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Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast, the publisher of the No Holds Barred blog, and a senior contributing editor at the ADCC News.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

No Holds Barred: Alaina Hardie on Transsexual Athletes, Grappling, and Robots 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman speaks with grappler Alaina Hardie.

Based in Toronto, Canada, and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Alaina Hardie has been well-known for competing in numerous grappling and BJJ events in North America. Although a knee injury will likely prevent her from competing in these tournaments again, she continues to train and attend numerous events.

She is also friends with Fallon Fox, the female transsexual MMA fighter who has recently been the center of much controversy.

Alaina took to her Facebook page to post in support of Fallon Fox, and then, along with a recent photo of the two of them, wrote: "My friend Fallon Fox has been in the news recently because she came out as a trans MMA fighter. I have been very vocally supportive, and have tried to help spread good information. I have spent a long time investigating the issue. I feel, deep down, that it is fair for Fallon to fight. The reality is that trans athletes are everywhere. In fact, you know one personally: me."

Although those close to her and some others knew about it, this was the public coming out by Alaina Hardie as a transsexual woman.

We spoke to Alaina Hardie by Skype Wednesday about the status of transsexual athletes and her own situation.

"I am, like Fallon, a transsexual athlete," she said in this interview. "I met Fallon when we both did the ADCC Trials in 2009. And at the time I had no idea she was transsexual, and she had no idea I was, either. I just thought she was like every other non-trans female grappler out there."

After adding each other on Facebook, she and Fallon didn't stay in touch that much, until she saw the news in March of this year that Fallon had come out.

"Immediately I e-mailed her and was like, 'Look, girl, I totally got your back. I'm also a trans athlete.' And we had a little, brief conversation about it at that point. But I became a very outspoken advocate."

Our discussion also examined some of the scientific issues involving transsexual athletes, as Alaina describes herself as a "science nerd". She mentioned the positive support she has received since coming out as a trans athlete from so many people in the jiu-jitsu and grappling communities, how there is no scientific evidence that transsexual athletes have unfair advantages over other athletes, why if someone came up with the money for a long-term study of trans athletes "I would run it myself", the neurological differences between those who desire to become transsexuals and those who do not, her brief experience as a transsexual amateur boxer in Ontario, her experience coming out on Facebook, her work with robotics and why "robots are awesome", her support of the citizen science movement, and much more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link doesn't work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is also available on mobile phones and iPads through Stitcher.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is free to listen to and is sponsored by:

ONE Fighting Championship. ONE FC is Asia's largest and most prestigious mixed martial arts event. ONE FC features the best Asian fighters and has initiated the ONE Asia Partnership Network, which includes most of the major MMA promotions and MMA gyms in Asia. For more information, go to their web site, at ONEFC.com.

Beezid.com - Penny Auctions. Your #1 source for exciting auction shopping and outstanding deals on just about anything! Top rated, most trusted auction site online. Where do you shop? Beezid.com - Penny Auctions.

American Top Team. Whether you're a beginner or a champion, train with the champions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, wrestling, grappling, and mixed martial arts at American Top Team. Check out their web site at http://americantopteam.com/.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

No Holds Barred: Coach George Hero on MidwoodMania IV: Tag Teams and Titans 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman speaks with Coach George Hero, the legendary coach and founder of the Midwood High School wrestling team in Brooklyn, New York.

On Saturday, April 27, Midwood High School will be the scene of this year's edition of what has now become an annual tradition, MidwoodMania IV. The event runs from 11 AM to 3 PM, at the Campus Road Gymnasium of Midwood High School, 2839 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, New York 11210, right across the street from Brooklyn College.

While MidwoodMania IV will see a full slate of wrestling matches in folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman wrestling involving Midwood alumni, coaches, wrestlers, and their rivals, this year there will be a major difference from previous years: Three of the ten matches will be tag team matches.

"We were thinking about doing something a little bit different," Coach Hero said in this interview, which was recorded by phone Tuesday. "One of the things that slows down a lot of wrestling matches is, it is very, very physically demanding." Many wrestlers, he noted, "get kind of tired by the third period, and things really tend to slow down a lot. And I thought what might be an interesting idea would be to create freestyle, folkstyle, real wrestling tag teams."

The three tag team matches at MidwoodMania IV will be held under folkstyle rules, but with some important modifications. Each match will be scheduled for three, four-minute periods. A wrestler can only tag out when there is a break or lull in the action, and must indicate this to the referee. Each team is allowed only one tag per period. Also, a pin ends the period, but not the match.

