Can you really get ripped over 40?

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Bodybuilding, a younger mans game right? Well perhaps not, the evidence is fast mounting in that those people that take up weight training post turning 40 see a significant increase to their life span and also to their own quality of life as they age through the life span.

Perhaps it is true that you do see a number of bodybuilders that are over the age of 40, yet its true that in a number of cases these people have trained for a number of years. Yet it is also true that a number of people hitting the gym for the first time are over 40’s looking to change their lives.

Let me state first and foremost that the first step you take to making your decision to take up training is to head down to your family doctor, go through a standard check up and discuss with them your plans and take their advice on how you might proceed, and perhaps in what direction you may wish to take your training.

It is worth pointing out that training with weights for people aged over 40 is now being recommended by many government health departments, this article by the Health Department of Victoria in Australia is one such example – https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/resistance-training-health-benefits

The marker that I use of age of ’40’ is simply because that is the age that it is known that once you reach it, from then on you naturally lose your muscle mass as you age, to the point where at the age of 60 you can have much less muscle mass than when you were 40. For years people have simply assumed this to be normal and have accepted the many poor health outcomes that come with it and diseases that are associated with aging. Yet the fact are in that if you do hit the gym and train and develop your muscles, you will actually increase your muscle mass and be as strong or stronger and more agile at 60 than you were at 40.

This article on Parkinson’s Disease and how you may be able to improve your symptoms with weight training is just one example of a number of articles that study the benefits of weight training on aging related diseases – http://www.webmd.com/parkinsons-disease/news/20120216/weight-training-improves-parkinsons-symptoms

So, the question is, if you are over 40, or even approaching 40, is this something you are interested in? If so, check our our list below of the top 18 tips for starting training at over 40!

#1, As stated above, contact your family Doctor, go in for a check up and get yourself up to date with the latest medical thinking on the benefits of training for Over 40’s. Allow your Doctor to use your records to help point you in the type of training that may be best for you. Whilst this article is about Weight Lifting, it could be that Swimming may be better for you if you have joint or ligament problems and need a plan to get you to the gym.

#2, Let your fingers do the walking, You need to put together a list of potential gyms and realistically these need to be within a reasonable range of your home or workplace. Of all those that pay for a 12 month membership, many are gone after six weeks and more by three months, making it hard to get to is the first obstacle you can overcome by choosing correctly in the first place.

#3, Resist the urge to look for the cheapest gym. The quickest way to ruin your progress is to be stuck in a poor quality crowded gym with poor to average equipment for 12 months. Try not to make money your motive, put various priced gyms on your list for trial and trial them at peak hour to see how they hold up.

#4, Do take on a personal trainer to set you up with a program Also bear in mind that you do not have to have choose only from the personal trainers that your own gym provides, you can and should get independent advice from a PT that works across various gyms in your local area. You can if you wish go to this person first  before you join anywhere, to be given assistance to be put on the right program in a quality gym in your area.

#5, Start Slowly, here is the rub, in the hours after you first train you feel some weird pains in your muscles, depending on how hard you went, the following day can be quite interesting in terms of pain from aching muscles. Just because it does not hurt at the time of your training does not mean it wont hurt tomorrow. Hence why you build up slowly, perhaps starting with two sessions per week, perhaps Chest and Back on one day and Arms and Shoulders on another, with some leg sets on both days to get you ready for a ‘leg day’ later on.

#6, Don’t rush out to buy ‘supplements’ Every muscle magazine hawks these and they become relevant three plus months into your training. Your initial concern is to get your program and your form correct and to get into a good pattern of training and make some initial gains and weight loss. In terms of supplements you will eventually need a protein powder and perhaps a nitric based ‘pre-workout’. A good tip is to get your initial protein powder from ‘Costco’ because its cheap and it works and to hit the health food shop to get samples of pre-workout to find what work for you.

#7, Cardio workouts are not as important as you think. Yes the gym has various expensive cardio machines. Making them the focus of your workout may not give you the results you want. Bear in mind that hitting over 80% of your heart rate can burn muscle mass as well as fat. These machines are good for a quick warm up and a warm down, my personal recommendation is either the Rowing Machine or the Elliptical trainer taken at a steady pace, yet by all means try them all and see what works for you.

