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Antonio Graceffo on the Malaysian Star Online

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2010 at 8:33 am

Mr. Azian, a journalist from the Malaysian newspaper, The Star, did a short documentary on Antonio Graceffo and his journey from New York to Malaysia, where he studied Islam and martial arts: Silat Kalam and religion with Guru Mazlan Man and Silat Tomoi with Kru Jak Othman.

Watch it free on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9yb_8LYpIQ

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com

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Learning Korean without Speaking

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2010 at 11:53 am

By Antonio Graceffo

Normally, ALG say you do 800 hours of listening, then you start speaking, and you do writing and reading last. The reality is, however, if you are not at the ALG school in Bangkok, it is nearly impossible to arrange these type of lessons for yourself. And, strict ALG takes two years to learn a category three language, such as Chinese, Thai or Korean. Most people working in a foreign country can’t invest two years in learning, particularly if they are on a one year or two year contract.

So, I modify ALG when I am doing my own learning and writing.

Next, the founders of ALG were concentrated on how to teach Thai to foreigners. In taking ALG out of Thailand and applying it to other countries, my personal feeling is that the game changes a bit because, unlike Thai, Korean is not tonal and the pronunciation is simple consonant vowel, consonant vowel. And second, the Thai writing system is extremely complex and you really shouldn’t learn to read until you have a very functional knowledge of the language. But in the case of Korean, Hangul is one of the easiest and most perfect writing systems ever developed.

Most people can learn Hangul in about a week, after that, you can read literally anything in Korean. Normally, I tell people to read last, because when you read you have an internal monologue which will be imperfect if you haven’t done sufficient listening first.

What I suggest, to speed up the process, but to also learn the language well, you should buy a university level Korean textbook, and hire a private tutor. Korean teachers will generally want to spend the first several lessons on the alphabet. Don’t let them. Don’t worry about the alphabet for a few weeks. It is probably better to hire a young university student who you can intimidate into teaching you the way you want to learn, as opposed to hiring an experienced teacher who only knows one way and will argue and fight with you.

Have your tutor read the dialogues in your book again and again. At home, listen to the audio CDs for the book. Do not start by having the teacher teach you the symbols or the characters of Hangul. Just follow along with your finger while the teacher reads. Do this for two or three weeks. You will begin to make guesses about what the different characters should sound like. You will begin to recognize words. You will slowly gain a rhythm for the language.

After several weeks, then you could spend a single lesson on the alphabet, to ensure that you know what each letter sounds like and how to recognize them. After that, you can read on your own.

At night, follow the written words on the page while you listen to the CDs. You can start writing at this point. It will help reinforce what you are hearing and learning. But remember, listening is still the key to learning a language and to avoid fossilizing mistakes. Never write an assignment and allow the teacher to take it home and mark it. You go over every assignment, verbally with your teacher, a number of times before you go home and write it. The next day, you should go over your homework verbally, with your teacher. Again, the teacher reads and corrects. You just listen and write. Think about your homework as a talking point, something to help you focus and contextualize your listening.

Don’t speak yet.

What I did with the Korean language was I bought as many level-one textbooks as I could find. There are about three or maybe four series of Korean textbooks sold in Korea. So, I bought all of them. I chose one that I only did with my teacher. The others I did on my own. You can get level one textbooks for free, just ask other foreigners who gave up on learning Korean. They will often pass the books on to you. Just write in them and fill them with ink, writing and rewriting each exercise.

My teacher and I went on like this for about a month or six weeks. Everyday, she read for me. In the evenings I listened to the listening for that book and the listening for the other books which I read on my own.

Eventually, when I started speaking, I only read out my answers from my main textbook while my teacher and I marked my homework.

With Korean language, the listening/speaking is not difficult in the sense of getting the pronunciation right. Actually, Korean, like Mandarin, has only a couple of sounds that we don’t have in English. BUT the listening is difficult because of the complex Korean grammar and registers of speech. So, when you first start “speaking” it should really be just reading grammatically correct and appropriate answers from your book. I did this for hours with my teacher. Occasionally she would ask me something that wasn’t in the book, but I would refuse to answer. You don’t want to start “creating” speech until you are ready. Stick with canned speaking practice for several more weeks.

Finally, you can start speaking. Again, it would be best to wait till the end of 800 hours, but this is not a reality for most people living in the country. So, maybe you start speaking at the end of two months of lessons. My vocabulary was already 2,000 words when I began speaking. And even then, I kept my speaking limited to what was in the book and eventually variations of what was in the book. You should move your reading and listening away from the book and into the real world pretty early on. But your speaking needs to stay in the sterile book world or you will create mistakes that you will never, ever be able to shake.

With all of my languages, once my listening gets to an acceptable level, I encourage people in the real world to talk to me in Korean, but I answer in English. The longer you stay at that level and the more total listening you do, the better your Korean will be when you open up your mouth and start speaking.

