Where are you, Sir?

Glad to hear some people have missed me over the last 3 Saturdays (just for the record, I was there on the Wednesdays).  They didn't go to waste!  One Saturday was for the World Martial Arts Games and to  support representatives from our school, the other Saturday with Budoshinkai students in Canberra and the recent Saturday to conduct a 3rd Dan Black Belt Karate grading at another school.  I don't take time off for R & R if I know work has to be done. 

We are quite fortunate to have more than one Instructor at any one of our Sydney schools.  I remember the days when it was a 'one man show'.  Our students are never left in the lurch because there is always an Instructor(s) available.  Victor and I can always rely on John & Timothy Ellis and I should also mention the valuable help we get from Dr Chris and Jonathan Adams. 

Our other Black Belts, in particular, Herbert Tomaschett and Feras Suwan, are also reliable, dedicated and always willing to help out.  These are the people who form part of the family.  Other dedicated Instructors include, Darren Grieve and Dean Taylor in Qld, and in the ACT, Damien Philpott.  Everybody works hard to get students to where they want to be. 

In a nutshell, if an Instructor is not at the school it's not because they don't want to be.  Just thought I'd acknowledge the great work every Instructor and Black Belt do for the schools and students.

K-mart Specials!

The ultimate goal for any martial arts student has to be getting the black belt.  When a student may lose motivation and feel 'it's quitting time', any excuse will do to justify it (it may be a disguise for failure).  Sure, there are those who feel martial arts might not be for  them in the long term, and that is OK, but there are many who may regret.  I've taught over 1500 students so I have seen this many times.

The 'quitters' usually return to the scene, some time later because the motivation returns.  Unfortunately, these people quit again because of not being able to settle in and not finding it easy to pick up again from where they last left off.

Time is a common excuse and it really is up to the individual to decide what to do with their time.  Maybe, if they look at the Instructor's schedule people might not think they have it bad after all. 

When I first started training in traditional Karate (Budokan) with 20 other white belts, I was the only one who stayed and got my black belt.  A few yeas later, a new student approached me and said he started training the same time I did as a white belt.  He went on to say he was astonished I was a Black Belt and if he stayed he could've been also wearing a black belt.  I never saw him again! 

If anything, stay on to keep fit.  Why would you even bother going to general fitness classes (because the weighing scales are lying to you again) when you know it will only be a matter of time you will get bored and quit. 

It's true, not everybody makes it to Black Belt!  Only, the ones who want to, will.  These are the special kind of people. 

Don't be a K-mart special – 'here today, gone tomorrow'.

Jammed Packed Weekend

Returned from the ACT after a 3 day weekend training with Shihan Richard Norton.  Seminars included Reality Based Self Defence, MMA and 2 sessions of BJJ which were hosted by our ACT representative, Damien Philpott.  John and Timothy Ellis also attended, and from Qld,  Darren Grieve, Dean Taylor and Lee Bird.  My body is a little sore and my mind is jammed packed with new information.  I need a few days for the computer chip in my head to process all this. 

The seminars saw many new faces on the scene.  Shihan Richard did a splendid job as always.  It is really impressive to see him perform whether on the ground or stand-up.  Now I know why Mr John Will says he is the best all round martial artist in the world – there is no doubt about it.  I also have to give Richard points for trying to be the best stand-up comedian in the world (maybe I can get him a gig on Red Faces in ‘Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday’).

It was a fantastic weekend.  It was all about martial arts, training, getting together with friends and making new ones.  Now that I'm back home, I’ll get stuck into the weights in the morning and into the martial arts in the evening.  I’ve already had a break; 3 hours drive back from Canberra was enough.

Let the Games Begin!

My weekend started MMA seminar with locals & visitorsoff Thursday morning by picking up my buddy, Richard Norton, from the Airport.  We went straight to the PCYC (police citizens youth club) where we got on the mats including Dr Chris for about 3 hours.  Then off to Jordan Micakovski’s school at Austral for a BBQ with overseas visitors here for the World Martial Arts Games.  That evening an MMA seminar (a mixture of Kickboxing & BJJ ) for about two and a half hours.  The next morning, another 3 hours of BJJ with Richard.  It was great to see Steve Micakovski get on the mats with us; great skills!

The showdown between Richard and I, did take place but he pinned me down and gave me a few slaps in the face but I claimed ‘unfair play’.  Richard came back with a beauty, “Why, because I didn’t have my hands and legs tied up?”  That’s exactly what I had in mind; Richard and Chuck Norris did the same thing to Carlos Machado!  Very funny, Mr Norton, but you know, this is not over yet! 

Seriously, I had a great time, training with Richard and learning so much from him.  I wonder how he crams so much in his head.  I’ve really improved on my techniques resulting in my ability to survive a little longer when getting on the floor.  I am very fortunate because I am getting the full deal ie BJJ, MMA, Kickboxing, Reality Based Self Defence etc.  Australia is very fortunate to have him. 

Today was the first day of the Games.  The World's got talent in the martial arts; Richard and I were quite impressed. Tomorrow is the second day of the World Games.

Big Brother is Watching you!

