Interview With Lori O’Connell, 5th Dan Jiu Jitsu And Author

Lori O’Connell is a 5th Dan Jiu Jitsu expert and respected author with her second book on the way.  Having studied a wide range of martial arts she has a deep and broad knowledge of all areas of self defence.  Unlike many other teachers, she has the experience to know what will work in the street as opposed to what works in the ring with a referee in control.

Being quite petite, she is the first to admit that she does not have size or strength on her side, but she makes up for this with technique and tenacity.  I have been very lucky and honoured to secure an interview with this busy lady and I will be reviewing her new book when it comes out next month.

So, over to the interview:

 

CW:    Lori; martial arts are different things to different people, (sport, self defence, self development, fitness, etc).  What are the most important aspects of martial arts to you and which aspects do you emphasis most in your teaching?

LO’C:    Self-defense, self-development, and fitness.

CW:    Please tell us how you first got into martial arts and what style(s) did you originally started with?

LO’C:    I started with Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, the style I continue to teach today, but I have trained in a number of other arts over the years. I first got into it at the age of 16 partly for self-defense, but also because I wanted to be a “strong woman” like so many movie heroines that were in movies in the 90s that had made an impression on me.

CW:    You’ve practiced a number of other different styles along the way, apart from Can Ryu Jiu Jitsu.  I’ve always found that when I practice other styles, I usually end up learning more about my own core style (Shotokan Karate).  Do you find that you learn more about your core style of Jiu Jitsu, or do you find some of them completely different?

LO’C:    I’m like you. I’ve found takeaways in all the different other arts I’ve studied that helped me improve in my own style. There is so much to learn from all the arts. Why limit yourself only to what is taught in your own style?

CW:    Please list the other styles that you’ve practiced and tell us which of them have had the most influence on you?  Have you taken aspects of some of those other styles back into your Can Ryu Jiu Jitsu teaching?

LO’C:    Shotokan Karate, boxing, MMA, Aikido, Taichi, Taekwondo/Hapkido, Wushu, several other styles of Jiu-jitsu. These are only the ones that I studies for 6 months or longer, most of them I trained in for at least 1 or more years.

CW:    Having practiced so many different styles, what is it about Can Ryu Jiu Jitsu that particularly appealed to you to keep it as your primary style for many years?

LO’C:    I like Can-ryu’s self-defense emphasis. We don’t do competition and emphasize using self-defense in accord with Canadian laws. I also like that it continues to evolve as common self-defense scenarios change and evolve.

CW:    You say “using self-defense in accord with Canadian laws”; how does this impact the style on a practical level?

LO’C:    We emphasize using “only as much force as is necessary to nullify the situation.” We teach a wide range of techniques, from hand strikes, kicks, takedowns/throws, improvised weapons etc, but do so in context. We tend to emphasize techniques that are effective at creating opportunities to escape that aren’t likely to be lethal. We do teach some things that have that potential, but when we do, we explain that they should only be used when that level of force can be justified (i.e. when you can explain why you perceived a situation to be potentially lethal to you).

CW:    As part of your involvement with Professor Georges Sylvain’s (founder of the Can-Ryu Jiu Jitsu), I understand that you were one  of the main demonstration models in several of his training videos including The Persuader Key Holder Self-Defense System, Police Pressure Point Techniques and The Use & Application of Pepper Spray Against Dogs.  Can you tell us how this came about and what the experience meant to you?

LO’C:    When Professor Sylvain came out of retirement in the martial arts world, he did so through my Sensei’s dojo. When he first started teaching black belt classes at our dojo, he took a special shine to me, telling me on a number of occasions that I was talented. He even once told me that he thought I had the potential to be a master. That had a profound effect on me. When he started producing his videos, he asked me to be one of the main demonstration models, which was a great honour for me. It was an awesome experience to learn directly from him and I remember the experiences fondly.

CW:    You also lived in Japan for 3 years where you started your own club teaching both Japanese and other foreigners.  That must have been a great experience going to the homeland of Jiu Jitsu and actually teaching it to the Japanese themselves.  Please tell us about this experience, how it came about and what it meant to you personally?

LO’C:    Honestly, I started teaching there because I missed my own style. I hadn’t planned to start a club. I started out training in a local Aikido club. It wasn’t the greatest experience. I wasn’t treated the greatest being a foreigner with previous experience and a woman to boot. They didn’t really take me seriously. Though later, after I started my own class, they started watching from the sidelines appreciatively. They even came over before classes and offered to lend me books.  Weird how they changed their tune after I left them. Oh well. I didn’t have many Japanese students, only a couple, but they were both martial artists who had trained in other styles. One of them held a 3rd degree black belt in Judo and seemed to like how we applied our training in a more self-defense context. He was a great student. He barely spoke any English and was really shy, but always worked really hard and trained seriously. There were lots of ups and downs when I taught in Japan, but I’m glad I did it. It kept me developing in my style and I got to give back to my local community through my teaching.

CW:    Having reached a very high grade, passed on your knowledge and skill to so many others and authored 2 books, what would you regard as your greatest achievement within martial arts?

LO’C:    Wow, that’s a tough one to answer. I would say my greatest achievement was creating and maintaining a community through my dojo in which people of all ages and backgrounds feel comfortable coming together for their own self-development. I also liked that I have been able to extend that community through involvement in social media and my writing. Giving back to the world in a positive way has always been important to me.

