Terrence Chan

follow me as I play poker and look for new ways to get punched in the face

Entries by tag: mma

I got in a fight on Sunday
Video here, more detailed play-by-play (as I remembered it on Sunday) on my fight blog.

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at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket
It's past 1am in Phuket, and I'm settled into my small bungalow here across the street from Tiger Muay Thai and MMA, where I'll be training for the next week. The bungalow will seem a bargain by first-world standards at about US$230, but I'll be training alongside people who have paid less than one-third of that price to train at the same location.

I've heard both good things and bad things about TMT. It does seem to be polarizing. Those who like it -- and there are many, many positive reviews scattered across the web in addition to the pages of testimonials on their own site -- do really seem to like it. It also seems to inspire a lot of ill-will, as well; there is a Facebook group entitled "The truth about Tiger Muay Thai" whose profile picture is a man in a suit with a dollar bill covering his eyes; the implication is obvious.

If you tour the website, TMT does seem quite nice. Indeed, one of the more common, if somewhat unoriginal, criticisms seems to be that it is too nice. There is, naturally, the perception that fighters are forged not on beautiful islands like Phuket and farang-friendly gyms like TMT, but rather under dusty tin roofs on the chaotic streets of Bangkok. In a way similar to those who fancy themselves true fans of music are drawn to indie bands no one has ever heard of, those who think themselves badasses are drawn to Muay Thai gyms with unprounceable names and harsh living conditions. Of course, there is some chance they are right. But too bad. I will take my air conditioning and smoothie bar.

In any case, I don't need the hardcorest of hardcore Muay Thai training anyway, since I'll be here to train no-gi grappling and MMA for the most part, and Phuket is probably one of the better places to do MMA in Asia (maybe third behind Japan and the Philippines). I've been training the last two months consistently in Hong Kong, but my gym there is almost 100% gi BJJ for grappling. I miss no-gi grappling quite a bit. My game is more underhooks, transitions and scrambles than it is a tight, suffocating game. I'm lazy as fuck when it comes to grip fighting, and that is a recipe for disaster in gi grappling. Finally, for someone who has MMA ambitions, I have trained almost no MMA. I've taken a handful of MMA classes at Universal in Vancouver, but most of what I would call MMA skill is really just cross-training in isolated disciplines. I can box a little, kickbox a little, grapple a little, wrestle a little, but I have yet to put this together in any sort of coherent way. It's a lot like having spent a ton of time learning to dribble, learning to pass, learning to shoot, learning to rebound and learning to defend without actually ever playing any basketball.

So, while a week probably won't do a whole lot for me in the skills department, it will probably give me a decent assessment of where I stand, and what my attributes are as a fighter. But really, I just hope to have a lot of fun. I've enjoyed the last couple months training in the gi, but I'm also getting substantially diminishing marginal returns on fun. I'm hoping slip-sliding around and scrambling in the warm, humid, sweaty environment of Phuket punching and getting punched by 6oz gloves is what the doctor ordered. Figuratively, anyway. I don't think any doctor would actually order traumatic encephalopathy. But that's a blog post for another time.

If you're interested in following my training at Tiger Muay Thai and MMA more closely, bookmark/subscribe/friend/RSS/whatever my MMA/training blog at http://potlimitfighter.livejournal.com where I hope to update throughout the week.

9:00am training, so off to bed with me!

travel and training
I have a lot of respect for the people who want to go to a gym and train there. Any time I think I have dedication to the sport, these guys remind me that they have more of it. I find that I actually train the most when I'm in Vancouver or Hong Kong. There, I have my comforts. I sleep well in a mattress that I have chosen, eating the food I am accustomed to, keeping the hours that I want. When I have lived at the gym, such as in Ko Samui or Curitiba, I have done a lot better training. It's right there, after all, no excuses. But if you make me travel some distance to do it, I allow myself to get lazy.

And training away from a home gym is always a bit uncomfortable. It is always slightly inconvenient. I'm out of clean gis or gym clothes. I don't have all my protein and carb supplements. It's hot or humid, or I don't like the mats they have, or I hate using the bathroom there. Bitch, bitch, bitch.

It's not that I don't want to train hard, because I do. I have just gotten used to my safe, climate-controlled, first-world comforts. I'm writing this on my netbook in the Star Alliance premier lounge while others sleep on their backpacks in the terminal.

Actually, as poker players go, I'm pretty darn low-maintenance. It's just that as martial artists go, not so much. I may be transitioning from the former to the latter, but it's a process.

