Is hierarchy destroying the Martial Arts?

A system of hierarchy is something that the Martial Arts, and especially traditional Martial Arts, are built upon. While the elusive and often coveted Black Belt (gasp, oooh, ahhh) should not be the main goal of training, it is often a useful motivational tool for those who struggle with self-discipline and attending class, especially after the initial high of learning a new Martial Art has worn off. So while hierarchy, or belts and levels can be a fantastic tool within the Martial Arts, there are also some drawbacks which are often overlooked or not address.

Black Belt Is hierarchy destroying the Martial Arts?

Levels or grades can be intimidating for those just beginning in the arts.

I am sure we all remember our first ever martial arts class – walking in to a sea of white pajamas, feeling completely out of place and wondering why the hell you walked through the front door in the first place. Let’s face it. Walking in to a room full of people willingly kicking, punching and throwing each other about, and agreeing to participate when you have no clue what you’re doing – can be a little scary.

Of course, those of us that teach know this and should instantly make the new person feel super welcome. We should let them know there is nothing to worry about and that we won’t go in to full on sparring until at least week two right…?

It can still be a little scary however, and the presence of colored belts or grades adds to this intensity. The black belts are the ones to be avoided at all costs as they are basically ninjas and you can just stand at the side of the class with the other white belts, desperately trying to remember your left and right as a fully grown man or woman. All while doing your best to ensure you don’t make a nasty stain in your beautiful new white gi bottoms…

At no time is this more prevalent than at major seminars. I have been lucky enough to attend a number of seminars with high ranking instructors in various martial arts and often saw the instructors gathered together. Black and brown belts together, and then lower grades together, both in training and socially after.

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In training at these events, if you can pluck up the courage to ask a brown or black belt to train with you as a beginner, this can be a big deal, but I remember seeing the disappointment on their face at being paired with a lower grade. The clock watching from them began and you could tell, they just weren’t feeling it. This obviously left me… and I’m sure other beginners, feeling a little dejected! I seemed to be an annoyance and someone holding them back from really achieving the maximum in their training, and this happened on a number of occasions, not just with myself, but with many other lower grades I talked to. Black belts trained with the black belts and the white belts trained together slowly mastering the art of putting one foot in front of the other without falling over from nerves.

This seemed an unspoken rule but saying this I have been to other seminars where the visiting instructor has actively encouraged the senior grades to train with the lower grades for a while, before then training with someone equal in terms of experience. This does however, seem the minority, not the majority.

This – as stated above, also translated to hierarchy off the mats at the socials afterwards. The post training beer at the local boozer and meal would see a similar situation. Instructors and high ranking students sitting on a table together, laughing, joking and drinking. While lower students would often be on a separate table, missing out on the experiences and stories from the high ranking instructor’s years in the arts. It seemed as though this almost had to be earned in a way – an almost VIP to hang around with the cool kids!

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Is this the way it should be?

Levels or grades can lead to some delusions of grandeur.

We have all done it and all been there. The new “black belt dickhead”. You’ve just got your black belt, you think you’re the dog’s danglies. You walk into the dojo, chest out, head high, smiling and nodding to all the stupid lower grades that know jack shit.

This could last a day, a week, a month, but at some point – you will realize. You are not the dog’s danglies, your head will go down, your chest will sink in and you will realize you are that dickhead you took the piss out of when you were a white belt. The guy who thinks he knows it all!

For some this can take quite a long time to realize. For others, they have yet to realize…

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But in terms of the arts, this can be an issue. As a black belt, you instantly want to start teaching and imparting the knowledge you have acquired. But here’s the thing. It may not be all that good!

Sure you have a black belt. But that just means you have put the hours in and know the techniques/requirements to pass the grade. Oh my friend, the journey is just beginning ad you have such a long way to go until you are ready to impart the knowledge you think you are capable of!

Sure you can help out with some basics, but trying to teach too much too soon can just be more detrimental than anything. You can teach bad habits which then need to be un-learnt by the student. Or, heaven forbid, you teach something that is completely the opposite or in contradiction to what your instructor is trying to convey, be it in a class or seminar.