Coach Hero, who recently turned 55, will be wrestling in one of the tag team matches.

Our discussion with Coach Hero included many more details about MidwoodMania IV, his experience since returning to the mat, how events like this can be used to popularize wrestling, the possibility of the establishment of more tournaments for wrestlers who have finished their schooling, the absurdity of the decision to drop wrestling from the Olympic program, and more.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link doesn't work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is also available on mobile phones and iPads through Stitcher.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is free to listen to and is sponsored by:

ONE Fighting Championship. ONE FC is Asia's largest and most prestigious mixed martial arts event. ONE FC features the best Asian fighters and has initiated the ONE Asia Partnership Network, which includes most of the major MMA promotions and MMA gyms in Asia. For more information, go to their web site, at ONEFC.com.

Beezid.com - Penny Auctions. Your #1 source for exciting auction shopping and outstanding deals on just about anything! Top rated, most trusted auction site online. Where do you shop? Beezid.com - Penny Auctions.

American Top Team. Whether you're a beginner or a champion, train with the champions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, wrestling, grappling, and mixed martial arts at American Top Team. Check out their web site at http://americantopteam.com/.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No Holds Barred: Ryka Aoki, John Amodeo 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman speaks with Ryka Aoki and John Amodeo, who were both featured writers at the Rainbow Book Fair in New York on Saturday, April 13. The Rainbow Book Fair describes itself as the "oldest and largest LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) book fair in the US, and America's largest LGBT book event".

One might think, according to stereotypes, that those involved with the combat sports and martial arts would be absent from such an event. Those people, however, do not know people like Ryka Aoki and John Amodeo.

Ryka Aoki is a novelist, a writer, a performer, a teacher, a judoka for almost four decades, and the head instructor of Supernova Martial Arts at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, whose mission is to empower LGBT youth through martial arts and self-defense. She is also a transgender woman.

John Amodeo is an author and an educator who has written several books, including biographies of former world heavyweight boxing champion Ken Norton and journeyman fighter Rayco Saunders. He lives in New York.

Admitting that his books on boxing "might be a tough sell" at this event, John Amodeo nevertheless said, "But people can relate to struggles in life. Especially with Rayco's story: coming out of Pittsburgh, and having his mother die of an overdose, and struggling through and getting incarcerated as a result of drug-dealing, and eventually turning his life around. It's a come-from-behind story."

In her interview, which was the lengthier of the two, Ryka Aoki also struck a theme of universality.

"Human life is messy. I think there are certain things that we can all honor. I'll put compassion up there. Treating each other with respect is up there. Fair play is definitely up there."

She continued, "I think that the constants in life should be justice, fair play, respect. These are things that don't change. These are things that don't change. A trans woman, a queer woman, a queer man, somebody you don't even know, a Martian with three heads -- there's still respect, there's still justice, there's still truth, there's still protecting the weak. There's still training to be your best. There's still improving to make the best use of the gifts that you have. In other words, all that stuff that we learned growing up in the judo dojo or the martial arts dojo or the MMA gym, all these things about perseverance and hard work and all of this stuff, these are the constants that I think we can hold onto. Even when the rest of the world is upside down, a pushup is still a pushup. Closed guard is still closed guard. These things don't change. I just wanted to toss that out. A good technique is always going to be a good technique."

This is the approach she is taking regarding the controversy over transgender female MMA fighter Fallon Fox, and the hateful and hurtful reaction she has received from some in the MMA community.

"Really, we can talk about medicine. We can talk about these things. I'm no doctor. I'm just a judoka. So I don't know what these hormones, or strength is. I can tell you from experience my strength levels are quite a bit reduced from back before I was taking hormones. But these questions really obscure the point that this is just bullying and mean-spiritedness. There are intelligent, logical ways to address these things," she said. "I think it's natural to have questions. However, there are good and bad ways to ask and to seek these questions out."

While she has spend time teaching college, performing in many locales, and speaking at book fairs such as this, her work as a martial arts instructor at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center regularly brings her into contact with young people who are not likely to be at such places.

"I spend most of my time teaching youth," she said. "I teach at-risk LGBT youth in Los Angeles. Not competition, just to get by, basic self-defense. And I do see that a lot of 'martial artists' and people like that who have these high ideals written on their dojo walls tend to be very mean-spirited when it comes to gay students, to lesbian students, to transgender students."

