Martial Arts In Times Of Peace

Martial arts vary in times of war/chaos compared to times of relative peace.  Despite what you hear and read in the media, most of us today live in relatively peaceful times where we can call the police if anybody threatens or attacks us.  Obviously if you have a job such as policeman, prison officer or bouncer; you will see more violence then most others.  Also if you go to rough pubs or join gangs who clash with other gangs, then you also will see more violence.  But if you don’t have a job that requires you to sort out trouble; and if you don’t deliberately mix with violent people; then the chances are that you will not actually see much violence in your day to day life.

That means that we are free to put more into our martial arts and explore them in more depth.  If you are likely to face danger everyday then you would probably just focus on a few techniques that you’d repeat over and over again, endlessly, as your life could depend on them.  But in times of peace however we can increase our syllabus and include more self development aspects within our training and things like sport.

“Those who enjoyed learning combat wished to expand on their training and the luxury of not having to fight for your life day in and day out helped the martial artist achieve their goal.  This was a natural progression for anyone who had an artistic mind.  Shakespeare originally wrote plays to earn a living, but as he became more successful he was able to indulge himelsf and write from a more intellectual point of view.
Likewise, the successful martial artist grew bored with practicing the same simple drill year after year – a drill designed with only the lowest intellect’s ability to master in mind”.
Jamie Club

Jamie Clubb2

Jamie Clubb demonstrating

The idea of adapting a fighting system during times of relative peace is nothing new.  Even the Knights of old had their jousting tournaments to keep them sharp when there were no wars to fight.

Martial arts have so much to offer us in terms of health, wellbeing, confidence and self development, (many of these benefits occur almost as a by-product of training anyway) so what would be the point of limiting ourselves purely to the combat side during times of relative peace.  That’s not to say that our martial arts should become ineffective or watered down, far from it.  On some levels we actually have more time to experiment to find out find out even more effective ways of doing things.  However, why not broaden their scope to deal with other “threats” that we may face in our modern lives (like stress, health, etc).

 

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Moksu: Does It Actually Have A Martial Application?

For those not familiar with the term, Moksu it is Japanese for the kneeling meditation at the beginning and end of a martial arts class.  It is often seen as just clearing the mind from the day’s ups and downs to prepare you for training.  It does of course do that, but it can actually represent a lot more in the long term.  Apart from just clearing the mind, when practiced regularly it can over time help to completely silence the mind.  Silencing the minds usual internal chatter has a feeling of peace and tranquillity (a bit like the sudden quietness of turning off a factory air conditioning system).

moksuThis can sometimes be achieved quite quickly, but sometimes it can take years.  How often have you knelt there thinking “my knees hurt”, “how long is this going on for”, “I hope we do sparring tonight” or “I hope we don’t do sparring tonight”, whatever!

Moksu is as much an exercise for the mind as a reverse punch is for the body, but it is often underrated and its potential overlooked.  We are not simply looking for peace and tranquillity (though this is a worthy achievement in itself), we are also looking to directly take back control of our own minds so that it does not undermine us at crucial times.  It is about being able to silence at will that voice in our head which undermines us.  The voice that says “I can’t do this”, “he’s bigger than me”, “I’m going to get killed here”, “he’s always picking on me”, whatever.  Gradually, bit by bit, we take this quietening of the mind more and more into the rest of our training.  It is often said that combat is more mental than physical, well Moksu is actually a practice for the mental side.

When we can free the mind of it’s internal clutter, then we can use our mind more efficiently.  We become more conscious and more aware of whatever our present situation is.

It is almost like we have 2 minds; one which is a powerful tool that we deliberately think with and one which almost acts independently of us and usually undermines us.  This undermining part of our mind is often referred to in many self development/spiritual texts as the “ego”.   It relies on past experience rather than original thought, therefore it keeps us where we are rather than allowing us to move forward.  It acts to cover up weaknesses with a false show, rather than face and conquer the weaknesses.

Unfortunately both “minds” do not work well at the same time.  When the ego is in full flow giving us negative thoughts, we find it very difficult to access the power of the deliberately thinking part of our brain or our intuition.

When facing an opponent (whether sparring or for real) we need to be able to think tactically, yet at the moment of action we need to let our intuition take over and react according to how our opponents moves (or doesn’t move).

