NFPS LTD – Chat with Mark Dawes

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Chat with Mark Dawes

So in preparation for my review of the BTEC Level 3 Self Defence course I attended which will be published next week, we spoke to Mark Dawes of NFPS Ltd about how his company began, what it aims to accomplish and why there’s a need for it! Enjoy!

How it All Began!

I started teaching self-defence back in 1988 on the back of running a martial arts school.  This was at the request of the local police and local crime prevention panel, who wanted self-defence courses for local people and local businesses.

The concept was to provide a two-hour session after work one evening a week for six weeks, culminating in twelve hours training in self-defence.  This was the amount of time people could realistically commit to, when having to balance their work, family life and other everyday commitments.

Now this was a different concept to teaching a martial art, where someone would attend a class twice or three times a week for three to five years to get a black belt.

So the first question planted a seed in my mind. Do people need to train for three to five years to be competent to defend yourself?

The next ’light-bulb’ moment for me came when I was asked by a woman on one of these self-defence evenings, if I could teach her something that she could teach to her son. He wanted to learn self-defence but who was too scared to attend a class because he was being bullied and had very low self-esteem and self-confidence, and I thought, yes, why not?

If self-defence is a ‘common law right’ of every person, why do we have to elevate someone to the dizzy heights of  ‘instructor’ to be ‘allowed’ to teach? Why can’t a mum simply show her son what to do? Now of course in today’s health and safety conscious world we need to apply good health and safety practices to what we teach, but that shouldn’t take three to five years! It could be done in a day or two.

It also made me realise something else (my mind was now similar to an illuminated fairground as one light-bulb moment sparked off another). A lot of people who probably need to or want to learn to know how to defend themselves, do not attend courses because:

  1.  They are probably not very confident and have low self-esteem, and
  2.  They are probably at the low end of the fitness spectrum, and are not very technically (in a physical skills sense) proficient.

This means that the people who really need the help are possibly not the people who actually attend courses.  So wouldn’t it be great if we could teach those that do attend to go back and teach these very people?

The next ‘wake-up’ call came when I was asked what reasonable force meant. My co-tutor (a police officer who was running these two hour sessions) and I had been telling the people we were training that as long as the force they used was ‘reasonable’ they would be okay. Then, at the end of one of the sessions a woman on the course asked us to explain what ’reasonable force’ meant.Then apart from giving a few weak examples (basically ones that we made up on the spur of the moment, to avoid any embarrassment) neither my police colleague nor I could legitimately define what ‘reasonable force’ actually meant.

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This ‘wake-up call’ was a realisation that people didn’t just want techniques; they really wanted to know what they were legally allowed to do. In short, they wanted to know that if they used what we were showing them, they would be acting legally. In essence what we were doing by majoring on teaching techniques, was akin to teaching someone to drive but not teaching them the Highway Code. This was confirmed much later when I carried out a large survey at a north London hospital, when we asked nurses on personal safety courses what they wanted to know. They all said they wanted to know how far they could actually go in defending themselves, and others and to do that they had to know what ‘reasonable force’ actually meant.

The realisation that was dawning on me was that techniques alone aren’t enough. This was because the evidence shows that people will not use something that is too complicated simply because they will not be able to recall what to do when under pressure. Also, if people do not understand the law in relation to ‘reasonable force’ then how will they be able to know what they are legally allowed to do and that can create hesitation and fear. They also wanted to be taught simple and effective techniques that were easy to learn, easy to remember and which would work if required.

At that moment, I had what I can only describe as one of those ‘epiphany’ moments.

I suddenly realised that the reason that we were all teaching a progressive course, that taught more and more complex techniques as people progressed through it, was because we (the instructors) wanted to look good / make a good impression in front of our ‘audience’ by being able to do what they couldn’t. Another motivator for some other trainers too (which one guy told me about) was that if someone actually used something in self-defence and hurt someone, he would have a ‘get-out’ clause by being able to say that they didn’t use the technique the way we had taught them. In short, the training was about the trainer/s, not the students and it didn’t make trainers accountable or responsible for what they were teaching.

So the challenge was set.

If I really wanted to help people I had to give them the information they needed to answer their questions, which, in summary were:

  1.  Can you teach me something that I can use that is quick and easy to learn as well as being effective?
  2.  Can you teach me what to do within a legally correct framework, so I know exactly what I am legally allowed and not allowed to do and how far I am allowed to go?
  3.  Can you teach me something that is so easy to remember and is so effective but which would be easy for me to teach to someone else, without having to train for three-five years to do so?

From then on the ‘Bash & Dash’ course was conceived and the first one was a huge success.

Over the years the course has developed based around a simple mantra that I keep at the forefront of my mind which helps keep me on point. That mantra is:

“If a forty-eight year old woman came up to me and asked me to teach her something so that she could either: a) defend herself and her family, or b) enable her to teach someone else in her family, because she or someone in her family was scared that they were going to be attacked later on that same day, could I do it?”

If the answer is no, I am not teaching self-defence, I am teaching something else.

