Friday, February 22, 2008

Rick Fryer - Man of mystery no more!

[Nathan] This is the first in our monthly interview series. I figured that, as the first guy blogging at TDA Training, I'd introduce the second (Rick Fryer) more fully by getting the dirt on him and sharing it with you so we're all dirty together! Sound good? OK, here goes:Rick Fryer, Master of Martial Arts Blogging!

me: First of all, welcome to TDA Training! Since there seems to be an aura of mystery about you, similar to, say, Austin  Powers (only less mysterious), let's get more information on you. From your Convocation profile: "A martial artist & member of the Kyoshu Jitsu Kenkukai organization with black belt ranking in Isshin Ryu karate(3rd dan) Ji Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do and Tomarite Ryukyu Kempo. I also practice American style Kickboxing and Cheng Man-Ching style T'ai Chi Ch'uan. I teach kickboxing at Elgin Community College" Can you tell us what made you start training in the martial arts?

Rick: Thanks for having me here. I think TDA Training represents the type of training that I like to do. I started training in Isshin Ryu Karate when I was 12 years old. There were a couple of other guys in the neighborhood that claimed they were Black Belts - I didn't believe them, so I decided to learn karate just to prove them wrong. I caught the martial art bug and found myself training more and more. II started with Isshin Ryu at a local Park district dojo up through my High School years. It was a rather traditional school led by the late John Miller. Later, when I went off to college, there wasn't any Isshin Ryu, so I switched over to Ji Do Kwan - Tae Kwon Do. I tried it mostly because I liked the instructor (Mike Park's) kicks. It was a very competitive club that emphasized Olympic Style sparring. We went to a lot of tournaments and often represented Northern Illinois University against other college clubs. After college, I hooked up with my old dojo and earned my black belt in Isshin Ryu. One of my old sparring partners, John Shaw, had begun full contact kickboxing. At the time, he was the PKC Amateur Heavyweight Champion.

me: What was the PKC?

Rick: I think it stands for the Professional Karate Circuit - Very popular in the Midwest during the 90s. At the time it was headed by the legendary Chicago promoter, Tom Letuli. Anyway, John helped to get me into the ring. Before I knew it, I was getting up early every morning for road work before going to my job. After work, I'd often drive into Chicago to train at the Eckhart Park Boxing gym under my boxing coach, Shaw Casey. Other days, I'd head to a local recreation center to hit bags, lift weights, work out, and spar. I was training like crazy, 4-6 hours a day. Of course, around that time, the UFC had also started up. After watching UFC I, I decided to learn some grappling skills, I started Judo as well. I had black belts in Isshin Ryu and Tae Kwon Do; I was pretty burnt out on the 'traditional' martial arts thing.

me: Why?

Rick: Well, Combat Sports gave me a way to expand my practice and get used to really hitting an opponent. It helped with my self confidence and got me into better shape. I knew what worked and what didn't because I was constantly trying my techniques against a competitive opponent. Although I practiced application kata, I didn't think that it was very helpful in most self-defense situations; I didn't think that the forms could train me to win a fight on the street. It was also around that time that I began a new job at a juvenile detention center for the Illinois Dept. of Corrections (Now called the Dept of Juvenile Justice.) Working in that environment exposed me to a lot of violence that I wouldn't have witnessed otherwise. Although juvenile fights tend to be less serious, because of their impulsive age, teenagers tend to fight more often. Sometimes, I would find myself breaking up two or three fights in a single day. The job gave me new insights into the way fights happen and how factors like intimidation, surprise, or gang involvement play an important role.

me: OK - So you earned  your black belts in Isshin-ryu and TKD. Two questions about that: What has carried over from those styles to what you do now, and what training methods from those arts did you find valuable. Please be as specific as you can.

Rick: Well, while I was training for sport, I felt that the traditional methods (kata, line drills, one-step sparring etc) didn't hold much value. But, a close friend introduced me to some of the stuff George Dillman was doing by mixing kata application and pressure points. I started going to seminars and eventually ended up training with Dillman's co-author, Chris Thomas. Chris Thomas changed the way I look at the traditional arts. I now find value in the katas and understand how they can be used to practice self-defense in a very real sense.

