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, spiritual 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).

 

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).

This 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! Continue reading “Moksu: Does It Actually Have A Martial Application?” »

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!

Martial Arts: A Mental Rehearsal For Success

In neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), they have a technique called Mental Rehearsal.  This is where we know that we have a particular situation coming up and we rehearse/visualise how we want it to go in our minds a number of times before the actual event.  It could be a grading or a competition.  Or it could be an everyday life event like a works meeting where we have to make a presentation or a job interview.

It is often said that we only use about 10% of our brains.  I think it would be more correct to say that we only consciously use 10%.  Our unconscious minds control many of our behaviours and automatic responses, but can be accessed with various techniques.  The strange thing about our unconscious minds is that it does not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.  For example, have you ever been watching a scary film and found your heartbeat increasing or your breathing getting shallow and quick (effects of adrenalin).  Then the villain jumps out unexpectedly with a burst of dramatic music and nearly jump out of your seat.

Why did you react like that?  You know that you are safe in your home, watching the TV, on your sofa right?.  You know that it is just a film with actors so it’s not real, you know that the villain cannot hurt you in any way whatsoever.   Yet you still had a physical and emotional response!

Or should I say your conscious mind knows those things.  Your unconscious mind thinks it real, so your body reacts accordingly.  Then your conscious mind reminds you where you are and you calm down again.

This is just one example of how much the unconscious mind controls us without us even realising.  So if you can deliberately access the unconscious mind and use it in a positive way which helps you, then you have a very powerful tool.

Mental Rehearsal is using visualisation.  Of course as it is our visualisation we control the outcome, which (if we’re doing it right) will always be successful.  Having succeeded many times in our minds, when we go into the real event we have added confidence because we’ve already done it a number of times (and remember that our unconscious mind thinks that we’ve done it for real).

In our basics and even more so in our kata/forms/patterns, as well as practicing the physical techniques, we should be visualising taking on multiple assailants and winning.  Yes, there are many arguments about the realism and effectiveness of the applications (bunkai) to the movements.  That’s a topic I’ve discussed many times elsewhere.  But as we perform those movements with our bodies, we should be training our minds to expect many victories in many situations.

Now I’m not suggesting that if we perform a lot of kata that we can become cocky and happily take on a whole gang of would attackers because we’ve defeated multiple assailants in our minds many times before.  But kata with correct visualisation is a tool for focusing the mind and will so that they work in conjunction with your physical movements rather than undermining you with doubt and fear.  It will help you to develop an indomitable spirit.

It is similar in pre-arranged sparring routines.  Again there is a lot of argument over how practical these are and again that is not subject of this post.  But as with kata, alongside the physical techniques they provide a good mental training aspect too.  We don’t need to visualise as we do in kata as we actually have a real person facing us.  But we still get the chance to work the mind and put in full mental ferocity into our block/parry and counter.  When we get adept at it and can block/parry and counter accurately, it is also worth noting that the defender “wins” each encounter.  So our unconscious mind gets used to the idea that we always win when attacked and expects to keep getting this outcome, even if it is a bit messier in a real life situation.

It could be argued that if the defender is training to “win”, then is the attacker training to “lose”?  I would say not really as the attacker’s only real objective is to complete the technique to make the defender work.  This again the attacker usually succeeds at!  Pre-arranged sparring is primarily an exercise for the defender.

It has been said many times by many masters both from the past and modern day that fighting is more mental than physical; yet this is seldom explained in any depth.  The physical aspects are obvious.  Although many traditional martial arts methods are quite indirect and even impractical sometimes from a real combat point of view, they do contain many elements of mental preparation and expectation of success (mental rehearsal for success).

“In combat it is absolutely vital that the correct mental attitudes are adopted.  It will not be the most technically competent person that wins the fight but, more often than not, it will be the one with the strongest mind”.
From Ian Abernethy’s book :  Bunkai Jutsu The Practical Application Of Karate Kata (Chapter 2: Performing The Katas)

Adaptive Karate Blog: With John & Elaine Johnston

John and Elaine Johnston have started up their own blog which will be well worth checking out.  Sensei John Johnston is a 6th Dan Shotokan Karate and the people who he has trained with reads like a “who’s who” of early UK Shotokan Karate.  He has competed at high level when it was much rougher than today’s competitions and has also done a lot of door work.

John & Elaine Johnston

His wife, Elaine is a 2nd Dan and has an interest in psychology and Yoga, so she also bring her own unique insights into the mix as well.  This will make it a very well rounded martial arts blog.