Today in 2015, twenty-seven years on, our BTEC Level 3 Advanced Self-Defence Instructor Award Course follows those same steadfast principles, which hold as true today as they did all those years ago.

The reason we eventually developed it into a BTEC Course was because of another ‘light-bulb’ moment.

There are many courses taught by many different people. Some are good, some are bad and some are indifferent, so it is difficult for someone to know what to look for when they are looking for training. However, all of these courses have one thing in common which is that the instructors, in the main, actually want to help people and are motivated by a desire to keep people safe.

However, all of these courses have one other thing in common too. None of them teach to a recognised national vocational standard that involves a structured process of learning and assessment with audit trails and internal and external verification processes, and this is what makes our BTEC Level 3 Advanced Self-Defence Instructor Award Course different.

What our course does is provide an instructor with an approach to teaching, based on a structured process of learning and assessment that is legally correct and health and safety compliant.

This provides any prospective student with the safeguard of knowing that their instructor has gone though a formally recognised process and has attained a qualification written to an Awarding Body standard.

It also provides the instructor with the freedom to teach what they like as long as it meets the three principles listed above.

In summary our BTEC Level 3 Advanced Self-Defence Instructor Award Course is not about us and it’s not about the instructor. It is about the people the instructors will teach.

What I learned twenty-seven years ago, which still holds true today, is that people need more than just physical techniques. They need information and they need answers to questions, that are stopping them reaching their full potential. Provide that and you liberate them and set them free to live a safe life.

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Mark Dawes.

25 March 2015.

5 Steps to improved Jiyu Waza fitness

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5 steps to improved Jiyu Waza fitness

I’m sure everyone who does Aikido can relate to the fact that Jiyu Waza takes a special kind of fitness! I like to consider myself a fairly fit guy but after a few rounds of Jiyu Waza I’m pretty tired! I’ve known long distance runners, gymnasts and athletes be tired after one or two rounds! So what makes Jiyu Waza so tiring and how can we improve our endurance?

Firstly there’s the fact that it takes a certain kind of cardio-vascular endurance! You attack, get thrown, spring up and attack again. It’s dynamic, its athletic, and its tiring! Secondly there’s impact. Impact takes it out of you. You get thrown hard and the body tenses in order to prepare for the impact. You don’t breath correctly, you tense up in anticipation of the fall. You hold your breath as you meet the floor. You get tired! Thirdly, its not just tiring for the one receiving the fall, its tiring for the one applying the techniques! A difficult, stiff and inexperienced partner can make you tense and it can feel like throwing a sack of potatoes if the partner can’t yet fall correctly. Again this leads to fatigue! So what can we do about it?!

5 – Overall Fitness

This is pretty much a given, if you’re in reasonably good shape and have good muscular endurance as well as cardiovascular endurance, this is obviously going to help your jiyu waza! High intensity training where sprints are followed by periods of low intensity exercise are shown to be extremely effective in increasing cardio relatively quickly and is more effective than just running for miles and miles in terms of jiyu waza and martial arts in general. Jiyu waza is fast, dynamic and high intensity. Self defence situations are fast, dynamic and high intensity.

4 – Ukemi

Get comfortable falling. Simple as that, get comfortable falling for back falls, front falls, side falls, weird and wonderful angled falls. Just get comfortable falling. The more comfortable you are falling, the more your body will relax on the impact and the less fatigued you will become in both cardio and muscular.

3 – Know your techniques

Get comfortable practicing different techniques to use during jiyu waza and just repeatedly practice until you have a good “set list” of techniques at your disposal. The more comfortable with techniques, again the more relaxed you will be and the more you can focus on things like breathing, not trying to think of a technique to do!

2 – Breath!!

We’re all guilty of it. We tense up and we forget to breath! As Robert Mustard Shihan is fond of saying, its a well known secret of the martial arts that if you don’t breath, you die! Establish a pattern of breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and you will notice an improvement in your endurance almost immediately in comparison to erratic breathing when you are panicking and tense.

1 – PRACTICE

So how do we get comfortable doing all these things?! Practice! Do rounds of jiyu waza, building up slowly as both the receiver and the thrower! Think about your breathing, the techniques you will use and the correct way to fall properly. Get a good training partner who wants to improve their jiyu waza too and get practicing. Enjoy!!

Bob Breen Interview Part 3!

Bob Breen Interview Part 3!

Here it is folks! The final part of the awesomely fantastical Bob Breen’s interview. Here he talks about plans for the future and 4D as well as his branding partners in Andy Norman, Phil Norman and Eddie Quinn. Enjoy!

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Lets talk about the collaboration with Andy Norman, Phil Norman and Eddie Quinn then.