I like chatting with the other people who have traveled to the same gym as I have. One guy I met at Check Mat came from Germany. He's actually living in the favela "because it's cheap". Another guy, from Sweden, stayed at an infamously bad hostel in Ipanema for two weeks to save money. And I'm pretty damn sure not everyone is washing their gi after every training session the way I am. They are living in rough conditions, eating rice and beans and cutting every corner. I am upset when my twice-used Gatorade bottle has gotten sticky.
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of poker tournaments, fighting, and french fries
I've mentioned a couple times to people that the LAPT might be my last live tournament for the next little while, or at least the last time I travel a significant distance for one.

Even though I complain about poker burnout a lot, it's actually a tough thing to do. I usually have some friends at every poker tournament, often ones I haven't seen for a while and am excited to catch up and have dinner with. In the last year, despite playing probably about 35 tournaments, I've also gone deep with a lot of chips in a lot of live events: down to two tables in Foxwoods WPT, a final table in Manila APPT, two final tables at the WSOP, and a final table bubble in Argentina. It's a lot of fun when you go deep with friends and acquaintances around. You get esteem and recognition, even when everyone in the industry knows that you had to get lucky at some point to get to that point. patrissimo wrote the following in this post when he discussed how his own ego-stroking-by-status was getting the way of his own long-term goals:

I have to constantly fight the urge to give talks, do interviews, go to parties, and generally vie for status by being superficially interesting, in order to get in solid hours on the grungy tasks necessary to actually succeed at seasteading...my stupid short-term thinking monkey brain doesn't care about long-term results and massive status, it wants to cash in on the status I have now.

It's so tempting to take the immediate gratification of esteem in a world that you've achieved success in. It's only human to bask at least a little bit in your own glory. But I see poker tournaments in very much the same light as eating chocolate ice cream and french fries -- I crave them, and wish I could have them more often, but they aren't helping me achieve my goals.

My current goal -- as anyone who has been following this blog for the last little while knows -- is to improve myself as a martial artist. BJJ, wrestling, boxing, muay thai, MMA, and whatever else will help. I know I'm not going to be world-class, but I want to be the best I can be. I love the sport and it's enough for me just to be a part of it; I do not have to be on top of it.

But it's tough. In poker, I have this fairly decent résumé of accomplishments. People are still congratulating me on the SCOOP and WCOOP. People are still unhappy when I sit down at their table. Media people take my picture and ask me for interviews. These things feel good and I think there is no shame in admitting it. I don't consider myself attention-seeking or self-promoting. I think I'm somewhere on the lower-middle end of that continuum; I know many people who have much less desire for exposure, but there are probably more who would desire it much more strongly than I do. But I would still be lying if I said that respect in the poker world is not gratifying to me.

I see through my Amazon affiliate account that about a dozen of you bought The War of Art on my recommendation; I imagine at least that many also bought it without using my link (which I'm just as happy about, because really, the money is nothing). If I had the opportunity to guest-write a chapter in it, it might be titled "Resistance and the Respect of Peers".

I feel kind of sad when someone I like asks me if I'll be at some tournament or another, and I tell them no, I'm training, because they probably don't get it. Most live tournament pros I talk to actually do enjoy the experience. And I do, too. There's a lot to enjoy; travel to exotic places, interesting foods to try in nice casino restaurants, and the aforementioned esteem from other industry people. In fact, if everything were the same except I were just a fat guy in his 40s, I'd have been on a plane leaving Buenos Aires last week instead of this week, and it'd have been on the way to London instead of Toronto. I'd probably be playing a lot of tournaments and trying to win as many as I can.

But I'm 29 years old, somewhere near the crest of what should be my physical prime. And although the entirety of my adult life my career has been poker, I would rather win some amateur fight against a tough opponent in the middle of nowhere in front of 200 people than win a WSOP bracelet (something I've been unable to do in seven WSOPs). When I really step back and analyze what I want, it's not glory or respect. If I wanted that, I'd play every tournament on the schedule. What I want is simply the fulfillment of my potential as a fighter.

So, if you don't see me in the next awesome exotic locale playing a big tournament where everyone who's anyone is playing, now you'll know why. Be assured that I'll really wish I were there, and that the battle to resist the temptation of easy gratification was a difficult one. But if I'm not there, I won it.
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training blog
Along with this new corner I've turned (which can be pretty much just be summarized by "stop being a fucking sissy and get in the gym), I've started a training diary. I can't really imagine anyone but serious hardcore jiujitsu/MMA people would be interested, but I guess that's also what I thought about the poker blog when I started it six years ago.

So, feel free to add potlimitfighter on LJ.

