The way I see things: So this is how we met…

Obligatory end of seminar photo 2006 Singapore

Early beginnings

Back when Rodney was the Head Stand-up (Boxing) Coach for Straight Blast Gym (SBG), he was one of the workshop presenters in a Singapore workshop that was hosted at the Budo Academy Singapore under the SBG banner for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (presented by Matt Thornton) and Boxing/MMA (Rodney King) weekend seminar. This was around November 2006. There may have been one earlier workshop at the end of 2005 but I can’t recall exactly even though there are some dated photos floating about my HDD. I brought a number of participants from my gym as usual and back then it was as KDT Academy, the former name of my gym. I had started training in BJJ under Sam Wee around 2002/2003; this was to be my inaugural step into the world Crazy Monkey Defense Program and I’ve since kept going.

In the early days, Rodney was as friendly as a steel wired brush. He wasn’t the easiest person to deal with and came with a reputation of being stand-offish. He didn’t interact much with the workshop participants if it was unnecessary and frequently ended the workshop on the dot then only to vanish before everyone can grab a photo with him. When it wasn’t time to present and he kept to himself  with a brooding demeanour. You can always tell when someone is deep in thought and you don’t really want to interrupt that process. With him this was a valid concern and there was a price to pay later. Giving him the benefit of doubt, he may have been perhaps reflecting on how well the seminar was going and how the information could better improved, or perhaps a more likely scenario he was wondering how to make all these bodies on the mat disappear after he’s dispensed with us lot. I don’t know, only speculating.

Today’s Rodney (2018) is a far distant reflection of the old Rodney. Nowadays he actually smiles, makes jokes, chats with people and is in a much better place. It seems that he has come to an agreement with his past and is focused on the present with an eye on the future of CMD. You should be very thankful that you are meeting this Rodney.

Not all was gloom and doom back in the early days however, the highlight of the workshop for me were that for the first time I was exposed to a new approach to martial arts training. Having learnt traditional Japanese martial arts for the majority of my training these workshops was literally a breath of fresh air. The lack of cultural formalities, the focus on effective technique via direct sparring and testing, and constant feedback from the coach made it a hugely valuable experience. In my earlier exposure there wasn’t much except for repetition on basic form ad nauseam and minor hand position adjustments from time to time with emphasis on form rather than function. The concept of “aliveness” introduced into my consciousness at the SBG workshop and it was my moment of paradigm shift.

In spite of Rodney’s early brusque and stand-offish personality what I witnessed and experienced first hand was unlike any boxing method I knew. I felt that I had graduated from using sticks and stones to using an abacus then Crazy Monkey Defense was the first computer running Excel and I was Wowed! I knew there was no turning back and this was the missing link in my martial arts knowledge!

In the typical workshop format, after the principles and drills were completed to satisfaction, hurriedly scribbled notes were added to fraying notepads, everyone scrambled for their gloves for the fun part – open mats! You can immediately tell when Rodney liked your game, toyed with you or you had (accidentally or otherwise) pushed one of his buttons. In several of the early Singapore workshops I’ve been witness to all three versions. Some were entertaining while others felt deserving. Some people underestimated Rodney while others over-estimated themselves I don’t see which is the wiser. Observing from the sidelines these workshop sparring sessions provided some insight in how things worked and was immensely educational of itself. I learned the effectiveness first-hand of the infamous shovel hook and have since learned how to add this wonderful addition to my toolbox. Somehow, I’ve only been on the receiving end of only a few shovel hooks over the years. The rest have been delivered more conventionally via jabs, hooks and triangle chokes.

Master Rigan Machado 2007 Singapore
(L-R) Kenlee, Michael, Tarbo (Japan), Master Rigan Machado, Vince, Raj, Albert, Laurent

Across the oceans

Something was brewing across oceans. Not being too immersed in the going-ons in the early organisation or even being formally a member of SBG, I mostly focused on improving my BJJ study and practice in Kuala Lumpur during those early years. I was not really aware of what transpired but matters came to hand that by end of 2007/8 I was informed that Rodney was leaving SBG due to differences in opinion and was reaching out to the people whom he had trained with and shared his future vision to a more holistic approach to martial arts training.

Obligatory end of seminar photo 2007 Singapore

With my hand amongst the handful of supporters the initial formation of Rodney’s new group initially went by name of Street Tough World Alliance as Rodney’s old South African gym was known as Street Tough Gym but with some brainstorming and some research the group was renamed Crazy Monkey Defense as it is a better representation of the group’s training philosophy as much as what is practiced on the mats.

Back then only CMD Boxing was practiced and the focus was only on CM1 (long range), CM2 (mid-range) and CM3 (close range) levels. In conversations with Rodney this was largely due to how the information was being structured to make it flow from one range to the next and a number of concepts were explored to test the best way to impart this knowledge and since those early days the program’s content has been continually refined and more information fleshed out to it current format. In 2009 I started to host Rodney to Kuala Lumpur and this has snowballed into the Annual Training Camp that we know today.


Working the Kimura shoulder lock 2009 Bangsar (Michael & Sherry)

Since those early days the program has evolved and has incorporated a lot more content, further detail refinement and with the continual performance improvements that has been the cornerstone of the program along with a positive philosophy and respect to the original intentions and purpose of martial arts training. Learn more here: Crazy Monkey Key Concepts

I hope this helps you understand the when, where and who.

In servitude and openness,
Vince Choo

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