For some, black belt means you are ready to teach and nearly at the end of your journey, this is completely the wrong attitude and can be a problem with having this hierarchical nature in the martial arts – especially the traditional ones.

At the end of the day, we are all just students

We are all just students of the martial arts at the end of the day, whether you have been training for one month or for 10 years, you still want to just improve yourself and learn more. The best teachers and martial artists are those that continue to learn even though they are considered by many to be at the very top of their game. An excellent example of this can be Guro Dan Inosanto. In an interview done with one of his top students – the legendary Bob Breen in my book Martial Masters Volume 1 – Bob talks about Dan’s day to day routine and how he is constantly on the go and learning new arts, be it in striking or ground such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!

Hierarchy can sometimes hinder this when we think we have reached the illustrious black belt, we can rest on our laurels and chill. This should be where the training really ramps up, test what you know, evolve it, develop it and make the style uniquely your own – Bruce Lee Style.

How many of us truly do this however, and how many of us simply think we know what we are doing now all due to the fact we now have a different colored bit of cloth around our waste? We all unfortunately have an ego, and we all like it when that ego is massaged, especially on the mats.

The traditional martial arts can be a great place to have your ego massaged as once you reach black belt you are sometimes placed on a pedestal and thought to have more knowledge than others. This is fine until it’s tested and if you can back up the goods, awesome, if not. Your ego may be a little bruised rather than massaged.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great example here of an art that has adapted more to this hierarchical system through competition. Any newbie walking into a new BJJ class should know that they will be tapped out… a lot. It is part of the process and keeps your ego in check from the get go.

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Even at black belt level, competitors still compete or even just roll with their students, and it takes one mistake to be caught in a submission and realize that you are not invincible and some sort of black belt demi-god! Sure you should be tapped out WAY less than a white belt, but it can still happen! Yet how many traditional martial arts have this same mentality where the instructor is shown to be a mere human?!

For me, martial arts are about ego checking and we often tell our students to leave their ego’s at the door when they train. How many instructors follow through with this too however…?

Always interested to hear your thoughts… Let me know!

Review! The Mittmaster Vault!

Hey everyone!!

I know it’s been a while since last posting and for that I apologise! It’s been super busy building my own martial arts school, training up some assistant instructors and of course getting my own training in too!

It’s calmed down a little now so what better way to kick off another post in The Martial View than with a article on Matthew Chapman’s Mittmaster Vault!

I’ve previously written articles on Matt’s products before, specifically his 99 ways to get a student book – a review of which you can find here.

I’ve trained with Matt on a number of occasions and know he has a wealth of knowledge to transmit both in terms of martial arts and also business knowledge! As a result I was super excited to get stuck into his Mittmaster vault and I wasn’t left disappointed!

The first thing that really stands out about the vault is the ease of use and professionalism of the videos. The layout is simple and easy to use and you can immediately see what video you are going to watch and what the topic will be on! This is different to other online platforms I have seen which have many different folders, meaning it takes time to navigate to the particular section you want.

Not the case with The Vault! You can just click on the month, then see the videos available and what art they relate to, be it MMA, Muay Thai, Filipino Boxing or Boxing! Click away and the video plays…

Now on to the videos! All in all – AWESOME! Many of you have seen Matt’s approach to teaching before in his previous MittMaster videos or even in person and his relaxed yet informative tone means you get a lot out of the videos in a relaxed and fun way. The videos are show in HD and special attention is paid to certain areas of the drill or common mistakes that people make, meaning you can get some great knowledge from Matt to improve your own training or introduce into classes you run.

With this all in mind I would recommend the MittMaster vault to anyone seriously into martial arts as either an instructor or just a student. The videos can really add to your own knowledge and ability to both pad feed and perform the drills from Boxing, MMA, Muay Thai and Filipino arts and there really is a wealth of information in the vault easily broken down and able to digest in small and easy amounts.

The Vault is available here and would be a great addition for any martial artists resources out there!