CW:    Most senior grade martial artists are men.  Have you had any resistance to your teachings or writings based on gender, or has it been a mainly positive response?

LO’C:    For the most part, my experiences have been mainly positive. I’ve never had anyone resist my teachings directly to me because I’m a woman. That being said, I’ve sometimes felt like senior martial arts instructors have a tendency to be a bit of a “boys club” at times. They aren’t trying to make me feel unwelcome or anything, they just don’t always know exactly how to treat me in social situations. I think they tend to be a bit more formal around me than with other men of the same rank and experience. I try not to take it personally because I know they don’t mean me any offense. It’s a by-product of being in the minority, gender-wise.

CW:    Generally speaking, women sometimes face different threats to men.  Do you feel that women should train differently to men?  If so please explain how?

LO’C:   Not really. They just need to understand how best to use their body to achieve the same results as men. They often have to have better technique in order to apply moves on bigger/stronger individuals. For the most part, martial arts techniques are most effective when you use your energy efficiently by emphasizing universal principles such as body mechanics, balance breaking, distance & timing, etc. Everyone should be aiming to use these, regardless of size or strength because everyone wants to know that their moves will work when the chips are down and they are dealing with an attacker that has the size/strength advantage.

CW:  Apart from the practical side of realistic self defence, you also seem to be interested in spiritual development as well.  What are your main influences here and what part have martial arts played in your spiritual journey?

LO’C:    The martial arts have taught me to aim to be fully present in whatever I do, to accept situations as they are, but also to try and make the most of them, however I can. I wouldn’t say that I subscribe to any formal spiritual philosophy, but I’ve always appreciated Zen and Taoist philosophy. I believe that everyone should develop their own sense of spirituality (by spirituality, I mean how one views their connection with the world around them)..

CW:    The spiritual side can be difficult for many to understand, especially beginners (who usually just look to the physical self defence skills).  Do you try to teach the spiritual side to your students (if so, how)?   Or do you mainly focus on the practical side and wait them to work it out for themselves?

LO’C:    I mainly focus on the practical side and let students get whatever they want to out of their own training. I don’t believe in trying to press my spiritual beliefs on anyone else, but I am happy to share if asked. I also provide a library at my dojo that contains many spiritual and philosophical books as well as martial arts books. If people want to explore spirituality within the context of the martial arts, they have every opportunity to do so, but it’s something they must initiate on their own.

CW:    You don’t seem to have much interest in sport martial arts (which I personally can fully relate to).  Have you ever taken part in competitions?  Do you feel that sport adds or detracts from martial arts training?

LO’C:    I have dabbled a little, having done a few competitions to see what it was like. At one point, I was training to be an MMA fighter with every intention of going into the ring. I had started doing MMA because I wanted to learn what they learned so I can teach my students how to handle that sort of attacker. I trained really hard for a number of months, but my trainer/promoter weren’t honest with me and kept telling me he had fights arranged (for which I trained up), then telling me it fell through at the last minute. I found out later that he had never actually gotten those fights for me and I was really put off. I lost interest after that.

I don’t think sport necessarily detracts from training. It depends on how you do it. If you only practice with sport in mind, never considering how your techniques might need to be adapted in self-defense situations, then yes, it would certainly detract from one’s martial arts training IF your purpose is to learn self-defense. If sport is your reason for training, then obviously it wouldn’t detract.

CW:    I’m also very interested in your own personal blog www.Giver365.com.  Can you tell us what that is about and what inspired you to start it up?

LO’C:    Giv’er 365 is my way of exploring how I serve the world around me. I was inspired to start it up because I was doing a lot of thinking about my connection to the world around me and wanted to find more ways I could give back and perhaps inspire others to do the same.

CW:    Are you a full time professional martial arts teacher/writer or do you just do it part time?

LO’C:    I would say I do it half-time. I do work in the movies for the other half, mostly doing work as a movie extra, with the odd bit of stunt work here and there.

CW:    In what ways does your martial art training impact on other areas of your life outside of the Dojo?

LO’C:    The dojo has given me a community that I value greatly. Most of my friends have come out of my dojo, so my social life often revolves around my students. I also feel that my martial arts training has helped me develop my sense of connection with the world, and has even been a primary influence on my personal values.

CW:    Looking at your first book, Weapons Of Opportunity, please tell about this, what motivated you to write this book and how well has it been received?

LO’C:    I wrote that book because I was working in a full-time marketing job at the time that didn’t have enough work for me to actually work full time.  Since I had to be there at my computer all day, I preferred to find something productive to do rather than sit there surfing the Internet. I hadn’t even started my dojo yet either, but I was missing my connection with Can-ryu. So I started writing that book as a series of short stories and anecdotes from my early years of martial arts training. I self-published the book, having not had any luck finding a publisher to back the work of an unknown author’s personal memoirs. Those who bought it and read it though, seemed to enjoy it. I got a lot of positive feedback from it. I’ve sold out of the printed copies, but a new digital version will be available soon.

CW:    Your second book,  When The Fight Goes To The Ground: Jiu Jitsu Strategies And Tactics For Self Defenseis coming out soon.  When is the release date and what inspired you to write about this specific subject?  Although it is early days yet, have you had any response or feedback about it?