#8, Keep a training diary, Record your program and the dates that you train along with any notes that you need to keep on what you are learning about as you train. Keep it ready to run questions past your personal trainer or the staff at the gym to help re-point your program.

#9, Repoint your program with your personal trainer, Everyone wants to increase the weights they lift at the gym be it free weights or cable machines. Most newbies make the mistake of sacrificing form to get a better number on the machine. Your PT will gently bring you back to earth and correct your form and the program. Lifting with correct form will be what gives you the real gains that you are there for.

#10, Enjoy the feeling of leaving after a hard session. by nature working out is hard work and you often leave the gym with the full knowlege that you have given it everything. Yet it is also one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have. No one ever says ‘gee I wish I had not trained today’. That feeling along with the feeling of seeing real gains and seeing your health go from fat, sick and nearly dead, to ripped, healthy and feeling awesome. is something that has to be experienced to be understood.

Sadly many people are afraid to take on a gym program at an older age, due to self inflicted age discrimination. The fact is that most people can do the gym and do well at it with the right commitment and effort. Your age is a number,  it has no real relation to your physical fitness nor physical capacity. That is something that we put often into our own minds because of the fear of trying something new. The fact is that many of us look at our poor health and wish it was different, well here is the thing, it may well be able to be different if you are willing to get up and go and do something about it. Maybe you should hit the gym and see just what it is all about for yourself?

 

 

 

Wing Chun Respect.

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Recently I had the experience of visiting with a Wing Chun school and over several sessions there was exposed to some of the different techniques that are trained in. What I found interesting is that the way that they greeted and farewelled one another. As per the picture above the top of the hand is placed into the palm of the other and the words “Wing Chun Respect” are given.

In some ways this is quite different to what I have experienced at other Martial Arts clubs. It is not uncommon for students to bow in or out when entering or leaving the mat, or when being addressed by a higher ranking member. Yet in this case the Wing Chun Respect pose is given in a different manner, and has perhaps more in common with the masonic (freemasonry) “attitude of reverence” that a master mason gives when being spoken to, or when speaking directly to the Worshipful Master of the lodge.

It is my view that the sign for Wing Chun respect clearly has more meaning than just the simple sign and clearly has a strong amount of esoteric content that goes with it. Whilst many of the meanings of these thing have been lost over the sheer distance of time, sometimes we can find things in terms of small markers that can lead us back to what may be the source and then perhaps meaning of some of these things.

Firstly the connection between Chinese Martial Arts and Freemasonry, It is important to realize that modern Freemasonry is ‘speculative’ and is based on the traditions of real stone masons who over thousands of years built the cities, religious places of worship and so forth. These original masons were trained in the art of the sword and in physical combat. The reason being that there were no ‘police forces’ and stone masons, carpenters and others had to travel together and recognized each other by secret words, handshakes and signs. The central leadership of the masons had to look after the money box or whatever currency that they were to be paid in and this job fell to those trained in the sword and combat.

Whilst the early origins of Wing Chun can be debated, there is plenty of evidence of Chinese martial arts in general in use in the era before Christ, oral tradition contains information concerning martial arts and places it around 2000BC in the Xia Dynasty in China. This is an interesting date because it puts a record of Chinese Martial Arts together with the same eras of the construction of the Chinese Pyramids, the oldest believed to be around 2900BC, and more modern examples falling through to around 37BC to 668AD. What we can then say is that there is some evidence that puts Chinese Stone Masons together with Chinese Martial Artists in the same time and era.

So again, those martial artists that were charged with the responsibility to protect the wages of the workers and to defend the working party from attack were all known to each other by secret signs, handshakes and words, all of which are lost through the sands of time.

Then we have the sign ‘Wing Chun Respect’ that bobs up looking something like the sign that the masons use as ‘the attitude of reverence’ – Coincidence perhaps, or perhaps not?