I used to teach Andy back in the 80’s. He was an amazing determined guy that would come to see me in London from Hull once or twice a week and so when people say to me they can’t come to training for whatever reason, I always say there are no excuses! I taught Andy for a few years and we got on great, he was one of the best students I’ve had. I’d beat him up then he’d go back on the train thinking how he would beat me up next time in a tit for tat kind of way! We always kept in touch and then I met him in Italy last year and started talking about projects. I talked about 4D and he said why don’t you come and join me with the Defence Lab as we all have the same aim. Then with Phil as well who was an old JKD guy too. They’re all super brains! Phil was gladiators champion twice, Andy’s taught the Hollywood stars etc so why don’t we all work together. Andy has been the inspiration for it and he’s been a huge kick up the arse for us. It will be great fun and since we’ve been doing it I’ve had a great time. Then Eddie is on board too and he’s a great guy, fabulous communicator. We’re all pushing each other, it’s like a new wave happening and a new evolution that will take everything by storm!

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So leading on from that what are your plans for the future?

Well we start the online university in the New Year, some of which will link up with Taken 3 as Liam Neeson is a student of Andy’s. We’re all filming crazily as I have 50 years of experience I want to show, lots of techniques too, but also showing how to get them to work practically. We’re all different heights, Phil’s tall and athletic; I’m about medium height but had a double hip replacement in the past so that taught me how to find space within space. Andy is shorter than all of us so his is all inside game. So when we look at everything together it’s like a jigsaw and if you learn all three, you would be an incredibly well rounded guy! Everyone there is so much fun as well. It’s almost like the old days of JKD, everyone has high energy and everything is new and exciting! Who else has done anything like the Defence Lab World Conference last month? There were 300 people there all learning together and everyone was just so revved! That was just the start we’ve got huge plans.

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So finally what are your developments? How do you progress in the martial arts?

I’m collaborating with Matt Chapman at the moment with the 4D ground stuff. The 4D has a code, and a map which in essence can be seen as a timeline saying I’m here; I do this, etc so we want to do that with the ground too. I’m just training the 4D stuff hard now, we have a team we train at 7am in the morning with, all the high grade guys just bashing each other and testing the concepts and learning. We want to make sure it’s perfect for the guys we’re going to teach out there. We have discovered link points where you can go into Ghost or DL so my people can go into that so its cross branded, and also cross training. The big thing with 4D is a 4D fighter is never in front of you. We did a GoPro test where European BJJ champion David Onuma and I put a GoPro on our chest and we put it on every half second and attacked each other with blades. There are only 2 pictures with us in front of each other. All you catch is a bit of a shoulder, or a finger in the eye. It’s a great test as it shows, look; this is where you’re at. It’s not just you hit me, I hit you. A core concept is across all our systems is we don’t like or want to get hit. Myself, Andy and Phil and all the guys never want to get hit and that’s what we’re all about! We’re trying to do the martial arts we all dream of, we’re aiming at excellence.

Bob Breen Interview Part 2!!

Bob Breen Interview Part 2!

Here’s part number two of the awesome interview with the incredible Bob Breen! Enjoy and as always like, share, comment and get involved in The Martial View Community :).

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So what are the main principles of 4D Combat?

So firstly its total stand-up combat. All fights start standing contrary to what people believe. That’s where we want to end it. They all start standing and we do total stand up fighting – striking, clinching, weapons and group attack. You can’t choose the format any fight will be in, or morph into, so you have to be adaptable. Similarly we’re all short of time so you need a simple format that works whatever is happening. We try to have a code that covers 60% of that so we aren’t learning 4 different arts; we’re learning 1 art with 4 different aspects. One of the aims is to be faster by making the opponent slower, so that’s the Kali kind of influence, making you heavy or off balance.  You can hit me really hard when you’re stood up straight, but I’m never going to have you standing straight, I’m always manipulating you all the while, mentally and physically. It integrates really well with Phil’s GHOST approach where you need to be fairly athletic. That’s fabulous which is why we have cross-branded as there are obviously times where you do have to be athletic and conditioned, but equally working hard for the sake of it isn’t good. You want them to work hard, and you to work less. Its minimum input, maximum output, keeping it simple and less is more!  Amazingly you get all that stuff you dreamed of happening like the fancy arm locks as they give it to you!

Youre obviously a world authority on self-defence and especially knife defence. There are a lot of schools out there at the moment that claim to teach self-defence, but its not really that realistic, what are your thoughts on effective self-defence teaching and training?

Real fighting is always a lot faster and more chaotic than you think it will be, that’s part of the 4D thing. I’m either running, or hitting or clinching; I don’t want to be where you are going to hit or stab me. Take knife, the amount of people with experience knife fighting is not a lot, not healthy ones anyway! I had my first knife altercation when I was 11 outside of school and I’ve come up again knife, axe, gun etc. I haven’t been heroic or done incredible things, but we’ve tried to take the traditional stuff, the Filipino stuff mainly as I think it’s the best and use it.

The Filipino stuff is the best, but it’s almost the very best of a bad bunch, so we try to take that, test it, upgrade it and thin it so that the criteria is very rigorous on it. What happens with the majority of dojos is you get the conformist thing. I’ll come at you in a certain conformist attack; it’s all big and slow. There’s no interruption where I poke you in the eye with one hand and stab you with the other, so we embrace all that, but we do it in a classical way where we have the idea of total freedom where you can do anything, but we break it down so it has a traditional structure.  That way you can learn and develop. It has to be tested though and have a chaos element or people lose the plot and think everything’s possible. Which of course it is but only when you really know it. Sometimes less workable aspects have their place.  Take disarms people say disarms don’t work, but what’s good about them is that you get to be holding the guys arm at a slower pace than him stabbing you repeatedly and fast. So you get to learn things there, body knowledge as well as practicing the disarms which do happen. So everything works, but you need to train it rigorously and not have weird training routines where it’s too collaborative.