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Mittmaster video & lesson plan subscription

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I’ve written before about Matthew Chapman and his fantastic series of Mittmaster videos, as well as his business seminars and book `Black Belt Biz`which I highly recommend! This post is on his video and lesson plan subscription – again which comes highly recommended!

Quite simply Matt’s Mittmaster series is a must have for all martial arts school owners in my opinion, whether you teach traditional martial arts, self defence or sports focus. Pad feeding is an essential part of every martial art, improves reflexes, timing and fitness and is just a great addition to any class!

The Mittmaster videos are broken down into 3 main levels, allowing progression and ensuring that you never get bored or complacent with the content. The videos are well thought out, well explained and you can see directly how they relate into the sports combat world of kickboxing, Muay Thai and MMA. Each level comes in two sections, the video section showing the pads drills, then the lesson plans which are again, well thought out, well explained and perfect to implement into your class.

All this is available instantly once you subscribe, and active until such time as your subscription ends, meaning you can go back to look at level one drills even when you are on level three. I’m sure we all know the benefits of pad drills and pad feeding for both the person hitting the pads, as well as the person feeding the pads and it’s not hard to see why Matt has become so successful in his development of these drills.

I would highly recommend checking Mittmaster out if you are a school owner or just fancy learning some fun and effective drills to improve yourself both as a fighter as well as pad feeder. There is currently a free trial offer on the Mittmaster subscription right now and it’s just £9.99 for the first month so head on over to Matt’s Mittmaster page and get yourself learning some fantastic pad drills!

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Review! Matt Chapman’s Mittmaster!

banner logo1 Review! Matt Chapmans Mittmaster!

Review! Matt Chapman’s Mittmaster!

So I’ve just finished watching and training in some of Matt Chapman’s Mittmaster series, looking at MMA, Trapping and Kickboxing and honestly… I’m well impressed! Matt has nearly 30 years of martial arts experience in a variety of styles including Kickboxing, Ninjitsu and Keysi Fighting Method and won a British MMA Welterweight Title in 2006. All this shows in the way he de-constructs and explains some pretty complicated pad work and the reasons behind it so that both pad feeder and the one hitting the pads is getting some great technical knowledge and progression!

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Matt’s idea with Mittmaster is to raise the standard of pad feeders around the world as pad feeding can be just as difficult a job as the guy hitting the pads. Good pad feeding takes coordination, memory, timing and great technique yourself and through these series of videos, Matt takes you right from beginner level pad feeding, all the way up to bad-ass pad feeding!

The MMA and Kickboxing level 1 videos are great, going in to enough detail to explain why the drills worked and how they look in a real MMA/Kickboxing scenario, without Matt just rambling on talking for the sake of talking! Fitness and instruction was also looked into such as games where the leg is caught on a leg kick, therefore drop down and give me a burpee! Matt explains a number of different ways of doing a technique and different options available such as the whizzer where a short range whizzer allows follow up strikes, a longer range one allows for the head kick and the whizzer driving the head down allows for takedowns and submissions, meaning the full range of options is outlined.

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The trapping video is equally as good with Matt breaking down relatively complex moves so they are easy to understand and develop, drawing on his real life experience on why he does things the way he does. Different angles are looked at and again, the technical knowledge is great, with Matt’s instructors including the JKD legend that is Bob Breen so you know he comes from a great pedigree of martial artists.

Basically guys! I recommend this product pretty highly. Matt really knows what he is talking about from a technical point of view, but he also has a great style of teaching that I know from experience and it’s translated through these videos. If you want to improve your fighting game as well as your pad feeding and technical knowledge I would definitely recommend these videos as well as the other stuff Matt has done such as his books on how to win your first MMA fight, or how to get more students at your dojo!

See more of MittMaster at http://mittmaster.com/

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GHOST – Interview with Phil Norman

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GHOST Fighting – Interview with Phil Norman

Here we are lucky enough to read about the GHOST fighting method developed by Phil Norman that is taking the combat world by storm! Phil talks about the development of GHOST, as well as his plans for the future and his business relationships with Andy Norman of Defence Lab, Bob Breen of 4D Combat, and Eddie Quinn of The Approach! As always, if you enjoyed the article share, like, comment your thoughts, and subscribe to The Martial View!