The other point that I would like to make about the historical situation regarding the same Wing Chun Respect sign, is the offer of a person’s hands to another. Historically this could be given to someone holding a sword or any of the Wing Chun weapons. The sign is then given on a basis of trust and mutual respect. It is important to note that a Wing Chun Kwoon operates on the same system of trust and mutual respect from the organization, Sifu and through to the students. Whilst in our modern times it is not hard to find somewhere to train, in many older schools and still in some modern schools today, admission  to training is not automatic and candidates must prove that they are worthy of the trust of the Sifu before they are taken on to be his or her students. With the offer of respect comes acknowledgement of the personal character of the person being offered the respect. It emphasizes to me everything that is right and good about martial arts in general. To give someone your respect and to have the respect of others is a worthy goal and should be striven towards as opposed to simply being expected.

An old proverb tells us that “sometimes the answer to our future can lie in our past”. If you are a serious student of Wing Chun and are looking towards the future of where you are to go, it could be that the answer lies in the study of the Sifu’s and Wing Chun people gone before. Don’t be afraid to search out the meanings of things you see at training and concepts that are presented to you by your Sifu. Often there can be very much more to Wing Chun than just what appears on the surface.

–Wing Chun Respect–.

Why Imi Litchtenfeld put Aikido techniques in Krav Maga

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In our last article we looked at the Krav Maga technique of the simple “shove” and an explanation was given of why a person might choose to use a shove as a self defence technique. This time around I would like to focus primarily on some of the Aikido techniques taught in Krav Maga for the same reason.

The techniques are called Sankyo, Iriminage and Kotegaeshi, The explanations from Japanese to English are the following, 

Sankyoa rotational wrist lock that directs upward-spiraling tension throughout the arm, elbow and shoulder.

Iriminagean entering throw,

Kotegashi – a supinating wristlock-throw

Depending on what denomination of Krav Maga you train in, these may be given to you with hebrew names, or simply taught as part of a wider group of techniques.

At first it may seem to the novice like trying to mix water and oil in respect to blending Krav Maga and Aikido, yet once you begin to go deeper into Krav Maga it soon clicks fairly easily as to why those techniques are there.

The first point that needs to be made is that enthusiastic recommendation that you were given when you first made enquiries into Krav Maga that it is “suitable for anyone of any age and fitness level”. I don’t believe that to be 100% correct, but the intent is, most people can take something out of the Krav Maga system that may save their lives one day, but not everyone is going to be able to complete the full system for a whole host of various reasons. Still at the same time it is also true that along with Aikido, Krav Maga is one of the few Martial Art / Combat Systems that will give a weaker person training in how to overcome a much stronger opponent and many of those techniques surprise surprise are those techniques above along with some others that redirect force and allow you to use your opponents punching or hitting force to reverse their wrist and break the wrist or lock the wrist.

Whilst there may be a realistic focus on using Aikido techniques in Krav Maga to counter your opponents force, it also has a second benefit and that it that “it allows you to get your opponent into the position you want them to be in”. When you are attacked there is no chance to get ready to prepare a technique, you have to respond with whatever you have got in the milliseconds that you have to respond. When we talked about the shove technique last time it was to buy a valuable second or so and to put the attacker into the place where you wished rain on your next Krav Maga technique. Aikido techniques work in the same way, the allow you to move your opponent into where you want them to be. – Consider it this way, an attacker is rushing you in a crowded space, if you respond with a palm strike – punches – knee to the groin, your attacker is very likely going to end up on top of you on the ground with full access to eye gouge or attack you in whatever way they please. Sadly it is not like on TV and the strong possibility is that you will not fell your opponent with a single punch or punches no matter how good you think you are. If we go back to that crowded space, your best option is a small circle Aikido technique to get you to the side or behind your opponent to either escape or to place your attack patterns at the right atemi point as opposed to simply flailing away with your attack pattern hoping you make the right contact eventually.

The training here is not to panic and to be in control of the situation, get these techniques right and then this becomes the point where the knife disarming techniques become the next step via redirection of force / momentum.

The other group of Aikido techniques that you may learn in Krav Maga are the ‘Police Hold Techniques’ which were put into the Krav Maga syllabus from Aikido holds and locks. The police holds syllabus may or may not be taught in your Krav Maga organisation and it may be adapted further depending on how it has evolved with your organisation. Either way it is also something that is not generally taught to novice members. What happens in most groups is that they leave this group of techniques several months into the training, past the point where they have been able to encourage most of the idiots to leave and are left with the genuine students who are there for the right reasons and have been effectively vetted by the organisation, the techniques and the breaking techniques are then taught accordingly.

