99 ways to get a student – Matthew Chapman

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I’ve just finished Matthew Chapman’s new book `99 ways to get a student`and wow am I impressed. I was expecting good things I have read Matt’s other books both on business for martial arts school owners, as well as his excellent book on how to win your first MMA Fight and I wasn’t left disappointed. Clear concise and with action points you can take straight into your marketing plan to build your martial arts school!

It’s not surprising to see why Matt has a successful school after reading his books due to his thoughtful and insightful ways of getting a new student through the door and retaining them. His latest book lists over 99 ways to gain a new student focusing on both online and offline marketing. Online marketing is gone into in great detail, from SEO tricks to get you ranking higher on google, to online offers and promotions to get people through the door and enjoying the fun of martial arts. His offline content is just as good, with fantastic ways to gain a student from working with local businesses to establish yourself as the local expert in martial arts, to billboards or referral programs. All action points that can be implemented straight away!

I started reading the book then immediately stopped, grabbed a pen and paper and began reading again as I knew this was definitely a book where lots of notes would be taken to put into my monthly marketing plan. I recommend this book as an absolute must for anyone looking to grow their martial arts school or learn more about the martial arts business side. Easy to read, even easier to implement, this book is gold dust for those looking to step up their marketing.

Grab Matthew Chapman’s 99 ways to get a student here: bit.ly/99newstudents

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!

banner logo1 Mittmaster video & lesson plan subscription

 

Black Belt Biz – A review

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Last Sunday I was lucky enough to attend a Martial Arts business seminar with the the fantastic Matthew Chapman. I’ve been lucky enough to know Matt for a couple of years now first training in one of his MMA workshops in 2014. Since then I’ve followed and been impressed by his MittMaster series as well as his books `100 Essential Pad Drill for Kickboxing and MMA`, `How to win your first MMA fight`and `Black Belt Biz`. I was therefore really excited when I saw he was hosting a business seminar not too far away from me at the fantastic `Twin Tigers`facility in Scunthorpe and jumped at the chance to attend both the catch up with Matt for the upcoming `Martial Masters`book & also to get some tips on building my own business here in Lincoln.

download Black Belt Biz   A review

People have varying opinions on making money with the martial arts, with the frankly idiotic view some people have that martial arts should just be taught for the love of doing it, not money. I disagree with this wholeheartedly and think that as long as an excellent standard of instruction is maintained, martial arts should be treated the same as any other professional service. I now run a martial arts class under Defence Lab in Lincoln and hope to make this full time as soon as possible. For this I need money, simple as. The more time I have training, teaching and learning martial arts, the more it will benefit my students and so I agree with Matt when he says that the best martial artists he has seen are the ones that have gone full time and can dedicate themselves to it.

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Matt’s business seminars aim to grow your school through marketing & retaining your students – an area often neglected by martial artists who hope for students to come into their class yet do nothing to recruit. A very old-school mentality. Matt has a successful school with the Masters Academy, and is a published author and now creator of the MittMaster series popular all over the world. Matt knows his stuff 100%. His workshop was personable, informative and I came away with some fantastic ideas to implement in my school, hopefully to get me to the point of eventually becoming a full time martial arts instructor which is a dream I’ve had for many years now.

Matt provided tailored information specific to what we wanted help with, offered personalised advice and really took the time to get to know where you were with the business and where you wanted to be. This wasn’t a sales drive by Matt, looking to earn a bit of money by teaching a half-arsed seminar, I believe he genuinely wants to help martial artists succeed and spread brilliant martial arts to a wider audience. Through his ideas in terms of business, I also believe he’ll help you do this and get you to where you want to be.

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The seminar included handouts that could be taken home, along with a copy of Matt’s book `Black Belt Biz`which in itself if an invaluable book for those looking to build up a martial arts business. We also get 6 months of support from Matt who has always been on hand to answer any questions I have asked him in the past and am sure will in the future. I came away from the workshop enthusiastic and ready to implement the ideas.