She added, "I expect a little bit of that meatheaded-ness, but that doesn't erase the fact that you hurt somebody, you got to live with that, really. And it kind of disgusts me."

Many of the youth to whom she teaches martial arts are homeless, including one who thrown out of his house because he was gay.

"A lot of these children end up in Los Angeles, and they're on the street. And no one's ever really taken them into consideration. They haven't taught them how to do anything, and they get preyed upon. And they see their bodies really only as objects of violence and objects of sex. When I teach them martial arts, they can see their bodies as things that can be strengthened, something to be proud of, not just beautiful but strong and trained."

Our discussions with Ryka Aoki and John Amodeo also touched on many other topics, as they both have much wisdom to share.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link doesn't work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is also available on mobile phones and iPads through Stitcher.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is free to listen to and is sponsored by:

ONE Fighting Championship. ONE FC is Asia's largest and most prestigious mixed martial arts event. ONE FC features the best Asian fighters and has initiated the ONE Asia Partnership Network, which includes most of the major MMA promotions and MMA gyms in Asia. For more information, go to their web site, at ONEFC.com.

Beezid.com - Penny Auctions. Your #1 source for exciting auction shopping and outstanding deals on just about anything! Top rated, most trusted auction site online. Where do you shop? Beezid.com - Penny Auctions.

American Top Team. Whether you're a beginner or a champion, train with the champions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, wrestling, grappling, and mixed martial arts at American Top Team. Check out their web site at http://americantopteam.com/.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

No Holds Barred: Rose Gracie, the 2013 Gracie Worlds, and the Rebirth of Jiu-Jitsu 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again speaks with Rose Gracie.

In one sense, Rose Gracie is considered sort of jiu-jitsu royalty, as the granddaughter of the legendary Helio Gracie and the daughter of UFC co-founder Rorion Gracie. But in another sense, she is sort of a rebel, insisting that the jiu-jitsu tournaments she organizes have matches that can only be won by submissions, with no points or judges.

This rule set she describes as "the real jiu-jitsu" which her grandfather did.

Her next tournament is the 2013 Gracie Worlds.

This event is scheduled for June 29-30 at the Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, California 95054, and is being held in conjunction with The FitExpo - Santa Clara. The gi tournament will take place Saturday, June 29, followed by the no-gi tournament Sunday, June 30, with kids' and adults' divisions both days.

We spoke with Rose Gracie by phone Tuesday about the 2013 Gracie Worlds and what she is trying to accomplish.

It was certainly clear from our discussion that her motivations are quite different from most people who run combat sports events.

"You don't always have to do something to gain money from it," she said in this interview. "You gain a lot more by changing somebody's life than you would do by making the money. And when certain people understand how important that is, they change the way they think. It's a lot more rewarding to me to go feed the homeless and give homeless kids presents for Christmas than it is for me to get my own gift."

Teaching children "the right thing to do," protecting the athletes' health and safety, and eventually establishing a non-profit Rose Gracie Foundation are also among the goals of her approach to jiu-jitsu.

We also discussed why she believes that a "rebirth of jiu-jitsu" is needed, how this submission-only format produces matches which are both exciting and easy to understand, the real relation of jiu-jitsu and MMA, the special need to train women and children in jiu-jitsu, and much more in this lengthy discussion.

You can play or download No Holds Barred here and here. If one link doesn't work, please try another.

No Holds Barred is also available on mobile phones and iPads through Stitcher.

Also, No Holds Barred is available through iTunes.

The No Holds Barred theme song is called "The Heist", which is also available on iTunes by composer Ian Snow.

No Holds Barred is free to listen to and is sponsored by:

ONE Fighting Championship. ONE FC is Asia's largest and most prestigious mixed martial arts event. ONE FC features the best Asian fighters and has initiated the ONE Asia Partnership Network, which includes most of the major MMA promotions and MMA gyms in Asia. For more information, go to their web site, at ONEFC.com.

Beezid.com - Penny Auctions. Your #1 source for exciting auction shopping and outstanding deals on just about anything! Top rated, most trusted auction site online. Where do you shop? Beezid.com - Penny Auctions.

American Top Team. Whether you're a beginner or a champion, train with the champions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, wrestling, grappling, and mixed martial arts at American Top Team. Check out their web site at http://americantopteam.com/.

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