12 Months of Hard Labour

Happy New Year everyone!  Looking forward to another great 12 months with friends, students and hard martial arts training.   

At the beginning of each year we look back at the changes and improvements over the years.   As a young Rookie, I only had to carry a revolver, a spare ammo pouch and handcuffs; how is  easy was that?  Twenty nine years later, I am bombarded with so much stuff to carry around; a box trailer would be nice!

Technology is the cause of all this.  Who would’ve ever thought you would be able to carry a phone in your pocket and call from anywhere around the world or own a computer a trillion times more powerful than that first black and white Wang computer of the 80’s?  Now we have cars that reverse park by themselves!  Nobody can resist technology or catch up with it.  Technology is about constant improvement based on the demands and expectations of the world.

Fight technology is no different.  It has to keep up with the demands of the times and the demands of people.  The martial arts also have to advance or evolve.  When I commenced martial arts training 35 years ago, our floor exercises were just push-ups, and sit-ups – even those were done the wrong way.  Strectches were just based on the forward and side splits (that was it).  Today, there's a lot of material out there.

Kickboxing in the early 70’s – what was that?  Boxing with kicks?  How stupid, that will never work, we thought.  Ground fighting in the early 80’s?  That was also stupid, who wants to get on the ground and get their clothes dirty!  

If you try to resist technology it will only be for a short time.  Look at the people who said they will never use the internet or carry a mobile phone.  These are the same sort of people who said the same thing about BJJ and Kickboxing.

Shihan Richard and I were talking about how wonderful it would've been to have the technology of today available when we were young!

(B)logging off for 2009

Yet, another 12 months have passed and I often look back and think, have we done enough?  I don’t like to waste time because, once gone, you can never recover it.  Just think of the wonderful hours of hard training and time put into something you like.  Clearly, the results are shown from what you have learnt and how you look and feel.

This is the final blog for this year.  This is the time of year you can put aside your differences and enjoy the company of your family and friends.  Most of us will not see each other for almost 4 weeks but it is very comforting to know that we can get together for another year and do what we like the most. 

On behalf of all the Budoshinkai Karate Instructors I thank you for your support and wish you all a Merry Xmas and a very Happy New Year.  I also wish the same to my very good friends and Martial Artists if I don't catch up with them before then. Over and out! 

Right on Target!

Tonight's the night!  Right on target – 550 hours in BJJ.  About mid October I had logged 500 hours training and I thought to myself ‘wouldn’t it be great to log up another 50 hours before Xmas’.  I had to push it a bit but that was the challenge.  All I need is more experience to compliment the hours clocked up.

It wasn’t that easy spending those extra hours on the mat.  I had to put up with the likes of Richard  Sargeant and Dr Chris;  getting choked, armbared, figure 4’d and leg locked.  I could've sworn I saw the ‘white light' when Dr Chris crushed me with that kneeride yesterday.  But I have found a solution; the Taser Gun is just what I need.  Seriously, I have to be grateful to Richard and Chris including Steve Perceval and Rob Naumoski who spend countless hours with me.

I know Mr Norton is doing some serious training with Jean Jacques Machado because he wants to be ready for me when he’s back in Australia.  He said he is going to reincarnate me!  I’ll make sure my Taser is fully charged.


 The picture is of Johnny Player which was advertised on billboards of a TRAIN DRIVER'S WORST NIGHTMARE about young people getting hit by trains whilst illegally crossing tracks.  The JPL (Johnny Player look) has become cultural within my circles (especially at work) because it is the look of despair, unhappiness, misfortune, which happens to everyone of us and even seen it a number of times.  My blogs may have a habit of doing that because of my controversial material but I believe people take on board what I say.  One more JPL for this year about self defence: The more complicated the technique, the more time needed to get good at it and remember under pressure.  The techniques we’d like to see work are more for training purposes to develop our knowledge and skills in the martial arts.  However, a different approach is needed when training to deal with real opponents.

The biggest challenge in teaching reality based self defence is convincing the martial artist to put aside what they know and be open to the simple and most effective techniques which are usually alien to their martial art.  Instructors will teach self defence in scenario form with techniques prevalent to their particular martial art ie Tae Kwon Do (kicks), Wrestling (grappling) etc.  But nobody really knows if these techniques will work?  Scenarios can be misleading because, like choreography, everything falls into place like in the movies which is not a true indication of what will happen out there.

Many of don’t us want to fight nor should we.  Fighting means two or more persons are exchanging blows; that’s not self defence!  It is a competition of who will come out best and it is not always the martial artist.  Self defence is about getting it over and done with and walking away, hopefully, unscathed.