This is a review guys and I’m always honest with my reviews on here. Matt is a great guy and isn’t in martial arts to make a quick buck and get out. He has a great pedigree in martial arts and wants to help great martial artists fulfil their potential and have successful martial arts schools where they can dedicate their lives to training and teaching people who will ultimately continue that martial art on.

So would I recommend his course? Yes. If you are struggling to recruit or retain your students I think Matt can definitely help. If you’re looking for new ideas to recruit and get people through the door, again I think Matt can help. It was a great course and one that I’m definitely glad I went on! Worth the early Sunday morning and one I would go on again.

To find out more, check out Matt’s Facebook group here

UK Self Defence Systems with Martin Brown

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UK Self Defence Systems with Martin Brown

They’ve appeared in Martial Arts Illustrated the past few months and it’s been great reading about their stance on Self Defence and how it should be taught and developed. We recently spoke to Martin Brown of UK Self Defence Systems about what the organisation was aiming to do, and his thoughts on Self Defence and his plans for the future! I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot about these guys in the future!

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Hey Martin! Thanks for chatting with us, can you tell us a brief history of your system?

Well, we’re really not that old as an organisation being that we’re only coming up 12 months at the end of 2015. We’re a mix of military combative instructors, full time self defence trainers, operators, police trainers, MMA coaches, Dan grade teachers across multiple styles and deep partnerships with other organisations that also bring in additional expertise. I’m the public face of it, possibly because I’m the best looking of the bunch, but overall this is an organisation not about any individual or style except for the students themselves. As an organisation, our only function is to deliver effective self defence in a manner that’s fun, memorable and will suit anyone of any level.

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Sounds awesome! What would you say are the main principles of your system?

The main principle is that every student is unique, and all people have unique tools that they can use better than others. We simply make sure that the student bins the bad bits and develops the good bits.

We’re only focused on one thing: self defence. That could mean a fight for your very life, or life changing injuries like brain damage and spinal injury, or it could mean something like verbal de-escalation and just getting away as soon as possible. Avoidance is the best way, but we don’t always get that chance to not be there. It’s not a place open for ‘opinions’ or discussion or theory: violence is nasty, wrenching and can change lives both physically and mentally, forever. We only take what works for an individual, and as nothing works 100% of the time, we have to identify what has the highest percentage chance of success most of the time for an individual and then develop that idea with them.

As far as I am concerned, and the organisational philosophy is concerned, imposition of a technique someone can’t always perform for the sake of a system is giving them a slow and ineffective tool in the face of very, very bad things. That isn’t acceptable for defending yourself.

I go back to the first sentence again – every student is unique. There is no getting around this, and our philosophy and teaching methods reflect our investment in the people walking through our doors.

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What makes your system unique?

Nothing whatsoever. It’s all been done before as far as techniques go, and we all borrow and steal from everything else – I haven’t seen a new technique in decades, I’ve only seen what’s new to me as a person.

What makes UK Self Defence Systems as a group unique is something else though. It’s our delivery method. We don’t impose a system on people that they may not be suited to. We can’t all be graceful Taekwondo masters, some have terrible timing for striking arts and some are amazing grapplers. We’re all different, and UK Self Defence Systems is there to tailor effective ideas, tactics and techniques as they relate to the individual. It’s not the easiest thing to do, it requires a lot of previous background, but at the end of the day it’s about the student getting the tools that they need to survive violence: nothing else.

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Where do you see your system going in the future?

We’re more of an entity than an art or system, so we’re going much more into businesses, education and other sectors to deliver training programmes in direction. We have numerous ‘bolt on’ workshops for instructors that would like to invite us in for additional material (it’s not as if gun disarming was a thing 200 years ago or in sport) to compliment their own styles and material, and we’re always happy to chat about that. Just drop me a line on info@ukselfdefence.systems and have a chat, and there are plenty of references on our website www.ukselfdefence.systems from traditional and sporting martial art schools as to what we delivered.