Hopefully this proves to be of some help to explain the presence of some of these techniques in Krav Maga. IF you would like to go into it deeper, Google “Eli Avikzar” and “Raphy Elrissy”, the two people that were awarded the first black patch gradings in Krav Maga. In both cases they came from a background in Judo and Aikido and both of them worked with Imi to develop Krav Maga in its early formation. Often people experienced in Krav Maga can turn out to do pretty well at Judo and I suspect the reason is that some of the techniques can be understood because of the background left for us by these men.

Shalom!

I’m going to smash your ——- face in.

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I’m going to smash your —— face in. Hardly the most reassuring words anyone wishes to hear when you are seated on the train on your way home from work one afternoon. Turning, you note an individual coming towards you full of testosterone and clenched fists. At this point several things are going through your mind, perhaps foremost is what it is that you have actually done to upset this person? There may be a multitude of reasons here ranging from anything from being assumed to be the person that is sleeping with his wife / girlfriend, to simply having your identity mistaken or perhaps you simply looked the wrong way at this person who may be a nutter. Irrespective of which you have a decision to make here and now, and that is what you intend to do about it. The sad fact is that many people in this situation, even including people that have some training in one of the various martial arts will at this point freeze up in fear and receive several blows before they respond or before other passengers intervene.

In respect to freezing up in this situation, if your martial art or combat system advertises that they teach self-defence, this issue has to be addressed and trained for as is the case in Krav Maga. Another point is that a good dose of reality needs to take place and people need to be taught that you may be living in fairy land if you think that you are always going to get the first hit or parry in to defend yourself.. It’s one thing to demonstrate a technique in class, it’s another to take account of the different variables when the scenario unfolds, such as being attacked from the side or behind. The reality is that your techniques may be coming into play after you have been hit and it changes the game considerably, again it is why systems like Krav Maga are full contact so that people experience what it is like to have to counter attack in this type of situation.

So back to our abuser on the train, in the split seconds where this scenario is unfolding, situational awareness takes place, for some students this will have actually begun before when they got onto the train. – By that I mean that some combat systems train people to adjust their lifestyle patterns to take into account being attacked. In this case the person will have automatically noted the exits on the train, obstacles, potential weapons – fire extinguishers – poles etc., field of vision and potentially chosen a seat in the carriage based on these variables. In this case the abuser is clearly telegraphing the attack and decisions need to be made about what to do. – Will you hope the person slows down that you can reason with him? Will your response be to get in a pre-emptive strike perhaps? All decisions that you need the capacity to make in seconds.. In Krav Maga we are taught a specific defensive posture where the hands are raised. Palm strikes and parrying can work very well from this position. People will tell you to be cautious of ‘CCTV’ and what you can and can’t do in a situation like this, yet your goal is to defend yourself the best way how if you are attacked. If this fool really does try and assault you on a train you have every right to defend yourself with whatever techniques you choose.

So then, what would I do in a situation like this? Well as above I would try to have the Krav Maga defensive pose up and ready, yet at the same time an Aikidoka might be looking at his momentum and how you might step aside or parry the person into the wall / pole. A jujitsu trained person might like the offer of the outstretched arm and go in for the shoulder joint. A popular saying here in Australia is ‘horses for courses’ meaning that different horses can win races on different courses because the conditions are different and different horses can excel in different conditions.  Your need here is to have several varying techniques of the hundreds that you learn that you are good at and can apply in any given situation. For me, one of the best self defence mechanisms can simply be a ‘shove’, especially if there is momentum involved.

Perhaps ‘shoving’ someone is not a technique that many traditional martial arts train for, yet it can be brutally effective at defending yourself in a small space. Sometimes a shove correctly applied will end the situation there and then, if it does not, then it has taken that persons momentum and moved them away from you to the point where you can rain down your Krav Maga striking pattern upon them if it is needed. It is also an effective technique to use when have been hit or are being hit. Here is a tip, being in a situation where someone is raining blows into your face and choosing to try and block and return fire in the same manner may not in all actuality protect you, that is common street fighting and your chances are ordinary. If you wish to use your training, you have to realise that you need to change the spatial dimensions of the situation and get the person where you want them to be, – then you can land your attack patterns effectively. A shove in a small circle environment can give you that and open up various options of which self-defence techniques to use next.