Thanks for taking the interview Phil! Let’s start with how you began your journey in the martial arts.

I started my martial arts journey with Kung fu at a local club before going to a Dan Inosanto seminar in 1989. I was immediately hooked on his teachings and spent the next decade travelling to the USA and Europe for his seminars. I would then come back to the UK and pick up door work in between trips.

I then became a full instructor under Guro Dan Inosanto in 2000 in Jeet Kune Do/Jun Fan and also in Kali and Silat. I had already become an instructor in Thai Boxing under Ajarn Chai, Savate under Professor Salem Assli, Combat Submission Wrestling under Sensei Erik Paulson and I was ranked in Shoot Wrestling under Sensei Yorinaga Nakamura. Back in the UK I was training with Sensei Dave Kavanagh in Judo and I trained for many years with Trevor Ambrose who at that time was 5x world kickboxing champion and also a professional boxer. The latter two would be a big influence in my day to day training when I started competing. I competed in different styles just for kicks and giggles because it helped me focus in my training and I won a World title and 2 British titles. Towards the end of my days competing I was knocked out and took my first loss in an MMA match. My peers said I would grow from this and become a better martial artist.

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Can you talk me through the development of the GHOST system and what makes it different to other training styles?

What actually happened was the start of what has now become the Ghost System. The fight I lost was probably my easiest one. It was pretty much one sided but then I got caught by my opponent who pulled out a last ditch strike. To ensure this would never happen again I looked at what I could have possibly done to avoid this. This brought new shapes and structures which then required new striking angles to make these shapes fit for purpose and effective. The problem was to then to convince fighters to do it. Needless to say they didn’t! It took a young student (5 years later) who just received his black belt and wanted to know what was next to get Ghost going. His name was Jake Clarke and he helped me develop the system by literally competing and trying it out. It wasn’t long before he started beating up the more experienced fighters I was training and the techniques I taught him became an elusive fighting system which needed a name. Initially the system used big evasive movements which are similar to the weapons based system Kali, so thought about calling it competition kali, but when I demonstrated it to some kali instructors they said that it wasn’t kali.

I remembered my first sparring session with my boxing coach Trevor Ambrose and how I couldn’t hit him and that it was like trying to hit a Ghost and then that was it! I realised that I had created a style which systemised the unorthodox evasive movement that was natural to boxers like Muhammad Ali and Prince Nassem and made it so that anyone can do it.

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I see that you have developed partnerships with people such as Bob Breen, Andy Norman and Eddie Quinn, how did these relationships come about?

We started to develop it further through fighting and started to get a lot of interest from people who wanted seminars. It was whilst I was doing a seminar hosted by Eddie Quinn (friends of the Approach) that I managed to catch up with Andy Norman from Defence Lab. We had known each other for years on the JKD seminar circuit; he was originally a private student of Guru Bob Breen. I was really impressed with what I saw when he did his set. I had only really seen actors trying to do it and it was nothing like the real thing. I was about to go and speak to him when he stopped the seminar and congratulated me on what I had done on the set before him. We got chatting and he offered me guidance on developing the business side of Ghost. We have been in communication weekly ever since.

Andy was also helping his old instructor Guro Bob Breen and brought us together and created the cross branding of Defence Lab, Breen 4D and Ghost. This has lead onto us joining forces for many events and more recently our involvement with Defence Labs World Conference with our good friend Eddie Quinn. It was the best martial art event I have been involved in. They (DL) are light years ahead as a professional martial art organisation.

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So what’s next for you and the future of GHOST?

For training I want to develop the instructor program into the USA (this year we trained instructors in Germany and Spain). I will be working hard to get the online program up next year and my fighters are still making waves so my long term goals are to break into UFC. The other is to get Jake boxing in the Olympics and also to raise the profile of Ghost via Hollywood! I have already been in front of a second director and stunt coordinator courtesy of Andy Norman and it looks like we are going to be involved in a project next year!

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