We’ll keep evolving, and keep training martial arts instructors so that they are giving legally compliant information. Many instructors aren’t aware that they can be prosecuted if a student is harmed or does something based on guidance or advice that they give that can’t be backed up. These instructors need to get in touch if not an accredited BTEC Level 2 Advanced Self Defence Instructor, as it may come back to bite, and that’s something that can damage martial arts as a whole. We’re passionate about not letting anyone get into these situations, and we’re here to help.

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What is it you love most about the martial arts?

It’s the passion in people. I love seeing anyone, from any system doing their best and making progress, and that doesn’t matter if it’s a beginner on the mats for the first time or someone like me who’s passionate about their teaching. I’ll never forget watching Guro Roger Agbulos teaching knife defence and how passionate he is about what he does and how he stays in touch with everyone who attended our workshop with him last year. He cares for everyone that walks through the door, and he really sets a great example of someone with no boundaries, an open mind and a willingness to share everything he knows. I think that’s beautiful, and I think it’s a model to emulate.

What do you think MA/Combat brings to people’s lives?

That really depends on what you’ve chosen to do. People in sports can compete on a high level, feel fulfilled and test themselves in a semi-safe way. Traditional martial artists can compete too, but may find a lot of satisfaction in perfecting, preserving and learning the intricacies of what they’re doing. Others may be more like me, and just have a deeper consideration for personal safety or the safety of others. We’re all doing similar things to a degree, but there are clear distinctions in goals, motivations and ways of getting there. As long as the student is happy and as long as the instructor is delivering quality for the remit promised, then I think everyone is generally happy with the arrangement.

How do you define success in your system?

It’s quite hard to quantify success for students in a syllabus style of achievement for us, as we’re only really concerned with getting home in one piece. We give everyone a survival handbook, and inside of it are multiple topics like ‘Confined Spaces’ and ‘Cold Weapon Defences’ which are then sub-divided into ‘Started Out’ ‘Intermediate’ and ‘High Level’. We stress test the students at appropriate times to see if their understanding in a given scenario is adequate and mark them accordingly. We do it this way because everyone is unique, and when it comes to dealing with violence, I’m not interested in the techniques that the student uses to survive. One student may have been taught one set of tools to fit their body and gender, whilst another student has been taught very differently due to height, weight and general build. It’s possible for two students to both be ‘High Level’ and yet use completely different effective tools to commit to the scenario at hand. What matters to me is only the self defence performance as it pertains to the first moment to the last, and that they can repeatedly defend the same situation effectively over many different variations of attack – never the same thing twice.

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What do you think the key to success in Martial Arts is?

The key to success? Understanding that an expert is someone who does the basics well.

What is your focus in training now and in the future?

My focus at the moment is in reversing the self defence mantra of ‘don’t go to the ground’ as a reason not to teach the ground. I’ll be working with Paul Severn, Checkmat BJJ coach and Trojan MMA coach on bringing the survival skills needed into the self defence world, whether armed, unarmed, multiple attackers and any other variation. People slip, fall, trip, get pushed, thrown and any other number of causes to end up on the floor. ‘Not going to the ground’ is a nice thought, but it happens more than anyone would like in actual confrontation and it’s a topic I feel really, truly needs to be addressed in a format that can be delivered well. People’s personal safety is the priority, and there can be no sacrifice on any level for ‘style’ or ‘system’ – I just won’t entertain that, and I won’t ever stand in front of a group and tell them something has a high chance of saving their life if it hasn’t been researched as far as it can be taken. Paul will provide the drills, mechanics and movements, and I’ll provide the stress, duress and pressure until the idea breaks or survives.

So there we have it! My passion is for people to be safe. It’s not about me, and it’s not about UK Self Defence Systems or our instructors – it’s about the students, their safety and getting home in one piece. Thank you for inviting me to take part, it’s been a pleasure.