Book review: The War of Art
I was looking for more stuff to read on the Kindle when I noticed that on my Wish List appeared a book I'd never heard of before: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. Don't know how the book got there; probably it was a recommendation from a friend or maybe someone on this blog[1]. Since the Kindle version was just $4, I just snap-bought it, downloaded, and ignored it for a while.

Before I get to that, a little story about last week.

Last Tuesday, I got put through my paces pretty good in the daytime jiujitsu class. That's really an understatement; we were practically military-style hazed. In addition to the standard "warmup", I had to give a piggyback ride up and down the mats to a bunch of big 200-250 lb bastards which is not so easy when you're me. Then we went straight into sparring and I dealt with all the hungry fresh white belts (who didn't have to do this piggyback bullshit) trying to terrorize the skinny little blue belt. It was, quite frankly, awful and I did not want to move the rest of the day. I also took Wednesday off to heal up.

On Thursday morning my body was in that state where it was still very sore, and very tired, and I was on the fence about whether to go train. I started messing around on the internet trying to read articles about DOMS and whether you should train when you're really sore and all of that and, at some point, I came across some forum post from some dude who basically told another guy, "you need to get a little more dumb."

Most professional athletes aren't extremely smart. Many are, but most aren't. What they most often are is dedicated, confident, head-strong, and they do what they're told. They don't bitch about minor shit, they don't find reasons to not train, practice or compete, they don't wonder about whether the little injury they're nursing is okay to play with, they just man the fuck up and do it. So last Thursday, I basically decided to get a little more dumb, and start to man the fuck up.

Because the fact of the matter is, while I don't have the talent to be a high-level professional athlete, there is no reason I can't simply train like one. I have money, time, and joints that still mostly work the way they're supposed to. All of those aren't even prerequisites to training like a professional athlete, so in fact, they're advantages. Actually becoming a high-level athlete? Well, those require some particular god-given gifts that I probably don't possess. But I don't really desire to be the best in the world; I simply desire to be the best that I can be.

So I found it really serendipitous that I started to read The War of Art on Saturday. I will start by simply saying that I am 35% of the way through the book (thanks, Kindle) and it is one of the best things I have ever read. Steven Pressfield is a fiction writer, but here he writes about how aspiring artists can overcome the blinking cursor or the blank canvas. Because Pressfield is a fiction writer, it's simply one of the most beautifully-written and compelling non-fiction books I've ever read. It is an incredibly inspiring book. If I had to distill my thoughts on what I have read so far into one sentence, it would be this:

If there is any goal whatsoever that you wish to accomplish and you are in any way procrastinating or making excuses for not succeeding, buy this book right now.

And presumably, everyone has some goal, something they want to do. Lose weight. Finish grad school. Write a novel. Run a marathon. Meet more girls. Get your black belt. Make $100k/year. Backpack around South America. Whatever. Don't care. If you're wasting time putting this shit off in any way, read the goddamn book.

Thing is, anyone can write a book to say "get off your lazy ass and start doing something." But the way Pressfield identifies the nature of resistance simply makes it so blindingly apparent that you have absolutely no excuses for not going for your goals. You think you have all these excuses, but let's be honest: your excuses suck. It's way, way more easy to make up excuses than to overcome them.

I'm probably doing a terrible job of re-writing what he writes in the book so just go buy the book. (Late edit: The last third of the book goes off the rails a little bit, so be forewarned.)

(Paperback) The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles


And if you'll excuse me now, I've got to go train in half an hour.

[1] If this was you, thanks!

What I've been doing; will be doing
This blog has been pretty neglected in the last little while. Things have been reasonably busy, and reasonably busy is good. Towards the end of July I attended two weddings: that of my mom, and that of the-now Amy and Gavin Griffin. Aside from both of them involving people I love, they couldn't have been any different: my mom's was a very small, intimate event held in her building's meeting room with the reception held at a Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. The whole thing was over by about 10pm. The latter wedding was a big party held at Disneyland, complete with Cinderella-style coach whisking away bride and groom. That reception also ended fairly early (I think about 10:30pm) but continued with wedding guests channeling their inner 16-year-olds and getting drunk in the parking lot of a nearby Holiday Inn. (Not so much of that at my mom's wedding.)

Since the drive back up to Vancouver, I've been well immersed in the typical post-WSOP get-my-ass-back-in-shape-a-thon. This is pretty typical for my training log:



My gym has started regular wrestling classes, so I'm trying to do as many of those as possible. Wrestling is a bit of an Achilles heel in my goal in being a well-rounded martial artist, and it's actually more fun than I thought, even though every time I shoot for a takedown I get pancaked, or stuffed on a single leg. But it is kind of fun to put myself through that kind of a grueling effort, whereas in BJJ I'm usually being fairly passive and patient and waiting to exploit openings as opposed to exploding through them.