The journey to obtaining a Black Belt is usually an adventurous one and can also be long.  What the Black Belt symbolizes will vary from style to style, and from school to school but  generically it represents ‘technical excellence'.  To be successful at attaining this level depends on the expectations of the school and Instructor but they all have one thing in common – successful completion of apprenticeship.  Your Instructor is like your big brother keeping an eye on you. 

A Black Belt should be given to students who have worked hard and really deserve it, and will hopefully continue the journey; that's what makes it worthwhile.  There are those who have only worn their Black Belt once, you never see or hear from them ever again.  I've actually thought about filing missing persons reports for some of them.  Giving up training at this level would be no different graduating in law and then taking up gardening for a living; the Black Belt you worked so hard for now just becomes a thing of the past.  It becomes a dream when once it was your dream.

A new Black Belt has to get used to being at the bottom of the rank structure (Black Belt) again which can be a culture shock for some who once were the most senior coloured belt students.  Becoming a Black Belt means you are now part of an elite group.  Taking a 'well deserved break' at this level is like abseiling down a cliff.   It’s not as easy to get back up there so it is important for students to consider the consequences in falling victim to the ‘stop and smell the roses’ attitude.  There is nothing wrong with taking a little breather, every now and then, but don't forget how hard you have worked to get where you are and not lose all that knowledge and skills.  Think of the time and money you have spent.

The journey recommences, it never ends!

Groundhog Day

I often look and think about what people teach in the martial arts and I wonder whether it is going to make any difference in the real world.  This is not a criticism of any Instructor or style but the need for a reality check when it comes to self defence.  Then there is another side to this story!  Martial arts is a lifestyle, learning physical and mental skills, and accomplishing objectives.  Not all reasons for taking up martial arts are based on the sole purpose for self defence.

Nevertheless, Instructors need to be aware with presentation of their material when teaching students self defence.  Students will often believe, and not question, what is taught to them by their Instructor. The danger is there is no verification process which may lead students into a false sense of security.  How many martial artists, especially youngsters, at tournaments believe they can handle a real knife attack with skills on show at demos?  Think about the repercussions.

Techniques taught in the real world need to be validated from actual experience.   Richard Norton has quoted (a number of times), Benny ‘the Jet’ Urquidez, ‘what life experience do you validate your knowledge on?’  So the best person to learn knife defence is from somebody with experience on knife attacks.  The best person to learn, handling drunks, is from someobody who has worked the doors.  The list goes on.  If the Instructor lacks that experience then they need to hook up with someone who does, so they know exactly what they’re doing when teaching.

Martial artists need to be aware the purpose of training self defence skills and their limitations in the street.    Whilst many techniques, whether from karate, bjj, mma, judo, kung fu skills are not going to be readily useful, the purpose of training them is to get you right where you have to be in order to handle confrontations.  Everything you learn is your back-up artillery. 

Martial arts is about perfecting techniques and discovering new moves.  It would be a pretty ordinary world (martial arts) if we just stayed where we are unless you like the same thing every day as in that classic movie, Groundhog Day.  Generally, this sort of thing doesn’t normally happen today.  New techniques seem to be popping out of nowhere.  One particular junior BJJ student (plain sort of guy), tapped a number of very senior grades from his school by a never seen before triangle choke.  You never know what’s around the corner. 

Any great Kickboxer, Cage Fighter, Self Defence expert usually has a traditional background.  The latest UFC World Champion, is a Shotokan Karate stylist.  A lot of the things, in traditional training, seem a lot clearer when we get to where we want to be.  I wish I had some shares in Shotokan because every man, and his dog, is signing up.

Did You Read the Fine Print?

Thirty five years ago when I first started training, usually the physically strong took up martial arts and only the elite got their Black Belts.  Now martial arts is for  everyone and the Black Belt is given to the strong-hearted not necessarily the physically strong.  Everybody comes in all shapes and sizes and there are various levels of physical ability so a grading should not be based purely on ability, it’s the 'ability to try' because this is the one thing we all have in common.  If we stuck to the ‘survival of the fittest’ concept, the martial arts would not be where they are today.  Trying is about dedication, persistence, passion, contribution, self discipline, self confidence, improvement.  Just about any martial arts brochure, you pick up, will advertise that.  I have never seen any ad which says you must fight for your belt, compete in tournaments etc.  Maybe it’s in fine print somewhere.  I dare any school owner to put that in large print? 

Anybody who walks in the school has various reasons for wanting to take up the martial arts; it’s not up to the Instructors to give them reasons.  Martial arts were not intended for competition, although tournaments do have their place in the sporting world and there are students who thrive on them.  I'm qualified to talk on this subject with my long and successful tournament history in case anybody is wondering.  Instructors need to be aware they do not develop an environment where students have to prove themselves.  Also, tournaments should not be a prerequisite for promotion because this is not a true represention of every student in the school. 

A competitive culture in the school promotes only one way of thinking when sparring/wrestlling ie ‘to win’.   Nobody learns anything from that.  Benny ‘the Jet’ Urquidez (the greatest kickboxer of all times) will never allow any student of his to make anything harder than touch contact when sparring in his classes.  The same goes for wrestling.  It’s about respecting the art, teachers and one another.  Helio Gracie was able to wrestle up to the age of 95.  John Will says, train smart, not hard.  Do I need to go on?

The more knowledge you have, the less your ego.