If you jump right into speaking, as most teachers want you to do, you will most likely never approach fluency. You will make errors of grammar and appropriateness of speech. Depending upon how early you start speaking you may even make mistakes in pronunciation which is truly sad because Korean is so perfect and easy to pronounce.

The keys to language learning are: dedication, hard work, listening, and discipline to avoid giving in to the temptation to speak too early.

Antonio Graceffo holds a BA in Foreign Language from MTSU. He studied applied linguistics, translation at the University of Mainz, Germersheim, Germany. He has attended full time language classes in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Cambodia, and has studied and worked closely with the ALG program at AUA Ratchadamri, Bangkok.

He is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. Antonio is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries. On youtube you can find a series of ALG inspired language acquisition video Antonio created on: Khmer, English, Thai, and Mandarin.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,kuala,Lumpur,selengore,selengor,Korean,korea,hangul,acquisition,Cambodia,malay,Malaysia,Chinese,hokkien,martial,arts,linguistics,Bahasa,melayu,odyssey,language,acquisition,ALG,theory,growth,automatic,brown,long,david,marvin,Bangkok,Thailand,thai,Chinese,teaching,learning,studying,linguist,TESOL,TEFL,ESL,English,Second,Foreign,other,languages,thai,Thailand,Bangkok,AUA

Just Talking to Native Speakers

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm

The Worst Way to Learn a Language

By Antonio Graceffo

In the apartment complex where I live, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, there is a Cantonese speaking woman who seems to know everyone. She walks the halls and hangs out in the cafés all day, getting to know all of the building’s residents. Then she helps them find rentals, acts as a real-estate broker, or hooks them up with whatever they need, and, I assume, earns a commission on each transaction.

When I told her I wanted to find a school to study Bahasa Melayu, the official language of the country, she said.

“You don’t need to go to school. Tell me the words you want to know and I will teach them to you.”

Being an ALG (Automatic Language Growth) proponent, I believe in studying language, in context and for the purpose of communicating meaningfully, and with the goal of approaching native speaker fluency. So, if you ask me which words I want to learn, it’s all of them.

Rather than make a list, I was going to toss the dictionary on the table in front of her.

“I would like to learn those words.” I would say. “Please teach them to me.” But then, since the dictionary already has English translations, I guess her job was done for her.

In actuality, one of the major concepts of ALG is that words are not the key to a language, meaning is. You could memorize 5,000 words from a dictionary and not be able to string a sentence together or express yourself in any meaningful way.

Mark Twain may have had a vocabulary that was 10% or even 30% larger than the average college graduate. But he wrote works that the average college graduate couldn’t. And it wasn’t because he had more words. Clearly there is much more to language and communication than words.

Many of us don’t know much about nuclear physics or how to run a nuclear reactor. But then, most of us don’t have a reactor and don’t need to run one. So, it works out in the end. But we all speak language. And some people have two or three native tongues, and yet the average person seems to be completely clueless about what it is that makes a language and especially, people seem to be lost on the subject of how to teach or learn a language.

Nearly 100% of people who graduate medical school can work as doctors. Nearly zero percent of people who graduate with a four year degree in a foreign language can speak at anything approaching fluency.

Another Malay friend was trying to encourage me in my study of Malay language. “I know a British woman who has been here for ten years. She married a Malay man, and now she speaks excellent Pasar Malay.”

Pasar in Malay means market, I assume it comes form the same Persian root as the English word bazaar. Pasar Malay is basically a pigeon language, which was historically spoken by foreign traders. Basically, what my friend was telling me was that, if I remain in Malaysia for ten years, and marry a Malay man, I will be able to speak grammatically incorrect sentences and converse at the level of a kitchen servant.

First of all, it’s not even legal for me to marry a Malay man. In fact, in Malaysia I can’t even marry a Malay woman without converting my religion. So, step one is already out. But the end result, talking like an uneducated person…That isn’t really a goal I have ever striven for. I worked hard to educate myself in my native tongue, why would I want to talk like a moron in a foreign language?

There is clearly a flaw in our understanding of how language is acquired which is causing us to get terrible results in this one area of education. Even the goals that people set out for themselves seem flawed. When I began learning Khmer, in Cambodia, the first time I ordered my own food in the presence of my Khmer friends, one of them smiled approvingly. “If you stay here three years I bet you will be able to speak Khmer.” Three years? I was planning to learn the language in six months to one year. If you are studying full time you should be able to achieve conversational fluency in two years in most Asian languages (category 3 languages) and academic fluency in a European language or other category 1 languages.

