Let’s Get Ready To Rumble

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)Ronda_Rousey_expendables

A year ago, I was watching The Expendables 3 and feeling, honestly, a little bored, when a woman with a red dress entered the scene. She had long, blonde hair, and was wearing a pair of glasses. Aside from the fact that she was built a little bigger – and, should I say, more buff – than the average female Hollywood star, she looked quite ordinary. Sylvester Stallone and the other guy (they were in the scene with her) introduced the interesting lady as Luna.

What really caught my attention was what happened less than a minute later. A few people started fighting nearby, so Luna excused herself from the two gentlemen she was with, and headed towards the hubbub. Cracking her knuckles as she walked, and with a playful smirk on her face, she soon reached the troublemakers, grabbed one by the hair, and started throwing punches here and there.

Needless to say, I was wowed.

Of all the female action stars I’ve ever seen, in all of the movies I’ve ever watched, that lady was purely a badass.

Upon reaching home, I started doing a little reading on the mysterious and thrilling character. She was Ronda Rousey, and American Mixed Martial Artist. And that was how I came to know the sport.

MMA_Institute_Logo_WhiteIf you Google the term ‘mixed martial arts’, it is accurately defined as ‘an extreme combat sport in which contestants are permitted to use the fighting techniques of wrestling and boxing but also those of martial arts such as kickboxing, judo and karate’. In short, you can fight in whichever (legal) way you like in order to win. No gloves, no helmets, no weapons – just your bare hands, your guts, and your will to win.

Mixed Martial Arts – or simply MMA for short – originated in ancient Greece. It was even featured in the Olympics back then, though under a different name. At that time, this sport was referred to as pankration, from the Greek words pan and kratos, which meant ‘all powers’. Competitors in pankration engage in hand-to-hand combat, and they enter the ring with only two rules in mind: no biting or eye gouging was allowed. The sport rose in popularity, and champions of the sport emerge as heroes and even became subjects of legends.

jiu jitsuThanks to Alexander the Great, pankration soon spread to India. See, Alexander the Great had a tendency to enlist athletes as his soldiers. He believed that the athletes could be useful for him, due to their stamina and combat skills. A Buddhist monk, who was also in India at the time, picked up bits and pieces of pankration and brought it back with him to China. As word began to spread about the sport, people around the globe started creating their own styles and versions of pankration, thus leading to the birth of several martial arts techniques – each with its own characteristic – such as judo, karate, kung fu, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

As martial increased in popularity, the concept of mixed-style competitions did as well. This was due to one expert in a martial arts style challenging an expert in another martial arts style, just to see which style was better. These competitions occurred for several decades around the world, until it reached the United States, where it became immensely popular.

Those taking part in these competitions soon realized that, in order to come out as a champion, they could not rely on only one type of fighting technique. So, they began learning other fighting styles to get an edge in the competition. From that point on, the competitive sport that is Mixed Martial Arts was born.

The rules of MMA may differ from one fighting organization to another. However, there are some basics that remain unchanged.mma cage vip fan experience

First and foremost, you are required to fight in your own weight class. If you weigh 100 lbs., you will not be facing a giant of 200 lbs.

In general, the weight classifications for men are as follows:

 

Class

Range of weight

Flyweight

Up to 125 lbs.

Bantamweight

Over 125 lbs. to 135 lbs.

Featherweight

Over 135 lbs. to 145 lbs.

Lightweight

Over 145 lbs. to 155 lbs.

Welterweight

Over 155 lbs. to 170 lbs.

Middleweight

Over 170 lbs. to 185 lbs.

Light heavyweight

Over 185 lbs. to 205 lbs.

Heavyweight

Over 205 lbs. to 265 lbs.

Super heavyweight

No weight limit

 

These are the weight classifications for the women:

Ronda Rousey Vip Fan experience

Class Range of weight
Strawweight 115 lbs.
Flyweight 125 lbs.
Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Featherweight 145 lbs.

There are, of course, more than one way to win the competition.

