The Missing Link

Overall, martial arts schools are good at what they do and produce some pretty good athletes.  On face value, the martial arts predominantly are about self defence and very few martial artists will question if what they are learning is ever going to help them out on the street.  That question in today's climate seldom arises because there are many other great reasons for taking up the martial arts.  But that question still remains and many fear to answer, ‘Can I defend myself?'  Especially those who may be dependent on it because of their occupation or the environment they spend most of their time in.

The truth is every martial art can be effective and useful but a street situation could turn out to be disastrous because of an important missing link in training.  Very few schools are not aware of the real life drama that takes place before the fight even begins.  Students are trained to respond to the Instructor/Referee's signal before commencing their 'fight'; they are warmed up and ready, and know what they are getting into, with rules to protect them.  In a real situation there is a lead up to the fight which sparks off high emotional acitivity resulting in the inexperienced freaking out. This causes not being able to think clearly or respond accordingly. 

There are plenty of available resources which provide the missing link such as Reality Based Training (RBT) which aims to acclimatise students to the threats and trains them to read the precursors and use the most effective and simple moves in stressful situations. This is a big subject and a lot of training is required if people want to be ready for that ‘fight or flight’ situation.  It is really up to the Instructors or individuals to do a bit of research if they want to get somewhere with this, otherwise, be prepared to accept defeat and don't kid themselves or their students.

Happy New Year

Pay to be Uncomfortable

Who does that?  Answer: many.  Discomfort, I mean, removing our minds and bodies from their comfort  zones so as to be able to handle the inevitable adversaries when they occur.  People are starting to realise this more and more and that is why they are spending so much money to removes themselves from the norms to get that mental and physical stimulation this ‘discomfort’ provides.  You only have to look at how many people pay top dollar for Bootcamp and Crossfit just to experience extreme discomfort.  Those who want to stay well away from this are quite welcomed and they don’t have to do anything but the statistics are heavily leaning the other way, more so, with Generations Y & Z.

Over the many years martial arts training has been providing that stimulation.   Sometimes it is difficult for people to distinguish between discomfort and injury giving them the wrong idea.  It is an education process for everybody and it may take some time to understand the benefits of it all.  As technology advances life gets more ‘comfortable’ (although busier) and we spend more of our time in a chair or car, and use the lift instead of the stairs.  This is not the best thing for the body.  We have to regularly jolt it to provide the stimulation for a chemical balance within the body. 

In Karate we experience discomfort during sparring but this pain is only relative to what you are used to.  It is much the same in Brazlian Jiu Jitsu – being crushed or choked.  Some people misconstrue discomfort for inury and they might 'freak out' and that is why they need to acclimatise themselves with this discomfort. 

I remember the whole subject of martial arts, in much earlier years, was about how effective they would be in the street but conversations have changed, over the years, to discussion about the phsyical and mental challenging aspects.  I was saying the other day that I don't feel like I've had a good session if I don't have  a good wrestle (BJJ).  I want to go home with that feeling of experiencing that discomfort and challenge just like boxers and the likes with sparring.

I guess then it must be true what they say – NO PAIN, NO GAIN.

Don’t be a ‘Wuss’

A little bit of pain, a little bit of stress and a little bit of disappointment in one’s life is not going to hurt anyone, especially kids.  In the martial arts it’s all part of the education process and that’s an important part of growing up if we want kids to become resilient to a bit of pain or emotion.  A concern factor is the younger generations.  See what happens if you take the iphone off them.  How are they supposed to overcome fear if this is all it takes to freak them out?

Whilst there are so many new laws that protect children, there are many parents, with all good  intentions, who overprotect children to the point where these kids will hardly experience disappointment is or even know how to deal with it.  This is demonstrated by parents who overreact when they see their children take a fall or even a hard hit during their training.  Imagine how these kids may feel seeing their parents react that way; it shows lack of confidence in their children. This is where the martial arts can take up the slack by giving the youngsters the opportunity to experience challenges, disappointment and learning not to give up, but the parents have to acknowledge that.

Every kid and grown-up needs to become resilient in some way if they want to be able to handle the pressures of life.  What better way to learn this by brushing off a hard hit or handling 150kg on their chest (jiu jitsu).  It’s not about not letting it happen, it’s about how you handle it when it does happen.

Once upon a time, people took up martial arts to protect themselves by beating up the other guy before he beats them.  Today, it’s a lot more complicated; we need to beat bullying, harassment, stress and health issues, and learn to fit in society with the right people.  PEOPLE OF AUSTRALIA, DON’T BECOME WUSSES.

Are You Through Playing Games?