Yes ideally it would be great to resolve this situation without physical conflict. Yet sometimes when for whatever reason someone is determined to attack you, your options can become limited. Yet you can in some way attempt to limit your response if you are good enough at what you do. Perhaps a simple shove does not invoke images of a Hollywood movie, yet it is about getting the job done with as little harm to yourself or others that you can deal with.

Regards

Religion and the Dojo / Kwoon / Gym

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If you are like me, when you started at your first ever job, you may have had a piece of advice something like this from your Grandparents or your own parents – “small tip son, when you start on your first day, keep the conversation away from religion or politics”. This can be very good advice and you can no doubt still find it helpful today, its interesting how a very minor political observation can suddenly inflame a co-worker, or perhaps even someone you train with. Clearly there are some people who live and breathe politics and are quite happy to friend and unfriend people on the basis of what their opinions are. – perhaps something along the lines of “you have the right to freedom of speech providing we agree with what you are saying”…

Yet one observation that I have made is that you can have some cause to discuss world religions if like me,  you are a keen studier of the philosophies of the founder of your martial art or combat system, or of those people that followed in succession from that person.

Three examples are fairly obvious,

Wing Chun – Confucianism, the fact that most schools of Wing Cbun include a Confucian altar at the head of the training area, on  it may be incense and a picture of the founder of their lineage of Wing Chun. Often the sign for Wing Chun Respect is given to the altar as well as to other students. The term Wing Chun Respect also invokes some of the theology of loyalty in the Confucian religion.

Aikido – Oomoto Sect / Shintoism. Like Wing Chun several Aikido schools use an altar with a picture of O’Sensei and others on it, Shinto clapping in a ritual format can  often be a feature of training

Krav Maga- Judaism, the blunt fact is that Imi Litchtenfeld created and developed Krav Maga to bring about the freedom of Jewish people from the oppression of Anti-Semitism. You do not have to dig deep into Krav Maga philosophy to find material that talks about becoming good enough at Krav Maga to use it in such a way as to not maim or kill your opponent. The reason for this stems from the Jewish philosophy on Holiness and accountability for your actions.

Personally I think it is not a good thing to fear a religious discussion in the context of your chosen martial art. The point of martial arts is to grow in more ways that just physical strength and knowledge is a good thing to invest your time into. I feel that it is important to look into and understand your reasons why your martial art came into being, questions like – Why did O’Sensei turn away from Daito Ryu Jujitsu to create Aikido, why did a nun transmit Wing Chun knowledge to save people, What was it like for Imi Litchtenfeld in the pogroms of Europe and what motivated him to do something about it are all relevant and good questions to consider. If you study another MA then there are various questions of a similar nature that could be asked of your own founders. People often broad brush martial arts, but often do not consider the goal of many of them is “that they might walk in peace’, – a saying often attributed to Imi Litchtenfeld.  – Could it then be that what motivated those people might just be the same thing that motivates you today?

And the greatest martial art / combat system is….?

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No doubt if you hit facebook or are part of one of the various martial arts / combat system forums you will have seen the constant stream of videos posted of martial art a, versus martial art b, the results of which are expected to be taken as ‘proof’ of the superiority of marital art a, and around and around it goes.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you put any combination of marital arts or combat systems with the term ‘vs’ you can very easily unearth any video of your chosen MA dominating the other. A number of these are staged, others display techniques that are laughable at best to people that are actually trained in the correct version of those techniques.

Yet for whatever reason there are a plethora of idiots that spam the internet with these videos and live the dream that it is some type of actual reality. I suspect a number of these might be the experts that buy the martial arts magazine each month but have never actually trained anywhere.

I don’t know what it is that motivates these clowns to invest their time into hating on other systems and styles, or even other schools of their own chosen MA, yet what I do know is that a better resolution is to simply hit the block button on facebook and spend your time with people that have some level of respect and mutual admiration for what you do.