On the horizon:

1) This grappling event next weekend, although they don't seem to be too prompt about answering e-mails. The only question is whether I'll do it at 132 lbs or go all the way up to 147 lbs (2-hour spread between weigh-ins and matches). Was 138 this morning, so at 132 I'd be big and at 147 I'd be way small. Still, I've complained in the past about finding people at the lowest weight classes of grappling tournaments. And in MMA there aren't many opportunities at 125 so I might as well suck it up and get to a weight where I could cut to 135. Still, I hate giving up an edge and competing at 13x lbs against people cutting down to 147 is a pretty big edge. [Edit: Talked to my cousin and another guy at my gym who are both going to do 132, so fuck it, I'm eating pizza all week.]

2) Heads-up tournament in Calgary next week as part of the Canadian Poker Championships. Ran well enough to take 3rd/4th last year. Hoping to run well enough this year to win just two more matches.

3) LAPT Argentina. Argentina has been at or near the top of countries I've always wanted to visit but haven't yet -- basically due to its location. It's really far away (Vancouver to Buenos Aires is a 2-stop flight that's about 19-23 hours), and not on the way to anything else. But the LAPT is a good enough excuse. I'm planning to stop in Costa Rica to break up the southbound trip and visit the few people I still know there. I may also hang out in Buenos Aires for a little while after the tournament simply because it's so far away and I might as well make the most of the trip.

4) World Team Poker in October. I first heard October 11, now I'm hearing October 21, something like that anyway. Anyway I'm going to be on Team Canada (captained by Greg Mueller), playing limit hold'em.

And that's as far as I have anything planned!

channeling my inner Stu Ungar
I'm all over the board on the UFC 117 card.

3u on Roy Nelson +296
2.04u on Dustin Hazelett -108
2u on Jon Fitch +121
.853u on Anderson Silva -427
4.8u on Hughes/Almeida over 2.5 rounds -160
1.78u on Dos Anjos/Guida over 2.5 rounds -178
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Fedor versus Werdum (spoilers)
If Phil Ivey and durrrr were playing, say, a 20-game mixed game tournament consisting of NLHE and 19 limit games, and on the first hand of NL, durrrr shoved 200 BB in the middle but accidentally exposed AK, would Phil call with 55 because he's a 55-45 favourite in that spot? Probably not.
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an ode to leg kicks
One thing in fighting that typically gets either no love, or too much love[1], is the leg kick. It is one of those things that to the casual layperson really doesn't look that painful. After all, the thigh is a big meaty part of the body. But it is hard to imagine how much force a skilled fighter can generate and how easy it is to hit such a big target like the thigh with a bone as hard as the tibia. And how incredibly debilitating it is to get kicked in the leg so hard you can't stand on it. It's truly an amazing thing. You desperately want to keep going, but the muscle is so far destroyed beyond the point of being able to support your body weight. That's what happened to Urijah Faber in his title fight against Jose Aldo last Saturday; according to FightMetric, Aldo landed 25 clean leg kicks on Faber. This is actually nowhere near a record but the quality of Aldo's leg kicks is unparalleled in recent MMA. Faber, despite being one of the biggest gamers in the sport (he went the distance against Mike Brown with two broken hands) was repeatedly unable to put any weight on his front leg.

Since the fight, Faber has been tweeting updates of his leg. The awesome part is as the swelling goes down, the discolouration goes up:

Immediately post-fight looks relatively tame:

Next morning, not so bad either:

Day 2:

Day 3:

But today's update was truly awesome:

Thing looks like rotten zombie flesh.

Faber is not my favourite fighter in the world, but much props to him for taking this defeat in good spirits and giving us all great cell phone pictures for fans who love fight-related gore.

I suspect that this fight will put to bed any ideas of judges publicly saying that leg kicks don't end fights.

[1] Often, leg kicks that you see in a fight look impressive, but there are a few things that go into a really painful leg kick. One is that the recipient has his weight planted on that leg. There is a world of difference if the leg is planted on that leg versus if that leg is even a couple inches off the ground. The second is how much hip rotation the thrower gets into it. If the thrower snaps the kick at the knee or if the back foot doesn't move, it's typically not very hard. The third is the angle and distance; a good low kick will actually point at a downward angle so that the tibia and not the muscles or the instep is what strikes the thigh.
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