A fighter may win by:

  • Submission. This occurs when you manage to force your opponent to concede defeat. This is also known as ‘tapping out’.
  • Knockout (KO). When you successfully strike your opponent till he/she loses consciousness, you have achieved a knockout.
  • Technical submission. When your opponent is caught in a submission hold, and is unable to concede defeat on his/her own, and the referee has to step in to stop the fight.
  • Technical knockout (TKO). Also known as ‘referee stoppage’, this occurs when the referee has to step in because your opponent seems unlikely able to defend his/herself, or is getting a dangerous amount of damage from your strikes.
  • Judge’s decision. If the fight lasts all rounds, the three judges must decide who will come out the winner.
  • If you make more than 3 fouls, or if you foul your opponent to the point that he/she is unable to continue the fight, you are immediately disqualified.
  • No contest. This happens when you or your opponent is accidentally injured early in the fight and cannot continue any longer, and the judges are unable to decide the winner due to the insufficient number of rounds.

Although fights can be more fun to watch as they get more aggressive, some movements or actions are considered fouls. Fighters can find themselves penalized if they do any one of the following:

  • Groin attacks
  • Head butts
  • Eye gouging
  • Biting
  • Spitting at the opponent
  • Hair-pulling
  • Fish-hooking
  • Downward-pointing elbow strikes
  • Small-joint manipulation
  • Strikes directly to the spine
  • Strikes directly to the back of the head
  • Strikes to the throat
  • Heel kicks to the kidney
  • Clawing, pinching, or twisting the flesh
  • Kicking the head when the opponent is on the ground
  • Kneeing the head when the opponent is on the ground
  • Stomping when the opponent is on the ground
  • Swearing or abusive language
  • Attacking an opponent in between rounds
  • Intentionally throwing the opponent out of the fighting area
  • Flagrant disregard of the referee’s instructions
  • Spiking an opponent’s head or neck

For over a decade, MMA has been growing traction as a sport. Of course, the sport would be nothing if there weren’t any exceptional fighters to root for.

As I’ve mentioned in the beginning, Ronda Rousey is pretty renowned. Her acting chops aside, she presently holds the title of the first and current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion and the last Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion. In addition to that, she was the first US woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

Cristiane Justino is another force to be reckoned with. This Brazilian fighter is previously Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight Champion, and the current Invicta FC World Featherweight Champion. Before being discovered for her fighting skills, Cristiane was formerly a national-level team handball player in Brazil.

Another badass female fighter worth mentioning is Cat Zingano, who was the first woman to win a UFC fight by technical knockout. Zingano first fell in love with combat sports when she joined wrestling at 12 years old. As she grew older, she discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a fighting technique she continues to use in her MMA fights.

Georges St-Pierre is often cited as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. He has won the Welterweight Champion of the UFC two times, and the Interim Welterweight Champion of the UFC once. His fighting style is a mixture of kyokushin, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, boxing, and Muay Thai. He recently announced that he is taking some time off from fighting, though he is not counting out the possibility for return.

anderson silva mmaAnother person who is frequently called one of the greatest MMA fighters is Anderson da Silva. He was the former UFC Middleweight Champion, but he still holds the title of the longest defense streak in UFC history. His striking ability is considered one of the best in MMA.

Russian-born Fedor Emelianenko has won MMA Pride Fighting Championships, FIAS World Combat Sambo Championship, and a bronze medal in the Russian Judo Federation National Championship. Out of a total of 39 fights in his career, he has only managed to lose 4 – 3 by knockout, and 1 by submission.

With the rise in popularity of MMA, there is no doubt that in the years to come, more and more fighters would emerge. Small and local MMA gyms are even starting to open, promising to train amateurs the basics of combat. And it is not unclear why people love MMA – the adrenaline rush we get from watching our favorite fighters duke it out in the cage is just priceless.mma fighting

A little B-Ball fun

Basketball

Michael Jordan at Boston Garden
Michael Jordan at Boston Garden

I was introduced to basketball at a very young age. My brother, who is 7 years my senior, worshipped Michael Jordan. He would put up posters of Jordan all over the house, drop hints about how happy he would be if someone would give him the latest Air Jordans for his birthday, and gush about his idol’s latest achievement. Day and night he would prattle on and on about how he would someday play for the NBA, and finally my father, possibly tired of my brother’s relentless ramblings, bought a basketball hoop and attached it to the wall atop our garage.

I was probably 5 back then, and watching my brother come home from school daily and practice shooting orange balls into the hoop set pretty high off the ground (I was very short as a child) gave me a rough idea of the sport.