The US Foreign Service Institute and Defense Language Institute rate languages according to the difficulty in learning them. Mandarin and Arabic are category 3 languages, whereas Italian and Spanish are category 1. Malay is in its own category, basically between 1 and 2. The reason is probably because Malay is actually a pretty easy language, but culturally Malaysia is very different from America. Cultural differences often make language learning more difficult. For someone who has been living in Southeast Asia for a long time and speaks other Asian languages, the difficulty in learning Malay probably drops to category one.

For all of the years I have been studying Asian languages, I have heard from linguist friends and also confirmed through research that Bahasa Melayu is the easiest Asian language to learn (In this article I am only talking about “major languages”, languages which are the official language of a country. I am not talking about tribal or minority languages.). Bahasa Malay is considered easy because it’s not tonal. It has a very simple grammar. It is written with the Latin Alphabet. And, it has more native speakers than any other Southeast Asian language. Counting Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Southern Thailand and parts of the Philippines, there are 180 million native speakers, but if we include Thai, Indonesian and Philippine dialects which are close to or heavily influenced by Malay, the number could almost double.

Working on a film crew, I mentioned to my assistant that I needed to learn Bahasa but hadn’t had time or money to organize classes.

“You don’t need to go to school” She insisted. “Bahasa is so easy.”

No matter how easy a language is, you have to study it in order to learn it.

“Just talk to us in Bahasa when you see us.” By us, she meant the rest of the crew.

That advice made very little sense to me. How am I going to talk to them in Bahasa if I don’t speak Baahsa? I explained to her that would be like me telling her that if she spoke to me in Italian, which she doesn’t speak a word of, she would reach fluency in just a few short months.

She didn’t buy it, though. She explained the value of practicing your language with native speakers and how this was superior to going to school. She then said the phrase that makes me cringe. “It’s the best way to learn a language.’

In my expert opinion: Four years of advanced study in applied linguistic, years of working as a translator, having studied ten languages, and having learned eight to some degree of fluency, thirteen years of classroom teaching experience, author of a couple of  hundred articles on language acquisition, and creator of numerous videos on the same subject, plus a bunch of other qualifications:

If you don’t speak a particular language at all, practicing with a native speaker would be the absolute dumbest way to try and learn it.

First off, practice suggests you already know something and you want to get better at it. If you don’t know it at all, you can’t practice it. What if you never had a karate lesson in your life? If I locked you in a room alone, and told you to practice, would you emerge ten years later as an expert?

Whether or not I am qualified as an expert on language acquisition is perhaps debatable. And there are certainly people out there, better qualified than me. So far, through all of my research, however, I can’t find any credible expert who believes that a non-speaker can somehow learn the language by speaking to native speakers.

I get attacked all of the time on the internet for my videos and articles on language acquisition. So, there are clearly people who disagree with me, but they never seem to be university professors or qualified translators or linguists whose research has lead them to different conclusions.

What I find is that people who are completely unqualified to disagree do so.

In this instance, I asked my colleague if she had a degree in linguistics. And she didn’t, neither did she have a degree in foreign language or similar or related field. So, I asked if she had at least ever learned a foreign language and her answer was,

“I speak Bahasa and English.” The tone suggested that this did indeed qualify her to give advice on language acquisition.

But this brings us to my next point and one of my pet peeves. Bahasa and English are the two most commonly spoken languages in Malaysia. This particular individual, and millions of other Malaysians, are near native speakers in at least two and often three of their country’s national languages. Now, while I envy them for having such a high degree of fluency in two or more languages, these people are not language learners. The bulk of Malaysians have never had the experience of learning a language.

You don’t learn your mother tongue, you acquire it. You learn it because you are surrounded by it, bombarded with it, and people talk to you, and in front of you, in it. Your country’s national languages are on TV, in newspapers, on the radio, and spoken at public gatherings and in school.

The reason why Malays and many Filipinos are at near native speaker level in English is BECAUSE, rather than in spite of, the fact that they have NEVER studied English. They acquired English by attending math and science classes in school, which were taught in English. They learned it from watching American movies which were not dubbed.

In Taiwan and Vietnam I saw kids memorizing thousands upon thousands of English vocabulary. And yet, they couldn’t communicate at all. My most dedicated Taiwanese friends were constantly reading books ABOUT, not in, English. “Learn English Idioms,” “How to Converse in English”…. My Malay friends, on the other hand, read “The Kite Runner,” or the latest Stephen king book in English.

Malaysians and Filipinos communicate extremely well. Very occasionally I may stumble upon a word that a Malay friend is not familiar with, but it is a single word. I explain it, and we move on. Malaysians, at least those in KL who I deal with on a daily basis, understand our humor. They make jokes, they even understand puns. Vietnamese and Taiwanese who are considered fluent or who work as translators, often can’t get anything at all out of watching an English movie, and can’t follow the thread of a conversation between two native speakers.

The English language fluency in Malaysia is astounding, and yet, most Malaysians have probably never had a foreign teacher neither have they had significant interaction with an English native speaker.

