Out of the Blue

When you have spare time you do catch-ups or do the other things you wouldn't normally do. Out of the blue, I thought I would drop in and see an old student and very good friend of mine who I trained for 6 or more years in Karate and Phillipino Martial Arts. When I moved onto Budoshinkai Karate, I told him it was best he stays there and help out with the Chief Instructor (that was over 20 years ago).  Sami is now 61 and has quit teaching about a year ago only because he wasn’t getting the numbers to make it worth his while. 

Sami is a very unassuming person.  At the age of 61, with a height of only 5’8”, very little hair, a bit round in shape with a slight middle-eastern accent and friendly nature to go with, nobody would think he was a 7th degree Black Belt.  He took up Loss Prevention with one of the major retail outlets 10 years ago and has since counted his blessings on many occasions.

For many people fights may be only once in a blue moon. I listened to some of Sami’s stories whilst apprehending violent offenders in stores, which almost cost him his job; he just got his 4th and final warning from the do-gooders of HR (Human Resources).  I knew he would've got the better of them otherwise he wouldn't be standing in front of me.  What I was more interested were how he handled the situations.  I have every bit of confidence in him and know him well enough, his stories have not been blown out.  They are definitely true blue. 

Now and then I find out things like this from students especially from police officers whom I have trained in the past and their skills which got them out of real trouble.  Even one of my Black Belts. doing a lot of door work had a lot to tell.  He actually ending up doing personal security for Jean Claude Van Damme and Pierce Brosnan (James Bond character) when they came to Australia on more than one occasion.

Over the years I have always kept turning the wheels and sharpening the blades to ensure the students get the real deal.  My reward is the thanks I get from people whom I have helped over the years.

Dojo – Right Place, Right Time

If you're old enough you might remember the days of the black and white TV.  If you saw one in a museum you may be forgiven to think it is just as amazing the first day it came out.  The question is why would such a  useless, outdated and worthless piece of junk would still intrigue some people today?  If it was on the side of the road you wouldn’t even give it a second look but in a museum, it would probably catch your eye and maybe think how incredible it was that such a primitive piece actually worked.  If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t be sitting today in front of our LEDs wearing 3D glasses.  It’s all thanks to the inventors and developers of that black and white TV. 

In comparison during the same era, martial arts was a black and white TV but having said that, the martial arts began developing over a thousand years ago.  That’s how long it has taken the martial arts to reach its heights today.  We take all things for granted when we jump on our mobile phones and laptops but if it wasn’t for our pioneering inventors and achievers we would still be rubbing sticks together to get the kettle going.  The martial arts are where they are today because of the do-ers and we should not take for granted what is being taught out there.  Good Instructors will go out of their way to show as much as they can to their students. 

Many people take up the martial arts as a hobby whilst others take it more seriously.  If martial arts have ever helped anyone out of a situation, then all that training must be worthwhile.  Just hearing from others how it helped them was enough for me to take up Karate as a young man.  Thirty five years later I’m still at it.  I get strange calls every so often from ex-students to tell me how a little voice in their head said 'why did you stop training', the moment they got themselves into the wrong place at the wrong time!  That sends one message – the dojo is the right place at the right time.

Hit two Birds with one Stone

I went in for a little knee arthroscopy today.  I had butterflies in my stomach last night to the point of freaking out.  I spoke to John and Melissa Will last night who calmed me down.  John said the reason for the nerves, for such a minor op, is a long history of my negative association with hospitals.  As soon as the hopsital called me up yesterday I starting feeling anxious.  I spoke to Richard Norton, Victor, Dr Chris, Rob Naumoski etc to see if that might put me at ease.  The knee was long overdue which will take about two weeks to fully recover which is about the same time my right foot is fully mended.

It was difficult for my wife to agree to the operation on my left knee whilst having a broken right foot at the same time but I just want to get things over and done with. This way I get to hit two birds with one stone. The difficulty faced was how to use the crutches with both feet not being able to walk for a few days.  Problem solved, it was easy.  Victor called me up and thought I wasn't going to the classes tomorrow.  When there's a will, there's a way.  All I have to do is rub some of this magic potion onto some of our students.
PS: Yes, the knee is extremely sore when I try to walk.

A Step in the Right Direction

It is an amazing feeling when people notice and try to do something for you when you’re on a handicap.   That is certainly is the case when you’re on crutches.  You are the first one to enter the elevator, cars stop for you to cross the road (even though you were just standing around with no intention to cross the road) and you’re the first one to get served at any shop counter.  People can be good human beings when they want to. 

I actually get more attention and sympathy when I have the pants rolled up exposing the full length of the boot, making it look more serious.  When I have the pants down, I only get 'he'll get over it' attitudes.