LO’C:    The official release date is Feb. 12, 2013. I was actually approached directly by Tuttle Publishing. Their martial arts acquisitions representative read my blog and liked my writing, asking me if I would be interested in submitting a proposal for a technical book/DVD format they were looking to develop. I had wanted to write a book about practical ground defense that got away from the whole submission grappling arena, focusing more on using techniques to get off the ground as quickly and efficiently as possible. I never pursued it though because I was told by a martial arts instructor/author mentor of mine that without being a well-known MMA fighter or something, I was unlikely to ever get a publisher to back it. Goes to show you that you shouldn’t always believe what you’re told. I haven’t really had any feedback about the book yet since it’s not out, but I have taught many of the techniques at seminars and at my own dojo and the techniques have always been well received.

CW:    Many styles (like my own Karate) emphasis striking and do not always do much groundwork.  Will this book to be of much value to martial artists of other styles to help them fill a possible gap in their own training?

LO’C:    With the popularity of BJJ and MMA, many people are learning ground related skills, whether it’s formally through schools, or just from watching UFC and YouTube. With this knowledge becoming so widespread, it is well worth it to learn a base of ground defense if one’s purpose is to learn martial arts for self-defense. Traditional martial artists from stand-up striking styles don’t necessarily want to give up their style just to learn that specific an element of self-defense. And even if they did resort to training in BJJ or MMA, these styles are usually taught in a competitive context, leaving out many strategies and tactics that better serve one’s goals in street self-defense.

My book addresses the significant differences in approach between competition ground fighting and street defense ground fighting. It would teach competitive grapplers skills, concepts and techniques they can combine with their training for application in self-defense scenarios. It also offers traditional stand-up martial artists a simple, effective system of ground defense they can combine with their stand-up defensive skills.

CW:    Outside of your own dojo, do you teach many seminars?  If so, is it usually just within the Can Ryu Jiu Jitsu association, or do you teach martial artists of other styles?  And how far afield have you journeyed to teach?

LO’C:    Yes, I teach seminars outside my own dojo. I teach at the Canadian Jiu-jitsu Union Winter and Summer Camps every year. I also teach as a guest at other dojos for students of different martial arts styles. I have even taught self-defense/Jiu-jitsu seminars for corporate clients and private groups. So far, the farthest I’ve travelled to teach has been to Ontario, but this year I have plans to teach in the US, in addition to seminar plans in various locations throughout Canada.

CW:    What are your future plans with your martial arts career?  If anybody would like to book you for a seminar, how should they contact you and how far are you prepared to travel?

LO’C:    My plan is to continue teaching and training (I still train at other dojos as well as my own dojo) to keep learning and improving on what I do in the martial arts. I also intend to write another martial arts book, one that addresses personal development in the martial arts.

If people are interested in booking me for a seminar, they can contact me through my dojo’s website, Pacific Wave Jiu-jitsu. I am willing to travel pretty much anywhere as long as we can come to an arrangement that makes it worthwhile for both me and the host.

CW:   Lori, I’d like to wish you success with both your teaching and writing careers.  I look forward to reading your new book When The Fight Goes To The Ground   and would like to thank you for taking the time out to do this interview with me.  Thank you very much.

Anybody interested in pre-ordering Lori’s new book or purchsing the old one, can do so from Amazon (see below).

 

Interview With International Stav Instructor & Author; Graham Butcher

Stav is a very rare Norwegian Martial Art, which dates back to the Vikings.  Along with numerous weapons and unarmed combat, it also has a very deep philosophical, spiritual and self development side to it, which is very different to anything that most of us would usually associate with the Vikings.

One of the World’s leading authority’s on this rare and ancient martial art is international Stav instructor and author, Graham Butcher; who has kindly agreed to do this interview.

Graham has a lot of insights to share which will be of benefit to any martial artists, regardless of style.  This is despite the fact that it was developed in North Europe’s, whilst most martial arts have their origins in the Far East.  In fact in some ways it gives a fresh perspective, whilst at the same time still having a lot in common.

So, on to the interview:

 

CW:    Graham, I believe you practiced other martial arts before you found and focused on Stav.  Can you tell us which other styles you trained in?

GB:    As a teenager I started with Kyushindo Karate under Sensi George Mayo.  I followed that with Feng Sau Wu Shu where my teacher was Graham Horwood.  I also trained in Shotokan Karate in Southgate before I took up Kick boxing with Joe Holmes and the last style I trained in before I took up Stav was Nambudo which I practised for a couple of years before moving to Humberside where I met Ivar Hafskjold.

CW:    Stav is a very rare martial art.  How did you come across it?

GB:    Sometime in October or November 1992 I was scanning the magazine stand in a Hull newsagent and I felt compelled to purchase the current edition of Fighting Arts International, a publication belonging to Terry O’Neill.  I hadn’t bought a martial arts magazine in a long time so it was strange.  I got it home and read it an there was an article called the Viking and the Samurai by Harry Cook.  The piece was an interview with Ivar Hafskjold who had recently returned to Europe from Japan and settled in the UK.  Over four pages the article covered Ivar’s experiences in Japan and Stav, the family system.  It also turned out that Ivar lived only a few miles away in Beverley and he was interested in finding students to teach.  At the time I was teaching a self defence class and I felt that getting in contact with Ivar Hafskjold was the right thing to do. I wrote him a letter and received a phone call in return.  We met up and talked and I was shown some of the training Ivar had received in Japan. Not having done Japanese weapon arts let along seen Stav before it all seemed a bit strange but something made me think it would be a good idea to learn from Ivar.  He was holding a class in Driffield at the time so I joined that and began training with him.