So, when my colleague said, “Just talk to us.” This advice was no reflection of how Malays learn English.

The fact that the Malaysians speak English and Malay, and then Chinese Malaysians also speak two or three dialects, doesn’t mean they are good language learners. These are multiple mother tongues. They don’t count. You don’t learn your mother tongue. You acquire it. To measure the ability of Malaysians to learn a language, you would need to observe them in a French class or Japanese class. And if you did, you would find that they don’t learn any faster than Americans.

There is a commonly held myth in America that Europeans are great languages learners. Just last week I heard an American tourist in a café saying, “It’s not uncommon to find people in Europe who speak four or even five languages.” I went to school in Europe for four years, and I will tell you, it is extremely uncommon to find Europeans who speak four or five languages. Nearly everyone in Europe learns English at school. The Germanic countries take English seriously and young Germans, Dutch, and Scandinavians generally speak it well. In Italy and Spain, however, the level is extremely low. Apart from English, however, most second language teaching in Europe has dropped off. Yes, some Germans speak French well, but it isn’t that common. And certainly, Germans who speak Japanese will be as infrequent as Americans who speak Japanese.

In countries which have more than one official language, you will find that only a small percentage of the population is fully bi-lingual. Estimates show that 55% of bilingual Canadians are Quebecers. Generally, in bilingual countries you find only the speakers of the minority language are bilingual. In Malaysia, for example, nearly 100% of Chinese speak Malay, but very few Malays speak Chinese. Spain has four official languages, but native-speakers of Castilian don’t generally speak any of the other three. Switzerland has four languages, German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romansch – but 22 of the 26 cantons are officially monolingual.

I have written nearly two hundred articles on second language acquisition, but they all lead to the same sobering and dreary point. Learning a language is hard work. There are no secrets and no short cuts. You can’t learn by “just talking to us.” You have to study. You need to go to school, hire a teacher, pour over books, videos, DVDs, audio, whatever materials you can find, five hours per day for up to 800 hours. Then, as soon as possible, wean yourself off of language learning materials and move into the use of real language materials such as novels, newspapers, movies, and attending lectures and classes taught IN but not ABOUT the language.

Antonio Graceffo holds a BA in Foreign Language from MTSU. He studied applied linguistics, translation at the University of Mainz, Germersheim, Germany. He has attended full time language classes in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Cambodia, and has studied and worked closely with the ALG program at AUA Ratchadamri, Bangkok.

He is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. Antonio is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries. On youtube you can find a series of ALG inspired language acquisition video Antonio created on: Khmer, English, Thai, and Mandarin.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,kuala,Lumpur,selengore,selengor,Cambodia,malay,Malaysia,Chinese,hokkien,martial,arts,linguistics,odyssey,language,acquisition,ALG,theory,growth,automatic,brown,long,david,marvin,Bangkok,Thailand,thai,Chinese,teaching,learning,studying,linguist,TESOL,TEFL,ESL,English,Second,Foreign,other,languages,thai,Thailand,Bangkok,AUA

Shackled by the Neck Dispute

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2010 at 4:04 am

The Long Neck Karen and the Backpacker

By Antonio Graceffo

The Long Neck Karen Tribe are forced to work in a human zoo, but smelly, hippy backpackers think it’s great.