I was standing around in the office of the Dental Surgery waiting to be called in.  An old gentleman got up and offered me his seat because he could see I was on crutches.  That was a bit of shock to me – it’s usually the other way around.  Maybe, it was his way of feeling better about himself, he is in better condition than me.  It’s only a thought and I shouldn’t be taking anything away from this nice man.  I am just not used to this role reversal.  I had to explain to dentists, nurses and receptionists what had happened to my foot.  Everybody in the room was keen to listen so I took a deep breath before I started my speech.  I was trying to down play my handicap which is what I did about any weaknesses, I had at the time, before a martial arts competition or street situation. I lifted myself off the ground and did other strange things I have picked up along the way using the crutches.  These sticks weren’t designed for acrobatics which almost flung me onto the ground.  I recovered well and it looked like part of the act; I almost got a standing ovation!  I discovered later, that day, one of the rubber feet had badly split.  I rang the pharmacy to claim on my warranty (with tongue in cheek) so I get another pair for new challenges.  I guess if there is any point to this blog it just shows the personality of a martial artist.

It is really amazing (not much fun, though) to spend 6 weeks with your leg in a cast with a couple of sticks taking you for walks but every day is a step forward (pardon the pun).

Let the Blog Wars begin!

John Will may have started up a craze when he got into blogging many years ago (at least for me, anyway).  I don't mean the facebook type of stuff but something meaningful about martial arts and life matters.  It was John who told me that I should start up my own blog.  Around about that time, Shihan Richard Norton was also on board and it we sometimes laugh about it as if we are competing with each other.  Richard Norton & Jackie Chan in their own little war


Shihan Richard had recently revamped his blog and has since placed some interesting articles.  The latest which includes an old and funny flm clip of a great fight scene with Richard and Jackie Chan but have a read of the blog first before getting excited and hitting the play button to watch the video. Go into his blog to watch the film.

Fantasy Island

Imagine jumping into a ring and giving a boxer a beating without him hitting back.  Your effort increases, at least tenfold, once he starts moving, blocking and hitting back.  Use the same imagination with a ground fighter and you’ll soon find out that it is not a blow up doll you’re on the mats with.   All it takes is a bit of resistance or non-compliance and then you have a different ball game.  To be aware of this is to be aware of what lurks out in the real world. 

In support of a good martial arts education, a good Instructor needs to know what will work  under pressure.  There are literally dozens of kicks and a vast variety of ways to execute them in a non-contact situation.  The number reduces when the contact increases.  The ring generally weeds out what can be used and how they can be thrown. The street eliminates, for almost everyone, any fantasy of throwing a kick to the head.  A school should not fall in the Fantasy Island syndrome where reality is only in the realms of their dojo.  But full contact fighting, whether it is kickboxing, wrestling or mma, is a great tool for Instructors to understand the reality of their own teachings; this does not mean a school or student should do full contact.  I am just as happy to see a student using their own imagination and coming up with their own stuff but my obligation as an Instructor is to ensure when and if they can use it.  I study full oontact events and look for things that can be used under pressure.  Unfortunately, real fights are not something you readily see on television so it is quite difficult for Instructors to eyewitness or study situations, and make determinations unless they have experienced first hand. 

It was very nice to hear from John Will yesterday, on his way to the Airport, checking up on my right tyre kicker.  I was very pleased to hear his son is also doing very well (there were times things weren’t going according to plan).  I believe I will see him on the mats in 6 months time.  John is doing his usual tour of duty in Asia, England and Norway.  Have a nice trip, John!

All Padded up!

It’s becoming popular to see personal trainers (PTs), in parks, providing some form of fitness to people who lack motivation or don’t seem to have time to attend a gym, etc.  The PTs probably do a pretty good job for some or most of these people, but how ordinary it  looks to qualified and trained Martial Arts Instructors, when the PTs get the focus pads out and make their clients throw a few kangaroo punches; some of them make my grandmother look like a pro. 

Equipment which is used in the martial arts is designed by the people in the industry.  It looks like a ploy, by the Fitness Industry, to make people feel they are getting something special from their training.  It’s the sit-ups, push-ups and short runs that might be doing the job, not the use of the equipment but it certainly looks good when somebody is holding a couple of focus pads; makes people feel it's money worth spent.  The other issue is a false sense of security.  I have friends who feel good about defending themselves.  You ‘oughta’ see their punches!

I remember when TAE BO first came to Australia and how unbelievably popular it was.  I walked into a gym, one day, with over 50 in a so called, TAE BO class.  The first 20 minutes was no different to an ordinary aerobics class.  Then they started on a few knee raises.  If you could only see the big smiles on people’s faces, as if they have been signed up for a career in the martial arts movie industry!  What crossed my mind was ‘why would anyone not want to give the martial arts a try if this sort of training impresses them’.