Sensei Johnston was also Geoff Thompsons first martial arts instructor and was one of the main influence of Geoff, teaching him that Karate needs to be adapted to make it work on the streets.  Geoff Thompson said of Sensei Johnston:

“John was and still remains probably the greatest influence to my development in martial arts, taking me through all those vital fundamental lessons, offering me (free) private lessons when he saw my potential; he even brought my suit and belt for me when I didn’t have enough money. He is a great influence and great friend and a powerful presence in British martial arts. Without John I would not in any way be doing what I am doing today and I am very grateful to him for that, and I highly recommend him and his instruction to anyone looking to fast track their martial arts”.

The blog is called Adaptive Karate Blog and already has a few postings on it.  Please take the time to check it out from time to time.

Advanced Karate Bunkai Course (Open To All Styles)

karate kata bunkai jutsu
karate kata bunkai jutsu

This course is another opportunity for interested martial artists to spend three hours studying the analysis of Shotokan Karate’s massive potential as a method of dealing with realistic acts of violence.   Many martial artists tend to spend the majority of their time training in grading related material and as such do not develop enough realistic Martial skills.  My Sensei, Paul Mitchell 5th Dan, has devoted much of his 30 years training studying practical martial Arts and he is happy to pass on his knowledge to any interested party regardless of style or discipline.  All grades welcome however juniors are required to be minimum 4th Kyu/Kup unless training with a parent.

It is on Sunday, 27 May, from 11:00 until 14:00.

Adults £15.00, Juniors £12.00.

The Venue is the Sports Centre, Wells Blue School, Wells, Somerset, UK (please bring a packed lunch).

To book your place please e mail: shotokankaratewells@hotmail.co.uk or telephone 01749 670105

For more info, please check out the Facebook Event Page.

New Martial Arts Blog: PhaseShifting

My friend Andras Millward has just started up his own blog at: http://phaseshifting.wordpress.com.

For those of you who are into reality based martial arts and self protection, this blog will be well worth keeping an eye on for several reasons.

First of all, Andras has a good background in Wing Chun (which is noted for being one of the more practical martial arts) as well as being a qualified FAST (Fear Adrenalin Stress Training) Defence instructor.  FAST Defence is one the best reality based self defence systems for getting very quick and lasting results.  Furthermore, Andras regularly trains (private lessons and seminars) with Kevin O’Hagan and Jamie Clubb who both have international reputations for reality based self protection.

Secondly, Andras is published author and used to be a journalist, so he knows how to write well to put his point across.

His blog is in it’s infancy so there is not much content yet, but it will definitely be worth following, so go across and say hello to Andras at: http://phaseshifting.wordpress.com.

I would like to wish Andras every success with this new venture.

Diaphragmatic Breathing In Martial Arts

Diaphragmatic breathing is used in many traditional martial arts, but I don’t think that all martial artists completely realise the full extent of how important this really is.  It actually helps us on a number of different levels.

But first though for anybody new to martial arts (or this concept) lets have a look at what diaphragmatic breathing actually is.  Most adults breathe into the top of their lungs and as they do so their shoulders and collar bones rise slightly.  But with diaphragmatic breathing, the diaphragm (which is a large internal muscle at the base of the lungs) is used.  This pulls down on the lower part of the lungs, opening up the whole of the lungs and thus pulling in more air (hence more Oxygen).  When breath is pulled in this way, the shoulders and collar bones do not rise.  However, as the diaphragm pulls down it displaces the lower torso organs and the stomach area in particular is pushed outwards.

Young children and animals naturally breathe this way.

Many people say that you “breathe into your stomach”.  This is of course not physically possible, but that is how it feels.  And sometimes looking for a feeling will help you to get the correct technique, even if it is not actually possible.

So lets look at some of the many ways in which diaphragmatic breathing helps us:

Technique

As above, when you pull the breath in with your diaphragm and it feels as if it is going down to your stomach (otherwise known as hara or dan tien).  This is where your centre of gravity is, so by having your focus on that part of your body, you can start to move more fluidly.  When you movement is generated by your centre of gravity the rest of your body follows naturally, whereas if you lead with shoulders or upper torso (which is common with beginners), you drag your centre of gravity which will slow you down and compromise fluidity.

When you inhale with your diaphragm it has a relaxing effect on the rest of the body.  Again this helps with the fluidity of movement as it helps to remove tensions from the rest of the body.