Most readers know I have worked in the war zone in Burma and have worked on Burma related tribal issues for years, doing stories and documenting human rights abuses. A few years ago I did a story called “Shackled by The Neck,” about the Long Neck Karin (Padoung) people who fled the war in Burma but were forced to work in human zoos in Thailand. They must sell trinkets to tourists and nearly 100% of the money they earn is collected by their Chinese-Thai owners. They are also prevented from reaching UN camps and becoming official refugees. So, rather than looking forward to possible resettlement in a third country, they are sentenced to live out their days working as freaks in a show in Thailand. These villages live on tourism, and a lot of hippy, smelly backpackers write blogs about how happy the Long Neck are with this arrangement. “I asked them and they said they were happy.” Is one of the most common and stupid comments I have heard. According to local culture if a situation is beyond your control, then you just say you are happy with it because you can’t change it. Also there are armed agents in these villages who make trouble for journalists and who would punish these ladies if they said anything insulting about their bosses or if they asked for help. Here is a link to the article in a web mag called “Cultures on the Brink.” http://cultureonthebrink.blogspot.com/2008/03/shackled-by-neck-by-antonio-graceffo.html I went back to the same village and did a short documentary film and posted it on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ay4do-WH6k A few months ago a terribly naïve human being wrote a comment on the video saying how great the villages were and how wrong I was. We have since had one of those insane back and forth dialogues that only I can manage with my haters. She hasn’t stopped. She also doesn’t seem to have read ANYTHING in the months since we started and her entire opinion seems to be based on a single visit to the village. I will post the back and forth comments below out of sadistic pleasure but the point I want to make, apart from just telling one more new audience about the war in Burma, is that you need to inform yourself. You need to read. And today, because of the internet, every piece of information that has ever existed is available to you, free of charge and so well organized it could take minutes or even seconds to find it. I needed a bunch of statistical data for an article I was writing recently for an economics magazine. It took literally five minutes to find tons and tons of reliable data published by government and non-government organizations. Lack of reading and research is a symptom of complete laziness. And it is that type of laziness that allows people to support terrible policies. Whether it be in Burma or at home Those CAN read but DON’T, are no better than those who CAN’T. ReadBelowHere 1 hour ago everyone should continue to visit these ‘tourist villages’ because its the only income they have, even if its just a percentage. these padong people are the best off of all villages because of the tourism. they like it when tourists come because they get money. brooklynmonk1 17 minutes ago @ReadBelowHere the villages are prisons on zoos. the people are denied the basic rights of self-determination and freedom of movement. if they are in these villages they can’t become official refugees and get resettled in a third country. nearly 100% of the money they earn is taken by the Puyai Ban who own the villages. But i thought i explained all of this to you several times already. ReadBelowHere 2 weeks ago @brooklynmonk1 so you want to resort to violence when you dont agree with people? i guess you’re no different than these people’s oppressors. meh, ending conversation. you’re boring me. brooklynmonk1 2 weeks ago @ReadBelowHere actually i am very different than these people’s oppressors because i am writing and speaking out against the oppression but you are supporting it. yes, i would resort to violence against people who support oppression, and you fit that category. ReadBelowHere 2 weeks ago @brooklynmonk1 so we are in agreement, their source of income is not farming like you previously let on – its tourism. glad we could agree. in thailand now, its late. going to bed. brooklynmonk1 2 weeks ago @ReadBelowHere i didnt let on that farming was their number one source of income. i said traditionally farming is their number one source of income. you so clearly know nothing about the tribes. you are in chiang mai, try and get some education. ReadBelowHere 2 weeks ago yah so basically if you want these people to starve, then don’t visit their ‘village’. if you want them to get what little money they do get from tourism, then go buy some stuff, or donate some money to each stand. brooklynmonk1 2 weeks ago @ReadBelowHere we are not in agreement. yuo are completely uninformed and if you are in chiang mai, i would love to get in a boxing ring with you. how could you accept that as agreement? you are weak. brooklynmonk1 2 weeks ago Block User @ReadBelowHere Then they lied to you because they are farmers and gatherers in Burma. but they are forced to work in this tourism village. what do think, historically, they have always worked in tourism villages for centuries? You think they are natural Carnival folk or something? ReadBelowHere 2 weeks ago @brooklynmonk1 i visited these tribes and spoke with them. they depend on tourism. Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries. See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe. http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1 Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets. His books are available on amazon.com Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com His website is http://www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site. Antonio now has a paypal account. The only way he can keep filming and writing is with the help and support of people who enjoy reading his stories and watching his videos. You can donate through Antonio’s facebook profile, or you can click on this link and donate directly. https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=HQJVMYFGNYX58 If you can help, thank you so much. If you can’t help, don’t worry about it. I know things are tough out there. But, either way, please keep watching and enjoying Martial Arts Odyssey. I never wanted this to become a huge business, and I wanted everyone in the world to be able to watch for free. Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,Thailand,thai,tribal,tribe,burma,ethnic,minority,Karen,padoung,padung,long,neck

Jab-Cross Sixty-Four

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 at 4:36 am

Simple Self-Defense Striking

By Antonio Graceffo

In a spy novel I read in the 80’s, it said that part of the hand-to-hand combat training given to Russian special operatives was a drill which consisted of eighty punches a minute. The idea was, when training special ops or other military people you don’t have years to dedicate to fight training. You can’t teach them to be Muhammad Bruce Lee. But, if they are attacked and they react by throwing 80 punches a minute, targeted on the face and throat of their assailant, they should be able to escape.

As I said, it was a novel. And I haven’t verified the story. But the idea made sense. Not everyone is a professional fighter. And not everyone is willing to spend three hours per day training. So, when I am teaching a short course for police or military, these are the kind of ideas I have to think of. How can we take normal people and give them enough skills over the course of a day or a week, to effectively defend themselves?

Now that I am working with Kru Jak Othman at his Muay Thai gym in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, I see how Kru Jak was faced with a similar problem. Many people enjoy watching Muay Thai and MMA on the internet. And now that there will be some Malaysian fighters on the TV show, “The Contender Asia,” Muay Thai has become even more popular in Malaysia. People join the class because they want to fight. Or, more accurately, because they think they want to fight. But at the end of the day, only a very small percentage of people would ever put in the hours and months required to prepare themselves for a professional fight. And frankly, most people don’t need to. They just need a fun way to get fit, make friends, and learn some self defense.

