Teachers and Mentors

By Mike Suyematsu

I have had many great teachers and mentors in my life. Number one would be my Dad, Taro Suyematsu. He worked two and sometimes three jobs his whole life. He raised a family of five rowdy boys who never really gave him rest until the later years of his life. He had his share of dust ups and fights through out his life first as a young boy protecting my Aunts from “Jap” haters and later as a bartender.

Dad was big on teaching us boys to behave, but always gave us permission to stand up for ourselves. He hated bullies. I was raised in a small town where I stood out as a complete oddity being mixed race. I got picked on and jumped in school, at the park, on the way to the store, at the carnival, etc, etc.

One time when I was about 12, I was afraid to go to school because this idiot kept picking on me and I knew if I fought him I would get suspended. I told Dad about it and I remember our conversation like it was yesterday…

“Hey Dad I’m afraid I might get in trouble at school. This kid keeps on picking on me and he won’t leave me alone.”

Dad looked up from his dinner and asked, “Is this guy an idiot?”

“Yeah Dad he just won’t leave me alone and I don’t know what to do.”

“Mike, if this guy is an idiot you don’t have a choice. You can’t talk to an idiot. The only thing an idiot understands is pain. The only thing you do with an idiot is beat the shit out of him. He will understand that.”

The next day I got suspended from school. The idiot walked up to me in the hall before first period and started his shit. I lit him up with a single punch to the nose which dropped him into a pile of sobbing snot and blood.

It was the best day I ever had at school. Dad made me do chores and kept me busy for the three days I was off from school. I had lots of witnesses who came to the principal to testify that my actions were in self defense.

I had to apologize to the idiot, but everything was cool from then on. Pain is a great communicator. At that point, my Dad set my attitude in stone…

I have great respect for Dan Inosanto, Vut Kamnark, the sayoc system, etc. the reason I studied Martial Arts was not to compete, it was to save my ass. The number one thing you have to have is attitude. The system you learn may or may not work for you. You can develop tools, like punches, kicks, take downs and chokes. You can develop attributes like timing, speed, agility and strength.

But everything is worthless until the mind is engaged. Some of the absolute best fighters I have ever met have no name recognition. In fact some of them are dead or in jail. Most of them never opened schools or made it in to Black Belt Magazine.

Here is a short list of names of some of the most dangerous fighters I have ever trained with:

Henry R.
Alfred C.
Angel Cabales
Tony Blauer
Eric Shingu
Vince Lopez
Raymond Lopez
Mike S. (not me!)
Brandon B.
Ryan M.
Hank D.
Keith K.

I have left out the last name of some on the list because they are in prison or don’t wish to be identified. At least one of them is currently in a witness protection program. A few are active LEO’S, SWAT Officers, Snipers and have experience in MMA and Kick Boxing as well as BJJ. A few have killed doing crimes and a few have killed in the line of duty protecting us from the bad guys.

Most of my life has been spent looking for what works in the street. Ring sports like MMA and Boxing are sources of entertainment and knowledge. There is some overlap between ring or cage sports and street, but they are definitely not the same.

In order to train for the street you must include dealing with multiples opponents and opponents with weapons, single or multiple. It is in this arena that things get radically different than the cage or ring.

That being said, on the physical side of things you must be able to mount a good unarmed attack because you won’t in most cases have your weapon out and ready to in everyday life. Learning to take contact is critical. Anyone can do it, safely and scientifically with the right teacher and equipment. I love Tony Blauer’s High Gear just for that purpose. If you do MMA, Kick Boxing or Boxing, you can deal with contact.

Here is my first lesson for anyone who is interested in learning about learning to protect yourself or loved ones from a street assault.

1. Check out Tony Blauer’s Cerebral  Self Defense audio CDs.
2. Check out Marc McYoung’s website.
3. Pick up a copy of Rory Miller’s book, “Meditations on Violence

That’s it for now.

Take Care,


TAKU’s NOTE: Last December I mentioned that we would add some new articles about Self defense from one of our inner circle Mike Suyematsu. Well it took me a while to get around to it… Thanks to Mike S. for sharing some of his stories with us. I’ll be looking forward to many more in the not too distant future.

High Intensity Strength Training For Better Body Composition

Submitted with permission by: Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D.

During the past several years we have learned a lot about the effects of strength training and body composition. For example, a carefully controlled study at Tufts University showed significant changes in body composition from a basic program of strength exercise (Campbell et al. 1994).

The subjects added three pounds of lean weight, lost four pounds of fat weight, increased their resting metabolic rate by seven percent and increased their daily energy requirements by 15 percent after 12 weeks of strength training.

Research with over 1100 previously sedentary adults revealed similar body composition improvements from eight weeks of standard strength training (Westcott and Guy 1996). The program participants increased their lean weight by 2.4 pounds and decreased their fat weight by 4.6 pounds.

Of course, unfit individuals tend to improve their body composition at faster rates than people who are presently doing strength exercise. Many people want to know if strength training can further enhance body composition in well-conditioned exercisers.