Young students and junior grades can be forgiven if they get bored and want a little excitement to boost their enthusiasm during training.  Hence, the little ‘bells and whistles’ instructors have to use to keep the momentum going.  However, there comes a time when these toys should be put aside and students no  longer have the need for the instructor to entertain them.

The brown belt (or 2 years into training) is usually when the student starts getting serious.  It is the stage when the student has outgrown their desire for toys and games and takes on a different attitude towards their training.  Can you imagine how an adult would feel if you give them a toy to play with?  It would be treating them like a child.  I am sure any student with a mature attitude does not want that and prefers to be treated seriously. 

The cycle of life is raising and nurturing children until they are mature enough to look after themselves.  Students are raised and nurtured in the much same way by martial arts instructors who will always be there to guide them.  Anybody wearing a brown belt should start thinking about what will it take to make them better, not what will it take to make things better.  Game over!

No Brainers

Just recently one of my Black Belt students saw a couple of ‘meatheads’ in the carpark who were so pumped up they were carrying on as if they had just won a fight in the UFC.  My student asked them if they were expecting some sort of trouble.  They said, “Nah mate, we just finished MMA.  We’re all pumped up”. 

 MMA (mixed martial arts) is a great sport and there are quite a few good instructors with a lot of experience who can teach it but, with the growing popularity of MMA, they have to compete with bogus instructors who have zero qualifications. 

MMA has also shown to be a calling card for idiots.  The glamour of wearing shorts, rashies and tattoos and not having to worry about belts and respect for instructors would be too much to resist.  Perfect for the 'no brainers' who want a quick fix for their ego and wanting to scare people with their tatoos and deep sound of their voices. 

MMA is the 'in thing' now for a number of reasons.  First, it is more of a reality based martial art.  Its application to real-life confrontations is noticeable.  Secondly, MMA students don’t have to worry about belts and honourific titles making it a much more egalitarian sport.  Third, the training wear and equipment is a lot more fashionable; no need to worry about gi’s or tying belts.  However, there is a strong argument the traditional arts are important in shaping effective and ethical martial artists. MMA Instructors with traditional martial arts backgrounds and values are the sort of people the industry needs to survive. 

The MMA scene gives opportunity to unqualified instructors to jump into the martial arts industry without having to worry about answering questions about how long have they been training for, who taught them, what do they know and if they have anything to show for?  I am sure there will be no shortage of 'no brainers' to keep them going.

Be Your Own Master

Be your own Master and don’t tell the whole world about it.  Talking about the martial arts than actually doing is not going to earn anyone the Master title if that is what they are aspiring to.  There are instructors who call themselves Master and actually believe they have earned the right to use that title without putting in the time, effort and attain the accomplished skill level.  What makes it worse is when they declare the title themselves instead by the right people who believe they are worthy of it.  Unfortunately, the Master title is not an official title so it is misused and abused by the few who are often seeking recognition and acceptance.

Masters of ‘back yard’ origin will inform people they have been in the martial arts for an extraordinary number of years.  These years include the very time they may have tried out a boxing lesson at the PCYC and it will only be years later they actually start any formal training.  There are others who include football and basketball training as part of their total years of training in the martial arts (now that’s funny).  Others conceal the 10 year break they’ve between sessions.

This type of Master has issues.  They demand respect and treat people as servants.  A real Master is nothing like that and does not even like being called a Master, the other one does.  It takes a lifetime to master the martial arts but even longer to be a Master.  Clearly, some people can live with George Costanza’s famous quote (Seinfeld) “it’s not a lie if you believe it”.

There is only one way for these persons who can justifiably use the word Master but I will leave that to people’s imagination.

It’s only Fail if you Quit

There may come a time when some people want to give up their passion because they lose focus and forget why they took it up in the first place.  Long standing martial artists will always remember the original reason for taking up the martial arts.  People of my vintage will often say it was because of the Bruce Lee movies in the ‘70s.  My reasons were based on school yard bullying; I was tired of coming out second best because most of the bullies were usually stronger and faster than me.  After a few months training I went and saw the Bruce Lee movies; this was the deciding factor the martial arts would be my lifelong ambition.

Students need to remember the reason for starting up the martial arts in the first place and should always cherish that decision.  Martial arts promote a positive and healthy lifestyle as well good friendship.  The martial arts had a positive influence in my teen years upbringing, I said NO to drugs, NO to smoking, NO to bad company and I said NO to quitting.  Many people since, have followed my lead.  However, quitting may be lead to negative lifestyle changes because the quitter starts to look for something else.  This is when kids are most vulnerable and may end up doing something unfavourable. 

There a few things that needs to be sorted out after promotion to Probationary Black Belt (Shodan-Ho).  There is a 12 month period in which you have to show cause you are worthy to retain that belt.  During that time you need to act like one, perform like one and speak like one.  This is the bridging period from coloured belt to black belt. 

