling and dance were keeping me active) but I was definitely "fatter" than I have ever bee. Those 34-waist pants have not closed around my waist in a few years now. My serratus anteriors had disappeared. I had that fat roll under my arms that connects the back to the chest that football linemen have.

Now, I still have that torn rotator cuff (looking at surgery very soon), so there are certain things I cannot do with my right arm. But I still have those "Insanity" workout DVDs, so I have been using them.

More to come.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


I have been remiss in updating my fitness, nd there has been lots to talk about, good and bad.

But I only have time for this:

Last night I ran four laps around a particular lawn in McCarren park in Brooklyn with greater ease than I ran three at the beginning of the summer



Next step: add my helmet or run another lap. Or both.

#fightingfit #brooklynfitness #runningforfitness

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Return to Training: New Boxing Gym

So, as regular followers of this blog may be aware, I have gotten back  into physical training lately. As part of that, a couple of months ago I visited a boxing gym around the corner from a place where I work. It is called Supreme Team Boxing. They also have MMA, kickboxing, muay thai, and BJJ. I signed up for a “ten-pack” of boxing classes that also allowed me to use the gym for doing my own workouts for a limited time.

For the first few weeks I failed to find the time to work their classes into my schedule. I tried the weight room, but being as this is more of a martial arts school than a fitness center, there was not the variety of benches, chairs, racks, and machines as one would expect. I was able to do some lifts and presses, and was not displeased by my strength level, though I know it is far lower than it has been during my periods of hard training.

The next time I went I decided to hit the mats when they were not being used and do some BJJ warm-ups and other equipment-free exercises. This was the first time I had done this sort of thing since before going to the IMCF world championships in 2014. My ACL injury had kept me from doing much grappling and after my surgery and recovery I had not gone back.

I nearly died. Even the simplest things, like forward and back rolls, were near-impossible. Moves that required push-up strength and grappling endurance beat me like an after-school bully. I pushed through as best as I could, and walked out of there with the realization that I had a way to go before I would be back in the fighting shape I used to be.

My gym membership at Absolute Power in my neighborhood had expired a year and a half ago. I had been going to the SCA fighter practices over the summer at which I would do three laps around the lawn before putting on my armor (down from my usual 5 laps that I had been doing for years). I had even done my combination run/workout at least once a week, either in my neighborhood or that of my GF. I had been noticing gradual improvements in my performance. I was already starting to be able to run further, I was advancing from doing one to two pull-ups at a time, and so forth. I was still well below my “fighting shape” performance metrics, however, so my substandard performance in the gym was not really a surprise.

So I kept on coming back for the next few weeks. I would play superhero movie themes or 1950’s rockabilly to get me energized. Then one day I realized I had time to try the boxing class…

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Report on McGregor-Mayweather Fight Night...and its Impact on the Internet

NOTE: Though this blog was originally about the production of a grappling movie, it now encompasses news and thoughts about fight sports and my personal training for fight sports such as submission grappling, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and various types of medieval armored combat and "historical fencing.")

Lat night I found myself at a time and place and financial situation that I felt like watching the boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor. So I did..

It was a very interesting night of boxing, more interesting than several UFC nights I have seen. Not only was the boxing technique displayed at a high level,but also the fight science was very sound.

On top of that, the main event did not disappoint. It was billed at the most anticipated fight of all time, between a flamboyant, outspoken, controversial MMA fighter, and a flamboyant, controversial boxing champions. But there were also three other bouts broadcast on the Pay-Per-View program at the bar where I watched it.

Cruiserweight: Andrew Tabiti def. Steve Cunningham. This was the first bout of the night. Tabiti had speed and agility on his side. Cunningham was aggressive early, but lost his effectiveness as the fight went on. At the end of the bout, when Tabiti was awarded the win by the judges, a guy who was practically cosplaying McGregor said that Tabiti did a great job controlling the fight, that he had figured out Cunningham and just picked him apart. I could see that, too,.

Tabiti had fought with a very open guard. His fists were not close together in front of his face, as you might think boxer would do. Cunningham, on the other hand held that pose for most of the fight. Tabiti repeatedly picked this guard apart. He would shot a left jab between those hands, bringing Cunningham's arms higher. Then he would deliver a right hook to the body that would shake up Cunningham. This would bring the arms down again, Then Tabiti would either deliver a blow to the head or body with a left or right that would finish the combination. Cunningham did not have an answer for this.

Light heavyweight: Badou Jack def. Nathan Cleverly
Nathan Cleverly, the champion of this division, entered with a black headband that reminding me of nothing less that Ralph Macchio's adversary in Karate Kid. The fighters looked to be even, matching each other with quick, short, technically excellent combinations. I was distracted by certain other peple at the bar, so I did not watch much else of the fight. I did look up in time for the fifth round, however, where I noticed that Jack was getting the advantage on Cleverly. He was landing blows repeatedly as the champion bobbed and weaved in an attempt to not get hit.