The game of basketball was created by Dr. James Naismith, who was a Presbyterian minister, and a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School (now known as Springfield College) in the United States. One day, he was tasked to prepare an indoor game that was to be an ‘athletic distraction’ for the students at the School for Christian Workers. He tried and failed to modify outdoor games such as soccer and lacrosse to be played indoors. Then, he remembered a game played during his youth called ‘duck-on-a-rock’, which involved players to knock a ‘duck’ – which was placed on top of a large rock – by throwing smaller rocks at it. The game required accuracy and concentration, and so Dr. Naismith decided it would be a perfect fit for the students.

Dr. Naismith’s veBasketball_ball385428_9836rsion of basketball differed greatly from the game that we know and love today. Originally, the game was played with a soccer ball, and participants of the game had to throw it into two peach baskets that still had their bottoms. The baskets were placed approximately 10 feet off the ground, and each time a score was made, players had to poke the basket with a long rod to get the ball out. Back then, the court was half the size of the courts today, and dribbling was disallowed.

The game was well-received, and it soon became an instant hit. In 1936, for the very first time, basketball was included in the Olympic Games.

Like all sports and games, basketball has its unique set of rules. First, let us cover the basics.

Basketball is a team sport. There are two teams in every game, and five players in every team. Basketball coaches also bring along five additional players in case anyone on the playing team gets injured or banned from resuming the game.

Each player is assigned his own role in the game. This role is usually established based on the player’s height. The tallest in the team plays the role of the ‘center’. The ones of medium height play the ‘forwards’ (‘small forward’ or ‘power forward’), and the shortest play the ‘guards’ (‘point guard’ or ‘shooting guard’).

The team that has the ball is referred to as the ‘offensive team’, while the other is called the ‘defensive team’.

Scores are awarded when a player manages to throw a ball into and through the basket. Different scores are awarded depending on where the shooter was when he made the shot. If he was outside the three-point line, the team would be awarded 3 points. If not, the shot would be worth 2 points. If a player shoots from the free throw line, his team would only be awarded 1 point.

There are, of course, several things to take note of to ensure one’s team does not make a ‘foul’. There are the ways to categorize a ‘foul’:

  • Personal foul. Any type of illegal physical contact is considered a personal foul. This can include any type of the following:
    • Hitting
    • Slapping
    • Pushing
    • Holding
    • Illegal pick/screen – when a player intentionally sticks out a limb and makes physical contact with a player from the opposing team to block the path of the opposing team’s player

Personal fouls are awarded penalties in the form of free throws.

  • This happens when a player is pushed or ran over by a player from the opposing team. The ball is given to the team to which the foul was committed.
  • This occurs when a player from the team did not position himself in time to prevent his opponent from throwing the ball, thus making illegal personal contact.
  • Flagrant foul. A flagrant foul is violent contact with a player from the opposing team.
  • Intentional foul. An intentional foul is when a player makes physical contact with his opponent without a clear effort to steal the ball.
  • Technical foul. When a player (or even the coach of the team) uses foul language, obscenities, impolite gestures, or even argue, a technical foul has been committed.

If a player has committed 5 fouls, then he can no longer be part of the game and must leave the court immediately.

Basketball players should also know not to break the rules of the game, otherwise they would be committing a violation. These are some examples:

  • Walking/Traveling. The action of taking more than 2 step without dribbling the ball is called walking or traveling. This is not allowed in the game.
  • Carrying/Palming. This occurs when a player resumes dribbling after letting the ball lie in one or both hands. Players must also keep his hands atop the ball at all times.
  • Double dribble. A player that momentarily stops dribbling the ball before doing so again, or dribbling the ball with both hands, has committed a double dribble violation. It is similar to carrying/palming.
  • Held ball. A held ball is when players of opposing teams have their hands firmly on the ball. The referee then must determine to which team the ball belongs.
  • A defensive player is allowed to block the ball while it is making its way to the basket, and doing so is known as ‘goaltending’. However, an offensive player is prohibited from doing so.
  • Backcourt violation. When the offensive team has made its way across the mid-court line with the ball, they are not allowed to go back across the line (while they still have the ball). Otherwise, they would be committing a backcourt violation.
  • Time restrictions. Players are generally allowed to hold the ball for five seconds before having to pass it on to their teammates.