What are your thoughts on pressure testing? Is it possible?

It’s alright, but even that can be forced where they come and you one on one. The best pressure testing I can see is Andy’s DL stuff in a group and Phil Normans Ghost. Andy’s is a simple idea done really really well. Often in a group attack where he’s always on the move. Phil likewise but with one on one, My own 4D is replete with pressure testing, it’s built into the training at every level. Take knife for instance you have to try and stab me, not just stab a spot two feet away. You want to get to the cutting edge, but not the bleeding edge as that doesn’t help anyone! There needs to be a balance. My old Chinese Tai Chi teacher used to say to me Mr Breen! How many times you fight?! So I said once, twice a year maybe at the most, then she would say how many times do you trip up?! So I would say everyday then she would say better to practice not tripping up then! And I think that’s where people get into a whole paranoid thing about what could happen, but really life is about having fun. Train hard and functionally, but it has to be fun! I want my 4D guys to be the best they can be, but they have to be a decent person, keep their fitness, keep safe and keep their spirituality too! I want guys training when they’re 85 and be really balanced individuals yet still kicking arse!

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Film Star and Bodyguard – Richard Norton Interview Part 2

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Film Star and Bodyguard – Richard Norton Interview P.2!

Part two of this incredible interview with Richard Norton, martial artist, film star and bodyguard! Enjoy! As always please share, subscribe and like to support the site 😀

You have experience protecting some of the big names in show business, such as The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor and David Bowie. How did that opportunity come about and what did you learn from the experience?

It came about again through Bob Jones. I was working the doors since I was a teenager in the clubs of Melbourne, so I obviously got a lot of experience through this. In early 1970, a local entrepreneur called Paul Dainty rang us up at the club and asked if we’d be interested in looking after The Rolling Stones. So of course we said yes and that’s how the Bodyguard work and touring started. As far as longevity in bodyguard work, that really came from word of mouth within the industry. It’s not something you send your resume in for and get a gig. Its more someone like a David Bowie speaking to another artist and saying, “Yeah, Richard is the best in the business and if you want personal security, then that’s the guy you need”. So it’s the word of mouth and recommendation of guys like David or a Linda Ronstadt, or a Mick Fleetwood that gets you your next gig with whatever next big act is out there. As far as bodyguard work it self, there weren’t really that many violent situations when I look at the 25 years of being a body guard, as it’s really more about the pre-emptive side of being aware of your environment and sensing the potential for a violent confrontation and hopefully avoiding it before it kicks off. For example, in a concert setting, it’s about the setup of the security personnel and where you place them before the band even hit the stage. I always saw myself as really the last line of defence, and even then, it’s all about the de-escalation of a situation before it becomes violent, as the last thing someone like a Mick Jagger would want is their bodyguard to kick the crap out of a fan! Not good publicity for them. A lot of the band members would often joke with me in the tour bus when travelling to and from gig’s, saying ‘Oh come on when do we get to see you do your thing?! I remember having a funny conversation with Danny Kortchmar, a guitarist with James Taylor, who was saying after a few beers on our tour bus. ‘Come on, I play guitar; you see me playing every night, Russ plays drums and you see him play every night, so when the hell are we going to see you punch someone! I’d laugh and point out that I knew that that’s the last thing you’d actually want me to do! Again, of course there was some violence, but I don’t really like talking about it as it glorifies it and wasn’t, at least for me as a Martial Artist, what the job was all about. I always said that the best security was when you didn’t even know you had it. Having said that, it’s a very different world now to when I was doing security, sadly due to the epidemic of drugs like Ice and Crack etc. I mean violence has truly just gone to a whole new and disgusting level. There are also CCTV cameras everywhere you go now too, so you’re always in the spotlight and you can’t just flippantly go the physical route like in the old days, as you’re so often going to end up on film as evidence and end up with your day in court. Then your whole life can change forever.

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You’ve also worked with some massive names in the film industry such as Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris, so gain, let’s just talk about how that came about and what it was like!