So what then is the greatest martial art / combat system?

Essentially it is the one that works for you…

Different people are suited to different styles of martial arts or combat systems, it is unwise to look at a person and attempt to pigeon hole that person into what you think they should do. The best suggestion is to hit your yellow pages and find the details of a number of different styles near you and try several out and see how you go. The one you start in may not be the one you finish in either, there is not a great deal to be gained by locking yourself into something and not being able to have the capacity to make changes later on as you repoint your techniques into your training.

Not everyone can be helped, but if you take the attitude that all martial arts / combat systems have something to offer and you are willing to try new things for yourself you will find that a new world opens up to you in terms of what you can do. The  thing is to develop that capacity to step up and have a go yourself!

Expectations

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When people start out on the journey into martial arts or combat systems, this question needs to asked, not only does the question need to be asked, but it needs to be asked early into the journey if you are to go the distance to the goal that you are working towards.

What is your expectation of your martial art or combat system“?

Sadly few martial arts resources books address this issue, preferring to undertake the selling process on why a person should be into their version of marital arts or the specific combat system that they recommend. The only book that I have come across that does put this question to new members is Gaku Homma’s ‘Introduction to Aikido’. Whilst that book might be about Aikido, it is a must have book for anyone that is looking into training in any martial art or combat system. The author uses the book not to sell Aikido but to talk to you openly about what you are trying to achieve by joining Aikido and forces you to question your motives and discusses expectations that are openly unrealistic, it is the type of content that you will not find in many books or resources on martial arts and it is applicable to Krav Maga, Wing Chun, Karate or pretty much any of the different denominations that people may care to join. http://www.amazon.com/Aikido-Life-Gaku-Homma/dp/1556430787

I suspect if we took a straw poll and asked the question what people’s expectations are of their martial art that we might get answers along the lines of – For Self Defence, to Build Self Confidence, for Physical Fitness and for a Sporting Outlet perhaps among some other reasons. All are good reasons to train and if any one of those is your own motivation then that works for me as well. Yet lets focus for a minute on the line ‘for self-defence’. Sadly this has become a throwaway line that a number of training centres use in their advertising. All martial arts and combat systems suit different types of people and some people will struggle greatly to use the content of some of these in an actual self-defence situation.

Suppose however your intention is to train for Self Defence, what is your expectation? Many of us have grown up with imagery from Hollywood movies where someone will be in a store holding up the attendant and the hero type undercover cop person will walk in and calmly beat the living suitcase out of this person, alternatively perhaps the scenario is calmly taking on and walking through several attackers at once in a local bar because of your ability in your chosen martial art? These types of scenarios all make for good movies and special affects, yet have little basis in any actual reality. A better example of reality might be one of the reality look into prison type shows that they have on cable where when the warders have a need to take someone down they simply go in as a group and use a gang rugby style tackle to drag the person to the ground and restrain them. It is not pretty for the camera, and probably looks nothing like what you saw in Jason Stratham’s last movie, but it gets the job done and they all get to go home at the end of the day. If your expectation is a Muay Thai front kick to the face, some Segal style Aikido followed up with a BJJ lock on the ground, you are likely going to be quite disappointed!

In Melbourne in Australia, Former BJJ Champion and Cage Fighter Gustavo Falciroli was on a train on his way home from the city with his wife and children. A racist heard him speaking portuguese to his wife and children and got up to give him a racist tirade. He then threatened to kill him, rape his wife then kill her and the children. Clearly this guy had no idea that the person he was threatening could have very easily killed him with his bare hands if he wished to. I don’t know about you, but I suspect for many people if someone accosted you with threatening behaviour on a train and then threatened your wife and children in that manner, that it would likely be the red flag that got that person beaten to a pulp, and potentially with what would appear to be good reasons. Yet in this case what Gustavo did was to simply take his wife and children off the train at the next station and to call the police. The CCTV footage was viewed, witness statements were taken and the man was arrested, charged and dealt with by the courts. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/racist-threatened-cagefighting-champ-20121214-2bdvp.html

The question that I would put to you is, if you feel that Gustavo’s response is what you imagine your own expectation of your martial art or combat system, to walk away instead of attacking someone? Would you still train in your martial art or combat system if you were aware that the training was in fact to walk away and involve the police in a situation like that? My suggestion to you is that you have that question resolved before you commit to your training there. Sometimes Martial Arts and Combat Systems are more than what looks like fighting to the outside observer. There is value in knowing what your system is as you make your deliberations about committing to it.