CW:    Having practiced other martial arts, what was it about Stav as a fighting art that appealed and made you want to stay with it?

GB:    Difficult to say really but I think it was two things. Firstly it was realising that Ivar could teach me stuff I didn’t already know and I wanted to learn from him.  Secondly it was the emphasis on realising one’s own potential rather than having to attain an arbitrary external standard. That’s really it, I have learned stuff from Ivar which I am sure no one else could have taught me, and I anticipate that there will be new insights to gain from him when I train with him on the summer camp in July.  And I continue to explore and develop my own potential using the practice and principles of Stav as a framework and guide.

CW:    Tell us a little bit about Stav as there’s a lot more to it than just a fighting system isn’t there?

GB:    It is very dangerous making a comparison like this but I will risk suggesting that Stav can be compared to, say, Taoism in the sense that Tai Chi may be a Taoist art but Taoism is not Tai Chi alone.  Stav may be learned, practised and expressed through martial training but there are many other aspects to it.  Stav literally means “knowledge of the rune stav/e/s” .  The runes have a roughly comparable place in European culture as the Iching does in China. (I know these are very imperfect comparisons but they may be helpful). The runes are symbols for learning traditional wisdom and accessing the intuition.  The runes
also provide the inspiration for the stances which are rather like a Chi gung form.   Doing the stances daily promotes a good posture, maintains a full range of movement, develops deep and natural breathing, encourages the flow of Megin (vital energy) and induces a relaxed and focused mindset.

Stav also teaches an awareness of environment including plants, trees and animals as well as the seasons, weather and topography. Socially Stav is concerned with self-reliance and being able to take care of yourself while also understanding how society works and how human beings interact. The five principles of Stav help us with this.

Then there is learning to see the Web of Orlog which is about understanding how things are made and connected to one another. This is about seeing the underlying reality of any situation rather than just the surface impression. This applies to all aspects of life, relationships, business, health and making and creating things.

CW:    With all these different facets to the art, do you practice them all equally, or is there any aspect that you specialise in?

GB:    I do the stances daily and I have a particular interest in martial arts and martial training so I give time to that.  I also work at making, building and fixing things in my Handyman business.  I am interested in marketing, teaching and communication generally.  I use these to promote my Stav teaching and the Handyman business.  I sometimes work with runes directly and they are effective tools for developing self knowledge but I don’t give a huge amount of time to that aspect at the moment.

CW:    Stav includes a number of weapons. Obviously knife defence is as applicable today as it was centuries ago when Stav was first created. What other weapons do you teach that are still directly applicable in today’s world?

GB:    Firstly we teach basics with the staff because it is a very effective way of learning how to use the body.  Techniques done with a long two handed weapon give very clear feedback on the positioning and alignment of the body.  An almost imperceptible movement of the hand becomes a displacement of several inches at the end of a staff which the hand is holding.  Not only can the teacher see this but the student quickly becomes aware of this for themselves and the staff in a sense becomes their teacher.  When doing two person drills working with the staff breaks down the difference in size and strength between those training.  So the principle can be explored and seen more clearly than if all contact is body to body. So we would regard weapons primarily as teaching devices to build knowledge, awareness and confidence. Once these qualities are developed they will easily transfer to unarmed training.

Secondly we have to realise that human beings are tool using animals and weapons are just tools with a specific function. Unarmed self-defence is only relevant in the very artificial situation which exists in current western society.  Does anyone teach tool free DIY or implement free gardening?  The idea would be ridiculous and in reality so is unarmed self-defence.  However present social conditions make it difficult to carry a weapon on a regular basis so we do need unarmed self-defence skills although we would do well to remember that however good we may be a weapon can confer a massive advantage to an opponent of even mediocre skills. You may obey the law in not carrying an “offensive weapon” but you can be reasonably sure that someone who is determined to hurt you for some reason may not be so deterred. The weapons which are most accessible to us (and least likely to be considered “offensive weapons” by those whose job it is to regulate, sorry, protect us are tool handles, walking sticks, walking staffs, martial arts “training” equipment etc. The humble stick in whatever form will never be obsolete as a weapon so teaching staff (broomstick) axe (pick handle, baseball bat, golf club) and cudgel (walking stick etc) will never be irrelevant.

CW:    How relevant do you feel it is to practice ancient weapons such as axe and spear in today’s world?

GB:    Personally I use an axe and its smaller cousin the sax (a heavy bladed machete) on a regular basis. My work often involves clearing overgrown vegetation including trees. Cutting wood and other plant material is a great way of learning to handle an axe or sax, building strength, learning to see the web line needed for an effective cut and earning money all at the same time.  Stav is a totally practical art.

Another reason for working with the axe is that to develop good defences you need a very good attack to defend against and the axe, in the hands of a competent person is a very good attacking weapon, so once again it is a teaching tool. And as stated above in extremes the axe is as good a weapon for self-defence today as it ever was for a Viking and you can have a perfectly legitimate reason for owning it.

A spear is essentially a longer staff so training with it adds some variety to practice of basics.  That is the main reason.  Of course if necessary a spear is very easy to improvise and in skilled hands it is the ultimate close quarter weapon.