Jack treated Cleverly's head like one of those rubber ball-shaped speed bags that are elastically tethered to the floor and ceiling. He would time the bob, measure the weave, and nail Cleverly's head right when it came to the apex of its move. Eventually the referee saw that Cleverly was not able to compose a counterattack to Jack's offense, and stepped in to stop the fight. This gave Jack the championship of the Light Heavyweight division.

Junior lightweight: Gervonta Davis def. Francisco Fonseca
This was a wild fight! Apparently Davis is a bit of a loose cannon. He entered the ring wearing a blue fuzzy hood, and had the same blue fake fur on the sides of his trunks. He certainly was loose in the match. At one point the Davis got his weight below Fonsceca, his arms around his legs, and lifted him up as if he was going to dump him on the ground. The referee stopped this, of course, but it definitely colored my impression of him, and made me want to see him get beat.

This feeling was increased by Davis' style of holding his hands behind his back and sticking his chin out, daring Fonseca to knock his block off.

I really wanted to see Davis' wildness and unsportsmanlike conduct be defeated by control and skill from Fonseca, but instead of that happening, Fonseca fought hard, but not well enough. After a blow that passed over his head contacting the back of his head and neck with David's arm, Fonseca fell to his knees. He grabbed Davis around the waist until the referee broke up the engagement and started counting Fonseca down.

Though the blow did not seem that hard, Davis could not get up. He stayed on all fours, trying desperately to bring some life back to his legs, for the duration of the count.

I have seen a fighter in the Armored Combat League literally collapse from exhaustion in the middle of the fight. His body just quit on him. It just up and shut down right there in the ring. Sometimes you can push the body too far.That's what it looked like happened to Davis to me. He simply pushed his body to far, and it shut down.

Super welterweight: Floyd Mayweather Jr. def. Conor McGregor
 This was what everyone came to see. Two flamboyant, loud-mouthes fighters with attitude punch each other silly. Could an MMA fighter focus enough on boxing skills to stay in the ring with a boxing champion? Was Mayweather past his prime? These were just a few of the questions going into the fight, but the smart money was on the guy with the 49-0 record.

McGregor came on early, aggressively striking Mayweather with well-targeted punches. His style was...unorthodox, you might say, which is to be expected. His MMA style is unorthodox. He trains to move as his body wills and focuses those movements into strikes and grappling, so a sport like boxing, which limits your toolset to that which enables you to punch the head and torso, will be awkward.

Some of this awkwardness really showed when McGregor would wind up taking Mayweather's back, and pummeling him on the back of the head. Such a move is not exactly allowed in boxing, and the referee had his hands full trying to keep that sort of thing to a minimum.

McGRegor also showboated a little bit, putting his hands behind his back and sticking his chin out like Davis had in the match before. Bu this outcome was not the same.

Mayweather is a professional boxing champion. He has won every professional boxing match he has ever fought. He got this.

A the fight went into the 6th, 7th, and 8th rounds, Mayweather's fists, which had been quiet at the start, began to come to life. McGregor's face started feeling the leather. It began to become obvious that he was goingwhere he wanted to in the ring, that McGregor, despite being taller and appearing to be more aggressive, was not really the one in control of the situation.

Between the 9th ant 10th rounds, I had to go to the bathroom. By that time I ahd been standing on my feet at this bar/club for over three hours, and that was after the better part o the day spent walking through a museum and standing around in armor at a wedding (I got paid to "officiate" a "Game of Thrones"-style wedding in Chicago that day as a knight. It was awesome). I was fighting sleep and shifting my weight back and forth on my feet. So I rushed down to the men's room and did my business as fast as I could.

When I got back up to the club floor, the place was erupting. Mayweather had turned it up a notch. He was pursuing McGregor, and it was apparent that any time he sent his fists in the direction of McGregor, they would land on his face and body. Mayweather had been measuring McGregor the whole fight, figuring out his timing, his style, his beats, his tells, and now he had the formula to defeat the crazy Irishman.

More than that. McGregor was gassed. His moves had lost precision, his hands were hanging low, and he was breathing heavy. With each blow, the bearded, tattooed warrior's coordination declined. His steps evolved into a stagger.

There is a subtle difference between "obvious" and "apparent." I'm not sure which of those terms indicates a greater degree than the other, but when one became the other, the referee (who had spent a little extra time before the bout explaining how he was going to be a stern, but "hands-off" referee) stepped in between them and called the fight, giving the victory to Floyd Mayweather by technical knockout.

It was a brilliant game plan, worthy of a champion, and it worked.

I found this very interesting, fascinating and exciting, particularly because I had been chatting all night with the Connor McGregor cosplay who had bet a thousand dollars on him, and because the crowd was very partisan, between the ones rooting for McGregor and the ones rooting for Mayweather (the Mayweather fans were chanting "USA! USA!" While the McGregor fans were of a diversity that would rival that of the "very fine" people and everyone else who was  allegedly or actually protesting the removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville). I found it so fascinating, in fact, that I feslt the urge to post on my Facebook wall:

"For the record : Mayweather did what a champion does."

HOO-BOY! What a ruckus that raised!