Martial Arts / Combat Systems as Sports

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It has been interesting to reflect on the furore that has erupted over the proposal that Karate be included in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Many Karateka are openly split over the issue and a number of them are vigorously opposed to the idea, believing that by profiling Karate as a ‘sport’ that this in some way dilutes their content.

It is beyond me why it is considered negative by people that a martial art or combat system be practised as a sport? As I see it, Martial Arts or Combat Systems that are practiced as sports provide many opportunities both to study that school of marital arts and to develop your game in cross training in one of them.

Some examples of these martial arts are, Judo, Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ), Shodokan Aikido (Tomiki), Kudo (developed from Kakuto Karate) and Fencing. 

At my Krav Maga training centre there is a chap who is on the State Judo team. When we train for grappling, two groups of people become apparent around him. There are those who hope not to be picked to partner with him because they don’t much like getting bested by him, then there are others in the group that are keen to be partnered with him as the realisation sets in that one of the best ways to improve your Krav Maga is to train with people that are better than you and to use the opportunity to learn from them. There are now several at our gym that cross train in Judo.

Yet whilst it is great that you can cross train to improve your own martial art or combat system, I would like to put it to you that there is nothing at all wrong with the idea, and a great deal right with the idea that its a good thing to train in a martial art like Judo simply for your own personal enjoyment, and because you may simply enjoy watching or participating in sports in general. Once you have some understanding of the rules of Judo and what is happening when you watch a match, it becomes a very interesting and enjoyable sport to watch – and to participate in.

Sadly for many people that train in martial arts or combat systems, politics can be a sticking point or a problem with taking up a martial art as a sport. Many groups like to exercise control over members and will let their members know that training in another marital art is forbidden, or that it is a rule that you can only have one Sensei. I feel that this type of thinking is incompatible with the view that I have that all marital arts schools have something to offer and that your pathway can take you to various schools as you learn different things and figure out where it is that you fit into martial arts.

If we focus for a minute on Aikido we see a similar pattern here to the situation with Karate above. It used to be that the mention of Ki Aikido or the Ki Society brought you ridicule from other Aikidoka, yet it seems more and more that Shodokan (Tomiki) Aikido bears the brunt of the ridicule – because ‘it is a sport’ and also because “it has too much Judo in it to be considered Aikido”. Yet interestingly the founder of Aikido did not seem to be opposed to its existence as it came into being during his own lifetime.

The observation that I would make about the marital arts listed above is that they offer massive opportunities to grow if you practice something that has similar content. It is one thing to hit the mat each week and train, and another to hit the same mat and be matched against someone of a similar ability to yourself and to be governed by a time clock and judging. There is no time to prepare for techniques or to start again if you get something wrong, you bring your own knowledge and skill to the mat and hope that you have brought enough. You learn to think quickly and get to experience the feeling of different techniques coming to you in a way that seems automatic, and how you might adjust or change techniques several times during a minute as you struggle to get that vital touch, throw, pin or lock on your opponent.

It is a good thing to enjoy your martial art or combat system, it can be another good thing to enjoy it in a sports related setting and the training and lifestyle that comes along with it. If that is something you have been considering, why not give it a go and see for yourself? If you are an older person, many of these groups have novice masters competitions for over 40’s or Adult Beginners Classes for all ages, so you are sure to find somewhere that can give you a start if you would like to have a go!

International Judo Federation – http://www.intjudo.eu/

Shodokan Aikido – http://en.shodokanaikido.com/

Gracie Jujitsu – http://www.gracieacademy.com/academy.asp

Kudo International Federation – http://www.ku-do.com/eng/kudo/

International Fencing Federation – http://fie.org/

We are the authentic Krav Chundo.., no we are.

they-call-me-bruce

One of the first things that can perplex a new student into Martial Arts or Combat Systems in general can often be the statement above. Choose any martial art or combat system that you like, then go do some research on the sheer number of different denominations of it that you can find. Perhaps that in itself is not an insurmountable problem, what can be the problem however, is the dislike and even embittered hatred that one group can have for another in often the very same style and all the BS that generally goes along with it including sweeping up new students into the middle of it.

