When your techniques vary.

If you have trained in your martial art or combat system for any length of time you will no doubt have had, or will have this experience; the experience is that you learn a technique, practice it a number of times over and become reasonably proficient at the application of the technique. Then one night you hit the mat, your Sensei or instructor calls for the application of that technique and your partner turns to you and says “no, that is not right, do it this way”….  Often times this can then be the point where two training partners can then ratchet up to a dispute. Sometimes it is easily resolved and other times it can quickly escalate to the tenth degree of stupidity and be perhaps just as frustrating for everyone else at the same time.

The point that I would like to make is that sometimes when you approach your training in your given system that it can be a really good idea to learn to ‘agree to disagree’, assuming that is actually possible to do so in the given situation.

I find it interesting to observe this in the art of Aikido, when the founder O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba openly stated “Ultimately, you must forget about technique. The further you progress, the fewer teachings there are. The Great Path is really No Path”.  Bruce Lee is recorded as saying something with perhaps some similarities here when he stresses the importance to his students of “using no way as way” This is suggested to mean that you come into training with no presuppositions, that you remain in the moment and be in a position to meet the challenge with the right tools that work as opposed to being limited because your mind is not open.

Sadly some people can become openly quite anal over the application of a technique and others can go as far as using it as justification to turn their back on their teacher and to start yet another school of the same discipline simply because their way is the only correct way and that the other schools are inferior and people are pretty lucky that we have person x there to point this out to the rest of us..

To come back to my first point, having the capacity to agree to disagree is a good quality to develop if you wish to take you training further. As you train you will feel differently about the application of techniques that you currently can perform well and how they are used in training. It is likely that you may actually change your mind several times over until you resolve it yourself one way or another later on down the track. I would much rather admit that perhaps I was wrong about something than stay stuck in a pattern of training that is next to useless in real application because of personality issues being put before the application of the content of the training.

Finally, if you are the person on the mat at training who constantly feels the need to continuously correct people, think about it carefully and perhaps give some thought to stepping back and allowing your Sensei / Instructor to teach in the way that they feel is best. Despite your best intentions you are unlikely to be even remotely as good nor as experienced as them even if they are having a bad day. If you find yourself feeling like you are constantly in conflict with the way you are being taught then your time at that training centre may well be coming to an end and it may be time to move on somewhere else or alternatively to take some time out and to get some things back into perspective. Character, humility and sportsmanship are qualities that should be exemplified in your personal training, approaching your Sensei / Instructor and fellow students in such a way will not be rejected and may well open the door for you in a leadership role later on should you so desire it.

Using Wing Chun training to protect yourself in jail.

Do you have some time coming up to serve in Jail? – Follow these simple tips and look after yourself,

1, Before you enter the jail, be well aware of what the rules are, don’t break any of them.

2, If you have any length of time on the outside before going in to serve your time, use it to take as many self defence training classes as you can. If you have no experience in Martial Arts, Wing Chun can be a good option. Its best to ask your Sifu to teach you knife defences in case you should encounter a shiv inside. At the same time it is good advice to hit the gym and the weights hard and bulk up on protein.

Upon Entering Jail,

1, Learn to hide your emotions quickly, do not show emotion of any kind. Those that do will become the first targets once their weaknesses are established with the other inmates.

2, Do not ever stare at another inmate for any reason. When you talk to someone practice looking past their shoulder. Do not stare into another inmates cell. Both acts are considered an invasion of privacy and can get you bashed very quickly. Staring can also be a sign that you may be showing sexual interest and can get you the same response.

3, Do not ever ever, mouth off abuse or put downs to the warders because you think it will make you look good in front of your cell mates. The prison warders are there to protect you – if and when they feel like it. Mouthing off to them can ensure a stagnant response should you need them.

4, Jails are not politically correct, if you are, get over it. Get to know people of your own race first and then once you have established those relationships you can branch out to build friendships with people of other races.

5, Do not ever lag (snitch) on any one for any reason. Being caught will ensure that you become an immediate target for attack. Do not speak with the prison staff for any longer than is absolutley necessary. Often simply being suspected of lagging is enough to make you a target.

6, Resist the temptation to join a gang, if you do, you will have to pay the piper and you will likely end up serving more time for acts of violence or being caught couriering contraband.

7, Don’t agree to be someones bitch because you think it will buy you protection. Likely they cannot protect you anyway and once the other inmates find out you will be targeted for more of the same.