The meeting of Chuck Norris and consequently my movie career began with Bob going over to America and asking Chuck to come out to Australia as a guest and do some demonstrations for some Zen Do Kai Kick Boxing events we were holding in different states in Oz. This was in 1978.  So Chuck came out and as it turned out, I was also demonstrating on the same card in front of maybe 4000 people at a place called, Festival Hall. Anyway, from the first time we met, Chuck and I just got on so well from the get go and he basically said that if I was ever in California, to look him up and we’d do some training. So obviously, for a kid from the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, this was like a huge wow moment! So a year later, I was working in Australia as bodyguard for one of the biggest rock and rollers of the time, Linda Ronstadt, and she asked me to move over to America and work with her full time. So off I went to California, amazingly after a lot of hesitation. So there I was, living and working with Linda, and of course the first person I called when I got there was Chuck! Incredibly, true to his word, he invited me round to his house to train. We would go on to form an incredible friendship and train every morning in his house for years to come, doing hours of kicking routines and fitness marathons and everything else, martial Arts related. It’s through Chuck and his many influential MA friends that I got the introduction to Jackie Chan. Chuck was so well liked and respected and kindly opened doors for me that I could have only dreamed about, had I not met and befriended him. So that’s how my movie career really began! I can’t thank Chuck enough for giving me the opportunity to meet some of the greatest Martial Artists in the world and help me get the skills I have today! Back to the start in movies, when I first arrived in California and started training with Chuck, he was in the very early stages for his film, `The Octagon`, and because of my demonstrations in Australia, he was well aware of my skills with Okinawan weapons. So there was a main bad guy character in ‘The Octagon’ by the name of ‘Kyo.’ So he asked me to accept that role! It’s funny, because the character was originally meant to be Asian, hence the reason for the crimson headdress in the movie to hide the fact I was in fact a blonde Aussie! So I ended up playing ‘Kyo’ and also helping Chuck’s brother, Aaron in choreographing a lot of the fights. In fact just four of us did all the ninja work in the movie. My claim to fame in `The Octagon` was I died eight times in that movie, as every time someone went splat in a black uniform it was probably me! So that was the start of my movie career! Pat Johnson, who was a partner of Chuck’s back then and who had worked with Jackie on `The Big Brawl` suggested to Jackie that I would be good to have as the bad guy in one of his movie’s, so a few years later I got a call from Jackie and his team and that’s how I ended up working on three of his movies. It was all a matter of circumstance really; I didn’t go to the states planning on getting into the movies, but, as fate had it, that’s what happened and here we are, some 70 movie’s later. Not a bad way to make a living, eh?

When did you decide to make the jump from stunt man to choreographer? Was it a conscious decision or just a natural progression?

Yes, I guess it did just kind of happen, of course helped by my Martial Arts background. I think I worked out, after being in the industry for some time, that as an actor, you’re kind of a product with a short shelf life. You either get overexposed, or you’re not that good, or there are no roles that suit your look or whatever. I mean loved being in front of the camera, but was realistic enough to know it wouldn’t last forever. Also, a lot of the types of movies I was doing back then they just don’t make anymore. I also realised that advancing age was going to reduce the roles I was going to get offered. So I thought it would be prudent and smart for me to learn what it’s like being behind the camera and, as it turned out, that was a good move for me. On `Mad Max` I had an acting role, but I was mainly working as fight coordinator. Now I’ve just been hired as Fight Coordinator on another huge movie in 2015, so it all doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon, thank goodness. Honestly, movies for me are primarily about economics and earning enough to make a living and allow myself more time to spend in the Arts, doing what I love doing most, and that’s living my passion.

LOOK OUT TOMORROW FOR THE THIRD AND FINAL PART!

Unity in the Martial Arts

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Unity in the Martial Arts

I wrote a post a few days back on the politics that seem to surround the Martial Arts. A lot of the feedback and discussions as a result of the article seem to say that where people are involved, politics will be involved. I completely accept this, but still think that politics seems to be particularly prevalent within the martial arts. So in the immortal words of Martin Luther King “I have a dream”! I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it’s something that could become a reality in 2015 if all goes to plan, but I have a vision of a massive martial arts event, all styles welcome, all backgrounds welcome. The only condition to entry is that you are open minded, willing to learn and respectful of the martial arts on offer. These martial arts could be traditional, say Aikido, Taekwondo or Judo, could be Reality Based such as Defence Lab or Krav Maga, or sports based such as the GHOST system developed by Phil Norman (look out for an interview with him being posted in the next couple of days)! All combat arts would be on offer, instructors would become students of other instructors and learn a bit of their style before teaching their own to both students and other instructors. In short everyone, whether you’re a white belt or a black belt, would learn together.

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It would be ego free, politics free and massive for the martial arts community. Sure seminars exist at the moment, you get some massive names doing tours all over the world. But how often do people from other styles go to those seminars? If there’s a Judo seminar with a massive international name, do many non-Judo guys go? I think not, even though as I’ve already theorised before, all martial arts come down to the same thing in the end so we can learn something from everyone regardless of rank, years spent doing martial arts, or style you train in!

This is my dream for the future! A politics free seminar, big names in martial arts, all styles working together to enhance learning, build networks and increase exposure for the martial arts. What do you guys think? Good idea in theory but never possible in practice? We shall see! Watch this space!!

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!

Mrs Martial Arts

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Mrs Martial Arts

Let’s face it, normally martial arts are seen as a pretty masculine endeavour. Just check out Chuck Norris, could that guy be any more man?! The guys got more hair on his chest than Austin Powers! Martial arts involves kicking, punching, snapping, cracking, flipping, tripping and submitting (you like that rhyming?) and so is traditionally seen as a masculine. Martial arts also involves balance, elegance, patience, flexibility and a great deal of thought however and so is perfect and arguably more suited to females too! Martial arts still remains fairly male dominated however, even though in many cases women are more suited to martial arts training than males!