When you exhale rapidly from the  diaphragm, it allows you to generate rapid muscular movement to drive your strike/punch/kick into your opponent.  As the diaphragm is connected to the core muscles, it also assists with the over stability of your body and your ability to absorb any reaction force to the impact of your blow.

Masking Intent

In a conflict situation the last thing you want is for your opponent to know what you are planning to do and when you plan to move.  It is instinctive to inhale before launching an attack.  As mentioned above, most untrained people breath into the top of their lungs and their shoulders and collar bones rise up.  When you see this, you get a warning that you are about to be attacked.

Even if you did not know this fact and your conscious mind does not notice, your unconscious mind will notice and give you that intuitive feeling that something is coming, giving you that tiny fractional bit more time to prepare or react.

When you inhale with your diaphragm your shoulders and collar bones do not rise so you don’t give away this little warning signal, so your opponent has less chance to react or prepare for it.

Calming the mind

Much is written these days about the effects of adrenaline, especially by those who are into reality based martial arts, and that is a good thing.  One of the effects of adrenalin is that breathing becomes short and shallow.  Oxygen tends to be pumped into the limbs ready for fight or flight, but the brain receives less oxygen which blunts the ability to think a way out of the situation.  This can even lead to panic or freezing up.

Diaphragmatic breathing should be practiced during pressure training.  That way when you are in a real street conflict situation you are more likely to be able to maintain diaphragmatic breathing rather than resorting to the short shallow breathing.  This in turn allows you to draw in more oxygen which will allow you to function better both physically and mentally.  It will keep you calmer.

If can use this to keep your calm when you are facing a violent assault, you can also use it in other areas of your life (problems at work, exam nerves, relationship tensions, even just stressed when stuck in traffic).

intuition

This is tied in with the section on calmness above.  As mentioned earlier, the unconscious mind can pick up a lot of signals that the conscious mind misses.  This is when we have a feeling of intuition, when we just sense or feel something but don’t really know how or where this knowing comes from.

However, a mind that is in a state of panic will not access this intuition as well as a calm mind.  This is why you can sometimes fight/spar with a very experienced person and they just seem to read you like a book and know what your moves are almost before you do.  They respond with what seems almost supernatural reactions.  But what you notice from anybody with this ability is that they stay completely calm throughout, allowing themselves to access this intuition.

Health

Firstly, we need oxygen to live.  Oxygen has great healing properties and can even kill cancer cells.  Diaphragmatic breathing pulls more oxygen into the body then just breathing into the top of the lungs.

Also, toxins always gather in the body, including in the lungs.  Those who only breathe into the top of their lungs do not clear the toxins from the bottom of the lungs.  People who are used to diaphragmatic breathing will pull the breath right down to bottom of the lungs and clear these deep rooted toxins.

Engage Your Opponents Brain To Increase Their Vulnerability

Since the last of the Neanderthals died out about 20,000 years ago the human brain has continued to evolve from what was primarily an animal brain governed by instinct, to a much larger and more complicated brain capable of logical thought.  A very large part of our brain today deals with communication, reason, social behaviour/interaction and a whole lot of other things that other animals are not capable of.  The ideas of guilt and remorse, right and wrong, good and evil, are all absent in the animal kingdom.

However, we still have the primitive parts of our brain which controls many of our more basic instincts, including amongst other things: violence.

When we find ourselves in a confrontational situation, decades of social conditioning and logic will often restrain us.  Even most thugs will stop at beating somebody up rather than actually killing them, whereas most animals would not really give killing a second thought.  In a confrontational situation adrenalin is released into the body and extra blood goes into the limbs to prepare for the fight or flight.  A side effect of this is that blood is drained from the brain, so the higher functions of logic, social conditioning and reasoning become much less efficient.  However, the more primitive part of the brain (sometimes called “the reptilian brain”) still functions normally and this is the part that deals with violence.

This is the same for both the aggressor and the victim.  Although not everybody fully understands this process, it is used intuitively to gain advantage.  A bully may shout, swear and threaten to intimidate his/her target; but as they do so they psyche themself up by adrenalising themselves.  This reduces their own higher brain functions and taking themselves to their own lower “reptilian” brain.  By doing this they can to a certain extent anesthetize themselves to their own barbaric behaviour which their higher brain functions might question and reject.  It makes sense then to shut down those higher brain function which might restrict and limit their plan to harm somebody.  It’s a bit like a warrior giving out a battle cry before the battle begins, it serves the same purpose.