8, Use your training in Wing Chun to be aware of your personal space and do not let people enter your circle. If at meal time another prisoner wishes to reach across your plate, do not allow it, it is an instant sign that you can be walked over and targeted.  If an inmate wishes to shiv you, you cannot rely on them telegraphing their attack. If you feel that an attack is imminent be cautious to not let your attention be taken to the hand that the inmate has closest to you.

9, When you shower, go in with a larger group of inmates ideally around 20 and wear your boxer shorts.

10, Do not make complaints either in the lunch area or to anyone in the jail about the quality of the food. A number of inmates work in food preparation and this is often taken as personal abuse and can get you bashed accordingly.

11, Learn to use verbal techniques, be polite to other inmates and staff alike. Do not say anything that could give anyone any reason to take offence. Do not discuss religion, politics or racial issues, do not discuss another prisoner or their family members / friends for any reason. Words are often examined after conversations are held and if its felt that disrespect has been given, it is generally the catalyst for a beating as inmates have little else to ruminate on in the cells overnight.

12, Use your Wing Chun training to keep out of the personal space of others and to keep in the background. Remaining on the side at a slight distance from people as opposed to the front is good advice. Often there are people in prison that have low intelligence, have a chip on their shoulder or are just genuinely nasty people. Always allow those people to be in the spotlight of the other prisoners.

One of the things that quickly becomes apparent in jail is the sheer boredom that is the experience of being there. One of the purposes of western jails run by the Quakers was that people might use the opportunity to reflect on what they had done and get to a point where they could accept what they had done and take responsibility to attempt to put it right. If you have reached the point where you are serving jail time, its pretty obvious that you have more problems than you likely know how to deal with. Learn to reach out to people like the prison chaplain and get help. Learn to take responsibility for what has happened. try to learn to stop blaming others for the way your life has turned out. If you can learn compassion for others and can get to a point where you can take responsibility for your actions and are prepared to go and make apologies and recompense to people there is every chance that you can turn your life around and make this the last time you ever end up in a place like this.

Giving your students a serve via Facebook…

Recently this last week I happened to come across an interesting rant on the facebook page of a local Karate Dojo. I read what I can only really describe as a lagered up rant from the owner of the dojo that became quite personally abusive towards his students for not having turned up for training at a recent training night.. Essentially it went along the lines of how this person has put so much time into the club and feels unrespected by students and could not understand how students could choose to go to a local music festival or another social engagement as opposed to being at training, and then how senior  students must be there for training to train the juniors and so forth. He then went on to let members know that non attendance in the future would see people kicked off the membership list and how he would focus only on those people that really wanted to be there. All this intermixed with accusations and personal abuse.

Clearly it is not easy to run your own Dojo, that I do understand, yet at the same time you also have to take your rose coloured glasses off if you want to step into the reality of how modern training works.

Firstly if you wish to make comparisons to traditional martial arts, then try to bear in mind that often traditional students were “uchi-deshi” – meaning in English “live in students”. Training was for most of the day every day with chores and service in-between. It was also accepted as having a strong cultural basis. It would be great in western nations to be able to have “gap years” where you could go dedicate yourself to martial arts or combat systems, yet the reality is that unless you are willing to go join the Israeli defence forces and train in Krav Maga that is unlikely to ever happen. Sadly the western system is training after school / work 1-3 times per week. A much different system to traditional martial arts.

The reality is in western dojo’s / training gyms that you will always have inactive members on your roll. Likely there will be members who train infrequently. There also may be members whose primary training centre is somewhere else and they cross train with you. Whilst we can debate the merits of the memberships of these students, they also pay your insurance premium, rent and other costs to enable the centre to remain in existence for those people that do wish to be regular members. What you are experiencing is no different to exactly what happens in the various churches, Lions clubs and so forth.

It is also true that people can change as they age and as they experience different things. It is for this reason that many centres have moved away from having training on Friday nights. Teenage boys eventually meet teenage girls and clearly would rather enjoy their company rather than being at your dojo. You can take the hard line all you like, but attempting to stand in the way here is only going to bring you resignation letters. Far better to back off and let kids be kids. Is it really all that unrealistic that a young lad at your centre would not want to take his girlfriend along to a local music festival that has come to town?