Of course, basketball would be nothing without its superstars popularizing the game.Basketball court

As I’ve mentioned in the beginning, Michael Jordan – or MJ for short – is a celebrated basketball player. He played for 15 seasons in the NBA (National Basketball Association). From 1984 to 1993 and from 1995 to 1998, he played for the Chicago Bulls, before joining the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003. He has won the NBA championships six times, the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award six times (thus setting a record), the NBA Most Valuable Player Award five times, and was an NBA All-Star fourteen times. And these are just a few examples. Michael Jordan may be retired, but his legacy still lives on.

Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson Jr. is another basketball superstar. He was point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and played in the NBA for 13 seasons. He managed to secure the NBA championships five times, the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award and the NBA Most Valuable Player award three times respectively, and became an NBA All-Star twelve times. Like Jordan, he is retired.

Kobe Bryant is also a household name, who is presently playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. So far, he has won the NBA championships five times, won the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player twice, the NBA Most Valuable Player once, and is a seventeen-time NBA All-Star.

Basketball is not a game created for the males. There are top female basketball players as well.

Maya Moore plays forward for the Minnesota Lynx. At 26 years of age, she has already won numerous awards and accolades. For example, in 2014, she won the WNBA (Women’s National basketball Association) Most Valuable Player award. She is a four-time WNBA All-Star, and won the WNBA All-Star Game MVP just this year.

Another female basketball player worth mentioning is Candace Parker (sister of former basketball player Anthony Parker). Like Maya Moore, she plays the position of forward. She has played for the Los Angeles Sparks since 2008. She was a two-time WNBA MVP, and a three-time WNBA All-Star, to say the least.

basketball hoop against blue sky
basketball hoop against blue sky

Without my brother’s nonstop ramblings about basketball and the antics of Bugs Bunny and gang in the hit movie Space Jam, I would probably never understand the appeal of the game. I would still probably think of it as a bunch of tall men or women fighting over an orange ball with a snakeskin-like texture. Now that I am able to understand the game a little better, I can see why basketball is one of the world’s most-played sport.

 

Let’s get wet!

Swimming

kids swimming

I remember the first time I plunged into a swimming pool. I was probably 8 or 9 years old, and I was well aware of how overweight I was. I feared that if I were to go inside the clear, blue, funny-smelling water, I would definitely die in it. And I thought that being chubby would drag me down to the bottom faster.

My best friend was already inside the swimming pool, urging me to come in. She told me that she would keep me safe, and would not let anything happen to me. Reassured, I dipped my toe into the pool. The cold water stung at me, and I removed my toe from the water. I could see my best friend getting impatient. I took a deep breath, silenced all the thoughts and fears rushing through my head, and jumped in.

It was, to say the least, surprisingly refreshing. As my feet landed at the bottom of the pool, I instinctively propelled myself back up to the surface. At the top, I gasped for air and my hands quickly searched for something to hold on to. My best friend took my hand and laughed at me.

Over time, as my confidence grew and my anxiety melted away, my best friend taught me the basics of swimming.

There is, of course, more to swimming than just playing around in the pool.swimming fun

Since swimming is a day-to-day skill, it comes as no surprise that it dates back to the Stone Age. According to cave paintings, the primitive man used to swim in order to cross rivers and lakes. Swimming has even been mentioned in Greek mythology. However, swimming was not recognized as an organized sport until the 19th century.

The very first indoor swimming pool became open to the public in 1828 in England. Then, in 1837, the National Swimming Society started organizing swimming competitions. Back then, the swimmers generally used the breaststroke (or something similar to it) to swim. In 1844, two Native Americans participated in one of the swimming competitions and introduced a new style of swimming to the English crowd. An English swimmer named Sir John Arthur Trudgen took note of the Native Americans’ unique swimming style and developed it into what we know today as the trudgen or the racing stroke – regarded as one of the most powerful strokes to use today.

Swimming was first introduced in the Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. The Olympic events were freestyle in the beginning, until the backstroke was added in 1900. In 1912, women’s swimming was added to the Games.