On Sunday 25th of October, we are holding a four hour workshop covering all distances of defence. Everyone is welcome, from beginner to expert, we’ll have something for you. It’s always a lot of fun, just see flyer here for address and contact details.

Martin Brown

UK Self Defence Systems

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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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Should the martial arts be more mainstream?

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Should the martial arts be more mainstream?

So in the sporting world we have the FIFAs, the PGAs, the NFLs, the mainstream, massively funded and massively fan based sports. The closest equivalent to this in the martial arts is arguably the UFC and I think its fair to say that MMA is getting bigger and bigger on a global scale, with more and more people becoming interested in both training and spectating mixed martial arts. Should the martial arts be more mainstream however? There are obviously plus and minuses for both sides of the argument and I think it’s an interesting debate topic.

Let’s imagine the martial arts were MASSIVE, I’m talking football, rugby etc massive. Football wouldn’t be the main option in schools for children, you wouldn’t go down to the local park to kick a football around, you’d go down to the local gym and kick a punchbag around. This sounds great yeah, the martial arts as a mainstream skill or sport? I agree it does, and I want martial arts to be a bigger thing within society for the discipline, fitness and confidence that they can instill in people, especially children, however if this were the case would it make the martial arts less special?

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Imagine there was a massive governing body for the martial arts, the FIFA of the martial arts world. Again, would this lead to more problems? I’ve discussed before the prevalence of politics in the martial arts (Here’s a past article) and how ego can often get in the way of the simple formula of fantastic people, fantastic training and fantastic development and progression. Get this right and I think you’re on to a winner in the martial arts. The emergence of a massive governing body for the martial arts will bring forth its own problems and as the old saying goes, where there’s people, there’s politics. How long before standards start slipping, people start falling out, and more and more McDojos pop up offering online course black belts and guaranteed success in self protection, all due to mainstreaming? Newsflash, there is no guarantee when it comes to self protection, and black belt requires hard work, dedication and sweat, not the watching of various online videos with the promise of black belt bad-assery at the end.

Even as martial arts are at the moment, there are enough egos needing to be massaged, falling’s out over trivial matters and frankly ridiculous and awful examples of self protection, that are not only misleading but frankly dangerous! Would martial arts becoming more mainstream improve or increase this? Is there any full proof way of ensuring quality and quantity in the martial arts?

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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3 steps to being a better training partner

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3 steps to being a better training partner

Having a great training partner can make your training more efficient, effective and fun! However having a sloppy training partner can have the opposite effect and be a real drain both physically and mentally when you’re training. The need to be the best partner you can is needed regardless of whether you are practicing a traditional martial art, a sport martial art, or a reality based martial art, and so is a crucial stage in the development of your martial arts training. There’s a few little tricks and tips below that will make you a better training partner so give them a go and see if they work!

1) Communication in training!

Communication is absolute key when you’re training. Communication with your partner, communication with your instructor and communication with the people training around you. Poor communication can lead to really poor training as well as accidents on the mat. Having good communication with the people you’re training with can not only improve your technique but can also lead to a safer learning environment. So communicate!! Ask questions, asks how techniques feel, ask if you’re holding the pads at the right height or the right angle, see if you can do anything to improve your partners technique. This will not only improve your own technique but also the technique of your partner, leading to a step up in skill for the whole class!

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2) Relax in training!

I’m sure we all know that there’s nothing worse than a partner who acts like a surfboard with arms. Sometimes it makes it easier to do the techniques as they’ve already locked themselves up, but it’s annoying and feels like you’re just partnering a brick! Relaxation is also key to preventing injuries. The injuries I’ve seen happen during martial arts training have been when someone has tensed up during a technique or panicked and locked themselves up, leading to tweeked or broken shoulders, wrists etc. So try and relax for your partner, it makes it easier for them to see where the technique goes when you’re working together and prevents you getting injured. If you’re going to resist, fight back or train in a more realistic scenario, make sure its agreed upon with your partner through the tip above….COMMUNICATION!