Previous studies have demonstrated that various high-intensity training techniques are more effective than standard training protocols for increasing muscle strength in both beginning and advanced participants (Westcott 1996, 1997a, 1997b; Westcott and La Rosa Loud 1997). As shown in Figures 1 and 2, slow training produced greater strength gains than standard training for both beginning and advanced trainees. As illustrated in Figures 3 and 4, breakdown training resulted in greater strength gains than standard training for both beginning and advanced exercisers. Likewise, assisted training generated greater strength gains than standard training for both beginning and advanced subjects (see Figures 5 and 6).

We have recently examined the effects of combined high-intensity training techniques on body composition changes in well-conditioned participants. The six-week advanced exercise program included slow training, breakdown training, assisted training, and pre-exhaustion training. The 48 subjects added 2.5 pounds of lean weight and lost 3.3 pounds of fat weight as a result of their training efforts, which represented more improvement than we expected from regular strength exercisers.

We have been pleased with our participants’ positive response to the combined approach of high-intensity strength training techniques. Our standard exercise protocol is outlined in Table I.

We observed that many program participants selected the pre-exhaustion technique for their sixth week of high intensity training. Although we do not have data that show this training method to be better than the others, there may be some benefit in performing more pre-exhaustion sessions. Psychologically, changing exercises at the point of muscle fatigue may be more appealing than performing more repetitions of the same movement pattern with less weight or with manual resistance. Physiologically, performing two different exercises for the target muscle group recruits more muscle fibers which may enhance the training stimulus. In addition to more exercises, pre-exhaustion programs require more training time and may therefore be the best high-intensity technique for burning calories.

Table I: Standard Exercise Protocol

Week Days

Training Technique

Total Exercises

Total Time

1. M & F Breakdown (10 reps to fatigue plus 3 reps with 10-20% less weight)


20 Minutes

2. M & F Assisted  (10 reps to fatigue plus 3 reps with  manual assistance)


20 Minutes

3. M & F Slow Positive  (5 reps to fatigue with 10 seconds lifting and 4 seconds lowering)


20 Minutes

4. M & F Slow Negative  (5 reps to fatigue  with 4 seconds lifting and 10 seconds lowering)


20 Minutes

5. M & F Pre-Exhaustion (10 reps to fatigue with first exercise plus 5 reps with second exercise)


25 Minutes

6. M & F Personal Preference  (Trainee chooses the technique that seemed most productive)


20-25 Minutes

As many of our intermediate level strength trainees want to improve their body composition, we presently provide high-intensity training programs with more emphasis on pre-exhaustion techniques (Table II). The results are encouraging, but we try to be cautious about overtraining. Our members seem to respond well to six weeks of high-intensity training followed by six weeks of standard training to maintain their new level of strength and fitness.

Although we have not previously provided nutritional counseling to our high-intensity training participants, this would undoubtedly be beneficial for clients who want to lose fat as well as build muscle. A combination of individualized high-intensity strength exercise and sound dietary guidelines should produce significant improvements in body composition.

Table II: High Intensity Training Techniques






Breakdown Training Perform about 10 reps to fatigue with standard weightload. Immediately  reduce resistance 10-20%  and perform about 3 more reps to second level of fatigue. Complete 10 leg extensions with 150 lbs., then 3 more reps with 120 lbs. Change resistance as quickly as possible  to maximize the training effect.
Assisted Training Perform about 10 reps to fatigue with standard weightload. Trainer assists with 3 post fatigue reps on lifting  phase only. Complete 10 leg extensions with 150 lbs., then 3 more reps – with manual assistance from trainer. Assistance is given only on the positive muscle action where it is necessary, but not on the stronger nega- tive muscle action when it’s unnecessary.
Slow Positive Training Perform about 5 reps to fatigue with 10% less than standard weight-load, taking 10 seconds for each positive muscle action and 4 seconds for each negative muscle action. Complete 5 leg extensions with 135 lbs., counting 10 secs up and 4 secs down for each rep. Be sure to breathe continuously throughout every repetition.
Slow Negative Training Perform about 5 reps to fatigue with 5% less than standard weightload, taking 4 seconds for each positive muscle action 10 seconds for each negative muscle action. Complete 5 leg extensions with 142.5 lbs., counting 4 secs up and 10 secs and down for each rep. Use smooth and continuous move- ments, rather than choppy stop and go movements.
Pre-Exhaustion Training Perform two successive exercises for target muscle groups, typically a rotary exercise followed immed- iately by a linear exercise. Use 10 reps to fatigue in the first exercise and 5 reps to fatigue in the second. Complete 10 leg extensions with 150 lbs., then 5 leg presses with 300 lbs. Take as little time as possible between the two successive exercises to maximize the

Table III: Examples of Pre-Exhaustion Exercise Combinations

1. Leg extension followed by leg press. 2. Leg curl followed by leg press. 3. Dumbbell lunge followed by barbell squat. 4. Dumbbell fly followed by barbell bench press. 5. Dumbbell pullover followed by lat pulldown. 6. Dumbbell lateral raise followed by dumbbell press. 7. Dumbbell curl followed by chin up. 8. Dumbbell overhead extension followed by bar dip.