Few Martial Arts or Combat Systems do not suffer from schisms after the founder of it passes on to the ethereal dojo above. Reasons given are often quite sketchy and usually at least initially involve a dispute over leadership, especially when there is a financial advantage or incentive to be gained from it. Sometimes the fighting will be over the way a Sensei / Instructor teaches. More often than not it can simply be that many people do not like to be under the authority or accountability of another person (yet expect absolute loyalty from others) and simply go start their own organization. Alternatively some may wish to add or take away content and create something new in what they see as an evolution of their study.

Not all Schisms are however a bad thing, and some organizations can be different yet still anointed by the founder. In the case of Aikido, the group that most people consider to be the central organization is a group called the Aiki Kai which was run by the son of the founder of Aikido, Yet it is also true that before O’Sensei died that Yoshinkan Aikido (Gozo Shioda) and Shodokan Aikido (Kenji Tomiki). Were both in operation as separate groups and doing so with the apparent blessing of the founder. I am no doubt sure that there are various other denominations of other groups where similar scenarios also exist.

Still, sometimes people are openly quite happy to use more nefarious, McDojo means to grow and build their organizations and it is this type of behaviour that can quickly  turn people away from training when it becomes apparent. Here is just one example, a friend of mine is a 3rddan in Hapkido and grew up training in western boxing. He works on the tools and his muscles are hardened by manual labour as opposed to gym training. He did his training in Hapkido in Korea when he lived there for several years and trained with the monks. His grading is with a group translated something like ‘old order Hapkido’, a group that has no real interest in expansion into the west. He runs a small dojo in my city, because he is independent, from time to time he gets calls from different Hapkido groups that want him to affiliate with them and promote their organization. The very first thing that they offer him is that they will award him a 4th / 5th dan grading in Hapkido if he will affiliate with them. Most often they have never seen him train and know nothing about him other than what they have read in the yellow pages or on his website… I would like to put it to you that that specific type of conduct from any denomination is openly fraudulent and should be treated with the contempt that it deserves. Have a real good think about what such a grading or certificate is worth, and I would put it to you, not very much and at the same time it also brings the genuine Hapkido and other groups into disrepute by association and sadly most martial arts groups suffer from this type of thing.

Sadly infighting between McDojo A and McDojo B groups can spill over to the point where it gives legitimate organizations and arts a bad name. For whatever reason, the worst of this type of behaviour that I have had the misfortune to see has for whatever reason come out of Wing Chun and Taekwondo groups. These martial arts have a long history into the sands of time and people choose to claim liniage to different people. In the case of Wing Chun, it is often about who is the more representative of ‘Ip Man’ and who is not. Yet Ip Man was part of a group of several people that taught Wing Chun, not its original founder as some will have you believe. In the case of Taekwondo the government of Korea caused various local martial arts to be merged into an umbrella movement called ‘Taekwondo’, Yet the term Tang So Do is perhaps more indicative of the history of Taekwondo that is known to us in the west. Naturally people then follow the various masters of these different martial arts schools in Korea.

It is my view that it is important to be well aware of the history of the organisation that you belong to. If it has broken away from somewhere, or been birthed in conflict, you should be across the reasons for why and what attempts have been made to repair the relationship. If you belong to a group that constantly criticises the group that they broke away from and gets involved in various political problems over it, then you may find that this will negatively affect your time there. You have the right to know exactly for why and what reason your organisation was founded and what its goals are moving forward into the future.

It is fair enough that you give your support and respect to your Sensei and the leadership of the organization. Yet at the same time it should not be given lightly, if you are going to commit to something, that commitment needs to be 100% not a half hearted luke warm effort when the going gets tough. You should be enthusiastic and involved in the aims and goals that your organisation is striving towards. If you are not, and you have concerns about the politics that are happening, do not be afraid to make enquiries and look into it. Don’t waste your time and make the mistake of serving an organisation that is not committed to the same commitment that they expect from you.