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Women are generally considered to be less muscular than men but more flexible and I think we can all agree that martial arts requires a certain amount of flexibility. This could be used in Aikido to get into the long and low positions or to safely take a fall, Taekwondo to hit those incredible head kicks, or BJJ to manoeuvre your opponent into the rubber guard! Flexibility is key to great martial arts training both to  reduce the risk of injuries and also to generally improve practice and technique! Reason 1 why females are perfect for martial arts! Need proof? Check it out below!

In case you hadn’t quite realised this yet…martial arts are tricky… It takes time, patience and dedication to achieve a high level in martial arts and again it is generally considered that females have a bit more patience than blokes! Hundreds of thousands of hours are needed to achieve mastery in martial arts and its a lifelong pursuit which very few of us will sadly continue for the rest of our lives. Due to the increased flexibility alluded to earlier, women can have more of a longevity in the martial arts, continuing well in to old age where others may have to stop due to injuries from training for a number of years.

I also mentioned earlier that women are generally considered to have less muscle mass than men and this can also be an advantage in learning a martial art, especially in the early stages. If you have an increase in muscle mass, there’s a tendency to use it in martial arts which can lead to poor technique. How many times of you heard someone say they were just “muscling the technique”. If there isn’t that muscle mass to use, proper technique must be employed and so females can have an advantage in this, learning the technique more effectively as they don’t have the option to just muscle the technique.

I will say however that if you get someone with great technique and who also works out, you’re in a world of s***!! This is beautifully demonstrated by my future wife Rhonda Rousey below 🙂

So ladies! Get training, give some martial arts a go! You’ve got a lot of the advantages of martial arts that us big dopey males don’t have so get involved :D. Check out our friend www.themartialartswoman.com for a perspective on female martial arts!

Disclaimer – This post involves an incredible amount of sweeping generalisations and in the end everyone can be good at martial arts, it just takes time, patience and the right attitude, it’s not the presence of an X or Y chromosome! Also I’m pretty sure Rhonda Rousey won’t be my future wife but get sharing, commenting and liking and maybe one day she’ll see this post and fall head over heels for me. Love in the digital age people…. I leave it in your capable hands!

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The Myth of Black Belt

Old belt 225x300 The Myth of Black Belt

The Myth of Black Belt

Many achieve black belt….few achieve more

It’s a well known fact that many people quit martial arts after achieving their black belt.  I’ve always wondered why this is?! Do they think that once black belt is achieved, that that’s the end of the journey, there’s nothing more to learn? If they are studying martial arts for self defence, do they have the misguided belief that they are now indestructible and able to effectively protect themselves in all situations based on the skills they have acquired? If they are looking at martial arts for fitness or the acquisition of techniques, do they feel they have reached the peak with nothing more to learn? Or is it that the black belt as an image is so engrained in the martial arts, this is what people aim for, not the study of the martial arts itself?

Everyone who has looked at martial arts in any depth knows that there is a distinct difference between martial arts and effective, real world self defence. This was highlighted and emphasised recently in my three part interview with one of the leading figures in the self defence world – Geoff Thompson (Link to part one of interview can be found here). Geoff attained a high grade and skill set in the martial arts, but found through his real world experience that his training in the traditional martial arts had given him overall, a very poor impression of real world violence. We constantly see martial arts schools offering effective self defence training for those that join up, but you have to ask yourself, what is this based on? Does the instructor have any experience of real world violence, or has his self defence experience to date been based on techniques practiced with a partner in the comfort of the dojo or academy? An image is associated with martial arts, and with the idea of a black belt. You think martial arts, you think Karate Kid, you think Bruce Lee, able to defeat anyone with his bad-ass skills! Someone finds out you hold a black belt in a martial art and the usual response is either “Oh better not mess with you then”! or “Waaaaaayaaaaaaa show me some moves karate kid”! I like to think a very small minority of people sign up to the martial arts purely for training in self defence, as martial arts can offer so much more than this and to join for this reason is a very one dimensional view. I like to think an even smaller amount believe that once they achieve that somewhat illustrious rank of black belt, they are now able to handle themselves effectively in any given situation! Teachers or academies that promote this view are in my opinion dangerous, giving people false ideas that if you learn the techniques and achieve the grades, it will then make you effective in a real world situation.