With this in mind, Kru Jak modified the professional Muay Thai training and made it into drills which were accessible to normal people. In my Muay Thai or Khmer Boxing training, I do between four and six rounds of pad work per day, in the ring, with my coach. The coach wears the Thai pads or sometimes boxing coache’s mitts. He calls out combinations, and I hit. He corrects my performance and we continue. The idea is that pad work builds cardio and strength, but also technique, and timing. One important aspect of pad work is learning to throw combinations, instead of single punches. The coach may call out, “jab, cross, two right kicks” or “hook, hook, knee, knee, push kick.”

The coach would do four to six rounds with me, and then do rounds with each of the other five or so guys who train at that level.

But in a martial arts school where you have twenty five students in a class, it wouldn’t be possible for a single coach to take everyone on the pads. So, students have to learn to hold pads for each other. The combinations also have to be somewhat simplified, so beginning students can follow along.

This all leads to the development of the simplest, but most physically demanding combination in the Kru Jak repertoire, jab-cross sixty-four. Students are paired up, one holding pads, one hitting. The teacher calls out the simple combinations. “jab-cross”, “jab-cross, move out”. The combinations get more involved as they train: “jab-cross two, lead kick two.” Finally, they reach the dreaded moment when the teacher shouts, “Jab-cross sixty-four.” The students throw sixty-four repetitions of jab-cross, or 128 punches.

Throwing 128 punches in succession is hard for a firs timer. And when students finally build up enough that they can complete the exercise, they feel good about themselves. Their self-confidence goes up, and the probability of them ever being a victim goes down.

Kru Jak told me about one of his female students who found herself in a date-rape situation. At just the right moment, her training kicked in, and she threw jab-cross sixty-four, her assailant was hospitalized.

The girl in question wasn’t a professional fighter. She didn’t know all of the intricate techniques that Steven Segal could do, but she hit a man with sixty-four jab crosses that she had been practicing three times per week for a period of months.

At the end of the day, anyone who throws sixty-four punches in quick succession is probably going to win the fight.

For the more advanced students, and for my own training, I have added a drill of one-hundred kicks. If you could mess up an attacker with 64 jab crosses, imagine what one-hundred kicks would do to someone.

For effective self-defense the most important thing is simple techniques that you practice over and over again. In a crisis situation, you won’t have time to think. Only those techniques that you trained will come out as a natural reaction.

There is nothing simpler to understand than jab-cross sixty-four and practicing it is simply a matter of practicing it.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

Antonio now has a paypal account. The only way he can keep filming and writing is with the help and support of people who enjoy reading his stories and watching his videos.

You can donate through Antonio’s facebook profile, or you can click on this link and donate directly.

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=HQJVMYFGNYX58

If you can help, thank you so much. If you can’t help, don’t worry about it. I know things are tough out there. But, either way, please keep watching and enjoying Martial Arts Odyssey. I never wanted this to become a huge business, and I wanted everyone in the world to be able to watch for free.

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,martial,arts,odyssey,kyokushin,muay,thai,Bokator,boxing,kick,kickboxing,silat,TMA,traditional,fight,fighting,training,conditioning,kuala,Lumpur,selengore,selengor,Cambodia,malay,Malaysia,Bangkok,Thailand,thai

Martial Arts Odyssey Volume One DVD Trailer 2

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 5:54 am

“Martial Arts Odyssey: Volume One” DVD featuring the martial arts, Kuntaw and Bokator

From Manila, Philippines, to Phnom Penh Cambodia, “Martial Arts Odyssey: Volume One” DVD takes you to previously unexplored corners of the martial arts world. Join Host Antonio Graceffo, as he begins his decade-long journey, walking the warriors path.

Watch the trailer for free on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbiJXg30WHI

DVD coming soon!

“Martial Arts Odyssey” has been a web TV show for nearly three years, and 160 webisodes, spanning nine countries and countless martial arts. Now the web TV show is moving to an artfully edited DVD series edited by filmmaker, Charlie Armour and of course, starring Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo.

“Martial Arts Odyssey: Volume One” will feature never before seen footage, interviews, and photos all shot on location, in the exotic world of Asian martial arts.

Coming soon.

Watch the trailer for free on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbiJXg30WHI

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Body Conditioning and Hardening for Fighters

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 at 7:46 am

By Antonio Graceffo

Shihan Mike told us to put a pad into our belt, which would partially soften the blows to the abdomen. When he said “start” my partner started punching me in the stomach with his bare hands. He didn’t stop until the signal was given, two minutes later. My partner, a huge Cantonese guy, about 22 years old, was hitting me so hard that it was pushing me backward. I kept seeing images of my internal organs rupturing and bleeding.

“This is how Hudini died.” I reminded him. But he just kept on pounding, till Shian said stop.