When you set up your Dojo or training centre, you need to have realistic goals in mind as to how it is all going to work moving forward. Clearly people are going to let you down on a constant basis and you need to be able to deal with that. Conversely at the same time you will also build a core group that will be the group you will take through the coloured belt system. There are various ways to motivate people, yet ranting and raving at people is a good way to simply delete members and interest in what you are doing. My best advice is that if people are dropping away and attendence is tapering off, try getting to know your students and try understanding the reasons that have led to it. If they are experiencing financial problems for example then there may be an opportunity for you to render some assistance in renegotiated terms and so forth. Perhaps it is that the actual night chosen for training or the training times need to be looked into and changed. If you are able to be open minded things can be changed and students can be motivated to become the backbone members of your club.

It is also fair to say that the commitment we expect from others is the same commitment that we ourselves have to give when we are committed to setting up our own training centres. The fact is that you wont be handed anything on a plate and you will have to put in many many hours and also quite likely a large sum of your own money into it. Perhaps that is a hard commitment to bear, yet you need to go back to the original reasons that led you to begin your dojo or training centre. If those reasons can still motivate you today, you are every chance to be successful in what you do. Keep your dreams alive and in the forefront of your mind and let them grow into a reality the right way and perhaps your centre will be the go to centre that you wish it to be!




Everyone gets a trophy..

In a situation where you are attacked, you may at first thought think that your response may be motivated by and with the use of the emotion of anger. This works quite well in a Hollywood movie setting, yet rarely is the case in the real world. For most people the first reaction is generally going to be surprise and shock that someone is trying to attack you. For someone trained in martial arts or combat systems the next response will likely be a defensive positioning and the activation of their respective training until the threat has been effectively dealt with. In the real world scenes of screaming rage are often unlikely at best.

The reason that we don’t jump into the emotion of anger is simply that it clouds your judgement and leads to people often blindly flailing about with their fists hoping to make a connection at some point and generally looking like a goose in the process, and worse still a goose that may well be beaten down upon even if they are trained in XYZ system and have coloured belts / patches to prove it..

The fact is that most of the major systems – Krav Maga, Systema, Japanese Martial Arts, Wing Chun and so forth have information in the training component of teaching people to stay calm when being attacked. A good example are the Krav Maga choke breaking techniques where calmness and control are reinforced to new students before they get to participate in learning the techniques. The reason being in the real situation we don’t want you to panic and to revert back to trying to win a strength match to remove the arms from the neck and to be choked out in the process. Far better to keep a cool head and survive the attack and defend yourself properly.

Yet I would like to point out that perhaps in contrast to what you may get from the media today, there is nothing inherently wrong with the emotion or the use of the emotion of anger. It is great that there are couples that may tell you how they have never raised their voice once in their 40 year relationship, yet that may or may not be true and it is no indicator of the positive health of their relationship. It could in fact be simply a cover for an abusive relationship where one person is simply afraid to speak out, so they simply suffer in silence rather than face more abuse.

Anger should be viewed as a good thing in the right context. It is okay to become angry. There are times when you should become angry, particularly when you see injustice or abuse. Anger is one of the best emotions that can be harnessed and used as motivation to change things. One trait that is beginning to be seen in people that have been able to lose weight and actually keep the weight off as opposed to putting it all back and more on besides, is the fact that in a number of cases, people reached a point where they became physically angry about the person that they had become and how their reasons for putting on the weight had gotten on top of them and begun to dictate how they lived their lives. Sometimes some people simply reach the point where enough is enough and use the emotion of anger to motivate them to change.

Sadly today we see a situation in martial arts and combat systems with the McDojo movement where “no one ever fails a grading” after forking over the $100 fee. Sometimes for yet another fee a conditional black belt can be awarded.. It makes me wonder how soft people have become that they cannot take a situation on board that they have failed a grading and to then learn from that experience and use their anger or sense of loss over having failed to actually motivate themselves to apply themselves to the required study and take it again, and do so in such a way that they actually really earn the grading, as opposed to being given it because of the principal that dictates that every child must be given a trophy.

The hard facts of life is that good things come to those that train for and earn them. If your expectation is that your McDojo Black belt is enough to defend yourself from being attacked, you are likely going to get seriously beaten up and injured or killed should you find yourself in that situation.. Far better to train the old school way and earn the things you love and to be able to apply those things when called upon. When I train it can be brutal, tiring and hard work, yet this is a reality that I am willing to accept for what I want from the training. – How about you?