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I hope the view above really is the tiny, minuscule, teeny weeny proportion of people who study martial arts, but it still begs the question as to why people seem to leave after achieving the rank of black belt? I was always told that achieving black belt means you have a solid understanding of the basics – that’s it! Now it’s time to really start getting into the technical detail and that for me was the driving force behind my training. I wanted to get more in depth information and try (and mostly fail) to understand the trickier concepts associated with the martial arts and this was due to my instructors. I wanted to do what they did, to throw with that amount of power, to be that quick and to have that knowledge. The fact that they had a black belt around their waist wasn’t nearly as important to me as the knowledge they transmitted. I’m fortunate, I’ve had good instructors, but I wonder if some schools or academies simply wish to get people to black belt as quickly as possible so that they can say they have “progressed 100 or more people to black belt status”. I’m all for martial arts becoming more recognised within the business community, the same as personal training or yoga has become, but quality still needs to be assured. On-line courses to achieve black belt, or quicker promotions to black belt done internally in order to set up more satellite schools are in my opinion a waste of time. The belt means nothing, the knowledge acquired on the road to the belt is what matters. Those rushed through a course, or promoted quicker than usual to become an instructor can easily miss the details needed to teach, leading to a dilution of the martial art, and frankly, people making it up as they go along. Have you ever trained with someone who had an instructor level status, but could barely perform basic movements and was unwilling to answer questions as to why we do the movements and the reasoning behind them? I know I have and it makes you question how these people became instructors. Maybe some people are rushed through these belt progressions, ultimately to gain a black belt, then when that belt is achieved, the realisation sets in that they are not a rarity as they have a black belt, and that their knowledge is not what they first thought it was. Some people may either rise to this challenge and want to achieve more, whereas others may simply go “well I’ve got my black belt, that’s the main thing, let’s start working on something else now”

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People may quit a martial art once they’ve reached black belt for a variety of reasons, but it’s interesting to analyse possible reasons so that instructors can set up safeguards to this happening. Black belt is the start of the fun in my opinion, where you get into the more technical aspects and start looking at the art in more depth. Instructors should acknowledge this from the get go, saying that black belt is only the first rung on a very large ladder! Courses that promise a black belt in 6 weeks, or 6 months are one-dimensional and will lead to more dilution of the martial arts! Try doing a 6 week on-line business course then going out and teaching it. I’m sure it would be exceptionally difficult as the underlying understanding and deeper knowledge simply isn’t there. Good instructors can draw from experience and knowledge to provide insight and effective transmission of learning. Poor instructors simply teach the syllabus as it was taught to them then make the rest up as they go along. Martial artists need to realise that black belt is only the first stage and that so much more learning is required. The image of a black belt is engrained within society through media, yet the reality is a very different image.

The Man Behind The Fence – Geoff Thompson Interview Part 2

Interview with Geoff Thompson – Part 2

In the second part of an interview with Geoff Thompson, Geoff talks about his concept of `The Fence` which has become the benchmark for many self defence schools, as well as the use of pressure testing within the martial arts. Part one of the interview can be found here. As always, please like, share, and make any comments.

You mentioned `the fence` concept earlier which is an idea which you’ve coined and developed. Could you talk me through the development of it and the physical and psychological aspects of it?

Most people really don’t understand what the fence is as they haven’t really trained in it. It looks very simple and people think it’s just another technique to add to the bag, in actual fact its everything. What I recognised with the fence is that in every situation, if you’re aware of your surroundings, you create a contained corridor that the attacker has to approach you down if he wants to attack you. So you don’t get ambushed, people can only approach you through the corridor that you have created, and when they do approach it is through what is known as ‘the interview’ (see Dead or Alive). Almost all situations start with some kind of dialogue, with someone coming up to you saying “what are you looking at”? Or “what did you say to my girlfriend”? Or, whatever the interview is. There’s normally some dialogue before a situation starts. People think self-defence is like a match fight or someone jumping out of the bushes and attacking you. This only happens if you are completely asleep. Usually a situation starts with some kind of dialogue. Self-defence is about being aware of this, it is about avoidance, awareness, escape, verbal dissuasion – if possible not being there in the first place. Most people won’t be able to make their physical self-defence work in a real situation because they haven’t developed the hardiness so rather than teach them to be firemen, we teach them fire safety, how to avoid a fire and escape it. We recognise self-defence is really about awareness, awareness of the environment, awareness of adrenaline and managing it, awareness of what works. There’s nothing worse than standing in front of a violent situation and waiting for them to attack. If you wait for a guy like me to attack, it’s already over, and most of the guys that are likely to attack you will be at least semi-professional or professional fighters because it’s what they do every time they go out. So I recognise that situations start through dialogue, you have to understand the ritual and how it works, and understand that the gap that exists between you and your opponent is the real danger area (see The Fence book/DVD). So we use the fence to control the gap. We use talking hands so we can control the interview. If you need to you can step back and posture, using fear to trigger their flight response, or you can use artifice to open a window of attack and hit them first, ending the situation before it even starts. The whole idea of the fence is to control the gap between you and the attacker in the interview stage and recognise that if you do not have a fence, they are going to close that gap to attack you. We use our hands to control the gap. The hands should be moving, not static, so that the opponent is not consciously aware that we are controlling them. We also use it to control centre line. We use it to measure intent, so if I move forward and touch your arm and you’re compliant, that tells me the intent is non-physical, I can talk the situation down. If I feel resistance when I touch you, the chances are there’s going to be a fight. I’m communicating with touch. I’m also opening up the jaw line, with the dialogue, words, vibrations and tones to control the person on a cellular level. Just the words on their own can finish the situation, posturing can finish most situations. Sound can be used as weapon. If I am overtly aggressive with my voice, it is often enough to trigger the flight response, and people run away without blows having to be thrown. If I think posturing is not going to work, I might soften my voice to lure the opponent into a false sense of security, line up my first attack, ask a question (to engage his brain) and then pre-emptively strike.