Nearly a Black Belt is not a Black Belt as some people might think.  The people around you may regard it as ‘fail’ and it doesn’t matter what excuses you give them because they will have their own opinions about why you may have quit.

Those who receive their 1st Degree ranking after their probation should keep in mind ‘the best part of getting a Black Belt is being a Black Belt’. It's only 'fail' if you quit'.

Clear Head

It has taken so many years in the martial arts to understand that taking it nice and easy achieves better results in sparring, wrestling and self defence.  By that I mean keeping a cool head under pressure which ensures the mind and body are working at their optimum.  Not many of us have mastered this because we tend to let our emotions get in the way which results in tunnel vision, a reduction in cognitive thinking (distorted mind) and physical ability (running out of steam).

I remember one particular major karate tournament, in the ‘80s, I had come up against one of Australia’s favourite and feared fighters who had a bad temper and would wack you in the face if he thought you were trying to get the better of him (I still have vivid memories of that mean look on his face).  I dreaded the idea of being in his weight category but as Murphy’s Law would have it, I also ended up having to fight him. 

I didn’t care so much about trying to beat this guy; I was more concerned about not getting hurt.  In the ‘80s nobody was around to rescue you if things got out of hand, it was an era of hard training and hard fighters.  I showed my opponent that I had no interest in trying to beat him by being and looking relaxed in order to convince him I was no threat.  However, this fight was one of my best ones ever, losing by a very controversial measly half point (3 points to 2.5 points).  My instructor was absolutely amazed and it was not obvious, at the time, why I did so well. 

In law enforcement and security, I did very well, sometimes extremely well, with the same attitude by staying relaxed and not letting emotions taking over situations.  If you make it personal then you become emotional and that may spell dismal failure.  The professionals who work at the door, cops on the job, bodyguards are usually successful for many reasons but a big part of it is mainly they are able to avoid becoming emotional and treat situations as part of their job.  This is what needs to be learned in the martial arts – stay relaxed and detach from emotion.  This will ensure a clear head.

‘I Do’

 We’ve all seen vows take place at weddings especially the 'I do' bit and then it’s all over and done with but nobody thinks, at the time, how much time and effort has gone leading into this moment.

Tournament is usually a one day event and competing may only be a matter of minutes.  The most important part is the preparation and training leading up to the event. 

I hear some students say, ‘I am not ready’.  Does that mean they are not willing, or does that mean they are not ready to take on the extra training?   In martial arts competition there is no such thing as losing as long as you did your very best.  But there is an upside to this.  Stepping into the arena is an opportunity to test your skills and gain experience that only competition can provide.  I notice the incredible improvement in students who put their hands up to compete.  Not only does their sparring and kata improve but overall skills and confidence.

I was talking to Billy ‘the Kid’ (World Champion Boxer) today about how many people out there are willing take on everybody as long as they don’t have to step out the front door of their school.  It’s best these people, especially those who have never competed, to keep quiet and maintain a low profile because it is a small world. 

Whilst competition is not for everybody I do encourage students to at least, just the once, experience that arousal and adrenalin when confronted outside the norm of their surroundings – call it a little preparation for that shocking street encounter should it ever happen.  Those who don't compete should look at becoming skilled coaches and motivators to assist those who want to 'take on the world'.

Letting students know they have the potential is all it may take for them to say, ‘I do’ when asked, ‘who wants to compete.’

Congratulations to our fine young outstanding athletes last weekend at the recent AMAC championships:
Etan Foo, Siddarth Warrier, Jake Mountford, Alex Piotrowski, Kyle Welevita.

The Greatest Feeling Ever

In the martial arts, people who are not concerned with belts are usually in it for the long haul.  Those who aspire for belts rather than knowledge, it would seem they have a very short martial arts life span unless attitudes change.  The importance of a belt is what it stands for and what you do for it.  Any other way he or she is either being misled or is misleading themselves.

Those who have received a belt and were not ecstatic about it is because, deep down, they did not deserve it especially those expecting or even asking for it (there are people out there that do that).  The value of the belt is the uncertainty of when and if given.  Not meeting the requirements in a grading can be a positive thing because it encourages the student to never give up (one of life's greatest philosophies).  To change the grading system so everybody can get over the finish line is to weaken the art and deceive the student.  

Spare a thought for the humble BJJ student who does not know when and if they ever get their belt; just a little stripe if they're lucky enough but they don't complain.  I think we can learn something from this.  

People should remember they are in the martial arts for the training, not for belts.  Instead, belts are a consequence of training.  Those outside this thinking are only kidding themselves. Earning a Black Belt is one of greatest feelings ever.  It is well worth waiting for.