I certainly have reservations about martial training systems which are technology based. By that I mean that they train with particular kinds of swords and everything is really geared to exploring the potential of the sabre, or rapier or broadsword or whatever. In Stav training we essentially with four sticks; long, staff or spear, medium, axe or two handed club, short, cudgel, walking stick or possibly one handed sword and tein, which can be a short baton or represent a knife or dagger. Each of these enables you to train for a “real weapon” but each is highly effective for self-defence in exactly the same form as you train with if
you know what you are doing with it.

CW:    I note that your website and other Stav websites use the title “Ice and Fire”.  Clearly opposites! Is that the Viking equivalent of Yin and Yang?  Does the Stav philosophy have a lot in common with the philosophies of Eastern martial arts?

GB:    The Ice and Fire name comes from the Norse creation myth which describes how the world came into existence in the Gunning Gap a place between fire and ice and in the vapour that formed life developed. I suppose it is a similar concept to Ying and Yang but I think the Vikings were a bit more literal in their thinking, Ying and Yang are abstract concepts, Ice and Fire are everyday realities.  All human beings have to engage with the same fundamental issues so there will be parallels in martial arts philosophies too.  However it would take a long time to
unpick them all.

CW:    Are there any areas where Stav philosophy is significantly different to the Eastern martial arts?

GB:    Another tricky one to try and unpick in a few lines.  There is a major Confucian influence on Eastern martial arts hence the seniority of the teacher and submission to that seniority becomes an overriding imperative in the practice of the art.  Whereas with Stav as a western system the emphasis is on the development of the individual. There is a lot more to be said than this about superficial differences but ultimately they are just different paths to the top of the same mountain.

CW:    Martial arts are different things to different people; sport, combat, self development, business, combination of things. Can you sum up what is your personal philosophy on martial arts?

GB:    For me it is primarily self-development, I think self-defence is important but the best way to protect oneself is stay out of trouble. I enjoy teaching martial arts and would like to do it full time, but to achieve that it will have to be a reasonably successful business.

CW:    You describe Stav as your “primary activity”.  How does Stav affect your day to day life and what benefits do you feel you get from your daily practice?

GB:    It keeps me fit and healthy which is obviously important.  It also helps me see things clearly which is very helpful for solving problems which is basically what I do in my ‘day job’.

Despite being centuries old, Stav is still being developed to make it more relevant in today’s society.

CW:    Can you tell us a little about your role in this development and what specifically you have brought into the mix?

GB:    I have been working with Ivar since the beginning to make Stav into a system which could be taught as a public system rather than as a family tradition which is the way the Hafskjolds had passed it on for centuries.  By learning the system myself and then seeking to teach it to as many people as possible I think we have got a little closer to having a teachable system than we had at the start.  Ivar is an amazing teacher but he would admit that you have to be in the right place to start learning from him. I have focused on how to teach Stav from scratch to any one who is serious about learning.

CW:    I note on your website that you have a particular interest in martial art training for older people.  This is an area of interest for me too. Do you have any general advice for the more mature martial artist?

GB:    Big subject, but very briefly I would recommend getting very focused in one’s training. Take an 80/20 approach where you concentrate on the few exercises and techniques which will bring the greatest benefits. Don’t over strain yourself or waste energy.

CW:    You teach seminars in several UK cities as well as in Germany and the USA.  Are there any other countries that you’ve taught in and how did this come about when so few people (even in the martial arts world) have even heard of Stav?

GB:    I have taught a seminar in France a few years back and Ivar has taught in Australia and Scandinavia. It has been mainly people seeing the websites and getting interested enough to organise a seminar.

CW:    You have written a book; Stav: The Fighting System of Northern Europe.   How did this come about and is it the only book available on Stav?

GB:    I wrote it when I had been doing Stav about three years. At that stage I felt I knew enough to produce a kind of manual. Quite recently I wrote a supplement to it which I provide to anyone who buys a copy. There are some booklets on other aspects of Stav available from my website. It is high time I wrote a new book but these days I feel like I don’t know enough, I just need to get over that and get on with it.

CW:    You also run a blog about Stav at http://iceandfire.ca/stavblog which you post on regularly. Has this been well received and what type of issues do you focus on?

GB:    I do get good feedback and I focus on any aspect of Stav and related issues, which pretty much means I can write about almost anything. I suggest readers have a look for themselves.

CW:    You are currently doing Geoff Thompson’s Masterclass.  How much of this do you find fits in directly with your Stav training and do you find any parts to be very different?

GB:    The concept of the fence fits very well with our training in the five principles.  Okay, I haven’t tested Stav in 300 fights but I do have some experience of violence. I find his teaching on fear and how to manage it very helpful and I am incorporating that into my teaching more than I used to.  None of Geoff’s teaching seems alien but he certainly emphasises stuff I hadn’t always paid enough attention to.

CW:    What are you future plans for your own training and for spreading Stav?

GB:    I am looking more at the unarmed/self-defence aspects of Stav training, Geoff Thompson’s influence has been very helpful there.  I am doing much more impact training than I have done for many years using punchbags etc and that is interesting.  As far as spreading Stav generally is concerned I will be making more training dvds and writing more.  I am also taking more opportunities to teach Stav at multi style events, these are always a good chance to spread the word.