Now it was my turn, and I pummeled the Cantonese guy for all I was worth. My force also knocked him backwards, but like me, like everyone in the room, he just took it. He stood his ground and never asked me to slow down or to stop.

This exercise was just one of many Kyokushin body conditioning exercises, designed to prepare the fighters for the Kumite or fighting competition.

It was painful, but ever since seeing the movie “Blood Sport” as a kid, I have been dying to participate in an event called The Kumite. And if internet debunkers are right, Frank Dux would also like an opportunity to compete in such an event.

Monday to Friday I train in Silat Kalam and in Muay Thai. My training day goes form 4:00 PM till 10:00. At 10:00 PM I start teaching sparring class at the Muay Thai gym. Sundays are the only day I am free to attend Kyokushin and it is always a struggle to get myself out of bed and out of the house. This particular Sunday was problematic because I had had diarrhea all day. It is a gross reality of training in Asia. You will periodically get stomach problems. And it is your choice to train through them or just baby yourself. But they happen so frequently, if you cancelled training every time you spent more than an hour on the toilet, you wouldn’t get much training done at all.

I am human, so, needless to say, I almost cancelled training. But I pushed through and I went. Shihan Michael was away, fighting in Japan, so another teacher was taking the class. The class was physically very easy, mostly katas and no kicks or sparring or conditioning. I felt slightly cheated, but honestly, I was in no shape to do a full work out. My friend Chris said to me, “You look completely white.” and gave me some re-hydration packets.

After class, Chris and I did a little conditioning. Sicne beginning Kyokushin, I have now added the thigh conditioning to my Muay Thai training for my self and my students. We just stand in a Muay Thai stance and let the opponent kick our thighs, inside ten times, outside ten times, on each thigh. Then you kick him. Then he kicks you. Chris told me they also condition their forearms so they can block kicks. The conditioning was the same as Wing Chun or what the Vovinam teacher did to me in Vietnam. Two men stand facing each other, and swing their bodies, knocking their forearms together. Whap! Whap! Bone against bone. It hurts so much.

In addition to believing that Kyokushin body hardening or conditioning, should be part of a fighters daily routine, I also like this training because it is not cardio intensive. For example, yesterday I was ill and not able to do lots of rounds on the pads or the bag. But I was well enough to stand still and let someone pound on my body.

In Kyokushin we also do rounds where you stand and let a man pound on your stomach with bare hands, but I skipped these on my diarrhea days.

In teaching Muay Thai to beginners, or “normal people”, one issue is that they only have so much cardio fitness. For normal people, a two hour training sessions is like running a marathon. And I can’t ask them to do more cardio work outside of class because they have full time job s and school. So, all of their training has to be in that narrow window when they come to class. If I see they are dying, I want to give them a break. But if I give them too many breaks, they will feel I cheated them out of their training time. So, switching from cardio and pad work to conditioning is a low intensity way to make them feel they are still training, but without making more demands on their depleted energy reserves. Also, as the conditioning requires two partners to hit each other, one is getting a lesson in taking hits, and one is getting a lesson in delivering them. When you train normal people you have to teach them to hit as well as get hit.

With other martial arts, apart from Kyokushin, they condition forearms and knuckles and other parts of the body. And I have always laughed at them. Why do they do it? They are so proud of how much conditioning they do, and are always quick to tell me that no boxer or Muay Thai could handle even one session of conditioning. But then when we fight, it becomes apparent that they can’t beat even a novice boxer or Muay Thai. So, I always feel they are enduring all of that pain for nothing.

For example: Why did the Tae Kwan Do guys I trained with in Taiwan take so much pride in conditioning their knuckles. Yes, their knuckles were much harder than mine, but then none of them knew how to throw a punch. In fact, their martial art doesn’t even allow punches. And Vo Co Tryuen guys in Vietnam were banging their forearms on a metal flagpole for conditioning, so they could block kicks. But in their art, they never actually fight. How hard do your forearms have to be to do demonstration forms? Many of the martial artists I trained with stressed the importance of running, to build cardio. But their fights, in addition to not being full contact, lasted less than a minute or certainly less than a round. So, how much cardio did they need?

A boxing fight is a minimum of three three-minute rounds. Muay Thai is five two-minute rounds. You need cardio for that. In both sports you throw heavy punches. And yet, we don’t condition our hands. The only part of the body Muay Thai fighters condition is their shins. The rest happens naturally. The VoVinam guys in Ho Chi Minh city were telling me how weak Muay Thai was because of this lack of body hardening. They were also amazed that I couldn’t do a flip or a hand spring, “But you said you are a fighter.” They remarked in complete disbelief. Obviously, it wouldn’t even have been fair for me to fight one of those guys because they had no clue about fighting.