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. Dr. Westcott has written the Muscular Strength And Endurance chapter for the ACE Personal Trainer Manual and has authored several textbooks on strength training.


Campbell, W., M. Crim, V. Young & W. Evans. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 60: 167-175.

Westcott, W. (1996). Strength training for life: Make your method count. Nautilus Magazine, Spring 5: 2, 3-5.

Westcott, W. and Guy, J. (1996) A physical evolution: Sedentary adults see marked improvements in as little as two days a week. IDEA Today 14: 9, 58-65.

Westcott, W. (1997a). Research: Research on advanced strength training. American Fitness Quarterly, 15: 4, 15-18.

Westcott, W. (1997b). Strength training 201. Fitness Management, 13:7, 33-35.

Westcott, W. and La Rosa Loud, R. (1997). A better way to beef up strength workouts. Perspective, 23: 5, 32-34.

TAKU’s NOTE: This week I offer yet another excellent article from my friend and mentor Dr Wayne Westcott.

Balanced training or Training for balance



I’ve been working as a trainer for 25 years now. Back when I first started, I learned quickly that strength was, and is the most important quality we can cultivate. Strength training using evidence based exercise concepts is the safest, and most efficient method to impact global health and fitness in minimal time. As I have said before, strength is the foundation of function.

As a strength coach and personal trainer, the question of training for balance often comes up. Athletes often want to know if there is an exercise that they can do that will improve their balance in their chosen sport. For average fitness folks the balance question most often arises as it relates to aging and maintaining mobility.

Many coaches and trainers on the “Balance Training” Band-Wagon claim that functional exercises should be performed on an unstable surface, in order to promote  balance. This is a very common approach to training equilibrium, whereby the emphasis is placed on proprioceptive sensitivity and core stability. While it seems, superficially, to be an obvious method of choice, it is actually counterproductive to real functional stability. The irony in these methods is that the property that is introduced to try to enhance balance control — an unstable surface — is the very element that prevents the nervous system from correcting for postural deviations.

Stay with me here…

Equilibrium is maintained through the application of force into the ground. As the center of gravity shifts over the base of support, force is applied through the feet in order to re-center the center of gravity. The inherent problem with labile surfaces (wobble boards, dyna-discs etc) is that the objective of the exercise is to avoid displacing the surface. In other words, the goal is to keep the surface from moving. To do this, the subject must actually resist applying force to the surface, and therefore, is being trained not to exert force which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. Clearly this practice would have a dubious effect on balance control.


Furthermore, this type of balance training involves static balance control, in which motion of the center of gravity is severely restricted. Hamilton and colleagues (2008), quite interestingly, report no correlation between static balance control and hopping capability, a very dynamic stability problem, and one of those “highly functional” movement skills.

What does seem to aid in balance control is increased muscular strength and power. Research demonstrates evidence of a direct correlation between muscular strength and power, and the ability to maintain balance (Orr, et al, 2006, Santos and Liu, 2008). Butler and associates (2008) have even determined that insufficient strength in the ankle musculature results in a reduction of proprioceptive acuity. Conversely, increased muscle force capacity contributes to enhanced proprioceptive capability. Arguably, equilibrium may be enhanced through a simple process of muscle strength development that promotes force application. This may, in fact, be accomplished on a leg press.

The truth is that balance is task specific. A common misconception is that fundamental abilities can be trained through various drills or other activities. The thinking is that, with some stronger ability, the athlete will see gains in performance for tasks with this underlying ability.

For example, coaches often use various balancing drills to increase general balancing ability. Such attempts to train fundamental abilities may sound fine, but usually they simply do not work. Time, and often money, would be better spent practicing the eventual goal skills.

There are two correct ways to think of these principles.

First, there is no general ability to balance, rather, balance is based on many diverse abilities, so there is no single balance ability, for example, that can be trained.

Second, even if there were such general abilities, these are, by definition, genetic and not subject to modification through practice. Therefore, attempts to modify ability with a nonspecific drill are ineffective. A learner may acquire additional skill at the drill (which is, after all, a skill itself), but this learning does not transfer to the main skill of interest.

Do not attempt to mimic or imitate a skill by using a completely separate *gadget, or with exercises in the weight room. It can’t be done. Strengthen the muscles in the weight room, develop a high level of conditioning, and practice the skills used to play your sport or game. It’s that simple!



*In Plain English: (Just in case I have not been 100% clear up to this point). You should never waste any time or energy doing any of the things demonstrated in the  images above if your goal is to improve performance in a totally separate sport or activity.

Excerpts from this article appear (with permission) from the article:

The Truth on Fitness:
Functional training
Paul M. Juris, Ed.D.
Executive Director, CybEx Institute

Other References

Bryant, C.X. (2008) What is functional strength training?
American Council on Exercise.

Butler, A.A., Lord, S.R., Rogers, M.W., and Fitzpatrick, R.C. (2008).
Muscle weakness impairs the proprioceptive control of human standing.
Brain Research. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.03.094

Greenfield, B. (2005). Functional exercise that makes sense.
Ezine Articles.

Hamilton, R.T., Shultz, S.J., Schmitz, R.J.