me: Please elaborate

Rick: Now, although I still enjoy combat sport, I've found new appreciation for the traditional methods. Chris has shown me how to see kata beyond just "block-block-punch-kick" and to look for underlying structures and principles that can be used in an actual situations. Thomas explained that, no matter their culture, people have always fought pretty much the same way; punches, kicks, and grabs. The ancient Chinese or Samurai warriors didn't drop down into a low block and scream a "ki-ya" before they fought anymore than we do today. Yet, somehow many traditional martial art schools fail to recognize this. Thomas showed me ways to interpret the forms so that they make sense. He taught me proper body mechanics and combat principles that could be used to ensure that the movements really worked.  He also encouraged me to ask questions and challenge him; which I did. I'm the sort of person who has to feel pain before I actually believe something will work. Those first several sessions with Thomas were the most painful lessons I'd ever had. He'd beat the hell out of me, then after I'd recovered, he'd show me what he did. It was agonizing and awesome all at the same time. The best training I'd ever had.

me: Going back to your humble beginnings, who were your martial arts idols or heroes as a kid?

Rick: I almost hate to admit it but my first idol was David Carradine! My parents tell me that as a young child I would sit in front of the television mesmerized whenever 'Kung Fu' came on. (Later, of course, I was exposed to the legends like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris)

me: Uh, that's silly dude. No one ever watched that show. You should really be embarrassed... (I loved it too).

Rick: LOL

me: What been the benefits that you've realized from your training in martial arts. And we don't want to just hear about the physical, tangible benefits. What have you gotten out of training in MA?

Rick: Okay, this is where I'm supposed to say something real cool, like self-confidence, or nerves-of-steel-, or extra-sensory ninja perception; but the truth is, I've been doing it for so long, I really don't know. Martial arts is simply a part of who I am - I can't even really imagine myself without them. I'm sure that they've improved me in many ways but I can't be sure - I have no 'other me' to make a comparison.

me: That's it, Rick. You've snatched the pebble! Please come over to the TDA Training secret compound so that we can have you lift a 150-lb steel container of hot coals. It won't hurt - promise. And you'll get a cool tattoo out of it. Next question: what are your training goals now?

Rick: [going back to the last question] I can say that I've met a lot of really cool people. (Including on the Internet) The martial arts community is a very friendly place to be. Lately, I've been very influenced by Ross Emamait's training programs. I've been working on improving my physical fitness and conditioning. At the same time, I'm trying to improve my understanding of kata - There really is no limit to the ways it can be used.

me: You've been a part of your local Martial Arts Toplist and Convocation of Combat Arts communities (much overlap) for a while now. What blogs do you enjoy reading (besides TDA Training - that's a given for all of us!) the most, and what are your goals with Kicks Boxes and here?

Rick: I really like Dojo Rat, Striking Thoughts, Isshin Ryu Karate Bugei, Mokuren Dojo, and Black Belt Mama. All of them provide excellent content while also giving a personal side to their experiences in training. I enjoy writing the MMA Weekly Wrapup up for TDA Training because it gives me an excuse to keep up with the latest combat sports news and information. I also like the way that we comment back and forth in the posts. Right now, I'm focused on writing about the art of kyusho jitsu (pressure point fighting) at kicksboxes. I want to dispel some myths and give others my own viewpoint on the art. However, I also plan to start a new video series that will feature various techniques from the martial arts and how they can be applied and practiced differently.

me: Sounds great. More importantly, what the heck is up with posting about Carrie Underwood?!! My wife gave me a hard time about it before I convinced her that you weren't an alias and that you had actually posted about her in the MMA Wrapup. She is pretty hot (I am referring to my wife here - Hi Honey!), though...

[No answer-cue cricket sounds...] I guess HIS wife saw what the interview question was about. Anyway, that concludes our first monthly TDA Training Interview. Hope you've enjoyed it. I notice that Enter the Dragon is on AMC, so time to go!


BlackBeltat50 said...

Great interview. thanks. BTW - I really like the idea of having a video series on pressure points (or anything else). I started my blog as a way to remember my kata (and not to lose my write-ups). I found that my friends asked for the kata but found the writing impossible to follow. They all asked for videos. Now that I'm getting the videos up, it's turning into a useful tool for us. My point is that most of us need videos to understand. And mostly, the net is a combination of cool unrelated videos that are hard to learn from. A good series could be great.

Rick Fryer said...

Hey BlackBeltat50,

Thanks for the comment! I'll have to check out your blog, it sounds like you've got some good stuff.

Right now, I'm doing a video series at my other blog "," called "The Technique Critique."

In each episode, I explore application and training ideas for a new technique. - I don't have any assistants to help demonstrate the applications yet, but I hope to recruit some soon.

Once I'm up and running, maybe we could tag back and forth with different ideas for kata application. (We could even try to get other bloggers in on the idea and share across our blogs... This could turn into something really cool!)

Train hard and fight dirty,