What I like about Kyokushin is that they condition their shins, but it is because they hit with their shins. So, it makes sense. They condition their thighs, but they also get kicked in the thighs. So, that makes sense. They condition their hands. But, this is because they punch, for real, bare knuckle, in their fights. So, again, this makes sense. And when Chris told me they also condition their forearms to block kicks, that made sense, because this is what really happens in their fights.

Kyokushin body conditioning makes sense. And if you doubt them, they would be happy to get in a ring with you, instantly, and show you whether their system works. Boxers and Muay Thai do between zero and very little body conditioning, but it also works. The only answer I can come up with is that maybe intentional body conditioning is overkill. Perhaps the constant sparring, pad work and fighting is enough to condition a boxer or a Muay Thai. I would imagine, although we haven’t tested it out, I could take more shots to the face or head than most of my Kyokushin friends. But I never conditioned my head or face, it just happened naturally over a lifetime of fighting.

Maybe Kyokushin body conditioning speeds up the natural process. At the end of two years or four years of that constant battering, the Kyokushin fighter achieves pain thresholds that take a lifetime to develop in other sports. Or, maybe it is just better. No matter what, they are obviously doing something right in Kyokushin, because they can fight and beat nearly any other Traditional Martial Art (TMA) and are the only TMA I know of that could get in the ring and spar with Muay Thai and be fine.

One of my Kyokushin friends wrote me and asked about training in Thailand. He said he wanted to train Muay Thai. The one strange thing was, he said he wanted to learn it for self-defense. It appears to me, Kyokushining someone’s  head would also be a good means of self-defense, but I won’t discourage anyone who wants to learn Khmer Boxing or Muay Thai.

If my best Kyokushin friend wanted to come to my Muay Thai gym, I would need to teach him combination punches, and how to go to the head. But I wouldn’t change much of anything about his kicks or blocks. One big change for him would be going from a single two minute round in Kyokushin to five two-minute rounds in Muay Thai. But, I feel confident he could spar the first day, and hopefully learn to fight in about a month or two. But if the best Tae Kwan Do or VoVinam guy wanted to learn Muay Thai, it would be a long painful road. They would have the flexibility and athleticism but they wouldn’t have the punches OR the fighting. They also wouldn’t have the threshold of pain necessary to fight.

Adding Kyokushin type body conditioning to a fighter’s regime makes sense to me. Everywhere I go, and every art I train, I try and find something I can take back to the Muay Thai or Bokator gym.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

Antonio now has a paypal account. The only way he can keep filming and writing is with the help and support of people who enjoy reading his stories and watching his videos.

You can donate through Antonio’s facebook profile, or you can click on this link and donate directly.

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=HQJVMYFGNYX58

If you can help, thank you so much. If you can’t help, don’t worry about it. I know things are tough out there. But, either way, please keep watching and enjoying Martial Arts Odyssey. I never wanted this to become a huge business, and I wanted everyone in the world to be able to watch for free.

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,martial,arts,odyssey,kyokushin,muay,thai,Bokator,boxing,kick,kickboxing,silat,TMA,traditional,fight,fighting,training,conditioning,kuala,Lumpur,selengore,selengor,Cambodia,malay,Malaysia,Bangkok,Thailand,thai

Martial Arts Odyssey: Kyokushin Selengor (Parts 1 through 3)

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 at 7:39 am

Martial Arts Odyssey: Kyokushin Selengor (Part 1)

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo travels to Selengor, Malaysia, where he meets Shihan Michael Ding, Malaysia premier instructor of Kyokushin. Billed as the world’s hardest karate, Kyokushin is one of very few traditional martial arts which is well respected in fighting circles. In Kyokushin they condition every part of their body for toughness and spar bare-knuckles, full contact. Watch Antonio wince as he absorbs bare-knuckle punches to the chest and abdomen. Punches to the face are not allowed, but kicks to the head and face are. Antonio’s primary trainer, Paddy Carson, is a second degree black belt in Kyokushin and recommend that Antonio seek out this incredible art, originally developed by Mas Oyama.

Join Antonio Graceffo on facebook.com

Martial Arts Odyssey: Kyokushin Selengor (Part 1)

Watch it for free on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71FTcE_JQcI

Martial Arts Odyssey: Kyokushin Selengor (Part 2)

Watch it for free on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByiTA4aGuMs

Martial Arts Odyssey: Kyokushin Selengor (Part 3)

Watch it for free on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QIr6N4296w

Martial Arts Odyssey: Kyokushin Selengor (Part 2)

Senior students put Antonio Graceffo through his paces, conditioning hands and shins. The students also continue with their sparring.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Kyokushin Selengor (Part 3)

Antonio Graceffo gets hus butt kicked by a girl. He interviews Sensei Michael Ding about the importance of conditioning.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com

This episode was edited by Antonio Graceffo and features the official Martial Arts Odyssey intro and outro by Andy To.

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