The approach to any confrontation should be the same every time so we don’t have to fumble through our minds to figure out what’s best for that situation saving valuable time, even if it’s a quarter of a second.  In most cases you won’t know who it is standing in front of you and what they might know (karate, wrestling, boxing, streetfighting).  The answer is to use what needs to be done not what you would like done so you might just have to lay down your side kick and shoulder throw; these may work when you have weakened your opponent.   If you get hit (especially if it is a good one), your plan plan is now out of action and you will do whatever it takes to get you out of trouble.  This is where your martial arts training will come in handy.  Good time to cash in on the MMA dividends!

Many schools have great self defence moves but they involve gross motor skills ie they require too much thought process and body movement to execute the techniques.  They are great for training but not the answer to getting you out of trouble. 

Instructors should forget about which is the best martial art or style and concentrate on solutions that will help the student in time of need. 

Tongue in Cheek

I was talking to my one of my colleagues the other day about the time I had him in a guillotine choke recently and he said he can still feel his face feeling a little numb to one side.  I asked why did he not tap out and he said, ‘you had both my arms trapped’.  I then asked why he did not say something, he said, ‘I tried, but I was choking.’  This is what goes on in my world, I am an expirementer, not a collector of techniques.

 Martial Artists don’t usually have the experience but rely on theory when teaching self defence.  The information is passed onto them by people who claim to have the experience but this cannot always be verified.  When experimenting with or teaching self defence in class, the Instructor usually relies on their students in a clasroom environment which can give misleading results because of missing factors present in a real and hostile situation.  Realistically, we are not going to go out there to see if things work but Instructors need to be cautious when offering solutions.  My colleague, being very fit and strong, who was a riot squad officer, was not going to comply nor look bad in front of his mates so that made the situation more challenging and realistic.  Mr John Will made a point of this when he was training Afghan soldiers; he realised how different they responded to his moves to that of a normal martial artist.

Self Defence training has to be tailor made for the person, occupation and environment.  Training for the Afghanistan soldier is going to be different to that of a young female who works late at night.  Training a night club security guard is going to be different to that of a person who lives in a troubled area or country where guns and knives are prevalent.  So the subject can get quite complex in the ordinary martial arts school.

Reality Based Self Defence are best taught by those 'who have been there, done that'.  Time and time again, the experts say, 'on what life experience do you base your information on'.  But there are good Instructors (without that real life experience) who can still pass on these skills if they have been fully trained up by the experts.  However, they should do so with ‘tongue in cheek’ and not intentionally mislead people in believing the solutions are simple. 

You’ve Got to be Kidding!

Conversation had come up the other day can it be possible to get a Black Belt in Karate in just 6 months – you've got to be kidding, however, the answer is 'yes' if you train full time and really hard for a minimum of 6 hours per day.  If you scale that down to part time training (say 3 times a week) you could probably expect Black, 3 to 4 years.  If only twice a week, you could be looking at 4 to 5 years.  Some systems award Black Belts just on 2 years because of smaller content in their curriculum.  Ordinarily, you wouldn’t want a Black Belt in 6 months because if it came that easy it wouldn't be worth much. 

 We’ve talked about a Black Belt being within anyone’s reach based on the minimum hours of training and conscientiousness, which always stands.  What any Instructor wants their students not to think are, they are handed out; they wouldn’t be worth much if that happens.  The grading system is a step by step process like a climbing a ladder one step at a time which is easier than 3 or 4 steps at a time.  Most martial arts systems use the coloured belt system in which ranks are readily identifiable within each school.  It’s great to advance to the next belt but what counts most is what you do when you get that belt. 

At gradings I take into account the attendance records, information by our scoring panel and the actual performance on the day.  The students who are consistently dedicated and attentive usually have already passed before walking in the door and are least likely to be looked at. 

Twenty years times from now you want to be able to say you have been training 20 years!  The truth is many people have not done much in 20 years.  It’s not how many years you have done but what have you done in those years.  To quote Shihan Richard Norton, “Have you trained one year 30 times or have you trained for 30 years”.  Meaning have you only learnt one year’s material and not progressed because of just doing the same old stuff, year after year?  Each year should be about increasing your knowledge and skills and continually challenging yourself. 

White Belt is the best rank when it comes to learning.  So when you’re a Black Belt you must start thinking like a White Belt again.