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That’s the lowest level of the fence. The highest level is recognising that if I’m in a violent situation it’s because I’ve created that situation. The lowest level is me protecting a space to control a situation, the highest level is me un-creating that violent situation so that there is no space to protect. Working on the doors I realised that I’d created monsters unconsciously with my beliefs and imagination and then had to defend myself against them. Then I’d complain isn’t this city violent? My wife said to me one day, there’s a common denominator here Geoff and it’s you! Everywhere you go there’s violence.

We create, maintain and dissolve our reality but most of the time this is done unconsciously. If you look at people like Ueshiba, they were very high level, but they found their ascent initially like me through the hard game, through the physical. He had his first epiphany after a life and death battle, and realised the true form of warrior was gentleness and love. If we practice a martial art we need to understand that first.

So that’s a basic overview of the fence, most people have their opinion on whether they think it is effective or not, but for me that’s neither here nor there, I know it is effective. It’s protected me in thousands of situations and it’s very simple in concept, but you need to practice it.

Let’s talk a bit about pressure testing then. You said that from your time on the door you found that martial arts don’t always work. Now there’s reality based self-defence etc who practice using pressure testing. What are your thoughts on this?

Well that’s what we did really, I came back from my first night working as a bouncer and said to my students this isn’t working, we need to change everything. The systems are good, but the way we are taught them doesn’t lend itself to a violent environment. So we started pressure testing. We started to do Animal Day which began with progressive sparring (any range goes) so if someone kicks and you grab their foot and end up on the floor, you fight on the floor. We then realised we needed a groundwork game, some grappling so we started training in all these different close grappling systems. The pressure testing was to see what survived and what fell away when in a very pressured environment. We were all afraid of being disrespectful to instructors, but in the end you have to go in and see what works and what doesn’t. If you look at the UFC you can see that most systems end up looking the same and what works tends to stick and rise above while the rest falls away. We did all sorts of training to create real situations, so it was no rules, biting, gouging etc was allowed. We’d have caveats of course; if we bit, we would bite and release, if we gouged we would just touch the eye and it was then taken as a given that you would be blinded if that were for real. It sounds horrendous but it’s no more horrendous that some of the kata we teach our kids in karate where we advocate single and double stamps which was a WWII killing technique. Pressure testing teaches you to use different strategies, to break down restrictions, to defend against different artilleries. We put our best fighter in a cagoule one day and he lost his first fight because he just couldn’t cope with the restrictive clothing, someone grabbed his hood, pulled him over with it and chocked him out with the cord. You just recreate a real situation and it gives you a chance to see what works, it gives you a chance to see how your character might stand up to extreme pressure and also it is a forging environment where you can temper your charter.

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Ultimately of course if you want to develop a system that works in a real environment, you need to be in that environment and very few people want to go to that place. That’s okay, so you could come to a guy like me and I could show you how to develop your awareness so you aren’t in that situation. I can teach you the techniques, but I can’t teach the hardiness that’s needed. So at some point if you really want to immerse yourself in it you’d have to leave the idea of reality based, and enter the actual reality itself, you could do this by becoming a policeman, doorman, security officer, soldier etc. stuff that’s real life. At that point the system you develop will be bespoke; the danger is that if you do this, if you make it your life, you might be seduced by the violence like I was. There were a few times I thought I’d killed people and it really made me question what I was doing and think to myself, “is this right?” in terms of the moral and ethical aspect. The guy that I battered last night, the one I thought was my enemy, is with his wife and kids the next day and he looks as though he has been put through a blender, he looks horrifically battered. He is someone’s daddy, he is someone’s husband someone’s son.

If you are there for long enough like I was you start to realise that you are not there because you are strong, you did not place yourself in violent situation because you have power, you do it because you are insecure and afraid, ultimately you are there because you have been telling yourself the wrong story, and there is no intelligence in that. So you start writing about your experiences (this is what I did) and questioning everything, knowing you’ve created something with the wrong beliefs, and then becoming excited and thinking wow! what kind of amazing reality could I create if I had the right beliefs. I look at my life now, I’ve written over 40 books, I’m writing films and plays and working on the world stage in martial arts. I’m creating from a place of love and I have the ability to get everything I want because everything I want is already there and I have the belief and the courage and the work-ethic to go out and get it. I haven’t worked in a real job for 25 years; I don’t want to work in a factory sweeping floors. I have 100 billion cells in the body, using them to sweep a floor in a factory is not an appropriate employment of my potential; I can do more than this.

Look out next week for the final instalment of the interview where Geoff talks about his current projects and what he has planned for the future. If you enjoyed this article please like and share using the tools provided as well as subscribing below! Thanks! Dan@TheMartialView