CW:    Do your Stav seminars have much to offer martial artists of other styles who are not looking to change style, but just want to explore the whole ethos of martial arts more deeply?

GB:    Depends a bit on which one they come on.  If I am focusing on five principles or working with the web training then these concepts are useful to someone doing any style. If I am teaching stances, or axe training or nine guards with staff or spear it is a bit more specifically Stav but it could still be of interest. I would suggest calling or emailing me first and saying what it is you are looking for and I can see whether or not that particular seminar is likely to be suitable for your needs.

CW:    How should people contact you if they want to train with you, or to book you for seminars?

GB:    They can reach me via my website http://www.iceandfire.org or email me on graham@iceandfire.org or phone 0771 358 5954.

CW:    Graham, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview and for your insights.  I wish you every success in your future projects and I’ll have to come and train on one of your seminars in the future.
Thank you.

For anybody interested in obtaining Graham’s book, you can get it from Amazon:-
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Amazon.co.uk Widgets

The Louis Thompson Interview

Louis Thompson is the son of martial arts pioneer, author and modern day legend, Geoff Thompson.  As such he has had the unique opportunity to grow up practicing reality based martial arts with the very best instructors in the world from a very early age.  As an adult, Louis has often assisted his father teaching at many seminars.

Now Louis is set to branch out and teach independently.  Although still quite young, he has a wealth of knowledge and experience beyond his years as he has had a start in martial arts that most of us could only dream about.

I’ve been lucky enough to secure an interview with Louis and I believe that I am among the first to do so.  Without any more ado, here is that interview below and I hope you find it as interesting as I have:
CW:     Hi Louis and thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me.  Obviously you have grown up with martial arts in your blood.  Your father would have been a big influence (as he has influenced the whole martial arts world).   However, apart from your father, who else were the main influences on your martial arts development and in which ways did they influence you?

LT:     I try to take my influences from everywhere, not just martial arts. If I see someone who is highly successful in their field then I will take the same method that they used and apply it to my training. That is how my immersion training idea came about. I noticed that if people wanted to learn a language or skill quickly, if they completely immersed themselves then the gains were massive. I just make whatever I am doing a massive part of my life and that is how I get ahead of the game.

As for people who have influenced me there are many. Obviously my dad has had a huge effect on the way I view the world especially in martial arts. I feel like he has sifted through a lot of things arts and techniques and taken the essence and passed that onto me. Now it’s for me to go and find out of those things what works for me. I have been around Peter Consterdine since I was a child and I have massive respect for him. He has such a wealth of experience in so many different areas and he is someone I really would like to be around more. Obviously all of my dads students (Lea and Matty Evans, Tony Somers, Al Peasland, Justin Grey) have all played a massive part in my MA education. My first and probably favourite art is Judo. For me it is the missing link in this new MMA culture we have and I find that it is dismissed far too quickly. Within Judo people like Neil Adams and Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki are such amazing players and it would be an honor if I could ever get on the mat with them.

CW:     Reality based training obviously involves a lot shouting and swearing at each other to de-sensitise yourself to that kind of raw aggression.  When growing up, did it seem strange acting out these aggressive scenarios with your own father?

LT:     I have been around the shouting and swearing so much that it is a very normal part of my training. I try to treat it like a drill. It is such a great tool that you have to include it in your training. In essence what you are doing is acting. You access the base energy in you and project that as pure aggression. For me doing this with my dad is no different to hitting the pads or practicing throws. It’s just a part of what we do.

CW:     Do you practice traditional martial arts alongside your reality based training?  If so, which ones?

LT:     As I said Judo was probably my first real ‘art’. I love it and think it is massively underrated. I have also trained in western boxing as well as various forms of wrestling. My main focus is reality based self defence and taking from the arts the techniques I can apply to that. I am constantly looking for new things to learn and new techniques to drill.

CW:     Having a famous father has some obvious advantages in getting started in the martial arts field, but do you sometimes feel that it is a double edged sword?  Do you feel that you have a lot to live up to and that people will always judge you as “Geoff Thompson’s son” rather than as your own person?

LT:     My dad has set the bar high but for me that is great. It gives me something to work towards. Hopefully I can prove myself in my own right and people will respect what I do as an individual. Ultimately I am teaching what my dad has taught and it means a massive amount to me what he thinks of what I am doing. I think the only person I have to prove anything to is him. As long as he is happy with how I am teaching then what the rest of the world says is irrelevant. There will be lots of people out there who have and will continue to criticize what my dad has done and I have seen small pockets of that. People who feel that way will no doubt always view me as Geoff Thompson’s son but it is a label I am grateful to have.

CW:     What do you feel are your own unique strengths and talents to offer which are specific to you as a martial artist?

LT:     I can only really offer people my experiences. I can’t claim to have been in hundreds of fights or worked the door for 10 years but I can certainly say I have had world class instruction for my whole life. When people go to train with anyone they go to get their experiences. I am the only person in the world that can offer my experience and deliver it in my style. When it comes to the Real Combat System or The fence and pre-emption I have lived and breathed that for 20 years. I know how it should be taught and I know the theory behind it and if I am ever unsure I have the creator at the end of the phone. I am in a unique position and I am very excited about teaching people everything I can and learning lots in the process.

CW:     I see that you are running special courses.  Can you tell us a bit about those courses?  Is this the only way that you teach or do you run a club as well?