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3) Improve your own technique

One of the best ways to be a good partner is to be a good martial artist in general and be able to do the punch, kick, throw, pin etc. competently yourself. If you yourself can do the technique, you know how it is meant to feel and so can receive the punch, kick, throw, pin etc better as well as giving tips and pointers for your partner through COMMUNICATION. If you know how the technique is meant to go, you can RELAX more as there’s no surprises and you know where you are going, leading to a better technique for your partner and less chance of injury for yourself.

Being a good partner is part and parcel of being a good martial artist. It can prevent injuries and through being a good partner you can also improve your own technique. So communicate more, relax when you’re working with your partner and make sure you yourself know the techniques and have a strong foundation of training!! If you enjoyed the article please, as always share, like, comment and subscribe 🙂

Happy Training!

Martial Arts – A lifelong pursuit

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Are Martial Artists born or raised?

Relatively speaking, there is still relatively few who choose to dedicate their lives to studying martial arts and self defence. In terms of sports, many choose more mainstream past times such as football, rugby or cricket as supposed to Judo, Aikido or MMA and so what makes some people choose to study the martial arts? On top of this, do some people naturally have the killer instinct, technique, athleticism and timing needed to succeed in martial arts, or is this again something that can be taught over time? Can someone who has studied martial arts all of their life be superseded by someone naturally inclined to the martial arts in a relatively short period of time?

Many people fall into the martial arts by accident, seeing an advertisement for a class regardless of style in a local hall and deciding to either give it a go for themselves, or being made to go by their parents.  I began Karate at aged 6 after my parents saw it advertised at a local hall. After a few years I moved on to Aikido and now continue to do this, having also studied MMA, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and KFM for varying degrees of time. I feel that martial arts are a massive part of my life now and want to learn as much as possible from everyone that I can. I wonder however, what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to that first Karate class? Would I still be writing this and be as heavily involved in the martial arts as I am? Was I naturally more inclined to the martial arts than to sports such as football which I have very little interest in?

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Me aged 9

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Me aged 23

Martial arts – a lifelong pursuit

I believe that the traits of martial artists such as patience, courage and humility are natural and made better through the right instructors. Martial arts are a lifelong pursuit and one that is never perfected, and for many this is a difficult thing to comprehend. To play football, rugby or other such sports certainly takes skill and athleticism, yet a lifelong pursuit it is not. Many martial artists stop when they reach black belt, thinking that the goal has been reached, the illustrious black belt has been attained, yet for those committed to the martial arts, this is simply one step up a very long flight of stairs, one that you are unlikely to reach the top of.

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Natural athleticism and timing certainly play a part in the martial arts as well. Those more naturally athletic will be able to copy and reproduce moves far quicker than those that are less fit or supple. As with everything in life, some people have to put very little work into something to be very good at it, while others have to work very hard to achieve half that skill level. This can be said of the martial arts in some respects and to learn martial arts is a personal journey, one that the instructor can only guide you on. An instructor can teach you the movements, forms or techniques used, but the individual has to take this teaching a step further, investigating movements for themselves, seeing what works for them and what doesn’t to make the martial art personal and effective for them. For many, this is too difficult a task and once the moves have been spoon fed in, no further study is thought to be needed, leading to one dimensional techniques that lack power, control or intelligence.

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The martial arts are unique in the fact that they are a lifelong pursuit that you can constantly improve upon. Numerous 7th, 8th and 9th degree black belts I have spoken to over the years still say how they are learning and that every lesson they teach shows them something new. They admit they will never achieve perfection in the martial arts, and for some this makes the martial arts difficult to study. To others however, we see this as a challenge and wish to learn as much as we can, from everyone we can in order to be the best well rounded martial artist we can be, even though we know perfection will never be achieved. Some people are more driven into the martial arts due to their personality traits such as patience and humility, as well as natural ability, but these traits and abilities can also be developed and harnessed through the training of martial arts. Martial arts are a lifelong pursuit and one in which we never stop learning, and this for me is the best thing about training in the martial arts.