Pads, focus pads and the likes are only props in the fitness industry.  In the martial arts, they are our tools of trade.  It is a shame that our tools are exploited by the untrained who have very little knowledge of what these items are intended for.  It takes years to get good at using them.  I take my hat off to any PT who has a good martial arts background.  There are many martial arts schools which now provide this type of Fitness Training.  Others just jump on the band wagon for a quick buck.

‘a job well done’

 Words which inspire, encourage, support, compliment, reward, acknowledge, give confidence are all a big part of building a person’s character; this also reflect the person employing these words.

This is the best medicine for a patient, in time of need, despite the odds against recovery. We all know it too well, words of encouragement, have proven a positive outcome for many people.   If there is a fighting chance for someone out there then it must start with a positive environment.  We have already seen that with John’s son.  There is no doubt in my mind, all the positive thoughts and fan mail may have had something to do with that.    

In my work environment I beg to differ with managers who feel that it is not necessary for them to acknowledge staff, under my supervision, for a job well done.  They adopt the attitude, ‘they are getting paid for it; what else do they want?’  ‘Oh, yes, I can see how this is going to really blow their budget out!’  Perhaps an introduction to martial arts might change that point of view.

A simple compliment to a student can go a long way which is a reward in itself.  In the martial arts we have learnt to acknowledge people for who they are, what they have achieved and what they are trying to achieve.  Students are often rewarded with trophies, rank/belt promotions and other materialistic objects but without the proper words to go with them, it will not really mean much.  Imagine getting a Black Belt from the Teacher who has nothing to say about you. 

There’s nothing worse than walking into a room with a negative atmosphere.  It’s the job of the Teacher to use words which ensure a positive environment.

Double or Nothing

I had a look at an interview with Geoff Thompson, the ‘boy from Coventry’ who invented Reality Based Self Defence.  He did it because of necessity to ensure survival working at the doors of the toughest nightclubs of England in the ‘70’s & ‘80’s.  My son, Jonathan, and I were talking about this and he said that if you need to defeat your enemy, the first thing you have to do is find out what they do.  In that case, you better know what the Boxers and Wrestlers do.  Jonathan referred to the classic TV Hogan’s Heroes show (not withstanding it is only fictional and comedy), meaning the prisoners did so well because they knew everything about their enemy.  In any type of warfare, there is a lot of intelligence gathered before a battle is engaged rather than just meet the enemy Ad Hoc.  Geoff Thompson’s ideology of self defence is very similar to any type of warfare.  There are many factors to be taken into consideration:

  1. Environment: type of place, space availability, ground surface.
  2. Who & how many you are dealing with?
  3. Aggressor’s motive.
  4. Any weapon or anything which may be used as a weapon?
  5. Is alcohol or drug a factor?
  6. Back-up availability.
  7. Escape route.

There is much more to this; any information is a luxury if you are able to get it in time and  but this gets the point across that things are not simple as they seem.  However, Geoff Thompson’s principles simplify things when dealing with street conflicts. 

I was saying to Shihan Richard how we did not have to deal with the MMA style of fighter at the doors of nightclubs back in the '80's.  A story comes to Richard's mind where police in a suburb of Los Angeles were being taken to the ground by young louts.  The police didn't know how to counter double leg takedowns and went to Big John McCarthy for advice of how to deal with them; they had to, it wasn't a choice!

When we set time aside for Reality Based Self Defence, that’s when the mind should go in overdrive to pick up as much as you can because it's about dealing with the real world.

If you would like to keep up to date with the progress of John Will's son, you might want to read Ronin Will's blog.  Ronin is a very lovely young man and is working very hard at his recovery.  It is quite interesting to see what he says.  

More Time on my Hands

One leg, in plaster of paris, definitely has some advantages if you want to look at the bright side, if there is one.  To begin with, my work colleagues tell me how lucky I am to be off work.  I have more time for my website, more time to try and figure out the MAC’s software and I even get to speak to internationals when makng calls for technical support; emore time to blog!  Unfortunately, I had to do away with the weights because; carrying myself around on crutches, is hard work already. 

 I can now sit down and watch BJJ & Kickboxing DVDs.  I must confess to dragging myself across the mats and going over some BJJ drills.  Of course, without the full use of my feet, I have to focus on particular techniques which I now have become very good at.   It is always a good idea for Instructors to set time aside for focusing on particular techniques to lift the student’s skill level.  It’s about paying attention to detail; that’s what separates us from the mediocre.

On another subject, my injury is next to nothing compared to what other people are going through, right now.  At least, I am not in pain, except for the feeling of inconvenience and frustration.  Blogging, at least, makes me feel in touch with students and friends.