This can of course apply to almost any part of our lives, whether it is our job, driving, relationships, school or whatever.  We always function better when we can silence the ego, think more logically and engage our intuition.  The ego left unchecked can rob us of access to these facilities, which is why people with low self esteem or those who worry a lot seem to be unable to find a way out of their situations; whether in training, street attacks, or in any other aspect of life.  You are more capable of finding solutions to problems within any area of your life when you can think clearly.  You always think more clearly when you can silence the ego.

Just to clarify, I refer to people of low self esteem above, which might on the surface at least appear to be the opposite of what we normally consider to be a person with a “big ego”.  We tend to see what we consider an egotistical person to be somebody who brags, boasts and puts on a show.  However, this kind of egotist putting on a show is in actuality usually a person of low esteem, but is putting more effort into hiding their own perceived weakness rather than facing and conquering them.  A person of low self esteem (whether they are depressive or showy) is usually focusing a large part of their conscious thought on their past experiences which they cannot escape.  They are in many respects living in the past as they measure all new experiences/challenges in terms of their previous experiences.

Now this is a very human thing to do and is very common.  But silencing that inner voice, accessing your intuition and higher intellect are the best ways to escape that cycle of living in the past and to become more conscious of your present situation (living in “the now” as some people say).  Solutions to problems (both in self protection and everyday life) appear much more readily when you are focused in the present then when you’re being held captive to your past experiences by the ego.  Moksu (or any form of meditation) is a great tool to help with that and ideally should really be practiced more often than just at the beginning and of the Karate class.

Do you practice your kicks and punches at home?  Then why not practice Moksu at home.  It may take time to produce noticeable results, but it will in time allow you to access higher martial skills by engaging intuitive responses as you stop your own ego getting in the way!

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Front Kick Variations (Pros & Cons)

Any technique can be developed into a number of variations.  However, when it comes to the front kick, I would say that there are main variations (and many sub-variations).  These are hips side-on (FIG 1: hips facing about 90 degrees to opponent) and hips forward (FIG 2: hips facing toward the opponent).

Both have slightly different advantages which I’d like to explore.  But firstly I want to make it clear, I’m not that one kick can ONLY be used ONE WAY and the other version can only be used ANOTHER WAY, as that would be silly.  What I would say however is that each version is optimised for different purposes.

FIG 1

If we start with the hips side on version first.  This variation gives a slightly longer range.  It is also easier for doing a front leg kick.  If you get into a fighting stance with your weight on your back leg and your feet more or less in line, it becomes very easy to raise the front leg of the ground and kick with it.  This give you a better chance of keeping an opponent at a distance due to it’s additional range (especially compared with hands) and speed.

The hips forward version however has slightly less range, but it does put more actually body weight behind the kick.

FIG 2

This gives it more stopping power for somebody charging in.  Generally speaking, your body weight moves in the direction that the hips face.

Another detail is the position of the supporting foot.  If you look at Fig 1, you’ll see that the supporting foot is also pointing at about 90 degrees away from the opponent.  This is necessary or the supporting leg would be twisted and could do hip/knee damage.  However, if the opponent is able to absorb the kicks impact and keep moving forward, then the supporting foot will end up resisting the push on the little toe side of the foot which is obviously weaker.  The kicker could find themself being unbalanced and pushed back.

With the hips forward version at Fig 2, you’ll see that the supporting foot is facing forward too.  Firstly, being able to put more body weight into the kick means it would take more for the opponent to overcome and even be able to move forward.  Secondly, as the supporting foot is pointing forward, it is able to dig into the floor with the heal of the foot which will afford more resistance than the little toe side of the foot to any pressure being applied by an opponent absorbing the kick and trying to push through.

The hips facing forward (Fig 2) is the older version of the kick and the hips side on version (Fig 1) was developed later.  Why?  The hips side on version is better for the sport environment.  Although in sport, the opponent is still trying to hit/kick/strike you, because there are rules the opponent is still partially co-operative.  Unless you are in competing in Mixed Martial Arts cage fights, most competitions (traditional martial arts/Kickboxing/Muay Thai) do not allow you to grab or grapple.  Therefore the opponent is usually co-operative in that they are staying at kicking/striking range and not trying to rush in at you.

This creates an environment where that little bit of extra range is useful and the weakness on the supporting foot is not an issue.

However, the hips forward version has limitations in the sporting arena but has more stopping power in the street.  In a real assault, the attacker will not be co-operative in any way at all and will most likely be charging forward to grab you.  Most street fighters/muggers/etc are not martial artists so would not fight the same way.  Therefore range is not an issue as the chances are that your attacker will be closing distance straight away (especially for assaults on women).