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The need to breakfall

Throw3 The need to breakfall

Ukemi (Breakfalling)

Ukemi or breakfalling is arguably one of the most important skills to master in Aikido and the martial arts in general. From the very first time we enter an Aikido school and our very first class, we are working with a partner and so need to breakfall. This is different to some other martial arts where the first few classes are spent practising form or certain strikes. Aikido, day one you work with a partner and so the need to breakfall correctly is of paramount importance.

The back fall

Aikido at first looks at the back fall breakfall used in techniques such as shihonage where you are taken down in a certain way so as to end up on your back. Protecting the head and back is of critical importance here, and ukemi is built up slowly so that we can take progressively harder and harder falls without hurting ourselves. The neck is tucked in to prevent the head hitting and bouncing off the mat, and the knees are bent to ensure you land butt first, not back first which will just knock the wind out of you.

When we are comfortable with this breakfall, we step it up a notch and progress to the high backfall, mostly used during dynamic jiyu waza techniques such as irimi tsuki and irimi nage. Here the legs are kicked up to head level to take the high breakfall, and the impact is dissipated in the shoulders and arm you use to break the fall with. The key component in the high breakfall is controlling the legs. If the legs are controlled and together at the time of doing the fall, the rest of the body can be controlled, and so the impact is minimal. Conversely, if the legs are separated, it can be difficult to control the rest of the body and the impact may be taken on the back or even worse the neck. Below is a demonstration of high back falling at around 1 minute 40.

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The forward roll

In terms of forward rolling, Aikido employs a kind of sideways forward breakfall whereby we roll up the arm to the shoulder, and from the shoulder to the opposite hip in a diagonal line down the back, avoiding the spine. This is different to traditional gymnastics rolls where the roll is taken over the head and down the spine. Due to the nature of Aikido it is possible to throw people very hard using the hips, and so taking ukemi over the spine is not recommended for impact. Progressing on from this we look at the flipfall, again used in jiyu waza or techniques such as kotegaeshi. The flipfall is in many ways an aerial forward roll with the impact being taken on the arm we use to break the fall.

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The clip below illustrates the power in the throws and the need to be able to fall correctly, as well as demonstrating the backfall, high backfall and flipfall breakfall as used in Aikido techniques.

Protect the body, build the body

Break falling correctly can help us protect the body, but can also help us to build the body. While recently teaching Aikido at a secondary school I was amazed to find how many of the students of only 13 or 14 years old couldn’t complete a simple forward roll due to lack of strength and coordination. Rolling and break falling helps to build core muscles that protect the spine, as well as developing coordination, fitness and agility. Simple break falling practice can build the body in a number of ways as well as protecting it and so is crucial to the development of children in my opinion.

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Falling correctly and making this second nature can help in everyday life. How often do we hear of people falling down the stairs and breaking and arm or leg? Could this have been prevented if someone had an idea of how to fall properly without injuring themselves? Also in terms of self defence, many fights end up on the ground and so if taken down we need to be able to protect the head, shoulders and limbs. In sport martial arts such as MMA or Judo, take downs are  key component and so before being taught to take down and throw, practitioners are taught how to breakfall. This allows us to increase in confidence with our ability to fall properly. In everyday life, a flipfall or high back fall may not be useful, but the principles it teaches, and the way it allows us to comfortably take a breakfall, protecting the major areas may one day save us from serious injury. Due to this, I believe ukemi or breakfalling is key to any martial arts training, as well as just training in everyday life. Breakfalling must focus on a strong core and form to begin with, then gradually built up, introducing new falls from different angles, or faster falls that you perhaps weren’t expecting. When we can comfortably fall from a technique or throw where we don’t know where we are going, this is surely a good sign that our training has allowed us to process and absorb the form, and so if we ever need to break a fall in real life, our training may instinctively kick in.

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