LT:     My 6 week course focuses on all aspects of self defence right from becoming more aware to being able to hit very hard. My favourite way to teach is through immersion training. 4 hours of intense tuition focusing on whatever area the student wants. I have been doing a lot of this recently and the gains people get are tremendous. I don’t have a class as yet but it is something I am organising very soon.

CW:     What kind of response have you had?  Have your courses been filled up?

LT:     I have had a great response so far and people seem to be getting lots from it. I tend to keep the groups small so I can make sure that the progress is good and identify and address specific needs with people.

CW:     On your website you mention that you strive to improve your skills in all areas, both physically and spiritually.  Can you tell us what your spiritual beliefs are and how they affect both your training and you daily life?

LT:     I am a great believer in the fact that I create my own reality. I have created amazing things and also watched them crash down all because of the way I think. Meditation is something I am trying to do more and more. For me it is far more difficult than any physical training. My mind is incredibly active and I find it really difficult to keep it centred. Ultimately I am looking to be congruent which is really difficult at times.

CW:     Do you believe (as I do) that developing some kind of spirituality is important to all developing martial artists?

LT:     I think developing some kind of spirituality is important to all aspects of life although I am not sure that spirituality is the right word. It seems to scare people. The masses hear spirituality and assume religion but it’s not really the case. At a basic level they are all the same thing. I think it’s important to develop integrity and congruence because if you don’t have that then things will come crashing down at some point.

CW:     Having learnt directly from some of the Worlds very best martial arts instructors, do you feel that their message is properly understood by the wider martial arts community, or does that message get a bit diluted and confused along the way?

LT:     If you are looking at what my dad has developed then I would say it is massively distorted by the wider MA community. You only have to type the fence in to YouTube to see people doing it wrong. I think people take it away and try to make it work within the realms of their own art and that really isn’t possible. I have seen people using the fence and then teaching blocks and counters of trapping from the fence but when you start doing that you destroy the main message which is pre-emption. People misunderstand and then pass that on to their students and the wrong message starts to spread.

CW:     What advice would you give to traditional martial artists who realise that their training has become either sport orientated or stylized, to make their training more effective for the street?

LT:     I would say look at what is available to you in a real situation and when I say that I mean what is very easily available. What will guarantee you results. Look at the range you have. It’s is real difficult to let go of your art and see that all you really need is one really good punch and the ability to strike first and you will be leagues ahead of anyone. The key to effective self defence is always pre-emption. The only way to really remove a true threat is by KO. Use the fence to maintain the distance. If they try to close the distance and you feel there is a genuine threat then strike the jaw which will cause a KO.

CW:     Sometimes traditional martial artist feel that they only want to train in their own system and don’t want to “confuse” themselves training outside their style.  I personally find that training outside my style often helps me to understand elements of my main style better.  However, as most of the readers of my website are traditional martial artists (mainly Karate, Teakwondo, Kung Fu); what do you feel your courses have to offer to a die-hard traditional martial artist?

LT:     I think people who feel that training outside their art will confuse them don’t really understand their art. When you look at all the different arts they all have very similar elements that are styled in different ways. All I can offer people is the opportunity to get excited about educating themselves with new and interesting techniques and show them that by making all the techniques from all the arts interchangeable you can make something that is overall stringer and more durable.

CW:     On your website shop you recommend/sell a number of DVD’s and books.  Do you plan to produce any such products yourself in the future?

LT:     I am building up slowly but surely and although I have no plans to create my own products yet I am sure it is something that will come up at some point. When you want to get your message out to a wider audience it is a necessity.

CW:     What are your plans to for the future and how do you plan to continue developing as a martial artist?

LT:     I am taking each day as it comes. I have achieved a lot of goals in a short space of time so I think this is a great time to make sure that they can all sustain themselves. I want to keep growing Louis Thompson SD as a brand and a company and try to get my message on a global level.  I have my own SD/MA studio which is a lovely space and I am getting more and more students as time goes on. To develop as a martial artist I just look at training privately with as many great people as possible. I will continue to train and teach with my dad and just continue to push myself as an individual and hopefully that will translate in what I teach.

CW:     Louis, thank you for doing this interview for BunkaiJutsu.com.  On behalf of myself and the readers, I would like to wish you every success in your career and we hope that we’ll all be hearing more from you in the future.

 

 

The Russell Stutely Interview

Russell Stutely is recognised as Europe’s number one expert in pressure points and famous throughout the world for his innovative teachings, which have moved the boundaries of the martial arts  and added new dimensions for all of us.  His system can be applied to any martial art, so you don’t need to change style to incorporate his teachings.  He has studied very deeply how to use pressure point fighting in high pressure scenarios, so that they will work when we really need them.

Russell has kindly agreed to do an interview with me which you’ll find below.  But before you go on to the interview, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Russell Stutely for taking the time to answer my questions and share some if his insights with us.

But first, here’s a little clip of Russell in action:

The Interview:

CW:   Russell, can you tell us a bit about your early background in martial arts, what inspired you to start and what style(s) did you practice in your early days?

RS:   Like many people, I started Karate because my older Brother went to Class.. he stopped and I carried on. I started in Shukokai… stopped for a while and then started again in Shotokan

CW:   When you decided that you wanted to develop beyond the usual traditional martial arts (as taught in the West), who did you seek you seek out to teach and take you to the next level?