Of course there are some exceptions to this.  Sociopaths believe that the rules do not apply themselves, so violence comes easy to them without having to psyche themselves up.  Most “professional” street predators (rapists, muggers, etc) are sociopaths.  But I would guess (and it is a guess) that most average street thugs do have some small level of conscience which they prefer to silence, so that they do not have to face it.

So how can you use this knowledge to your advantage when confronted with a thug who is psyching themself up?

Well the first thing to do is to try to get them back to their higher brain functions if you can, where they are less likely to attack.  You can do this by asking questions that make them think.  In FAST (Fear Adrenalin Stress Training) Defence, they recommend asking in an assertive manner “what do you want”?

But it could really be anything.  You could say something completely random like “isn’t it a shame about the polar bears at the North Pole”?  The normal response will be something like, “What the f***”?  Either way, it gets them thinking and going back to the higher brain function and away from the reptilian brain.  At best this may be enough to avert an imminent attack.  Hopefully it will make them pause as their higher brain functions (including conscience, reasoning, social conditioning, etc) kick back in, even if only for a moment.  This momentary hesitation should be enough time for a trained martial artist to successfully launch a pre-emptive strike and hopefully finish the situation then and there (before they realise and start psyching themself back up again).

I’m not saying that this will work every time against every aggressor, but it could give you an edge when you need it most.  This type of tactic is often practiced in reality based martial art training, but is usually absent where people don’t not look beyond the boundaries of their own traditional martial art.

 

Martial Arts Marketing: How to grow your business By Graham Butcher

I asked in my Newsletter and Facebook page if people would like another category on this website for information on marketing their martial arts clubs.  Several people replied that this would in deed be useful.  My friend, Graham Butcher, author and one of the World’s leading authority’s on Stav has taken the initiative to write the first article for which I am very grateful.  So below is Graham’s submission, I hope you find it useful.


When Charlie said that he wanted to include a section on Marketing into his newsletter I decided to offer to contribute to it. Why should you be interested in anything I have to say about marketing? Three reasons.  Firstly my day job is running a Handyman business with my partner and we do okay and have plenty of clients so we must be doing something right. Secondly I have been studying marketing with Chris Cardell and Jon McCulloch for the past couple of years and I will be happy to
share some of the principles that they teach. Thirdly, for the past 19 years I have been teaching and trying to develop interest in Stav.  Many of you will know how hard it is to get people interested in well known Martial training systems such as Karate and Aikido. So you can imagine its rather harder promoting something as unknown and frankly improbable as a Norwegian martial training system brought to the UK by a Scandinavian nobleman with Viking ancestry and a profound knowledge of the runes and Norse mythology. I think you see the problem.

So this September I am launching a new class in Crewkerne (the Somerset town where I live) and I intend to make a success of it by throwing every marketing trick I know at the good people of Crewkerne including having leaflets and website critiqued by Jon McCulloch before the public sees them. I will be happy to share the process with you over the next few months and let you know what works and what doesn’t.

This month’s tip, Chris Cardell’s three principles for growing a business. Don’t object that yours is a club not a business. If you are taking money in return for a a service (providing martial arts training) then you are running a business. Even if the club is run on a cooperative basis and no one actually takes any money out of it personally the organisation still needs an income to pay its bills. If you can increase that income you may be able to rent a better hall, bring in guest instructors or purchase better training equipment.

So in order to grow the business you need:
• More customers (students)
• More transactions with your customers/students
• More value from each transaction

And you need to combine all three because there is a level at which customers/students actually cost you much more than they give you in return. If you offer a free lesson as a taster then every week you might have five more students coming for just that free lesson. Well your marketing must be working well on one level in that it is bringing them in, but they aren’t giving you anything in return and will be drawing a lot of attention away from your regular students. So yes, you want to be increasing the number of students at your club but look at this. If you just increase the number of students by 10% (and they are actually paying for the class) then the income increases by 10% and that is good but if you have say, 10 students paying £5 for one class per week over a 10 week period that is an income of £500 (I will keep to nice round figures for simplicity).

There are three things you can do to increase income by 10%, one more student raises income to £550. On the other hand if you put in an extra class every ten weeks, say a Saturday morning special technique class that would add that extra £50 or you could raise the price of classes by 50p and that would be worth £50 over ten weeks. Now combine those and see what happens:
11 students x 11 classes = 121 at £5.50 each is £655 or an increase of over 30%.

Something to think about and remember that if you are making a better return you can provide a better service.

For more information about Graham, please visit:  www.iceandfire.org.  If you found this useful and would like more similar information, please click the “Like” button and leave your comments below.