I am not suggesting that you should practice one way or the other, all I would suggest is that be aware of what you are training for and chose the appropriate version of this technique.

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Bunkai Jutsu DVD’s Now Available As Downloads

As many of you will know, I’ve been selling my own DVD’s for some time now.  I’ve finally caught up with the times and they are now available much more cheaply and conveniently as downloads.

They have both received endorsements from very senior martial artists, including world renowned teacher and author Shihan Kousaku Yokota, 8th Dan Shotokan Karate and Geoff Thompson, co-founder of the British Combat Association, author of over 40 books and BAFTA award winner.

There are only 2 DVD’s at the moment, but I plan to extend the range some time next year.  For more information and to purchase, please visit the store page.

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Teenage Martial Artist Fights Off Would-Be Mugger

I was surprised to see in one of my regional papers today a story about a slightly-built unassuming 15 year old Taekwondo exponent who got the better of a would be mugger.  So I thought I’d share it with you.  The following story is reproduced from:  http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/TAEK-Teenage-martial-artist-fights-mugger/story-17433735-detail/story.html

 

WHEN a would-be mugger approached slightly-built teenager Henry Watts determined to steal his wallet and phone, he got much more than he bargained for.

The criminal, who grabbed the Staple Hill teenager on the Bristol to Bath cycle path and aggressively demanded his possessions, had no idea his potential victim was an expert in the martial art taekwondo.

Instead of handing over his valuables, Henry, 15, put his self-defence skills to good use. And in a scene straight out of the movie The Karate Kid, he freed himself from the mugger’s grasp and punched him in the face.

But rather than bragging about what he had done, Henry carried straight on to school, where he did not tell anyone about his unusual start to the day.

It was only that evening when he told his dad, Paul, what had happened. Mr Watts then contacted the police. Henry told The Post: “I usually walk to school with my younger brother Josh but was running a little bit late, so was on my own.

“I saw a man walking towards me with his head down, but suddenly he had hold of my jacket and was asking for my phone and wallet.

“I used an arm lock move to get his hand off my jacket – it basically involves getting his arm and twisting it around – and then I punched him in the face so that I could get away.

“I got off the track and ran up some stairs onto the common before carrying on to school.

“I didn’t really think much of it until later in the day, and then I felt quite shocked.

“I didn’t really want my dad to tell the police at first but he said what if it had been my brother, who is only 11?

“That made me realise that what had happened was quite serious.”

Henry wholly credits his twice-weekly taekwondo lessons for his quick-thinking reaction.

“The whole thing didn’t take longer than 15 seconds,” he said.

“It never crossed my mind to hand over my things.

“My first reaction was to defend myself, and I think that’s because of my taekwondo lessons.”

His mum Alice Watts, 41, a finance officer, told The Post: “Henry is quite slight for his age and was wearing headphones.

“I think the man might have thought he was an easy target, but didn’t realise that he knew how to defend himself. He’s been doing taekwondo on and off for about five years and obviously used some of those moves to defend himself.”

Andy Davies, chief instructor at Black Belt Academy in Staple Hill, has been Henry’s taekwondo teacher for around 18 months.

Henry, who is in Year 10 at Mangotsfield School, is graded a green belt, which means he knows around half the skills needed to be awarded the elite black belt.

“We teach a mix of taekwondo and kick boxing using a range of oriental weapons,” said Mr Davies. “The biggest thing that we try to do is to keep things simple and practical.

“Henry is a very diligent and quiet person – he’s the last person I would have expected to do what he did.

“But it shows that he had the confidence to use the moves he’d learned in a real setting to defend himself.

“It’s that confidence that we really try to instil in people.

“That takes time and training – the moves have to be practised and repeated over a period of time.

“We try to teach martial arts as a way of life and I am very proud of Henry and what he did to defend himself.

“I would like more children to learn the skills that martial arts teaches so that more can learn how to defend themselves in these sorts of situations.”

A police spokeswoman told The Post that no arrests had yet been made but an investigation continues into the incident.

It happened between 8.30am and 8.40am on November 6, on the Bristol to Bath cycle track near Rodway Common in Mangotsfield.

Police are looking for a man aged 20 to 30, with a pale complexion, who is about 5ft 7in tall and skinny, with green eyes, a goatee beard and light brown scruffy hair. He was wearing a grey or blue hooded jumper at the time of the incident.

Anyone with information about the attacker should contact the police on 101.

 

Well done Henry Watts, huge respect to you  :)

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