RS:   It was after watching “way of the warrior” that I knew there was more out there. I tried to study with all the experts and masters… but it was only when I met Rick Moneymaker and Tom Muncy that it all started to make sense

CW:   You obviously have an in-depth knowledge of all the pressure point (or some might say acupuncture points).  Do you also have a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine (or something similar)?  If so, to what extent has this helped you in your martial arts studies?

RS:   No background.. just learnt it as I went along

CW:   I’m a great believer that whilst you should learn as much as you can from others, experienced martial artists should also be able to work out a lot of applications for themselves rather than waiting for others to teach them every single aspect of their art.  To what extent have you taken the knowledge that you have and worked out the rest for yourself?

RS:   I have no idea to what extent that has been done… Only when you begin to understand what you are doing, do you “sometimes” realise how much you don’t know!
As regards working out stuff.. we do that every day…as for applications.. I have no idea how many I know as the only limit is your imagination and the depth of knowledge that you have.
I sometimes can give a whole seminar on one move from one Kata and show a different application every 5-10 mins for hours on end. It depends on how deep you want to go

CW:   Although you are primarily known as a pressure point expert, you include a number of other aspects which you refer to as “players in the game”.  Can you please explain what these are?

RS:   Technique enhancers.. the underlying principles upon which a technique is based.

CW:   There are other big names in the pressure point business (like Rick Clark, George Dillman and others).  Can you explain how your approach is different from the way the other experts teach?

RS:   I am more interested in making the Points work when the proverbial hits the fan. That means that PP’s are the last 5% of any given technique… some people find that a hard concept to grasp for some reason.

CW:   I’ve always believed that the ideal time to use pressure point strikes is during the pre fight build up, when you know that things are about to take off and you decided that your best option is a pre-emptive strike.  If the guy is “peacocking” rather than taking up a fighting stance he leaves himself more open and vulnerable.  Would you agree with this?

RS:   Only hit if you have to.. but yes of course.. a pre-emptive strike has to be the preferred option if there is no other way out.

CW:   Many people argue that pressure point fighting is not really viable in an all out fight as a high degree of accuracy is required to hit a small target when it is moving and you are under great pressure too.  How would you answer this?

RS:   They are doing it wrong are mis-informed about how and why Points work or have no real experience of Points other than with the wrong teacher.
Accuracy is VERY IMPORTANT and it is one area that many so called Self Defense “experts” purport to not need in a fight or is impossible to use… absolute rubbish. THEY may not use it.. aim small miss small. Accuracy is what you build up in training. Hit what you are aiming at and the rest kinda falls into place.

CW:   Have you had much feedback from people who have actually had to use what you’ve taught them in a real live situation?

RS:   Yes.. every day nearly from Cops / Security etc all over the World

CW:   I’ve read a comment by you ages ago that some people, having experienced the “waveform” and felt how much more power they can generate; then go back to their own clubs and just go back to the way they were doing it before.  How easy is it to absorb your teachings (players) into a traditional martial art?
(The reason I ask is that if somebody returning from one of your courses tries to do it in their own club and it is obviously different from what their regular instructor is teaching, they may be told not to do it that way).

RS:   The reasons they went back to what they were doing previously are
Instructor said do it my way or leave
They were embarrassed to tell their students that they need to change
They were embarrassed at the fact they had been training 20 years and hit at X Power.. then in 60 Mins we got them to 2X Power… bit difficult for some people to take!

CW:   You must have seen very many people progress and take great leaps forward due to your teachings.  Is there anybody who you are especially proud of for the progress that they have made?

RS:   All of our OCFM Coaches.. and lots of people who have trained with us over the years. Especially the Cops in MA and the DT Trainers there.. outstanding people with outstanding ability
CW:   Putting fighting applications aside for a moment, how do you feel that your training/teaching has helped you to develop as a person (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, intellectually)?

RS:   You have to develop in those areas when you study and teach

CW:   Do you feel that anybody (as long as they train hard) can develop their personal characteristics (in the way that you have) as well?

RS:   I don’t know if anyone wants to develop my personal characteristics 🙂 But anyone can develop to whatever their potential if they work hard enough. That is what we try to help them to do.

CW:   Many people teach martial arts as their main source of income (or even just to pay a few bills).  As you have been very successful, do you have any advice to give to help people build up their martial arts business?

RS:   Just follow sound business practice. Don’t take that stupid attitude of “I teach for nothing” and the holier than thou attitude of the “knockers” out there. The MOMENT you accept money you are in business. You MUST treat your students like CUSTOMERS. Give them the BEST POSSIBLE service at a good price.
That is what we do with our OCFM Schools.. we do all the marketing etc for our owners.. they just teach.. and give the best class ever each and every class.
There is so much to running a School.. but we have the answers if people want them

CW:   Finally, for anybody new to your teachings/philosophy and who may not be able to make a seminar, you have a lot of DVD’s/Downloads for them to chose from.  However, it could be a bit confusing (especially with the different players).  Which of your products would you recommend to somebody looking at your products for the very first time and getting confused as to where to start?

RS:   Start at the recommended order listing at my store.. follow it in sequence for the quickest and best results. www.russellstutely.com/ashop

CW:   Russell, on behalf of myself and my readers, thank very much for giving us the benefit of your insights.