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!

Are we there Yet?

Generally, the longer time to reach each rank the better the value particularly in the case of BJJ.  I am not saying ranks  should be held back in every case but consideration should be given as to why grades need that extra time.  This is to make sure you really earn that belt.  Experienced Instructors know it all too well that a Black Belt is only as good as the system or the Teacher who gives it.  Each rank symbolizes a certain mental and skill level.  Many of us do martial arts for the enjoyment of training, not for the belts.  If tomorrow, I was promoted to the next belt in BJJ, then what?  If anything, I have a bit of worrying to do because I have to live up to it.  I usually like to share the same philosophy when grading my students in Karate and which sometimes may be difficult to understand.  If that's hard to take then try BJJ which takes 3 years to get Blue.  That's equivalent to getting a Brown in our karate system.  Thankfully, those who get their Black Belt in our Karate system, understand the reasoning.

I've had a number of enquiries from people asking me what belt could they wear, based on previous skill, if they joined our school.  I always say, ‘White’.  You should hear the stutters in their voices!  (Oh, well, that’s another potential student lost and probably don’t need).

It's quite gratifying to hear other Instructors talking about our school's grading reputation (particularly, the Black Belt).  I like Mr John Will's belt philosophy, 'you must be that belt before you get that belt'!  It's also about the enjoying the time leading to the grade compared to that short moment of enjoyment of being give the grade.  Belts to me are only good if the Instructor who gives them really means it.

I spent the whole Saturday with Mr Will doing seminars.  The seminars were great and he raised some interesting points about time and grade.  The one thing about John is he respects the person not necessarily the rank.  Shihan Richard Norton has a similar view – SHOW US WHAT YOU CAN DO.

What a Legend!

Well what can I say!  I got to meet and train with the Kickboxing legend, Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez. last Tuesday evening.  He is currently in Australia conducting a series of seminars.  For the young ones, Master Benny is one of the most unique martial artists in the world and has 9 Black Belts in different styles which was unheard of in the late 70's. He holds 63 World titles in Kickboxing with an impressive fight record of over 200 wins, zero losses and 57 knockouts. Nicknamed ‘The Jet’ because of his lethal jump spinning back kick.  Since retiring from the ring, he has devoted his time to acting and movies.  Have a look at this fight scene between him and Jackie Chan said to be one of the best fight scenes on film.

I was in the Instructor's change room, with Dr Chris, at the Liverpool KMA centre when Sensei Benny and Master Fari walked in.  The first thing he said to me, as we shook hands, was “I remember you.” That’s after 15 years when I attended his seminar in Sydney!  That's amazing.  

There was a large attendance which goes to show he still draws a crowd. He impressed us all with everything he said, did, show and teach.  The floor exercises were outstanding. It was an absolutely sensational evening. We were then invited, by Master Fari, to have dinner with the legend which gave us an opportunity to have a really good talk with him.  

The man has a certain aura about him; everybody listens when he talks, he is quite spiritual and is also into healing.  In a nutshell, a super nice guy!  Our Aussie legend, Shihan Richard Norton, has trained under him for many years and their friendship goes back to almost 30 years.  Dr Chris and I get to see and train again with the legend next week which I am looking forward to.  There's a lot more to say about this man but it's going to be too much for the blog.

On two occasions, Benny was having coffee with Richard at Starbuck's when I called Richard in the US. There will also be two legends this weekend having a cup of coffee – Mr John Will, and me (lol).