Now, I am not a man who watches TMZ religiously. Not do I tend to follow celebrity news much at all. So I completely missed all that business about Floyd Mayweather beating up women. Of course, my Facebook friends did not forget. Below are a smattering of the responses from Facebook:

"Beat women?"
"Get lots and lots of money for achievements of questionable value?" 
 "He earned his money in the ring.....he might not have earned it anywhere else and he is a shit human being....but he won fair and square"
"...Had he not brought so much money into the city of Las Vegas, it seems highly unlikely that he would have received multiple sentences so far below the norm for those crimes.
Had he not been a successful boxer, he would be in jail not in a ring.
Had he not been a successful boxer, he would be the statistic he deserves to be.
You cannot separate the boxer from the criminal misogynist. They're the same guy."
The term "champion" is so hollow on him as to not apply. He is a very skilled boxer. I hope someone karmas the crap out of him in a dark alley."


I felt a need to explain/defend myself...

" In my defense, in my casual awareness of the event last night and even lesser awareness of boxing since Evander Holyfield lost his ear, i watched the fight last night in a vaccuum. I was paying attention to the techniqes, strategy, and fight science used. I was intrigued by tho possibilities of a very successful mma fighter stepping into a fight in which he was not allowed to use all of his tools. Also, i had never seen Mayweather box before, and was wondering what made him win so much. So i was ignorant of any other considerations when i made my post."

...and the love just kept coming...

Ok. So the answer is: "Fight an unworthy challenger in a fixed system where he gets his ass kicked for 5 rounds.""

 "Showing poor sportsmanship by fighting people he knows he can beat? Accepts challenges from good fighters after they are no longer in their prime?"

Sometimes you just can't win. Or even enjoy a professional prize fight.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Fitness Update - the Sequel

Well, it's been a while since my last post. Let's just say i am not yet at my physical peak yet.

I went to the gym as often as I could with my life the way it was going, which meant some months I could go a couple or three times a week, and sometimes I would go weeks without getting to it. My membership ultimately expires\d, and my finances were not in a place to re-up. I got new jobs and new income, but that gym had removed the punching bag and timer that they used to have, which are two things I really valued about it.

I got new employment and a new income, and my commute involves a lot of walking and going up and down subway stairs, but my body must already be acclimated to that, because it is really not changing my physique or endurance or strength.

But I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed that I have progressed to "skinny fat guy" (well, it may ot be all that bad, but I have a critical eye). I am not as bad as I was when I was in the "worst shape of my life," but I can say this: Last year I was able to do five laps around a certain lawn in a park where we have the weekly fighter practice of the Society for Creative Anachronism. This year I am doing three laps. I used to do three circuits of a "fitness route" in my neighborhood. Now I can barely get to two on a good day. And my gut is still sticking out farther than my chest if I don't suck it in.

I have a picture of me from that "worst shape of my life" period, and I don't looks bad as that, but I am still not really happy. I just got back from the Pennsic War, and definitely noticed a lack of endurance at the end of a long woods/resurrection battle. I was able to get through the whole battle without taking off my helm to rest but once (during a long general "hold"), but in the second half I had definitely lost a spring in my step and was not commuting in and out of resurrection point as quickly as I had in, say, 2006.

I also lack the arm strength I used to have. I cannot do nearly as many pull-ups as used to (though that may also be a result of my increased weight, somewhere between 206 and 211 these days).

I have been, however, doing those "fitness routes" at least twice a week, and doing the SCA fighter practice every Tuesday. However poorly I did at Pennsic, conditioning-wise, I know I would have done worse had I not been doing that.

Oddly, however, I went for a run this morning and found my body unresponsive. I felt fat and stiff, as if I had forgotten how to run.  It may be fatigue from wearing and fighting in armor on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, combined with the stiffness that comes from sitting in a car for 8 hours for the ride home. But I did feel a bit more loosened up by the end of the run.

So I am gong to SCA fighter practice tomorrow, and wil do my three-lap run and drills, and then may put the armor back on. I look forward to getting back to a regular workout schedule so I can look, feel, and perform better soon!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fitness update. Not there yet

so I started gong to the gym. First it was twice a week, doing 15 minutes on the eliptical and a full-body circuit on the weights. After a few weeks I switched to a 2-day split, pulling exercises and pushing exercises. Then I added a day for legs. I was feeling stronger, my body mass was shifting from fat to muscle, and I was adding weight and resistance to my exercises.

Then one day I found myself having to run three blocks to catch a bus. In combat boots. Pulling a small suitcase.

When I got to the bus there was a great cheer from all the passengers (no there wasn't, but I like to think there was). But I was out of breath, like I had been fighting in armor for a minute or so. In the course of the run my legs got tired lifting up those heavy boots. I realized what it was: I am still out of shape.

I went into the gym his week and decided to do functional movements; the warm-up exercises that we would do in Brazilian jiu jitsu class, for instance. They kicked my ass. These were things that wee never "easy," but in time, I was able to do. Now it's a drag to do more than one or two reps.

All those months of "healing" did my conditioning no favors. We got a lot of work to do.

The good news is that I discovered that yes, I can run again. The knee is no longer the problem. Now I an run every day if I want to. And I think I shall.

Look out world!