Alzheimer’s Disease Breakthrough

Now there is a cure, take up BJJ, and I’m not kidding when I say this.  The medical profession claims the best possible chance to prevent this disease is to nourish the brain by mental exercise and maintain a well balanced diet.  This disease is degenerative, incurable and terminal which may occur due to environmental or genetic factors.  If it is going to happen it will occur in the later  years of adulthood and, in most cases, when the brain no longer has challenges or makes important decisions which are prevalent when one retires and becomes mentally inactive.  The symptoms include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, language breakdown and long-term memory loss, and it only gets worse. 

Most of us are familiar with this disease because it affects 1 in 25 over the age of 60 so it is not new to anyone.  BJJ might just be the remedy because of its complexity challenging the mind like a game of chess which is just what the brain needs.  It’s like a big jigsaw or crossword puzzle where you have to engage brain into gear.  Any mental stimulation is going to keep the brain ‘alive’.  BJJ is great for that which requires the head to constantly recite information.

Don’t forget (pardon the pun) to tell your parents and grandparents about the good news.  There is a 70 year old who has a purple belt in BJJ and he travels 4 hours a day, to and from the gym, using public transport, so no excuse for anyone claiming 'not enough time'.  There are plenty of other martial arts which might do the job if BJJ is not your cup of tea.  For the fainthearted, there is Chess, or Crosswords, but I believe training both the mind and body to be more effective.  Food for thought, anyway!

What a Champion!

“ … and the winner is, by unanimous decision, and still retaining her NSW State title, Nadine CHAMPION.  That’s what happened last Sunday evening at the Castle Hill RSL with Sensei Benny standing in her corner.  Nadine is one of Sensei Benny’s Black Belts and she did her Instructor proud in a 5 round showdown.  I walked back  stage to congratulate the girl and I said to her, “you don’t know me but … “  She interrupted and said, “I do know you, Sir.”  I was a little stunned before I could go on.  I told her how fascinated I was with her performance.  I'm talking about kicks that knocked the other girl over and punches that rocked her head.  She didn’t realize how well she went.  I was truly astounded with the performance of all the girls in the ring; they can really fight.  They all seem to enjoy the same hairdo – pleated with plats.

It was great to see the legendary ‘Jet’ at the show with people looking for a chance ie photos, autographs, handshakes.  Can you imagine what was going on in people's minds?  Benny 'the Jet' here at the Castle Hill RSL! 

After the show, it was one more dinner with the legend, because Monday was his travel back to the US (to meet up with my mate, Shihan Richard Norton).  Master Fari and I took Sensei Benny to our usual restaurant because he loves Australian Barramundi.  It was truly great having him here but he assured me he will be back sooner than later. 

The Legend Continues …

Another training session with Master Benny ‘the Jet’ Urquidez, followed by an invitation to dinner.  I felt quite good about myself.  Sensei Benny is an inspiration to all of us and makes you believe  in yourself.  I said to him, "you make me feel young again" and I got a big smile out of him.  I watched him very closely and listened hard because I knew he is not going to be around in Sydney much longer.  Interestingly enough, I always tell my students to learn and train as if I am going to leave Sydney so I get their full undivided attention.  We’re talking about 100% effort here.  I was ringing wet at the end of the session but how enjoyable was that!  I hope to get some of this across to our people but we're lucky enough to have Shihan Richard Norton, who has been a student of Sensei Benny, since 1984!

I had a quiet talk with Sensei Benny whilst driving him and Master Fari home.  He still practices and teaches traditional Karate, and he still practices and teaches kata (in fact, same kata as us). 

It’s amazing the higher and more experienced the person in the martial artist, the more humble and friendlier they are.  Tomorrow, taking Sensei Benny to the Airport for a seminar in Melbourne.  He will be back in Sydney for Sunday night where he will be sitting in the corner for one of his Black Belts at a Kickboxing promotion. 

I love Sensei Benny's philosophy.  People, in the '80's, would come into his gym and say how good they were.  Benny's reply, 'don't tell me, surprise me.'  When they'd say they would not fight because they'd be too dangerous!  Benny's reply, 'I'll take my chances.'

Take the Gloves off!

I've had one young person try out the points sparring competition within the school and they got so frustrated with that style of sparring, they took off their gloves and walked off.  I felt like saying, 'hey, what did you do when you bought your first lotto ticket and didn't win?  Did you go and burn down the newsagency you bought the ticket from?'  What people have to realise there is a lot to be gained from disappointments and errors of judgements.  Learning is usually done from making mistakes and defeat!  

Life is about accepting things and learning from as you go along.  It's called self development.  I've hear the term for people who give up so quickly the martial arts, K-mart specials, because 'here today, gone tomorrow'.  

The very challenge of martial arts training is a platform which can be extremely rewarding. after attaining the skills that help us prevail and prosper in our environment.  It's now 35 years and I still have my gloves on!