During the 1940s, breaststroke swimmers found out that they were able to speed up if they bring both arms over their heads. This was immediately prohibited in breaststroke swimming, but this practice created the butterfly stroke (which would later be included in the Olympic Games in 1956). Today, four major strokes are mainly used in competitive swimming – freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly.

The rules of competitive swimming are pretty simple and straightforward. In the Olympics, the pool must measure 50 meters long, 25 meters wide, and 2 meters deep. The pool is divided into ten lanes labelled zero to nine or one to ten; the first and the last lanes are usually left empty in the semi-finals and finals. Each lane must be 2.5 meters wide. There are electronic timer pads positioned underwater to record the swimmers’ times.

There are a number of officials that preside over Olympic swimming. There is one referee to manage the entire procedure. There are four stroke judges to look for abnormalities in the strokes used by the swimmers. There are two race-start officials, two lead-turn officials, and two turn inspectors to make sure each swimmer touches the wall and turns correctly.

© Sport the library/Tom Putt Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games Swimming Day 3,  October 21st. Action shot of Daniel Bell (AUS) in the pool (butterfly) showing reflections.
© Sport the library/Tom Putt Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games Swimming Day 3, October 21st. Action shot of Daniel Bell (AUS) in the pool (butterfly) showing reflections.

Competitive swimmers normally equip themselves with goggles, swimming caps, and swimsuits. However, certain types of swimsuits are banned from the Olympics. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, some swimmers wore polyurethane and neoprene suits that helped them win the races and even broke records. These suits were found to repel water and helped bodies stay afloat. Now, only suits made mainly from woven fabric were allowed. Men’s suits were only allowed to reach from the waist to the knees; women’s suits could extend from the chest to the knees.

According to FINA (Fédération internationale de natation) – the governing body of swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming, and open water swimming – competitive swimmers are prohibited from certain actions. They are not allowed to pull on the lane line to drive themselves forward. They cannot walk along the bottom of the pool while the race is in progress. Any floatation or propulsion devices are disallowed, therefore swim fins, webbed gloves, or hand paddles cannot be used. Of course, swimmers must finish in the same lane in which they began.

You can’t think of Olympic swimming without thinking of Michael Phelps. This 30-year-old American has won a total of 22 medals, 18 of which are gold. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he obtained 8 gold medals, thus breaking the record of the most first-place finishes at any single Olympic Games. His many feats and achievements both inside and outside the Olympics has earned him the Swimming World magazine’s Swimmer of the Year Award seven times, the American Swimmer of the Year Award nine times, and the FINA Swimmer of the Year Award. Sports Illustrated magazine even named him the Sportsman of the Year in 2008.

Like Michael Phelps, Australian Ian Thorpe is another well-known swimmer from the Olympics. So far, he has won 5 Olympic gold medals, and was the most successful athlete in the 2000 Summer Olympics (having won three gold and two silver medals). He was the first person to win Swimming World’s Swimmer of the Year award four times, and was Australian Swimmer of the Year for four years. He was also presented with Medal of the Order of Australia for service to sport in 2001.

Mark Spitz – also known as ‘Mark the Shark’ – is considered the greatest swimmer in history. He has 9 Olympic gold medals. In the 1972 Munich Olympics (where he won 7 gold medals), he broke world records in all seven events he participated in. During his career as a competitive swimmer, he set 35 new world records. Swimming World named him Swimmer of the Year three times.

Eight-time Olympic gold medallist Jennifer Elisabeth Thompson is another decorated Olympic athlete. She has a total of twelve medals which she won in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympics. In 1993 and 1998, she was named USA Swimming’s Swimmer of the Year, Swimming World’s Female World Swimmer of the Year in 1998, Women’s Sports Foundation’s Athlete of the Year in 2000, and the Female American Swimmer of the Year in 1993, 1998 and 1999. Sports Illustrated ranked her as the 62nd Greatest Female Athlete of All Time in 1999.

The first woman to win six gold medals at a single Olympic games is Kristin Otto from Germany, which she did in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. She also managed to set world records in the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke, and 100m butterfly events. Swimming World named awarded her Female World Swimmer of the Year three times.

Swimming may not look like a tough sport, but athletes who do compete in it need to be in physically fit condition. Swimming not only trains one’s cardiovascular fitness, but also one’s strength. Believe me, wading in water takes up a lot of power.